Fishing Report and Tips
I'm sitting here at the dining room table, having my morning coffee on a rainy Sunday. I decided to look back at January, so I could write a fishing report and send it out and determined that a lot of January was the same way: cloudy, gloomy looking and rainy. Unlike a lot of our winters, we've had a pretty wet January and the winds have been gusty too. It's made for less than ideal fishing conditions a lot of days. We also had some of our coldest temperatures in a while. A couple of cold fronts have pushed our low temperatures to near freezing and we had two mornings of below freezing temperatures. Thank goodness it didn't last long, so the vast majority of our warm weather fish survived.
The cold temperatures have cleared the water up significantly. In fact, the only areas where the water isn't nice and clear are those areas with lots of mullet or the areas where the wind is unobstructed. In both of these areas, the sand on the bottom gets kicked up, turns the water muddy, and makes visibility extremely difficult. Having this knowledge and planning around it is a must for the best success. The only hard part is when the wind decides it wants to shift, throughout the day, as much as 200 degrees. We've had a couple of trips where the wind started out NW, and by the end of a 6 hour day, it had shifted throughout the entire compass, before settling on SW.
These conditions can require us to spend a little more time moving around, but I also have some areas that I love to fish in conditions like this. These areas are hard to find, require an extremely shallow draft boat, and take too much effort for the average angler or guide to get to; they also happen to hold some fish that do not get a lot of pressure. All of this adds up to some great action on redfish and large seatrout, as long as the angler can follow a couple of guidelines.
Clear water can make for frustrating fish catching. Oh sure, you can see the fish from a long distance away. The problem: they can see you too. With the lack of seagrass in the Mosquito Lagoon and surrounding waters, there is very little protection for the fish and there is nothing to block their view or deaden the vibrations of a boat being poled across the flats. The fish are aware of their surroundings and redfish and seatrout know that the vast majority of their predators come from above. Therefore, they keep a keen eye looking skyward for any movement and rely more on smell and their lateral line to pick out prey or danger in the water. Anglers and guides need to keep this in mind, if they want to have success on these fish. A few tips for anglers: 1) Keep your rod low to the water when casting (sidearm casts are preferred) 2) Keep your rod still while looking for fish and keep false casting to a minimum 3) Try to stand still on the bow of the boat 4) Don't wear bright colored or flashy objects on your arms 5) Keep walking around to a minimum on the bow and avoid getting up and down a lot 6) Longer leaders 7) Lighter offerings 8) Lead fish more, if possible. All of these tips will help minimize the movement and the vibrations associated with moving and making presentations to fish. Despite all of the caution you take, there will still be plenty of fish that make you and refuse to eat. It is just a part of the game right now. So, we work hard and keep looking for the right fish, at the right time.
February and March are transitional months for Florida. Sometimes we warm up quick and stay warm. Other years we have warmed up and then had a late cold front bring us freezing temperatures and the coldest nights of the year in March. If you want to plan a trip during these months, give yourself a two or three day span, so you have a chance at the best weather. I know this isn't always feasible, but if you can, it will offer a better opportunity at a good day on the water. If it isn't feasible, then be prepared. Have clothing that can be layered, so you can add or remove it as the temperature and winds require. There is nothing worse than being cold on the water and trying to enjoy fishing; except being cold and wet.
The transition months also bring about spawning time for many fish; especially those on the freshwater side of things.
While most of business revolves around the saltwater, I love fishing the St John's River and its associated lakes for largemouth bass, bowfin, crappie, and panfish. All of these fish offer their own unique challenges, but they are great fun when taken on the right gear. Panfish and crappie offer a nice fight on ultralight spinning gear. Largemouth Bass and Bowfin are spectacular on heavier spinning gear or plug gear. All of them are fantastic on fly rods. March is also the start of bowfishing season. The exact start will depend on the weather, as we need the coldest weather to be done. Then, big, wild tilapia will start their spawning dances and the fun begins. These fish can also be taken with a fly or ultralight jig, but I warn you they are difficult to get on regular tackle; they are also bruisers on light gear.
As a final note for this blog, I am happy to announce that Tailhunter Outdoor Adventures logoed merchandise is now available. The logo features my trademarked redfish tailing in front of the mangroves, with Tailhunter Outdoor Adventures around it. I have t-shirts (men's and women's), tumblers, coasters (car and home style), hats, keychains/luggage tags, and stickers (3") available. Additionally, I have a selection of keychains/luggage tags that have flies I have custom tied embossed on them. Check out the short video, which shows a few of the items. Each of these items are made right here, in my hometown, by a local business. All items will be sold through their shop, for which the link is: keyteesparx.com
Now is the time to prepare and book your next fishing trip. Heck, after everything we've all gone through the last couple of years, you owe it to yourself to get out and enjoy life! Don't take life for granted and remember this: I've never seen a headstone that said they wished they spent more time at work. These trips are all about relaxing, making memories, and enjoying life.
Until next time, TIGHT LINES and SCREAMING DRAGS!
-Captain John Tarr