Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Fly Fishing Challenge is Saturday

If you're not doing anything Saturday and have the itch to fly fish, you might want to enter the fifth annual Fall Fly Fishing Challenge.
Rick Grassett, a Sarasota professional fishing guide, and I founded the event after agreeing that the area has a lot of talented fly anglers and offers good saltwater fishing.
The event has attracted an average of more than 40 anglers each year. Competition is tough, but it should be. Our goal was to pit the best fly anglers in the area against one another.
Two years ago, we added a second division to the event to attract more anglers. In addition to the Open Division (all licensed captains and guides must compete in the this division), we added the Angler Division. Only non-guides are allowed to fish in this division.
In the Open Division, snook, spotted seatrout and redfish are the eligible species. Overall champion will be the angler who has the highest total of inches for a single redfish, trout and snook. Also, prizes will be awarded to the anglers who have the most total inches of redfish, most total inches of snook or most total inches of trout.
This is a catch, photo and release event. Anglers will be allowed to turn in a maximum of 10 photos.
In the Angler Division. eligible species include redfish, spotted seatrout, snook, ladyfish, jack crevalle, flounder, pompano, permit, mangrove snapper and other species. Six places will be awarded.
The tournament is sponsored by the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers and Coastal Conservation Association Florida.
Captains' meeting is scheduled for 6 a.m. Saturday at the City Island boat ramp in Ken Thompson Park.
For information, call Rick Grassett at (941) 350-9790 or Steve Gibson at (941) 284-3406.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Snook and spotted seatrout plentiful

I was after snook, spotted seatrout and redfish. Those are the eligible species for our Fall Fly Fishing Challenge on Saturday.

So, I launched my Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 and hit Bishop Harbor at about 7:15 this morning. No need to be on the water before dawn. Our captains' meeting is scheduled at 6:30 on Saturday and we can't leave for our destination until after it's over.

This morning was awesome. A heavy fog blanketed Bishop Harbor as I paddled to the northeast side. I had a mullet imitation tied on my 8-weight and a Super Hair Clouser on the 6. My plan was to cast for redfish and snook, then hit the trout.

I found a good snook early. The fish hit about 30 feet out from a mangrove island in about 18 inches of water. I knew it was a formidable fish. First thing it did was run for the mangroves, pulling me and the kayak with it.

I back-paddled to get the fish away from the trees and had the snook under control in just a few minutes. Turned out to be a large snook than I first thought. I estimated it at 30 inches as I was getting ready to release it. I later caught a smaller snook on the same fly.

Before I got out of Bishop Harbor, I found plenty of small seatrout around grass patches. I caught and released 15 or so, then headed out into Tampa Bay where I hoped to find a few redfish on sand bars.

Redfish were scarce. I caught several more trout and saw a few snook. But the reds eluded me.

Seems to always be that way in this tournament. I won the Trout Division one year and won the Snook Division twice. One year I did managed a slam (snook, trout and redfish), but the red was tiny. It's the only redfish I've taken in this event.

Maybe tomorrow I'll find a few hungry reds?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Flies catch fish and fund medical research

I met Stuart Patterson at the Federation of Fly Fishers Florida Conclave in Celebration.

Nice guy.

He watched as I tied a few of my Myakka Minnows.

We chatted as I finished about a half dozen flies.

During the conversation, I found out Patterson sells flies through his website:

Nothing out of the ordinary there. Lots of folks are trying to make an extra buck selling flies.

But Patterson is just a little different. He donates all of his profits to the American Syringolmyelia Alliance Project. Syringomyelia, often referred to as SM, is a chronic disorder of the spinal cord. It can lead to numbing and tingling, a loss of sensitivity to hot and cold, scoliosis, muscle weakness, paralysis and other symptoms.

Patterson's daughters, Hope and Holly, suffer a number of neurological disorders, including Syingomyelia, Chiari malformation, intrachranial hypertension and chronic pain.

Holly and Hope decided to raise money money to fund research. Their goal is to raise $40,000.

Patterson joined the effort when he began selling flies.

To date, the Patterson family has raised more than $20,000.

Patterson has patterns from some of the biggest names in Florida saltwater fly fishing, including Tim Borski, Rick Grassett, Aaron Adams, Norm Zeigler and others.

Not only are the flies great fish-catchers, but money collected from their sales go to fight crippling diseases.

If you are in need of flies, check out Stuart Patterson's website.

You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gibby at FFF Florida Conclave

I will be tying flies and conducting a kayak fishing seminar Friday and Saturday at the Federation of Fly Fishers Florida Council Conclave at the Ramada Inn Resort in Celebration, Fla.
If you will be there, please top by and say hello or introduce yourself.
I will be tying the famous Mighty Myakka Minnow, a fly I designed five years ago that does nothing more than catch fish -- a lot of fish. It's my go-to fly for oscar and Mayan cichlid in The Everglades. It's easy to to -- if you know how. And that's what I'll show you at the Conclave.
I'll also demonstrate how to tie my variation of the D.T. Special, a fly I consider to be THE best beach snook fly ever created. I've been using it and catching snook along the beaches for the past 20 years. Many flies will take snook, but none like the D.T. Special Variation.
Capt. Matt Hoover, a guide in Naples, Fla., sent me a D.T. Special year ago. He told me it was the only beach snook fly I'd ever need.
He was right.
I've tweaked it a little over the years to suit my needs -- hence, the term "variation."
I sometimes get credited with developing the pattern. I did not. I have changed it somewhat and I think it's a better fly.
My seminar on freshwater kayak fishing is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday in Room D of the Ramada Inn. I have what I think is a very interesting Power Point presentation. My seminar will last about an hour, with the last 15 minutes for questions. Of course, I'll be available throughout the Conclave to chat about fly fishing or fly tying.
The Ramada Inn is located at 6375 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Celebration. Phone number is (407) 390-5800.
For information on the Conclave, call Capt. Pete Greenan at (941) 232-2960.

Sarasota kill shark tournament still alive

I read with interest Ed Mauer's commentary about the Sarasota Shark Tournament in Florida Fly Fishing Magazine. I understand his feelings.
I wrote a similar piece for publication about two years ago.
It's unfathomable there's still a kill shark tournament being conducted. It's even more amazing that it takes place in upscale Sarasota. And it's deplorable that seemingly no one cares.
Shark tournaments disappeared from the scene in the mid-1980s when shark anglers figured out there was nothing positive resulting from their efforts. One Sarasota sharker, Terry Copeland, was sickened after a huge shark he caught gave birth posthumously on the dock at Hart's Landing.
"A total waste," Copeland remembered saying at the time.
That was the last time the Sarasota antique furniture restorer killed shark.
Sharks, according to Dr. Robert Hueter of Mote Marine Laboratory, have been in serious trouble for the last 2o years because of overfishing. At the height of the tournament rage and because of commercial fishing, they were being harvested faster than they could reproduce. Some sharks were caught, had their fins removed and dumped back into the sea to die. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in the Orient, and fins brought big money.
The fishery teetered on the brink of collapse.
The shark population received a boost when most shark anglers realized they were part of the problem and ended the competitions. Shark tournaments still existed, but with release formats.
Three years ago, one resurfaced locally when the Sarasota tournament was born. What's ironic is that the event was sponsored early on by businesses run by sportsmen involved in the Coastal Conservation Association Florida. In fact, one was a former state CCA board member and past president of the Sarasota Chapter of CCA. That person was questioned about sponsoring the event, but chose not to withdraw sponsorship at the time (the business did not sponsor the last event).
What was even more frustrating is the local newspaper and its TV partner chose to glorify the event through photographs and coverage. Despite numerous columns and stories over the years spotlighting problems with the shark fishery, the paper and TV station chose to ignore and glorify. Either editors there didn't read the columns or didn't believe them.
Or maybe it was simply an opportunity to sell newspapers?
Crowds gathered a weigh-ins held at Island Park near Marina Jack where dead, fly-covered sharks would be hung for the blood-thirsty crowd to ogle as the chest-thumping anglers absorbed the admiration.
All was justified, however, because, according to tournament organizers, all of the rotting meat was donated to needy people.
Let's see if I've got this straight: It's OK for me to kill a shark or a deer or a beer or a squirrel as long as I give it to another person to eat?
What is even further disgusting is that some of the competitors caught, killed and used tarpon, a great and protected Florida gamefish, for shark bait. Anglers may catch, keep and kill a tarpon as long as they have a special $50 tag from the state.
Here's betting the tournament will hold its fourth annual kill clash next year. The local paper doesn't seem to care. Nor does its TV companion.
But what's even more sad is that most Sarasotans or Floridians don't seem to care.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Slamming in the shallows

Flats fishing with Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing has been good and should really get better now that the cool weather has arrived.

Slams -- redfish, snook and spotted seatrout on the same trip -- have been par for the course. In fact, we've slammed on eight of our nine recent outings.

Top spot has been Bishop Harbor off southern Tampa Bay during the incoming tide. We've been getting snook to 26 inches, redfish to 28 and spotted seatrout to 16 on Rapala Skitter Walks, D.O.A. 1/4-ounce gold glitter shrimp and D.O.A. CAL Jigs.

Spotted seatrout also are scattered on grass patches in the middle of the harbor.

Outside in Tampa Bay, we've been getting redfish, snook, spotted seatrout, jack crevalle and flounder. We recently paddled to a spoil island near Port Manatee and caught eight snook to 27 inches, three redfish to 24, four spotted seatrout to 18, five jack crevalle, two gag grouper and 11 flounder. Most of the fish came at the bottom of the tide, right on the edge of the flat.

Next day, snook and redfish were absent, but we did land 15 spotted seatrout to 18 inches on CAL Jigs.

Ken Taylor of North Port joined us for an all-day outing and caught plethora of spotted seatrout on D.O.A. Shrimp and the MirrOlure MirrOdine in gold finish. He caught his fish in Bishop Harbor and on the flats in southern Tampa Bay.

We also landed snook, redfish, spotted seatrout and flounder on the trip.

John Garrity of Toledo, Ohio and his son, Jake, fished a half-day with me at Buttonwood Harbor on Sarasota Bay. Action was slow on the outgoing tide, but they did end up with spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, ladyfish and flounder.

We'll start running our heralded Everglades trips in about a month. In addition, to largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker and stumpknocker, we target the exotics: oscar, Mayan cichlid and peacock bass.

Fishing improves significantly after the rainy season when the water level drops. It concentrates the fish. Anglers average 100 fish or more per trip.

Give me a call at (941) 284-3406 if you'd like to book a kayak fishing outing.

Remember, the worst time you'll have will be pretty darn good.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Topwater success

My buddy, Ken Taylor of Nort Port, Fla., is a great spin angler. And he's one of the best when it comes to lures.

Taylor knows his plastic.

He can recite model and color numbers like a third-grader reciting the alphabet.

When we launched the kayaks this morning at Bishop Harbor, Taylor toted along a red-and-black backpack loaded with lures of every size, shape and color imaginable. He had jigs, plastic shrimp and jerk worms. He had topwater plugs, swimming mullet and spoons. If it wasn't in his back, he didn't need it.

I carried my share, too. However, I had a Rapala Skitter Walk tied onto a medium heavy spinning rod. From my past four or five trips to Bishop Harbor, I knew that's all I'd need during the first part of the incoming tide.

Action started out slow as we cast around mangrove islands on the east side of the harbor. I had a fish take a swipe at my plug twice, but I didn't connect. Finally, I hooked a fairly nice snook. I lost the fish after a jump, but it was action.

Meanwhile, Taylor was casting an artificial shrimp under a popping cork.
I caught three more snook on the topwater, a nice redfish and a couple of spotted seatrout. That's a slam.
Taylor couldn't solicit any interest in his shrimp-and-float combo.
When the topwater bite ended, we paddled out of Bishop Harbo and into southern Tampa Bay. We caught a number of small spotted seatrout and each lost nice bluefish at the boat. We also had shots at several small bonnethead shark.
We had to call it day earlier than usual and paddled back to the launch. We loaded the gear into the truck, then put the kayaks on the trailer.
"Next time, I'll start out with a topwater," said Taylor.
I'm sure he will.