Florida Fishing Report: Florida Fishing Charters

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In Like A Lion

Jim Klever hefts a beautiful snook he caught last week with pal Kevin Wright.

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The transition between winter and spring often has Mother Nature in a rage. Successive high-pressure systems have kept the fish moving, difficult to pattern, and spread out the past week. It has always been my opinion that nothing affects fish, as does the weather. While there is a lot of perceived and prestigious glory in being a fishing guide, too often you are only as good as Mother Nature wants you to be. The long range forecast has us back into the upper 70s by the start of next week. Mother Nature is ultimately at the mercy of Father Time. And it’s just a matter of time.

Speckled trout and redfish have been the primary species of catch the past few weeks. The fish have been found in the ultra-shallows sunbathing. The water is gin clear at this time. A stealthy approach by means of the push pole has been the only way to get near these fish without spooking them. From there, long casts with soft plastic jerkbaits have been staple in producing good catches of both species. The fish have been in tight bunches, often “tailing” or pushing water as they move. While the fish are visible through the study of a polarized eye, getting more than a couple fish out of each pod has been difficult. The chaos of a hooked fish from within the school or the school following a hooked fish to the boat has sent the schools scurrying across the flats only to be hunted down again to repeat the process. 

                               "Gator" trout are the hot ticket now in the shallow flats.

Large pods of marauding jacks have entered the theater the past 10 days. Often, “jack” gets no respect, as they will near always hit anything that moves. But they become a whole other animal and more like their cousin - the permit - in water barely deep enough to cover the tips of their forked tails.

While shallow-water sight fishing offers some of the most rewarding fishing on the flats, it can be advanced and is not always as productive for those folks looking to just stretch the line. School-sized trout, bluefish, and ladyfish have been abundant on the edges of the Intercoastal Waterway. While the fish are often not as big a bull red or a gator trout, they provide plenty of action in keeping the rod bent and the line tight.

Tom Ross with a couple of jumbo sheepshead.

The sheepshead spawn remains in full force on the nearshore rock piles and cracks. While catching the jumbo sheepshead requires some finesse, they are much easier to catch when they are stacked like cordwood. Use stout hooks, as fish of this quality will bite through an inferior hook wire size. A shrimp, oyster or small crab gets the nod, but those that go the extra distance in catching tube worms for bait will out fish all.

On the warming trends a few snook have become active after a long winter’s nap. Snook are still in their winter oases of deeper water and structure at this time. The indispensable scaled sardine has not made a consistent appearance as of yet. If the water warms up between now and the waxing full moon on the week of the 21st, savvy snook anglers will likely arm themselves with a livewell of minnows and orient themselves on the edges of the flats to stalk some of the biggest snook of the year.The sardines play a key role on the Gulf Coast of Florida. For snook, they provide an abundant source of protein to regain lost body fat from their winter hibernation.

 The sardines are oily and aid in buoyancy of the female’s eggs and reproduction cycle. The bait migrates in from south and offshore.Where there is prey, there are predators. With the bait schools comes the migration of cobia, king and Spanish mackerel, pompano, sharks and giant tarpon. In short, spring has sprung.

The unseasonable weather has held back an early arrival of tarpon and it now appears the end of the month or early April will be more probable. The fish show first in the deeper waters and well inside the larger bays where they will forage for several weeks prior to starting their spawning cycle. Once the spawning cycle has started, the tarpon will be found congregated in the passes, off the beaches and migrating through the flats.

The massive assemblages of giant tarpon along our shoreline are a natural phenomenon that is second to none in the world. Each year anglers travel from all over the globe to Florida in hopes of testing their mettle against the silver king.

Chris Forrey (R) and 1st mate Brian Timmons with the silver gladiator, the tarpon.

 They come form all walks of life, each with their own story to tell. Some stories capture your heart and soul, some make you laugh, and others are stories of inspiration or desperation. Often it is not the fish, but the memories we relive and create while fishing that keep the passion for it running through our veins.  

It was tarpon season 2001 when I met Bob Drongowski. Bob’s elderly Dad was in his final days of fighting cancer and the goal was to make a lifelong dream of catching a tarpon happen before he passed. We had one shot of 6 hours to getter’ dun. I can remember keeping the fragile man shaded as chemotherapy had taken its toll on his ability to be in the sun. He smiled the whole trip and told stories of homemade lures and flies that he used to teach his son to fish. I remember getting him into the fight chair to commence battle with the silver gladiator and the excitement that erupted on the boat. I do not remember if he actually caught the tarpon.  It mattered to everyone, but actually it mattered to no one. Having my own personal stories of terminal cancer, I never said goodbye to Mr. Drongowski, but I told him that I would see him in a better place. He smiled with the same contentment that he conveyed to me throughout the trip and walked away aided by his son. I learned a few weeks later of his passing. Still to this day, I can see his smile and feel his energy, but I cannot see his fish.

Each year I am privy to the bonds of people looking to the tarpon for respite and gel these relationships. It’s not that we catch tarpon, but that the tarpon catch us. We have limited remaining availability, so it’s not too late to experience the best tarpon fishing in the world in 2005. Come on down and “getcha some”!

Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!

Robert McCue



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Last Update 9MAR05
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