The coming of fall brought great fishing, not just for snook, but for redfish, trout, and flounder. Little did we know that winter would be the toughest we've seen in years.
WHO CAUGHT 'EM?
Rich DeLucca, of Philadelphia, PA, ushered in the first day of November. We did a lot of bar hopping and Rich put over 20 snook, 10+ trout, 3 reds, 3 flounder, 4 ladyfish, and 8 jacks in the boat. All were caught on pilchards. For the next three days, I had my good friend Brian Grahm of Sarasota, his older brother Tom, his father, and father-in-law for a fishing marathon. The first day, on poor tides, we got 15 snook to 27", and three big jacks to 6 pounds. The second day we landed 2 reds, 9 snook, 3 trout to 22", 1 flounder, 3 snappers, and five big jacks. The third day was the charm. Everyone was getting the hang of this light tackle fishing and we had a great day with 10+ reds, 30+ snook to 26", 1 trout, 1 flounder and 2 jacks. Everyone had a great time.
A couple days later, I had my old friend John Franck, along with Bill Krell of Billings, and Tom Fox of Sarasota. We had a strong front approaching and a 25 mph northwest wind had emptied Pine Island Sound. I decided to fish a small cut and wait on enough water to fish the potholes, and the cut was full of flounder. We got 22 beauties. We rounded out what was a horrible weather day with 5 reds to 26", 3 snook to 24", and a trout.
Next, I took my good friend Gaden Thomas and his physical therapist Jose out for some pothole fishing. We had a great day with a catch of 9 reds to 27", 9 snook to 26", 15 trout to 20", 3 flounder, a lady and a jack. My next victim was Scott Beach, of Pro Tackle in Venice. It was his first trip to the Sound, and he was amazed at the quality of fishing. Scott bagged a total of 12 reds, 2 snook, 18 trout, and 3 flounder.
As we approached the end of November I took Gene Christianson and his son Mike, from Macon, GA, out. There was no bait to be found anywhere, and no water in the Sound, so we went hunting for tailing redfish. We found them on McKever Keys, and managed to catch 6 of the spooky reds on Texas rigged shrimp. A couple of days later I had Roy and Janet Klinzing, of Longboat Key, and their son Scott and lovely wife Julia. We all had a good time as they caught 6 reds to 26", 3 trout, and 3 flounder. But the best laugh of the day came when I found a large red laying dead in just inches of water. I wanted to see what had caused its demise, so I asked Scott to scoop it up with the landing net as I poled the boat to the fish. Scott laid down on the front casting deck and hung off the bow with his face just inches from the water and attempted to scoop the dead red . But, when the net bumped the fish, it bolted to life, creating an explosion in Scott's face that sent him from horizontal to straight vertical off the deck in an instant. That fish startled him so badly he nearly messed his pants, and all the rest of us could do was scream with hysterics. It turned out the big red had been hit by a prop and cut severely. We worked with her, but she didn't make it.
With November all but gone, I took John and Jim Schillinger of Tampa, winners of a free trip I had given away on the Capt. Mel Berman Show. They landed 2 of 6 big reds to 30", one snook, 18 trout to 24", and an 18" flounder. They had a great time. Finishing November, I had my old friend Lee Dugger of St. Cloud, FL, and his good friend William Cottrel, of Virginia, out for some action. They got 3 reds, 3 snook, 3 big trout, 2 ladys, and 2 jacks.
December started out with Paul Baker. I'd taken him on a trip in Charlotte Harbor several years earlier, but hadn't seen him in some time. We had an extreme low tide, perfect for fishing the tailing reds, so that's how we started. We finished up fishing potholes and had a total of 1 snook, 12 reds, 5 trout to 24", 1 flounder 18", 2 sheephead, and a jack. The next day I was in Sarasota to do an instructional trip with Dr. Doug Jackson, a Sarasota dentist, and his friends Dr. David Boles and Dr. Richard Georgiades. I spent the day teaching them about tackle, techniques, and when and where to fish.
December is a slow month, and I decided to keep the boat in Sarasota and spend some time in Sarasota Bay. A trip up the eastern shore gave me shots at about a dozen fish. I landed 4 reds. A couple days later I went on a trip with my good friend Terry Bair, in his 15' Key West. It was a tough day for Terry, but I did manage a few reds and one 28" snook on spoons. The very next day I took Gaden Thomas to the north bay, and we waded the flats north of Longbar, as we love to do, throwing spoons as we go. We got 9 beautiful reds to 29", and 2 snook.
The morning of December 23, was one I'll not soon forget. I had Dr. David Boles and his two sons in Pine Island where we were greeted by the first of many winter cold fronts. We went on the water with a 25-30 knot wind straight out of the north, and a temperature of 36 degrees. It was miserable and almost impossible to fish. But the boys wouldn't cry Uncle. We stayed out there and froze, and even managed to catch a small red, 6 trout, and a flounder for our troubles.
The year wound to a close with my old friend Butch Boteler in town for 3 days of fishing. We decided to do something entirely different, and go up the Peace River looking for snook the first day. It was a long day of fishing lures in beautiful surroundings, but there wasn't a snook to be found because of all the extreme cold we'd had. We did manage a couple of bass and a redfish. I had a feeling we were going to get weathered out on the third day, which we did, so I elected to fish Sarasota Bay the next day. It was a good call, as we got 18 out of 23 redfish to the boat. Most were caught on silver spoons, and the biggest was 29". That was the last fishing day of 1995.
January 1996, brought lots of bad weather and lots of cancellations. Terry Bair and I did manage to get out for a day of redfishing on Sarasota Bay early in January. It was cold and windy, but we managed to scare up 5 nice reds to 28" on spoons. More bad weather. A week later I spent the day in Pine Island Sound with my good friend Capt. Mark Bess fishing from his Skinnywater 18. We managed 3 reds, 6 trout, and 3 flounder. A few days later I was back on Sarasota Bay with Terry and Michelle Hubbell, and their son Brian. We had a great day of winter redfishing in the shallows, and got a total of 12 redfish to 28', and one trout. Michelle was absolutely thrilled at catching such big fish. Terry, a builder, had lived on Sanibel years earlier, and had built many of the large homes there. During the next week, I managed to get out with my friends Lee Dugger of Kissimmee, and William Cotrell, of Virginia. We had a warm, but windy day, and managed to catch 7 redfish to 28". Bill said that was about all his bad back could handle.
The first week of February, brought more cancellations, but I did do a trip with my old friend John Franck, of Nokomis. We caught 6 big reds and 2 trout on spoons in north Sarasota Bay. A few days later I had Pat Ullmer, of Maskegon, MI. It was a tough day. The weather had the fish scattered, but we managed to have lots of fun with 2 snook, 1 trout, and about 20 ladyfish. A few days later I was back on Sarasota Bay with Gaden Thomas. We fished spoons on the flats and caught 2 big reds, 6 snook to 28", and 1 25" trout. Not a bad day, considering. Gaden had so much fun, he wanted to go again the next day. He got 5 beautiful reds.
With February drawing to a close, my old' buddy Butch Boteler was back over from St. Cloud with Capt. Big Al of Michigan. Al is a Great Lakes Charter Captain, and Butch wanted to take him out and introduce him to our brand of fishing. First day we took him up on the Sarasota Bay flats fishing artificials, and got 7 big reds and 2 snook. The following day we took him to Pine Island Sound for some live bait fishing, and got 3 reds, 3 snook, 8 trout to 25", and 1 flounder. The last trip in February was with Louis and Phylis Dolen, who I took out last year around the same time. We hit Pine Island armed with shrimp, and managed 10 redfish, 2 snook, 1 trout, 1 flounder, 5 jacks, and a sheephead that went about 7 pounds.
We have been plagued by the red tide organism here on the west coast for almost two years now. Along with a tough winter, it served to greatly complicate our fishing, and made success much harder to achieve. Some days, usually when the winds have been out of the west or southwest, the concentration is high enough that it kills our bait as soon as we castnet it and confine it in the livewells. It has also had an effect on the fishing, and there are days when the toxin really aggravates your eyes and nose. But through all the cold, wind, rain, and red tide we've managed to catch fish. Spring and summer should bring lots of snook and redfish, hopefully in the large numbers we experienced last year. With the coming of March the snook will be on the move, depending on how many cold fronts we get, and how severe they are.
On March 1, I had Steve and Patti Lewis. We used shrimp because we couldn't keep shiners alive if you could find them. We had a strong March wind out of the southwest, and after fighting it in several spots, I pulled up on a hole that was fairly protected from the wind. We sat there and caught 30 to 40 snook, 4 reds, and a trout. The Lewis' had a blast, and it wasn't a bad way to start off March. Next, Dr. Todd Alexander, of Chicago, was up for some fishing. Red tide was making bait impossible, so we went with shrimp, and got 1 snook, 7 trout, 2 sheephead, and around 10 jacks.
Following Dr. Todd was Frank Vacca and Nick Pirraglia, of Katonah, NY. They got 1 red, 1 28" snook, 6 trout to 18", and a sheephead on live shrimp. The next day Jim and Ellen Parlier, of Waterford, MI, were up. They were lots of fun, and we even managed to catch 3 reds, 2 trout, 1 sheephead, and 6 jacks on shrimp. The following day Ron and Ty Hooper of Munster, Ontario, were down. I apologize to you guys, as I didn't get your catch recorded in my log book for some reason. Probably because I had been on the water for many days without a day off. If you remember what we caught, let me know so I can set the record straight.
After a day off, I had John and Stan Streczywilk, of Kansas City, MO. Stan is and aircraft mechanic, and lure maker. Stan blessed me at the end of the day with several of his hand made topwater lures, which are almost too pretty to use. Judging by the lures, Stan, you can work on my aircraft anytime. Stan and John caught 3 redfish, 7 snook to 28", and 1 trout. Thanks again, Stan.
A couple days later, I had the father and son team of Adam and Paul Zdrodowski, of Ringwood, NJ, out for a day of fun. I put them on some seriously large snook, 20 pounds or better, and they lost every one. They did keep a beautiful 26" trout and a founder. Adam, and 80 year-old angler who has been fishing with guides all his life, gave me the nicest compliment I've ever received. He called from back home while I was on a trip and left me a message on my answering machine. He said that I was the best fishing guide he'd ever been out with. Adam, you don't know how good that makes me feel. Thank you very much for taking the time to give me such a compliment. I doubt that I deserved it.
The next day I had Pat and George Yebba of Weymouth, MA. We got right back into the big snook. Pat & George lost seven large snook by my count, and landed one 28". They also lost a huge 27" speckled trout at boatside, and landed a flounder. They hooked some monsters, but had a hard time getting them to the boat. But, they had a great time. Dr. Bob Bittel, of Clairton, PA, finished out the month of March. He, too, tangled with lots of fish, but had some problems convincing them they ought to come to the boat. Dr. Bob landed 2 reds to 26", and lost 3, landed a 24" snook, and lost 2, and lost 1 trout. I was feeling bad for Dr. Bob until we got back to the docks, and I learned that no one caught anything that day. In fact, one of the oldest guides on the sound came in with only one trout all day long! Dr. Bittel got his Inshore Slam.
This month a special thanks to Adam Zdrodowski for such a nice compliment, and to Pat and George Yebba for such a generous tip. Thanks guys.
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