Thursday, May 31, 2012

One More Matlacha Snook

It wasn't the biggest one we landed this week, but Mike Peplinski's 22 inch snook hit like a ton of bricks and looked great in the morning light.  There's no shortage of these fish out there right now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pine Island Fishing Report: Big Snook And Lots of Rolling Tarpon

This last week of May has been a productive ending to a frustrating month.  Tarpon season started off with a bang and the big fish were pouring up the Gulf beaches.  School after school would pass us by on their way through Boca Grande Pass and into Charlotte Harbor.  Getting them to open their mouths for a fly was a different story altogether, and I sent a handful of good anglers home convinced that being able to catch one down here was pure B.S.  At the same time, they all said that they'd see me again next year.  I guess some guys just love a good ass kicking.

So let's talk snook fishing.  For starters, I never go out of my way to target these fish right now since they're still out of season until further notice, but there are a pile of them out there. 

That's my friend Sam Peplinski in the photo above with a 33 incher he caught with me yesterday near Burnt Store.  Sam was tossing a white Zoom on a Marsh Works jig head into the shoreline at high tide and nailed this fish on his fourth or fifth cast.  The big snook blasted right back into the bushes and wrapped itself around half a dozen different mangrove fingers before Sam had a chance to turn its head.  We both jumped in the water after it.  Sam wove the rod through the roots while I followed the line up to where I saw a lot of splashing near the shore.  Everything came untangled at once and suddenly there was a big snook right under my right hand. 
Sam's dad Mike stayed in the boat and got these shots for us.  It was a great fish, my biggest snook of the year and Sam's personal best.  And there are lots more of them out there.  You can't keep any until September, (FWC willing) but you can still get plenty of practice catching them until then.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Key West Permit On Fly

My new Matlacha neighbor George Schramm was down in Key West for Memorial Day Weekend fishing with the great Capt. Mike Bartlett.  The result was George's first permit on a fly caught this afternoon.  The secret pattern was an old fashioned Clouser Minnow which Mike has been using with great success on these fish recently.  Way to go, George.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tarpon On The Beaches, Updated.

I just spent the past week chasing tarpon off the beaches of Cayo Costa and Gasparilla Island.  There are hundreds of schools rolling through the waters out there on their way into Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor.  I had two very experienced fly anglers on my bow and they caught zero fish.  We were not alone out there.  At any given time there were at least half a dozen other boats within half a mile of us, all casting fly rods, and we saw none of them hook up either. 

If anyone tells you they were crushing the tarpon on fly this past week, they're full of it. 

So what was the problem?  For starters, the fish are really on the move out there.  Of the hundreds of tarpon we cast to only a pair were floating dead still in the water.  The rest were swimming along at around three mph.  I know this because I was watching my GPS while chasing them with my trolling motor.  Three mph might not sound too fast but when the tarpon are coming straight at you, combined with the drifting speed of the boat, the gap closes really quickly.  The average time we had from when I'd first spot a fish to the fly needing to hit the water was usually less than ten seconds. 

Trust me, it's not easy to make an accurate cast that quickly from the heaving bow of an 18' flats skiff. 

Speaking of those casts, accurate isn't quite the right word.  Perfect is more like it.  Migrating tarpon are nocturnal feeders, they're simply not as concerned with finding food during the day but at the same time they won't pass up an easy meal.  If they spot a shrimp or crab swimming just below the surface and can pop open their huge mouth to inhale it, they will.  The same thing goes for a fly dropped directly in their path.  Land it two feet to the tarpon's left or right and they'll completly ignore it.  I've seen this behavior thousands of times over the past twenty years and it still drives me absolutely insane some days. 

What this boils down to is that the angler has at best a ten second window to make a cast from a moving platform through moving air into moving water at a moving fish, land the fly in a narrow rectangle no closer than two and no further than four feet from the fish's nose, and begin stripping the fly so it is slowly moving away from the fish to accurately simulate prey and trigger a strike.  Sound's easy to me, too. 

If you do manage to put it all together, these tarpon will eat.  They're a big animal and it takes a lot of energy to make their annual migration.  They can be caught on fly at any hour of the day, they're just a lot more unforgiving when the sun is shining.  My advice is practice, practice, practice.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tarpon On The Beaches

Trust me, they're out there right now.  Unfortunately, we haven't been hooking them over the last several days.  It's not from lack of effort on my angler's part either.  The water is not as clear as it should be despite the light winds and the tarpon are moving fast.  I'll stick a big one soon.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Some News From Beavertail Skiffs

I had a long chat with the owners at Aeon/Beavertail yesterday and got caught up on all the latest from their Palmetto headquarters.  Orders continue to come in for all their boats and they've actually expanded the staff in order keep production on schedule.  The Stu Apte edition, pictured about, is one of their best sellers.  Right now their delivery time is between 4 to 5 weeks after the initial order is placed.  New skiffs are heading to Key West, the Panhandle, and Louisiana this week.  My neighbor Claude Rivers will be getting his new BT3 at the end of next week.  This will be his fourth Beavertail.

The 1st annual Aeon/Beavertail owner's tournament is still on schedule for this November and the location has been set for Ruskin, FL.  We were originally going to have it here on Matlacha but moving it closer to the company's home base will make things a lot easier, especially for the charity that we'll be raising money for.  We're lining up some excellent silent auction prizes that will be available for anyone to bid on even if you're not fishing in the tournament.  I'll have full details on that in the next few days.

Finally, I just hit the 200 hour mark on my BT3's Yamaha F70.  I've only had the boat for five months and it has given me nothing but flawless all around performance.  The tarpon are here and I'm booked solid for the rest of the month.  This will be my 16th season poling anglers after these fish and I've never had such a capable boat.  Hope to see you out there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Matlacha Fishing Report: Sunset Reds And Trout

I shot out with my dad for an hour last night and found a pile of tailing redfish just north of Matlacha.  The only problem was the almost impossible amount of floating grass and algae on the surface at that time of day.  We threw Gulps rigged on swimbait hooks and even those still got fouled on every cast.  Fortunately the reds were thick with the rising tide and dad landed a 24 incher after just a few throws.  If the water wasn't so nasty we could have easily caught half a dozen tailing fish.  The big trout hit the same Gulp just as we were reeling in to head home.

Monday, May 14, 2012

IGFA World Record Tarpon

Now that we're in the middle of tarpon season in Southwest Florida, here's a photo of one you won't be seeing off Pine Island.
This is the current IGFA all tackle world record that weighs 286 pounds and was caught off the west coast of Africa in 2003.  Yes, we have some big tarpon swimming around in Charlotte Harbor, but not too many like this one.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Stu Apte

The world's greatest living angler turned 82 years old yesterday and is still going at it full throttle.  Stu Apte has long been one of my heroes and getting to know him through the Redbone tournaments in the Keys and some of our recent work with Beavertail Skiffs has been a real highlight of my guiding career.  If you've ever caught a big tarpon on a fly rod, you can partly thank Stu for making that possible.  He helped invent or perfect everything from the knots we tie to the boats that get us there since he first started fishing the fishing the flats in the 1940's.  Capt. Stu Apte is the very definition of the term "Living Legend" and we're all better anglers thanks to him.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pine Island Fishing Report: A Mostly Solo Expedition

Saturday was one of those days where I wanted to smack my head into a hard wall repeatedly. For starters I had a new customer on the bow who happened to be a very experienced fly angler and had fished with a handful of other guides I knew across the state. Obviously I wanted to impress him but the the fish had other ideas.  Every single boat owner in SW Florida was on the water along with me that morning which made the tarpon a no-show on all my favorite flats and the few redfish we saw clearly had the jitters.

Since I finally had some time to myself on Sunday morning I decided to do a little exploring and find where all the fish were hiding. There was a great incoming tide in Matlacha Pass around 10AM so I let the current carry me into one of the longer creeks in the north part of Buzzard Bay, a spot I haven't fished in a very long time.  I started seeing a lot of activity when the water turned the same color as cherry soda. I was casting an 8wt fly rod and a 3/0 deer hair slider since I thought spinning tackle would make too much noise. 
This was my first hookup, a nice little rat red.

I kept floating with the current until it was obvious that my skiff wasn't going any further. The creek was more than deep enough but it got very narrow. That's where the first baby tarpon were rolling. I switched to a 7wt with a 1/0 Toad pattern that would splash down even lighter. It worked.

It wasn't a big fish, maybe 10 pounds tops, but a tarpon is a tarpon.

After that hookup the little school moved further up the creek but my Beavertail with its 82 inch beam couldn't keep after them without making a lot of noise crashing through the branches. Those of you with Gheenoes or kayaks would have a lot of luck up in these waterways right now. I headed back out into Buzzard Bay to work the shorelines for a bigger red. I found him after about ten minutes casting with the 8wt and big deer hair fly

This fish would have been a real tournament winner, right at the 27 inch mark and heavy. It was one of the nicest slot sized redfish I've seen in a long time. Not bad for three hours on a busy Sunday morning. 

The conditions were still perfect at the end of the day so I decided to head out again with my dad on the boat and try for a snook and trout to complete the Grand Slam.  The snook didn't come out to play but we landed a couple dozen nice trout just north of Matlacha including this perfect 23 incher. 
A great day on the water for me but a real kick in the nuts since I couldn't produce the same results for my paying customer 24 hours earlier.  I don't like it but that's how it goes sometimes.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Baja 280 Sport Fisherman For Sale, $24,900

This 1997 Baja is a beautiful and fast 28 foot center console available right now on Pine Island.  It's twin 2002 Mercury 225 Opti-Max outboards have just 600 hours and the boat has been lift kept since new.  The boat also has a full array of electronics including a Ratheon SL72 radar system.  This is a great inshore/offshore fishing machine with a t-top, leaning post, and ten rod holders.  Click here to see this boat's full listing at Cape Regal Yachts or give me a call at 239-565-2960 to arrange a showing.

Lunch At The Olde Fish House, Matlacha

I don't know if this is the best sandwich I've ever eaten, but the chicken po' boy at the Olde Fish House is definitely in the top 5.  They're now serving breakfast there, too.  What more do you need from life?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

1995 Action Craft Flatsmaster For Sale, $8900

 This is my neighbor's skiff and it's in really solid condition.  Everything works and the 1995 Mercury Black Max 135 has very low hours on it.  This is a cash sale, no trades and the price includes the aluminum trailer.  The boat is in Matlacha and if you'd like to see it give me a call at 239-565-2960.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Billy Pate's Auction Items

Here's a rundown of what you can expect to bid on if you make it to the auction later this month: