Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Changing Seasons

Even in The Everglades the colors change with the seasons. With the daily rains pretty much ended the land will begin to dry and will make for easier access to many of the places I frequently fish and explore in the winter. With every trip lately I’m seeing more varieties of the migratory birds that spend the winter here. The spectacular White Pelicans are beginning to arrive in the bay and a couple of times in the backcountry this last week I’ve seen a few woodland species that pass through from the north such as small flocks of Cardinals. There also appears to be more of the raptors around and even though a few species of these birds inhabit the area others of the same species with migrate to the area for the winter. I’ve spotted Peregrine Falcons a couple of times over the last week athough I’m not sure that these are migratory birds. On one lake in the backcountry there was a small group of Pied-Billed Grebes, a strange small duck like bird that dives to feed much like a Cormorant would and also dives to hide when alarmed.

A couple of weeks ago it seemed to be pretty barren of fish in some of the backcountry areas I visit but this week I’ve seen a big change. There has been a lot of activity with the schools of baitfish that are around with Snook and Tarpon feeding on them. When I’ve been there many of the fish have been far back in the hard to reach mangroves feeding. It is still awesome to hear the distinct popping sound snook make as they feed on the schools of baitfish as they pass by. The baby tarpon make a similar sound under the mangroves where they appear to be a lot of times with the snook. I haven’t caught any of the larger snook yet but I know that it’s just a matter of time as more of the larger fish will make their way into these backcountry areas to spend the winter. I’ve been catching a lot of snook but most of the fish are smaller but still a lot of fun to catch. The same thing goes for the Tarpon, a lot of smaller fish but a blast to catch (or try to catch), especially on fly!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chokoloskee Bay Week

I went out and kayaked and fished Chokoloskee Bay three times this past week. As we’re getting towards winter fishing conditions have improved immensely. Each day I went out I visited different parts of the bay and had similar results. Getting to the full moon the tides have been strong and each day launching the water was very low with the outgoing tide and I had to push through the mud in a couple of places. (For those that don’t know this area well there are large tides here compared to a lot of Florida and especially in the winter there can be a change of up to seven and even eight feet at times) One of the mornings I found a school of nicer size snook working bait schools and it’s been awhile since seeing this in the bay. I fished with a top water plug, a zara spook Jr and had a bit of fun with them. The largest I managed to get in the boat was 33” but hooked up a couple times with fish that were a bit larger. That’s all I’ll say about it except that this is a very exciting situation to be in and the only way to really know what it’s like is to experience something like this for yourself. It was awesome to see these larger fish around again. I couldn’t find any good size redfish around this week but it seems we were invaded by the little guys. Lots of rat reds, very small up to around 18”. Around midmorning each day as the tide would change to incoming the trout bite was on and I fished a few of the different places I fish for them and it was non-stop with almost every cast a hookup. Some schools were real small fish also but in a couple of places they were a good size from 16’ to 18”. I caught one that was 20”. Conditions change so often here in the bay but right now it’s looking real good for our winter fishery. Other fish caught this week were a couple each of black drum, flounder and groupers, lots of lady fish and a few jacks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Way in the back Fishing

The forecast was for scattered rain Thursday and maybe thunderstorms but it wasn't enough to deter me from going fishing and I headed for the backcountry.

I started to make my way in early when there was just a hint of light going through the opening in the mangroves. My incentive was finding some snook feeding at sunrise when I reached my destination. It was anything but easy getting there and I questioned my motives a few times. A lot of the waterway was too narrow to paddle and I had to pull myself through using the grass and mangrove branches along with at the same time brushing off the spider webs that crossed the trail most of the way. It was a relief when I made it to more open water. First thing was to clean off all my gear and get all the debris out of the boat including all the little critters and a few small tree frogs who were hitching a ride. I laugh to myself as to what I put myself through sometimes to get to some of these places to fish. Later in the cooler season this will all change and it will get easier to access.

There was a light rain but I could see some activity and started fishing throwing a top water plug. I’ve been in these kinds of areas a few times over the last couple weeks and hadn’t been able to locate some of the larger snook who usually will spend the cooler months in these areas. Today was not much different but I had a couple of nice follows by bigger fish who would not commit. It will probably take a good cold spell before more fish start to migrate to these areas. I caught a few smaller fish on the top water plug and a few fishing with a small swimbait. I had one nice unexpected hookup with a smaller tarpon on the top water plug along a shoreline.

I knew the tarpon were around as I would see them rolling here and there as I made my way through a couple of the different small lakes. After working my way back to the lake where I began I switched gears and got out the fly rod to see if I could have some fun with them. The fish I had been seeing were mostly smaller size around 5 to maybe 10 pounds. After setting up and anchoring around where I was seeing them I made a practice cast. Catching me off guard as I stripped appears a huge wake following my fly at around twenty feet away and then turns off near the boat making a good wake and disappears. In the excitement and the reflection from the water I couldn’t tell if it was a tarpon, I want to think that it was a large snook. It took me a few minutes to recompose myself... When getting back at it I made casts to the rollers and hooked up three different times but none to the boat but still lots of fun having these crazy fish on the end of your line. Before I called it a day I made some casts with a plug on the spinning rod and caught 2 nice fish both maybe around 7- 8lbs. It wasn't too bad getting back to where I launched. At least I could see what was ahead me.

Here's a couple examples of the unnamed fly's I used today tyed by a friend, Auston.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Passion

After a long and very hot summer the weather is finally making its change to cooler days and much cooler nights. The last week it’s been real nice starting out the day launching with temperatures in the low 70’s. I took the opportunity and did some longer paddles to places I had been planning on exploring and fishing. Two trips were around a 15 mile round trip. I wouldn’t put anybody through what it took to get to these areas but I found a few awesome places to kayak fish and these will be a couple of great places to go with a fairly easy access from a couple of the islands that I camp on. I again got into a couple of schools of smaller tarpon this week along with some snook and reds. It looks like the trout are coming back to a couple of spots I fish for them in the winter and if the water continues to stay cooler the trout fishing will only continue to get better. One other thing I did this week was take an ACA course in paddling and rescue’s from a sea kayak. I’m not a sea kayaker and I feel naked without a fishing pole with me but it was actually interesting and I think it will help when I paddle longer distances correcting my bad habits I’ve developed over the years and to help others showing them the proper ways to paddle in different situations.

A friend of mine sent me a link to this awesome video and if you want to get a taste of fishing here you must check this out. I’m asked so many times what it’s like to fish here or why would I even do it with the heat, bugs, etc. well this video shows the passion and addiction that these guys have also with fishing in the Everglades.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chokoloskee Bay 10/2

Getting an early start I made my way out across the bay. It was nice to see the east winds have subsided for now and it made for a nice start to the day with also the air temperatures in the seventies. With it being cooler at night lately the water temperatures are following. As I arrived into the area I planned on fishing it was full of activity. The bait fish had moved in and with the large schools of mullet that are usually there were large schools of finger mullet along with glass (rain) minnows and other small fry. It was fun to watch all the activity as game and other predator fish fed on them. Included in the mix were a lot of sharks and I watched as one shark which I believe was a large bull shark attacking schools of fish much in the same way as you would see dolphins (or even tarpon) feed.

With all the bait fish that was around can make it tough sometimes fishing with artificial baits. I fished starting out using as usual a top water plug and there was a lot of action but I couldn’t entice any larger fish and could only attract numerous ladyfish, a few trout and smaller snook. As the sun was up I switched out to using a couple of different hard baits but the bait of the day turned out to be one of my go to baits, a small soft plastic swim bait because it mimicked the finger mullet so well. Fishing the mangrove shorelines I had a few nice hookups with a couple of larger snook but only managed to get a few of the smaller ones to the boat up to around 22”, but still fun! They were acting very crazy today I assume because of the cooler water temperatures making them more active. It was nice to see that there were a lot of them around. As I made my way I fished a few deeper spots in open water and managed a few nice trout and I wish I brought a cooler so I could have kept a few for dinner. A couple of the fish were smaller but most were between 16 and 18” and they also loved that small swimbait. As I headed back and made my way back across the bay the tide was still somewhat high and I fished around a couple of the submerged oyster bars. I caught a couple more trout and then finally found a little larger fish, A nice red that was just over 24”, a nice way to end the morning!