Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gator trout Sarasota Bay surprise; beach snook coming soon

Snook will hit the surf soon. Peak season is June thru August along Florida's West Coast.

Something’s going on around Sarasota Bay that has me stumped. But I’m not questioning it one iota.

In fact, I hope it continues.

Gator trout have invaded the bay. They’re trout unlike any we’ve ever seen.

A couple of weeks ago, I had Chuck Linn of Oklahoma out for a 6-hour trip. The Oklahoma angler had little saltwater fishing experience.

“I fished the Steinhatchee area a few years ago and caught small trout,” he said.

Smallest trout he caught on this outing was 4 pounds.

That 4-pounder was his first fish, and we thought that would be the highlight of the day.

We were both wrong.

Fishing in 18 inches of water off Whale Key along the west side of Sarasota Bay, Linn caught and released three monster trout, ranging from 6 ¼ pounds to slightly more than 7 pounds.

That’s three trout off more than 6 pounds – in one morning!

To put that in perspective, I’ve been fishing the area for 35 years. During that time, I’ve taken two trout of more than 6 pounds. One was caught in 1990 in the warm-water runoff of the Crystal River power plant. The other was caught in March 2007 in Pine Island Sound.

Other anglers are experiencing similar success. Fellow MCFF club member Rick Grassett has been leading clients to gator trout on both fly and spin tackle. One of his clients caught and released a 6-pounder on fly near Selby Gardens in Sarasota Bay.

What’s going on?

Who knows?

Why question?

Just enjoy.

It won’t be long before I put the kayaks in the garage. Beach snook season almost is here. Guiding clients to snook on the fly is one of my specialties and I enjoy it very much. I’ve been doing this for more than 25 years and my success rate is good.

This 7-pound spotted seatrout was caught on a topwater plug in 18 inches of water. The fish was released.
Beach snook fishing is one of my favorite things to do. It’s sight-fishing at its best. During a typical morning, clients will see more than 200 snook and sometimes more than 400 snook, ranging in size from 20 inches to 40 inches.

I’ve conducted Beach Snook Seminars throughout the area, including at least three to MCFF members. One thing I emphasize is there is no need to wade. In fact, wading is taboo. Yet when I visit my favorite stretch of beach, I routinely see beach snook anglers “waist deep” in the water and casting to the west.

Truth is most of the snook are behind them.

While you will see snook lying on the bottom 20 to 25 feet out, those usually aren’t feeding fish. Most of the snook that are actively feeding are found within 5 feet of the dry sand, cruising parallel along the beach.

My best day took place in August of 2009. During that beautiful morning, I caught and released 15 trout from 25 to 40 inches, three redfish to 32 and jumped three giant tarpon.

I usually use a 6-weight TFO TiCRX rod, 20-pound leader with a 25-pound shock tippet. Fly of choice is Gibby’s D.T. Variation, a fly which has accounted for more than 5,000 snook over the years.

Why argue with success?

Beach snook action begins heating up in May and runs through August.

If any of you are on Facebook, please send a friend request.

Also, if you are on Twitter, you can follow me @Gibby3474. I routinely “tweet” fishing updates.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing



(941) 284-3406