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!