Once you enter the Everglades Park you are heading to the most remote fishing location on the east coast.  So staying in the park for 5 or 6 days at a time takes a lot of planning for a do it yourself trip.  I usually start my list with safety and survival type items and work my way down to fishing gear from there. I have had to do several nasty hook removals, treat impalements from saltwater catfish (very easily infected wound if untreated), and a few other weird ailments.  Remember you are often an hour plus from the boat ramp and another hour plus drive to the closest formal medical attention.  I took one of the Plano watertight bins and made a much more robust medical kit than one of the store bought first aid kits.  I have found most first aid kits to be lacking.  I worked with a Pharmacist walking up and down the aisles of the drug store picking the essential items I would need once I described the remote location I would be going.  I have several types of antibacterial items, alcohol, peroxide, and betadine all in labeled spray bottles.  Those have been used a lot to treat various wounds. I of course have an assortment of Band-Aids, gauze pads, and medical tape.  If the wound is more serious I always keep a clotting agent in the kit.  Luckily I haven’t had to use it but it can be invaluable if you have a wound that won’t stop bleeding per the pharmacist.  I also keep butterfly clips for cuts that need to be held together and an ace bandage to wrap sprains, do a splint, or a tourniquet.  Some of the essential hardware is a pair of medical scissors, tweezers and a set of cutting dikes heavy enough to cut the shank of the heaviest hook you will be using.  Those cutting dykes were very handy last trip when I had a hook all the way through my skin with point and barb penetrating back through and a ladyfish thrashing on the other hook on the plug.  I cut the hook just behind the barb backed it out, treated it with betadine and was back fishing in minutes with no subsequent infection issues.  It is also good to have Advil, Goody Powders, and or Tylenol on hand to help people get through any discomforts while out on the water and not cut the trip short.

I of course have the required flares, fire extinguisher, life jackets, throw cushion etc.  I would also highly recommend a good hand held spotlight for signaling or making night runs after getting grounded or breaking down.  I have gone away from having a VHS radio on the boat.  I had an electrical fire in my outboard while down in the glades back in 2002 leaving us completely stranded.  During that time I never could raise anyone on the VHF, even with the antenna tied off to the pushpole on a 25’ antenna cable.  I think being remote, few people monitor their radio out there so I didn’t put one in my new boat.  Instead I went with the Spot locator device that sends a text and/or e-mail message if I need assistance or I can send an emergency signal straight to the Coast Guard giving them my coordinates.  I still have the Spot device but I recently added a satellite phone to my gear so I will probably be cancelling the Spot service.  I have been watching prices of Satellite Phone plans for a while now and finally found that they are beginning to offer prepaid plans with no monthly commitment.  Once you buy the phone you can just load a set amount of minutes.  If you are only using it in emergency situations like me this is a great option.  It has been a really good piece of mind when running way into the far back country that if something happened I could pick up the phone and know for sure if help is on the way. 

Be sure to always take enough water to last for several days if something happened.  Remember you can always use the water in your cooler from melted ice to refill water bottles as well.  I feel like I’m fat enough to survive for a couple of weeks without having extra food on board but water is obviously critical. Big Storms can come out of nowhere so I also recommend a really good rain suit.  I keep a very light summer weight rain jacket within reach all the time but for the bad stuff I also have a commercial pvc rain coat and bibs.  If stranded overnight that rain suit will be very handy in keeping the hordes of mosquitoes from biting through your clothes. 

As you can tell I’m a bit of an overpacker and it definitely hurts my boats draft but remember when I enter the park, I don’t usually plan to leave for 5 or 6 days.  Some other miscellaneous gear I take to be prepared for the unknown is a spare aluminum prop, a full set of tools (make sure you have sockets that will fit your spark plugs, prop nut and lug nuts on boat trailer), voltage meter, a small butane torch, spare batteries for any remotes like the trolling motor or power pole, hand held GPS, hand held compass (these are in addition to the compass and GPS permanently mounted), water proof charts, toilette paper, flash light, spare glasses and spare sunglasses, super glue, and a good wide brim hat.

Don’t let all of this scare someone from enjoying the backcountry but you really need to realize that you are entering a remote wilderness when you launch out of Flamingo.  The adventure of it and remoteness is what keeps me coming back but it must be respected.  Go with a good guide the first few times and get comfortable before doing it on your own.

Next article I will move into more fun things to think about like the basic tackle selection I always take for a week-long trip down there. 

By Chip Willimon