Everglades Cheekie Adventure

Early May brings Dave and I back to the Everglades to complete the deployment of our hydro-acoustic array. In order to accomplish all of our work we decided to camp overnight  on a cheekie deep in the backcountry.  The  trip started with our standard protocol of stopping at ‘Robert is here’ for a fruit milkshake.  We drove all the way down to Flamingo and loaded our boat with sensors, camping gear, water and fuel and headed for our cheekie.  It was a about an hour boat ride to our site where we setup camp immediately to both offload the gear from the boat and to avoid the ever-present mosquitos we would encounter at dusk.  For those that have never ventured to The Everglades in the summer, the park service has a rating system for mosquito levels much like it’s system for forest fire danger.  The level we could expect on this trip was the highest, which the park service labels ‘hysterical’.  Once camp was established, we headed out to our predetermined sites to deploy and range-test our sensors.  This consumed our day and nearing suppertime we headed back to our cheekie to prepare our meal.  We wanted to make the most of our time in the Everglades and so earlier in the day we decided to do some night fishing after dinner.  Dave made an excellent concoction from pasta, black olives, and a jar of pesto, which we packed up and put on the boat and prepared for our nighttime excursion.  We chose to fish ‘Tarpon Highway’ as we were familiar with the site and had fished it at night on previous trips.  Using Rapela lures, we set our trolling lines out into the current and waited.  We didn’t have to wait long…for mosquito’s to make their presence known.  We donned raingear and head buffs in an attempt to keep them off of us, and finally I resorted to a thermocell.  It was like the ‘Iron Dome’ used by Israel.  The mosquito’s sounded like an airplane squadron just beyond the range of our thermocell.  About half an hour after putting our lines into the water, we had a strike.  The tarpon missed the lure.  Suddenly, we had one strike after another, for a total of 12  hits.  We jumped 6 tarpon, and caught one that was approximately 30 lbs. Most of the fish were less than 60 lbs but we did jump at least one monster fish that seemed over 150. Things got quiet after that brief swarm of tarpon strikes and we retired to our cheekie for the night.  The following morning we decided to try ‘Tarpon Highway’ one more time, and made a short trip to our fishing spot.  Nothing appeared to be happening, so after 45 minutes we returned to our cheekie and broke camp.  We needed to refuel the boat, offload our camping gear and pick-up the remaining hydro-acoustic sensors so we returned to Flamingo.  The rest of the day was spent deploying sensors and exploring the whitewater bay area and its surrounding water channels.  By late afternoon, we had deployed all of our sensors and explored both Tarpon Bay a new area with no sign of tarpon. We   returned to Flamingo before dark and departed for home.

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