Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
2519 Wood Oak Drive
Sarasota, FL 34232

(941) 284-3406
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Southern Drawl Fishing Report

By Steve Gibson

 

    For the past two months or so, we've been concentrating our efforts around the freshwater lakes and streams of southwest Florida.

    First, we like to catch fish. And we've found that the state's lakes and streams result in bent fly rods!

    Second, there's much more to Florida than salt water.

 

 

    We've been fishing the state's salt waters since 1971. We began fishing the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay around Fort Walton Beach. I was in the Air Force then, and stationed at Eglin AFB.

    We moved to Sarasota in 1975 and have been here ever since.
     
    What we've discovered is that the region's lakes and rivers often are overlooked and underfished. That's a good combination for those who want to catch fish on fly.
     
    For the most part, we target hand-sized bluegill, shellcracker, largemouth bass and channel catfish. That's particularly true when we're fishing around Sarasota. Our favorite spot to fish in Lake Manatee, a 2,400-acre reservoir located 9 miles east of Interstate 75 on State Road 64. This lake is lightly fished and chock full of bluegill, speckled perch (black crappie), shellcracker, largemouth bass and channel catfish.

    We also fish the Manatee River, Myakka River, Upper Myakka Lake and Benderson Lake.

    For this, we use .5- to 6-weight fly rods. I like to cast No. 12 Gibby's Snymphs  (simple nymphs) under a strike indicator on my .5-weight TFO fly rod. I'll right my 2-weight with tandem Myakka Minnows. I'll cast a small popping bug on a 3-weight TFO.
 
    Best time of year to fish Lake Manatee and other nearby waters is November through May.
     
    I also love to travel south to fish Alligator Alley and the waterways around Naples.     At Alligator Alley, I target oscar, but also catch bluegill, largemouth bass, Mayan cichlid, peacock bass and stumpknocker. I most often cast a 3- or 4-weight rod loaded with floating line and 8-pound fluorocarbon leader. My fly of choice is my Myakka Minnow in gold, copper, brown or black. If you don't get cut off or lose your fly to a snag, often you can fish all day with one fly.

    When fishing Alligator Alley, we often catch more than 200 fish each.

    The waterways around Naples can be even better -- not in terms of numbers, but in quality. All species (oscar, peacock bass, bluegill, shellcracker, largemouth bass) seem to run a little larger than average.

    Peacock bass there range from just a few inches to more than 5 pounds. My largest on fly is a 5 1/2 pounder that I caught in November . We usually cast 5- or 6-weight rods, floating lines, 8-pound fluorocarbon leaders and JR's Craft Fur Minnows.

    One of my favorite spots to fish this time of year is Palma Sola Bay. I find spotted seatrout to 4 pounds will pile up in holes and canals. I've had some fantastic days there over the years. We average 40 fish per outing, but have topped the 100-fish mark on several occasions.

    In addition seatrout, we also encounter snook, redfish, ladyfish, jack crevalle, flounder and pompano.

    Around Sarasota Bay, spotted seatrout are the main catch, but snook, pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, flounder, ladyfish, black drum and (occasionally) redfish also are available.

    We encountered some very good spotted seatrout action during the month. In fact, John Weimer of Sarasota obliterated his personal-best seatrout several times during one outing, catching and releasing trout to 27 inches. Fly of choice was Junior's Craft Fur Minnow

    Jesse Erlich of Sarasota joined me and a great tide, but we didn't have a great day. We caught about a dozen spotted seatrout to 23 inches. In addition, we lost a decent redfish that went for a Craft Fur Minnow.

    Marshall Dinerman of Atlanta, Ga., caught a pair of snook from a Longboat Key canal on Clouser Minnows.

    Book trips by calling me (941-284-3406) or emailing me at steve@kayakfishingsarasota.com.

    I look forward to leading you on an exciting kayak-fishing adventure.

    As always, we would like to thank our sponsors: NuCanoe, D.O.A. Lures, Peak Fishing, Temple Fork Outfitters, MirrOLure, Economy Tackle and Aqua-Bound Paddles.
                                                                            

John Weimer holds a nice spotted seatrout.