If you can find a day that’s not windy or storming to get out and fish the Indian River or Mosquito Lagoon, then the fishing should be pretty good. Schools of redfish are still around and with the water temps warming up a bit, more singles should scatter the flats which I prefer to fish rather than large schools.
Lots of big sea trout are still lurking the sandy areas and have been taking well presented artificials and flies really well. I’ve been impressed with the numbers of big sea trout that I’ve seen this year.
Don Thomas – a well respected author, outdoor journalist, and photographer from Montana is a doing a piece on the Mosquito Lagoon for a couple fly fishing magazines. Here he displays a smaller fish that beat about 5 bigger fish to the fly, it was crazy watching them fight over it. His wife Lori took some great shots this day. To learn more about Don visit his site: www.donthomasbooks.com
…and something a little creative using Alissa’s eyes as the main subject.
-Capt. Willy Le
Happy New Year everyone! I guess the world did not end in December 2012, which means we are stuck on this beautiful Earth to enjoy more memorable days of fishing….DARN!
Fishing in the Mosquito Lagoon/Indian River has been hit or miss. The crazy weather pattern that we’ve been experiencing with 80 degree temps one day and a high of 45 degrees the next, then back to 80 and so on. If this pattern didn’t get Floridians out of whack, it sure did get the fish acting all crazy.
My week of being on the water consisted of a ton of fish schooled up and happy one day, then gone the next. If temperatures decide to stay consistent for at least a week, then the fish should be more predictable and make the lives of guides and anglers a lot easier. But what’s the fun in that?
Well, when the fishing is good, you can find Redfish schooled up in big numbers on the flats, some trophy sized “Gator” Trout laid up in shallow sandy areas, and some small pods of Black Drum roaming around.
Mark Wolaver who is a great caster and knows how to feed fish on the fly rod joined me for a great day of redfishing in the Mosquito Lagoon. This was one of the better days to be on the water with blue bird skies, light winds, and happy fish.
Buck and Jim were the lucky ones to have their trip fall on the coldest day of the year. The thermometer in my truck when I arrived at the Mosquito Lagoon ramp read “ICE”, which was the next level below 37 degrees. This was one of the slower days where fish were scattered and far in between, but they managed to catch a few redfish on D.O.A. Shadtails.
Paul Casserly from Boston, Mass came down for some Mosquito Lagoon action. Plan was to catch his first redfish on spin tackle to break the ice, then switch to the fly rod the rest of the day to try his luck. Well, conditions were still cold and fish were still scattered from the previous cold front. Paul did get his first redfish on the spinning rod but had a few shots with the fly rod afterwards with no luck. Paul will be back for revenge one day.
Tim Creasy came down from Kentucky during the holidays and has planned to fish the Mosquito Lagoon with me for a couple years now. The weather on this day was not so good. 25-30mph winds with a 70% chance of rain and storms. Instead of canceling the trip and Tim being bummed out that he didn’t get to fish while he was vacationing in Orlando, I opted to take him into some small wind protected creeks in the Indian River Lagoon to try our luck on Snook and Tarpon.
Tim ended up catching a couple Snook, jumping a few small Tarpon, a couple jack crevalle, and ladyfish all on fly. We turned what would have been a cancellation into a fun day of catching mini species…..he now can scratch Snook off of his list of fish to catch(almost scratched Tarpon off the list but you know how it goes.)
On New Years day I had a last minute cancellation. I decided to head out solo on a scouting mission for a trip the following day. I forgot how nice it was to get out on the water alone, everything seemed to happen in slow motion and I was enjoying every second of it. I had no worries, no pressure, no rush, just enjoying doing what I love. I found fish, caught a few, but most of the time I was just memorized by all the wildlife and everything happening around me while poling the skiff peacefully down the shoreline.
John Kelly is an avid fly fisherman from Connecticut(now lives in South Florida) that fished a lot of places around the world. He’s caught Stripers, big Bluefin Tuna, Roosterfish, bonefish, Tarpon, Snook, and even Marlin on fly but has never caught a Redfish….until now. John learned that you have to be more patient with tailing Redfish than any other fish. When they tail, you have more time to think than if you were casting at a cruising fish. I had John wait until we got at least 40-45ft from the fish before making a cast, then I had him watch the fish for a minute to see what direction it was facing, once he knew where he wanted to place the fly, take a deep breath, relax, and make the cast. When the fly landed at the perfect spot, a couple twitches of the fly and BAM, John was hooked up to his first Redfish ever! After the first fish, John was catching tailing Redfish left and right.
John also had shots at some monster laid up “Gator” Trout, but feeding these fish are extremely tough, they are as spooky, if not spookier than Islamorada Bonefish. Getting them to eat is a challenge, which makes them even more rewarding to catch on fly…if the stars align.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year and great fishing for 2013!
-Capt. Willy Le
The reason why I focus most of my trips in the Mosquito Lagoon is because the fishing is never the same. There are so many little nooks, crannies, and creeks to discover that every trip for me is a new adventure. Nothing gets my heart pumping more than tailing Redfish on a quiet, calm morning with no other boats in sight.
Me and fellow Mosquito Lagoon guide Capt. Billy Rotne ran around looking for some tailing fish to photograph, which we found plenty that cooperated very well for us. It was so peaceful just to watch these fish tail for minutes that all we wanted to do was watch instead of catch. That’s what we did the first part of the morning, then we ventured off to different areas to catch a few with the fly rods.
In these areas, we had to change up flies to match what the fish were keyed on eating for better success. For the tailing fish, a copper slider with a rattle inserted in it did the trick really well. The rattle helped call out the fish which had their heads buried thick in the grass searching for a meal. Once the fish detected where the rattling was coming from, they would then see the copper flash of the fly and move in for the kill.
We then found some fish that were cruising the sandy shorelines busting on mud minnows and small finger mullet. A tan pattern that resembled a mud minnow got better reactions than the copper slider that we were using for tailers.
In another area where we found Redfish cruising on top of dead grass, we noticed small shrimp skipping all over the surface. I had the perfect shrimp pattern that a good buddy Capt. Honson Lau tied which worked great on these picky fish. It’s good to have a nice variety of flies in your box just for these occasions.
Last week I had journalist Jan Maizler on my boat to do a write up on me and my guiding career. Jan who is from Miami, FL. travels the world to write for multiple fishing magazines and online publications. We had a short day on the water due to some rain storms but we did manage a few fish using D.O.A. Shadtails.
Branden Roberts from a new lure company out of Texas called Logic Lures joined me on his first trip to Mosquito Lagoon the other day. He brought a camera man along with him to film for a video project that they are working on. Branden proved that his lures work well catching multiple fish that clobbered his 4″ PlastiX. visit www.logiclures.com if you would like more info on lures and innovative hook systems.
Fishing is definitely getting better in the Mosquito Lagoon, Indian River, and Banana River. Fish are starting to school up and attacking topwater lures. Fly fishing is really good in the Mosquito Lagoon and will be getting better as the cooler temperatures approach. Fly fishing in the fall is great but winter can get even better with crystal clear water and blue birds skies.
Also, the Black Drum start to show up in big schools around late Fall early Winter. They are a blast to target with the fly rod and can put your patients to the test.
Gotta love the year round fishing down here in Florida!
-Capt. Willy Le
Wow is it hot out there…the fishing that is. After Tropical Storm Debbie back in June, the water clarity in the lagoon systems have gotten really dirty and really high, which made sight fishing tough for most anglers. The spots that usually hold fish in the Mosquito Lagoon was a ghost town for weeks, which pushed me to run my trips way down south around Sebastian Inlet just to find the cleaner water.
Recently I went back to the Lagoon to check up on what was going on in there. The water dropped a couple feet, but still dirty. Once I arrived to the first spot, I had noticed more bait activity in the area, like how it should be on a normal day. As I poled the skiff along the shallow grass flat that was less than a foot of water, I witnessed Redfish rooting and tailing all over the place like they haven’t eaten for days. The grass was really thick, the fish were so buried in it that we could literally get close enough to touch the fishes tail with the tip of your rod. Most of the fish caught were within 20 feet from the boat.
The key was to use a weedless and HEAVY fly or artificial lure. For my spin anglers, I would tie on a new weedless weighted hook system for soft plastics called the “Jig Rig” made by Owner hooks with a D.O.A. Curt Tail rigged on it which worked really well to get down to where the fish’s face was and that curl tail has great flowing movement even when sitting still. For flies, heavy lead eyes tied on a flashy crabby pattern worked perfect. Here are some photos of recent trips in the past few weeks and a short video of a tailing Redfish being caught next to the boat.
Tomo Shiraishi from Boston, Mass was down for the ICAST(Worlds largest Sport Fishing Show) at the Orlando Convention Center. That was the time when the Mosquito Lagoon was really slow so we went to the Indian River where Tomo caught some nice Trout and had lots of shots at Redfish but only landing this one, which happened to be his first Redfish ever.
Dennis and Kaz were also here for ICAST from California and Japan. They work for Owner Hook Company and were the ones who introduced me to the “Jig Rig” made by Owner Hooks. At first I thought I’d never use such a rig, but you will see in the video at the end of this report that this rig was the ticket to catching some tough Mosquito Lagoon Redfish. Here is Dennis and Kaz with a couple small Banana River Redfish that we had to work hard for.
Mark and his girlfriend Rey were surfing the web for fishing guides in the Mosquito Lagoon area, came across my site and decided to give me a call. After a quick run down over the phone of their chances to catch some Tarpon, Trout, and Redfish on fly, they hopped in there car and drove down from Georgia to fish with me for the weekend. Day 1 we searched for Tarpon, Trout and Snook in the Indian River by Sebastian Inlet. Mark had multiple shots at small Tarpon ranging from 15-30lbs, getting a couple to eat but only landing 1, which is great on fly.
We then went to fish for Snook and Trout which we he had tons of shots on both species on the clear sandy flats. The fish were being spooky but we got one nice Trout to cooperate which happened to be Marks biggest Sea Trout on fly.
Day 2, we head to Mosquito Lagoon for some tailing Redfish action. The Redfish were all happily tailing for us all morning and were ready to take a fly. Rey even had a chance to take a few shots and fight a few of her own.
Capt. Shawn Neurath from the West Coast of Florida has never fish on the East Coast and always wanted to experience the Mosquito Lagoon. Again, Redfish were happily tailing, and this time we put the Owner “Jig Rigs” to the test rigged with the D.O.A. Curl Tails. As you can see, it worked well. If you plan on fishing the Tampa Bay area, check out Capt. Shawn at: www.missionfishincharters.com.
Here is a clip of Capt. Shawn catching a tailing Redfish about 10 feet from the boat.
Remember to stay hydrated out on the water, it’s been scorching out there!
-Capt. Willy Le
A short clip of Honson catching a nice Redfish on fly while he was up visiting from Miami.
2011 was without a doubt the “year of the Redfish.” After the massive freeze we had in the winter of 2009/2010, the the redfish population had bounced back incredibly. Days of 70+ sight fished redfish were a common occurance this past summer and reports of redfish being caught in all the islands from Flamingo to the Keys and even on occassion on the ocean side were not uncommon. This was the most incredible redfishing that I had ever seen in my life. We spent the last 2 days of 2011 on the Florida Bay flats catching good numbers of redfish on fly.
The cool morning runs called for jackets and sweaters.
It eventually warmed up enough to shed the thick clothing and do some dental work on redfish.
We headed back the second day on both Capt. Jeremy’s Maverick 18 HPX-V and Dr. Tony’s Hells Bay classic 16 Whipray. The warming weather brought out a more aggressive nature in the reds.
So ended another year of fishing around the Purple Isle. We will look forward to getting back out on the water to experience what the Keys and Everglades has to offer.
I would walk out the door the next morning to meet with a great friend and mentor to start the journey into 2012… only, the flyrods utilized this day on the Maverick skiff would be 12 Weights. There is only one thing that can possess a man to wake up after a long New Years Eve and make the long chilly run into the Everglades backcountry to pole around in what could be empty water… or was it empty?
Stay tuned for the next tarpon junkie chronicle. I would like to wish everybody a happy and prosperous 2012!!!
Here’s a clip of my Redfish to add to Honsons write up while he was up here visiting the Mosquito Lagoon…
Our first major cold front swept across South Florida, sending days of rain and overcast skies, followed by lots of wind and some unwelcomed clouds into my home waters. What a perfect opportunity to drive up north and chase the blue bird skies. I left the office last Friday and rushed over to Kissimmee, FL in order to catch the last couple hours of the FFF Expo. Following this day, my buddies Capt. Willy Le (www.NativeFlyCharters.com) and Dominic A. invited me to spend a day in the Lagoon chasing some redfish. A change in scenery is always welcomed… especially when hometown weather becomes unfavorable. I always have a good time hanging with my buddies from the North.
We arrived to a dirt ramp the next day. There was a slight chill in the air this morning but it was quite comfortable. The winds hadn’t really laid down as it was still blowing at 15kts out of the North. With all the wind and rain from past weeks, the water had been high and dirty in the Lagoon prior to this day. We rode through some marshy looking mazes and across some shallow sand bars in the Maverick HPX-Tunnel as Willy scanned the waters for the right sign. Willy backed off on the throttle as we approached our destination. Everything there seemed right… we found that the water receeded to just about the perfect level, had a brownish tinge to it but was shallow enough to spot fish waking and tailing. The ever-present shrimp that would jump out of our path as we poled down the shorelines looking for signs of life. As I watched a redfish crawl around with it’s back out of the water, occasionally exploding on a pod of shrimp, I knew at that moment that we were exactly where we should be.
I armed myself with Shimano’s latest Brain-child… the Sustain FG (Full write-up review coming soon) on the trusty G Loomis Greenwater. The floating grass was thick in certain parts but still wanting to see some head out of the water eats, I tied on a DOA CAL with a Chug-Head on it. This was as weedless as any topwater lure can be. Needless to say, after 3 head out of water eats and a few misses… I got what I had come for…
We swapped off shots the next couple of hours between the 3 of us, catching redfish on both flies and DOAs, filming both follies and successes, and making a not-so-serious fun time out of catching slot redfish after slot redfish. We claimed a dozen fish by the end of the day on the fly rod alone.
The great time on the water was only bettered by our stop at Ms. Apples Crab Shack, on our way back to the barn. Forget about fish camps, burgers, hostile uppity elitists, and sandwiches… the laid back atmosphere and great eats at Ms. Apples is one tradition within a fishing trip I could definitely dig. There is nothing better then Maryland style blue crabs…
The last 3 photos were shot with a new iPhone 4S 8MP camera. Not too bad if I say so myself.
There was still a bit of time to kill after we got back and washed up the boat. We decided to walk to a nearby pond and throw some hoppers/gurglers at some bass and bluegill to kill off the last hour of light. Now I am inspired to go out and purchase a 5wt.
Here is a short video Capt. Willy snipped together…
Back at home now and waiting for the next opportunity for the weather to allow me to get out and chase some bonefish. Stay tuned…
As we commute down the Florida Keys, we look towards the Atlantic and see the sight of many poling skiffs lined up along the flats edges and bay boats floating bobbers down the many channels that run perpendicular to them. Those lucky enough can catch the spectacle of a tarpon jumping at the end of an angler’s line. It is no secret, tarpon season is in full swing. I’ve spent time in both the Upper and Lower Keys and had a chance to see some really cool stuff chucking flies at Tarpon. We fly fished for tarpon as we do each year in every different way or form. We’ve already had some big days on the water this year with a seemingly unlimited amount of shots some days and even a double digit number of hook-ups a day. Heck, we even filmed a major fishing show that will air in it’s next season. Wait until you see some of the epic shots.
Watching a bait under a cork being pulled under by a freight train, ticking a small fly in front of a string of tarpon on the clear ocean side and pulling a fish away from the school to eat your fly, dropping a fly in front of a big laid up backcountry fish… there is certainly something special about tarpon fishing in all it’s different froms.
We had a few big number days throwing flies at big laid up Tarpon in Florida Bay…
It seemed we have thrown at an unimaginable number of fish stringing along on the ocean side of the Keys…
…and we met with great success on days when the fish decided to chew…
Sometimes staying home is not an option. When you get the hall pass to go fishing, the seas seem to know and decide to kick up a notch to try to scare people away. This is why I decided to buy a bigger boat this year, but one that can still pole with stealthiness and ease, while being able to tackle the demands of running through rough weather and fighting big fish that pull you offshore when winds kick up to 20kts+. My new Maverick Mirage HPX-V 18 has proven to be an AMAZING boat for ocean fishing.
No matter where you are feeding poons, once the steel makes contact with flesh, the majestic gentle giants revert to rage-driven silver missles, leaving traces of fury and anger in a frothing sea…
The infamous palolo worm hatch should happen any day now and it has caused a change in mood for both fish and fisherman. Many tarpon fisherman are trying to rally up their buddies and arrange to call in sick days at the office to drive down to the lower Keys to catch this worm hatch, where fields of tarpon will be sipping these small worms off the surface with the tide sweeping them out from under rock and coral. Many tarpon themselves are reluctant to swim during the day, and hunker down by the bridge to await the meal of worms. What is it about these little worms that turn out Tarpon into crack heads? This still boggles my mind but I’m not complaning as long as I can still tie a red rubber band to a hook and feed it to tarpon thats feinding a worm fix. We found another type of hatch before the worm though and I got to drift around and watch a couple buddies pull on some bridge tarpon.
This is definitely the heart of tarpon season. I beleive the best has yet to come as fish are gearing up for pre and post worm mode as we speak. I think it’s time I got off my laptop now and resume my duties on the water to catch the remainder of my favorite time of year. So until next time….
For those travelling down to the Keys to fish during tarpon season, here are a few restaurants you should consider:
- Key Largo Conch House (Breakfast and Tea or Coffee)
- Lazy Dayz, Islamorada (Dinner)
- El Sibonay, Key West
- Square Grouper, Sugarloaf Key (Must try the seafood stew)
- Ms. Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo
- Village Gourmet, Islamorada (Wraps and Croissants)
- Ziggy Mad Dogs, Islamorada (Top Shelf dining)
- Green Turtle Inn, Islamorada
The cold has set in this winter and it is too damn cold. Sight fishing in south Floridahas become very limited and there are few days that can call for epic tarpon or bonefishing so Sam Root, Joe Welborne, Eddie O, Capt. Will Le, and I decided to make a trip out west to the Marsh and experience some of the finer redfishing that exists there. Eddie and I volunteered to tow our skiffs out west so we greased our bearings, did the full trailer inspection, and made ready for our long journey ahead. We made lodging arrangements at Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix. The accomodations were good and made boat storage very convenient. My goal though, was to learn how to navigate and fish in a fishery that is completely new to me, figure out where to find big redfish, and have a fun time doing so. No, I don’t plan on ever guiding there in those waters, but I do plan on making a trip there annually to partake in the world’s best winter fishery. I’m sure as you all may have read from Sam and Willy’s reports, fishing was a bunch of fun.
We arrived after a push of cold weather accompanying very high winds and freezing temperatures washed through the marsh. This made the water was dirty and real cold. We bunched up in many layers of clothing and embarked on a mission into the Marsh. The first day brought hope as we had a bright sun and calm winds. It didn’t take us long to find the elements we had been looking for to locate fish, as we started off catching numerous smaller (7-10lb) redfish on light fly rods, but we were after the famed giant redfish that this marsh was popular for. We ran around for a bit and found where bigger fish would hold but lost out light. We settled for catching a bunch of fish in the 12-15lb range given the limited visibility we had. It is just amazing how aggressive these redfish were… definitely a nice reprieve from what we normally face here in Florida. There was zero light our second day on the water. We could barely see a foot into the water but made the best of it anyways and still ended up catching more 15lb redfish… we doubled, trippled, and quadroupled up on fly. This is truley the most amazing winter fishery in the world. Don’t buy the media hype about the Oil spill.. the marsh is very alive and full of the most aggressive redfish in the world.
We got to sample some of Louisiana’s fine cajun food but I think the best eats we had by far was the Pho at Pho Tau Bay. It took us 2 hours of wandering around lost in New Orleans to finally find this Pho restaurant, but it was well Pho-king worth it. However, the most memorible meal was the one we had before we left. Willy mentioned we should eat at Willy Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans for some fried chicken. Let me tell you, this was the absolute best fried chicken I had ever eaten. There is no surprise that Willy Mae’s was featured on several TV programs on the food network.
This was to be a true test of fishing ability and equipment. The Maverick 18 HPX-V I was running made for a perfect fishing platform in this environment as we ran through the marsh, through shallow mud ponds, and poled quietly big laid up redfish. We also got to test the 9wt G Loomis NRX’s ability to handle big flies and it proved to be quite the amazing rod for both long and short casts. For those in the entry level fly market, we got to test the first TFO 9wt BVK to come off the production line. The new 9wt BVK is a very fast and powerful fly rod and definitely benefits from an aggressive taper and heavier grain fly line such as a Wulff Burmuda Triangle Taper or Airflo Ridge. The 9wt BVK is by far the best 9wt rod that TFO has ever made though. For smaller 10lb class redfish, I got to use my 7wt G Loomis Shorestalker, which was a little light for the big flies we were throwing, but it surprisingly was able to turn over some pretty large flies well. This is a powerful little pistol of a fly rod. We mainly used Nautilus NV and FWX reels on most of the flyrods we fished. These Nautilus reels are truely amazing.
Between the good eats and great fishing, I think it was the camaraderie amongst good company that will never be forgotten. I can’t wait to be back next year.