Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties:
Water Conservation Areas (WCA) 2 and 3 are two sections of northern everglades habitat that are managed for multiple uses. Health advisories related to consumption of fish, especially bass, gar and bowfin are in effect for the area. The WCAs were designated primarily to receive flood waters from adjacent areas and store them for beneficial municipal, urban, and agricultural uses. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) currently manages the fish and wildlife in these areas. Both areas have continually provided superior fishing throughout the years. Largemouth bass is the most sought after species, and when waters levels are right, provide anglers with some of the highest catch rates in the state. Other popular species readily caught include bluegill, redear sunfish, pickerel, oscar, and Mayan cichlid. The majority of fishing pressure takes place during the winter and spring months when water levels are typically dropping, which concentrates fish into the perimeter canals. When water levels are up, anglers have access to vast marsh systems for a different type of angling experience.
Low water levels tend to push fish out of the marsh and concentrate them in the bordering canals. Recent analyses of historical data indicate that the larger the drop in water level, the stronger the "push" of fish into the canals.
Water Conservation Area 2 encompasses 210 square miles and is located in western Palm Beach and Broward counties. The majority of fishing takes place within the L-35B and L-38E canals which are each approximately 12 miles long. Main access for this area is the Sawgrass Recreation Area, located two miles north of Alligator Alley (SR84) on U.S. 27. Current fishing information, as well as a guide service, camping, food, boat rental, fishing licenses, and bait and tackle can be found there (telephone number 954-389-0202).
The 915 square mile WCA-3 is located in western Broward and Dade counties, just south of WCA-2 and north of Everglades National Park. Many miles of canals run around and through the area, including the L-67A, L-67C, Miami, and Tamiami canals. All are accessible by boat and the Tamiami Canal has abundant bank access. In a joint project, the FWC and the South Florida Water Management District constructed eight boat trails off the L-67A Canal to provide anglers access to the marsh areas (when water levels are high enough) for "flats" fishing.
Many of the canals can be accessed at Holiday Park Recreation Area (telephone number 954-434-8111). Amenities there include fishing guides, boat rentals, camping, food, bait and tackle, and the sale of fishing licenses. Other access points to WCA-3 are boat ramps along Alligator Alley, Tamiami Trail (SR41), and at Mack's Fish Camp (305-822-5033) which is located on Krome Ave., one-half mile south of U.S. 27. The L-67A Canal runs from Holiday Park Recreation Area to the S-333 spillway at Tamiami Trail. Those anglers wanting to try their luck in WCA-2 will find access at Sawgrass Recreation Area, two miles north of SR84 along U.S. 27. Twenty-five miles of canals and their associated marsh can be found there. Also see our Water Conservation Area Brochure.
A map is available courtesy of the South Florida Water Management District, where you can also find water stage information and other useful facts.
High water levels and cooler temperatures will continue through much of this period. Bass will also begin spawning and angler can find success sight fishing along canal edges and into the marsh. Floating soft plastics, such as trick worms or soft jerk baits, are good choices. Alternatively, pitch large Texas rigged plastics or a jig into openings in the vegetation. There are 8 maintained access sites along the L-67A canal and 4 maintained sites along the Alligator Alley canal. Anglers should also be able to gain access to marsh fishing in areas of WCA 2, although no marsh access trails are maintained there. If venturing out into the everglades do not forget to display an orange flag (10”x12”) 10 feet above your vessel. As the dry season continues expect water levels to continue to fall in the Water Conservation Areas, and marsh access to eventually become limited. As the water continues to drop fish will leave the marsh and congregate in the canals of the WCA’s for refugee. Expect increases in catch rates for bass and bream as spring approaches when water levels reach their typical lows. Fish the spatterdock edges and points for bass and bream.
For bream fishing, continue to move around until fish are located. Crickets and worms work well for bluegill and redear (shellcrackers), as well as poppers tied onto a fly rod. The Oscar population has continued to rebound from the cold water temperature fish kill in 2009. Catch rates have been steadily increasing since last year and expect if we have another mild winter for the catches to really peak in the spring time. The Mayan cichlids have yet to recover from the fish kill in 2009, with only a few reported catches in the past years.
Butterfly peacock bass have also begun to show up. While not in numbers high enough to specifically target, anglers around Holiday Park have been catching a few. This does offer some promise to anglers who like to target Peacock bass, and if we have another mild winter catch rates might soon begin to rise for these tough fighting fish. Check back for the spring report in Febuary/March regarding the largemouth bass and nonnative Oscar and peacock fishing updates.