Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring winds

Here we are almost into March and the weather is finally starting to stabilize. There were a couple magnificent days on the water this past week. The water temps are soring back up into the upper 60's in the back country and the Redfish and Trout are feeding on the rising tides in the am. I have been witness to several seasonal changes in the last couple weeks. Here is a short report I wrote for the Boca Beacon Newspaper here in Boca Grande. It talks about the changes I have seen...

"Over the past couple weeks since the deep cold snap we saw here in Southwest Florida I have been fishing the back country for Reds and Trout. The fishing for Redfish has been excellent. With the super low tides in the morning this past week we have been getting on the water around sunrise and looking for tailing Reds on the shallow grass flats as the tide starts to come in. My anglers armed with a nine weight fly rod or light tackle spinning rod, I have been poling my shallow water flats skiff into the skinny waters near Boca Grande. The natural beauty of the early mornings has been spectacular. On days when we are experiencing colder north winds the colors of everything seems to be a bit brighter because the cool clear air (which we only see for a few months a year here in boca) has been making everything look brilliant and the sun has been bright. The waters in the back country began to smell of dead Snook as they started to float to the surface and decay. It was around a week ago that I started to see the live fish move away from the areas where there were lots of dead fish and begin taking up residence in areas nearby. I watched each morning as the Redfish schools were gathering in new places and I also noticed a shift in the number and location of the birds. Everyone has noticed the large number of buzzards around the dead fish on the water, but I have also noticed that several of the Egrets, Ibis, Heron's, Osprey, Spoonbills, Wood Storks, and even our friend the Bald Eagle who lives on Cape Haze Point moved to new areas to feed. One morning this week while I was poling the flats boat, I came through and area where I have noticed a lack of birds just after the cold snap, and this day there was so many Ibis, Heron, and Rosette Spoonbills wading in the water I could not believe it. It was a pleasure to see all these birds return. I do not know if they went inland for a while when the cold snap occurred or if they just stayed deeper in the mangroves where I could not see them, but this past week they have all returned and are now back in all the places we normally see them. When I was driving my flats boat back to Boca Grande after a long day of fishing yesterday there were tons of Terns, Oyster catchers, Stilts, and Ibis all along the oyster bars that line the shores outside of the back country. I had not even noticed that they too were not around as much, but when they returned they colored the landscape like a bed of fresh blooming flowers. As well the smell of the dead fish is going away and the new schools of bait fish are filling in and covering the flats. Although we may still see some more cold fronts, Spring has Sprung."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Late December/ January Redfishing in Charlotte Harbor

Over the span of a few weeks the Redfishing has been terrific. We have had several early morning low tides with tailing redfish in the waters around Boca Grande. I have been poling the Action Craft 1710 TPS just as slowly and as quietly as I can in the first three hours of daylight. In some cases when the angler, the guide, and the equipment we use is all working properly we have been able to lace up some beautiful Redfish in water less than 10 inches deep. In other circumstances (and those of you who have fished for tailing Reds know what I mean), it has been very close with little of nothing to show for it. In addition to the early morning tailing we have found several schools of Reds in the middle of the day when the sun is high enough to allow us to search for them on the bottom. These sight fishing conditions have been what has motivated us in the middle of the day.

December Tarpon still here

With continued warm weather through the first half of December I decided to take another angler from Massachusetts to the Everglades National Park in search of late season Tarpon. We fish the back country where we knew we would find some baby Tarpon and after catching several of those, the situation changed and I could tell the fishing was slowing, possible for the rest of the day. So we headed off to a river system that I have not fished at all this fall in hopes that we would run into good moving water and possibly some more Tarpon willing to feed. It was about 30 seconds after we arrived and shut the motor off that we saw our first adult Tarpon. Within the next 5 minutes we watched as dozens of Tarpon started rolling around the boat. I quickly hoped on the poling platform of the Action Craft 1710 TPS and started poling and as I looked off the bow I could see that there hundreds of Tarpon in just this one spot. I fished that area that day and again on several other days that week, boating loads of Tarpon 50-100 lbs.

December Back Country Baby Tarpon & Jack Gartside

With warmer than usual weather this fall we have continued to have great fishing in the Everglades back country for baby Tarpon. While poling the Action Craft 1710 TPS through the super shallow bays and creeks we have been finding Tarpon from 2-22 lbs. rolling just as happy as can be right through the middle of the day. We worked hard to get some photos of the Tarpon launching themselves into the air. It was totally wild to see three days around the moon where they really turned on the feeding. I think we landed around 30 Tarpon a day on back to back days early in the month of December and the number of fish we missed was equally as high. It was spectacular fishing to say the least.
While fishing with Scott Wessels, owner of The Bears Den fly shop in Taunton, Massachusetts we made it a point to fish with the Gartside Gurgler Fly, originally tied by Jack Gartside. Scott had visited Jack in the Hospital in Boston just before heading south to fish with me in the Everglades National Park. It was clear that Jack was not well and we all knew and loved him. I tied up some Gurglers and we fished them all day. It was to turn out to be one of the best days of fishing either Scotty or I have ever seen. It was also the day that Jack passed on from this earth. He was an icon and a wonderfully light spirited and funny man who I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to know. He will be missed

November/ December Albies in the Gulf

Again this fall we have seen great action from fly and light tackle enthusiasts chasing the Albies. We saw schools that were 4-5 acres in size stay up and feed for hours at a time. In the area just outside of Little Boca Pass we saw one week were the glass minnows were just getting crushed and the Albies were launching themselves into the air while feeding, just like their larger cousins the Bluefin Tuna do, when they are feeding on half beaks (Atlantic soree). What a great fish to chase in the fall here in Boca.

November Giant Redfish on the beach !

Every year in the fall the Reds school up together and roam around the waters around Boca Grande. In addition we get schools of large Redfish just offshore that are coming though the area and heading south. This fall we had several different opportunities to fish for Massive Reds in the waters along the beach in the Gulf of Mexico. What a sight it was to see a huge wave of 30-50 lb. Redfish cruising on the surface in the crystal clear waters just off the beach in Boca Grande and Cayo Costa. I watched as people from all over the country who were here visiting Boca Grande enjoyed the thrill of catching these Monster Reds...

November 2k9 Reverse Migrating Tarpon

The month of November brought us some awesome action for both large and small Tarpon in the back country. I fished with both fly and light tackle spinning gear throughout the month. I enjoyed fishing with several different people and watched the landscape unfold in front of the flats boat. It was wonderful to see some anglers, who spend months of the year dreaming of catching Tarpon in the Florida Everglades, come down and live through the things they had dreamed and we had planned together. Some of the anglers who have fished with me this fall have fish with me in the past and it is always really cool for me to see the evolution of the sport for each angler and the culmination of many years worth of practice and patience. When it all comes together is feels so right and it is very special for me to be apart of it.

October in the Everglades Backcountry, Snook & Tarpon

With warm weather and great tides comes good fishing to those that can enjoy being in the right place at the right time. I fished the Everglades Back country for Snook and small Tarpon along the muddy banks of several different river systems that have become my favorite place to be in the fall. The bait is pouring out of the small rivers and streams that feed the larger bays and the Southern Migrating Tarpon gather in the fall to feed before the long winter. This month we have found several schools of fish feeding in less than 12 inches of water. Because they are so eager to feed at the beginning of the incoming tide, at times we were forced to get out of the shallow draft flats boat and walk across the flat to reach the fish. As the tide started to rise I would make my way back to the boat and pole across the flat as soon as there was enough water to move through as the fish were moving inland towards the headwaters of the system.
As the waters would rise we would fish from the boat and target the Snook and Tarpon along the edge of the flats. At times we found the Tarpon very receptive to top water and small steamer flies, but shortly after the fish were caught from an area, we needed to move on to find new water. We had some great action with terrific aerials put on by the Tarpon. Most of the fishing we have been doing in the back country for Snook and small Tarpon we have been doing with an eight or nine weight fly rod and a floating line. The leader is very simple with a standard shock near the fly of at least 25lb. test line, sometimes 60 lb. test if the Tarpon are larger than 20 lbs.