Spotted Sea Trout Fishery has an Emergency Regulation.
Yesterday Florida Fish and Wildlife imposed a new restriction on the spotted seatrout fishery along the Gulf coast. Trout are very sensitive to red tide and because of it their numbers are way the hell down. In fact in Charlotte Harbor it is extremley hard to find a fish over 11 inches these days. This is a sad story for what is likely the most sought after fish in my water.
Released Spotted Seatrout
Here’s the new regulation for spotted sea trout. (Please note that last night the local nightly news incorrectly annouced that the entire trout fishery was closed.)
“Currently, anglers may harvest a single spotted seatrout per day that is larger than 20 inches. Starting Friday, Feb. 22, recreational anglers will no longer be allowed to harvest any spotted seatrout over 20 inches total length when fishing in state or federal waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line south to Gordon Pass in Collier County. This rule change will remain in effect through May 10, 2019. Red drum and snook are currently catch-and-release only in this region through May 10 as well.”
As noted, at this point the redfish fishery is closed to harvest, as is the snook fishery. And legal size spotted sea trout are pretty much nonexistant in Charlotte Harbor.
“Tailing” Reds in Charlotte Harbor”
I’ve been plying these flats for five years now and can honestly report that in Charlotte Harbor “tailing” reds are the most technically challenging fly-fishing I have ever done. Less you think that’s just my opinion, allow me to add this. When I arrived an experienced local angler issued me this warning. He said that on any given day 90 percent of the time you will not see any tails. If you do see one, however, another 5 percent of the time, its no dice. The “tailer” will either spook as you approach, spook as you cast, spook as the fly lands, or worst of all, simply ignore your fly altogether. So all in all, if you’re seeking “tailing” reds, expect to go home empty handed 95 percent of the time.
Hunting for “tailing” Reds
So why bother? Well for one thing your odds of a hookup are actually considerably better than I just suggested. This is especially true after you learn when and where reds are most likely to “tail”. Second, hunting for “tailing” reds gets in your blood. It is wicked addictive. You’re constantly trying to improve the odds, hone your skills, discover the secrets, find the right fly, find the best retrieve, figure out how to win the war. And when you’re successful it is a total adrenaline rush. Yeah this is the most exciting fishery you can imagine!
Big “tailing” Red
Got this “tailer” on a 6-weight fly rod a few days ago. I’ll never forget the sight of his tail waving to me across the flats, the slow careful stalk, the delicate cast, and wake he created as he charged the fly. Yes he fought like a demon. And yes, I was on top of the world when I let him go.
Early Morning on the Flats
During the last week we’ve had some decent tides for “tailing” reds. So I’ve been getting on the water before dawn hoping for a shot. Now conditions aren’t bad. The water is clear and cooling, and the wind light – all things in my favor. But I’m sorry to say the fishing for “tailing” reds hasn’t been productive.
Why? “Hitcher snook”. What are “hitchhiker snook” ? I’ve discussed this before but that was long ago. Time for a refresher. With water temperatures in the high 70’s there are plenty of snook around. And they are very active and love to follow the redfish on the flat. So wherever you find “tailing” reds, snook are likely close by keeping a greedy eye on whatever the reds flush from the bottom.
As you cast to a “tailing” red, the red has its head down in the turtle grass and very often doesn’t see the fly or simply isn’t real interested. The snook on the other hand are not looking down as much, are very aggressive and immediately charge the fly. Bingo. You chuck a fly at a “tailing” red and hook a snook instead. C’est la vie.
Slimy green wool algae
Before finishing up this post let me mention something of concern on my flats. In the last month a slimy, green wool-like algae was shown up, covering the bottom and tangling up in the turtle grass. Where it came from I have no idea. Is it connected to the blue-green algae issue we have on the Southwest Florida coast? Can’t say, but it’s causing problems believe me. For one thing your fly quickly snags up in the crap. Second its hard to remove. Kinda like the “mung” weed I used to see on the Cape Cod beaches. Third, fish you hook plow through the shit head first. Now its all over you leader and fly line. Major headache.