Depressions not Depressing
By: Capt. Mark Krowka
An intimidating lineup of unsettled weather, depressions, and even passing hurricanes turned September into a an anxious month. Add to that, record rainfalls for most of the Keys, (11 inches in 24 hours in Layton) plus the highest King tides ever, forcing strategic and timely decisions about when and where to fish. The flats animals of silver, however, seemed to embrace the wildly fluctuating barometer, and slightly cooler waters as a consequence of the rains and fewer hours of sunlight.
Ed Scopelitis and Matt Sisler, both from Mt. Pleasant, SC, quietly drifted back live pinfish on 17 pound spinners in the dark to go one for three on tarpon, with Matt cashing in on an energetic 30 pounder. After sunrise, they each took bonefish of 3 pounds on fresh live shrimp and 10 pound spin.
Ed Scopelitis & bone
Robert Roy from West Palm Beach and Bob Anderson from Fraser CO, used smaller live pinfish near a shoreline of Matecumbe on 15 pound spin to go 2 for 5 on tarpon, including Bob’s very first. He also took a 5 pound snook. The pair switched gears to live shrimp in windy and overcast conditions to have 14 bites from bonefish, and land 10 up to 4 pounds, including Robert’s very first one!
Robert Roy’s first bone
PGA Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd used an 8 weight rod and clear-tipped floating line, with an ultra bouyant foam eyed, home tied, barred winged inch and a half shrimp fly, on a #1 hook to land both a high flying tarpon, and a mangrove hugging snook. He worked the ocean side of Grassy Key, and island points nearby at Barnes Key in an attempt to avoid the 20mph plus winds.
Ray Floyd with tarpon on fly
Ray Floyd all smiles with snook
Prolific producer of slams, Dr. Alan Routman from Ft. Lauderdale, did it again, this time by 9:00a.m. in the Lower Keys. He spent the morning using small live pinfish and landing 3 tarpon out of 6 bites near Boca Chica Key. After sunrise, he took an 18 pound permit from a point rammed with current on a live shrimp on 10 pound spin near Shark Key. Also with lively and kicking shrimp, Routman put away 3 bonefish up to 4 pounds near the Saddlebunch Keys to complete his Grand Slam!
Alan Routman with yet another permit
Sarah Rudy from Lancaster, PA and Terri Shirk from New Holland, PA., fished in and out of numerous thunderstorms and somehow managed to construct a day. Terri took her first bonefish ever on a live shrimp. Hot handed Sarah, who caught 11 bones on her last recent Islamorada outing, exploded for 2 bones, a mutton snapper, permit, and then an acrobatic 30 inch tarpon, all on live shrimp, for a Super Slam!
Sarah Rudy’s permit
Terri Shirk and her 1st bonefish!
Radio personality Bob Puccinelli and Eric Bachnik of L & S Bait Company (MirrOlure) both from Largo teamed up in the Lower Keys to catch 7 wild tarpon up to 40 pounds out of 20 bites on live pinfish using 17 pound spin near Pelican Key. They switched to live shrimp to take down a pair of 5 pound bones on 10 pound spin off a point near Big Coppitt Key. Their next day was back in Islamorada and was far more active. Morning pre-dawn darkness was eventful, as frisky, medium size pinfish were gladly gobbled up on the 15 pound spinners. They fought in 4 crevalles, of 8, 12, 14 and 15 pounds and then put away 3 tarpon up to 40 pounds out of 3 bites. A 5 pound cubera snapper also inhaled one of the volunteer pinnies. During extreme high water and low visibility, the pair went 3 for 3 on bonefish with live shrimp, 2-3 pounders. Later, at a busy tide rip, 3 permit of 12, 14 and 24 pounds were fought and beaten after they munched down on quarter size live crabs. Both the permit and bone were Eric’s first! At a final tidal confluence, live shrimp were dropped down and came back attached to 3 muttons, for a Triple Super Slam!!!
Pooch & permit
Eric & his 1st permit
Rich Barnett from Fuquay-Varina, NC assaulted the Sugarloaf Key and surrounding area with a nine weight, floating clear line and his own custom tied miniature crab imitations. He fished near Crane Key and Toptree Hammock Key and worked 2-3 foot depths on a composite grass, sand and rocky bottom to have 7 bites and land 3 bonefish up to 5 pounds. He also took out 2 tarpon from 3 bites that inhaled the same small alluring crablike bug. His second day was back in the Long Key zipcode with the same equipment and flies. He landed a baby tarpon taken from under a mangrove overhang, and then noticed intermittent flashing on some dark bottom in 2 feet of water. A large school of small permit was swimming and shimmering just off the shoreline. Barnett removed 3 of them on fly before they figured out the source of the inconvenience and headwaked away to deeper water.
Rich’s last day was memorable. He immediately nailed a 30 pound tarpon on a pinfish in the dark near Tea Table Key. Soon after, Rich stripped out on fly a 2 foot tarpon from a bank by Craig Key. Two quick bonefish followed, one on a shrimp, and then another that pinned down another customized crab fly, both on an outside bank of Upper Matecumbe. Yet another large flashing school of small permit arrived on an edge near Channel Two, and one stuffed a weighted merkin, and 2 more immediately fell all over jigs tipped with shrimp, for a rare one on fly, one on bait double Grand Slam!
Rich Barnett with bone on fly