Florida Fishing Report
Good day everyone! It has been a little bit since I have done a full update report, and I am very excited to do this one. I’ve been busy with guiding, helping some friends expand their business, and creating new content for the website, my YouTube channel, and the Tailhunter Outdoor Adventures Facebook page; If you don’t follow these platforms, it is a great way to get more routine updates on what is taking place. The links are on the bottom of the page and it’s a great way to stay updated more frequently, without being bombarded.
Where to start? I have spent quite a few weekends helping Flip Pallot with some fly-casting schools. During these classes I kept noticing the same thing. Instead of people practicing what they should, for a successful trip, they all wanted to practice one thing: trying to cast a fly line into the next zip code. While distance casting does have its place, far too
much emphasis is placed on it. Flip and I kept trying to redirect participants into practicing what they really needed to, but not long after we moved to the next student, they would revert right back to the distance stuff. Well, that got me to thinking and I decided to finally make a casting practice video for those coming to visit and those just looking to improve their fishing days. The video is about practicing for successful fishing trips. While it is focused on what I need clients to be able to do with a fly rod, it can be adapted to any fishing situation and any fishing gear. It’s a relatively short video, but covers all of the important aspects and really drives home what you need to practice. It should also help drive home what you should practice for any fishing situation: actual fishing conditions!
Shortly after posting the video, I started getting requests for the casting targets. Being a wood worker, I was going to take some time and make casting targets and offer them for sale. But that means taking time away from fishing, which has just been too good to do that. In addition, my targets are very basic. Instead, one of my local artist friends, Nick Ewing made some targets and they are gorgeous! Nick’s targets are well made, represent an actual fish really well, and I would rather help a friend’s business that revolves around this type of stuff than take away from my primary focus and try to add something. Check these targets out and visit his website or email him; you will not be disappointed! Here’s his contact information: email@example.com
One other announcement before I get to the actual fishing report. In an effort to help people experience more time on the water, I have decided to offer a multi-day discount to anglers booking trips. The discount applies to clients that booking multiple days within the same week; I was originally making it consecutive days, but sometimes we have to split days up because of trips already planned with other clients. The discount will be $25/day for 4-hour trips and $50/day on 6- and 8-hour trips. There is no limit on how many days can be discounted. I’ve always suggested that the more time you spend with a guide, the better our chances of success, so I want to try and make it a little easier to book multiple days. I have also added every payment method there is for clients and unlike many charters, I don’t charge a fee for using credit cards or bank transfers.
Let’s get to the fun stuff now, fishing! All of my charters have revolved around saltwater fishing, but I will start with my personal trips in the freshwater side, for those people that just love the sweet water. Florida has some of the most wonderful largemouth bass fishing in the world and I still love doing it. I guess it has to do with my childhood memories, spending those wonderful days on the water with my grandfather. The best part about bass fishing in Florida is that you don’t have to travel far or even own a boat. All you have to do is find a local pond that you have access to. If the pond has
been there more than a couple of years, it will hold largemouth bass. This makes it perfect for those who only have a couple of hours to enjoy the outdoors or don’t have access to a boat. If you want further adventure, I love fishing the St John’s River. Not only is the St John’s River absolutely beautiful, it offers wonderful fishing largemouth bass, panfish, catfish, and the often-underrated bowfin. Depending on how far south we travel, you also get into the cichlids; Mayan Cichlids are probably the most abundant and they provide a wonderful fight on ultralight and fly gear. I have also been getting request for bowfishing trips, for tilapia. I love bowfishing these guys! I do it differently than most places that offer bowfishing. We don’t go at night, with tons of lights on the boat, shooting fish that are sitting motionless, stunned by the bright lights. No, we stalk them on foot, wading the shallow waters and looking for them. It requires stealth, patience and accuracy. But it can provide plenty of very tasty meat for meals. Yes, these tilapia are wild fish and spawn every spring in our waters and feed on various insect, small minnows and vegetation; they aren’t like the farm-raised “crap” fish from overseas.
On to the saltwater side of things! Those of you that follow me on social media know that one of the things I have been fighting hard for, for over a decade now, is our water quality within the Indian River/Mosquito Lagoon Estuary system. These fights that I and many others have brought to the forefront of the public’s attention have resulted in some major changes. Our Governor and our State Legislators have funded MILLIONS in restoration work along our waterways and more importantly, they have followed through with their promises to make these issues a priority. I’ve voted for a long time in this state and every time, the politicians made promises, scheduled funding, and then cut the funding. Not this time This isn’t a political endorsement, but I’ve always promised to give credit where credit is due. Governor DeSantis and our State Representatives made a commitment to us to provide funding, approve projects, and to make it a priority. They have kept those promises and the projects have been funded, started and many have been completed. Organizations like Captains for Clean Water, the Mosquito Lagoon Alliance, and regular individuals like myself have kept on top and made our message clear: we want our estuaries to recover! With that being said, I am more excited this year on our progress than I have been in over a decade. We started seeing good signs of recovery last year, before the hurricanes. The hurricanes did a number on us and I wasn’t sure how bad the damage was. It took months for the water levels to come down and for the water to clean up. However, over the winter and spring, it did. The good news is, a lot of the seagrasses survived and they have been expanding their coverage! The water has remained surprisingly clear, despite warm weather, which usually sparks our algae growth and off-colored water. We need the trend to continue and we aren’t done fighting. But it is a positive sign we can see and get excited about!
The improvement in the estuary and some new conservation laws enacted (redfish are catch and release only in the system now) really have me excited for the fishing too. Summer is my favorite time to fish, despite the heat and bugs, as everything is available: redfish, snook, seatrout, black drum, tarpon and more! The start of this summer has been one of the best that I have ever had. I’m going to start with my personal favorite, Snook. Snook fishing has been off the charts since early spring. Our mostly mild winters have led to a population explosion of these wonderful fish. Why do I love snook? Simple, they are everything an angler could ask for: willing participants in most situations, strong fighters, dirty fighters, and beautiful. If you are not familiar with snook, they are the back-alley brawlers of the fishing realm. When feeding, they crush baits with a “it must die” attitude. Once hooked, they provide aerial jumps and flips, powerful runs, and they try the dirtiest tricks around to cut you off. Not only have our snook populations increased, the average size has also increased significantly. No longer is the average fish 15-16 inches. They are now in the mid-20-inch range, with numerous fish being much larger. Just last week I was absolutely destroyed by a fish we estimated over 25 pounds; not my estimate, but a friend of mine that has held several IGFA world records and caught more big snook than I’ve seen. While these fish can be heart breakers, they are worth the little bit of that for the excitement they provide.
Of course, the mainstay for our area, and what we were once world renowned for is redfish. These fish have not been disappointing us either. Last October, redfish were made catch-and-release only throughout the Mosquito Lagoon/Indian River Estuary. We had been fighting for this status for a long time and the state finally listened and agreed with us. Additionally, many of us have finally educated new people into properly fishing and not over pressuring the spawning fish in the fall. This has led to a couple of good years of spawning. This year, I’ve found schools of rat redfish less than a year old, which is a first in a long time. These schools aren’t as big as they used to be, but they are 50-100 fish, which is a great sign. This is also the first time in a long time that fish have remained in schools after winter. We’ve found schools of 15-50 fish throughout the system. The redfish have been a little picky at times and requiring some hard work. But, with some patience, persistence and being prepared (which I always am) with a variety of offerings, we’ve been successful more times than we haven’t.
Summer time is by far my most favorite time to target large spotted seatrout too. The last couple of years were very disappointing in locating these fish and catching them. This year has been much better in locating them, which is the start to catching them. Over the last month, we have seen more double-digit seatrout than I saw in the last two years combined.
We’ve had some success in getting them to eat, but things have gone awry after that and we haven’t landed one yet. We’ve landed plenty of fish in the 4–5-pound range, which is still a good seatrout. I will be hunting the double-digit fish and hopefully landing a new IGFA world record with my wife; we are going to target the women’s fly record.
We can’t talk about summer fishing without talking about tarpon. The Silver King started showing up in March, but they were inconsistent until about 3 weeks ago. Now they are here and readily available to target! There was a time I was hesitant to offer targeted tarpon trips, like they do in the Florida Keys. The fishing here is different and the techniques are not what one typically thinks of when they think tarpon fishing. Yes, we still sight fish them, but for the most part, we sight fishing rolling fish. This requires an understanding of how to read the roll and having an idea of what the fish are doing after they roll. World renowned angler Andy Mills does a wonderful job of explaining this in his book, A Passion for Tarpon; this is a must own book for any serious tarpon angler. Our tarpon numbers have become plentiful enough and consistent enough that I now have no issue targeting tarpon, not only as an “extra” species, but as a specific targeted species. In the last three weeks, we have jumped tarpon from 10 pounds to 100 pounds. Personally, I love the little guys, up to about 40-50 pounds and we have plenty of them. Those that want triple digit fish just need to be prepared physically and mentally; it requires physical endurance to battle those big fish and it requires the mental preparedness to stay focused, accept rejection after rejection and be prepared when you least expect on to eat. My favorite way to chase these fish is on fly, but I’ve got plenty of conventional gear to chase them too, no matter the size.
Black drum will round out my report on the saltwater side, although there are plenty of other fish we are catching too. Black drum are often overlooked by anglers that prefer redfish. If redfish are the sleeker, faster, sports car of the drum world, black drum are the slower, more powerful, and sometimes much tougher version of the drum family. These fish are often referred to as big slimy or big ugly, but they are wonderful fish to catch. We have located some huge schools of smaller black drum, up to 200 fish in a school, and we are finding a few 30-40 pounders each trip too. These fish aren’t always easy to fool, but they do provide a powerful fight when you hook them.
As always, I hope to hear from you soon. To book a trip, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org click on the contact link at the top of the page, or call me (386) 314-5998.
If you have any questions, email me! Is there something you would like to see me go over on the social media pages? Contact me and let me know!
Oh yeah, one last announcement, before I let you go. If you are a fly angler or fly tyer and want a once in lifetime
opportunity, this will be for you! At the end of June, Mad River Outfitters will be hosting a fly-tying school with Flip Pallot AND Bob Clouser, in Titusville, Florida. This three-day course by two legendary anglers, conservationists and anglers is limited to 14 people! While fly tying will be the main focus, there will be plenty of storytelling, rum drinking, laughs, and knowledge of everything fly fishing provided by these two superstars. If you are interested, head over to www.madriveroutfitters.com and get the details. Don’t hesitate to sign up! If you miss this opportunity, it may not come around again.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update! I know it was a little lengthy, but there was just too much exciting news and fishing to share. Until next time, may the tides be in your favor, the winds be gentle, your lines be tight, and drags screaming!
-Captain John Tarr