Rattlesnake Key: Key Largo
Sand & Coral Flats, Big Bones & Cuda
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FLYC Trip Report 6/1/03
What does it take to make me happy?? How bout Sue Sea at my side, an early start, high tide, bones and barracuda. Yakbrothers and Sisters it simply doesn't get any better than this. Unless it's bein stuck in the mud with Joe...
Seriously, a great day. Rattlesnake Key is well known to a number of us and for good reason. First of course it's because this is a great place to fish. Bonefish year round, plus cuda, sharks, porpoises, tarpon et al. Flats heaven. Second, it's in Key Largo, a very reasonable drive (maybe 1-1/2 hrs., 85 miles for us). Third is the quiet Keys solitude, and incredible wildlife.
Rattlesnake is located just as you hit Key Largo. Turn north on Garden Cove Rd., stonesthrow n. of the Dive Atlantis booth, head east to the water, and you'll see a good launch area blocked off by concrete wall sections. You'll have to carry your yak about 200 ft to the water.
The Key is south south east across the flat. Rattlesnake is surrounded by flats. but you tend to start on the north side, which we did. The water was perfect, high tide, but a 10-15 knot wind made fish spotting difficult, and for the life of us we couldn't spot any tailing, but did see some stupendous mudds.
The key is roughly a large oval, has several beautiful winding channels and creeks weaving through. I'm told that BIG cuda and snook inhabit these. Nonetheless Sue Sea and I were in a smooth, slow mood (havin paddled 4 hours the day before) and decided to mix exploration and fishin. So we started on the north side, intending to circumnavigate clockwise around, maybe hit a channel.
First cast and a twisting, fightin lil needlefish literally wrapped itself in my 10 lb. med/lt. rig. I pulle the line, spinning him out of the tangle, he dropped into the water, along with my brown bone jig. Dag! Despite the fact that bones were (and are) my #1 target, I decided to use a small rootbeer rubber shrimp-lookin jig. Has a kewl darting motion I really like.
Because of the wind blown surface I decided to cast blind into or near the many potholes about 50 ft offshore in maybe 2 ft of water. Bang...a huge hit and immediate jump by a serious fish...at least 3 ft. long. A cuda, and it hit not far from Sue Sea who was truly astounded.
This great creature really gave me a workout, maybe 10 min. or a bit more. There are waterlily type plants breaking the surface here and there, and he came close to wrapping me in a couple of them. Dived under the yak, around the yak a couple times, even had to grab my other rod and lower it to go by. Plus a couple more jumps! Sue Sea and I were really diggin it.
But those of you who know, like Joe, are well aware that this is no fish to trifle with. Joe has been charged and literally jumped by a large cuda. So when I got him close I swear he was checkin me out. It was then I realized I didn't have my Berkeley Lip Grip, but had only a 6 inch needle nose pliers. Oh man. So I really wore him down, finally holding his head well out of the water at rod's length to be sure - really sure - I could chance getting within 4 inches of some very visible large pointy teeth.
Finally got my chance, reached over slowly and got a grip on his lower jaw and squeezed like there was no tomorrow, was gonna take no chances. Even then I got one or two final tail flips from this powerful fish. Then used my forceps to dehook him. I'm SO glad I debarb my hooks. At least 3 ft., silvery, shimmering, huge eyes and mouth.
What a thrill! But my shrimpy jig had been severed, so on to my one remaining white bone jig. Which promptly was cut off by yet another cuda after one or two hits. Switched to my famous Walmart comfort lure - 3/8 oz. white tail jig with a copper roostertail - and got another big cuda, this one just under 3 ft. Another nice set of leaps and lightning runs. Great!
By this time we turned the northeast corner and spotted a professional guide, poling from a platform for his wellheeled flyfishin client. So we marked this as another good spot, and it was. Beautiful patchwork of potholes and flats grass. Here Sue Sea was both surprised and frightened by two large finned creatures, at least as long as her yak, who came up and rolled so close to her that her yak heaved up.
And I missed it all. It is so true that so many astounding events, sightings, jumps, etc. occur in an eye's blink. By the time I heard her yell they were gone. I speculated bout large tarpons, maybe sharks, but finally when we realized that dolphins are common here, Sue Sea was both sure and relieved.
To wrap up, the north and north east corner are prime. The east and south side became progressively shallower and fishless, though we did spot a number of scooting rays, a small shark, and perhaps a cobia. But no tails, darn it. Not to mention a falling tide. This area is so vast that you can be sure that skittish bones and other predators leave the area on a falling tide to find the edges to the east and north.
Oh...one other discovery. About mid-north side, and north toward the mainland, about halfway you may see what looks like a stationary log or rock. We spotted a large bird on it. It's actually a sunken barge, and clearly a super piece of structure. Joe has seen fishermen anchored nearby and exploiting this prime area. See if you can find it...
This is prime bone and cuda flats. I have no doubt you can visit Rattlesnake and score nicely. Some caveats. Please, please go out after low on a rising tide. I'd suggest at least an hour, maybe two after low. This way you can fish over high tide. No worries about grounding except perhaps on the south side. Prime depth is about 2 feet. Look for areas with numerous potholes, especially on the north and northeast corner.
Tackle: med. or med. lt. but LOTS of line, at least 200 yards. Fast tip to cast light white or brown bone jigs, shrimp tipped hook up jigs (Hank Brown), and I can't say enough for the small topwaters. It is an absolute gas watching the wake as a predator approaches and attacks. Suggest 30 lb leader as you will hit cudas, though bones require no leader or a light one. Next time I'll rig one rod for cudas with a short wire leader, and the other for bones, light fluoro, mebbe 20 lb., with some bone jigs. Still you may lose some jigs to cuda, so bring several extras. You takes your choice!
This is what SE Florida is all about... peace, quiet, wildlife and the liklihood of some serious fish.
Hope ya enjoyed this page! For more incredibly satisfying info...Ft Lauderdale Yakfishing Club
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