Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Recent Catches

It got cold here on Pine Island so things slowed down just a bit.  We still managed to bring in a few decent above and below slot species this past week.  All of these fish were caught in Matlacha Pass within a mile of the drawbridge on both spin and fly gear. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cruising Pine Island Sound

Here's an excellent article from this month's BoatUS Magazine about cruising the Intercostal Waterway of Pine Island Sound.  It doesn't have anything to do with fishing but it's a great guide to some of the marinas and islands that are still the real Old Florida.  Very well written and it seriously makes me want to purchase a nice little trawler someday. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Still Pulling In Over-Slot Fish Off Matlacha

Here's a couple of fish from Saturday landed by my anglers Mark and Rich from Pittsburgh.  Too bad the Steelers couldn't produce the same results that these guys did. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Clouser Minnow

From my article in this month's Coastal Angler Magazine:
If you’re new to the sport of saltwater fly fishing, and especially if Santa just brought you a new tying vise for Christmas, please read this column carefully.  The green and white fly in this photo is called a Clouser Minnow.  It is the single best streamer ever invented and if your entire box is filled with nothing but this pattern, in a variety of different colors and sizes, you’re in great shape.  Every single gamefish that swims in SW Florida will eat a Clouser Minnow.

Here’s a little history for you.  Bob Clouser originally created his Minnow to catch smallmouth bass from the Susquehanna River near his hometown of Harrisburg, PA in 1987.  Since people have been tying flies for centuries, that makes this pattern an absolute newcomer in the sport.  A short time later, legendary angler Lefty Kreh brought the Clouser Minnow down to Florida and in just three years caught 63 different species on it.  His current tally is over 100 species.  

The secret to the success of the Clouser Minnow is the effortless way it mimics a wounded baitfish darting through the water.  The lead dumbbell eyes give it a slight bouncing action that happens naturally every time the fly is stripped.  On a #2 hook it’s the same size as a small pilchard or large glass minnow, two baitfish that are the favorite food of almost every predator along our coast.  Scale it up a bit and it can imitate a mullet or even a needlefish for the deeper water species.  

I don’t need to go into the details about tying the Clouser Minnow.  Google and YouTube will take care of that for you.  This is without a doubt the easiest pattern you’ll ever have to tie and that’s all the more reason to love it.  It’s nothing more than a couple small clumps of bucktail, some crystal flash and a dumbbell eye wrapped on a hook.  I can whip out an almost flawless Clouser in less than a minute even though tying flies has never really been one of my passions.  I do it mainly for economics and these patterns only cost me about .25 cents each in hooks and materials.  That’s a nice savings from the $2.75 to $4.99 that Minnows usually sells for at fly shops or online. 

You’re obviously unlimited in the color combinations for this fly but my main choice is chartreuse and white, which does a near perfect job of looking like a glass minnow in the water.  Brown and white is a close second since this looks a bit more like a shrimp.  Solid white Clousers work great on snook.  I’ve tied them on hooks as small as #6 for spooky Caribbean bonefish and up to 5/0 for Key West sharks.  My lifetime species count isn’t as impressive as Lefty Kreh’s but the only inshore fish I haven’t personally caught on a Clouser is the notoriously difficult permit, but I have seen that done by one of my clients.  

So sit down at your vice and start filling your brand new fly box up with Clouser Minnows.  It won’t take long and it definitely won’t cost you a lot of money.  And be sure to go out and use them.  You’ll be surprised at how many different species you can add to your own list of fish caught on this one fly.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Great Trout Action Off Matlacha

Here are a couple of shots of my buddy Noel Plumb from California who had a blast hooking slot legal trout all over Matlacha Pass.  We started off throwing spinning gear but he wound up getting the majority if his fish on the fly rod.  The water temps are back up in the high 60's and this has the trout as hungry as ever.  Clouser Minnows work best on the deeper flats and we've been getting some great hits on topwater lures in less than a foot of water while looking for reds.  The forecast looks great for the rest of the week so this bite should continue to get even better. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

COLD Out There!!!

On my charter last Friday afternoon I saw a high water temp of 74.5 degrees just north of Matlacha. Here's what it was on the same flat this morning:

That's a really significant drop after Saturday's cold front but fortunately it happened over two days so it didn't shock the fish too much. The reds adjusted quickly and were hungry as hell this morning.
I don't think I've ever seen Pine Island redfish as aggressive towards the fly as they were this morning. I'm guessing that the water was so miserable over the weekend that they just couldn't find any food and were making up for it this morning. Hope it continues for another day or two.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Foggy Morning Snook And Reds Off Matlacha

I could barely see past the bow of my boat this morning but we still managed to have a decent day of snook and reds on the fly thanks to local angler Clem Cleveland. Accurate casting makes all the difference in tough conditions this time of year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January On Pine Island, 2017

If there is one fish that anglers consider to be the Holy Grail of all saltwater species, it’s the permit. Nothing is more difficult to fool with a fly, pulls harder when hooked, or looks better in a photograph than these big crab eaters.  Permit are common reef and wreck dwellers all over Florida but they’re rarely seen in the shallows anywhere north of Biscayne Bay and the Keys.  We occasionally have them here on the flats off Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass but your chances of sight casting to one with a fly rod are on the slim side in this neighborhood. 

Fortunately, our waters are full of a very close runner-up to the permit this time of year and that’s the pompano.  These two fish, both members of the jack family, are nearly identical in everything but the size department.  Pompano rarely exceed 6 pounds while a few world record permit have been caught in excess of 60 pounds.  Pompano are also much less choosy in what they’ll eat.  Sand fleas are the live bait of choice for surf fishermen but shrimp, small crabs and cut bait will all work as well.  The same thing goes in the fly department and I’ve caught pompano on at least a dozen different patterns from Clouser Minnows to Merkin Crabs.  Once they feel that hook, they’ll rip off line just like their bigger and more glamourous cousins.  A full grown pompano will definitely dump your 8-weight reel into the backing but you’ll also be able to land it in just a few minutes.  A full grown permit on the same tackle can take close to an hour. 

If you want to sight cast to a pompano right now the best place to look is on the sandbars in Charlotte Harbor.  Burnt Store Bar on the east wall is several miles long and holds plenty of these fish at low tide.  They look jet black in the water and move much faster than mullet.  I have my anglers toss at anything with a forked tail and if it’s not a pompano I’ll usually have them hooked to a big ladyfish or crevalle.  Neither one is good to eat but both are a great fight on a fly rod.  Pompano also love to hang on the backs of stingrays this time of year and I always tell everyone to cast right on top of them.  A lot of different predators follow the rays waiting to grab a fleeing shrimp or crab so this is an excellent way to pick off a nice redfish or cobia, too. 

Of course, one of the best things about pompano is eating them.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re the most delicious inshore species in Florida.  They usually sell for at least $20 a pound at the seafood market and are also one of the few species that are excellent no matter how you prepare them.  Sliced raw, marinated as ceviche, or lightly grilled, it doesn’t matter.  Pompano have a buttery flavor and an almost lobster-like texture to their filets.  They’re also easy to clean as long as you’ve got a flexible knife. 

So head on out to the Charlotte Harbor sandbars around high noon with your 8-weight and a shrimp fly this month.  If you see some darker fish with forked tails, bean them right on the head.  If it’s a mid-size pompano you’ll get an immediate hit and a fight like few other fish that size can offer.