August Florida Fishing Report
Wow, where has the year gone? It’s already the beginning of August and it doesn’t seem like that long ago we were celebrating the new year. I know a lot of you have been busy, as most people I know are spending more time working than being able to enjoy life. For me, the season has been a little lighter than normal, because of the very reason I just stated. I know many of you, my regular clients, are trying your best to get some time off work and come enjoy the outdoors. The good news is, there is still plenty of time and the fishing is getting better and better. So, I encourage each of you to remember to take a little time for yourself. If you are feeling down, aggravated, tired, or like you are just running in circles with the routine of wake up, go to work, eat, and go sleep, a day or two on the water, can re-energize you and remind you why you work so hard.
I am very happy to share some wonderful news with my clients and those just stopping by to check the website out. This is the first summer in a very long time that our waters have remained relatively clear and we have massive amounts of seagrass. The seagrasses started trying to return about 5 years ago, maybe a little more in some areas. But it was having a very difficult time. Last year I reported some of the best seagrass growth we had seen in over a decade. I wasn’t sure how the seagrasses faired after two hurricanes pounded us last year. It seemed to take forever for our water levels to drop and for the water to finally clear up, so we could see the results. Thankfully a lot of it survived. I was disheartened when I discovered a couple of flats that had been lush with grass were barren and I thought we had a major setback. Nature decided to rebound aggressively and I was astonished at how quickly those areas not only regrew, but spread. According to satellite imagery, we’ve recovered almost 40% of our seagrasses that we lost. Sure, we still have a long way to go, but the news is very exciting. The seagrasses help us maintain clearer water, and provide the much-needed hiding places for everything. The seagrass has led to an increase in baitfish, shrimp, crabs and predators. This, along with the new catch-and-release only for redfish, is a major building block to get the Mosquito Lagoon Estuary back to her glory! Now, on to the fishing!
August should start to see the return of great snook fishing. The last couple of months have been a little hit or miss with
them, as spawning season was in full swing. I’m not positive where our snook travel to reproduce. I’m sure some swim to Ponce Inlet, as the snook fishing there has been phenomenal. I’m also sure that many of them find places along the main channel that meet their requirements. As the spawn starts winding down, they will return to their protected haunts, where I like to target them. It also means they will spread out a little more and return to normal feeding patterns. We’ve had some big snook caught this year and we’ve had our ass handed to us but some monsters. The biggest one we’ve landed this year was taken a couple of weeks ago, but a friend’s nephew. He fought it like a champ and despite being bigger than my landing net, we managed to get her in the boat, take a quick picture and release her. We didn’t take time to measure her, but I estimated her at about 12 pounds. Yes, we’ve seen bigger and hooked bigger, but those monsters are just hard to get out of their lairs.
Perhaps the most challenging fishing this year has been tarpon. Tarpon started showing up early this year, with a mild winter and a warm spring. Then we had a really weird cold snap in late May and many of the tarpon disappeared. The numbers didn’t really rebound until the last couple of weeks. Over the last couple of weeks, tarpon have returned in good numbers. However, they are definitely being tarpon. What does that mean? It means they can drive you absolutely mad. We’ve had mornings where we are completely surrounded by fish and cannot get one to eat anything. You know it’s bad when they refuse live bait that you place right in front of them. We’ve also had mornings where they are going bonkers and slamming flies, plugs, or jigs. There is a definite reason why people get so enthralled with these fish. The reports of losing sleep, spending countless days chasing them, and being driven to the brink of a mental breakdown are not stories, it happens. We’ve gotten enough fish to eat and put enough in the air that I know we can have success and it makes me chase them every chance I get. Most of our tarpon are in the 35-80 pound range. These are perfect size to me, as you can enjoy catching more than one without feeling like you are about to die. We’ve put a couple o triple digit fish in the air, which is enough action from those fish for me, but we haven’t landed one yet. I fully expect August and September to be great for tarpon, so you still have time to book a trip for them.
If you really want an angling challenge right now, but don’t want to mess with tarpon, seatrout would be my next target for you. More specifically, the big gator seatrout. The returning seagrass is definitely making it much more difficult to target the big, gator seatrout. These fish love to hide in the seagrass or right along the edge of it. Unfortunately, for us, it makes it almost impossible to see them. Hey, these fish don’t get big by being stupid. My conventional anglers have a little bit of advantage here and working topwater plugs has been phenomenal for these fish. Prop baits and smaller topwater plugs have been the best for these fish over the last month, which is great. It is hard to beat the excitement of seeing and hearing these big trout explode and crush topwater. In addition, casting topwater plugs allows us to cover a lot of the flat, increasing our chances of success. Jigs have been working too, especially when the sun rises and the water starts to heat up. The Z-Man Razor ShadZ have been the go-to for this activity. They seem to push enough water and give enough vibration the fish can locate them in the grass, but they aren’t so bulky they spook the fish. For years, I have prided myself on catching more gator seatrout on the fly rod than almost anyone else. That hasn’t been the case so far this year. We have found a lot of them while fly fishing, but it has been last second sightings and the fish were already spooked. When we have gotten a big girl to eat, it seems like anything that can go wrong does; missed hook sets, tangles in fly line, fish just spitting the fly, and even leaders being cut by random items in the water. The fish are here, so it is just a matter of time before we get revenge on them. Fly anglers that can make longer cast with poppers probably have the best chance, with sight fishing taking place when the sun is high enough for some visibility in the grass.
Redfish have probably been the second most aggravating fish this summer. Finding them has not been an issue. Getting them to eat has been another story; some days have taken a lot of work and persistence and other days the bite has been on fire. As I stated earlier, our water has remained relatively clean. This has allowed us to continue sight fishing redfish. The down side; if you can see the fish, they can see you. So, not only do we have to make sure we don’t alert them through their lateral line, we have to try and keep them from seeing us. Once again, the seagrass is both a positive and negative here. The seagrasses can help block their vision, but it makes it a little more difficult to see the fish; especially if they aren’t moving. For the first time in a long time, many of the redfish have also remained in schools, instead of breaking up into single or doubles. Targeting schools of fish requires patience and accuracy. Each additional fish in a group dramatically increases the chances they either see or feel you. If you alert one fish, you alert them all. Our keys to success have been to increase the length of our leaders on both conventional gear and fly gear, along with using lighter leaders. 12-pound tippet on the leaders has worked the best, while still proving plenty of strength to land the fish quickly. Accuracy is also paramount for success. If we find a larger school, you need to understand how to work the edges of the school, instead of trying to cast to the middle of the school. If we find singles and doubles, the cast must be placed within a foot or less, without spooking the fish. The best way to accomplish this is to estimate where the fish will be, lead them, and intercept the fish in a natural way. Just be prepared to recast if the fish changes direction or you are off target. Fly anglers can have a definite advantage here, as they don’t have to reel in to make another cast. My best hits for conventional gear have come on Z-Man MinnowZ in a custom color they made for me. I’ve either been rigging these on their Red Eye Jigs and the ChinlockZ if I want them weedless. My fly anglers have been tearing the redfish up on a weightless version of the Borksi Chernobyl PM Crab.
I don’t have a lot to report on the freshwater side, as I haven’t been over there in a few months. Everyone has been wanting to chase the salt fish, so that’s where I’ve been. I do have some friends that have been in St John’s and they’re having some good days with schoolie largemouth bass and panfish. So, I’m pretty sure it’s good over there too. I love spending time on the St John’s, but my boat goes where the customers want to go.
There is some exciting news for those of you that love to tie your own flies, or those that interested in getting started in fly
tying. Mad River Outfitters is hosting a great opportunity to learn and spend time with two of the greatest anglers and fly tyers in the world: Flip Pallott and Blane Chocklett. This class is being hosted by Renzetti, the manufacturer of the world’s best fly ting vises and tools (in my humble opinion). During the event, you will learn fly tying, share some lies (I mean fishing stories), sample some fine rum, and laugh more than you thought possible. Check out the link to get more information and to register. The class is limited in size, so don’t wait! If you come down for the class and want to spend an extra day, call me! Let me know you are taking the class and I’ll give you a little discount for supporting my friends.
Don’t forget, I am also still offering a multi-day discount. If you book more than one day with me, within the same week, I am giving a $25 discount/day on 4-hour trips and a $50/day discount on 6- or 8-hour trips. Honestly, 4- and 6-hour trips are the way to go right now. 8 hours is difficult for most people, due to the heat and humidity. A recent update to the skiff is making sure my clients are riding in comfort! New cushions were installed this week and they are "Recliner Comfy". Now, no matter the conditions, you will feel like you are riding on a cloud.
I want to thank you taking some time to read the fishing report! If you have any questions, please drop me an email (email@example.com) or call me (386-314-5998). I would love to hear from you and get you out for a day on the water! Until next time, Tight Lines and Screaming Drags to all!
-Captain John Tarr