Fishing was very good this week on the grass flats near both passes this week. Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits tore them up, catching pompano, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, and good numbers of bluefish and ladyfish. Several of my clients had never used artificial baits previously, one had never even fished! But, all did well casting these baits. Red/gold shiner was the most productive color. Middlegrounds, Country Club Shores, and Marina Jacks were all good spots this week.
Sarasota residents John Englander, Doc Dojutrek, and Bill Kish had a very good charter on Monday. We ran the beach first thing in search of bonita, but not much happening. We can back inside and the action was steady for 4 hours. The Middlegrounds was good, but the wind cranked up so I was headed south when I saw some breaking fish in pretty shallow. We did well on bluefish to 3 pounds, trout, and ladyfish. We finished up at Marina jacks with steady action before heading in.
Conditions were a bit tough on Wednesday for Nick Torelli from Chicago, IL, his wife Anne, his brother Louis, and sister-in-law Lee. It was quite breezy and we did well for the first half of the trip at Marker #5. Lee had never fished before but learned quickly and did well, catching the largest bluefish. As the tide came in, it brought dirty water from the stirred-up Gulf, slowing the bite a bit. We finished up at Country Club Shores, experiencing sporadic action until it was time to go home.
I finished up the week with another good charter with Terry Harkey and her boyfriend Israel, from Charlotte, NC. It started off a bit slow as the tide was slack, but by mid-morning we had found a bunch of fish feeding heavily at Country Club Shores. The couple landed pompano, Spanish mackerel, and ladyfish on jigs.
Anglers experienced fast action this week, mostly at the Middlegrounds and in Big Pass. Ladyfish were thick with bluefish speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and flounder mixed in. Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits in Glow and red/gold shiner were very productive. The bars out if front of Big Pass were covered up with breaking fish on the outgoing tide. Pilchards and threadfin herring are still around and produced snook and jack crevelle in Robert's Bay.
Laszlo Osz from and 3 friends from Hungary had a good charter on Tuesday afternoon. Despite their lack of experience and the language barrier, the gang had a good trip with a lot of action.
Jon Pritchard from Indianapolis, IN, his wife and friends were in town for a wedding and went out on a charter Thanksgiving morning. The bite was on at the Middlegrounds, then slowed as the tide quit. A move to Big Pass produced more fish and then I spotted a bunch of activity out on the bar. For the last hour it was pretty much a fish on every cast as thousands of ladyfish were feeding on bait.
I finished up my week with Butch Searle and his son Trey from Merritt Island, FL. Once again we started off with good action on bluefish and ladyfish at the Middlegrounds using Bass Assassin jigs. After a bit we decided to change it up, and I caught some bait and headed south to Robert's Bay. There was a lot of boat traffic, but we managed several snook and a bunch of jack crevelle before heading in.
Fishing was very good this week on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. Almost all of the fish were caught by clients using Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits on a ¼ ounce jig head, with Glow/chartreuse being the most productive color. A few fish were caught on free lined live shrimp. Speckled trout, bluefish, sea bass, grouper, and ladyfish were plentiful at the Middlegrounds and Stephen’s Pt. Ladyfish were thick in Big Pass. Snook, jacks, and snapper hit pilchards in Robert’s bay.
Saizel Surti from Vancouver treated his wife and son to an afternoon charter. The bite was steady at Stephen’s Pt for a couple of hours, before slowing down as the tide quit. It was a tad slow for an hour but then they finished up with a hot bite at the Middlegrounds as ladyfish were busting all over the surface.
Jay and Peg Lalley from Chicago and their daughter Sarah had a good charter later in the week. We started off with fast action on ladyfish in Big Pass, then moved to a nearby flat and caught a few sea bass and grouper. My buddy Capt Roy String was coming in from offshore with a load of bait and gave me a bunch; thanks, Roy! We worked several spots in Robert’s Bay, catching snook, snapper, and a bunch of jacks.
On Saturday I took Beth Reis from Lakeland, FL and Sarasota resident Carissa Barnes out for a fun trip and to get some pictures for upcoming articles and web projects. We caught bluefish and ladyfish using Bass Assassin jigs at the Middlegrounds, then I ran south, caught some bait, and had fun with jacks and a snook in Robert’s Bay.
I finished up my week with Sarasota resident David Schirmer and his buddy Tom. The bite was good early at the Middlegrounds, with a lot of ladyfish and a couple of blues hitting Bass Assassin jigs. A move to Stephen's Pt produced trout to 17", gag grouper, and more ladyfish. Fellow CB's guide Kelly Stillwell called me with news of a hot bite off of Longboat, so we ran over and ended the trip with fast action on blues and ladies.
I started to transition from using live bait to casting jigs on the deep flats throughout the area, though chumming will still work on snook for a couple more weeks. As the water cools off into the low 70s, bait becomes more scarce and fish are more active and willing to chase a lure. Bass Assassin 4" Sea Shad baits in glow/chartreuse and Red Gold Shiner produced speckled trout, silver trout, bluefish, gag grouper, and ladyfish at the Middlegrounds, Stephen's Pt., and in Big Pass for clients this week. (08) Rapala X-Raps in gold fooled snook and jack crevelle in Robert's Bay and pilchards caught snook, jacks, and snapper thee as well.
Sarasota residents Doc Dojutrek and John Englander fished with me during the week and experienced steady action. We started off at first light casting gold Rapala X Raps in Robert's Bay, catching snook and jack crevelle. That bite slowed after a couple of hours so we moved to Big Pass and caught a few ladyfish. We finished up at the MIddlegrounds and Stephen's Pt., landing speckled and silver trout along with some ladyfish on Bass Assassin jigs.
Frank Regnery from NYC took his son-in-law Mike Cribbs and grandson Keegan out on Saturday. A mild cold from had just moved through and it was a tad breezy. We started off catching bluefish, trout, gag grouper, and ladyfish at the Middlegrounds on jigs before it got a little too windy to fish. A drift in Big Pass produced a couple of ladyfish. I caught some bait and we finished up near Siesta Key catching jacks, snook, and snapper.
The key to success on charters this week was dealing with the wind. Still breezes out of the northeast made fishing parts of Sarasota Bay impossible. Working the open flats early when the wind was not as strong, then moving to protected areas as the breeze picked up worked well. Speckled trout, mostly small, Spanish mackerel, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, and other species hit jigs and live bait near Bird Key. Canals on Siesta Key and protected shorelines in Robert’s Bay produced snook, plenty of jacks, and some nice mangrove snappers.
Rick Kinning from Colorado treated his dad and two sons to a charter on Sunday. It was still a bit breezy with high pressure after the cold front, and fishing was steady, though unspectacular. The boys cast jigs for an hour or so, catching a few fish at the Middlegrounds, and I loaded up on bait. Chumming at the Radio Towed and Marina Jacks resulted in decent action on speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, snapper, grouper, flounder, and ladyfish.
Steve Owen from Ohio was in town and took his son Stephen, who lives in Sarasota, out fishing. We started off casting plugs for snook, but no luck. I caught bait and fished a shoreline in Robert’s Bay, where they experienced non-stop action on jack crevelle, snook, and snapper for an hour or so. The tide peaked high and the rest of the morning was a tad slow, with a few trout and ladyfish providing a bit of action.
I finished up the week with Magnus Olund from Sweden and his wife and two kids. Once again it was quite breezy as we left the dock at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters and headed north. I anchored up on the back side of Bird Key to get a break from the wind and we caught trout, gag grouper, and ladyfish free lining shrimp. I saw a bunch of birds working on bait. So I ran over and loaded up on pilchards and threadies. I tried another spot but it was blowing so hard the anchor would not hold. I went into a residential canal and found a school of hungry jacks. The gang landed 25 or so, along with some nice snappers.
Fishing was fair this week as conditions continue to be a bit challenging. Winds have been strong out of the northeast, making it difficult to fish the open water. Grass flats near Big Pass produced trout, snapper, grouper, mackerel, ladyfish, and jacks. Snook and jacks were landed in canals on Siesta Key. All of the fish were caught using live bait, mostly pilchards the threadfin herring.
I started my week off with a last-minute charter with Al Hernandez from Ohio, his daughter Rose, and her children. We left the dock at 11:40, caught bait, and did well for the first two hours chumming grass flats near Siesta Key. Trout, mackerel, snapper, grouper, ladyfish, jacks, and more came to the boat. The last part of the trip was bit slower as the tide quit and it was the middle of the day. We finished up with 60 fish or so, not bad considering the late start.
Terry Mark from Olean, NY fished with me on Tuesday. Terry is my longest tenured client, we have been fishing together for around twenty years now. The tide was still falling as we left Ken Thompson Park at first light, so I ran south to try for snook. I caught bait and anchored up on a drop-off and started chumming. Terry caught a pair of decent snook and several gag grouper and mangrove snapper and a Spanish mackerel. The bite slowed so I ran to a canal and we landed a half dozen jack crevelle along with more snapper. We finished up near Big Pass, catching trout, snapper, and grouper. In all, Terry landed 25 fish, 9 different species, along with some quality fish. Fun morning with a great guy!
I finished off the week on Saturday with Sarasota local Morgan Watkins and her fiance Chris. The bite was tough as we were fishing behind a strong front with a stiff northeast breeze. We caught a few small fish using live shrimp near Bird Key, then I found some bait near Siesta Key. Chumming along a protected shoreline produced several nice jack crevelle and Chris had a 30” snook on for a while that chewed through the leader right at the boat. We made a couple of drifts at Marina Jacks and landed a few trout before calling it a day.
I was on vacation out west and returned mid-week. Action was steady this week, despite some challenging conditions. Wind has been brisk out of the northeast and there is still some lingering red tide. The key to success was moving around a bit then once fish are located, optimize the situation. The grass flats near Big Pass produced gag grouper, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, jacks, snapper, and ladyfish. Mangrove shorelines with a depth change produced snook, jacks, and snapper in Robert's Bay. All of the fish were caught using live bait.
Wednesday was the first day I fished after my vacation. Gina and Mike Rymer fro Petersburg, MI were my clients. We started off first thing by running up to Stephen's Point and casting live shrimp. The bite was slow and the water looked a little off-colored, so we left and headed to the Middlegrounds, where I loaded up on bait. Chumming near Bird Key rsulted in steady action over the next couple of hours, with speckled trout and gag grouper being the most plentiful species landed.
Janet Pothier and Kevin Hyla, both from Niagra Falls, NY had a good charter on Friday. I caught bait and anchored near a mangrove shoreline that had a steep drop-off, and began chumming. It did not take long before the fish showed up. Jack crevelle, snapper, ladyfish, gag grouper to 20", and a pair of snook kept things exciting. Eventually the tide became too strong and we hit a couple of grass flats near Bird Key. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and gag grouper provided steady action. We finished up with a hot trout bite off Siesta Key, with several fat trout to 17" being caught and released along with a dozen smaller fish.
Fishing was productive this week, despite the scattered red tide that is in the area. Persistence and the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions are the keys to success. A spot that produces one morning might be dead two days later. Bait fish were thick on bars and flats throughout the area. Anglers produced snook, jacks, Spanish mackerel, snapper, ladyfish, snapper, flounder, and more casting Rapala X-Raps into the bait schools as well as free lining live hooked baits. I try to fish close to the spot where I caught my bait, minimizing the chance of driving through a patch of red tide. Also, fish are usually found not far from the “groceries”.
Sarasota residents Doc Dojutrek and John Englander had a decent day, though the bite was better early. We started off near casting (08) Rapala X-Raps near bars and drop-offs that were loaded with bait near Siesta Key. Snook, jacks, trout, mackerel, and ladyfish were landed. It slowed a bit so I loaded up and worked a mangrove shoreline nearby. Big jacks showed up and we had some fun with them, along with some mangrove snappers. We then ran north up as far as Buttonwood, but just really picked at them, catching trout and ladyfish on jigs and bait.
I finished up my week on Saturday with a 10 boat deal out of the CB’s store at the Hyatt. I had Lakeland, FL residents Bill Smith and his daughter Becky Phelps. I caught bait and chummed up a bunch of jacks and a few nice Spanish mackerel along with a couple of snook. The tide quit and so did the bite, so I moved to a canal but not much going. The tide turned and the fish started eating and we finished up with a nice flurry on trout to 17”, Spanish, flounder to 15”, snapper, and more. They ended up with 30 fish and 9 different species, we were keeping track as part of a fun little tournament.
Fishing was good this week both on the deep flats for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevelle, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, and ladyfish. The Radio Tower was hot early in the week but we have some red tide in the area and that seemed to push the fish away from the passes towards the end of the week, with Stephen's Point and Buttonwood being more productive spots. Keeping bait alive can be an issue with the red tide. Snook were landed by anglers casting Rapala X-Raps near shorelines in Robert's Bay as well.
I fished with Candice Reidel from Bradenton early in the week, buttoning up a couple of projects for magazines and websites. Snook hit Rapalas early in Robert's Bay then I caught bait and we crushed them at the Radio Tower. Fish were boiling behind the boat and every cast produced a bite from a jack, snapper, grouper, trout, mackerel, or ladyfish. We quit using bait and had fun casting the Rapala into the chum; it was just as productive.
I finished up the week with buddies from Cincinnati, Scott Stuckwisch and John Lobenberg. I caught bait near the Siesta Bridge and we caught some fish near Bird Key, but the bait was acting funny so I suspected that red tide was in the area. I ran up north a bit to Country Club Shores and the action was better, with the fellas catching trout to 19", Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, snapper, and grouper.
I finished up my week on Saturday with Jakub Mirecki from Chicago and his father-in-law Chris. We left CB's Saltwater Outfitters in the morning and headed north. Bait was thick near Edwards Island, and I loaded up quickly on threadies. Action was steady with a bunch of Spanish mackerel hitting at the Bird Key flats. Speckled trout, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, and ladyfish were also caught.
I finished up my week with Terry and Tom Steele from Lancaster, PA. Terry caught a handful of fish but mostly watched and took pictures as Tom did quite well on trout, mackerel, jacks, grouper, and ladyfish. The Radio Tower and Marina Jacks were the top spots.
I have an abbreviated report this week due to a tropical storm that moved through mid-week. Fishing was very good early in the week, with storm Hermine shutting things down from Wednesday on. As is usually the case, the impending change in barometric pressure puts the fish on a big feed. The deep grass flats at the Middlegrounds and Radio Tower provided hot action. Steve Owen and his son Stephen booked a charter on Tuesday morning. We basically sat at the Middlegrounds and had a bite on almost every cast using live pilchards. There were also schools of breaking fish all around us that surely would have taken a lure or fly. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and mangrove snapper were the most numerous. We spent an hour or so hitting some spots in Robert's Bay in search of snook. We had a couple on that wrapped us up around pilings and landed a couple of nice snapper.
Fishing on the deep flats was outstanding this week! Clients landed speckled trout to 20", Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, bluefish, jack crevelle, sharks, and more. "Catch of the Week" goes to Michelle Moczynski who landed a big cobia on trout tackle at the Middlegrounds. Most of the fish were caught using live bait, though anglers did land fish on Bass Assassin jigs, Rapala X-Raps, and Clouser Minnow flies.
Daniel Groth from upstate New York and his 10 year old son had a good charter on Monday. I caught bait then hit the Middlegrounds and Radio Tower, catching speckled trout to 19", Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, snapper, grouper, jacks, ladyfish, and a shark. I moved to Marina Jacks, saw some breaking fish, and set up on them. For an hour it was virtually non-stop, with some large mangrove snapper joining the party.
Tom Marquardt from Milwaukee, WI and his 13 year old twin sons experienced great action on Tuesday. I loaded up and we basically spent the entire morning at two spots at the Middlegrounds. The boys probably landed 100 fish, including a bunch of trout, a dozen mackerel, ten snappers, ladyfish, jacks, gag grouper, and more keeping us busy.
Sarasota local Anthony Huey and his buddy Tim went out on Wednesday for an introduction to fly fishing. It was more about instruction than catching, but we did land several trout and grouper as they learned to cast and fish.
Michelle and Alan Moczynski from Wisconsin had a great charter on Thursday. Action was fast at the Middlegrounds, with the couple landing speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, jacks, snapper, grouper, ladyfish, and more. Michelle topped off the trip with a big cobia that she landed on 10 lb spinning tackle. Great job, Michelle!!
I finished up my week with Sarasota residents Doc Dojutrek and John Englanded. We started off fishing Big Pass at first light in search of snook. They missed a couple but did land a half dozen nice mangrove snapper. I caught bait and we spent a while chumming, experiencing good action on mackerel, trout, and snapper. We spent the last couple of hours casting Bass Assassin jigs and Rapala X-Raps top breaking jacks, trout, and bluefish at the Radio Tower and Marina Jacks.
Tom Marquardt from Milwaukee, WI and his 18 year old daughter Hailey went out on a fishing charter on Friday. There were reports of mackerel on the beach, so I ran out to take a look. Unfortunately, not much happening, so we came back inside, caught bait, and experienced steady action at the Middlegrounds. Most of the fish were speckled trout, with snapper, grouper, and ladyfish mixed in.
Fishing was steady on Saturday, but not as fast as the previous couple of days, I just could not get one of those crazy rallies going. Mangrove snapper lead the list as quite a few decent ones were caught along with trout, jacks, ladyfish, and a shark.
Fishing was good once again this week, though we had some weather issues later in the week. The deep grass flats once again proved to be the most consistent spots, with the flats near Bird Key being best this week. Speckled trout, silver trout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevelle, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, juvenile sharks, ladyfish, and more were landed by clients this week. Just about all of the fish were caught chumming with live bait. The size of the trout diminished a tad but was offset by an increase in mangrove snappers.
I was off on Sunday and up at 6:00 a.m., so I figured I would go fishing. My friend Bonnie Czepiel and I went down to Turtle Beach in search of snook in the surf on fly. No luck on the snook, only saw two, but Bonnie caught a nice Spanish mackerel.
I was back to "work" on Monday with Jerry Hollifield from North Carolina, his 18 year old son Josh and a couple of friends. I caught bait and action was steady for the first couple of hours on trout, jacks, mackerel, and snapper. I reloaded on bait, move to Big Pass, and for the next hour it was a couple of fish on constantly! Trout, ladyfish, jacks, and snappers kept us all hopping until it was time to go home.
The bite was goon again on Tuesday for Bill Cornmesser from Colorado and his boys Drew (15) and Owen (13). The baitwell was loaded up and action was steady all morning. Speckled trout to 20", snapper, ladyfish, jacks, grouper, and sharks were all landed near New Pass.
Frank Gravely from Charlotte, NC treated his son and a couple of friends to a charter on Wednesday. Bait was really easy; I loaded up in two tosses. The boys landed over 100 fish with a lot of speckled trout, a dozen or so each ladyfish and mangrove snapper, several jack crevelle and gag grouper ad a couple of small blacktip sharks, and a Spanish mackerel. Great trip with some fun guys!
We had unstable weather on Thursday and Fri, so I rescheduled one and cancelled the other. I have no interest in fishing in the rain and am not taking any chances with thunderstorms in the area.
I finished up the week with 14 year old J.W. Pitts from South Carolina. J.W. is a hard-core fisherman and fishes a lot of tournaments. We started off casting jigs but the pinnies and puffers were a problem, so we switched to bait. He caught around 45 speckled and silver trout, ladyfish, snapper, grouper, and jacks on the flats near Big Pass. We spent a little time looking for snook, but no luck.
I finished up the week with Bret Burford from Ft. Worth, TX and his two sons Gage (10) and Cole (17). We began the trip casting jigs at first light but had a lot of trouble with small fish biting off the tails. After going through two bags in 15 minutes, I went and caught bait. Action was fast with a bunch of jack crevelle showing up first, then a steady trout and snapper bite. The tide quit and I ran to Big Pass where the boys caught several snook, nice jacks, and a Spanish mackerel. The last spot was Marker #5 where ladyfish, trout, and snapper provided a little flurry to wind up the trip.
I finished up my week with a good charter with Charlie Conner from Massachusetts, his wife Kerry, and 15 y/o son Shane. I had a few shrimp left over from the day before, so we began at first light free lining shrimp at the Radio Tower. Kerry caught a nice blue on the first cast and several good trout came in as well. After I ran out of shrimp, I loaded up with bait and began chumming. Action was very good all morning with trout to 21", bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevelle, gag grouper, snapper, ladyfish, and a shark keeping me busy at the Middlegrounds and Bird Key. Right near the end Kerry hooked a tarpon which dumped the spool then broke off, cool way to end the trip!
It sounds like a broken record, but the speckled trout fishing remained very good once again this week. Trout outnumbered all of the other species combined, with quite a few going to 20". Top honors go to young Lilly Derry from the UK who put one in the boat that had to go 6 pounds! I did not weigh or measure it as I do not like to stress these big fish, just a quick photo. Anglers also caught mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevelle, sea bass, gag grouper, and ladyfish on the deep grass flats near Bird Key, Middlegrounds, Radio Tower, and Stephen's Pt. All of the fish were caught using live pilchards. I fished Big Pass early one morning with hand-picked shrimp and did well on snook to 24".
Dee and Jason Mullins from St. Augustine, FL and their children Madeline and Jason experienced very steady action on Monday. Speckled trout were the predominant species with several in the 20" range. They also caught a dozen or so mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, gag grouper, jack crevelle, ladyfish, and a small shark. The deep flats near Bird Key were the best spots.
Ben Durborow and his buddy Matt, both from Harrisburg, Pa joined me on Tuesday morning. Since there were only two guys and they were both experienced anglers, we started early and hit the structure in Big Pass in search of snook. Large live shrimp produced a half dozen along with several that escaped. The bite slowed as the sun rose so I netted bait and we moved to the deep grass flats. Action was fast with the boys catching a LOT of speckled trout to 18". Spanish mackerel, bluefish, snapper, grouper, and jacks also hit the pilchards.
I picked up Ed Atkinson and his grandchildren Aisley (10) and Hayden (16) at the North Bridge Park early Wednesday morning. I caught bait in Big Pass and the first stop was a deep flat near Bird Key. Trout, mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, sea bass, snapper and more provided steady action. The tide quit so I moved and we experienced similar action at the Radio Tower and Middlegrounds.
UK resident Jolene Derry treated her children Jesse and Lilly along with her dad Bob to a charter on Thursday. Action was steady all morning with the group landing 75 fish including trout, mackerel, jacks, snapper, and grouper at the Radio Tower and Middlegrounds. Lily finished the charter with a bang by catching a huge speckled trout near Bird Key.
Ryan Schmidt and his son Luke caught 80 fish between them on Friday. Most of the fish were speckled trout caught near New Pass and Stephen's Pt. My buddy Capt Roy String had them balled up and eating and called me over. The boys also landed snapper, jacks, and ladyfish.
I finished off my week on Saturday with a good charter with Cain Politzki and his son Colby from Sarasota and a couple of friends from Colorado, Desmond and Darien Fulton. We his a half dozen spots and the bite was steady all morning with the boys catching an estimated 100 fish, mostly trout with bluefish, mackerel, jacks, snapper, grouper, and ladyfish sprinkled in.
Ralph Primavers from New Jersey and his daughter Rachel and son Chris had a good trip to finish up my week. Rachel had not been fishing in many years but did well after a few minutes of instruction. They caught trout to 19", jacks, snapper, sea bass, and Spanish mackerel free lining pilchards into the chum at the Radio Tower.
The speckled trout fishing was terrific this week on the deep grass flats near both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. Bait fish are plentiful and this in turn attracted the gamefish. Speckled trout to 20" were landed on every charter with several going close to 27"! I can't stress enough how important it is to carefully handle and release these big trout; they are the future of our fishery. I never keep trout over 20". Live shrimp and pilchards accounted for most of the action with the Radio Tower and Middlegrounds being the top spots. Along with trout, decent mangrove snapper showed up this week, and clients also landed sharks, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevelle, sea bass, flounder, grouper, and ladyfish.
I started off my week with a great charter with three friends from San Antonio, TX, Tony The, Ellie De La Cruz, and Meliss DeMiller. We used live shrimp early, catching bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, catfish, mangrove snapper, black sea bass, and a bunch of speckled trout to 18". After a couple of hours, I ran to New Pass and loaded up with bait, then chummed at the Radio Tower and Middlegrounds. Action was steady with Ellie catching a 24" trout then Tony topping that with a 26" trout. Both were handled gently for a quick photo then released.
Sarah Barlage from KY took her sons Tony (15) and Charlie (16) out on Tuesday morning. Action was steady using live shrimp, with the gang catching mostly speckled trout. I caught some bait and that really got them fired up! We caught a bunch of speckled trout to 20", mackerel, jacks, snapper, ladyfish and more.
Steve Parker from the Tamps area, his wife Jayne, son Hayden, and sister Chris experienced very good fishing on Wednesday. Live shrimp produced quite a few trout, though most were small, bluefish, ladyfish, snapper, and a shark on the flats near New Pass. Mid charter we ran out of shrimp and I loaded up on bait. Chumming at the Middlegrounds produced trout to 18", Spanish mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish.
Paul McGovern and his son Conner fished with me Thursday morning. Once again, we started off using live shrimp and then switched to white bait mid-morning. Speckled trout to 20" bit steadily, along with the other normal species. The Middlegrounds was the best spot.
I finished up my week with Mike Smith from Kentucky and his 12 year old daughter Micah. It was her first "real" fishing trip and she did VERY well! We used live pilchards all morning aqnd after a few lessons she was casting and catching right along side her dad. Speckled trout to 19", Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, jacks, flounder, and ladyfish kept the rods bent for the duo. The tide quit and I still had a ton of bait, so I ran to spot near Big Pass that had been productive recently. I started chumming heavily and the fish responded. For almost an hour it was bedlam as bluefish, trout, and ladyfish were busting the freebies all around us! Mike had a HUGE trout shake the hook right at the boat, but at least he got to fight it and see it. Finally, they could take no more and put up their rods. Great way to end the week!
I finished up the week with Sarasota resident Doc Dojutrek and a couple of friends from Chicago, Bill and Cliff. We cast jigs early, doing well on speckled trout and ladyfish. It slowed mid morning and I netted up some bait. Chumming the flats at Bird Key and Radio Tower resulted in fast action on speckled trout to 21", Spanish mackerel, jacks, snapper, grouper, and ladyfish.
Fishing was very good this week, though unstable weather was an issue later in the week. Action was good on the deep grass flats with the Radio Tower being the top spot. Speckled trout were plentiful with fish over 20" being landed on most trips. Bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and snapper were also caught on charters this week. Most of the fish hit live shrimp but Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits in the 4" Glow color also did well. False albacore and Spanish mackerel were thick on the beach early in the week when conditions were better and hit small Rapala X-Raps with reckless abandon.
On Sunday I had a tarpon charter with Bob Goohs from NYC. Tarpon were plentiful and large schools were moving slowly on the surface, but they would not bite. Everyone I spoke to had a similar experience that day. However, there were large schools of false albacore with Spanish mackerel mixed in just off the beach, and Bob had a blast with those, landing albies to nearly ten pounds and Spanish to three pounds on a #8 white Rapala X-Rap.
Roc LaCorte treated his son Damen and grandchildren Max and Ben to a trip on Monday. It was a bit breezy and the bite was a bit tougher, but the gang landed a couple dozen fish including several decent speckled trout using mostly live shrimp.
The action was better on Tuesday for Quintin Frey from PA, his son Derek, and grand kids Julia and Logan. We started off at the Radio Tower with a good trout and ladyfish bite, with mangrove snapper and jacks mixed in. The tide quit and so did the action, so we finished up bottom fishing in Big Pas, catching mangrove snapper and Key West grunts.
Jim Jerele, his cousin Bob, and two grand sons had a VERY good charter later in the week. The boys were keeping count and all told landed 85 fish. We fioshed the deep grass at the Radio Tower and near Bird Key and caught a bunch of speckled trout, including a pair that went 20" and 22", quite a few ladyfish, with several bluefish, jacks, and mangrove snapper mixed in. Bob did all of his damage with a Bass Assassin Sea Shad jig while the rest used live shrimp.
The speckled trout bite was hot at the Radio Tower for Sarasota resident Ron Chappell and his buddy Wally. Live shrimp produced a lot of trout with quite a few between 15" and 22". A storm send us scurrying in a bit early, but it was still a very good morning. Saturday morning I was greeted at the ramp with a thunderstorm, so decided to cancel the trip.
Fishing was very good on Saturday for Melissa and Greg Wells from Sarasota and their boys Nathan (10) and Scott (8). White/chartreuse Gulp Shrimp produced steady action on ladyfish, jacks, a flounder, and a bluefish at the Middlegrounds. None of them had used jigs before, but they picked it up quickly and all four did well. I stopped to get some shrimp and try for speckled trout. They bit pretty well at Country Club Shores, with some ladyfish and a couple of larger bluefish mixed in.
Action and variety was the theme on charters this week. Clients landed speckled trout to 22", silver trout to 15", bluefish to 3 pounds, Spanish mackerel, jacks, sharks, snapper, sea bass, and ladyfish on the grass flats at Bird Key, Radio Tower, and Middlegrounds. Red/gold and glow 4" Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits worked well as did live shrimp both free lined and under corks. Structure in Big Pass held gag grouper, mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, sheepshead, and sharks using live shrimp on the bottom.
I took off Sunday and Monday, Memorial Day weekend is a good time to NOT be on the water! On Tuesday Amy Goforth, her daughter Gracie (7), sister Julie Numer and niece Katie Perkins (13), all from Kansas City, MO, went out for a morning charter. Action was steady, with the gang landing around 40 fish. We started off on the flats, catching speckled trout to 18", ladyfish, snapper, jacks, and catfish. The tide quit so we moved to Big Pass and had success bottom fishing. Gag grouper, mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, ladyfish, and 3 bonnethead sharks came to the boat.
The bite was good on Wednesday for Tina and John Cantu from Indianapolis, IN and their children Aiden (10) and Bailey (19). We started off casting shrimp under corks near bird Key, landing two really nice trout of 20" and 22", along with smaller trout, a shark, and other species. The Middlegrounds gave up a few ladyfish and bluefish. We finished up bottom fishing in Big Pass, landing snapper, sheepshead, grunts, and another shark.
Joe Culloo and his daughter Erika fished with me on Thursday. Once again, the trout bite was pretty good early, before tapering off mid-morning. The duo landed a couple of nice trout, smaller trout, ladyfish, and catfish. Erica caught a nice 3 lb bluefish. After that we just kinda picked at them, casting jigs and shrimp at several locations, fooling a few more trout and ladyfish.
The bite was a little better on Friday for Brian Damit, his twin brother Mike, and a couple of cousins. We started at Marker #5, not much happening. Big Pass provided a few ladyfish on jigs and the flats near Bird Key gave up trout, sea bass, and ladyfish using Bass Assassin jigs. I got some live shrimp and free lining them over deep grass in 8' of water at the Middlegrounds proved to be the ticket. Speckled trout to 20", silver trout, Spanish mackerel, jacks, sharks, snapper, and ladyfish bit well for an hour or so before the tide slowed down.
I had tarpon trips on Thursday and Friday. Chaz Boyter jumped a nice fish early and had another one on before the bite slowed. We saw quite a few fish, but could not get them to eat. On Friday Russell Parrish and his brother-in-law Ray went out, but despite excellent conditions, it was tough going. The fish were there, but would not stay up where we could get a nice cast into them.
The best action for clients this week was in Big Pass along with the surrounding flats. Bait streamed in on the rising tide and ladyfish, mackerel, blue runner, and other species hit Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp. Structure in the pass help mangrove snapper, sheeshead, gag grouper, and whiting, especially during slack tides. Speckled trout to 18" hit live shrimp under corks fished over grass in 6' of water. Early in the week I fished the Myakka River and hooked snook, bass, and juvenile tarpon on Rapala Jointed BX Minnow plugs. Tarpon continue to please anglers in the inshore Gulf on Mexico.
Bottom fishing with live shrimp produced mangrove snapper, grouper, Key West grunts and sheepshead this week on the late morning slack tide. When the tide was moving, speckled trout and ladyfish hit live shrimp on the deeper grass flats near Bird Key. Tarpon numbers are increasing daily off the area beaches with live crabs being the best bait. On a couple of days off I fished the Myakka River and Manatee River and was pleasantly surprised to have big snook hit Rapala BX Jointed Minnows along with bass, juvenile tarpon, and gar.
I got back out of Friday with local resident Doc Dojutrek for his annual birthday fishing charter. We targeted snook and reds for 6 hours, experiencing decent action in some protected areas in Robert's Bay. Doc did well casting a gold #8 Rapala X-Rap and a 4" Bass Assassin Sea Shad (New Penny) on a 1/16 ounce Pro jig head. Snook to 22" and jack crevelle provided steady action, mostly around docks in 4 to 6 feet of water. The artificial bite slowed as it got later in the morning so we finished up using large live shrimp under docks to fool black drum, mangrove snapper, and snook to 26".
I only fished a couple of days this week as I headed up to north Georgia on Wednesday for a long weekend in the mountains with friends. The trout bite was hot in Sarasota Bay on the grass flats near Bird Key using hand-picked shrimp. Radio Tower, Middlegrounds, and Marina Jacks were the top spots. Big Pass also produced a lot of action, particularly on the slack tide.
Gary Jobe treated his son Kirk and grandchildren Kameron (8) and Sophia (6) to a fishing charter on Sunday morning. Action was fast in Big Pass for the first two hours. I did a little drifting then anchored up on a sharp drop-off. Gag grouper, mangrove snapper, bluefish, blue runner, Key West grunt, black sea bass, ladyfish, and catfish kept everyone busy, especially me! We finished up on the flats, catching speckled trout to 20" and ladyfish at Bird Key and the Middlegrounds. Just about all of the fish were caught using live shrimp.
Long-time client Joe Puhy from Michigan brought a long his wife and a buddy along for a charter on Tuesday. We started off in Big Pass on the slack tide, catching a bunch of snapper and small gag grouper as well as ladyfish and grunts on a ledge using shrimp. The tide turned to come in and the speckled trout bite was hot as the gang landed several between 22" and 20" along with a few more around 18". Large live shrimp were the best bait.
I headed up to Blue Ridge, Ga on Wednesday and spent Friday morning drift fishing the Taccoa River on fly. My girlfriend Beth Reis came along, and we had a fair day, landing a dozen or so and missing a bunch more. None of the fish were large, but it was a lot of fun with good scenery and certainly a change of pace for me. It is nice to have someone else run the boat!
Fishing was good this week as the weather improved. Early in the week we were greeted with slack tides; this is a good time to fish structure in the passes. Structure Big Pass held sheepshead, snapper, and grouper. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and a bunch of ladyfish were caught drifting shrimp and casting Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs, the color did not seem to matter. Speckled trout, bluefish, and ladyfish were found on the grass flats near Bird Key and at the Middlegrounds, and hit the same baits. A trip to the Myakka River resulted in snook to 22" and gar using Rapala Jointed BX Minnow plugs.
I started my week off with a fun and productive trip with Linda and Rick Martin from Xenia, OH. We ran to Big Pass, where I planned n drifting the incoming tide. However, it was still trickling out with little current and no wind. So, I changed plans and we bottom fished structure in the pass instead. Slack times are best for that. The couple experienced steady action on sheepshead, snapper, grouper, and a Spanish mackerel. The tide finally turned to come in and we left to drift the pass near Marker #19. Large ladyfish and several 1 pound bluefish hit Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp. We finished up the trip catching speckled trout to 18" on the nearby grass flats using large live shrimp.
I stayed in Big Pass all morning again on Wednesday, this time with Cari and Craig Stoller from Ann Arbor, MI and their children Simon (9) and Maggie (6). Bottom fishing ledges produced steady action on sheepshead, mangrove snapper, red and gag grouper, jack crevelle, and ladyfish.
I ran a late-season river trip on the Myakka on Thursday afternoon. I did not expect to catch any big fish, as most usually move out by this time. Ed Lynch and his buddy caught snook to 22" and gar on Rapala plugs, though it was a bit slow.
Steve Jensen from PA and his friends Steve and Dave had a productive charter on Friday. We started off in Big Pass catching ladyfish on Bass Assassin jigs and free lined live shrimp. After a while we moved to the deep flats at the Radio Tower and Middlegrounds, catching speckled trout, bluefish, sea bass, and more ladyfish on jigs and shrimp. In all, they probably landed near 50 fish.
I finished off the week on a breezy morning with Chris Harwick from CT, his dad Jim and 8 year old son Brady. We made several drifts in Big Pass, catching some ladyfish, but the wind and strong current made it difficult to stay on the fish. WE moved to the Bird Key flats and found a break from the wind, as well as a bunch of ladyfish with a few trout mixed in. Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs and live shrimp fooled most of the fish. Drifts at Marina Jack and Stephen's PT. produced a few more before we called it a morning. Chris tried the fly rod, but conditions were tough and he only caught a couple.
Mike Porter from Siesta Key took his son-in-law Greg and grandson Dillon (10) out on a fishing charter on Friday. We started off just north of New Pass and worked up the west side up to Bishop's Pt. Dillon had the hot hand, putting it on the "old" guys. In all, around 40 fish were landed, including trout to 18", bluefish, jacks, and ladyfish. After 6 straight days, I am taking Saturday off.
James Charas from Lexington, KY treated his son and sister to a charter on Friday. We started off at the Middlegrounds and Country Club Shores catching trout, ladyfish, and sailcats on jigs and shrimp. The wind cranked up so we found a break from it in Big Pass and had fast action on sheepshead and snappers. I cancelled Saturday's charter due to high winds and thunderstorms.
We started our week off with a severe cold front that moved through the area on Sunday. I had to cancel on Monday and the bite was fair on Tuesday. However, fishing rebounded as it warmed up and the action was hot both in Big Pass and on the surrounding flats. Anglers bottom fishing with shrimp caught good numbers of sheepshead along with mangrove snapper and gag grouper. Clients casting red/gold Bass Assassin jigs and free lining live shrimp did well on the deeper flats, landing Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, pompano, gag grouper, black sea bass, flounder, catfish, and of course a bunch of ladyfish. Stephen's Pt, Country Club Shores, and the Bird Key flats were the top producers this week.
A severe front moved through on Sunday and it was very windy on Monday, so no fishing that day. On Tuesday Bill Marean from New York and a couple of friends went out on a charter with me. We were faced with typical post-cold front conditions; bluebird skies and high pressure. Not surprisingly, the bite was fair. We moved around a lot but managed to find decent action on speckled trout, ladyfish, and a Spanish mackerel. They cast Bass Assassin jigs and Country Club Shores was the best spot.
I had two trips on Wednesday. In the morning I picked up John Carroll from New Hampshire, his granddaughter Jillian, and friend Bill Link at the Bay Isles Park on Siesta Key. We caught the tide just right as it was low turning to come in. For an hour sheepshead and snapper kept the rods bent. Jillian had the hot hand and that continued as we made a move to the flats when the tide became too swift. Equal numbers of trout and ladyfish provided steady action at the Radio Tower and Bird Key flats. In the afternoon Joe Mogolon from PA and his 3 sons Roman, Nick, and Joe had a good trip, catching Spanish mackerel to 2 1/2 pounds, speckled trout to 20", flounder, ladyfish, and sailcats on jigs and live shrimp at Stephen's Pt and Country Club Shores.
Buddies from Michigan Rich Ruis and Hank DeYoung had a great charter on Thursday! We spent the first half of the charter working a ledge in Big Pass, and the action was virtually non-stop. Sheepshead to 3 pounds, mangrove snapper and gag grouper hit just about every shrimp that went to the bottom. The tide picked up and we moved to the nearby flats and caught trout to 22", ladyfish, and more.
Tim and Lisa Adamson from Charlotte, NC treated their son Nick and his girlfriend Sydney to a charter on Friday morning. We started off back in Big Pass, where the action was steady, though not as frantic as the day before. A bunch of sheepshead and mangrove snapper were landed, along with a few other species. A move to the Bird Key flats resulted in good action on trout to 18", sea bass, grouper, and ladyfish using both live shrimp and jigs.
I finished up my week with Dorothy Rokicki from the Pittsburg area who treated her two 16 year old grand children, Eden and Ryan, to a charter. Action was very good first thing in Big Pass both near Marker # 19 and in the rocky structure. After the tide picked up, we moved to the nearby flats. They landed 12 different species including pompano, mackerel, trout, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, ladyfish, and more. Great way to end the week! I am taking off Easter Sunday.
I finished up my week with Marissa Caranna from Columbus, Ohio, who treated her dad Chuck and boyfriend Corey to a fishing charter. They had very little experience and wanted a couple of fish for dinner, so I hit the docks along Siesta Key. Action was steady on sheepies, with some mangs and gags mixed in. We ended the trip in Robert's Bay, catching a dozen trout and a few ladyfish. I am taking the weekend off!
It was breezy once again on Friday, but the fishing was very good for Gearge Thorne and his wife Susan from N.C. and their friends Debbie and Bennett. We started off working a dock in Big Pass and found the action to be fast and furious. They put a bunch of sheepshead in the boat, as well as several nive mangrove snapper and a few gag grouper. The wind eventually became too much and we moved to Robert's Bay where shrimp and Bass Assassin jigs accounted for trout, jacks, ladyfish, and a sailcat.
Fishing was good this week for clients tossing Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and fly anglers casting Clouser Minnows on the deeper grass flats throughout the area. Stephen's Pt., Country Club Shores, Robert's Bay, and Little Sarasota Bay near Spanish Pt. were all productive spots. Ladyfish accounted for most of the action, though bluefish to 2 pounds, speckled trout to 20", and jack crevelle were also landed. Structure in Big Pass and the inshore Gulf of Mexico yielded decent numbers of sheepshead, mangrove snapper, and gag grouper for anglers fishing live bait on the bottom.
Doug Fuller from Colorado fished with me on Monday. Ladyfish were quick to hit a jig, but for whatever reason they were reluctant to take a fly. Country Club Shores held quite a bit of fish.
Bill LaPierre from Plymouth, MA was my client on Tuesday. Bill is a great guy and has fished with me for years. We started off in Big Pass on the slack tide, bottom fishing with live shrimp. Sheepshead to 3 pounds and mangrove snapper kept his rod bent. A move to a Bird Key dock resulted in more sheepies and several gag grouper. We moved to Country Club Shores and caught big ladyfish and speckled trout to 18" casting red/gold shiner Bass Assassin jigs. After many trips with Bill, we decided to do something different and finished up in Phillippi Creek, catching jack crevelle to 3 pounds and small snook casting and trolling #8 Rapala X-Raps.
Fly fisher Dave Kremer from Louisville, KY and his buddy Bill did some fly fishing with me on Wednesday. We started off at Stephen's Pt with pretty steady action on ladyfish. The breeze picked up a bit, so we ran across the bay and worked a few spots on the west side with little success. We finished up with a few more ladyfish and bluefish at the Middlegrounds. Red/gold, white/chartreuse, and green/white Clouser Minnow patterns all produced.
I ran a 6 hour charter on Thursday with Sarasota residents Doc Dojutrek, Bill Kish, and John Englander. It was quite still with very little breeze, so I decided to hit a couple of the inshore artificial reefs. Roehr was loaded with pinfish, so I ran over to Silvertooth. Good call, as the boys experienced steady action on sheepshead to 4 pounds, Key West grunts, red grouper, and mangrove snapper, all of which hit live shrimp fished on the bottom. We came back inside and caught ladyfish, trout, and bluefish near Longboat Key casting Bass Assassin jigs.
John McGarry from Michigan and his friends Kathryn and Corey went out on Friday morning. We left CB's and headed north, then catching quite a few ladyfish on red/gold shiner Bass Assassin jigs. We finished up working some docks in Big Pass, landing several sheepshead, gag grouper, and mangrove snapper.
Buddies from the UK, David Theobold and Brian Woods did some spin and fly fishing on Saturday. I picked them up at Pelican Cove and we worked our way south towards Blackburn Pt. Dave fly fished, catching a dozen ladyfish and trout on red/gold Clouser Minnows. Brian used spinning gear and did well using both Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp. The west side of the bay across from Spanish Pt. was the best spot.
I took the rest of the windy, cool week off to rest, spruce up the boat, and get ready for the insanity that is March in Florida.
The weather was fantastic this week, and the fishing wasn't far behind! The key to angling success this week was to get away from the dirty water near the passes. Normally, the passes and flats are very productive, but the wind had the Gulf stirred up. The flats north, Stephen's Pt in particular, and south in Robert's Bay provided steady to hot action for clients casting red/gold shiner Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits on a 1/4 ounce jig head. Most of the fish were hard fighting ladyfish with speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel mixed in. Docks, ledges, and oyster bars in Big Pass and south produced sheepshead, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, redfish, snook and black drum for patient anglers fishing with live or fresh shrimp.
I started my week off on Sunday afternoon with Jay Lalley , his son Jim and daughter-in-law Anne. We stayed in Robert's Bay, catching a bunch of ladyfish on jigs then hitting some docks and landing some sheepshead on live shrimp.
Andy Lehman from Michigan experienced very good action on ladyfish with a couple of speckled trout mixed in at Stephen's Pt. Glow and New Penny Bass Assassin jigs were used. We moved to fish some Bird Key docks and caught mangrove snapper to 14", gag grouper, and butterfish on live shrimp. Tuesday was a boat maintenance day.
My client on Wednesday was Kevin Jeffrey from New York. We started off at Stephen's Pt with hot action on ladyfish. Kevin caught 17 fish on his first 20 casts, and had bites on the other three! After landing forty or so total, we changed gears and hit some ledges and docks near Big Pass, landing sheepshead, snapper, and gag grouper using shrimp fished on the bottom.
I picked up Ed Buck and his friend Sandy Unger at Ken Thompson Island on Thursday. We headed south and for the first part of the trip caught ladyfish on jigs in Robert's Bay. We then had great success at a dock, catching a half dozen nice sheepshead and a couple of redfish, one of which was 25". We finished up in a canal, landing a couple more sheepies and a black drum.
Mark Kolb and Dale Nixon, friends from Wisconsin, booked a 6 hour charter on Friday. We started off casting Bass Assassin jigs at the Middlegrounds, catching a few bluefish and ladyfish. The wind picked up and we ran to Stephen's Pt, to once again find very good action on ladyfish with a few speckled trout mixed in. Dale switched to a shrimp under a popping cork and fooled a nice 3 lb Spanish mackerel and a decent pompano. We ran south and caught a few sheepshead fishing shrimp under docks and several more ladyfish on jigs in Robert's Bay.
I finished up my busy week with long-time client Bill Thiel from Naperville, IL and his friends Gary and Fred. WE started off working oyster bars and docks north of Stickney Pt., catching several redfish to 19", a snook, and a dozen sheepshead to 4 pounds. We topped off the charter with a little ladyfish blitz in Robert's Bay.
Friday morning dawned clear, sunny, and warm with a light breeze. Karen and Dan Ugine and Linda and Alan Lefko, all from Penn Yan, NY were my clients that morning. The girls mostly just hung out while the boys fished, but they did catch a couple. We started off in Big Pass, catching sheepshead and snapper on the slack tide. Once the tide picked up, we moved to Robert's Bay and caught a couple dozen ladyfish, then finished up in a residential canal on Siesta Key, where Dan landed 2 nice sheepshead to top off the trip.
Ashley Weber, an art student at Ringling, fishing the Myakka River with me on Wednesday. Once again, the water was high and fast, and the fishing tough. We hooked a couple of small snook and that was it. The weather was bad on Thursday and Friday. Scott and Vikkie Bralow gave it a try on Saturday. We left and 10:00 and it started drizzling shortly afterwards. The water was filthy and there was a lot of rain coming, so we decided to head in.
The key to fishing this time of year is being flexible and taking advantage of the best weather days. This has been a wet winter with a lot of wind. Still, most weeks there are 3 to 4 days that are decent enough to get out. Anglers this week experienced very steady action bottom fishing structure in Big Pass and casting Bass Assassin jigs on the flats throughout the area. Flats at Marina Jacks, Radio Tower, and further south near Blackburn Pt produced a lot of ladyfish with trout, flounder, and jacks mixed in. The Myakka River is quite high right now and the bite is tough. It should impvove as water levels return to normal.
Peg Heaslip from Osprey, FL treated her sister Liz and brother-in-law Mike to a fishing charter on Monday. We left at 1:00 as it was quite chilly early and found the sheepshead biting in Phillippi Creek. We moved to Big Pass and for an hour or so it was pretty much a bite on every drop with sheepshead and mangrove snapper hitting shrimp.
On Tuesday Doug Forde and I fished the Myakka River, and the fishing was tough. We got a late start, but the river was high, cold, and fast; tough conditions. On Wednesday and Thursday it rained.
Long time client and friend Tommy Hyser from Pasedena, MD went out on Friday. It was cool and breezy so we launched at Blackburn Park and fished the flats north to Spanish Pt. and south to Marker #21. The bite was very good with a ton of ladyfish along with a dozen trout and a flounder hitting New Penny Bass Assassin jigs.
Weather continued to be the determining factor in fishing this week as a couple of severe fronts moved through. It is beneficial if clients can be flexible this time of year in order to take advantages of windows in between. Structure fishing in Big Pass was productive for sheepshead, mangrove snapper, black sea bass, grouper, and ladyfish. The flats near Big Pass were loaded with good-sized ladyfish, as well as a few trout and Spanish mackerel. Canals and creeks produced sheepshead, snapper, drum, and jacks. Shrimp fooled the bottom feeders while Bass Assassin jigs caught the fish on the flats.
The bite was tough on Monday for Herb Gehrke and his friend Hammond. It was the day after the front, it was cool and breezy and the water was filthy. A nice sea bass and a few snappers were all that we could catch.
Wednesday's charter was just the opposite as Tim Wilhelm from Michigan, his kids Georgia and Zach, and nephew Leo experienced near non-stop action fishing shrimp on the bottom in Big Pass. Sheepshead, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, ladyfish, and jacks kept everybody, including me, VERY busy! We finished up in a residential canal along Siesta Key, catching a nice sheepie, a black drum, and a jack crevelle.
I picked up Rex and Jim Behrends from Oklahoma on Thursday morning at 10:00. For the first two hours the action from frantic with ladyfish and a few trout and a mackerel hitting New Penny Bass Assassin jigs near Marina Jacks. We left them to do some bottom fishing and landed several sheepshead and a decent flounder. Friday and Saturday were blow-outs.
Weather was definitely a factor this week, as it usually is in January. Even though it is Florida, cold fronts affect fish behavior. Still, persistent anglers had success in Sarasota Bay casting Bass Assassin 4" Sea Shad baits on 1/4 ounce jig heads on the deep grass flats and action improved later in the week as it warmed up. Free lined shrimp also produced fish on the flats and around oyster bars. Sea bass, bluefish, speckled trout, pompano, snapper, gag grouper, jack crevelle, flounder, and plenty of ladyfish were landed by clients this week. We left late morning to allow it to warm up a bit. I ran one morning trip in the Myakka, it was very cold and the fishing was slow.
Sunday and Monday were cold and breezy. On Tuesday David Fox from New York and a buddy experienced fair action. WE started off at the Middlegrounds catching a few ladyfish, but it was windy and rough, so we headed south. We picked at the ladyfish at several spots, but had a couple of dolphins hanging around, so I ran to Big Pass, where the boys caught ladyfish, trout, flounder, and grouper. We finished up fishing some structure and caught snapper, grouper, and sea bass.
On Wednesday morning John Ballard and his friend Bob fished the Myakka River. It was cold and windy, and the fish did not bite. John hooked one small snook.
Fishing was better on Thursday for Peg and Jay Lalley from Chicago, IL. We started off in Robert's Bay not doing much then hit the mother-lode of ladyfish near Bird Key, with constant double-headers using jigs and shrimp. Tiring of the ladies, we decided to try some oyster bars in search of something different. Jay caught a 17" trout and a flounder and Peg ended the trip in style with a gorgeous 2 1/2 pound pompano! Friday was rainy and windy.
I had a great charter on Saturday with Kevin Coyle from NYC, his dad Don, and father-in-law Hal. We started off at Marina Jacks and the bite was steady for two hours with multiple "double-headers", mostly large ladyfish but a good flounder as well. We finished up at the Middlegrounds with a nice bluefish bite with some ladies mixed in. Most of the fish hit New Penny Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits.
Well, winter made an appearance this week as the first real cold front of the season moved through. It will actually help in some ways as the water temperatures dropped which got the fish in a mood to feed. The deep grass flats are fairly active with some nice sized bluefish being caught along with trout, mackerel, sea bass, grouper, and ladyfish. Marina Jacks and MIddlegrounds were the best spots. Big Pass also held some mackerel, blues, and ladyfish. Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits on a 1/4 ounce jig head fooled most of the fish. River snook fishing has been hit-and-miss, a couple of good fronts will get the temp down where it needs to be.
I started my week with a river snook charter with Greg Huston from New Jersey. Conditions were perfect; an overcast sky with a light drizzle and an afternoon outgoing tide. The fish responded as 8 snook, gar, bass, and catfish hit gold Rapala Jointed BX Minnows.
The deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay near the passes as well as Big Pass provided anglers with decent action this week. Red/gold shiner and glow/chartreuse Bass Assassin 4" Sea Shad baits on 1/4 ounce jig heads were effective on bluefish to 3 pounds, jacks, trout, ladyfish, mackerel, and more at the MIddlegrounds, Marina Jack flats, and in Big Pass. Frank Alaimo from Chicago, his son Tony, and nephew Jacob had a good trip on Thursday.
I finished up my week back in the Myakka River with Sarasota resident John Sarris and his 11 year old son Matt. The bite was slow though John caught a chunky bass and the scenery is always nice. We need it to cool off a bit.
Phil Cox from Arkansas took several of his family members, son, grandsons, son-in-law, out on a charter on New Years Day. We started off in big Pass, catching some decent ladyfish before the dolphins moved in and shut down the bite. We did well at the Middlegrounds casting Bass Assassin jigs and fre lining shrimp. Pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, and Spanish mackerel provided steady action.
I did all of my fishing this week in the Myakka and Manatee Rivers in search of snook, with other species providing action as well. The water temperature is still higher than it should be, resulting in less snook (and more gar) than normal, but the cold front this weekend should cool the water off nicely. Rapala X-Raps are my bait of choice with the jointed BX Minnow in Firetiger eliciting most of the strikes. Gold and white X-Rap Slask baits in size #8 and #10 also produced a few fish. Snook to 30", tarpon to 10 pounds, largemouth bass, snapper, and gar hit plugs cast by clients this week.
On Monday afternoon Jeff Brown and his brother-in-law Gary fished the Manatte River with me. We met at Ray's Canoe Outpost around noon and headed down river as the tide was low and coming in. My plan was to go almost to Ft. Hamer and fish our way back with the wind and tide. At the first spot the boys jumped two tarpon and landed a nice mangrove snapper. More snook attacked plugs and Jeff had the hot hand with the gar. We finished up with 8 snook, several gar (one of which was over 4'), two snapper, jumped the two tarpon, and a bass. Great afternoon with two good anglers!
Later in the week I fished the Myakka River. The tide was high, so we headed way up river and drifted back down. Several gar and a few snook were hooked as we worked our way back. The Myakka generally produces more and larger snook while the Manatee is a better choice for anglers seeking variety.
Fishing was steady this week in the inshore waters from Sarasota Bay down to Nokomis. We had to work a little bit and keep moving, but persistence paid off. Snook, redfish, sheepshead, snapper, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, jack crevelle, flounder, sea bass, and ladyfish hit live shrimp, pilchards, and Bass Assassin jigs (red/gold was the best color) fished over grass flats, under docks, and around oyster bars. Marina Jacks, Robert's Bay, and the Intracoastal down near Venice were the top spots. Several trips to the Myakka River produced snook to 30", but the numbers aren't there yet, we need to good cold snap or two to get them moving up into the river.
I started my week on Saturday with a fun charter with the Calkins from Brookfield, WI Barb and Casey and their two sons Corey and Chris experienced steady action near Big Pass, catching a lot of fish, mostly decent sized ladyfish. Both Bass Assassin jigs and free lined shrimp were effective. After a good flurry where we had doubles and triples, I caught bait and we hit an oyster bar on the way in. Several snook, snapper, and a redfish were landed to wind up an enjoyable trip with a very nice family!
On Monday I was looking for a change of pace and headed south from Turtle Beach to check out that area. Action was steady throughout the morning until the tide quit around 11:00. Anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs caught quite a few fish, mostly ladyfish along with a couple other species.
I spent Tuesday morning with Adam Lewis from Ft. Morgan, CO. It was a bit breezy but action was steady all morning. We started off casting jigs, catching speckled trout, flounder, and ladyfish at Stephen's Pt., Radio Tower, and Marina Jacks. I got some shrimp and we finished up in Robert's Bay catching snapper and sheepshead under docks.
On Thursday Bradenton resident Blake Hadley fished the Myakka River with me. Action was a bit slow, though we managed several snook to 28" on Rapala X-Raps.
Rich Galloway from Chicago, IL and his brothers in law Paul and John went out on Friday. They were staying in Venice, so we fished down that way and found Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, and gag grouper on the edges on the Intracoastal Waterway. Most of the fish were caught on live shrimp though we did fool a few using jigs.
Lance and Mary Hamilton from Connecticut did a Myakka River charter on Saturday. Again, the bit was fair, with Lance hooking a nice 30" snook early, but losing it as it jumped up high and tossed the plug. They caught several more, but none as large as that first one.
Fishing was steady this week, with docks and bars in Robert's Bay providing some variety and action action. Black drum to 20", speckled trout to 22", snook, redfish, mangrove snapper, flounder, and jacks hit live shrimp and pilchards. The deep grass flats at Stephen's Pt., Bird Key, and the Radio Tower yielded bluefish, mackerel, trout, ladyfish, jacks, and more for anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs and free lining live shrimp.
On Monday David Meunier from Nebraska fished with me. We started off at Stephen's Pt, having decent success casting Bass Assassin New Penny jigs. Bluefish, mackerel, trout, and ladyfish kept him pretty busy for an hour and a half. The bite slowed and we moved around a bit, catching a few more fish before heading in.
On Tuesday Sarasota residents Bill Kish, John Englander, and Chip Butler went out for a six hour charter. Once again, I started off at Stephen's Pt, but with less success, catching small trout, ladyfish, jacks, and sea bass on jigs and shrimp. A move to Marina jacks resulted in a bit of action with ladyfish and trout. I ran to Robert's Bay, caught some threadies, and we finished up with good action on docks, catching snook, nice mangrove snapper, and Chip topped the trip off with a gorgeous, fat 22" speckled trout.
Stephanie and Mike Kusibab from Chicago and their 13 year old son Jason had a good charter on Wednesday. We had to leave mid-morning due to some travel issues, but it worked out well. We hit some docks and caught black drum to 20", snapper, and flounder in Robert's Bay using live shrimp. My buddy and fellow CB's guide Roy String called me and told me where there was a bunch of bait, so I netted up a well full and hit a spot and started chumming. It was basically "Fish on!" for the next 45 minutes as the chum drew the fish in. Most of the fish were jack crevelle but a few small snook and snapper were mixed in as well. I returned the favor by calling Roy and telling him where I was and he came in and finished up his charter with a nice flurry. The guides at CB's are all pretty easy going and we often work together and share information to ensure that every client has a good time!
I had a charter scheduled on Thanksgiving, but it was quite breezy so we moved it to another day. Suzy Wahba and her son Charlie from NYC went out on Friday morning, action was steady, though unspectacular, as they caught ladyfish and trout on the drop-offs near Bird Key and snapper and several snook under docks in Robert's Bay. All of the fish hit live shrimp.
I finished up my week on Saturday with a fun charter with the Calkins from Brookfield, WI Barb and Casey and their two sons Corey and Chris experienced steady action near Big Pass, catching a lot of fish, mostly decent sized ladyfish. Both Bass Assassin jigs and free lined shrimp were effective. After a good flurry where we had doubles and triples, I caught bait and we hit an oyster bar on the way in. Several snook, snapper, and a redfish were landed to wind up an enjoyable trip with a very nice family!
Fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay continued to produce a wide variety of species, though the stiff breezes and sporadic red tide made the bite a little tough. Anglers landed speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, black sea bass, flounder, jacks, gag grouper, ladyfish and other species using live pilchards and Bass assassin Sea Shad jigs. The flats near Big Pass produced the best. I fished Lake Manatee and the Manatee River on Fri and Saturday, landing snook, bass, bream, and gar on Rapala X-Raps and Beetlespins.
I had 3 Indiana boys on the boat on Wednesday. The wind was blowing strong out of the southeast, and picked up throughout the morning. I caught bait and hit the Middlegrounds and Radio Tower, catching a few trout and ladyfish. We oved to Marina Jacks and caught a few fish on two drifts, mostly on jigs, then moved over t marker #5. I anchored and chummed and for an hour or so the bite was steady. Gag grouper to 18", flounder to 15", trout, jacks, ladyfish, and sea bass kept the fellas busy. The wind became too strong and blew us off the anchor, so we finished up hiding behind Bird Key, catching a few more fish.
On Friday and Saturday George Eurick from the Chicago area went out on a couple of freshwater charters. We fished Lake Manatee on Friday and the bass really were not cooperating, though we did catch a couple along with some very nice bluegill on black Beetlespins. Action was better on Saturday as we fished the Manatee River out of Ray's Canoe Hideaway. George caught 2 big gar, several snook, and a nice bass casting a Firetiger Rapala BX Minnow.
Fishing was pretty tough this week, and I am attributing most of that on the spotty red tide that was in the area, though it did seem to get better by the end of the week. Clients landed Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, jack crevelle, black sea bass, gag grouper, ladyfish, mangrove snapper, and flounder on the deep flats at the Moorings, Middlegrounds, Radio Tower, and Marina Jacks, mostly on bait but some on Bass Assassin jigs. Mangrove shorelines and oyster bars in Roberts Bay produced redfish, jacks, flounder, snapper, and a spadefish.
I started my week off with Eric Naumburg, Chris Conery, and John Parry. Fishing was fair; we pretty much picked at them all morning. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, ladyfish, jacks, sea bass, grouper, and snapper provided steady action, though nothing very large was landed. The Middlegrounds was the best spot.
Doc Dojutrek, Bill Kish, and John Englander worked hard for fish on Monday as once again the bite was a bit tough. We tried to go out on the beach, but it was a bit too rough. Red tide killed my bait, so I had to catch more. We drifted several flats near Marina Jacks and Radio Tower and caught a few fish on jigs and bait. I anchored up and chummed at the Middlegrounds and it was a bit better with trout, ladyfish, and mackerel being landed. We moved to Robert's Bay in search of snook, no luck, but caught a redfish, flounder, nice snapper, and of all things a big spadefish.
Fishing was steady on Tuesday. We started off at the Moorings with a steady ladyish bite, most of them being decent size. The Middlegrounds produced a few fish, but the radio Tower was the best spot, yielding a half dozen nice black sea bass along with several other species.
Tod Morris from Chesapeake, VA treated his 6 year old son David to a fishing charter on Thursday. The fish bit very well early, with the boys landing Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, black sea bass, jacks, mangrove and lane snapper, gag grouper, flounder, and ladyfish at the Radio tower and Middlegrounds. However, mid-morning the bite just shut off. I several spots throughout the area without much success. Good thing we got out there early!
I finished up the week witn Doc Dojutrek and his girlfriend Deborah. Fishing was tough, we had to work for the fish we caught. The couple landed mackerel, trout, jacks, snapper, grouper, and flounder working flats, docks, and mangrove shorelines from New Pass south to Phillippi Creek. Live pilchards caught most of the fish, though Doc did catch a few on jigs.
Fishing was very good early in the week on the deep grass flats near New Pass. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, snapper, grouper, sea bass, ladyfish, jacks and more hit live bait. The Radio Tower and Middlegrounds continue to be the top spots. It did slow down a bit towards the end of the week and there is some spotty red tide in the area.
Monday was a productive charter with Peter Saunders, his nephew Julian, and friend Cliff, all from the UK. I caught bait and we started at the Middlegrounds, with the action being decent for an hour or so, then tapering off. We moved to the Radio Tower, where it took a bit to get them going, but once we did the bite was non-stop! Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, big ladyfish, snappers, groupers, and a bunch of jack crevelle kept the rods bent and Capt Jim jumping! After a while the boys were worn out, so I hit a snook spot, but no luck, so we called it a morning.
On Tuesday I had a very similar trip with two couples; Victoria and Kevin Kinally from Massachusetts and Christiana and Greg Hopkins from Ohio. Again, we loaded up on bait and fished two spots all morning, one at the Middlegrounds and one at the Radio Tower. They caught a LOT of fish, probably close to 100, with most of them being speckled trout, but jacks, grouper, snapper, mackerel, and other species were landed as well. Victoria said she caught more fish on that trip than she had in her entire life fishing! we love to hear that!
Eric Naumburg, Chris Conery, and John Parry fished with me on Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday we opted for "action" fishing and did very well at the Middlegrounds and Radio Tower, catching trout to 16", Spanish mackerel to 3 1/2 pounds, jacks, sea bass, grouper, snapper, and ladyfish. Most of the fish were caught using live pilchards and threadfins, but Chris did catch a few trout and mackerel fly fishing. The bite was a bit slower on Friday, for whatever reason, but that's fishing. Still, they caught trout, mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, snapper, and other species on live bait.
It was a tale of two weeks, the early part which was very breezy, then later when the weather cleared and it was warm and sunny with a light breeze. Fishing was good all week, but much easier towards the end as conditions improved. Redfish, Spanish mackerel, snook, speckled trout, jack crevelle, flounder, black sea bass, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, and ladyfish were landed by clients on charters this week. The Radio Tower and Middlegrounds were the top spots and most of the fish fell to live bait though a fly angler did well with a green Clouser Minnow.
On Monday morning I took out Bud Constantine and a couple of buddies, all from the Baltimore, MD area, out fishing. It was a bit breezy, making fishing and anchoring a bit challenging. One of the fellas cast a fly all morning and did quite well considering the conditions. He caught speckled trout to 17", ladyfish, jacks, and other species on a green Clouser. The other guys landed Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, sea bass, grouper, ladyfish, and trout using live bait. We finished up with small snook and more trout near Selby Gardens.
The weather had improved drastically by Thursday morning as the front cleared through. It was warm, sunny, with very little breeze. Glyn Smith from the UK and Kyle Cunningham from Lafayette, IN teamed up to catch a lot of fish. We caught bait and started at the Radio Tower, experiencing steady action on trout, Spanish mackerel, big ladyfish, and other species. The tide quit so we ran to Big Pass where we caught more ladyfish and mackerel. The dolphins moved in on us and shut down the bite, so we moved to the Middlegrounds to catch the incoming tide. Once again action was steady on a variety of species.
On Friday I went to Lake Manatee in search of crappie, but found the fishing pretty slow. The water temp was 77, probably still too warm.
I finished up my week with Ryan White and his buddy Joe from Cincinnati, Ohio. We started off casting jigs and caught a few fish, but I decided to catch bait. We sat at the Middlegrounds for an hour and a half, catching a lot of trout along with mackerel, sea bass, snapper, and ladyfish. The boys decided to try for larger fish, so we moved over to Selby, where Ryan caught a nice slot redfish and we ended the trip with a jack crevelle double-header.
Action was decent on the deep grass flats this week, though the numbers were down from last week. This was mostly due to the persistent 10-15 knot northeast wind, which can make feeling the bite and managing the slack line a bit more difficult. Anglers caught a few fish on glow/chartreuse Bass Assassin jigs, but most of the fish fell to live bait. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, jack crevelle, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sea bass, ladyfish, and other species were landed by clients this week. I also did a little freshwater fishing, catching small bass and some nice-sized bream in the Manatee River using Rapalas and black Beetlespins.
I took off a couple of days early in the week, too windy! I fished the Manatee River on Tuesday afternoon with Jessica Bridgeman from Sarasota. Small bass hit a #8 Rapala X-Rap and bream were caught on a small black Beetlespin.
On Wednesday Rich Galloway from St Louis, MO fished with me. The bite was decent, but we never really got a good flurry going. We started off at Stephen's Pt casting jigs and landing a few trout and a mackerel. I caught some live bait and hit several spots near the passes, catching a few at each spot.
The bite was a bit better on Friday for long-time client Terry Mark from Olean, NY. We started off free lining live shrimp near Bird Key, catching a few grouper. We moved to Big Pass and caught a few nice ladyfish and a Spanish mackerel. I caught bait and we sat in one spot at the Radio Tower with terry getting a bite on almost every cast. Most of the fish were trout with a few macks, snapper, grouper, and a jack mixed in.
Fishing ranged from steady to excellent this week in Sarasota Bay. The deep grass flats produced the best action and most of the fish hit live bait. Middlegrounds, Radio Tower, Marina Jacks, and Bird Key flats were all productive. Fish-of-the-week was a 28" gag grouper and we also had a big cobia spit the hook at the boat. One morning we cast Rapala topwater plugs in search of snook, and caught a couple. The species list included Spanish mackerel to 4 pounds, snook, speckled trout, bluefish, gag grouper, black sea bass, mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, jack crevelle, cobia, sharks, flounder, kladyfish, and other small stuff.
I started my week out with a productive charter with the Green family from New Albany, IN. Sarah and Brian took their 9 year old son Jack out on Sunday morning. Action and variety was the theme as they landed Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, bluefish to 2 1/2 pounds, speckled trout, gag grouper, black sea bass, mangrove snapper, a mutton snapper, jacks, ladyfish, and catfish. All of the fish were caught on live bait near the Ringling Bridge. Monday was a boat maintenance day.
Long-time client Chaz Boyter from New Jersey fished with me on Tuesday. We started off at first light casting topwater plugs near Selby Gardens. It was a bit slow, but Chaz did catch a 22" snook. I moved to Big Pass, caught bait, and we hit several spots near Bird Key, landing Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, ladyfish, sea bass, grouper, sharks, and more. Chaz hooked and fought a nice cobia for ten minutes or so before the hook pulled near the boat. Bummer!!
Rich Galloway from Downers Grove, Illinois joined Sarasota resident Doc Dojutrek for a morning charter on Wednesday. Bait was easy and the bite was hot early as the boys landed a bunch of fish including black sea bass, gag grouper to 21", Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, speckled trout, ladyfish, flounder, and other species. The tide quit mid-morning and turned to come in, and the bait was fair for the next couple of hours.
On Friday Rick Amann took his son Ben and grandson J.D. out fishing. Bait was easy then it was off to Bird Key. The bite was steady, but then tapered off mid-morning. Fishing picked up towards the end of the trip as the tide had turned to come in and we finished up at the Radio Tower with a nice trout and mackerel flurry. All told, the fellas caught Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, trout, grouper, snapper, flounder, sea bass, and more using live bait.
On Saturday I was part of a six boat group charter out Of CB's, leaving the Hyatt in Sarasota. My clients did well, catching 64 fish (we were counting as there was a little tournament going on) including a 23" Spanish mackerel, plenty of trout and other species. But the last fish was the best one, a 28" gag grouper that Steven landed on a grass flat using 10 lb spinning tackle! Great way to end a good week of fishing in Sarasota!
Fishing continues to be quite productive on the deep grass flats near both Big Pass and New Pass. Bait is EVERYWHERE!! I saw birds working in Robert's Bay as well as in the normal spots near the passes. Catching it is easy and anchoring up-tide of a good grass flat and chumming resulted in steady action on a variety of species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, black sea bass, jack crevelle, ladyfish, and more were landed on charters this week. The Middlegrounds, Radio Tower, Stephen's Pt., and Marina Jacks were all productive spots for me this week.
I just got home from a long vacation and was back out on the water on Tuesday. Todd Grandin, his dad Mike, and friend Chuck experienced steady action all morning. We started off at Stephen's Pt casting live shrimp under popping corks, catching trout and ladyfish. It slowed after a bit and I caught bait and anchored up at the Middlegrounds. Action was vistually non-stop for a while, with the bost catching more trout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevelle, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sea bass, ladyfish, and more.
Ellen and Loel Stein from Uniontown, OH had a very productive charter on Thursday morning. Bait was easy and for the first 2 hours we sat at the Middlegrounds, getting a bite on almost every cast. Mackerel, trout, snapper, sea bass, ladyfish, and grouper kept the rods bent. We had similar success at the Radio Tower and Marina Jack flats.
Bob Siemering from Boston, MA took a couple of his partners out on a charter on Friday. Action was steady throughout the morning as the boys landed speckled trout to 18", Spanish mackerel to 2 1/2 pounds, mangrove snapper to 12", gag grouper to 16", and ladyfish free lining live pilchards and threadfins. Middlegrounds and Marina Jacks were the top spots. We finished up in Phillippi Creek, trying for a snook or jack, but only caught a few small snappers.
I finished up my week with a VERY productive trip with Chris Bauer and his 13 year old son Christian. Bait was easy and we sat at Marina Jacks for almost three hours, catching speckled trout to 22", Spanish mackerel to 3 1/3 pounds, snapper, grouper, sea bass, ladyfish, and sail cats. Christian had a veryt large fish on for several minutes before the hook pulled, I think it was a big cobia. Great way to wind up a good week of fishing!
Fishing continued to be very productive on the grass flats near New Pass this week. Overcast skies and some rain resulted in lower water temperatures, down into the low 80s. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, speckled trout, jack crevelle, grouper, snapper, sea bass, ladyfish, and more hit live sardines and threadfin herring as well as Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits.
Jeff Ehman and his girlfriend Danielle, both from the Pittsburg, PA area, had a productive charter this week. Bass Assassin jigs fooled a few trout and ladyfish at first light at the Radio Tower, then I went into New Pass and loaded up on bait. They experienced steady action at a couple of different spots at the Middlegrounds. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, jack crevelle, sea bass, mangrove and lane snapper, gag grouper, ladyfish, and catfish hit free lined live bait. The weather was threatening, but it never did rain!
I finished up my week with a productive charter on Saturday with Sat Virdee, his son Andrew and brother-in-law Tony, all from the Ft. Lauderdale, FL area. Bait was easy but the bite started off a bit slow. Anout mid-morning things really craked up, with birds and fishing working in several spots at the Middlegrounds. The chum got them excited and for a couple hours the action was very good. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, sea bass, snapper, grouper, and a lot of ladyfish kept the boys busy.
Once again, catching a well full of live bait and chumming the deep grass flats with them provided clients on fishing charters with outstanding action and variety. The water temperature is still in the mid 80's and there is a lot of bait on the flats. Fishing with live bait is VERY productive under these conditions, with clients averaging 25-30 fish per person on a morning charter. Speckled trout to 20", Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, jacks, snapper, grouper, sea bass, ladyfish, and a cobia were landed this week at the Middlegrounds and Stephen's Pt.
Jesse Stuart and his girlfriend Nikki from Oklahoma fished with me early in the week. We started off casting jigs at the Radio Tower; nothing happening. I saw some birds diving, eased over and caught a bunch of bait. It was mostly small, but still big enough to use. The couple experienced steady action at the Middlegrounds, catching several nice trout to 19", jacks, snapper, grouper, and ladyfish. They had a couple of mackerel cut them off. Action slowed so I moved to another spot nearby, not much going on. I re-loaded with bait and ran up to Stephen's Pt, where the bite was steady for the rest of the charter. Nikki landed a cobia on a pinfish, and plenty of trout also came boatside, as well as some ladyfish. Nikki had a big mackerel just about dump the spool, then fought for a bit before it cut her off. By then it was pretty warm so we called it a morning.
I finished up my week with a charter with Jason Stoltzfus and Brett Ardery from Harrisburg, PA. Conditions were good, incoming tide, overcast shies, light breeze and a front approaching, and the fish responded with great action. We started off catching a few fish on Bass Assassin jigs, but with the weather coming and the chance of the trip being cut short, I hit the bait, then we sat in one spot for several hours with the boys getting a bite on nearly every cast. A dozen Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, speckled trout, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, sea bass, and ladyfish came to the net. The weather was getting more unstable, so we headed in a little bit early to beat the rain. Great trip with fun guys!
On an off day I fished Lake Manatee. I offer freshwater charters in the cooler months. I expected the fishing to be tough, and it was. No wind, 86 degree water, yikes! We caught a couple of small bass on Rapalas, and that was it. We quit early as it was brutally hot. In another month or so the crappie should start schooling up.
Despite little rain and quite high water temperatures (upper 80's) fishing remains VERY good throughout Sarasota Bay on the deeper grass flats. Bait is EVERYWHERE and the fish are chowing down. There was quite a bit of surface activity at times. We were not effected physically by Tropical Storm Erica, but the forecast did keep potential clients away early in the week. Tides improved towards the end of the week, as did the weather. Speckled trout to 27", Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, black sea bass, jack crevelle, and ladyfish hit Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs (Glow/chartreuse) at first light, then as the bite slowed I loaded up with bait and the action was very consistent. Radio Tower and Middlegrounds continue to be the top producing spots for my clients.
My best trip of the week was on Saturday with John Bauer and Tom Hanson, both from Baltimore, MD. The boys caught a few fish on jigs early, then we switched to live bait a did very well. Live pilchards and threadies produced a bit on just about every cast. John caught the most fish, but Tom had the nicest, a 27" speckled trout. Released, of course!! Tides are excellent next week and the action should continue as long as the weather is good.
Sarasota Fishing Charter
Sarasota is blessed with a wide variety of angling opportunities for clients who embark on a Sarasota fishing charter. Shallow bays with lush grass flats offer great fishing for speckled trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and more!
Both Big Pass and New Pass connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico and can provide fast action.
The shallow backwaters and creeks will thrill experienced anglers as they search for redfish and snook.
Docks and bridges are fish magnets, attracting many gamefish, including sheepshead, grouper, snapper, drum, and flounder.
The most popular Sarasota fishing charter is to drift the deep grass flats throughout the area.
This is pretty simple and easy fishing as clients cast lures or live bait out in hopes of catching a fish.
This technique provides both action and variety for clients of all skill levels, including novices and children.
Docks and bridges are often targeted on a Sarasota fishing charter.
Live bait, usually shrimp, is used to catch sheepshead, snook, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, flounder, redfish, drum, and other species.
Fishing docks with live bait will usually produce a fish dinner for those with a little patience.
Snook are our premier gamefish and are often sought after on a Sarasota fishing charter. Snook can be wily and difficult to catch. Along with redfish, they are a challenging species, but the reward can be a trophy fish! Snook are a lot like largemouth bass, they prefer some type of structure or cover.
Docks, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines all produce fish. Rapalas and soft plastic baits work very well, as does live bait. Snook bite under the lights at night for those who prefer to venture out after dark.
The inshore Gulf of Mexico is another option for visitors going out on a Sarasota fishing charter. Spanish mackerel are usually thick in both the spring and fall.
False albacore, king mackerel, sharks, and the mighty tarpon are also frequently caught. Drifting live bait, trolling, casting lures, and fly fishing are all productive techniques.
The majority of Sarasota fishing charters involve spin fishing, but Sarasota also offers the fly fisherman excellent targets.
Any species that will hit a jig will take a fly. Blind casting over the deep flats is productive, as it sight casting for mackerel and false albacore in the Gulf of Mexico.
In mid-May giant tarpon invade the area beaches and truly offer world-class sport fishing. There are very few places where anglers can cast to 100 pound-plus fish using spinning or fly tackle. This isn’t for everyone, but for anglers seeking a fish of a lifetime, this charter might be the right one!
The Myakka River runs through Sarasota County a half hours drive east of Sarasota. In the cooler months it offers fantastic snook fishing along with the chance to catch largemouth bass, juvenile tarpon, and more.
Plugs and other artificial lures are cast toward likely looking spots. This is a “Quality over quantity” game, clients don’t normally catch a lot of fish, but each charter provides the angler with the opportunity to catch a trophy snook.
Sarasota Fall Fishing
Shorter days and cooling water temperatures announce the beginning of autumn here on the Suncoast. The changes are subtle, but they are there. A sweatshirt might be required on some mornings, along with long pants. The grass stops growing. The oppressive humidity is easing. It is one of my favorite times to fish in Florida! When conditions are right, I will be out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico chasing Spanish mackerel and false albacore. This has been today’s Fishing Report From Sarasota
Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated gamefish. They strike lures, flies, and live bait with reckless abandon, make long runs, and are superb table fare. October is a prime month to target these speedsters both in the Gulf of Mexico and in Sarasota Bay. There will be plenty of mornings when the wind is out of the east and the Gulf is flat; these are excellent conditions to run the beach in search of outstanding light tackle action. Birds working on the surface are a certain sign that feeding fish are in the area. Several artificial reefs off of Lido Key are also reliable areas to fish.
When schools of fish are seen feeding on the surface, I usually choose to cast artificial lures at them. My personal favorite is a Rapala X-Rap in the (08) size. Lighter colors work best in the clear water. Cast the plug out and rip it back in with an erratic retrieve, the faster the better. This will produce explosive strikes! Silver spoons, jigs, and flies are also quite effective. I will often times replace the treble hook(s) with a single long shank hook to allow a better release. On days when the fish do not “show” as well, blind casting or free lining live baits can produce.
This is a great opportunity for anglers who fly fish. Larger mackerel will get into the backing. The best outfit is an eight weight with an intermediate sink tip line. A white D.T. Special tied on a long shank hook will catch plenty of fish and reduce cut-offs. An eight foot piece of fluorocarbon leader works well, but a section of 50 lb can be added should the sharp teeth of the macks become a problem. Fast retrieves work best. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to move the fly quickly enough. Keep the rod tip low, strip quickly, then “strip strike” the fish when it hits. This involves pulling sharply on the fly line with the stripping hand and smoothly raising the rod tip.
Anglers who anchor up and chum on one of the inshore artificial reefs are virtually guaranteed to experience success in October. The best approach is to anchor up-wind of the structure and free line a live bait back behind the boat. A long shank 1/0 hook and 30-40 lb leader works well. Use a split shot if wind or current do not allow the bait to sink. Chum is not always necessary but increases the odds. Frozen blocks of chum can be purchased at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key and other local shops. Live baitfish that are crippled and tossed out will bring the gamefish right up to the boat.
False albacore (little tunny, bonita, fat Alberts, albies) will also be encountered in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Albies are incredible sport though more challenging than the mackerel. They can be fussy and usually move faster and do not stay up as long. Patience will pay off. It is better to sit and wait for a good shot than run all over the place. Eventually they will pop up within casting range. The same lures that fool the macks will catch the tunny. Anglers should not be surprised if other gamefish crash the party. Sharks, king mackerel, cobia, and even tarpon will hit baits meant for smaller game. The albies and mackerel can be landed on fairly light tackle but the cobia, kings, and tarpon will require a step up to heavier gear, so bring along some beefier tackle, just in case.
There will be plenty of opportunities to catch Spanish mackerel for anglers who prefer to fish inshore or when the weather keeps boats out of the Gulf of Mexico. Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass will be full of mackerel, along with bluefish, pompano, and ladyfish. Surface activity is a dead giveaway to actively feeding fish, but even if the fish are not showing there still may be action to be found. Drifting along with the current and casting jigs, spoons, or plugs will quickly determine if the fish are there. Free lining a live shrimp or baitfish can also be productive as long as there isn’t too much current.
The deep flats near both passes will also attract Spanish mackerel. An added bonus is that speckled trout should be plentiful, along with the chance to catch pompano, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species. The same lures that produce in the passes and on the beach will be effective on the flats. Generally, the best time to fish is during incoming tides that bring clean water and bait in from the Gulf.
The deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay should provide excellent action for speckled trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and more. Live bait and artificials will both be effective. Drifting is the preferred method. Snook and redfish will be available along mangrove shorelines and oyster bars as well as under docks and bridges.
Sarasota Summer Flats
“We are fishing here?” my client asked with a puzzled look on her face. It was a fairly common question on a Sarasota fishing charter.
“Yep” I replied as I quietly dropped the anchor. We were sitting in Sarasota Bay near Big Pass, surrounded by large homes and condos. What she could not see was the grass flat a cast away that dropped off sharply from three feet into eight feet of water. I instructed both clients to cast their live shrimp out towards the edge and allow the shrimp to drift naturally with the current. Within seconds both rods were bent double and any doubt was erased as a pair of fat spotted sea trout came to the boat.
We departed CB’s saltwater Oufitters on Siesta Key that morning and headed north through the “No Wake Zone” towards Sarasota Bay. Along the way we passed a lot of oyster bars and mangrove shorelines that looked very “fishy”. And while those spots can hold fish, only a small percentage will. Bottom line; for action and variety the deep grass flats are the most productive spots to fish. Sarasota Bay from Siesta Drive north to Long Bar has large expanses of grass flats in four to eight feet of water that hold fish year-round. Spanish mackerel, spotted sea trout, silver trout, pompano, bluefish, black sea bass, mangrove snapper, sharks, jack crevelle, gag grouper, flounder, and ladyfish are commonly caught species.
There are several approaches that can be successfully employed on the deep flats on a Sarasota fishing charter. The first choice to make is whether to anchor or drift the flats. Large expanses are most efficiently fished by drifting while smaller patches or edges are best fished from an anchored boat. Working the edge of a shallow flat that drops off sharply into deeper water is a deadly technique that is particularly effective on low tides. The fish will tend to stage on the edge as there isn’t enough water up on top of the flat. While artificial lures can be used this is a situation that is best suited for live bait. A live shrimp or small baitfish free-lined over the edge is simple and very effective.
Drifting the flat while casting lures is an extremely popular and effective technique. One benefit of using artificial lures is that anglers can cover a lot of water fairly quickly. This is important on the larger expanses of grass; the sooner the fish are located, the better! The primary lure used on the Gulf Coast of Florida is the lead head jig and grub combo. This versatile and inexpensive bait will catch anything that swims and has resulted in many a tasty fish dinner. Jigs come in a variety of sizes and colors but ¼ ounce heads in white or red are all that is required. Plastic bodies also come in a myriad of shapes and colors but again it does not need to be complicated. A selection of gold, pearl, olive, rootbeer, and charteuse bodies in both the shad tail and flat grub tail will cover most situations. Scented soft plastics such as Gulp! Shrimp can make the difference if the bite is slow.
Hard plugs also catch a lot of fish on Sarasota fishing charters. The venerable suspending MirrOlure baits have been a staple in tackle boxes for decades. They slowly sink and when twitched suspend motionless in the water. Speckled trout in particular find them irresistible. Shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap also work well when retrieved erratically. They are a great choice when surface activity is present and are also effective when trolled.
Live bait can certainly be used while drifting as well. In fact, it is a fair bet that more speckled trout have been put on ice using a live shrimp under a popping cork than any other method. This is simply a #1/0 live bait hook with a “popping cork” placed on the line three feet or so above the hook. A live shrimp is hooked under the horn and the rig is cast out in front of the boat as it drifts along. The cork has a concave face that “pops” when twitched sharply. This simulates the sound of feeding fish and will attract trout and other species to the shrimp which is dangling there helplessly. There are also several manufacturers of noisy floats such as the Cajun Thunder float. These are very noisy and can be cast a long way. The cork is tied on to the running line and then a leader connects the cork to the hook. Popping corks work great in water depths of six feet or less. A live shrimp can even be replaced with a light jig or artificial shrimp. Live baits can also be drifted out behind the boat. This works well in deeper water and under breezy conditions.
Live baitfish are another terrific producer on the flats. Pinfish and grunts can be purchased at local bait shops or caught out on the flats and are best fished under a float to keep them from getting in the grass. “Whitebait” is a local term used to describe the schools of small silver bait fish that cover the flats in the warmer months. Scaled sardines (also known as pilchards) and threadfins (greenies) are the two most prolific species. Pilchards are the preferred bait as they are much hardier than the threadies, but both are equally effective. Baitfish are sighted on the grass or chummed into range and then cast netted and quickly put into a large, well aerated baitwell. Jack mackerel or canned cat food mixed with bread is a popular chum as well as bulk tropical fish food.
In the summertime these baitfish are thick on the shallow grass near the passes. Loading up the live well with bait practically guarantees success. Once the bait is acquired, anchor up-current of a flat and toss out a handful of bait. Repeat this every few minutes and if the fish are there they will show up in short order. Once the action heats up, slow down the chum flow; use just enough to keep them excited. I average one hundred fish mornings all summer long using this method.
Tackle and rigging is pretty basic when using either live or artificial bait. A 6 ½’ or 7’ spinning rod with 10 lb monofilament or 20 lb braided line is perfect. Several feet of the running line is doubled using a Spider Hitch or Bimini Twist. A 24” piece of fluorocarbon leader is attached to the double line using a double Uni-knot. A hook or lure completes the rig. This set up makes changing lures or hooks and adding or removing corks fast and easy. Once the leader gets down to 12” or so, replace it. Leader strength is determined by water clarity and also by species targeted. Thirty pound is a good all-round leader but lighter line may be required in very clear water or heavier leader used when toothy fish such as Spanish mackerel and bluefish are around.
As with all fishing techniques there are subtle nuances which will increase success. Here are some tips that will help your trips be more successful:
1) Choose a flat that has the wind and current moving in the same direction. Boat positioning and bait presentation will be better. This holds true both when drifting and anchoring.
2) When drifting, keep an anchor with 20’ of line tied off. Once fish are located, quietly slide the anchor in and work that area thoroughly. When the action slows, pull the anchor and continue the drift.
3) Try and set up a drift that covers different depths on the flat. Drifting from eight feet of water into four feet of water is better than drifting at one depth.
4) Keep the noise down. Have the landing net out and keep the bait well lid open. Slamming hatches will shut down the fish!
There is a misconception that fishing is tough in the heat of summer. Nothing could be further from the truth! Fishing is fantastic, but the window is small, from dawn until eleven o’clock or so. One approach that works in the summer is to combine both artificial lure and live bait fishing in a morning charter. I get my clients out on the water at first light, taking advantage of the early morning bite. There is no need to waste that prime time catching bait and making a bunch of noise first thing will put the fish off their feed. Casting jigs and plugs will attract actively feeding fish. Once the bite slows, I net up some bait and chum them into a frenzy. This “best of both worlds” approach has served me well and makes good use of the limited fishing time.
Want action? Want variety? Want dinner? Then take a Sarasota fishing charter!
March Madness is a term most recognized throughout the country as the exciting men’s college basketball tournament. But it has a different meaning for businesses along the west coast of Florida and fishing guides who offer a Sarasota fishing charter are no exception. Sarasota fills to overflowing with visitors from the northern states who come down on their children’s breaks from school. Most enjoy the incredible beaches that we offer but many also choose to fish while they are here. A lot of charters involve anglers with limited experience including kids. Fishing with youngsters is a lot of fun but does require a change in thinking and tactics.
Family fishing is all about one thing; bent rods. Action and variety take precedence over trophy fish or glamour species such as redfish and snook on this type of Sarasota fishing charter. Nothing beats drifting the passes and nearby deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay when it comes to producing action. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, sea bass, and flounder are all daily catches in March. The two primary techniques are working a lead head jig with a soft plastic tail and using live shrimp. Both methods work well in the passes and on the flats.
Both Big Pass and New Pass can be very productive in March. The only time fishing is slow is after a cold front passes through and the water becomes dirty. Otherwise, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, and ladyfish can be counted on for action and a meal or two. Anglers drift with the wind and tide and cast jigs out in front of the boat. The lure is cast out, allowed to sink, and retrieved back in using sharp twitches. In clear water gold is a great color to use. In deeper water the jig can be dropped straight down and jigged vertically as the boat drifts along.
Anglers who choose to use live shrimp will do well “free-lining” their bait. This means simply using a hook and letting the shrimp swim naturally in the current. If the tide is strong a small split shot may be required to get the bait down a bit. A long shank 1/0 hook will help prevent cutoffs from toothy blues and Spanish mackerel. A live shrimp can also be added to a plain jig head and bounced along the bottom. Shore anglers can access Big Pass from Shell Rd on Siesta Key and South Lido Park on Lido Key. New Pass is even more accessible with parks on both sides on the pass.
The deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay surrounding the passes offer outstanding fishing . Patches of grass in four to eight feet of water will be the most productive. In the clear water the darker grassy areas are easily spotted. The jig and grub combo is a very effective lure. A red or white ¼ ounce jig head is a great all-round choice. Tails come in a myriad of colors and styles but they all catch fish. Gold, chartreuse, rootbeer, olive, pearl, and glow are the most popular colors. Scented baits such as Gulp! Shrimp cost a bit more but can make the difference if the bite is slow. Just as in pass fishing, the jig is cast out and retrieved back in. It is important to get the jig down near the top of the grass.
Live shrimp are deadly when fished over the deep flats and will catch just about every fish that swims. In deeper water the shrimp can be free lined but the most popular method is to use a “popping cork”. This simple but deadly rig consists of a 1/0 live bait hook three feet under the cork. The rig is cast out, allowed to settle, and the rod tip jerked sharply causing the cork to “pop”. This imitates feeding fish and attracts game fish to the cork where they then see the helpless shrimp dangling there. More speckled trout have fallen victim to this technique along the Gulf Coats that all other methods combined.
Another productive technique on a Sarasota fishing charter is working docks, bridges, and other structure in the same areas. Sheepshead are thick under docks and around bridge pilings in March. Flounder, black drum, redfish, grouper, and snapper are often caught, too. The rocks at the northern tip of Siesta Key are a great spot as are all the docks and bridges in both passes. This is basic bottom fishing. The rig consists on a stout #1 or #1/0 hook, a 2 foot piece of thirty pound leader and enough weight to hold the bottom. In shallow water or slack current a split shot will be plenty. In deeper water or in heavy current a small egg sinker threaded on the line will be required.
A live shrimp is hooked through the horn and cast out towards the structure. Once the bait settles the slack is reeled up taut and the wait begins. Sheepshead can be a bit tricky to hook; it can be a very subtle bite. The trick is to let the fish peck at it until it picks it up and moves off. Then just reel quickly while raising the rod tip high.
In the cooler months snook migrate out of the bays and up into the rivers and creeks. They are seeking warmer, cleaner water this time of year. One benefit is that this tends to congregate the fish into smaller areas. I am one of the few guides that offers river trips on a Sarasota fishing charter. This is a unique angling experience that offers clients the chance to catch a large fish. This nice snook was caught on Jan 13, 2013,
The most productive technique is casting shallow diving plugs. They allow anglers to cover a lot of water and this is important as the fish are spread out. The multiple treble hooks also result in a good ratio of hook-ups to bites. I prefer Rapalas and the shallow diving X-Rap Slashbait in gold is my personal favorite. The X-Treme Shallow X-Rap in Firetiger has also proven itself to be a reliable bait.
While snook are the most commonly caught species, largemouth bass, baby tarpon, gar, ladyfish, redfish, and catfish are also caught on river charters in the Sarasota area. Jennifer shows that bass will hit the same X-Raps as she landed this average sized fish on Jan 12,
If you are visiting the west coast of florida and are looking for a different kind of Sarasota fishing charter, contact me and I will show you the “Real” Florida. The scenery is breathtaking and the serenity and solitude is only interupted by the sounds of excited anglers catching snook! Capt Jim Klopfer (941) 371-1390 firstname.lastname@example.org www.MyakkaRiverFishing.com
Here is a link to an article I wrote for GAFF Magazine, http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/12fbc8ed#/12fbc8ed/46
Wind, tide, and water clarity all play a role in choosing which flats to fish. The best situation is one in which the wind and tide are moving in the same direction. Generally speaking, incoming tides are preferred but as long as the water is moving, fish can be caught. Flats just inside a pass can be the best spots of all as they flood with bait and clean water from the Gulf of Mexico. The exception to this is right after a cold front passes through. Those flats will soon be covered with “dirty” water due to wind churning up the water in the Gulf. On breezy days it is easier to fish flats that are in protected water as opposed to those in open bays.
Many inshore bays have a shallow bar that runs parallel to the shoreline. These bars generally have a sloping bottom with lush grass that drops off into deep water. These are great spots to fish! Speckled trout and pompano might be taken in the four to five foot depths while Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish are usually found on the outer edges of the grass. Points usually have good grass flats on both sides and are also excellent spots to try. Areas near passes will have natural deep channels along with man-made dredged channels. Any grass flat that drops off sharply into deep water can hold fish, particularly on a low tide.
Artificial lures are both very productive and a lot of fun to fish. Casting lures out in front of a drifting boat is a great way to cover a lot of water efficiently. Begin the drift on the up-tide or up-wind side of the flat. Fan cast the area while varying the retrieve. Pay attention to details such as depth and water clarity. If a drift produces good action, idle around and make another pass through the same area. If not, move on to another spot. This technique allows anglers to eliminate unproductive water fairly quickly.
Occasionally, I will anchor when using lures. One recent charter comes to mind. It was very windy and Spanish mackerel were isolated on the up-tide side of grassy points with good current flow. The wind and tide made working these points difficult while drifting. I anchored a short distance away and had my clients cover the small flat using Rapala X-Raps. A fast, erratic retrieve triggered some very exciting strikes! We ended up with a dozen nice Spanish for the box along with speckled trout and ladyfish.
The most popular artificial bait on the west coast of Florida is the lead head jig with a soft plastic body. These baits come in a myriad of colors and styles, but they all basically work the same. And they all catch fish. D.O.A. CAL jigs come in some great colors and sizes and are very cost-effective to fish. My personal favorite is the gold shad tail on a ¼ ounce white jig head. Grub tails and jerk baits are also effective. Dark colors such as olive, green, and rootbeer work well in dark water while gold, silver, and white are good choices in clear water. Chartuese is a great all-round choice and hot pink is a good option when the water is dirty. Scented soft plastic baits such as Gulp! and Trigger-X can make a big difference on days when the fish are reluctant to bite.
Plugs are also effective lures when fished over the deep grass. Suspending plugs such as the venerable MirrOlure are deadly on speckled trout. Both topwater and shallow diving plugs will also catch plenty of fish. The Rapala X-Rap slashbait is a great choice for working areas where fish are breaking on the surface. These lures dive a few feet down and have great action. A fast, erratic retrieve is usually very effective. One disadvantage in using plugs is that the multiple treble hooks can damage small trout.
Silver and gold spoons have been around a long time and they still catch fish. Spanish mackerel love a quickly retrieved silver spoon while speckled trout seem to prefer a slowly wobbling gold spoon. In open water spoons with a treble hook such as the Johnson Sprite are utilized; there is really no need for a weedless spoon in this application.
Fly fisherman can use the same tactics to score on the deep flats. Any fish that will hit a jig will take a weighted fly. The most popular pattern by far is the Clouser Deep Minnow. There are a ton of variations on this fly, but basically it is a hook with some dressing and a weighted eye that allows it to sink. The fly is cast out, allowed to settle for several seconds, and retrieved back in short strips. White, green/white, olive/white, and chartreuse/white Clousers tied on a #1 or #2 hook are the most popular flies. A 7or 8 weight rod with an intermediate sink-tip line works best. Many fly anglers make the mistake of using a floating line. Even with a weighted fly, the line will not get down deep enough when fishing in water over six feet.
While artificial lures are productive, live bait is tough to beat. Shrimp and bait fish are the two most popular live baits. Shrimp are purchased locally while bait fish are usually caught, but they are sometimes available at bait shops. Pinfish, grunts, and “whitebait” are the most commonly used live bait fish. “Whitebait” is a generic term for any shiny white fish that schools up in large numbers (pilchards, threadfin herring, etc). Match the hook size to the size of the bait. A 1/0 live bait hook is a great all-round choice. I usually free line the bait, but sometimes either a split shot or a float will be required, depending on current flow and depth. Use a long shank hook if cut-offs from mackerel and bluefish become a problem.
A well full of 3” pilchards practically guarantees success. These are caught with a cast net over shallow flats or out on the beach. In the summertime flats near the passes will be covered with these bait fish, especially on an incoming tide. If they are seen on the surface “dimpling”, it is easy enough to quietly ease into range by drifting or using a trolling motor. Chumming is a great way to get a bunch of baitfish within range of a cast net. A can of jack mackerel (purchased at your local Publix) and a half loaf of wheat bread is a proven mixture. Add just enough salt water to make a thick paste. Anchor in two to four feet of water on the up-tide side of a flat and sparingly toss pea-sized pieces into the water. The bait should show up within a few minutes.
I use the same tackle and rig with both live bait and artificial lures. A 6 ½ foot spinning rod with a matching reel spooled with ten pound monofilament line works well in both applications. A Spider Hitch is used to double the last three feet of line and a double Uni-Knot attaches a 24” piece of fluorocarbon shock leader. 30 lb test is a good all-round choice, but conditions will dictate what size leader to use. Clear water will perhaps require lighter leader while dirty water or the presence of toothy critters such as bluefish, mackerel, or sharks will make 40 lb or 50 lb leader a better choice. The lure or hook is then tied on to the end of the leader. I do not like to use snaps, swivels, or any other types of “hardware”. The exception to this is when using spoons. A snap swivel will eliminate line twist.
One charter last summer illustrates how exciting this technique can be. I was fishing the last hour of an outgoing tide early in the morning. Several spots produced a couple of ladyfish and snapper. The third spot was a small grass patch that dropped off into ten feet of water with bait fish activity on the surface. An 18” speckled trout was quickly landed and then Anne-Christine’s line started moving off to the side. She reeled up the slack while raising the rod tip, expecting another nice trout. Instead, the mystery fish took off on a long, powerful run, getting perilously close to a channel marker. She was able to turn the fish, then started working it patiently back to the boat. I caught a glimpse of the fish before it took off again; it looked like a pompano. Moments later the mystery was solved as an eight pound permit slid into the net!