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
@gibby3474 on Twitter


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 (  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.


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!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Manatee River is one of Florida's hidden gems

The picturesque Manatee River is great for kayaking and fly fishing.
Freshwater fishing is my catharsis.

It's a time when I can get away and spend some quality time fly fishing for a variety of fish.
Light fly bent by a channel cat.

Most of the time, I don't care what I catch. As long as something takes a fly and bends a rod, it's OK with me.

I do have a passion for bluegill, those tasty panfish that are in almost every body of fresh water. Few things beat a day of tossing flies for bluegill.

The Manatee River is one of my favorite spots. The picturesque streams meanders through Manatee County  and empties into Tampa Bay. I prefer to launch upriver at Ray's Canoe Hideaway (, a secluded spot that puts me within an easy paddle of some superb fishing. Ray's is open every day except Wednesday from dawn to dusk. Telephone number is 941-747-3909. The address is 1289 Hagle Park Road (off State Road 65 east of Interstate 75).

You can rent canoes and kayaks there. If you chose to use your own, the launch fee is $6. It's well worth it, knowing your vehicle will be safe while you're out of the water.

Channel catfish taken on a nymph.
I prefer to paddle upstream. I usually don't paddle any farther than the Rye Bridge. It's about five miles to the Lake Manatee Dam. That would be about a two-hour paddle for me. I'd rather spend that time fishing.

For the Manatee River, I usually use  light fly rods. My rods of choice are TFO (Finesse Series) 1, 2 and 3 weights. Occasionally, I'll beef up to a 4 weight.

While I target bluegill most often. the river does have an exceptional population of channel catfish which range from a pounds to more than 20.

Small snook apparently like nymphs, too!
And those catfish readily take flies.

I don't know what it is about the Manatee River, but I catch more channel cats on fly rod there than any other body of water. I do pretty good in Lake Manatee, too.

I catch channel cats on a couple of flies: my Myakka Minnow and my Aunt Sara's Homely Daughter Nymph.

No matter what fly you choose, realize the cats usually bunch up around fallen trees in the deeper sections of the river (outside bends).

Channel catfish are exceptional fighters. They are quick and strong. They are one of few freshwater fish in state waters that are capable of "putting you one the reel" when you're fly fishing.

Bluegill are abundant in the Manatee River.
Don't confuse channel cats with their saltwater brethren. There's no comparison. Channel catfish are highly prized. And the fact that you can get them on fly rod makes them even more special.

The Manatee River also has a healthy population of hand-size bluegill. They seem to fight a little better than the ones you catch in lakes and ponds. Perhaps it's because they have to contend with moving water and are just a little stronger.

The Manatee River is a tidal river and you get the effects of the tide at Ray's. For me, I prefer an outgoing tide. My favorite time to fish is the final couple of hours before low tide. I've found that fishing slows noticeably toward high tide.

For bluegill, I use No. 10 popping bugs, Myakka Minnows and nymphs.

When using nymphs, I employ a strike indicator.

Occasionally, I will encounter shellcracker and speckled perch.

There are also saltwater fish in the river. From time to time, you'll encounter tarpon, snook, redfish, ladyfish and jack crevalle. If it's marine species you want, then focus your efforts downriver from Ray's.

I prefer to fish the river from October through May. I stay off the river once the rainy season begins. High water and muddy conditions don't make for good fishing.

The best thing about the river is that traffic is light during the week. Most of the time, you'll have the river to yourself.

That's tough to beat.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Improved forecast for June; Southern Drawl now features NuCanoe Frontiers

Vinny Caruso battles an Everglades oscar while fly fishing from a NuCanoe Frontier 12.
May traditionally has been the slowest month for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.

Note fly-tier Cecil Guidry in action.
It wasn't any different this time around.

However, we did have some decent days -- both in fresh water and salt water.

Sarasota Bay produced some decent action on spotted seatrout  and snook. Redfish were pretty scarce, but that should change soon.

Top spots included Buttonwood Harbor, Whale Key and Stephens Point.

We took our largest seatrout of the year off Stephens Point on a MirrOlure MirrOdine. The fish weighed 6.75 pounds on the Boga Grip. Of course, the big breeder was released. In addition, we caught Spanish mackerel to 5 pounds, jack crevalle and ladyfish.
Stability is unparalleled in the Frontier.

We got out a few times before daylight and worked dock lights. This produced snook to 27 inches and spotted seatrout to 24.

A good trip this time of year is one which combines a couple of hours fishing the dock light and a few hours just after dawn. Not only is this usually very productive, but also cooler in terms of the temperature. It also keeps us away from those pesky afternoon thunderstorms.

Two highlites of the month were a nice permit taken on a MirrOdine off Whale Key and a feisty bonnethead shark caught near Buttonwood Harbor.

Freshwater fishing has been producing a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, bluegill, speckled perch, shellcracker and stumpknocker. We made a couple of trips to The Everglades and also caught good numbers of oscar and Mayan cichlid.

The big news this month was our switch to NuCanoe. We purchased three NuCanoe Frontier 12-footers after months of research, trial and deliberation.
Vinny Caruso found loads of action in The Everglades.

Key to the decision was when one of our kayaks was stolen, prompting the need to get another kayak.
The NuCanoe Frontier is close to being the perfect fishing kayak. It's arguably the most stable kayak out there. It has a 41-inch beam and is solid in the water. Additionally, the boat is open, clean and very functional. With its "fast track" concept, you can add accessories as you go.

The Frontier just might be the best fly-fishing kayak out there because of its large, open and uncluttered cockpit.

Another major feature is the 360-degree swivel seat. Not only can you turn completely around, but also the seats are padded and very comfortable.

That being said, we now have two Jackson Cudas for sale. We have a Cuda 14 and a Cuda 12.

Cuda 14: Comes with an anchor trolley and rudder. This 2013 model features the center hatch with insert, high-low seat, rod hood and many others. You can check out the Cuda 14 at
This kayak with accessories cost $1,499 with rudder. I'm asking $1,000.

Cuda 12: Comes with anchor trolley and StandNfish pontoon system for unparalleled stability. Also has center hatch with insert, high-low seat, rod hood and other features. You can check out the Cuda 12 at
This kayak lists at $1,299. I'm asking $900.

Please feel free to call me at 941-284-3406 to discuss either boat.

JUNE FORECAST: Redfish action should pick up this month as they move onto the flats. They will be found on the incoming tide around mullet in the shallow water. Spotted seatrout action should be good over deep grass and on the edges of the flats. We're anticipating improved beach snook action, which is good news for fly fishers.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing