August = Action

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August is commonly one of the quieter months when it comes to the guide world of the Florida Keys, and it is not because the fishing is slow. It mainly has to do with the typically hot temperatures, passing tropical systems, and the kids heading back to school. While most folks look forward to this month because it marks the beginning of lobster season, the rest of us locals know it means quieter waters and less fishing pressure especially in the backcountry. Now that tarpon season is slowing down, more attention turns towards the backcountry with its great snook and red fishing, and on the local oceanside flats for bonefish and permit. makowski6Since the shrimp are small this time of year at the local bait houses this is a great time to fish with fly tackle or artificial lures like Gulp jerk baits and shrimp. When fishing in the backcountry, my clients will typically be using Gulp shrimp or jerk baits in the nuclear chicken or new penny colors. Everyone I have talked with over the years suggests matching the color of your artificial to the color of the baits the fish are currently feeding on. Now, if you can find bait that matches the nuclear chicken color pattern made by Gulp, it would probably be something that came out of a toxic waste dump. I have no idea what this color pattern mimics in nature, but the redfish and snook eat the hell out of it. When presenting these artificial lures I will typically rig them weedless with Owner Sled Head or Twist Lock hooks. Weighted 1/8-1/4 ounce depending on the depth I am fishing. I will use the 2-3inch shrimp with the 2/0 and 4/0 for the 5-7inch jerk baits. Other artificial lures work very well like top water and diving plugs when the conditions permit. However, I find that these lures can be problematic especially when working areas with a lot of floating grass or shorelines with lots of overhanging trees. Trust me when I say that if you get hung up in the trees you will regret it once you wake up the swarm of mosquitoes as you try to retrieve your lure. Now these Sled Head and Twist Lock hooks are weedless and they are almost treeless as well, making for less time in the trees and more time fishing. This time last year, one of my regular clients (Vince) who I typically fish this month asked me if we could target tarpon. Being from New York he had always heard about it and wanted to give it a try. So we headed out to the oceanside with some live crabs, staked up in an area where the fish were moving, and started taking shots at northbounders. After a few shots he began to grasp the concept of the clock system and begin to learn from each passing fish what was good and what was bad in regards to bait placement and presentation. Sometimes the fish would flat out refuse to give our crabs the time of day while others would show a slight interest but would not commit. After an hour we found our fish, hooking up to an 80lber that we fought for 30 minutes until he jumped and threw the hook. Excited about hooking up, he forgot the golden rule of tarpon fishing; when the tarpon jumps, bow to the king. makowski3Vince had forgotten to bow to the king. After that experience he was hooked. He had a full-blown case of tarpon fever for which there is only one temporary cure. That is, to catch a tarpon. Once we got back into position, the clouds came in making sight fishing impossible. So we moved to another area in search of smaller more dependable tarpon. It did not take long to find the school of 5-10lbers and shortly there after we hooked up. This time Vince was bowing like a champ. The tarpon jumped several times and Vince bowed every time. After a few minutes he landed his first tarpon in front of his wife and celebrated. Then he turned to me and said, “Now I am ready for a bigger one!” As I said, catching a tarpon, no matter what the size, is only a temporary cure. For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!


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