It's Been a Little While
I have always taken pride in the fact that I was able to provide timely updates on my website, but I must admit that I failed on this one. October and November were just kind of a blur, with numerous things taking place. While I was busy with some charters, I was also busy with some boat repairs, boating classes, and getting some personal business taken care of; mainly my dog, who had to have some emergency surgery.
First, I need to give a big shoutout to The Skiff Shop, owned and operated by Tom Gordon (the same Tom Gordon that originally built my skiff). At the end of one of my trips, I discovered some pretty extensive hull damage, and The Skiff Shop crew took her right in and made her as good as new. It is quite a pleasure when someone takes care of you in the same manner that you take care of your customers. They were able to get my skiff in and get her repaired in a couple of weeks, which is an awesome timeframe for a repair like that. It's also nice when you can never tell there was any damage to the boat. Still not sure how it happened, but I'm glad I have a great place to take care of those "oh crap" moments. If you ever need work on your boat, you owe it to yourself to give them a call. There's a reason people bring their boats from as far away as Texas to have them work on it. The can be reached at (386) 690-7543. Check out the photos below of the work they did! Pay no attention to the water spots, I had to take her out as soon as I got her back!
I will readily admit that the last couple of months of fishing were not the greatest, in my opinion. Our water levels were extremely high and it was constantly dirty. The only consistent fishing was for snook, which isn't a bad thing; but even they were not as cooperative as I like. In fact, some days they were just down right aggravating. Redfish were around, but with the high, dirty water, shots were limited. We could see plenty of them, but making casts 6-8 feet deep into the mangroves is not possible. When shots came, they had to be quick and on target, or the fish was gone. This was definitely not a friendly time for new anglers, which I had quite a few of. Location didn't seem to make a big difference either. I fished from Tomoka Basin to Titusville, with the same results. Even my baby tarpon fishing, which is usually on fire during the end of September and into October, was off. Still, we fished hard and we managed a few good fish here and there.
The good news is, December is here and so is some outstanding fishing. The water levels have finally returned to normal and the cooler weather has cleared it up significantly. This has brought about some good sight fishing and this will continue through the rest of the cooler months. Targeting redfish, black drum and seatrout should be good to excellent during the next three to four months. The only major obstacle will be wind. The winds can be a little tough, but if the angler is willing to dress for warmth and take a little ride, we can find places where fish are happy and the water is protected, about 80% of the time.
Just because the water levels are lower and it is clearer, making the fish easier to locate, doesn't mean they are suckers and easy to catch. In fact, because of the lower and clearer water, the fish can become much spookier. Anglers facing conditions like this need to be ready for a stealthy approach. Fortunately, this is exactly what my skiff was made for. So, the boat is good to go. Now let's discuss tackle for a moment.
Conventional anglers will find it time to downsize their offerings. Instead of large soft plastics, this is when i go to the finesse soft plastics. Z-Man Fishing Products has a huge offering of finesse jigs, with matching hooks. These lures enter the water softly and provide a much more natural look when worked in clear water. There isn't a fish I have found that won't inhale these soft plastics, if they are hungry and hunting on the flats. In fact, there are only a handful of times that I change from these baits. The one main time I do work something other than the finesse soft plastic, is when I need to "search" a flat, while working for large seatrout. These fish may be the wariest fish in clear water and they can be difficult to see before they see you and blow out. So, when I want to target them, I switch over to hard plastic topwater baits. The Rapala Skitter Walk is probably my most utilized topwater plug. This is an easy to use, walk-the-dog, lure that even a novice angler can pick up, throw, and retrieve properly. The walk-the-dog action is almost impossible for trout to pass up and they have color schemes to match any baitfish that is in your area. If the water is choppy, and I need to make some more noise to attract attention, the Rapala Skitter Pop becomes my lure of choice. The lure works great to entice strikes with a chug, chug, chug, pause action. Just be ready, because the strike usually happens during that pause and if you aren't paying attention, you can miss the hook set. If that happens, just keep working it. Trout and redfish are known to hit several times in a row, trying to kill whatever is attempting to escape. If you need to work below the water's surface, try out the Rapala X-Rap, Twitchin' Mullet, Twitchin' Minnow, or Flat Rap. All of these lure have worked on redfish, seatrout and snook.
My fly anglers will find this to be one of the best times there is. Don't let the wind bother you or make you think you are
going to have to cast heavy fly rods. When fly fishing, I find areas that are as protected as possible, or use the wind to our advantage. The low, clear water requires the use of lighter rods to prevent spooking the fish. Depending on just how clear and low it is, I may use a all the way down to a 5-weight rod. Don't worry, the cooler water has plenty of dissolved oxygen and the fish are able to be handled with this weight of a rod, using proper fish fighting techniques, and released without an issue. During this season, I will carry 5-8 weights on the boat, rigged and ready to go. Like conventional baits, I also use smaller flies during the winter than during the summer. Additionally, I use very little to no flash on the flies. Small shrimp, crabs and baitfish patterns are perfect for this time of year. Colors I use range from white to brown, with the majority being the more neutral, natural colors.
If saltwater angling isn't your style, there is plenty of activity on the freshwater side too. Bass, bream, and crappie have been giving us some great days along the St. John's River. The St. John's River is one of the most beautiful places you will ever witness, with abundant bird life, fish, alligators, and more. Ultralight gear is easy to cast all day and the fish provide plenty of fight. As we get deeper into the winter, we will start hunting American and Hickory Shad. These "freshwater tarpon" are a blast on ultralight spinning outfits and light fly rods.
No matter which style of fishing you like, give me a call and let's set up a day on the water! It is a great time to enjoy everything that Natural Florida has to offer. 4 and 6 hour trips are the most recommended during this time of year, at least until the days start to get a little longer after the New Year. These trips will offer plenty of opportunity to catch fish and enjoy making memories for a lifetime.