Thursday, January 31, 2013

Costa Del Mar Fathoms, Don't Leave Home Without Them

I always get asked about the sunglasses I wear since they're one of the most crucial pieces of gear for any guide or angler.  Costa del Mar is the best company around and their Fathom FA11 model sunglasses with amber lenses are the perfect choice for spotting fish on the flats.  It doesn't matter if you're in the Keys, the Caribbean, and right here on Pine Island Sound, the amber Fathoms will work.  Costa has a great warranty and repair policy and their customer service is excellent. You actually get to talk to a real human right here in the United States when you call them. That alone is enough to make me by their product.   Costa Del Mar Fathoms retail online for about $150 and I think they're a bargain at that price.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fishing Report: Red Tide Off Pine Island, Redfish Off Matlacha

I've been hearing reports that a red tide had moved its way into parts of Pine Island Sound last week and that's definitely the case.  It's not that bad but while fishing in the northern waters around Patricio Island there was no bait around and the only mullet we saw were a few scattered dead ones.  The same was true for the flats off Cabbage Key over the weekend.  If you're not familiar with red tides keep in mind that they are an entirely natural event and are not caused by Global Warming, the BP oil spill, the NRA, or an other thing the media might choose to blame this week.  Red tides are a phenomenon know as an algal bloom and have been occurring as long as there has been life in the oceans.  Don't worry, this one will eventually dissipate and Pine Island Sound will return to normal.

On a positive note, Matlacha Pass is totally unaffected by the tide and lots of redfish, snook, and trout are around right now.  They haven't exactly been jumping in the boat for me but a well place fly will definitely get eaten.  Don Atkinson from Ohio, one of my favorite regular anglers, came back to fish with me yesterday and scored this perfect 22 inch red on a green and white Clouser Minnow in the northern part of the Pass.  We were sight casting to several fish cruising along the mangroves just before noon when the visibility was best.  There were more snook in the back bays than anything else but flies weren't on the menu for them.  We've got lots of nice low water in the mornings and if the wind would ever quit the redfish should tail like crazy again.  Looking forward to February and some warmer water, too. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Beavertail Strike In Action

I took dozens of photos of the new Strike when I had it here on Pine Island back in November and never posted them.  Here are a few favorites and if you want to see the boat in person stop by the Florida Sportsman Expo in N. Ft. Myers next weekend.

Friday, January 25, 2013

400 Flawless Hours On My Yamaha F70

I picked up my new Beavertail BT3 exactly 14 months ago yesterday and at the same time hit the 400 hour mark on its Yamaha F70.  This engine has been nothing but pure reliability, getting me out on the water and back home again every single time I turn the key.  The exact same thing goes for the skiff and the only hiccup I've had so far came from a pinched fuel line that was easily solved back at the dock. 

The Yamaha is easy to maintain and I do all the 100 hour oil changes myself in less than half an hour at my house.  Every 200 hours I have Gulfside Marine on Matlacha replace the impeller, thermostat, and engine zincs.  This is usually a 2 1/2 hour job and costs less than $400 with parts and labor.  Other than that, the engine is maintenance free and runs perfectly on E10 gas that I buy from the Circle K station down the street.  In fact, this is the second Yamaha I've owned that has not cost me a dime of unscheduled maintenance or caused me to loose a charter.  There are several less expensive outboards you can buy this kind of reliability is invaluable. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Matlacha And Pine Island Bird Watching Tours

Southwest Florida's winter bird population is phenomenal and photographing them is one of my favorite things to do on the water.  Just minutes from my dock on Matlacha there are currently two nesting pairs of bald eagles with multiple chicks that should start flying in a few weeks.  We have hundreds of white pelicans here for the next few months and our low tides bring out thousands of different wading birds such as the rare rosate spoonbills.  In addition to my fishing charters I also offer three hour evening tours just to watch and photograph the birds as well as catch one of our spectacular sunsets.  I can take a maximun of three people and the cost is only $100 for the entire boat.  If you'd like to schedule a trip feel free to give me a call at 239-565-2960 or e-mail me at

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Matlacha Fishing Report: Plenty Of Rising Tide Redfish

The weather has been less than outstanding with lots of clouds and very little sunshine but the reds are all over the Pass.  Finding them tailing has been tough for me even though are tides have been excellent in the mornings.  This has made going after them with a fly rod a total pain but that's why I never leave the dock without spinning gear.  I nailed the perfect 24 incher in the photo yesterday at high tide with a Gulp shrimp just north of Matlacha.  It took me only a half dozen casts to find this redfish in a big school of mullet on the Indian Fields flats.  I wouldn't have had a prayer of catching this guy with a fly given the nasty wind and choppy water.  Sometimes it pays to not be such a purist. 

On an even better note, the tides are going to be great all next week.  I still have Tuesday and Wednesday open so give me a call if you want to get out there and bring a nice redfish home for dinner.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The New Aeon 20 At The Florida Sportsman Expo In Ft. Myers

I just talked to Aeon Marine's owner Will Leslie and he confirmed that their new Aeon 20 will be at the Ft. Myers Florida Sportsman Expo, right alongside the new Strike skiff on Superbowl Weekend, February 2nd and 3rd.  Since the Steelers aren't playing this year you have no reason not to come and check out all of the new boats.  See you there.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pine Island Tarpon Season Photos

Another windy day off the water has me messing with some of last year's tarpon photos.  These images are all from Pine Island Sound and the Gulf.  This could be you on the bow of my boat in a few months.  I think this warmer than normal winter will bring the tarpon our way much earlier this year so give me a call. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cold Front, Warm Photos

I was off the water today thanks to the chilly weather so I spent some time going over a few of my pictures from warmer places during the warmer months.  Gotta love the Lower Keys.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Beavertail Strike At The Ft. Myers Florida Sportsman Show

The Florida Sportsman Expo is coming back to Ft. Myers at the Lee County Civic Center on Feb. 2nd and 3rd.  My friends at Aeon Marine/Beavertail Skiffs will be there once again with a few boats including the all new Strike, which is selling like crazy right now.  Stop by and ask Will and Liz about their upcoming plans for the entire line of Beavertails.  They've got some awesome stuff in the works. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kayak Fishing Matlacha's Low Tides

This is a really well done video by Capt. Ross Gallagher from last Thursday during some of our negative low tides.  I did really well from my skiff that morning in the Pineland area but these guys outfished me from their kayaks right in my back yard.  Nice job. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Big Trout Keep Hitting In The Sound

Today's bite was a lot slower despite the good tides and great weather but once again we didn't hook any short trout.  All the fish were near the top of the 20" slot and ate 3" Gulp shrimp.  Angler Dan Lindsey from PA landed this 19" fish out of a pothole near Pineland just as the morning tide started flooding. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Private Island For Sale, $29.5 Million

I know that there are a lot of folks reading this blog right now with a spare $30 mil just burning a hole in your pocket and here's your chance to spend it.  Little Bokeelia Island is located on the north tip of Pine Island and features the 1929 built Spanish villa in the photo along with two other guest houses and two private beaches.  It's also minutes away from some of the best tarpon fishing in all of Florida.  I've never set foot on the island but I run my skiff past it several time a week on my way to and from Pine Island Sound.  Each time I see it I think about what an insanely great fishing lodge it would make.  The realtor produced a great website for the island that also features some interesting videos about Little Bokeelia's history which you can see here.  If you decide to whip out your check book, be sure to tell them where you hear about the place.  Realtors in Florida make 6% of the sale price and I want a cut. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pine Island Fishing Report: Excellence In The Sound

With an unbeatable combination of summertime temperatures and wintertime tides, Pine Island Sound absolutely came alive this morning.  
 The white pelicans reminded us that it was still winter even though we hit an almost record high of 84 degrees this afternoon. 

Chuck Downes from Delaware had the angling duties and scored this 21 inch trout after just a few casts with a DOA Deadly Combo.
 The trout kept coming, especially after we switched to live shrimp, and we only landed one fish that was under the 15 inch slot.

 Reds were our main target and they've actually been giving me fits lately.  Chuck finally broke my slump with this perfect 25 incher on the very last cast of the day, also on a live shrimp.

This is what I call a happy cooler.  All it's missing is a few Bud Lites mixed in with the fish. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Python Challenge 2013: Get Paid To Kill Huge Snakes!

This is happening just to the south of us in the Everglades.  Long story short:  kill some pythons, win some money.  Normally I hate the idea of killing any reptile but this needs to happen.  Burmese pythons don't belong in the Glades, let alone anywhere in this country, and their presence has to be kept under control even though they'll never be wiped out completely.  Click here to get all the details. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ladyfish: The Poor Man's Tarpon

Right now I love these guys.  Most of the time they're nothing but an annoying trash fish that rip apart your flies and crap all over your boat.  But when the tides and weather stink, as they have these last few days, a school of voracious ladyfish are a real gift. 

For the most part, the only time I actively seek out ladyfish is when I have children on the boat.  I've written about this before, and think they're the ultimate kid's fish.  But yesterday was a little different.  I was fishing with a new angler, a really decent fly caster from the DC area on his first trip to Pine Island.  Obviously he wanted a shot at some tailing reds and I timed our departure from Matlacha so we'd hit the bottom of the tide near Bokeelia. 

After about two hours of no tails and only spooking a handful of fish, it became obvious to me that it wasn't going to happen.  The same thing I dealt with the day before, and the day before that.  This weekend just kicked my ass and I was getting sick of it.  Clouds, wind, and bad tides made fly fishing a total pain and was now desparate to put a bend in my angler's rod.

After the third hour I gave up on reds and was resigned to hooking a few sea trout, usually the easiest of our gamefish, but several of my best spots produced nothing.  I had one last Hail Mary basin just north of Matlacha that almost always gave up a trout or two so I shot over there with a half hour of daylight left.

The first cast with a #4 Clouser resulted in a big swirl under the surface and a deeply bowed 8-weight.  Two seconds later a bananna-sized piece of silver shot three feet above the surface.  It was the best looking fish I'd ever seen in several days.  The ladyfish kept hitting almost every cast and my angler was loving it.  I explained how this species was actually a distant cousin of the tarpon, and fight the exact same way but on a much smaller scale, which is where they got the "poor-man's tarpon" nickname.  In reality, a five pound or larger ladyfish is one of the best fights you can have on an 8-weight rod. 

 As the bite continued he perfected his strip-striking technique, crucial to hooking the big silver kings that I was hoping he'd want to come back and catch.  A dolphin showed up after about twenty minutes, attracted to the commotion we were causing with the schooling ladies, and blasted a two pounder I'd just released.  My angler loved it and made the comment, "Man, you live in a great place." 

At that moment, I agreed.  We ran home in the dark, making plans to go tarpon fishing when the weather got warmer. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2006 Beavertail B2 For Sale In Texas

I'm always eager to help folks buy or sell a flats skiff, especially if it's one of these excellent Beavertail B2s.  This one is on Ebay so click here for the listing

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fly Casting On Windy Days

Every flats angler knows that if you want the wind to start blowing, just pick up a fly rod.  Fortunately, Pine Island is far from the windiest place I've ever fished, that prize goes to Vieques, Puerto Rico where it blew 20 knots at least 300 days a year.  No matter where you go, you'll need to learn to deal with a stiff breeze sooner or later and this is a good four minute video to give you some pointers.  Tim Rajeff is easily one of the best fly casters in the world and anything he has to say on the subject is worth a listen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Shimano Sahara. The Best Reel You Can Buy For Under $100

For more than a decade I used nothing but Penn's excellent SS series of spinning reels but a few years ago switched over to Shimanos.  I love almost all of Shimano's spinning reels but their Sahara series are my favorites and I use them on a daily basis for my charters.  The Sahara 3000 is my all-around choice for the waters off Pine Island since they hold more than enough 15# braid to handle any fish we'll encounter.  They sell for around $80 at all of our local tackle shops and you can find them a little cheaper online.  (I spend the extra cash and buy them locally, and so should you.)  So far I haven't had one lock up or fail out on the water and I give them some pretty heavy abuse.  You can defintely spend a lot more on some of Shimano's other reels but these Saharas are good enough for any inshore angler. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Last Fish Of 2012, First Fish Of 2013

 I finished the last year off with a whimper but started the new one off with a bang. The final fish caught on my boat in 2012 was the half pound ladyfish that angler Per Stuhag traveled all the way from Denmark to land on a very slow New Year's Eve charter. He and his sons worked hard but the cold water and lousy tides chased all the redfish out of Matlacha Pass for us.

But we started things off right with this 20" trout on the very first cast of 2013. 
 Capt. Paul Castellano came down from Ontario to throw flies at some big Pine Island redfish and fortunately brought his fiance Alison along to actually catch them.  In fairness to Paul, the reds were really thin out there for the first few hours of the morning and only gave him a few good shots with the fly rod.  Then the clouds moved in and wiped our or visibility, making us switch to spinning gear. 
The first red of 2013 was this perfect fish, just under 27", that Alison landed on a Gulp Shrimp just north of Matlacha an hour before sunset.  New Year's Day was also a little slow but a notable improvement from the previous morning.  The water temps jumped up significantly and by the end of the day were nudging the 70 degree mark.  With no more cold fronts in the immediate forecast, the rest of the week should give us a return to the action we saw before Christmas.