Saturday, October 29, 2016

Back From Vacation

We spent the last week in western North Carolina and here are some shots to remind everyone what fall looks like. Quite awesome, if you ask me.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pine Island Fly Fishing Club Returns Oct. 31st

The Pine Island Fly Fishing Club will start up our meetings again for the season at 6:30PM on Oct. 31st in the Matlacha Park Community Center. There is no membership fee but we do ask for a $3 donation to help cover the cost of renting the building. This month's meeting will be a short "Welcome Back" session with no speaker but a few of us will be doing some fly tying and casting instruction. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Skiff Review: The 2017 Beavertail Mosquito

I’ve been guiding out of Beavertail Skiffs for the last 10 years and have been more than thrilled with all of the boats that come out of their Bradenton, FL shop. My current skiff is a 2012 BT3 powered by its second Yamaha F70 outboard. It’s an almost perfect combination of shallow, stable, and silent all while giving my passengers a bone dry ride. Those features were basically impossible to find in an 18 foot poling skiff when I started guiding 20 years ago.

Last month, Beavertail introduced their newest 2017 model, also an 18 footer, called the Mosquito. This latest boat is aimed right at the serious fly anglers who want to get further back into the mangroves than everyone else. With a beam of 70 inches and a hull weighing just 540lbs, this is a very skinny running skiff. With two anglers and a full tank of gas, I’ve poled it effortlessly in water that’s probably too shallow for big reds. The Mosquito is also dead silent with no wave slapping noise anywhere on the hull to spook tailing fish.

Power choices run from 30 to 70hp but the motor that impressed me the most on the Mosquito was the new Suzuki 60 four-stroke. With the right prop this will be a 35mph boat wide open and cruise around 28mph. I’ve owned four-strokes for the last 5 years and love their fuel economy and quiet running. I can actually have a normal conversation with my passengers while the engine is turning just a few feet behind us. I always had to shout on my older boats with their louder two-stroke outboards.

Beavertail will configure the Mosquito with tiller, side or center console steering. The brave, young guys who want to vanish into the Everglades will go for the tiller rig since it’s possible to get a 5 inch draft with that option. I’m looking very hard at the center console with its thick padded forward jump seat/cooler combo. That will allow my anglers (and occasionally me) to lean back with our feet up and enjoy the ride. Hydraulic steering is standard with the center console and that makes it even more effortless to drive.

The best part owing any Beavertail is how dry they all run. In my current BT3, with its 82 inch beam, it’s honestly difficult to get wet even in very choppy conditions that would have drenched us in some of my older skiffs. The Mosquito is a foot narrower and while it’s not designed as a pure open water machine, I wouldn’t hesitate to run it across Charlotte Harbor on a 15 knot day.

This is a great time to be in the market for a new boat, especially ultra-shallow poling skiffs. You have a lot of choices out there and at least a dozen more manufactures are in the mix than there were 20 years ago. The BT Mosquito has some serious competition, most notable are the excellent Maverick HPX17 and the Hells Bay Waterman, and almost all of the manufacturers are an easy drive from our area. Best of all, Boat Show Season is starting and the 44th annual Ft. Myers show kicks off at the Harborside Event Center on Nov. 17th. This should be your first stop if a new fishing rig is on your shopping list. You’ll be able to meet several of these builders in person and compare their products side by side. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pine Island Spoonbills

I can't get enough of these gorgeous birds that happen to be very shy around Pine Island. Getting anywhere near them for a decent picture is a rare treat.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Slam For Emmett

I recently had my best day on the water so far this month fishing with 4 year-old Emmett Walker and his dad Kyle.  Emmett showed us how it's done by landing the Inshore Slam of a redfish, snook, and a lot of trout.  The best part of the trip was watching him bring in several of these fish on his 4' Ugly Stick and Zebco push-button reel.  I have to admit that I borrowed the rod from him for a while and landed a few trout on it myself.  It's more fun than you can imagine landing saltwater gamefish on a kid's bluegill gear.  Great job, Emmett.  Can't wait to get you a tarpon next summer. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Beavertail Skiffs 2nd Annual Owners Tournament

Once again, my neighbors Tim Gleason And Vic Maffee walked away with the Grand Champion trophy by pulling some amazing fish out of Cockroach Bay the day after Hurricane Matthew ran up the east coast. Great job and a really great time for everyone who made it there.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Frigate Birds In Pine Island Sound

These stunning birds are still here by the hundreds on a few island in the northern part of the Sound. I never get tired of photographing them when I'm fishing that area.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October On Pine Island

From this month's Nautical Mile Magazine:

For starters, let me say Happy 15th Birthday to the Nautical Mile. My parents retired to Matlacha at the same time this paper first hit the stands and they mailed copies down to me each month starting with the very first issue. I’d been guiding in Key West at the time and always had Pine Island near the top of my list of places to go next. I took a five year detour further south to Vieques, Puerto Rico; since I apparently wasn’t done swearing at bonefish and permit, but in late 2009 we made the permanent move up to SW Florida and haven’t looked back since. (Now I get to swear at the redfish and snook of Pine Island Sound.)

If you’re a full time resident angler, you already know what a valuable resource the Nautical Mile has become. Chances are you pick up a copy from your favorite tackle shop at the beginning of each month and read it cover to cover. I know I do. And chances are you’ve also met publisher Jim Griffiths or heard him speak at one of the numerous fishing clubs and events he attends or sponsors throughout the year all over SW Florida. If you haven’t, you will. The guy is tireless and shows up everywhere when the topic of our local water is involved.

If you’re new to the area or just here on vacation, you’ll definitely find the Nautical Mile to be more useful than any other publication on the stands. Most of the articles contain a lot of How-to information with a handful of fish stories dropped here and there. I’m strictly an inshore flats guide, which is a very accessible type of fishing for just about anyone, so I tailor my columns toward the small boat owner with a big emphasis on fly fishing. And Pine Island is definitely one of the best areas in all of Florida to do this.

So what can you expect from our waters in October? Just about everything. This is easily one of the best months to fish anywhere in the state with the temperatures leveling off from our summer highs and a good bite happening any time of the day as long as the tide is moving. The redfish have been schooling up since early September and they can often be found in very thick schools on the flats in northern Pine Island Sound. They will literally turn the water orange when the sun hits their backs and often eat anything in their path. The huge flats inside the Burnt Store Bar are a well know area for these schools but it’s best to look for them on the weekdays when there’s less boat traffic running back and forth from the marina.

Snook have been back in season for a month and this is a fish you want to get after right at sunrise. The mangrove shoreline of Matlacha Pass, just north and south of the drawbridge, has held a nice amount of bigger snook, including a few of the elusive slot-legal ones. I recently had an angler lose a real monster on a fly rod from under the dock at Bert’s Bar. It hit a white 2/0 Deceiver and we had it on long enough to realize that it was at least a 40 incher. The 15# tippet we were using might as well have been sewing thread when it dove back under the pilings. At least the bar was closed that early and no one was watching. Painful.

Of course trout on almost every grass flat between 2 and 4 feet of water and won’t be going anywhere for a while. And as an added bonus, there are still more than a few schools of tarpon out there. This in another fish you want to target at daybreak, especially when the water is perfectly still. Look for them rolling off the Burnt Store Bar just as the sun is poking above the horizon. So that’s October in a nutshell. Best of luck out there and thanks again Jim Griffiths for letting me write for your paper these last few years.