Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties:
Water Conservation Areas (WCA) 2 and 3 are two sections of northern everglades habitat that are managed for multiple uses. Health advisories related to consumption of fish, especially bass, gar and bowfin are in effect for the area. The WCAs were designated primarily to receive flood waters from adjacent areas and store them for beneficial municipal, urban, and agricultural uses. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) currently manages the fish and wildlife in these areas. Both areas have continually provided superior fishing throughout the years. Largemouth bass is the most sought after species, and when waters levels are right, provide anglers with some of the highest catch rates in the state. Other popular species readily caught include bluegill, redear sunfish, pickerel, oscar, and Mayan cichlid. The majority of fishing pressure takes place during the winter and spring months when water levels are typically dropping, which concentrates fish into the perimeter canals. When water levels are up, anglers have access to vast marsh systems for a different type of angling experience.
Low water levels tend to push fish out of the marsh and concentrate them in the bordering canals. Recent analyses of historical data indicate that the larger the drop in water level, the stronger the "push" of fish into the canals.
Water Conservation Area 2 encompasses 210 square miles and is located in western Palm Beach and Broward counties. The majority of fishing takes place within the L-35B and L-38E canals which are each approximately 12 miles long. Main access for this area is the Sawgrass Recreation Area, located two miles north of Alligator Alley (SR84) on U.S. 27. Current fishing information, as well as a guide service, camping, food, boat rental, fishing licenses, and bait and tackle can be found there (telephone number 954-389-0202).
The 915 square mile WCA-3 is located in western Broward and Dade counties, just south of WCA-2 and north of Everglades National Park. Many miles of canals run around and through the area, including the L-67A, L-67C, Miami, and Tamiami canals. All are accessible by boat and the Tamiami Canal has abundant bank access. In a joint project, the FWC and the South Florida Water Management District constructed eight boat trails off the L-67A Canal to provide anglers access to the marsh areas (when water levels are high enough) for "flats" fishing.
Many of the canals can be accessed at Holiday Park Recreation Area (telephone number 954-434-8111). Amenities there include fishing guides, boat rentals, camping, food, bait and tackle, and the sale of fishing licenses. Other access points to WCA-3 are boat ramps along Alligator Alley, Tamiami Trail (SR41), and at Mack's Fish Camp (305-822-5033) which is located on Krome Ave., one-half mile south of U.S. 27. The L-67A Canal runs from Holiday Park Recreation Area to the S-333 spillway at Tamiami Trail. Those anglers wanting to try their luck in WCA-2 will find access at Sawgrass Recreation Area, two miles north of SR84 along U.S. 27. Twenty-five miles of canals and their associated marsh can be found there. Also see our Water Conservation Area Brochure.
A map is available courtesy of the South Florida Water Management District, where you can also find water stage information and other useful facts.
Water levels have been slowly dropping throughout the winter, and the bass bite has been steadily picking up. Angler catch rates are higher than this time last year, and expect the bite to continue to pick up into the spring. Bass anglers have been having success with soft plastics, crankbaits, Rapalas, and just about anything else you can think of casting. The bluegill bite has remained fairly steady throughout the winter, and should continue right on into the spring. Anglers are consistently catching a few dozen keepers during fishing trips, but expect to throw back a lot of little ones. Bluegill anglers have been having success with worms, crickets and small popping flies on the fly rod. With low water levels, anglers should exercise caution when entering the flats through the marsh access sites, and do not forget to display an orange flag (10”x12”) 10 feet above your vessel when entering the Everglades. Oscars have also begun to show back up this year. Bass and panfish anglers have been catching a few per trip, and anglers specifically targeting Oscars have been doing pretty well. While not at the pre-2009 level, they are definitely starting to show back up.
Note: As a result of cold winter weather in 2009, the non-native fish population is severely reduced. Most exotic fishes were killed by exposure to low water temperatures. This includes butterfly peacock bass, Mayan cichlid, and Oscars. Although not totally eradicated, the populations of these popular fish will take some time to recover.