The snook and bonefish have taken constant beat downs from cold fronts that have come into Florida back to back, not only bringing with them extreme record low temperatures, but also many cloudy days to follow rather then the typical blue bird skies. As a result, there was a massive fish kill and multitudes of snook were found dead throughout Florida. The bonefish in Biscayne Bay and the Keys have taken a beating too and many casualties were had. Admist the horroific reports and many days off the water being snowed in without the need for snow to be present, many anglers still held onto hope. This hope that even though many fish were killed, many have taken refuge in the deeper waters of the Gulf and Atlantic to weather out this cold.
I am happy to report some great news straight from the poling platform and casting deck. Big breeder snook are making their return to the inshore waters of the Everglades and schools of bonefish are moving through Biscayne Bay and the Upper Florida Keys once again as the weather is slowly warming back up. I have not been the only one to observe this, as I have heard the same from many other anglers.
I met up with my buddy Capt. Peter Babb again this past weekend and fished the inshore waters of Chokoloskee. After we had missed our optimal tide for a particular group of redfish due to spending an extended amount of time looking for big tarpon (yes we did see one), we stumbled upon something that will be burned into my memory for a life time. While poling down a random shoreline in gin clear water, I noticed some big fish under the boat moving off. I thought “tarpon” at first but then we spooked more of these big fish as we moved further down and I got a good look at them… they were indeed schools of snook; big 30lb+ fish. It was truley an incredible sight to see snook that big in clear water. Of coarse, we threw at a few of these big giants and they wanted nothing to do with our artifical presentations. Peter and I then stumbled upon schools of snook, each fish over 10lbs, cruising up and down a shoreline. With the gin clear water, we could see the bright green backs from a mile away. The first few groups of fish proved real finicky so I tied on a DOA CAL jig/shadtail combo. This is the same setup I used in Pine Island Sound fishing with my buddy Capt. Rick De Paiva to sight fish the pickiest snook in shallows. The next group moved in and I deployed the DOA CAL to a beautiful snook that accepted my offering and graced the air with the sound of a screaming drag. After a short tussle, I had this very respectable snook posing for a photo. Definitely my highlight of this entire year.
Earlier in the week, I had a chance to meet with the guys at Nautilus reels and pick up my new weapon of mass destruction for this next tarpon season. Nautilus Reels has released the “tarpon edition” NV11/12 fly reel. The special edition reels feature special engravings on the reel that serve both function and asthetics from a tarpon etching to indications to measure drag settings and backing capacity. The Nautilus NV reels are all known for being light weight, which is perfect for today’s market as rod manufacturers are making much lighter rods these days as well as rod actions that balance out better with lighter reels. The G Loomis Crosscurrent Pro-1 (which I have matched my NV with as a 12wt setup) being a prime example of this. My black NV Paired with a Cortland Precision Tarpon Taper line, the rod/reel/line is as sexy as a hot Russian blonde and balanced like the ultimiate wet dream. Here’s a little reel porn to get us through a time when we are all waiting for the poon…
Stay tuned for more of the good stuff… until then, keep on making those tarpon leaders and tying flies…
Jan 24th 2010
I just back from fishing Flamingo, Florida aka Everglades National Park. I got good news and I got bad news. Bad news is the fish kill is very very serious and unfortunately 9 out 10 of the game fish that were killed were snook. I went out there with Honson and his friend Luigi(yes like in the Mario brothers). It’s been a couple weeks since the freeze so we wanted to see what has come back. We only took fly rods to see if we can get into some sight fishing.
The conditions were slick calm that morning and we could see for miles, except for one thing. Super fog! We took our time running around the gulf side of the Everglades. Once the fog lifted we saw lots of death drifting in the glass calm waters. We would pass by anything large we saw on the water. I am sorry to say most of the large fish we ran by were breeder snooks that never made it through the freeze. A very very sad sight when you see hundreds of dead fish floating knowing most of them were breeder size snooks.
While stopping at one carcass we did see lots of life compared to one week ago. One surprise was a bunch of Palolo worms. These were the same type of worms that are found in the keys during the summer months. The Tarpon just love them. There were small bait fish slurping these little guys up all around us. This was breath taking to see. Life starting to come back once again. Hopefully tarpon would follow soon.
We poled the flats in some of the creeks and saw only a couple reds. On the way out we did bump into Honson’s friend Brian. Brian was using jigs with shrimp and saw some reds and snook earlier in the day. He did manage one redfish before they spooked off. We followed Brian back into the creeks and he caught a few snappers and groupers in the deeper holes. During the run we did see a few dead Goliath groupers that did not fare well in the cold.
Although it sound like no one should ever fish again, all is not lost however. There were plenty of reds and trout being caught that day. The water temperature was rising and the bait were showing back up on the flats. The fishing can only get better I believe. The only species I’m really worried about are the snooks. There were just way too many breeders dead. Not even seeing one alive all day is never good. I did not see any dead redfish and compared to the snook the Tarpon did fine considering. When we got back to the ramp later that day the researcher told us no one has caught a snook all day.
I will be checking out Chokoloskee later in the week. I am afraid I will be seeing the same thing. Hopefully, it should be warm enough for the fish that did make to safe haven offshore, to find their way back once again.
Photo notes: Dull and dreary day filled with images of dead fish. As you can see my images reflect that. The edits are very monochromatic on purpose. My camera still have color.
This was the scene at the boat ramp at flamingo, hundreds of dead baby tarpon and snooks. Sadly this was all too familiar. The smell was rancid.