Thursday, April 29, 2010

Great Day On The Redfish, Matlacha Pass

Angler George Nassor and I had a great morning chasing redfish in the really shallow creeks of Matlacha Pass. George hooked half a dozen reds on both topwater lures and white jerkbaits. The best producer was a dark yellow Mirrodine lure that drew several great surface strikes. Unfortunately this same lure had a problem keeping the redfish stuck and at least three came loose despite the dual treble hooks. The one it did hold is pictured above, a nice 25 1/2 inch beauty.

The smaller red pictured above actually launched itself out of the water right after it hit the jerkbait, something I rarely see them do. We were on the fish all morning right until the incoming tide switched and shut things off instantly. The same conditions that gave us such a good morning will be here through the weekend and I'll probably keep chasing the redfish until the tarpon become way too tempting.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It Is Definitely Tarpon Season On Pine Island

Right now there are tarpon pouring into Charlotte Harbor, Boca Grande Pass, and Pine Island Sound. I was out yesterday with my buddy Wild Bill and we both had half a dozen great shots at some seriously big tarpon. Unfortunately I suck and didn't land anything so the pictures above are from different days.

I was actually amazed that the tarpon we saw were willing to eat. We had a lot going against us. We were out late in the afternoon and the wind was gusting between 15 to 20 knots. Every tarpon we saw was in 6 feet of water and with the tide running out they were all pointing directly away from our skiff. That meant that we had to throw the flies over their backs, something guaranteed to spook a tarpon in most cases. At least half the fish we cast to followed our flies and I actually made two eat. Since I hadn't cast to a big tarpon in at least six months I was way out of practice and coundn't stick either one hard enough. Yes, I'm making excuses.

All the tarpon we saw yesterday were big, including a couple that pushed 150 pounds. In addition to this good news the canals in Matlacha are now filling up with lots of rolling 10 pounders. I've got a couple of charters lined up this week with experienced anglers so hopefully these guys can do better than I did on the bow and we'll get some new tarpon photos over the next few days.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Still More Snook From Matlacha Pass

No, I can't let you keep one right now but I can easily help you catch one. Snook are everywhere and even though I'm concentrating on tarpon and redfish it's still great to pull in a big linesider every now and then here around Matlacha and Pine Island. This is a really great time of year.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Badonk-A-Donk Snook, Pine Island Sound

These new lures by Bomber, the awesomely named Badonk-A-Donks, are some of the best topwater baits I've ever seen. They have an irresistible twitching action that only the classic Zara Spook even comes close to immitating.

Pictured here is my buddy Jim Griffiths, publisher of the excellent Nautical Mile newspaper here on Pine Island with a beautiful but undersized and out of season snook. This fish smashed a Badonk-A-Donk right along the tree line inside the Burnt Store Bar north of Pine Island. Snook of this size are really common right now and I keep posting pictures of them as often as I can to convince folks that they weren't all killed last winter after the freezes.

If you want to come down to Southwest Florida and go snook fishing you won't be disappointed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The World's Most Awesome Forklift Driver

Yeah, that's right.

These are some photos of Mike Bender, the manager of the Hurricane Hole Marina on Stock Island, when he needed to move our $30,000 Beavertail flats skiff right over a $60,000 Corvette parked between him and the boat ramp.

Mike didn't shuffle his feet or even ask the 'Vette owner to move his car, he just swung the damn boat right over top of it and out to the water without batting an eye. Our cameraman was filming the whole thing in case we were about to see a YouTube classic unfold before us but that didn't happen.

This guy is so cool he could sweat icicles.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Topwater Snook

My good buddy Wild Bill Heindl with a 27 inch snook we caught in the north part of Matlacha Pass this afternoon. This fish clobbered a yellow Zara Spook at the top of the tide. This is just more proof that despite the cold weather kill that hammered these fish last winter, our snook population is still healthy and will make a quick comeback. I see fish of this size in the pass every day now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beavertail's New Vengeance In Key West, April 2010

I just got back from a great week in Key West where I helped with some filming for a new Sportsman Channel show. We were really thrilled to have Beavertail Skiff's owner Mark Fisher and his good buddy Matt Kersting along for the trip. This was also the Key West debut of Mark's latest design, the all new Vengeance skiff. The wind was honking at 15 to 20 knots all week but we managed to land some great fish on the flats and rack up some really impressive bar tabs at the Hurricane Hole Marina.

The Vengeance on its way to Key West.

This boat is hands down the most amazing skiff currently on the market.  Over the past 20 years I've been on just about every flats boat on the market and have owned five different models, including a top of the line Maverick.  None of them run through chop as smoothly and keep the passengers as dry as the Vengeance.  It's also as easy to pole as the lightest, but far more expensive, Hell's Bay models.
Angler Matt Kersting staying dry on a high speed run to Calda Bank on the new Vengeance.

Watching our camera crew running ahead of us in their Maverick skiff. They nearly drowned in the southeast chop.

Matt and Mark with a beautiful 15 pound permit caught on a live blue crab.

Our Beavertail BTX camera boat owned by Capt. Rob Kramarz running director Brad Douglas and cameraman Don "One Sock" Hoy towards Bluefish Channel. Capt. Rob is a great guide and it was a blast hanging out with him all week in Key West.

Matt Kersting casting some of his excellent flies in the insanely difficult Key West wind at some crusing permit.

Myself and Mark Fisher with his 12 pound permit caught off Boca Grande Key. Mark paid his dues by sticking several flies into his skull before lowering himself to catching this permit on a live crab for our cameras. This show's editing department is going to have a hell of a job with their bleep button for this segment.

Matt and Mark with one of the two dozen tarpon we hooked Tuesday night under the Cow Key Channel bridge. This was probably three of the best hours I've ever spent on the water. The tarpon were hitting every other cast we threw under the bridge and a trio of homeless drunks were hurling abuse at us from the shore. Between hookups we were emptying a cooler full of Sam Adams and I don't remember laughing so hard in a long time. It was one of those rare moments in my life where I had to stop and ask myself, "Should I really be having this much fun?"

This whole trip wouldn't have been possible without the invaluable help and advice from my good friend Capt. Mike Bartlett, pictured here on high alert for catchable fish after a night at my buddy Irish Kevin's house.

In all seriousness, here's the image of Mike that most people will see after they book him for a charter. Mike Bartlett is the best permit fisherman in Key West and is also the first captain to guide an angler to a Grand Slam in the Keys in 2010, something he did the day before we arrived with our cameras. For some reason Mike likes to claim that I was his mentor before he started guiding in Key West. That's a ridiculous statement since he has easily forgotten more about flats fishing in the Keys over the past decade than I've ever known. If you're heading to the island do yourself a favor and book this guy right now.

Key West is an amazing place where I was lucky enough to spend one third of my life. I've been away from it for too long and this past week was blend of everything I always savored about the island, especially the fishing and the friendships. I can't wait to go back there next month.