- Fishing Islands and Embayments in Southwest Florida
- Speckled Trout, Snook and Snapper…Catching Fish
- Topwater Plugs, Paddletail jigs and Lightweight Fishing Rods
By Forrest Fisher
The morning radar was threatening possible rainstorms when my phone beeped. It was my friend Marty Poli, a retired master tradesman from New Jersey. “Hey Forrest, it’s a go! Just bring a rain jacket, we might get wet, but I’m in for at least a half-day if you’re good with the chance of getting a little wet.” It was still dark outside as I pulled back the curtains. It was a bit before sunrise. I answered, “Of course I’m in, let’s go!” My heart rate went up a bit. It’s always exciting to know you’re going fishing to a place where you might catch a 10-inch fish on one cast and a 30-pound fish on the next cast. Saltwater fishing is exciting!
I hurried through the shower and thought about what to put in the backpack, then grabbed two inshore fishing rods, a small cooler with bottled water, and I was out the door. As I reached the truck, I glanced up to see stars everywhere. The sunrise glow from the east had just started. Wondered who was running that weather radar station. It was a beautiful morning.
The Placida Harbor boat launch at Gasparilla Sound was deserted. Other fisher folks must have been watching that same radar. The sun was clearly above the horizon now, and the orange cast across the water was simply incredible. I parked my truck and walked to the ramp to wait for Marty. A few minutes later, he was there. A 15-year old youngster hopped out of the truck too, “Good morning, sir!” Marty jumped in to share in the greeting. “This is Phillip Sokolov, a great young fisherman neighbor from the Chicago area. He is visiting his family folks down here. This kid is someone that might just show us up today, my friend.” We grinned and laughed. Everyone was beaming with the morning sunshine glow. In about 2-minutes, we were off.
Marty knows Placida Harbor and Bull Bay islands area very well. He headed for a fishing area that catches a cross-current with the tide flow while watching the wind direction. The wave action and current mix create undulating bumps between the sandgrass and oyster beds in the sand bottom. Devilfish Key was just a short rock throw away. As the wind came up from the south, large bait schools of pilchards swimming near the surface became noticeable. Their surface riffles highlighted their location. You know what they say, find the bait, and you find the Fish. The cormorants and feeding predator fish helped us to find the exact area to fish.
Marty started out by tossing a Zara Spook saltwater version near one side of the bait riffles. It didn’t go 5-feet when something attacked from beneath. “Fish on!” Marty yelped. “Feels like a good one.” A moment later, Phillip hollered, “Fish on! I think it’s a trout.” Marty answered, “I don’t know what mine is, but it’s huge.” Phillip landed his Fish, a nice 16-inch speckled trout. Just then, Marty grimaced a bit, “Ugh, he’s gone. He tossed my hook. Darn!” Things got even better in the next 45 minutes as we caught 12-15 fish on assorted lures. Surface lures, spoons and plastic-tailed jigs. Color didn’t seem to matter.
We moved to Bull Bay next, inside Cayo Pelau, in 3 to 8 feet of water. We could see emerging seagrass and mudflats too. An excellent area of the bay structure that everyone looked for to find Fish. There were bait schools hereto. Marty used his electric bow motor to keep in position, then dropped his Talon pole anchor to hold on a good spot. Before we were set, Phillip had hooked and landed two trout. The kid was hot. Using a turquois-colored St. Croix Avid Inshore model fishing rod, a Daiwa Saltist Back Bay 30-series fishing reel with 15-pound Power-Pro braid and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, Phillip was catching 3-fish to each one that Marty or I had hooked up. “OK, so what’s the secret Phil? Is it a special bait your tossing?” Phil grinned, “Nope, it’s just a light line and leader with a 1/8 oz chartreuse-colored lead head.” I looked at it and mentioned that I couldn’t tell what color the head was. “Well, it had a color when I started!” He grinned. “I just thread a Z-man flapper tail with gold flecks in it – but it needs to be perfectly centered, and then cast it out and jiggle it once in a while as I reel it in. You know. I give it some action. They just seem to be wrecking it! I’ve used this lure before, and it has always worked. My uncle told me about it.”
Phil’s excitement and energy level were contagious. He is a meticulous angler for a youngster, tied good knots and didn’t mind sharing his fishing prowess with others. That makes him humble and unique in my book, especially during this day and age. Together, we might have brought about 75 fish to the boat in this morning of fishing fun. Phile probably hooked up with about 50 of those. With Speckled trout back on the keeper list again, Phil took home a meal for his family.
As we headed back into the boat harbor at Placida, our conversations covered everything from the weather to fishing gear to lunchtime just ahead. We had caught snook, trout, grouper, ladyfish, redfish, blowfish, lizard fish and other species. In the middle of our angler talk, Phillip stood up and asked Marty if it was OK to cast a line as we approached the bay with the boat ramps. The kid had eyes on the Mangrove overgrowth on the shoreline. “There are no boats around, so sure, Phil, looks OK,” Marty said. Phil hooked and landed a nice snook on the first cast, then another and even one more before Marty returned with the trailer. He returned all the snook unharmed.
Some fishing days are just exceptional! This was one of those that reminds us that good fishing is always about friends and fun. Catching Fish adds to the fun, and we had lots of THAT fun on this short fishing day. Tight lines, everyone.