Only a few days ago in mid-June, I had six hours to fish with Hai which gave us the time to take in all the diverse freshwater spots and habitats where peacocks lived and hunted. This range from urban Miami to the fringe of the Everglades. The fishing was stupendous and we converted 11 strikes into 8 catch and releases.
Hai Truong Fishing
Phone – 786 405 4146
Adventures Out of the Island Inn Sanibel
While I’ve traveled the better part of the globe in pursuit of piscatorial pleasures, Sanibel Island on Florida’s West Coast has drawn me back decade after decade. My first criterion for angling travel is excellent fishing and Sanibel satisfies that need with some of the best snook fishing in the world. There are also abundant populations of redfish and seatrout year-round plus seasonal tarpon, kingfish, mackerel, and false albacore migrations. Whether in the Sanibel backcountry or the Gulf of Mexico, there is always something ready to pounce on your fly, lure, or bait.
The precious comparative rarity that Sanibel offers is superb fishing along its beaches. If your destination has the Gulf as a backyard- as does the Island Inn- all you need to do is walk from your room across the sand dunes and start casting at the water’s edge.
I have used the Island Inn for years. Its wonderful rooms, amenities, and restaurant sit on a very snookish stretch of shell-blessed beach.
And from late spring until late summer when the gulf is at its calmest, you can expect to see and present a fly or lure to snook after snook crossing right at the water’s edge. This fishing is especially excellent on the incoming tide up through high slack. You can also catch mackerel, seatrout, pompano, redfish and even tarpon right from the beach. There’s a great deal to do all around you when you beach fish. You can gather some fine shells, sit down and have a picnic on blanket and sand, take some pictures, or shed some gear and go for a swim.
My fishing format when I stay at Island Inn includes sightfishing and blind casting the beaches and also fishing with a guide in the abundant backcountry. The guide I use most often is Captain Mike Smith (239-573-FISH). I start my day of beach fishing at dawn by casting to minnow “sprays” and/or diving birds since the sun is not high enough to sight fish. After a couple hours, I’ll enjoy a delicious complementary breakfast at the Inn’s Traditions restaurant. After the repast, I’ll either return to the beach for actual sight fishing with a better-positioned sun or I’ll meet Mike at the Punta Rassa boat ramp. My arrival this time was preceded by a week of southerly winds, leaving a roiled and muddy Gulf. Sight casting for snook would be impossible for the next two days I had allotted for fishing. Although I could have used rattling plugs with applied attractant and probably caught snook, I turned my attention to writing projects and fishing the flats with Mike.
Trips that become stories are most satisfying when they ooze success. We’d be fishing windy conditions and I wanted pictures, so I was quite willing to use the most successful methods- which in this region is “whitebait” (A.K.A. live scaled sardines). The heat of June is not an easy time to get loads of properly sized whitebaits, but Mike had netted a sufficient number of them.
This day was pleasantly more challenging for me since we did not use “chummers”, but instead relied on my spot casting an individual bait –like a lure- to shadowy pockets alongside and under the mangroves. In the five hours that we fished, I released around forty snook to six pounds, lost just as many, and had plenty of missed strikes. In addition, we hooked and released three nice redfish.
Midday thunderstorms started forming. We could see the sheets of rain falling out of the clouds flat, blackened “bellies”. The first flash of lighting touched the water a few miles away, telling us it was time to go. On the way back to the boat ramp, I reflected on the astonishingly large biomass of young snook in the area.
On the second day of fishing, Island Inn’s General Manager Chris Davison joined us. Once we came aboard, Mike pointed his Lake and Bay towards the deep reaches of Pine Island Sound. During the run of about forty minutes, Mike mentioned he wanted for us to have a change of pace.
Today, Mike had loads of whitebait but they were somewhat small. We were able to make good casts with Mike’s Temple Fork Outfitters rods and Daiwa spinning reels filled with light braid. Chris was the first to bend a rod with a nice redfish. The skies above were clear and the sun beamed loads of heat into the morning water. The effect of this was that we’d have to try multiple spots as the fish were not bunched up like on colder days with low water. Chris caught a few more snook while I caught a large redfish, a flounder and two small snook.
We were able to get the photos I needed so we called it a day. Of equal importance was the afternoon of fun I had planned at the Inn.
Island Inn Sanibel
3111 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, Florida 33957
Captain Mike Smith- Mangrove Island Charters
One of the cool things I get to do is testing new lures. With ICAST 2015 coming up I’m starting to see some cool new lures in the press releases.
Savage Gear sent me some cool new saltwater lures hitting the market his season. They sent me a variety of samples they wanted me to try.
Out of the batch, one of the best looking lure is the “Hybrid Shrimp”. The lure comes in a variety of paint scheme.
Like the name it is a combination of hard and soft plastic. The body is hard and the legs are soft durable plastic. It has one treble hook that is held to the body via magnet to make it cast better and swim more realistic.
The lure is a slow head first sinker and the eyelet to tie it on is under the tail. When you do the retrieve, the shrimp comes up to the surface and makes a small popping noise like an escaping shrimp.
The body is weighted towards the head along with one rattle. This combination of weight in the head , 1/2oz weight and its aerodynamic shape makes this the longest casting shrimp I have ever used on the flats.
During my test, the way I used it for best results is to drift a flat. I would make a cast to pot holes and pop the shrimp up, let it sink for a few seconds then do it again. The strike for trout was at the top. The redfish and snook came during the fall for the most part.
I also had a few large misses, I had no idea what it was.
I also worked mullet schools with the same lure action. The ability to cast really far and being able to be near the top to stay weedless makes this lure very useful on the grassy flats. I manage to catch reds, snook and trout on the shrimp on the same lure. No legs were missing after the day’s fishing was done.
On that note, I must say that the soft plastic part of the lure, if mix with other plastic will not keep its shape. It is best to keep this lure separated from other lures.
The Hybrid Shrimp will be announced in July at ICAST 2015 in Orlando.
A lure overview video of the Savage gear hybrid shrimp.
Pioneering Conservationist Aldo Leopold once stated “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” I recently read this in a few brief excerpts of Leopold’s commentary and gave it some worthy thinking.
Simply stated, those that continually immerse/educate themselves on temperamental ecosystems better have strong will and thick skin as the changes, albeit nominal and often not easily seen by the general public, typically are unsettling. South Florida, like many beautiful habitats, is sadly riddled with significant issues relating to responsible usage and general preservation efforts of our natural resources. Resource management and subsequent funding for it typically falls by the wayside of many other politically driven profits centers. A sad cycle of corking holes in the dam until it warrants itself unrepairable, then 10X the capital has to be allocated to fix it, meanwhile ecosystems have suffered.
It’s without question as an avid outdoorsman and father trying to raise kids whom roughly spend 75% of their time in the confides of concrete, outdoor exposure and conservation are naturally of the utmost importance to me.
no matter what side of the fence you sit, prioritizing what’s best for the environment in your daily choices as a consumer/voter can be difficult. Yet shameless choices can be seen every day and exploration of our greatest natural treasures can often be a truly sad affair…….
Of course the current “system” never meets everyone’s needs and regulatory decisions are often made by those who rely on uneducated deliveries of “qualified” data. Yet as no surprise to anyone, both political and regulatory decisions are influenced by those with deep pockets. Yet our elected “peers” continually misuse funds, and cut funding to nearly all agencies in charge of managing our irreplaceable national parks. While my knowledge is local, this issue is vast. However many Corporations and Non-profits are making strides to help were they can, after all without the resource they too are dead in the water (no pun intended). From Costa Del Mar, to Hell’s Bay Boatworks, to Patagonia, to Simms etc. ………many are playing a larger role in conservation efforts, they frankly have no choice yet oddly many company’s do not participate in such philanthropy.
Project Permit hosted by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and sponsored mainly by Costa Del Mar and the March Merkin Permit Tournament provides a glimmer of faith that fishing oriented companies might follow suit and stand behind reputable conservation oriented causes.
I assume this view has given anglers weak knees since sight fishing on the flats began………….
It always amazes me how impressionable young kids are, so I make a decent effort to explain the reasoning behind choices made on the water. Now, I am not immune to mistakes and have made many, but any advice I can provide to others, particularly my children, to not repeat is a win. One of my most favored reggae prophets once preached “don’t let your mistakes be the mistakes of your children”. This is a strong suggestion that sometimes gets lost with all the white noise of the daily grind.
keeping an eye out for this fishery is a cause I can stand behind with ease……………
at the end of the day, anyone lucky enough to bring one of these fish boat side provides enough of the “hype” to keep you coming back…………
“The world lives within us, we live within the world. By damaging the living planet we have diminished our existence.” (George Monbiot)
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Apparently I did not know this.. but 12 of the 19 IGFA Triple tail world record has came out of Canaveral Florida. I was informed of this fact when I had a chance to fish with Captain Scott Lum last week.
Scott loves triple tail fishing and at one time held an IGFA record himself. This time of yeah he consistently gets on the triple tail bite using shrimp pilchards and my favorite artificial lures.
It was a beautiful morning with a slight over cast skies. The wind was from the east which made it a bit rough on the Atlantic ocean side but it was definitely do able. Scott tells me he likes day like today. It keeps many people off the water and the fish just seems to bite better.
I met up with Scott and his friend Jessica a fun day of triple tail fishing. After he got some extra shrimp we helped him launch the 23′ Contender. I was glad were in a bitter boat versus a day boat on rough days like this. I have camera gear and definitely prefer to stay dry.
It didn’t take long before we started to get on fish. Scott rigged up a shrimp and I was used a Mission Fishin 3/4 oz jig head with a Savage Gear 3d shrimp. Scott keeps telling he likes lighter colors but I only had the darker avocado color on me.
After about 15 minutes the first fish came on board a nice keeper triple tail on my not so light Avocado colored 3d shrimp. I turned around and jokingly said “I’m showing you wrong on your home turf!”
The bite was very consistent and everyone started to catch some nice triple tails. A couple was caught on live shrimp and for the most part the artificial lures did much better for us.
The big difference for me came when I changed out to the 1/2 oz 3d Manic shrimp in the glow color. I must have caught 7 triple tail on it before loosing it to snag.
The biggest fish came in at 74 cm. We know this because we had an IGFA ruler on board. The current length record is 69cm. Yes I would have held the new IGFA triple tail length record except for one technicality. The length record is catch and release only and we kept the fish for dinner.
Overall we caught probably 20 triple tail this day. This day will go down as the best triple tail fishing I have ever had and they I almost had the IGFA length record.
Scott tells me the next couple months the triple tail fishing is quite consistent and that 74 cm is not uncommon to catch this time of year. I will definitely have to back and try again.
Here is a fun video I shot of the day’s fishing action.
Kent (of BLAF fame) and I took the opportunity to get out and fish this past Monday down in the west side of the Everglades aka Chokoloskee.
We are both owners of a Ranger Flats boat but we wanted to get in the back country so the Wingmaster Sandpiper 150 was the obvious choice.
Waking up the next morning to make the run we had breakfast at the local eatery. Most of the captains there said the fishing has been excellent which was a good great sign.
Most however has been fishing bait on the outside.
After about an hour run it did not take long for us to start getting hits on topwater. Unfortunately most top water blow ups was a swing and a miss.
After a few experimenting with new lures I switch to a white weedless jerk bait. The best combination we found was a white Logic Lure jerk bait and with a weighted Mustad Powerlock Hook.
The other lure that worked great was the Savage Gear 3D Manic shrimp. It was weedless and slow sinker which allow for it to hover right over the grass.
I was quite surprised how durable the shrimp was. I used one shrimp the entire trip but had to change out several of the jerk baits out. I was using the clear one bellow but I’m thinking about bringing the white version next time.
The bite was quite steady. We ended up catching about 30 snooks and 4 redfish through out the day. We ran about 50 to 60 miles and burn about 4 gallons of gas. You have to love small boats.
Everglades run video using a Rail Blaza camera mount on the Poling platform.
Flats Retro in Black and White
Here’s some images of shallow water marine fishing in the “simplicity” of black and white. The anglers, captains, lodges, and destinations are diverse: Captains Ricky Sawyer (Abaco, Bahamas), Jason Sullivan (Flamingo, Florida), Benny Blanco (Flamingo), Ralph Allen (Punta Gorda, Florida), Bob Branham (Biscayne Bay, Florida), Carl Ball (Biscayne Bay), Kyle Messier(Crystal River, Florida), Greg Dini (Hopedale, La.), Emir Marin (Ambergris Caye, Belize), Matt Hoover (Goodland, Florida), and Rob Munoz (Biscayne Bay). My friend Alan Williams is in the shot with Jason and the snook. The lodges and outfitters involved in some of these images are Cajun Fishing Adventures (Buras, La.), El Pescador Lodge (Ambergris Caye, Belize) and KingFisher Fleet (Punta Gorda).
In Praise of Peacocks
It would take hundreds of pages to review the stupendous success of peacock bass in South Florida-both it’s introduction and proliferation. The excellence of the fishery in the Sunshine State is such that it is no longer essential to travel to the Amazon to enjoy a truly viable fishery for this colorful battler. While South America boasts the largest specimens, Florida offers vast populations of good-sized fish that will challenge any flyfisher or light tackler. The following images were taken on trips with Captain Butch Moser of Delray Beach and land guide Hai Truong of Miami. Also pictured are Gus Montoya and the late Captain Ken Collette.
Today I decided to head out and do a little scouting my home waters of Tampa Bay.. ….. We just had a nice front came in with temperature in the 30’s. This might not seem too cold for many up north but for Tampa it is pretty darn cold especially for species like Snook.
I launched the boat at Bishop’s Harbor and did some fishing out front. It was somewhat dead, not a lot of bait around. All of the sudden we see a gigantic push coming out way. Some large dolphin were chasing a school of fish. We cast and cast in front and into the school but they wanted nothing to do with us. As they pass I realized they were school of a big 10 to 15lb jacks! I would have loved to get one but they were in no mood.
We moved to the back country started to spook redfish in pot holes…. this was no different than the jacks.. these fish even when we waded to them were very spooky and wanted nothing.
After being rejected again we moved even further back as the tide comes in. This time we find snook, big ones….. yup you guessed it.. again they wanted nothing. The water temperature must have been way too cold.
We decided to head in and we saw some bonnet head sharks on the sand flats. We didn’t have any bait and usually these things don’t eat artificial. I then remember I had some Savage gear crab and shrimp .. these things are 3D scanned and they look very very life like.
After learning to cast and do the proper presentation the sharks were totally fooled by these lures. We had lots of opportunity and landed 4 of the sharks sight fished on artificial which was very fun.
The key is be right in front of them about 2 to 3 feet. Once they see it fall they go crazy looking for it. These crabs have excellent action. I can’t wait to try the 1″ Manic Crab on a permit!
In Praise of Permit
Here are some images of the permit I’ve pursued, caught, and released in Florida, Mexico/Yucatan, Belize, Roatan, and Little Cayman Island. In my opinion, they are the planet’s cagiest flats fish when pursued on jigs and flies. Catching them on an artificial is something to be proud of. One of the highlights of my angling career is the release of nine- yes, nine !- permit in one day out of Belize River Lodge. This was documented by Guide Raul Navarette and Mike Heusner, who gave me the magic lure- a white 1/4 ounce Popeye skimmer jig. In balance, these were young eager, fiercely competitive fish in three schools of approximately one hundred fish. The other permit I am most proud of was the (now-EX) World record permit of 23 pounds 15 ounces on 4-pound test.