Tailhunter Outdoor Adventures is happy to announce the newest member to the family: Declan Alexander Tarr! Yes, our first grandchild was born earlier this month, so Kim and I took a couple of weeks off to help bring him into the world and
to help our son and his wife adjust to the new life. He was a couple of weeks early, but he was a big baby and born as healthy as could be. We are beyond ecstatic to have him and now I just have to figure out a few things over the next few years: first fly rod, first fly reel, where to take him fishing first, etc. However, the first thing to do is commemorate his birth with a fly that I will name in his honor. I'm thinking something shrimpy and calling it Declan's Deadly Shrimp. But, that may change when I sit down at the bench and start tying. So please join my family in welcoming the future Hall of Fame Angler to the world!
The birth of Declan did cut into our fishing time a little this month, but that's quite alright with me. The next couple of months will make up for it, as I am as busy as can be. Still, we managed to get in a little fishing throughout the Central Florida area, focusing on the North Mosquito Lagoon and the Canaveral National Seashore area. Last year I posted a video about the return of seagrasses in the area and how excited I was to see the amount that had recently grown. Then, we had two hurricanes come through the area and ravage us. It took quite a while to see the damage these hurricanes did, as the water levels remained high for quite some time and it was very dirty as a result. Fast forward a couple of months and a couple of cold fronts. The water is nice and clear and it has dropped to almost "normal" levels. A lot of that grass growth we had seen was devastated. The young grass was not deeply rooted, so the constant waves, pouring down rains, and 100MPH plus winds just ripped it up by the roots. However, there is a lot of new growth taking place right now! In fact, everywhere we have fished, we have found signs of new seagrasses growing. This is great news and hopefully we can have a couple of years, like we had before last summer, where we can avoid major storms and the grasses can get a firm rooting and start to spread again.
In addition to the seagrasses we have seen sprouting up, I was also very happy to find a lot of "rat" redfish on recent trips. These fish have been 10 inches to about 16 inches, meaning they are approximately 1 to 2 years old. This is the first time in a few years that I have seen as many of these small redfish as I have. There was a time, about 10 years ago and further back, that winter time meant finding tons of these little fish roaming around. You could literally find schools of hundreds of them. Then, when fishing pressure got really intense on the breeding population, those schools got smaller and smaller, until they were almost non-existent. You cannot pressure breeding fish without directly impacting the population of new fish. Nature intervened over the last few years, making it difficult to find the breeders, and the population seems to be rebounding a little bit. The schools of rat reds we have found are not nearly as big as they once were, but seeing 30-50 in a school is promising and makes for some fun on light tackle. The hard part when fishing these schools is how spooky they are. Remember, for fish this size, "death from above" comes in all forms: anglers, ospreys, herons, eagles, racoons, dolphin, sharks and more. In order to survive, these fish react to each other, meaning when one spooks, they all spook. Yes, schools of big fish will do the same thing, but the little fish just have an added edge of wariness; probably because there is more stuff that can eat them.
There are some things anglers can do to be more successful with these fish and they can apply to all spooky fish. Here are a few of the most important to me:
Number One: TAKE YOUR TIME! I'm amazed at the number of people on the water that are in a rush. This is the time you are supposed to be relaxed, enjoying the time, and enjoying everything the natural world has. When targeting spooky fish, taking your time is a must. Use your pushpole and creep as slow as you can across the water. This is even more important when you are in shallow water. Remember, fish don't just see you, they feel you. They use their lateral line to feel every vibration and electrical impulse in the water. Every movement you make in the boat transfers to the water and gives them a chance to make you before you see them.
Number Two: GO LIGHTER ON YOUR GEAR. We've done videos talking about downsizing your lures and your flies. These smaller lures enter the water in a more subtle manner, which spooks less fish. They also move a little easier through the water, which means you can pull them through a school without spooking them as much. Going lighter also includes your leaders and fly line weights. Whether we are talking conventional or fly gear, your leaders need to be longer and lighter than they are during the summer. The smaller diameter is less visible and by increasing the length of your leaders, they is less chance of the mainline spooking them.
Number Three: KEEP YOUR CASTS LOW! Remember, these fish are constantly looking up for any threat. If you cast your rod overhead, there is more chance for the fish to see the movement of the rod, the shadow of the rod/line, the flash off a thread wrap, and lots of other negative things. So, keep your rod low to the water and make your cast sidearm. If you don't do this on a regular basis, it may take you a little bit to get your accuracy down. Don't get frustrated, just practice a little bit. Sidearm casting is not important for this type of situation, but it is a must for dock fishing and fishing the mangroves. Practice and you'll be amazed at how quick you adapt and become accurate.
Number Four: DON'T HIT THE SCHOOL. Work the outside of the school, not the middle of the school, when casting. In fact, work way outside the school and then work closer and closer, as the fish permit. If you drop a lure, fly or even a live bait into the middle of the school, more times than not it will result in the whole school blowing out. However, there is a way to work the middle of the school with a fly or jig that doesn't come from casting into them. Drop your fly or jig in front of the school and just let it sit. Pay attention, because a fish may pick it up without moving it. But, once the first 1/3 of the school passes over your fly or jig, give it a small twitch. It will look like the front of the school disturbed something from the bottom and a majority of the time, one of the other fish will greedily grab it.
Number Five (FLY FISHING SPECIFIC) STOP FALSE CASTING OVER THE FISH! The number one mistake fly anglers make is trying to take "one more" false cast to make sure the fly is where they want it. STOP IT! 9 out of 10 times, the result is spooked fish. Drop the fly sooner. If you aren't happy with the cast, you can pick it back up and recast. But false casting spooks more fish than almost any other angling mistake fly anglers make.
These five tips can help you have more success with spooky fish than changing our your lure 15 times. These tips can apply to all year round, but they are even more important when the water is clear and low and the fish are in schools.
Redfish aren't the only fish we have been finding. We have also been seeing a lot of seatrout. While we haven't seen any giants (fish over 30 inches), we are seeing a lot in the 17 inch to 24 inch range. Again, taking your time is paramount for these fish. They are very spooky and they are hard to see, even in the clear water. While I love fly fishing for these fish, I will be honest and say that conventional tackle has been more successful in catching them. Long casts with a topwater plug or a swimming jig work great at enticing these fish to eat. For fly anglers, drop down to a 5 or 6 weight line, long leaders (12 feet or more), and light flies that offer a large profile (Spartina Turner was specifically designed for these fish). The trout we have caught have been very healthy. They are fat, clean, and as clear eyed as they can be; absolute beautiful specimens.
Black Drum have also been around and their range seems to be increasing on a regular basis. I have found smaller black drum in places that I have never seen them in the 40 years I've been fishing the area. When targeting black drum in our area, remember they are not as active as redfish. Yes, they are in the same family, but black drum rarely chase things as far or as quick as a redfish. I prefer crab and shrimp imitations to target black drum and I try to pull it right in front of their face. Once hooked, black drum are like the diesel truck of the fish world. They may not be as fast as a redfish, but their power is hard to match. Slow, strong runs and sticking their heads into the mud and oysters are their typical fighting method. Steady side pressure will help you win, but be prepared for a run under the boat when you get them close.
Saltwater fishing isn't the only fishing going off right now. The freshwater side of Florida is picking up too. Largemouth Bass are starting to bed. Targeting these fish can be an absolute blast. While bass may not give the fight of a redfish or black drum, they are still a lot of fun to catch. Personally, I also love the way they eat and jump. Crappie (aka Specks) are also starting to be found in good numbers. Anglers wanting to target crappie either need local knowledge to find them or they will spend a lot of time trolling until they locate them. It's hard to be a fresh dinner of fried crappie fillets, so it makes it worth the effort to find.
Late winter and early spring are special times in Florida. Nature starts showing all of her beauty and the fishing gets hotter and hotter. Whether you want saltwater or freshwater, I can get you out there and help make memories that will last a lifetime. Call me (384) 314-5998 or email me email@example.com and let's book a trip!