Saturday, August 29, 2015

Peacock bass, monster Mayans and hefty bluegill topped August

Author Steve Gibson battles a fine South Florida peacock bass on fly rod.
August is a slow month for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing for several reasons.

First of all, it's hot out there. Secondly, there are few people visiting Sarasota during this time of year.

That's OK with me. It gives me time to do what I like. And what I like to do is fly fish in fresh water.
A typical South Florida peacock bass.

Thanks to my friend  Joe Mahler, I was introduced to a spot in south Florida which offers very good fly fishing for a variety of species. It has the usual Florida freshwater fare (bass, bluegill, etc.), but it also has a few exotic species. The spot offers good action on peacock bass and giant Mayan cichlid.
Mahler is a fly-fishing pro who resides in Fort Myers. He's a fly-casting instructor and talented artist.

Check him out at www.

Realize that peacock bass were introduced into south Florida waters by the state in 1984. Mayan cichlid weren't introduced by the state. They were unceremoniously and illegally dumped into southern state waters. No matter, they're both great species for fly fishers.

A monster South Florida bluegill.
In fact, the spot holds some of the largest Mayan cichlid I've ever caught. On a recent outing, I landed at least 20 Mayans, with most in excess of 12 inches. Several pushed 15 inches. If you've never caught a Mayan cichlid, realize that even the small ones will make you think you've got a monster. A 14-15-incher will actually pull the kayak and make you wonder if you will land it.

For Mayan cichlid, I use a number of flies. I usually begin the day with No. 8 or 6 popping bugs. I'll stick with it until the surface action subsides. When it does, I'll switch to No. 8 Clousers (pink and chartreuse, orange and chartreuse) or Myakka Minnows. Often, the subsurface bite is significantly better than the topwater.

This peacock bass fell for a pink Clouser.
When I'm using poppers, I catch Mayans, monster bluegill and a few peacock bass. The bluegill at this particular location are the biggest I've ever encountered. In fact, I caught my personal best bluegill (11 inches) at this locale, and I've caught a number of them more than 10 inches. These fish are large and thick.

When I'm casting to the shoreline and working a Clouser quickly, I usually catch good numbers of peacock bass. However, most are small. I usually get peacocks to about 12 inches.

If I want larger peacock bass, I'll look for bedding fish. That's where you'll find the larger specimens.

You can also find larger fish in open water, but I like that to trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Another nice peacock bass.

The location also has snook and tarpon. I recently saw tarpon rolling in open water and fired a cast their way. I allowed the small Clouser to sink, then began slowly stripping in it. The line want tight after the third strip and I was into a "heavy" fish.  I could feel the fish shake its head. It started to take off, but that's when my 8-pound tippet broke. I'm fairly sure it was a tarpon. It could have been a large peacock bass.

For this fishing, I use 3-, 4- and 6-weight fly rods. I prefer 9-foot tapered leaders with 8-pound tippet.

I usually use full floating lines, but have done fair with a full sinking line.

Monster Mayan cichlid
Mahler created a fly called a Straw Boss which is also very good for peacock bass, largemouth bass and large Mayan cichlid. I highly recommend this fly, too
One of the neat things about this spot is that it's good during the summer. Usually, south Florida waters are not real good because of the heart, high water and bugs. But I've encountered no bugs, the heat isn't too bad when you're catching fish and the water level seems to be stable.

It took me several visits to figure things out. I'm not saying I have it down pat, but I feel much more confident than I did the first time I visited.

If peacock bass are on your bucket list, you might want to give this spot a try. Just give me a call (941-284-3406) or shoot me an email ( and we can arrange a trip. 

And if you've never encountered Mayan cichlid, this is the spot. Of course, those who enjoy monster bluegill on a fly rod won't want to miss out, either!

Locally, fishing has been fair, with the best action taking place at night around lighted docks. We've been getting snook, tarpon and spotted seatrout on my Gibby's Snook Shrimp.  Once the sun comes up, we move onto the adjacent flats where we've been picking up seatrout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, snook and a few redfish.

Longtime client Dr. Everette Howell of Longboat Key joined me for an outing on Buttonwood Harbor off Sarasota Bay. We fished long and hard for out fish. Everette picked up a decent snook on a Zara Super Spook Jr. We caught a few trout on MirrOlure MirrOdines.

The day prior, I fished the area and caught 15 trout to 20 inches on MirrOdines and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs.

I also fished southern Tampa Bay around Joe Island and did fair. I caught snook and seatrout on Zara Super Spook Jrs. I also caught trout to 18 inches on MirrOdines. I saw some redfish on the sand bars in front of Joe Island, but didn't hook up.

I've been using my new NuCanoe Pursuit, a great fly-fishing kayak that just debuted this summer. I was fortunate enough to test the Pursuit out back in March when NuCanoe owner Blake Young brought a couple to town. We fished Sarasota Bay and southern Tampa Bay.

I picked my Pursuit up at ICAST 2015 in Orlando after working the NuCanoe booth for three days. After I got it home, I rigged it and added an anchor trolley and a taco-style paddle holder on the starboard side.

I have been fishing out of it now for a little more than a month. What a great fly-fishing kayak. I've owned many kayaks over the years. This one is the best. It's the best because of it's simplicity and unencumbered layout.

In addition, there is out-of-way storage for four fully rigged fly rods! While you're casting on rod, the others are securely stowed.

The boat paddles easily and tracks very straight.

It's a pleasure to fly fish from such a well-designed kayak.

SEPTEMBER FORECAST:  Night snook and tarpon action should remain steady throughout the Sarasota area. Look for redfish, spotted seatrout and snook on the flats during daylight hours. Spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper and ladyfish should please over the deeper grass. Peacock bass, monster bluegill, Mayan cichlid and largemouth bass should be good in south Florida lakes and canals. Closer to home,  anticipate decent bass, bluegill, shellcracker and channel catfish in Lake Manatee and the Manatee River.

Even though it's just September, it's not too early to think about those special to you for Christmas. Or you might drop a couple of hints to someone significant. You can get gift certificates from Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing for Christmas, birthdays or other occasions.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


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