Friday, October 23, 2009

Almost A Slam (Updated)

This is my buddy Wild Bill Heindl from Virginia, a long time presence on the bow of my boat from Key West to Puerto Rico and now here on Pine Island, and he's not called Wild Bill because of his loud shirts.

Bill landed a Slam with me on Wednesday but all of the fish were undersize. We wanted to get another one will all legal size species so that meant heading out to Pine Island Sound with on my buddy Capt. Joe Harley's boat.

Bill was throwing a topwater Zara Spook with a Shimano baitcaster and first landed the big trout pictured above. His second strike was the 24 inch redfish that hit the same lime green Spook. This was one of the very few reds I've ever seen with an almost spotless tail. They're also much lighter in color in the clear water of the Sound than they are in Matlacha Pass.

We really needed a big snook and found several hovering in the deeper potholes near Flamingo Bay. Bill switched to an orange DOA shrimp and hooked a big snook that was close to 30 inches. This fish was a great jumper and I tried to get some shots while it was airborne but was in the wrong spot on the platform. Just as we were bringing the snook boatside it came unhooked. Total bummer but there's some really great action out in the Sound right now.

Update: I ran out with Bill here in Matlacha Pass this afternoon and finally scored him his legal snook. This fish hit the same Zara Spook we were using yesterday and was part of a school hanging under the mangroves near the Indian Fields.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Snook (finally) In Matlacha Pass

My Dad and I were doing some pre-fishing for the upcoming Pine Island Elementary Tournament taking place here on Matlacha this Sunday. Redfish and trout haven't been a problem for me lately but I've been banging my head against the wall trying to land a decent snook. This really bothers me because it's currently the middle of snook season.

We finally got our act together today and landed four nice fish using live bait. We managed to bring up three nets full of big pilchards and threadfins and used these to pull some respectable but short snook from the mangroves. The one pictured above was just and inch under the slot limit. That's ok since we're saving the huge ones for the tournament thisSunday.

We've been having no problems finding legal size redfish for the past month. Dad landed this beautiful 25 inch red out of a school of dozens running the Burnt Store Bar. The most remarkable thing about the redfishing lately is that I every one I've caught has been a legal fish. I'm not sure if this means anything but I'm willing to give the credit for this to some excellent management of our resources here in Florida.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Snapper And Reds On Fly, Pine Island Sound

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Capt. Joe Harley and I went out at sunrise this morning to look for one last push of tarpon before a front comes through this week. The big fish were absent but we found a lot of rolling babies in the creeks but got no hookups. We did see a lot of snook around several oyster bars and Joe landed an undersized one on a deerhair fly.

The snapper pictured above hit a white minnow pattern under the mangroves while we were casting at some laid up snook. Big snapper like this are a really underrated gamefish for fly rods. They hit like a ton of brick and pull harder than many fish twice their size.

I landed a couple small trout by blind casting around another oyster bar and then got a big strike on a copper colored shrimp pattern. I had landed the fly in the middle of a small school of redfish and got eaten by the 25 incher pictured above. Both sides of Pine Island are loaded with fish like this and we've been landing a lot of perfect slot size reds all month. This was a great morning especially since we've got a good tournament coming up this weekend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oil Drilling Off Western Florida

There's currently a heated debate going on about whether Florida should allow offshore drilling in state waters. Here's one of best written article I've read in a long time laying out the case in favor of drilling and its side benefits:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Benefit For Mike Harley, October 10th

My good friend and local fly fishing guide Capt. Joe Harley's dad Mike underwent a lifesaving triple bypass surgery last month. Yesterday he came home for the first time in six weeks and is on the road to recovery. To help raise funds for his long and expensive recuperation there will be a benefit this Saturday, October 10th, at the Olde Fish House Marina on Matlacha. It starts at 5 PM and at least four bands will be playing, including Capt. Joe Harley's Bombaleros, a great surf rock trio. There's free parking and plenty of good food and beer available. There will also be a silent auction and several local charter captains, including myself, will be raffling off trips. This will be a great party at one of the coolest spots in Southwest Florida. Hope to see you there.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Red October

October is prime time for redfish in Southwest Florida. In addition to the perfect weather, low tides are giving us great tailing conditions for these fish. The best news of all is that most of these fish are within the legal slot limit if you decide to keep one for the grill.

This is Wisconsin angler Tom Morgan with his first redfish that we caught this morning just south of the Matlacha Pass bridge. Tom was casting a custom built 8 weight Sage rod, a Ross Canyon reel, and using a Lenny Moffo style Fleeing Crab pattern. This 24 inch fish was in a school of over a dozen reds tailing in just over a foot of water.

While they don't have the same explosive speed as a bonefish, redfish can be just as difficult to stalk with a fly rod. They are hyper alert in shallow water but will usually settle down a lot quicker if they're spooked. That makes them a bit more user friendly for most anglers. Even though we were fishing from my skiff, the reds we chased this morning were close enough to the ramps at Matlacha Park that any kayak angler could have chased them just as easily.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October On Cayo Costa

There are a lot of places that have been called "Florida's Best Kept Secret" but for my money it Cayo Costa State Park. During this time of year it's actually possible to have this island, with nine miles of beaches, entirely to yourself. There are twelve cabins that rent for only $40 per night. They're very basic but comfortable, especially now that the nights have cooled off considerably. In addition to the great swimming and shell collecting, the beaches are loaded with fish. It's common to see schools of snook, sheepshead, and black drum right in the surf with their backs literally coming out of the water.

I hooked a huge snook near the ranger station and the 22 inch trout pictured above was caught a few miles to the east in Pine Island Sound. You'll also have access to the great redfish flats inside Pelican Bay. Even if you don't have a boat Cayo Costa is easily accessable from the ferry at the Pineland Marina. Weekdays are the best time to head to the island this month, other than the rangers you'll rarely see other people out there.