Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Kayak anglers have a tournament of their own

Kayak fishing guide Neil Taylor believes paddle anglers belong in a league of their own. The former baseball umpire believes, strike-for-strike, the kayak fishermen have the advantage.

"When it comes to stealth, you can't beat it," he said. "And we can get into that skinny water where power boats just can't go."

The paddle-versus-prop controversy was a frequent topic of discussion on the old Captain Mel Berman Show.

Berman, an avid fisherman who educated thousands of anglers over the years through his Saturday morning radio show, died in 2010 at 81, but right up until the end, "Captain Mel" still enjoyed getting out in a canoe to sneak up on seatrout.

For Taylor, the benefit of human-powered craft is a foregone conclusion. So if arms beat motors when it comes to flats fishing, why not gather the best kayak hunters on Florida's west coast, put them over the sea grass and see who paddles away with the title?

In three years, the annual Captain Mel Trout & Redfish Classic, an artificial-only, catch-and-release tournament has become one of the most competitive kayak fishing events in Florida.

But while this tournament may bring in some real veterans, beginners have just as good of a chance to hook up. So if you are new to kayak fishing and want to improve your chances, here are five tips from Taylor:

• Rig it right: Spend time setting up your rods and reels. Make sure your hooks are sharp, and your line and leaders are not nicked or worn. If you travel with just one fishing rod, make sure it is a good one.

"Never underestimate the importance of a properly spooled reel, quality graphite fishing rod and the appropriate terminal tackle," Taylor said. "Check everything once again before you get out on the water."

• Find the fish: Taylor spends a good deal of time scouting prospective spots. He often paddles an area the day before he takes clients out to fish it. Study the tides and think about wind conditions. Look for secluded bays and inlets that may hold fish in bad weather. Look for grass beds and oyster bars at low tide.

"Just be alert to your surroundings," he said. "Something as simple as birds diving on schools of bait can help you catch fish."

• Make casts count: Kayak fishermen miss some of the height and stability afforded their power boating colleagues, so casting mechanics and proper retrieval techniques matter more.

"Focus on making long casts so you can cover a lot of water," Taylor said. "Keep control of the lure and make sure it runs at the right depth."

And good advice for any angler, regardless of where they fish: "Eliminate unnecessary noise," he added. "The fewer fish you spook, the more there will be to catch."

• Don't lose it: Many anglers try to "muscle" a hooked fish into the boat, but Taylor is a strong advocate of letting the rod do most of the work. A common mistake many novice anglers make is "bouncing" the rod as they reel.

"Instead, try to maintain a nice, easy bend in the rod," Taylor said. "This will keep constant pressure on the fish."

Another common pitfall for kayak-based anglers is reeling in too much line. "Remember, you are sitting in a kayak," he said. "You need to leave enough line so you can grab the leader and land the fish."

• Keep your eyes open: Taylor never stops looking, even when he is fighting a fish. A pair of polarized sunglasses is just as valuable as a top-of-the-line graphite fishing rod.

"After a while you will learn how detect subtle clues in the water's surface," Taylor said. "You have to be observant. That is the key to catching fish."


Captainís Corner: Grouper moving in as water temperatures rise

Red grouper have made their move inshore this past week as waters closer to shore have warmed up a bit. Concentrate your efforts on hard bottom areas in depths of 100-120 feet for the rest of the month, and remember that all shallow water grouper are...
Published: 03/18/18
Updated: 03/20/18

Captainís Corner: Cold causes spiny lobsters to go into hiding

The cold front that ended Wednesday drove the offshore bottom temperatures back down into the low 60s. On dives Friday, my dive computer read 62 degrees at the bottom in 54 feet of water. On the next dive it read 60 in 62 feet. We were looking for ho...
Published: 03/18/18

Captainís Corner: Snook are the hot bite

Surface water temperatures have dipped into the low 60s, but the fish donít seem to mind. The longer days get the temperature up and helps keep it from getting into the danger zone at night. Snook have been the hot bite this past week and, believe it...
Published: 03/16/18
Updated: 03/17/18

It has been a crazy month regarding all the drastic weather changes. We experienced a record-breaking warming trend in February, followed by an endless amount of cold weather this month. The arrival times for many spring migrations of fish has been i...
Published: 03/16/18

Captainís Corner: Big trout moving out of the shallows

February seemed like March with record-breaking heat, but now March seems like February with below-average temperatures. This is a good thing. Spring fishing has started way too early in the past few years. The cold-water temperature we have now will...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/15/18

Captainís Corner: Temperature changes affect fly fishing

Having a fantastic river trip one day where we caught a lot of snook in shallow water on a fly and going back to the same location three days later and not finding any cooperative fish can be very puzzling. What happened? Recent warm weather was repl...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/14/18

Captainís Corner: Warming trend increasing activity over grass flats

Water temperatures have finally started to climb into the low 70s on the flats. The temperatures have been fluctuating with the past few cold fronts moving through. Large schools of reds should start showing up on the flats in the Pinellas Point area...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/13/18
Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

We traditionally look at two holidays to signal the start of trolling season for kingfish and Spanish mackerel along with their attendant migratory companions, blackfin tuna, cobia and barracuda. These are St. Patrickís Day (March 17) and Columbus Da...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/12/18

Captainís Corner: Spring fishing is getting close

When the weather settles down in the bay area, spring fishing should shift quickly into high gear. Just before the recent heavy winds arrived and churned the nearshore gulf into a muddy mess, seasonal migratory fish were showing up all over town. For...
Published: 03/10/18
Updated: 03/11/18

Captainís Corner: Trout return to their early spring areas

Cool air has filtered down, giving us hopefully the last cold blow for awhile. Recent fronts have shaken things up. But fishing has been good considering the weather. Trout have pushed into their early spring areas, basically where they were five wee...
Published: 03/10/18