Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Big Winter Pompano Are Here

Local angler Phil Harper landed the largest pompano I've ever had on my boat this morning.  It weighed over six pounds and I was convinced it was a small permit until we pulled it out of the water.  This was one of three we landed while casting at waves of them in Charlotte Harbor.  Pompano are a very common winter fish off Pine Island but I've never seen so many in the shallows.  Maybe the warm water has something to do with it and I'm definitely not complaining.  The Gulf can stay close to 80 degrees as long as it wants. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 28th Pine Island Fly Fishing Club Meeting

Our monthly Pine Island Fly Fishing Club meeting will happen Monday, the 28th at the Matlacha Park Community Center at 6:30 PM.  This month's speaker is veteran guide Capt. Rick Grassett from Sarasota.  Everyone is welcome and we only ask a $3 donation to cover renting the hall.  Hope to see you there. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pompano On The Fly

Had a great day with Cameron and Adam, two Lake Okeechobee bass anglers on their first saltwater fly fishing trip.  We spent most of our time sight casting in Pine Island Sound and scored with a couple of big pompano right at high tide.   These fish are usually caught over the deeper grass but today we found them cruising in a foot of water on some very bright sand bars.  The guys also landed their first keeper trout and redfish but the snook were nowhere to be found (of course) so that denied us the Slam.  Some high clouds and leftover winds from last weekend's cold front didn't help much but this was still an excellent day on the fly.  Looking forward to having these guys back for tarpon season next year. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

White Pelicans Of Pine Island

The white pelican is a stunning creature and I never get tired of shooting photos of them.  This is a flock that hangs on a Bokeelia oyster bar all winter and they've become very tolerant of me in the morning and at sunset. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Charlotte Harbor Redfish On Fly

I finally got some time on the bow of a boat today and thanks to my buddy Vic landed this beautiful red with one of my shrimp patterns. It's been a while since I pulled one of these in on a fly rod and it was good to be reminded of how difficult they can be in our waters.  We both cast at well over a dozen fish on this particular flat and this was the only one that ate. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Low Tide In Mid-December

Had an excellent week getting my clients dinner from Pine Island Sound. We pulled in a lot of trout, some of them well over slot, which isn't too hard to do this time of year. Local angler Doug Oliver and his son Mitchell can out with me again this morning and even though the bite was slow they managed to score a Slam on Flats Walkers and Gulps. We've also been seeing dozens of big sheepshead in the northern part of Pine Island sound so bouncing some shrimp on jig heads would be an excellent idea right now.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cloudy Weather Redfish

The last two days have served us up nothing but strong northeast winds and solid clouds here on Pine Island.  But fortunately, that's not the end of the world for us since we have miles of excellent shoreline where we can tuck in and cast lures right under the mangroves.  My anglers managed to haul in both of these excellent reds on artificials in the past 48 hours while also landing snook, trout, and a handful of other species.  Gulps and Zara Spooks were my go-to baits since live shrimp would have been instantly ripped to shreds by the countless pinfish that are still everywhere.  The sun is supposed to reappear for the rest of the week so hopefully we'll start sticking these reds with flies again. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December On Pine Island

From this month's Nautical Mile newspaper:

Tourist season is in full swing right now.  In addition to my regular anglers and a few first timers, I’ve also run several trips last month with people who recently bought homes here in Lee County.  These have been some of my favorite charters since these folks are eager to absorb everything they can about the local waters before they purchase a boat to go along with their new house. 

Our backyard of Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, and Matlacha Pass is the very definition of a boater’s paradise, but at the same time it is some of the Florida’s most difficult to water to master.  Unlike the Keys, our shallow flats and oyster bars stay hidden for most of the year beneath a dark and tannic stained surface.   Running hard aground in this part of Florida is as easy as going on the wrong side of a channel marker or getting momentarily confused while reading a chart.  It’s an embarrassing mistake at best but can also turn into an expensive and potentially dangerous one at worst. 

Fortunately for today’s boaters, highly accurate GPS systems are very affordable and available for anything that floats.  The days of pouring over a faded chart and trying to find the next channel marker are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  This is an amazing convenience that was almost unimaginable a few decades ago.  When I first started saltwater fishing the only boats that had full color GPS systems were painted battleship grey and fired Tomahawk missiles.  Fast forward to 2015 and a kayaker with an iPhone has more navigational capability in the palm of his hand than NASA’s Mission Control did during the Apollo moon missions.  That same smart phone can instantly summon help should and accident happen so accidentally spending the night on a sandbar is really a thing of the past. 

While getting from Point A to Point B has never been easier, knowing where to look for that school of big tailing redfish is still a hard earned piece of knowledge.  A lot of anglers realize this and that’s why most newcomers here in Lee Country are wise to hire a guide for at least a couple of trips.  If you’re one of these folks, there are a few things that you should expect when you book a charter. 

For starters, be upfront about why you’re booking the trip.  The majority of guides I know will welcome a new resident but some might view you as a potential spot stealer and choose to show you next to nothing on the water while still taking your money.  That’s unfair and easily avoidable.  At the same time, don’t expect to be handed the keys to the kingdom out there.  Speaking for myself, I have two or three baby tarpon spots that I only fish a few day a year and just with my best repeat customers.  At the same time, I would never park someone on a sand bar hooking ladyfish all morning if they really wanted to see some tailing redfish in Matlacha Pass.

I also encourage folks to bring their own gear if what they have is appropriate.  Push button Zebco reels just won’t cut it on the flats.  Saltwater fishing, especially for inshore species like snook and redfish, is very specialized.  Some of the tackle in your freshwater box will work but much of it won’t stand up to the salt.  Also, if your reel isn’t rigged with the right braided line I may not want you to risk losing a good (and expensive) snook lure because of that.  Fortunately, getting properly geared up for these fish doesn’t have to cost a small fortune and most guides will be happy to give you a rundown of what you’ll need. 

A lot of my recent customers are also beginner fly anglers hoping to score their first saltwater fish in their new backyard.  If you’re one of these folks then you’re especially welcome on my boat since I’ve spent much of the last twenty years introducing people to this sport.  Just be prepared for a good dose of frustration and humility.  Trust me on this one; the redfish flats of Pine Island are a radically different world from the Pennsylvania trout streams where I learned to fish.  It’s a big step up but saltwater fly fishing is accessible to anyone willing to put in the effort. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dad's Slam

Normally when I take a family out on a charter it's the youngest or least experienced member who catches all the fish. That got flipped around on Sunday when local angler Todd Goguen outfished his boys Tyler and Sam in the north end of Pine Island Sound.  We were only using artificial baits since the pinfish and puffers are out of control right now.  Live shrimp won't last ten seconds on your hook before they're chewed to pieces.  Todd stuck with Gulps under a Cajun Cork for the whole morning and landed a handful of big trout, the 26" red in the photo above, and a 24" snook on his last cast to complete the Slam.  I have to admit, it was very cool to see an old guy show his boys how it's done for a change.  Nice job, Todd. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Windy Day Slam From Pine Island Sound

Here's a few shots from yesterday when the winds were still gusting over 15 knots. It wasn't an easy day to be out there but we still made it work. Local angler Dr. Alejandro Miranda-Sousa landed this excellent Slam that included several slot-legal trout like the 21 incher in the bottom photo.  All of these fish were caught on artificials such as Gulps and FlatsHQ soft plastics tossed right against the exposed banks of northern Pine Island Sound. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Legends Of The Salt

If you're even the least bit interested in saltwater fly fishing set aside 20 minutes to watch this excellent video:

Legends of the Salt from American Museum of Fly Fishing on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

2013 Ankona Shadowcast For Sale

I'm posting this for a friend who's reluctantly selling this extremely popular, Florida built microskiff.  This 16 foot Ankona Shadowcast is in like-new condition with less than 50 hours on the Tohatsu 20hp outboard.  The current price is only $10,600 and you can click here for more photos and details

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pre Cold Front Trout

This is a shot from Thursday morning when we were pulling in the speckled trout one after the other in Matlacha Pass. As usual, these fish knew that bad weather was on its way and were feeding heavily before the storms came. This 20 incher was one of four that came back for dinner that day. Lots of wind and much cooler temps coming in the next few days so good luck if you manage to get out there.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Here's yet another excellent video shot and edited by filmmaker Dan Decibel.  I was more than happy to spend of few hours on the bow of FlatsHQ owner Shelby Ramsey's skiff tossing Flats Walker lures at tailing redfish while the camera was rolling.  The conditions were less than ideal but we still managed to land some beautiful fish thanks to these great lures. 

Incoming by Dan Decibel from FLATSHQ on Vimeo.

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Orleans Redfishing Video

This is just a teaser but it's excellent.  It features Beavertail Skiffs guide Brandon Keck nailing some huge Louisiana reds on surface flies.  The full video will come out in January.  Can't wait. 

29 degrees NOLA from Catch 1 Films on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pine Island Fishing Report: Cold Front And No Water

These last two days have been a real kick in the teeth. We just had some of the best morning tides of the fall which gave us excellent tailing redfish conditions earlier this week.  The northern flats of Pine Island Sound were covered in reds on Wednesday and Thursday but Mother Nature had to toss a cold front at us just in time for the weekend.

If you're new to the area you'll quickly learn that north winds and negative low tides mean there will be almost no navigable water in much of Matlacha Pass for several hours. I saw no less than three different boats run hard aground today just because they missed a channel marker.

And any time Mother Nature hands me a few days with high winds and no water I always seem to have a hard-core fly angler scheduled to fish.  Friday and Saturday was no exception and Idaho angler Doug Ott made the best of it.  We landed a handful of undersize snook, a couple of nice legal trout, and the full Trash Can Slam of ladyfish, catfish, and blowfish, all on fly.  I didn't take any pictures of those but I should have. 

Several big schools of jacks have been ripping up bait just north of Matlacha and we were lucky enough to run into them on the way home yesterday.  Dropping poppers anywhere near them drew immediate strikes.  The jack in the last photo was a ten pounder and the only one we managed to actually land.  It saved the day for me and hundreds of his buddies are still out there in Matlacha Pass waiting to be caught this week.  Go get them. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Veterans Day

Here's a shot I took last year out in Pine Island Sound. This is the famous "FiFi," the only B-29 Superfortress from WWII still flying. She's based in Texas but makes appearances at airshows across the country, often taking vets who flew the plane in combat up for one final ride.  If you look closely at the observation bubble just behind the right wing you'll see two people looking down at the water.  It was a beautiful morning and I'm sure those guys really enjoyed their flight. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dinner Time

All of the best eating species are hitting flies right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Jetmen Over Dubai

This is another video that has nothing to do with fishing but it's just too awesome not to share. It features the famous Swiss Jetman Yves Rossy and his partner flying alongside a massive Emirates Airlines A380.  The aerial footage is jaw dropping but if you look at the background you'll catch quick glimpses of the enormous man made islands of The Palm and The World.  These two famous projects have been criticized by environmental groups (of course) but despite that Dubai seems to be quietly developing a good reputation as a fly fishing destination

Friday, November 6, 2015

2016 Beavertail Lightning At The Ft. Myers Boat Show.

I spent the day fishing for bonita in Tampa Bay on this boat earlier this week. This is an amazing machine and you can see in for yourself in two weeks at the Ft. Myers Boat Show along with several other Beavertail Skiffs.  This is always a great event so be sure to stop by and take a look. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Shoreline Snook Off Pine Island

New York angler Chris Webber with a 26" snook caught with a white Flats Swimmer.
We've had some great high water right after sunrise these last few days and this is the best time to work the mangroves for snook with artificials.  It's always a blast trying to yank these fish out from under the bushes after an explosive strike on a topwater lure.  But one thing to keep in mind is that shortly after the tide begins to fall, snook will move out of the roots and settle onto the flats ten to twenty feet from the shoreline.  So instead of pitching your lures right at the trees if you're poling a shoreline try shooting them off the bow instead.  This is where most of the bigger snook will be hanging during the very low waters we'll be seeing in November. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

November On Pine Island

From this month's Nautical Mile Newspaper:
November means one thing to me as a fishing guide here on Pine Island: negative low tides. Seeing that little minus symbol on the tide charts when the lows happen just after sunrise and just before sunset is almost as good as finding presents under the tree on Christmas morning. These are some of the best conditions to chase tailing redfish and half of the days this month have a tide of 0.0 or lower. For die hard skinny water anglers this is as good as it gets.

My favorite times to hit these ultra-shallow flats are about an hour before the bottom of the tide and then the first two hours of the rising water. This is when I usually find the redfish feeding most aggressively because their prey, which is mostly crabs and shrimp, is easily pinned to the bottom. This is also when you’ll find reds sticking their tails straight up into the air and waving them like signal flags. It’s easily one of the coolest things you’ll ever see out on the flats.

One other thing to look for out there are cruising stingrays. The bigger rays attract fish like a magnet on certain flats in Pine Island sound and I’ve seen more than a dozen reds hanging on their backs waiting for a crab to flush from underneath. This is also a common behavior for other species of gamefish so it’s not a bad idea to toss a lure or fly at any passing ray. Some of the biggest trout and jacks I’ve ever seen have been landed this way. The rays are easy creatures to spot on the negative low tides, too. Just look for the large pushes of water or even their wingtips poking above the surface.

In a previous article I wrote about the best way to go after low tide reds with flies, which is basically to bonk them right on the head with light spoon patterns. That tactic obviously won’t work if you’re throwing heavier artificials with spinning gear. One lure I’ve had great success with that doesn’t spook them as easily are Gulp Jerk Shads rigged on weedless swim bait hooks. These can be dropped right in a school of feeding reds and usually get pounced on immediately. With 10 pound braid you can throw these light Gulps very accurately over a surprisingly long distance. And Gulps really are the one artificial that actually does work better than live bait (most of the time.)

The one last thing to know about working schools of fish on a falling tide is to obviously approach them with caution, and I don’t just mean that in order to avoid spooking them. The water during a negative low can disappear quickly and for a long time, especially on a windy day after a cold front. It’s very easy to get shoved up onto a flat or pole your way into an area while you’re chasing tailers and suddenly have no way back out, even in a very light skiff. This would be a really miserable experience if it happened at sunset and close to the mangroves where the bugs live. Keep in mind that the numbers you see on a tide chart are predictions and nothing more than that. While usually quite accurate, the depths and times of posted tides can vary significantly, especially when strong weather happens. Keep that in mind when you’re fishing around negative lows this month and you’ll keep yourself out of trouble.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fly Fishing In The Wind

It's late October and the fall cold fronts have arrived on Pine Island.  The first one hit last Sunday and the wind hasn't stopped since.  Fortunately it's blown steadily out of the east and southeast which gives us a huge amount of leeward shoreline to work all along Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound.  The open water is a churned up mess but close to the east wall mangroves it's calm and very fishable.  The trick is to stay tucked within 20 feet of the trees and keep your casts low.  There are tons of redfish cruising the clean water along the roots looking for shrimp and whitebait.  The one pictured above ate a crab fly just inches from the trees and we've also landed a few others on Clouser Minnows this week.  Another cold front is bearing down on us as I write this so the wind isn't going away for at least a few days.  Don't let that bother you.  There's always a shoreline where you can hide and the waters are cool enough that the fish will feed all day.  If you don't feel like fighting it with a fly rod, drop some live shrimp under the bushes on the incoming tide and you'll catch the hell out of everything. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Matlacha Pass In The Wind

We've been battered by some really harsh winds all week but still managed to pull in a few decent fish on fly these last two days.  The eastern shoreline of Matlacha Pass has provided an nice leeward shoreline during the high water in the mornings.  My angler James Cash, in the bottom photo, even landed his first inshore Slam this morning on fly.  His redfish and trout were keepers and he nailed a couple of undersize snook, all on Clouser Minnows. Great results on a falling tide and tough weather. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 Beavertail Skiffs Owners Tournament Winners

Company owners Will and Elizabeth Leslie handed out the trophies on Saturday night.
Anglers Tim Gleason and Vic Maffee took home the Grand Champion Trophy with a double slam of snook, trout and reds.

Snook Champion George Schramm.

Sea Trout Champion Adam Valle.

Redfish Champion Jared Costa.

This was a great tournament with 30 boats signed up and almost 80 anglers and family members participating. We also raised  $7360 for the Wounded Warrior Anglers charity through our raffles and silent auction. On top of all that, the weather was perfect and the fishing wasn't bad either. We'll definitely be doing this again next year and it will be an even bigger event since there will be another 100 new Beavertail owners on the water by then.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Beavertail Skiffs Open House, Ruskin, FL.

If you want to check out this awesome new BT Lightning in person stop by the Little Harbor Resort and Marina this weekend.  Click here for more details

Monday, October 12, 2015

Redfish From The Mangroves Off Matlacha

Mike from Altoona, Pa with a 25" red that hit a live pinfish.
Great morning tides this week have made fishing the bushes really productive in Matlacha Pass.  The bite would usually kick in about two hours after the waters started flooding and dropping live shrimp under the bushes produced a bunch of different fish.  Undersize snook were our most common catch but I never consider that a problem.  They're a fun fight and it's great to see how healthy their population is these days.  Legal redfish are crawling under just about every shoreline but sometimes you have to be patient to find them.  Big shrimp are always my go-to bait this time of year but they also attract a lot of fish you won't want to catch.  That's not always a problem.  If you find a spot that's loaded with pinfish and small snapper, be patient if you have enough live bait.  The bigger reds will eventually be attracted to the feeding frenzy.