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My wife and I are finally back from our annual trip to Sarasota, Florida. We drove from Colorado and unfortunately had a bit of car trouble on the return drive causing us to spend two unexpected days in Salina, Kansas waiting for the needed part. But other than the extended drive time it was a good visit with the in-laws.
All told we were in Sarasota for 10 days. The weather was gorgeous for visiting but was a bit of a problem for fishing - at least for me. A cold front came through on day #3 which moved a lot of fish out of Sarasota Bay for a couple of days. The cold front was followed up by warm sunny days but with an east wind that blew 15 - 20 mph every day for the remainder of the visit. As a result I got lots of exercise paddling my kayak as I would typically only get the chance to make a couple of casts to a likely looking spot before the wind would blow me into the spot I was trying to fish. But I still managed to get a few fish.
I have a friend who has a place in Boca Grande who in past years had invited me to try some night fishing for snook off the dock in his community. But for one reason or another I was never able to hook up with him when we were both in Florida. This time our Florida visits were going to coincide. However, upon arriving in Sarasota and checking my e-mail, Scott had to cut his trip short and only had two days be fore he had to leave. Being the understanding person she is, I rearranged the planned activities my wife had in mind for the following day and paid Scott a visit the following evening.
This was my first time night fishing for snook. It was definitely an experience. The tide wasn't really good as it went slack about 10:00 p.m. and the fish totally stopped biting for 45 minutes on either side of the slack tide. There were probably 30 to 40 snook that could be seen in the glow of the dock lights. They ranged from 12" to 30". For the most part they seemed to be feeding on needlefish. They would sit by the dock pilings and dart out whenever a needlefish swam by. There was also a dolphin that kept coming by to feed on the snook and when it showed up the snook would vanish until the dolphin left.
We tried any number of flies on the snook but the only things that seemed to draw consistent strikes were flies that were long and white - much longer than anything that I had brought. We fished for about 4 hours and Scott caught 4 snook up to 28" and had a couple more break off, I got 2, 24" & 25" with a third that cut me off on a piling. I also had a couple get off.


Scott with a 27" snook


Me with a 24" snook

There had been lightning to the north while we were fishing and on the drive back to Sarasota the cold front moved in accompanied by rain. So the next couple of days were spent doing things around the Sarasota area; like visiting Myakka State Park to see the gators.


and seeing the outstanding orchid collection at Selby Gardens - a definite must if you are in the Sarasota area.


After a couple of days of warmer weather, I ventured out for some fishing in Roberts Bay with my kayak. The day did not turn out very well from a fishing standpoint as all I managed were a half dozen lizard fish. It also turned out to be the worst wind day because of the exposed area I was in. But there was one interesting spot the wind blew me by - a couple of small mangrove islands that were covered with pelicans, egrets and herons. Between the two small islands there must have been close to 200 birds.



With the wind continuing to blow, and only four days left in the visit I decided to fish the more sheltered water around the Bird Keys in Little Sarasota Bay for my last two outings. On Wednesday I headed out in late afternoon to fish the falling tide. I didn't manage much, only three snook but one was pretty nice at about 26". The other two were about 14".


The way a snook will hold onto your thumb when being released always cracks me up.


On the last Friday in Sarasota, I got out to fish for the last time. Again heading over to Little Sarasota Bay; I tried the open water for speckled trout and ladyfish but had no luck on either. So it was back over to the mangroves for snook. The first hour was uneventful. The tide only had another hour until full and I was thinking that it was going to be a relatively uneventful evening until I got to the spot where I had caught the 25 incher two days before. First cast to the spot and I got a 15" snook.



A couple of casts later I got a mangrove snapper


I caught several more snapper before the action died. I could see where there was water on the other side of the mangroves from where I was. I paddled around the corner of the mangroves to see if I could get through and saw a tunnel through the mangroves.



As soon as my kayak started into the "tunnel" I found myself in a pretty strong current. When I popped out into the other side, I found that this spot carried so much water that it was like a stream coming through the mangroves which dumped into a small bay creating a big back eddy. I fished the "mouth" of that "stream" for the next hour and caught about a dozen snook and a half dozen mangrove snappers. The snook weren't real big, running from 12" to 16" but it was fun and a nice way to end my fishing for the visit.

It's not likely I will be making that drive again from Colorad, so I won't be able to bring either my kayak or canoe as I have been. Next year we will fly. There are a number of places close to where we stay that rent kayaks, so hopefully I can get back to that last spot I fished. If not I guess I'll have to find areas to wade fish.

Guy
 

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Guy
What happens is that the snook are generally in an ambush mode when feeding esp during times of rising tide off of the flats. The best place to be is on the otherside of an oyster bar where water is washing over the top. The snook and reds both wait in ambush for small baitfish to be washed into the current from the tide. However, it looks like you did pretty good. Try the Myakka River 776 bridge next time in town, which was close to your position. They were getting 40 in snook off the pier at night. Bring heavy stuff because they will try to brake you off in the pilings. Ive broken off monsters there with 10 wt tackle & heavy spin.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Frank,
Thanks for the tips.

Dave,
That's the first serious car trouble I've had in quite a few years. The trouble was with the drive line to the front wheels. I pulled into the Ford dealer in Salina a half hour after the shop closed for the day. I brought the Explorer back the next morning when they diagnosed the problem but they had to order the new drive line which took until the next morning for delivery.


Guy
 

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Great report, I really start to miss that tropic flyfishing.
When I was fishing the docks in Naples the Dolphins also paid me
a visit.
The Dolphin chased a mullet school that exploded under the dock.
Your story about the strong flowing channel in the mangroves sounds
very familiar to me as I fished such a spot on Sanibel Island.
Have you been bothered by bugs in the mangroves ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Marcel,

I don't know why, maybe it's just the time of year that I am in Sarasota, but I can't recall ever being bothered by any kind on insects while fishing around the mangroves.

Guy
 

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Hey Guy...
Carlos and I were catching some shad today.. We both actually looked around for you before realizing you were in Co. We did well. Carlos even caught a nice american. We miss ya bud.

Great report Guy. Glad you had a good trip.
 

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Guy
Super report and pictures.
Sarasota bay, I love that place. Spent many a year wading the flats in front of the museum catching reds, trout, and snook The wife took a great video of me catching a regular grade snook on an 8 wt just to the right of the sea wall at the museum a few years back. My father in law and I spent just as many years wading and catching at the mouth of the manatee river. I miss the yearly visits since the in laws past.

Tony
Still waiting for the shad to show up in numbers on Deer Creek. With the warm weather predicted for this coming week fishing should pick up.

Wayne B.
 

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Guy,

That's a great report. We head down that way every April to spend time with my wife's dad in Nokomis. Last year I got into some night snook at the Blackburn Bridge based on advice from the guys at the fly shop at Casey Key (good folks there). We're headed back in May this year. I'd be interested to hear some details on where you put in with the yak and were you were exploring. The area around Ledo Key looked pretty promising.

I've never had much luck with wading for trout or reds mainly because I just never had the time to invest to figure out the good spots. That's always a project for the years to come as my kids get older.

Take care,

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Tony,
I hope it is a good year for the shad, but I will miss being able to fish for them!

Wayne,
I've not tried wading in front of the museum but I have seen people wade fishing there while checking a potential kayak launch spot not far away. A few years back I did go out on a boat with a guide and we fished in front of the museum where we caught ladyfish and trout. I may have to try wading there next time.

Dave,
There is a small park on either side of the bridge over the inter-coastal waterway on Siesta Key Road. It is easier to launch a canoe or kayak on the east side. From there you can go either into Sarasota Bay or Roberts Bay. This was the first time I lauched at this location.
The spot I use most often to launch is at the end of Vamo Rd. There is a small City owned area where you can lauch small boats. This lauch site gives access to an area of mangrove islands on the east side of Little Sarasota Bay and the Bird Keys on the west side. You can also wade out a ways here and occasionally get ladyfish, trout and saltwater catfish but I don't think you can wade all the way over to the better snook locations.

Guy
 
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