By Forrest Fisher
While visitors are not normally familiar with catching fish that look like they might be from an aquarium, there are locals and visitors reporting many fantastic panfish catches.
Exotic panfish, such as oscar and Mayan cichlid, are biting almost as fast as you can cast or bait your hook. Low water levels in the marsh are concentrating fish in the L-67A and other canals of the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, and anglers are frequently reporting catches of multiple fish per hour.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) promotes the consumptive use of exotic fish as a management tool, and anglers are encouraged to take as many oscars and Mayan cichlids as they would like. There are no size or bag limits on these species.
“As is frequently the case, low water conditions near the end of a dry season have fish stacked up in the canals along the vegetated edges. Anglers are enjoying exceptional catch rates,” said Barron Moody, FWC regional freshwater fisheries administrator.
Concentrate your fishing effort close to shoreline vegetation or along the drop-offs near the banks. Good fishing can be had from shore or by boat. Live baits and artificial lures produce good catches in the WCAs. The preferred live baits are shiners, crickets, and worms. The top producing artificials are soft plastics rigged weedless, Beetle spins, crankbaits, and topwater poppers or chuggers.
Even if portions of EWMA are closed due to environmental conditions, the boat ramps and canals remain open for fishing.
So grab your fishing license and get out there while the fishing is hot.
For more information, view the FWC’s Everglades fishing brochure and recent site forecast at MyFWC.com/Fishing. Current fishing forecasts, regulations and directions to boat ramps can also be obtained from FWC at (561) 625-512.
There are consumption advisories for some species. Visit FloridaHealth.gov and search “Seafood Consumption” in the search bar for more information.