John Kis of New Rochelle, N.Y., shows off one of six snook he caught on topwater plugs from Buttonwood Harbor off Sarasota Bay.

Wind and heat were the culprits of May as far as fishing is concerned along Southwest Florida.

With that in mind, most of our attention was focused on freshwater fishing throughout the region.

We visited a variety of spots, including Alligator Alley, The Everglades, Webb Lake, Tenoroc  Fish Management Area and Lake Manatee. We also spent some time fly fishing the surf for snook.

Let’s cover the freshwater efforts.

Webb Lake is a long body of water located in the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area just east of Punta Gorda in Charlotte County. John Weimer of Sarasota accompanied me for a fly-fishing endeavor. I’ve fished Webb Lake on a number of occasions over the years, but this was the first trip of 2017.

We were greeted by extreme low water, something that’s quite common through this state that has been in a severe drought. Still, we were able to catch a few fish. We totaled seven largemouth bass, 21 mostly hand-sized bluegill, a shellcracker and a gar.

We ventured to Miami-Dade County along the Tamiami Trail and had a blast. We launched the NuCanoe Kayaks amid a flurry of mosquitoes (bring your bug spray!) and began catching fish immediately. We started out casting popping bugs and caught Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass and oscar. When the topwater bite ended, we switched to Myakka Minnows and continued our assault on the same species. At mid-day, I grabbed a 6-weight rod and cast a No. 6 Clouser for peacock bass. I broke off one peacock and caught a bunch of Mayan cichlid, oscar and largemouth bass.

I’ll definitely hit this spot again!

Jim Snyder of Naples joined me for an outing along Alligator Alley. Fishing was slow compared to previous trips, but we still managed 50 Mayan cichlid, 30 oscar, 10 largemouth bass, five bluegill and a bunch of stumpknocker and warmouth perch. All fish were caught on Myakka Minnows.

I donated the trip to the Naples Backcountry Fly Fishers. Snyder bought the outing at the club’s annual banquet.

John Weimer and I visited the Tenoroc Fish Management Area near Lakeland. We fished Lake No. 2 and experienced slow action. We combined to catch two largemouth bass on No. 4 popping bugs and a bluegill on a Gibby’s Snymph under a strike indicator. Water was extremely low.

Despite slow action, we’ll definitely return to Tenoroc in the fall.

Late in the month, Weimer and I decided to do something different.

“Why don’t we fish Lake Manatee, but launch at the state park?” he said.

Launching at Lake Manatee State Park would give us access to water that normally out of range. The park is a couple of miles west of our normal launch.

I have an annual state park pass, so I’m able to get into the park after hours. State Parks don’t open until 8 a.m., but we entered the park at 6:15 a.m. and were on the water by 6:30.

It was like fishing a new spot. We had no idea where to go and the water was extremely low. We paddled directly across the lake from the boat ramp to the north shore. We pulled into a small cover and were greeted by breaking fish over a wide area.

I cast a No. 8 popping bug and missed a fish. I hooked and landed a hand-sized bluegill on my second cast. I then caught a decent sunshine bass and a 1 1/2-pound largemouth bass. Weimer caught the first sunshine bass of his fly-fishing career.

When that action slowed, we noticed several tails piercing the water’s surface. Closer inspection revealed they were from channel catfish grubbing along the bottom. We caught a half dozen on popping bugs. Later, we beached out kayaks and walked along the shoreline, casting to tailing fish.

We ended up with 17 channel cats to six pounds. We caught a majority them on bead-head Squirmy Worms on No. 12 scud hooks.

We also did a number of beach snook outings during May. For some reason, numbers were down from the previous month. We saw an average of 15 snook per trip. We hooked a couple and landed one.

JUNE FORECAST: Look for increased numbers of snook in the surf along area beaches. I you like to sight-fish with a fly rod, this is for you. Bay fishing should result in decent numbers of spotted seatrout, snook, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Redfish numbers have been down, and I don’t anticipate any change. Night fishing around lighted docks should produce good numbers of snook. In fresh water, Lake Manatee is the best bet for bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish.

Gibby’s Tip of the Month:¬† In order to have success when sight-fishing, you must be able to see the fish. To see the fish, you must have a pair of quality sunglasses. Most fly anglers will spend several hundred dollars on a fly rod. But without a good pair of sunglasses, the most expensive fly rod won’t help you if you can’t see the fish. A good pair of sunglasses is just a piece of equipment that will help you do the job. The money spent is up front. You’ll enjoy the benefits of your sunglasses for years. Don’t cheap out. You’ll regret it.

I’m heading up to Tennessee for a week where I’ll cast a few flies for rainbow and brown trout. When I return, my battery should be recharged and ready to go. I expect beach snook to be in the spotlight.



Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing



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