Crystal Murray and John, as part of an Osprey Bay Kayaks sponsored event, brought a group of four kayak fishermen and women from the Tampa Bay to Chokoloskee. I had the pleasure to be with the four Friday afternoon for a mother ship ride.
The bite had been off for both snook & redfish in the preceding the days and the only (feeding) tarpon we’ve been able to locate are way up feeding in the freshwater (accessible only by kayaks & canoes).
The tides were poor at the time when we were able to leave, but the forecast was for 5-10 from the NE ... perfect for the flats and the grillion speckled trout around now so our plan was to scoot to the grasses for action and then work our way into the islands.
As we turned the corner on the outside that NE breeze was actually from the West killing the grass flats idea, so we headed up the Houston river a bit. We made on drop high in Storter Bay. The wind was tough as was the current, so everyone seemed to appreciate the “tow” across the bays. Unfortunately the fish still had a seriously, bad case of lockjaw!!
Susan Mitchell, who is a member of, Ladies Let's Go Fishing - Sarasota, did manage her first snook on artificial baits. However, jacks, ladyfish and a few small snook were all that were in the cards for this day. A very tough bite ... but a nice trip non-the-less. Gary, Tom, Wally and Susan … you were troopers through it all and I would love to have you all back sometime. A few good fish certainly would have made things better. I guess, sometimes, the fish have to win.
Friday's 5-10 NE forecast became Saturday's reality ... A good of mess of trout for the three anglers in a day's ride ... lots of the obligatory lady fish, jacks, Spanish mackerel and blue fish. What a difference a day makes! Good eats for the evening meal ...
Sunday, it was backwater time with Carl Miller, his son Dave and grandson (9) Zach of Boston. Dave and Zach fished last year about this time with this good success ... Zach even got a creek named for him. Carl had snook on his mind after a year of listening to his son talking about them ... He stuck to throwing a 3" shad tail and managed about 8-10 snook and one redfish. Dave landed another 7-8 on a variety of baits. Little Zach, not to be out done, landed 4 snook, 1 reds and 3 large sheep head... The largest fish (that looked like to be ~ 12 lbs) freight-trained little Zach into the trees... that is two years in row for the little guy!!! The fish need to get smaller or he needs to get bigger!!
Little Zach, after a close encounter with a palm sized spider was ready to go before we stopped. He would catch a fish a say to his dad … “That was fun, but we should go now!!” We should have listened to him!! … All three layers underneath my “semi-permeable” rain gear were soaked by that rain event Sunday. Well, at least the guys have something special to remember … a cold!
Monday was superb … Larry Henning, in from Galveston, put 32 snook over the side with his eight weight. Most were small, of course, but he did manage three slot sized fish and added three redfish that he “sighted up”. Larry is a superb marksman with the long rod … a real pleasure.
Tuesday, was on of the toughest days since, well since Friday … Gordon Reiss and his friend Steve in from the Chesapeake Bay area hung tough, however. On nice black drum, two snookletts, two redletts, three or four snapperletts and few full grown ladyfish … We could not buy a trout. That was one of the toughest Ѕ days in a long while…
Yesterday was not much better. I left with a couple from Kansas City, Mo. at noon intending on catch a few trout first off. The NW wind had the water looking like chocolate milk. The first two spots I stopped, I found other anglers fishing there before me (places where I have never seen others fish … Oh, well) so we headed into the back out of the wind. The bite started slow, but by mid-afternoon, things picked up. Dave caught 7-8 small snook on his shad tail and Charlene a couple of others. She had a tough time when she switched to shrimp … The sheep head and snappers hand it to her pretty good … caught a few, but mostly fished in awe at their bait stealing ability. However, they were a very fun to be with.
I still don’t understand the reason for winter …
The next scheduled kayak fishing trip using the mother ship trip is set for Feb 15th ... so get out off the couch and join us!!! The other dates on posted on the website.
Tight lines …
Well another year comes to an end in our version of Paradise. For Vickie and me, it has been a great year, but a year of change. We sold our home, completed the construction of another and finally moved in while managing to remain married. Some long time, very good friends, from the East Coast, moved here to live full time. Some other good friends have moved too far away. Many of our long time, regular anglers have become great friends, while others have succumbed to Father Time.
This past year’s fishing was all around as good as it gets. January and February of 2003 were very cold, averaging a full 8 degrees colder than normal. This certainly changed the fishing, but generally not for the worse. These months produced some of the best speckled trout and wintertime redfish that I have seen in years. Very few trips ended without a limit for everyone on board with many 100 trout days notched.
March was the best March that I could remember. It warmed up early in the month; the bait schools showed up strong and so did the fish. Perhaps, because it was so cold earlier, the snook, redfish and tarpon, that moved in were very hungry and aggressive. Anglers had more “slams” (snook, redfish and a tarpon in one day) last March than any other month last year.
April is usually a very good month. However, on April Fool’s Day the temperature plummeted once again and so did the fishing. It took almost three weeks for things to recover. But when it did, it recovered strong. The tarpon, however, were driven well off shore and seemed to pass right by preferring to stay in the warmer water. The permit were right on time, however.
May and June were fabulous. Many days, especially, in May, we were boating seven to eight cobia per day; the snook were big and aggressive. You could count on several very large fish practically every day and we jumped big tarpon on the flats just about every trip. Permit were caught just about anytime during the month.
July and August, were great months for the classic split day trips. Early out at sunrise, early in for lunch, air conditioning and a nap; back out after the thunderstorms for some snook fishing and dinosaur flying! These summer evening tarpon trips were spectacular. There is nothing better than launching a big silver dinosaur into the air at sunset!!
September and October produced some superb snook fishing with double digit days most every trip. The cobia showed up on schedule and the tarpon fishing was absolutely great. Redfish were something you could just about count on. The permit for some reason were hit-and-miss. This is my favorite time of year. The kids have returned to school, so most anglers who travel here are doing so on the weekends. The middle of the week, it seems that you have the entire Park to yourself. Essentially you do, you only see another boat if you choose to. But, most of all the fishing is at its best!
November and December continued to produce double digit snook days both in weight and numbers right up until the second cold front. The kingfish offshore, combined with the Spanish mackerel, cobia and some very nice snappers ended the year with a bang.
Vickie and I, along with many of our friends, camp every New Year’s in the Park. It is our anniversary on New Year’s Eve, so we celebrate where we enjoy things most … in the Park amongst our friends.
From both of us, we would like to wish you and yours a safe and joyous Holiday Season. We are looking forward to a great 2004 and hope you have as much fun next year as we plan to!!!
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