Florida Keys Fishing Report, part 2 and Mosquito Lagoon Fishing Report
Upcoming Events- Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, January 23-28, 2013
Last week I was off on a rant about how bad Keys inshore fishing was, and asked readers if they had anything good to say about it. With one exception, no one did, and a few folks emailed me to agree with my assessment. That having been said, here's the rest of the report from the second half of my week long Keys trip.
Sunday morning Dalen Mills and I launched our kayaks at Sombrero Beach on Marathon. It's a lovely spot although not designed with kayakers in mind. There were some fine mermaids there! We paddled west to the end of the island, spotting only a few sharks but being rewarded with a pretty sweet view of the seven mile bridge.
After pulling the boats we motored over to Long Key. Using some investigative work and charm Dalen finagled a launch for us from some private property adjacent to Long Key Bight. In splendid weather we paddled across the bight to the eastern end of the island.
There were quite a few sharks, including some bruisers. I decided that since I clearly wasn't going to see a bonefish I should put on a shark fly. I did, a big orange one, complete with wire leader. Almost immediately a school of juvie tarpon appeared. I cast the shark fly at them. It was all I had ready. Of course it spooked them.
Hoping some more would come I sat down and changed to a small grizzly seaducer with a 30 pound bite leader, hoping to get a tarpon bite. When I stood up there was a permit 25 feet in front of me with his nose on a sponge. Damn! Where's the crab I've been toting all trip?
I tossed the seaducer but no response from the fish. It was just sitting there, apparently waiting for a critter to pop his head from the top of the sponge. I sat down and changed flies, back to the crab. When I stood up again the fish bolted.
I stood there for at least an hour hoping for a shot at something. It didn't happen. The fish were done with that place.
On the way back, heading right into the setting sun, I ran over three redfish. Neither of us had had a bite all day. Skunked yet again.
Monday we launched again at Hawk's Key ramp and paddled out to Tom's Harbor Key on an almost dead low tide. I came around the corner of the island and ran over two redfish. A few feet later one was cruising right along the edge of the mangroves. The kayak almost floated over him while I tried to toss a fly in front of him. Needless to say he bolted.
I took the opportunity to anchor the craft and abandon it while I searched on foot. Didn't need to move hardly at all, here comes two more reds right down the root line. Bam! One eats the merkin. A solid fish, too, five or six pounds.
No sooner had I released that one than four more come cruising. The cast wasn't great but it did put the crab in front of them and another eat, a smaller fish this time, maybe three pounds.
They stopped swimming up to me so I went hunting. There was high overcast so it was hard to see and I spooked a few. Then I went a ways without seeing any more.
On the way back I spotted a single way up under a mangrove. It took several tries but I managed to skip the crab fly under there. The fish saw it land and came right over and ate it for my third fish in thirty minutes. I hadn't caught a fish in five tough days and suddenly I'm releasing one after another... They're not bonefish but they are fish, so suddenly everything is good.
Dalen came around the corner. I ceded the place to him hoping he would find some more reds, and paddled across to the shoreline of Grassy Key. There were scattered redfish there. I kept running them over. The clouds made it hard to see.
I saw a little clump of them and tossed the crab. As soon as it hit the water I was on. While playing this fish there was a big swirl and mud and a big 'cuda took off.
As the redfish neared the kayak it was obvious it was bleeding badly. When I pulled it into the boat it was also obvious that the 'cuda had nailed it, tearing the gill cover and severing several gill arches. Before I could unhook it the fish had already bled out. I have caught thousands of redfish. That was the first time one had been hit by a 'cuda.
Near sunset I spotted a couple baby tarpon cruising a shoreline. After changing to a size 4 Electric Sushi I dropped it in front of them. I was almost too surprised to strike when one of them nailed it. It jumped four times before I removed the hook and released it. Finally, one of the speicies of fish we had hoped to catch had been caught.
Tuesday was our last fishing day. Oh Lord, please let it be good! We drove to Key West to fish with Capt. Jack Walker, in a boat with a real outboard motor. Two of them, actually! Jack's mate Jason accompanied us.
We spent quite a bit of time exploring most of the islands between Key West and the Marquesas as Jack looked for bait. Throw after throw with the net yielded a few pilchards here, a few more pilchards there, and yet a few more away over there. Finally Jack pronounced the livewell full enough and he headed to the fishing grounds.
He hoped to get some blackfin tuna. They weren't there. Bottom fishing he got some kind of snapper and several small Almaco jacks, handsome enough, but certainly not tuna. Just before we left a spin rod went off and after several hot runs a skipjack tuna was brought alongside. A big 'cuda appeared from nowhere and relieved us of the back third of the fish.
Jack headed for another spot. When we got there he tossed a handful of pilchards out. Blam! Wham! Immediate explosions, exactly what this reporter wanted to see. Thinking they were bonito Dalen and I cast our flies. We both lost them immediately. The fish were toothy, our fluorocarbon leaders no match.
I rigged us with Tyger Wire (great stuff!) bite tippets and the flies were again offered. We both hooked up immediately to hot fish that quickly took us deep into the backing.
We stayed until nearly sunset, catching big cero mackerel and some bonito. Some of our fish were eaten by other, much larger fish. It was fast, exciting, exhausting fishing, mackerel and bonito blowing up and skyrocketing off the transom, drags and men screaming, the boat rocking back and forth, just an awesome afternoon. Contrasted with the lack of activity from earlier in the week it was almost overwhelming. Capt. Jack, you done good. Thank you.
Dalen had a celebratory bottle of Samuel Adams New World ale, which we finally had a reason to uncork and drink. It was good. A little sweet perhaps, but good. The bottle's label reads "A Golden Tripel with Notes of Spice and Tropical Fruit," and "Aged in oak barrels." Call me old-fashioned but that seems way too pretentious for a bottle of beer. Labels like that seem fairly stupid on a bottle of wine! I noticed that coffee has somehow developed "notes" too. Pretentious marketing sure has come a long way in the past 20 years or so, much to the detriment of all of us.
I sure hope my mackerel doesn't have notes of methyl mercury or PCBs.
Back home, Shawn Healy accompanied me on a scouting trip to Mosquito Lagoon on Friday. While breezy there was not a cloud in the sky. It wasn't great anyplace but we saw at least some fish in most places we looked. Shawn sight fished five reds into the boat using a chartreuse DOA Shrimp. The biggest was out of the slot. A nice day by any standard...
Saturday fly fisher JB Walker joined me for a frustrating day on the Mosquito Lagoon. The water was a little high, and clouds covered the sun most of the day. JB only had a handful of shots, and none got converted. There seemed to be fewer fish than the previous day but we couldn't see so who knows? Anyway, it was a solid skunking. :-(
And that is this week’s Florida Keys amd Mosquito Lagoon fishing report.