• Captain John Tarr

Don't Believe All of the Negativity


If you listen to the news or read a lot, I know you have heard the negativity about Florida and in particular the fishing. I'm here to tell you not to believe it all. I'm not going to sugar coat it and say that everything is great, but I will let you know that my area is not anything like you have read about or seen on video.

First, let's start with water quality. Yes, there is a major water quality issue in South Florida; especially along the west coast. They are having issues with red tide, and algae. This has led to massive loss of marine life and even some illness among people visiting the area. The good news is they are on the way to recovery, but still have some issues we will all be fighting for. Here in my area, the water quality is not nearly as bad. Yes, we still have some issues; the biggest one being the loss of seagrasses. The destruction of the seagrasses has led to some muddy water conditions in certain areas and can make seeing fish difficult. But, with local knowledge I have been able to find areas of healthy seagrass and clean water. No, I'm not just talking about one or two areas either. I am talking about plenty of areas, where you can spend all day poling a flat and enjoy sight fishing.

Next, let's discuss the reports of people not being able to find fish. I've been fishing my local waters since the early 1980's. During that time, the flats fishing craze had not taken off. The fishing that took place was mostly along the intercoastal, where people targeted the ledges with live shrimp and popping corks. The target of interest was seatrout and redfish were considered trash by many people. During this time, it was not uncommon to pull onto the flats and locate a school of 300-500 redfish. Fishing was as easy as it gets. Fast forward a decade and the redfish became a major target and flats fishing exploded. Suddenly it was not uncommon to pull up and find a dozen boats bombarding a school of fish. Needless to say, we knew that wouldn't last. The fish either had to adapt or they would become extinct. They adapted. Today, redfish are wary; they stay in smaller schools or cruise in singles and doubles, they keep one eye searching for prey while keeping the other looking for danger, and they moved into water a lot of people can't get to. This means anglers needed to adapt too. Some of us did; others complain about not being able to locate fish. What about seatrout? The same thing; they adapted to survive and they survive they have. There are bigger seatrout prowling the flats now than I ever saw before. But, it requires work and patience to sneak up on them and successfully target them.

What adaptations have been working? First and foremost, get off the motor and get on the pushpole. I'm still flabbergasted when I see people running their outboard motor on a flat, buzzing the shoreline, and then trying to fish that same area. That method may have worked 20 years ago, although I still didn't understand it, but it doesn't work now and hasn't for a long time. Intelligent guides stop a long distance from their fishing grounds and pole in, trying to stay as quiet as possible. Speaking of push poles, try getting rid of that plastic foot on the end and go to a natural one; I learned this little secret from my good friend Flip Pallot. It started out as just something old school and different. However, I have noticed a huge difference in how fish react to the sound. Second, take your time and minimize water disturbance. The fish on the flats are very wary and have a lateral line that can detect the smallest water disturbances. If you have ever wondered why a fish suddenly stops tailing and eases off, it probably has something to do with noise you made or a wake that reached them. Take extra care if you need to spin the boat to put an angler in position. Third, lighten your gear. There is a reason fly fishing is so good for tailing and backing fish. This doesn't mean they cannot be taken with conventional gear, but lighten it up and lead a fish. These adaptations will help anyone become more successful on the flats and will also enhance everyone's enjoyment because you won't be running each other over.

How successful can these adaptations make you? Today was a perfect example. After targeting snook and tarpon, I headed back for redfish. I wanted to test a new fly and headed where I knew the fish would be. I shut down and drifted for a moment, then got on the poling platform, rod at the ready. Within a few minutes, I had my first redfish backing along the shoreline. I made a bad cast and spooked him. Less than two minutes later, I had another redfish backing on the shoreline. This time, the fly was placed right and the result was a tight line and a good battle. A quick photo (located to the right) and the fish was released. These same scene repeated itself 20 times over the next hour; fish after fish was found backing or tailing along the shorelines. The video below was from another catch and release. After that, I called it morning. When I got back to the ramp, I heard the same old comments ,"I couldn't find fish", "I didn't see any fish", "I didn't catch anything". I just smiled, thinking maybe if they would adapt they would have success.

So, come enjoy some wonderful fishing and learn some new techniques. I guarantee you'll have a great day! Book your trip NOW! Click here to book your trip with Captain John Tarr!


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