I caught this red near McArdle Island in the southern part of Matlacha Pass on a white Zara Spook. I was also using a Penn 4500 spinning reel that I bought almost 18 years ago at the old Woolworths in Key West. It still functions just as smoothly today as it did straight out of the box. They literally don't make them like they used to.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Frontier River Guides of Alaska running float trips on some of the major salmon rivers up there. We had negative low tides for much of the morning which gave us excellent sight casting conditions all day. Pat was using one of his deer hair salmon flies which was perfect for the shallow and grassy waters of northern Matlacha Pass. The 23 inch red pictured above was part of a small school of tailers that popped up less than forty feet off my bow. Pat dropped the fly directly on top of them and got an instantaneous hit. Reds are notorious for clobbering anything when they're schooled up and this fish was no different. After a few quick runs it was on board and posing for hero shots. We've got an unbeatable combination of weather and tides right now that make this one of the best redfish seasons I've ever seen. If you want a lot of shots at these fish on fly give me a call.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Stand-up paddle boards, also known as SUPs, have been around for several decades. They originated in Hawaii back in the 1960’s but they’ve really increased in popularity here in the mainland US over the last ten years. Chances are you’ve seen someone rowing one of these oversized, and exceptionally light, 10 to 12 foot surfboards around the shallows of Matlacha and Pine Island or off one of the Southwest Florida beaches recently. Standing upright and using a single bladed paddle, SUPs can be a phenomenal workout or a leisurely way to go sight-seeing for a few hours.
They’re also one of the best ways to sneak up on tailing redfish that I've ever seen. In calm water a paddle board is absolutely silent and they have none of the “push” that the displacement of a flats boat, no matter how light, can’t help but create. Paddle boards are as close as an angler can come to actually walking on water.
Last month was the first time I tried fishing from an SUP and it was a lot easier than I had imagined. The board I was using was an 11 foot Ark Silencer that I borrowed from my buddy Jory Pearson at Florida Paddlesports, our great new kayak shop located just outside of Matlacha. This model is specifically designed for fishing and even has a couple of recessed rod holders molded into its stern. At 38 inches wide, the Ark Silencer is more stable than most SUPs, making it a better platform for casting without losing your balance.
Since I was going to be fly fishing I brought along my collapsible leaf basket that doubles as a rod holder and line tamer for the nose of the board. It worked perfectly and kept my fly line out of the water and never got in my way while I was paddling. When I wanted to cast I simply laid the paddle across the board at my feet and held it there with my toes.
I loaded the Ark board onto the bow of my Beavertail skiff and ran to a couple of islands just over a mile north of Matlacha. I could have paddled out to this spot but I wasn’t looking at these boards for their awesome workout potential. I just wanted to use them to sneak up on some fish, not chisel myself a new six-pack of abs.
After the short run I launched the board and set off for the mangroves with my 8-weight Sage. I picked a stretch of water where the slight breeze would carry me straight down the shoreline with minimal paddling. I started casting a slider fly at the tree line for a few minutes before getting slammed by something very solid. The fish thrashed for a moment and then ran from the mangroves and out towards the open flats, dragging me and the 12 foot board right along with it. We traveled about fifty yards upwind before the fish gave up and let me kneel down and grab it by the tail. It was only a 22 inch redfish but I was amazed how easily it was able to pull all that weight, nearly 200 pounds of angler and board, across the surface of the water.
Over the past 20 years I’ve fished the flats on foot, from kayaks, canoes, and dozens of different outboard driven skiffs. I can honestly say that hooking this medium sized redfish from a stand-up paddle board was one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever done on the water. While I have no illusions of replacing my Yamaha powered Beavertail with an SUP, I can't wait to see was a catching a big tarpon will be like from one of these boards.
If you’d like to check out a stand-up paddle board for yourself stop by Florida Paddlesports in the Publix Plaza on Pine Island Road. They’re open seven days a week and offer kayak and paddle board rentals, tours, and lessons.
Friday, November 19, 2010
My good friend and Matlacha neighbor Bill Heindl landed a nice pair of snook with me yesterday in Buzzard Bay. Bill was casting his favorite topwater lure, the indispensable Zara Spook and slammed a 22 and 25 incher within an hour or sunset from the bow of my Beavertail skiff. The tide was barely rising and the water temperature was hovering around 73 degrees. Even though we can't keep any snook this year it's still a great time to come to Southwest Florida and catch a few just for the fun of it.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The choke hold finally ended this morning and the day turned out beautiful for my charter. Pictured above is angler Bill Lee from Toronto who came down with his buddy Mike to hit the flats for the first time. The guys had never even seen a redfish before and Bill finally landed this nice 22 incher after a few hours of casting topwaters. We flushed plenty of reds and some really nice trout and they were all reluctant to hit anything. The water was 63 degrees when we left the ramp but had climbed up to 68 when the red in the photo finally ate. One positive note to the colder temps is the increasing clarity of the flats to the south of Matlacha. This made sight casting a lot easier and gave me a great feel for how many fish are really out there right now. Fishing for the rest of the week should be excellent.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Capt. Mike Bartlett sent me these shots from yesterday just before a cold front hit the Keys. They were fishing in one of the deeper channels off Key West which is where the big tarpon hold up throughout the colder months. Not too many guides target them in the late fall and winter but Capt. Mike could probably find tarpon in a golf course water hazard if he had to. He's that good. If you're heading to the Keys give him a call at (305)797-2452.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Pine Island Eagle.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Trout season ended on Sunday and I caught my last two legal fish in the morning off the Burnt Store Bar. I used a white Strike King and a Zara Spook and landed almost a dozen fish that were over the 15 inch minimum. No more keeping trout until January but you can still enjoy catching them. Just make sure you use barbless hooks since sea trout are easily injured in their mouths.
Sunset gave us a great low tide in Matlacha Pass and the redfish were tailing all over one of my favorite flats south of the bridge. I hooked the two reds pictured above within fifteen minutes of each other. I was using the same white Zara Spook in only six inches of water. I released them both even though the first fish was a legal 24 incher.
November is still a great month for reds and this is good news since we can't keep any trout or snook these days. Just remember that there's enough meat on a 24 inch redfish to make a nice dinner for four people. Know the laws if you're here on vacation and don't keep more than one per day.