Captain Mary A. Fink
If you enjoy catching a mixed bag of fish, viewing abundant wildlife and beautiful scenery, venture out on a trip in the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge located 15 miles east on 41 from the 951/41 intersection. Port of the Islands Marina is an ideal location to depart from as it provides easy access by kayak, canoe or larger vessel into the mangrove maze of the awesome 10,000 Islands.
If a light craft such as a kayak or canoe is your preferred way of transport, be sure to consult with a local tide chart before venturing out, as paddling against the tide will surely wear you out in no time. Obviously, it’s wise to plan your departure at the beginning of an outgoing tide and work your way back to the marina when the tide changes. The Port of the Islands Marina provides bait, tackle, beverages, ice and necessary facilities, and the staff is helpful and will gladly offer tips relating to the area to help you enjoy your adventure. The Faka Union River provides direct access to the Gulf of Mexico along a series winding mangrove islands, which are home to numerous local fish species, including the coveted snook, tarpon and red fish as well as many others.
During the late fall and winter months when cold fronts and associated winds stir things up, the islands provide not only a perfect fishing habitat but also protection from wind and high seas found offshore. When seeking a desirable fishing location watch for “active water.” or signs of activity from above and below the water’s surface. Feeding birds and the presence of baitfish are obvious clues to a desirable fishing location. Water moving in and around mangrove points is another good bet.
Be sure to make your presentation as close to the mangrove roots as possible and allow the water to move your bait along the edge to provoke a strike. The more natural the movement of your offering in the water, the better, which is why light tackle is highly recommended. Light tackle being defined as 15-20 lb braided line with a fluorocarbon leader about the same strength. Braided line is more abrasion-resistant than monofilament so it trumps mono when fishing around areas of dense structure, such as the islands.
There are a number of bait options that have proven to be successful in the islands. If you are fortunate enough to have a live well on your vessel, you will enjoy success with live bait offerings such as minnows, crabs or shrimp. Live or frozen shrimp can be purchased at the marina at a reasonable price.
Artificial offerings that work well include soft plastics and hard bait (plugs) imitating shrimp, crab, minnows or baitfish among many others. Live bait as well as soft plastics should be tipped or rigged on a jig head from 1/8oz to 3/4oz in most inshore situations. Jig head weight should be based on tidal strength at the time. Chartreuse is one of my favorite jig head colors for inshore use where the water is more tannic due to the prevalent mangrove roots found in the islands. You can liken tannins to a tea bag placed in a cup of water.
During the late fall and early winter when cold fronts are common, stay inside the 10,000 Islands in the craft of your choice and enjoy the boundless beauty and ideal fishing conditions provided by the natural structure of the areas mangrove islands.
Captain Mary specializes in fishing the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands. She holds a “six pack” captains license and has a knack for finding fish. A passionate angler possessing over 35 years of extensive experience in both backcountry and offshore fishing, Mary offers fishing expeditions through her Island Girls Charters company. When fishing with Captain Mary, you will be exposed to a variety of successful techniques including cast and retrieve, drift fishing, bottom fishing and sight fishing. Visit www.islandgirlscharters.com to learn about fishing with Capt. Mary, or reach her at 239-571-2947.