Saturday, May 28, 2016


If tarpon never got bigger than this five pounder we caught right off Matlacha on a live shrimp I'd still be a very happy guide.  These immature fish will hit almost anything that moves and spend the entire fight up in the air.  They exhaust themselves in a few minutes and can be photographed and released quickly.  Over the next fifty years this little tarpon could put on another hundred pounds, or easily twice that much if it's a female.  They all have to start somewhere and the canals and creeks of our area will be loaded with these juveniles for the next few months. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Keep Your Tarpon Wet

This isn't a very big tarpon, probably no more than 50 pounds, but it was over 40 inches long and that means it has to stay in the water.  This has been the law in Florida since 2013 and it's something I've been in favor of for a long time.  There is no reason to pull these fish out of the water after fighting them to exhaustion and it's one of the reasons I rarely post tarpon pictures on this blog.  (That, and I haven't been landing many so far this year.)  But anyway, congrats to Jim from Michigan on landing this fish and just a reminder to use heavy leaders, go full throttle on your drag, and keep these bigger fish in the water if you want to photograph them. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

More Pine Island Permit

Victoria from New Jersey finally did it and landed my first Pine Island permit on the flats yesterday. We were actually fishing for baby tarpon on a windy and cloudy Saturday morning when this one pound beauty ate a live shrimp under a Cajun Cork. Permit are not uncommon in the deeper Gulf Of Mexico waters right outside Pine Island Sound and we're starting to see more of them on the shallows each year. I'm hoping that this is a trend that will continue and maybe we'll rival the Keys in a few years as a destination for these beautiful gamefish.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beavertail Skiffs At The Wounded Warrior Anglers Tournament This Saturday On Matlacha

Stop by the Matlacha Community Park this Saturday from 10AM to 6PM for the annual Wounded Warrior Anglers Redfish Shootout.  While you're there you can check out a handful of brand new Beavertail Skiffs, including the awesomely fast Lightning featured in the video above.  This is also the WWA's current 2016 raffle boat and you can buy tickets to win it at their drawing on November 12th.  I'll be hanging out with Beavertail's owners Will and Elizabeth Leslie to answer any questions you might have about the skiffs and the fishing around Pine Island.  The weather looks great and this is always a good time.  Hope to see you there. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Last Tarpon

A nasty thunderstorm canceled my charter this morning which gave me time to go through some older photos.  This is a shot of the last tarpon I personally hooked exactly nine months ago today, courtesy of my friend Tim Gleason from Pine Island.  As a full time guide I'm usually on the wrong end of the boat, which means I average about one of these fish every year for myself at best.  So far, I haven't even cast a fly at a tarpon in 2016, and probably won't be able to until sometime late next month.  But there are plenty of them around right now, much bigger than the one in the photo, so I'm counting on a boating a triple digit fish sometime this summer.  It's been over three years since I landed a tarpon that size so I'm way overdue. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Off To Work

Matlacha guide Capt. Joe Harley heading out on a tarpon mission into Charlotte Harbor.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Redfish Everywhere In Pine Island Sound

Here's a shot from yesterday when it was a little too breezy to find rolling tarpon so we hit the bushes instead.  The redfish were on almost every shoreline in Pine Island Sound and Capt. Giles Murphy from landed this nice slot-legal one on a Gulp Shrimp.  Giles is the owner of the Stuart Angler fly shop over on the east coast of Florida and specializes in dock light snook fishing.  He's a great guy and if you're on that side of the state you should definitely look up his business and book a trip. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Favorite Tarpon Fly

May is right when the annual tarpon season really gets ramped up here on Pine Island.  For me, this means several weeks of long days poling my skiff in the relentless sun chasing these fish up and down our Gulf beaches.  It also means sitting in front of my tying vice for at least an hour or two each week so I can keep my fly box well stocked. 

Fortunately, the flies I’ve found that work best for Southwest Florida are relatively simple patterns to tie.  The classic red and black Tarpon Bunny has landed the majority of my customer’s fish over the last twenty years.  This pattern is nothing more than two short pieces of rabbit fur wrapped on a hook.  I use a 3” Zonker strip for the tail and 2” of cross cut fur for the head.  I’ve gotten to the point where I can easily crank one of these flies out during the commercial break of an NFL playoff game, which is when I usually like to start filling my tarpon box for the upcoming season. 

While I can whip up enough of these rabbit fur patterns for several trips without much effort, I always make sure they’re tied on one specific type of hook, which is the Owner SSW Cutting Point.  The hook is obviously the most important part of any fly and these particular models are absolute weapons.  Tarpon have a mouth that is basically skin over solid bone, so driving anything into it takes a serious piece of hardware.  The chemically sharpened Owner Hooks can drill into these fish like nothing else out there.  They also hold exceptionally well thanks to their small barbs that dig in hard but also release easily without any serious damage to the tarpon. 

The size of the hook I use for my tarpon flies only varies a small amount.  For the big migratory fish that average 100lbs or more, I go with a 3/0 hook.  For the smaller juveniles that show up in a few months I’ll drop down to a 1/0.  So if you choose to tie all of your tarpon flies on nothing but 2/0 hooks, you’ll be in great shape. 

The best thing about these Owner hooks is that they’re not made of stainless steel, which is something you never want to use while fly fishing for any large species, especially tarpon.  They have a carbon finish that will resist corrosion in the box but will dissolve quickly if you break one off in a fish’s mouth.  And trust me, this is something that will happen a lot when you start fly fishing for tarpon. 

The Owner SSW is also a great live bait hook if you’re a spin fisherman tossing crabs or whitebait at these fish.  They’re not too expensive, about 50 cents each, but when it comes to hooking a species as impressive as a full grown tarpon, there’s nothing out there I trust as much. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Walk The Dog Slam

I had the rare chance yesterday to spend the morning with my friend and local guide Capt. Chuck Downs.  We were hoping to chase some tarpon on the Pine Island flats but the wind and high clouds made that a huge chore so we hit the mangroves instead.  Chuck easily managed an Inshore Slam using topwater lures that work especially well on overcast days.