Friday, May 30, 2014

Big Matlacha Redfish Are Still Here

My anglers stepped away from chasing tarpon for a couple days and concentrated on bringing back dinner instead.  It was a nice change of pace and resulted in a lot of trout and some very nice reds.  The one in the photo, caught by Wyoming angler Ann Maki, was a half inch over the slot so it missed it's date with the grill and was released to get even bigger.  We caught it on the Indian Fields just north or Matlacha at high noon today on a hunk of cut ladyfish.  I don't usually still fish with cut bait but there's no better way to land big reds in high water around the mangroves right now. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tibor Reels


I love these reels and just came a cross a great article in Garden and Gun Magazine about the man behind them.  Click here to read it. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pine Island Fishing Report: The Big Tarpon Finally Arrive

That's 16 year old Marshall Hespe in the top photo putting the heat on the biggest tarpon that's ever been caught on a fly from my boat.  It happened on Saturday afternoon in Charlotte Harbor, a couple miles east of Boca Grande, and the fish was an easy 150 pounder.  It ate a solid purple Tarpon Bunny tied on a 3/0 Owner hook that Marshall perfectly dropped on its nose with an 11-weight Sage Xi2.  The fish jumped at least eight times but I never got a good photo since I was chasing her with the boat most of the time.  The fight lasted a grueling 1 hour and 25 minutes before I could finally grab the leader.  It's against the law to bring a tarpon this big out of the water so we popped the fly next to the boat while she still had energy and let her swim off safely.  (And yes, it was a she.  Only female tarpon grow this big.) 

Remarkably, this is the second monster tarpon that Marshall has hooked with me.  Four years ago, when he was only 12, he stuck an even bigger fish on the exact same spot that dragged us into some very nasty water before finding a tangle in my backing and breaking off the entire fly line.  That's two fish of a lifetime for an angler who's just learning to drive.  You'll see his name in the IGFA record book before long. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Poling The Strike, Pine Island Sound

I took these shots last week when I was fishing with my buddy Tyler on his new Beavertail and never posted them.  Great sky that evening out in the Sound. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Season's Over And The Snook Are Biting

Mark Favara with a Matlacha snook caught on topwater.
Snook season has been over for exactly three weeks now and we've caught more of these fish in that time than in the previous two months.  It always works out that way for me so I'm not all that bugged about it.  I'm just happy that my anglers are catching them again, especially on topwater lures, like the 24 incher in the photo.  Just about every mangrove shoreline in Matlacha Pass is holding these guys right now so work your Zara Spooks as close to the roots as possible and you'll land a few of your own. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Beavertail Micro For Sale

Here's your chance to own a brand new and fully loaded BT Micro at a great price without the wait. This boat was recently delivered to a young angler down on Marco Island who's heading off to college earlier than expected and unfortunately can't take it with him.  The 30 horsepower Etec has less than 20 hours on it and will give you a top speed of 30 mph and a draft of just over 5 inches.  This skiff has a lot of other options including a livewell, additional rod holders and full LED cockpit lighting.  The asking price is $23,500 obo which includes a custom fitted Peterson trailer.  Contact Colin at 239-272-4414. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Yes, The Tarpon Are Here But...

My buddy Forrest with a nice 5 pound tarpon caught earlier this week in a very narrow Pine Island creek.

If you want to catch one on a fly you've really got your work cut out for you right now.  The wind has been kicking my ass all month, blowing at a steady 15 to 20 knots just about every day.  I'm starting to feel like I'm back in Key West again where this kind of weather is the norm for tarpon season, (although they're getting hammered by it even worse than usual.)  Trying to throw a fly at the big fish in Charlotte Harbor during a small craft advisory is borderline impossible and just a bit dangerous at the same time.  I've basically written that off during the last few weeks. 

Fortunately we've got plenty of mangrove bays and creeks in both Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound where we can hide from the wind, and some of them hold a good amount of baby tarpon, too.  The biggest drawback is that these are very tight quarters and working a fly rod in a 20 foot wide creek is just as tricky as casting into a 20 knot wind.  This is another example of why learning the double haul is essential for anyone who fishes the salt. 

Just finding these creek-dwelling tarpon is also a challenge and no, I won't give away where we caught the one in the photo.  I'm definitely not only guide who knows about it but finding these spots on your own is half the fun.  Spend some time with a nautical chart and on Google Earth and you'll discover countless places way back in the mangroves that are both out of the wind and surprisingly accessible if you've got the right boat. 

That last sentence is very important.  Knowing both the tides and the draft of your vessel is crucial when exploring our back bays.  You definitely DO NOT want to get stuck in the mangroves after sundown this time of year. This is why I tell everyone new to SW Florida that the ideal first boat for Pine Island is either a kayak or a Gheenoe.  Getting into a hidden tarpon spot is a blast but getting back out again will let you keep half your blood supply. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wind And Redfish

If you can find a place to hide from the wind you can also find some nice fish like this one.  My cousin Joe Yost from Delaware scored this beautifully colored red in the leeward shoreline of Pine Island Creek.  This strong north wind that hit us late yesterday blew a lot of water off the flats so use caution if you're going to try getting back into areas like this.  The tide chart can be way off when the wind is so strong out of the north.  The lows are much lower and the highs don't get very high.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2014 Beavertail Strike Photos

My buddy Tyler Davis from Ft. Myers owns what might be the nicest skiff ever to roll out of the Beavertail shop, a brand new 17' Strike powered by the excellent Yamaha F70, and I finally got to spend some time on it this week.  I've fished on several different Strikes ever since Beavertail introduced this boat almost two years ago but this is the first one I've run that's powered by the F70.  Just an unbeatable combination.   

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Keystone Custom Rods

Here's a closer look at some of the excellent wrapping work my buddy Capt. Don Moorhead does with his rod building business located right here in Cape Coral.  Check out his website at

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Redfish On Top

My buddy Tyler Davis with one of two beautiful upper slot reds he landed on a Zara Spook just north of Matlacha.  We were fishing at high tide and both reds chased the lure to within a rod's length of his boat. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Lowtide Flies

These are just some of the patterns that come from a great young Ft. Myers based fisherman and fly tier. What I like best about these bugs is that they have all the right elements to attract fish and none of the flash that just attracts anglers.  His prices are also right on target, about $5 a piece.  If you're coming to the area and looking to fill a box with proven local patterns, check out Lowtide Flies

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Florida Tarpon Fishing in the Sixties

I posted this a couple years ago but now that we're at the beginning of tarpon season it's worth another look.  This short film is from the Costa Del Mar/IGFA website featuring legendary Keys guide Stu Apte and some seriously old-school tarpon fishing. 

Compared to how easy we have things today, this is pure awesome.  For starters, Stu is fishing from an insanely heavy bow-rider boat out of Bud and Mary's Marina in Islamorada, and he's clearly hired Where's Waldo as his guide to actually pole the thing.

And since a day of tarpon fishing can mean several hours on the water without much happening, Stu and Waldo bring along the Florida Citrus Queen just so she can hang out in her bikini.  Give it up for these guys!!

But since this is Stu Apte we're talking about, he obviously hooks a couple of monster tarpon in this video.  He's also using a fiberglass fly rod with the same diameter and stiffness of a garden hose.  He even unscrews the end cap and inserts something called a rod stiffener (seriously?) which is just a piece of steel to help turn the garden hose into an actual fish fighting tool. 

This film is absolutely amazing and the elevator music soundtrack is beyond cool.  They had all those big Keys tarpon to themselves back then but I still wouldn't trade places with these guys and their ancient gear for anything, even if the Citrus Queen rode along on all my charters.  Watch and be amazed:

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Goblin Shark Caught Off Key West

This story actually happened last month but is just going viral right now.  At least five different people have forwarded to me today so I'll go ahead and throw it up here, too:

This is actually the latest in a series of unusual shark sightings/catches down in the Keys that include a big great white spotted on the USS Vandenberg dive site and a full grown blue shark snagged in the mangroves off the Mud Keys. 

The best part of these stories is that none of the sharks were killed, even the nightmarish looking goblin in the photo above was returned to the water by the shrimpers who landed it.  They deserve a ton of credit for that. 

I absolutely HATE seeing dead sharks dragged on to the docks for ANY reason and make no secret of that to anyone who'll listen.  Nearly all oceanic shark species have been severely overfished during the past several decades and the horrible practice of finning continued unchecked until recently.  Don't get me wrong, I'm no vegan and love grilling up a good fish, but all sharks should be released unharmed.  They're far too valuable as apex predators and there are a lot of better things to eat out there anyway. 

As far as I'm concerned, seeing these rare sharks like the goblin and great white in unusual places is a good sign and probably means their populations are actually increasing.  Let hope this continues. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Pine Island Fishing Report: More Fish, More Wind

Mike Quinn from Atlanta with his first redfish, just under the 27" slot.

Mike with one of two gator trout he caught back to back with a Crazy Charlie. 
Every fishing guide knows that a guaranteed way to get the wind blowing is to pull out a fly rod, and this week all my anglers were fly fishing.  We had a steady breeze from the south every morning and by the afternoon it would be gusting over 20 knots.  Throw in some high clouds to kill the visibility and you've got less than ideal conditions to toss a fly but we still managed to make it work.  It also helps that there are a lot of nice fish out there right now, especially in the leeward shorelines of Matlacha Pass.  The redfish are schooling up in good numbers and so are some very big trout.  Blind casting Clousers or any shrimp pattern under the mangroves worked well for my clients on these fish.  Since snook season ended yesterday we'll probably start catching the hell out of them this week, too.  And of course there are some huge tarpon still pouring into Charlotte Harbor but getting a fly to them in these conditions is a minor miracle.  At least the water temps are staying in the low to mid-80's so fishing for them will only get better each day. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Another Matlacha Gator Trout

Kevin Barnes from Athens, GA scored this beautiful 24" speckled trout in the north part of Matlacha Pass with me yesterday.  He was tossing a green and white Clouser Minnow on an 8wt. rod.  We actually thought this fish was a snook when it first hit since it made such a violent strike.  This is the biggest trout on fly that I've had on my boat all year, and there are a lot more of them out there right now.