Saturday, March 31, 2012

Has The Gulf Coast Recovered From The BP Oil Spill?

We're coming up on the 2nd anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon's explosion and Boat US Magazine has an excellent article about the current state of the Gulf of Mexico beaches, shorelines and fisheries most affected by this accident. 

For the record, no oil came within 200 miles of us here on Pine Island but thanks to the shameless hype and blatantly incompetent reporting from our local and national media, our economy that summer was destroyed just the same. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 Beavertail Skiffs Performance Video

I've owned my new Beavertail BT3 for four months and have just run my 75th charter on it. I'm more impressed with this boat every day and how it continues to exceed my expectations by providing a dry and comfortable ride for my anglers and easy, shallow poling for me. This boat is the perfect guide's skiff and is the perfect example of getting more than your money's worth from a product. Check out Beavertail's new performance video below:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Matlacha In March

My friend Gary Eblen, the owner of the American Fly Fishing Company, just came to SW Florida with a hosted trip of anglers who spent two days on the flats off Matlacha and Pine Island.  My buddies Capt. Joe Harley and Capt. Rich Osgood shared the guiding duties and everyone had a blast hooking reds, trout, and even getting a few shots at some tarpon. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Another Rare Bird Over Pine Island And Some Redfish On Fly

Today was an excellent morning on the flats of Pine Island Sound.  Toronto angler Phil Clough landed three beautiful redfish using two different crab patterns.  The best fish was a perfect 25 incher that inhaled an Avalon Crab fly.  We also had a flyover from FiFi, the only B-29 Superfortress of WWII fame that is still operational.  It was an absolute thrill to see this 65 year old machine cruising through the air over my favorite flats. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Pine Island Bald Eagle

This is one of our resident birds with a nest in the Pineland area.  Shot this photo yesterday on our way to catch some nice redfish.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Matlacha Kayak Fishing With Jim Van Pelt

Here's a great video from Native Watercraft of my buddy and local kayak guide Jim Van Pelt demonstrating the features of his 10' Mariner Propel.  You can book a trip with Jim here and check out all the kayaks from Native at Florida Paddlesports in Cape Coral. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Matlacha Fishing Report: The Redfish Are Hungry

I was in a bit of a redfish slump for most of last week.  My anglers landed exactly two over the past six days.  That's terrible for this time of year.  The sea trout were practically jumping in the boat for us and the snook were more than cooperative, too.  But the reds turned their noses up at almost everything we threw at them.  Their attitude finally changed today for Dale Mayer and his brother Andy who landed the pair pictured above.  Dale's 22 incher in the top photo ate a Gulp shrimp and Andy's 21 inch fish hit a Zara Spook.  The guys landed these fish less than 20 minutes apart at high tide near Jug Creek.  They also boated a couple dozen trout throughout the morning but missed landing a couple of snook to get the Slam.  We'll get that one next time. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

How To Catch More Tarpon On A Fly

April is the beginning of tarpon season here on Pine Island and this article is for those of you who are new to the sport and hoping to land your first silver king with a fly rod.  Here are five things I’ve learned over the past fifteen years of chasing these fish for a living that will both increase your odds and simplify the process. 

1. Use a lighter fly rod. You really don't need anything heavier than a 10-weight to catch the majority of tarpon you'll encounter off Pine Island. Mid-range saltwater rods are not only easier to cast but the lighter lines hit the water with less impact. This is less likely to spook these fish, especially given our calm conditions most of year. Yes, there are some true monsters that swim through Charlotte Harbor but concentrate on the smaller tarpon before you work your way up to the 12-weight fish. 

2. Use a heavier leader. If you’re not trying to set a world record then there's no reason to use anything less than 20# test for your class tippet. In fact, I know several guides who simply use a single, nine foot long piece of 30# fluorocarbon as their entire leader. This eliminates any knots and it's invisible in the water. It's also more than strong enough to let you muscle a mid-size tarpon to the boat quickly. That's important since a long battle in the hot summertime water is a sure way to kill these fish. Get them in fast and they’re less likely to become shark food after you release them.

3. Use a lighter shock leader. The straight 30# leader idea is great but I still like to tie in 18” of 40# fluorocarbon as a shock leader. Even small tarpon have a mouth that feels like a cinder block so something a little heavier at the hook stops them from rubbing through the leader. In the spring and early summer, when the seriously big fish are around I'll bump it up to 60# fluorocarbon. In fifteen years I've only had a handful of tarpon wear through that size shock leader. Use anything heavier and the fish is more likely to see it and less likely to eat the fly.

4. Use sharper hooks. It's hard to find tarpon flies these days that are not tied on pre-sharpened, cutting edged hooks. If you’re tying your own flies then spend the extra money and get the best hooks possible. My favorites are the SSW style Owner Cutting Point in size 2/0. They're wickedly sharp and penetrate the tarpon's mouth better than anything else I’ve seen. They also have a small barb that holds beautifully but is still easily removed from the fish. A package of eight costs around $5 but they're well worth it.

5. Use your drag. This is the most important thing of all.  When I was guiding down in Key West my buddies and I had a rule that three jumps from a tarpon counted as a caught fish. After the third jump, getting it to the boat was just a formality. Everyone should consider this rule since it’s easier on both the fish and the angler.
As a beginner I lost way too many tarpon because I babied them during the fight. I'd give them too much slack and barely pull on them for fear of breaking the light tippets I used. In other words, I was so afraid of losing the fish that I'd eventually lose the fish.

That changed one summer when I had a client nearly pass out from heat exhaustion while fighting a really big tarpon. He actually dropped to his knees on my deck but managed to hang on to his rod.  It scared the hell out of me since I thought he was having a heart attack.  While he chugged some ice water I took his rod and covertly cranked down the drag all the way down on his Tibor reel, hoping the fish would break itself off before the guy dropped dead on my bow. Instead of that happening, when my angler recovered he quickly found himself in complete control of the tarpon for the first time in over an hour. Five minutes later we had the 100 pounder next to the boat and both angler and fish survived the ordeal. In other words, start off with a light drag but right after that third jump is the time to really beat on them.  You’re not going to keep any tarpon so don’t be afraid of losing one. 
Good luck out there and hope this helps.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NOAA's $300,000 Party Barge

I try to keep politics out of my blog but this story has me absolutely furious.  Back in 2008 our great protectors of America's waters at NOAA actually bought a brand new Boston Whaler 345 Conquest Open, just like the one pictured above, for NO FREAKING REASON WHATSOEVER! 

I'll let Sen. Scott Brown fill you in on the details:

Thanks, NOAA!  I feel safer already.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Matlacha Fishing Report: Lots Of Wind And Lots Of Fish

It was blowing like stink again but New Jersey angler Brian Favara scored a Slam in Matlacha Pass during a charter with his dad Len on my boat this morning.  The redfish he caugh was a 22 inch beauty, the snook was the smallest of the three he hooked, and more than a dozen trout were boated but none were really worth photographing.  It might not have been the greatest Slam in history but this was Brian's first flats trip and he got it done in some tough conditions.  Way to go, Brian.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Few More Snook From Matlacha Pass

After a very slow morning with the fly rod, angler John Downing managed to boat a couple of decent snook at high tide. These fish wouldn't have made the slot but we spooked over a dozen others that would have easily been legal fish. I also spotted a pair of monster snook that probably pushed the 20 pound mark this afternoon. John also brought home a nice 18 inch trout for dinner but the redfish were lockjawed again for me so we were denied our Slam. Next time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

High Tide Snook From Matlacha

Georgia angler Nick Blackwell came out on his first flats fishing trip with me this afternoon and scored a perfect 27 inch snook.  The fish hit a white Gulp shrimp on a 5/0 swimbait hook.  Snook have been a common sight in Matlacha Pass for me all week but very difficult to fool with artificials.  This was also the first legal sized one I've had on the boat all month.  Nick also landed a nice 16 inch trout but we missed the Slam despite spotting dozens of big redfish all morning.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Matlacha Fishing Report: Redfish In The Wind

It was blowing a solid 20 knots again today but that didn't stop my anglers from landing a couple of nice reds in Matlacha Pass.  This is Don Atkinson from Ohio with a perfect 21 incher that he caught in near the power lines on a 9wt fly rod and a green and white Deceiver.
Don's wife Sally followed up with a 22 inch redfish of her own that she landed on a live shrimp under a popping cork.
Despite the fact that what little water was on the flats was a choppy mess, there was a lot of bait and that's where we found these fish, mixed in with some big mullet.  The water is also warming back up and things should be right back to where they were last week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Great Ladyfish Action Off Pine Island

When the water temps drop almost 15 degrees in 24 hours and the wind pushes all the water off the flats, which is what happened this weekend, I'm happy to catch anything.  And when I've got a five-year-old angler on the boat I'm really happy to catch some big ladyfish.  This is Miles Griswold from Connecticut who came out with his dad Steve this morning in hopes of landing a shark.  Unfortunately that didn't work out but Miles had an awesome time hauling in lots of slimy ladyfish.  It got even better when a pod of dolphins showed up and tried stealing every one we hooked.  Talk about a total blast to watch.  This might have actually been one of the best charters I've run so far this year.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Olde Fish House Marina, Matlacha, FL

This is quickly becoming my favorite spot on the island.  The Olde Fish House has always been a great little marina with a gas dock and live bait as well as a small tackle shop.  It also has a market selling every kind of locally caught seafood as well as clams and oysters.  This past week alone I stopped in three different times and picked up some cobia, red grouper, and a dozen blue crabs.  Best of all is their restaurant which is now open for lunch and dinner.  The new owners have expanded the menu a bit and added a handful of new items such as a bison burger and my favorite softshell crab sandwich.  And they obviously sell cold beer and wine, too.  The Olde Fish House is open seven days a week and is located at 4530 Pine Island Road, just after the Matlacha drawbridge. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pine Island Fishing Report: Slim Pickings In The Sound

With a cold front bearing down on us, Pine Island Sound was a choppy mess thanks to the solid 20 knot winds out of the south.  The incredible trout action of the last week was nowhere to be found today and the few scattered redfish we saw weren't especially interested in eating.  There was a lot of water around all the mangroves and they were also a convenient place to hide from the wind.  After five hours of casting topwaters and plastics with my buddy Paul Strong from Burnt Store, the only decent fish we managed to land was this 24 inch snook that hit a white Gulp shrimp.  At least I have the weather to blame for this day.  On the positive side, the water temps are now in the upper-70s and won't drop too much during this short cold spell.  The first tarpon are already here and we should have an early season for them.