A Review of Three Outstanding Destinations Visited in 2013
Many of the joys of the outdoor life are reflections back over great moments and realizations of dreams. And that’s often done by using photography not just a means of expression but also an homage to recollections of things past.
I’ve traveled to many fishy places far and wide over the years. For 2013, three stand out.
El Pescador Lodge, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Cajun Fishing Adventures, Buras, Louisiana
Cabbage Key, Pine Island Sound, Florida
SaltyShores Close-Up: Flamingo, Florida
Though recent times has seen the Everglades National Park shut down for about two weeks, and now re-open, the flats fishing was, is, and no doubt will be stupendous- providing the habitat does not get peppered by debilitating cold fronts.
This is the story of two half-day trips Alan Williams and I made with Captain Jason Sullivan. If my schedule were less hectic, I’m sure the same marvelous results could have been achieved in one day. Jason’s 17-foot Maverick HPX performed wonderfully and got us into the skinniest waters.
Alan and I would meet Jason in Florida City and drive with him down to Flamingo.
On the first day, Jason made a long run in search of a huge school of redfish he’d “been on” during the last few days. After an hour, we found them. The school seemed to stretch for fifty yards with tails popping up seemingly everywhere. When Jason got us in casting range Alan and I both fired off weedless soft plastics into their midst. I immediately got a strike, and my fish blew up the water instantly with thrashes, spooking the huge school in all directions. After a minute, my hook pulled, leaving us with nothing more than some frothed -up water and fast-beating hearts! Though I wanted to pursue the reds, Jason declined. He felt the tide would be perfect for snook back towards Flamingo and he wanted to pursue un-pressured fish in the few hours we had remaining for the day.
It turned out to be a great decision, as we caught a pile of snook in the remaining time, including a trophy-sized snook Alan took on a topwater plug.
On our second half-day trip, Jason was highly optimistic about the redfishing we’d be doing for three reasons: glassy calm water, fishing during the low tide, and the recent reports of lots of single fish to make presentations to, versus huge spookable schools.
Towards that end, we were into tailing reds within ten minutes of leaving the Flamingo marina. Indeed, those superb conditions plus Jason’s expert guiding delivered up redfish all morning long.
Capt. Jason Sullivan
SaltyShores Close-up: Mosquito Lagoon
Jan S. Maizler
I’d met Captain Justin Price as the guide who would spearhead the hunt for redfish and seatrout as part of a photo shoot for an article on ultralight spinfishing in Sport Fishing Magazine. From dawn to dusk, Justin and his East Cape 18-foot Lostmen took us through the “bays” and flats of the “Goon” with finesse and stability as we caught and released stud-sized bruisers of both species on line barely testing over four pounds. When our mission was over for that day, we were determined to fish together again.
Our plan was to fish in early summer of the following year, but a tropical storm plus other prior – committed travels on my schedule postponed our two days of fishing until late July. The conditions of our revised time featured flat calm warm water and a slew of vacation-liberated skiffs all over the inside waters of the Space Coast. The water was also slightly more turbid than two months prior and due to the annual growth of algae. This stood in stark contrast to the stronger algae blooms of the past year as well as the present toxic dumps of fresh water through the inlets of Stuart and Jupiter to the south.
I told Justin that I’d be bringing friend and photographer Alan Williams to New Smyrna Beach to join us on our two day adventure. As our target dates arrived, it turned out that we were blessed with fair weather and sunny skies. It appeared there would be few if any thunderstorms or showers to drive us off the flats.
On the day of our drive from Fort Lauderdale, we spoke to Justin for a last minute status report. He told us that although there was a huge push of fish in the shallows two weeks ago, the fish had now predictably settled into the flats drop-offs and potholes. As we discussed the most effective techniques for these conditions, Justin did not hesitate to recommend using live pigfish for the best results if we wanted rod-bending action and ample “photo-ops.” Local knowledge placed a great deal of trust on the gamefish – calling grunts of live piggies.
I had mixed feelings about using live bait- as did Justin. While I prefer to cast a lure to a sighted fish, I also want a backup if any shallow water gamester is unresponsive to lures or flies, especially on a story trip. Live bait would give us some old school action, just like a plate of Mac N’ Cheese. It would get us quick satisfaction, but we’d have to moderate our efforts lest we grow fat and bored with much too much.
And that’s exactly what those two days brought us: seemingly endless action on piggies with a first day tally of over forty trout to five pounds and a few redfish. We started the second day poling the flats. While most of the fish spooked way ahead of us, I did hook one golden-colored stud of a redfish which picked up a raft of grass on the line and then the hook on the soft plastic twitch bait popped out so disappointingly.
The day grew hotter and the skiffs seemed to materialize all around us in the shimmering light of mid-morning. We went back to fishing the drop-offs with live bait and easily caught another twenty trout-including some gators-and a few nice redfish.
Alan, Justin and I had a wonderful time. As we headed in to JB’s for lunch, we were already planning our next trip targeting the cooler waters of fall and bigger bunches of fish.
Captain Justin Price
Web Site: www.rightinsightcharters.com
Jan S. Maizler
The sun was setting through the front windshield of my car as I headed across Alligator Alley towards Naples, and eventually Sarasota, my destination. As I drove through the waterlogged Glades, I was drawn into the tight balance of watching the road carefully but allowing in some irresistible excitement over the planned fishing that lay ahead. The next two days- Friday and Saturday- would be full-on pre-dawn to dusk fishing with lure and fly fishing specialist Captain Rick Grassett.
My experience has been that almost all angling and angling travel that ends up well and even memorable is based on solid planning, not random chance. Although I was familiar with Captain Rick’s expertise through his excellent fly fishing lectures and fishing reports, we had not formally met. That changed when he and I connected on Linkedin and soon enough, we made plans to fish out of his skiff (and professional charter vessel), the Snook Fin-Addict, an 18-foot Action Craft. While I was aware that Rick also fishes in Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor, I opted to fish with him in his home waters of Greater Sarasota. Though our initial contact was in May 2012, Rick recommended we wait for the fall month of October for some of the best and varied fishing. My ready agreement to go with Rick’s timing advice would prove to be one of the best decisions for my Florida angling in 2012. Rick was also instrumental in referring us to the Inn on Siesta Key for our lodgings.
Summer and Fall-
The summer was busy and full of fish, but the everlasting radiant heat made this torrid season in South Florida far too long. Though September proved to be a rainy, humid, encore of the previous months, October featured drier, slightly cooler air. There were even a couple of mild fronts that coaxed the fall into unfolding. I was glad that the time to travel to Sarasota had arrived. My wife and I traversed the “Alley” without incident. We continued north on I-75 (the same highway). We then exited on FL. 72 /Clark Road and headed west to Siesta Key. All it took was one right turn and a couple miles more to reach the Inn, a simple and welcome journey.
Since we knew we’d be arriving in the late evening, Innkeeper Paige had given us all the proper instructions to access our unit. As we unpacked, we were delighted with our room- a little piece of Siesta Key with its’ bright, tropical furnishings. It was midnight and my sleep would be of short duration, since I had to meet Rick at 4:15 a.m. down the road at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters.
Time to Fish-
I barely slept and hoped the adrenal high that kept me awake would do the same throughout the fishing. We both arrived at CB’s (Rick’s “headquarters”) precisely at the same time- ten minutes early! …and a good sign both of us were pumped. This was no chance occurrence since we’d agreed to fish the pre-dawn hours for snook under the dock lights.
The brief drive to the launch ramp near Mote Marine Laboratory took us through the heart and shorelines of this exquisite city. Though I’d been to Sarasota countless times, the art, restaurants, and elegant homes re-confirmed the hip splendor of this marvelous destination.
Rick launched the vessel in minutes and as we idled out into the open bay, he familiarized me with the location of all the safety equipment on his skiff. It soon became apparent that everything on the skiff had a place- and that Rick’s obviously methodical character made sure that everything from tackle to procedure to outfitting his boat would be done to sheer perfection. For me, this was a hallmark of professionalism.
Rick quickly got on plane and headed east to the mainland side of Sarasota Bay. The ride was made more pleasing by the horizontal rear casting deck hatch that doubled as an “underway” backrest. Rick reviewed the plan for both days, which basically would take us ocean ward with each progressive stop as the day dawned and sun got higher. Since the wind was light to moderate out of the east, we’d go from the docks to the shallow flats to the deeper flats near the passes, and finally out into the open Gulf for Spanish mackerel and bonito (false albacore). Rick mentioned that there were loads of minnows right off Long Boat and Siesta Keys and that chances for encounters with breaking game fish was excellent. With these plans and choices, it was hard to focus on the snook fishing which was yet to even occur !
But we were soon powering down and Rick cut his E-Tec as a big underwater light was not far off. Rick dropped his electric trolling motor and eased towards the vast blue glow-which was full of snook. For this light and others tight to the seawall, the water was calm and the tide was slow, creating cautious snook. But by dawn, I’d released four nice fish to seven pounds on jigs with soft plastic tails and a TerrorEyz. Not surprisingly, we got more strikes when there was more wind and schools of glass minnows.
Our next stop was the very shallow flats near the mainland. We easily located the mullet schools which would hold trout, snook, and reds. We fished topwater plugs for an hour with no results, so we headed west to the deeper flats just inside the Gulf passes. Rick gave me the rod with a soft plastic jig and told me to work the flats drop-off. I quickly started hooking up on seatrout.
After an hour we’d caught over fifteen trout and a flounder- and I was ready for some nearshore action on mackerel and albies. It was mid-morning and a good time to spot fish. We headed out into the ocean to look for diving birds and breaking fish. It took about an hour of running, but we found them. We started catching smaller mackerel up to three pounds on every cast….to the point that we started to look for bigger macks and albies after we released about twenty. We could have stopped and fished these schools of smaller macks, but we opted to finish out the day searching for bigger game.
We started the second day in exactly the same order. Conditions under the dock lights were about the same and I released three snook- this time up to nine pounds, which offered some better photo “ops”.
At dawn, we fished the shallow flats near Long Bar, catching nine trout and another snook. Rick said he wanted me to get an Inshore Slam, so he fired up his engine and made a ten minute run to a shallow flat. After ten minutes of poling and casting, I caught and released a nice redfish of around six pounds. We high-fived it when we got our slam.
Rick suggested that we run into the Gulf to look for big mackerel and albies- and I agreed. He called a friend who was already fishing off Longboat Key. When I saw Rick smile, I correctly concluded it was “game on.” He quickly fired up the engine and made a fifteen minute run to the hotspot. We spent the next hour catching big mackerel to six pounds on topwater plugs. It was a wonderful time.
We both spotted a huge flock of birds a few hundred yards to the south and decided to check it out. As we approached the melee, the big splashes underneath told us they were albies. After a slow approach, he cut the engine and drifted into the action. We casted silver-flecked plastics into the splashes and hooked up with fat bonitos as large as twelve pounds. We stayed in this frothy paradise for an hour hooking and releasing big albies. After that, I could take no more. The ride back to the launching ramp was rich with feelings of excitement and enormous satisfaction at the great fishing that Rick and Sarasota provided this writer.
About CB’s Saltwater Outfitters-
CB’s is the largest on the water bait and tackle shop that offers Siesta Key boat rentals, fishing charters, fishing tackle, jet skis and clothing for everyone. CB’s Outfitter Shop and Beach Boutique carries the leading brand names of outdoors apparel.
Captain Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
Web Site- www.snookfin-addict.com
CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
1249 Stickney Point Road
Web Site- http://cbsoutfitters.com
The Inn on Siesta Key
515 Beach Road
Web Site- www.TheInnOnSiestaKey.com
Super Bowl of Saltwater Fly Fishing Weekend, Feb 24th 25th and 26th in Tampa, Florida, Salty Fly 2012
The largest 3 days of Saltwater Fly fishing in Florida is about 5 weeks away. It is three fun filled days right here in the Tampa Florida area. Here is the run down.
Day 1: Feb 24th 2012 Party and International Fly fishing film showing
This event is open to everyone.
The IF4 will will have a special cut made specifically for the the Salty Fly 2012 even.
It will be in historical Ybor City at the Collage in Ybor City.
From 6pm to 9pm we will be hosting the party/film showing of mostly Saltwater Fly film.
For $5.00 you get to watch Florida’s only stop for the IF4.
There will be a bar and lots of fly fisherman to hang with as well as goodies to given away.
Tickets can be bought at:
Tampa Bay on the Fly, Tampa, Fl
4203 El Prado Boulevard Tampa, FL 33629
Flint Creek outfitters
Lithia, FL 33569
This event is sponsored by Bug Slinger apparel and our Salty Fly Sponsors.
All the info for this Sold out in 9 hour tournament including LIVE streaming info can be found at
up to the minute information
Day 3: G.Loomis Skiff poling and casting Championship, Held at Maximo Park