Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November saw improved action; December forecast good

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton battles a feisty oscar on a light fly rod in The Everglades. (Photo by Steve Gibson)
November proved to be just what was anticipate with improved fishing for a variety of species.

The highlight of the month was a trip to The Everglades with Vinny Caruso of Bradenton.

Typical oscar in The Everglades.
We met at 4:30 a.m. to make the 2 1/2-hour drive south. Our plan was to fish the canals along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) south of Marco Island.

This was the first time that I left the kayaks at home on a trek to The 'Glades in several years.
Fishing that area by foot is something I've done many times, but not since 2004.

I chose to fish this particular area because I'd received word that water levels were up in The Everglades along Alligator Alley. And high water is not conducive to productive fishing in that area.
And with the wind predicted to be blowing around 15 mph, the Tamiami Trail would be perfect.

One of many largemouth bass caught on Myakka Minnow.
My usual "modus operandi" is to start fishing at the Turner River and work my way from spot to spot toward Miami. Fishing was so-so until we stopped at the fourth bridge. We didn't catch much at that bridge until we moved about 50 feet to the west. There we caught oscar on virtually every cast == until a pair of hungry (and healthy) alligators moved in to mooch free food.

We left and hit a couple of more bridges, but didn't have much success. So, we decided to fish along Loop Road, a scenic drive through The 'Glades.

One thing about Loop Road is there are plenty of gators. And this day was no exception. When you pull over to fish, you'd better check the side of the road before you get out. I don't know how many gators we saw sunning themselves along the road's shoulder.

Be sure to look before you exit the vehicle.
Typical strategy along Loop Road is drive from culvert to culvert (there are many) and stop at the ones that look good. I'd drive slowly as we approached a culvert, and Vinny would look out the window to determine is the spot was holding enough fish to stop.

We did fair on the first three stops. It was a different story on the fourth. I'm not sure how long we fished, but I'd estimate it was at least four hours. And we caught fish on literally every cast. I couldn't give you an accurate count on our fish, but I'd guess we landed 100 oscar, 12 largemouth bass, a half dozen hand-sized bluegill, several Mayan cichlid, gar and stumpknocker.

For this type of fishing, we use 3- and 4-weight fly rods, floating lines and 8-foot 6-pound leaders. Fly of choice was my ever-trusty and amazing Myakka Minnow.

The oscar, an exotic species that was inadvertently introduced to south Florida waters in 1954, was larger than average along Loop Road.

If you'd never hooked an oscar, you're missing out. They're not doubt the strongest fish for their size around. They're gregarious, strong and bulldog-like. You often wonder if you'll be able to land them.

We usually release all fish, but Vinny decided to take a few oscar home to sample. The fish are thick and produce sizeable fillets.

He sautéed the fillets in olive oil and garlic. He said the fish were superb. And since there are no size or bag limits on oscar, he plans to keep them on subsequent trips.

Whether fishing The 'Glades by foot or by kayak, the action usually is fast and furious. This is a wonderful trip that is among my favorites. The action usually is best December through April. Cost is $350 and that includes tranportation and lunch. Add $50 for an extra angler. There's an optional stop at the Bass Pro Shop in Fort Myers free of charge.

On Everglades trips, I don't fish by the clock. We arrive shortly after daylight and fish until you say it's time to go. If you want to fish until dusk, that's OK.

Closer to home, fishing finally picked up in Sarasota Bay. We caught slams (redfish, snook, spotted seatrout) on several occasions around Buttonwood Harbor on the west side of the bay. On a couple of occasions, we were able to "sight-fish" all three species on the flats and in sand holes on the incoming tides.

We caught snook to 28 inches, reds to 32 and trout to 26.

In addition, we caught several hard-fighting bluefish to 5 pounds, a couple of pompano and a black drum.

We fished southern Tampa Bay behind and in front of Joe Island on a couple of occasions and caught a variety of fish, including redfish, spotted seatrout, snook and doormat flounder.

I ventured up to the Palma Sola Bay and did well. We caught 89 trout to 22 inches, six flounder, two redfish, a pompano and several ladyfish and jack crevalle -- all on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with gold paddle tails.

I have several openings early this month, but the schedule is filling quickly around Christmas. In addition, I am scheduled for eye surgery on Dec. 30 and then again about a week later, so I will be out of commission for a few days during that span.

Please feel free to email me or give me a call if you'd like to book a trip or if you have any questions.

DECEMBER FORECAST: I look for increased numbers of bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano off the edges of the flats around grass patches in the deeper water. This action is great for spin and fly anglers. Spotted seatrout action should continue steady. Snook are in transition, migrating from the bays to creeks, canals and rivers where they'll spend the winter. I look for decent snook action in local rivers from mid-December through Feb. 15. Over the last few years, river fishing has produced snook to 44 inches (about 28-30 pounds). In addition to snook, we also catch redfish, largemouth bass, tarpon and gar in the river.

Happy Holidays!


Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-384-3406


Friday, October 31, 2014

October marked the beginning of the flounder invasion

Flounder lie on the bottom and blend into the sand. This Tampa Bay flatty ate a MirrOlure Lil John (upper left). 
John Garcia with one of three mullet on fly.
October usually is one of the more interesting months for fishing. It's a time when we begin to transition from the hot summer months into the cooler days of fall.

October also is when fish begin to feed heavily in anticipation of winter.

Along with the regular array of spotted seatrout, redfish, snook, jack crevalle and other species, we begin to see increases in bluefish, Spanish mackerel, flounder and pompano.

I think October is the beginning of a two-month flounder show that is unparalleled throughout the country. The big flatties move in mass into sand holes and along the sand edges of flats where they actually can be targeted.

Imagine intentionally fishing for flounder with rod and reel? Sure, we catch a few flounder throughout the year on jigs. However, during fall you can catch almost all you want.

The author with a fine Buttonwood Harbor snook.
Buttonwood Harbor is a prime spot to target flounder. I like to work the edge of the main Buttonwood channel where the grass flats give way to sandy bottom. There's no secret or special technique when it comes to flounder. Simply cast to the edge and let your jig drop to the bottom. Then, just work it slowly in short hops.

When a flounder hits, you'll probably think you've snagged something on the bottom. Given that the bottom is nothing but sand, the only thing you'll snag is a big, old flat flounder.

For flounder fishing, I use a 1/16-ounce Norton Jig paired with a MirrOlure Lil John. I don't think color makes one iota of difference, but I usually use Lil John's in the MirrOlure colors of golden bream, tube worm, watermelon with copper glitter, watermelon with red glitter and money.

I also fish the sand bars along southern Tampa Bay. Flounder congregate on the sand there like voyeurs at a nude beach. The sand bars there are among the best anywhere for sight-fishing redfish, snook and spotted seatrout.

But you're not going to see the flounder. They bury themselves in the sand and actually blend right it. They lie there in anticipation and attack whenever an unsuspecting prey swims too close.

I don't kill many fish and haven't done so in many years. The reason is that our main three species -- trout, snook and redfish -- are highly regulated and don't need me or anyone else killing them.

Whenever I feel like a fresh-fish dinner, it's tough to beat a flounder. The flesh is firm, sweet and among the best that Florida waters have to offer (pompano and mangrove snapper are my other favorites).

I haven't killed a snook or redfish in more than 30 years.

Snook action has been pretty good. I've been averaging about three per outing while fishing before daylight and throughout the day. My biggest snook of the month was a 30-incher that I hooked on a light spinning outfit with 5-pound braid.

That fish sparked an amazing frenzy of action. I was fishing an edge along the south side of Whale Key with Steve Manning of Sarasota. We were wading and casting MirrOlure MirrOdines. Manning and I had caught a number of spotted seatrout and a few jacks. He caught and released a small snook and a nice redfish earlier in the day around Red Key.

I had been getting snook for about a month in this location. But the tide was slowing and all I had to show for my efforts was four nice trout. I think three of the four went better than 20 inches.

The fish turned on (albeit for just a few minutes) when the tide began to flood. In five casts, I caught a 30-inch snook, a 23-incher, a 20-inch trout and a small redfish. That's a five-cast slam!

"I wouldn't have believe had I not seen it," Manning said.

Everett Howell of Longboat Key and I returned to the same spot the next day, but didn't find any snook or reds. We did catch a number of seatrout to 20 inches and some feisty 5-pound jack crevalle.

Fly/spin angler Pete Taylor of Venice joined me for a pre-dawn sortie on Sarasota Bay at Stephens Point. We found snook piled up on the dock lights, but they weren't hungry.  We moved out into the bay over the deep grass and caught a decent amount of seatrout to 18 inches on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with copper crush paddle tails and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

Fly angler John Garcia of San Francisco and I fished Buttonwood Harbor and had to work for out catch. Garcia, who grew up in Sarasota and attended Riverview High School, is an accomplished fly fisher. We managed 10 trout to 24 inches, two snook to 27 and a load of jack crevalle. Garcia also hook and landed three mullet.

John Fisher of Kentucky had some back luck. The fish were cooperating when thunderstorms ended out outing prematurely. Fisher, a former pitcher at the University of Kentucky, caught a nice mangrove snapper on a Lil John. We also landed a pair of small redfish and a snook.

I fished the 10th annual Fall Fly Fishing Challlenge, a tournament I co-founded with Capt. Rick Grassett. In the first nine years, I was fortunate enough to win a division eight times.

My plan was to fish dock lights for snook in the Stephens Point basin. I arrived at the launch at 45 minutes prior to the start of the tournament. As I began paddling toward the main dock I planned to fish, a powerboat entered the basin and headed for the dock.

So, my plan was already shot.

I paddled to a second light, but found few fish there.

The two anglers in the other boat didn't stay long. Five minutes after they left, I paddled to that light to find no fish.

I began casting a chartreuse-and-white synthetic Clouser around docks and along the seawall. I picked up three small snook and four very nice flounder. I photographed the snook and released them. I really didn't think much about it, but I would later.

Eligible species in the Open Division are snook, trout and redfish. The Grand Champion is the angler accumulating the most inches for a single trout, snook and redfish.

So, I had snook. I knew I would get trout, so I kept casting around the structure in hopes of getting a redfish.

Two hours of casting yielded no reds.

I moved out into the bay in a search of trout. I had no trouble finding them. I caught a dozen or so and accumulated 122.50 inches. That's normally enough to win the Trout Division.

When I began filling out my scorecard, I had to make a decision: Enter only the trout or enter the snook? Fifty inches of snook probably would do me little good. And 122.50 inches of trout usually is enough to win that division.

I opted to fill the card with trout.

Bad decision. A friend of mine, Jeff Brue of Tampa, caught more than 160 inches of trout to win that division.

My three snook would have won that division. Doug Fisher of Sarasota won the Snook Division with 39 inches.

Oh, well, that's the chance you take when you're filling out your scorecard.

When I head out, I have a minimum of three rods rigged and ready. On one, I'll have a Lil John on a Norton Jig. I'll have a 14MR MirrOdine on my light rod (a Star Seagis 6-foot-6 rod with a 1000 CI4 Shimano Stradic Reel and 5-pound PowerPro braid), and a topwater plug on the third. Sometimes, I'll take a fourth rod rigged with a gold Johnson Spoon. Once cold weather sets in, the topwater bite will slow.

NOVEMBER FORECAST: I look for very good action in November as the transition continues. Seatrout, snook and redfish will cooperate in the bays. The flounder bonanza will continue for at least the first couple of weeks. I also anticipate increased numbers of bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Pompano should begin to show up toward the end of the month.

November is booking up nicely, but I have open dates. Please book early to assure yourself of the date(s) you want.

Don't forget the big snook will begin to enter the Myakka River in December. In addition to monster snook, we get redfish, tarpon, largemouth bass and gar.

Last season was disappointing, but the previous two years were wonderful. We're hoping things rebound this time around.

As always, I'd like to thank my sponsors: NuCanoe, MirrOlure, D.O.A. Lures, Temple Fork Outfitters and Peak Fishing.



Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tampa Bay the top September producer for trout, snook and redfish

Jack McKnight, a first-time kayak angler, battles a small bonnethead shark in Tampa Bay.














September was a very good month for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.
Vinny Caruso shows off a redfish.

We spent a majority of the time in southern Tampa Bay around Joe Island. We had numerous trips where clients caught slams (snook, trout, redfish).

Snook were the most prevalent fish in the backcountry. We caught snook on virtually every trip, including one outing where we totaled 23.

We caught snook on a variety of lures, including MirrOlure Top Pups and MirrOlure MirrOdines.
We found the best snook action from just before dawn to an hour after.

Jack and Marnie McKnight joined me for an outing on Tampa Bay. These first-time kayak anglers did pretty well. They caught 40 spotted seatrout, plus jack crevalle, flounder and a bonnethead shark on Top Pups and MirrOdines.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton had several good outings and slammed nearly each time. On one trip, he caught 11 snook. On another, he landed four redfish, 25 trout and a couple of 5-pound bluefish.
Steve Manning of Sarasota joined us late in the month when the action was really going on. We caught 23 snook, 40 trout, four flounder, plus jack crevalle and ladyfish.

Fly fisher Chuck Dodd of Virginia, a repeat client, joined me on what I anticipated would be a great day. But the action slowed down. We worked hard to catch 20 trout, four snook, four flounder, a jack crevalle and ladyfish. Clouser Deep Minnows and Gibby's Baitfish Fly produced best.

We're experiencing what I call the fall transition. That's a period when the fish begin to more toward their winter haunts and when they begin to feed heavily. I've noticed quite a bit of surface action over the past couple of weeks.

Sarasota Bay action has been slow, but I anticipate improved fishing as the weather cools.

I fished fresh water on a couple of occasions. I spent a day on lake within the Fakaunion Strand State Preserve with fly-fishing pro Joe Maher (joemahler.com). We caught a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, bluegill and Mayan cichlid. I hooked a hefty bass on a 3-weight fly rod using Joe's Straw Boss Fly. The bass broker off after a few minutes.

Water levels at most area lakes and streams are significantly up after a rainy month. We anticipate strong action when the water begins to subside.

OCTOBER FORECAST: We look for continued strong action on spotted seatrout, snook and redfish in southern Tampa Bay. In addition, flounder, bluefish, jack crevalle and shark will be somewhat plentiful. In Sarasota Bay, the month should see improved action, with trout and redfish taking the spotlight. Night snook action should be good around lighted docks.

We would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge out sponsors: NuCanoe, MirrOlure, D.O.A. Lures and TFO.

I am so glad that NuCanoe came along. I have three Frontier 12s. They're undoubtedly the best fishing kayaks I've ever used. Their stability is unparalleled. And their cushioned, 360-degree swivel seats are wonderful. What I appreciate most about the NuCanoe is it's roomy, simple cockpit.
You can check out NuCanoe at www.nucanoe.com

If you're interested
in a trip, please give me a call at 941-284-3406 or email me at steve@kayakfishingsarasota.com




Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406


Monday, September 1, 2014

Hot weather spurs some hot snook action in the backcountry

Jim Rohrer of Sarasota battles a redfish in southern Tampa Bay. The red completed his saltwater slam.










August was brutally hot -- even for Florida.

Daily highs usually are in the low 90s. Not this year. We had record temperatures in the high 90s.
For the most part fishing was just as hot -- particularly in Tampa Bay.
Rohrer shows off the first of 10 snook.

This time of year, we like to get out early to beat the heat. We prefer to get on the water at least a half hour before sunrise and head back to the launch in early afternoon.

The sunrise bite often is the best of the day.

We've been launching in southern Tampa Bay at the south Sunshine Skyway rest area. From there it's just a short paddle to Joe Island.

We usually begin in the backcountry, working a couple of bays behind the island. We've found topwater the way to go.

We usually use MirrOlure Top Dogs or Top Pups on medium-action spinning rods with 10-pound braided line. Key to success is your ability to "walk the dog." Walking the dog is a retrieval technique during which the plugs moves from side to side when it's retrieved.

It's not a difficult retrieval to learn, but it can take some time to perfect it. I prefer to hold my rod horizontally over the water, twitching the tip constantly. Now, I begin to reel. I can speed up both actions or slow them down, depending on what the fish want.

Vinny Caruso's red completed another slam.
The technique often draws explosive strikes.

Key to success is to not set the hook until you feel the weight of the fish. That's when you set the hook.

Many fish (redfish especially) will hit and miss. It does you not good to set the hook if the fish doesn't have your plug.

I just keep the plug moving.

In some cases, I'll stop the plug for a couple of seconds after a fish misses. I think the fish thinks it stunned the bait. And when I begin the retrieve again, I often get an instant hit.

Trout will often knock the plug into the air. This can be frustrating, but patience usually pays off. Just keep working the plug until you get a good take.

During this "low-light" period, we usually encounter redfish, spotted seatrout, snook, jack crevalle and ladyfish. I've even caught keeper mangrove snapper while fishing a topwater plug.

Pete Walocko battles a bonnethead shark.
Snook have been most prominent in the backcountry. We're averaging five per morning and have caught up to a dozen. Most of the snook are small (22-inch average), but we've hooked a couple of 20-pounders.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton and I combined to catch nine snook, two reds, 25 trout, a jack crevalle and a couple of mangrove snapper.

Another lure that has been producing for us consistently is the MirrOlure MirrOdine. Most often, we use the "mini" MirrOdine with the green back (14MR-18). Check them out at http://www.mirrolure.com/lumo/14-17-18-27mr.html.

The MirrOdine has been my "go-to" lure for the past four years. I have caught more big trout (5 pounds or more) on it than any other lure. It's also very good for other species.

After the topwater bite ended, we moved out in front of Joe Island and fish the grass flats. We caught a bunch of trout on MirrOdines.

This pattern has been producing for the past month.

Sarasota Bay action has been a little slower.

Regular client Pete Walocko of Michigan joined me for an outing around Buttonwood Harbor off Sarasota Bay. We worked hard to catch 20 spotted seatrout, a flounder, jack crevalle and a bonnethead shark. We caught most of the fish on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with copper crush paddle tails.
Stephens Point off Sarasota Bay has been off and on. I got out a daylight one morning and caught four snook to 28 inches, a 24-inch redfish, flounder and trout on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs around docks and seawalls. We then paddled out into the bay and caught 15 seatrout on CAL Jigs and D.O.A. Deadly Combinations.

We fished the same area the following day and caught a three snook and 15 trout.

I fished Buttonwood Harbor on a solo trip and did fair. I anchored on the edge of the main channel and caught a 28-inch snook and 15 trout on MirrOdines. I later added a quartet of flounder on jigs.
Freshwater action has been pretty slow. I fished Lake Manatee and struggled to catch fish. The water level is very low and won't return to normal until repairs on the dam are complete.

The next day, I fish Upper Myakka Lake and didn't set the world on fire. I caught one hand-sized bluegill on a nymph in the lake. I paddled over the dam and was able to land a dozen nice bluegill on Myakka Minnows and popping bugs from the river.

Jim Rohrer of Sarasota joined me for his first kayak fishing trip. He said he started out looking to book a powerboat charter, but thought kayak fishing sounded like fun.

We fished southern Tampa Bay around Joe Island. Using a topwater plug, Jim caught and released 10 snook to 23 inches and a spotted seatrout. He added a few more seatrout on MirrOlure MirrOdines when we moved out in front of Joe Island.

All he needed was a redfish for his slam. But I didn't think the odds were good.

However, just before it was time to paddle back to the launch, I spotted some breaking fish. We paddled close enough to cast and both hooked up immediately. I thought the fish were jack crevalle, but they turned out to be reds.

Jim caught a slam (a snook, trout and redfish) on his first kayak fishing trip.

SEPTEMBER FORECAST: I expect improved action in the backcountry and in fresh water. I look for snook, trout and redfish on the flats, with the best action taking place around dawn. Action should also improve over the deep grass areas of Sarasota Bay.

Beach snook action should be good in September as long as the weather cooperates.

Fly fishing for bass, bluegill and other panfish should be good in local lakes and rivers.
September is already booking up nicely. If you're interested in catching a saltwater slam, give me a call and let's see if we can do it!

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kaykfishingsarasota.com

941-284-3406


Monday, August 4, 2014

Snook seem to be back on the beaches in good numbers

A sizable school of snook swims in the surf along Casey Key.


Scott Dempsey shows off a fine beach snook.
I just finished tying a dozen D.T. Variations.

I put eyes on them and epoxied the heads.

Big deal?

It is for me.

Can only mean one thing: Snook are back on the beaches in appreciable numbers.

I have been sight-fishing the surf for snook for the past 30 years. It's an activity that I enjoy very much. For most of those 30 years, I could count on snook in the surf virtually every trip.

Hasn't been that way the past three years. Seems as if the snook population has been down in the surf along the Gulf Coast.
D.T. Variations are the only flies you'll need in the surf.

Lately, however, I've been finding decent numbers of snook along Casey Key, an area I've been fishing for three decades. I'm not willing to say that beach snook fishing is back to the way it was, but I'm certainly encouraged.

I took writer Mike Hodge of Tampa out a couple of weeks ago. We first visited a secluded beach along Manasota Key. I knew the moment I saw the waves breaking on the beach that we had little shot at success. But since we were there, we walked about half mile. We didn't see a snook, so we opted to head north to Casey Key.

"I would have given up," said Hodge, formerly a sports writer for the Ocala Star-Banner. "I would have figured it would have been too rough there, too."

Not so.

When we arrived at Nokomis Public  Beach, we were greeted by a serene surf and clear water.

Amazing what can happen when you move 15 miles north!

Now, we didn't set the world on fire, but we saw maybe 80-100 snook. We caught and released eight -- most of which ranged from 21 to 24 inches.

However, Hodge hooked a snook that could have pushed 20 pounds or slightly more. We'll call it 15 pounds to be safe.

The big snook was lying on the bottom about a mile north of the public beach. Hodge cast the D.T. Variation fly slight in front of the snook and let it sink. As the fly was sinking, the big snook rose up from the bottom and inhaled the fly.

Hodge admittedly got a case of buck, er snook fever.

He set the hook, but forgot to let go of the fly line in his left hand. And when the big snook decided to take off, the leader parted.

Hodge was (understandably) disappointed, elated and excited.

It was a fly-rod snook of a lifetime.

Snook should be in the surf for at least another month. You'll see more snook than anglers.

I have conducted dozens of seminars on beach snook fishing over the years, but I really don't ever encounter many anglers. I think that most give up after a couple of frustrating outings.

The snook aren't all that easy to see -- unless you know what you're looking for. If you're looking for a whole snook with eyes, fins, scales and a tail, you'll probably fail most of the time.

What you're look for is movement or something different.

You also have to know where to look. Your focus should be from the dry sand out to about five feet.

One of the things that I emphasize is not to wade. If you wade, you can bet most of the fish will be behind you.

I have conducted at least four beach snook seminars for the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers over the years. I often wonder if anyone ever listens?

About four years ago, two anglers hired me for a beach snook outing. When we arrived at the beach, there were more than a dozen members of the club strung out along the beach. Most of them were wading. And most were flailing the water in a area where you could see there were no fish.

We walked past that group to an area where I knew there were fish.

My anglers didn't set the world on fire. But they managed to catch and release seven snook and a few mackerel.

A couple of years later, I had a fellow out kayak fishing. He told me he had joined the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers.

"I haven't been to any meetings, but I have gone on a couple of outings," he said.

"What outings?," I asked.

"The last one was beach snook fishing at Manasota Key," he said.

I asked what he caught?

"Nothing," he said. "None of us caught a thing."

I asked why he was wading and why they were casting in fishless water?

"Because that's what they told me to do," he said.

Go figure.

Certainly, the freeze of 2010 had to have had an effect on snook. Scientists estimate that up to 10 percent of the snook along the Gulf Coast were killed.

That theory is plausible, of course. But I had my best day ever after the freeze in August of 2010. On one trip, I caught and released 15 snook to 22 pounds and three oversized redfish. I also jumped three giant tarpon. I had no chance at landing the tarpon on my 6-weight fly rod!

Maybe the freeze did have a negative impact. I think it's more of a downward trend in the cycle. You see that often in fish populations.

We also had more than our share of west wind, offshore storms and red algae in the surf.

I'm hoping that the recent resurgence in snook along the beaches is a sign that things are improving.
For beach snook fly fishing, I recommend 6- to 8-weight fly rods, floating or sinktip lines, 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and D.T. Variation flies. I've found no reason to use any other fly than the D.T.

I usually walk along the beach barefooted. Some prefer to wear flats boots. If you opt for flats boots, neoprene slip on boots at the way to go. You'll find booted with zippers are pretty worthless. Sand and shell wreak havoc on the zippers is short order.

I also don't recommend a stripping basket. There are those who will tell you that stripping baskets are essential because sand and shell will ruin a fly line pretty quickly. I haven't found this to be true.

I just strip about 20 feet of line and trail it behind me as I walk. I hold the fly in my left hand, and have just a couple of feet of fly line out the tip of the rod.

Here's an important tip: Cast perpendicularly. Do not cast diagonally or parallel.

When you spot a snook or school of snook, determine which way they're moving. If they're swimming toward you, all you have to do is wait until they get into range. If they're swimming away from you, you'll have to get ahead of them.

When you're ready, make your cast straight out (perpendicular) from the beach and time your retriend so that the fly and the fish meet.

When that happens, the snook will either spook, move slowly out of way or start to follow.

If the latter is true, you'll need to "trigger" a strike. You can usually do this by increasing the speed of your retrieve.

If you miss a snook, don't hesitate to cast at it again.

I haven't tied D.T. Variations in  a couple of years. I tied a dozen this morning.

Get the picture?

BEACH SNOOK TIPS:

The most important weapon in your arsenal is your polarized sunglasses. Without them, your chances of seeing snook are minimal.

Carry a camera.  Photo ops along the beaches are plentiful. And it's nice to get a shot of you and trophy fly-rod snook.

You'll encounter big snook from time to time. These big girls are pretty smart and rarely fall for a fly. But when they do, you'd better be ready. I've seen many anglers choke on big fish. I've also seen many terrible casts when a big snook comes along. You need to be as focused after 100 casts as you are on your first cast. Those big snook know when you're going through the motions.

Don't forget water. You'll be glad you brought along a bottle of water after you've walked a couple of miles
.
Best times to sight-fish snook in the surf are from 8 a.m. to about 1 p.m. There's not enough light to see snook prior to 8 a.m. The sea breeze usually kicks in after 1 p.m., causing the surf to churn up a bit.

Snook begin to hit the beaches as early as March. They'll remain in the surf until the first significant cold fronts of fall.

My best day ever was 41 snook caught and released.

I do get skunked from time to time, but I average about five snook per trip during a normal season.

Focus on the "feeding zone" (that area from the dry sand out to five feet), but take a look further out and along the beach from time to time. It not only gives your eyes a break, but also allows you to see other fish: jack crevalle, tarpon, tripletail, etc.




Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer heat didn't deter the action for snook, trout, redfish or shark

This Tampa Bay bull shark towed the author's NuCanoe Frontier for quite a while.
The summer heat usually doesn't have an adverse effect on fishing. In fact, it often results in good action.

A small snook caught fly fishing in the surf.
We switched out location somewhat, spending a majority of our time in southern Tampa Bay.

First, however, we took a break and spent a week in Michigan. Kathy and I rented a waterfront house on Diamond Lake near White Cloud, Mich. The weather was wonderful, with lows in the 50 and highs in the 70s.

Fishing was superb in the lake. I fly fished several mornings and evenings and caught a variety of fish: largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, yellow perch and crappie. I caught fish on poppers, Myakka Minnows (yes, the Myakka Minnow works outside of Florida) and nymphs.

I spent several mornings on the nearby Muskegon River. Following the advice I received from the staff at the Muskegon River Fly Shop in Newaygo.
The author with a Tampa Bay topwater snook.

I'm not a very adept at cold-water trout, having spent a majority of my life in Florida. But I'm not adverse to asking for guidance.

The folks at the fly shop set me up with a good selection of flies and gave me a few locations to try.

I did pretty good, catching and releasing a good number of rainbow trout and brown trout.

It was a much-needed elixir.

If you're ever in that neck of the woods, take time to visit the Muskegon River Fly Shop, 8382 Mason Dr., Newaygo, Mich. Phone number is (231) 652-5386.

On our last night in Michigan, we got to watch our beloved Tampa Bay Rays beat the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Rays took three of four on the road against the Tigers.

I was on the water the first morning after returning to Florida. I launched on Tampa Bay and caught a variety of fish. I started out before daylight, casting a Zara Super Spook Jr. in the backcountry. I caught spotted seatrout, redfish and a number of snook.

Snook action has been the best bet in the backcountry. Most of the fish have been 25 inches or less. However, there are some larger fish around. I hooked a snook I estimated at 15 pounds, but lost it when the fish wore through the 20-pound shock leader.

I found a couple of schools of redfish on successive days in front of Joe Island. The first day, I caught and released three oversized reds on topwater plugs before losing the school. I caught one red the second day.

In addition, I managed jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, ladyfish and cobia along the sand bar in front of Joe Bay.

The real news is the shark action in Tampa Bay. There are good numbers of blacktip, spinner and bull sharks in the bay.

Shark fishing from a kayak is a thrilling experience. We stress safety and won't hesitate to cut the line if we sense any danger.

Most of the time, we encounter blacktip and spinner sharks from 20 to 50 pounds. Every once in a while, we'll hook up a larger shark that is more than we choose to handle.

Beach snook action really improved during July. I took Mike Hodges of Tampa out twice and we encountered a number of fish.

Hodge has walked the beaches of Pinellas County on several occasions without great results. He said there's "no comparison" between the beaches of Sarasota County and those further north.

On the first outing, we combined for 12 snook. That's a decent number, but not all that impressive. The highlight of the outing was a hefty snook that ate Hodge's fly. As Hodge was trying to set the hook, the big girl (we estimated her at more than  15 pounds) suddenly took off and broke the 20-pound leader.

We returned to the same spot a couple of days later and didn't fare as well. We landed four of the 10 small snook we hooked.

For this activity, we use 7-weight fly rods, floating or sinktip lines, 20-pound shock leader and D.T. Variation flies.

I anticipate very good snook action along the beaches in August.

This is a sight-fishing endeavor and very exciting.

Night snook action also should be good around lighted docks.

We also spent a morning on the Braden River, casting poppers and nymphs for bluegill. But the action was very slow. We caught and released about a dozen panfish. Surprisingly, bass were not cooperative.

AUGUST FORECAST: We look for increased redfish action on the flats of Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay. The oversized fish should start schooling up in preparation for their annual spawning migration. The big schoolers will hit most anything cast their way, including flies, spoons, jigs and topwater plugs. Spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, bluefish, flounder and mangrove snapper should be plentiful along the flats. Shark action should continue good around southern Tampa Bay and at Fort DeSoto.

If you're worried about the heat, don't fret. We get out on the water early and usually are finished by mid-day.

August fishing signals the start of excellent action. Please feel free to give me a call or email me at your convenience.

I was fortunate enough to attend ICAST in Orlando. The show is where all the associated fishing businesses unveil their new products for the upcoming year. I worked the NuCanoe booth for a couple of days.

I was in the company NuCanoe owner Blake Young and Pro Staffers Joe Mahler, Drei Stroman and Danny Barker.

If you get the chance to check out a NuCanoe, please do yourself a favor. You can read out NuCane here: http://gibbysfishingblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/nucanoe-frontier-is-fly-fishers-dream.html.

Also: http://gibbysfishingblog.blogspot.com/2014/06/new-stable-nucanoe-frontier-12-doesnt.html.

You can visit the NuCanoe website at http://www.nucanoe.com/


Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com
steve@kayakfishingsartasota.com

(941) 284-3406



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stephens Point offers a plethora of fish species for fly and spin anglers

The kayak launching spot is secluded at Stephens Point off Sarasota Bay.
Fishing is good year round throughout Sarasota Bay.

Lee Badensnyder with a fly-rod snook at Stephens Point.
For the kayak angler, however, where you fish depends on the wind.

When its blowing from the east, I like to fish along the east side of the bay. In that situation, you're in the lee and usually will find smooth paddling and fishing.

One of my favorite spots to fish is Stephens Point, an area that's tough for many kayakers to get to because they don't know where to launch.

I own and operate Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing (www.kayakfishingsarsaota.com) and fish Stephens Point often.

In my continuing series of Sarasota Bay kayak hotspots, here's the lowdown.

STEPHENS  POINT

Pompano off Stephens Point.
This is a great area that produces good numbers of snook, spotted seatrout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano. Stephens Point is located along the east side of Sarasota Bay and can be reached from a launch located on Sun Circle west of U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail).

This launch is not known by many. I hesitate to publish the location and ask that you don't litter and that you keep noise to a minimum during the early and late hours. I launch at the southernmost point of a small city park located there. You can park right on the street.

There are several docks in the small harbor at the launch. Two have underwater lights. They can be great for snook and spotted seatrout. Redfish also like to hang out around docks and rocks along the seawall.

On the outside of Stephens Point, there are several more docks where you can target snook, redfish and trout before daylight.

When you leave the basin and paddle into Sarasota Bay, there's a huge grass area that begins just south of Stephens Point and runs north to just above the Ringling Mansion. The grass holds spotted seatrout, bluefish, pompano, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle.
Bluefish are common during the cooler months.

I like to use D.O.A. CAL jigs with gold or copper crush paddle tails, MirrOlure MirrOdines or D.O.A. Deadly Combinations.

The grass area is large and easily identifiable in bright sunlight. You'll have to move around until you find the fish.

On a calm morning, you often will see schools of baitfish. It's always worth casting a jig or other lure around baitfish schools that you find. You'll also see predator fish chasing bait. Don't hesitate to cast.

With that in mind, keep your eyes and ears open. If you don't see the baitfish, you'll often hear them. The key is to get a lure to that area quickly.

Stephens Point is a great fly-fishing area. I fish the lighted docks before daylight. I'll usually use a small, white baitfish or shrimp imitation tied on a No. 6 or 8 hook. I use an 8-weight fly rod, floating line and 9-foot  (20-pound fluorocarbon) leader. You can fish the leader as is or add a short length of 25- or 30-pound fluoro shock if you desire.

I usually anchor when fly fishing around the docks. Take your time, be quiet and anchor within an easy cast. Don't make it difficult on yourself by anchoring too far away.

You might have to cast around docked boats or under docks.

I usually start by working the dark perimeter of the light and work my way in. If you start out casting right in the middle, you'll likely spook the snook.

You can usually see immediately if there are feeding fish around. At Stephens, you can see it from the launch.

If you're spin fishing, use small jigs or plugs like the MirrOlure MirrOdine. D.O.A. Shrimp often work well, too.

When you paddle out into the bay, you can identify the dark grassy areas easily -- if you're wearing polarized sunglasses.

I like to work the edges of the grass and any sand holes within the grass.

One of my best days at Stephens took place several years ago when Chad Pennington, then a quarterback with the New York Jets, joined me for an outing. Pennington and I combined to catch 60 trout and 15 Spanish mackerel -- all on D.O.A. Deadly Combination. The lure is a D.O.A. Shrimp rigged about 3 to 4 feet under a popping cork.

The rig is so easy to use. Cast it out, allow the shrimp to sink, reel in any slack and then pop the cork with the rod tip. Repeat often. When the cork goes under, reel up slack and set the hook.

In late fall and winter, the area often holds good numbers of pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Trout are available year round.

In December of 2009, another angler and I combined to land 30 seatrout, 40 pompano and 25 blues. It was pretty much non-stop action.

One species is available that not many know about. During the winter, silver trout, a smaller relative of the spotted seatrout, show up in good numbers in the Stephens Point basin. Bounce a light jig along the bottom and you should catch all you want. Silver trout are small, but are tastier and stronger than spotted seatrout.

While mackerel are in good numbers from November through March, we occasionally catch some monster macks. In March of 2010, I caught a 7 1/2-pound Spanish mackerel on fly rod. It was the largest mackerel I've ever caught -- or seen!

No matter where you fish when you launch at Stephens Point, you'll have a relatively short paddle. If the weather goes awry, you can get back to the launch in just a few minutes.


Have fun!


Buttonwood Harbor is diverse and offers many fishing situations

Map of the Buttonwood Harbor area with launch site and islands names.
I've been fishing around Sarasota Bay since 1975.

Fly angler Norm Ferris with a Buttonwood redfish.
First time was at Buttonwood Harbor, an interesting area about midway up Longboat Key. Buttonwood Harbor is one of my favorite spots in Sarasota, possessing a variety of situations that produce a plethora of fish.

I run Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing (www.kayakfishingsarasota.com) and fish Buttonwood quite often.

Following is the first in a series of my favorite Sarasota Bay spots and how to fish them.

BUTTONWOOD HARBOR

This is my favorite spot, an area I fish most. It's comprised of shallow grass flats, mangrove islands, channels, sand holes and deep grass. It offers many fishing situations which can pay off in most any situation.

Pompano often are plentiful around Buttonwood in winter.
The launch to Buttonwood Harbor is located midway up Longboat Key on the east side. It's difficult to pinpoint the location because it has no address. But there's an overflow parking area across the street from a public beach access. You can park there and launch your kayak through the mangroves. There's a small hotel/resort on the west side called The Beach (3465 Gulf of Mexico Dr.). The public beach access is located just north of The Beach. The kayak launch is directly across the street on the east side. There is ample parking.

The town of Longboat Key grades the launch a couple of times a year. However, rain often washes it out, making it somewhat precarious. Be careful. If you're launching before daylight, use a light so that you can watch your step.

Beginning fly angler Vinny Caruso caught a hefty trout.
There's a grass flat immediately in front of the launch. At times you can take redfish, spotted seatrout, snook and other species on the flat or along its edges. It's best to fish the flat at dawn and dusk with jigs, topwater plugs and jerk worms.

Be careful when paddling across the flat before daylight. Manatee like to sleep on the flat. Although they're docile animals, the can make quite a commotion when you paddle across them. I did that once and was amazed how easy it was for the surprised manatee to lift my kayak out of the water!

There are eight mangrove islands within the Buttonwood area. Two -- Whale Key and White Key -- are named. Whale Key is the easternmost island of the group. White Key is the northernmost. But I have named them all.

Beginning with White Key and running south, there are Black Key, Crabclaw Key, Red Key, Little Whale Key, Whale Key, Oyster Key and South Key. Most of my friends have learned the names so they know what I'm talking about when I discuss daily results.

My favorite area to fish is an grass edge on the south side of Whale Key. Redfish, snook and spotted seatrout. I like to fish this area November through April. It's particularly good to fish on a negative low tide. That's when I'll anchor the kayak and wade.

Fly fishing can be good along the edge. I will use a 7-weight rod, floating line and 9-foot leader. My go-to fly is my Gibby's Duster  Fly. Clouser Deep Minnows are a good choice, too. Any baitfish imitation will work.
It's along that edge where monster seatrout often will congregate. On one trip, a client of mine caught three huge trout from 6 to 7 1/2 pounds on topwater plugs. I had a morning where I caught several trout from 6 1/2 to 9 pounds on MirrOlure MirrOdines.

For redfish and snook, I like to use a MirrOlure Little John on a 1/16-ounce Norton Jig.

You can work the edge as far out as you can walk.

On the east side of Whale Key, there's a grass edge that's productive at times. There is a series of sand holes on the east edge of the grass that redfish, snook and trout like to hang out in at low tide. It can be a good area in which to sight-fish. Again, I like to anchor the kayak and wade.

When fishing sand holes, the MirrOlure Little John on a light jig works best.

Another good redfish area is on the south side of Red Key, a small island just north of the Buttonwood channel. This area is best a dawn. My lures of choice include a MirrOlure Top Pup or She Dog, Little John on a light jig or gold spoon.

The bay between Red, Crabclaw and Little Whale can be very productive on the incoming tide -- particularly if there are plenty of mullet on the flat.

A couple of years ago, I had Norm Ferris, a fly angler from South Carolina, out in Buttonwood. He wanted to catch a redfish on fly, but fish were few and far between. We fished a number of areas with little success.
After fishing behind White Key, we paddled south toward Crabclaw. As we turned the corner and looked in the bay between the trio (Crabclaw, Red and Little Whale), we saw a load of mullet. Ferris caught a pair of oversized reds in about 10 minutes.

I like to fish behind White Key to the north. Redfish love to patrol the flat at high tide. You'll also find a few snook there. Reds will also hang out on the edges of the flat at low tide.
Pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are often caught in deeper areas just off the flats during fall, winter and early spring.

The main channel leading into Buttonwood from Sarasota Bay holds good numbers of seatrout, flounder, pompano and other species. I like to drift the edges there and cast jigs or MirrOdines.
Drifting any of the edges of many Buttonwood flats on the incoming tide usually results in plenty of seatrout and an occasional redfish.

Oh, there are a few tarpon in the area. About six years ago, I hooked a giant tarpon in front of South Key on a topwater plug. Tarpon often congregate there to feed on ladyfish, pilchards and whatever bait might be around.

I have also seen a few tarpon in the Buttonwood channels and out in front (east) of Whale Key.

I caught two permit along the south edge of Whale Key in the last year.

This past winter saw a remarkable run of pompano in the Buttonwood area. I found them in a large hole at low tide behind South Key and along the southern edge of Whale Key. We caught them on Clouser Deep Minnows (fly rod) and on MirrOdines.

Buttonwood is a large and diverse area. I fish it regularly and probably have more than 50 spots that I fish within an easy paddle.

If you're interested in the Big Two (redfish and snook), you want to concentrate on the flats, around mangroves or along the edges.

I prefer to fish the last two hours or a falling negative tide and the first couple of hours of the incoming.

If I'm searching for reds on the flats, one of the keys is mullet. Find the mullet and you'll likely find reds.
Clients often ask if the redfish are feeding on mullet?

Maybe.

But my theory is that the reds are feeding on whatever the mullet might be stirring up -- crabs, shrimp, worms, baitfish.

Just south of Whale Key and about 100 years off South Key is Helicopter Shoal. I've caught quite a few large seatrout along the edge of that shoal. At low tide, you can find trout and other species in sand holes atop the shoal and along the edges.

The deeper water off the east tip of the shoal hold good numbers of bluefish during the cooler months.
If you're interested in flounder, Buttonwood is the place. You can catch them year round, but you can actually target them in October and November. Just work sandy bottom off the edges of the flats with a D.O.A. CAL Jig and paddle tail or MirrOlure Little John on a jig head.

As you might have surmised, there's a lot of good fishing around Buttonwood Harbor. It's offers a myriad of fishing situations for a variety of species.

Good luck!



Saturday, June 28, 2014

June saw improved action around region's fresh and salt waters

Small Tampa Bay sharks are thrilling, fun and perfect for kayak anglers.
June saw improved action for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.

Best fishing took place in southern Tampa Bay where we encountered a variety of species, including snook, spotted seatrout, flounder, jack crevalle, cobia and shark.

Kay Semrod of Sarasota battles a pompano.
Last year, we began shark fishing in Tampa Bay at Fort DeSoto. We tried southern Tampa Bay near Joe Island this month and found slightly larger shark.

At first, I wasn't sure I would offer shark trips for several reasons, mainly kayak stability problems. 

However, after switching to NuCanoe a couple of months ago, stability is no longer problem. The NuCanoe Frontier 12 is perhaps the most stable hybrid fishing kayak available.

With that in mind, we will offer shark trips for those interested.

What I've found out so far is when we fish around Joe Bay, a variety of fish is readily available. I usually begin casting artificial lures for redfish, snook and trout at dawn. I've hooked snook in excess of 20 pounds in that area.

After a couple of hours, I switch to shark out in front of Joe Island. I've found a small, deep channel that holds good numbers of shark. For shark fishing, I use a conventional reel, Star Rod, 30-pound braided line, wire leader and 9/0 circle hook. I use jack crevalle, ladyfish, grunt or pinfish for bait.

I anchor the kayak, then put the bait out 20 or 30 feet from the kayak. It usually doesn't take long for a shark to home in on the scent and take the bait.

When that happens, I remove the rod from the holder, turn the clicker off, put the reel in gear and hold on. There's no need to set the hook when using a circle hook. Pressure it all it takes. If you set the hook, you're really defeating the purpose and probably won't hook up. Circle hooks usually assure a firm hook-up in the corner of the shark's mouth.

Once a shark is hooked up, we release the anchor and "go for a sleigh ride."

Mind you, I'm not targeting large sharks. For the most part, we're hooking 30 to 80-pound blacktip and other small species.

On two trips, we encountered schools of overslot redfish. These big breeder reds are in excess of 30 inches and will hit most anything cast their way. We caught several fish on topwater plugs.

That's where the NuCanoe Frontier comes in. Because of its stability and superior comfort, we're able to stand for long periods of times -- and that's a must when trying to spot schools of redfish. Often, the only clue to the redfish is a slight color change in the water. You could never see the color change sitting down.

Trout fishing has been very good over deep grass in Tampa Bay. We've been catching trout to 4 pounds on MirrOlure MirrOdines, D.O.A. Shrimp and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs.

Closer to home, Sarasota Bay has been producing fair trout and redfish action. In addition, we've been picking up a few jack crevalle, bluefish and pompano.

Kay Semrod of Sarasota fished with me in Sarasota Bay and caught pompano and ladyfish on MirrOdines off Stephens Point.

If you're interested in sight-fishing for snook in the surf on fly rod, the action has been poor to date. That could change any day. We spent a day walking Manasota Key and another along Casey Key and saw few fish.

In fresh water, we fished Lake Manatee, the Manatee River, Shell Creek and Webb Lake with mixed results. We took good numbers of large bluegill, largemouth bass, stumpknocker, channel catfish and tilapia on nymphs, popping bugs, worm flies and Myakka Minnows.

July forecast: We look for improved beach snook action as the fish go into post-spawn mode. Shark action should continue good in southern Tampa Bay. We also look for good redfish, snook and spotted seatrout in Tampa Bay. Closer to home, spotted seatrout and redfish should be the best bets in Sarasota bay. Night snook fishing should be good around lighted docks on the outgoing tide. It's hot in Florida in July, so a night snook trip is a good way to beat the heat. We love to combine a day/night trip by starting two or three hours before dawn around lighted docks and then heading out into the bay to get the early bite and first light.

I can't wait for you to try the NuCanoe Frontier, the best fishing kayak that I've experienced. In addition to superior stability, the Frontier's 360-degree seat offers superb comfort.

As always, I'd like to thank my sponsors: NuCanoe, D.O.A. Lures, MirrOlure, Aqua-Bound Paddles, Temple Fork Outfitters and Peak Fishing.

Please feel free to call me or email me to book a trip and discuss possibilities.


Thank you,



Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
www.kayakfishingsarasota.com
@gibby3474 on Twitter
www.http://gibbysfishingblog.blogspot.com/

941-284-3406


Friday, June 13, 2014

New stable NuCanoe Frontier 12 doesn't disappoint


Most of you are aware that I recently switched to the NuCanoe Frontier 12.
Stability is a NuCanoe feature.

I've had the opportunity to fish out of this kayak for the last month and I'm very impressed.

I tested the NuCanoe (www.nucanoe.com)  prior to my purchase.

My first experience came last year when Joe Mahler, a Fort Myers' fly-fishing guru invited me to fish Webb Lake, a body of water in the Babcock Webb Wildlife Management area east of Punta Gorda in Charlotte County.

Mahler, a NuCanoe Pro Staffer,  didn't brag about the vessel. He didn't really say anything. He just let me paddle it and fly fish from it.

Sold.

The NuCanoe Frontier 12 is everything I've ever wanted in a fishing kayak -- and more.

Because of their width, the NuCanoes wouldn't fit properly on my small trailer. So, I held off making the switch.

However, last February I had to buy a new trailer. And this one was wider and larger than the first. It was perfect for the NuCanoe. But I still had to hold off because my kayaks were less than a year old.

In May, I had spent a morning on the Braden River, fly fishing for bass and bluegill. On the way home, I stopped at a convenience store for a soft drink. I wasn't in the store more than five minutes, but when I came out my kayak was gone.

I needed a kayak. And I needed it quick. The proverbial lightbulb in my head brightened. It was a message that was almost heaven-sent. Time to order the NuCanoes.

I contacted Blake Young at NuCanoe and ordered three Frontier 12s and a few accessories.

These kayaks are made for fishing (especially fly fishing). There spacious decks are unencumbered and handle fly line exceptionally well. There is little for fly line to hang up on. If you fly fish, then you know the fly line will catch or hang up on anything it can.

The boats are so stable that you can literally stand up and tap dance. I stand quite often and do so when fly casting. They're 41 inches wide, so you can imagine the stability.

Stability is a key issue for a guide. You can't have clients flipping when you're out in salt or fresh water. I had three clients flip in my previous kayaks. One did so while anchored. One flipped while paddling. The other flipped while fishing.

And the biggest factor was that I flipped my kayak in a 10-foot canal in winter when the seat came loose from its mount.

Not good.

I have never allowed clients to stand because of liability issues. I'll probably keep that policy, but I feel confident no one will flip a NuCanoe.

I guess some might say that they're a tad slower than other fishing kayaks out there. I don't know, but I will tell you that the difference is miniscule. Say you sustain a speed of 3.5 miles per hour in another brand of fishing kayak. I imagine you can do about the same in a NuCanoe.  If it's slower, we're talking 10ths of a mile per hour.

If paddling isn't your game, you can add an electric motor or even a small outboard to the NuCanoe. The stern is strong and square. That could come in hand for trips to such destinations as Flamingo or the Florida Keys.

The NuCanoe seat that I use is the best I've ever encountered. The Max 360 seats are cushioned, elevated and swivel 360 degrees.  And you really can turn all the way around because of the stability of the kayak.

On a recent trek to the Florida Everglades, I asked a buddy to go. The only catch was that he had to fish out of one of my Frontiers. He's a Pro Staffer for another kayak manufacturer.

When the trip was over, he announced he was going to sell his kayak and buy a NuCanoe.

"It was the most stable kayak I've ever been in," he said. "And the stability was impressive.

"I didn't notice any drop-off in paddle speed."

NuCanoe is headquartered in Bellingham, Wash.  They're not as popular as some other brands, but that's because you and your friends haven't fished out of them -- yet. If you do, there's a good chance you'll add a NuCanoe to your fleet.

NuCanoe is a relatively new player in the fishing kayak game, but that will change. Young and Mahler are collaborating on assembling a Pro Staff around the country to give the boats more visibility.

I've always found that getting clients in your kayaks is the best advertising. The NuCanoe Frontier will sell itself.

I started kayak fishing in 1987 -- long before the current trend. Back then, you could head out and never encounter another kayak. The sport's popularity has grown immensely since then.

I didn't add much to my boats. All I did was add an anchor trolley to each. I didn't want to make the boat cumbersome with all sorts of bells, whistles and gadgets.

At 80 pounds, the Frontier 12 is somewhat heavier than other similar kayaks. However, all you have to do is purchase a Transport Cart and your problems are over. The cart attaches to the stern and you can then pick up the bow and roll your kayak to wherever you want -- effortlessly.

The cart also makes loading the kayak on top of a car or SUV a cinch. Loading the kayak into the bed of a pickup truck no big deal.

In short, the cart makes loading and unloading a one-person operation.
I strongly suggest a Transport Cart.

You can lighten the kayak by six pounds by simply removing the seat.

You really can stand in a Frontier with no problem. Now, I have stood in other kayaks and I can tell you they're "tipsy." There is NO sense of tipsiness in the Frontier. It is the most stable fishing kayak on the marker -- bar none.

Another  thing that I like about the Frontier is that with the elevated seat, there is plenty of room under it for a tackle box, dry box or whatever you chose.

I carry most of my plastic tackle boxes in a milk crate that I place directly behind the seat. I have six rod holders attached to the crate. Used to be I had to reach blindly behind me to grab a tackle box or rod.

No longer.

I can just turn in the Max 360 seat and get what I want.

That's a really big deal.

I do advocate a long paddle because of the Frontier's 41-inch beam. According to NuCanoe's Blake Young, a 275-cm paddle works best. I have used a 250-cm paddle with no problem.

When standing and poling my Frontier, I employ a 9 1/2-foot carbon-fiber pole. I find this works a little better than a paddle.

As you can tell, I'm a big proponent of NuCanoe -- especially the Frontier 12. I will be assisting NuCanoe at ICAST in Orlando on July 17-18. I am looking forward to it.

ICAST will be held in Orlando's Orange County Convention Center.

ICAST stands for International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. It's the world's largest sportfishing trade show.

I'll be the fellow in the NuCanoe booth with the big smile on his face!