Florida Everglades – Tiger Key
The northern entrance to Everglades National Park at Everglades City and Chokoloskee is a great jumping-off point for many water adventures into the 10,000 Islands. Both cities offer guides and rental equipment for fishing trips, eco tours, sight-seeing day trips and island camping. But we at OFFTHETRAILS.COM like to do our own thing.
One of our first and best adventures was a two day camping and fishing trip to Tiger Key just northwest of ENP. We left from the park’s northern headquarters and paddled out Indian Key Pass. This pass is deep and has a strong tidal current so we scheduled our launch at high tide so we could benefit from the outgoing current.
You can reach Tiger Key or it’s neighbor, Picnic Key by just paddling out Indian Key Pass and going west, but we like to go “off the trails” whenever we can so we checked our map and explored some small bays and creeks that brought us out to Gaskin Bay and to our campsite from the north.
Our campsite was on a shaded sandy spit of land on West Pass with a clear view of the Gulf of Mexico. Our first day we set up camp and fished around the gulf side of Tiger Key where we caught two nice redfish for dinner that night. Driftwood was plentiful and we cooked dinner over an open fire. The night was cool, the redfish was delicious and the sunset over the gulf was incredible!
The next day we explored the pass between Tiger and Picnic Keys fishing as we went. Dinner the next night was spotted weakfish–commonly known as seatrout. We still had some fresh shrimp we used as bait but what the heck. We stuffed the trout with shrimp!
Excellent idea, as it turned out. That night the rest of our bait was stolen by raccoons who kept up a night-long series of raiding parties, finding ways to open “secured” hatches on our kayaks, damaging two hatches enough to render them no longer water tight–a potential problem.
Raccoons are a common problem to campers in ENP. They are clever adversaries and unsecure campsites are an easy source of food and fresh water. Water is especially valuable to them as these islands have no natural fresh water supplies except what rainfall may get trapped in plants or rock depressions. During the dry winter months water can be very scarce for them. We’ve had raccoons actually peer into our tents at night checking to see what they could grab. But the way we look at it, they were here first, this is their home and we are the intruders. We secure our gear as best we can, run them off–for a while–when we catch them after our supplies and take what losses we get as lessons on how to secure our gear even better.
The next day was our last for this trip so we reluctantly paddled back to civilization stopping here and there to fish or explore. Like all of these trips the peace and quiet, the wildlife, the natural beauty and the sense of adventure exploring new waters have us wishing we didn’t have to leave and already discussing new adventure possibilities.
Check out some of our other upcoming articles for information, tips and observations on our experiences in this unique and challenging environment ON THE WILD SIDE!