Friday, August 28, 2015
All joking aside, I would never have gone out into open water during weather like that and I was very close to heading in at least several times. Lightning is a real killer in SW FL and holding a 7-foot graphite fishing rod in your hands is just asking for it. I've been in the middle of two different thunderstorms down in the Keys where I was fairly certain my passengers and I were going to die. This was long before smartphones with radar apps and it's a horrifying experience to say the least. We've got some more nasty weather coming in the next few days so keep your eyes on your screens if it starts rumbling on the horizon.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Friday, August 21, 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Monday, August 17, 2015
Friday, August 14, 2015
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Monday, August 10, 2015
I rarely bring tarpon into the boat since it's actually illegal if the fish is over 40 inches long. It's also tough on the fish after a stressful fight and hurts their chance of recovery in the hot summer water. I just wrote an article on this subject for this month's Nautical Mile newspaper.
I broke my rule for this tarpon since it was only 36 inches long and legal to pull out of the water. We also used 30# braid and had the fish in my rubberized net very quickly. I had my camera on the cooler and ready to go and the tarpon was back in the water about twenty seconds after it came out of the net. Since this was Carl's first tarpon he deserved a photo and the look on his face is worth it. He also caught a second fish a few minutes later and we popped that one off boat side like I prefer to do with this species.
Saturday, August 8, 2015
I haven't posted any local shots since I got back from Key West earlier this week but here are a few.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
I never turn down a chance to jump on the bow of my buddy Capt. Mike Bartlett's skiff for a few days. The clouds followed me down there but we avoided the rain and caught a decent amount of fish. Best of all, it was great to see perfectly clear water again, which is the total opposite of our summer conditions here on Pine Island.
|Our one flat calm morning.|
|A four pounder on my first cast.|
|Mike in action.|
|Key West bones are plentiful and voracious.|
|Almost legal black grouper.|
|Much smaller black grouper, we caught a lot of these.|
|Beautiful red grouper.|
|Dinner. Mutton snapper taste even better than they look.|
Saturday, August 1, 2015
From this month's Nautical Mile newspaper:
Thanks to the inescapable heat and oppressive humidity, August is nobody’s favorite month in Southwest Florida. But if you’re like me, and love chasing juvenile tarpon with a fly rod, these intensely hot summer days are the best time of the year.
As far as I’m concerned there is nothing better than jumping the 10 to 20 pounders that pop up on the flats just after sunrise this time of year. The slick calm mornings and 90 degree water temps, especially in Matlacha Pass, force these small tarpon to gulp air from the surface several times an hour. This behavior is called rolling, and it’s something these fish must do in order to survive.
The very prehistoric tarpon has a highly evolved internal air bladder lined with red blood cells that also functions as a rudimentary lung. It extracts oxygen from above the water which supplements the O2 that they draw through their gills. This allows tarpon to live in both fresh and saltwater and the juveniles can thrive in places where few predators dwell.
These are the ultimate light tackle fish. They hit hard, jump dozens of times during the fight, and can be landed and safely released in a relatively short time. Any freshwater angler who thinks that largemouth bass are tough will be blown away by the compact violence of a 36” tarpon. They’re nothing short of a nuclear bomb on the end of an 8-weight fly rod.
For those of you non-snowbirds stuck here in the August heat, right now is your best shot at a tarpon on fly. These smaller fish are mostly unpressured, especially during the weekdays. The majority of charter captains concentrate on the really big tarpon that congregate off the Gulf Beaches and Boca Grande Pass in the late summer. Most recreational anglers around here also seem to ignore these smaller, inedible fish in favor of the reds and trout that inhabit the same flats, and that’s just fine with me.
Juvenile tarpon are usually an early morning species and they eat the best at sunrise. Almost any basin around Pine Island can hold them this time of year provided the water is at least 3’ or deeper. Calm conditions are essential for spotting them. Once the wind kicks up these small tarpon roll far less frequently and the chop provides extra camouflage. On a perfectly flat morning you’ll not only spot them easily but also hear them gulping air from a good distance. It’s a quiet but unmistakable sound and can lead you right towards a pod of hungry fish.
The biggest drawback to chasing juvenile tarpon this time of year is the water itself. Thanks to the heat and frequent rains, Matlacha Pass looks like a freshly brewed cup of coffee right now and Pine Island Sound isn’t much better. Once the rolling tarpon drop back below the surface, our tannic stained water makes it impossible to determine where they’re going. The best way to get a hook up is to actually hit them with a fly during the very brief moment their heads are above the water. If you’ve ever played the old arcade game Whack-A-Mole, you’ll understand this kind of fishing. Unless you’re quick you’ll do a lot of blind casting when you find these tarpon. Throwing bushy white flies, like Seaducers or deer hair Sliders, usually works best for my anglers.
Since you’re not going to set any world records with these fish, skip the ultra-light leaders. A couple feet of 15# tippet and a 40# shock leader will let you muscle a 20 pound tarpon to the boat in just a few minutes. In this hot summer water, that’s crucial to their survival.
Finally, and most importantly, the days of dragging these fish onto the deck for a photograph are over. In fact, it’s actually against the law right now to completely remove any tarpon over 40” long from the water. Hold them like you see in the photos on this page and you’ll be following the rules and not hurting the fish at the same time. These small tarpon have a very long life ahead of them, maybe 50 years or more in some cases, so fight them hard and release them quickly and you can meet them again in a few decades when they’ve put on a couple hundred pounds.