Captain Ray Markham
Anglers aboard the Flat Back II have enjoyed Grand Slams
in the past couple of weeks. Snook have been exceptionally
cooperative for February. But then again for a February,
this has been more like March. While water temperatures
have been bouncing between 62 and 75 on the flats in the
afternoons, the action has been steady. Larger snook are
beginning to appear with these warmer days, and if the weather
pattern continues as it has, I look for an early spring.
I spent several days field-testing new lures and experimenting
with some different things to see what works and taking
a look at a few new ideas, but I still squeezed in a few
trips each week.
Last week, Charlie Marra and Tom Feery, from New Jersey,
and Hans Alpsteg, of Nebraska, fished Lower Tampa Bay and
Terra Ceia Bay with me. Charlie and Hans fly-fished much
of the time, and both caught about a dozen nice trout and
some hyperactive ladyfish using pink and white Clouser Minnows
and yellow and white Leftys Deceivers. At times, all
three anglers picked up spinning rods to catch snook and
trout and take shots at redfish and flounder. CAL Jigs with
shad tails produced very well for the guys, as they put
around 40 to 50 fish in the boat.
The guys were in Tampa for a business meeting, and had some
time out for "bad behavior," so when the bragging
started, the light-hearted, yet spirited competition was
on. In the end, the largest trout, caught by Tom, taped
out at about 25 inches. It was a beautiful day on the water
with water temperatures reaching about 68 degrees.
The following day, Larry and Annie Mahoney, of Framingham,
Mass., joined me for an afternoon of catch-and-release fishing.
The weather had been going downhill all morning. With winds
predicted in the 10- to 20- knot range, it was a doable
day, but not without a struggle.
In fact, the winds reached 33 knots in gusts. With the northwest
winds whistling in, the possibility of working open water
was not an option, so my larger trout would have to wait
for another day. Interestingly enough, the water temperature
reached 70.5 degrees on one flat where we caught several
snook. Working channel edges and potholes in Terra Ceia,
we found dozens of smaller trout to 18 inches to be cooperative.
Again, CAL Jigs with shad tails, DOA Shrimp, the DOA Deadly
Combo and Loves Lures Jigs produced for us. In addition
to the trout Annie released, she seemed to have an affinity
for catching "whiskered marlin" about 6
Valentines Day was a day of firsts for D.J. Aanensen,
of New Jersey, and we celebrated it on the water. We started
out the day at 9 a.m., and it didnt take long for
us to start the Grand Slam ball rolling with several snook
and redfish taking our CAL Jigs with Shad Tails in Terra
Ceia Bay. These were D.J.'s first ever snook and reds. Ya
gotta love it. With two-thirds of a slam under each our
belts, we hit a small flat and whacked about a dozen small
trout up to 15 inches. Once we had our slams I went looking
for some larger fish. Deeper drops in lower Tampa Bay near
Emerson Point were holding trout in the 3-to 5-pound class
and they chewed our CAL Shad tails like they were going
out of style. Water temps pushed the mercury to about 72-degrees.
It was just an amazing day on the water with some nice fish
and of course, D.J.'s first Grand Slam!
This week, Longboat Key winter visitors, Larry and Annie
Mahoney hopped aboard the Flat Back II again. This time
the winds were a mere 18 knots. Again, we attempted to work
some of the deeper areas, but waves in Tampa Bay made the
fishing uncomfortable, so we hit some backcountry areas.
We found several nice snook up to 28 inches, redfish to
the bottom of the slot, and some fat trout pushing 19 inches.
We threw a combination of DOA shrimp; CAL Shad tail jigs,
and MirrOlure Top Dogs with good success. I swear, Annie
is a catfish magnet. Again she caught several hardhead cats
on the shrimp. In all, about 20 trout, 2 reds, and 7 snook
were caught, for a decent afternoon on the water, with another
Captain Rick Grassett
Anglers on the Snook Fin-Addict had good action during the
past week with reds and trout on the flats and snook at
night. While the fastest action was with trout on deep grass
flats of Sarasota Bay, the larger fish have been in skinny
water along with redfish. Fly and spin anglers scored with
reds to 27 inches and trout to 22 inches in potholes and
fly fishing for snook at night was steady.
Sarasota Herald-Tribune Outdoor Editor Steve Gibson, and
Yong Choe, both from Sarasota, waded a shallow flat in north
Sarasota Bay with me last Friday. The wind was howling out
of the north at 20 mph following a front and it was cold!
With the water at 58 degrees and wind chills in the 40s,
wading was really the only way to handle the wind while
fly fishing. Yong had the hot stick that day, catching and
releasing a pair of nice reds and a quality trout on a bendback
Don Millar, from St. Louis, and his son, Dan Millar, from
Holland, Mich., fished Sarasota Bay with me last Sunday.
They had steady action with trout to 17 inches on CAL jigs
with shad tails, although most were small. They also caught
and released several ladyfish and a flounder.
The following evening, fly fishers Dick Reece, from Dayton,
Ohio, and Gene Leverone, from Gloucester, Mass., fished
the ICW near Venice with me. The action was slow to start,
but ended strong. Dick and Gene finished the evening with
about 15 snook to 23 inches and a pair of bluefish on my
Grass Minnow flies.
On Tuesday, fellow Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers members Erwin
Edelman and Joe Polidoro, both from Sarasota, fished Sarasota
Bay with me on a quest for their first redfish with a fly.
Although reds on a fly are probably one of the most challenging
species in our area, they both succeeded. In addition, Joe
caught and released a nice trout. All fish were caught out
of potholes near Buttonwood Harbor on Crab Clousers (olive,
tan and white).
The following day, Sarasota winter residents Harry Beaty
and Tom Schalk, fished the same area with me on a full day
trip. Harry had been snake bitten lately with reds, but
they turned it around this trip. After a slow start they
finished the day with more than 30 trout to 20 inches, including
10 slot-size fish, and eight reds to 27 inches. Most fish
were caught on CAL jigs with shad tails, although some of
the trout ate the DOA Deadly Combo.
Sarasota winter residents, Norm and Francie Boardman, were
joined by their son, Doug from Richmond, Va., for an afternoon
trip on Sarasota Bay on Thursday. We hunted reds for an
hour or so and they had disappeared from the flat where
they were plentiful the day before. We dropped out to deeper
water where father and son scored with a number of trout
to 18 inches on CAL jigs with shad tails and Clouser flies.
That evening, fly anglers Nick Reding and Bob Harness, both
from St. Louis, joined me for a night snook trip. The action
was slower than it was on Monday evening, but they still
managed to catch and release eight snook and a bluefish.
Fly angler, Marshall Dinerman from Atlanta, Ga.,, fished
Sarasota Bay with me on Friday afternoon. Marshall is an
old friend of Islamoradas Sandy Moret and has fly
fished in many places, but a stiff northeast breeze made
fishing the shallow flats tough from my Action Craft flats
skiff. We dropped out to deeper water, deployed my Wave
Tamer drift bag and proceeded to catch trout and ladyfish
on Clouser flies fished on an intermediate fly line. The
drift bag saved the day and made what would have been a
frustrating trip a successful one!
Rusty Chinnis and I were the instructors at a CBs
Saltwater Outfitters Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing school on
Longboat Key on Saturday. All of the students did great
and with some practice are well on their way to enjoying
a lifetime of saltwater fly fishing. The dates for the next
several schools are March 5t, 19t and April 9. Anyone interested
in participating can contact me for more info or to sign
Captain Zach Zacharias
Overall good angling results for folks on the "DEE
JAY II". The weather is moderating and if we can get
a good solid week of warm, sunny days bringing the water
temperatures close to 70 degrees the spring onslaught will
be on! I saw some schools of white bait and ballyhoo along
the beaches of Longboat Key this week and the effects of
a pesky red tide have been minimal in our area.
Trout have been a hot item this week with a lot of solid
slot sized fish. Many have been in the gator range above
20 inches. Live shrimp and the DOA Deadly combo have accounted
for most of the spotties. Reds have been scattered and starting
to migrate away from the deep haunts around docks and out
onto the flats. The reds in the skinny water have been more
of a challenge to entice however. Snook are poking out in
to the open but the water temp's are still a bit cool for
them to go in to a tear. Sheepshead are starting to bunch
up in the passes and the inshore gulf reefs prior to the
spawn and have been running large and cooperative. Surprisingly
we have been nailing quite a few flounder. The average size
of the flatties is just average but they are fairly plentiful.
Throw in a lot of ladyfish, bluefish, and bluetail gags
and you are looking at the bulk of the action for mid-February
around Manatee County.
The liklihood of severe cold weather is behind us now and
things should start looking up and up. Look for spanish
mackerel to show along the beaches any day and right on
their tails there should be some kings and cobia. Mangrove
snapper will be migrating closer to shore with the warmer
water as well.