Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

It was early October and I was lucky enough to steal five days of fishing in some of my favorite Tampa Bay haunts in advance of a few days business in Pittsburgh. The bay was cooling off, sea trout were abundant along eel grass flats and snook were moving inshore for the winter. Windy weather forced tough decisions about where to fish but there was enough sheltered water to make the trout fishing comfortable with the kayak. Although tides were favorable for good angling, timing wasn’t. Mornings, my normal time on the water, saw rapidly rising tides which limited my ability to do much wading around the most productive spots. On day three however, low tide occurred a bit later in the morning and the wind direction brought me to a shoreline that doesn’t get much pressure because it is isolated on two sides by a deep channel and on a third side by a dense Mangrove shoreline. As I paddled out into the flat opposite the Mangrove shoreline, I exited the tethered kayak and started targeting the edge of the flats and the deep channel. A large white gurgler stripped along the channel edge brought numerous trout exploding on the fly. For about three hours I was able to safely wade along a 1900-foot shoreline before the rising tide forced me back into the kayak.

On day four, I specifically wanted to target some snook and knew of an accessible shoreline that had proved productive for snook in the past. I headed for Emerson Point Preserve on Snead Island near Palmetto, Florida. The point marks the northern point of the mouth of the Manatee River. From the point north to the first big bayou was only about a half mile, but the tide flows fast along the Mangrove shoreline. The flats off the point were extensive and protected by a long, and shallow sandbar just to the north. I launched at just about low tide, so I had about three hours of wading time to fish along the Halophyte shoreline before it got too deep. The flats were alive with Mullet and bait. Big Mullet schools were a good sign. Mullet stir up the bottom and attract schools of smaller bait fish. When smaller bait fish are around so are snook and redfish. The low tide allowed me to wade comfortably thigh deep about 50 feet off the Mangrove shoreline. Casting tight to the Mangroves as well as out into the flats brought plenty of snook to hand. The occasional oyster bed close to the shore raised the probability that snook would be about. I even connected with a few small Mangrove snapper and Jacks close the halophytes.

Fishing along the halophyte shoreline, slowly covering the water in front and on both sides of your position is an intimate proposition. In the clear water, you see the bait fish and crabs that the snook and redfish feed on. If you hold perfectly still for a period of time, a school of Mullet may come close and you can see how they stir up the bottom. If you pay attention, you’ll see schools of baitfish disturbed by a larger predator. Sometimes those disturbances are beyond casting range, but if you do a good job of focusing on the spot as you wade closer, a long cast might result in a good fish.

My fly of choice for the snook was a #6 bend back gold clouser fished on a 9ft leader and floating line. This fly handles the shallow halophyte shoreline well when stripped slowly and the gold color provides a subtler fly than the more traditional chartreuse. I have gravitated to using the non-slip loop knot for all my saltwater fishing as well as trout streamers. It is important to note that despite the rather thick tippet, snook have a raspy mouth and will fray the leader. Retying the leaders after every couple of fish is a good idea.

My day’s take of snook was nothing to brag about. Most were around 20” which are small by snook standards. But they jump and fight well and you never know when you are wading along the halophyte shoreline that you might connect with a large one.

 

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