Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Big snook were the name of the game in January

Snook season is still close following the freeze of 2010, but there doesn't appear to be any shortage of these fish for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing clients and friends.

Dave Robinson's 42-inch snook.
We've been concentrating on fishing tidal rivers since mid-December and have been rewarded with snook up to 44 inches, including many of more than 30. In addition, we've been catching and releasing redfish, largemouth bass, gar and tarpon.

Dave Cyr of Nokomis joined me for the first outing of 2013 and encountered a good number of fish. 
However, he had some problems setting the hook and staying connected. When he finally got the hang of it, Dave landed several snook to 27 inches and a gar. He jumped a tarpon, but the hook pulled on a jump.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton caught his largest snook, a 36-incher in early January. On that trip, we landed 10 snook and three tarpon.

Dave Robinson of Sarasota had the trip of a lifetime, catching his personal-best snook, a 42-incher. We totaled 12 snook, three reds, six gar and an 8-pound tarpon.

The following day, I fished my myself and caught my best snook ever -- a 44-incher. I also released a pair of juvenile tarpon.

Pete Walocko of Sarasota fished the river on an off-day. We landed gar, ladyfish, black drum and seatrout. We normally don't encountered the latter two species.

Neil Hart and Rich Wain of Great Britain had a good day on the river. We combined for five snook to 28 inches and several gar to about 15 pounds.

On a solo outing, I managed eight snook to 38 inches and a pair of tiny tarpon.

Dave Cyr of Nokomis and his son-in-law Joe Rioff fished with me and had a fine day. In fact, Joe landed four snook to 30 inches and a gar. Dave caught his first redfish.

My river strategy is a little different from most. I fish ledges in deep water where the snook like to hang out. The lure that works best for me is a MirrOlure Lil John on a 1/16-jighead, I like the "golden bream" color, but have caught fish on a variety of different shades.

The trick is to cast out and allow the jig to sink the bottom. I prefer to work it back in a series of short and slow hops. It's imperative to pay close attention because most of the hits aren't what you might expect.

Sometimes you feel a distinctive "thump." At other times, it will be a light tap or a simple twitch.

The key is to set the hook if you think you had a hit.

For this type of fishing, I use medium-action spinning rods, Shimano reels, 10-pound PowerPro braided line and 30-pound fluorocarbon shock leader.

It's also important to work the lure all the way back to the kayak. In fact, Dave Robinson's 42-inch snook hit almost directly under his kayak.

"I was almost vertical jigging," he said.

Of course, you will be snagged from time to time. I can usually free the jig in those situations.

The rivers are beautiful and are what Florida looked like hundreds of years ago. On most trips, we encounter a variety of birds, including great blue herons, white herons, night herons, kingfishers and ospreys. We also see alligators, wild hogs and deer occasionally.

What works best for me when snook fishing is an outgoing tide. However, I usually can catch fish as long as the tide is moving.

I anticipate good action over the next few weeks.

Since most of the rivers are at least 25 miles away, I do not do half-day trips. I only offer 6- and 8-hour outings.

If you've never caught a snook or you're searching for a big one, you might want to consider a river trip.

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

River fishing ain't easy (but it's productive!)

The author holds a snook that fell a half inch short of 40.

River fishing ain't easy.
River tarpon live Lil Johns, too!

Please excuse my grammar, but it's not.

In fact, in can be downright rough.

But the rewards are worth it.

I fish the Myakka River from mid-December through February. My target is snook. And my clients and I have taken some monsters this season.

There's a word of advice that I give all of those fishing with me: Keep your lure in the water and pay\ attention.

If you lose focus for just an instant, you may also lose a 20-pound snook.

Lil Johns are great for a variety of fish.
I think river fishing is only for those who are hardcore anglers, trophy seekers or for those who just enjoy real Florida. While we have exceptional days on the river, the average trip doesn't produce "cast-after-cast" action.

What intrigues me is that you're always just once cast away from a 20-, 30- or even 40-pound snook.

So far this season, my clients and I have landed snook to an estimated 27 pounds. We also landed a 25-pounder. We have caught and released many snook of 28 inches and larger.
Key to our success is twofold: 1. our approach; 2. lures.

We do cast to the shoreline structure from time to time, but most often search for big snook in deep water. The deep snook don't see my lures and are not bothered by most anglers.

For this type of fishing, we used MirrOlure Lil Johns (http://www.mirrolure.com/softplastics/liljohn.html) on a light jig heads. Little Johns are 4-inch scented plastics that work very well for what we're doing.

I have a friend who fishes the river regularly and he does well casting Bomber Long A's. He's a good angler, but has days where he can't buy a strike. And I've often caught many on jigs when he's struggling.

It's not me. It's the technique and the lure.

Key to working a Lil John on a jig is to be slow. Allow the lure to get on or near the bottom and work it back s-l-o-w-l-y. The slower the better.

Strikes won't be what you might imagine. Sometimes , they're just a simple "thump." At other times, you'll just sense a "twitch." Or might just sense there's something different going on.

Set the hook!

Make sure you reel any slack from you line and set the hook with conviction.

For river fishing, I use medium-action spinning rods, 10-pound PowerPro braided line and 30-pound fluorocarbon shock leader.

No matter what strength shock leader you use, it's imperative to check it often for frays. You don't want to lose the fish of a lifetime because you didn't retie when you should have.

Best fishing seems to be during cold and nasty weather. When we get extended cold, snook move up the river in search of warmer water.

However, there's a sizeable population of resident snook in the rivers year round. Many of the snook we catch are really dark (which is indicative that they've been in the river for a lengthy period of time).

I believe fishing from kayaks gives me and my clients a big advantage because we're so stealthy. Snook and other species do not know we're even there.

While we do catch many noteworthy snook, this type for fishing isn't for everyone.

River fishing  ain't easy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Myakka River 2012-13 pictorial

Dave Robinson of Sarasota with a 42-inch snook.

Tarpon have been cooperating.

Steve Gibson with a snook that fell a half inch short of 40 inches.
Another river tarpon.

Craig Howard of Michigan  with a Myakka snook.
Craig Howard battles a spotted gar.
Vinny Caruso of Bradenton shows off his largest snook, a 36-incher.
Southern Drawl owner Steve Gibson with a 36-incher.
Steve Gibson shows off a tarpon.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Big snook, tarpon cooperating on the mighty Myakka River

Author Steve Gibson shows off a tarpon he landed while fishing the famed Myakka River. (Photo by Vinny Caruso).

Vinny Caruso and his 36-inch snook.
Late December and early January have been excellent for those fishing the Myakka River.

For the most part, we've been encountering lots of large snook. However, things took a pleasant direction on the latest trip.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton joined me for an outing on the river. We were met by overcast skies, chilly temperature and strong wind out of the northeast.

Just perfect for snooking on the river!

I've found over the years that when the weather is perfect, fishing, well, sucks. It's during the nasty weather that the big snook like to bite.
The author with a 36-inch snook.

We launched at daylight and paddled  to a spot that has been producing. I didn't expect much at first because the tide was slack. I figured we'd bide our time until the tide started heading out.


Vinny hooked a good fish about 10 minutes after we got there. The fish pulled his Native Watercraft Slayer 14.5 toward the shoreline and threatened to take him into the mangrove trees. But he was able to maneuver out of harm's way.

Still, the battle wasn't over.

The big fish didn't show until he got it to the boat. That's when Vinny realized he had the biggest snook of his life at line's end.

I paddled over, grabbed the leader and lipped the big fish. When I lifted it from the water, Vinny's eyes got the size of saucers.

"Wow!" he said. "That beats my biggest snook easily."

He said his previous best was 27 inches. This snook measured 36. We estimated it at 16-17 pounds.

I caught and released a smaller snook, then hooked up with a good one. After a lengthy battle, I got the fish to the boat. It was another 36-incher.

Later, I hooked a fish toward the middle of the water and immediately realized it wasn't a snook.

"Tarpon!" I yelled.

I fought the 10-pounder through five jumps and several runs before the hook pulled.

"I thought sure you had it," Vinny said.

We moved to another spot and immediately began catching snook. I released a beefy 25-incher, then hooked what might have been the largest snook of my career. The fish headed for the trees, and it was all I could do to keep it out of the debris. The big snook made two lengthy runs and tried to jump on a couple of occasions, but was so big it couldn't get its body out of the water.

I felt pretty good about the situation. I felt in control.

I was surprised when the line went slack. The hook had pulled.

Upon later inspection, I discovered the hook's point was bent downward.

I changed jig heads and returned to action, catching a couple of smaller fish.

When the action slowed, we moved. Vinny caught and released a small snook as we moved along.

We returned to the spot we'd started out at in the morning.

I quickly hooked another tarpon. I endured five jumps and several runs. This time, the fish wasn't able to rid itself of the jig. I landed a beautiful, juvenile Myakka River tarpon. The fish weight about 10 pounds.

Two casts later, I was into another tarpon. It was a carbon copy of the previous two.

It seems the tarpon prefer deep-water bends of the river and like to hang out in the middle.

We've been getting lots of snook 30 inches and more. Our biggest fish so far this season has been 36 inches.

In addition to snook and tarpon, we often get largemouth bass, spotted gar, Florida gar, shortnose gar, redfish and ladyfish.

We usually fish the river from mid-December until late February.

Our lure of choice is a MirrOlure Little John on a 1/16-ounce Norton jig. Golden bream has been the best color. We've also caught a few fish on MirrOlure MirrOdines.

Steve Harris of Baton Rouge, La., had a great day with me on Christmas Eve. We totaled 13 snook to 32 inches.

Craig Howard of Michigan found the going a little tougher. We combined for eight snook to about 27 inches and a gar.

Dave Cyr of Osprey, Fla. enjoyed his first trip on the Myakka. We combined for eight snook to 30 inches. Dave also hooked and lost a tarpon.

I expect the action to remain good well into February.

Maybe it's the Year of the Tarpon?

I hope so!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Snook, redfish and big trout were the stars of December

Steve Harris of Baton Rouge, La., is a happy angler after landed this hefty Myakka River snook.
               December ended on a hot note for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

                On a scouting day, I fished the Myakka River and experienced my best (non beach) snook day ever. I caught and released 17 snook to 36 inches, two redfish and five tilapia. Most of the fish were caught on MirrOlure Little Johns on 1/16-ounce jig heads.

                Craig Howard of Michigan joined me for a day on the Myakka and did well. We totaled eight snook to about 25 inches and three gar to around 15 pounds. Again, the MirrOlure Little John produced for us.

                Paul Shoup and his son, Abe, joined me for a four-hour trip in Sarasota Bay on the day after and front and experienced typical slow action. We totaled only two trout, and lost a larger "mystery" fish.

                Steve Harris of Baton Rouge, La., had a great day on the Myakka River, catching and releasing a bunch of snook. We totaled 13 snook to about 32 inches on Little Johns.

                Casey Gawthrop of Indiana had a fine day in Sarasota Bay. We totaled 12 redfish to 28 inches, five snook and about 15 trout on MirrOlure Little Johns and MirrOlure MirrOdines. Casey hooked a big fish on fly rod at the start of the trip, but broke it off. I think it was a large snook.

                Prior to the cold, Sarasota Bay was on fire. Redfish to 32 inches, snook to 30, spotted seatrout to 29, pompano to 4 pounds, bluefish to 6 and flounder were hitting Little Johns on light jig heads.

                If you haven't tried the Little John, you're missing out. It's a 4-inch soft plastic that fits nicely on a Norton 1/16-ounce jig head. If can be worked with minimal hangups in shallow grass.

                The MirrOlure MirrOdine has been producing a majority of my big trout. Prior to 2012, I had landed only two trout of 5 pounds or more. I totaled 56 trout from 5 to 9 pounds this past year -- mostly on MirrOdines.

                I fish the MirrOdine on a light rod with 5-pound braided PowerPro. I keep the drag very light so that I don't rip the lure out of the mouth of large trout.

                I've got a spot in Sarasota Bay where big trout will congregate through April.

                However, I probably won't get back out on the back until mid-February. My plan to fish local tidal rivers for snook.

                This is hard fishing. Anglers are rewarded -- if they keep their lures in the water. Every cast has the possibility of a 25-pound snook.

                To date, our largest river snook is an 18-pounder. We've landed numerous snook of 10 pounds or more.

                We also encounter redfish, largemouth bass, gar, tilapia and an occasional tarpon on the river.

                Not only can the fish be spectacular, but the scenery mesmerizing. On a typical trip, we'll encounter great blue heron,  night heron, bald eagle, osprey, wild hog, deer, raccoon, otter and, of course, alligators.

                I only offer  6- and 8-hour trips on the river because of the distance involved.

                My January scheduled is filling up. Contact me if the urge to feel a big snook on the line is too much to resist.

               I also got my new Native Watercraft Slayer 14.5. It's a great fishing kayak stable. You can fish out of one of my Ultimates or the Slayer. Just let me know your preference!

Happy New Year!

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing



(941) 284-3406