by Jamie Rich | October 4, 2022
Get Hooked on Flamingo’s New Explore Issue
In our latest edition, we're sending civilians to space, picking up our pickleball paddles and getting serious about saving the Everglades with two fearsome swamp witches.
We were searching for bubbles, splashes, little ripples in the water, any sign of movement.
My spinning rod whirred as I cast my lure near the edge of the mangroves, reeling and popping it back toward the boat, trying to mimic the movements of a baitfish.
“Am I doing this right?” I asked our guide, Ryan Booth, a 33-year-old professional fishing guide and Miami-Dade firefighter, who has spent his life studying and navigating the endless maze of creeks and bays that make up Everglades National Park.
“When it comes to tarpon fishing, one of the hardest things is first finding them,” Booth said, whipping his fly rod through the air. “Learning how they move and predicting where they will be or which direction they come from.”
I scanned the surface from my perch on the bow of Booth’s Hell’s Bay skiff. Nada.
“They’re not happy,” he said, judging the attitude of the elusive Silver King my husband Brian and I had traveled 400 miles from North Florida to try and catch.
We changed course, flying across the water in search of the perfect place. But perfect places where the fish are happy are harder to find these days in the Everglades, the United States’s largest tropical wilderness, where decades of overdevelopment threaten its existence. As we sped past myriad mangrove-lined creeks, Booth talked about the changes he has seen over the years: diminished water quality, loss of grass habitats, invasive non-native plants, less wildlife. He’s part of a conservation movement called Captains for Clean Water, a group of anglers focused on protecting Florida’s wild heart, an effort we delve more into inside this edition.
On this spring day, however, Booth is trying to show us the magic that remains. He settles on a spot in Florida Bay, where tarpon roll all around us. Jackpot! Or so I thought.
“The second thing about tarpon fishing is getting the right approach shot with hopes that one fish will be interested in your fly,” Booth said, quietly poling the boat into position. “Then there’s the moment you’ve worked so hard for, when that fish opens its mouth and inhales that little feather and just goes absolutely crazy. I’ve seen the fight for 20 minutes to two-and-a-half hours.”
I cast my line over and over, into what looked like a literal sea of tarpon. My aching forearm had me doubting I could even reel one of these bad boys to the boat—if I ever got the chance. So far, no takers. Then, I felt a tug, and the tip of my rod bent down toward the water. I reared back and held on.
A big one jumped high out of the water, flashing his silver coat, as shiny and handsome as they come.
“Oh my god! He’s huge!” I screamed. Our collective shouts rang out into the otherwise silent bay.
Then the slack returned to my line, and it was over almost as soon as it started.
“And that,” Booth said, “is why we waited and put in so much time to tracking these fish just to get a chance at hooking one.”
At the end of the day, we hooked three tarpon and caught a few snook. Not a record haul, but more than enough to leave us thirsting for the thrill of the catch and jumping at the chance to help save this precious ecosystem.
In this issue of Flamingo, we return to the Glades, this time with Deputy Editor Jessica Giles, who joins two lady anglers at the forefront of the fight to save our state’s most precious natural resource: water. Then we take a trip down Panhandle backroads with contributor Steve Dollar, who introduces us to a group of local food aficionados reviving the culinary culture of Panacea. Next, we prepare for liftoff with writer Craig Pittman, as he explores the booming space-tourism industry and the billionaires making civilian space travel a reality in Florida. And finally, contributing editor Eric Barton hits the courts with a mother-daughter duo from Delray Beach dominating professional pickleball and changing the face of this once sleepy sport.
Flamingo’s Volume 21, is a live one, a curated collection of adventures aimed at exploring the state from epicurean excursions to rugged road trips and legendary playlists that we’re obsessed with this season. We hope you find your perfect place to dive in and get hooked.