Flats/Backcountry Defined


[upper*] Florida Keys shallow water angling terminology defined:

BACKCOUNTRY FISHING: Any style of fishing in the body of water known as Florida Bay, the majority of which is in Everglades National Park.

Backcountry fishing refers ONLY to the area or specifically the body of water fished.

FLATS FISHING: Is one specific STYLE of fishing where a shallow draft boat is used to put the angler in water usually less than three feet deep so as to sight cast to one or more specific species of fish. A “flat” by definition is any body of water that at extreme low tide the [bay] bottom will be exposed.

When either “backcountry fishing or flats fishing, any tackle may be used including spinning, plug casting (conventional) or Fly rod. The mainstay of backcountry tackle is the ten pound test spinning rod. All species are caught on this comfortable light tackle and anglers will cast often one or two hundred times in an eight hour trip.

In the Islamorada area the majority of shallow water angling is simply backcountry fishing, where there may be one or two or more anglers on the boat. All may fish at one time, where as in a ‘flats fishing” scenario, only one angler waits to make a cast to a fish.

When backcountry fishing, the water may be from three to ten feet deep, with an average depth of 4 to 6 feet. Species include [seasonally] Tarpon, Snook, Red Drum, Black Drum, Sheepshead, Spotted Sea Trout, Jack Crevalle, Ladyfish, Pompano, Snapper and more.

When backcountry fishing one area that may be fished is referred to as the “Flamingo” area. This “area” consists perhaps ten square miles and includes many channels, drains and shallow grassy lakes and bays. Flamingo is the national park headquarters and has services such as food and drink, fuel and restrooms and it is possible to make a stop for restrooms, etc.

One popular alternative to standard backcountry fishing is [near] Gulf fishing. The Gulf of Mexico is the body of water adjacent to Florida Bay to the Southwest and Northwest. A marked channel called “the yacht channel” is the boundary between Florida Bay and the gulf and runs a semi circle route around the bottom of the bay roughly from Long Key to Cape Sable. Fishing techniques are similar if not often the same and include many of the same fish species. Other fishing opportunities exist in the gulf such as chumming and casting for Spanish Mackerel and wreck fishing. Species including Spanish Mackerel as well as Cobia, Tripletail, Permit, Goliath Grouper, Snapper and more.

*When below Long Key the body of water to the west and north is the Gulf of Mexico.