Saturday, December 1, 2012

Trout, redfish and big bluefish were the headliners of November

Zach Griffith of Missouri shows off one of three reds he caught while "sight-fishing" in Sarasota Bay.

November wasn't what you'd call a month that any Florida chamber of commerce would have wanted.

For the most part, it was breezy and quite a bit cooler than normal. If the pattern hold, we could be in for a cold winter.

However, the month did offer decent fishing action throughout Sarasota Bay.

Zach Griffith of Missouri started things off on a high note. He began the morning spotted seatrout and ladyfish on virtually every cast while drifting the deep grass off the east side of Whale Key.

We moved the a grass edge on the south side of the key to see if some larger trout wanted to play. I got lucky and caught an 8-pound, 29-inch trout on a Live Target plug. We also caught some smaller trout. When that action slowed, we decided to head back to the deep grass where we began that morning.

We never got there.

While poling across the flat, I noticed redfish all over the place. We anchored the boats, got out and waded. Zach hooked four redfish and landed three in an hour.  He caught them all on MirrOlure Little Johns on 1/16-ounce jig heads.

Fly angler Dick Badman of Pennsylvania joined me for a winder day on Palma Sola Bay. He landed a number of spotted seatrout and flounder on chartreuse-and-white Clouser Deep Minnows.

The action heated up pretty good around Buttonwood Harbor and I did well on a couple of scouting trips. I caught trout to 4 pounds, bluefish to 5 pounds, redfish to 30 inches and Spanish mackerel to 4 pounds on MirrOlure MirrOdines and Little Johns on light jig heads.

Regular client Dick Badman tried his hand a fly fishing and again encountered windy conditions. We did manage 10 trout, two snook, a red and a flounder.

Fly anglers Russ Ballagh of Nokomis and his buddy, Mick Coulas of Stoneybrook, N.Y.,  had a fair day on the south side of Whale Key. Russ won a trip that I donated to the Managrove Coast Fly Fishers.

We caught and released trout to 3 pounds, a couple of snook, four redfish, two bluefish and several ladyfish and jacks on spoon flies, Gibby's HOTS Fly and Gibby's Duster.

The following day, fly anglers Dault Roberts of Oklahoma and Phil Napolitano of New Mexico waded the Whale Key flat. Both are professional trout guides. They did well, catching and releasing spotted seatrout, redfish, snook, Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle on Gibby's Fiber Minnow and Gibby's Duster.

I joined the Native Watercraft crew from Legacy Paddlesports for a day of fishing in Tampa Bay. Fellow Native Watercraft guide Neil Taylor picked an area near the Gandy Bridge for us to fish. It allowed us to get out of a very strong wind. Fishing wasn't great, but there were plenty of spotted seatrout, flounder and a few redfish landed.

Joe Tice of Chambersburg, Pa.,  had a good day on fly rod and spin rod. He caught a number of trout and ladyfish on Gibby's Duster. After switching to a spinning rod, he caught and released redfish, snook, trout and sheepshead on MirrOlure Little Johns on light jig heads.

Dick Badman of Pennsylvania endured another windy day. One of these weeks, Dick will get a calm day and loads of hungry fish. Still, he was able to nab quite a few trout to 18 inches on Gibby's D.T. Variation.

I made a scouting trip to the Myakka River to see if any snook had moved upriver. I don't know if they have or not, but I didn't hook or catch any. I only had five hits and caught two large gar and a small redfish.

I fished the Myakka almost exclusively once cold weather sets in. Last year, my clients landed snook to 37 inches, redfish to 32, bass to 5 pounds and gar to 25 pounds,

Repeat client Pete Walocko of Michigan had a good day late in the month. Pete caught spotted seatrout and bluefish along the south side of Whale Kay. He hooked a hefty redfish, but lost it at the side of his kayak near Red Key in Buttonwood Harbor.

I fished with David Martin of Sarasota and had a pretty good day around Whale Key and Buttonwood Harbor. We combined to catch spotted seatrout to 4 pounds, redfish to 29 inches, ladyfish and snook to 23. Most of the fish were caught on MirrOlure MirrOdines and Little Johns on light jig heads.

Large trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano and redfish will be the prime targets in Sarasota Bay in December.

We'll probably switch to the Myakka River in mid-month to target big snook, redfish, largemouth bass, gar and tarpon.

The busy season is once again here, so book your trips  as soon as possible.

Have a great Holiday Season.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
(941) 284-3406

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Know your camera and be ready when the photo op arrives

A determined bluefish eyes a topwater plug along the east side of Sarasota Bay.

Taking pictures is my passion on the water.
And from time to time, people want to know what camera I use. They see my photos, like them and think it's the camera that is the key.

Of course, a good camera helps, but it won't turn a bad photographer into a good one.

A bad photographer will take bad photos with a great camera.

I use two cameras. Neither are expensive, but they're not cheap, either.

Most of the time, I use a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX1. This camera runs around $400. It's versatile and has many features.

I also use a Canon EOS Rebel that has two detachable lenses, a small 35 mm lens and a 300 mm zoom.

One of the keys to good photography is getting to know your camera. Know what it can and cannot do.

As one professional photographer once told me, "You need to manage your camera. Don't let it manage you!"

It's important to be able to recognize a good photo opportunity. Too many times, amateur photogs don't have a clue what a good photo op is. And if you're out in the wild, they can happen at most any time. You've got to be ready.

Shortly after I bought the Sony, I was fishing with Ken Taylor of North Port along the west side of Sarasota Bay. We were catching spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel and a few pompano. Out of the blue, several dolphins swam near us and started jumping out of the water. Their leaps were amazing.

I grabbed the camera and was ready. One of the dolphins made an amazing leap and I pointed the camera in that direction and pressed the shutter release. I wasn't sure what I got, but it turned out to be a pretty good picture.

A few years ago, I was fishing along the east side of Sarasota Bay when a huge school of bluefish began blowing up on baitfish near the boat. A buddy of mine began casting a hookless topwater plug in their direction. I started taking photos by the dozen as he worked the plug through the school. The fish were busting that plug something fierce, erupting on it and grabbing it.

Of course, he didn't hook any because the plug didn't have any hooks.

I had no clue if I had gotten anything decent. But when I got home, uploaded the photos into the computer and started editing them, I was amazed. I got several really neat pictures.

It's nice to get a shot of a client or buddy, posing with a nice fish. I shoot those photos, of course. But I much prefer action shots. I like to get photos of people fighting fish, with the rod bent and the water churning. They usually have no clue they're being photographed.

You can always snap a few "posed" photos of people holding their fish after the fight is over.

There's no excuse for not taking a lot of pictures when you're using a digital camera. I remember some sage advice that pro photographer Frank Ross gave me 30 years ago.

"Take a lot of pictures," he said. "You might screw up and get a good one every once in a while!"

I've never forgotten.

So, I take all sorts of photos. I take them from different angles.  If they don't turn out, I can always delete them.

I love to take pictures in the soft morning light. It's a warm light that makes your photos turn out nice. Photographers don't like the harsh, mid-day sun. That's for mad dogs and Englishmen.

If you have to take a posed shot during the middle of the day, you might want to use your flash. Otherwise, the person's face may be totally dark because of a shadow.

Also, remember you want your subject facing the sun. You don't want the sun behind your subject. If it is, you'll probably get a silhouette.

Focus. Focus. Focus. You can take the greatest shot in the world, but if it's out of focus, it's not going to be very good.

Zoom in on your subject. No one needs to know what kind of shoes they wear. Fill the frame with your subject.

Get a good editing program. I use PhotoShop, but there are quite a few good ones out there.

One thing I do not like is when amateur photographers "PhotoShop" the heck out of their pictures. They manipulate the lighting and color, thinking this makes great photos. Not so.

Some people think carrying a camera is the kiss of death on a fishing trip. I've never found this to be the case. I've had many memorable trips over the years and I've got plenty of photos to prove it.

Of course, water -- especially salt water -- can be damaging to your equipment. I keep my cameras in waterproof Pelican Cases until I'm ready to use them.

There are days when the photo opportunities just don't seem to happen. That's OK. You don't have to take pictures.

But when that special opportunity presents itself, you'll be glad you have your camera.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's time for flounder around Southwest Florida

This beefy flounder was taken on fly in the surf off Manasota Key.
               I love when I’m out fishing and floundering.

                Now, that doesn’t mean for a second that I’m not succeeding or just aimlessly casting a lure. Not at all.

                What it means is that I’m targeting flounder,  a strange looking fish that’s both a strong fighter and delicious. There aren’t many fish around that can top flounder on the table.

                Most people don’t think you can purposely fish for flounder in this part of the world. But, obviously, you can.

                I learned about targeting flounder when I first arrived in Florida in 1971. I would fish the waters in and around East Pass near Destin. I figured out that if you drag anything tasty slowly along the bottom, sooner of later and flounder would latch onto it.

                And that’s particularly true in November when the flat fish gather in numbers along sand bottoms on the edge of grass flats, channel and potholes.

                For this type of fishing, I prefer to use a combination of light jig heads and soft plastics. I most often will use a D.O.A. CAL 1/16-ounce jig head with a D.O.A. paddle tail or MirrOlure Little John.

                Key to success is allowing the lure to drop to the bottom and s-l-o-w-l-y retrieving it; the slower the better.

                When a flounder takes your lure, it will feel as if you’re hung up. Your instinct is jerk your lure loose from the snag.


                Simply pull back slowly. Most often, the flounder will respond by pulling back, too. That’s when you set the hook.

                The battle won’t start until the flounder sees the kayak. When it does, it will dig for the bottom and pull line from the reel.

                You can identify a flounder long before you see it by its fight. The fish will stay deep and hug the bottom. At first, it will come in easily.

                Flounder are ambush attackers. They lie along the bottom and attack unsuspecting prey as it swims by. Flounder are naturally camouflaged and blend into the sand, grass or gravel nicely.

                I prefer to use medium-light to medium spinning rods. I like braided line because of its sensitivity. I like 8- or 10-pound PowerPro or Fins.

                In southwest Florida, we have two species of flounder: summer and gulf. Summer flounder are the most common. They’re also the largest species, averaging 2-4 pounds. Florida and world record is 20 pounds, 9 ounces.

                Gulf flounder can easily be identified by three distinctive eye-like spots on its back. Southern flounder do not have these “eye” spots. Gulf flounder average a pound and reach 5 pounds or slightly larger.

                No matter what species you catch, flounder are arguably the tastiest fish in our bays. Of course, they’re great fried, but I try to stay away from fried food.

                I prefer to sauté fillets in olive oil with lemon juice, garlic and chopped onion.

                It’s flounder time in southwest Florida.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gator trout, big flounder expected in November

Vinny Caruso of Sarasota with one of several big flounder taken on jigs in an hour near Buttonwood Harbor.

                Big spotted seatrout showed up in good numbers in Sarasota Bay just as expected.

                And that’s good news. We anticipate good action on big trout through April.

                From Jan. 1 until now, Southern Drawl clients and myself have caught a total of 35 trout weighing 5 pounds of more from Sarasota Bay. The largest trout of the year was a 9-pounder.

                “Gator” trout are among the most fun fish to catch. They’re unlike our typical “school” trout. These big fish are wary and fight impressively when hooked on suitable tackle.

                For bigger trout, we like to use a variety of artificial, including D.O.A. Shrimp, MirrOlure MirrOdines and topwater plugs.

                The best spot are along the west side of Sarasota Bay near Buttonwood Harbor.

                Fly angler Chuck Dodd joined me for a day on Sarasota Bay and did fair. Dodd managed a number of seatrout and a snook and jack crevalle on Clouser Deep Minnows.

                An old buddy of mine, Frank Ross of Ocala, formerly a photographer at the Sarasota Journal, joined me for a day on the bay . He brought along one of his old Navy buddies, Dave Love of Pennsylvania. We caught nearly a dozen species of fish, including spotted seatrout, snook, flounder, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle and bluefish. Most of the fish were caught on light jig heads and 4-inch MirrOlure Little Johns.

                Vinny Caruso of Sarasota fished with me on two occasions. The first outing was his first fly-fishing outing. We fished Lake Manatee and totaled 80 bluegill. Most of the fish were taken on No. 12 and No. 14 nymphs under a strike indicator.

                Patrick O’Connor of Rotonda fished Lake Manatee with me and did very well. Using a variety of nymphs, we caught a mess of bluegill and a pair of hard-fishing channel catfish.

                Lake Manatee produced nicely for me during the month. I caught big bluegill, bass to 4 pounds, shellcracker to 1½ pounds, speckled perch, channel catfish and tilapia. Most of the fish were caught on nymphs, but we also used No. 10 popping bugs and my Myakka Minnow.

                We had some negative low tides earlier in the month and found tailing redfish in Palma Sola Bay. First time out, I caught one red on a topwater plug. The next day, I flyfished and landed three reds on a Gurgler. In addition, I caught seatrout, flounder and jack crevalle.

                I made a solo trip to the Long Bar area of Sarasota Bay and had a fair day. It’s a 45-minute paddle, but often is well worth the effort.  This day was only so-so. I caught a pair of reds, a snook, 10 trout and a couple of jack crevalle.

                On his second trip of the month, Vinny Caruso and I did well. We landed 25 trout to 5 pounds, redfish to 27 inches, a 25-inch snook and 11 doormat flounder.

                It’s getting the time of year when you can go out and target flounder. They’re plentiful on sand edges and will hit most any soft plastic on a light jig head. 

                I fished the 8th annual Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers/Sarasota Coastal Conservation Association Fall Fly Fishing Challenge and again won a division. Despite 25 mph wind and rough conditions, I caught 67.75 inches of trout for the victory. I would have had well more than 100 inches of trout had I not released the first five I caught, thinking they were too small to fool with!

                If we get some negative low tides, Pine Island Sound (all-day trips only) will give anglers at shot  at tailing redfish, snook, spotted seatrout and tarpon. It’s the best chance of a Grand Slam that we have.

                We’ve had some windy conditions caused by Hurricane Irene. The big storm didn’t do any damage here, but did produce some win. We expect conditions to settle.


1.       Large spotted seatrout;

2.       Flounder;

3.       Redfish;

4.       Snook at night;

5.       Bluegill;

6.       Speckled perch.


Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Monday, September 24, 2012

Redfish and trout the highlights of September

Sarasota's Dave Robinson shows off one of seven redfish he caught just north of Long Bar.

Jim Shuford of Sarasota had never caught a redfish on an artificial lure.

That ended shortly into his half-day outing to Buttonwood Harbor off Sarasota Bay. Shuford caught and released a hefty redfish while casting a MirrOlure Little John on a 1/16-ounce jig head.

Shuford was one of many clients and friends of Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing to catch redfish during the month.

In addition to redfish, Shuford had a fair day, catching and releasing spotted seatrout and jack crevalle.

Repeat clients John Mallia and J.D. Mallia of Lancaster, N.Y. had a decent day in the Buttonwood Harbor area. They caught and released 50 spotted seatrout to 2 ½ pounds, redfish to 20 inches and several mangrove snapper. The fish were caught on MirrOlure Little Johns on light jig heads and MirrOlure MR14 MirrOlures.

Zack Dunivin, a student at New College in Sarasota, caught a variety of fish while casting jigs around grass patches near Stephens Point in Sarasota Bay. Dunivin caught spotted seatrout to 17 inches, flounder, mangrove snapper and a 26-inch snook. Most effective lure was a MirrOlure Little John on a light jig head.

Mike Milby of Washington, D.C., and Josh Milby of Lakewood Ranch had a tough day along the east side of Sarasota Bay and just north of Long Bar. They totaled three redfish, a snook, 15 spotted seatrout to 18 inches, ladyfish, jack crevalle and a few ladyfish. Most of the fish were caught on gold spoons or MirrOlure MR14 MirrOdines.

Dave Robinson of Sarasota joined me on a couple of outings. We fished Charlotte Harbor, the mouth of the Peace River and the Punta Gorda Isles canals. Our target was tarpon and we found plenty. But we couldn’t get them to hit.

I had fished the canals the previous week and jumped a couple of juvenile tarpon on D.O.A. TerrorEyz.

Tarpon fish ranges from frustrating to great during this time on year in Charlotte County. I’ve jumped as many as eight tarpon in a morning. I’ve also had some not-so-good days.

Robinson and I made the 45-minute paddle to Long Bar and fared better. We combined for 11 redfish, four snook, plenty of trout to 4 pounds, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, flounder and ladyfish. The redfish ranged from 24 to 28 inches. Top snook was 25 inches. The fished were caught on gold spoons, MirrOlure MirrOdines and artificial shrimp.

Highlight of the day came in early afternoon when Robinson hooked and landed a tailing redfish.

October’s forecast calls for cooling temperatures and improved fishing. We look for continued redfish success on the shallow flats.

Spotted seatrout are expected to remain plentiful.

Night snook action should be good around light docks. Plus, we should encounter a few larger snook on the flats.

GIBBY’S TIP: If you’re looking for redfish, make sure the flat you’re fishing has plenty of marine life: mullet, crabs, shrimp, worms and baitfish. I look for large schools of mullet and concentrate my effort around them. For this, I like to fish topwater plugs, MirrOlure Little Johns on light jig heads, MirrOlure MirrOdines or gold spoons.

We’re booking up for October, but still have some prime dates left. Please give us a call or drop us an email if you’d like to get out on the water and have some fun.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Monday, September 3, 2012

Redfish and snook come on strong in August

Pete Walocko of Michigan caught the 28-inch snook on his first cast.

Just as predicted, redfish were the fish of the month  for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.

We totaled 62 reds during August, a majority of which ranged from 25 to 30 inches. We had two days during which we landed 10 redfish.

Top bait was the MirrOlure Little John on a 1/16-ounce jig head.

Most of the action took place on the shallow flats of Buttonwood Harbor off Sarasota Bay. The light jig head allows us to fish the shallow grass without constantly hanging up.

In addition, we caught redfish on MirrOlure She Dogs and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

Vinny Caruso of Sarasota fished three times and totaled several redfish and spotted seatrout. His best red, which came on a Sebile Stick Shad, went 26 inches. He also caught reds on a chrome Zara Spook.

Vinny and I tested Bishop Harbor and southern Tampa Bay on one outing, but had to dodge thunderstorms. We only managed a few seatrout.

Pete Walocko of Michigan fished one of those rare days when the redfish weren’t cooperating. But he was fortunate enough to catch a 28-inch snook (released) on a Little John and jig head. He also caught a number of seatrout on the same lure.

We’re finding most of the redfish in and around mullet schools. The more mullet, the better.

We’re also starting to get into some nice flounder on jigs fished along grass edges. Flounder action is expected to heat up and peak in November. We anticipate a good number of flounder to 24 inches.

Although the peak season for large spotted seatrout has passed, we’re still getting some quality fish. In fact, we landed a pair of 4-pound trout on one trip. The top lure for big trout is the MirrOdine, a suspending plug that the fish just can’t seem to resist.

We’re getting more snook than usual on the Buttonwood flats. The action isn’t great, but it’s better than it has been since the red tide of 2006.

We fished Little Sarasota Bay one day on a whim and did very well. We landed seven redfish to 25 inches, four snook to 23 and 15 trout to 18. The reds were all caught on Little Johns.

There are some large schools of oversized redfish on the flats – if you can find them. Best areas include Buttonwood Harbor and southern Tampa Bay.

Snook continue to please around lighted docks at night. A good plan is to start fishing a couple of hours before daylight. We get in a little snook fishing, then hit the bay for reds, trout and other species. On occasion, it’s possible to take a Slam (a red, trout and snook) around the dock lights.

Beach snook fishing has been disappointing with high winds, red algae and stirred up surf. That seems to have dissipated and we could experience a late-season flurry of snook action in the surf.

I have ordered my new fleet of kayaks. I’m getting three Native Watercraft Ultimates and a Native Watercraft Slayer 14.5. The Slayer is a new design that is expected to hit the market in October.

I have three Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5s for sale. I’m asking $750 for my personal boat. It has a bow spray skirt, paddle holder and anchor trolley. The other two are $700 and only have anchor trolleys.

If you’re interested, please let me know as soon as possible. I am offering them to clients and friends first. Then, I will list them publically.

We anticipate good redfish action this month. In addition, we expect snook, spotted seatrout, bluefish and maybe pompano to cooperate.

The fishing has been very good. Contact me if you’d like to fish.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Now is the time for exciting redfish action on the shallow flats

Finding mullet on the flat is one of the keys to finding redfish.

Vinny Caruso shows of a Sarasota Bay red.

Redfish are highly sought along Florida’s west coast. They’re hard-fighting, savvy and very strong.

Late summer and early fall are great times to hunt for reds on the flats along coastal Florida. That’s when redfish start gathering in schools to make their annual spawning run into the Gulf of Mexico.

We like to get on the water before daylight so that we’re where we need to be when the action gets started. Don’t want to be paddling when we should be fishing!

But there’s a nice solitude on the water before the sun rises. The air is warm and the breeze usually gentle. You can hear the sounds of mullet jumping. You can hear pelicans and other birds beginning their days.

When targeting reds, I like to have a variety of lures ready to go. On one rod, I’ll have a topwater plug. I’ll use a jerk worm on a light jig head on another. On the third rod, I’ll go with a MirrOlure MirrOdine. All three are proven redfish catchers. You won’t go wrong with a spoon, either.

When I get to a flat, I look for signs of life: mullet, baitfish, crabs, stingrays. If the flat is alive with those things, then you’ll usually find redfish.

I think mullet are the key, though. If the flat is filled with mullet, you can get the reds are nearby.

I usually begin with a topwater plug. I like the Zara Super Spook Jr. in chrome. I use a Hurricane Redbone 7-foot medium-action rod, Shimano Reel and 10-pound Fins Wind Tamer line. Key to redfish success on the Spook is being able to “walk the dog.” That’s a zig-zag pattern when the lure is being retrieved.

To do this, I hold the rod parallel to the water to my left and begin “twitching” the rod as I reel. It’s kind of like rubbing your head and patting your belly. It’s tough at first, but easy once you get the hang of it. You can speed up or slow down the speed of your retrieve or the speed of your lure.

A big key in successful topwater fishing is the NOT set the hook when you see a strike. Only set the hook when you feel the weight of the fish. I just keep working the lure until I feel the fish. It’s tough to refrain from setting the hook when you see a big redfish explode on your plug.

When a fish strikes the plug and misses, I just keep it coming. Often, a big redfish will hit the plug several times before it’s hooked.

There are times that I’ll stop the plug when a fish misses it. I think the fish slap at it to stun it. I let the plug sit for a couple of seconds and then start working it. This often elicits explosive strikes.

If the fish are “short-striking,” I’ll change tactics. Sometimes I’ll pick up a jerk worm and toss it to the spot of the short strike. That often produces a quick hookup.

Just the other day, Vinny Caruso and I were fishing a Sarasota Bay flat at a spot where we’ve been catching quite a few reds. But there was little going on. The mullet weren’t moving and it was relatively dead. The tide was really high and there was a lot of water on the flat.

About mid-morning, we noticed mullet beginning to move about 100 yards away. Vinny paddled toward them and cast a plug. He immediately hooked a nice red. When he lost the fish, he called me over.

I hooked a small red on my first cast. I was using a MirrOlure Lil John on a 1/16-ounce jig head. Vinny caught a red on his plug.

On my next cast, I hooked and landed a 25-inch beauty on a MirrOlure MirrOdine, a plug that really works well for shallow-water reds.

Key to our success was finding the mullet. We landed three out of five fish we hooked. Our window of opportunity closed after about 20 minutes, but we succeeded. Some might say we were lucky, but we feel luck is when preparation meets opportunity!

And we were prepared.

The larger redfish should start schooling soon. They’re the sexually mature fish that will eventually move out into the Gulf of Mexico and never return. The schoolers usually run 30 inches or more.

Two years ago, I found several schools of big redfish in Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay. I remember a day in Tampa Bay when I found a school of about 100 reds just off a sand bar. I caught eight big fish out of the school before a pair of hefty bull sharks moved in and brought the action to a halt.

When you find a school, it’s usually and automatic hookup. All you have to do is toss a lure to the edge of the school and hang on! I try to avoid casting into the middle of the fish.

When the fish are schooled, most any lure will work. Topwater plugs, however, draw the most-exciting strikes.

Fighting a big redfish in a kayak is a fun experience. These fish are big enough to take you for a ride! They can tow the kayak for quite a distance.

When we’re concentrating on redfish, we’re not thinking “numbers.” Three reds in a day is good. These fish rarely just “jump in the kayak!” We often do better.

If we could select the tide, we’d prefer to have it still trickling out at the start of the day. We like to fish the last hour of the outgoing and first couple of hours of the incoming. But the tide changes daily and that’s not always possible.

But if we can find the mullet schools, it usually doesn’t make any difference!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Redfish, trout and snook headline July action

Redfish action heated up in July and is expected to peak in August. This red was caught on a topwater plug in Sarasota Bay.

Spotted seatrout, snook and redfish were the mainstays of July, a month that saw unseasonable westerly winds.

Top spots for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing included Buttonwood Harbor and Stephens Point.

We also fished a couple of days on Tampa Bay out of Bishop Harbor and scored on some large seatrout.

Fly angler Jack Feldstein fished a half day and managed mostly spotted seatrout. Fishing the east side of Sarasota Bay just north of the Ringling Mansion, Feldstein caught mostly undersized (less than 15 inches), but did manage a 3-pounder on his first cast of the morning. All fish were taken on chartreuse-and-white Clouser Deep Minnows.

Randy Ruskey and sons Eric and Jon joined me for an outing at Stephens Point. We were met by strong westerly wind that prevented us from venturing into Sarasota Bay. However, Randy Ruskey landed a 23-inch snook on a Gibby’s Snook Duster while fishing around a lighted dock.

We fished the bowl at Stephens Point and did fair. Eric Ruskey landed a pair of snook, including a 27-incher. Both fish fell for a 1/16-ounce CAL Jig with a gold paddle tail. We also landed three flounder to 18 inches on jigs.

Fred Hart joined me for a half-day outing off Stephens Point and had a fair day. He landed several trout and ladyfish on CAL Jigs.

Erick Ruskey and Jon Ruskey, both from Illinois, fished with me at Buttonwood Harbor and had a fun day. They both caught a number of spotted seatrout on CAL Jigs. Jon also landed a small redfish on a topwater plug. In addition, we caught ladyfish, mangrove snapper and flounder.

Later in the month, redfish began to cooperate at Buttonwood Harbor. We caught several upper slot (18 to 27 inches) reds on topwater plugs, MirrOlure MirrOdines and CAL Jigs with D.O.A. 4-inch jerk worms. Best day was five reds to 30 inches.

Vinny Caruso of Sarasota joined me for a fun day of topwater fishing. We combined 25 trout to 4 pounds and a pair of flounder on Zara silver Super Spook Jrs., and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

I did a solo venture recently and found some big reds around mullet schools. I caught four redfish on MirrOlure MirrOdines, Zara Super Spook Jrs., and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigheads.

Dave Robinson of Sarasota joined me on the last day of the month for a backcountry outing. Testing out his new Native Watercraft Versa Board, he did well. We combined for six redfish to 27 inches and a number of trout to 4 pounds on MirrOlure MirrOdines, Zara Super Spook Jrs., and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jig heads.

Beach snook fishing has been pretty much non-existent because of wind and rough surf conditions. That could change this month. August traditionally is a good month for beach snook for both fly and spin anglers.

Night snook action continues strong around lighted docks.

My schedule is filling up nicely. Be sure to book your trips early to assure an outing.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A good fly is easy to tie and catches fish

Gibby's D.T. Variations are easy and quick to tie, plus they really appeal to snook in the surf.
A good fly is one that catches fish.

A good fly also is one that is easy and quick to tie.

I was surfing the Internet a year ago or so when I found a good-looking fly that I thought might work well on redfish. When I investigated further, I discovered there were 62 tying steps involved in tying that fly.

Too many for me!

My D.T. Variation, perhaps the best fly I’ve found for sight-fishing snook in the surf, is a classic example. It’s very easy to tie and it has accounted for several thousand snook over the years. There are only five tying steps and it takes only a few minutes to tie.

What more could you want?

Too many times, fly tyers get too complicated in their designs, trying to mimic baitfish, crabs, shrimp and other food to perfection. Exact imitation isn’t necessary or even desired in the salt.

Remember this adage: Hungry fish plus good presentation equals hookup.


I remember one winter when I discovered a shrimp pattern that I thought would be the cat’s meow for snook in the surf. It looked exactly like a live shrimp.

I spent a couple of weeks tying up a bunch and was sure I had the “magic fly.”

First time out, I was disheartened when snook after snook ignored the realistic pattern.

What I’ve discovered is that you really don’t want to give the snook (or any fish) time to study your fly. Let them see it, then try to get it away from them.

When sight-fishing snook in the surf, I’ll strip the fly in front of the fish. When the snook turns to follow, I’ll speed up the retrieve to trigger the strike. This is where most anglers slow their retrieve.

Big mistake.

Try to get that fly away from the snook. If the fish wants it, you can’t strip too fast.

I’ve spent the last 30 years sight-fishing snook in the surf and I’ve learned a thing or two. Your success is directly correlated to your ability to see the fish. If you can see them, you’ve got a chance to catch them.

When I first started beach snook fishing, I used Lefty’s Deceivers, one of the most-famous saltwater flies ever. However, Matt Hoover, a guide in Naples, Fla., sent me a well-used D.T. Special and said that “it’s the only fly you’ll ever need for snook in the surf.”

He was right.

I’ve tweaked the fly over the years to fit my needs, adding eyes, a touch of red and epoxying the head. My version is called Gibby’s D.T. Variation. I did not design or invent the original D.T. Special. I take no credit for that.

My D.T. Variation is a little tougher and lasts a little longer than the original D.T.

Both are effective flies for sight-fishing snook in the surf.

Best of all, they take little time to tie.


Hook: Mustad 34007 No. 1 to No. 4

Thead: White flat-waxed Monochord

Tail: Four white neck hackle (two on each side) facing (not splayed).

Flash: Pearl Krystal Flash

Collar: White neck hackle (palmered)

Eyes: 3D Prism Stick-On.

Epoxy: Devcon 2-Ton

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snook top the list and should improve in June

Eric Porter of Denver, Colo., is all smiles after landing his largest snook ever on fly.
May was snook month for clients of Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.

Snook, arguably Florida’s most popular inshore gamefish, were hurt by the severe freeze of 2010. That’s when fisheries biologists estimated that 10 percent of the snook along Florida’s west coast may have perished because of the cold.

However, the species seems to have rebounded and is doing well.

We’ve been targeting snook around lighted docks at night or before dawn, on the flats at sunrise and along the beaches. Best action has been around the docks lights, but beach snook action is improving daily.

Eric Porter of Denver, Colo., and his brother, Jeff of Oklahoma City, Okla., both repeat clients, scored on fly rods early in the month, fishing around lighted docks. Using my night snook fly, they each caught snook and had shots at others. Eric Porter’s 27-inch snook was the outing’s top fish.

In addition, Eric Porter landed a 3-pound spotted seatrout on Gibby’s Duster.

His snook and trout were the largest that he’d ever caught on fly.

New kayak angler Dan Benbasset of Riverview, Fla., had a nice introduction. We fished the Buttonwood Harbor area and did well. Dan caught a number of spotted seatrout on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with gold paddles tails and on Zara Super Spook Jrs. He also caught a bonnethead shark and several ladyfish.

Jeff Voigt of Spokane, Wash., and Lloyd Dyer of Saskatchewan had a fair outing. The fly anglers caught snook and spotted seatrout around lighted docks and nearby grass flats on my night snook fly, Gibby’s Duster and Clouser Deep Minnows.

Mike Green of Cartersville, Ga., caught a load of spotted seatrout and a few ladyfish on D.O.A. Deadly Combinations (popping cork and D.O.A. Shrimp) while fishing Buttonwood Harbor north and east of Whale Key.

John Anderson of Portland, Ore., did well on spotted seatrout, flounder and ladyfish on the D.O.A. Deadly Combination at Buttonwood Harbor. He fished two days in a row and did well. We tried for redfish on the second day, but didn’t hook up.

The Deadly Combination is a great lure this time of year. Simply tie a fluorocarbon leader below the float (clacker) and adjust it for the depth you’re fishing. Add a D.O.A. Shrimp or jig below it and you’re set.

It’s an easy and productive rig to use. I cast it out, allow the shrimp to sink, and then reel in the slack and give the float/clacker and couple of sharp tugs. The noise attracts predator fish. When they swim up to investigate, they see the shrimp and usually inhale it.

When the float/clacker goes under, reel up any slack and set the hook.

This rig has produced trout to 7 pounds for me.

Jeff Voigt and Lloyd Dyer joined me again after their trek to southern Florida. This time, they fished the beach for snook. They each caught or hooked snook on Gibby’s Hare of the Snook Fly.

Even Burck of Washington and A.J. Gottschalk of Buffalo, N.Y. fished the beaches with me and caught small snook on D.T. Variations.

Snook are plentiful along the beaches, but the bite hasn’t been great – yet. The action should pick up as we move into summer.

Those booking beach snook outings usually get a shot at 200 snook or more, including some whoppers.

We’ve been encountering schools of 15 to 30-pound snook. The big fish do not eat very often, but they can be taken on fly. Largest fly-rod snook we’ve hooked and landed over the years is a 40-incher.

In addition to snook, we sometimes encounter spotted seatrout, flounder, ladyfish, jack crevalle, redfish, mangrove snapper, houndfish and (occasionally) tarpon.

The June outlook calls for continued increase in snook along the beaches, good to excellent fishing for snook at night around dock lights, good topwater action on redfish in shallow water and plenty of spotted seatrout over the deep grass areas of Sarasota Bay.

As always, I want to thank my sponsors: Native Watercraft, D.O.A. Lures, Temple Fork Outfitters, Aqua-Bound Paddles, Economy Tackle and Peak Fishing.

Call or email me to book a trip.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Snook are hungry and willing when the sun goes down

Can you tell Eric Porter of Colorado is a happy camper after landing this fine snook on fly rod?
Hungry snook gether by a light at night.
As many of you are aware, we recently began offering night snook charters. It’s a great way for beginners and veterans alike to fish for snook in exciting conditions.

Our success rate to date has been very good, with several anglers getting either their first snook on fly, largest snook on fly – or both!

We launch the kayaks at night. After a short paddle, we arrive to fish lighted docks. The lights attract shrimp and baitfish, which, in turn, attract snook, spotted seatrout and other predator fish.

One spot that I fish has eight lighted docks, all of which hold fish.

I’ve got one client who doesn’t want to fly fish for snook at night.

“Too easy,” he said. “Like shooting fish in a barrel.”

I have other clients who quickly will disagree.

Reason is that night snook fishing requires pinpoint accuracy and several of the docks present tricky casting problems. A typical overhead cast just won’t work in many cases.

Sometimes, you have to get the fly under a dock or right next to a piling. To get the fly under a dock, you must change your casting place from overhead to sidearm. The cast is the same, but the plane is altered.

Since I use Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 kayaks, there’s ample room in the cockpit for the fly line. In fact, I call the kayaks the world’s largest stripping baskets! When I strip the line in, I let it fall into the cockpit right between my legs. This prevents the fly line from floating out in the water and tangling around pilings or debris.

I also advise pointing the bow of the kayak toward your target and retrieving the fly in a straight line back to you. Your rod tip should be in the water or on the water’s surface.

Some anglers will retrieve the fly with the rod tip 18 inches above the water. That’s 18 inches of slack you have to remove before you can move the fly or set the hook. If your rod tip is on the water’s surface, there is no slack. If a fish hit, you’re directly connected and ready for action.

For night snook fishing, I like an 8-weight fly rod with a full floating line. I use a 9-foot leader with 20-pound shock tippet. I’ll go with a heavier tippet – 25- or 30-pound – if the bite is aggressive or the fish are larger than normal.

The average snook is about 23 inches. However, we’ve been getting snook to 30 inches or more on almost every trip. Sometimes, however, it’s tough to get your fly through the smaller fish to get a larger snook.

Fly choice isn’t really a big deal. I prefer a small shrimp or baitfish imitation on a No. 4 or No. 6 hook. Color choice is white. I do smash the barbs on the hooks so that I don’t hurt the fish.

Trickiest part of night snook fishing is learning to back-paddle while you’re fighting the fish. Remember, you have to get the snook away from the dock and pilings. To do so, you must hold the rod in one hand, and back-paddle with the other.

Most anglers get the hang of it quickly.

On a recent solo outing, I caught and released six snook to 28 inches and four seatrout to 19. It was a fun morning.

I have had outings where I’ve caught a Slam (snook, trout and redfish) on fly before dawn.

The fishing slows down drastically as soon as light appears in the sky. That’s when it’s time to go home or head out to nearby flats. On recent outings, Terry Rychlik of Connecticut caught several nice trout and a decent snook on the flats. Eric Porter caught several trout, including his largest, a plump 3-pounder.

Wind and tide are what affect night snook action. Usually, I just like a strong incoming or outgoing tide. Too much wind simple makes casting and positioning a little more difficult.

Night snook fishing also is a great way to beat the Florida heat. You can catch snook in the cool of night. When the sun comes up, it’s time to head home. And you will be in the pool, sipping a Rum Runner or Mojito by noon.

If you’re interest in a night snook trip, give me a call at (941) 284-3406 or email me at

Come catch your first snook with me!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Redfish, snook make a strong showing in April

Sue Swett is a happy camper after landing this fine Sarasota Bay redfish on a topwater plug.
The fishing pattern changed just as expect.

We transitioned from large trout to large redfish. The reds are on the flats and blasting topwater plugs, D.O.A. CAL Jerk Worms and gold spoons. Best time to hunt for reds is just as the tide begins to rise – either early or late in the day.

We’re still picking up a few large trout, but not nearly as many as in February and March. The largest trout are hanging out in sand holes at low tide and hitting D.O.A. CAL Jigs, Live Target Scaled Sardines, D.O.A. 4-inch jerk worms or topwater plugs.

Top spots include Buttonwood Harbor, Whale Key , White Key and Long Bar in Sarasota Bay.

Veteran angler Jeff Connor of Sarasota had a fair day early in the month. Connor wanted to target redfish. We totaled four reds to 28 inches on topwater plugs and gold spoons at various spots around Buttonwood Harbor. We also caught a few incidental spotted seatrout.

Annie Ewert and Lisi Ewert of Connecticut caught a mess of smaller trout on CAL Jigs and gold paddle tails just south of Whale Key. Annie caught and released a 24-inch red on a gold spoon just north of Whale Key.

The rim canal along Longboat Key has been yielding spotted seatrout, snook, flounder, sugar trout, silver trout, croaker and whiting.

Fly angler Terry Rychlik of Connecticut got in some night snook action near Bowles Creek and managed to release a 22-inch snook. He had shots at several others, but didn’t connect. After daylight, he caught and released a 23-inch snook and 10 spotted seatrout to 17 inches on a Puglisi Fly.

Night snook action has been good when the tides are strong. We’ve been catching and releasing up to 10 snook per out, along with a number of spotted seatrout. At dawn, we paddle out to a nearby flat where we’ve been getting snook to 32 inches and a load of spotted seatrout to 21.

Brad Cox of Sarasota and Sean O’Connell of Minnesota joined me for an afternoon outing at Buttowood Harbor. We caught and released 25 spotted seatrout to 22 inches, ladyfish, small jacks and a couple of flounder.

The next day, Yvette Cooley and Sue Swett of Parrish enjoyed their first kayak fishing trip. Action was slow and we had to work hard. We caught and released 15 spotted seatrout to 19 inches, 2 flounder, several ladyfish, jack crevalle and bonnethead shark. The best fish of the day was a 29-inch redfish that Sue landed. The fish hit a topwater plug in Buttonwood Harbor.

Yvette tried the topwater plug and had a number of fish follow and blast the plug, but she didn’t connect.

I’m offering night snook trips and combined night snook/dawn flats trips. It’s great for those looking for their first snook and for fly anglers.

Also, I’m going to get out on the beach this week to look for snook in the surf. I specialize in guiding anglers to some of the best sight-fishing for snook along Florida’s west coast.

I would like to thank my sponsors: Native Watercraft, D.O.A. Lures, Aqua-Bound Paddles, Temple Fork Outfitters, Economy Tackle/Dolphin Dive and Peak Fishing.

If you're on Facebook, please send a friend request. Also, follow me on Twitter @gibby3474.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406