Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Best action in May was snook in the surf and in fresh water

Tim Harrison of San Antonio, Texas holds his first fly-rod snook. It was one of two he caught.

Time was better spent fly fishing the surf for snook during May.  If conditions were right, that's where you would find me on a day off.

Large oscar taken on fly.
Sarasota Bay has been very, very slow. I'm not sure why, but I do know that it was slower than what it should have been in May.

I'm guessing it could be a result of last fall's red tide. I don't think there's any red tide remaining in the bay, but I do think it has residual effects. I believe it killed a ton of baitfish. And you won't find many fish where there's an absence of bait.

Also, the water is not the color it should be. It's off-color and not the least bit clear. Could also be tied into the red tide.

John Weimer of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota joined me for a trek to a small lake east of Naples in Collier County. The lake is 105 miles south of Sarasota, and the drive isn't too bad early in the morning.
John Weimer battles a big Mayan cichlid.

We launched our NuCanoes at dawn and paddled to the lake. I hadn't fished the lake since December, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We started out casting No. 10 popping bugs on 3- and 4-weight fly rods. Things started out slowly, but picked up once we figured out what was going on.

Large Mayan cichlid were bedding along any rocky shoreline we could find. The trick was to cast to the shallow, rocky edges, pop the bug once and let it sit. If you had the patience, sooner or later a big Mayan would rise up to investigate, sometimes taking a minute or more to inhale the bug.

These were large Mayans, larger than you'll find anywhere.

I did a little research once I got home and discovered the largest Mayans taken by state fisheries biologists in nets were about 12 inches. These fish were running 14 to 16 inches.

A large Mayan cichlid caught on a popping bug.

And you didn't think you could land them on fly rod.

They're one of strongest freshwater fish species in Florida.

It was the new moon. Last year, I caught big Mayans on that lake on the new and full moons.

In addition to Mayans, John and I caught bluegill, stumpknocker, largemouth bass and one huge oscar.

We totaled 25 Mayan cichlid.

Regular client Todd Dawson fished a half day and we did fair. We caught 20 spotted seatrout to 20 inches, five bluefish and several ladyfish on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs, MirrOlure MirrOdines and D.O.A. Deadly Combinations (D.O.A. Shrimp under a popping cork).

Anne Ewert shows off a hefty redfish.
I fished a small lake in the Sleeping Turtles Preserve off River Road east of Venice one day. Vinny Caruso of Bradenton joined me a few days later to fly fish the lake. Over two outings, we caught 35 largemouth bass to 3 pounds, 35 bluegill, five shellcracker and three tilapia to 4 pounds on popping bugs and No. 10 nymphs under strike indicators.

One trip to Lake Manatee resulted in 25 bluegill and eight bass to 4 pounds on popping bugs and nymphs.

John Weimer of Sarasota caught his first beach snook with me in the surf off Casey Key. We saw 100 snook and a trio of big spotted seatrout.

A solo trip to Casey Key resulted in four snook to 26 inches and a ladyfish on my D.T. Variation.

John Weimer and I fished Alligator Alley at mid-month and did well. This was Weimer's first trip to The Everglades. We caught 70 oscar, 30 Mayan cichlid, eight bass, 15 bluegill and a pair of warmouth perch. All fish were caught on my Myakka Minnow.

Anne Ewert, who is going to grad school at the University of New Hampshire, and her friend, Alex Williams, caught a couple of redfish to 30 inches, two flounder, a jack crevalle and 15 spotted seatrout to 18 inches on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs and MirrOlure MirrOdines around Buttonwood Harbor.

Tim Harrison of San Antonio and I experienced a very slow day in southern Tampa Bay. We caught a few spotted seatrout on topwater plugs early, then moved into the backcountry to sight-fish. Tim had a few good shots at redfish, but didn't connect. We moved out onto the sand bars off Joe Island and immediately encountered large jack crevalle, bonnethead shark, blacktip shark and bull shark. We ended the day over deep grass and caught a dozen trout to 16 inches on MIrrOlure MirrOdines.

Two days later, Tim Harrison and I started out before daylight and fly fished around lighted docks on Longboat Key. Tim caught a pair of decent snook on fly before the action subsided. They were is first snook on fly.  We later added another snook, 10 trout, flounder, mangrove snapper and a Spanish mackerel on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs and MirrOlure MirrOdines. Tim's 3-pound trout on a MirrOdine was the day's best.

JUNE FORECAST: I look for beach snook fishing to improve daily when conditions are right. We could also encounter spotted seatrout, ladyfish, jack crevalle, redfish and tarpon in the surf. Night fishing for snook and small tarpon should be decent around lighted docks along Longboat Key and the east side of Sarasota Bay. Spotted seatrout action should be fair over deep grass on the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay.

Florida's weather can be hot in the summer, but we usually get out on the water prior to the heat.

I am speaking about Beach Snook Fishing at the June 22 meeting of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., but I'll be there tying my D.T. Variation (beach snook fly) at 6 p.m. The club also will raffle off D.T. Variations that I donated. The meeting will be held at the Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts.

I specialize in guided beach snook trips this time of year. It's all sight-fishing and something I enjoy immensely.

If you'd like to get in on the action, please give me a call.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


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