Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fishing was good when we could get out in January

Everette Howell of Longboat battles one of many large spotted seatrout he caught on his outing.
If it wasn't for the dad-gummed wind, we could have fished more. Oh, well, that's January in Florida.

When we were able to get out, we did pretty good. We fished from Bradenton to Fort Myers, testing a variety of conditions with a variety of techniques.

Everette Howell shows off one of his trout.
Vinny Caruso of Bradenton joined me for a day of fly fishing on the Manatee River. We launched at Ray's Canoe Hideaway off Manatee River Road and paddled upstream to a small lagoon that usually holds fish. Action was slow on this outing, but we managed several hand-sized bluegill and three channel catfish on nymphs under strike indicators.

A few days later, we hit the Myakka River out of Snook Haven. We did fairly well. We caught and released 12 snook to 25 inches and six largemouth bass to three pounds.  We caught our fish on Clouser Deep Minnows, baitfish imitation flies and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs.

Next time out on the river, action wasn't quite as good. We caught two snook, a redfish, two bass and a spotted gar on flies and MirrOlure Lil Johns. I did lose what I am fairly sure was a large snook on a Clouser.
Fly-fishing newcomer Vinny Caruso had no problem with shad.

Ken Babineau, president of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota, and Mick Coulas of Venice joined me for what turned out to be a slow day on the Myakka River. We fished hard, but caught only two small snook and a decent bass on Clouser Deep Minnows.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton and I drove over to the Canaveral Marshes Conservation Area near Titusville to hook up with anglers from the Orlando Kayak Fishing Community. We didn't fish from kayaks, but hiked 1.7 miles to the St. Johns River to fly fish for shad.  The annual shad run takes place during January and February.

We fished hard and did fairly well. Vinny and I combined to catch 12 shad, 27 redbreast sunfish, seven  bluegill and a speckled perch.  The feisty American shad were as large as 19 inches.
We plan to drive over to the St. Johns to try our luck on shad at least once more.
Ken Babineau with a Myakka bass.

Our top flies were small baitfish imitations with bead-chain eyes and small silver spoon flies.
The best technique was to cast slightly upstream and allow the fly to swing downriver. Most hits took place as the line straightened out at about a 45-degree angle.

If you've never fished for shad, you owe it to yourself to do so at least once.

I drove down to Fort Myers to conduct a fly-fishing demonstration from a NuCanoe Frontier during the Florida Sportsman Show at the Lee County Fairgrounds. I talked with interested anglers and actuallly showed how to stand and fly cast.

During my demonstration, I caught and released six channel catfish and six large bluegill.

What a day!

Everette Howell, a retired neuro surgeon who has a home on Longboat, joined me for an instructional outing. Howell is an accomplished angler who wants to learn how to catch fish locally. We usually fish off Longboat Key, but switched it up because of the affects of red tide. There is no red tide in the area, but an outbreak last November  has slowed things way down in the Buttonwood Harbor area.
We drove to Perico Bayou in west Bradenton and launched. We fished a connector ditch between Palma Sola Bay and Perico Bayou that usually is filled with spotted seatrout this time of year.

It didn't let us down.

We conservatively caught and released 70 seatrout to 23 inches, eight flounder, eight ladyfish and a jack crevalle -- all in four hours.

"Best day of trout fishing I've ever had," Howell said.

All fish were caught on VuDu Shrimp.

FEBRUARY FORECAST:  I'm hoping the wind cooperates. I have quite a few trips booked and I'm looking forward to good fishing. Spotted seatrout should be the best bet around the deep grass areas. Pompano should show up, but that largely depends on the red tide. Redfish should be fair on the flats of Little Sarasota Bay.  I anticipate fair snook action in the Myakka River. In fresh water, bluegill, shellcracker, speckled perch, bass and channel catfish are the best bets in Lake Manatee. The Manatee River should produce decent catches of bluegill and channel catfish.
If you're contemplating a kayak fishing trip, please book early. It's that time of year!

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl  Kayak Fishing


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