12-31-2007 – Is this really the end of the year?
Jim couldn’t have picked a better day in December to go fishing. The weather forecast predicted high temperatures in the low 80’s and calm winds. To top everything off, another guide friend of mine let me in on a little secret the other day. He told me where to find scaled sardines for bait. Thousands of them to be exact. We almost never have them around in late December and they proved to be the ticket to some really nice fish. Unfortunately, they probably will disappear with tonight’s cold front.
After running to the bait spot and loading the live well, I ran back to the ramp and picked up Jim. He’s from Missouri and tagged along with his fiancé on her business trip to get away from the frigid temperatures they had back home. While he was here, he thought he would try his hand at saltwater fishing for the first time. He’s no stranger to fishing mind you, in fact, he’s president of his local fishing club. But this was the first time that he’d feel salt course through his veins.
We started of trying for and got a few decent trout while we waited on the tide to get right for redfish. The tide was sluggish and the bite really never turned on. So after a few fish, we decided to go hit the reds early. It paid off.
We didn’t get into the double digits with reds but they were quality fish. In the first couple of hours, Jim managed a 20″, 22″, 25″, 29″, and a 33″ red. Though we saw several fish and even spooked a school of reds nearing 100 fish, the bite was kind of slow due to a weak tide. But, at least the fish he caught were big. I think he was happy, judging from the grin on his face, and I’ve maybe added another addict to our saltwater fold.
12-27-2008 – Quality Fish
We again had a negative low tide this morning in the Tarpon Springs area so I asked Curtis and Nikki if they wouldn’t mind starting the day when the tide was coming in. So I picked them up at the ramp around 10am and we headed off to try and find some low water trout. The bite was slow but just as the rest of the day would play out, it was a quality bite. We didn’t catch a ton of fish today but the ones we did catch pulled drag. If you ask me, one drag puller is worth 25 dinks.
We landed trout from 18″-25″ and redfish from 24″-27″. The first few trout of the day were caught on white/red tail curly tail grubs and rootbeer colored curly tail grubs fished on 1/4oz. jigheads. The redfish were caught again today on cut pinfish around oyster bars and mangrove points. They didn’t want anything to do with a live baitfish. All I can assume is that the lower water temp has them a little sluggish and looking for an easy meal. The last few, and biggest trout of the day, were caught on cut pinfish as well. I’ve never caught trout on cut pinfish before this week and yet we’ve managed to boat 5 trout fishing like that this week.
Hopefully as we get farther away from the full moon the number of bites we get will increase again. That’s the only thing I can think of that has slowed the bite down a tad. Oh well… we may not have caught the huge numbers of fish on the last two trips but the fish were good fighters and have been on the larger side.
12-23-2007 – It’s not how you start…
…it’s how you finish! The trout bite has been really good lately and the average size fish has been fairly large. With this in mind, and knowing that we had a negative low tide in the morning in Tarpon Springs, I made plans to take Steve and Heidi to some troughs out by Anclote to get on some trout. There were fish there but we struggled for bites for a good 2.5 hours. I must have just missed the bite there or just missed the fish because I had a friend within earshot of us that limited out on big trout in 30 minutes. We did catch 4 or five but it was disappointing to compared to what has been going on for me out there.
I couldn’t take the slow trout bite anymore so I told Steve and Heidi that we were going after some real game fish. So with a live well full of pinfish (and one keeper trout), we headed north. It took about 15 minutes to find my redfish. Only problem was that they didn’t want to eat. the tide had just started to become slack and I was hoping the bite would kick in once it started ripping out. Once the tide started flowing, the bite still didn’t turn on. We could see the fish, they just wouldn’t eat. It was time to try some different presentations. We took the corks off and threw out tail hooked pinfish. That coaxed one bite but that was it. Then I lightened the leader to 20lb and started cutting pinfish in half. That was the ticket!
The bite lasted a solid 1.5-2 hours. the fish would never stop moving though. So after we’d hook up with one or two reds we’d have to move farther down the shoreline to keep up with the fish. I lost track of how many redfish we caught but he was a few double hook-ups and even caught the too biggest trout of the day, on cut pinfish no less. That was a new one for me.
Anyway… the day started slow but finished with a bang. It’s like I always say, “Inshore fishing is often hours of boredom interrupted by moments of chaos.” Luckily for us, we had more “chaos” than “boredom” today.
12-10-2007 – Smorgasbord.
Ron was in town for a surprise visit to see his father on his father’s 75th birthday. Ed and Jim, Ron’s brother-in-laws, were in town for the event as well and they all couldn’t resist the temptation of our wonderful fishery. So, they took one day out of their family visit to chase some fish with me today.
On the agenda was to get on some of the redfish that I’ve been tracking for well over a month now. We had one of those really low winter low tides and again I needed high water to reach these fish. So, I asked if they could hold off on their trip in New Port Richey until around 11:30am and they were game.
After catching some pinfish on the flats I headed to the ramp to go pick up my crew. We then headed out the river and went North to some potholes and oyster bars that had been treating my previous clients so well. Things looked great when we first got there. Mullet everywhere and the tide was ripping in. The only problem though was that the redfish hadn’t received the memo that this is where they should be. After poking around for a while looking for them we headed south of the Cotee river to another stretch of shoreline that had been producing. It took a little while to find some fish but when we did, there weren’t many of them. We did however manage 6 or so hookups and landed four or five nice redfish.
By this time the bite has slowed and the tide was now ripping out. We couldn’t stay at the redfish spot much longer and I asked Ron if he would rather keep searching for more reds or head for a spot where we had been getting a mixed bag of everything. He said that they would love to just keep a rod bent steadily. So off we went to one of Pasco’s prettiest flats on the backside of a barrier island.
On the very first cast at this spot Ron hooked up on a nice trout and from there on out the bite remained pretty consistent. What a mixed bag of fish it was. Trout, ladyfish, spanish mackerel, baby grouper, jacks, and bluefish all came over the side of the boat.
Then the sun started setting and we watched it sink into the Gulf as we headed in. Not the kind of day I was anticipating but it wasn’t a bad one. We did get a few reds and much, much, more.
12-3-2007 – Picky Eaters
Maybe it’s the cold front we just had pass through or maybe it’s the fact that I ran out of all of my favorite lures and just used some stuff I bought in the bargain bin at Fisherman’s World this week. The fish have been eating so well for the past few weeks that I figured I could get away with using a bottle cap with hooks on it if I had too. I guess that’s not the case. I’ll be heading back up there to get the good stuff this weekend during their “Fishing Frenzy Sale” I guess.
I had only one Mangrove Red colored Exude RT slug in the whole boat and it drew all 8 strikes for me before it was finally destroyed. Nothing else could entice a bite. If I was stranded on a sub-tropical island that had shallow grass flats surrounding it, and I could only have one lure, that would be my choice. Not only have I caught the most fish on it, but all my personal bests were caught on it. I caught a 53″ Redfish in Mosquito Lagoon on one, a 44.5″ Snook in upper Tampa Bay on one, and a 31″ trout in the Indian River on one. Anyway… I’ll do my best to make sure I never run out again.
I was fishing in New Port Richey again today to get ready for some up coming charters. I was poking around in more nooks and crannies that I haven’t hit before and also checking on one spot that’s been holding some big trout. The trout were still there and the redfish were everywhere. However, like I mentioned before, they were picky eaters.
There are redfish on nearly every flat between the Anclote River and Hudson. I’m finding most of them in less than 1.5′ of water and they are hanging on the edges of mullet schools. One thing I did notice today was that they were bunched up more than they had been in the past few weeks. Maybe this cold front schooled them up as I pushed 3 separate schools of 75 fish ore more.
If you’re looking for reds in this area, just get on your trolling motor and go. If you start pushing fish, slow down and work the area real hard. They will settle down and chew for you, once you find them, as long as you slow down and don’t make too much noise.
Christmas is coming and I usually go see my family for a week and then go deer Hunting for a week. For the first time in 10 years I am staying home. I’d like to spend some of that time fishing with you guys so if you’re going to be around during your Christmas vacation, book a charter with me and we’ll tear into some fish.
11-28-2007 – Short Strikes
We had an extremely low tide this morning and I wanted to go fishing but I wanted there to be some water on the flats in the New Port Richey area. So, I waited until around noon to go fishing. When I showed up, a good friend and fellow guide, Capt. Greg DeVault, was just getting off of the water from a charter. We talked a little while a he told me about what a great morning he had had with his client. I was excited. Looked like the fishing was going to be good.
The plan for the day, as it has been quite often lately, was to hit some obscure, out of the way, water that I had never fished before. I’ve mentioned several times lately that I’m on a mission to hit every square inch of shoreline on my local waters this year no matter how out of the way the spot is, unpromising as it may look, and no matter what reputation the area has. So, I hit such a spot today with less than stellar expectations.
Man were my expectations wrong. I wasn’t 5 minutes into working this stretch of shoreline, just North of the Cotee river, before I was pushing fish. It all looked to be redfish and I was feeling the increased heart rate pumping in my chest. The thought of finding fish that I wasn’t expecting to find gets my heart racing.
There were wakes everywhere and I was determined to hook up on one with a lure that I hadn’t been using much lately. The Gulp Shrimp had been working so well lately that I had been forsaking all others, but today I wanted to hook fish on something else. I tied on a Mirr-O-Lure Mirr-O-Mullet and began “walking the dog”. On my third cast I had a fish blow up not once, not twice, but three times on this slick little lure. Every time the fish came up short.
As the big bronze back of the fish broke the surface striking at my lure, all I could think about was that I was surrounded by redfish. I had a few more short strike at my top water plug and quickly became frustrated. So I switched to a mangrove red colored Exude jerkbait rigged on a weightless, weedless, Mustad 5/0 hook. It wasn’t 5 casts into trying this setup that I had another huge strike and miss. Again I could see the bronze back of a fish as it struck that I could only assume was a nice redfish chasing after my bait. Not long after that strike I hooked up with a fish that peeled drag on my Daiwa reel just like a mid slot red but to my surprise it was a nice 4 pound trout (picture shown).
I continued to work the area with the same lure and hooked up again with two decent redfish that were buried in the huge school of mullet I had come across. After one photo my camera battery died (poor planning on my part) so I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of the 6.5 pound, 28″ trout, that came next. As I kept working the area, I soon realized that more than half of the huge wakes that I kept seeing were not redfish but large trout cruising through this shallow flat.
I didn’t catch another fish, as the sun was going down quite quickly, but I imagine that had I been live bait fishing that I could have wore out 20″+ trout in this little bay.
Total for the day was 6 short strikes on what I can only assume were large trout, two 24″+ trout and two redfish. Not too bad considering I was fishing new water and only had 4 hours to do it in.
The trout sure seem to have made a great comeback from the bad red tide a couple of years ago. All you have to do is look for some depth changes like pot holes, cuts, or edges of flats on a low tide in Pasco County and your bound to run into them. Just don’t be surprised if they short strike your baits. They didn’t get that big by being stupid.
11-24-2008 – On the move.
In the last couple of reports, I’ve mentioned that the bite has been a short but furious one, but, I’ve failed to mention that the fish haven’t been in the same spot twice in the past week. Four charters in the last 8 days and the fish were in 4 different spots. We checked all the spots that had previously produced nice fish but they were gone. We had to keep spot jumping to stay on them. I’m not sure if it’s the weather, the moon phases, or the tides, but something has these fish on the move.
I picked up Mark, his son Ryan, and Mark’s friend John at 10am this morning. We started late because we had a negative low tide early in the day and I was planning on hitting some high water fish. We tried for some trout near Anclote in Tarpon Springs first thing this morning while we waited on the tide to come in but failed to get a fish to the boat. The big trout have frustrated me over there this week and I quickly tired of trying for them this morning. So after 15 minutes of that effort I told the boys we were headed to redfish country.
We ran about 15 minutes north of Tarpon Springs and began working our way on the trolling motor towards the back of a cove where I did pretty well yesterday. 400 yards before we reached the spot, young Ryan and I both saw fish milling around off of a point. We eased in and set up the boat so that we could cast our baits with the wind. It wasn’t 3 minutes before Ryan had put on a professional style display of how to fight a big redfish. He knew when to let the fish take drag, when to horse him, as well as how to turn the fish. Mark must have spent some time teaching his kid how to fish. Nice! Ryan slid the 9.5lb redfish into the net I was holding like he’d been on the redfish tour for years. And with that, we broke the seal on a bite that lasted for about two hours. Everybody got into the game. I lost count in how many fish we boated but it was somewhere between 15 and 20. Every single one was a keeper or better.
The key again today was pinfish. However, John and I had a difference of opinion on whether they should be fished under a cork or freelined. I told him to go with his gut and he proved me wrong. He ended up landing the most fish of the day while freelining live pinfish. So, I would suggest you try both freelined pinfish as well as pinfish under a cork if you’re hunting reds this week. John and I did both agree that the key was to keep them out of the grass.
Someone once told me that if the fish aren’t where they’re “supposed” to be, fish where their not “supposed” to be. They told me that they’ve got to be somewhere and if they aren’t where you think they are then they’re somewhere you think they’re not. That’s proven true this week and I’ve hit all my “go to” places but we’re running into them either on the way there or by just checking places nearby. If you aren’t on fish, get on the trolling motor and go check every area within sight. They’ve got to be there somewhere.
11-23-2007 – Timing; Take Two
I was fortunate enough to have John and his brother Bob on the boat again today in New Port Richey (they were with me this past Wednesday as well). Except for the cold, windy, weather, this trip almost played out exactly like the last one. The fish, for what ever reason, only wanted to eat for a brief period of time. When they did turn on though, we hit ’em pretty good. John and Bob even had two double hook-ups today on a few nice redfish.
Just like last trip, the reds wanted half dollar sized pinfish fished under a cork. This time however, they were not where they were on Wednesday. These fish were several miles North of Tarpon Springs. I’m not sure but I think this weak cold front we got for Thanksgiving has pushed the fish around a bit.
And, just like last trip, abundant life in the water was important. Look for schools of mullet, schools of pinfish, and birds diving. Greenbacks are thinning out on the flats right now and redfish are going to rely more on eating pinfish. If you aren’t seeing pinfish in the area you’re fishing, move.
11-21-2007 – Timing is Everything
Have you ever told a joke that would have been funny two minutes ago, but at the moment you chose to blurt the joke out, it was too late to garner a chuckle? Well… I had bad timing at one spot today. Luckily, I hit another spot at just the right time.
I picked up my charter today and I made the bone head decision to not catch bait prior to picking them up. The big trout bite had been on fire and all you needed was a 1/8th oz. jig head with any soft plastic on it to load up. My guys jumped in the boat and I made the fatal flaw of announcing that, “we might catch 100 keeper trout today.” They were excited, and so was I, until we showed up at the spot and only got one bite in an hour. Granted it was a very nice 22″ trout but I was about 99 fish short of meeting my prediction. Those fish will probably be in those holes again on a lower tide but I had scheduled this trip around high water. Bad timing on my part.
Well, now that I made the great decision to not catch bait before picking up my clients (I almost always catch bait prior to pick up) I had to get some pinfish in the well. Luckily it only took about 10 minutes to load up and off we headed towards the mainland in New Port Richey.
It took a little time on the trolling motor to find a nice sized school of mullet, but when we did, we put the Power Pole down and started slinging baits. It wasn’t to long before we were getting slammed by mid-slot redfish. We boated 8 in 30 minutes and then we had to get off of the flat before we were high and dry.
We only got two more bites after that rush today, another redfish and another really nice trout. That’s the second trip in a row where the bite lasted less than 30 minutes. Granted, we have done well in those short time periods but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if the bite lasted a little longer. All I can say is that if you know where fish are, stay on them. They are going to bite eventually and if you aren’t there when that brief window is open, you may miss out. Again, look for milling mullet. Throw live or cut pinfish, 10″ under a cork, into the mullet schools, and if your timing is right, you could be in for a fast and furious bite.
11-15-2007 – It was all so cool.
What a cool day. Literally and figuratively. A good friend of mine, Capt. Greg DeVault, was going to be out of town today and referred some of his family friends to me for a day on the water chasing redfish and trout in the Tarpon Springs area. Leonard, Andrew, and Emily own boats of their own that they can use when they are down here visiting from Pittsburgh but they wanted to have someone take them out and show them a few tips and tricks. I was more than happy to oblige.
The time changed this past weekend so I had to get up an hour earlier to head to the ramp to catch bait. There was a brisk chill in the air as I dropped the boat in the water and I wished I had thought to wear pants instead of shorts. I did have a light jacket in the boat so I knew I would survive. Leonard had said that he had tried for greenbacks this past weekend with limited success and he wondered if he had done something wrong. After catching bait, I arrived at the boat ramp to pick up my crew for the day and I was able to confirm that he had done nothing wrong. I too had trouble finding the little snook candies. I did however manage to fill the well with plenty of pinfish and that was fine to me because I know redfish love them.
After the introductions and loading the boat, we hit a dock near the ramp that has been successful for both snook and redfish in the past, merely because the tide was right for it. The fish however didn’t get the message. We only gave that spot 5 minutes and headed to the only spot South of the Anclote River that I wanted to hit today. When we arrived we could see a few mullet milling around and that’s always a good sign. We had to reposition the boat once before Emily had managed to coax the first redfish of the day to the boat. For a good hour after that we managed several more bites that resulted in a couple of keepers that went in the well. One of which had been hooked before as evidenced by the hook lodged in his throat and the line still hanging out of his mouth. That guy must have been hungry.
After the bite died down here, we headed North of the Anclote River and North of Gulf Harbors to find some productive oyster bars. It wasn’t long before Leonard had hooked up with the first fish at this spot and we all thought it was a lower slot redfish. It turned out to be a very nice sized trout. Because we were North of Fred Howard park, the season is still open for trout, so this guy went in the well. We continued to work the edges of the oyster bars for another couple of hours and we boated another nice trout and a few more redfish to round out the day.
The productive bait for the day was both live and cut pinfish all fished 12″ under a weighted float. We fished both the last of the incoming tide as well as the first of the leaving tide and the fish bit on both. Cuts around oyster bars and shallow flats near the edge of a channel were the hot spots. And, apparently the best bites are to be had by really cool 12 year old girls. Emily stole the show today landing the most redfish all by herself.
Cool weather, cool people, and hot fishing. What more can you ask for?
10-28-2007 – The Glass Half Full
I should title this fishing report, “The Bay Half Full”. The funny thing is that yesterday I expected today’s report to be titled, “The Bay Half Empty”. If these metaphors are just too deep for you, I’ll lay it out in plain english. There was no water in the Bay for most of this morning. I had been watching the weather forecasts for a few days prior to this trip and measuring it against the tide charts. The combination of high winds out of the North East (flushes water out of the Bay) and a negative low tide didn’t have me excited, to say the least. I called both my charters for today yesterday afternoon and expressed my concerns for today’s trips. One group decided to reschedule while the other group, Mike, Mike, Mike, and Don said that today would be their only chance to go and one of the Mikes said that we should just go for it and make the best of the weather situation we have. I’m glad we did. Today ended up being a “Glass Half Full” day as opposed to it’s negative counterpart.
I got bait pretty easily less than 1/10 of a mile from the boat ramp and then went to pick up Mike, Mike, Mike, and Don. When we left the ramp, the Bay was as I expected. Low water, high winds, and choppy. 90% of the spots I like to fish were completely dry or inaccessible due to the low water. We started the day out by fishing deep cuts near the mouths of a nearby river and managed a few small snook. After that we headed over to some docks that had some sailboats on them and pitched baits under the sailboats. We managed one hook up on a huge fish but ended up getting broke off. From there I tried to work my way up the river only to find that all of my other spots in there were inaccessible. We decided to brave the choppy water and head out to the outside bar on the South shore of Tampa Bay to try our hand at some trout. They were there for sure. Our first bite at this spot was also our biggest trout of the day at almost 20″. We proceeded to catch another 20 or so trout and kept one more for dinner.
It’s just a reminder to me that you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing. I’m glad that Mike saw the glass half full and pulled the trigger on a good fishing trip. It wasn’t as good as it could have been had we had ideal conditions but we caught almost 30 fish today so I’ll Take it.
Thanks for going fishing with me guys! I had a great time meeting you.
10-25-2007 – A very red day.
I had a great game plan set out for my Clearwater fishing charter with John Sr., John Jr., and Gabe today. But, just like many of my plans as of late this one had to be changed midstream. First off we had a lot of rain yesterday and I was afraid that bait would be hard to come by. I even talked with another well known guide at the ramp and he too was lamenting the hunt for bait prior to his charter today. Luckily, I pulled out of the boat ramp and hadn’t made it 1/2mile down the ICW before I saw a ton of pelicans diving. I know that could only mean one thing, bait! I guess the rain hadn’t messed up the bait situation after all. So I pulled over and in less than 10 minutes I had blacked out the well.
Well, I went back to the dock to find that my clients were already there waiting for me, early. Which is MUCH better than them being late. They let me take a few minutes to clean the boat off a little and then off we went to pursue the plan that would not be. On the agenda was to hit up three barrier islands on the west side of the intercoastal waterway, working our way from North to South back towards the boat ramp. The first spot has been my most productive in the area for the past month or so but when we got there, things just didn’t look right to me. The mullet weren’t as thick as they had been when we were doing well on redfish there. We did catch a few trout and a ton of small grouper but that was it. This is when we switched gears. Instead of hitting the other two barrier islands in succession, I decided to go hit a spot near the mainland. Good decision (pat myself on back, lol).
After about 5 minutes on the trolling motor we started seeing the unmistakable wakes of redfish.
I put the Power Pole down and began throwing some greenbacks out as chummers. It wasn’t long before the chummers were getting crushed, and then shortly after, the rods were getting bent. The bite lasted just a little over an hour and we managed 15-20 redfish in that time. One thing we all noticed was that the redfish seemed to really key in on the small pinfish over the greenbacks. Though we got bites on both baits the pinfish were much more successful.
After the bite died down we decided to catch the tail end of the original plan and hit the last of the three barrier islands. It was slow at this last spot but we did hook two big snook that got away and landed two more redfish to finish of the trip.