Sunday, March 26, 2017

Terry Byce of Lakewood Ranch, Fla., shows off a fine spotted seatrout caught on a Clouser Deep Minnow.

I really enjoyed March fishing -- both in fresh and salt waters.

Saltwater action picked up nicely, with spotted seatrout, snook and pompano leading the way. Oh, and for you fly fishers, there usually were plenty of ladyfish around to stretch lines and make acrobatic leaps.
Micah Breckenridge, 17, is a snook master.

In fresh water, we fished a number of places including Lake Manatee, Alligator Alley and Shell Creek.

Dr. Mac  Steiner of Ohio joined me for an outing on Sarasota Bay and Buttonwood Harbor. He caught snook to 22 inches, redfish to 20, spotted seatrout to 24 and flounder on Gibby's Glass Minnow and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs.

Len Tavormina of Sarasota caught snook to 24 inches, spotted seatrout to three pounds, pompano and ladyfish on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs around Buttonwood Harbor.

Dr. David Breckenridge and son Micah had a good outing around Buttonwood Harbor, catching eight snook to 25 inches, 25 trout to 23 and ladyfish on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs and MirrOlure MirrOdines.
Big bluegill no problem for Melvin Johnson of New Mexico.

Terry Byce of Lakewood Ranch had a fairly slow day, catching only a few trout and ladyfish on Gibby's Glass Minnow and a Clouser Deep Minnow. However, one of his trout was a 5-pounder which was caught on the edge of a grass flat in Buttonwood Harbor.

Melvin Johnson of New Mexico and Tom "Gator" Kayser of Ohio joined me for a pair of trips -- one in fresh water and the other in the salt.

First day out, the two professional trout guides (Tom guides in Montana; Melvin in New Mexico) faced tough conditions but did well on Lake Manatee. They caught a dozen speckled perch to two pounds, 15 hand-size bluegill and several largemouth bass to three pounds on Gibby's Snymphs and Ruby-Eyed Leeches under strike indicators.

John Weimer battles a Lake Manatee largemouth bass.
Second day, they did well around Buttonwood Harbor, catching 30 spotted seatrout to 22 inches and loads of ladyfish on Gibby's Glass Minnows.

John  Weimer of Sarasota joined me on several freshwater outings. We fished Shell Creek and had a fair day, catching six largemouth bass, 18 bluegill and 10 stumpknocker on Myakka Minnows, popping bugs and Gibby's Snymphs under a strike indicator.

Next time out, we fished Lake Manatee and caught 12 oversized bluegill, eight largemouth bass to two pounds, four speckled perch to 2 pounds and a four-pound channel catfish on Gibby's Snymphs under a strike indicator.

We had one banner day at Lake Manatee, catching a record (for us) 30 speckled perch to two pounds, 20 hand-sized bluegill, five largemouth bass and a stumpknocker on Gibby's Snymphs under a strike indicator. Our previous best day on specks was 17.

I did some scouting trips and had good action. On one trip, I caught 35 spotted seatrout to 24 inches and four pompano to three pounds on MirrOlure MirrOdines and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs. On another, I used Gibby's Glass Minnows to catch snook to 26 inches and spotted seatrout to 25 around Buttonwood Harbor.

APRIL FORECAST: After experiencing pretty good action in March, I can only predict better fishing April. Spotted seatrout should continue to hit a variety of lures and flies around Sarasota Bay. I also anticipate good action on snook before daylight, ladyfish and pompano. Redfish action hasn't been the best, but could improve in April. In fresh water, I look for good action in Lake Manatee on bluegill, channel catfish and largemouth bass. I think speckled perch action will slow down and the popular panfish move back into deeper water. Fly fishing along Alligator Alley should continue hot until the rainy season on oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill and stumpknocker.

April can be a fun month, and I anticipate it being busy. Please book your trips early to assure you of the days you want.

Book trips by calling me (941-284-3406) or email (steve@kayakfishingsarasota.com).
I look forward to leading you on an exciting kayak-fishing adventure.

As always, I want to thank my sponsors: NuCanoe, TFO and Mirrolure. 


Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Gibby's Snymph opens up a whole new world in Florida freshwater fishing

Gibby's Snymph is very effective on a variety of fish and amazingly easy to tie.
Nymphs aren't just for trout.

I found that out a few years back after a productive trout trip to northeastern Georgia. Fishing out of Unicoi Outfitters in Helen, Ga., we caught an impressive number of rainbow trout on nymphs in the Chattahoochee River, Soqui  River, Chestatee River and Noontootla Creek.

The Snymph resulted is this fine speckled perch.
While drifting nymphs in the current, the proverbial light bulb went on in my head.

"I'll bet nymphs would  be great on panfish back in Florida," I thought to myself.

I was only half right.

Not only are nymphs great for bluegill, but also speckled perch (black crappie), shellcracker, largemouth bass, channel catfish and other species.

Unlike nymphs used to entice trout, they don't have to be fancy or complicated. In fact, the pattern I tie and use is quite simple. It's so simple that I've dubbed it Gibby's Snymph (a combination of the words simple and nymph). It's a bead-head nymph, with a squirrel tail, dubbed body and wire ribbing.

Four steps and you're done. Four simple steps and you're ready to fish -- and catch fish.

Big fish also eat nymphs.
GIBBY'S SNYMPH

Hook: Bass Pro White River No. 10 396 nymph

Thread: Uni

Head: 1/8 Gold or copper bead

Tail: Squirrel

Ribbing: Fine gold wire

Put bead on hook and place in vise. Tie in thread and wrap to hook bend. Tie in sparse bunch of squirrel hair. Dub body, building it up toward the bead. Wrap ribbing forward and whip finish.
Voila! You're ready to fish.
Hefty shellcracker eat nymphs.

I tie Snymphs is several colors: tan; brown, olive and rust. Those colors have all produced. I'm sure other colors also would produce.

I fish the Snymph under an strike indicator. I like Lightning Strike 1/2-inch fluorescent yellow strike indicators. I've found they're the best and simplest to use for what I do in Florida.

Fishing the Snymph is pretty simple, too. I cast the Snymph to the edge of the structure (grass, lily pads, trees, rocks, etc.) and allow it to sink. I don't work the Snymph too much. I use a couple of one-inch strips in succession and then allow the Snymph to sink again. If there's any chop on the water, that usually is enough to give the Snymph all the action needed.

One thing I've found important is to point your rod tip straight down the line toward the strike indicator. With the rod tip in the water, all slack is removed from the fly line. That is important when the indicator goes under and it's time to set the hook. With no slack in the line, setting the hook is easy and usually effective.

You might think the Snymph is only good for small fish. Not so. I've taken bluegill to 12 inches, speckled perch to 2 1/2 pounds, large shellcracker, bass to 5 pounds, channel catfish to 7, Mayan cichlid, peacock bass, gar, tilapia and oscar.

This large tilapia inhaled a Gibby's Snymph.
Back when I first started fly fishing in Florida's fresh waters, I used popping bugs. I used popping bug for bluegill. I used larger poppers for bass. I caught mostly bluegill and bass. On rare occasions, I caught shellcracker and speckled perch.

It was fun when the topwater bite was  going on. When it slowed, it was time to go home.

That all changed after my trip to northeast Georgia to fly fish for trout. That opened up a whole new world.

I found out that when the topwater bite ends, the day is just beginning when you switch to subsurface flies.


In fact, the subsurface bite usually is much better!




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Snook action was the strong point of February

Dr. John Lacy of Kentucky shows off one of the eight snook he caught on MirrOlure Lil Johns.
With unseasonably warm weather, it was no surprise that snook ruled during February. Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing clients landed snook to 30 inches on fly and spin gear while fishing around lighted docks and in the Longboat Key rim canal.
Jon Freyer battles an Alligator Alley oscar on fly rod.

We also encountered good numbers of spotted seatrout on fly and spin gear in Sarasota Bay over deep grass patches off Whale Key.

Tim Foster, a winter resident from Montana, caught 20 spotted seatrout and a few ladyfish on my new glass minnow fly. He also lost a couple of snook on a very windy day.

I spent a day at the Florida Sportsman Show in Fort Myers, helping out NuCanoe. I demonstrated how to fly fish from a NuCanoe Frontier. The NuCanoe Frontier and Pursuits are no doubt the best kayaks for fly fishing on the market.

After fishing with me, Foster sold his paddleboard and bought a NuCanoe Pursuit from West Coast Kayaks in St. Petersburg. One outing is all it took to convince him that the Pursuit was the boat he needed for fly fishing!

I spent a day fishing around Buttonwood Harbor with good success. I caught 10 snook on fly and jigs. In addition, I landed 30 trout to 24 inches, pompano and ladyfish.

Annie Ewert puts the pressure on a big fish.
I accompanied about 20 members of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers on an expedition to Alligator Alley for a two-day outing. Fly fishing was great and everyone caught more oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, stumpknocker and warmouth perch than they could count.

After we got back from Alligator Alley, I demonstrated how to fly fish from the NuCanoe Pursuit at the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers Casting Clinic at The Meadows in Sarasota. Members were very interested in the boat.

Tim Foster fished with me again and did fair despite strong wind. He landed two snook, five spotted seatrout and ladyfish.

Repeat clients Al Ewert of Connecticut and daughter Annie of New Hampshire caught 25 spotted seatrout, ladyfish and flounder on fly and spin around Buttonwood Harbor.

Fly fisher Tim Foster stands and battles a spotted seatrout.
Tom Biondo of Bradenton fished with me at Lake Manatee and had an interesting day. New to fishing, Biondo caught large bluegill and speckled perch on nymphs under a strike indicator. In all, we totaled eight specks, 15 bluegill and a largemouth bass.

Jim Doughton of Gainesville and Dr. Pete Gearan joined me for a windy day of fly fishing around Buttonwood Harbor. They managed spotted seatrout and ladyfish on my new glass minnow fly. In addition, they used the outing to test out the NuCanoe Pursuit and Frontier.

Dr. John Lacy of Kentucky fished with me again and had an exceptional  day. He caught eight snook to 27 inches on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs. He also landed spotted seatrout to14 inches, flounder to 15 and ladyfish on jigs and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

Longtime fried Jon Freyer of Ludington, Mich., visited Alligator Alley for the first time and came away impressed. He caught the usual: oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill and stumpknocker on Myakka Minnows. He caught more fish than he could count.
Fly fishing along Alligator should remain strong through May.

MARCH FORECAST: We anticipate continued excellent action on spotted seatrout and snook. In addition, redfish activity should be good on the flats around Sarasota Bay. Night fishing for snook will continue to be excellent on fly and spin gear. In fresh water, Lake Manatee should produce decent amounts of hand-sized bluegill, large speckled perch, largemouth bass, shellcracker and channel catfish. Expeditions to Alligator Alley will result in oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill and stumpknocker.

As usual, I'd like to thank my great sponsors: NuCanoe, MirrOlure, D.O.A. Lures, TFO Fly Rods and Peak Fishing. They all play an important part in the success of Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.

If you'd like to spend a day on the water, please give me call (941-284-3406) or email me (steve@kayakfishingsarasota.com).


Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January offered warmth and some pretty hot action

Terry Byce of Lakewood Ranch battles his first Everglades oscar.
This unseasonably warm winter is good and bad. It's good because you can get out on the water and enjoy yourself in warmth.

It's bad because it isn't the norm for fish.

Snook are still on the flats and under the mangroves which isn't normal this time of year. We should be finding most of the snook up creeks and rivers, but that's just not the case.

Burt Benjamin, 81, battles a spotted seatrout on fly rod.
Fishing has been pretty good in both fresh and salt waters.

In salt water, we've been getting spotted seatrout, snook, ladyfish, jack crevalle and pompano.

Burt Benjamin of Connecticut joined me for an outing on Palma Sola Bay. We managed to catch 20 seatrout to 23 inches, three flounder and a pompano on Popovics Jiggy Flies.

If you think you're too old for kayak fishing realize that Benjamin is 81.

John Weimer of Sarasota fished with me on several occasions. We fished Palma Sola Bay and caught 22 seatrout to 19 inches and several ladyfish on Popovics Jiggies and Super Hair Clouser Deep Minnows.

Terry Byce of Lakewood Ranch spent a day along Alligator Alley and wasn't disappointed. On his first trip, Byce caught "more fish in a day than I've ever caught." He managed oscar, Mayan cichlid, bluegill, stumpknocker, warmouth perch and largemouth bass. All fish were caught on Gibby's Mighty Myakka Minnow.

John Weimer of Sarasota is hooked up in The Everglades.
Weimer and I fished Alligator Alley and had similar results. We caught an estimated 200 oscar, Mayan cichlid, bluegill, stumpknocker, warmouth perch and largemouth bass.

Interestingly enough, we caught a majority of our fish while employing a method we dubbed "the non-working technique." We'd cast out Myakka Minnows and allow them to sink. We wouldn't retrieve them at all. Sooner or later, a fish would inhale the offering and the battle was on.

The non-working technique paid off in many fish.

Speaking of the Myakka Minnow ...

I developed the fly more than 10 years ago. And it has resulted in many fresh and saltwater fish over the years. One of the main materials used is Bodi-Braid by Spirit River.

However, Spirit River was recently bought by Hareline Dubbin. And the new parent company has decided not to carry Bodi-Braid.

That caused me concern. However, after a visit to a local needlepoint shop, I have come up with a substitute. Actually, I'm better off because the shop carries not only the colors I need, but also additional colors that were previously unavailable to me.

I now tie Myakka Minnows in a variety of colors.

If you're interested in purchasing Myakka Minnows, they're $60 a dozen (plus shipping). Minimium order is a dozen.

I tie them in sizes No. 12 to No. 6 for freshwater. In addition, I tie them in No 4 to No. 1 for saltwater.

They make great night snook flies.

Over the years, the Myakka Minnow was caught oscar, Mayan cichlid, peacock bass, stumpknocker, warmouth perch, largemouth bass, sunfish, pumpkinseed, speckled perch (black crappie), white crappie, channel catfish, blue tilapia, spotted tilapia, barramundi, brown trout and others.

In salt water, they have resulted in spotted seatrout, snook, ladyfish, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, tripletail, bonefish, tarpon, mangrove snapper and others.

The Myakka Minnow is not magic, but a great fly whenever fish are feeding on small minnows.

I fished Lake Manatee on a couple of occasions and did well. On one trip, I caught 20 bluegill, two bass, one speckled perch and a stumpknocker on Myakka Minnows, popping bugs and Snymphs. The other trip was virtually the same.

February looks promising and is booking up quickly.

FEBRUARY FORECAST: Spotted seatrout action should be very good over the deep grass in Sarasota Bay, Little Sarasota Bay and Palma Sola Bay. In addition, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle should please. Redfish action should perk up on the flats and around mangroves. Snook are still in the bay, but will move to creeks and rivers if we get a sustained cold front. In fresh water, Lake Manatee and the Manatee River should produce bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, shellcracker and speckled perch. Alligator Alley should produce loads of oscar, Mayan cichlid, bluegill, largemouth bass, stumpknocker, warmouth perch and an occasional peacock bass.

If you're interested in a fishing trip or purchasing Myakka Minnows, please give me a call (941-284-3406) or email me (steve@kayakfishingsarasota.com).

Hope to hear from you soon!



Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

December saw improved fishing in Sarasota Bay and plenty of freshwater action

John Kis of New Rochelle, N.Y., caught a variety of species, including this leaping bluefish.
December arguably was the best month of fishing we've experienced in a while. After battles with red tide, poor water quality and wind, things finally perked up in salt waters around Sarasota.

Ray Gibson of Atlanta shows off a fine pompano.
We experienced good to excellent action in both fresh and salt waters from Tampa Bay to The Everglades.

The big news, however, was the return to glory of Sarasota Bay. That's good news on a number of accounts. First, it's close to home. Second, the bay perked up considerably after red tide pummeled it for the second straight year.

John Weimer of Sarasota and I launched at Stephens Point and caught a number of ladyfish and jack crevalle. We were anticipating spotted seatrout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano, but came up short. However, the water quality of extremely encouraging.

The next three days saw us launch off Longboat Key at Buttonwood Harbor. The first day, we caught several snook on fly rod around dock lights. Then at daylight, we switched to spinning gear and caught a number of snook to 26 inches on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs.

We moved into the bay and caught numerous spotted seatrout to 22 inches on MirrOlure MirrOdines. In addition, we managed eight bluefish to four pounds and eight pompano to three pounds.

Next day, repeat client John Kis of New Rochelle, N.Y., caught snook, spotted seatrout, ladyfish and pompano. Snook were caught on Lil Johns and light jigs in the Longboat Key rim canal. We caught seatrout to 21 inches, bluefish, pompano and ladyfish on MirrOdines.

Ray Gibson of Atlanta caught spotted seatrout to 19 inches, ladyfish and pompano on MirrOdines and flies.

That action was particularly encouraging after several months of slow fishing. If we can avoid red tide, I anticipate a good year of fishing in Sarasota Bay.

We fished Lake Manatee on a number of occasions and did well. We caught hand-sized bluegill, speckled perch to 15 inches, largemouth bass, stumpknocker and channel catfish on Gibby's Snymphs under strike indicators. We also caught fish on popping bugs and Gibby's Myakka Minnows.

Manatee River action ranged from fair to very good. On one trip, we caught six channel catfish to four pounds, a number of hand-size bluegill, tilapia and a 7-pound largemouth on Snymphs under a strike indicator.

John Weimer and I visited a small lake east of Naples and had an average trip, catching bluegill to 12 inches on Myakka Minnows, stumpknocker, largemouth bass and two peacock bass.

JANUARY FORECAST: It has been unseasonably warm, but we're expecting the weather to cool off with a cold front on the way. When that happens, look for snook to begin to push up rivers, creeks and canals in search of warm waters. If that happens, we anticipate decent action up the Manatee and Myakka rivers. Spotted seatrout, pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel action should remain good in Sarasota Bay over deep grass. In addition, our trips to Alligator Alley should results in hot fly-rod action on oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill and stumpknocker.

We hope everyone had a great holiday season.

Of course, we couldn't do anything without our sponsors: NuCanoe, Aqua-Bound Paddles, MirrOlure, D.O.A. Lures, TFO and Peak fishing.

January is looking good and my schedule is filling. If you'd like to experience the world of kayak fishing, please give me a call (941-284-3406) or drop me an email (steve@kayakfishingsarasota.com). 



Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406


Friday, December 2, 2016

Anticipating strong action in fresh and salt waters as we head toward winter

The author shows off a fine peacock bass caught on fly near Naples, Fla. (Photo by John Weimer)
Freshwater fishing has been much better than saltwater fishing.

But that's subject to change any day.

We're moving into the winter pattern and that means several things.

In salt water, it means bluefish, pompano and , hopefully, large snook.

In fresh water, it means wonderful trips to The Everglades for tackle-busting exotics.

We fished the salt a few days in November and did so-so. Fishing Little Sarasota Bay around Vamo, we encountered snook, spotted seatrout, jack crevalle and ladyfish. Snook were plentiful around the islands on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway and were a blast on topwater plugs.

Trout, although somewhat scarce in most areas, could be found along the ICW. We caught sseatrout to 20 inches on MirrOlure Lil Johns on 1/16-ounce jig heads.

The best action took place around and under docks just south of the launch. Using skip casts to get jigs well under the docks, we caught snook to 30 inches, jack crevalle and mangrove snapper. The most effective bait was the new D.O.A. 2 3/4-inch shrimp in gold flake.

John Lacy of Kentucky joined me for a trip on Little Sarasota and did fair. We caught three snook, two jack crevalle, six spotted seatrout, a mangrove snapper and a ladyfish. We also lost a snook estimated at 15 pounds while skipping D.O.A. Shrimp under docks.

Highlight of the day was the number of manatee we encountered. We probably saw at least 18 manatee over the six-hour outing.

In fresh water, we fished a variety of spots, including Lake Manatee and a small lake east of Naples in southwest Florida.

Lake Manatee, located in Manatee County just 10 miles east of Interstate 75 off State Road 64, is one of my favorite places to fish -- especially during fall and winter. It's a spot where diversity rules and you'll likely catch a variety of fish.

I really don't target any species in particular. I used popping bugs, nymphs and my Myakka Minnow. I catch bluegill, speckled perch, shellcracker, tilapia, stumpknocker, shellcracker, largemouth bass and channel  catfish.

Our best day in November was an outing in which we caught big bluegill, two huge speckled perch (black crappie) and five nice channel catfish. All of the fish were taken on my Snymph (simple nymph).

The following day was much tougher. John Weimer of Sarasota and I combine to catch 26 bluegill, one speckled perch, one bass and a golden shiner on Snymphs.

A few days later, I took John Freyer of Ludington, Mich., and we had to work extremely hard. We combined to land 17 bluegill and a gar. The interesting thing was we couldn't catch anything on Snymphs. Most every fish came on my Myakka Minnow.

John Weimer and I drove 105 miles south on I-75 and had a wonderful outing. Fishing a small lake east of Naples, we caught a variety of fish, including peacock bass to 4 pounds. Interestingly, we had few fish by 1 p.m.

It was at that point, I decided to pull out the 6-weight TFO fly rod and cast an orange-and-chartreuse Clouser Deep Minnow  in areas where I had caught some nice peacock bass. I wasn't disappointed. Over the next two hours, Weimer and I combined to land 23 peacock bass to four pounds. We lost several others.

Peacock bass were introduced in state waters in 1984. Because they can't tolerate cold water, they were stocked only Miami-Dade and Broward county waters. Both barred and butterfly peacocks were stocked, but the bigger barred species couldn't tolerate the cold. Butterfly peacocks thrived.

Somehow, they made their way west to Collier County. And, through a friend, I found out about a small lake and adjoining canal system that holds a good population of these colorful, hard-fighting battlers.

It took me a while before I began catching them with regularity. I found out you don't have to get up too early to catch them. Best action takes place from mid-morning on.

I've caught them on a number of flies (even tiny nymphs), but I've discovered the best action takes place on orange-and-chartreuse Clousers.  I use a fairly quick retrieve.

I also keep my eyes open for peacocks chasing bait or nesting along the shoreline. If you pay attention, you'll be rewarded.

The lake is also home to mega-bluegill, giant shellcracker, monster Mayan cichlid and largemouth bass.

DECEMBER FORECAST: I look for good numbers of spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, bluefish and pompano  in Sarasota Bay over deep grass off Stephens Point and Whale Key. Night fishing for snook should be good around lighted docks. Late in the month, we'll start probing local rivers for monster snook -- especially if we encounter cold weather. In fresh water, Lake Manatee and the Manatee River should yield good numbers of bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, speckled perch and shellcracker. For those interested in non-stop fly-fishing fun, Alligator Alley should yield good numbers of feisty oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill, stumpknocker, warmouth perch and an occasional peacock bass.

I'm booking up fairly fast, so contact me to make sure you get in on the action. You can call me at 941-284-3406 or email steve@kayakfishingsarasota.com.
Happy Holidays!


Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fast and furious peacock bass action at its best

John Weimer of Sarasota admires a chunky peacock bass he caught on fly.
In the United States, you have to choices when it comes to fly fishing for peacock bass: 1. travel to an exotic destination; 2. visit south Florida.

The author got in on the action, too.
I choose the latter. It's convenient and productive.

A little history here. The state of Florida stocked butterfly peacock bass into south Florida waters in 1984. The original stocking was in waters of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Waters anywhere north of that area could be too cold in winter for these tropical cichlids.

Somehow the fish have found their way to Florida's west coast and can be found just 100 miles down Interstate 75 from my home in Sarasota. In just 90 minute, my clients and I can be fly fishing for peacock bass.

I will not reveal the name or location of the lake to protect the fishery.

I have fished the location many times in the past four years. At first, peacock bass were somewhat of a mystery. I didn't catch any on my first trip, but a friend of mine did. Joe Mahler, a fly-fishing guru who resides in Fort Myers, caught a chunky 3-pounder on his famous fly, the Straw Boss.

It took several more trips for me to start figuring out how to catch peacocks.

First trick I discovered was to find peacock bass on nests and sight-fish them. I'd stand up in my NuCanoe Pursuit (www.nucanoe.com) and slowly pole along the shoreline. When I'd spot a peacock on a nest, I'd anchor nearby and cast to the fish. Note that peacocks will hit the fly virtually every time it enters the nest. But hooking them is another matter. They have an uncanny ability to spit your fly out quicker than you can react.

So, it becomes a game of guessing and timing. You almost have to "set" the hook before you see the bass take the fly.

I caught some very nice peacocks with this method.

But peacock bass don't spawn year round. So what do you do when they're not on the nests?
I began "blind casting" along the shoreline with No. 6 Clouser Deep Minnows, using a fairly quick retrieve.

For this fish, I use a 5-weight TFO Finesse rod, floating line and 9-foot (8-pound test) leader.
This method has paid the biggest dividends. I've had several "double-digit' days using it.

My best fly is a No. 6 Clouser in orange and chartreuse. I tied it to resemble a baby peacock bass. The fish are cannibalistic and will often eat their young.

Last trip to the lake was very productive.

John Weimer of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers and I made the trek and did extremely well. We combined to catch 23 peacocks to 4 pounds. However, we didn't catch our first peacock until 12:30 p.m.

Up to that time, we had nine largemouth bass, one bluegill, one shellcracker and two stumpknocker on poppers and on Gibby's Snymph.

The action was much slower than normal. At that point, I pulled out the 5-weight and set up a drifter along a shoreline that had produced peacock bass in the past. I was quickly rewarded. I caught a trio of peacocks, including a pair of 3-pounders in about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, Weimer was casting a tiny Clouser that was producing nothing. I gave him an orange-and-chartreuse Clouser and suggested he give it a try. It wasn't long after that he connected on a solid 4-pounder, the largest peacock bass of his life.

We hit several spots, but really found some fast action at a location that has paid off in the past. I was drifting down the bank when I saw a peacock chasing minnows. I made a quick cast and immediately got a hit. I missed that one, but hooked up on a chunky 2-pounder on the next cast.

After I released that peacock, I began casting again. I noticed some action underneath a nearby tree that was hanging over the water and began to cast around it as I neared. I had the rod nearly jerked out of my hand on a ferocious hit. I was solid into another fat peacock.

I caught and released nine peacocks along that stretch. Weimer also caught a fatty.

The day started slowly, but ended beautifully.

"That's why you have to keep at it," said Weimer, who relocated to Florida from his home state of Oregon. "Your days wn't always start out quickly. But if you keep at it and keep a fly in the water you have a chance."

I love fishing south. I love catching fish that I can't find in local waters. I fish south a lot during the year. And it won't be long before I start fishing along Alligator Alley where I target oscar and Mayan cichlid.

These great fisheries are simple too good -- and productive -- for Sunshine State anglers and others to ignore.