On your Miami fly-fishing charter, you will join Capt. Dave aboard his 16.5-foot flats skiff, heading out from the dock at sunrise, or before, to ensure you are there for first bite. The skiff is on a trailer, allowing you to be very mobile in targeting your intended species. Keep in mind that sight fishing the flats is a thrilling and challenging endeavor that may lead to a lot of excitement. Capt. Dave's goal is to put you on the fish and provide you the best opportunity to catch them, but there will be no yelling and no stress (unless self-induced). You may fish anywhere from Biscayne Bay in the shadows of Miami, to deep in the Everglades, in Florida Bay, to the ocean side of the upper Florida Keyseach will provide some memorable fly-fishing experiences set against some beautiful natural backdrops.
Capt. Dave is, first and foremost, an avid fly fisherman in his own right, who looks forward to spending time on the water with you and sharing some of his vast knowledge. He is also a meticulous fly tier, equally obsessive about terminal tackle. He has caught well over 300 bonefish and over 95 different species of fish on fly. Dave is past president of the South Florida Fly Fishing Club and was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Fla. Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers. In addition, he is a certified Florida Master Naturalist. He is a MultiEngine Commercial Instrument Licensed Pilot, holds a US Coast Guard: OUPV, and Master Capt. to 25 tons with a towing endorsement licenses. He holds a permit to guide in Everglades National Park, is commercially insured, and ready to take you fishing!
There is good fishing year-round in South Florida—the approach changes a bit depending on the season and the species being targeted—but redfish, snook, and bonefish can be found throughout the year. Tarpon and snook are around and fishable during all but the coldest of times, while bass in the Everglades is best in late winter/early spring. There’s a spring tarpon migration that can be off the charts as the tarpon follow the spring mullet run and head to the Keys for the famed palolo worm hatch.
All Miami fly-fishing trips with Capt. Dave Hunt, whether they are in Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay, or the Florida Keys, include guiding service, all necessary licenses, and tackle—including any number of the 20+ fly rods and reels in Capt. Dave’s arsenal, leader material, custom flies, lures, and safety equipment as well as plenty of cold drinking water. On full-day charters a light lunch is provided as well.
Capt. Dave trailers his skill throughout the Miami/South Florida area, fishing different areas depending on seasonal changes and species targeted. The following is a sampling of some of the places fished:
Saltwater fly fishing/Everglades National Park/Florida Bay, launching in Flamingo “out front” on the Florida Bay side. Everglades National Park is a world treasure, just an hour’s drive from downtown Miami. You will have a totally unique experience just driving through the park to the boat ramp in the early morning light. Florida Bay, an integral part of Everglades National Park, is one of the most diverse fisheries on the planet, providing amazing saltwater fly-fishing opportunities. Where else will you have the chance to target tarpon, bonefish, permit, redfish, and snook, all on the same flat? Florida Bay is home to sight fishing at its best. Thousands of wading birds comb the flats during low tide as osprey dive for mullet in the channels. It's not uncommon to see crocodile, manatees, or big sharks. Tarpon, often weighing over 100 lbs, can be found laid up, tailing, or cruising the shallow-water flats. Redfish, snook, and sea trout offer great sight-fishing opportunities. A "slam" (tarpon/bonefish/permit or redfish/snook/tarpon) or a "grand slam" (four species) is a distinct possibility here.
Saltwater fly fishing/Everglades National Park/Whitewater Bay, launching in Flamingo on the Whitewater Bay side. The park's backcountry is made up of brackish water estuaries and lakes. It hosts several mangrove varieties whose root systems provide homes to saltwater game fish including snook, redfish, tarpon, snapper, grouper, a variety of sharks, as well as freshwater largemouth bass. One can blind cast or sight fish along the edges of the mangroves or various mud flats found scattered throughout the bay.
Saltwater fly fishing Miami/North Biscayne Bay/city of Miami, launching in Key Biscayne, fishing Stiltsville to Elliott Key. The "bay" in Biscayne National Park is a vast, shallow, tub-shaped area which runs in a north/south direction. The northern tip, near downtown Miami, is an area of huge flats called the "safety valve." It is littered with small islands and flats and has a long stretch of mangroves along the western shoreline. This area is home to bonefish, tarpon, barracuda, sharks, and whatever else decides to cruise in from the ocean on any given day. Bonefish and/or permit can be found tailing and mudding on the flats while large tarpon skirt the edges. Barracuda and sharks, both opportunistic feeders, are often aggressive at taking a fly as well. The choice between fishing the North Bay and the South might depend on tide and weather conditions, time available for fishing, and many other factors.
Saltwater fly fishing Miami/North Biscayne Bay/night tarpon/city of Miami and Key Biscayne. Fly fishing in Miami for night tarpon can be totally addictive and is a great alternative if you are in town working during the day or have other commitments and can only get away for a few hours—plus, the fish are generally very cooperative. Many anglers catch their first tarpon at night, and it’s a great tune up for learning or remembering how to set the hook and fight the daytime bruisers. If you are fortunate enough to set the hook on a nice tarpon at night, get ready to do the “tarpon tango,” as you often have to aggressively fight the fish to keep it away from the nearby structures.
Saltwater fly fishing Miami/South Biscayne Bay, departing Homestead Bayfront Park, fishing Stiltsville to Ocean Reef. Biscayne National Park is a vast, shallow, tub-shaped area which runs in a north/south direction. It has a long stretch of mangroves along the western shoreline. In the Southern Bay, between the mainland and the ocean lie a number of islands (also known as Keys or Cays)—from Soldier’s Key to the north to the Ragged Keys, Boca Chita, Elliot Key to North Key Largo—the “top end” of the Florida Keys.
Miami, Florida is tropical/subtropical so generally warm throughout the year, although during the winter (December – March primarily), cold fronts may come through switching winds around and bringing cooler, drier air. Temperatures in the winter can reach into the 40s at night with highs in the high 50s after a cold front passage but generally run 60-80 during the winter season. The most important temperature to consider though is the water temperature, which can be the key to good fishing. Quick temperature changes affect the fish—if water temps get too low, fish will move off the flats to deeper, warmer water until the sun warms them again to acceptable levels. Once the temperature stabilizes, the fish go back to feeding.
During spring and fall, temperatures run from 70s into the high 80s. The difference between spring and fall is that in the spring, the temperatures are warming and seasonal fish migrations—both bait and game fish—have fish moving into the warmer waters. In the fall, the flats can sometimes be too warm (and so you fish in a bit deeper water) until the first few cold (cool) fronts move through and get the flats back to more moderate temps.
Summer can be downright hot, with lows in the high 70s to highs in the high 90s with high humidity as well. Not only are the temperatures and humidity hot, the fishing can be off the charts as well. Fishing is just generally in a little deeper water, as the water temperature highs on the flats can be scorching. There are still many good fishing opportunities and many say that August is the best time of year to target permit.
As outlined in the Region Section, there are a variety of fishing locales to choose from and that will be determined prior to the actual fishing day and will depend on your preferences and current weather conditions. Once the launching point has been determined, the fishing day will begin when the boat hits the water at the boat ramp and you board the skiff, which is ready with all necessary fly rods, flies, a light lunch, and cold bottled water on full-day trips as well as all necessary safety equipment and a SPOT emergency locator (which has never been used except for testing).
Of course you may bring your own gear but if you don’t feel like it, no worries, it’s covered.
Capt. Dave will take you to a number of different fishing spots throughout the day, targeting species such as bonefish, redfish, snook, tarpon, permit, or anything else you’ve decided to target. He will run the boat until you get near a flat, he’ll shut the engine down, and pick up his push pole—a 21-foot carbon fiber pole—that he will then use to propel the boat stealthily on the flat in water as skinny as 10 inches. You might be looking for tailing fish (redfish or bonefish depending on the flat); or looking in a little deeper water for cruising or laid-up tarpon; or for permit or snook. If conditions are overcast or the tide is high, you may go and cast to mangrove shorelines for snook and redfish or look for big sharks moving onto the flats. Your day will be filled with a variety of fishing opportunities and everything will be discussed with you as the day progresses. Be sure to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout the day. At midday, you and Capt. Dave will take a break and stake out on a flat and enjoy a light lunch that he will provide. After that, it’s right back on the casting deck for you and the poling platform for him and you’ll resume fishing and hopefully catching until the day’s end.
If you’ve booked multiple days with Dave, you’ll discuss the next day’s itinerary on the way back to the ramp so you are all ready to go the next day.
There are some seasonal differences in fishing here in the Miami/South Florida area but we don’t have the huge temperature changes experienced in the northern climates so there is almost always something going on.
Redfish are generally around most of the year. They move to different areas and are fished differently but can usually be found. In the spring, summer, and fall they can be found feeding near mullet muds or working their way high onto flats to eat shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans that inhabit the mud and grass flats. In winter, when the flats are cooler, the fish might be found in deeper, warmer water in the backcountry during the cool hours of the day and, as the sun warms the flats on the lower parts of the tides midday, the reds and the bait they are looking for may seek the warmth on shallow, dark flats.
Snook, like reds, are generally around year-round but they also move, following bait schools to the beaches or flats in the spring/summer and seeking warmer water deep in the backcountry in the colder weather. Snook are very sensitive to cold water—requiring 45+ degree water to survive—so on the coldest fishing days, we won’t be looking for them, we’ll respect their need to survive first and foremost.
There is a definite tarpon season; historically it’s been known to be May – July, when the migrations of large pods of big fish move oceanside along the deeper edges of the flats. This is knee-knocking, heart-stopping fishing—when you see pods of 100+ fish all weighing more than 100 lbs coming at you, it’s hard to concentrate on getting the fly in the right place! But, in addition to tarpon season, there can be good fishing for tarpon at many other times throughout the year and some of the best is definitely not during the season. In the winter, the fish move in and out of the backcountry and in early spring may flood certain areas and provide great sight fishing opportunities in many other places besides those oceanside flats. Like snook, they are usually not found during the coldest days of the year, but as soon as a good warming trend comes along, watch out—it’s tarpon time again!
Bonefish can be found year-round but, like other species that haunt the flats, will move and can be found in different areas depending on the season, water conditions, and baitfish migrations. In spring and fall, they can be found high on skinny flats; during summer and winter, they may be found in deeper water—which can be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Permit: late February and March is known as Permit time, but anglers catch them July – Sept as well. They can be found on the flats at other times but, again, water conditions and bait movement can be factors.
Other species: sharks, ladyfish, jacks, seatrout, grouper, bluefish, pompano, cobia, snapper—some or all of these can be found throughout the year. There’s always something going on!
Bass: freshwater bass fishing in the Everglades can be good year-round, but my preferred “season” for them is late February – early June, depending on water conditions.
Customers only need to bring sunscreen of their choice (Capt. Dave will have some aboard but customers may have their own preference), long-sleeved shirt and pants (light fabric), polarized sunglasses (preferably amber), hat with long bill (baseball type is best), any drinks you might want besides the cold bottled water Capt. Hunt will provide, and a lot of enthusiasm.
Q. How many anglers can fish on this Miami fly-fishing charter?
A. The skiff can accommodate two anglers comfortably; however, please keep in mind that when sight fishing with a fly rod, only one angler can fish at a time but when anglers are blind casting, two can fish. If you don’t mind sharing fishing time, the price is the same for 1 or 2 anglers.
Q. Can I bring a non-fishing friend or friend who fishes with spin gear?
A. Yes you can—it’s your day, after all! The boat can accommodate two people comfortably, in addition to the guide; however, keep in mind that 8 hours in a boat can be a long day for someone unless they are fully engaged in the day. If you want a complete fishing experience, it’s best to keep things focused on fishing. If a friend comes along with spin gear, again, keep in mind that this means switching gears and approaching fish differently, so it will definitely impact the quality of your fishing time.
If you are bringing along a non-angler and want to combine fishing with some sightseeing, birding, or photography just let me know ahead of time and we’ll set that up.
Q. Can we start later in the morning?
A. Again, the answer is yes, but there are many reasons why an early start is advisable. It’s generally in your best interest to stick as closely as possible to the recommended start time. This is something that should be discussed directly with Capt. Dave.
Q. What’s the most important thing I can do to be ready for the Miami fly-fishing trip?
A. Practice casting or even take a casting lesson for a tune up. Many of my anglers are trout fishermen, most accustomed to casting a 2- to 5-weight rod. On our trip, we’ll be using rods from 6- to 12-weights; often there will be wind of some sort and we won’t always know the direction until we’re out on the water. Having already casted heavier rods, in some wind, can make the first few hours of your trip a lot more enjoyable. Also, being able to get a cast of 30-40’ out with only 1-2 back casts will really improve your results.
The other important thing is to come with real expectations. I can’t make you promises. Your trip will be affected by weather (good or bad), and the mood of the fish (again, good or bad). I can only promise you that we’ll go out fishing and I’ll give you everything I have to make sure you have the best day possible.
Q. What’s the best time to come to Miami fly fishing?
A. I get asked this question all the time! Anglers want me to pick a time for them to come and target a specific species. I can help with this, generally, based on prior years’ experience, patterns etc., but keep in mind that weather fluctuations, especially lately, greatly impact fishing. For instance, the winter/spring of 2010 was one of the coldest times we’ve had in South Florida in years. We had a major fish kill and all “patterns” were behind by almost a month, or were completely gone. This past winter/spring of 2012 was one of the warmest I can remember, and all “patterns” were early by 3-4 weeks. I can help by letting you know when the best projected tides are, and the best times of year, but because we usually have some kind of good fishing year round, it’s best to come when it’s good for you. We’ll go out and give it our best shot. Again, it’s fishing—there are many variables and the main thing is to have fun. It’s amazing how many more fish are caught when that’s the approach.