Even though it’s been more than a little windy here, the fishing has been OK. The jack crevalle are showing up in large schools now, and conveniently have taken up residence inside the ICW in their normal spots. The size range is nice also, averaging about seven to fifteen pounds. Truly a good tug on a nine weight. The crevalle’s arrival usually heralds the arrival of the spinner sharks in force. A few have been caught recently, so they are on the way just in time for the holidays. Ladyfish have been giving some cooperation, and a few obscure catches such as mutton snapper, small redfish, Spanish mackerel, and lookdowns,(a member of the jack family, a truly exotic looking fish that love small streamers and shrimp flies) have been rounding out the action in the calmer waters of the ICW. The few boats hardy enough to brave the high winds and heavy seas have been reporting sailfish action heating up, dolphin catches still consistent and a few wahoo and tuna showing up. I was able to pop out the inlet last Monday after my morning trip just for a look around,(I wasn’t going to subject my customer to the sloppy four to six foot waves) and found the most beautiful midnight blue water I’ve seen yet this year. It was practically screaming “Sailfish!” Here’s hoping the weather lets us out after them soon.
As much as I enjoy writing the log, I will be discontinuing it here. But current, (or as current as I can make them) reports and stories will be found on the Fly Fishing Extremes Facebook page. I am leaving these archived reports here for your enjoyment. I've been told the stories are quite entertaining....
Fortunately, the fish don’t know about bombs and war and biological viruses. Despite all the crap thats going on in the world, fishing has been doing wonders keeping our minds off it all. The winter fishing is getting started early it would seem. Sailfish have started showing up, the spinner sharks have started moving into the area and the ladyfish, jack crevalle, bluefish, spanish mackerel and tarpon have all been putting on a good show. Sundays trip had beautiful weather, and some of the biggest schools of ladyfish I’ve seen in many a year. Armed with a livewell full of baitfish to throw, the fireworks the acre sized schools of ladyfish put on were truly spectacular. And nice fish too, averaging two to four pounds, great light tackle fare. Lots of small jacks also took part in the chum-fest, and the occasional barracuda put in an appearance long enough to decapitate some poor, hooked fish. Very entertaining. Monday, however, brought in our first “wind event” of the winter season. Winds have been averaging over twenty knots with gusts up into the thirty five knot range. That translates into seas running huge, like eleven to fourteen foot waves crashing the beach, and even larger waves in the Gulf Stream. Inside fishing is still ok, there’s always someplace out of the wind to catch some fish. It already shows signs of slacking off, things should be back to fishable by the weekend. In the long run, a little bit of a blow is good. First, it gives the fish a rest from the fishing pressure, mixes up the water and blows in new groups of fish. I’m sure there will be skipjack and probably blackfin tuna around when things calm down and more dolphin should also push in. The tarpon should remain in the area into december when we start getting noticeably cooler water temps. About the time they get too cold to play, we should have plenty of spinner sharks to throw at, easily as tough or tougher a fighter as tarpon, they just eat flies soooooo much better.
Our winter weather patterns are getting started, and the winter fishing is getting started as well. Temperatures are cooling off and the wind is picking up. Ladyfish, jacks, tarpon and dolphin have been the mainstay. At the time of the last writting, there was a good wahoo bite going on. Well, I never had a chance to go play with them at all. My trusty Yamaha that had served above and beyond the call of duty,(hell, I’d been driving the thing like a jetski for the past five years) decided to give up the ghost. So, it took a week or two to get the new Yami bolted on and adjusted right, and by that time the ‘hoos had moved on, or out, or where ever it is that they go. But, as I sit here watching the north wind blow, the cold front that plowed through just brings to mind that the sailfish should be along shortly to take the wahoo’s place. And a sailfish is considerably easier to get on fly than a wahoo. And just about the same time, my new best friends from last year, the spinner sharks will arrive also. A couple of notes. First, after the WTC attacks, everyone is going to find traveling with fly rods a challenge at best. I’m sure all you other fly flingers enjoy watching your rod case dissapear into the belly of a plane about as much as getting a root canal. Keep in mind, I have all the rods, and both right and left handed reels anyone could hope for. Thats what they are here for, so please, feel free to use them. Secondly, if the reservations coming in are any indication, Florida is going to be a prefered fishing destination over going abroad until we get the semblance of sanity in the world again. Reserve your dates asap. For those of you who are not aware, I’m personally living vicariously through my customers. My right arm is out of the game until further notice. I have a serious affliction that affects fly fishing guides in a very localized area of southeast florida. This insidious ailment is caused by trying to throw small baitfish as far as you can, and after months of continued abuse, I’ve come down with a serious case of chummers elbow. A close relative of tennis elbow. Very annoying, very slow to heal,(this has been going on for about six weeks now) and incredibly easy to re-injure. But not only is chumming season just about over and the damn thing should get a rest, but I’m hitting about sixty to seventy feet casting lefty. It’s almost like starting my fly career all over. Very inept feeling, I’ve gotten to catch my first left handed dolphin, ladyfish, snook, and jacks. Haven’t been able to get a left handed tarpon just yet, but that’ll happen shortly.
Some of our winter residents have decided to arrive somewhat early. The past week has seen good action on jacks and some nice, big ladyfish. The change of pace is very welcomed, and though I love the albies, it gets to this time of year and I’m deffinately ready to catch other fish. The chum bait supply remains good, and chumming the flats where the ladies and jacks are hanging out gets them tearing around chasing everything that moves. And last friday, all the commotion attracted the attention of a few blacktip and spinner sharks. It’s not often I see these guys inside the intracoastal waterway, and I had not tried getting them to eat a fly before simply because their eyesight is pretty poor to begin with. With the water being tanic and brown, I didn’t have much hope of them being able to find a fly, even if it was a huge,bright orange thing. But, with them hanging around the boat chasing the hooked ladyfish around, it was worth a shot. My customer, Ken O’brien did very well hooking four and getting one shark to the boat that was about six feet and fifty pounds. Great fun in four feet of water. With most of the albies gone, the other stuff going on has been a very good wahoo bite going on outside of the reef. I haven’t made an attempt on them, I usually don’t ask my customers to try them since it is very much a luck thing getting one on fly. With so few numbers to work with, I think getting a wahoo on fly is about the toughest thing to do in florida. It usually involves deep drifting flies around floating debris and that takes some extreme patience. The reward is the incredible run these things make when hooked, there isn’t anything faster. If you just like watching line melt off the reel, these are the guys. Sixty-five mph is believed to be their top speed, and the few that I’ve hooked, I beleive it. One I timed dumped two hundred and fifty yards of line in about twelve seconds. If you make the mistake of touching the backing coming off the reel while the ‘hoo is making a fast run, you will bleed. The dacron backing will cut like a knife. I intend to work the wahoo over the next couple of weeks and will post the results.
Things are still trucking along here in south florida. The main schools of big false albacore have moved on to where ever it is they go, but the “juniors” are providing some fun ultra light action. Albies in the three to eight pound range are bending six and nine weight rods, and hefty blue runners up to five pounds are mixed in with them. And having a magnum sized barracuda decapitate one on the way in is almost an hourly occurance. The past couple of weeks have seen quite a few dolphin coming through, we’ve boated three over twenty-five pounds and a bunch of schoolies in the three to ten pound range. The king mackerel are around also, a couple have made it to the boat despite the absence of wire leader. Deep drifting flies over the reef for other stuff like albies and runners have produced several lip hooked kings in the ten to fifteen pound range. I personally lost easily the biggest king I’ve had hooked on fly last week, probably into the forty pound range. Got a tooth on the leader right at boatside….arrrrrrgh. Unfortunately, the offshore water has been gin-clear, visabilities of over a hundred feet have made getting strikes on wire leaders a little tough. So we’ve been going with mono shock tippets and hoping for the best. And to round out the Palm Beach menu….the big snook are cooperating well at area inlets. With either an outgoing or incoming tide, fish starting at ten pounds and getting up to thirty are on the bottom under huge schools of baitfish. A fast sinking line dragged under the bait has been producing with large streamers….the “eatme” in white/olive out-doing everything else. There are other things going on like tarpon along the beaches and a decent number of sailfish running the reef, but I haven’t gotten to them just yet. Maybe this week…. The highlight of my month was having one of the masters out last wednesday. Chico Fernandez and son Steven were quite fun to fish with, especially since I was serving up fare that they didn’t usually get to play with. Five or six double headers on albies, several magnum sized blue runners, a couple of rainbow runners, a half dozen schoolie dolphin, including one ten pounder and three snook, one fifteen pounder and two over twenty was a pretty decent day of fun. We also had a king skyrocket next to the boat and a twenty pound plus dolphin come free jumping past us while catching schoolies. I think the fact that we were never further than six miles from the boat ramp was what really impressed Chico the most. And since one of the few times I threw the rod recieve a “wow….nice cast”, my day was more than complete.
The action on false albacore has been non-stop and very entertaining.The past couple of weeks have been mostly medium sized fish in the eight to twelve pound range, with an occasional bigger fish . Earlier in the month, there were many more large fish in the fourteen and up to eighteen lb size. We lost many huge albies to sharks, which have been relentless. Some days, we were only getting one in four to the boat through the “brown bombers” Blackfin tuna were also putting in an appearance, mixing in with the schools of albies. We were only able to manage two, one around twenty two lbs and another around thirty lbs. Picking a fish out of a school of rampaging albies is very tricky, and a huge dose of luck is needed also to get it done. Been a few encounters with wahoo, but haven’t been able to close the deal on one of those. They always seem to get a fly without wire on it. When the albies move on, I’ll start working on the wahoo, and the snook and tarpon are really heating up also. The sailfish seem like they’re going to make their august run like they have the past couple of years. So, it’s time to drag some teasers. That’ll take me into september when the mullet run goes off, the dolphin and skipjack tuna show up in force and the first waves of migrating jacks, spanish mackerel, ladyfish and tarpon get going.
And away we go!!!! The false albacore are here. We had a flood of little guys in the three to six pound range start up about two weeks ago, with a decent number of bigger fish making sporadic appearances. But four days ago, the big brothers really started in. I boated a solid fifteen pounder on wednesday and my guys on thursday did very well on fish averaging right around ten pounds. At least the ones they managed to get past the sharks. Lost several much bigger albies to the “man in the brown suit”. They seem to be arriving a little later than years past, but since it was only a week or two ago that the wind and waves started laying down, it wouldn’t have mattered anyhow. Dolphin are also around in very good numbers, hordes of small schoolie dolphin in the three to seven pound range. And more monster dolphin,(forty pounds and up into the sixties) than I’ve heard of in many a year. I think all the wind that kept the boats south of me in port the past month let a bunch of fish slip past into my area. We also had some pretty good king mackerel fishing last week. Wednesdays trip boated three fish in the ten to fifteen pound range. And last but not least, the first waves of the really big tarpon have showed up. Pods moving up the beach will provide some exciting sight casting opportunities for the next month. These fish have been typically uncooperative, but throwing flies at a hundred tarpon all over a hundred pounds is enough to make you question your heart condition. And this will be the menu for the next eight to twelve weeks. My favorite time of year to really test your tackle, your body and your psyche.
Fishing has started to really pick up in the last couple of weeks, even if the weather hasn’t been cooperative. Water temperatures have crossed that magical seventy-five degree mark, and just like clockwork, the tarpon, snook, dolphin and bonito,(false albacore), have begun the spring feed. The main targets being snook and tarpon inside the inland waterways until the wind and seas get back to a more comfortable level, tarpon in the twenty to sixty pound range have been cooperating nicely. Night trips for snook have been decent, though the inclement weather has made them a little less than cooperative. Area docks have good supplies of snook in the twenty four to thirty inch range. Another month and hotter water temps will bring in the big fifteen pound and up snook. Both the tarpon and snook have been hitting small to medium streamer flies due to large schools of glass minnows and pilchards/sardines moving in. At times shrimp flies get good attention, spring is shrimp-run time. The dolphin have been building in numbers and size. A very good number of twenty pound and up dolphin were caught last week, and the past five days of wind and rain should ensure a good number of un-molested fish coming up the coast. The first couple of bonito,(false albacore) were caught last week, a prelude to the up-coming flood of the tackle busters. Last year the assault started the second week in may and stayed at a break-neck pace right through july. There has also been blackfin tuna, cobia, a few sailfish, monster jack crevalle, african pompano, king mackerel and some wahoo around. Now thats what I call a full plate! This should continue to get better and better over the next couple of weeks and then remain good through June and into July.
Weather and seas have cooperated nicely for doing some serious damage,(or is it the other way around…?) to spinner sharks. I’m not really sure how many have been hooked and fought over the past several weeks, but the box of 100 hooks I’ve been making the flies I use on them is just about empty. Two twelve weight rods broken, (most definately angler error, one of them was the new Nano-titanium the guys at Redington gave me, without a doubt, the most incredible casting rod I’ve ever touched, hearing it SNAP just about made me cry) the drag burned out of four reels, and about a half dozen lines lost. I’ve said it before, these sharks are the most out of control things I think you can get tangled up with. Also have had several slugfests with BIG jack crevalle. It’s that time of year and pods of the big guys are moving north along the beach.
My customer last friday landed three for a total weight of seventy pounds…two twenty pounders and one thirty. Thats alot of tugging on a half-day trip. A quick word about fighting big fish on a fly rod….a forty-five degree angle is the HIGHEST you should EVER have a rod on a big fish. Come up higher than that and you’re in the danger zone of breaking the rod. And that angle is subjective to where the fish is. If he’s on the surface, level with you, the rod shouldn’t come up past the ten o’clock position. If he’s down deep, straight below you, the eight o’clock position is the highest the rod comes up. You literally have the rod tip in the water just about all the time in that position. Hopefully this tip will help prevent rods,(yours and mine), from making that sickening sound we all hate…
Other stuff going on for the less masocistic are spanish mackerel and bluefish. They have been everywhere lately, great fun on six and eight weight rods. The big baracuda are still around, we hooked three yesterday that were three to four footers. The young lady along with her father was treated,(or maybe subjected) to her first fish she ever hooked on a fly being a VERY hot three footer that was a hundred yards away in a heartbeat. The strike was spectaculer, less than twenty feet from the boat, she muttering something about “….scared the crap out of me…” The dolphin lately have been pretty good, a sign of things to come I hope. Though we have them year round more or less, april, may and june are easily the best months for dolphin here.
The king mackerel still haven’t gotten any of my attention yet, but judging from how the commercial boats have been coming in and going right back out again, they must be pretty thick. I’ll get around to them in a couple of weeks when the sharks go away. And I know spring false albacore season is right around the corner, we boated a couple of the first ones last week. I better get these 12# rods and reels fixed before they show up in force….I’m going to need them. I’ll be at the Shallow Water Fishing Expo show in Ft. Lauderdale this weekend, stop by my booth and say hi.
Well, welcome to warm, sunny Florida. Yeah, right….the past month has felt more like fishing in New England during the late fall. Cold, I mean really cold for here. Several mornings I put on the water with air temps in the upper thirties and wind chills in the twenties. Windy, most of the time the wind has been cranking up over twenty knots. And last Monday we had both of those conditions plus steady rain. In a word, Yuck!! But the fishing has been good throughout, with large jacks, magnum sized barracudas, out of control spinner sharks and ladyfish. And a decent number of dolphin offshore when the winds calmed down enough to get out there.
Great fun with the jacks, they’ve been chasing teaser plugs like pitbulls chasing cats. And just getting a big popper in their vicinity and popping it good and loud results in spectacular surface strikes. During the several weeks around Christmas about three hundred jacks were landed. Lately ladyfish have been giving me a change of pace, and while I love jacks, the variety is good for my attitude. The spinner sharks have cooperated well, we have boated several and lost a bunch. And it’s early for them, mid February through March is the usual time for them to be here. We should get many more opportunities to play with them over the next eight weeks.
King mackerel are also moving in early. I’ve gotten reports from north of here about huge schools of kings moving south. I get a big kick out of these things when they’re around. Unless you can get a wahoo hooked up, there isn’t much better for melting line off your reel than a king mackerel. When they decide to leave with your fly, they do it at better than fifty mph. As for numbers, this year has far surpassed the recent couple of years for sailfish, though the weather to date has not allowed us out there after them. I’m hoping they stick around when we get some better weather for them. Ten foot seas just aren’t workable to do them on fly. Just this past weekend, boats that braved the big seas were treated to double digit sails with a couple of boats getting upwards of twenty fish in a day. That’s just the kind of numbers I need to get them chasing the teasers. Here’s hoping it warms up soon.