Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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.


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  2. Great article Steve. You are the river master. I have made several trips through the same area you are fishing with very little success. I am not giving up though and thanks for the the info.

  3. Great article.While I don;t fish for snook I do fish a river a lot.I fish the Ohio River mainly for catfish and bass.I agree it does get rough at times.The point you made about rivers being for trophy seekers i agree.When I fish the river that's what I'm looking for is a trophy and I'm sure the other guys with me are as well.
    When you say it takes patience and attention to fish a river that's true.I have went hours without a bite in a river.Then at the blink of a eye get one giant run.SO attention is a crucial aspect.
    Well enough with my rambling and great article it was a nice read and I can't wait to see your future posts.

  4. Incredible share Steve. I agree with you that river fishing ain't easy, you need to have patience and focus on fishing. Apparently, I am not really good in fishing but I enjoy it that much.

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  5. Thanks for the kind comments, folks. Keep 'em coming.