Pompano on the fly in Cayo Costa
SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
Reid Zoller poses
with a Cayo Costa pompano.
I was having trouble concentrating on fish as I walked in the surf along the edges of Cayo Costa State Park. It was a spectacular morning with bright blue skies and a slight southeast breeze and every gnarled and weather-beaten piece of driftwood made a perfect frame for photographing the classic shell strewn stretch of beach. I was approaching my friend and fellow angler Reid Zoller when I saw him take a low crouch and become extremely focused. As I watched from a distance he made several quick strips no more than two yards from the beach. Suddenly his line came tight and he raised his rod, concentrating on clearing the line that was tumbling in the surf at his feet. When he let out a whoop and I saw his rod bending over double I broke into a run to close the distance for a shot.
When I got into camera range, the pompano he had hooked was into its second of six long runs that went well into the backing of his Loop fly reel. While I watched and photographed the fight, the four pound fish made run after run. Every time Zoller had the pompano close to the beach it would make another sustained run. Finally the sickle tail silver rocket gave up and allowed Zoller to beach it. After a few quick pictures he revived and released the fish. Pompano on the fly is a treat: sight casting for them while wading the surf on one of Florida’s most pristine islands is the thrill of a lifetime.
Zoller may have initially been a bit disappointed that the tarpon we were targeting had failed to show up, but the thought of them quickly evaporated when he saw pompano charging into the surf to eat small crabs and sand fleas. Zoller, director of U.S. Operations for Loop Tackle, and Argentinean guide and photographer Diego Peralta were with me on a two day trip to the Tarpon Lodge in Pineland. The first day we determined that tarpon fishing was going to be tough in late July on a full moon, so we opted instead to wade the beaches of Cayo Costa for snook. As it turned out, we would have shots at both snook and pompano in the gentle surf on both days. On this trip Peralta had the hot hand, landing several nice snook and losing a big redfish that was tailing on an exposed flat right at sunset. I followed up with a snook and two pompano, one of which jumped completely out of the water five times.
The waters of Pine Island Sound and the beaches of Cayo Costa State Park have long been one of my favorite destinations. I took Zoller there several years back and it became one of his top fishing spots as well. As had been our experience in past trips, the hospitality of the Lodge, with its restaurant and Doc Ford Bar and excellent accommodations, made us feel instantly at home..Fortunately The Tarpon Lodge is just a two-hour drive from Anna Maria Island, easily making it either a day or overnight adventure. Pine Island is surrounded by some of the most fertile flats in Florida and is bounded on the Gulf by Captiva, North Captiva and Sanibel Island. To the north is Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass. The Lodge’s location on the northwest corner of Pine Island makes it the perfect base for fishing and exploring hundreds of deserted islands and the flats that surround them. Guests without boats can ride a ferry from the adjacent Pine Island Marina and can cross the road from the lodge to explore The Calusa Heritage Trail, an interpretive walkway that winds through the mounds, canals, and other features of the Pineland archaeological site.
For information on the Tarpon Lodge and nearby adventures, go to www.tarponlodge.com or call 239- 283-3999.