Monday, August 7, 2017

August On Pine Island

From this month's Nautical Mile Magazine:
My kids with their first legal size pompano.

Late summer on Pine Island is usually a time of transition for my charters.  I stop focusing exclusively on tarpon, even though there are still plenty of them out there, and go back to chasing whatever target of opportunity presents itself on the flats.  Snook, trout and redfish are back on my list as well as several other edible species such as snapper and Spanish mackerel. But the best of all is the pompano.

This beautiful and hard fighting member of the jack family easily gets my vote as the best tasting fish that you can find in the shallows.  Unlike their much larger cousin the permit, pompano rarely exceed five pounds of solid, flying saucer shaped muscle.  Their sharp, forked tail gives them a tremendous acceleration and they’ll often jump several times when hooked.  This combination of good looks, great taste and a strong fight has made pompano a favorite of anglers in both the Gulf and Atlantic for decades.  

There are several ways to target them on both spin and fly gear but in late summer I’ll choose the easiest route.  Pompano are often spooked by running boats and will often skip like a stone in your wake.  They’re easiest to spot when cruising through manatee zones and at a fast idle.  If you see this happen kill your engine immediately and start bouncing live shrimp or shrimp tipped jigs on the bottom.  Pompano are a schooling species and where you see one there will usually be plenty of others, especially in water between three to six feet deep.  

Fly fishing for them right now in the dark summer water is a bit more difficult but I’ll sometimes dredge the bottom with heavily weighted Clouser Minnow patterns cast with an intermediate line.  This is a bit more labor intensive but pompano are an elusive catch on the fly here in SW Florida and well worth the effort.  Sight casting to one here on Pine Island is almost as rewarding as scoring on a permit down in the Keys. 

The beaches from Sanibel to Cayo Costa are some of the only places that fly anglers can actually spot cruising pompano right now.  Other than that, the inshore flats in August are the color of coffee and this is perfect camouflage for almost any species.  You’ll have to wait until the middle of winter when the water brightens up again to really sight fish for them.  Once that happens there are plenty of bright and shallow sandbars in Charlotte Harbor when pompano gather.  

Cruising stingrays are the one thing that ever angler should constantly look for, especially in the skinny water.  Most rays are crustacean eaters, just like pompano, so it’s not uncommon to find several different kinds of gamefish clinging to their backs.  As a rule, I toss whatever is in my hands at every stingray I see and this has resulted in plenty of pompano on my boat, especially with the fly rod.  

You won’t find a better looking or better tasting gamefish anywhere on the flats of SW Florida.  Most of the pompano we catch are in the two to four pound range which makes them perfect for the grill or sauté pan.  A big one will easily feed two people and you can have fun releasing the rest.  I’m really looking forward to bringing home a few nice pompano this month after a long season of chasing big, inedible tarpon.  Hope you can get a few for yourself.   

Sunday, July 30, 2017

We're Still Catching Fish And Please Follow Me On Instagram

I've been running this blog for over seven years now and yes, I have really slacked off on the postings these last few months.  I actually have a few legitimate reasons for that, mainly an unbelievably busy season that kicked in last Christmas that had me booked solid until last week.  I'm definitely not complaining about this and the fantastic weather and economy of 2017 has been more than a blessing.  Things have just started to return to a more normal pace and I definitely plan to get back to my schedule of posting photos and fishing reports at least twice a week here. 

I'll also confess that since some friends introduced me to Instagram two years ago I've been far more active on that platform than I ever expected to be.  As an avid photographer and reluctant writer it's been a great outlet for my laziness these last few months.  I can throw up an Instagram post in about two minutes while I usually spend at least an hour creating one on this site.  So if you've been reading this site regularly please click here to catch up with me on Instagram.

At the same time I promise to start posting a bit more regularly on this blog and really want to thank the handful of folks who've contacted me lately about that.  Really appreciate knowing that you guys are out there and reading my stuff. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

July On Pine Island

From this month's Nautical Mile Magazine:

July has always been one of my favorite months to fish on Pine Island.  For starters, every worthwhile species to chase on the flats are here in good numbers.  Tarpon season is still in full swing, big sharks are all over the shallows, redfish will tail on the flat calm mornings, and spawning snook are cruising the beaches.  And best of all, the boat traffic out there, at least on the weekdays, is at a minimum with the snowbirds all back up north.

The only drawback to July is the fact that we're in the middle of summer and the heat and humidity are off the charts.  But that's not exactly a bad thing, especially for fly fishermen looking for smaller tarpon on light tackle. 

Every saltwater fly angler lives for the thought of cruising into a sheltered bay and spotting a school of several dozen slow rolling tarpon.  This is the time of year when that can happen on any given morning around here.  When the waters get greasy calm, that's the time to break out the light to mid-size fly rods and toss 1/0 patterns at 5 to 10 pound fish. 

Baby tarpon school up by the dozens since there is safety in numbers.  They can be almost anywhere but the man-made canals all over Pine Island and Cape Coral are holding them right now and the live bait guys have been catching them with ease with free lined pinfish.  Getting one to hit a fly is a much more difficult chore, and that mostly has to do with the water depth. 

All my fly rods were strung up with weight forward floating lines which are perfect for the flats or clear waters less than 6 feet deep.  They've never worked well in the canals which are very dark and usually around 10 feet deep or more.  I recently started casting a clear tip, intermediate fly line from Royal Wulff on my 9-weight rod and the results were immediate.  Once this line started dragging my flies down and extra couple of feet the canal tarpon started eating. 

Casting an intermediate fly line is a bit of a chore for beginners but once you've done it a few times it becomes a lot of fun.  You can actually shoot these lines for a very long distance compared to the more common floating lines.  They'll definitely get your light flies in front of the deeper swimming tarpon in the canals can be equally effective along the passes off the Gulf islands.  Keep and intermediate line on a spare reel and you'll be surprised how useful it can be this time of year. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

2013 Beavertail Strike For Sale

This is an excellent Beavertail Strike in like new condition located in Cape Coral.  Click here for a more detailed listing or call David at 701-509-1624.  The Strike/F70 combo is one of the best technical poling skiffs ever built and this one is ready to fish for a recreational angler or guide.  This is the only one like it on the market right now so don't let it slip away if you're in the market for a great high end flats boat.