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