If you have been out fishing the Charlotte Harbor area lately, then I’m assuming you have seen some action and caught some fish. Fishing has been good from Matlacha all the way down the east wall to the Peace River (I haven’t been up in the river, but I’m betting it’s good too).
I’ve also been finding fish from the U.S. 41 bridges across the Harbor to the west wall, down around Cape Haze to the bars of Bull and Turtle bays. Tarpon, snook and reds have all been willing to eat a well-presented fly. The same fly, actually.
During your travels you are going to run into schooling fish such as mackerel, ladyfish, blues and jacks. I’ve been finding these mostly in separate schools, but a few days ago we found them all together. There is still so much bait out there right now that if you are out floating around and want to just wait in one spot and look, the fish will probably be breaking around you at some point.
My friend Al and I found one of these blitzes the other day while pre-fishing for an upcoming trip. It’s hard to run by breaking fish, so we stopped to cast Clousers into the fray with our six weights. We started catching small ladyfish.
After a couple small ones, we were going to move on. But then, the ladyfish started getting bigger. We kept casting and catching bigger ladies. This was a blast, we agreed, but we decided to go look for snook and reds.
As we were about to go (don’t leave fish to find fish!) we saw a new set of “wakes and breaks” join the group. I threw a cast, hooked and landed a nice jack. Al was trying to get his rod back out that he had already stored under the gunwale in order to run. While he was hurrying to do that I was working on my second and third jack. Man, those little crevalle are fun on a six weight rod!
I was still fighting my third jack when he made a cast into the blitz and his little 6 weight started to sing as the line left his reel. “That’s not a jack,” he said as he was licking his burned finger. It turned out to be a good bluefish.
At the edges of this blitz I also saw some mackerel jump, arching out of the water and down on top of the bait. I should have been filming or casting, but instead I chose to watch all of this life.
As this school of foaming frenzy slowly started moving away from us, the sharks showed up and made their presence known with their brown suits, tall fins and big boils. As fish scattered everywhere, I happened to see another familiar shape join in the feed. “Tarpon,” I announced.
Al was trying to get us positioned with the trolling motor to make a cast at these bigger newcomers. As we moved slowly around the edge of the school, pompano started skipping out from underneath us. “Holy crap,” we both said at the same time. What else is going to show up?
Turned out the next thing to show up was the wind. It started to blow and the school faded off into deep water before we could take any good shots at the sharks or tarpon. This all started in 3 feet of water and we were now in 7 to 8 feet. We drifted and watched for signs. We made some searching casts in the gusting wind and came up empty, so off we went. “Man, there were a lot of fish there,” Al said. Yep!
We made a run to Turtle Bay to check on a few snook spots. The water was pretty dirty, but we kept searching out and casting shorelines. We finally found a shoreline with a little moving water, caught a few snook on gurglers and baitfish patterns, then decided that that three-and-a-half hours was good enough for the morning.
On the run back to the ramp we saw a few fish breaking here and there, but we were happy with our results. Thinking back on it, I also realized that during that whole big blitz, there was not a bird in sight. So when you’re blitz hunting, don’t rely on the birds alone. Search the water for breaking fish. You can see the action a long way off if the wind isn’t too heavy.
Grab your six weight rod with an intermediate sink tip line and some Clousers, your eight weight rod with a floater, some size 1 baitfish patterns, a couple gurglers — and go get ‘em! Don’t forget to throw a 10 or 12 weight in the boat for the sharks and bigger tarpon, because they’re still around and will eat!
By the way, I’m offering a free casting class on Aug. 31. If you are interested, give me a call and I’ll give you the particulars.
Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.