Fishing is just a hobby for most of the country, but on the flats of Biscayne Bay, it turns into a bucket list opportunity.
Of all of the fishing destinations and species of fish there are to fish for around the United States, bonefishing in Biscayne Bay was not a trip I ever expected to take.
I grew up watching fishing shows where my angling heroes caught monster tarpon, fought bulldogging bones, and quested for permit on their attempts at a Florida slam, all in a 30 minute show.
Rarely would they ever achieve such a feat, but the viewer always came away wishing that they could change places, at least for one day, with the host fishing those famous flats.
Well, life typically has a funny way of working out sometimes. Very recently I was sent to Miami for work. As soon as I heard about the trip I had to take, my first reaction was to search the internet for a guide to fish the flats. A few phone calls later and a trip was booked with Capt. Mark Giacobba of Glades Outfitters.
The night before the trip, I could barley sleep. The anticipation of a fishing trip always seems to keep me awake, but the night before this trip was something completely different.
I was nervous about my fly casting ability being able to handle the high level precision required to be successful on the Bay. I was worried that wind conditions might make whatever casting ability that I think I have be a wasted effort.
I was also worried about all the stupid things that could happen to ruin this bucket list opportunity, like hooking myself in the eye or falling out of the boat on top of a school of jellyfish. Regardless, morning came and Mark was at my hotel about an hour before first light.
The ride on the bay to the flats was something that I think I imagined 1,000 times before. Hemingway would have been jealous of the warm breeze on our skin, the saltwater spraying the air from splashing against the hull, and the early morning dawn on the eastern horizon with seagulls flying just over the water. Just being there when the world woke up on the ocean was a surreal experience in itself.
When we arrived on the flats, Capt. Mark quickly addressed my fly fishing abilities to gauge how he would need to position the boat for our best chance at catching a bone. Luckily, after a quick approval, he broke down how bonefish operate, their swimming patterns, and what to look for as they cruise the shallows.
Casting accuracy is the single best tool a fisherman has on the flats, next to a highly skilled guide that can get that fisherman in the best possible position to make a cast.
You see, when fishing the flats, it's all sight fishing. If the fisherman can't be in a position to cast, there will be no fish caught. If the fisherman can't cast when in position, again, there will be no fish caught. Both aspects of this game have to line up perfectly in order for there to be success.
After an hour of searching, a single bone came into our path. Mark called out the direction for the cast along with the required distance. He followed that up after the cast was laid out by quick orders of "strip...pause, strip....strip....pause-strip-SET"!
It took me down to the backing and then some. As soon as it came to the boat, it would scream right back out.
Eventually, the bonefish gave in and my bucket list fish was caught.
No more than ten minutes later, a school of tarpon came right into our path. Mark repeated the same orders as before and a second hook up was on. Bucket list fish number two fought, dove, and jumped all the way to the boat.
As soon as the tarpon was released, Mark convinced me that it was time to search for a permit and go for a Florida slam. We traveled to a spot that was marked on his GPS in the middle of nowhere, but green shallow water was abundant.
After a few hours of searching, mixed with a few more opportunities at more bonefish, he put me in a position for a large school of permit. Unfortunately, the guiding was perfect but my casting let me down.
I spooked the school upon my cast landing on the water. Even though the slam didn't come through, the fact that I could cross two bucket list fish off of my list made more memories than I could ever hope for. The fact that I was that close to a slam and missed will haunt my nightmares until I have the opportunity to go for it again.
If you would like to fish Biscayne Bay with Capt. Mark Giacobba, check out Glades Outfitters or just give him a call at (561-789-2983). You can also see some of his videos on fly fishing in the Everglades by clicking here.
Are there any bucket list fish that you are hoping to catch?