Even while dodging storms and lightning strikes, anglers hook some solid snook
The Florida Everglades were just as raw and wild as I had imagined. I was fortunate enough to make my first fishing trip to the remote destination in July with my customer and friend Mike Sutton. Sutton and I traveled to Chokoloskee, Florida, to fish with the legendary Capt. Ward Michaels. Michaels has a reputation as a snook specialist. We arrived with one thing on our minds — monster linesiders.
After flying into Fort Lauderdale, we rented a car and made the little over 100-mile drive to the Parkway Motel and Marina on Chokoloskee Island, where we would stay.
The motel was a clean, quaint little place at the end of the road, with a marina that offers direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. Michaels’ fishing camp overlooks the marina where he keeps his boat. It was just a short walk from our quarters.
Once we unloaded our gear, we walked over to Michaels’ camp and found him cleaning up after a day on the water. The three of us swapped stories over a few beverages and rigged our rods in preparation for the next two days of fishing.
I’d never met Michaels until that moment, but it was like I had known him my entire life. He was extremely welcoming and down to earth. I was hanging on his every word as we chatted about our plan for targeting trophy snook.
I’d heard so many stories from excellent, seasoned anglers who had fished with Michaels, and I couldn’t believe I was finally about to enjoy a similar experience. I had a hard time going to sleep that night.
Dawn finally came. We walked over to the marina and found Michaels waiting for us. We quickly loaded up into his bay boat, and off we went into the remote Gulf fishing grounds known as the Everglades.
Mother nature was not kind to us. For two days, we battled rain storms, lightning and occasional gusts from winds. This made for some off-colored water and a tough bite from the linesiders.
Determined to tangle with some quality snook, we didn’t let that stop us from trying. Michaels kept us in areas known for producing giants, and at any given moment, the opportunity to land a trophy was there.
We wade-fished over a variety of structures and bottoms, from rocky points, to shell, mangroves and sand bars. We targeted every nook and cranny along the islands and keys of the Everglades in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sutton had the hot hand on day one. Right off the bat, he hooked and landed a snook of about 15 pounds that put up a sporting fight and gave us one heck of a show. We had just bailed out of the boat near a point teeming with so many baitfish the water looked to be boiling. Sutton chunked a soft plastic in the direction of a swirl and immediately hooked up.
The snook was airborne within seconds of the hook-set. Her gills flared as she danced across the surface, peeling drag and reflecting brilliant, golden rays of light from her fins. After a few minutes, she was spent and Sutton was able to bring her to hand. He posed with the fish for a quick photo op, and then safely released her back into the brine.
That’s pretty much how the trip went. Between dodging storms and lightning bolts, there were short windows when it seemed the stars aligned and the snook would feed. Michaels said that this was pretty standard for the fishing conditions.
“The snook is a stubborn species to target,” Michaels said. “They are challenging to pursue, and that’s why I love them so much.
“You can grind for hours without a bite, and then all of a sudden it happens. And in that moment, the magic is all worth the effort. This is even more true when the conditions are less than ideal.”
Some of the best action both days of our trip occurred at sunset. By this time, most of the storms had cleared off, the winds had died down and the fish became active. The only thing better than catching quality fish is doing so during the most picturesque time of day, and we were able to do both. If I could have frozen time during the last half hour of each day in the Everglades, I would have.
At the end of our trip, nobody had landed a snook over 20 pounds, which is really what we were after. Still, several solid snook were brought to hand, and the memories we made in a wild, seemingly untapped locale, will last forever.
I can’t wait to return to the Everglades to fish with Michaels and walk among the caliber of snook many anglers dream about. Until then, I will keep recreating those adventures in my mind and hold them close to my heart. For it’s those types of dreams that keep me going.