Saturday, March 30, 2013

Beavertail Strike Running Video

Here's a short video I shot up in Charlotte Harbor last week to demonstrate how dry the new Strike actually runs in choppy water.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pine Island Redfish On Fly After The Cold

With the water temps still in the mid-60's all day things were really slow in both Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass.  Fortunately I had a great angler on the bow when our one good shot of the day happened.  Fifteen year old Marshall Hespe landed this 24 inch red near Captiva Rocks using a Dupree Spoon Fly.  His dad Bill brought in a handful of small trout with spinning gear and that was it for the day.  After the beating I took out there all week I was just happy to be out there wearing less than four layers of clothes today.  Thing will warm up quickly and we've got good tides this weekend, too.  We'll be seeing more fish like this over the next few days. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crab Cake Po' Boy At The Old Fish House, Matlacha

If you live anywhere in the area and aren't driving or coming by boat the the Old Fish House at least once a week, you're really missing out.  If you do and it doesn't become one of your favorite places to eat, drink, and listen to live music, something's wrong with you. 

I stopped in today and had the crab cake po' boy which was the lunch special for $7.  Is it good?  Hell yes.  Just look at it up there, two deep fried crab cakes covered with melted cheese and spicy mayo sauce.  Is it good for you?  Hell no, it's two deep fried crab cakes covered with melted cheese and spicy mayo sauce.  But quit worrying and live a little, will ya.  I even tossed in a side of fries to rachet up the calorie count a bit and washed it down with a regular Coke because they were out of Diet.  Pole a flats boat into the wind for eight hours a day and you can eat like this, too.

My only gripe about the sandwich is the bread that the Fish House uses, a basic white sub roll.  A proper po' boy is served on a fresh baguette, which they could easily get from the Publix bakery.  Even if it added $1 to the price it would be worth it. 

The Old Fish House is located at 4530 Pine Island Road.  If you're coming by water just look for this sign on the northwest side of the Matlacha Pass drawbridge. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One Beautiful Trout

One of my favorite anglers Don Atkinson sent me this photo of a stunning 26 inch speckled trout he caught on fly in Pine Island Sound just last week.  I wasn't with him on this trip but it was obviously a beautiful and warm day since Don is wearing short sleves and there's barely a ripple on the water.  Compare that to this morning's 44 degrees and 15 knot wind blowing down Matlacha Pass and it's enough to make me bash my head against a wall and wonder if spring will ever get here.  I was actually wearing four layers on my boat yesterday and I still never felt warm.  We should be casting to tarpon right now, not talking about frost warnings in SW Florida.  Damn this Global Warming!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fishing The Strike, Beavertail's Best Skiff Yet.

I’ve had the chance to drive the new Beavertail Strike on several different occasions since they launched the skiff last fall but always under favorable conditions.  Will and Liz have been letting me babysit their latest demo boat all this week and I decided to run a couple of charters with it during the snotty Pine Island weather of the last few days.  After poling a fly angler around the mangroves of Matlacha Pass and then racing home at full speed through the leading edge of a thunderstorm, I can say without hesitation that the Strike really is the best skiff I’ve ever run. 

The ride of this hull in choppy water has to be experienced to be believed.  It’s actually fun to run it into a 20 knot wind across two foot whitecaps.  Compared to its bigger BT3/Vengeance cousins, the Strike actually feels a bit smoother in the chop despite its lighter weight.  This is thanks to smaller stern which has the same minimal deadrise but is 10“narrower than those other hulls.  And just like the larger Beavertails, the Strike unbelievably dry no matter which direction the bow is pointed.  When I ran my old Maverick Mirage out of Key West I routinely put my passengers in full foul weather gear any time the wind kicked up over ten knots, just to cross the Northwest Channel on an incoming tide.  I have yet to be hit in the face with any serious spray while running a Strike. 

Poling with a single angler on the bow is effortless.  The boat accelerates and stops with minimal effort and you can spin it inside its own hull length.  Doing a 180 with the push pole takes about three seconds.  That’s incredibly useful when you’re dealing with multiple moving targets like a school of cruising tarpon and have to keep your angler’s back cast pointed in a safe direction. 

I’ve run the Strike with both a 60 hp 2-stroke, which gives it plenty of speed, and a 90 hp, which makes it an absolute rocket sled.  My personal choice would be a 70 hp 4-stroke which would give you an unbeatable combination of speed and fuel economy with a draft of around 7 inches. 

My only gripe about the Strike is that the rod holders are a bit difficult to access.  There are tubes for four rods on each side but you can only slide one in without assistance.  I’d love to see some lift-up gunnels available on this boat like Beavertail offers on their Stu Apte Edition skiffs. 

I’m seriously considering selling my current BT3 and ordering one of the new Strike Elites with the full Kevlar hull and carbon fiber package.  For now I’m enjoying the hell out of the demo boat they’ve loaned me and if you want to run it yourself just give me a call at 239-565-2960. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pine Island Fishing Report: Water And Bite Finally Warms Up, For Now

24 inch Redfish

23 1/2 inch trout

The water temps finally hit the mid 70's this afternoon which is just about the most welcome news we could have right now.  The trout bite switched on overnight and yesterday we didn't land a single fish under 18 inches out in Pine Island Sound.  The excellent incoming tides also helped a lot.  Gulps and white jerk baits worked all morning.  Unfortunately, we've only got two more days of this before it gets cold again on Monday night. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

It's Tarpon Season In Key West

Capt. Mike Bartlett just sent me this photo of a huge tarpon that his wife landed today off Key West.  We'll be seeing these same fish in about a month here on Pine Island.  Can't come soon enough. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Atlas Micro Jacker

I just had one of these great hydraulic jack plates added to my Beavertail BT3 and couldn't be happier with it.  The Atlas weighs only 23 pounds so it has no problem with my 247 pound Yamaha F70 and doesn't add any noticeable draft to the boat.  What is noticeable immediately are the performance improvements.  My hole shot was cut in half and the top speed bumped up by 2 mph.  I'm also seeing a slight decrease in fuel burn.  The Atlas Micro Jacker is rated for outboards up to 90 hp and is now a standard feature on all of Beavertail's skiffs.  It will improve the performance of any flats boat and prices start at $760. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gearing Up For Tarpon Season On Pine Island

I got a lot of great feedback from last month’s NauticalMile column about how to catch more tarpon on fly around Pine Island and Matlacha, especially from so many transplants to this area coming from the freshwater streams and lakes up north.  Since it’s finally warming up out there, and the tarpon should pop up any day now, I’ll go into some more detail about the gear you’ll need to make landing these fish on fly around here a reality.

For starters, your 5-weight trout rod from Cabela’s is obviously not going to cut it.  You’re going to need something with a little more backbone so start looking at 9-weights if you don’t have one already.  This is the perfect all-around saltwater fly rod, especially for inshore species.  A 9-weight will easily be able to handle tarpon up to the 50 pound mark, which are actually mid-size fish but the most common this time of year.

If you already have a 9-weight, think about adding and 11 or 12-weight to your arsenal.  These are the rods you’ll need if you want to tangle with the big girls that cruise up the Gulf beaches starting next month.  And yes, I said big girls because all the triple digit tarpon are females.  Male tarpon rarely exceed 70 pounds so those huge fish you’ve sees hanging dead in the old black and white photos were unfortunately breeding females.  All the more reason to be glad that Florida banned the random killing of tarpon decades ago. 

The brand of rod you choose is not as important as it used to be.  The days of Orvis, Sage, and G Loomis dominating the saltwater market are gone and now there are dozens of excellent fly rods out there, many in the $200 range, that also offer a lifetime warranty.  My personal favorites are currently the Temple Fork BVK series which retail for $250.  These rods would have easily cost twice that much if they were built ten years ago but advances in graphite manufacturing have brought their price way down without any sacrifices in quality. 

You can also pair one of these rods with a $250 solid aluminum Temple Fork BVK reel and have an outstanding tarpon fishing package for around $600, including the fly line and backing.  There are dozens of rods alone that will cost you $200 more than that but won’t give you a really significant increase in performance unless you’re an advanced fly angler.  If you’re just getting into the sport, spend the extra money on a few hours of casting lessons and you’ll reap the benefits when you hit the water.

No matter what rod and reel you choose, it should be matched with a weight-forward floating line.  This is standard for all shallow water tarpon fishing, especially here around Matlacha and Pine Island.  The average depth where we find these fish is no more than five or six feet so skip the intermediate or sinking lines.  If you find fish that are running a little deeper, a weighted fly tied to a fluorocarbon leader will sink down to them just fine. 

Finally, when it comes to flies, I’ve written entire columns on the subject and since I don’t have that much space left here just pick any pattern you like as long as it’s red and black.  I’ve honestly caught 90% of my tarpon over the last ten years on red and black rabbit fur patterns, in both dark and clear water, from the Caribbean to the Panhandle.  Placement of the fly obviously matters more than anything in this sport but these colors have worked best for me time and time again. 

Keep in mind that everything you just read are just my opinions, but are also based on almost twenty years of chasing tarpon with a fly rod.  If you’re just getting into the sport don’t hesitate to throw questions at anyone who might know a little more than you do.  And if you come across something that works on your own, stick with it.  Fly fishing for tarpon can be the most infuriating and rewarding pastime you’ll ever experience and Pine Island is one of the best places in the world to throw yourself into it.    Best of luck out there. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Yellow Dog Cottages And Gallery, Matlacha

If you're looking for a really great place to stay while your fishing on Matlacha check out the Yellow Dog Cottages.  They're located right on the water between Bert's Bar and the Bridgewater Inn.  The entire property has been totally renovated over the last year and a half and also features a killer view and excellent fishing right off the back dock.  They've got lots of openings for tarpon season so give them a call at 239-223-4488. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Heading To Lover's Key With The New Beavertail

I'll be there starting at 11:30 until around 4 with the new Strike and Stu Apt's BT3.  Stop by and take one out for a drive.  Click here for more info and directions. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beavertail Skiffs Demo Days At Lover's Key State Park

Beavertail will be holding another one of their popular Demo Days right here in SW FL this Saturday at the Lover's Key State Park boat ramp starting at 11:30.  They'll be bringing the new Strike pictured above as well as a Stu Apte Edition BT3 for you to test drive.  No reservations are necessary, just show up and say hi to Will and Liz and check out the skiffs.  If you can't make it there on Saturday just give me a call at 239-565-2960.  I'll be hanging on to the Strike for the rest of the week and you can come test drive it in Matlacha. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DOA Redfish

Making noise on the surface is a surefire way to get the attention of any gamefish and the DOA Deadly Combo is really noisy.  It's also one of the easiest artificial rigs for anyone to use.  Unlike a Zara Spook or other topwater lure, all you need to do is crank and twitch without any kind of rhythm and the slider cork does all the work.  The fish home in on the sound and then attack the DOA Shrimp which is suspended a few feet below. 

Punta Gorda angler Cathy Smith used one this morning to land this beautifully colored, 24 inch red as well as an 18 inch trout just south of the Matlacha bridge this morning.  It was windy and choppy but the DOA still managed to get their attention.  Great product. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gotta Love The Gulps

Berkley Gulps pretty much work as advertised.  They claim to outfish live bait and a lot of the time they do.  The only style I use are the 3" and 4" shrimp in a variety of colors but New Penny is my favorite.  The redfish really seem to love this color.  Rigged on a 5/0 Marsh Works swimbait hook as pictured above makes them weedless and easy to cast along the mangroves.  This is my go-to artificial for reds right now.  The only drawback to Gulps is their cost.  If you buy them in the smaller packets they're usually $1 a piece.  Buy them in the big buckets, which usually run around $40, and you'll get your money's worth. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pine Island Fishing Report: Chilly Water But Big Trout And Redfish

This was at 9AM and it didn't get much warmer.

It was also a really low tide out in Pine Island Sound.
The trout were plentiful but not eager to eat.  Don Moorehead from Cape Coral nailed this 22 incher on a white paddletail.
My first and only red of the morning was this beauty that hit a DOA Deadly Combo.
Great colors this time of year.
Don with a perfect 27 incher.  This fish was really heavy and full of crabs. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beavertail Skiffs Demo Days

Last weekend in Miami with Stu Apte was a blast.  This weekend they'll have a Strike and BT3 on the east coast and the next week they'll be down on Ft. Myers Beach.  I'll be there for that one, too.  Click here for all the details.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More Key West Awesomeness

Capt. Mike Bartlett is tearing it up in the Lower Keys like no one else I know.  He sent me this shot and a few others from the first charter on his new BT3 that I took down to him last weekend.  His anglers Mike and Tom from Michigan landed three permit, a big cuda, jacks, redfish, and a bonnethead shark this morning.  If you're heading down to Key West and want the best day on the water you can possibly have give Mike a call at 305-797-2452.  He's been at it for over ten years and no one knows the flats better.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Key West Barracuda Fishing

I shot back down to Key West late last week to drop off my buddy Capt. Mike Bartlett's new skiff and escape the cold, nasty weather heading towards Pine Island at the same time.  Unfortunately, the weather followed me all the way to the Lower Keys and threw a monkey wrench into our tarpon fishing plans.  If it looks unpleasant in these pictures, that's because it was.  Not the end of the world though, since cold snaps down there mean great barracuda fishing on the flats. 

I absolutely love barracuda and they're my favorite species to catch on a spinning rod.  Getting them to eat is no more difficult than bombing a long green tube lure downwind and ripping it back as fast as possible.  No matter how fast you can reel, the cuda can swim faster.  You get to see the whole strike right under the surface and once they're hooked up the fight is beyond belief.  Big barracuda do everything you want a fish to do on the end of your line.  They run faster than bonefish, jump like tarpon, and pull almost as hard as a permit. 

On top of all that they look awesome in a photo.  Check out those teeth up there.  They can put a serious hurting on you if you're not paying attention unhooking them. 

So if you find yourself down in the Keys when a cold front blows through don't cancel your fishing plans.  Every guide knows a handful of good barracuda spots and they'll become one of your favorite things to catch, too.