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Linesiders and Silver

Finally, Florida weather is getting where it should be. That means sunny and hot, with much lighter winds than we have experienced the last three months. We shall wait and see if our typical weather pattern forms, but I am expecting it to: humid and calm in the morning, west winds picking up about 10am, winds laying off again about an hour or two later, then shifting east, then, about an hour later, thunderstorms. It would be nice to get into a predictable weather pattern, as it makes the fishing a little more predictable too.

This summer I plan on doing a little something different. Instead of focusing on redfish, which I love to do, I will be focusing my fishing attention on two other species: Snook (aka the Linesider) and Tarpon (aka the Silver King). While a lot of people tend to think of these fish as a South Florida and Florida Keys species, we have some wonderful fishing for both here in Central Florida. Our mild winters over the last few years have been very beneficial to our snook fishery. their numbers have increased dramatically and the average sized snook has increased too. Even better, we have some real monsters in the area! Our tarpon fishery has always been good, as the big fish are migratory. However, we have one the best juvenile tarpon fisheries in the world; again, the mild winters have kept them from dying off and their numbers have increased as a result.

Snook are still my favorite fish to target. Lefty Kreh and I once had a discussion over what made these fish so special and we came up with several reasons. Snook, being ambush predators, are usually easier for new anglers to target than most other fish. This is because they typically lay in a area, waiting for prey to come to them; unlike redfish, tarpon, bonefish, and the likes, which are constantly moving to find prey. So, anglers can take a little more time to make the proper cast and get the offering where it needs to be. Now, once the cast is made, the easy part is over. Snook hit with uncontrolled force, trying to destroy the prey. Snook hit so hard that many times they miss on the first strike. Typically, this only makes them more aggressive and more determined to kill the prey the next strike. Once hooked, the real fun begins. Snook are

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Paul with a beautiful sight cast snook

powerful fish, with a thick, muscular tail base. They use their tail to exert maximum force in their desired direction. That direction can be straight for cover or up into the air. Snook are highly intelligent and will use every dirty trick in their arsenal to throw the plug, wrap your line around cover, or cut you off with their gill plates. You never have a snook defeated until you have it in hand (or net) and have a firm grip on it. There have been plenty of times that we have celebrated getting a big snook away from cover only to have it cut through 40 pound shock tippet or jump and throw the plug. Heartbreak is never more than a single mistake away with these fish. Success means a great photo opportunity with one of the most beautiful fish in the water; green back, fading into a greenish/silver side, yellow fin tips, and that unmistakable black lateral line. They truly are special fish and I love everything about them.

Tarpon are considered one of the finest gamefish available. People who hunt these fish will often become so addicted they forgo any other fish out there. The Silver King grows large, offers a tremendous fight, and spends about as much time in the air as they do in the water. Central Florida, including Ormond Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Oak Hill, Titusville, and Cocoa Beach have some of the best tarpon fishing in Florida. The fish here are usually less pressured than the more famous locations in Florida, meaning they are more willing to eat offerings. This doesn't mean they aren't still tarpon, meaning they can be as persnickety as a 3 year old eating broccoli. Still, I believe that we have some of the very best opportunities for anglers to have success when fishing tarpon, as long as they can make the right cast. Tarpon in my area can range in size from a few pounds to 200 pounds. These fish are found in different areas, so all you have to do is decide which ones you want to target. My favorite: 15-50 pounds. They provide plenty of action, without trying to break you, and typically they are more willing to eat. But, the lure of triple digit fish can be hard to dismiss and it truly is a magnificent experience when you hook into one.

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Tarpon, landed, photo and release

Of course, redfish and sea trout are around and can be targeted by anglers. In fact, summer is the time of year I usually target the big sea trout. Big sea trout are difficult fish to fool. They are extremely wary and require a stealthy approach

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Gator Sea Trout sight casted on fly

and a little luck; luck comes in the form of finding the fish not facing you as you approach. When everything comes together, big sea trout give a great visual strike and fight hard. These trophy fish are now protected, thank goodness, and all of them are released to spawn and provide us with more fishing opportunities in the future. The redfish can be a little more difficult to sight fish, as the water becomes a little cloudy, but we still have ample opportunities along the shorelines and oyster beds. Be prepared though, as these fish require accurate, fast casts.

Summer is by far my favorite time on the water. Mostly because there are so many opportunities to target different fish. I would like to give a little advice on those planning a trip. Be prepared to fish either early morning or late afternoon. On most days, the fish are not active in the middle of the day, due to the heat. That's okay, as that time of day can be miserable on the water. The day before your trip, be sure to hydrate thoroughly. There is nothing worse than showing up at the dock, partially dehydrated, and then getting worse during the trip. This means limit your intake of alcohol and try to take in as much water as possible. Save the drinks for celebration afterwards. For those that just cannot take the heat, try a night trip! I offer night trips throughout the summer and these can be much more enjoyable for anglers that cannot tolerate heat and humidity. While we might not sight fish in the conventional manner, we still see our fish, just in a different way.

As I am writing this, summer trips are booking up. So please, book early, for you best chance at being able to get out. I would hate for you to miss some wonderful fishing opportunities because you waited until the last minute to try and book.

As always, feel free to call or email if you have any questions.


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