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!


  1. Awesome blog! What would a good basic fly selection be for Myakka River snook and baby tarpon? Also, is there any shore or wade fishing on the freshwater section?


  2. Baitfish patterns: Clousers, Puglisi, etc. Not easily wadable. Plus, I wouldn't wade because of the gators.

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