Wednesday, August 31, 2016

From keyboard to video: An arduous process

Print journalism has always been my bag. I've been pounding a keyboard for about as long as I can remember.

I spent more than 40 years in print journalism from the time I entered the U.S. Air Force in 1971 until I retired from the newspaper business in 2009.

I fooled around with video and electronic media over the years. I host a weekly radio fishing show in Sarasota and a fishing segment on a local TV station.

I didn't get into the technical end of it, though.

About 18 months ago, my wife bought me a GoPro video camera. I have a buddy who has a GoPro and he's done some quality work. Also, there's a plethora of video work around the Internet.

Unfortunately, my GoPro sat in my office. I could shoot video, but editing it was a whole other world.

The more I thought about my dilemma, the more determined I was to solve this problem. At the 2014 ICAST in Orlando, I spent 30 minutes at the GoPro booth, getting some expert instruction on how to produce video. I was excited and couldn't wait to get home to put my new knowledge to use.

A funny thing happened between Orlando and my home in Sarasota: I forgot most everything I had learned.

Chalk that up to old age. Stupidity.

So, my GoPro remained in the office for another year.

One day I was headed to the beach to sight-fishing snook in the surf. I figured that would be the perfect place to begin my GoPro efforts. I had previously purchased an apparatus that allowed my to put the diminutive video cam on my cap.

So, I hit the beach and decided to give it a go
The effort was less than stellar, but it was a start.
While it wasn't the best video on beach snook fishing around, it served to give me perspective. You have to understand what's going on and what the camera is seeing.

Next time out, I shot more video. And I was able to put it together via instruction from YouTube. The more I looked into it, the more I found out. I learned how to make clips. How to put them together.

How to add titles, music and voice-overs. I learned how to fade in and fade out. I could do that with clips, music and titles.

I've taken the camera out in the kayak a few times. The first couple of occasions kind of sucked because the fishing was so slow. Third time was the proverbial charm! We caught loads of fish and I was able to get a lot of footage.

For most of my life, I've been a photo guy. And since the advent of digital cameras, I've been able to download photos into my computer and edit them. It's a pretty painless and quick endeavor.

Video -- at least for me -- in another matter. It takes time, planning and is a production.

Of course, you can keep things simple and just create a simple clip to show to your friends. But there's a whole new world out there and there are no limits.

I'm a whole lot better at this video thing than I was a few months ago, but I'm not as good as I'll be tomorrow. It's a never-ending process.

I'll keep at it and I'm looking forward to future endeavors.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Beach snook winding down; back to kayak fishing lakes and bays

Snook are plentiful in the surf from May through August. The season is winding down.
Beach snook season is finally coming to a close, so it's back in the kayak for this fishing guide.

There are still a few snook in the surf, but the numbers are down drastically compared to a couple of weeks ago.
The author shows off a fine beach snook caught on fly.

For planning purposes, I target snook in the surf from May until about mid-August. For the most part, I sight-fish these great game fish with my fly rod.

My clients totaled more than 175 snook this past season. On days when I didn't have trips, I caught and released 154 snook from the surf to 28 inches.

This was the best beach snook season that we've had in at least five years. I'm hoping it's even better next year.

For beach snook, I recommend 6- to 8-weight fly rods, with clear, intermediate sinktip line. I don't get fancy on the leader. I use a six-foot length of fluorocarbon. My fly of choice is my Gibby's D.T. Variation, a fly that has produced more than 1,000 beach snook over the years.

Check out this video I produced on beach snook fishing:

I also did a little freshwater fishing during the month, although I must admit I didn't do all that well.

We're a couple of months from peak action. Freshwater fishing will heat up as the weather cools and the water level goes down.

Now that I'm back fishing the bays, here's what we can expect:

SARASOTA BAY -- I usually launch at Buttonwood Harbor on the west side of the bay midway up Longboat Key, I like to get out an hour or so before dawn and fish dock lights for snook, tarpon and other species. At dawn, I like to be on an adjacent flat, casting for redfish. I look for schools of mullet on the flat and concentrate my efforts there. I usually start out with a topwater plug. I also use jigs, spoons and jerk worms. Stephens Point on the east side of the bay can be a very good spot. You can work the dock lights before dawn there, then paddle out into the bay and fish for spotted seatrout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, pompano and ladyfish over the deep grass. I like to use jigs, Mirrolure MirrOdines and D.O.A. Deadly Combinations.

TAMPA BAY -- I launch at the south rest area near the Sunshine Skyway and fish the area around Joe Bay. I like to hit the nearby flats at dawn and cast topwater plugs for redfish, snook and trout. I'll also use MirrOlure MirrOdines. At mid-morning, I paddle out to the nearby sand bars where I like to sight-fish for redfish, snook, cobia, shark and large jack crevalle. When on the sand bars, I cast MirrOlure Lil Johns on 1/16-ounce jig heads. I also fish Tampa Bay out of Bishop Harbor.

CHARLOTTE HARBOR -- My favorite place to launch is Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda. If I paddle north to the mouth of the Peace River, I often encounter tarpon from 30 to 100 pounds. The shoreline structure (docks, mangroves, fallen trees) can be good for snook and reds. If I paddle south from the launch, I'll get into snook, reds and trout on the flats and along the shoreline against the mangroves and around creeks mouths.

SEPTEMBER FORECAST: Fishing around dock lights for snook, tarpon, spotted seatrout and other species is the best bet and a great way to beat the heat. You'll need to use tackle stout enough to prevent the fish from getting around pilings or back into the docks. After daylight, I like to switch to deep grass of Whale Key on the west side of Sarasota Bay and Stephens Point on the east side to cast for spotted seatrout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and other species. Action should be good in southern Tampa Bay for redfish, trout, snook and shark.

As always, I would like to thank my sponsors: NuCanoe, Aqua-Bound, MirrOlure, D.O.A. Lures, Peak Fishing.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


NuCanoe's Pursuit and Frontier are simple, comfortable and very fishable

My NuCanoe Pursuit is a fishing machine with clean lines and  loads of comfort.
I have been doing this kayak thing for quite a while now. To give you an idea, when I first started fishing from a kayak, I most often was the only one on the water doing so.

That was in 1986. I fished from a kayak while doing articles for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on the subject. I used kayaks from Intracoastal Kayaks in Venice and from Economy Tackle in Sarasota.

Client Todd Dawson battles a nice fish out of the Frontier.
I enjoyed it immensely. I love the feeling of freedom and independence that kayaks gave me. I also enjoyed that I could go fishing when I wanted, where I wanted, for which species I wanted and I could fish the way I wanted. I could also fish as long as I wanted and I could leave when I wanted.

As a bonus, I didn't have to stop at a gas station on the way home to fill up the tank for the outboard.

I've been the powerboat route. I had one of the first flats boats in Sarasota, Fla., where I reside. It was a great boat, but it continuously cost me money. If it wasn't one think, it was another.

What I learned many years ago is that I was catching more fish out of the kayak than I did in the powerboat. And that made a whole lot of sense to me. If the fish didn't know I was there, they were easier to catch.
Vinny Caruso fights a shad on fly on the St. Johns River.

Granted, I was limited where I could fish. I was only as good as where  my paddling arms could take me. But I realized that was a bonus, too. If the fish weren't cooperating where I was, I couldn't simply turn the key and speed off to a hot spot 10 miles away.

I was there for the entire time. So, I got to know each and every spot intimately. I eventually discovered every nook and cranny in every spot I fished.

Take Buttonwood Harbor, for example. Buttonwood is a popular spot located on the west side of Sarasota Bay. It's comprised of nine mangrove islands, grass flats, channels and sand holes. It's about a mile long and half mile wide. Within that area, I have about 60 spots I can fish, depending on the wind, season and weather.

Standing and poling the flats at dawn in Charlotte Harbor.
Simply put, fishing from a kayak has made me a better angler.

I co-founded the CCA/Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers annual All-Release Fly Fishing Challenge (along with Capt. Rick Grassett)  in 2004. For the first few years, I fished with a buddy out of his powerboat. Six years ago, I decided it was best for me and my business ( that I fish out of my kayak.

I've done well. I have won a division of the tournament nine out of the 11 years. I've won the Snook Division five times and Spotted Seatrout Division four times. On three occasions, I've caught more than enough snook and trout to win both divisions. However, tournament rules limit each anglers to winning just one division.
A.J. Menard fights his first permit.

I've also caught Slams (snook, trout and redfish) three times. My slams haven't been enough, but I've won a division two of the three times.

You might have surmised that I like to fly fish. Yes. And I do it as often as I can.

Early on in my kayak-fishing career, it was a tough go. Most kayaks aren't designed for fly fishing.  There's no place to stow fly rods safely. And most kayaks have plenty of line-snagging equipment and/or accessories scattered over the deck.

Then came NuCanoe. I was introduced to NuCanoe by fly-fishing guru Joe Mahler ( of Fort Myers. Mahler is a fly-casting instructor, author, illustrator and world-class fly angler.

A couple of trips with Mahler had me convinced that NuCanoe was the way to go.

When I decided to make the switch, there were just to models: the Classic and Frontier. I opted for three 12-foot Frontiers.  The Frontier is a spacious, wide open kayak that arguably is the most stable watercraft of its kind. Standing in the Frontier is no big deal.

Menard's permit made him smile.
It's so easy, in fact, that I've had anglers as old as 84 standing while fishing.

I have discussed with NuCanoe owner Blake Young that we need to change the designation of the Frontier from kayak to personal fishing craft.

By any name, it's a winner.

About a year after I joined NuCanoe (, the company came out with the Pursuit, a narrower, longer, sleeker version with similar stability. The boat also features four rod tubes in which you can stow four fly rods safely and out of the way.

That sealed the deal for this fly-fished enthusiast!

The Pursuit also has a spacious, uncluttered cockpit. There's nothing for my fly line to catch on.
Simply put, it's a virtual fly-fishing machine.

I'm a minimalist when it comes to rigging and accessories. But that's the beauty with any of the NuCanoe models. The integrated track system allows you to add as many (or as few) accessories as the want.

For me, it's as few. I added an anchor trolley system to my Pursuit. I also mount a GoPro video camera in the track system. That's about it.

I carry tackle in a milk crate behind my seat. I've added seven rod holders to the milk crate.

I fish all over in my Pursuit. I fish saltwater bays and estuaries. I fish freshwater lakes and streams. I fish from Tampa Bay to The Everglades and points beyond.

And best of all, I always catch fish.

I'm a fishing fool in the best fishing kayak on the market.

I'm a versatile guy, so I need the most versatile fishing kayak available.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Snook are plentiful and easy to catch -- if you know the secrets

Snook are plentiful in the surf along barrier islands in southwest Florida from May through August.

The more I fish, the more I realize that there is nothing certain about the sport.

Just because you do well on a certain species at a certain spot one year doesn't mean the same will hold true the next.
D.T. Variations are top flies for sight-fishing snook.

If things can change, they usually will.

This applies to beach snook fishing.

That's my specialty. I've been doing it for the past 35 years and I've seen things change in less than 24 hours.

First, let me tell you that I will not share spots with you. Most of you have eyes, legs, feet and brains. That's enough to allow you to put in the time to find your own spots.

I found mine the good old-fashioned way: hard work and determination.

All  you need is the desire to success and the willingness to put in the time.

Mick Coulas shows off a beach snook.
This season has been among the best. The snook have been plentiful in the surf and usually more than willing to cooperate. My best day so far was a 29-snook day on Aug. 1. I had a 23-fish outing in July.

I've had several days in double digits.

I've also head days when I've found plenty of snook, but getting them to hit was another matter.

I am fortunate in that I've been able to guide quite a few people to their first beach snook. Most are surprised at the complexity of the sport. I have seen them make every mistake possible. I have also witnessed them improve and become quit adept at seeing snook in the surf.

The first skill to be mastered is seeing the fish. And this is quite difficult for many folks. I'm not sure why, but I do know that it's true.

I believe that those who have trouble seeing the fish do not own a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. I can't understand why anglers enjoy sight-fishing are handicapping themselves in this manner. Makes no sense.

A quality pair of polarized sunglasses helps you see the fish. If you can see fish, you have a good shot at catching them. If you can't see them, the odds are against you.

Steve Kost fights a snook a fly rod.
Recently, I gave a talk on beach snook fishing at the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota. As usual, I gave my spiel about sunglasses.

Immediately, I saw a hand go up.

"Do you think my (cheap) sunglasses will work?" one guy asked.

Before answering, I asked, "Why not invest in a better pair?"

He responded, "Too expensive."

I paused, then asked, "How much did you pay for your fly rod?"

He got the point.

It makes no sense to pay $300-$700 for a fly rod, then "cheap out" on the sunglasses -- especially if you want to sight-fish.

A good pair of polarized sunglasses drastically reduces glare on the water's surface, allowing you to see what's below.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Once you can see below the surface, you have to interpret what you're seeing. If you start looking for snook with tails, scales, fins, eyes and a mouth, you probably won't see very many.

What you're looking for is a shape. A color. Movement.

Snook have an uncanny ability to blend into their surroundings.

It takes practice. But once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy.

Another common mistake is to look for snook too far away from the dry sand. You can find snook lying of the bottom in the trough. However, the snook you want are cruising parallel to the beach just a foot or so out from the dry sand. These fish are in what I like to call the feeding zone. They're actively looking for food: sand fleas, scale sardines, glass minnows.

Those fish you see lying on the bottom have already eaten and aren't actively seeking food. They'll take a fly every once in a while, but not often.

Another mistake I see often is casting diagonally or parallel. When you see a snook swimming toward you, simply cast straight out (perpendicularly) from the beach. Time your retrieve so that the fly and snook meet at the same place at the same time.

It's that simple.

Rarely will a snook swim out of its way to take a fly. Your offering has to be within 18 to 24 inches of the snook.

The reason I prefer a white fly is that I can see it in the water. I can track it easily and know where it is in relationship to the fish. If I can't see it, then how would I know the snook is tracking it or even remotely interested in it?

Okay, let's say you make a good cast and the snook starts to follow your fly. What do you do?

That's easy. You trigger or provoke a strike by speeding up your retrieve. You make the snook think the "bait" is trying to get away. I do this by increasing my striping speed. Or i might even do so with the rod tip.

If a snook follows don't give up until you run out of water. I've had many snook take the fly at the very last second.

As far as rods go, I use a TFO BVK 5 weight and matching reel. I prefer a clear, intermediate sinktip line. However, on the BVK I have a floating line.

Floating lines can be a nuisance because you'll often find the fly line inside your rod tip. You can remedy that by shortening your leader or moving back on the beach.

With a sinktip line, I use a 6-foot leader. With a floating line I use a 7 1/2-foot leader. I add a short length of 20-pound fluorocarbon for a shock leader.

While I won't divulge my favorite locations, I will tell you I avoid beaches that have undergone re-nourishment.  The companies that re-nourish beaches often use offshore sand or inland sand for the procedure. It's not compatible with the natural sand and usually won't hold sand fleas, a common food for snook.

In addition, new sand stirs up quite easily and can make it tough to see.

What's the attraction of beach snook fishing? No 1, it's a great sight-fishing adventure. With a little imagination, you can picture yourself on a remote tropical beach, casting to bonefish.

While snook are our main target, we have also encountered redfish, spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, flounder, tripletail, mangrove snapper, barracuda, tarpon and cobia in the surf.

You just never know what you might see.

Typically, I don't get out on the beach much earlier than 7:30 a.m. You can't see much because the sun isn't up high enough to light up the water. Your peak fishing time is 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m.

There are times when you can fish all day is good conditions. But most of the time, you're done by 1 the sea breeze kicks in and roughens the surf.

Essential gear for beach snook fishing includes cap or hat, sunscreen, clippers, pliers, leader material, fly box and flies and plenty of water. I usually walk 3-4 miles and drink a couple of liters of water.

Snook will stay out into the sure through August and into September. They'll start heading back into the bays as the water cools.

The action so far has been great. I hope it remains so for a few more weeks.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Snook plentiful and cooperative in the surf along local beaches

Jesse Ehrlich of Sarasota battles a snook on fly rod that he sight-fished for in the surf.
Snook fishing in the surf has been very good this summer. We've been walking local beaches an sight-fishing with fly rods for snook in the surf.

Dault Roberts shows off a snook.
I've taken a number of people who had never caught a snook or had never experienced much success with snook along our beaches.

All succeeded.

John Weimer of Sarasota joined my for a beach snook outing early in the month. John is a member of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota. We landed three snook to 25 inches in tough conditions. Wind was up and so was the surf.

Another Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers' member joined me a few days later. Steve Kost of Lakewood Ranch hooked 14 snook and landed nine to about 24 inches. All fish fell for my Gibby's D.T. Variation, arguably the best fly for beach snook.

Incidentally, Steve had a hip replaced in April and is scheduled to have the other hip replaced this month.

Dault Roberts of Oklahoma caught four snook to 24 inches on a fairly tough day. We encountered plenty of fish, but they weren't very aggressive.

I first started fishing with Dault when his was a first-year dental student at LECOM in Lakewood Ranch. He's now Dr. Dault Roberts and practicing in Oklahoma.

Snook in the surf. Can you count them?
Retired orthodontist Dr. Jesse Ehrlich tried his hand at beach snook and landed four snook to 23 inches. He had been fishing for snook in the surf at north Lido Key. He wanted to learn more beach snook techniques.

Larry Nazzaro and his son, Trevor, fished with me and each caught a pair of snook. They hooked five and landed four. Larry resides in The Villages near Ocala. Trevor is from Denver. Again, we saw lots of fish, but they were tough to fool.

The next day, I ventured out by myself and managed a pair of fish in rough conditions. However, one of my snook was a beautiful 28-incher.

I did a few other solo trips and did fair to very good. My catch totals ranged from two snook to nine.
Author Steve Gibson with a nice snook.

I've found that the best action takes place around the new moon. The days surrounding the full moon can be slow.

Also, calm days when the water is clear are usually tougher than when we have a little wave action and choppy water. The snook seem to be more aggressive when conditions aren't "perfect."

For beach snook fly fishing, I recommend 6- to 8-weight fly rods with clear, intermediate sinktip line.

I keep the leader simple and use a six-foot length of 20-pound fluorocarbon.

I will use some other flies -- mostly while baitfish imitations -- but I still catch a majority of my fish on the D.T. Variation.

For beach snook, you'll need a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. Seeing the fish is paramount to success. If you can't see them, you'll probably have trouble catching them.

Other essentials include a cap or hat, sunscreen, flats boots (I go barefooted) and plenty of water. I recommend eating a banana the morning of your trip and drinking a couple of bottles of water before your trip begins.

Snook will remain in the surf throughout this month. They'll start migrating back into the bays in September.

Sight-fishing for snook in the surf is one of my favorite things to do.

Early in the year, I set a goal of catching 100 snook on fly during 2016. To date, I've totaled 143 snook.

Not bad!

Once September arrives, I'll begin targeting  our toughest fly-rod fish -- redfish. My 2016 goal on reds is 10 -- and I might not achieve that!

I took a busman's holiday of sorts late in the month with my buddy Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict out of C.B.'s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key. We headed out on our annual fly-rod tarpon trip.

Over the years, we've rarely failed  -- and this time was no different. We stuck four big tarpon, landed one and broke off another near the boat.

If you're interested in fly fishing for giant tarpon, Capt. Rick Grassett is your guy. He specializes in shallow-water sight0-fishing for big tarpon from May to mid-August. You'll probably have to book your trip a year ahead of time. I encourage you to do so. You can reach him at 941-350-9790.

AUGUST FORECAST: I expect snook fishing to continue in the surf along area beaches. There are plenty of fish out there and they're cooperative most of the time. I haven't been fishing the bay at all, but I will do so in the coming month. Spotted seatrout action is expected to be good over deep grass along the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay. You'll also encounter jack crevalle and ladyfish. We'll also get out a couple of hours before daylight to fish around lighted docks. Snook are the primary targets, but we often encounter small tarpon, spotted seatrout, jack crevalle and sometimes redfish. I also expect shark action to be in high gear in southern Tampa Bay. We target small blacktip, bonnethead and spinner sharks. It's a blast in a kayak.

September often is a very good fishing month with little pressure.

If you're interested in booking a trip for beach snook this month or a trip in September, call me at 941-284-3406.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing