Friday, May 31, 2013

May fishing was among the slowest in the history of Southern Drawl

A happy Norm Ferris shows off the first of his oversized redfish that he caught on fly rod.

May fishing might have been the worst in the history of Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.

It was a tough month for sure.

I report this in an effort to keep things as accurate as possible. I don't think there's any benefit to exaggerating fishing reports or embellishing them to make them look good.

When the fishing's good, I will say so in my monthly reports. When it's bad, you'll get it first hand from me.

Now, this doesn't mean fishing was bad for everyone. I'm sure other anglers had decent days. I had a couple myself.

But I'm speaking overall.

The month started out well. I took fly angler Norman Ferris out on May 1. Ferris, an accomplished caster and determined angler, caught spotted seatrout, ladyfish and a pair of hefty redfish on Clouser Minnows and Dupree Spoon Flies. We fished the Buttonwood Harbor area off Sarasota Bay. Both of Ferris' redfish were 29 to 30 inches.

It wasn't the easiest day. We had to work extremely hard to succeed. We must have fished at least 10 spots before finally finding the reds. We were work our way south after spending time fishing the shallows behind White Key. When we came around the west end of Crabclaw Key, we found a lot of mullet activity on the outgoing tide. So, we anchored and began casting.

Ferris hooked up almost immediately with a 29-inch redfish. He fought the oversized redfish (maximum size limit is 27 inches) for a good while before finally getting it close enough to land.

Three casts later, he was into another oversize red. This fish might have been an inch or so larger than the first.

Redfish can be easy. They can be tough. There are days they make you look like a hero. The next you're a zero.

You'll most often find success on spinning tackle because you can make longer casts and cover more territory with a variety of lures. My favorite lures include Zara Super Spook Jrs., MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jig heads, gold Johnson Silver Minnow Spoons, D.O.A. Airheads and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

When it comes to fly fishing, anglers should consider it a good day if they hook and land one red. Anything more should be considered a bonus.

Now, that doesn't mean it's always that way. There are days when the redfish will make you think it's very easy.

My usual rig for reds when fly fishing is a 7- or 8-weight rod, full floating line and 10-foot leader. Flies of choice include DuPree Spoon Flies, Puglisi Mullet and Gibby's Duster Minnows. Clousers work well when the reds are in sand holes.

I fished southern Tampa Bay on a couple of scouting trips are did fair. I caught several nice snook and trout on topwater plugs and jigs on one trip. The next day I slammed with several decent reds, snook and trout on topwater plugs and jigs.

One of the neat things about fishing southern Tampa Bay is the expanse of sand bars which offer superb sight-fishing. You'll like encounter redfish, snook, trout and sharks on the bars. Sharks were the dominate fish on the bars during May.

My brother, Bob, and his two sons, Pat and Mike, fished with me for four days at mid-month. The trip was a graduation present for Mike, who recently received his degree from The Ohio State University.

First day we fished Buttonwood Harbor and did fair. We caught a number of spotted seatrout to 22 inches and flounder to 16. Most of the fish came on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with copper crush paddle tails.

The next day we fished the deep grass off Stephens Point in Sarasota Bay. We caught 15 trout and small flounder on CAL Jigs.

Tampa Bay was slow for us. We caught a few trout and flounder. We did have at least a dozen shots at bonnethead and blacktip sharks on the sand bars, but didn't hook up.

For our final outing, we returned to Buttonwood Harbor. We caught a variety of fish, including trout to 18 inches, flounder, bluefish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and bonnethead shark.

Paul Cannon of Utah spent a day fly fishing with me. We started out in Bowles Creek, targeting snook around dock lights.  Snook were plentiful, but finicky. Cannon, an excellent caster, caught and released a 23-incher . He hooked a couple of other snook, but lost them.

We pulled the kayaks out of the water, loaded them on the trailer and drove to the west side of the bay. We launched at Buttonwood Harbor and had a tough time. Cannon caught a few trout and ladyfish. He lost a small redfish that would have given him a Slam.

We started looking for snook in the surf. First outing along Manasota Key found the going tough. We only saw a few snook. We hooked one, but lost it. We also hooked (but lost) a hefty jack crevalle.

Next day, we walked along Casey Key. We landed a 23-inch snook and got to cast at a couple of schools of large jack crevalle.

Trevor Dean of Colorado joined me for a beach snook outing and had a few shots. O verall, we saw 20 snook. He hooked two and had another eat his fly. We used Gibby's D.T. Variation and Gibby's Snook Duster.

Beach snook action should improve as the weather and water heat up. I looked for increased numbers of snook in the surf almost daily.

I have been writing a few articles for Sport Fishing Weekly. It's a new site that you might want to check out:

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm teaming up with Sport Fishing Weekly

I'm now working with and writing for Sport Fishing Weekly. Check out the site:

Check out my article:

This could be a great relationship.

Comments are welcomed!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wind, trout, redfish, bluegill and channel catfish mark the month of April

Al Ewert of Connecticut shows off a redfish he caught on fly rod while fishing Sarasota Bay.

April came in like a lion and went out like a ... lion.

Wind was the name of the game. In fact, April was so windy that we spent a lot of time on local rivers to escape it.

We fished the Manatee River, Myakka River, Webb Lake and Braden River on several occasions.

The wind didn't stop Al Ewert of Connecticut from almost pulling off an incredibly rare Super Slam on fly rod. Ewert, fishing with his daughter, Annie, caught trout, snook and redfish on fly for his Slam. He jumped a 90-pound tarpon early in the day that would have given him the Super Slam.

This action took place in Buttonwood Harbor off Sarasota Bay.

Kirk Klingensmith of Corning, N.Y. joined me for an outing on the Manatee River early in the month. Little did we know that the river was muddy because of recent rain. We persevered, however, and caught fish. We managed several hand-sized bluegill and four channel catfish on my Aunt Sara's Homely Daughter Nymph under a strike indicator.

At  the beginning of the month, I fished the Manatee River on a couple of scouting trips are did pretty well. Best day was 20 channel cats to 5 pounds, 10 bluegill and a healthy bass on ASHD Nymphs. I use a 1-weight TFO Finesse fly rod for this and that light rod leads to lots of fun.

The Manatee River out of Ray's Canoe Hideaway has a good population of big bluegill and copious amounts of channel catfish. It's one of two local spots that I know where you can regularly catch channel cats on fly rod. I've taken cats to 7 pounds from the river and have hooked (but lost) larger fish.

Saltwater catfish aren't popular and rarely targeted. But channel catfish in fresh water are considered trophies by many.

Patrick O'Connor of Rotonda joined me for an outing to Alligator Alley in The Everglades where we fly fished and caught a variety of fish. In addition to the usual largemouth bass, bluegill, stumpknocker and speckled perch, we also caught a dozen oscar and a bunch of Mayan cichlids. It's good to see the exotics rebounding after the freeze of 2010 killed a bunch of them.

We caught our fish on popping bugs, my Myakka Minnow and nymphs.

Willie Trowbridge of Breckenridge, Colo., and his son, Henry, fished Buttonwood Harbor off Sarasota Bay with me. They're avid fly fishers, but windy conditions caused them to switch to spinning rods. Henry managed a nice slam -- snook, trout and redfish. On the day, we caught and released seven reds to 28 inches, snook to 22, trout to 17, flounder and jack crevalle.

Hank Guetzlaff of Apollo Beach and I fished the Braden River and had a blast on light fly rods. We landed 10 bass to 2 1/2 pounds, 15 bluegill and eight stumpknocker. With the full moon approaching and lots of bluegill beds in the river, we planned a return trip the following week.

On our return trips, we combined to land 34 bass to 2 pounds, 70 bluegill, a bunch of stumpknocker and a warmouth perch. The bluegill, many of which were hand-sized, weren't on the beds, but they weren't around the nests. Most of the action to place on popping bugs.

Sarasota Bay action has been off and on. When it's going good, we've been taking good catches of redfish just off the sand bars near Buttonwood Harbor. We've taken reds to 30 inches on Johnson Spoons, MirrOlure Lil Johns on 1/16-ounce jig heads and topwater plugs. Best day has been eight redfish.

We've also taken a few snook to 30 inches off the sands of Lil Johns.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton joined me for a trip to Buttonwood Harbor. The first sand bar only yielded a few trout, flounder and small jack crevalle. Reds were conspicuously absent. So, we paddled to another spot where we found the Mother Lode.

We found the reds in a school of mullet as high tide was approaching. In a 20-minute span, we landed three reds to 26 1/2 inches and lost another. Then, the window closed as the tide peaked. Vinny also caught a couple of trout to 20 inches. Our fish came on Lil Johns and Sebile Stick Shads.

I spent a day exploring the east side of the day and found snook around dock light before dawn. I then moved out to the adjacent flats and caught redfish to 24 inches, trout to 18 and a few small jack crevalle.

I spent a morning at the beach, looking for snook in the surf. It's a bit early, but it's always worth a look this time of year. I only found one small school of snook.

May usually is a good month to fish. The weather is typically settled and front-free.  I anticipate good redfish action on the flats and off the sands bars, along with a few snook and spotted seatrout. Snook will increase along the beaches and they will be around dock lights at night. Seatrout are always available over the deep grass patches along the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay. In fresh water, I anticipate good action bluegill, bass and channel catfish.

May possibilities include a combo night snook/flats trip, beach fishing for snook in the surf and flats fishing.
Book your trips early.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing