Saturday, October 30, 2010

Great Lower Keys Bonefishing

Here's a few shots that Capt. Mike Bartlett sent me yesterday from a trip that he and Capt. Rob Kramarz took out of Cudjoe Key.  The waters were flat calm and as you can see the visibility was perfect.  The guys were fishing out of Capt. Rob's excellent Beavertail BTX skiff and landed three out of four bones they hooked on fly.  I was just down there last weekend and of course the wind was honking at 15 to 20 knots and I never got an honest shot at any bones with a fly.  Typical.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beautiful Custom 18' Flats Boat For Sale

If you're a serious angler or guide looking for flats and bay boat that can do everything, this is it.  The hull is a 1995 Allseas skiff that was completely stripped and rebuilt into the beautiful tower boat you see in the photos above.  There are front and rear live wells and more storage than you'll even need.  Powered by a 2007 E-tec 150 with very low hours, this boat is fast, fuel efficient and reliable.  Best of all, at only $38,500 you'll save thousands of dollars over the purchase price of a comparable model from manufacturers like Maverick or Shearwater.  For a more complete list of its features and custom options click here or call me at (239)565-2960.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Schooling Redfish From Pine Island Sound

I shot out to Pine Island Sound this morning with my buddy Luis Garcia from Matlacha.  I was hoping sight cast to some redfish in the clear water around Cabbage Key but they were a no-show for the first couple hours until the tide hit bottom around noon.  By that time we were hitting the potholes near Pineland hoping to score some keeper trout for lunch when a big school of tailing reds popped up in front of us.  Luis dropped a Rebel Super Pop-R right into the middle of the school and immediately got clobbered but the 29-inch red pictured above.  Since this fish was a couple inches over the slot we sent it back after these photos.  These fish are a blast on topwater lures and we're still right in the middle of the best time of year to chase them here in Soutwest Florida.  Thanks to the lack of rain the water will only get clearer and the sightfishing will become easier next month.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fly Fishing Seminars At The Ft Myers Boat Show

The annual Ft. Myers Boat Show is coming up next month and this is a really great even.  I'll be there for most of the four days in a couple of different roles.  For starters I'll be giving two different seminars at the outdoor Fishing Village area on fly fishing in Southwest Florida and the Pine Island area in general.  These will be brief 20 minute talks on the opportunities for fly anglers on our local waters and a quick rundown on some of the gear and techniques that folks should consider using, especially beginners. 

These seminars are being organized by my buddy Jim Griffiths, the publisher of our great local paper The Nautical Mile.  Several other local guides and anglers will also be giving presentations.  One you shouldn't miss will be on kayak fishing by my friend Jory Pearson who runs the excellent Florida Paddlesports.  I've been working with Jory for the past couple weeks since he moved his kayak shop to Pine Island Road just outside of Matlacha.  If you're interested in kayak fishing, fly fishing, paddleboards, or anything to do with the local waters you need to stop by Jory's shop. 

Here's a complete schedule of the speakers and I hope to see you there.

Thursday 11/11

11:30 - Capt. Gregg McKee, Fly Fishing/Casting
12:00 - Capt. Kevin Holly, inshore fishing techniques
12:30 - Lee County Sheriff Dept. Marine Unit, know the laws for 2011
1:30 - USCG Commander Pete Louzao, How NOT to have a bad day on the water
2:00 - Jory Pearson, Kayak fishing

Friday 11/12

11:30 - Miles Meredith, G-14 Classified redfishing secrets
12:00 - Capt. Kevin Holly, Tarpon fishing techniques
12:30 - Capt. George Howell, Goliath Grouper Fishing
1:30 - USCG Commander Pete Louzao, How NOT to have a bad day on the water
2:00 - Miles Meredith, G-14 Classified redfishing secrets

Saturday 11/13

11:30 - Capt. George Howell, Goliath Grouper Fishing
12:00 - Capt. Chick Melfi, deep-water fishing in the Gulf
12:30 - Lee County Sheriff Dept. Marine Unit, know the laws for 2011
1:00 - Miles Meredith, new tackle for 2011 & how to use it
1:30 - Jory Pearson, Kayak fishing
2:00 - Capt. Bill Russell, Live Bait Fishing techniques

Sunday 11/14

11:30 - Miles Meredith - G-14 Classified redfishing secrets
12:00 - Les Ares, Marine electronics for 2011
12:30 - Lee County Sheriff Dept. Marine Unit, new laws for 2011
1:00 - Capt. George Howell, Goliath Grouper Fishing
1:30 - Jory Pearson, Kayak fishing
2:00 - Capt. Gregg McKee, Fly Fishing/Casting

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Key West Barracuda

I just got back from a long weekend in Key West fishing with Capt. Mike Bartlett.  The highlight of the trip was catching this four-foot long barracuda off the Snipe Keys.  I've caught hundreds of big cudas over the years in Florida and the Caribbean but this fish put up one the best fights I've ever experienced.  Barracuda are always a blast on light tackle but this one was extra psychotic and came charging straight at the boat after it was hooked.  Having those teeth flying straight for my groin at 40 mph was a very real danger.  Earlier in the week a kayaker was seriously injured in the Upper Keys when a free jumping barracuda slammed into her side and punctured a lung.  You can read that story here.

Incidents like that are obviously rare but big barracuda are nothing to mess with near a boat.  Mike came very close to getting nailed while he was unhooking this fish after I lost my grip on it.  But as mean as cudas can be they're actually a favorite food for sharks.  This particular fish nearly became a meal itself recently and you can see the evidence of that close encounter in the bottom photo.  I've seen barracuda with shark bites before but never one this drastic.  This was one serious fish and I was happy to release him after a few quick photos.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beavertail Skiffs New BT-3

An amazing piece of work from the gang up in Palmetto, FL.

I can't say enough about Aeon Marine/Beavertail Skiffs and especially its owners Will and Elizabeth Leslie.  Building this Beavertail with them was a blast and I wish I could order another one just because they made the process so effortless and enjoyable. 

I've still got a few hours of engine break in time but the boat is ready to fish and I'll post a full performance report by this weekend.  If you're in the market for a new flats boat call me at 239-565-2960 and I'll give you free test ride.  All of the Beavertail models are in the same class as any Maverick or Hell's Bay skiff and they have a price tag that will stun you when compared to those companies.  I'm talking $15,000 to $20,000 less.  If you're in the market for a new boat, be sure to test drive everything else first and then check out a Beavertail. 

Update:  Since I first wrote this post a few years ago there have been two new additions to the Beavertail lineup, staring with the BT Strike which is pictured below and launched in late 2012.  In less than a year this 17'6" hull has become one of the best selling technical skiffs on the market with a base price of just $26,000.  You can read a full review of it here

The latest Beavertail is the 16'8" Micro, which began its development right after the launch of the Strike. This boat was a direct response to all the customers who wanted a stripped down poling skiff at an entry level price. With a 30hp tiller and trailer, 2014 Micro is only $18,000. You can see some more photos of this boat here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fishing With Kids

Some of the most memorable anglers I’ve had over the past fifteen years have been kids. I’ve seen veteran twelve-year-olds do some amazing things from jumping a 150 pound tarpon off Bokeelia to almost landing a world record permit on fly in the Keys. But it’s the even younger kids on their first flats trip that I look forward to fishing with the most.

I’ve always allowed my customers to bring one or two of their children along on a charter as long as they’re at least six years old, will wear the mandatory life jackets, and can swim. Since most of my fishing is done in less than three feet of water I’ve always felt very comfortable doing this and I love being able to introduce them to some of the amazing things that swim in our waters.

Children can be tricky and restless on a small boat like my Beavertail but it’s important that they enjoy the experience right off the bat. Here’s a quick rundown of what I try to do when I have a kid onboard for their first fishing trip and really want to hook them on the sport.

The most important thing is a no-brainer: catch them something, quickly. Kids need bent rods and it doesn’t matter what species is doing the bending. Pinfish or snappers are effortless and even the sail cats we normally hate will be a thrill if it’s the first fish they’ve ever landed. Here around Pine Island a nice school of ladyfish is manna from heaven when I have an eight-year-old on the boat. Ladyfish are the perfect species for a kid because they do it all: jump, run, pull hard, and they even poop all over the deck which most kids seem to find hilarious. On top of all that we don’t eat ladyfish so you get to teach them catch and release.

Of course if you really want to give kids a thrill chop up a ladyfish (something boys especially love to watch) and toss a hunk out for sharks. When I was guiding in the Keys and had a kid on board I was going shark fishing, period. They just love everything about it, especially seeing that unmistakable shape circling the boat. The species of shark doesn’t matter. Sluggish nurse sharks are just as much fun as anything when the drag is cranked down and they’re thrashing at the surface. Nurse sharks are also a lot safer to let kids touch when you leader them next to the boat. Here around Pine Island our most common sharks are the much more dangerous bulls and blacktips, so that’s an added thrill but one I never let anyone try to pet.

If the bite slows down and my young passengers start to get restless there are a few other tactics I turn to in order to channel that energy. A full baitwell is like a mini touch-tank at the aquarium. Kids love to play in the bait well and mine has a lid that can’t accidentally slam shut, which is very important. I always keep several dozen live shrimp in there and I also like to toss in a couple of pinfish and declawed blue crabs to let them chase around with the dip net. Last summer my three year old nephew Matt was down from Pennsylvania for the first time and the bait well was the highlight of his fishing trip. He landed his first catch, an awesome six inch pinfish, and then it was right back to messing with the shrimp. It never fails.

Most kids also like to play in the tackle box if they get bored but you obviously don’t want them handling hooks or lures. I keep that gear safely stowed but I do leave out a clear Plano box full of dozens of different soft plastic baits. I let the kids pick out their favorite color if we’re jig fishing and the realistic DOA’s are especially fun to play with. Even after they spend hours getting everything mixed up in there they always seem to enjoy putting the baits back in order for me if I ask them. Who knew tackle could be so much fun and such a great distraction? I’m hoping someone will throw my wife a baby shower down at Bass Pro just for that reason.

Finally, when the kids are clearly ready to quit, we quit. Some can easily handle a full day’s fishing trip but most can’t. Forcing them to sit through just a few more hours on the boat when they’re hot and restless will only make them forget all the fun they had at the beginning of the day. A four hour charter seems to work best and that’s also more than enough sun for most children. The idea is to send them home tired but not exhausted and most importantly, send them home wanting to come back for more.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Local Kayak Business For Cape Coral And Pine Island: Florida Paddlesports

Florida Paddlesports is a great kayak shop that recently moved down to the area from Punta Gorda.  They have a great inventory and several different lines of boats with a lot of emphasis on fishing kayaks.  They also carry several different stand-up paddleboards which are a lot of fun and becoming really popular these days.  They're open seven days a week and are located in the Publix Plaza at the intersection of Pine Island and Burnt Store Roads. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Trout For The Grill, Matlacha Pass

The big sea trout have made a nice showing in Matlacha Pass last recently just as we're heading into the final two weeks of their season for the year.  I've managed to pull in at least one legal fish each time I've been out these past few days and keep about two each week for myself.  Sea trout are easy to catch, clean, and grill and an 18-inch fish makes a great meal for two people.  At the end of the month make sure you fish with barbless hooks anytime you're over the grass flats since these fish are easily injured in the mouth.  Even when you can't keep them they're still a great fight on topwaters or flies like the one in the photos above.

The Zara Spook is still my favorite topwater for trout but I've witnessed some even better results with poppers like the inexpensive Hurricane lures.  These are big noisy things that you can find online for less than $4 a piece.  They also work great on the big jacks that are hovering around Matlacha right now and you won't feel too bad loosing one to the occasional bluefish.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Backyard Jacks

Last week I posted some shots of the jacks we've been hooking on the flats just north of Matlacha.  Over the past few days we haven't even had to travel that far to catch these fish.  Big schools of jack crevalles have been cruising right up and down the canals of the island starting at the drawbridge and heading north.  They're looking for schools of glass minnows and when the jacks find them they'll push the smaller fish right up against the sea walls and start feeding.  It's an obvious sight and it literally looks like someone is tossing Cherry Bombs into the water.  The five pounders in these photos were part of a school of at least 200 fish and we chased them for half and hour just using the trolling motor and tossing Zara Spooks into the frenzy.  These are incredibly hard pulling fish for their size so you'll need at least 20# Power Pro line to stop them from running under the dock pilings and making off with your lures.