Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Every day is different at beautiful Lake Manatee

Another beautiful sunrise at Lake Manatee

I have a client who asked me to call him when the action gets hot.

“I’ll just fly in the next day,” he said.

One of eight channel catfis that hit the Myakka Minnow

No way.

You can’t judge fishing tomorrow by what’s going on today. And what would I feel like if he purchased an airline ticket, flew into town and the fishing suddenly went south? Or if a high pressure system moved into the area? Or we were hit by thunderstorms or gale-force wind?

My last two outings are a study in contradiction. One was wonderful and the other quite slow.

I fished Lake Manatee, perhaps my favorite Florida lake, the first day and did wonderfully. Things started out slowly, but picked up as the morning went on. Using the Myakka Minnow, I caught 60 bluegill, stumpknocker and shellcracker. In addition, I caught a pair of bass and landed two of the eight channel cats I hooked.
Even little bass can't resist the Myakka Minnow

Quality day and quality fish.

The best morning, I met Dusty Sprague of North Port. We were going to fish out of his renovated Bass Tracker, a beautiful aluminum skiff. We launched at the Lake Manatee Fish Camp ramp and headed east under the bridge and along the north shoreline. Things started out slow, but we weren’t worried because it was that way the morning prior.

After an hour, we had only two or three small bluegill. In fact, the fish weren’t hitting the Myakka Minnow at all. I was getting them on a No. 12 Aunt Sarah’s Homely Daughter nymph under a strike indicator. Sprague was using something similarly small.

The morning was crisp and bright. Only a few clouds were in the sky, indicating that perhaps a high-pressure system had pushed into the area. The wind was out of the northeast.
A nice bass on the Maykka Minnow

We were protected along the northeast shore and quite comfortable. But things would have been better had the fish cooperated just a little better.

We started picking up a few more fish and then the Myakka Minnow began to works its charm. After both of us switched to that fly, we combined to catch 25 or 30 bluegill and a couple of stumpknocker. We didn’t land any bass or shellcracker. We didn’t hook a catfish.

It was 180 degrees from the day prior.

Most of the bluegill were small, with only four being “hand sized.”

We did encounter schooling bass. However, every time we approached them, they’d go down. Shouldn’t be too much longer before they begin to stay on the surface longer.

The day prior, I’d hooked eight channel cats and landed two. This trip resulted in no hookups.
A typical Lake Manatee copperhead bluegill

Channel catfish are trophies among freshwater anglers. They hit savagely, pull like an elephant and are tough on fly rod to land. The two cats I landed were only about 3 pounds, yet they took about 5 minutes before I couldn’t get them alongside my kayak.

In addition, channel cats are excellent on the table.

The main thing about fishing Lake Manatee is that you often are lulled into a false sense of what’s going on. You’ll catch a hand-sized bluegill and follow that with seven or eight smaller fish. The bites are all the same.

This will continue and then you get the familiar take of a bluegill and set the hook. But the water erupts, your rod bends deeply and line begins to streak out the rod tip.

You’re quickly aware you don’t have a bluegill.

Channel cats often will take you into your backing – if you can get them away from the vegetation. If they decide to head to the shoreline, you don’t have much of a chance. But if they head out into the open lake, you have hope.

You never know when the cat bite will take place. You’ll hook none for three days straight, then they’ll with reckless abandon the fourth day.

Don’t tell your buddies. The fish just might get lockjaw the next morning.


  1. That is one cool looking bluegill! Everything is turning colder here in Michigan. I wish I was in Floriday. Try to get there every other year. A budy has access to a company condo on Siesta Key. We are heading there in April. I will be bringing my rod and reel.

    Nice blog by the way.

    The Average Joe Fisherman

  2. Ryan, thank you!
    Maybe we can fish in April!