Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Freshwater fishing was the ticket to September success

John Weimer of Sarasota shows off a beautiful peacock bass that fell for a Clouser Deep Minnow.
Let's just call it "Freshwater September."

With red tide rolling into Sarasota Bay, we switched things up in September and spent most of our time in fresh water.

Hefty shellcracker 
We located a bunch of Mayan cichlid in a small lake within South Gulf Cove in Charlotte County and spent a couple of days there.

We drove south a couple of hours and fished a small lake east of Naples and did well.

We didn't forget about salt water. In fact, we launched near Buttonwood Harbor and had two pretty good outings.

First, let's address red tide. It's a pesky algae bloom that can kill fish and makes things uncomfortable for humans. However, it doesn't mean you can't catch fish. When red tide enters a body of water, it doesn't cover it like a blanket.

The worst red tide that I can remember took place in 2005-06. It lasted a little more than a year. We were able to catch fish throughout its stay.

Fish will seek clean area, and you can often have some pretty good days.

When the wind is out of the east, you usually can find decent action along the east side of Sarasota Bay. In addition, others local areas haven't been affected. I expect Little Sarasota Bay to offer strong action as the weather and water cools.

Rick Grassett's tarpon that was caught on a nymph.
I found out about the spot near South Gulf Cover from a friend. It is supposed to contain a healthy population of Mayan cichlid, a non-native species that found its way into Florida's waters in the mid-1980s. It had a whole bunch of cichlids. This is the farthest north I've encountered appreciable numbers of Mayan cichlid.

John Weimer and I visited the lake and did well. We caught more than 50 of the "atomic sunfish" on No.  bead-head nymphs under a strike indicator. The cichlids ranged from hand-sized to 12 inches in length.

These fish are great fun on light fly rods. They can fight about as well as any fish you'll encounter in fresh water.

Next time out, I took local charter guide Rick Grassett. It was his first fly-fishing venture in a NuCanoe Frontier. We caught a bunch of Mayans to 12 inches. But the highlight of the day was a 14-inch tarpon that Grassett caught while casting a nymph along a fallen tree.
Stability? No question in a NuCanoe as Rick Grassett shows.

I told him at the time that he might be the only fly fisher ever to catch a tarpon on a nymph!

Back to Sarasota Bay, I had a couple of decent outings. First time out, I fly fished docks along Longboat Key and landed two of the four snook I hooked. I saw a few tarpon, but didn't hook any.

At daylight, I paddled to a nearby flat where I have experienced good redfish action in the past. A funny thing happened this time out. Couldn't find any redfish, but I caught several snook and spotted seatrout on topwater plugs and MirrOlure MirrOdines. I caught snook to 28 inches and trout to 24.
Next time out, I found good numbers of snook on the same flat, but smaller. I caught and released eight snook to 22 inches. I also landed a couple of decent trout.

Paddling north, I found some decent trout action toward White Key. I caught trout to 25 inches on MirrOlure MirrOdines and the new D.O.A. 2 3/4-inch shrimp.

I fished southern Tampa Bay and caught six trout, a jack crevalle and a lookdown on topwater plugs and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

Tampa Bay lookdown.
Two trips to Naples proved enjoyable. First time out, I landed three peacock bass to 3 pounds on nymphs. Now, I would never have expected to catch decent-sized peacocks on nymphs! John Weimer and I also caught jumbo bluegill, Mayan cichlid, large shellcracker and largemouth bass on nymphs, Clouser Deep Minnows and popping bugs.

Another trip to Naples resulted in a variety of peacock bass, bluegill, Mayan cichlid, shellcracker and largemouth bass. Largest peacock went 3 pounds and was caught on a Clouser Deep Minnow. Nymphs accounted for most of the other fish.

I spent a day on the Myakka River just below the dam at Upper Myakka Lake. I caught good numbers of hand-sized bluegill, a large shellcracker and small bass on nymphs. I also found several rolling baby tarpon, but didn't hook up.

I bought an annual pass, so I can now get into Myakka quite early. I can be on the water and catching fish by the time the park opens at 8 a.m.

OCTOBER FORECAST:  I look for the best bets to be spotted seatrout and snook. Trout will hit jigs, MirrOdines, D.O.A. Deadly Combinations and D.O.A. shrimp over deep grass along the east and west sides of the Sarasota Bay. Snook will be around dock lights and on the flats at dawn. Shark fishing should be good in Tampa Bay. I also expect decent trout, snook and redfish on the flats around Joe Bay. In fresh water, I anticipate strong action on peacock bass, bluegill, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass and shellcracker south of Sarasota. Closer to home, Upper Myakka Lake, the Myakka River and Lake Manatee should produce decent bluegill, shellcracker and largemouth bass.

The "season" is beginning to book up. I anticipate a good year based on the interest I've received . If you know when you're going to be in the area, please give me a call or email me to book your trip.

And remember, the best time to go fishing is any time you can!

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing


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