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


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