Kayak Fishing Slam with Dee Kelly E-mail
Tuesday, 17 August 2010 05:20

It is summertime here in south Florida. The air is hot and sticky, the waterways are as warm as bathwater, and a thunderstorm is only a Gulf breeze away. But for those of you out there like myself the Florida summers mean triple digit Tarpon on the beaches and in the passes, huge Snook lurking under mangroves and in the surf, Redfish are schooling on the shallow grass flats that dominate our inshore waterways, and big Sea Trout roam the drop offs from flats and channels in search of an easy meal. All of this culminates to form every inshore anglers Valhalla - the magical time when the chance to complete the coveted Inshore Slam (Snook, Trout, Redfish) or Inshore Grand Slam (Tarpon, Snook, Trout, and Redfish).

kayak fishing slam

It was my great pleasure to guide a fly angler from the great state of New Jersey to just such an Inshore Slam, a little over two weeks ago. Dee Kelly, recommended to me by Kayak Fishing Magazine’s own Joe Cambria, was driving here way down the coast to Florida, all the while stopping here and there to get in some of the great fishing this country has to offer. An avid fly angler, Dee was in North Carolina when we first spoke and I explained the opportunities that I had available at the moment. She was already excited about the possibility of hooking and landing a large Tarpon on the fly rod, but unfortunately I had to explain to her that being late in the season the chances of that happening while fly fishing were greatly reduced, due in large part to the fact that the Tarpon schools were breaking up and just not showing their trademark “rolling” at the surface. Instead I offered her a chance at some big Snook action that I had been having success with in Tampa Bay, as well as the lighted residential canals here in Sarasota Bay. Once decided that this was the official plan for her kayak fishing outing we set a date and time to begin her kayak fishing adventure here in south Florida.

On the morning of our outing the winds were less than favorable, and gusting strongly out of the east, making our original plan a little more difficult. The original plan was to try for some big Snook that I had found along a deep cut in a small bayou off of southern Tampa Bay, and then move out on the shallow flats during the falling tide for some shots at Redfish and Trout. But to our dismay the wind gusts had produced choppy conditions along the flats and we were forced to remain in the relative shelter of the mangroves and hope that the Snook were going to cooperate.

Kayak Fishing Slam

As we entered the mangrove lined cut I immediately spotted three big Snook, between 15 and 20# each, slowly cruising along the deeper edges of the mangroves and facing into the outgoing tide. Using the new Stand N Fish kayak fishing system, developed by Sarasota native Rick Rosenberg,  Dee and I were able to see the fish moving clearly along the edges and make accurate casts to the Snook. But as luck would have it each well placed cast was met with the same lock-jawed response. Throughout our morning Dee and I moved along the mangroves and shallow oyster points that offer staging areas for feeding Snook, and as I pointed out large Snook after Snook, her well placed casts were met with more refusals. In all it is a conservative estimate to say that Dee had shots at well over a dozen Snook upwards of 20# or better, and unfortunately due to either the change in salinity from recent rains, the winds, or just finicky fish, each and every offering was refused.

Now at this point most anglers begin to get a little discouraged. But I have to say that Dee took it like a pro, and we both hardened our resolve that the nights excursion into the residential canals in Sarasota Bay was going to make up for our slow start on Tampa Bay that morning. In fact, and she can attest to this, I went so far as to say that I guaranteed her an Inshore Slam of Snook, Redfish, and Trout with a 50/50 shot at a Grand Slam if some small Tarpon I had been working recently were active that evening. Somewhat skeptical I think, but determined non-the-less, she agreed and we made our plans for where and when to meet that evening.

kayak fishing slam

As the sun dipped below the horizon, we pushed off into the much calmer evening waters of Sarasota Bay and began our quest for the Inshore Slam. Now, I had talked a lot of trash earlier in the day about guaranteeing a slam, and even though in my heart I new it was going to happen, some building storm clouds to the east gave me some doubt that it was going to be feasible due to weather. And wouldn’t you know it, as we set up on the first area and I instructed Dee on where and how to lay her casts, and work her retrieves, the skies opened up and it poured. After a quick paddle up the back of canal to a boat shed over the water, we took refuge from the downpour and waited out the deluge. All the while I could tell that my client was a bit concerned about the remainder of the evening’s trip and her chances for success.

Within 20 minutes the torrential downpour had subsided and we made our way out from our shelter and back into the canal system we originally had been fishing. It was now well over an hour into the trip and Dee had yet to boat a fish. I made the decision to move us to a different area altogether with the hopes that it would improve our luck. The area I was moving us to was a single underwater light, far up in the back of a secluded canal, with no other lights illuminating the night waters. I had found this area almost by accident years earlier, and it has been a consistent producer of great catches ever since. Secluded, only known by a scant handful of anglers, and seeing virtually no fishing pressure, I was hinging my bets this light would change the fortunes of our evening and put Dee on some eagerly feeding fish.

As we slowly paddled up the canal towards our destination, I clearly saw the commotion at the surface within the light - the telltale splashes and schloops of feeding fish. As we got into position and stood up to get a better look on the commotion in front of us, it became immediately clear the fish were indeed actively feeding, and that our luck had just changed for the better. Within a few casts Dee already had a few short strikes and the fish were definitely interested in her offerings. Directing her on where to place her casts, and varying the speed of her retrieves, she finally hooked up a few casts later to a hefty Sea Trout. The bad luck was broken and the first fish of the evening was quickly brought to the boat for a quick release. Not more than three casts later she set the hook a second time, this time on a just under slot sized Snook. Thrashing and jumping in a vain attempt to free itself, the Snook fought feverishly before finally allowing itself to be landed and released. While Dee retied her fly and fixed her leader, I continued to focus my attention on the action along this particular area. I could clearly make out Snook, and Sea Trout lazily moving in and out of the light as they maneuvered on unsuspecting glass minnows before pouncing in a moment of elegant furry. The Redfish that feed in this back canal, which is lined with shallow grassy coves and oysters, were not at attendance at this party on this particular evening. We had spooked a small school of Reds on the way into the area, as they bulldozed huge wakes across the shallows, but still none were visible within the lighted area we were now fishing. Once she was retied, I went back to instructing Dee on were to lay her casts and she managed another couple trout as well as a few more Snook. As she once again fixed her leader line I noticed a large shadow move across the light, and then another. Immediately, I noticed the shape of the tail and recognized that Redfish were now on the light and circling just inside of the Snook and Trout.

Like a kid in a candy shop I excitedly hurried her along in her retying, eager to get her hooked up on a nice Redfish and complete the task we had come here for - the Inshore Slam. One cast. Two casts. Slam!!! Dee set the hook and I could instantly tell by the style of fight, and the swirls at the surface that she had hooked a nice slot Redfish. The fight was long and arduous, with the Red refusing to give up much ground initially, but in the end Dee successfully boated and released her Redfish to complete her Slam. After that we worked the area a little longer and were rewarded with a few more nice Sea Trout but the Snook and the Redfish remained elusive for the remainder of our time in the area.
It was getting late and our chances in this area were dwindling, I once again decided on a new area and we paddled our way back up the bay towards our initial launching area. It was here in a large cove that I hoped we would be able to get on some small Tarpon that have been working a particular couple of lights, but to my dismay the lights were off and the Tarpon were no where to be seen. Disappointed but not discouraged, we made our way to one last area and were once again rewarded with eagerly feeding Snook. A few casts and a couple of nice fish later, satisfied with the success of the trip, we headed back to the launch site and called it a night.

Here is the link as well for a video showing some of the lights we actually fished that night... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHCJGcuUKkU
 

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