Fishing this winter has not lived up to expectations due to high winds and rain making water murky and non sight fishable. As a guide it is our job to make the bite no matter what, “no excuses” as we say. With dirty water it is best to fish at low tide which eliminates a lot of high open water flats. Low water concentrates the fish in the deeper pools and troughs in the flats making catching fish much easier.
We had a few fly trips this week that proved unsuccessful due to cloud cover and wind but bait fisherman did good soaking live mud minnows in the creek holes and troughs waiting for passing fish redfish. Sheepheads have been biting good on fiddler crabs, while black drum have not passed on them either. A few trout have been spotted in the deeper creek holes soaking live mullet or mud minnows.
Carl Haven had a nice grand slam this day with also catching flounder that were not pictured.
This winter has been a bit of a let down as our water has been tancic stained instead of ginn clear. We have had some sight fishing opportunities when the winds lay down and we are able to see redfish pushing water in big schools. Artificial lures has actually outfished live bait with jerkbaits and weedless hook setup has been the hot ticket. Fishing the lower tides has helped with visibility and seeing fish push water as they lift and show themselves.
Kayak fisherman have had the best luck with being able to access the shallowest waters where redfish are trapped and bringing a whole new meaning to catching fish in a barrel!
My lab pup Mr. Brisket doesn’t like to miss out on photo ops.
Here are some photos I forgot to post. This was probably the best day of the winter we had here in Palm Coast. Sunny skies and gin clear waters made it for an exceptional day of sight fishing for redfish in schools that numbered in the hundreds. We caught all of our fish on white fishbites jerk baits rigged on Slayer inc. weedless hooks.
February Fishing Report
As water temps continue to cool after January’s seimi warm spell, water clarity will get better and better till it reaches “Gin Clear”. Hitting the flats once the sun is high and with incoming tide will give you sight fishing opportunities for redfish and sheepshead. To find sheepshead on the flats look around oyster bars till you see the striped bandits nibbling away. A stealthy approach is a must by either poling or quietly using your troll motor. A rig I like to use is a 1/0 Daiichi octopus J hook with a bb split shot a few inches above the hook, I then rig a shrimp weed less by cutting off it’s tail for sent and inserting hook through the tail and back into it’s body for a weedless rig. Bigger Sheepsheads will be hanging around deeper water structure like docks, bridges, channel markers and area Inlets. Fiddler crabs, oyster crabs and oysters are offering that are rarely turned down by sheepshead hanging around deep structure.
Trout fishing should be catch and release only as the season is normally closed but with new regulations trout remain open year round and bag limits are up to six instead of five fish. Look for trout to school up around ICW creek mouths, deep holes in creek bends and Matanzas Inlet. Small soft plastics like Fishbites Extreme paddle tails or curly tails on a ¼ ounce Slayer jig head will attract schooled up trout. Gator trout will be sunning on mud flats during the heat of the day and a live mullet swimming on the surface will tempt even the wariest trout.
Redfish schools will be on sun baked flats during higher tides and roaming the ICW during low tides. Multiple fish can be caught as long as you’re quiet and do not get to aggressive with your approach. Artificial lures is better in my opinion as you can get multiple cast to schools if spooked and don’t waste time rebating. Fly fisherman test their cast and accuracy by sight fishing laid up and cruising redfish on the shallow flats. My go to flies are flats bunnies, merkwans and just about any fly that resembles a bait fish.
Black drum are relatives to red fish and noted as good table fair when caught less than 5 pounds and can hold their own once hooked. Recent outings have produced good numbers of “puppy drum” which range from 2 to 6 pounds. Simple rigs are used to catch Black drum, one of my favorites is a Slayer inc. ¼ oz. jig head and a live or fresh dead shrimp hooked through the head. Since Black drum are bottom dwellers and feed almost exclusively on the bottom other good baits that produce “stink” are quartered blue crabs, clams and oysters. Black drum are primarily found in deeper water but during those cold spells look to sight fish them on the shallow flats.
Well the wind was no help today making sight fishing conditions a bit tough so we fished smaller waters where visibility was a bit better. We fish lee shorelines and were able to sight fish a few nice redfish using a Slayer inc. SST watermelon paddle tail and jighead combo. Brian did a great job sight fishing this oversize fish who gave his location away when he belly rolled and flashed us.
Brian lands oversize redfish while fishing with Capt. Chris Herrera in Palm Coast.
Well I got my skiff back only to find out all of the work was not completed so I will be without my skiff for another week. In the meantime I was able to run a few charters over the holidays. We mostly targeted redfish in the shallows as it is sight fishing season and schools should be roaming the flats.
90 year old Mitch and his son Mitch were my guest as we targeted redfish in a shallow creek that had a school of 30 or so redfish. We were armed with live shrimp and Slayer inc. jigheads and fed them to several nice mid to upper slot redfish.
Mitch senior who is 90 years young did a great job bringing in some upper slot redfish to the skiff
Well it’s almost time before my Hell’s Bay skiff is back from its restoration at the hands of Islamarine in Islamorada. I have been lucky enough to be able to borrow my buddy Jacque’s Beavertail skiff in the meantime to run some charters. Yesterday I had the pleasure of fishing with outdoorsman Keith Hawthorne and his lovely side kick Melissa. We had a good time soaking some quartered crab watching Melissa land her nice redfish. Bite was a bit slow during high tide but soaking baits along grass edges and oyster bars bought us a few bites.
Double up time while taking pics of first redfish.
Incase you were wondering why I have not been posting updated reports is because my skiff is undergoing a major overhaul. It all started after running into Tom Gordon with Islamarine in Islamorada while on a mini vacation. Tom and I spoke about replacing my gas tank as the tanks were prone to leakage. A simple gas tank replacement turned into a total restore project that will leave me without a skiff for 6 weeks. Although not entirely boatless as I do have a loaner skiff borrowed from a good friend of mine.
My restoration project includes:
Gas Tank, Carpet, non skid, hull buffed, toggle switches, power pole blade, all new hardware, locking hatches and much more.
So far the renovation is coming along good and on time. Can’t wait to get her back on the water.
Well what does a fishing guide do when he takes a week vacation? Go fishing! I finally took some time away from guiding and Captain’s BBQ to head to Islamorada for a week with my good buddy Scott Crown. We went with high hopes on getting Scott on his first bonefish but with high water levels bonefishing was not a good choice. We opted to head offshore (all of six miles out) for yellow tail and we scored some of the biggest yellow tail seen in years. We didn’t have to wait long for our limit as we set out 25lbs. of chum and had the yellow tails and trigger fish ready to eat.
Click Here to see the video
The following day we met up with my friend and guide Brian Williams who said the bite around Cape Sable was going off so we booked a full day charter and head out at first light. Our first stop was an amazing sight as we rounded the corner and were greeted with sky rocketing tarpon! It was a sight to see as the tarpon were on a full on feeding frenzy and catching them was as easy as I have ever seen it. Artificial bait fish lures is all it took to hook these tarpon.
After jumping and landing tarpon we noticed bait fish getting busted on the banks, a few cast later we found out it was snook and redfish.
Once the tide slowed down so did the bite so we headed further back into the mangrove maze and started to sight fish in shallow water for redfish and snook.
We fished the shallows till the tide came up and could not see the fish anymore and made a move to fish mangrove shorelines with pilchards. Capt. Brian threw out a net full of pilchards to get the fish in a feeding frenzy and a frenzy it was. We caught snook and redfish one after another and even put a nice triple tail in the boat.
Capt. Chris Herrera
With high water conditions and fish spreading out the ole “popping cork” and shrimp combo has been working best. From jacks to redfish and lady fish to trout they all have pounced on the sound of “pop click” made by the popping corks.