Captain Tim Carlile poled his skiff against the early outgoing tide in a wide shallow cove on the ocean side of the Lower Keys, scanning the flats for “nervous” water, tails, or wakes.
“I’ve seen a lot of bonefish on this flat,” the 65-year-old Sugarloaf Key guide said.
It wasn’t long before Carlile’s observation was borne out, as a school of about 100 of the silver speedsters muddied the shallows, then swam calmly toward the boat.
I cast a silver/pink minnow-patterned fly toward the lead fish, saw it tip down to take it but felt neither bump nor tug.
Puzzled, I began to strip in the line when it suddenly went taut, then zeeeee-ed out with a shriek of drag, peeling off all the fly line and going well into the backing.
“He’s on! He’s on!” I yelled happily.
Ten minutes later, Carlile seized the estimated 5-pound bonefish, unhooked it, and put it back into the water.
I released three more that afternoon, including one slightly heavier than the others. It was a glorious day of fly fishing. More from Sue Cocking in the Miami Herald on the decline of bonefish.
I haven’t fished much since moving. But there is one thing I’ve noticed about East Coast fishing, particularly in South Florida. The fish are bigger. Bigger snook. Bigger jacks. The tarpon, they’re about the same as their West Coast brethren. But everything else, it’s bigger.
The snook, there’s no comparison. If you want big line-siders, come to Jupiter. They’re in the rivers, the intercoastal and the beach. And they’re ALL big.
Why? I don’t think it’s the forage. There’s plenty of food on the West Coast and in the Tampa Bay area. The difference is geography. The southern part of the Sunshine state offers a longer growing season. The water is consistently warmer, which means a longer feeding/growing season for the fish. Part of it’s the warmth of the gulfstream.
Deeper water, helps, too. The fish can find shelter from excessive heat or cold. Not necessarily so in Tampa Bay and its surrounding waters.
The one thing about bigger fish is they’re harder to catch. I have access to them, but can I catch them? Stay tuned.
Photo courtesy of Stuartfishing.com
It’s been a month since I’ve written a single word for this blog and I apologize for the delay. I just finished moving from Tampa to Palm Beach County and it’s still not over. Boxes off stuff have made the new house a maze of obstacles. The excess clutter makes me want to throw away everything that’s not unpacked because, in reality, how much do I really need it? The scary thing is, I actually tried to cull stuff BEFORE I actually moved.
Enough about the move. As far as the fishing, I haven’t done much of that. I hit the beach a couple times and caught the tail end of the mullet run. Saw lot’s of mullet. Not many game fish. A few weeks later, I hit the docklights off Jupiter Island for snook and jacks and landed a nice jack.
My timing is off. In Tampa, the fishing is just starting to get good. The tides get lower. The water cools and clears up, and the redfish tail like clockwork on a north wind in the Bay. In Jupiter, the fishing gets good in the spring and sizzles in the summer. While Tampa Bay redfish seek shelter from summer’s swelter, big snook and tarpon hit the beaches here from May through September, give or take a month. Because the mullet cruise so close to shore, the tarpon are within casting distance with a fly rod from the beach. A friend of mine here jumped 20 last year and actually landed one. Needless to say, a new 11-weight rod and reel is in my future. Meanwhile, I’ll hit the night docklights and dabble in the Loxahatchee River to stay out of the winter wind. Summer can’t get here soon enough.
A nice day on the beach, rare for November.