Being Successful Despite Tough Conditions
I stated in an earlier blog that September was not kind to us, as far as water conditions go. Well, October has not been better. The water is still extremely high, dirty and an algae growth is still dominating many areas. I had hoped that a few
days without rain and some cooler temperatures would help with the algae bloom, and they appeared to for a very limited time. Then, we received more rain and warmer than normal temperatures, and the algae bloom started again. Our land is over saturated with rain waters, so much of the new rain runs off into the ditches that lead to the river and lagoon area. Unfortunately, this runoff water is rich with nutrients, leading to algae blooms of various types. The one taking place right now is a green algae, readily visible to the human eye, because the water in many areas is almost neon green. While it isn't harming wildlife, for now, it has reduced visibility to a few inches. With the extremely high water conditions, it is making sight fishing almost impossible. Yet, fishing goes on. Not everyone can wait for prime fishing conditions, with clear water, light winds, and the right tides. Many people have to plan vacations far in advance and then deal with the conditions they are given. In addition, the conditions can change rapidly, so even a week can make a huge difference.
To be successful in these conditions, anglers must be willing to adapt and rely less on their vision and more on the guide knowing where fish like to spend their time. While it hasn't been easy, we have had success on recent trips. Conventional anglers will find this is a perfect time to utilize baits that create a disturbance in the water and have some scent to them. This allows predatory fish to utilize their sense of smell and their lateral line to locate the bait and move in to intercept it. My conventional tackle anglers have been very successful using Z-Man PaddleZ swim baits. These baits offer a great tail movement that produces a wake like real mullet or other baitfish. Since they are naturally buoyant, they also remain in the fish's vision area, instead of laying flat on the bottom, when worked slowly in the water column. To entice the predators a little more, I throw on some inshore recipe ProCure. The product adheres well to the Z-Man products and gives off just enough added scent to make it easier to locate the bait in the dirty water. Z-Man Fishing Products just came out with a new jig head that incorporates their Chatterbait design, which I will be testing soon. The Chatterbait works wonders on largemouth bass, and I fully expect the new jig head to work great on redfish, seatrout and snook.
Fly fishing has probably been the most difficult style of fishing in the last month. Since we rely primarily on sight fishing, we have targeted those species that still give us the best opportunity: snook and tarpon. Snook numbers have been phenomenal this year and unlike redfish and black drum, they love to lay near the surface. One look at a snook's underslung jaw and you know that they are designed to feed up. Because of this, they like to lay motionless, along mangroves, docks, or other structure, just under the surface and wait for prey to come to them. It takes a careful eye to notice them, as their shadow usually blends in well with the roots, boards or trees they are near. Once the fish is spotted, the difficult part begins: making a presentation that is close enough to get their attention without spooking them. Each fish can be different, so an angler must start outside and work their way in. This has been made more difficult with the high waters, as there is very little room between the mangrove branches or dock boards and the surface of the water. If a good presentation is made, sometimes they eat and sometimes they don't. This may be the most aggravating part of the game. When they eat, the fun begins. Trying to remove a snook from their lair is not easy. Reactions have to be quick and the angler must not give an inch, if at all possible. Tarpon have also been plentiful, but they are tarpon. What does that mean? They will readily eat one minute and then spend the next 8 hours rolling all around you and refusing to eat anything you put in front of them. My most success has been with the Micro Feather Changer fly. This fly has resulted in more eats this year than any other fly in the box. For tarpon, it is all about placing an accurate cast in front of the fish; not an easy thing to do with limited visibility. Redfish and Seatrout have been taken, but they have been more a target of opportunity. We cover a lot of water and get a few shots. The shots have to be quick and accurate, while you can still see the fish and get a fly in the right position. The nice thing is, for new anglers, the casts are relatively close and the fish do not spook easily.
October should be a month of improvement for our water. Typically the King Tide season ends, dropping water levels back to their normal tidal ranges. This allows us to go back to sight fishing, even in murky water, as fish will tail and back again. Exactly when this will happen depends on nature. I am hoping that it will be sooner than later. As far as clarity goes, it will also depend on nature. We need a few drier weeks, with limited rain, and some cooler temperatures. This will inhibit algae growth and allow our waterways to clear up. Until that takes place, it will continue to be tough for sight fishing in deep water. Looking at the long range forecast, our rain chances are lessening and the temperatures are dropping from highs in the 90s to highs around 80. This is good news, as long as they are accurate. My biggest wish is that the seagrasses we saw starting to grow, just prior to this algae bloom, survive and can spread; this would go a long way to helping our waterways and keeping future algae blooms at bay.