A Silver King’s Nursery
Stephen England / Sportsmens Compass Contributing Member
The Tamiami (or C-4) canal, running eastward towards Miami International Airport, may not be your dream destination when thinking of Tarpon fishing, but this stretch of the Florida waterway can be a hot spot. The canal serves as a nursery for juvenile Tarpon ranging all the way from 12 to 60 pounds and fishing these youngsters can make great practice for attempting a giant. From the style of take to their acrobatic display, the juveniles are miniature size replicas of their adult counterparts. This canal can teach many things about Tarpon fishing, from the correct times to set the hook to when to “bow to the king”.
Fishing the Tamiami can be a heart pounding adventure or a nightmare depending on where and when you attempt it. The canal is fairly short at approximately 29 miles long with an average depth of 8-10 feet. The water is primarily fresh, but depends on the activity of the salinity control station found near Miami. Varying widths (15 to 100 feet) can be tricky, and in some locations mangroves trees and swamp-like reeds line the shore. A major roadway bordering the majority of the canal can also make fly fishing challenging, but you should not be discouraged, because the payoff is well worth it!
My gear of choice includes a stiff 9-10 wt fly rod and a large-arbor reel with plenty of backing. If you spin, I suggest a medium action rod with 12-15lb test fluorocarbon and a reel with a really good drag. Along the canal there is a lot of structure for fish to shelter-in so your rods should have enough backbone to turn the fish away from mangroves, old bridge pilings and sunken trees.
The lures or flies you use should depend on the water conditions and coloring. Along the upper part of the canal far inland near the Everglades, the water is usually very dark in color. The lure or fly should mimic that coloration, although I find a gold spoon is sometimes magic. The lower part of the canal closest to the Miami River is usually a lot saltier and clearer. My favorite fly in this stretch is a red and white Seaducer, or a red and white MirrOlure® for spin fishing. The majority of my successful casts are usually directed under the mangrove limbs. Sometimes I will deliberately hang my lure or fly in the branch itself. If done correctly the take can be explosive, so hang on!
If hooking into some baby Tarpon isn’t your thing, the Tamiami is also a breeding ground for a number of different species. Gigantic Snook often patrol the shoreline, and Butterfly Peacock Bass swim along side Large-mouth Bass and Ladyfish. The canal’s eco-system enables these species to live together in this one waterway. The next time you go to South Florida whether it is for your next Bonefishing trip or just for the sunshine – as soon as you land in Miami, I recommend you take a small detour to the Tamiami canal.