Monday, October 31, 2011

Back From Vacation

We just got home from a week in the mountains of western North Carolina where I saw the fall colors for the first time in over a dozen years and got to teach my daughter to fly fish for trout on the Cullasaja River.  She did great but needs to work on her double haul for tarpon season next year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beavertail's Newest Vengeance

My beloved Beavertail B2 drove off to Islamorada with its new owners on Sunday and my new BT3 won't be finished until Thanksgiving.  That means a couple weeks of poling a very heavy Action Craft for my charters.  At least it's a fast boat with a big trolling motor.  I did get a chance to check out the latest Vengeance to come from the Beavertail factory this past weekend here on Matlacha.  This skiff is rigged with the same Yamaha 70 four stroke that I've ordered for my BT3.  Sweet rig.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Best Bonefish I Ever Caught

Here's something I wrote a few years ago for Enchanted down in Puerto Rico:

The main reason I moved to Vieques was its bonefish population. This is one of my favorite species to chase in saltwater and Vieques is the best place I’ve ever fished for them. It's far from the best bonefishing spot on Earth. From what I’ve been told that title would probably go to the Seychelles or Christmas Island, two exotic locales that are half a world and at least $10,000 away from me right now. But Vieques is home and we have a handful of flats where I can catch tailing bonefish any day of the year, which makes it my favorite bonefishing destination so far.

But my favorite bonefish came from somewhere else.

A customer questioned me about this a while ago as I was poling him across the incredible flats of Ensenada Honda. “What was the best bonefish you ever caught?” he asked.

Surprisingly, my best bonefish was not my biggest bonefish.  I landed that one about eight years ago off Key West.  That fish was really memorable because I actually thought it was a big barracuda at first, sitting dead still over some white sand.  I decided to hit the fish with my shrimp fly anyway just for target practice. I wasn’t too surprised when it shot forward and ate because barracuda are prone to do when you don't want them to, especially with bonefish patterns. What did surprise me was when my line wasn't sliced through after few seconds into the first run. When the fish never jumped, something cuda do frequently, I thought, “We might have a big bone here,” and it was.  We weighed it on a Boga Grip at 10 1/2 pounds and to this day it is still the biggest bonefish I've ever caught.

But my best bonefish, the one that sticks with me the most, weighed in at the other end of the scale. I was on my honeymoon down on Grenada, an island with no real flats and basically no bonefishing opportunities.  Grenada wasn't my first choice but when you guide for a living it’s hard to sell a fishing trip as a honeymoon to a non-fishing wife. The island itself was fantastic and I still packed my fly rod to use at the beaches, but with little luck for the first few days.

Amanda and I decided to take an overnight trip to a neighboring island called Carriacou, an hour’s ferry ride north. Carriacou is smaller and sparsely populated but with even more fantastic beaches. Just like on Grenada, none of the locals could tell me much about finding bonefish, or macabi as they're called in that part of the Caribbean, but I hit the beach below our guest house anyway, hoping to bend a rod on something.

I was casting a small Clouser into the surf when my line came tight after a few throws and I was relieved that something finally picked up the fly. I got a two second run and some quick tugs which told me that I probably hooked a snapper or small jack. I stripped the line in easily and my catch surfed a small a wave to the sand at my feet. It was a tiny bonefish, less than ten inches long and weighing maybe half a pound, the smallest one I’d every seen.

I called Amanda over to get a picture of my ridiculous catch when the beach behind me erupted with noise. A half dozen school kids in their swimming trunks came running down the sand towards me. They surrounded us, jumping up and down pointing at my fish and jabbering questions in their heavily accented Patois, the island version of English that I could barely understand. The kids had never seen a fly rod before, let alone somebody use one to catch something off that beach, and I had never seen anyone so excited over a half pound bonefish.

The oldest boy asked me in Tourist English if they could keep it. Even though I’ve always released my bonefish, they're popular in much of the Caribbean for fish stew. This one would go home as their contribution to the evening meal. When I handed it over they all broke out into a song and started dancing around Amanda and I right there on the beach. They were singing in the same heavy Patois but I understood the meaning. This was their “Thanks for the Fish” song and was one of the best parts of our honeymoon.

That’s what made the smallest bonefish I ever caught the best bonefish I ever caught

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Matlacha Fishing Report: Finally Back On The Water!

Last week was miserable with record setting rains and high winds that kept me off the water for way too long.  Fortunately this is a slow time of year and I only had to cancel one charter because of the weather.  When the clouds finally parted I managed to have a great trip yesterday with Tom and Vicky from West Palm Beach.  We had an excellent morning hooking dozens of sea trout in Matlacha Pass including four keepers and one impressive 20 incher that Tom nailed with a Spook. 

One other thing I noticed after the weather finally broke has been an outpouring of wildlife in Matlacha Pass.  Dolphins and manatees are more common than ever but the eagles and ospreys have really been putting on a show.  They were diving on fish and fighting each other for their catches all morning.  It was incredibly entertaining to watch and an added bonus to the great fishing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tim Gleason Photography

Tim Gleason is a commercial photographer from California who also has a home on Pine Island.  He's an avid angler and when he's here in Florida he can usually be found chasing redfish across the Indian Fields in his kayak.  His nautical prints, like the Bokeelia chairs pictured above, can be found at Earth and Spirit Gallery on Pine Island.  You can check out some more of his great prints and commercial work at his website

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beavertail Skiffs And Aeon Boatworks At The Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show

If you want to check out Beavertail's new Vengeance in person head over to the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show at the Broward Convention Center next Thursday.  Beavertail's new owners Will and Elizabeth Leslie will be there along with a few of their amazing Aeon center consoles and a special guest that every serious angler will want to meet.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sea Trout Off Key West

We've had a banner week of sea trout fishing here off Pine Island, especially before Friday's cold front.  The day before I had a charter that landed at least 60 fish in four hours, including 9 slot sized keepers.  I also heard from my buddy Capt. Mike Bartlett in Key West this morning and he's also been doing really well with the trout in the backcountry basins down there.  A lot of folks don't realize that these fish can be found that far south but check out his latest blog post here for the photos and details.

When I was guiding in the Lower Keys sea trout were a rare catch, at least for me.  I probably caught less than half a dozen in the 10 years I fished the flats down there.  According to Mike they're becoming a regular catch in places like Turkey Basin, just north of Boca Chica and the Saddlebunch Keys.  Mike also knows several spots that often produce redfish and snook, two species I never caught in all of my charters in the Keys.  This is a great sign that Florida's waters are healthier than ever despite what a lot of folks would like you to believe.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Big Jack Crevalle From The Pass

Pound for pound, there's no stronger fish in the ocean than the crevalle.  Mike Peplinski from Atlanta and Matlacha landed this beautifully colored fish a mile north of the island on a topwater Spook.  Even though this was only a five pounder it still took several minutes to land on 20# Power Pro.  Nothing can put a hurting on light tackle like the jacks and fall is one of the best times of year to find them around these parts. 

An even better place to chase these fish is down in the Lower Key, especially in the winter.  From January to March you can find even bigger jacks hanging on the backs of almost every stingray on the Gulf flats.  I'm planning on taking my new skiff down there after Christmas just to fly fish for them with poppers for a few days.  If you've never hooked a big jack on a fly rod, find a way to do it soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slam Season Part 2

Here's a couple of great images from my trip Monday with Bonita Beach angler John Conrath using his Nikon D90 with a fisheye lens.  I've got serious camera envy now. 

And here are some shots from yesterday of Sam Peplinski from Atlanta with the Slam he caught just south of Matlacha.  Once again these fish fell victim to the almighty Zara Spook.  This makes three Slams this week that my anglers have caught using this lure.  If you don't have one in your tackle box go out and buy three right now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Boater's Bash Barge Party At Two Pine Sandbar This Weekend

These are always a blast and you can bring the family, too.  For more info go to their website at  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sea Hunter Boats vs. The Law Of Gravity And Chainsaws

Thanks to my buddy Paul Murray for sending me this clip today. This is equal parts awesome and insane, but if you have $200,000 and change to spend on a center console you clearly can't go wrong with a Sea Hunter. Watch and be amazed:

Pine Island Fishing Report: It's Grand Slam Season

October is the month when it comes to fishing the flats in Southwest Florida.  All the inshore species are here and Atlanta angler Paul Burgan scored a pair of Slams with me yesterday by landing two reds, two snook, and a couple and trout, all within two hours of each other and all on the same lure.  We were using a white Zara Spook, (what else) and hiding from the wind near the mangroves just north of the power lines in Matlacha Pass.   

This was a great morning but it could have been even better.  In addition to the winds that kept us off a lot of my favorite flats, we had high clouds that ruined the visibility through the water.  We spooked a lot of big redfish right under the bow before we ever had a chance to cast to them.  The chop on the surface also made the tarpon impossible to find which ruined our chance at a true Grand Slam. 

And in case there's still any confusion, a Grand Slam means catching four fish, not three.  A three run homer in baseball is just that:  three runs.  Hit a dinger with bases loaded and what do they call it?  A Grand Slam.  Same rules apply to fishing.  You need that tarpon to call your Slam around here a Grand one.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Redfish Size Limits

In the State of Florida you can keep one redfish per day as long as it's no less than 18 and no more than 27 inches in length.  There is no closed season on this species and October is one of the best times of year to catch them in the Matlacha and Pine Island area. 

The redfish in the photo above was caught this morning in Matlacha Pass on a white Zara Spook.  It was 20 inches long and even though that might be Florida legal, on my boat it's too short so I tossed it back in the water.  I won't keep a red for dinner, or allow my anglers to do the same, unless it's at least 21 inches long.  As far as I'm concerned, those extra three inches add a sizeable chunk of meat to each fillet and really make the fish worth eating.  I'm not saying that I think that Florida should raise the size limits on reds, I just think that the 18 to 20 inchers are too skinny for me.

 If you want to keep an 18 inch fish on my boat, then we can go catch sea trout.  Fishing for them is great right now and they taste awesome, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beavertail News: My Old B2 Is Sold, My New BT3 Is On The Way

Goodbye, old friend, I'll miss you terribly.  We've had a great four years together and seen a lot of water between here in Florida and our time in the Caribbean.  You've been the best flats boat I've ever owned and I really don't want to sell you, but I just can't hang that awesome new Yamaha 70 on your transom.  I know you're strong enough to handle it but the Coast Guard says I'm not allowed to make you go that fast. 

Stupid Coast Guard.  Sure, they're pretty good at all that saving lives in hurricanes and fighting drug smugglers on the high seas stuff.  But other than that, what do they know about boats anyway?

I know you're going to love your new home in Islamorada. Think of all the big bonefish you'll get to chase down there.  You loved chasing bonefish when we first got together in Puerto Rico.  There's even more of them in the Upper Keys and some huge tarpon and permit, too.  You and your new owners are going to have a blast together.

Please don't be mad at me for hooking up and moving on with your younger sister.  I know she's not as skinny as you, but just look at her curves.  She's so damn hot!  I just can't help myself.

So goodbye, B2.  And hello, BT3.  Can't wait to see you next month.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pine Island Fishing Report: Big Trout And Tailing Reds On The Flats

These shots are from Saturday morning when I hit the flats with Jason Dukes of Ft. Myers to chase some tailing redfish.  While we were waiting for the tide to bottom out I landed this beautiful seatrout on my favorite Zara Spook.  At 22 inches, this was my personal best trout of the year and I released him later that afternoon into a pan full of melted butter and white wine sauce. 

The redfish appeared right on schedule and we spent almost two hours casting topwaters and flies at tailing fish.  The conditions couldn't have been better with a 0.0 low tide in Matlacha Pass which gave the reds nowhere to hide.  We also had a huge expanse of flats completely to ourselves thanks to the low water and Jason's great East Cape Lostman skiff with its 6 inch draft.  Despite all that, we never hooked a single red.  We got lots of chases but no serious strikes.  A ton of grass on the surface didn't help but it was just one of those days when the redfish were flipping us the bird with their tails. 

But fear not.  It's October on Pine Island and that's prime time for redfish.  They'll be schooling up and even easier to spot when they push across the flats by the dozens.  Also, the cooler water temps will keep them in the shallows even in the middle of the day.  That means you can fish the low tides no matter when they occur, even at high noon like we did this past weekend.