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

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


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