Englewood Beach Report
I don't know why I still do this.
Travel to SW Florida, that is.
For the past four years, I've been clobbered by anti-fish forces. First it was Red Tide, big time, wiped out the bait. Then something else, I forget what; then the Big Freeze. Last year, there was the Oil Spill, but I don't think that effected the area I like to fish.
This year, The Weather Gods ganged up on me.
Contrary to previous years, my wife and I went with another couple to Englewood Beach as opposed to Captiva Island, where I usually and preferably go. There's nothing wrong with Mankota Key per se except that it's a bit too developed for my taste. Anyway, the reports I got were that the beaches up and down from Stump Pass were good for snook (!!!!) and fishing in Lemon Bay was respectable. Sounded encouraging to me.
First morning, I went beach fishing for snook out on the Gulf side. I started in at 6 AM, which, in Oregon, would be full light. Total blackness in SW Florida.
But, I was there: on the beach: rigged and ready. I stood around for quite awhile before I could see enough to make out the troughs near shore (according to all the experts, that's the snook travel lane), and, since I couldn't really see much into the water owing to the shade factor associated with lack of risen sun,
I just blind cast in an arc here there and everywhere.
I caught some ladyfish.
In SW Florida, you can catch ladyfish in a laundromat. Especially the hammer-handle sized critters I was catching. No fun. They chew up your flies; abrade your leaders; and slime everything with their foul excresence. But, more on that, later.
Pretty soon the sun did rise. So, having read some really excellent books on Beach Fishing For Snook, I started walking along well behind the foam line peering into the trough, searching for Snook.
I actually saw some. About one every quarter mile. Mostly little guys. None with an attitude. This is not an easy sport. Steelheading in Missouri would probably be more rewarding.
Came upon a spin caster flinging out something that looked like a Mirrolure with Kyphosis. He said he had a follow from a Monster Snook but the lure popped right out of its mouth. He had landed a couple of hammer-handles in the meantime. Bully for him.
Spin fishing: I don't eat fish. I'm actually allergic. So I fly-fish. Curious rationale, wot?
Eventually, I gave it up and went back to the Yacht Club (!) for coffee. Although rum probably would have been a better choice.
Because we had such lousy fishing in the immediate years prior, my friend Ted and I decided to book a guide, so we could at least have some expert direction in the location of the wily snook, sea trout, redfish, and gafftopsail catfish.
We met our guide, a nice, competent guy named, of all things, Joe, at the Placida boat launch (word to the unsuspecting: never park in one of these county launchs. If you're one minute over your paid-for time, it's an $86 fine. Seriously. No mercy. Get your wife, girl friend or buddy to drop you off and pick you up post trip; you'll be glad you did); we hopped into his flats skiff and meandered out into the fish-filled waters of Gasparilla Sound (I could not believe it's pronounced Gas-par-illa, being as I'm from California originally and thought it should be "Gaspar-eya Sound", but, then, I don't live in Florida).
Joe had planned to fish along the inside of Little Gasparilla Key. But the wind was blowing so hard, he couldn't.
So, into the "back country" we go.
But, because the water for the first several venues was the color and transparency of a cup of stout chocolate, due to an overnight east wind, we couldn't do much good there, either. So we went farther and farther into the back country of Bull Bay and surrounds until we found clear water. Fishing was great, but, as the hackneyed phrase goes, the catching sucked.
Our guide was on the verge of frantic. He could see fish along the edges of the mangroves, but we couldn't. Because things were so slow, he had my friend Ted casting plugs and slimey rubber things left and right into the mangrove slots and out onto the grass flats in an effort to at least locate some fish.
At least I didn't waste my strength blind casting all morning.
Eventually Joe got so discouraged he motored out into Gasparilla Pass to annoy tarpon. There were lots of tarpon there. Daisy chaining their huge brains out within easy casting distance.
So Joe rigged up a plastic imitation blue crab, flung it out repeatedly in the faces of the circling 'poons, and was pretty much ignored for his efforts. I had the camera ready, just in case. I could have left it in the case.
So: weather one, anglers zero.
We ran back to the launch just in time to beat the County Park Nazis (at least that worked out).
Meanwile, I continued to fish as best I could. Ted home-built a lovely flats skiff, the Skinny Dipper, and we probed the mangroves and grass flats off Makota Key with little to show for our efforts. Ted caught a lovely sea trout at one point, but that was about it.
Did I mention hammer-handle ladyfish?
Ted's son, David, has a friend, Chris, who owns a magnificent sea-worthy sports fisher, and he promised to take us out later in the week. He'd been murdering fish off Cayo Costa and said we'd catch 'em til our arms fell off: snook, redfish, sea trout, vermaculated grunge, you name it. Wow!
We clambered aboard at the appointed time and headed out of Stump Pass for the run down to Charlotte Harbor.
At the mouth of Charlotte Harbor, the suddenly strong East Wind met with a strong incoming tide to produce pyramidal shaped waves that eagerly sought to sink us. Right there. We bagged it and slunk into the intercoastal back at Gasparilla Pass. I think someone caught a redfish or something on our way back.
And that was that.
I said I'd revisit the ladyfish thing, and I will.
As I was surf casting in the Gulf one morning, I noticed some large fish just at the limit of my casting range (30 feet on a good day) cavorting about chasing bait. "Why not" I thought, and turned my attention from the snookless trough I was fishing to the outer breaker. I got off a decent cast (for me, anyway) and the fly (a white Shminnow, for the record) landed in range. Two strips and "Fish on!" The only good fish of the week leaped high, ran far, and gave me the excitement I'd been looking for all week.
Big one, though. About three pounds or so.
I can see why they're called the poor man's tarpon. Great game fish. Wish there had been more.
Bottom line: Too few fish and those not feeding. Weather very much at cross purposes with our intentions.
End of Report
Maybe next year I'll just stay home and practice my trombone.
Does sound vaguely familiar, but, being a slow learner I tend to forget.
Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked off to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish. Haig-Brown
What the report lacked in fish stats it more than made up for in entertainment value - not at your expense of course but in my ability to relate!
Let's go get skunked for steelhead soon I plan to make at least two trips to the PNW in 2011
IFFF Certified THCI @ 2005
Capeflyfisher Guide Service
Island Hopper, Guitarist, Incurable Dreamer
and Founder, Worldwide Flyfishing Forum
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