October/November 2015

Fall is fun because there are so many different species to target from the kayak on the beaches and in the backwaters.  My best action inshore was hitting the residential docks and canals for snook, reds, trout, sheepies and drum with live shrimp.

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The wind kept me off the beach most days, but had some mixed success with pompano, mackerel, reds, flounder, mangrove snapper, grunts, and small sharks.

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I have been fishing a lot with my 4 year old son now after school.  He is all about being on the water and while he is interested in fishing, he spend hours just sitting in my lap playing with the bait, splashing around with the paddle, rocking the kayak, or working on walking from the front to the back of the kayak without falling off – or falling off.

When I take my kids or any of my 23 nieces and nephews  I have to readjust my mindset as to why I am out.  It is not about the fishing, but making the experience for the kids exciting and fun so they want to keep coming back.

 

Here is my gotta do list if you want to make your kids love being on the water:

  1. Bring LOTS of snacks.  Keeping their bellies full with their favorite goodies goes a long way to lengthen the trip and keeping everyone happy.
  2. Have NO expectation for the length of the trip.  On most days, if you put a 4 plus hour trip together for kids no one will come home happy.  I try to keep the trip around 2-3 hours.  One of my best days fishing with my daughter was her catching a 25 in red on the first cast and then smiling at me with that toothy grin and saying lets go swimming not dad.  Be willing to leave the fish biting and put your kid’s needs first.
  3. Watch wind and weather.  This is not the trip to test your manhood.  Pick a spot that is not going to put anyone in harms way like fast moving current or rough conditions.  Weather is a huge factor, too hot, cold or windy conditions can make life miserable for a little one. You want them to feel comfortable and safe otherwise you may scar them for life.
  4. Keep mom happy and worry free.  I will say it again.  Keep mom HAPPY and WORRY free.  That means before she even has to ask, let her know you have sunscreen, life jacket, first aid kit, and those much needed snacks and drinks ready to roll.  Oh yeah, and stick to your schedule.  If you tell mom you will be home by 4, be home by four and if not, call and save her unnecessary worries… i have yet to master that one:(
  5. Take lots of pictures.  Capture those moments.  People always tell me it goes by so fast.  That is not true… it goes even faster.  Make memories and keep them with lots of photos and videos.

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Fish ON!!

September 2015

Snook fishing was very good this September with snook biting well on beaches, at passes and in my go to winter spots.  We were getting the snook on a variety of baits from artificial jigs, pinfish and cut bait.

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The reds also have been biting will.  September is typically a hot month for reds and this month didn’t disappoint.  I employ cut pin fish and lady fish for my best action and mixed in gulp shrimp jigs to keep busy and cover more territory while soaking the cut bait.   The cut bait will find the reds, with some not so great by catches of catfish, stingrays, and small sharks, but the payoff is well worth weeding through the trash fish.

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The beach has been loaded with bait, but the wind hasn’t cooperated this month for me to get any serious fishing done.  I am eager for the temps wind conditions to stage up for the fall king fish run.  After snook and tarpon, kings are my favorite fish to target from the kayak.

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Hopefully this fall will prove productive.  It is by far my favorite time to fish the beaches, not only the kings, but flounder, grunts, grouper, cobia and even tarpon make a push back to the beaches for a few weeks before pushing off for winter months.

 

Fish On!!

 

August 2015

This August I got a shipment of new kayaks for my charters from Malibu, two stealth 12’s and the x-13.   I was eager to get them wet, so my first mate and I took them to the beach that evening to see how they handled in the surf.  We had trouble catching bait with the west winds kicking and as the sun began to set we turned our attention to kayak surfing and enjoying the sunset.  Even though we were skunked on our first trip out, it was great to see how the kayaks handled in 2 foot surf and they didn’t disappoint.

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It didn’t take long for us to dial in some nice fish with the new kayaks.  I love taking advantage of  the later afternoon evening hours during the summer.  It isn’t just about beating the heat, but keying in on the natural feeding time, with the sunrise and sunset a trigger for fish to feed.  Coincide this with a strong tide, and it is a recipe for success.

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My favorite tide is a strong low tide near sunset for kayak fishing around spoil islands for snook and reds.  The low tide kicks all the water off the flat and forces the fish out from under the mangroves and stacks them on the drop offs, edges and pot holes that surround the island.

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One of the advantages to kayak fishing is it makes you SLOW down and really fish an area.  There are days that if I were in a boat, I would have left a spot after 30 min to find fish.  Kayaking requires you to be patient and really put your time in at one spot, methodically working an area to find fish or wait until the bite turns on.  It really has made me a better fisherman and helped me locate new spots adjacent to my go to spots.

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The beach fishing has been steady when the winds have allowed us to get out to near shore reefs.  Grunts, mangos and flounder have been consistent, mixed in with a nice shark bite.  In late summer, the tarpon push off the beaches, but will return for a couple weeks at the end of September and first couple weeks of October to gorge on the white bait.  With the bait already plentiful on the beach right now, the mackerel are moving in.  I have also gotten a few short cobia and been busted off by some bruiser this month. This is a good sign in hopes for a strong fall cobia run.

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As the water temps begin to drop and the small fry bait on the beach gets bigger, the fall feeding frenzy off our Pinellas County beaches will be soon upon us!

Fish On!

July 2015

Reds! Reds! Reds!
Redfish have showed up big this July with lots of slot size and over slot fish staging up around mangroves and grass flats in our area.  I have been using combos of cut bait and gulp jigs to dial in the bite.  The bite seems to be strongest near the full and new moon phases.

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Snook are still active around passes and beaches. Live pinners and gulp jigs have been getting the job done. Sunrise and sunset are your best chance for these line siders.
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The beaches are still holding good numbers of tarpon, sharks, snapper and flounder.  The bait is just starting to stack up and mackerel will be more numerous as we get into late July.
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July also means scalloping for my family.  You can’t harvest scallops south of Hernando County and most are only accessible by boat, but there are some spots I have found in Tarpon Springs you can paddle out to and snorkel from the kayak.  I have taken my kids and introduce them to this fun pastime.
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Get out early or late as we hit the dog days of summer to beat the heat!
Fish ON!
Joe

 

June 2015

June is one of my favorite months because my top two fish to catch, tarpon and snook, are in full swing in the passes and on the beaches.

What makes both these game fish so alluring to me is that they are not easy to hook, and just as hard to land.  There are days when you have the perfect bait, the perfect tide and the stars are aligned and they still will not bite.  Don’t give up though, with patience and attention to detail, tides and moon phases more often than not you can get your chance at hooking up with these fish.  Landing them is another beast.  Both have sandpaper jaws suited for grinding down leader and razor sharp gill plates for slicing line.  Their epic runs, shear power, jumping ability and propensity to find structure of any kind to break off is uncanny.  They are smart fish and hooking and landing them is a real trophy.

The tarpon bite has been really good off the beaches.  Most summers I am spend a lot of time getting silver dollar size crabs to guarantee a bight, but so far they have not been interested in having a crab fest.   I have had my success matching the hatch using the szabiki to catch bait right at the swim boueys off the beach, then paddling a few more feet to intercept the tarpon that are cruising down the beaches.  The key is to mix up the baits.  Some days they will gorge on one bait but not want it the next.  My go to baits are free lined pinfish, white bait or thread fins, a crab under a float, or cut bait on the bottom.  To me the best part of a tarpon fight is the first 15 minutes, with acrobatic jumps and epic runs and after that I will often break them off rather then go through the hour plus dog fight to land them.

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The snook were stacked in the passes in late may, but now have spread out over the beaches.  Probably the easiest way to get into snook fishing is to walk the beaches at sunset or sunrise and fish working the swash channel.  Most people fish out to far at the beach.  The snook hug the shore line and you would be better off staying dry and casting parallel up the beach rather than wading out chest deep.     We have had good success fishing the passes for snook on my charters, landing nice size snook on pinfish and grunts on strong outgoing tides in the evening.  Artificials also work great and allow you to cover more ground.  The key for me and snook fishing is not being afraid to get out and wade fish.  This will give you an advantage because boats and even kayaks(kayaks a lot less water) displace water and sometimes this will push the fish away before you get a chance to get on them.  Snook is hands down my favorite species to catch inshore.  The “thud” strike, the initial run, the raw power and all out blitz is an adrenaline rush that keeps you coming back for more… aka “snook fever”.  I contracted this disease from my dad fishing Clearwater pass as a kid and I look forward to passing it onto my kids.

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Oh yeah, don’t forget about trout and reds and near shore mitigation mixed bag of grunts, flounder, snapper, sea bass and shark.  Just plan on beating the heat early or late to beat the heat and catch some fish!!

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Fish On,

Joe

May 2015

SNOOOOOOOOOOK!!!     This may has been one of the best months of snook fishing I have ever had.  The snook stocks that were decimated after the 2010 freeze has rebounded to an amazing fishery again.  The number of snook in the passes and on the beach swash channels is as good if not better than before 2010.

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The key so far to turning on the bite has been having white bait and close second is grass grunts and pinfish.

Big reds have been biting best on high tides on near mangrove islands, oyster bars and docks using cut pinfish.  Nice size trout have been biting well too around grass flats and spoil islands near the passes.

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For the thrill seekers out there, the silver kings are here.  100 plus pound tarpon are in good numbers on the beaches.  We jumped our first two tarpon off Sand Key using cut shad.  We got the best of these tackle busters with a few big jumps and runs before they broke off.  This fisherey is good throughout the whole summer, with the best bite coming around the new and full moon.

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Fish On!!

Joe

 

April 2015

The near shore kayak king fishing bite was a big dud this month for me off the beaches in the Bay Area.  The weather got way to warm to quick and the season was over before it even began.  But the warm weather didn’t stop other species from firing things up.

Trout action has been good on the flats with shrimp and soft plastic lures.  Snook action has been good too, with better action still in winter spots.  We were not able to dial in any hogs this month, but that will change soon with summer months dawning and trophy fish eager to feast at the passes on whitebait, grass grunts and pinfish.

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The beach mitigation reefs are holding nice numbers of tasty key west grunts with some flounder, mangos, and black sea bass mixed in.  This fishing is very weather dependent and when the gulf kicks up, beach kayak fishing shuts down. When conditions with wind and water clarity are favorable this type of charter is probably my most popular.  Fishing with light tackle is a blast and the action is pretty steady. It also passes the time for soaking a live pinfish on the bottom for big grouper or some cut bait off the reef for cobia or sharks.

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Fishing for reds near spoil islands or grass flats has also been consistent and should only get better as summer months roll in.  We have been getting nice slot sized fish with cut bait and dead sticked in rod holders and wait for reds to come to us.  It allows using multiple rods with a  a greater spread and the best part is freeing up hands to enjoy lunch and even a nice cigar.  On a recent trip to Weedon Island my brother and I staked out a nice flat where big reds were patrolling.  We deployed some fresh cut mullet and then fired up some cigars.  The reds never cooperated, but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend a beautiful spring day on the water fishing, pondering life, appreciating creation, and enjoying a good smoke.

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If you enjoy cigars let me know and I will definitely set you up on my charters!!

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Fish On,

Joe

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March 2015

March 2015 has been smokin hot temperature wise in the Tampa Bay area and the fishing has been just as hot.   Water temps have been screaming up towards 80 degrees in the inland waters ways waking the slumbering snook.  They have been chewing well as many fish are beginning to leave their winter wholes to make their way out to the passes and beaches.   Having white bait, aka greenies, has been the one ingredient that has snapped them out of their long winter hiatus.

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Having large amounts of white bait is impossible with kayak fishing.  I grin every time I see a charter boat captain pull up and chum 4o white bait at a time to fire up the fish, while I have at best 40 live greenies total in my arsenal.  But what kayak fishermen lack in bait capacity, they make up for with stealth and approach.

My Malibu Stealth 14 has a nice feature of a built in live well center tank that makes hauling bait easy on long paddles, and on short paddles, I load up as much as humanly possible by dragging the old yellow and white “bait bucket”, sometimes three or four if needed.  Because the bait often isn’t found where I want to fish, I utilize my truck and homemade cooler live wells to load up on the bait off the beaches and haul them in aerated tanks to my nearest snook lairs.

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The reds have been also eager to eat this month near mangrove spoil islands and residential docks, with my best luck coming on cut bait, especially lady fish.  Cut bait for kayak fishing is the bomb for obvious reasons, easy to keep fresh, haul and store in a zip lock bag in the cooler.  I keep track of where I can catch lady fish in my journals because if there are reds in the area, they will seldom turn it down.  Fishing with cut bait may not be “glamorous” but it is effective.

The beach water temps are perfect for kings right now but it seems it is heating up too soon, too quick.  The spring kingfish run is still up in the air, but I will be putting in my time trying to hook a smooker off the swim boueys of our local beaches once the winds lay down.  Grunts, mangos, sheepies have been biting well on the near shore reefs and as the water clears up, this action should only take off with more grouper, flounder, cobia and mackerel.

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Lastly, I was blessed to be able to take to really epic trip this March with my Dad to Weedon Island Nature Preserve.  We tackled the mangrove tunnel trails and shallow water estuaries to sight fish for snook and reds.  My dad is the sole reason I have my passion for fishing and to be able to guide him to such a unique place as Weedon Island was special.  Oh yeah… my dad is in his 70’s too, but you would never know that by his paddle endurance and never give up attitude.  I was ready to call it a day and get back, but he wanted to keep going and make it to one more spot.  We saw more big snook and reds cruising the flats and mangrove shore lines than we caught, but just sharing that experience with him is something I will never forget.

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Fish On!!

Joe

February 2015

This February we found the most consistent action hanging tight to the residential docks and canals for reds, drum and sheepies using live shrimp.  The bad news for this month is we never locked into large numbers of slot to oversize reds on any one trip.  Most days this month we have had to put time in to catch a keeper size red with by catches of drum and sheepies to take up the slack.  The up side is the stock of reds seem really strong in our area with easy double digit (over 30 on one trip) undersize rat reds being caught on a regular basis this month.

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The trout are still holding off the deeper edges of grass flats and some larger single fish being found in the shallower flats in sand holes.  I like to work artificial jigs to cover more ground when trout fishing.  Live shrimp work well too, but be prepared to burn up a lot shrimp feeding all the pinfish on the flats.

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I have also spent more time this month honing my paddle boarding skills which gives the ability to sight fish.  The key is having a kayak stable enough to stand in allowing you to raise your line of vision and “sight fish”.  This takes some core strength and balance to pull off, but don’t think you need to be a yogini to attempt this.  I am 6′ 3″ and consider myself on the low end of balance spectrum, but have been able to pretty quickly develop(still have room to improve) these skills in my Malibu Stealth 14 kayak.  One drawback to kayaking for me has been the inability to sight fish, but with wider kayak designs, this is changing.  The trade in for a wider stabler kayak is the loss of speed, but for me, the advantage of sight fishing makes up for this loss.

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With February waning I have my eyes already set on March.  Snook season opens the 1st of the month in the Bay Area!!  I love eating snook, but I have developed a healthly respect for this amazing fishery and now a days I would rather catch em than eat them.  But with that said, and the stock bouncing back from the winter of 2010, I am looking forward to bagging one keeper snook this season and introducing it to some panco, cajun seasoning and peanut oil in my deep fryer.

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It is also time for me to start getting my gear ready for hitting the beaches and near shore reefs for flounder, grunts, catch and release grouper and by the end of the March, kingfish.  March is also a great month for sheepies if you can catch the in there spawn as they feed aggressively.

 

Fish On!!

January 2015

January is one of the tougher months due to water temps dropping to the mid to low 60’s.  A lot of species slow down and are not as anxious to hunt down food, especially the snook.  The only rush we have from the snook this month is site casting to some big girls under the lights at night or during the day when they are pushed up on shallow mud banks sunning themselves half out of the water.  While this has pushed  the adrenaline button, it hasn’t pulled on the drag with these fish more interested in staying warm rather than eating.  The snook I have coaxed into chewing are all under slot fish and coming on artificial lures that mimic the small minnows that are in the canals.

The frustration of the snook bite has been softened by consistent action from the regular dock species of reds, sheepies and drum on shrimp as well as trout action on soft plastics on the flats.

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This time of year on windy and cold days it is good to turn to taking care of tackle and rigging on your kayak. One must for kayaks, especially dock fishing, is having an anchor trolly system.  This system will allow you to adjust the position of your anchor from middle, to front, to back without pulling up and resetting you anchor, and in the process change the angle of your kayak.  This is paramount with dock fishing and can make or break a day, allowing you keep you facing the dock without having to fish sideways or casting over your shoulder all day.  You can have a kayak shop install a kayak trolly system with pullies or you can go economical and make your own by simply running parachute cord from the front to the back of your kayak and complete it by tying in a loop in the rope to attaching your anchor rope with a clip.

Since I am on anchoring, another handy piece of equipment to have is an anchor pole.  These can easily slide into one of your scupper holes and works great for me when I am standing in the kayak and drifting shallow flats.  I can use the stick anchor to hold me in place and pull it easily and allow the wind and tide to drift my way across a flat.  You can purchase anchor poles, but again I enjoy trying to use inexpensive things I already have around the house that can do the job.  This winter I have had fun making my own out of bamboo pools, even taking time to sand them down, engrave my logo onto it and varnish them.  A pvc pole with a t-bar handle works great too if you don’t have bamboo.

I have reached the point this winter when I start longing for spring fishing patterns, hunting down mackerel, kingfish and grouper on the beaches and snook making their way to the passes and beaches, but with at least two more to go, I will remain thankful for my residential canals and adjacent grass flats.  And who knows, even with the cold weather, a snook has to eat.  I just hope I am there when he finally gets hungry.

Fish On!!

Joe