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Cooler Temps and Fishing Tips

The first couple of cold fronts have passed through Florida, bringing along some welcomed, cooler temperatures. Water temperatures have also fallen, with many areas in the 60s during the morning hours. I am hopeful that these cooler temperatures will help alleviate the algae problem we have been experiencing since September. So far, the algae is hanging on, but it typically dies off when the water temperatures remain below 65 degrees. This will be very important for proper sight fishing conditions.

Until then, sight fishing remains a little more difficult than normal. It requires searching areas throughout the system to locate the areas that have better conditions. The water levels are slowly dropping back to normal, so this will help until the algae finally dies off. For now, we are relegated to shorelines, sandbars, and oyster bars. This isn’t all bad, as these are the areas redfish like to cruise and feed. The only time it provides a big issue is when the redfish want to hang in deeper water, during the overnight or early morning; when water temperatures are at their coldest. The good news: there isn’t really a reason for sight anglers to launch at sunrise, unless they just enjoy the scenery and want to try their luck at some topwater action.

For those willing to forgo sight fishing, it can be a great time to throw some scented artificial lures, targeting the drop offs, deeper holes, and structure that helps hold warmer water. The fish are happy to eat anything that “accidentally” falls into their lap and they are very spunky. This is the time of year I downsize my offerings, using a lot of finesse style baits for the

fish. These types of baits imitate the natural bait that is available and they also make less disturbance when cast or moved through the water. This can be very important when fish are a little lazy and you need to drag it right in front of them, without spooking them. The Z-Man Hula StickZ is perfect for these conditions. I rig it on a Finesse ShroomZ Head; this gets it deep enough for drop offs, while still being stealthy enough if a fish is in shallower water. Fly anglers can also target these fish, using small Clouser minnows, weighted sliders, and crazy Charlie flies. It’s all about getting the fly down into the fish, which are usually along the bottom. While many may not consider this type of fishing the purest form of fly fishing the flats, it can be very productive.

Once the water warms up, the fish typically move up to the shorelines and shallower flats. This is when sight fishing becomes the best option and the days can be very productive. When they move up there, they are there for one reason: to feed. This means they are happy to take any offer that is presented properly. It doesn’t make them any less spooky, so proper presentation is a must. During this period, I use lighter jigs or flies, as I want them to enter the water with as little noise as possible. A light “plop” isn’t bad and can actually help attract a fish, but a noisy “splash” will often spook them from even 10 or 15 feet away. This is also the time I drop my fly anglers from 7 or 8 weight rods down to 5 or 6 weight rods and we lengthen the leader from 10 feet to 12 feet; these minor adjustments make a huge difference in success. Below are a few of my choices for sight fishing.

On a bit of a sidenote, you never know what a day on the water is going to bring. A couple of days ago, I launched the skiff just to take it out for a run. It was one of those days where things didn’t go according to my schedule, but I was free and wanted to check the water conditions. I launched later than I wanted, had some issues at the launch, and then had to divert around a couple of kayakers. It was one of those things that was more annoying than anything, but leaves you wondering why things happen. Well, I got my answer. Cruising along a shoreline I’ normally on the opposite side of, I saw something floating in the water. It looked like the tree end of a palmetto branch, but something urged me to check it out. I did and I am very glad I did. I discovered a 40-50 pound sea turtle that had been struck by a boat. The back end of the shell was cracked, trapping air, and making it impossible for him to swim or dive properly. He was struggling to keep from drowning. I made the proper phone calls to alert authorities. I spent the next 30 minutes wrangling him in 63-degree water; twice I was up to my waist in the water, trying to capture him. I finally managed to get him, bring him aboard, and take him back to the ramp. The turtle rescue arrived and transported him to the rehabilitation center. They expect him to make a full recovery, if everything goes like they want. For me, it was just another adventure that started when things didn’t go “my way”. Cold, sore, a cut up hand, and yet I was still extremely happy that I was put in the position to find him and rescue him. Yes, it could have happened with a client on board and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Sure, I would’ve made sure we covered the time spent rescuing him, but what a memory for the angler it would have been. So, this season, with the crazy world all around us, try to find the positive spin when things don’t go quite your way; more often than not, they are not as easy to figure out as this was.

I pray that each of you has a wonderful Christmas season. As always, I cannot wait to see you and enjoy our adventure together. There will be plenty of great fishing and excitement this month and into 2021 (wow, cannot believe it is that time already). Feel free to email me or call me with any questions you have.

One last note: I always have gift certificates and fly boxes for those on your list or for those wanting to know what to get you! All they have to do is call or email and we can get things taken care of.

Tight lines and screaming drags:

Captain John Tarr

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