The Tarpon Trail

Everglades National Park, southwest Florida
Target species: Redfish, snook, seatrout, tarpon
January avg. temps: 78 high, 60 low
Round-trip airfare to Fort Myers: $165
Accommodations: Camping at $2 per night

Camping by kayak among the myriad coastal islands of the Everglades is one of the best fishing deals of all time. Pick up a cheap car (about $185 a week) at Fort Myers and drive to Everglades City. Rent your kayaks from North American Canoe Tours (about $40 a day; evergladesadventures.com), which will transport them to the nearby Park Service ranger station. Here you can register for backcountry campsites and leave your car. Note that you must register in person; reservations are not taken, and weekends and holidays are crowded. Load your gear and start paddling, keeping an eye out for reds and trout along the oyster bars and mangroves as you go. Smart paddlers figure in the tides. You'll want high outgoing as you paddle outward, for example. Camping overnight on a small island or chikee (elevated platform) gives you more fishing time in the backcountry. Back in Everglades City, meanwhile, you can stay with my pals at the Ivey House lodge (iveyhouse.com) for $85 a night and have a fresh grouper sandwich with a cold beer at the fish dock across the street as you watch the sun go down. For details, see the Wilderness Trip Planner on the Park Service website (nps.gov/ever).

--John Merwin