Saturday, January 31, 2015

Surgeries over, now it's back to fishing Sarasota Bay and other areas

Bill Haarz of Sarasota battles a fish on fly rod off Stephens Point in Sarasota Bay.
January was an abbreviated fishing month for Southern Drawl. I had two eye surgeries over nine days that diminished the time I could be on the water.

I'm happy to report both surgeries were successful. Not only do I not have cataracts, I also have great eyesight. For the first time in years, I don't have to wear glasses (except cheaters for reading). I went from nearsighted to farsighted in one fell swoop.

We fished Sarasota  Bay at Stephens Point on our first trip out after the surgery. Fishing was fair. We caught 15 spotted seatrout to 17 inches on MirrOlure MirrOdines. We also landed small snook, ladyfish and a juvenile barracuda on MirrOdines and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jig heads.

We fished the Myakka River out of Venice Park, looking for bass. We didn't find them. We had five hits, but no fish.

We returned to the Myakka River out of North Port and fared slightly better  -- albeit not that much. Fishing with Vinny Caruso of Bradenton, we landed three small snook, three jack crevalle, a mangrove snapper, largemouth bass and a couple of ladyfish on MirrOdines and Lil Johns.

Everette Howell of Longboat Key and Nashville, Tenn., joined me for an outing on the Myakka River out of Snook Haven and we had a wonderful time -- but caught few fish. Over six hours of hard fishing, we landed on e bass, one snook and a gar.

Bill Haarz of Sarasota fly fished Sarasota Bay at Stephens Point and did fair. He had a snook inhale his fly on the first cast, but didn't hook up. He also had another snook hit the fly at another dock, but still didn't hook up. He landed a few trout and ladyfish over deep grass in the bay on Clouser Deep Minnows. We also caught ladyfish and a couple of Spanish mackerel.

A trek to Joe Bay resulted little action. Vinny Caruso and I combined to catch one trout, one jack and a ladyfish.

Wind shut us down for a week. It seems as if the wind has been a pest all month.

We finally got back out and visited Palma Sola Bay. Vinny Caruso and I caught 50 spotted seatrout to 17 inches, flounder and ladyfish on CAL Jigs with paddle tails, MirrOdines and Vudu Shrimp.

If you've never tried the Vudu Shrimp, you might want to. It's a small, weighted shrimp produced by Egret Baits ( in Louisiana. I first tried this weighted shrimp out a year ago and did well.

I used a Vudu Shrimp to catch 30 trout and five pompano in Sarasota Bay near Buttonwood Harbor on my last trip out of the month.

Speaking of pompano, February could be a banner month for the tasty species. They showed up in good numbers last February and we were able to take quite a few fish on MirrOdines, jigs and flies. It looks like it could be an encore performance this time around.

Because of slow fishing, we probably won't be doing any more river trips this season. That's subject to change if the action picks up.

We're contemplating a few Everglades fly-fishing trips and shad trip to the St. Johns River. In the Everglades, we target oscar, Mayan cichlids and native species such as largemouth bass, bluegill, speckled perch, stumpknocker and warmouth.

When fishing The 'Glades, we primarily use light fly rods with floating lines. We use popping bugs, sinking flies and my Myakka Minnow.

We use light fly rods and typical shad flies on the St. Johns.

If you're interested in either trip, please let me know.

FEBRUARY FORECAST: Locally, we look for increased numbers of pompano over deep grass areas of Sarasota Bay. In addition, fishing for spotted seatrout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel should be good. Redfish action should be fair on the flats and along the edges. Snook action should be excellent at night around lighted docks.

Now that we're back in action and can see pretty darn good, please consider a February trip. Give me a call at 941-284-3406 or email me at

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A true kayak angler is hooked for life by a plastic boat

The author shows show a fine snook he caught from his NuCanoe Frontier while fishing on Sarasota Bay.
You're either a kayak angler or you're not.

There's really no in between.

From my experience, I've determined there are two types of kayak anglers: 1. Those who truly love the sport and recognize it as an effective way to stalk and catch fish; 2. Those who would rather fish from a boat but can't afford one (yet).

I'm among those in No. 1. I've owned boats, but can guarantee I'll never own another boat unless I'm physically unable to fish from a kayak down the road.

If you fall into the second category, you're really not a kayak angler. You're in transition.

I'm convinced that fishing from a kayak gives you the best opportunity to be catch fish. If the fish don't know you're there, you're ahead of the game.

Think about it for a second. A boat displaces water. That displaced water is transmitted out in the form of pressure waves. And those waves are warning signals to the fish. In addition, the fish can hear outboard-motor noise and electric trolling motors.

I'm not saying that powerboats are ineffective platforms from which to fish. I just believe that kayaks are much more stealthy and allow you to sneak up on fish.

In addition, you can get into areas that are unreachable by boat.

Gasparilla Sound is about 45 minutes south of my home in Sarasota, Fla. During winter, tides get extremely low around the new and full moons -- particularly if we have northeast winds. I can launch my kayak, paddle to Whidden Creek and have the area to myself until the tide turns and allows the bigger powerboats to enter. On occasion, I've fished four hours or more before seeing the first powerboat.

Catching fish is the prime reason I fish from a kayak. And let me advise you my production has gone up significantly since I made the conversion.

I first began kayak fishing in 1986. That was when you could hit your favorite body of water, paddle to your spot and never see another kayak. A lot has changed since the early days.

Today, kayaks are plentiful. I rarely make a trip without seeing other kayak anglers.

And there have been  multitudes of changes in the industry over the years. The biggest and best change has been the advent of the "fishing" kayak.

As you might imagine, people began kayak fishing out of whatever kayak was available. Typically, it was a sit-inside kayak (SIK). They're fine, but rather confining.

The manufacturers realized there was a whole new world out there and began producing sit-ontop kayaks (SOT). They were more open, more comfortable and better suited for fishing. They offered space for tackle and other gear.

And, as you might expect, the sit-ontops have evolved over the years.

Today, there's a veritable armada of choices in fishing kayaks.

I own a fleet of NuCanoe Frontiers. They're 12-foot boats that I feel are the best on the market when it comes to fishing. I love their simplicity, openness and stability.  With the NuCanoe's track system, you can add accessories to suit your needs.

The NuCanoe Frontiers is perfect for fly fishing. The open cockpit is the ultimate stripping basket. In addition, you can stand up to cast, which only serves lengthen your cast.

The Frontiers is 41 inches wide. That makes the boat the most stable in the industry. I've had clients in their 70s stand up and fish.

I've had people question the speed of the NuCanoe Frontier, implying that it's slow.  First, most of those questioning have never paddled one ("I've heard it's slow.").  Second, it paddles very easily. I've never had a problem keeping up with anyone.

In the fastest fishing kayak, you can consistently paddle 3.5 miles per hour. What's the big deal about speed anyway?

Standing up in a kayak is imperative for me. I carry a 9 1/2-foot push pole which I often use to slowly traverse a flat or edge to look for fish. I've found many hot spots by polling.

In fact, I found the mother lode of "gator" spotted seatrout by poling an edge in Sarasota a couple of years. While poling that edge, I looked down and saw what appeared to be a school of large snook lying on the sand bottom. But they turned out to be hefty trout.

I left (I'm sure they know I was there) and returned a couple of hours later. I caught and released a dozen trout from 4 to 6 pounds.

I've fished that area many times since and done pretty well. My best morning was when the smallest trout I landed weighed 6 pounds and the largest slightly more than 9!

I have a powerboat friend who rarely does much in that area. I'm sure the fish know of his presence long before he gets into casting range.

Of course, the biggest secret is to be on fish. If you're fishing where there are fish, you have a good shot at catching them.

Last summer, Vinny Caruso of Bradenton and I spent several weeks fishing southern Tampa Bay around Joe Island. The pattern remained steady from May to October. On almost every trip, we're drift off the western tip of Joe Island until we caught a fish and then anchor. We'd often catch good numbers of snook, spotted seatrout, redfish, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Kayaks are excellent platforms from which to "sight-fish." However, it's not sight-fishing in the traditional sense. Because you're not elevated, it's tough to see more than 15 or 20 feet.

What I like to do is anchor on the edges of sand holes or sand bars and cast to fish as they swim off the grass and into the open areas.

I've done it all in my kayaks: saltwater bays, estuaries, rivers, lakes. And I've caught fish all over the state.

All I need is a place to launch and a place to park.

I'm footloose and fancy free.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

December's action indicates large trout could be on the horizon

Amy Panse of Grand Rapids, Mich., shows off  a cobia she caught on a jig from Sarasota Bay.

If December is any indication, 2015 should be a banner year for spotted seatrout. After two years of below average trout fishing, things seem to be picking up.

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing experienced fine trout action along the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay and around Palma Sola Bay.
Jeff Panse of Kalamazoo, Mich., caught a nice pompano.

Fishing on the north side of Helicopter Shoal, we caught 15 solid trout that ranged from 18 to 22 inches. We didn't catch any monsters, but we sure had the feeling that we would. Our bait of choice was the 14MR MirrOdine, the best trout lure we've ever used.

Trout action also was good in the deep grass off the east side of Whale Key. Vinny Caruso of Bradenton and I caught and released an estimated 50 trout from 16 to 20 inches on MirrOdines.

Norm Ferris of Charleston, S.C., joined us for a six-hour session and did well. Ferris, an accomplished fly angler, caught 20 trout and several ladyfish during his outing in Buttonwood Harbor. The highlight of the day was a fish that he didn't catch. Ferris saw a fish swimming along the surface about 50 feet from his kayak. He paddled into position to make a cast.

"It's a shark," he said, "and she's got a baby swimming along with her."

That shark turned out to be a 30- to 40-pound cobia.

Ferris made a nice cast to the fish. The big cobia immediately turned and began following the fly, but the fish turned away when it saw Ferris' kayak.

"I ran out of real estate," he said.

In addition to spotted seatrout, we've also been getting hard-fighting bluefish to 5 pounds, Spanish mackerel and a few pompano.

Jeff Panse of Kalamazoo, Mich., and his sister, Amy Panse, of Grand Rapids, Mich., joined me for a six-hour session off Stephens Point. It was one of those days that you dream about.

We launched the kayaks, paddled out to the deep grass and anchored when we hooked the first fish.

We didn't come off anchor for five hours. During that time, we caught more than 100 trout, plus bluefish, ladyfish, pompano and a cobia.

Amy hooked the cobia on a D.O.A. CAL Jig with a gold paddle tail.

"I think it's a shark," she yelled.

To the untrained eye, cobia often are mistaken for shark.

The cobia was a 30-incher.

Fly angler Jason Beary fished a half day on Dec. 26. We had to work hard, but managed to catch and release 30 trout and a couple of bluefish. The fish were taken on Clouser Deep Minnows.

We fished the Myakka River a few times, but didn't find the big snook. Best day was three small snook, three largemouth bass, a redfish and a gar.

We need some colder weather to kick the river season into gear.

I am out of commission until late in the month. I underwent eye surgery on Dec. 30 to remove a cataract from my right eye and to receive a new lens. The procedure was successful and I now can see after two years of "blindness."

I am scheduled to undergo surgery on my left eye later in the month.

I am not sure when my doctor will allow me back on the water?

Advancements in cataract surgery are amazing. Not only will I be able to see clearly again, but I also will not have to wear prescription glasses. I've been wearing glasses since I was 16.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Holiday Season.

Most certainly I will be back on the water by late January. That's when I think the monster seatrout will be back. We haven't had a run of big trout since 2012. I'm looking forward to it.

Call me (941-284-3406) or email me ( at your earliest convenience to book a trip. I look forward to getting out on the water with you once again.

FEBRUARY FORECAST: Spotted seatrout should not only top the list during the month, but we should encounter plenty of "gator" trout (5 pounds and heavier). In addition, I look for lots of feisty bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano and an occasional cobia. If the weather cools off enough, things should heat up in the Myakka River for giant snook. In the past, we've taken quite a few snook of 25 pounds and larger.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing