Everyone knows about the usual suspects when it comes to target species of the lower keys flats but in the last couple of years another has been making a much welcomed entrance, the redfish.
These fish have been a surprise bonus fish for a long time but recently they have become a fish that we can leave the dock with intent to target. I have also noticed that the size of the fish have increased along with the numbers. Redfish can be very willing to eat a fly or bait but can also do their best permit impersonation when they feel like it but, either way, I am happy to have them around.
We will see what happens over the next couple of years but hopefully the numbers will continue to increase, as well as the size. I know the big bulls are caught offshore in the gulf so lets just hope they start showing themselves in the shallows, as well.
I have to admit, I am terrible at keeping up with my blog posts. Something about getting off the water and getting on the computer is not really on my list of things I want to do. That said, I am going to put forth a better effort from now on.
So, in catching up, this summer has really produced some great fishing, for permit in particular. Some of the greatest numbers of permit I have ever seen have come this summer, schools of micro and medium sized fish pushing across flats, as well as large singles and groups feeding and tailing hard. While the bonefishing is still down from what it was back in 09′, there still are fish to be found but they have mostly come as a bonus while looking for permit. I do feel that the bonefish numbers are up from the last few years so lets hope that trend continues. Thankfully, we have had a welcome number of redfish in the lower keys to take up some of the bonefish slack and I have enjoyed fishing for them. Plenty of tarpon and baby tarpon have also been available throughout the summer, as usual.
To recap one of the more memorable trips of the summer, back in June I fished Rowdy and Arnie from Massachusetts, who are quite the pair. These guys have been fishing permit with crabs together since like 1983! We got skunked the first day but then the weather and the fishing really got prime and we were able to land 12 permit in 4 days with a couple others lost, as well as 1 tarpon landed and one jumped. Great fishing with these two characters!
Recently I also had the very cool experience of fishing with Don’s son Shawn, who is now living in Key West and going to the community college. I have fished with Shawn many times before but always with Don and his other son Dawson. This time was different being only Sawn and I. Don and I moved to the Keys at the same time and we spent years learning to fish here together so it was really great for me to be on the water with his son.
Proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Shawn proceeded to hook and land this nice permit within our first 10 minutes on the flats. I’m pretty sure it won’t be his last…
Apologies for the delay in blog posts! After an offseason of travel and sitting through cold fronts, it’s time to get back to business.
Fresh off of several months of daily Rogaine treatments and most likely some brown mascara, “Mustache” Matt Cope showed up in the keys again to fish permit. The thing looks horrendous but the permit seem to like it because he stuck and landed the first fish he threw at. It broke his curse last year and worked again this year despite overall lousy weather to fish in. I am willing to put up with this eye sore so long as he keeps putting fish in the boat. Start growing yours today…
Well, we finally got a break from the crappy spring and early summer weather and were blessed with a couple weeks of good sky, light winds, sweat soaked shirts, and tailing fish.
My good friend Tom Rapone managed to break away from his busy schedule of guiding anglers out of Martha’s Vineyard and snuck down to do some fishing of his own. Tom has a knack for bringing foul weather in his carry on bag but it didn’t happen this time, apparently he has been volunteering some time at the local homeless shelter this year or something.
What we did have to deal with was the madness of the last day of mini lobster season on our first day on the water. If you care at all about the flats fishery in the Keys then mini lobster season is something to completely avoid. What a junk show. We couldn’t even begin to count the number of boats on the edges of the flats, in the channels, and running over the flats in bimini topped 20+ foot boats loaded with nets, snorkels, beer, and morons. Needless to say, the fish think about as much of mini season as I do. Total disgrace.
The second day was much better, the morons stayed at the dock, hungover, sunburnt, full of lobster, and wondering how their prop got bent. We found decent numbers of tailing permit early and then threw every fly in the box at a large school of floating permit that we found wandering across a flat and hanging in the channel just off the flat.
We fished the same pattern, early morning and late afternoon, for the next couple days having a lot of shots at tailing permit in very shallow, slick calm water and also continued to try new flies on the same school of floaters. There is nothing quite like seeing permit tail in these conditions. There are also few things as difficult. We finally managed to come tight to a fish on the 3rd day after coming very close several times. Unfortunately the fish came unbuttoned.
The final day we decided to have some revenge on the floating school that had been tormenting us and catch one on the crab. The school must have known we were bringing the real deal this time because the number of fish had really decreased. Still, it was one cast and fish on. The size of some of the fish in this school was truly incredible because we felt like we had hooked the runt of the litter and this is it. Very nice fish!
That evening we went back out with the fly and what we witnessed was definitely in the top three greatest evenings of permit fishing I have ever seen. As soon as we poled onto our chosen flat we could see nervous water, wakes, and tails. This continued for 2 straight hours until we were forced off the water by a storm that had my pushpole and Tom’s rod tip buzzing.
Just before having leave the tailfest to get away from the electricity, one of Tom’s fishing dreams came true…almost. His dream was to catch a tailing permit while wading and he had the perfect opportunity on this evening. The fish were all over and feeding hard so Tom got in and started taking his shots. After having a couple shots where the fish followed literally to his feet before bolting off the flat, he made a great cast to two fish that were working side by side. As soon as the fly landed and he made one strip, one of the fish sucked it in and screamed off when he felt the hook. Tom later said this was the happiest moment of his life. Unfortunately, a large shark didn’t care much about Tom’s happiness. Neither of us, or the permit apparently, saw it coming and there was nothing we could do. The exploding, white water in the photo pretty much tells the rest of the story. Next time dude, next time…
In an attempt to make him feel a bit better before getting on a plane the next morning, I figured a little night fishing was in order. After dinner the boomers had passed through so we snuck out for a few hours and got 9 tarpon bites and had a good time trying to forget the shark incident. I can guarantee one thing, Tom will be back to even the score.
The bonefishing has really been either red hot or very difficult so far this year but I do expect that it will get more consistent as we get away from this full moon and get deeper into summer and early fall. Here is a photo of my first time flats angler from Finland, Samuli Tursas, and a bonefish we caught out of a big school yesterday. Samuli really improved in our time on the water, maybe more so than anyone I have ever seen, and we also landed two tarpon last evening to cap a great day of fishing.
Now lets just hope that the rest of hurricane season goes as it has for the last several years!
We apologize for the delay in the blog, been a little busy for the past several months. If you have ever guided a tarpon season in the Keys then you know what I mean.
I would have to say that this will probably go down as one of the more difficult seasons on record. The weather really kicked our asses at times, more than I have ever experienced before. Seems the weather has been strange all over the country from what I hear from clients and other anglers. La Nina needs to go away, that’s all I know.
When we did have sun to light up the flats and weren’t wetter than the fish we were looking for, the fishing was very, very good. Definitely no shortage of fish around. It sure makes things a lot easier and more fun for everyone when you can actually see them though.
As we head into late summer and early fall (maybe my favorite time of year) I am optimistic that the crazy weather pattern will stay away and we will have some really great permit, bonefish, and baby tarpon fishing. I have already had some pretty sick tailing permit action at the end of the day towards sunset and I am really looking forward to a lot more of it.
I will post some pics in the next couple weeks and hopefully the guy that hacked our website won’t jack everything up again. If you are the guy who did it and you are reading this, I just want to say that I am truly sorry that no one wanted you on their baseball team in middle school, you had your head dunked in the toilet on a regular basis by the lineman from the football team, you are still a virgin, and you live in your moms basement but stick to dungeons and dragons and leave our site alone. Thanks.
After hooking and losing two permit, one due to a misplaced lobster trap and another due to a straightened gamakatsu, my angler and friend Matt Cope finally exorcized his permit demons and put this nice fish in the boat yesterday. The first photo pretty much sums it up.