Easy Sunday on Mosquito Lagoon

The last couple weeks prior to the 4th of July were busy. Between filming for work and runs to Miami chasing bonefish and permit, hectic was the word of the month. Typically, the day after a Miami run is more of a lay-day. Although, with the weather being right the wife and I took advantage to make a few relaxing, afternoon trips to Mosquito Lagoon.

As long as the weather holds Saturday and Sunday afternoons are wonderful times to be out on Mosquito Lagoon. Usually, most everyone has headed home and the crowds have greatly diminished. It can feel like you have the entire place to yourself.

The wife, bird dog and I set out that afternoon to look at some new water. She just wanted to relax so I brought the fly rod and the stripping bucket to try and stick one from the poling platform. It is always a song and dance getting one to eat from up high, but very rewarding when it all comes together.

The first stop we found water that was off-color due to being exposed to the wind from that day. I was really just poling that shoreline to reach a pocket I had fished before in similar conditions. The water was up a little and this area was protected from the wind so I had my fingers crossed.

The first fish caught me a little off guard as he was on the corner at the entrance and I was just out of position. It happens. The next shot was exactly what I had hoped for. Bank crawling, back out of the water and jumped all over a well placed fly. As the wife relaxed on the bow she got a cool shot of the fish eating and coming tight. Well done babe.

Redfish Eat!

Redfish Eat!

A quick photo and another beautiful mosquito lagoon redfish was safely on her way.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

As the wind began to shift a little we decided to make one more stop before calling it a day. This water was a bit cleaner but it took a little bit before we started to see fish. I’m pissed. This area had it all, except fish. Finally as we came to the end of the stretch I bumped a fish off the bow. Although can be maddening I have to laugh it off and be glad the Chittum can get that close to fish without spooking them.

As I set up for what felt like the last shot of the day, it was a left to right, on the shoreline. Perfect, except I was a little long and decided to take the chance of the fish swimming under the leader that was on a mangrove root. As I held my breath and the line came tight, lifting the line off the water, the fish calmly carried on. I was shocked. That never happens. I just knew I had buried the hook in the root but a quick flick of the rod tip set it free.

I knew this would be my last shot at that fish. Just before I made my cast, I saw another fish coming right at me. This was going to be an exact replica of the previous shot. Thankfully, I landed it short of the mangrove root and with a slight move of the fly, the fish was on. Two short runs and a few clicks of the drag and she was boat-side. Beautiful fish and beautiful afternoon.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish on Fly

Moral of the scene…never panic. The more frustrated or panicked you get on the bow, the more will go wrong. It is just one of those hard lessons in fly fishing.

As I throttled up and headed for home, I just can’t help to take it all in and be thankful for a wonderful afternoon with the wife and dog. Fly fishing is a beautiful thing.

Indian River Lagoon Slam

Here on the space coast we have two very unique bodies of water. First Mosquito lagoon which starts south of New Smyrna Beach and runs almost to the launch pads of Kennedy Space center. Slightly to the south west you will find the Indian River lagoon system which runs from Scottsmoor, which is north of Titusville down to Stuart. Between both Lagoon systems they encompass hundreds of miles down the east coast of Florida.

Mosquito Lagoon is a mostly non-tidal, hyper salinity body of water with miles of shallow water lined with mangrove islands and shorelines. Indian River Lagoon also has similar flats low tidal movement yet does not have the number of small islands and backwaters Mosquito Lagoon has.

Traveling from one to the next is via Haulover Canal. A no wake zone makes travel time approx. 20 minutes but is the only way between the two Lagoons and provide passage as Florida’s Intracoastal water way.

Depending on type of year, trip length and species targeted, we might fish just one side or a mix of both. Jason and I decided to launch at the new Bairs Cove ramp located in Haulover Canal.

Our morning started early as we had located some larger tarpon in the River and wanted to see if we could cross the King off the list early. We had a few looks and a narrow miss before I called off the tarpon fishing.

Our first stop was an area we had seen large spawning trout. They are tough to get to commit to a lure so we arrived a little early before the sun was too bright. We slowly moved across the flat scanning for shadows or the slightest movement to tip off a big trout. We found a slight depression in the flat from an old prop scar which many flats fish use these bottom contours as highways.

About 20 yds down I spot a “log”. It is usually 70/30 on whether it is a log or a trout. Don’t get caught ignoring that 30 percent. Casts are free and Foss cashed in. Great cast, two quick movements and gills flare followed by the disappearance of the jig. This fish was one of the harder fighting and more aerobatic trout we have seen in a while.

Indian River Trout

With the warm water I decided to hope out so we could keep her in the net while I snapped a few photos. It is trout like these we need to be sure to look after.

As the trout swam off safely, I noticed a pair of smaller black drum ease by the boat. We had not seen them in this area in a few weeks but worth a shot. They can be picky eaters but are fun to catch and have quite a bit of torque.

It wasn’t long until Foss had his first shot, then second and the third. Something wasn’t right. I call for a color change and we swap out the jig. I thought it was all for naught, but finally after 30min. we had a school approaching at one o’clock. Cast was on the money and we were tight instantly.

Indian River Drum

Another half hour chasing the drum around to no avail was enough for me. Next on the target list was snook. Foss loves them, I love them, it is exciting fishing, like hand to hand combat.

Our first stop did not pan out as we had water that was a little too milky, so we pressed on.

Our second stop we were rewarded with two small snook right off the bat. Then the lull. It took a couple hundred more yards and then it happened. I call out spot. Foss hits it. In a slow motion explosion of water, scales, mangrove branches and gill rattling headshake, he is on.

Only two ways these situations can go. Good or Bad. Do it enough and you can smile at either outcome. Thankfully, we won this round. Foss did everything he could with the fish and I made sure the boat was nimble and in position for any move. Team work makes the dream work.

Indian River Snook

Although we were missing a redfish for a more traditional slam, the black drum came off the bench and played his role. Book it as a slam.

Biscayne Bay Bonefish

My love for Emerald waters on tropical flats has been well documented and honestly, if I could fish for one species the rest of my life, it would be bonefish.

The way they track across a flat, their shear speed and fighting ability can send anyone’s heart racing. Plus, bonefish don’t live in ugly places.

I make the drive as often as I can, when the wind, weather and tides create an opportunity to fish Miami or the Northern Florida Keys. It is a long drive, a grueling day really, but when we succeed, it is the highest of highs. The only downside is those water and the fish that live there can dish out heaping spoonfuls of humble pie.

This trip I was accompanied by the wife and birddog for a little mid-week getaway to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. My good friend Johan offered to push and we all loaded up in his Chittum Skiff so I did not have to tow mine.

Biscayne Bay Sunrise

It was calling for full and calm winds, which is always more predictable on a Tuesday rather than a weekend. The weather did not disappoint but made for tougher bonefishing. For those that do not get to chase bonefish and permit often, full sun is important. In addition, calm winds make for easy casting but it can also create frustrating fishing and spooky fish.

Either way, I am just happy we are here and stepping on the bow for a change.

As with any trip, we had a planned milk run. Taking into account the tides, sun angle and when we were going to break for margaritas and tacos. With the tide not quite high, we went scanning for permit. Which is really just like walking into a Victoria Secret afterparty and expecting to leave with one of the models. Moving on…

I had a great shot at a fish in the 25lb range and got the typical follow, hard look and escape. Honestly, I need to take some of the blame on that fish, I zigged when she zagged and got the yips as I was stripping. She knew something was up and was gone.

As we continue, a small group of bonefish approached from my weak side, I dropped a short backhand not thinking much of it. As luck would have it, one of them broke from the group and jumped on the crab fly. A short fight and quick release and he was back in the pack. “That is why you never pass on a shot”, Johan said. I agree. Even if you are targeting permit and only permit, sometimes a small eager bonefish can breakthrough the haze and boost morale.

The wind continues to die down… It is not making it easy today. With the changing of the tide we decide to move to another flat. Unfortunately, within 20 minutes of our arrival we get a visit from a qualified captain. He is running what appears to be a 25′ walk-around with twin 300’s and apparently no mapping software. The captain comes in hot, skids to a halt and I am guessing call Sea-Tow.

We leave.

A quick, unanimous vote and we decide it is lunch time. We stake out at Boca Chita and break out all the fixins’ for tacos and Mel’s Famous Margaritas. The bird dog was excited to take a dip and cool off as well. Nothing like a half-hour happy hour to relax and reset before the afternoon push. Honestly, we don’t do that enough. Rarely, if ever do we stop and really take a break. I suppose because we drive so far and always want to maximize our opportunities it never really dawned on me a quick break can be what the day needs.

Biscayne Taco Bar

Our next move was a pretty good run from our lunch spot but no one was complaining. It is nice to have a little A/C before the next flat. The wind is almost gone and I know the mirror is not going to make this next flat easy. I went through and lengthened my leader and dropped down in tippet size to give me a little extra advantage. Also, the this flat being slightly shallower than what we had been fishing I was able to throw a lighter fly which also helps when making long casts and delicate presentations.

My first look was a group of three that were approaching from one o’clock. Not ideal, but we spotted them way out and Johan was able to quickly able to make the necessary adjustments. Took my shot and the fly settled as they approached. The lead fish was instantly interested but would not commit. I was running out of room just as the second fish pinned the fly and he was on. Although it was hot and calm this fish did not play around. As the fish took me into my backing a couple times, Johan said, “I think this is a better fish than we thought.”

Biscayne Bay Bonefish

After we scooped her up, we got in the water to put her in the sling. Just a hair over eight pounds. I’ll take it! After a long but beautiful day on Biscayne Bay, this was a high note to end on before the long ride home.

I think we are at the point that the Magic City Hustle can now be called, a Saturday. I love it.

Mosquito Lagoon Cold Front

Cold Front Seatrout and Redfish

Well, here we are, in one of those famous April cold fronts. The wind had most of the week shut down but low and behold we have a cold, clear, crips day and we are ready to rock.  We launched at Beacon 42 around mid-morning to allow all the boat ramp antics to take place before we arrived.  We made our way into one of our normal haunts and immediately started seeing fish. The water was crystal clean and although the fish were quite spooky, Jason got a small redfish to eat quickly. 

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

The traffic on the water was typical for a weekend day with beautiful weather.  This added pressure, coupled with the clear water never helps.  We were just going to have to slow down and use the clear skies to our advantage.  I decided to push out and adjust our approach, which proved to be the right move.  The angle of attack was not perfect, but we hid our shadows well and that was the difference. The first trout of the day was a beautiful fish. Not a giant but enough to wear the tag Gator.  

Mosquito Lagoon Gator Trout

As we proceeded across the flat we noticed that was was not alone.  Jason, called me off the platform to take a shot with the fly rod. He did not have to twist my arm. My bow session was a quick one. We spotted a large fish on the edge of a pothole. She was at 11 O’Clock, quartering away. That is my jam. Luckily, I kicked off the rust quickly and dropped the fly just beyond her reach. Two hops and she ate. Barely having to move a muscle…just the way they like it.  The colder water had her fired up quick when I came tight. She took me to the reel but not much further and I guided her into the net if fairly short order.  

Mosquito Lagoon Gator Trout on Fly

That is all I needed. Foss is back up. 

We were contemplating a move but decided otherwise as we had a clear path with not another boat in sight. The flat and shoreline ahead was an area I had not fished in a while but with the clean water it was worth a look. It did take us a couple hundred yards before we began seeing fish but they were grouped nicely and eager to eat. This stretch was packed with smaller trout and Jason would go four and five casts in a row with a bite. 

We were approaching a series of pot holes so a quick platform switch and I had a small trout on my first cast.  A basic shrimp fly was all it took.  The trout were eating it to the point it was unraveling.  That was my queue to climb back up top and give the bow back to Foss. As luck would have it, his next shot was to a belly crawling redfish. We joked that was the shot I wanted and he made it count.  

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

We moved one last time as we finally were approaching another skiff. We gave way picked another stretch. The trout followed. It was almost comical the amount of small trout he was catching.  As the sun began to fade we decided to make the run back and be thankful for the day we had. “Wish they were all like this”, Foss said. 

Mosquito Lagoon Sunset

 

Double Digit Quest

Everyone likes to set goals for themselves, it drives us on the water, in our careers and personal lives. Some do it to get better or to push out of your comfort zone.  I really love to fish, like really really, but even more I love the how and why. I truly find my happiness on the poling platform rather than the casting…  

One day while on the water almost two years back Foss and I were talking about our future trips and goals. He mentioned he wanted to catch a 10lb Bonefish and a 10lb Seatrout.  Ambitious goals to say the least but we have been close a few time.  Recently, we were talking about the chance at the 10lb. trout after a number of excellent days on the water.  For those that frequently target large trout and chase records the pre-spawn is a window of opportunity as those fish are feeding and gaining weight to prepare to spawn. 

The last two years we have been researching, following those who routinely chase big fish as well as actively searching for where these fish congregate during these prime times.  We wanted to be sure when this opportunity presented itself, we would be ready. 

The 2019/2020 fall and winter were proving to be excellent for trout fishing.  With the numbers up we were optimistic for our shot at that double digit fish.  A couple months ago, we found an area that I previously neglected due to recent poor water quality.  As winter came the Mosquito Lagoon water levels dropped, the water cooled, it began clearing and with a mild winter we started seeing seagrass appear. That was the sign I was waiting for to revisit an area I had all but given up on. 

The first time in we saw good numbers of laid up fish that were not as spooky as other areas of the lagoon. Whether it was new found habitat or lack of pressure, it was promising.  The problem was the way these fish were setup. We were forced to approach this area in a way that was pressuring them and they got uncomfortable very quick.  We put our time into finding out when they would come and go so we had to beat them to the punch and make them come to us. 

Whether in the field or in the water I am much more of a spot and stalk rather than a sit and wait. It was killing me but felt it would work. 

I forget how many times we went in, passed on shots at fish and then moved on empty handed. We made it to a point, where we felt it wasn’t going to happen. Their pattern was changing and we were unable to get a shot at the right fish, so we expanded our search. 

We were exploring new areas as the next New Moon was approaching quickly and wanted to be ready for our next good shot.  The day it happened we were actually catching snook as the weather and wind began to change. It dawned on me the conditions were setting up for that spot to be right but was worried we were a little too early.  The New Moon was 3 days out but everything else felt right and we had to make the run.  

Mosquito Lagoon Snook

As we were approaching the area, I began to see a few fish in an area we had not seen initially them. That was the tip we needed. We took the long way around and as we were approaching a fish we felt might do it, I caught a glimpse of a “log” on the shoreline about 20’ feet out to Jason’s 11 O’Clock.  The fish was laid up in very skinny water and I told Foss he had to pitch it past the fish into the roots to have a shot.  One quick underhand pitch into the roots, a soft hop into the water and we see her gills flare and the lure disappears.  We both froze in disbelief for a split second (that felt like forever) before I called out, “She ate it”. 

Not only was it a great eat, it was on such a short string. To see it go down, that close, was something special. She tore off in a tornado of mud.  Went under the skiff twice and after a quick game of cat and mouse, she was safely in the net. (Another reason I carry a net) We handled her carefully.  Weighed her as she barely eclipsed the 10lb mark on the certified Boga, shot a photo and sent her on her way. 

Mosquito Lagoon Seatrout

No, it wasn’t a record fish but we put in the work and accomplished a goal we had set almost two years prior. 

The Season of Seatrout

For a number of months now the larger trout have been a blast. We have had tons of smaller trout in the area, more than I have seen in a while, eager to jump on a paddle tail or fly and it has been a welcome sight for a number of reasons. Ask anyone around and you will hear the same lack of redfish stories in the area. We do go in spurts but all in all, the redfishing has been down for January. We all know why but only some want to publicize the poor condition the lagoon is in.

I get it, most depend on it for their livelihood but I have been in the game of guiding, booking and hosting trips since 2007 and the number one rule is never lie to clients. It will bite you in the ass every time. I have seen it plenty of times from different outfitters and guides. They are incredibly shortsighted and feel they have to paint a glorious picture to get that client to book to then provide a poor experience. Guess what, they won’t be back. That was a one and done. I was always taught you want repeat clients. Do the right thing, work hard and you will have clients for many years to come.  You might even make lifelong friends in the process.

Speaking of the hard times on the Lagoon, thankfully we have a number of dedicated individuals who are fighting very hard to bring Mosquito Lagoon and many other parts of Florida back from the hard times. Check out Tailer Trash fly fishing podcast and their Dingy Derby coming April 4, 2020. It is to benefit the New Smyrna Beach Marine Discovery Center and Mosquito Lagoon. Check out the event: The 2nd Annual Dingy Derby and RSVP for the Pre-Party Thingy before the Dingy the Night before. Participate or Donate, it is a great time and a great cause that raised over $5,000 last year.

Let’s not be all doom and gloom. Mother Nature and her estuaries are very resilient and have been fighting man for many years. For the rough times Mosquito Lagoon has seen, we still see fish, have excellent days and make memories with friends and clients. So, if you are in the area, do not hesitate to reach out for a trip with myself or if I am unable to take you, I have a few fellow guides I am happy to reccommend.  They are not only super fishy but good people who will shoot you straight and provide a wonderful trip.

We were talking about Seatrout at some point, right? We had a few trips around the end of the holiday and the beginning of the new year that were stellar. Those larger Seatrout will begin to spawn in the Spring March – May and just like Largemouth Bass and other species, the pre-spawn feed it a blast.

Indian River Seatrout

Jason and I ventured out to a few areas we have seen larger fish during times and moon phases that usually have the trout active. Although we had some cloudy days which can make stalking these weary fish tough, we had a few short windows and were able to capitalize.

Mosquito Lagoon Seatrout

Foss who is typically armed with the trusty DOA Shirmp, was putting on a clinic.  We were stalking some larger ones, but blind casting into groups of the smaller fish, was almost too easy. I had enough watching the show and Foss was kind enough to give me some bow time. I pulled out the long rod and had a fly I grabbed from Flymen Fishing Co. and was rewarded quickly. There is just something about a big trout on the fly rod, it is a blast and hard to pass up the opportunity when presented.

Seatrout on Fly

Bonefish with Foss and Johan

Before all this COVID-19 fun began, Foss and I were due to make a Miami run and the weather was lining up to be a solid day.  My good friend Johan, had a few open days and said “leave your boat at the house and just ride down and I will push”.  Did not have to twist my arm to get a little bow time.  Foss and I loaded up at 1am and we were southbound and down. 

It was a typical day for this early in the year, winds from the northeast  and plenty of sun. Thankfully there was a warming trend from a light cold snap so the fish were back to being happy. The excitement is palpable as we begin to see the guitar shaped Hard Rock hotel. Not far behind are the high rise building of downtown Miami. A quick phone call to Johan, “Hey boys, y’all are early!” he said. “Naa we are just ready”, I replied.  

We load up our stuff, catch a few of the boat ramp antics as we idle out before Johan puts her on plane. There is nothing like feeling those emerald waters beneath your feet as the warm South Florida sun hits your face. Love our Florida winters.  The run across was easy.  Just a slight roll and a tiny bit of chop. We were planning on hunting tailing fish early in the day and then move as the tide changed. 

Foss and I have spent countless hours on a skiff, panga, bass boat.  You name it, we have fished it. So although Johan was a little hesitant, he was impressed we could simultaneously fish on the bow. I took the high post on the casting platform as Foss hanged ten on the nose. 

My first shot at a large tailing fish was a no go. First cast was good but a little off the mark as I didn’t trust the wind.  A quick pickup and put back was right in the zone, “I don’t think he saw it”, Johan barked. I felt the same. The fish just never reacted, just kept on his way as he moved out of range. 

The next fish came in at our two o’clock.  Rather than spinning the boat, Foss took his shot with the spinning rod.  Good cast, two hops and the fish blows out. oh well. We stalked a few more fish over the course of the next hour or so and as we approached the edge we saw a small group of fish patrolling an old prop scar.  I passed the backhand shot to Foss and with a great cast he was hooked up.  Two strong runs and the fish was boatside, unhooked and on his way safely. 

Good time to move.  We made a short and an adjustment to the plan with the shifting winds. I was on point and had a nice shot at incoming fish. The fly lands, a fish shoots out of the group, pins the fly.  I come tight but only for a split second and he is gone. My follow up shot, went ignored. Shit.  No time to sulk.

A small pair are approaching just as the last group. It was an exactly replay of the last shot but once I was tight, he was mine. Certainly not the size we were looking for but just a little singing of the reel before a quick boat-side release and I was all good. 

Early Bonefish

After sticking a few fish we decided to go look at some new water we had been eyeing. It was a little bit of a run but no one seemed to care. We exchanged a little time on the poling platform just looking and getting a feel for the area. It is always nice to see how the water moves across the flat, the sun angle, bottom topography.  It all matters and something you have to see in person. 

We did start seeing some larger singles and once we got Foss in range it didn’t take long.  This was a little better fish and had the attitude of his big brother. Jason was pulling away at this point but no one is really keeping score.  

The last stop of the day gave me two shots at really big fish.  Admittedly, I botched the first one. Just misjudged it. We were nose to nose and as we were both closing in on one another.  The cast long and leadered him right down his back and the fly just past his tail. I wasn’t happy.  That was the big fish I wanted and blew it.

Thankfully I did get another chance but this one wasn’t to be either. It all lined up right, cast, angle, fly swung in and he just wasn’t having it.   As the sun was getting a little low we decided to make our way off and see if we could get one more shot.  As I mentioned earlier, Foss had been on, and this final shot was no different. Same shot, 2 o’clock moving to twelve…good cast. Great eat!  

As he was fighting the fish I call out a shark, he was a little ways out but knew something was up.  Thankfully, we were able to keep the boat in between the two and as Johan hustled to close the gap between us and the Bonefish, Foss added a little extra pressure that would either bring him in or break him off safely.  This is one of the reasons we carry a net. We got just close enough to net him before he decided to make another break for it which could’ve done him in.

We supported him in the net as we pushed off the flat to the point we could lower the motor and idle away. Once we moved to an area that was all clear Foss hopped out and got a quick photo before releasing him.  

Bonefish to end the day

Just another great day with even better friends. A long ride home but reminiscing about the day on the water guides us home safely. 

Knot on Call

A few times a year I have the pleasure of pushing around a local physician who typically brings his nephew or a fellow colleague. He is a great guy to be around and a hell of an angler, so I always look forward to his trips.

Our day was to being down in the Mosquito Lagoon and fish the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We were in that time of year where the temps are cooling a little, the water is dropping(should be) and the water cleans up. Well, with all the named storms that did fly-bys on Florida this year, we had water stacked in from late summer all the way into late fall.

Thankfully, is not the norm but when a very active hurricane season and a number of near misses it has been the card we were dealt. It is frustrating for me as well as a number of guides that depend on sight-fishing, mostly with fly rods, to put clients on fish. We could cut and soak bait or blind cast all day but for me, that is just not my game. I like the stalk and the visual aspect of fishing, or I would just assume not go and reschedule.

This morning was calm and although the water was up, I was prepared with stretches of clean water where redfish had been patrolling regularly. A short run and a flip of the coin to see who was to take the bow first, we had a redfish buzz the tower almost immediately, a good sign. We had to fight the sun a little for a short stretch but it was a necessary evil due to the nature of the location. Two good shots and one pulled hook was all she wrote for the first location. Time to move.

We made a short run to be greeted by porpoises feeding heavily at our next spot, guess they found the same school I did. Move again.

The next area requires a long pole through our infamous Pole and Troll zone. Reason I call it infamous is because a number of people feel it has a bad reputation and refuse to obey the rules, or they are ignorant or they subscribe to the ignorance is bliss idiom. I digress and need to stow this soapbox.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Anyway, we pole a long stretch to find clean water and immediately greeted by active fish. Two boats enter the same area but with head nods and slight waves we all pay equal respect and each boat lands nice fish from the area. It is a wonderful sight seeing everyone respect distance, the fish and all benefit. A quick photo and the redfish eases back to join the group. A few more shots to nervous redfish yield no takes so we push our way out.

So…Two Surgeons Step on the Bow

I continued my planned milk run but each location shows a boat(s) already posted up. I continue to check boxes and move on. It got to a point where the boats where on every shoreline and I was not about to force my way in to just find redfish that were pressured and run over all day. I defer to the Docs. “Yall want to make a long run that will have less boats and give solid shots?” They knew the answer and it always feels good to have clients that trust your judgement. The Tohatsu wound up and off we went. There was a heavy chop for most of the run but they did not notice. The 12 Degree Chittum Mangrove makes up for Mother Nature’s Attitude.

The long run pays off with a handful of solid trout in half a dozen casts. They are setup on the edges of the shadows.   All we need to do was present the feathers within striking distance and the trout were more than willing to play. This continued for more than a hundred yards.   Instead of trading the bow every fish it was every third fish, a good feeling for sure.

Indian River One Hander

The rest of the afternoon played itself out the same.  Trout were eager, a few black drum were shy and the snook were snobby. All and all, a blast with clients who have become good friends, the way it should be.

Indian River Trout

I am very lucky to still keep in touch with a number of clients and outfitters during my Trek Safaris days and hosted trips. That was the break that shot me down this path.  Thankfully I can still guide great people in beautiful locations.  That will never get old.

The Magic City Hustle

We are going to do a little flashback for this post. So for the past 18mo. or so I have been trailering down to Biscayne Bay in a little move I call the Magic City Hustle.

Alarm is set for 12am and departure from Oviedo is typically 1-130am, which puts us in Miami somewhere around 545a to 615a depending on time of year and sunrise. We typically fish 8-10hr day unless storms cut us a little short and head for home around 4pm with an approx. 9pm arrival home. It is not for the faint of heart or those that value a good nights sleep but I always enjoy a good adventure, so The Magic City Hustle was born.

Our first run down about 18mo. ago with with Foss. He has traveled to Mexico and Belize with me to chase bonefish and permit so he was a natural choice for the inaugural run.  Jason is my choice when I need to explore new fishing areas.  Our friendship goes back years and born through tournament fishing, so he possesses two of the best qualities in a fishing partner. He is an excellent angler and he keeps his mouth shut!

Our research was done via google earth and drawing on past experiences from times spent in Mexico, Belize and The Bahamas. We had a game plan and were just going to go for it. Weather looked good, winds appeared to be light(the Bay can get nasty quick)and Foss was armed with the famous Jig. #nochum #nobait

Upon our arrival is was about a 2 out of 10 at the ramp, thankfully we were there early as we know this ramp is famously featured on the Qualified Captain quite often and we wanted no part of that.

We idled out and hopped on plane and made our way to the first stop. It was what we had hoped for, the look and feel of a beautiful flat in Mexico. Honestly, I was good, I did not even need a fish at that point, to be able to be in that moment, the 12am wakeup call was worth it.

Being our first time in the Bay we surveyed the flat and the way the current moved across it from a distance before making an approach. Too many times people be anxious in a new fishery and run right up to a spot and hop up on the platform and start poling. This usually ends up with spooked fish and missed opportunities because of being too impatient to survey the location. Or, some just rely on others to show or give them spots and exactly how to fish it so they can look like a hero on Instagram. Such a shame.

After we had a quick look I noticed we were going to have to circle around and approach from a different angle due to the sun and current. This gave Foss a few minutes to get situated, check the drag and tie a fresh knot.

We had not been on the flat 15 minutes and here they come, a group of those black tailed devils that so many have nightmares about. The best part about them showing up virtually out of thin air is you have less of a chance at making a mistake. We have all been there, seen a group or single approach and as you are trying to get into position, they change direction, put you in a pinch and poof, they are gone.

Admittedly, I froze for a split second as almost in awe of seeing them plus, I had no where to go. We were in position, I called them to Foss and he seemed to seem them right when I did and his cast was on its way. Jason, who is excellent with the spinning rod was right on target.

He hopped it twice, the permit moved on it to take a better look and he reeled it in feverishly thinking we was off target. The part of the school he was looking at was slightly more to the right and didn’t see exactly how many fish were there. As the jig was on its way back to the boat I began to holler as there were five fish chasing it, and he was late to see them. Thankfully, his second cast was on target and those fish that had chased the jig to the boat, shot back towards the school just as Jason’s second cast landed and a permit ate it immediately.

 

It was 8am and we already had a permit on, life was good. His first run was impressive and although I probably did not need to get off the platform I hopped down and fired the motor just to be sure. We slowly worked closer as Foss fought his first “domestic” Permit, he caught one in Mexico on a trip we had the previous summer, coincidentally one year ago to the day. The fight was a nervous ten minutes and each blistering run is a shot to the heart and shortens your breath. The last 20 feet seemed to be the longest as they can use that wide body and just not budge. I typically 12 pound Fluorocarbon as a leader so we can pull pretty good but popping one off at the boat would just be heart breaking.

 

Finally, we ease her into the net and it is high fives all around! The long morning trip and early wake up call was all worth it. We took a few quick photos sent the beautiful fish back on her way and had a celebratory “nip” of bourbon! With the strong current we had drifted a pretty good way but we needed that idle back to catch our breath before moving getting back up on the platforms.

We made another pass but to no avail. Honestly, the next target was one of the other two slam fish, Bonefish and Tarpon. I had a few other flats to stop at that I had marked but tarpon really were not on the target list when we were planning this trip so that was going to be found on a whim. We certainly we not prepared for any tarpon over just a 8-15lb fish due to our equipment but Jason and I are only luke warm on tarpon anyway so we elected to worry about the bonefish first.

Our next stop was not too far but turned out to be a bust, the flat looked good but I believe we were just there at the wrong time. The next flat was the same, the tide had backed off and was about ready to change so we covered some water in anticipation of that switch. Our fourth stop paid off and found a few bonefish that were eager to eat. It was decision time, do we go look for baby tarpon or keep after bonefish. It was a quick decision and we kept looking for bonefish and wanted to look back at the first flat we caught the permit to see it on the opposite tide.

One more bonefish for Foss and the day was getting late. We had a bit of a bumpy ride in and as we were idling in the channel back to the ramp Foss says, “You know if you just want to drive home on this day’s high and not stay tonight and fish a 1/2 day tomorrow, it would be fine with me”. I hadn’t made any reservations as the place we were planning on staying had plenty of rooms. Thought to myself, today was great, if we strike out tomorrow, man it would be a long drive home.

We put it on the trailer and reminisced on the fish from the day the entire way home. It was a long day down and back but it was worth it.  Truthfully it means even more that we did it ourselves with no outside help.

The Magic City Hustle was born.

There have been quite a few more runs since this one.  Successful and not so successful but those that know me know, if I had to chase only one fish for the rest of my life, it would be Bonefish. Still maintaining my dream to expand into South Florida one day.

Still Waiting on Dorian and Catching Redfish

I rarely, rarely fish on holiday weekends due to crowds and lack of courtesy and all things that end up on the qualified captain… but this year was different. It was Labor day weekend but the State of Florida and The Bahamas had an incredibly powerful Hurricane Dorian bearing down on both of us. Typically the holiday weekends have my wife and I headed to see friends for golf and hanging by the pool but due to the impending storm those plans were cancelled. In hindsight, we would have had plenty of time to enjoy our weekend while Dorian crawled our way but since we decided to stay put and the weather looked good another trip was due for the lagoon. Two days before, I had Guffy and Dave on the skiff for an excellent day and although we were cutting it close with weather, Foss and I decided to give it a go… and glad we did.

We arrived at the ramp to be met with only one other boat, how refreshing. All Refuge ramps were closed due to storm prep so we had to launch at Riverbreeze although we were planning on running south. A launch at daylight was met with moderately brisk east winds but those were expected. We headed south and as always, very thankful I have the 12 degree Chittum as we were met with whitecaps in open water but those were eaten for breakfast.

Our first stop yielded three small fish in about six casts as we pushed for tighter cover. That area is known for smaller schooling fish but we had our hearts set on tailing fish or bank crawlers so we pushed tighter as the approaching storm brought extra water into Mosquito Lagoon.

Dirty water Redfish

Water clarity was off but some activity ahead kept our spirts high. I swapped Foss’s paddle tail color to a dark body and the chartreuse tail hoping to get their attention. The first group of fish pushing away from us were in a hurry so I got out from behind them and picked a better angle to cut them off. We pushed ahead, got Foss into range and his first cast into the group, has the Stradic singing. This fish had a much bigger ego than his size but I always appreciate the effort and a quick photo and release and I decided to move on as two boats were poling into the bay we were in.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish Release

Now seeing the increased water level I had a spot in mind, although a little longer run than we had planned, we both think it would be worth it. I don’t have to tell y’all, it was.

Big Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

After the long run we had the place to ourselves and the fish were happy to see us. Finding some skinnier water and backing Redfish, Foss put it where it needed to be and was hookup to an absolute stud. I would rather see one big fish eat in skinny water than catch ten blind casting! Thankfully 99% of my clients feel the same way!

Two smaller fish to hand and it was time to head in and meet the wives for lunch. Another stellar half day on Mosquito Lagoon!