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.