Thursday, November 25, 2010

Southern Drawl's November fishing report

Todd Dawson landed this fine pompano on a D.O.A. CAL Jig with gold paddle tail.

We’re at the beginning of some fine fishing over the deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay.

Over the last week, we started catching good numbers of spotted seatrout, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish, gag grouper and a few Spanish mackerel.

Stu Black and Peter Sullivan of Ontario joined me for a 6-hour outing in Sarasota Bay off Stephen’s Point. It was a memorable trip because Stu caught his first fish on fly rod, a fine spotted seatrout.

The duo combined for a good catch of spotted seatrout, ladyfish and a couple of bluefish. Pompano were conspicuously absent.
Fly fisher Joe McColl of Tampa and a nice bluefish.

That changed the next trip when fly fisher Joe McColl of Tampa joined me. We fished off Stephen’s Point and had steady action on spotted seatrout, ladyfish, bluefish and pompano. We managed blues to 3 pounds and pomps to 2 ½. Most of the spotted seatrout were small.

Small trout had been the name of the game until Todd Dawson of Bradenton and his son, Andy, fished with me. Again, steady action was the name of the game. They caught spotted seatrout to 22 inches, bluefish to 3 pounds and pompano to 3. I managed a trout that went 24 inches. What luck!

Bob Parker, past president of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota, and I fished early in the week and did well. Parker managed spotted seatrout, gag grouper and a nice Spanish mackerel. I landed spotted seatrout, bluefish, pompano and ladyfish.

Top fly has been my Big Eye Baitfish. Everything seems to like it!

Sam Buehrer of Ohio fished Buttonwood Harbor and off Whale Key with me an had fun on light spin tackle. Buehrer landed a bunch of spotted seatrout and ladyfish, plus a nice Spanish mackerel and a 4-pound pompano. All were taken on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with gold paddle tails.

Brian Green of Ontario and his buddy, Keith, fished with me on a very windy and tough day. Brian did manage 12 spotted seatrout and a small redfish on fly.

This action is just the beginning of what’s in store. An approaching cold front should really heat up the bite.

Last December was excellent for pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout.

If you’ve never caught a pompano on fly, now is the time. They pull hard and make determined runs.

A good option is to book a 6-hour trip and get out before the sun comes up. That way, you’ll get a shot of snook under the lights. When that action subsides, we’ll head out to fish the deep grass.

My new fleet of 2011 Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5s has arrived and I’m thrilled. They not only look sharp, but also fish great!

On a side note, I want to let everyone know that my wife, Kathy, is recovering nicely from her recent surgery after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She didn’t feel too hot for a week, but now has returned to work and feels very good.

If you’re interested in tailing redfish, Pine Island Sound is the place on those days when the wind cooperates and we get a negative low tide. In addition, spotted seatrout, snook and tarpon are possibilities in the Sound.

I also do freshwater trips on local lakes and streams for bass, bluegill, shellcracker, speckled perch and channel cats.

December is booking up, so choose a day and let me know.

Again, I’d like to mention my terrific sponsors: Native Watercraft, TRO fly rods and spinning rods and D.O.A. Lures.

Happy holidays to all.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fishing just getting better and better in Sarasota Bay

A beautiful Sarasota Bay pompano that fell for Gibby's Big Eye Baitfish Fly
I had an inkling fishing was getting ready break loose.
On Monday, I took Bob Parker of Sarasota out on the inaugural voyage of the new 2011 Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5s. Fishing was very good.
We fish the deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay and caught a variety of fish: spotted seatrout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and gag grouper.
Action was steady.
November and December on Sarasota Bay can be very good.
Top fly, as usual, was my Big Eye Baitfish.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Interest and effort the most important ingredients of fly fishing

The author battles a Sarasota Bay pompano on fly rod while standing in his Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 kayak
I've been fly fishing for more than 45 years and more than 20 in salt water.
I started out fly fishing for bluegill and other panfish while growing up in Ohio. I began concentrating on the sport after I moved to Florida in 1971.
For the most part, I concentrated on fresh water, casting popping bugs to bluegill. I really enjoyed catching bluegills on fly rod and still do.
The only reason I didn't fly fish in the salt is that there were no fly shops in Sarasota and certainly no equipment. I did, however, catch my first tarpon on fly in 1976. I caught my first snook a couple of years later. Since then, I've caught tarpon to 165 pounds, snook to 20, redfish to 15, spotted seatrout to 5, Spanish mackerel to 7 1/2, jack crevalle, cobia, bonefish, permit, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, flounder, barramundi, amberjack, gag grouper and a variety of other species.
While I'm certainly not the best fly caster around, I do cast well enough to catch plenty of fish. I've won a number of fly-fishing tournaments over the years.
I've long wondered why fly casting is so difficult for so many people? I've come to the conclusion it's for a number of reasons. First, many people feel they can pay for a couple of lessons and become proficient without having to really work at it.
My belief is that success of lack thereof in fly casting is directly proportional to the amount of time, effort and interest a beginner has in the sport. If someone wants to be a good fly caster, he certainly will become one if he really wants to do it and dedicates his time to it.
I gave a lesson to a prominent Sarasota real estate broker and her boyfriend a few years back. It was quickly apparent neither would succeed easily. They struggled throughout the hour of instruction. Finally, I asked, "So, tell me, what's your interest in fly casting?
"Oh, we're going to Islamorada next week to fly fish for bonefish!"
They were headed for the Bonefish Capital of Florida and thought they'd be successful after one lesson.
No way.
I take a lot of fly fisher fishing. Some are decent. Some fair. And a lot of them struggle. Most are from the north and have been fly fishing small streams for trout for many years. Long casts aren't required on those streams. In fact, a cast is rarely required.
I call what they do "fly flipping" rather than fly casting. They flip the fly 15 to 20 feet upstream and let it then float with the current.
When they get out on the saltwater flats, 15 to 20 feet is all they can muster.
You don't have to cast 100 feet to be successful in the salt. If you can make an accurate 50-foot cast, you're in business. And a 50-foot cast is quite easy.
But casting 50 feet for many clients is something that has proven to be quit difficult.
There are those who can cast 80, 90 or 100 feet with no problem whatsoever. However, they have no clue when it comes to fly fishing.
Sure, you have to learn to cast a fly before you can actually fish with a fly rod. But fly casting and fly fishing are two separate endeavors.
Once you learn how to cast, you then have to learn how to fish.
What flies to use?
What lines?
You also have to learn to tie a few knots, how to attach backing to a reel, fly line to backing, butt leader to fly line and many other things.
You have to learn to double haul, roll cast, sidearm cast and accurately cast into tight spots.
And don't forget you have to learn all about the species you're seeking.
I've seen anglers who can cast 100 feet, but can't catch fish. They have no idea how to fish. They can cast, yet they can't fish.
I place more emphasis on fishing than casting. If you can cast 50 feet accurately and know how to fish, you're well ahead of the curve.
I had a guy out this past summer who could cast 80 feet with ease. I'd point out a snook 20 feet away, and he'd cast 80 feet.
Every time.
I truly believe you're either born and angler or you're not. There are born musicians and artists.
I can't carry a tune or draw a straight line.
But I can catch fish.
And that's what I was born to do.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sixth annual MCFF/CCA Fall Fly Fishing Challenge results

From Capt. Rick Grassett:

The 2010 Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers/Coastal Conservation Association “Fall Fly Fishing Challenge”, headquartered at the Sarasota Outboard Club, was held on Saturday, November 6, 2010. A total of 28 fly anglers in 2 divisions participated in the catch, photo and release event targeting multiple species in a points per inch format. The event is a fun, friendly competition designed to promote the sport of fly fishing and benefit conservation efforts of both organizations. Sponsors of the event were Orvis, CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, Economy Tackle, Tampa Angler, Cook’s Sportland, Fisherman’s Edge, Discount Tackle Outlet, New Pass Grill and Bait Shop, Andy Thornal Co. and Flying Fish Outfitters.

Fly Angler Division-open to all anglers except guides and licensed captains

Grand Champion-Highest point total

Robert Fischer, Tampa, FL, 405.75 points

2nd Place

Tom Cawthon, Seminole, FL, 248.75 points

3rd Place

Walt Plasson, Sarasota, FL, 197.25 points

Open Division- Guides, licensed captains, their fishing partners and any other angler who wishes to participate

Grand Champion-Largest redfish, snook and trout

Dusty Sprague, North Port, FL, 43.75"

Redfish-Total inches

Capt. Scott Dalton, Bradenton, FL, 116.75"

Snook-Total inches

Steve Gibson, Sarasota, FL, 115.25"

Trout-Total inches

Jeff Lemieux, North Port, FL, 48.5"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Despite the weather, fishing the tourney was a good idea

Co-tournament director Rick Grassett, left, presents me with a plaque and gift certificate after winning the Snook Division of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers/Coastal Conservation Association Fall Fly Fishing Challenge. (Photo by Bob Parker)
Poor weather is the bane of fishing tournaments.

Of course, the weather was perfect for two weeks leading up to the 6th annual Mangrove Coast/Coastal Conservation Association Fall Fly Fishing Challenge. A front moved through the day before the event, bringing with it wind and cold.

I’ve fished the event since its inception. In fact, the tournament was the brainchild of myself and Capt. Rick Grassett. I didn’t want to miss this year’s tourney, but when you fish out of a kayak, you don’t have many options.

I arrived at the captains’ meeting at City Island early Saturday. The wind was whipping out of the east. I had planned to fish Buttonwood Harbor, but it didn’t look good.

Despite the weather, we had a good turnout. More than 30 fly anglers showed up for the meeting.

After the meeting, I headed up Longboat Key for Buttonwood Harbor. When I arrived, I got out of the truck and walked through the mangroves to the water. I was met by a stiff wind and whitecaps. I talked with another kayaker there who hadn’t launched his boat.

I decided not to launch. I got back in the truck and headed for the other side of the bay. I figured I would launch at Stephen’s Point and have at least a little protection.

Good choice!

It was still dark when I arrived. I figured I would get a few shots at snook around a dock light in the basin. I paddled to the light and could see a few snook . I hooked a fish on my second cast and was able to subdue it a few minutes later.

It wasn’t a huge snook, but it was good enough. Since the tournament is catch, photo and release, there are no size limits. So, My 20.5-inch snook gave me a good start. Shortly after I took a picture of the snook and released it, it was too light to fish the dock. The light had been turned off and the snook disappeared. I still made a few casts – just in case.

Then, I paddled out into Sarasota Bay and fished a couple of docks on the point. I hooked a small snook on the third dock. Over the next hour, I caught, photographed and released six more snook. That gave me 115 inches.

Not bad.

I decided to give trout a try. I paddled just south of the point and anchored on a grass patch. I caught and released several trout. When the action slowed, I’d find another grass patch and anchor. I caught quite a few trout, using this technique. I had 103 inches of trout.

Now, all I had to get was a redfish to complete the slam. I cast along the east shoreline for two hours, but couldn’t find a red.

By this time, the wind was blowing 25 miles per hour out of the north. I knew I’d have a tough time paddling back to the launch. It was indeed tough, and I paddled into four-foot seas. I was fine once I paddled into the basin.

I cast along docks on my way in, but only managed a flounder. I stowed my gear and put the kayak on the trailer. I edited my photos and filled out my scorecard.

Time to head to the Sarasota Outboard Club to turn in my photos and card.

You get a sense of how everyone did by the demeanor of anglers at the club. I could tell, most hadn’t done very well.

Dusty Sprague of North Port had the only slam (snook, trout and redfish). Since it as the only one, didn’t matter than it was small.

A couple of guys did well on redfish in the north bay around Long Bar. Few did well on trout or snook.

I felt good that I decided to enter only my snook photos.

Turned out to be a wise decision. I won the Snook Division – easily. I won a $75 gift certificate from The Tampa Angler and a plaque. I also won a bunch of prizes on the raffle, including a fly line, Puglisi fibers and a $25 gift certificate.

I wondered whether I’d even be able to fish.

I’m glad I did.