A Morning in Flamingo, Florida with Captain Benny Blanco
This last Friday I fished with J.P. Broche on a writers outing under the guidance of Captain Benny Blanco on his Hells Bay Professional. Though there were tons of floating grass, we released four tarpon, two tripletail, two snook and two redfish. We lost count of the tarpon we jumped. Benny really put us on the fish ! Here’s a quick photo recap.
Captain Benny Blanco
Fishing in Florida during the summer months can be rewarding, but it is also extremely HOT. I’ve tried several different ways to beat the heat while fishing from my kayak, but nothing has really worked. Recently, I came across this product made by Sport-Brella. It is an umbrella with a universal clamp and multiple swivel points. For me, the clamp easily attaches the umbrella to the Hobie seat and stays completely out of the way when your casting. This is also going to be useful for videographers and photographers alike, providing shade to allow for easier viewing of display screens while out filming on the water. The best part about the Versa-Brella, is the price. It can be found on Amazon for less than $20.
Click this link for specific product info and current pricing: versa-brella
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
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 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.
Fishing for Spotted Seatrout: From the Carolinas to Texas
Jan S. Maizler
Details: 128 pages 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-6006-4
Please note that while you may order this book at any time, it will not be available for shipment until approximately one month before publication date
“Despite having fished seatrout for years, I hadn’t any idea how much I didn’t know until I read Maizler’s definitive new work on the species.”–Doug Olander, editor in chief, Sport Fishing Magazine
“Maizler’s name has been inexorably linked to seatrout for decades. This book is an overdue, welcome, and essential addition to our angling literature. Kudos to the master!”–Glenn Law, executive editor, Salt Water Sportsman Magazine
“From seatrout habits to state-by-state seatrout fishing techniques, Maizler covers everything one needs to know with regard to becoming a successful angler for this popular species.”–Tommy L. Thompson, author of The Saltwater Angler’s Guide to Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida
Known as “everyman’s fish,” the spotted seatrout is one of the top ten species for recreational fishing in the United States.
In Fishing for Spotted Seatrout, Jan Maizler, a world-renowned light tackle expert, shares more than 30 years’ experience and innovative tactics for catching this popular fish in its range from the Carolinas to Texas. For beginners, he offers an overview of the unique characteristics and habits of the spotted seatrout. For more seasoned fishermen, he presents an in-depth analysis of the different tackle, baits, techniques, and tidal conditions for achieving the best catches. A chapter on weather and season will help ensure angling success, regardless of conditions the calendar brings.
Maizler discusses chumming–a technique widely applied in other fisheries but mostly unknown for seatrout–and recommends the paddleboard, the newest vessel for hunting the spotted king. He also explores region-specific practices like wading, prevalent in Texas, and trolling live shrimp, common in Biloxi Marsh, and argues that their use can and should extend beyond these regions. Moreover, he demonstrates how to apply these new techniques on your next fishing expedition.
Covering every aspect of angling for this magnificent gamefish, Maizler’s comprehensive guide belongs on your bookshelf and in your tackle bag.
Jan Maizler, former International Game Fish Association world-record holder, is the author of nine books, including Fishing Florida’s Flats.
Other JAN MAIZLER Books
Fishing Florida’s Flats: A Guide to Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit, and Much More
An Image Roundup of Recent Story Trips
Jan S. Maizler
Here are some images of trips that took place through the late Winter into early Spring and stretched from Florida’s Space Coast to the Keys.
Some of the guides involved were Justin Price, Butch Moser, Butch Constable, Hai Truong, Gus Montoya, Rob Munoz, David Accursio and Martin Carranza. Thanks to all !
Punta Gorda, Florida Winter Fishery
Though our first angling day was besotted by frontal winds and rain this past Friday, Saturday dawned calm, clear, and with a bit of fog. Thanks to Captain Ralph Allen of King Fisher Fleet for some great guiding. As always, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, Florida came through for our efforts with superb support. Here’s a few images of our adventure.
In Praise of Peacocks
While Florida is blessed with some of the finest fresh and saltwater fishing in the world, only the southern portion of the Sunshine State has a strong and viable fishery for peacocks or peacock bass. This is the only region in the Lower Forty Eight that can lay claim to this powerful colorful gamester, which in reality is a tropical cichlid and not a bass. And while SOFLA does not currently offer the twenty pound monsters of the Amazon, the swath of lands from approximately West Palm Beach to Homestead offer some whoppers that will create life-long memories. I personally believe some peacocks will reach 15 pounds and higher decades from now. This means you do not have to travel outside of the United States to catch and release one of the finest game fish in the world.
Here is a brief collection of (the many) images I’ve taken while fishing for peacocks with guides Butch Moser, Hai Truong, and Alan Zaremba.
Yesterday in the Everglades National Park
My friend Paul Raffety and I fished with Captain Steven Tejera on Friday, December 20. We launched in Flamingo and fished as far north as the Shark River. Though the winds were honking, Steven kept us on the fish. Here’s few images of our trip.