Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oklahoma angler has the day of a lifetime on Sarasota Bay

Oklahoma's Chuck Linn battles a beefy trout in shallow water.

When Chuck Linn hooked, fought and landed a 4-pound spotted seatrout first thing in the morning, it figured to be a good day on Sarasota Bay.

Of course, every day on the bay is great; some are just better than others.

Spotted seatrout are common in Sarasota Bay and catches of 50 or more are common. But most range from undersized to maybe 24 inches. Slot limit for trout is 15 to 20 inches.

Linn, an Oklahoma native, kept casting the 3.5-inch Bomber Ba-donka-donk, a mullet-looking topwater plug. And he kept hooking trout. But these trout dwarfed his first fish. He landed a trout that weight slightly more than 6 pounds on the Boga Grip. He added a trout of more than 7 pounds a little while later. And he capped his morning with another trout of more than 6 pounds.

Chuck Linn shows off the first of three huge spotted seatrout.
 We usually don’t catch that many “gator” trout in a year.

But large trout seem to be the norm this year around Sarasota Bay. In January, a local angler landed a 9-pounder.

Twice over three days, Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict guide services had clients land trout of 6 pounds or larger.

“We’ve been hearing about large trout for quite some time now,” said Keith Tennant, who works at Economy Tackle in Sarasota.

Obviously, it’s just a high point in the cycle. But who cares? We just hope to get in on the action a few more times before it ends.

Usually, there aren’t many large trout taken along Florida’s Southwest coast. We have a lot of trout, but don’t encounter many large fish.

It’s different along the state’s East coast, where 10-pounders are fairly common.

One thing I’ve always known is that most of the larger trout are taken in very shallow water. That held true for Linn. His trio of titanic trout was taken from 12 inches of water.

The largest trout I’ve caught was a 6 ½-pounder in March 2007. I caught the fish on a jerk worm in Pine Island Sound while fishing for redfish with Capt. Danny Latham. I landed a 6-pounder in 1990 while fishing the warm-water runoff at the Crystal River Power Plant. I used a Cotee Jig.

Linn bested my record easily – in just a couple of hours.

While I don’t expect this action to go on forever, I do think it will last at least another month or two.

If my clients want a lot of fish, I can take them to the deep grass areas where they will catch plenty of small to slot trout. If my clients want big fish, we’ll catch a low tide and head for the shallows. They might only catch five fish, but there could be a monster or monsters in the group.

I told Chuck Linn his 4-pounder probably would be the fish of the day.

I was wrong.

I apologized to Chuck.

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing montly report

Denton Kent caught a nice snook on fly.

Matt Fleischhauer of Illinois landed a dandy pompano.

Chuck Linn of Oklahoma shows off one of three monster trout he caught on topwater plugs.

It doesn’t seem possible, but March is almost gone. Wow!

Fishing has been really good over the last month, with a variety of species cooperating in both fresh and salt waters. Anglers fishing with Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing have been getting spotted seatrout to 7 pounds, pompano to 3, redfish to 9, snook to 6, bluefish to 2, flounder, ladyfish and a load of other species.

In fresh water, we’ve been getting some big bluegill, stumpknocker and bass to 2 pounds on fly.

Fly angler Dave Sutton fished with me and wanted to target bluegill. We managed to catch a bunch on the Manatee River. We used popping bugs, nymphs and, of course, my Myakka Minnow. All fish were taken on light fly rods and floating lines.

We launch out of Ray’s Canoe Hideaway and usually paddle upriver. We then float back and fly fish along the way. The scenery is gorgeous and fishing often very good.

The trip of the month in salt water was on March 24 when Chuck Linn of Oklahoma joined me for a 6-hour outing on Sarasota Bay. Chuck connected on a 4-pound spotted seatrout right off the bat on a topwater plug. We figured that fish might be the day’s top trout.


Chuck caught a number of larger trout, including a pair that went slightly more than 6 pounds and another that weighed 7.

What a day.

In addition, Chuck caught and released a small redfish and lost a bull red.

It was a nice trip on a beautiful day.

The day prior, Jerry Amato of Sarasota and Cleveland, Ohio joined me and caught a good number of spotted seatrout on flies and jigs. Jerry also added a number of leaping ladyfish.

On March 21, repeat clients Mark Fleischhauer of Illinois and his son, Matt, fished Sarasota Bay near Stephens Point. Action during their six-hour outing was pretty steady. They caught spotted seatrout to 18 inches, ladyfish, flounder, Spanish mackerel and pompano. All of the fish were taken on D.O.A. 1/8-ounce CAL Jigs with gold paddle tails.

John Kis of New York, another repeat client, fished Stephens Point with me on March 20. John tried fly fishing for snook around light docks just before dawn, but didn’t connect. The tide just wasn’t conducive and the fish weren’t hungry.

However, he still managed plenty of spotted seatrout, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and bluefish on CAL Jigs.

Denton Kent, a winter resident, fished his second trip with me and had a fine day. Denton started the day with a 23-inch spotted seatrout on fly before daylight. He then added a 27-inch snook and another large trout before dawn.

During the day, Denton caught and released a plethora of fish, including spotted seatrout, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel. He might have caught some other species, but I can’t remember!

Fly angler John Garcia of California fishing Stephens Point with me on March 12 and had a very consistent day, catching spotted seatrout to 4 pounds, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and bluefish.

John Garrity of Toledo Ohio and his son joined me for a “windier-than-expected” day on Sarasota Bay. The wind was expected to blow around 6-12 mph out of the south. But, as usual, the wind didn’t read the weather report. Still, they managed to catch spotted seatrout, ladyfish, flounder and Spanish mackerel on CAL Jigs.

Avid fly fisher Chris Bentsen of Redmond, Wash., fished the west side of Sarasota Bay on a windy day. He wanted to target redfish and managed one small red on a spoon fly. He also caught some spotted seatrout and ladyfish.

APRIL FORECAST: The wind should lie down a little and the fishing should actually improve. I look for spotted seatrout, ladyfish, pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel on the deep grass flats.

Large redfish action should be good on the shallow grass. In addition, I anticipate larger spotted seatrout on the shallow grass.

Snook will be available at night and before dawn around dock lights. This is a great chance for fly anglers to get a snook. We also get spotted seatrout and an occasional redfish around the lights on fly.

Freshwater fishing should improve drastically. Bluegill, shellcracker, stumpknocker and bass will be the prime targets.

Also, snook will begin to hit the surf. Prime day for sight-fishing snook in the surf is Mary through August. This is sight-fishing at its best and my specialty. I’ve been guiding anglers to snook in the surf for more than 20 years.

These trips book up quickly, so I suggest that you book your trip early.

As always, I’d like to thank my gracious sponsors: Native Watercraft, D.O.A. Lures, Temple Fork Outfitters, Peak Fishing and Economy Tackle.

Please feel free to email or call me if you have any questions.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Deep grass, canals and the flats are paying off for kayak anglers

Bruce Butler shows off an oversized snook that was taken on a D.O.A. CAL Jig and gold paddle tail in Sarasota Bay.
I am amazed at the productivity of kayak fishing. That’s probably why I decided to devote myself to the sport years ago.

On average, we catch more fish while fishing from kayaks than we would if we were out in a powerboat.

The reason is simple: The fish do not know we’re there.

Of course, it’s all variable.

Over the past month, we’ve been doing fairly well in a number of situations. When the wind allows, we’ve been concentrating on the deep grass areas of Sarasota Bay off Stephens Point, Bishop Point and Whale Key.

On these trips, we’ve been getting lots of spotted seatrout to 19 inches, pompano to 2 pounds, bluefish to 2 and Spanish mackerel to 3. Most of the fish are being taken on D.O.A. CAL Jigs (1/16 and 1/8 ounce) and gold paddle tails.

Fly anglers have been using my Big Eye Baitfish fly and doing well on the same species, too.

Randy Honaker of Centerville, Ohio scored the biggest trout of his life on fly near Buttonwood Harbor. He also landed his largest ladyfish and first-ever flounder on fly. In all, Honaker caught and released at least 20 trout.

Chris Bentsen of Redmond, Wash., wanted to target redfish on fly – and he did. We didn’t encounter any large fish, but he did land a 16-incher on one of his spoon flies near Buttonwood Harbor. Bentsen probably could have caught a decent amount of spotted seatrout and ladyfish, but opted to concentrate on redfish.

Dave Sutton of Michigan joined me for a freshwater outing. He wanted to target big bluegill on fly rod. We selected the Manatee River and launched at Ray’s Canoe Outpost. The day wasn’t fast and furious, but it was steady. We caught 25 bluegill to 10 inches on poppers, nymphs and my Myakka Minnow. We also landed a couple of bass to 1 ½ pounds.

Wind has been problem. That’s to be expected. It’s March! However, determined anglers can still catch fish.

Fishing with Bruce Butler of Ozello, Fla., we caught and released snook to 32 inches, spotted seatrout to 19 and a number of small redfish on CAL Jigs and paddle tails.

Regular client John Garrity and his son joined me on a windy day along east Sarasota Bay. The wind wasn’t too bad when we started and wasn’t expected to kick up until early afternoon. We figured we could get out, fish and beat the wind. But it started blowing much earlier than predicted.

What to do?

We anchored on the lee side of an island along Bowles Creek. We fished the channel and landed spotted seatrout, sugar trout, silver trout, Spanish mackerel and flounder. The flounder was the largest I have seen in a quite a while.

All fish came on CAL Jigs.

There has been quite a bit of interest in my Everglades trips. Unfortunately, I have decided not to book any – at least for this year. Last year’s cold weather killed a majority of the exotics – oscar and Mayan cichlid. We could catch plenty of bass, bluegill, stumpknocker, shellcracker and speckled perch, but we can catch those species closer to home.

We might start doing Everglades trips in 2012.

Beach snook fishing is just around the corner. We start walking the beaches and sight-fishing the surf for snook in May. The season runs through August.

On most mornings, my clients will see at least 300 snook, with many going more than 20 pounds.

We use 6-, 7- and 8-weight fly rods, sinktip or full floating lines and 12-pound leaders with 25- to 30-pound shock tippets. Fly of choice is Gibby’s D.T. Variation, the only fly you’ll ever need in the surf.

This is classic sight-fishing at its best.

Last year was expected to be down because of the snook kill caused during the 2010 winter. But the numbers of snook along the beach weren’t down at all in the areas we fish.

If you’re interested in a beach snook outing, I’d suggest you book your trip early in order to get prime times. Cost is $200. I will take an extra angler for $35.

I supply all fly gear, but you’re certainly more than welcome to use your own.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406