We got out for a few hours with a couple of friends down in Boca. We ran Adam’s boat with Capt.Cameron and got on a nice Tarpon bite.
Tested out the Spooltek Lure, 13fishing Concept C low profile reel and the Envy Rod combo.
Here is a quick video clip of one of the double hook up we had.
Boca Paila Lodge, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Boca Lodge remains one of the flagship flats fishing and shallow water destinations of the Yucatan. All it takes is one quick flight from any American hub to Cancun and you’ll be picked up by their personal van. The drive -which lasts a couple hours- will take you through the historic ruins of Tulum and along the trendy posadas to the south of the city. About a half hour’s drive down the road to Punta Allen and the lodge appears out of the palm tree and beach vista with the vast Caribbean on your left and the endless lagunas on your right. This destination has been under the ownership of the Gonzalez family from the start and continues to please anglers and non-anglers alike after decades of operation. And the best news is that the highly-publicized crime to the north is basically a non-issue in the Yucatan. Here’s a collection of images from this wonderful place.
CONTACT DATA: www.bocapaila.com
Belize River Lodge’s Long Caye Outpost
Belize River Lodge has long been a mainstay of flats and inshore fly and light tackle fishing in this marvelous country. One can almost call it a venerable institution with a history of having served some of the world’s best anglers. A couple of years ago, the lodge (BRL) acquired an excellent offshore property on Long Caye, which lies offshore smack dab in the heart of incredible flats fishing. While I was there with friend Captain Ken Collette, we caught bonefish only steps away from our breeze-swept second story room. But let me not get ahead of myself. When Long Caye opened, Barry and Cathy Beck covered the new operation from a fly fishing perspective. Very soon thereafter, I was on my way to the very same venue on behalf of the light tackle and lure community. The pictures that follow suggest- as they should- this tropic island and surrounding flats is the stuff of angling dreams.
CONTACT DATA: www.belizeriverlodge.com
TarponTown Anglers-Campeche, Mexico Reprise
Jan S. Maizler
“Every effective angling travel trip begins months before departure”-
I’d been hearing about the discovery and unfolding of a prolific baby tarpon fishery on the west coast of the Yucatan peninsula for about 2 years. I was anxious to experience what all the buzz was about and so I made arrangements to visit the epicenter of the fishery in Campeche, Mexico. Since tarpon behave consistently- be it in Florida, the Caribbean, or central America, I booked my dates in June, a month that would assure me water temperatures over 75 degrees, relatively calm weather, as well as a time of year when the threat of hurricanes and tropical storms was not at its’ peak.
The pre-trip research I always did revealed that most of the fishery involved grassflats as well as mangrove canals. Therefore, I was sure to time my visit during the quarter moon neap tides- this would insure that the low tides would not be so extreme as to drive the fish completely out of the mangrove forests and into the expansive Gulf of Mexico. Conversely, it would also insure that the high tides would not be so extreme as to flood the mangroves and give the tarpon and rest of the game fish an overabundance of water to spread out in.
Amongst the guides and operators in Campeche, I chose Raul Castaneda of Tarpon Town Anglers. I got a distinct impression from his web site (in contrast to one or two other operations) that his fully licensed charter service had a multi-species and multi-tackle orientation. This would be important for at least two reasons. Firstly, it would give me the widest opportunities to search out and experience the broadest possible facets of a new fishery that I’d be covering. Secondly, it might also predict how open-minded the operating philosophy of his charter service would be as to welcoming light tackle anglers and flyfishers alike as well as the species they could pursue.
When I spoke to him on the phone, his friendly efficient demeanor and response to my questions indicated his obvious broadmindedness as to scope of anglers and fish species alike. I was convinced that I’d chosen the right man. He made it clear to me that while he and his five guides generally targeted tarpon, they were also open to catching snook, jacks, snapper, grouper, barracuda, and seatrout (locally called corvina). In fact, Raul’s willingness to experiment with my friend Art and I would result not only in confirming the excellent light tackle tarpon fishing, but it aided in my discovery of the finest spotted seatrout fishing I had ever experienced! My thinking even went so far as to discuss with Raul the three species that could constitute a “Campeche Slam”, but the fishing was so good, I never got around to it.
Given that the primary target species were tarpon, it was no surprise that the fishery was a boat-based experience. With that feature in mind, I asked Raul about the vessels that comprised TarponTown’s charter fleet. His charter service offered four pangas with either center console or tiller layouts. Two of the engines were modern Honda four-stroke engines. The other two skiffs had dependable Yamaha two-stroke motors. All of the fishing to be done would be by motoring to the outskirts of our target area, and then by poling the pangas into and through the fished areas, which were either open grass flats, mangrove edges, or canals that ran through the “bush.”
All of his skiffs had VHF radios, cell phones, GPS units, loads of drinking water, ice chests full of sandwiches, cookies, and fruit, and notably, extra gas tanks, which gave the vessels additional running range needed for searching out baby silver kings in this huge habitat. In addition, for family group fishing and/or offshore operation, Raul had an excellent 28-foot center console vessel with a tee-top on hand.
The research I did about the city of Campeche itself indicated that it was a delightful destination for anglers and non-anglers alike. The city itself had about 250,000 residents, which gave it a “big enough, but not too big” quality.
Campeche city is the capital of the Mexican state of Campeche and it lies on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The city was founded around 1540 by Spanish conquistadors right on top of the pre-existing Mayan city of Canpech. The city nowadays is graced with a beautiful historic district that is replete with excellent restaurants, arts and crafts galleries, and entertainment complexes. In addition, the countryside- which lays in the Yucatan interior- features some breathtaking and splendid Mayan ruins. For the manicured sportsman, the city offers golf, while anglers and their friends and family looking to go “green” have a number of kayak operations to choose from.
Platformed on top of all these exciting prospects was Raul’s plan to have us stay at the beautiful Ocean View Hotel. As the name implies, it sits right across the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. I was informed that we would take an early yet sumptuous breakfast at the hotel before leaving for the close by marina where his pangas were moored. When we returned to the Ocean View, a dip in the pool would be a welcome prospect, as would a massage at the hotel’s modern state of the art spa. With all these wonderful features, Art and I decided this was definitely a “with-spouses” trip.
The Campeche Fishing Begins-
The first day of fishing began with Art and I fishing with our guide Juan, whose facial features and eyes gave him the nickname, “Chino.” Fernando followed us around in another panga for use as a camera boat. Though we were pleased to see it was a fair weather sky, the obvious brisk northeasterly winds were sure to give us a challenge in terms of spotting the tarpon as the grassflats off Campeche were carpeted with countless wavelets just past the mangrove “wind shadow” all the way out to the endless Gulf horizon. Also, it had been our experience that tarpon in the shallows are generally less reluctant to roll compared to their frolicking in bathtub-calm seas.
Nevertheless, with two great guides, two pangas, and Juan’s ever-present hand-held GPS, we were able to find tarpon- and lots of them! Our guides carefully scanned the “down-wave” seas with fair success by splitting up by 100 yards and double-teaming their spotting by talking on their VHF radios. We were able to get off about 20 casts to these outside fish, but managed only a few light strikes on our ¼ ounce white Spro bucktails and 3/8 -ounce red and white Backbone lures. Art employed 8-pound spinning tackle and I used 10-pound plug tackle.
We decided to move into the mangrove canals for more windless conditions. I pared down my fluorocarbon leader from 40-pound test to 30-pound test. We spotted a few fish deep in the forest, but they, too, seemed reluctant to strike. After 6 hours of fishing, we decided to pack it in and head south to Campeche. I have to confess I insisted that Juan stop the skiff a few miles from port so we could cast to a school of big jacks and some huge houndfish that were savaging a massive school of sardines. The jacks were locally called “corel” and ran to 5 pounds- they were great fighters! The houndfish ran to an incredible 7 pounds and fought like baby sailfish. Juan found these fish amusing, but his expression went to careful caution when he had to unhook these writhing monsters. We then headed in with some of our hunger for action sated.
Day #2- Success Both Early and Late-
Raul joined us this day in the second skiff. We were pleased to see that the conditions were overcast and flat calm. We ran north for over an hour to one of Raul’s secret spots. As soon as the two skiffs came off plane in unison, both guides pointed to a huge area that seemed coated with rolling tarpon- the fish were so numerous I felt like I was in a dream!
My first cast was about 10 feet in front of and past a slow moving school of small tarpon. After the second sweep of my rod, I had a solid strike and drove my hook hard as I struck back. Seconds later, a 15-pound specimen went flying into the air. I made short work of this fish on my plug tackle. It felt good that my first tarpon release came on my first cast. We spent that magic morning jumping lots of fish and releasing a few more.
But midday meant a change of venue, as our plans called for us to experience as many species and methods as possible in Campeche. Juan and Raul discussed our next move and they decided to run south-southwest to a reefy area in 6 feet of water that they said was ideal for casting lures on light tackle. After a 1-hour run to the spot, we had a few hours left to fish. Juan told me to cast my white Spro bucktail to the light areas on the bottom. As long as we kept our casts accurate and started our jigging on the bottom, we were rewarded with grouper, small cubera snappers, and barracuda topping 15 pounds. As the sun began setting, we got underway to head back to the city after an excellent day of fishing.
Day #3- A Seatrout Extravaganza
Since we had reached an agreement that we would devote one morning to seatrout, and this morning’s flat cloudy conditions replicated yesterday’s weather, today would be the day. Raul agreed to an even earlier start this day so we had the maximized low light hours seatrout often like.
Today, Raul, Juan and Fernando would be joining Art and I as fellow anglers: it was clear that they were looking forward to doing some fishing themselves. We all hopped into Raul’s big center console vessel and got underway. The total time from the marina to the grass beds was 5 minutes and right off downtown.
While the other anglers started out casting bucktails, Juan gave me a wink and rigged my plug rod with a ¼-ounce jighead rigged with a yellow and orange soft plastic grub. Almost immediately, everyone hooked up with seatrout, yet I observed that the biggest fish-, which almost ran to 5-pounds-, were caught on my colorful grub. In three hours we had released over 65 trout and had kept another half-dozen for the table.
After we’d caught our fill of trout with a frequency and size I’d never experienced in my home waters of Florida, we called it quits even though we were deep in the middle of an ongoing trout bite. My afternoon was to be taken up with Raul’s driver, Nacho, taking my wife and I inland to visit the spectacular Mayan ruins at Edzna.
Day #4- Fishing, Then Farewell-
The last morning was arranged for Art and I to sample the tarpon fishing south of Campeche along the rocky beaches. We were in 1 panga that day, as Juan ran south from downtown for about a half hour. Juan slowed down and cut the engine as we could see some gulls working a sardine school close to a shoreline. As he poled closer, we could see tarpon rolling in the midst of the bait school.
I hooked up a small tarpon on my second cast and released it. Art and I jumped a few more baby silver kings in the next hour. When we saw another melee down the beach, I asked Juan to take us there. All that action turned out to be a big jack attack and those wonderful fish hit practically anything we threw at them!
Since we had an afternoon plane to catch, we reluctantly headed back to port. During our farewell with Raul at the airport, I was quick to make it clear this was not “goodbye”- it was only “until next time.”
Web site: http://www.tarpontown.com/
Tranquility Bay Resort is located far to the north of San Pedro, tucked away on a beach all by itself. During my stay I caught bonefish right in front of my cabana. At night under the restaurant dock lights I caught tarpon, horse-eye jack and big mangrove snappers- all of them on BackBone jigs. Playing around on the patch reefs on one of the lodge boats we caught and released loads of snappers on pilchards. I also lost some huge barracudas because the wire leaders were simply not heavy enough. Their website is www.tranquilitybayresort.com .
PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.
The summer heat isn’t the only cause for anglers perspiring at the thought of our National Parks right now. The recent National Park closures have sparked some heat among us fisherman who really enjoy this great resource we have in South FL. Times like these leave me reflecting on the great memories raising Hell in the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks this past summer. Law Enforcement is now patrolling the boundary line entering the ENP from the Keys but I can’t help but feel tempted to cross over and pole some of my favorite flats until the blue lights chase us.
Fall is approaching now as we are adorned by NE winds following the last few storms of the year. As the season takes a shift, so does our fishery. The park closures have kept man out of the glades and there is no telling what we will find when the gates open up once more. I, for one am anxious to get back to my slices of heaven… Everglades and Biscayne National Park.
An Afternoon on the Knot Nancy
Jan S. Maizler
Some History- Then, A Simple Plan-
Many moons and years can pass without any frequent contact between the shallow water skiff anglers and the center console fleet. Sure, they may greet each other at the dock and near the inlets- and even “call out” while sharing some fired-up bay bridges. But generally, those worlds only briefly merge- and, to me, that seemed like far too little.
That was specifically the case with Captain Dave Kostyo and me. I’d been hearing of his successful tarpon, and ocean trips out of his “big vessel” for perhaps thirty years. His stability and reputation made me think of him as a pillar of the center console/light tackle community of Greater Miami and I promised myself I’d fish with him one day.
The times and tides of travels and career as well as my motivations came together during the Fall mullet run and I called Captain Dave (A.K.A. “Dave”) to see whether he had any times open to take me fishing aboard his 28-foot Whitewater vessel, the “Knot Nancy.” And I was glad to find out that he did. We agreed to go out in just three days on a Friday afternoon for about four or five hours. Dave felt that a trip bracketing 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. would span the magic sunset hours that were so often associated with a good tarpon bite plus provide some furious action on gamesters that were blasting the finger mullet all around that big island called Miami Beach.
Dave told me the Knot Nancy was moored and sails out of T.N.T. Marine in Miami. The entrance to the marina was downright simple to find. All I did was to get myself to the intersection of N.E. 135th Street and Biscayne Boulevard and then go east on 135th for one-half block- the entrance was on my right-or the south side of the street. After going through under the metal portal, I proceeded all the way to the back where the boats were safely nestled in the protected waters of Arch Creek. Dave’s vessel was obvious not just by the well-placed signage, but the Christmas tree plenty of fishing outfits in the rod holders spoke loudly of a rig getting ready to rumble.
I quickly parked my car and came aboard to say hello. After the pleasure of introductions with Captain Dave, I met Captain Gil Gutierrez who would be joining us on our short and bold project. Captain Gil is Dave’s associate and he has a big center console vessel- “Lucky Fishing Charters”- moored right alongside the Knot Nancy.
Dave quickly fired up his twin Yamaha 150 four-strokes and we were soon idling eastward on the canal. Dave mentioned that we were well prepared with a livewell brimming with freshly netted finger mullet. Those were the kind of satisfactory preparations that puts a reassuring aura to a fishing trips’ beginning- but I was really interested in Dave’s shiny new fishing tackle. When I asked him what basic outfit I’d be fishing with, he handed me one of his newest spin outfits graced with a fine Penn Conquerer spinning reel, which was spooled with 30-pound braided line. Dave told me he was delighted with this reel’s dependable performance in a fishery notorious for beating up tackle. I told Dave I’d been having excellent results with Penn’s Battle line of spinning reels in my own tarpon fishing.
As the boat idled along backyards graced with big lawns and seemingly bigger yachts, I asked Dave about his favorite terminal tackle setup for tarpon. He told me that his standard rig was a few feet of 50-pound fluorocarbon leader topped off with an 8/0 Eagle Claw circle hook. I was surprised by the lightness of a leader that would be -or had been- involved with combat-level rod pressure with leaping fish that often exceeded one hundred pounds. When I brought up my reservation about the leader to Dave, he mentioned that a secondary beauty of using a no-strike-needed circle hook was that the fish was inevitably hooked at the jaw hinge rather than deeper in its’ mouth. The predictable hookup spot kept the leader outside of those rough chafing bony jaws and therefore allowed him to go lighter on the leader. This also had the benefit of getting more strikes in clearer winter waters than the thick 80-pound stuff many charter boats still use on the Silver King.
I asked Dave to tell me about his usual clients and his charter customer philosophy. He enthusiastically told me that while he was used to fishing with experts, he especially loved taking out families on an angling adventure for tarpon, sailfish, or even some species for the table. He felt that the expertly-guided fishing he provided not only left his families free to bond with each other in the vast marine outdoors- but it also gave the family a chance to grow together as they learned all the different techniques that were offered on the Knot Nancy. Captain Dave told me that everyone was welcome aboard his vessel. That included people with a physical handicap, but wheelchair anglers would have to be boarded further along the marina at the more properly positioned gas dock.
The Action Comes Fast-
As soon as the three of us entered the open expanse of north Biscayne Bay, we sighted some wheeling and diving birds in a direct lineup with HauloverBridge. Dave pushed down the throttles as soon as he was in the channel proper and it wasn’t long before we were close to the action. We all could see blowups much more clearly and in the remaining distance of a football field we could see showering finger mullet being pushed by predators below them. Captain Dave said he planned to make a slow troll through the action and he made a wide arc to the northwest with the wind behind him. As we made this maneuver, even more gulls filled up the china blue sky above us. Gil rigged two spinners with finger mullet, free-spooled them back to the proper trolling distance, closed the bails and placed the outfits in the rod holders. I positioned myself in the bow with one of Dave’s plug rods rigged with a D.O.A. BaitBuster. In seconds, both stern rods went off and came tight via their circle hooks with jumping bluefish. I ran to the stern, fired off a cast past the hooked fish and came tight within three or four turns of the plug reel with another jumping blue.
We got the bluefish in quickly and caught a few more- but since our goal was mainly a tarpon, we left the action to net some more finger mullet and began tarpon fishing in the Cut. There was very little action for fifteen minutes and Dave knew the brief time I had allotted to the trip was important. He told us to reel in and he headed south to Government Cut. Because of the slowdowns for bridges and speed zones, that time took about thirty minutes.
Dave had done some research earlier that day with other captains and was told that there were tarpon spotted and hooked south of the south jetty- so this is where we headed to begin our slow trolling. Within five minutes, I saw two tarpon roll- as did Dave- and we trolled over where we guessed the dissipating “rings” of the rolls had been. One of the rods heeled over and the drag screamed as a chunky medium-sized tarpon went airborne. I grabbed the rod out of the holder and kept consistent hard pressure until I had the fish alongside about twenty minutes later. The three of us estimated the tarpon to be around fifty to sixty pounds. Dave unhooked the fish, breathed it, and released it into the green briny depths it currently called home.
While Dave and Gil were preparing for another troll, I told them that I was satisfied we’d reached our goal so efficiently and I was ready to go to the “barn.” As the Knot Nancy made for her port at T.N.T., I felt that familiar gloating satisfaction -but future hunger- of leaving the fish while they were still in a “bite”- and I suspected that with Captains Dave and Gil that this duo were “on fish” so much of the time.
Captain Dave Kostyo
Web Site- www.knotnancy.com
Captain Gil Gutierrez
Web Site- www.luckyfishingcharters.com
Joint Web Site-
Fishing Jupiter to Miami in Eight Hours
Jan S. Maizler
These days it’s almost indispensible for a journalist to submerge themselves in the social media to make contacts, keep them alive, and have a ready live audience for their craft. On Facebook alone, I’ve made countless angling and travel friends. And that’s where I met Captain Jason Sullivan. He’s a rising star in South Florida’s shallow water fishery. His charters cover some very diverse habitats. This includes paddle fishing for largemouth and peacock bass in Florida’s SawgrassRecreationPark. He also provides night fishing charters in his Maverick HPX for tarpon and snook along the Gold Coast, plus angling in every nook and cranny in the EvergladesNational Park.
Our new friendship proceeded and when the fall arrived, each of us made the time to fish together. Jason offered his skills and skiff to make a night trip to encounter the unfolding fall mullet run in Jupiter, Florida. When we discussed the trip features, Jason mentioned that he was a fly and lure specialist- which meant there’d be no messy or time-consuming live bait runs: he’d have all the necessary tackle on the boat at the ready. In addition, the plan of meeting at the Bass Pro Shop at Dania Beach and then riding up together made the trip seem quite simple- and I was all for it.
The appointed time arrived and as we drove up I-95 the remnants of the setting sun fractured into the horizon as the inky blue night occupied all of the sky. The major topic of conversation was the recent massive rainfall(s) caused by tropical weather systems and cyclones. South Florida was flooded with rain- particularly in the interior. The SFWMD had opened all the canals to relieve this massive glut of liquid; which in turn left Jupiter and St. Lucie Inlets corrupted by dirty volumes of storm water. The outgoing tides especially would send out plumes of filth that went well into the ocean. There were even reports of dead grass carp floating a few miles offshore of this entire two-city area.
Our brisk conversation made the trip go quickly and soon- a relative term- Jason was launching his skiff at BurtReynoldsPark. As we eased towards Jupiter Inlet, a silvery moon was ascending into the firmament to the east. We soon carefully idled by an SUP regatta with about 20 paddlers. In the moonlight and the darkness, they looked surreal. Despite the “slow zones”, it did not take long for Jason to arrive at his first well-lit dock. He cut his outboard and put his electric motor to the task of closing in for the last hundred feet.
As we got within casting range of the yellowish orb cast on the water, we saw about a dozen snook finning into the incoming tide. Jason gave me a spinner rigged with a plastic jerkbait and I made a perfect upcurrent cast. Two of the fish peeled away from the pod of linesiders and followed my lure without striking it. A few more casts proved these fish to be sluggish and unresponsive. This was also the case with the next two lighted docks.
When we eased over to the fourth dock, we saw and heard some snook popping- a clear sign that these fish were in a more active feeding mode. Jason carefully positioned his skiff with his electric trolling motor to give me the perfect presentation. As I readied myself on the bow, Jason handed me a new spinning outfit rigged with a fresh weightless Gulp shrimp. Both of us saw an especially nice fish under the dock shadow. He told me to make my presentation upcurrent and reel the offering on the surface. My cast was good and my retrieve was even better. The snook struck immediately. I sunk the hook hard and began to fast-stroke it away from the dock. I told Jason to plane the fish away as well by electric-motoring his skiff away from the dock. The strategy worked and a few minutes later we were posing a nice eight–pound fish for photos.
We had a few more strikes-albeit half-hearted-at the next few docks. But when the tide died and started to ebb, the water grew filthy and the fish turned off. Yet we felt successful for the few hours’ fellowship and agreed to fish my home waters of (north) Biscayne Bay for the same amount of time the following week.
A few days before we’d meet, I phoned Jason to ask him if he was open to cut-baiting some of the indigenous fish in my home waters of North Bay. I was relieved to hear he was open to that technique. Towards that end, I picked up some fresh frozen pilchards and majua at a local tackle shop. In addition, I planned on bringing a few of my own spinners that were rigged “old school” with monofilament line. Those that know me may also know my position that soft-mouthed sea trout and jumping tarpon stay hooked better with “forgiving” mono.
We met at PelicanHarbor boat ramp about two hours before dawn so that we could try some tarpon fishing along some of the area bridges and docks. That effort yielded a couple sea trout, but the multi-barred sunrise lifting in the east told us it was time to run to some nearby grassflats for an early morning bite. As we got within a hundred yards of the flat, we could see diving pelicans, and large schools of migrating mullet dimpling, sizzling, and jumping at the surface. This was exactly where we wanted to be. Jason idled within about a hundred feet of an especially large school of mullet and then turned off his engine. As he poled in to close the distance, I cut up some of the baits that were soaking in a small bucket.
I handed him one of my rods, which was rigged with eight-pound mono, a length of forty-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a 2/0 Tru-Turn hook. I baited him up with a pilchard slice and he cast smack dab in the middle of a mullet school- indeed a very nervous school! His line came tight within moments and he struck hard. In the distance, a big trout came to the surface thrashing up a storm- clearly unhappy that he was hooked. As Jason played the fish lightly, I cast out with the same kind of rig and was rewarded with similar results within a minute. In short time, we both released good fish of a few pounds each. Jason remarked at the size of the fish- a comment I’ve heard many times. I told him to be ready for fish that were even bigger.
We continued catching trout with regularity, and we periodically hooked a few pinfish as well. Rather than release them, I cut them up into chunk baits and told Jason to start fishing with these baits instead: this was when we began to catch even bigger trout pushing five pounds. Although we did not match the hatch, we were feeding some gators just the bait they wanted and we released a half dozen North Bay giant “spotsides”.
Jason had an especially hard “take” and struck back. We were delighted to see a medium tarpon of around forty pounds go airborne. I really wanted some photos of this fish, so Jason played the fish lightly against a leader of only forty pounds. It took about thirty minutes- as well as a chase of about a half-mile- before we were able to leader the fish for photos.
We returned to the flat and though the rising sun was suppressing the action, we caught more trout, as well as some small ‘cuda and large mangrove snappers. As we idled back to the boat ramp, we had a pleasant chat about what a well-planned span of fishing could yield- and one lasting only eight hours!
Captain Jason Sullivan- Rising Tide Charters
Web Site- www.tarponfishing-miami.com
SaltyShores Close-Up: Anna Maria Island, Florida
Jan S. Maizler
Like so many things in life, meeting good folks is a combination of persistent effort and favorable opportunity. In recent years I heard more and more about the exploits and angling successes of Captain Jason Stock in the Sarasota/Bradenton/Tampa area. The reports and pictures of his kayak and wade-caught snook, sea trout, and redfish were truly impressive. I also liked the unpretentious enthusiasm his fishing pictures conveyed: clearly, this was a guide that loved to catch fish and even more, loved the thrill of battle on his angler’s faces. His non-migratory game fish were taken on lures- which is my favorite kind of fishing. And I’d discovered that Jason had added a flats boat to his charter operation, a bonus that would certainly add to fishable waters. I would also learn that after our fishing together, Jason obtained a Hanson center console boat, which not only furthered his offshore ability but also provided a mothership for kayaks to fish longer and more remote waters. But our day-or, perhaps, two- would be out of his skiff.
I couldn’t hide the fact that Jason plied some of my favorite fishing waters. I contacted Jason last summer to fish a day or two with him in the Sarasota area. Fortunately, he had an open date or two for me in a few weeks and I committed to it. While I’d be staying down in Siesta Key, we agreed to meet at the boat ramp at the northern end of (and across the bridge from) Longboat Key. I was more than happy to take that wonderful drive up 41 through downtown, and then to Bird, St. Armands, and then, Longboat Key. What makes Sarasota so special is that the superb angling is matched by beaches, stores, restaurants, art galleries, and the kinds of attractions that all travelers are compelled to love. I am proud to say I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been to Sarasota. Three places I planned on dining at- and in fact, did- were the Café L‘Europe and Columbia on St. Armands Key and Ophelias on the Bay in Siesta Key.
Flats Fishing with Jason-
As dawn peeked over the horizon to the east, I arrived at the boat ramp and could see that Jason was waiting for me. As I climbed aboard, he fired up his engine and told me we’d be heading over to the flats in this early morning stillness to try for seatrout on topwater plugs and soft plastic swimbaits. It did not take long to reach for us to reach our spot. Jason pulled out two spinning outfits from the racks. They both featured stiff graphite rods and reels with braided line finished with a light fluorocarbon leader and a “Zara-style” topwater plug. I knew from past experience that with the tackle we were using, mere finessed sweeps of the rod were sufficient to get the plugs dancing.
All it took were a couple long casts for both Jason and I to get solid strikes and hookups on seatrout. As we reeled them in to the boat, they appeared to be around two to three pounds-nice respectable sized fish. After we got some photos, we released the spotted gamesters and resumed fishing. And, again, the hookups were almost immediate! It’s a rare pleasure to cast plugs into a flat-calm bay in soft light and have your lure exploded on…kind of like a firecracker in a library or sanctuary. No doubt, Jason had us on the trout, one after another. After I had the necessary photos, I was careful to limit all the hookups, lest I grow spoiled with all the action- or worse, forget that these frenzied moments were the exception, not the rule.
Battle in the Channel-
Still, we wanted a catch as many species as possible, so Jason cranked it up and pointed his skiff towards the northern end of Anna Maria Island. While we were underway, Jason explained that he’d be fishing the edge of Passage Key Inlet for gag groupers which lately had been stacked up and striking live baits.
When we arrived Jason got out his Sabiki rods so we could catch some live pinfish. After we had about a dozen lively baits in his ample livewell, Jason idled into the deeper section of the channel. He pulled out two of his heaviest tarpon rods and tightened down the drags on the reels. Jason warned me that the strikes would be fierce and drive like freight trains back down to the bottom.
I got my pinfish to the right depth and waited but I had no idea how strong the strike would be. After losing two good fish to cutoffs, I succeeded in “fast stroking” my third away from the bottom and marveled how a seven pound fish pull so fiercely. We took some photos and caught three more grouper, while losing the rest to cutoffs.
It was mid-morning and Jason felt we should turn our attention to tarpon. With the sun this high, visibility would be excellent for spotting cruising fish as well as the customary rolling fish. Jason only had to pilot his vessel around the corner of the northern tip of AnnaMariaIsland for our search to begin.
Not surprisingly, we were not alone in our quest. As we began to idle southward off the beach, Jason readied two tarpon rods with live crab baits which would be fished under corks. As we searched, the crabs were carefully (and non-tanglingly) stowed in his livewell in a “pitch bait” mode.
Over the next four hours, we spotted about six schools of silver kings that were running fast and clearly not “happy.” We finally spotted a school of “southbounders” that had not been harassed by other vessels and moving at a non-anxious pace. Jason fired up his outboard and ran his vessel a hundred yards forward so we could be on an intercept path with them. We could clearly see their approach and “lead” the fish with perfect casts.
I had a fish rush my crab and suck it in, so I reeled up the slack so my circle hook could do its’ work. But evidently, the tarpon had blown out the bait before that could happen.
Ending with a Spot-
By this time, it was mid-afternoon and our adventure had only an hour or two left. I was hankering for a more reliable species and let Jason know that. It was not surprising that he would suggest a return to the inside waters to round out our day with some redfish. Jason ran his skiff to PalmaSolaBay and slowly idled over some potholes. He cut his engine and said he was confident that the afternoon breeze would take the skiff over the right areas that we could cast to. Jason gave me a rod with a weedless spoon and told me to cast to either sighted fish or to the potholes. I was really impressed with the numbers of redfish that flushed from our skiff. Finally, I had a solid strike and reeled in a nice redfish of about seven pounds. After that we released a few more redfish. Then it was time to end our day.
As we headed back to the boat ramp, I reflected back on the wonderful action Jason put us on, yet also looked forward to Ophelias crab cakes down south on Siesta Key. Clearly, I’d have to fish with Jason again…and the sooner, the better.
Captain Jason Stock
Web Site- www.jmsnookykayakcharters.com