November 2, 2015
We spent most of the month fly fishing in fresh and salt waters.
In fresh water, we fished Lake Manatee on several occasions. The lake,
located nine miles east of Interstate 75 off State Road 64, seems to
have rebounded nicely after a few slow years.
On a typical day, we use light fly rods (1, 2 and 3 weights) to cast
popping bugs, nymphs and scuds. This method has been producing
excellent catches of large bluegill, plus shellcracker, speckled
perch, largemouth bass and channel catfish. You just never know what's
going to eat the fly.
The bluegill have been among the largest we've ever taken on the lake.
I'd say at least 75 percent of the bluegill have been "hand sized" or
We don't catch many bass, but every once in a while you'll hang a
decent fish. On one outing, I was fishing a No. 12 nymph under a
strike indicator on a 2-weight fly rod when I hooked, fought and
landed a 4-pound bass.
Channel cats are fun, too. I typically catch one and sometimes more on
every trip. I catch them on nymphs and Myakka Minnows. These hard
fighters will range from 2 pounds to more than you can handle. Trick
is to keep them out of the vegetation -- if you can.
We launch at a dirt ramp off State Road 64 at Lake Manatee Fish Camp.
It's safe and well maintained. From there, it's just a short paddle to
several productive areas.
If you're into fly fishing for panfish, this is the spot. And it's
likely you'll tangle with a feisty, rod-bending channel cat while
you're at it.
In addition, November is THE month for speckled perch (northerners
call them crappie). Specks at Lake Manatee average 1 1/2 pounds and
often push two or three pounds. They're great fun on fly.
In salt water, we spent several days preparing for the 11th annual
Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers/CCA Fall Fly Fishing Challenge, an event
Capt. Rick Grassett and I founded. This is a catch, photo and release
event that attracts up 30 anglers or more annually.
I've done well in the event since its inception. I've won a division
nine of the 11 years. This year was no exception.
In preparing for the tournament, I spent several days on Sarasota Bay,
fishing both along the east and west sides of the bay.
I launched at Buttonwood Harbor, one of my favorite spots, along the
west side of the bay and fished a plethora of spots. I started out
just before dawn at a lighted dock and quickly landed a decent snook.
Once the sun came up, I headed out into the bay to scout. I was able
to find decent numbers of trout.
Then it was time to look for reds. I figured that would be a chore
since I hadn't seen a redfish in a couple of months. I wasn't wrong. I
poled my NuCanoe Pursuit for several hours over some of the best flats
in the area. Those flats have produced good catches of redfish over
the years, but not lately.
I also caught mangrove snapper, large Spanish mackerel, bluefish and
The next outing found me at Stephens Point on the east side of the
bay. I caught snook around dock lights and trout over the deep grass.
I poled the flats from Stephen Point north to Whitfield and didn't see
a red. I did see some decent trout and snook in potholes, but no reds.
As the tournament neared, I wasn't sure where I was going to fish. I
remembered a small tidal creek off the Intracoastal Waterway south of
Venice. I've always been able to catch plenty of small snook from the
creek. I hadn't fished there in a couple of years, but decided to give
it a try.
I laughed the Pursuit and began fishing after paddling 200 yards. I
wasn't disappointed. In just a couple of hours, I caught 15 small
snook, plus some mangrove snapper and ladyfish.
I headed up at the point, confident I'd found my spot.
I didn't fish that area again until tournament day. I launched at 7
a.m. and began casting a popping bug along the mangroves. I didn't get
a hit the first hour.
I was somewhat worried, but my luck changed when I switched to a small
baitfish imitation that I tied on a No. 2 hook. I caught a limit (10)
of small snook in a couple of hours. I photographed each and released
Even though we were allowed to fish until 3 p.m., I was heading back
to Sarasota by 12:30 p.m.
I won the Snook Division, the fifth time I've done that I the
tournament's 11-year history. Interestingly, I was only one of two
kayak anglers in the tournament competing against fly fishers in power
NOVEMBER FORECAST: I'm predicting redfish action will finally pick up.
I've been wrong for the past several months, but Novembers
(traditionally) is a very good month for reds. I like fishing the last
two hours of the outgoing tide and first two hours of the incoming for
reds. Spotted seatrout action should be good, along with Spanish
mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish. November should also
see a strong influx of large flounder. They like to lie in sand holes
and will hit jigs slowly bounced along the bottom. They'll also hit
weighted flies. Snook and small tarpon should cooperate around dock
lights. In fresh water, I look for very good action on bluegill,
speckled perch, bass and channel catfish in local lakes and streams.
To the south, peacock bass, Mayan cichlid, giant bluegill and
shellcracker should be cooperative.
I will depart the states on Thanksgiving morning and head for
Eleuthera in the Bahamas. My target there will be bonefish on the
flats. I've spent a few days at my vise, tying assorted bonefish flies
for the outing. I will give you details in my next report.
Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!
The weather in November usually is pretty spectacular in Florida. Come
on down and go fishing!
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
About Steve Gibson:
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing ownerSteve Gibson is one of the most experienced anglers in southwest Florida. Gibson has been fishing for 45 years and nearly 35 of those years in Florida.
A professional outdoor writer and photographer, Gibson's writing and photographs have appeared in several publications, including Florida Sportsman, Gulf Coast Angler, Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, Saltwater Fly Fishing, The Fisherman, Cabela's Outdoor Magazine, Paddle World Magazine, Blood Knot and Florida Fishing Weekly. Steve is a Jackson Kayaks endorsed guide.
Gibson resides in Sarasota with his wife, Kathy, their daughter, Morgan, and their Jack Russell Terrier, Jack.