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Cloudier water improves the bite



Windy conditions this week have actually slightly improved fishing. The waters of Saint Joseph sound had become so clear that it made finding fish easy, but getting bites very difficult. Snook have been gathering in great numbers all along the beaches and the points. However, it was very difficult to get any to eat the multitude of baits offered to them. Even reducing leader to 20 pounds could not entice bites. After a bit of wind the waters were a little obscured, making the fishing a bit easier. Trout, snook, jacks and even flounder began to bite a little better toward the end of the week. Rain will also cloud the water slightly, due to run off and silt flowing into the water. Grass grunts, large threadfins and sardines have been a favorite bait to use for snook. Cast ahead of a group by just a few feet to avoid spooking. Bombing baits onto their heads will almost always scatter them. Usually the snook that you catch are not the ones that you necessarily see, rather ones that happen upon your bait. I like to fish the troughs between the shoreline and sandbars parallel to the beach. Those ditches cut out by the waves and the tide are perfect hangouts for a multitude of fish foraging on unsuspecting baitfish living near shore. Some of the larger tides have produced a number of nice redfish. Cut chunks of pinfish laid under the mangrove overhangs is a very productive method for locating redfish. Chumming cut pieces will attract them to your general vicinity, but moving along and targeting each pocket in the mangrove limbs will eventually lead to success.

Brian Caudill fishes from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. He can be reached at (727) 365-7560 and captbrian.com.

Red grouper fishing continues to be good



Red grouper fishing continues to be steady in depths of 100-120 feet. Large bait stacks are holding a fish or two, but larger concentrations are on very small rolls and potholes in those depths. Zooming in on the bottom 10-15 feet of the water column is key to finding these small spots. Look under the actual bottom in order to determine the bottom’s density. Often this zoomed-in view will only mark one or two individual fish but once you anchor and start fishing, the bottom machine will light up like a Christmas tree. That’s because most of the fish on this type of structure are actually living underneath the bottom in undercuts and holes. Red snapper season is near. This year’s season is a bit different. The federally permitted charter boats season runs June 1 through July 21, and the recreational season is June 11 through July 20. The size limit on red snapper is 16 inches. Although the red snapper population in the eastern gulf has exploded in recent years, the most common depth to find them is still beyond the 90-foot mark. Bait of choice varies from angler to angler, but a soft, frozen sardine is hard to beat. Longer leaders generally fool these keen-eyed critters, and a 8/0-9/0 circle hook makes sure you stay connected. Along with red snapper, gag grouper season also opens June 1. Although summer months are typically a tough time to catch them, with a little preparation and patience it can be done. The best depths for them during the summer are between 130 and 300 feet. Live bait is an absolute must. Gag grouper have to be 24 inches to keep, and they carry a two fish per person bag limit.

Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.

Catching a giant cobia



Cobia is the topic this week. Capt. Tom Markham, aboard the Simply Hooked, was beginning his daily bait routine. It turned out that one of the markers located near Clearwater Pass, surprisingly, had a giant fish waiting for him. The captain slid up to the marker, ready to start his daily bait-catching session. Immediately, a giant cobia came up to check them out. This is a normal occurrence for this particular species since they’re one of the most curious fish in the gulf. They also happen to be one of the tastiest fillets. Spring and fall seasons seem to be when captains get this special gift. The problem that arose was that the giant fish had absolutely no interest in the first bait that they had thrown. The veteran captain jigged up another type of baitfish. The giant cobia inhaled their newfound offering. A pinfish was the deal-maker. After a 30 minute battle, Travis had the fish boatside. This was one of the biggest cobia landed along our coastline in a while. The transition from spring to summer can sometimes be monumental.

Dave Mistretta captains Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 439-2628 or visit jawstoo.com.

Nature Coast, William Toney


With the wet weather the last week and a half, all I can say is that fishing has been challenging. O.K. not that great. My clients and I have had some decent catches but we worked for each and every fish. If the forecast is the same for this weekend then this is what I suggest to catch a few and stay dry. I believe the barometer fluctuation between the storms has allot to do with the bite.

 For trout I’ve had good luck in 3 to 5 feet of water. The flats out near the Bird Rack and north of the Chassahowitzka channel are the best ares. Have each angler use a different color soft plastic like glow or dark ( root beer, bourbon ) and some as a single jig, some with a cork popping rig. This week each bait worked better then the other all throughout the day at different stages of the tides.
 For red fish don’t spend allot of time in one spot, give it about 10 or 15 minutes then move on to the next point or key.  I’ve had good luck catching them on jigs, gold spoons, shrimp and live pinfish. Jumping mullet during the last hour of incoming high tide indicates a good spot.
 Near shore if the storms will allow has some good fishing on the rocks for trout, flounder, spanish mackerel, grunts and mangrove snapper. Offshore there has been some big amber jack coming back to the the dock from about 60 feet. Incoming high tide will be in the morning this Memorial Day weekend.

Captain Mel Classic Sponsors


The conclusion of the 8th Annual Captain Mel Classic, I always take the chance to talk about our tournament sponsors.  Support of this event has been great from year 1.    This letter gets longer every year.    Support grows every year.

Same as last year, a couple of companies just didn’t come through.   One had a good reason.   Others it was more a case of new employees and change in structure.   But ultimately support was pretty much the same as it was every year with the donations we did get excellent in size.  Some stuff may just come in late.   If it does I’ll just sit on it until next year.

Leftovers, no expense equals higher payout.   Trophies:  Alex Berg has been doing the wooden trophies for us for years.  I had enough left over I changed the placards on them and our winners all got Alex’s trophy.

Kumpa did the two fish prints that were won by our longest trout and redfish catchers tournament wide.   His art work is available on demand.  Inquire if you would like me to put you in touch with him.   Kumpa, a sculptor by trade, is a better artist than all the other people out there calling themselves artists.

The lure sponsors:  The same for eight years.   Their support outstanding.

Mirrolure:    Awesome selection by Eric Bachnik.    The participants caught some nice fish on this lure.    I used extra lures left over in the raffle and people were tickled to be able to own more of them.    If you are like me, you use a lot of Mirrolures year round.     We thank Eric for his generous contribution for 8 YEARS.    If you don’t own any Mirrolures:  Why are you on this email list?? For one winner and the raffle, two specialty packs of Mirrolures.

12 Fathom:   Same as every other year, Craig gave me basically anything I wanted.    I set up good bags for our participants.   I set up a few dozen prize packs for our winners and our raffle.     People were pleased to win those little Plano containers.     People caught fish on 12 Fathoms that had never used them before.   More converts to a bait I use every day.     12 Fathom a supersponsor for 8 YEARS.   The best plastic baits I have ever used:     I cannot thank Craig enough for everything he has done for me the last twelve years.

Joe Jigs:     You got, a Joe Jig and an Edje.     Quality choices in jigheads, Captain Joe has sponsored this event for 8 YEARS.    I use their Silly Willy for my pompano, mackerel and silver trout fishing year round.      I tie the teasers.   They sell those too.

Fishing Supply Liquidators has been a big donating company all seven years. Their rod and reel donations sponsor our Junior Division.  You need fishing tackle, not a bad idea to stop by here.  Ron, usually there Sundays: Bob Kirby a lot of the rest of the time.   They will see what you need and show you what they have.

Smith Optics biggest sponsors every year of the event. Their donation like every other year was just incredible. Two of the sunglasses went to Winners and one ended up in the raffle (because there was not redfish caught in every division, those “prizes” reassigned to the raffle).   Smith Optics has been and always will be my choice in eyewear for fishing.   They have done a terrific job with this brand in the past ten years.  I met up with the main man there at ICAST about nine years ago when he had a very small booth.    I showed him the pair I had, told him I was impressed and we ended up spending a long time talking.    They went aggressive after that.   I would say that more people I know wear Smith Optics than Costa.     They are that good.      I tip my hat to Peter Crow.  They sent fewer but they sent all the cleaning packets which were great and went a long way for our winners and raffle.

Frankie’s Patriot barbecue:   Gift certificate donated by Craig Gross.      This place you keep hearing more and more about and is a destination that is on my list.  If you haven’t been there:  Put it on your list.   This food is outstanding.

My sunscreen sponsor:  Sawyer Products, a Safety Harbor company with a great donation of sunscreen and bug sprays.    Sawyer is the best sunscreen I have ever used.  Very good to us:  They will be involved perpetually.   They donated both sunscreen and bug repellent.   A huge supplier to the US military, Sawyer is a great company.    I thank them for their generosity AGAIN this year.

The 8th Avenue Pub, Safety Harbor.   If you are looking for me you should try here.    A donation of a gift certificate, won by someone who already likes the Pub.   We will have angler socials at this location, and very likely, this will be the name of and location for the newest fishing club around.   If you are looking for me, try the Pub.

Stick It Anchor Pin. In the beginning, Russ would send three of these.  He sent six.   Huge for prizes, with the way things turned out I think two of these ended up in the raffle.     A great piece of equipment, I know so many of you have bought them.    We are pleased to have Russ involved every year.   This is great for our event:  Our winners and our raffle.     These are incredible prizes.

The Fish Grip. Tucker sent about 25 of these.   Great for prizes, about half went to winners and half went in the raffle.   This is a GREAT inexpensive piece of equipment.      Most people own more than one.    Great gift idea if you are buying for a fisherman.

Scotty.  Excellent donation AGAIN this year.   We have so many kayak anglers we assigned these to winners and still had plenty left for the raffle.   Scotty is the leader in kayak fishing accessories.    They have an incredible line of product.   A lot of you were smart enough to take one of their catalogs home with you.

The Adventurous Woman, always worth mentioning.   They have made a great donation over the years that has helped me a great deal.   Moreover:  Their ladies sign up for this event.  That’s even better.   BJ, Kay and Tillie, Gail:   They fish in the event every year.   Always impressed with how many of the ladies are always there, years later, I was tickled when a good number of them signed up to compete this year.     Also, donations from Cindy Dalton and Donald Waiberman.   Money I put directly toward the charity.

I didn’t ask them for much.  My affiliate store Bill Jackson’s gave me all the bags to put stuff in.    They would have done anything I asked.   I didn’t.    Darry Jackson has been good to me from the day I met the man.    They are the best Outdoor store in the state.

Hoo Rag:  Another great donation for the second year.    Great products, went to our winners and in the raffle.   I will continue to stay in touch with them and keep them involved in the Captain Mel Classic.    People really enjoy this stuff and they have told me that they have bought more from this company.   That is why this program works.   Our participants support our sponsors.

In 2019 I already have two new sponsors that will be getting involved.   I hope to get all the others back, which usually isn’t too difficult.     Please let me know if you need any other information about any of our sponsors.    If you or someone you know would like to become a sponsor, just set them up to talk to me.   We would love it.

New for 2018:  The guys with Yakin Off.    Decals, mugs, shirts.   They came out at check in and they were there for the after fishing party.   Great stuff.   Great donations for our event.     These guys had a great time meeting everyone.   Jeff, a former client.   Chris his business partner.   I wish them great luck with their business.

Congratulations to our winners.     Thank you to Kim, Mark and John Veil for their excellent assistance.   Mark:  Great as judge.   Never a complaint about his decision.    John:  My client arranged to be here for this:  Processed the data, working tight with Mark.     Kim took care of all this other stuff.     And she is good at it.   Kim is already telling me how to do it better next year.   We will go with what she suggests.    Thank you to Shelly for becoming my impromptu photographer (again)

I had entertained thoughts of passing the torch.    That was universally voted down.   People believe I should remain the one handling the Captain Mel Classic.    I maintain his web site.    I still talk about the man more than anyone else does.    I am still in touch with his wife and his son.     I will continue to run the Captain Mel Classic.

Hard to believe, but:   We will have an even better time next year!

Neil Taylor,  Tournament Director

Mosquito Lagoon, John Kumiski


Rainy Week Mosquito Lagoon Fishing Report

The sky needed a diaper this week, thus the rainy week Mosquito Lagoon fishing report.

The Econlockhatchee has risen almost four feet this week. The Mosquito Lagoon is up almost a foot. The water is not clean in the places where it was.

Given the lightning early in the week, not much fishing got done. So I’m featuring an artist this week.

This Week’s Featured Artist- Cheryl Kumiski. (disclaimer- this site engages in nepotism)

Cheryl works in glass- both stained glass and fused glass. Below are a couple examples of recently completed work, as well as sketches of work in progress.

Woman on a Water Lily, stained glass.


White Wolf, fused glass


Poppies, pencil sketch


Papa Bear, ink sketch

To see more examples of Cheryl’s fantastic work, visit www.cherylkumiski.com.

Thursday, going crazy with cabin fever, I donned a rain jacket and headed to a local pond. The pond has a lush growth of hydrilla, which makes it hard to fish. By skating a 6″ Culprit worm across the surface I got three strikes and caught two bass, one of which was respectable at a pond and a half or so. Then the lightning started and I was out of there. Total elapsed time, about 40 minutes.

Friday Tim and Karen Reed joined me for some Mosquito Lagoon fishing. They wanted to sight fish for redfish. That was a tough assignment with the higher, dirtier water and clouds. We did see a few fish, even a couple tailers, but did not get a strike. Then we were surrounded by rain clouds, and loaded up the boat.

Saturday Josh Turner and his buddy Jeremy joined me for some Mosquito Lagoon fishing. They just wanted to catch a few fish. They got a small red, not one but two species of catfish, a couple ladyfish, and a bluefish, not spectacular. But they did catch some fish. Then we were surrounded by rain clouds and we loaded up the boat.

The forecast for the coming week is more of the same-
MON MAY 21         Thunderstorms 80%
TUE MAY 22          Thunderstorms 40%
WED MAY 23         Mostly Cloudy 20%
THU MAY 24          Cloudy 20%
FRI MAY 25            Thunderstorms 40%
SAT MAY 26           Thunderstorms 80%

It’s the latter half of May and the Mitzi has yet to see the Atlantic this year.

And that is the rainy week Mosquito Lagoon fishing report!

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short- Go Fishing!

John Kumiski

The Spoon: A fish catcher


Neil Taylor, Strike Three Kayak Fishing

I think the gold spoon’s perhaps the best way to locate redfish when you’re prospecting an area for them.   It casts long distances and it gives off the “pinfish flash.”      This is just me, but once I’ve found them I usually make a switch to a soft plastic lure.    If that spoon’s moving too fast, you’ll less likely to get strikes.  If you move it with that gentle wobble, no swivel is necessary and you won’t get a lot of line twist.

That being said the spoon is not my go-to lure for redfish.

Why switch lures if you’re catching fish on the spoon?

Several reasons.

1) I catch more redfish on soft plastics than I do spoons.   That could be a personal comfort thing.   But you can stay with the spoon.   I just rely on the three inch mullet more as my redfish bait.

2) Soft plastic lures that land softer are less likely to spook a very spook prone species like redfish.     That’s my own theory on it.  The spoon landing creates a pretty good splash.

I have the same contention with snook way up in the creeks.   Some people like lures that land noisy because “mullet make noise when they jump”.     I don’t like the noise.   I like that lure to land quietly (and I’ve got a dandy for it) especially when I’m getting a cast into a tight area where a Kersplash is going to scare the digested sardines out of a snook.   This was the number one reason I stayed with the Buzz Tail Shad for so many years.   That is the quietest landing bait in all of fishing.

My early fishing career it was the Johnson Silver Minnow weedless spoons.   I had dozens of them.   I’d buy them all up when I saw them on sale.     It was a main bait for me.    I caught it all on them.   Redfish, trout, flounder, snook.   Later, Captain Mike Hakala started making spoons.    I liked what I saw and since then I am more likely to use his.    He has some great realistic patterns.    I wrote about them HERE

No question:  Long casts is a great advantage to throwing a spoon.   Weedless, a great way to keep a clean lure to present to fish.     The gentle wobble of a spoon with flash imitates the pinfish.     If you watch, you will see pinfish flash as they are feeding off seagrass blades.   The spoon puts off this same flash.

Durable, a spoon is indestructive.  Over time they can wear out, usually with rust affecting the hook.   But that takes some time and if you spray off your spoons after a day of fishing they should last longer.

In the greater classification of spoons, there are non weedless options that are useful for other species.     The silver spoon, non weedless is a great item to throw at Spanish mackerel.


Neil Taylor
Kayak Fishing Specialist
Strike Three Kayak Fishing
Ph: 727-692-6345
“Something violent is about to happen.”

The Kayak Report


A quick update on the fishing by kayak around Tampa Bay:  Like the weather, the fishing is HOT (but only if you are in the right places).   Honestly, I’ve never seen worse fishing conditions in specific locations in northern Pinellas county, locations that would be my “regular choices” for great fishing most of the year.  Just dreadful.    I won’t go there anymore.

Elsewhere, the fishing is strong.   I got the largest tip in ten years the fishing was so good for Todd and Kimberly.     They threw topwater lures all day.     Ironically, it was better three days earlier.    We had one day in between where it was decent but not great.    These are upper slot trout with some over 20 inch fish mixed in.    Great fun on topwater lures.   For Todd and Kimberly a great day.     For John Veil, a solid day.      Throwing the Mirrolure C Eye Poppa Mullet.   The other Mirrolures are good but that popping head on this bait means you don’t have to work it as hard.   The fish like it.

Famous for my fish spread the Spanish mackerel finally became an easy option.     Hit areas with deeper moving water and diving birds.     Beef up your leader.   40# isn’t a bad option.   With 30# you will lose some tackle.      Move lures fast.     They fight good.     Put them on the smoker for two hours.    Mix with the mayonnaise, chopped olives, onion and jalapeno peppers.     I have a chopping machine.   Push a button and it cuts this stuff up fine to put in the spread.   Basil, dill, cilantro, Worchestershire sauce and celery salt.    Voila, fish spread.   It is about getting the amounts right.      I try to have a little more fish than the other ingredients.     Put it on crackers, add hot sauce to your tastes and it is a great thing to serve to your guests.

All the other trips in the better locations produced good results.     Flounder are here but not in huge numbers.   I hope that changes in the weeks to come.     Big speckled trout are popping topwater lures.   Redfish.  Redfish are curious.   If you are out early, you have a short window to connect on lures.    For whatever reason, the midmorning bite has been slow.    Late afternoon has also been a great option but not nearly as good as the sunrise bite.    Best baits: The 12 Fathom Fat Sam Mullet in basically every and any color.   The Mirrolure Top Dog Jr for your topwater targeting.

The temperatures are heating up.   Pompano and big black drum are a great option.   The topwater bite is a great option.    Flounder, not quite yet but before long flounder targeting should be worthwhile.    Never caught an 80 pound fish?   This is your chance.     Using pompano jigs and teasers, big drum are easy IF you have the technique.   It is a chore to get them away from the pilings.

Give a shout if you would like to get on the schedule!

May 24 is Kayak Fishing Skool!. As usual, there will be a raffle at the end of the session, brought to you by Strike Three Kayak Fishing sponsors.   To be added to the email database for reports, feature articles and seminar announcements send an email to Livelybaits@aol.com and request to be added to the list.

As always: Be careful out there!

Neil Taylor
(Cell) 727-692-6345

Upper Tampa Bay, Neil Taylor


Easing into summer, what is going on in the northern part of Tampa Bay?  As usual, there is always something to catch is you like the interior of the Bay.   The opportunities are interesting and they should be great for a while, at least until the superheating of the water occurs after we get into the crux of summertime weather patterns.  I would put action in the upper Bay below average.   Talking to friends the fishkill last summer hurt the numbers of fish in the upper Bay.

Redfish are always a constant inside Tampa Bay.   This is a pretty good time to target them.     The rootbeer 12 Fathom Mullet is a killer bait for these fish.     Make long casts and keep the lure down by the bottom.   Move around to find the fish and do everything as quietly as possible.   These fish are the most sensitive to noise and movement and the stealth angler has the advantage.   The same areas that have good numbers of mullet are also good locations to search for redfish.

Same as before- Trout are still being located, though with less consistency than a few weeks ago.   Areas with craggy oyster bottom and bigger baitfish may also have the large trout.   The jigs seem to work best but the topwater action has been decent, especially toward sunset.   I would say that trout are a better option “on the outside” rather that way up in the Bay, probably until November.

Big black drum are already at the big bridges and will be for the rest of the year.  Upsize your tackle if you want to control a bigger fish.   Food value: Zero.  The smaller drum are edible but  these bigger fish are a catch and release decision.    If you keep one to eat, you need to have a tough stomach.   The stench and the presence of masses of parasites in the meat, just let them go.

Pompano:  this species will be the next to return in big numbers.   It is still early yet to expect them to arrive in the biggest numbers but that could happen early this year.   The fish in the south Suncoast and at the mouth of Tampa Bay will make their way up to the bridges of upper Tampa Bay sometime in the next four weeks.

Region wide- The numbers of snook continue to remain poor and there is little question that the recovery of that species is still going to take some time.  A majority of veteran anglers won’t fish the species at all, something that helps avoid accidental loss of fish that are vital to the upcoming spawn.   This marks the fourth year that I removed the species as a target or my own charters, with hopes that their numbers will turn around significantly in 2014.

Regular rains are a comin’!   The rainy season will be starting which may keep the bite alive in the upper part of the Bay.   On safety:    Keep an eye to the sky and be ready for fast forming storms to pop up starting this month.

As always: Be careful out there!

Neil Taylor
(Cell) 727-692-6345

May 24 is Kayak Fishing Skool!. As usual, there will be a raffle at the end of the session, brought to you by Strike Three Kayak Fishing sponsors.   To be added to the email database for reports, feature articles and seminar announcements send an email to Livelybaits@aol.com and request to be added to the list.





Lower Tampa Bay, Neil Taylor


The lower Bay area continues to produce:   Mackerel, pompano, flounder, trout, redfish, sharks, jack crevalle and tarpon are all available species with incredible opportunities for certain fish.

Same as before:   Flounder action has continued and will likely be excellent for many months to come.    A few around 20 inches have also been caught.   The 12 Fathom SlamR and Fat Sam Mullet on a 1/8 to 3/16-ounce jighead will locate and catch them.   Slow and steady, ridden along bumping the bottom the savvy flounder anglers will have no problem catching more than a few.   My own tip:  Let the 12 to 13 inch fish go and just keep the bigger flatties.   I wouldn’t mind seeing the rule changed.   The amount of meat on those “barely legal” fish is pretty light.

Fast moving speedster mackerel will be out in the direction of the Skyway bridge.   Accessible from the Skyway Piers, they will also be intercepted by anyone in boats or kayaks by just “following the birds.”    Ladyfish, jacks and even a few bluefish are in this melee.    Don’t discount the chance to catch a king mackerel before May is over.

Redfish action has been pretty good.    The 12 Fathom 3” mullet has been unbeatable.  On a 1/8-ounce jighead and cast a long distance, the thump you will feel in that foot and a half of water depth will lead to a fun, fun battle.    The next few weeks should have great opportunities on redfish at sundown around the south shore.    The sunrise action should also be good but sundown action should be excellent.

Speckled trout action has been pretty good. Topwater lures will entice big trout but the 12 Fathom SlamR and Mullet will also get eaten.   It is not unusual to catch flounder while targeting trout (and vice versa).  So the action has been good even if the targeted species doesn’t cooperate.   Trout breed year round.   Our trout numbers in Tampa Bay are excellent.

Sharks are back in strong numbers.    For the wade and kayak anglers, as I have said for years: Don’t even consider putting a fish on a “stringer” unless you want to have a dangerous close encounter with these opportunists.   Best to have an action plan for accidental hookups to sharks.  “Cutting the line” is a phrase I hear a lot.    Long dehooking tools can help save a lure but for safety, a breakoff is a good option.   Cutting the line not necessary, point your fishing rod toward the hooked fish, grab the spool and pull backward steadily.   This should bring a knot to breaking strength.

As always: Be careful out there!

Neil Taylor
(Cell) 727-692-6345

May 24 is Kayak Fishing Skool!. As usual, there will be a raffle at the end of the session, brought to you by Strike Three Kayak Fishing sponsors.   To be added to the email database for reports, feature articles and seminar announcements send an email to Livelybaits@aol.com and request to be added to the list.