Monday, August 8, 2016

Snook are plentiful and easy to catch -- if you know the secrets

Snook are plentiful in the surf along barrier islands in southwest Florida from May through August.

The more I fish, the more I realize that there is nothing certain about the sport.

Just because you do well on a certain species at a certain spot one year doesn't mean the same will hold true the next.
D.T. Variations are top flies for sight-fishing snook.

If things can change, they usually will.

This applies to beach snook fishing.

That's my specialty. I've been doing it for the past 35 years and I've seen things change in less than 24 hours.

First, let me tell you that I will not share spots with you. Most of you have eyes, legs, feet and brains. That's enough to allow you to put in the time to find your own spots.

I found mine the good old-fashioned way: hard work and determination.

All  you need is the desire to success and the willingness to put in the time.

Mick Coulas shows off a beach snook.
This season has been among the best. The snook have been plentiful in the surf and usually more than willing to cooperate. My best day so far was a 29-snook day on Aug. 1. I had a 23-fish outing in July.

I've had several days in double digits.

I've also head days when I've found plenty of snook, but getting them to hit was another matter.

I am fortunate in that I've been able to guide quite a few people to their first beach snook. Most are surprised at the complexity of the sport. I have seen them make every mistake possible. I have also witnessed them improve and become quit adept at seeing snook in the surf.

The first skill to be mastered is seeing the fish. And this is quite difficult for many folks. I'm not sure why, but I do know that it's true.

I believe that those who have trouble seeing the fish do not own a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. I can't understand why anglers enjoy sight-fishing are handicapping themselves in this manner. Makes no sense.

A quality pair of polarized sunglasses helps you see the fish. If you can see fish, you have a good shot at catching them. If you can't see them, the odds are against you.

Steve Kost fights a snook a fly rod.
Recently, I gave a talk on beach snook fishing at the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota. As usual, I gave my spiel about sunglasses.

Immediately, I saw a hand go up.

"Do you think my (cheap) sunglasses will work?" one guy asked.

Before answering, I asked, "Why not invest in a better pair?"

He responded, "Too expensive."

I paused, then asked, "How much did you pay for your fly rod?"

He got the point.

It makes no sense to pay $300-$700 for a fly rod, then "cheap out" on the sunglasses -- especially if you want to sight-fish.

A good pair of polarized sunglasses drastically reduces glare on the water's surface, allowing you to see what's below.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Once you can see below the surface, you have to interpret what you're seeing. If you start looking for snook with tails, scales, fins, eyes and a mouth, you probably won't see very many.

What you're looking for is a shape. A color. Movement.

Snook have an uncanny ability to blend into their surroundings.

It takes practice. But once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy.

Another common mistake is to look for snook too far away from the dry sand. You can find snook lying of the bottom in the trough. However, the snook you want are cruising parallel to the beach just a foot or so out from the dry sand. These fish are in what I like to call the feeding zone. They're actively looking for food: sand fleas, scale sardines, glass minnows.

Those fish you see lying on the bottom have already eaten and aren't actively seeking food. They'll take a fly every once in a while, but not often.

Another mistake I see often is casting diagonally or parallel. When you see a snook swimming toward you, simply cast straight out (perpendicularly) from the beach. Time your retrieve so that the fly and snook meet at the same place at the same time.

It's that simple.

Rarely will a snook swim out of its way to take a fly. Your offering has to be within 18 to 24 inches of the snook.

The reason I prefer a white fly is that I can see it in the water. I can track it easily and know where it is in relationship to the fish. If I can't see it, then how would I know the snook is tracking it or even remotely interested in it?

Okay, let's say you make a good cast and the snook starts to follow your fly. What do you do?

That's easy. You trigger or provoke a strike by speeding up your retrieve. You make the snook think the "bait" is trying to get away. I do this by increasing my striping speed. Or i might even do so with the rod tip.

If a snook follows don't give up until you run out of water. I've had many snook take the fly at the very last second.

As far as rods go, I use a TFO BVK 5 weight and matching reel. I prefer a clear, intermediate sinktip line. However, on the BVK I have a floating line.

Floating lines can be a nuisance because you'll often find the fly line inside your rod tip. You can remedy that by shortening your leader or moving back on the beach.

With a sinktip line, I use a 6-foot leader. With a floating line I use a 7 1/2-foot leader. I add a short length of 20-pound fluorocarbon for a shock leader.

While I won't divulge my favorite locations, I will tell you I avoid beaches that have undergone re-nourishment.  The companies that re-nourish beaches often use offshore sand or inland sand for the procedure. It's not compatible with the natural sand and usually won't hold sand fleas, a common food for snook.

In addition, new sand stirs up quite easily and can make it tough to see.

What's the attraction of beach snook fishing? No 1, it's a great sight-fishing adventure. With a little imagination, you can picture yourself on a remote tropical beach, casting to bonefish.

While snook are our main target, we have also encountered redfish, spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, flounder, tripletail, mangrove snapper, barracuda, tarpon and cobia in the surf.

You just never know what you might see.

Typically, I don't get out on the beach much earlier than 7:30 a.m. You can't see much because the sun isn't up high enough to light up the water. Your peak fishing time is 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m.

There are times when you can fish all day is good conditions. But most of the time, you're done by 1 the sea breeze kicks in and roughens the surf.

Essential gear for beach snook fishing includes cap or hat, sunscreen, clippers, pliers, leader material, fly box and flies and plenty of water. I usually walk 3-4 miles and drink a couple of liters of water.

Snook will stay out into the sure through August and into September. They'll start heading back into the bays as the water cools.

The action so far has been great. I hope it remains so for a few more weeks.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Snook plentiful and cooperative in the surf along local beaches

Jesse Ehrlich of Sarasota battles a snook on fly rod that he sight-fished for in the surf.
Snook fishing in the surf has been very good this summer. We've been walking local beaches an sight-fishing with fly rods for snook in the surf.

Dault Roberts shows off a snook.
I've taken a number of people who had never caught a snook or had never experienced much success with snook along our beaches.

All succeeded.

John Weimer of Sarasota joined my for a beach snook outing early in the month. John is a member of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota. We landed three snook to 25 inches in tough conditions. Wind was up and so was the surf.

Another Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers' member joined me a few days later. Steve Kost of Lakewood Ranch hooked 14 snook and landed nine to about 24 inches. All fish fell for my Gibby's D.T. Variation, arguably the best fly for beach snook.

Incidentally, Steve had a hip replaced in April and is scheduled to have the other hip replaced this month.

Dault Roberts of Oklahoma caught four snook to 24 inches on a fairly tough day. We encountered plenty of fish, but they weren't very aggressive.

I first started fishing with Dault when his was a first-year dental student at LECOM in Lakewood Ranch. He's now Dr. Dault Roberts and practicing in Oklahoma.

Snook in the surf. Can you count them?
Retired orthodontist Dr. Jesse Ehrlich tried his hand at beach snook and landed four snook to 23 inches. He had been fishing for snook in the surf at north Lido Key. He wanted to learn more beach snook techniques.

Larry Nazzaro and his son, Trevor, fished with me and each caught a pair of snook. They hooked five and landed four. Larry resides in The Villages near Ocala. Trevor is from Denver. Again, we saw lots of fish, but they were tough to fool.

The next day, I ventured out by myself and managed a pair of fish in rough conditions. However, one of my snook was a beautiful 28-incher.

I did a few other solo trips and did fair to very good. My catch totals ranged from two snook to nine.
Author Steve Gibson with a nice snook.

I've found that the best action takes place around the new moon. The days surrounding the full moon can be slow.

Also, calm days when the water is clear are usually tougher than when we have a little wave action and choppy water. The snook seem to be more aggressive when conditions aren't "perfect."

For beach snook fly fishing, I recommend 6- to 8-weight fly rods with clear, intermediate sinktip line.

I keep the leader simple and use a six-foot length of 20-pound fluorocarbon.

I will use some other flies -- mostly while baitfish imitations -- but I still catch a majority of my fish on the D.T. Variation.

For beach snook, you'll need a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. Seeing the fish is paramount to success. If you can't see them, you'll probably have trouble catching them.

Other essentials include a cap or hat, sunscreen, flats boots (I go barefooted) and plenty of water. I recommend eating a banana the morning of your trip and drinking a couple of bottles of water before your trip begins.

Snook will remain in the surf throughout this month. They'll start migrating back into the bays in September.

Sight-fishing for snook in the surf is one of my favorite things to do.

Early in the year, I set a goal of catching 100 snook on fly during 2016. To date, I've totaled 143 snook.

Not bad!

Once September arrives, I'll begin targeting  our toughest fly-rod fish -- redfish. My 2016 goal on reds is 10 -- and I might not achieve that!

I took a busman's holiday of sorts late in the month with my buddy Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict out of C.B.'s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key. We headed out on our annual fly-rod tarpon trip.

Over the years, we've rarely failed  -- and this time was no different. We stuck four big tarpon, landed one and broke off another near the boat.

If you're interested in fly fishing for giant tarpon, Capt. Rick Grassett is your guy. He specializes in shallow-water sight0-fishing for big tarpon from May to mid-August. You'll probably have to book your trip a year ahead of time. I encourage you to do so. You can reach him at 941-350-9790.

AUGUST FORECAST: I expect snook fishing to continue in the surf along area beaches. There are plenty of fish out there and they're cooperative most of the time. I haven't been fishing the bay at all, but I will do so in the coming month. Spotted seatrout action is expected to be good over deep grass along the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay. You'll also encounter jack crevalle and ladyfish. We'll also get out a couple of hours before daylight to fish around lighted docks. Snook are the primary targets, but we often encounter small tarpon, spotted seatrout, jack crevalle and sometimes redfish. I also expect shark action to be in high gear in southern Tampa Bay. We target small blacktip, bonnethead and spinner sharks. It's a blast in a kayak.

September often is a very good fishing month with little pressure.

If you're interested in booking a trip for beach snook this month or a trip in September, call me at 941-284-3406.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

Monday, July 4, 2016

Sight-fishing for snook in the surf is the name of the game

Todd Dary of Sarasota battles a typical beach snook on fly rod.
We're experiencing some of the best sight-fishing you can find. Snook are spread out in the surf from Anna Maria Island to Naples and are hitting a variety of flies.

We've hit local beaches on several occasions and have done well. This is one of our favorite activities.
Todd Dary shows off a snook.

"Beach snook" season usually begins in May and runs through August. I believe the peak months are July and August. So, the best is yet to come.

We've been concentrating on Casey Key. We've had a number of trips in that area.

John Weimer of Sarasota joined me for several outings. We've had slow to fair trips. The best was a six-fishing trip, with snook to 24 inches. On one trip, John caught a decent snook on his first cast, then later added another fish.

I've done well on a couple of solo outings. On one trip, I caught and released eight snook to 27 inches. On another, I managed 23 snook to 28 inches. I hooked 30 snook during the latter session.

John Lacy and Kurt Godshall of Kentucky were down on vacation and spent a day fly fishing the surf. They combined to hook 14 snook and landed six. The best fish went 23 inches.

Todd Dary of Sarasota had a fair day. He hooked 10 snook and landed six. The biggest fish went about 23 inches.

I spent one day early in the month walking along Manasota Key. I caught one snook and one trout. 

Dr/ Jesse Ehrlick of Sarasota fights a snook.
This is an area that usually is pretty good. I'm hoping the action gets better and plan to spend time there during the next couple of months.

For beach snook fishing, we use 6- to 8-weight fly rods, floating or intermediate sinktip lines, 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders. If you choose to use a lighter leader, it's a good idea to add a short length of 20-pound fluorocarbon shock tippet.

The key to success is being able to see the fish and recognize them as such. This can be tricky for beginners. But once you see a few fish, it becomes much easier.

It's important to cast the fly in front of the fish. So, it's your job to determine in what direction the snook is swimming or in what direction it is lying.

I've caught as many as 41 snook in a morning. I've had a few trips during which I caught none. But that doesn't happen often.

Brian Boehm and I fished Casey Key late in the month and had a snookless day. Fish were plentiful, but rather spooky. I had four fish follow the fly, but that's as close as I got to hooking up.

My best day in terms of quality fish took place during August 2010. I caught 15 snook  of which eight were 28 inches or larger. My largest snook went 40 inches and 21 pounds. I also landed three redfish of more than 30 inches and jumped three monster tarpon.

Interestingly enough, I returned to the same spot the next morning and caught only two small snook. I didn't see any redfish or tarpon.

Go figure!

Dr. Jesse Ehrlick of Sarasota joined me for his first beach snook outing and did well. He hooked six snook and landed three.

I explored some new territory along the north portion of Longboat Key. I caught six snook out of the eight I hooked the first morning. The largest fish went 25 inches. The next day, I fished the northern tip along Longboat Pass. I got to cast and many snook up to 20 pounds. I didn't hook any, but the prospects are interesting.

John Weimer and I did travel to Naples to fish a small freshwater lake. We caught 10 monster Mayan cichlid and seven bluegill. Several of the bluegill pushed 11 inches. We also hooked what we thought might be a tarpon for a few seconds. The lake has a good population of peacock bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker, Mayan cichlid, tarpon and snook. It's usually pretty good during the hotter months.

I haven't fished Sarasota Bay in a while, but the best bet usually is snook and tarpon at night around lighted docks.

During the day, spotted seatrout, ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish are cooperating over deeper grass on the east and west sides of the bay.

Redfish, snook and spotted seatrout action should be fair on the flats.

JULY FORECAST: I looked for improving sight-fishing for snook in the surf. There are quite a few large snook spread out along the beach. In addition, night fishing for snook and small tarpon should be good around lighted docks. Spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish  should be plentiful over deep grass. Shark action is heating up in southern Tampa Bay.
If you've never caught a snook, now is the time. In addition to getting a shot at some quality snook, you'll also get to fish is some of the most beautiful water you'll ever see.
No matter what your choice, please give me a call at 941-284-3406 to book a trip.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Best action in May was snook in the surf and in fresh water

Tim Harrison of San Antonio, Texas holds his first fly-rod snook. It was one of two he caught.

Time was better spent fly fishing the surf for snook during May.  If conditions were right, that's where you would find me on a day off.

Large oscar taken on fly.
Sarasota Bay has been very, very slow. I'm not sure why, but I do know that it was slower than what it should have been in May.

I'm guessing it could be a result of last fall's red tide. I don't think there's any red tide remaining in the bay, but I do think it has residual effects. I believe it killed a ton of baitfish. And you won't find many fish where there's an absence of bait.

Also, the water is not the color it should be. It's off-color and not the least bit clear. Could also be tied into the red tide.

John Weimer of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota joined me for a trek to a small lake east of Naples in Collier County. The lake is 105 miles south of Sarasota, and the drive isn't too bad early in the morning.
John Weimer battles a big Mayan cichlid.

We launched our NuCanoes at dawn and paddled to the lake. I hadn't fished the lake since December, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We started out casting No. 10 popping bugs on 3- and 4-weight fly rods. Things started out slowly, but picked up once we figured out what was going on.

Large Mayan cichlid were bedding along any rocky shoreline we could find. The trick was to cast to the shallow, rocky edges, pop the bug once and let it sit. If you had the patience, sooner or later a big Mayan would rise up to investigate, sometimes taking a minute or more to inhale the bug.

These were large Mayans, larger than you'll find anywhere.

I did a little research once I got home and discovered the largest Mayans taken by state fisheries biologists in nets were about 12 inches. These fish were running 14 to 16 inches.

A large Mayan cichlid caught on a popping bug.

And you didn't think you could land them on fly rod.

They're one of strongest freshwater fish species in Florida.

It was the new moon. Last year, I caught big Mayans on that lake on the new and full moons.

In addition to Mayans, John and I caught bluegill, stumpknocker, largemouth bass and one huge oscar.

We totaled 25 Mayan cichlid.

Regular client Todd Dawson fished a half day and we did fair. We caught 20 spotted seatrout to 20 inches, five bluefish and several ladyfish on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs, MirrOlure MirrOdines and D.O.A. Deadly Combinations (D.O.A. Shrimp under a popping cork).

Anne Ewert shows off a hefty redfish.
I fished a small lake in the Sleeping Turtles Preserve off River Road east of Venice one day. Vinny Caruso of Bradenton joined me a few days later to fly fish the lake. Over two outings, we caught 35 largemouth bass to 3 pounds, 35 bluegill, five shellcracker and three tilapia to 4 pounds on popping bugs and No. 10 nymphs under strike indicators.

One trip to Lake Manatee resulted in 25 bluegill and eight bass to 4 pounds on popping bugs and nymphs.

John Weimer of Sarasota caught his first beach snook with me in the surf off Casey Key. We saw 100 snook and a trio of big spotted seatrout.

A solo trip to Casey Key resulted in four snook to 26 inches and a ladyfish on my D.T. Variation.

John Weimer and I fished Alligator Alley at mid-month and did well. This was Weimer's first trip to The Everglades. We caught 70 oscar, 30 Mayan cichlid, eight bass, 15 bluegill and a pair of warmouth perch. All fish were caught on my Myakka Minnow.

Anne Ewert, who is going to grad school at the University of New Hampshire, and her friend, Alex Williams, caught a couple of redfish to 30 inches, two flounder, a jack crevalle and 15 spotted seatrout to 18 inches on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs and MirrOlure MirrOdines around Buttonwood Harbor.

Tim Harrison of San Antonio and I experienced a very slow day in southern Tampa Bay. We caught a few spotted seatrout on topwater plugs early, then moved into the backcountry to sight-fish. Tim had a few good shots at redfish, but didn't connect. We moved out onto the sand bars off Joe Island and immediately encountered large jack crevalle, bonnethead shark, blacktip shark and bull shark. We ended the day over deep grass and caught a dozen trout to 16 inches on MIrrOlure MirrOdines.

Two days later, Tim Harrison and I started out before daylight and fly fished around lighted docks on Longboat Key. Tim caught a pair of decent snook on fly before the action subsided. They were is first snook on fly.  We later added another snook, 10 trout, flounder, mangrove snapper and a Spanish mackerel on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs and MirrOlure MirrOdines. Tim's 3-pound trout on a MirrOdine was the day's best.

JUNE FORECAST: I look for beach snook fishing to improve daily when conditions are right. We could also encounter spotted seatrout, ladyfish, jack crevalle, redfish and tarpon in the surf. Night fishing for snook and small tarpon should be decent around lighted docks along Longboat Key and the east side of Sarasota Bay. Spotted seatrout action should be fair over deep grass on the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay.

Florida's weather can be hot in the summer, but we usually get out on the water prior to the heat.

I am speaking about Beach Snook Fishing at the June 22 meeting of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., but I'll be there tying my D.T. Variation (beach snook fly) at 6 p.m. The club also will raffle off D.T. Variations that I donated. The meeting will be held at the Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts.

I specialize in guided beach snook trips this time of year. It's all sight-fishing and something I enjoy immensely.

If you'd like to get in on the action, please give me a call.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


Beach snook seasons looks like it will be a good one

Author Steve Gibson holds a fine snook he sight-fishing in the surf. (Photo by John Weimer)

It's early in the season for beach snook, but I'm going on record that it's going to be a good one.  I've already seen quite a few large snook in the surf and I've done pretty well on them.

If you've fished for a while, then you know what I mean. I seem to have an innate ability to predict the action at a particular spot or during a specific season. Beach snook action has been off somewhat for the last few years. I think that's going to change.

Another nice beach snook on fly.
Beach snook fly fishing might be my favorite activity in local waters. It beats the hell out of blind-casting for undersized spotted seatrout, ladyfish or whatever else might be lurking in the depths. Truth be known, I'd probably rather do to the dentist than blind cast with a fly rod for trout.

That's just me.

I don't think it gets much better than sight-fishing for snook in the clear waters of Florida's west coast. These elusive gamefish usually start showing up in the surf as early as March and will remain there thru September. Peak months July and August.

I like to get to my favorite beach around 7:30 a.m. Realize the sun's not up high enough for you to see much. However, I want to be at my favorite spot or in an area I know there are fish when the visibility is prime.

As the sun rises in the east, your window of visibility gets wider and wider. At 7;30 in the morning, you're luck to see 15 feet up the beach. At 10 a.m., you can see snook 150 up the beach. It's that different.

I try to pick a day when the wind is light from the east. That almost assures that I'll be looking for snook in  a calm and clear surf. It's much easier to see them when conditions are good.
Former Venice resident Scott Dempsey fights a snook on fly.

Now, that doesn't mean they're easy to see. If you're new to the game, seeing snook in the surf can be perplexing and quite frustrating.

Most neophytes look for whole snook complete with tails, scales, fins and eyes. If you look for a complete fish, you'll likely be disappointed and swear there are no snook in the surf.

It's difficult to explain, but I look for a different color. A shape. Movement. There can be a lot going on in the surf, but once you figure things out you won't mistake a snook. In addition to snook, you'll also see mullet, baitfish, whiting, sheepshead, black drum and other species.

Once I spot a snook, I have to determine which way it's swimming or in which direction its facing. If you find a snook cruising north or south just off the dry sand, you've found a fish in what I call the "feeding zone." Fish in that zone (it stretches from the lip of the surf out to four or five feet) are looking for food -- sand fleas, crabs, baitfish. If you've find them there, you've got a decent chance to hook one.

A school of snook in the surf.
You'll also find snook lying on the bottom in the deeper water of the first trough. I suggest casting at those fish, but more often than not they'll ignore your offering. They've already fed and not actively feeding.

Those fish you find lying on the bottom 15-20 feet out usually will be facing to the west. And that offers a casting problem. How do you present the fly without "lining" the fish. Try a curve cast, a cast when execute properly will place the fly in front of the fish without lining them.  The curve casting requires the rod to be horizontal the the water (sidearm). Whip the rod tip at the end of the forward stroke. That whipping will cause the tip to curve the line and fly. Check out this video on the curve cast:

When you find a snook cruising in the feeding zone, your first task is to determine in which direction it's swimming. If you're walking north and the fish is swimming south, all you have to do is stop and let the fish come to you. If you're walking north and the fish is swimming north, you'll have to overtake the fish to present the fly properly.

In that situation, I simply move 20 feet away from the water and increase my walking pace enough to overtake the fish. I don't run. i believe snook can "feel" you running and become suspicious.
It's important to present the fly in front of the fish. After all, that's the business end of fish. I've never seen a snook eat with its tail.

Now, the next piece of advice will be questioned by some. But that's OK. It has worked great for me over the years. When casting to a snook in the feeding zone, I make a cast that's perpendicular (straight out) to the beach. I don't make diagonal casts or parallel casts.

I cast straight out and then try to retrieve that fly so that it and snook meet at the same place at the same time.

At that point, one of two things will happen: 1. The snook will ignore (or spook) your offering; 2. The snook will turn and follow.

If the latter happens, then it's up to you to provoke a strike. I do this by speeding up my retrieve or even  wiggling the fly with the rod tip. Realize your fly like is only a foot or two from the dry sand at this point.

And that brings us to fly selection. You should use any fly in which you have confidence. For me, that's my Gibby's D.T. Variation, a fly I've been using for 30 years and one that has resulted in more than 5,000 snook.

Why would I want to use any other pattern?

A little history on the D.T.:

Matt Hoover, a guide in Naples, sent me an original D.T. Special. In an accompanying note, Hooverl wrote: "This is the only fly you'll ever need for beach snook.

He was right.

I've tweaked the pattern over the years to fit my needs. The original D.T. Special featured four splayed white neck feathers on the tail, a palmered white neck collar and the hook shank covered with white thread.

I still use four neck hackles, but I tie them to the rear of the hook facing each other. I also add two strands of pearly flash. I build up the head and tie in a small amount of red thread just in front. I then add eyes and epoxy head and eyes. I leave most of the hook shank bare. Check this out on the D.T. Variation:

I did not come up with the D.T. Special design.

I use fly rods from 5- to 8-weight. It largely depends on where I'm fishing and the size of the fish. Most often, I use my TFO BVK 5 weight with accompanying BVK Reel.

Line choices include a full floating line or a clear, intermediate sinktip. Leave your full sinking lines at home.

To keep things simple, just use a straight piece of 20-fluorocarbon as leader. If you go lighter, make sure you have 12 to 18 inches of 20-pound fluoro for a shock leader (bite tippet).

You'll want to travel light. I carry everything I need in a fanny pack: flies, leader material, leaders, nippers, pliers and water.

Other essential items include cap or hat, sunglasses, cell phone and camera.

I wear neoprene SCUBA boots. I do not advise sandals, Crocs or similar footwear. I also don't recommend flats/wading boots with zippers. Sooner or later, the zippers on your boots with clog up and with sand and shell. And you'll likely break the pull trying to unzip your boots.

I get my zipperless boots at a dive shop in Sarasota.

You might have to take quite a hike to find the fish. You can always camp out in a spot and allow the fish to come to you, but that usually doesn't work very well.

Where to fish? You can find snook in the surf from Anna Maria Island to Naples. That's a lot of real estate. Once you start exploring the surf, you'll find some spots are much better than others.

I try to avoid areas where the beach has been renourished. You'll find that the companies doing this procedure "rebuild" depleted beaches with sand from other areas. And the new sand usually isn't compatible with the original sand. You won't find sand fleas at the edge of the beach in new sand.

And you'll find that even the slightest wave action will "cream" the surf up, ruining your visibility.

My best day fly fishing for snook in the surf? I caught and released 41 snook one morning in 2009. On another outing, Jack Hartman of Sarasota and I combined to catch 51 snook.

My best day in terms of quality fish took place in August 2010 when I caught 15 snook. Eight of those 15 were 28 inches or larger. My largest fish went 40 inches and 20 pounds. On that morning, I also caught and released three oversized redfish and jumped three 100-pound tarpon.

Interestingly enough, I went back the very next morning and caught only two small snook. I didn't see any large snook, redfish or tarpon.

Go figure!

As you've probably figured out, I'm not going to take you by the hand and lead you to the best spots to fly fish for snook in the surf. I've spent too much time finding these prime spots and no one showed me anything.

Start are your favorite beach and branch out from there.

Your success or lack thereof depends on you. If you want to catch a snook you probably will. If you really don't have a great desire, you might want to try blind-casting for seatrout in Sarasota Bay.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Night fishing around lighted docks was the key to April success

Happy Susan Bostwick of California shows off her first snook. She caught it on a fly rod.
April was a good month, but a perplexing one.

Typically, April is a wonderful time to hit Sarasota Bay and catch a bunch of spotted seatrout. We caught some decent-sized trout during the month, but not a lot of them.

I'm still convinced the bay is still feeling the effects of  last fall's red tide. I could be wrong, but that's my hunch.
Snook often are plentiful in the dock lights.

We did slip out one day and catch some really nice fish. Starting a couple of hours before daylight, we caught a couple of snook and jack crevalle around dock lights in the Longboat Key rim canal. 

After the sun came up, we paddled out into the bay and found cooperative trout in several spots. But when we hit the "outer elbow" off Whale Key, we started getting trout from 2 1/2 to 4 pounds. Must have caught 15 before they quit hitting.

We caught all of the trout on MirrOlure MirrOdines, a suspending plug that is seemingly magical on a variety of species. Key to success with the MirrOdine is working it correctly.

I like to hold the rod horizontal to the water to my left. I twitch the lure a couple of times, then reel up the slack. I repeat this retrieve until I'm ready to make another cast. Most often, fish will hit as the lure is suspending.
Lee Soares of California battles a leaping seatrout.

It's important to work the lure slowly and allow it to perform its magic.

In addition to trout, I've also caught ladyfish, jack crevalle, snook, mangrove snapper, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and redfish on the MirrOdine. I don't think there's a fish out there that won't hit it!

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton and Capt. Bob Zola of Fort Lauderdale joined me to explore the waters off Vamo in Little Sarasota Bay. We caught 15 trout to 24 inches, several ladyfish, three snook and a flounder. We caught the fish on MirrOdines and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs.

Howard Beemer of Fort Myers and his son in law, James Wies of Illinois fished Little Sarasota Bay and caught 10 trout to 23 inches, ladyfish, snook and flounder on MirrOdines and Lil Johns.
Mike Skalla holds a decent black drum.
Mark Skalla and Mike Skalla hit the water an hour before daylight and had a fair day. Mark caught a couple of nice snook on jigs while fishing dock lights around Longboat Key. They also caught three black drum to 10 pounds, two jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, spotted seatrout and flounder.

Vince O'Boyle of Venice caught flounder, redfish, mangrove snapper and a black drum on Lil Johns and light jigs in the rim canal at Longboat Key.

Ted Tolliver of Ohio had a fair day. He managed a dozen trout to 17 inches, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish. We fished the Longboat Key rim canal and deep grass in Sarasota Bay off Whale Key. Most of the fish were taken on Lil Johns and MirrOdines.

Lee Soares and Susan Bostwick of Petaluma , Calif., fly fished on a tough day, but their persistence paid off. Each caught his/her first snook. Lee's 28-incher was the day's best. They fished lighted docks in Bowles Creek.

Mark Skalla's first snook.
After daylight, we moved out to deep grass patches in Sarasota Bay. They caught spotted seatrout to 23 inches.

The significance of their outing was that a day prior, 21 anglers fished the Fly Division of the Sarasota CCA's Photo All-Release tournament. Those 21 angler caught a total of four trout and one redfish.

Lee's best snook and trout would have made him grand champion of the Fly Division in that tournament.

Pat and Penny Martin of New York joined me for a four-hour outing. We launched at Buttonwood Harbor and fished the rim canal at Longboat Key. The morning was very slow. We caught flounder, jack crevalle, ladyfish and missed a couple of snook.  We estimated one of the snook at 20 pounds or more.

Everette Howell of Longboat Key hooked a pair of tarpon and a snook while fly fishing around lighted docks. After daylight, he switched to a MirrOlure Lil John on a light jig and landed a 25-inch snook.  We caught one other snook and a jack crevalle.

Greg Tango of New Jersey and Mike Tango of California caught four snook to 27 inches, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, flounder, silver trout and 20 spotted seatrout to 21 inches fishing around dock and seawall at Stephens Point and deep grass patches in Sarasota Bay. They used MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs, MirrOdines and D.O.A. Deadly Combinations.

We fished Lake Manatee on a couple of occasions and did fair. Launching at the Verna-Bethany Bridge at the east end of the lake, we caught largemouth bass to 3 pounds and hand-sized bluegill on popping bugs. We moved up the river and caught bluegill, bass and stumpknocker on nymphs.

We launched at Lake Manatee Fish Camp on another occasion and caught six bass to 3 pounds on poppers. We also caught bass, bluegill and channel catfish on nymphs.

I drove down to Casey Key and spent a morning looking for snook in the surf. It's still a little early, but the snook population in the surf will increase daily. I saw about 10 snook, but didn't catch any.

MAY FORECAST: Snook and tarpon are the best bets on fly rod around lighted docks along the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay. Spotted seatrout, ladyfish, jack crevalle and a few bluefish should cooperate over deep grass on both sides of the bay. Snook numbers should increase in the surf for those who like to sight-fishing with fly rod or spin tackle. In fresh water, I anticipate good action on bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish.

May is a great time to fish Sarasota Bay and surrounding waters. In addition, I look for decent action on peacock bass, Mayan cichlid, bluegill and shellcracker in south Florida waters.
I anticipate vastly improved sight-fishing for snook in the surf.

Fishing from a kayak is one of the world's great activities. I've been doing it since 1986.
If you'd like to fish, please give me a call!

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


Thursday, March 31, 2016

March resulted in great action for spotted seatrout

Drei Stroman of Fort Myers battles a feisty Palma Sola Bay pompano on fly rod.
How good has the fishing for spotted seatrout been?

Well, I set my goal for the year at 500 seatrout on fly. I've now totaled more than 500 trout (514 to be exact).  Guess I'll have to adjust that goal!

This fly-rod pompano put a big smile on Stroman's face.
But that illustrates just how good the seatrout fishing has been. We've done well on virtually every trip.

Palma Sola Bay has been the hot spot -- as it usually is this time of year. Fish drop into channels and sand holes during colder weather where they're easy targets for fly anglers and spin fishers alike.
During March, we averaged 42 trout per trip. And that included a 10-trout day in Sarasota Bay. On two occasions this year, I caught and released more than 100 trout in a day.

These fish have run the gamut of sizes. We caught plenty of them less than the minimum size limit (15 inches), but also have caught them up to 23 inches. Biggest trout of the month was a 25-incher that I caught in Little Sarasota Bay off Vamo. I found a bunch of trout over deep grass in that area.
John Weimer of Sarasota joined me for an outing on Palma Sola Bay and had a good time. We combined to catch and release 50 trout to 21 inches on Super Hair Clousers and Popovics Jiggy flies. In addition, we caught loads of ladyfish and a couple of sugar trout.
Jay Karol of New York struggles to subdue a pompano.

Drei Stroman and Katrina Hillard of Fort Myers joined me on Palma Sola Bay and had a good outing. We landed more than 50 trout, plus ladyfish, five sugar trout and a feisty pompano.

On a solo trip to Palma Sola, I caught 27 trout on Clousers and Jiggies, plus two sugar trout.
I fished Sarasota Bay for the first time since Nov. 6 and had a slow outing. I caught six trout and a few ladyfish out in the bay. I added another dozen trout from the basin near the launch. Largest fish was 16 inches.

We also did quite a bit of freshwater fishing at Lake Manatee during the month. Most trips were very good, but a couple were slow.

First outing resulted in 20 hand-sized copperheaded bluegill, six speckled perch and a half-dozen largemouth bass on No. 12 nymphs under a strike indicator.

The author with his largest tilapia on fly.
Denton Kent of Sarasota and I combined to land 15 bluegill, one bass and three specks on popers and nymphs. We fished hard on this outing, but found the going a little slow.

The next day saw improved action when John Weimer accompanied me. We caught 25 big bluegill, a bass, seven speckled perch and a 4-pound tilapia. It was the largest tilapia I've ever caught on fly rod. Most of the fish came on nymphs under a strike indicator.

On a solo outing a few days late, I caught 10 bluegill, seven speckled perch and four bass on nymphs. The specks were spawning in shallow water. if you caught one, you could expect more from that area.
John Kis and Jay Karol of New York had a good day in Palma Sola Bay. They totaled 50 trout to 19 inches, loads of ladyfish, a pompano, sugar trout, three Spanish mackerel to 5 pounds and a flounder. 

Most of the fish were caught on VuDu Shrimp. I also caught fish on a MirrOlure MirrOdine mini.

Majestic visitor on a Palma Sola Bay outing.
Ken Babineau, president of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers, joined me for a trip to Lake Manatee. Despite low wind and overcast, we struggled to land only five bluegill and one bass. it was the slowed day I've experienced on Lake Manatee in years.

I fished Little Sarasota Bay around Vamo and caught 19 trout to 5 pounds, a 25-inch snook, flounder, jack crevalle and loads of big ladyfish on MirreOlure Lil Johns, topwater plugs and MirrOlure Mini MirrOdines.

The month was on the windy side. I'm hoping the wind calms down just a little for April!

APRIL FORECAST: I anticipate continue strong spotted seatrout action over deep grass. Night snook should come on strong around lighted docks. There also could be some decent tarpon action around docks, too!  Redfish are anyone's guess (as always). In fresh water, I look for bluegill, speckled perch, largemouth bass and channel catfish in Lake Manatee and the Manatee River.
Bookings are coming in for April, so available days are getting fewer. Give me a call (941-284-3406) or email me (steve@kayakfishingsarasota) to make sure you get the day(s) you want.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing