Surrounded by homes, condominiums and other concrete jungles, there are many man made lakes and canals across Broward and Miami Dade Counties that are easily accessible on foot. Years ago, these lakes and canals were dug out to provide limestone that was used to fill low lying areas in order to provide a solid base for construction. These same lakes and canals hold many species of fish that include native species such as largemouth bass and bluegill, nonnative species including peacock bass, oscars and mayan cichlids and invasive species like the bullseye snakehead. Truly a unique fishery, it offers everyone an opportunity to get tight.
Through our friends at Reel Deal Bait and Tackle in Fort Lauderdale and a few months of communication on social media, we met a young South Florida couple that loves to take advantage of the bounty these lakes and canals can yield. Though our first trip was cancelled due to a rainout, we hooked up the following weekend to to bend some rods.
I met Russell Nixdorf and his girlfriend, Erin McMenemy at a local Walgreens close to the area we planned to fish. We left my truck in the parking lot and hopped in theirs and we were off. They stopped at Reel Deal and loaded up on live shiners before meeting up, so we were prepared to have some fun.
As we drove towards the first spot, we got to know each other a bit. Russell grew up in the sportfishing industry as his dad was a charter boat captain. He currently works as a freelance mate and knows his fishing. Erin’s father is also in the charter fishing business down in Costa Rica. They met while Russell was mating for her dad. It quickly became quite obvious that they love to fish together.
Soon we were at the first spot. Russell tried to hand me a rod rigged with a live shiner, but I was dead set on throwing an artificial topwater bait. Within a few minutes, I learned my lesson as Erin was tight on a four pound peacock bass. We released that fish and I switched to a live shiner and got bit 10 seconds after my bait hit the water. Not the beast that Erin landed, but a respectable two pounder. We caught a few more smaller fish then moved on to the next stop.
As we drove to the next spot, Russell shared how he finds these great fishing spots. Google Earth is an amazing tool. He uses it to find bridges and culverts that connect the canals and lakes and provide shade for the peacock bass to stage in an ambush position. Because all of the man made lakes and canals contain lots of flat, hard bottom structure, they make for perfect breeding grounds for peacock bass. Most of these bodies of water are connected in some way to the major canals that drain the water from heavy rains towards the ocean. This has allowed the peacock population to spread rapidly.
At the next spot, the water was a bit dirty on both sides of the culvert because of the wind, but Erin showed amazing patience and hooked into a solid three pound peacock. We snapped a few photos and moved on. Within a few minutes, we were back at it and Russell and Erin were doubled up on peacocks. We caught and released a few more fish before deciding to see if we could find a few snakeheads before daylight ran out.
The final spot of the day was near a pump station that feeds into the Middle River. Almost instantly, Erin caught a small largemouth bass which inhaled her live shiner. It was hooked to deep to remove the hook so we cut the line as close as we could and and released it. As Russell tied on another hook, I walked out to the Middle River to throw a few casts with my artificial topwater bait. With no luck, I walked back towards the pump station where Erin had a snakehead looking at her bait. It seemed the fish was a bit spooked and swam away, but Erin stuck it out for a few more minutes. Suddenly the drag was screaming and she was tight to the invasive fish. She landed the fish to complete her freshwater slam! With smiles all around, we called it a day and agreed that it was indeed an urban adventure.
~ GENE DYER