Florida January 2010 Road Trip E-mail
Monday, 01 February 2010 15:31

My brother in law, Paul, had been working a lot and wanted to go fishing. So we planned a trip to Florida in January of 2010.  I figured I’d drive down and he’d fly. My first stop was to be the Tropicana Kayak Fishing Classics tournament in Tampa where he’d join me and then we’d go wherever the fishing was best. I didn’t have anything pending until Presidents weekend and figured I’d hook up with friends and also guides who provide reports on the site.  The only guide I called was Jason Stock of JM Snooky, since I was going to be in his backyard. If he was competing in the tournament I was going to take some video of him. Unfortunately Florida was experiencing some extreme weather and only 3 anglers showed. It was a cold rainy day with a high temperature in the mid 30s. It wasn’t fun being on the water.

I suggested that my bro-in-law look into moving his flight, if possible. So he moved it back 10 days. Jason went sail fishing out of Miami Jason looking over the flats for reds and trout on a boat. Florida was experiencing massive fish kills as this was the longest sustained cold spell since 1927! Fronts do hit Florida in the winter and I had experienced them but they usually last a day or two, not two weeks plus. One of the contestants from the tourney and friends suggested I fish the power plants. Jason with a warmwater nightime snook So I spent a couple days fishing Big Bend at Apollo Beach. The warm water discharge was just the ticket. There was lots of activity and rather than dead fish there were lots of willing fish. There were manatees, rays, dolphin, an occasional jumping tarpon or spinning shark.  It was great. I didn’t know what to expect so I only took a light rod and caught a mess of ladyfish and small jacks. My first hookup was substantial and turned out to be my first cow nosed ray from a kayak. Luckily it was a small one and only took about 10 minutes to land. The second day I brought a big bait runner outfit and live lined some ladyfish but the sharks kept chomping them. I was hoping for a cobia as some of the shore fishermen said they saw a couple 6 footers cruise through. Jason returned from Miami and we fished a bay he wanted to check out. We were flipping out with all the big reds and trout we saw; redfish well over 40 inches and trout to 30. He thought bait might do the trick Jon with his second largest snook so I watched the kayaks and he ran out and picked up a bunch of shrimp. Fish would follow a shrimp to within 10’ of the kayak and then just swim away. They weren’t eating. Only the Sheepshead was interested and they just wanted to bite off the shrimp heads. That evening we went to a spot that had a warm water discharge and I got a big ladyfish and 3 snook, the largest was my second biggest ever. It was a great fight in close quarters and I put my Bassyak in reverse and drug her out of the mangroves when she tried to get in there. Jason saw that and said “I gotta get one of those”. It was very cold so after a few more fish we headed back. I towed Jason and it reinforced his wanting one. The following day we hit the flats again and it was the same scenario. It was very frustrating.

When I lived in Chokoloskee I learned that false albacore often run the inlets on the west coast in winter so I Naples Sheepshead figured I’d give it a shot and see if I could find some action at the mouth of the Gordon River in Naples. There weren’t any albies around but I met a kayak angler from Connecticut who spends three months in Naples each winter catching Sheepshead at the inlet jetty. He gave me a couple number 4 circle hooks and mole crabs and I joined him catching them. They were a blast on light tackle and another species I’d never caught before.

The weekend wasn’t looking very promising. I headed over to Ft. Lauderdale and stayed with my buddy Quirkster. We tried fishing on Saturday in the Everglades freshwater but the wind was howling and the water temperature was very cold. We weren’t having any fun and went and watched football. Sunday we stuck to football.

On Monday I stopped off at Chokoloskee but it was dismal so I headed north to meet Paul as fishing around Tampa appeared to be our best bet. We hooked up with Jason and fished Fort Desoto. It was beautiful but still the reds weren’t cooperating. We did catch some Jason and Paul fishing the Fort DeSoto Flats trout, or more correctly Jason and Paul did. I got skunked. Jason had a client the next Dead fish lined the shore at Weedon day and suggested we hit another part of the Desoto area. All we found were mullet and decided to hit the Weedon power plant. When we got there we found lots of dead fish and turns out the plant hadn’t been running.  Bummer as friends said they had caught all kinds of stuff there including big jacks. I would have loved to have been catching those jacks and snook. It was a real shame seeing so many dead fish.

Paul with Big Bend behind him We fished one night at the snook spot and they had lockjaw. We spooked plenty but they weren’t eating. So we decided to get a room near Apollo Beach and concentrate on fishing Big Bend for the rest of the time Paul was there. . There were several boats catching pompano and we gave it a shot but didn’t Paul with a Bonnethead shark get any so we went to the ladyfish spot and I got broke off by something substantial using shrimp. There was a flat adjacent to the discharge and Paul was having a blast catching bonnet head sharks. I caught a couple and then went back to the main channel to see if I could convince a pompano to eat one of my dead shrimp. I was trolling slowly and saw a herd of manatee and turned in front of them. Then school of eagle rays came through and the line on my bait runner started peeling off. I hit the lever and figured I snagged one of the rays but then I saw a cobia shaking its head. It saw me and took off. I was using a light outfit. 14 pound braid, 15 pound fluorocarbon leader and a rod rated 1/8-1/2. It was quite a fight and I’m sure glad I had a motor to maneuver. It took about 20 minutes to subdue the fish and I ended up beaching the fish; my first cobia. It was just over legal at 35” (legal is 33). Paul broke a rod on a pompano when it dove under the kayak in shallow water. It was a good day as there was lots of action.
We had made the right decision.

The next day w Jon with his cobia e hit the same spot but it was much windier and a Saturday. There was a lot of boat traffic and very few fish. However my first cast along the wall on a light rod where I expected ladyfish and jacks resulted in a break off. So rigged up the heavy outfit and as soon as I put out a shrimp I had a hook up- my first pompano. It fought very well especially considering the heavier outfit. Hank G lived in the area and Bohelia Sunrise the day before I had given him a call. He filled me in on the area so Paul and I did a bit of exploring and found ladyfish, jacks, trout and catfish to the south of the plant on the inside. We were disappointed there weren’t any fish on the flats. The next day the wind was howling and the forecast called for it to build. So we decided not to fish. Paul headed north towards the airport and his flight home and I headed south to meet up with Terry as she had rented a condo in Bohelia and had invited me down. It was great seeing her and the girls, her daughter Linzy and her good friend Lindsay. I had last seen all of them at the Everglades City Paddle In 2 years before. Lindsay was off to Africa in a couple weeks for a two year stint with the Peace Corps. There were lots of dead fish and it was windy. Terry went fishing but I did laundry and Internet. Les made it over for dinner one evening. From there I went up to Matlacha to fish with Josh. He had been having good success in a canal system catching snook and the occasional tarpon. Unfortunately they had lockjaw and all we got was my solo ladyfish.

From there I headed down to Chokoloskee. I knew the fishing was way off but I have lots of friends there and I had an ace in the hole. That ace was freshwater fishing in spring fed lakes. I found lots of active bass but as I learned when I lived there they don’t take artificials Male and female bass on bed as the water is gin clear and visibility is 15 plus feet. I did fool a small one on Gulp!, but that was it.  When I fished there last it was June and the fish were deep. Now they were all along the quarry edge. In the past I live lined Mayan Cichlids and sunfishes and did well. However the water level is much higher now as southern Florida has had a lot of rain. As I type this we got deluged today and the parking lots here resemble small lakes. Because of all the water the baitfishes are in the places that would normally be dry. They’re in tight cover and the bass are all sitting around the edges waiting for one to make a mistake. Some of the bass were over 10 pounds. The small one in the adjacent picture was about 2 pounds and the female dwarfs him. I was going to pick up some live shiners to toss at them but then it got miserable out again and I need to get back north due to family commitments. So those bass will have to wait until another time.

While the fishing was challenging I managed to add 6 species of fish to my kayak caught total; cow nosed ray, cobia, Sheepshead, pompano, remora and bonnet head shark. My 33/34” snook was my second largest and the cobia was a thrill. I had a great time seeing old friends, making some new ones and catching some fish.

 

Comments  

 
-1 #1 Guest 2010-02-16 10:12
Great information and overview, I am going to Florida for the Month of march and will be in the Tampa bay area, also familiar with Fort Desoto and St Petes area. I now have lots of new ideas, this is my first Kayak adventure, so the road trip details are very valuble info.
 
 
0 #2 Guest 2010-03-11 11:48
Excellent report and photos Jon. It seems your trip was a successful one despite the terrible weather. The good news is that the weather here in Tampa Bay has been improving considerably lately and we're back to catching very nice fish.
Good luck with your new book about kayak fishing. I confess I haven't read it yet but I will.
Peter
 
 
0 #3 JonS 2010-03-14 09:59
Thanks Peter.

Good luck on your trip. Don't see a name so not sure who posted it. Adventures are a blast.
 

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