Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fogged In

Fog isn't completely uncommon during the winter but most of Pine Island was socked in until almost noon today. I've never seen it this thick before.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Early Winter Red

Low tide is still producing feeding reds and my dad landed this perfectly colored fish on Saturday.  The flat calm water that you can see in the background is a big factor in getting them to tail.  Find conditions like this on most flats around Pine Island and you'll have feeding redfish that easy to spot but tricky to approach.  For every one you catch you'll spook at least a two dozen others on most days and this one was no different. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Low Tide Spoonbills

I took these shots a few days ago just after sunrise in Matlacha Pass from my new Beavertail Ambush.  Spoonbills are notoriously shy birds and I was able to get closer to them than ever before thanks to this ultra-stealthy micro skiff. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fly Fishing The Negative Low Tides

When you can see half the crab traps sticking out of the water first thing in the morning, you're usually going to have a few good hours of tailing redfish.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chilly Morning Slam

These are some extra shots that I didn't post from yesterday morning. My buddy Forrest actually got a Slam that started off with an excellent redfish on fly, but the snook and trout were a bit on the small side. Thanks to some high clouds all morning the temps never climbed into the 70's as promised until we came home at lunchtime.  The water was still in the low 60's but that's changing quickly and the weekend looks perfect.  See you out there. 
Forrest's redfish goes home. 
Dinky snook are a common catch everywhere in the Pass.

An undersized trout completes the Slam for Forrest.

Tyler's groundbreaking catch of the day on a Zara Spook.
Here's a shot for my neighbor Tom who thinks I only post bird pictures when we don't catch fish.  The truth is that I only post the really good bird pictures when we don't catch fish.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Late December Redfish In Matlacha Pass

Went out hunting for tailing reds on the fly rod with my buddies Tyler and Forrest this morning. Perfect incoming tides but still a bit chilly for my liking.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spoonbills In Formation

One of my favorite species doing their best to show off their flying skills and stunning colors over Matlacha Pass. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Keep Hitting Mangroves For Snook

Now that they're out of season, big snook are more eager to bite than ever.  Don't ask me why, but this is always the case.  And since the water is currently in the low 60's each morning, which is bit chilly for snook, you've got a great excuse to sleep in a bit and hit the water around 10AM.  Live bait still works better than anything but if you want to land one on fly try a 2/0 Deceiver and drop it right against the roots.  That's what fooled the 28 incher in the photo just south of Smokehouse Bay. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cape Tool and Tackle Open House/Pig Roast On Saturday

Be sure to stop by Cape Tool and Tackle's annual open house and pig roast on Saturday, the 13th starting at 10AM.  This is a really fun event thrown by one of the best bait and tackle shops in the area and located at 405 NE Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.  There will several different seminars by local captains and Mark Nichols, owner for DOA lures will be on hand.  I'll be there with my new Beavertail Ambush and the $5 plate of wild hog is more than worth the trip.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Beavertail Ambush Photos

Over the past twenty years I've owned half a dozen skiffs and have run just about every other shallow water boat out there.  None of them have made me smile more than my new Beavertail Ambush.  I'll have a full review and fishing report from it in the next few days.  In the meantime, give me a call at 239-565-2960 if you want to try it for yourself.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dealing With Cold Fronts On Pine Island

This is unfortunately a common sight at my boat ramp this time of year.  Strong winds and overcast skies can drop down on us for days at a time after a cold front and we've had two in the last four weeks.  If I have a charter booked for a day like this I always give my anglers the Get Out Of Jail Free card and let them make the call to go or cancel.  I've never forced a paying customer to go out on a day that I would personally prefer to stay home.  Don't get me wrong, I like making money but there is a big difference between giving it a shot in tough conditions and knowingly taking someone for an expensive boat ride. 

So what should you expect if you show up at the ramp and the sky looks like that photo?  Well, if you're a spin fisherman and there's a good incoming tide, then we'll probably go as long as it's not too chilly.  And for me too chilly means anything under 50 degrees.  I know a lot of my anglers from New York of Minnesota will laugh at that but I live in Florida for the 350 days each year of temps above 70.  I can sit out the dozen or so days when the Polar Vortex reaches down this far, and the fish usually feel the same way, too. 

With spinning gear and live bait there are numerous back bays and mangrove shorelines where we can hide from the wind.  It might not be the most exciting type of flats fishing but I've pulled a lot of redfish out of some of our creeks on days that really didn't thrill me at first. 

If you've come down here hoping to fly fish just after a cold front it might be a different story.  I can deal with wind and I can deal with clouds but both of them together are usually a nightmare for most fly anglers.  If your experience level is casting a 5-weight on a trout stream, I'll probably offer to reschedule you if the day looks a bit on the cruddy side. 

Fortunately for us, strong winds and cloudy skies are the exception and not the rule down here.  Our last few winters have been surprisingly mild on Pine Island, despite the horrible months that the north had to endure.  So don't worry about the long range forecast if you have a trip booked with me over the next few weeks.  Chance are we'll get out on the water and see some decent fish while we're at it. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Osprey At Work

This guy buzzed me the other day with a very large mojorra in its talons.  They usually make a point to fly right over my boat with something like a 20" trout (especially on a slow day) so this didn't bug me that much. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Four Best Flies For Pine Island

From this month's Nautical Mile newspaper:

Winter is here and before I get too busy I usually spend an evening clearing out my fly box, which often turns into a neglected mess after the slow months of the fall, and this year was no different.  In fact, I wound up tossing out 2/3rds of the patterns I had in there.  There were so many cool looking flies I whipped up myself and others had given me that had never been tied on the end of a leader.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe they could catch fish, I just trusted a handful of patterns so much more. 
So that’s the subject of this month’s column.  For the big four inshore species that top every local fly angler’s list, tarpon, snook, redfish, and sea trout, I’ve narrowed down my four best patterns to use for them in the waters off Pine Island. 

We’ll start with the easiest and most cooperative species first, the sea trout.  There isn’t much this year-round gamefish won’t hit and my choice of fly for them is also an easy one, the Clouser Minnow.  This simple pattern was originally tied for smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River but has been used to catch everything from bluegill to blue marlin.  A hungry sea trout won’t hesitate to hit it either.  There’s no limit to the size and color combinations for this streamer but the original chartreuse and white on a #4 hook is by far the best bet.  Clousers are both effortless to tie and inexpensive to purchase, and that alone makes them the perfect fly.  If your entire box is full of just this pattern in different sizes and colors, you’re in pretty good shape no matter where you’re fishing. 

Next up is the redfish, which is actually Florida’s most popular gamefish since they’re found on every mile of the state’s shoreline.  Like the sea trout, there isn’t much they won’t hit but fly casting to tailing reds require a bit more effort.  Spin anglers have used weedless gold spoons with great success for more than a century and there are several modern flies that do the job almost as well.  My favorites are the epoxy spoon patterns created by Capt. Jim Dupre.  These are a great combination of flashy and wobbly and rarely fail to get the attention of hungry redfish with its head in the mud.  They’re not cheap or easy to make but they’re durable and last almost as long as their metal counterparts.  That’s why the Dupre Spoon has become my favorite redfish fly. 

Snook are far from an easy catch on a fly rod, especially the big over-slot sized fish that cruise our shorelines and beaches.  These are a one of the wariest inshore species and they respond to live bait far better than artificials, especially flies.  My favorite fly for working them out of the mangroves is a bulky Deceiver, a decades old pattern that, just like the Clouser, is effective on every other gamefish in our waters.  The Deceiver is a beautiful looking baitfish imitation that is also surprisingly easy to tie and cast.  There are countless variations to this fly but for snook I like mine to be almost all white. 

Finally we come to the tarpon, my favorite species to catch on any tackle, especially fly rods.  These massive fish eat almost anything but some of their most effective flies imitate tiny worms.  A red and black Tarpon Bunny, which is nothing more than two pieces of rabbit fur tied to a 2/0 Owner hook, has been my go-to fly for over ten years.  This is another effortless pattern to tie and I can whip one off my vise in less than a minute.  It always amazes me to see a six foot long fish attack one of these three inch long flies.  Their migration is still a few months away but it’s not too early to start filling the tarpon box.

So those are my four favorite flies for Pine Island.  Ask ten other guides for theirs and you might get forty different choices.  But if you’re new to the sport these are a good place to start.  Best of luck out there and feel free to call me if you have any questions. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Big Trout Comeback

It was a tough week out there with water temps that dropped into the 50's and winds that blew the water right off the flats.  Things finally started crawling back to normal today and some decent trout decided to eat.  My buddy Sam Peplinski nailed this 21" gator with a Gulp Shrimp under a cork in the north part of Buzzard Bay.  This is the first over-slot trout I've seen in almost two weeks so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for December. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ultra Low Tides Off Pine Island

Anytime you get a negative low tide and a strong north wind you'll find scenes like this all over Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass.  This picture was taken right at low tide yesterday, which was a 0.0 in the Pass, and there is obviously a lot more water missing than the number would indicate.  Two hour later, the flats basically looked the same despite the incoming water.  This is a good reason to remember that a tide chart is actually just a "prediction" and the depths and times of water changes can vary widely, especially after a strong cold front like we just experienced.  I run a very shallow drafting flats boat and we were still bumping the bottom yesterday in several spots that I've always crossed before with ease.  You can be in for a long wait in you ground yourself hard enough this time of year so use caution out there. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My New Beavertail Ambush


Beavertail took over production of this very cool micro-micro skiff a month ago and I picked one up for myself last weekend.  I haven't hung a motor on it yet but I plan on getting a 6hp 2-stroke, which should push it to about 15mph.  I also plan on adding a 25qt. Yeti cooler with a grab bar to double as a front seat.  The Ambush is ideally a solo skiff but it is rated for two passengers.  The base price for the hull only is $2900.  Mine has a few extras such as the teak Seadek pad, motor mount, and push pole holders.  These boats are a blast and if you want to check it out give me a call.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

At Least Someone Is Catching Fish

This osprey nests in a tree next to my parent's dock on Matlacha and occasionally drops half eaten mullet into my dad's boat.  Today he was showing off with a nice 20" trout just a few minutes after I cancelled my afternoon charter because of the crappy weather.  This bird can be a real a-hole sometimes.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beavertail Skiffs Demo Day On Matlacha This Sunday

2015 BT Lightning
Stop by the Old Fish House at 4530 Pine Island Road this Sunday starting at 12 noon and test drive some of the latest BT skiffs, including their awesome 20' Lightning.  Company owners Will and Elizabeth Leslie will be there to about their custom builds and financing.  You can also hear some great live music and eat some fresh local seafood.  These demos are always a lot of fun so hope to see you there. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weird Matlacha Sunrise

I shot this picture just after sunrise on Matlacha Pass.  I didn't realize it at the time but someone was looking right back at me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Best Redfish Action Of The Fall Off Pine Island

Maybe it was the approaching cold front or just the perfect incoming tides, but the fish came out in force this morning.  I was out in Pine Island Sound with John and Bruce, two members of the Reel Anglers Fishing Club, who were looking to catch their first reds.  I knew it was going to be a good day when the guys managed to check those fish of their list with a double header on their first casts. 
These fish were just under the slot but they kept eating one after the other for the next hour.  After landing more than a dozen rats off a big oyster bar we looked for some keepers and John came through with this one that was just under 27 inches.
We ended the day with 22 reds and one keeper trout.  I wanted to try for a snook to complete the Slam but couldn't pull myself away from so many easy targets.  I actually love it when I can spend and entire charter on just one flat.  Excellent morning and an nice change from the day before when I couldn't catch anything but lizardfish.