As you know I have been running the G.Loomis owner’s tournament series. There has been three of them so that has kept me pretty busy every weekend.
But what you don’t know (some might have guess) that I”m also shooting the 2014 Florida Sportsman Calendar. Normally this isn’t an issue. However what is an issue is the time frame. The shoot is due next week so I have been burning the candles getting all this to fit.
True to the Saltyshores style, I do not shoot fish that has been in the cooler. This makes it tough but having freshly caught fish equals much better quality images.
The coordination of time, people, fish, locations, weather has not been the easiest to deal with. We are getting it down however and it is looking very promising.
Hustling and hustling to get these things done has been the agenda the last two weeks. This allows for little time to do reviews, videos or even fish myself.
But not to neglect you guys any longer here are some images from the shoots.
I promise though, this will be the best Florida Sportsman Calendar ever
Most of the technical fishing slows down a bit as old man winter settles on his rocking chair down in at the purple isle. The one track minded individuals wait until the spring time. But until then, there are many things to do to pass the time. The venerable Florida bay redfish is always around to help us through this waiting game.
Sometimes, the moon and stars align for a short window, or rather a sneak peak of the season ahead we look forward to. This fortunate soul was able to experience the short flurry this year, while in great company. We all grew up with heroes we looked up to in the world of athletes. Depending on which sport you are passionate about, your hero could be Micheal Jordan, Bo Jackson, Lebron James, Wayne Gretski, etc… and while most of my friends looked up to names in the world of basketball, football, and other sports, fishing had always been my number one sport and my number one passion so it would be natural that I grew up looking towards the greats in this sport like Lefty Kreh, Stu Apte, Jose Wajebe, Flip Pallot, Tim Mahaffey, and of coarse Andy Mill. Imagine a day of playing basket ball with Lebron or doing laps on the track with Hurley Haywood. An equal effect in my world would be a day of fishing with the man who wrote the book on tarpon; Andy Mill, who’s passion for chasing tarpon has greatly influenced my obsession for this magnificent fish. This is certainly one spring to look forward to.
So until next time… Stay tuned…
It was an interesting summer to say the least……Tarpon season, in which we fly fisherman look so forward to each year was one of the hardest seasons I can remember. We were plagued with bad weather, bad luck, dirty water and mechanical skiff issues all season long. The only thing we had going for us was the fact that if we did make it out to the beach, we were stabbing poons on every outing!! This said, makes it even more frustrating, for that we have full confidence that we will put metal to their mouthes but just cannot get out to do so… Being weekend warriors, we missed full months at a time due to negative weather conditions. Yet, there were a handfull of beautiful days that allowed us to put a few bugs in the faces of some giant poon!
And then something happens that totally throws your tarpon season into high gear….A trip to the Everglades National Park (ENP)..Hooking 8 Big Tarpon by 10AM on fly will allow you to quickly forget about the bad days you previously had!!! Long-time, good friend Capt. Jesse Lavender and I were to make a poon day in the glades and that we did. Not the highlight of the day, but a great story…”Jess – there is a big girl laid up, eleven o’clock, 60 ft…” “Ok, got it”… Cast..strip, Lady fish eats fly…tarpon then destroys hooked lady fish on top and off she goes! Fish ended up throwing the hook (Or lady fish, I should say but nonetheless just another aspect to an epic day fly fishing for tarpon in the glades. I hear they are still around in some parts of the glades…Look for a post poon season report in the upcomming weeks….
Tis the season where snook should also be crashing bait around spill-ways and sandbars up and along the Rivers of SWFL….It has been a really, really slow start in that regard. I have had days where we can land North of double-digits in regards to quantity, but I have yet to see a snook over 35″ be landed…and our summer is running out.. This was an everyday occurance last year…Here are a few photos from the iphone of snook season “so far” from the SWFL Rivers. Stay tuned – this will get good.
It has become tradition for good friend Capt. Tim Mahaffey (www.flatshead.com) and I to take a day to pursue and attempt a 5 fish slam on fly that to my knowledge has not been documented in the past. These 5 species are the most sought after gamefish in Islamorada; Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, Bonefish, and Permit. To achieve a feat like such would be the ultimate accomplishment, but to document this with professional cameras and a pro photographer will certainly raise the bar. Timing had to be perfect, the skiff had to be set up right, and the fly anglers on the skiff had to have their act together and be able to work well as a team poling and/or fishing.
Our tools: My Mercury 115ProXs powered Maverick 18 Mirage flats boat, a range of old school and new school G Loomis fly rods, lots of different flies, and lady luck.
With my good buddy Rick De Paiva tagging along to capture todays events, we headed off into the darkness of morning in search of silver. The day started off as planned with a 50lb Everglades tarpon to the boat for a quick photo, fly extraction, and safe release. The next species we would spend time on would be the elusive snook. Luckily, our first snooky looking hole held some small tarpon and a snook that was willing to eat a minnow fly. I fought the snook more carefully then I had fought any other snook I have ever hooked. With some luck, I kept the sub-slot snook out of the snags in the water and it finally came to hand. With two out of the way, we moved on to the venerable redfish. We poled the 18ft Maverick flats boat up onto a very shallow flat where the tide was bottoming out. The tide had not been right yet and the mood displayed by the fish were evident of this. It didn’t take long for the tide to turn over and the water to start moving again. Once this happened, our flat lit up with happy spotted flats waving about in a very civilized manner. We caught half a dozen redfish on the tail covered flat before moving off to find our 2 other species in Islamorada. It was difficult leaving so many fish but to catch our next two species, we had to race time and tide. Luckily, at 50mph+ we arrived where we needed to be right on time. While bonefishing, we had a quick shot at a pair of permit that didn’t seem interested in our offerings. Our bonefishing led us to find an area with better current flow. Once we found that, it yielded 4 bonefish shots, 3 fish hooked, and 2 bonefish landed. The toughest of the 5 species was the last challenge to complete our already epic day of fishing. We poled our way onto a flat that should hold permit only to have the red zone on the flat run over by a weekend angler in an Actioncraft with rods flying out the back of his poling platform rod holders and cuda tubes doing pinwheels. Disappointed at what had just occurred, we poled the rest of that flat and didn’t get that permit shot we needed. Coming this close to achieving the ultimate slam only means we should attempt this again another time. Perhaps our next attempt will be more rewarding, as if the day of fishing we just had wasn’t rewarding enough.
Took a raodtrip down to the middle keys last week with a couple of buds to chase the silver king. It became apparent that all three of us have a certifiable obsession with this fish that should probably be addressed by a professional. We were really hoping that we would luck up on the worm hatch and we were rewarded with a couple of nights of worm-slurping goodness (thanks Derek Rust for the heads up). Seeing hundreds of tarpon rolling and eating worms all around your boat is an unblievable experience. However, the fish become more challenging to catch during the worm hatch than we had previously thought. The live bait bite pretty much shut down on the hatch and even though we were getting hundreds of shots, we weren’t getting much response from our worm flies. So leave it to some rednecks from SC to deploy the electric chicken jerk bait because it “sorta looks like a worm”. We hadn’t seen anyone hook-up all night at the bridge, but within 5mins of dropping an exude funky chicken behind the boat, we had a nice fish on. For the two nights during the hatch, we did a number on the big tarpon and went through all of our electric chicken baits – who would have thought that dangling a redfish bait behind the boat would put so many stubborn fish in the air.
Was able to stop and stay in Oak Hill, FL for a couple of nights on the way home to fish the Lagoon and see my friend Eddie. We got on a really great trout bite and got to do a little bit of redfishing.
I’m thinking Blake should rock this mustache full time - he grew it for the week of tarpon fishing and said it was his lucky poon-stache - hahaha.
Thanks to Honson, Derek, and Eddie for helping to make sure our fishing was productive.
Capt. Jay Nelson
I live (recently moved) on a little river in SW Florida that flows or connects into a large river, figuring out the fish movement with tidal flows and spillways has been challenging, but now that I have it down, it has been more than rewarding! I have caught everything from bass to tarpon (And i am not talking the little guys) and all the backcountry saltwater species along with a few fresh water usuals. As most of you know, I fly fish so finding that special fly/color combo was also a must. It ended up being a peach bunny/dear hair slider variant with gold (they can’t say no to this guy)! I obtained a gheenoe when I moved in and it suits my needs perfectly for most of the situations, for it sits in my garage and I can launch it from my back yard with little to no effort. The NOE is a great addition to any anglers line up when need to go backcountry wide and ultra, ultra skinny!! I have also found a way to target ”Sunshine Bass” on fly, which I am currently working on that piece which is going to be a very interesting read! These fish are amazing, they are a cross-breed between a white bass and a striper! The physical charactristics are very close to that of a striper and they range from ~ 5- 12lbs! Stay tuned for the full write up and photos of these trips! Iam also considering shooting a short fly fishing film for these fish for they eat like a big snook and pound for pound fight as hard a jack but have long straight runs into backing like a bone fish!
Last week, I had a good friend with me after work trying his maden luck out on the big snook that have been lurking around lately. It did start a little slow with high winds and a strong opposite tide forcing bait in places that were not natural to the big sand bars creating presentations difficult. Once the tide and wind slowed, my buddy was more than impressed with the power of the river. Non-educated, giant female snook eating even after the first missed hook set (Those are the kind I like!). We ended up with countless numbers but Eric did manage to land 4 big line siders above 34″ and topping the ruler at 38″ with bigger ones lost! Here are the photos from the other day but stay tuned for the Sunshine Bass expedition piece!
BTW: You Gotta love the NOE!!!!
Shake, rattle and shake some more!!
FINALLY… we had a taste of some slightly cooler air and light NE breezes last weekend. The slow transition from summer to fall has been evident in nature. The way the fish behave, the feel of the air, the lack of hot women prancing around at the boat ramp in Miami, my being able to stay out longer during a day of fishing, and my willingness to spend the extra 15 minutes outside cleaning the boat meticulously after a day on the water. I’ve spent a few days in the past couple of months pre-fishing for the Herman Lucerne Tournament but it seems that the last couple of days spent pre-fishing would be the ones that matter most with the changing conditions. Practice days for tournaments such as these can be harsh so I had to take some “me” time to do what I really wanted to do this time of year… chase after bonefish, permit, and tarpon.
We had good success on our practice days fo the Hreman Lucerne Backcountry Memorial fishing tournament. The challenge is to catch 7 species within the Everglades National Park in 2 days… redfish, bonefish, tarpon, black drum, seatrout, snapper, and snook. Though it is a difficult format, if our last 2 practice days will give us any merit, then I will feel confident. Jeremy and I will have to mix in blind casting, sight fishing, trolling motors, poling, fly fishing, plug fishing, jig fishing, and just about every style of fishing you can do in the glade’s to meet what nature throws at us these next couple of days. The good news is, my Maverick 18 HPX-V skiff is set up to do it all. I’m taking a day off to rest tomorrow before the weekend of hardcore fishing begins. Wish me luck and I wish you all good fishing this next weekend…
Last week I was out of town for a few days attending DOA writer’s event at River Palm cottages. The writer’s event is a once a year event put on by DOA lures to help network with writers and manufacturer involved with the company through out the years. It is an invite only event with only about 20-30 people get to attend each year in the summer time.
Essentially it is a very laid back atmosphere where the writers/photographers/manufactures mingle, eat, drink and fish for two days. I find this a lot more fun than attending the shows since everyone is not “on guard”.
Amongst the sponsors this year was Johnson outdoors(Minnkota, Canon down riggers, Humminbird), Hobie Kayaks, Plano, Seagar, Costa Del Mar, Shimano and of course River Palm Cottages. I got to talk to many of the manufacture about up and coming products as well as test out some of the new gear on the verge of being release this year.(more on this later)
The weather we had for the 2 day event was very stormy and cloudy for the most part. One minute it would be fine then 15minutes later a rain shower would come down on us. The mornings usually was calm and predictable and as the day goes by the storm clouds would build up and it starts to pour down. The weather made for some interesting fishing indeed.
The first day on my boat was local guide, Captain Greg Snyder and Blair Wiggins the host of the TV show Addictive Fishing. These guys are excellent fisherman and a blast to hang out with. They are good friends and you can definitely tell.
Greg was running his 22′ Action craft Costal bay and wanted to go for snook early in the morning, hit the tarpon then go after permit. The snook at first light started off a bit slow but they got going good. The lure of choice that day was the Clear with silver specks DOA 1/4oz shrimp. We had several break offs on the 40lb leader and manage to land a few, the largest being about 10lbs.
Next we moved on to the tarpon which rolling right off the beach. Casting shrimp, terror eyes and bait busters we did not get an eat on our boat. The boat next to us did get an eat on a DOA cal jerk bait. The fish was hooked on 15lb braid and took quite a long time to land. Since the boat was with the event I snapped some shots before leaving to look for permit.
Now when Greg told me he has been catching permit on DOA terror eyes I shook my head but deep down inside I sorta, well, kinda didn’t really thought it was a consistent thing. With the overcast skies seeing the permit flashing was next to impossible. We drove around for a while catching random bonito, blue runners and such. Around 2 pm the cloud started to clear for us and could see large flashes in the distance. Up on further inspecting these were large 20-30lb Jacks which we did not want any part of.
Just as we were about to move, a pod of permit swam up to the back of boat. Everyone started casting the brown terror eyes(304 Rootbeer/Gold Glitter). I can remember thinking, “I wished we had some crabs..” then Greg hooks up. Then I was thinking “Jack?” but it wasn’t moving fast. Greg brings in a nice permit and was then a believer. I put down the camera and started to cast along with Blair. The Blair hooks up and lands his. After some photos I then hooked up one. Unfortunately mine got wrapped around the wreck/structure and broke me off.
At this point the bite slowed and the storms started to rolled and so we decided to called the trip and head back to River Palms to join everyone for dinner. The next 2 days was filled with over cast skies and intermittent thunder storms. This was definitely not fun for taking good photos.
This change in the weather slowed the fishing down for us while fishing with with Mark Nichols of DOA and Hobie Kayak guys. There were fish caught but not of the size we were looking for. Darn mother nature turned the switch on us and it just did not happen for us that day. It was however, quite an adventure that day dodging storms. I also got some great video of Mark’s 15 year boat filled with all kinds of useful and funny contraptions he conjured up.
Quick video of How to work a DOA Terror Eyz for permit. If you look carefully I’m using the new 2012 Shimano Stradic FJ and the new Shimano $49.00 price point spinning rod. (for the price it’s excellent!)
This has been a very strange 2011 Tarpon season! We had a great pre-season, finding Tarpon in a new area where we could easily see them swimming across white sand and then laid up just off the sand! Once it was time to leave the backcountry and escape to the beach, the winds came throwing a very heavy silt blanket on our Gulf Beaches making it almost impossible to see fish. The awful water clarity finally gave away 2 weeks ago presenting fishable waters once again. The problem then was lack of fish…Last year at this time it was not uncommon to see 500 + fish swim past you on an average day. After talking to many guides and anglers down south, the outlook is grim. It appears the keys tarpon are gone, which would only mean we are not too far away from the end of the season. Last Sunday we had Ed from South Padre Island Texas on the skiff to learn a little about fly fishing for Tarpon. It was very dissappointing from 10AM – 4PM, seeing only a few fish. We decided to give it a little longer as we discussed various types of fly fishing, fly fishing while being married, tarpon patterns, Biscayne Bay vs Keys, poling a skiff on the ocean vs backcountry, etc.. We even discussed what type of depression medicine would be needed if indeed our season was truly over so soon. The wind and seas kicked up and then it happened ~ like a light switch, we had fish swimming both North and South bound. Finally, not only did we have fish, but we found that particular line and they were swimming at the boat in masses. This was the sight for very sore eyes. We ended up sticking three of them before the lights went out. I am confident now that our season is not over, it will just take a little more effort in watching that tide and keeping your head in the game! Here are a some photos from the past few weeks. The A.W. Dimock Tarpon Tournament (Fly Only) is next Friday and hopefully the fish will swim for us!
There are many ways one can catch a Tarpon – but trying to catch them on fly requires a certain individual. An individual dedicated enough to go through the hardships that will most definitly come during a season. Being a weekend warrior we have really about only 28 days we can fish. Out of those 28 days there are very few that are perfect. I hope that one day I can escape from the weekend warrior tag and become an angler who can pick and choose the days to seach for Tarpon. And yes, Jet Skies and pleasure boaters are your enemy!
I did get a few days to watch the meat chuckers do their thing with their 9 Rods filled with 100lb mono and piece of cut mullet or catfish on an 8/0 Hook!
Lets hope that the season is not over and we can continue to chase these wonderful fish a little longer this year!
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