I met John Shaffer, of Bellefonte, PA. at around 9 AM at Matacha Park. It was cloudy and gloomy looking with a 60% chance of rain and storms for most of the day. Eventually the wind would kick. John was staying just up the canal from the boat ramp, and was in his Wilderness Systems 10 SOT kayak. I had my boat ready, and John and I slid her into the water and were soon on our way.
This was an instructional trip for John, and his primary goal was learning. Not catching. Good thing as we had a long, lazy slow moving outgoing tide. I knew catching anything would be a challenge. But, I took John to a great spot that's usually stacked with snook and redfish this time of year, thinking that if we were going to catch, it would be there. I also wanted him to learn about how to fish the spot for future reference on this and subsequent trips. We were there in about fifteen minutes.
First I went over the hows and whys of fishing this spot, along with some tips on handling snook on light gear, and then we split up, with John fishing the prime spot, and me going to do a little scouting. As anticipated, the bite was just about non-existant, except for the puffer fish. They were biting very well, and I'd guess we tossed away a couple of dozen DOA Cals that had been bitten off at the hook.
John did manage a just under legal flounder. I moved him to a nice hole where I expected to find redfish, flounder, and perhaps a snook on the falling water, but John caught another flounder. That was it. Meanwhile it had begun raining on us, and rained and drizzled on us on and off for most of the rest of the day. I wanted to get closer to home, because I knew the wind was going to kick eventually. I also wanted to see if we could catch some trout. The area I showed John rarely disappoints, and I've had some great trout action in the area. But, the conditions were just shutting things down. We did manage two 17 inch trout, but that was it.
By this time it was afternoon, and the weather was upon us, and the wind was building. It was drizzling, again. I suggested we head to the ramp and maybe go for coffee and have an hour of so of class for him. He was all for that. We wound up just sitting in my fishing van with pen and paper and doing it there. It was quicker and easier.
John was happy with his new knowledge, and said he would never have thought to fish where I'd taken him. He'll probably visit those spots again this week while he's here, although the tides continues to be really poor. He also is now up on how to fish mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, and potholes.
Tuesday was my first trip with Lars Henriksen, who was over for his visit from Denmark. Lars is a rabid fly angler, and his skills were going to be tested on this day. We had a forecast for gusts to 30 mph from the north, behind the front that had passed through late Monday. I asked him if he wanted to bring some spinning gear as a backup, and he told me that 30 mph in Denmark where he fishes, is a good day!
We met at the Circle K near my home. Lars came over from Ft Myers Beach, and we headed off to Sanibel to fish the waters of Ding Darling. I don't know a better place to get out of the effects of strong winds blowing across the tide. tide.
Once at our launch site, we were quickly on our way. The wind was really brutal. Normal cruising with the trolling motors is on speed 3. That barely moved us forward into the wind. Setting 4 got us going, but not a normal paddle speed. I decided that in light of the conditions we had, and the slow forward progress we were making, that we should troll our way into the wind. I put out a line with a DOA Cal 1/8 oz jig head and a Stark Naked swimming shad body. We didn't get far before I had the first fish.
It was a nice redfish. I knew there would be more. We stopped and anchored and went to work. What happened on a day when there should have been no bite, behind a big cold front, with a 30 mph wind blowing out of the north, was magical. That first fish came as we approached a long, deep hole. It was maybe 4 to 5 ft. deep, while the surrounding flats were about a foot to a foot and a half deep. It was soft mud bottom about a foot thick. It holds heat in the winter. That means it should hold fish. And, it did.
In fact! Lars and I spend the rest of the day fishing there in that area that was no more than an eighth of a mile long. We caught snook, redfish, jacks, ladyfish, and one nice trout, and yes, Lars caught a tarpon of about 26 inches and 5 pounds, for the GRAND SLAM. By the end of the day, we had caught around 80 fish, to the best of our counting. The amazing thing was that Lars was fly fishing the entire day, and just tearing the fish up. I caught 7 redfish, 8 or 9 snook with several at 22", a nice speckled trout, snagged a mullet, several jack crevale, and a few ladyfish. Lars caught the rest, and all on fly.
Check back soon for videos of this trip!
Wednesday's trip was with Dan McGowan, of Stillwater, MN. He was on his first visit to the Sarasota area, and staying on Siesta Key. He wanted to fish in that area, and the best place to do that is out of Turtle Beach. It's a beautiful area, and the area I love to fish is usually very good for redfish, snook, trout and other species.
We were fishing a lazy afternoon incoming tide, as there was no tide in the morning. We were on the second day behind the cold front and the temps had dropped, wind was down to around 12 mph, and the barometer was high. You know going in the catching will be tough. I told Dan that the best plan for fishing behind winter cold fronts is to figure out what, if anything is willing to bite, and then catch that.
I had the boats ready to launch when Dan arrived, and we were soon on our way. There are several ways to get to the area I wanted to fish, and I decided to take the longer one and troll as we went, to see if we could dig up some fish. We didn't hit anything until we got to the main ICW. We got into some trout and ladyfish action trolling along the edge where the bottom rises from about 12 ft. to the shallow flat. We caught speckled trout and ladyfish, and lost several that weren't. Dan also got a good sized gafftop sail catfish, which is actually a game fish, and will hit all kinds of lures.
I left Dan with the fish to go see if I could find a redfish up on the flats. Once the bite stopped for Dan, he came to join me. The wind picked up and flipped back to the northwest. I had two hits that were classic redfish hits from fish that are curious but not hungry. That was it, and I covered a lot of ground.
We finished up looking for more trout or ladyfish action. Dan found a couple, and that was it. Shortly after beginning our journey home Dan's boat became unwilling to pull into the wind properly. I checked things and the splices to the battery connector were warm, so I suspect it's time to replace them. We wound up hooking up with Dan's anchor pole as a rope, and I pulled him most of the way back to the ramp.
Dan said he had enjoyed his first kayak fishing adventure. He assured me before we left that for him it wasn't about the catching, but about being out there fishing. I couldn't agree more.
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