How Pet Owners Changed South Florida Fishing Forever

Now that summer has officially kicked in with high temps and humidity, even here in Maryland most days, I am reminded of one of my favorite summer fishing spots while growing up in Madie Ives. I have talked about fishing at the Newport and Haulover Piers, but one location has probably just as many memories attached, and that is the C-9 Canal, also known as Snake Creek. A full day of alone time and good fishing was a simple bike ride away, and boy did my brother and I take advantage of that! 

The area of Snake Creek that we would fish was just East of 441 where there is a small bridge on 199th street that crosses over the canal. Pop the tackle box into the large 5 gallon bait bucket, place it in one hand, put the rods in the other hand, and ride up to the canal where we would promptly park everything under the bridge. My brother would carry the boom box inside the ice chest and whatever else he could carry. A WalMart like store named Zares was on the opposite side of the bridge, so we could get the food/drinks there once we were settled in place.

Up until the mid 1980’s Snake Creek mostly carried Bass, Bluegill and a few other species I will mention. After a boom in the popularity of people having fish tanks, something happened that would forever change the Florida landscape in terms of freshwater fishing. People started to release African and South American Chiclids into the canals after they found out that they would eat everything in their tanks! Also named Oscars, these extremely aggressive fish quickly rose to almost the top of the freshwater food chain. The only danger they really faced was from Alligator Gars and of course, humans. The Oscars would eat young Bluegills and Bass and quickly outnumbered both species in some areas. Making things somewhat acceptable was the fact that they taste great, honestly much better than Bass in my opinion!

During the hottest months, riding up to C-9 and catching 20 or so large Oscars was pretty much a guarantee. The bait was as simple as could be, wonder bread! On occasion I would want a little action and catch some on a small perch lure, but it was just as much fun to watch your little ball of bread disappear into their mouths when you just free-lined a thumbnail sized bait that was visible a couple of feet down. Every so often a Bluegill would be mixed in, and occasionally I would throw an artificial worm out for a random Bass, but the Oscars fought so hard that there was no reason to target anything else. In Spring, young Tarpon would come through so there was about a 2-3 week period where you could catch all the 5-10lb Tarpon you could handle on super light tackle, oddly enough on the same small perch lures I used for the Oscars.

We would spend about half the day under the bridge and the rest wandering around the north side of the bridge as far as we could go, including a little side stream that ran behind a condo complex. There may have been once or twice we saw somebody else around, but basically we were alone the entire time, we were gloriously lucky in that regard considering how crowded most South Florida fishing spots can be. Nothing but good memories, except that one time…… 

Each day when we were there my brother would go to the Zares after a couple hours. He would return with snacks, drinks, and tackle. One day as he was walking away he cracked a joke saying “ If I am not back in 40 minutes, I got caught shoplifting” An hour went by……Then two…. Then off in the distance I see my brother walking towards me, with his bike beside them. Also beside him was his Dad. Uh oh 

You guessed it. The crack about getting caught shoplifting was not a joke, he was serious. All the cokes and cookies and lures had not exactly been being paid for, but this time he went too far. He decided he wanted a new fishing knife, and as if stealing it was not dumb enough, he thought that taking it out of the package and putting it in his sock would be an even better idea. It wasn’t lol. When the security guard caught him they gave him two options, call the police, or call his parents. Pretty easy decision obviously. So he went home with his Dad and I stayed behind and finished my day. No sense in my day being ruined because my brother decided to be an idiot! He was grounded for 2 months which at that point was the rest of the summer, an apt punishment I think. 

Of course now who knows if fishing under that bridge is safe or even allowed. YouTube is full of videos where residents of condos aggressively make sure that nobody is fishing anywhere near their property, and Zares is no longer in business. New species such as Tilapia ( also a Chiclid) and Sunshine Bass have been introduced, and since I have not been fishing down there in probably 20 years, I wonder what the catch ratio of species is like. One interesting thing is that even though it’s named Snake Creek, I rarely saw any snakes. The grass around the canal was usually pretty high and I cringe now thinking of how many times I could have been surprised by a poisonous snake while trampling around. Of course I did see a water moccasin or 3, and every so often an Alligator, but I never felt anything but safe there. I would be interested to know if anyone who lives down there has recently been that way and would love to hear what it looks like now, and if those Oscars are still around and tasty like Snapper!