Everglades Gulf coast, 27 Sept
<p>I only fished two days and one night this past week. Ralph Adams from Houston fished out of Flamingo with me on Thursday and Friday just before the Herman Lucerne tournament. Each morning we were almost all the way across Whitewater Bay as dawn approached. We still seem to have the place to ourselves and didn't even slow down until we were out on the coast near the Little Shark river. Our early mornings were in soft gray dawn conditions with cloud cover and the occasional rain shower. It was a perfect setting for an 8wt rod and lots of small (and not so small tarpon). The first day Ralph got a fair number of bites on small maribou patterns and popping bugs but the fish just took us to school, we hooked and lost our share and had the additional fun of getting blasted by smaller fish that just couldn't seem to take the fly properly. From the moment he first picked up the rod we also had continuous action from ladyfish of every size, many times with 10 or 20 of them chasing the fly back to the boat (more about that later...). That first morning we caught a variety of jacks, ladies, one very nice spanish mackeral, and mangrove snapper on the fly but the tarpon just wouldn't stay connected. Just before noon we picked up and headed to the south but found most spots to be very quiet until we found one creek with everything happening at once. Tarpon up to about 80lbs, the usual ladyfish and some very large and aggressive lemon sharks. A nine foot lemon following a small fly back to the boat will definitely get your attention. The sharks seemed intent on nailing anything that we hooked and the tarpon seemed to know it, staying away from our flies. We jumped off one nice slot sized snook after a quick switch to bait and I'm guessing it saved that fish from turning into lunch. There were so many sharks that the first time we set a live ladyfish (oh yeah.... this time of year everything eats them and it's just a moment or two to put a half dozen in the well...) in the water next to the boat.... You guessed it, a lemon bolted out from under the skiff and tried to take him. After some fancy rod work we saved the bait, but it quickly got eaten by another shark. None of the few baits we fished lasted longer than five minutes in the water before getting crunched. Time to leave, and we did. The rest of that first day was slow and we spent a fair amount of time dodging rain and lightning. Don't think we saw more than one other boat the entire day.
On Friday we again found lots of tarpon, but that morning none of them were eating anywhere we found them... We did see many more large fish as well but all seemed to be resting instead of feeding, so we ran to the north for some snook action. Ralph set up perfectly on a shallow shoreline with a good incoming current and baitfish being attacked by several fish. He laid another small maribou baitfish pattern into a small pocket and was on in an instant. After the usual back and forth keeping the fish from getting back into the mangroves, we leadered, photoed and released a nice small snook. Here's a couple of pics
If you look closely you'll see an olive and white maribou fly in just the right spot to keep the fish from fraying through the leader...
Although we caught and released a variety of fish from speckled trout on down to a near miss with a triple tail on fly, again the action seemed to slow down as midday approached. Remembering the day before we quickly switched to heavy spinning gear and headed for a grouper spot. There must be a lot of them in the river systems now if our first spot is any indicator. The first bait hit the bottom and was eaten before the bail was closed. We only had three baits but each was just hammered in a few moments. Ralph managed to beat one of them (the rest didn't even give back the hook...). Here's a pic of a nice small gag grouper...
this one was carefully returned to get a bit bigger. I think this winter's grouper action will be very good if the early fall is any indicator... As regulators move to close the grouper season again I'll bet they don't know anything about the volume of gags in the various river systems that drain into the Gulf along the west coast of the 'Glades where we'll be getting them up to about 30" some days....
Now for a brief forecast.... the next four weeks will see a large increase in the already large volume of bait along the Gulf coast. Each day will see more and larger tarpon at river mouths and points nearby. It will some of the best fishing of the year (every year it's the same). The giant tarpon will disappear overnight on the first cold night but everything else will still be feeding hard as colder weather begins to head our way. Water temps now are down to a bit less than 77 degrees at dawn. I can't think of better fishing anywhere inshore in the state, period.
About The Author: Captain Bob Lemay
Company: Captain Bob Lemay Fishing Guide
Area Reporting: Biscayne Bay and Flamingo
Bio: Capt. Bob LeMay began his south Florida fishing career almost thirty years ago. He has worked for area tackle shops, mated on charter boats, but the highlight of those early years was winning the Lauderdale Billfish Tournament in 1973 with two anglers who had never fished for billfish before!
By the end of the seventies he was guiding part-time and tying flies commercially. In 1995, he began guiding fulltime. Through Umpqua Feather Merchants his fly patterns are now sold in shops around the world and in catalogues like LL Bean and Westbank Anglers.