Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Palma Sola Bay exploratory trip

Headed to Bradenton to fish Palma Sola Bay with my brother. He recently moved to Bradenton and neither of us had fished the area before so we decided to do some exploring.

The bay is a lot larger than the areas I am used to fishing. The bay has a large quantity of fish able water, with tons of mangroves and oyster beds and grass flats.

Being an exploratory trip and not knowing much about the bay we began looking for signs of life in shallow water. Not 10 casts in I had landed a small red on a weedless DOA CAL jerk shad, so the skunk got out of the boat quickly. We paddled away from that area after a few more casts to find some more mulling mullet. My brother switched to a weedless rig as well and hooked up to the fish of the day at our next spot. 

The wind had us drifting at a pretty good clip, so we paddled back to the starting point and made another drift. Another small red for me and by the end of that drift the tide had brought in enough water to push the mullet elsewhere. We paddled around to explore the area a bit. We didn't have much success so we decided to paddle back towards the launch. On the way in we fished an oyster bed that was exposed when we passed it earlier but had become submerged underneath the incoming tide. I picked off a small snook and my brother a small trout and we called it a day.

Overall it was an interesting place to fish and is a place I would like to explore a bit more in the future.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

More Skinny Water Fun

I chose to hit the same area I had success in last week in search of another slam. My plan was to hit the skinny area for a redfish, then immediately paddle across the bay to get to the spot I found the large snook hanging around my last time out. The first part worked like a charm, managed a snook right off the bat in 6 inches of water. I developed an interesting technique of using a soft plastic jerk bait to "walk the dog" as you would with a topwater plug. This resulted in a lot of intense strikes, but only that one hook up with the snook. I did manage to sight cast to a tailing redfish as well. Picture perfect situation, tailed 25 feet in front of me, put a cast 18 inches in front of him, twitched once, and fish on. A bit smaller fish than last time but any sight-casted tailing redfish makes the day special.

After I got the redfish I headed to those pesky snook. This time went a bit better than last as I caught a couple of fish, but I didn't get any of the large ones. I lost a 25-26 incher when he pulled me into the grass and shook the hook, and landed two at 18 and 20 inches. I only saw 3 of the really big fish today in comparison to about a dozen last time out. I also got the same small trout as last time while targeting those snook.

The wind started to pick up and I had to paddle against it to get back to the launch so I called it a day early and made it home in time to watch some afternoon baseball. A bit smaller fish today than I hoped for, but still a successful day in my book!

Skinny Water Surprise

Lately I have found a nice pattern in some really skinny water. An area right by one of my favorite launches that I have paddled past dozens of times was showing plenty of signs of life on a trip last week. Mullet were huddled up and causing quite a commotion. I saw a few tails in the area but the ones I was close enough to distinguish were mullet tails. I decided it was worth a few casts, and my curiosity was rewarded with a nice 23 inch redfish.

I tried to duplicate that success and wound up with one small snook off of that same flat before the action slowed. I was shocked however that I had even caught anything in this area as it was barely holding 5 inches of water in some spots. I was excited though that I already had 2/3 of a slam, so I paddled across the bay to find a trout. I rounded out the slam pretty quick with a few small trout, but got sidetracked when I started spotting some very large snook. These fish became my sole focus, and I was almost successful. Right off the bat I had some explosions on a topwater, but didn't connect and they wised up to the spook very quickly. I spent the better part of the next two hours trying to get one on anything I had in my tackle box. I had follow after follow on weedless rigged exudes but could not entice a strike. Most other lures, especially anything on a jig head, would get taken by trout before I could get them near the snook I was seeing. Finally on a last ditch effort with a DOA shrimp, I hooked up. The fish ran immediately at me and promptly wound up behind me, spinning my kayak around in no time. I kept pressure and got the fish close enough to land, and in a lapse of judgement let some slack in the line while reaching for my camera. The fish laughed at the opportunity, gave a headshake, and the lure popped right out. My estimation was around 28-29 inches, and this was actually one of the SMALLER fish I saw. 

I was defeated after spending that much time and finally getting a bite and losing it. However, I still headed home with a decent slam and some new found knowledge about one of my favorite fishing spots. Overall, the day was a success.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bluegill with a surprise

Set out yesterday morning in search of the ever elusive 10 inch bluegill. The weather was perfect for it, overcast without much wind. I began early by working a size 10 popper along the shoreline and picked off a couple of fish almost immediately. After that though, the action slowed dramatically. I switched to a nymph under a strike indicator to see if that would change things, and it didn't. I switched back to a popper to make a few casts around a culvert with some water pouring out of it and immediately hooked up with the best fish of the day.

This one measured right at 9 3/4". While I wasn't able to find any over ten, I did manage 3 fish over 9 1/2". I only totaled 11 bluegill today so it was nice to have a few of them be good quality fish. I may have caught more but got distracted by some rolling tarpon. River fishing is awesome, you never know what you will encounter. I had a spinning rod in the car, albeit light and intended more for trout than tarpon. I figured I would be happy just to jump one though so I grabbed it and switched gears.

It took forever to entice a strike and I almost gave up. I finally realized more fish were holding deep and once I stopped focusing on the rolling fish up top, I started to hook up. The first fish of the day jumped almost immediately right off the bow of my kayak. It was in the 40 pound range and hit a DOA Terroreyz. I hooked a couple more, both in the 10-15 pound range and absolutely full of energy. The second I managed about a 30 second battle with before he finally spit the hook, and the third came off immediately on the first jump. 

It turned out to be a fantastic day despite slow bluegill fishing in the morning. I never expected to see a tarpon in this area this time of the year and definitely didn't imagine I would jump 3 of them!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

That won't happen again!

I set out this morning for a nice paddle out on Lemon Bay. I got out right around sun up and was delighted to find one dock light still on upon my arrival. I promptly caught a small snook to get the skunk out of the boat. My focus today was to target a new shoreline I found on accident a few weeks ago. It was holding some snook the first time I fished it, and I figured it might be a good spot to add to my Lemon Bay arsenal. Today, it was holding some fish, but not as many as I was hoping. I caught a few small snook using DOA shrimp as well as topwater lures. My first 6 fish of the day were snook. Unfortunately I didn't catch any more snook after that and none of the ones I did catch were larger than 20". I decided to move along and let the wind push me alongside a mangrove island with some deeper water. I continued casting the topwater as I was getting hits on almost every cast. Most of the action was provided by ladyfish. I like to let them run when I do hook them, as they are very good at throwing the hook and put on an impressive aerial display. As a result, I can often hook and lose multiple fish on one cast. Today, however I had an interesting scenario play out: I hooked a ladyfish, fought it for a few moments, it spit the hook on a jump, and almost immediately upon the lure landing back on the surface of the water a bluefish inhaled it. These fish are a fun surprise every now and then in Lemon bay and the surrounding waters. They fight hard and are very willing to take fast moving lures.

After a few more ladyfish, I let the wind push me on over to one of my most consistent spots I have in  Lemon Bay. This spot has provided me with some of my biggest trout, my largest pompano to date, a few decent snook, and my two largest redfish. It seems to always provide me with at least something, and today it was full of surprises. After a few casts, I had one of the most exciting topwater strikes ever as a redfish breached the surface to hit the top side of my spook. I lost that fish unfortunately, but it did alert me to a successful pattern. That fish responded to a consistent retrieve with a short pause, and hit on first movement after the pause. I used the same tactic on my next cast and caught that redfish's little brother.

It wasn't a huge fish by any means but did manage to take quite a bit of drag off of my 4000 size Shimano Spheros. It had a lot of energy and I wound up almost 25 yards down the shoreline before I managed to land it. He measured in the upper end of the slot at 24". Excited about the pattern I had just found, I paddled back to make another drift. I immediately began to have very odd strikes on my topwater. The wake from whatever was hitting it was like nothing I had ever seen before. I was nervous it was a cormorant and I would be in for an unfortunate struggle with the pesty aquatic bird. However, a few casts later, one of those wakes turned into a ferocious hit and a very interesting battle. Much to my surprise, on the other end of my line, was a sheepshead. Until today, I had never caught a sheepshead on an artificial lure, and absolutely never expected I would ever catch one on a topwater lure. Sheepshead have a diet that consists primarily of crustaceans, and are generally extremely selective with what they eat. While easy to target with a live sand flea, fiddler crab, or a piece of fresh shrimp, they are incredibly difficult to trick with artificials. 

I wound up catching two of these bruisers and losing another. The larger (on the left) was over 20 inches and is now the largest sheepshead I have ever caught. The smaller (bottom right) was a respectable 16". After some closer observation, I realized the sheepshead were nipping at pass crabs that were floating out with the tide, and they must have mistook my lure for a floating crab. That would also explain why the two I caught hit as the lure was drifting freely when I paused my retrieve as opposed to hitting it while I was "walking the dog" or otherwise imparting action on the lure. I was absolutely shocked to catch these fish and highly doubt I will ever catch another on a topwater lure!

After the sheepshead bite subsided, I found steady trout action and was able to catch about 10 fish to 16 inches on DOA shrimp and topwater lures. The rain pushed me off the water early and I was home and cleaned up to watch some afternoon baseball games at 12:30.

Tomorrow I will be trying to dodge the rain while targeting bluegill, and Friday I hope to try a new area in saltwater. Until next time, keep those rods bent!