Destination: Lemon Bay

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By Merry Beth Ryan

It’s still dark. The water is slick calm. The stillness of the morning is slowly but surely passing us by. The Pelican’s as well as the Osprey’s are in flight looking for breakfast as the sun rises. The dolphins are frolicking off in the distance. Everything is coming alive. As we idle past Stump Pass Marina in search of bait it did not take long to quickly spot some birds working a certain area nearby that holds bait. Birds are a great indicator that bait fish are near. Always pay attention to what the birds are doing above. After cast netting a few hundred live minnows filling the bait well off went to fish the oyster and sand bars in hopes of landing a few nice snook and redfish.

The water clarity was better than we had expected after all the red tide scares and rain run off. At idle speed we passed through the Tom Adams bridge heading north to fish some areas that a long time ago may have been considered “secret spots”. We have all had a number of “secret” spots throughout our fishing years. Perhaps where a deep oyster bar edge holds fish that some anglers pass by on a daily basis. At one time of another we have all held our line slack with a hooked fish at the other end as we allowed boat traffic to pass by verses watching us fight our fish. Those days are pretty well gone. Wherever your “secret’ hole is, one thing is for certain, someone has fished it before and others will fish it later.

There are many area’s to the north of Tom Adams bridge that look so fishy you will not be able to resist casting to those spots. This time of the year it is best to get out early and come in early to avoid the heat of the summer. Oyster bars as well as sand bars are home to some of the best game fish Florida has to offer. A pair of polarized sunglasses will help you locate the oyster bars as well as the shallow water sandy bottom areas that hold fish. Redfish, snook and trout are the big three that frequently can be found there waiting to attack their prey. As Captain Van Hubbard quietly positioned the Dorado and dropped the anchor I could already feel my adrenalin rising. Seeing the push off’s and the tails in the air waving to us I was ready to wet a line. I have been lectured time and time again by Captain Van to be still and quiet when fishing skinny water so I had my game face on. Fish in short water tend to be skittish; a noise from the boat could send the fish away in an instance. One of my favorite ways of fishing is sight casting to the fish. Being able to present a bait just perfectly and getting that fish to bite it is exciting to say the least. We chummed the area by tossing a few minnows into the water waiting to see and hear a nearby fish explode on it. There were a few redfish tailing within casting distance. But after hearing that first snook engulf one of the chum baits I quickly focused my attention on that area and tossed my live white bait in that direction. Fish on, a nice snook although it was catch and release while we were fishing in August they are still one of my favorite fish to catch. Snook enthusiasts have long awaited this month to arrive.

I later decided to try a MirrOlure. I have always preferred live bait as my bait of choice when available. There are times that artificial baits will work just as well if not better than live bait depending on the conditions we are presented with. I tossed a pretty top water green MirrOlure a few times before getting my first strike. Another healthy snook, we snapped a photo or two and released the fish quickly back into the water. Watching a fish explode on a top water lure is as good as it gets. Be patient when tossing artificial baits. With a live bait the minnow does most of the work for you. We tend to either work a lure too fast or too slow. The more practice you get with artificial bait the more confidence you will gain.

After spending a half hour or so catching some nice snook we then decided to try our luck on the redfish that were teasing us in the distance. Redfish have a hard nose and often are rooting up crustaceans on the bottom to feed on. These broad shouldered bronze beauties are hard to see while they are up on the sand or near an oyster bar unless they are tailing. As the tide starts to drop redfish will move away from an oyster bar or a sand bar. After the tide bottoms out and starts coming in the fish will move up into the skinny water, so shallow sometimes their tails as well as their backs are sticking out of the water. This is when sight fishing them becomes a reality. On this fishing outing we had the above conditions making it easier for us to toss our baits to a single fish. Redfish feed on crabs and shrimp mostly so I decided to toss a live shrimp. As I was working my bait back slowly I felt a fish grab it and turn with it. I was hoping it was my first redfish of the day and it was. Reds will shake their head from side to side alerting the angler they have a spot tail on the end of their line.

The school of reds we found we feeding. Typically redfish move into the shallow water to feed, if their tail is up the head is looking down for something to eat. As the morning went on we both caught several nice redfish using all live bait. We even were able to get some trout to bite on a nearby grassy flat using the smaller minnows we had in the live well. The trout put the finishing touch on our slam for the day .Not a bad day on the water considering we were off the water by lunch time. This is the time of the year here in Southwest Florida when bar hopping becomes an everyday routine. Lemon Bay offers some of the greatest fishing opportunities out there offering a variety of fish to catch. Just be sure to bring plenty of live minnows when available along with some live shrimp. Have plenty of artificial lures in your tackle box as well so that way you are prepared for whatever conditions you may be faced with. It is better to be over equipped than under equipped with bait and tackle when it comes to fishing!