The past few weeks have been filled with days of building anticipation for the good times and fishing that is to come. Three intrepid angling souls will pack up flies, rods and reels in just two days and retract the landing gear to head southeast into the archipelago of The Bahamas.
The unknown challenges of going it alone is the greatest appeal for “Do It Yourself” in a far flung location, but the rewards are epic when they come.
The entire experience is an adventure. Beyond the simplicity of making a call to any of the fine bonefish lodges that dot the island nation, the search for shelter is just the beginning in a DIY adventure. Scouring Google Maps for potential flats that will be both accessible and productive consumes hours of time as the date approaches.
For now, its back to packing and double checking gear…
There is a burgeoning movement afoot amongst those who spend time on the waters of Mosquito Lagoon in Central Florida chasing redfish and speckled sea trout. Its a quiet, but sustained, call for a change in guiding practices. Its being brought about by the heightened awareness of most anglers to the estuary’s troubles with extreme angling pressure and degraded water quality. Armed with the knowledge that the resource needs a helping hand, more and more anglers are becoming vocal on social media calling for charter captains and others to make Catch & Release the standard practice rule, rather than the exception.
The angling community is changing its attitude towards the long held idea that the Mosquito Lagoon is a place to go fill your cooler. While anecdotal, there is a wealth of evidence that points towards shrinking numbers of large breeder redfish, as well as a decline in juvenile redfish. Despite a majority of anglers recognizing the state of the fishery as one that is in decline, some guides see the change to C&R as potentially harmful to their business and have taken to social media to promote how splendid the fishing has been and that the resource is bountiful. Their hype is not true.
The joys of angling are many. Lowest on most anglers list is the consumption of their catch. The beauty of the environment, the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of the fight are more truly the reasons than most anglers will spend countless hours on the water in search of fish. Recreation is the goal.
The Catch & Release movement is shaping what is considered ethical and reasonable within the guide community whether the guides sign on or not. Why? Because their clients get it. They’re out for a great day catching lots of fish. C&R will lead to better opportunities for fish filled days, which of late have been the exception throughout the estuary.
Their clients get it because they want their children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities they’ve had, if not better. They’re buying in because its the only way it will happen.
The C&R movement is not saying to guides, don’t take a single fish; the angling community is calling for a more responsible approach that educates charter clients on the current state of the resource and encourages Catch & Release. The community is asking guides to forgo the practice of adding “their” fish to the clients limit.
Its always tough to change. Resistance to change is expected. The guides that are early adopters of the Catch and Release movement will be the ones who benefit the most. Word will spread and the guides will be rewarded with praise and referrals.
Catch & Release is the rule in Mosquito Lagoon and its here to stay.
The reflection of sunlight glimmers like a star on the evening horizon as a tail rises above the surface, distributing the light in a beacon like flash. Roseate spoonbills and wood storks line the shoreline in search of a piscatorial breakfast. As you glide towards the point where the tail has disappeared beneath the surface, not so much as a breeze stirs the heavy moist morning air.
The anticipation of seeing that tail emerge again is building. Your focus is laser-like as you try to discern even the slightest ripple or wake that might alert you to the redfish that is starting to seem like it vanished completely.
The scenario plays out several more times over the next hour while the storks and spoonbills have all but stood still, save the occasional movement that was required to capture a crustacean or fish at its feet.
By now, the sun has climbed a bit higher and the sight lines into the water have grown longer. The occasional sign of a fish still appears, but its merely a tease, as they continue to cruise silently back into oblivion, blending into the mottled bottom.
Rather than succumbing to the urge to leave these redfish behind in search of “happier” fish, a better option is to simply put time on your side.
The birds along the shore are masters of time and use it wisely to ensure they remain well fed each and every day. Emulating their tactics can lead to success where before it had remained elusive.
Sight fishing is often referred to as being akin to hunting . Most often it is a spot and stalk game, but occasionally still hunting will deliver the best results.
When the fish are playing hide and go seek, hunker down and put time on your side. They’ll eventually make the mistake of showing themselves within your range. Then, just like our feathered friends have learned, they’ll be easy pickings.
You’ve been there and seen it with your own eyes, That Guy, the one who saunters out to the casting pond at the fly fishing show in full on “tactical” gear and starts sending a little piece of yarn down range at distances over 60 – 70 feet. Its impressive, he thinks and if you remain engaged and don’t avert your eyes away from his greatness you’ll see him survey the fringes looking for approval.
That Guy is the last dude I want on the dance floor on the pointy end of my skiff. If I’m going to expend energy poling around the flats in search of fish to target, I want someone who’s capable and fishy, not That Guy.
I’m sure That Guy has the best intentions and wants to catch fish, but the mentality that accompanies the and enables the public display of casting hero isn’t a good fit in the real world. Perhaps I’m being too quick to judge, but based on my experience its nearly always true.
My experience on the water has taught me that the unexpected close range shot is more likely the one that results in feeding a fish than the 60+ foot cast.
The wind and short window of opportunity that exists in the real world makes that longer shot, a long shot.
Angles change quickly in the salt world and with more line out, the less likely an angler is going to be successful in picking up from a bad cast to adjust to a fish’s movement. Angles are very important. Its called angling and on a shallow saltwater flat, its a killer.
When a fly makes an unnatural move towards the would be hunter, the reaction is abrupt and typically unforgiving. Opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye.
The sheltered and static calm of the casting pond is a thing of the past when a fish and the skiff is moving as well as the nearly ever-present breeze.
Don’t be That Guy. Stay frosty and study the angles, make a decision and cast. You’ll have about a second to do it.
The next time you’re at a show, enjoy time with the guys that avoid the pond, you’ll likely be rubbing elbows with the fishiest dudes there.
As Spring Break drew to a close, time on the water increased and a great friend and kindred spirit from Texas joined me for a day on Mosquito Lagoon in hopes of feeding a few redfish some buck tail and feathers. The full moon was ever present in the back of my mind as we struggled the first half of the day, literally watching fish swim past well presented flies without the first hint of interest in them. It wasn’t a matter of fly choice or tactics in getting them to eat, it was just the funky psyche of the locals that had us resigned to laughing at the snubs one after another. One fly literally passed over the fish’s nose and brushed across his eye without so much as a flinch.
The days that followed saw a bit more of an agreeable personality emerge in the fish, perhaps due to the lunar phase moving further past the full moon.
Despite the improved attitude being offered, a handful of feeds resulted in no fish to hand as missed hook sets pushed their way to the forefront, stymieing the goal of giving short skiff rides to a select few reds.
You know its getting hopeless when you feed a fish twice, only to pull the fly from the jaws of success both times.
Its times like these where you chuckle at the notion of bonefish being spooky devils. Bones are a joy. Pure unadulterated bliss.
In just over a month and a half my next DIY bonefish adventure will go wheels up. In the meantime, I’ll keep shoveling more humble pie into my beer hole.
That time has arrived, but first a little bit of time has to be spent at the ballpark checking up on my favorite springtime caster. Baseball is in full swing in the Citrus League, which can only mean one thing – the west coast will see some silver soon.
Its already starting to happen in the Keys, so its now just a matter of time and a few more warm days away.
Through the magic that is Daylight Savings Time, the sun will set an hour later today. The added hour in the evening breathes life into my soul. Being given more time in the afternoon to spend with tailing redfish is like a gift from heaven.
There are lots of reports surfacing on Social Media that include pictures of sports hoisting up a fish for the camera that make claims of success in extremely high winds. A lot of the time, its just not rooted in fact. Thats not to say the guide or angler making the post is overtly being deceptive in their claims of success in less than desirable conditions, more often than not, its simply an inability to accurately estimate wind speeds on the water.
The next time you are on the water, you might find the following chart to be of use as an aid to better estimate the conditions you’re experiencing. Make note of your estimate and the time and check it against the hourly wind data at the closest airport weather station on the National Weather Service’s website. You’ll be surprised at first, but over time you’ll become very accurate.
Guide To Estimating Wind Speed Over Land & Water
Terms used by US
less than 1
Smoke rises vertically
Sea like a mirror
Check your glassy
water technique before
water flying under
1 – 3
Smoke drifts; wind
Ripples with the
appearance of scales
are formed but without
4 – 7
Wind felt on face;
leaves rustle; ordinary
wind vane moves by
Small wavelets, still
short but more pronounced;
crests have a
glassy appearance and
do not break
Large wavelets; crests
8 – 12
Leaves and small
twigs in constant
motion; wind extends
Large wavelets; crests
begin to break. Foam
of glassy appearance,
Ideal water flying
characteristics in protected
13 – 18
Dust and loose paper
raised; small branches
Small waves, becoming
longer; fairly frequent
19 – 24
Small trees in leaf
begin to sway; crested
wavelets form in
Moderate waves; taking
a more pronounced
long form; many
whitecaps are formed,
chance of some spray
This is considered
rough water for seaplanes
in open water
25 – 31
Large branches in
heard in telegraph
wires; umbrellas used
Large waves begin to
form; white foam
crests are more extensive
32 – 38
Whole trees in motion;
inconvenience felt in
walking against the
Sea heaps up and white
foam from breaking
waves begins to be
blown in streaks along
the direction of the
This type of water condition
is for emergency
only in small aircraft in
inland waters and for
the expert pilot