Sunday, October 27, 2013

October (Florida's best month) lives up to its reputation

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton battles a 70-pound blacktip shark.
October, arguably, is the best month in Florida -- for a number of reasons.

One, the weather is superb. Two, fishing is great. And, three (for the most part), the water is uncrowded.

Oh, did I mention that traffic is pretty light?
Geoff Henderson and pompano

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton enjoyed several good days of kayak shark fishing. We fished southern Tampa Bay and did pretty well. We caught and released a number of blacktip and bonnethead shark to 70 pounds.

We like to arrive at daylight and paddle to the shark grounds. Once there, we spend a little time catching bait.

We use light jigs to target ladyfish or whatever else we might catch.

For shark fishing, we use Star Seagis medium heavy rods, Shimano TLD 15 reels, 30-pound Power Pro braided line and wire leaders with 8/0 circle hooks.

Once we get the bait, it usually doesn't take too long for the shark action to heat up.

We have averaged nine shark runs per trip and four sharks landed.

It's a thrilling sport and you're often towed on quarter- to half-mile sleigh ride.
Max Hofmann with his first bluefish.

All sharks are released alive.

Bay fishing has been good.

Geoff Henderson of Bradenton joined me for a day on Sarasota Bay . The redfish wouldn't cooperate, but spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, flounder and pompano did. We caught trout to 21 inches, loads of feisty jacks  and a few flounder. The catch of the day was Geoff's first "big" pompano -- a 4-pounder.

Max Hofmann of Maryland fished another trip with me. Max just started fishing the last time he was in the area in December. He caught spotted seatrout, bluefish and jack crevalle and experienced consistent action.
I spent a few days preparing for the 9th annual Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers/CCA Fall Fly Fishing Challenge, an event that Capt . Rick Grassett and I started nine years ago.

I fish in the Open Division (for guides, captains and whoever want s to fish it). In the Open Division, the Grand Champion is the angler with the most cumulative inches of one redfish, one trout and one snook.

There are also awards for the most inches of trout, most inches of redfish and most inches of snook.

I spent a couple of days pre-fishing for the event and was encouraged.

First morning out, I launched at Stephens' Point an hour before daylight. I fished around lighted docks and caught three nice trout and a decent snook. I then paddled to just north of the Ringling Mansion and caught a redfish on my fifth cast.

Next day, I launched at Whitfield Avenue and tried the dock lights inside Bowles Creek. I caught a three snook. I paddled south and anchored the kayak on a sand bar. I got out and waded the bar. There, I caught a 28-inch snook and about 15 trout. I saw a few reds, but didn't catch them.

I debated where to go on tournament day, but opted to launch at Whitfield. I broke off a snook early, then landed a small snook. I put the snook on the measuring board, took its picture and released it.
One third of the Slam done!


I forgot to put the chip with my number in the photo.

Shortly after daylight, I paddled south to the area I fished the day prior. I knew I'd get the red because of my snook error.

I did.

I caught a 23-inch red in about five minutes.

Then, I started catching trout. I got more than a limit (10 photos) of trout, then decided to spend the final two hours back in Bowles Creek to try and get a snook.

No deal.

However, I did add several larger trout to my total.

I won the Trout Division with 129.5 inches. I received a beautiful plaque and a $75 gift certificate to Economy Tackle.

My snook debacle turned out to be no big deal. Had the snook counted, my "slam" would have only been 56 inches -- three inches short of Grand Champion Ray Markham's slam.

I also won a number of prizes in the raffle, including a $75 gift certificate from C.B.'s Saltwater Outfitters.

During the tournament's nine-year run, I've won a division eight times.

Earlier in the month, I took four days to do a little freshwater fishing. I fished Upper Myakka Lake and the Myakka River.

Patrick O'Connor of Rotonda joined me for day and we had a blast. We caught well more than 200 hand-sized bluegill, plus speckled perch, tilapia, shellcracker and largemouth bass.

Most of the fish were taken on my Myakka Minnow, nymphs under strike indicators and popping bugs.

November's outlook: Cooling water temperature should improve action over the deep grass patches around Sarasota Bay. I look for increased numbers of bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano. The blues are getting bigger, with some pushing 8 pounds.
Redfish activity should heat up on the flats.

Freshwater action should improve, with bluegill, speckled perch and shellcracker leading the way. I look for good action in Upper Myakka Lake, Lake Manatee, Myakka River and Manatee River.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayaking Fishing

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