Everglades Water Conservation Areas
Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-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 Areas Brochure for a map and additional fishing information.
In the Water Conservation Areas (WCA’s) with it still being in rainy season will experience high water this time of year. The fish have dispersed throughout the marsh complexes. Anglers should not expect high catch rates that occur during the low water and springtime periods. High water allows anglers to utilize the marsh access trails off Alligator Alley and the L-67A Canal to pursue bedding bass in the marsh (‘the flats’). Anglers can also access the marsh in fishing areas WCA 2, although no marsh access trails are maintained there. When fishing for Largemouth Bass, they should be pursued in the early mornings when water temperatures are at their coolest before they drop back down into the deeper pockets in hotter parts of the day to get to cooler water. When fishing in these environments weedless presentations will be the best to use when fishing on the edges by spatterdock and cattail. Floating soft plastics, like ten-inch ribbon tail worms fished below the surface, are good choices as well. Texas-rigged, lightly weighted eight-inch worms and throwing rattle traps in deeper water is always a good option. When in the marsh please remember that displaying a 10x12 inch orange flag 10 feet above the bottom of the hull is required for all vessels entering the marsh. Anglers pursuing panfish should hit deep pockets along the vegetation with live baits like crickets, worms, etc and continue to move until fish are located. Anglers preferring lures should make longer casts with Beetle spins or tiny crankbaits parallel to shoreline vegetation. Oscars, peacock bass, Mayan cichlids and other cichlid species should be good, but will slow down with weather gradually cooling down in South Florida in the next several months. The main thing to remember is to continue to move around until fish have been located don’t continue to fish unproductive waters.
TrophyCatch is FWC's citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger. The following TrophyCatch bass have been submitted from the Everglades Water Conservation Areas:
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 5