Participtation Around Precipitation, by Capt. Mark Krowka
The entire month of September is historically in the red zone of storm season, and this time Florida, for the most part, was spared major damages that record setting Hurricane Dorian dealt to the neighboring Bahamian Islands. We didn’t dodge a bullet, we dodged a nuclear blast. As these systems approach, and during the aftermath, fishing is almost always stellar. Add to that barometric rise in activity the first noticeable sings of Fall: increases in numbers of bonefish, permit, and smaller tarpons. Pilchards, mullet and glass minnows also thicken up considerably and usually attract tarpon of all sizes, at nearly any time of the day.
Eddie Berger from Maryland took a high flying, predawn 35 pound tarpon that swung on a fluttering pinfish near Snake Creek to kick off his day of light tackle fishing in the Tavernier area. He jacked up the body count with 4 bonefish up to 3 pounds that fell for live shrimp in the nearby Cross Key circuit of banks during a brisk incoming tide.
Brothers Jon and David Dee enjoyed a solid tarpon event on freshly caught live pinfish dangled under corks near Tea Table channel well after dawn. A good herd of several dozen robustly rolling silver kings provided 6 bites for the duo. World renowned veterinarian and author Jon Dee from Hollywood subdued poons of 40 and 50 pounds on 15 pound mono with 50 pound Mason leaders. Prominent environmental attorney David Dee from Tallahassee put away his own gymnastic 40 pounder on the same tackle. David then fought and defeated twin 2 pound bonefish that sucked up live shrimp on 8 pound spin.
Andy Smith from Texas battled it out with a 6 foot, 100 pound late season whopper tarpon that drilled a hapless palm-sized pinfish that had been swimming obliviously under a cork in the Indian Key region of banks. After winning the 20 minute war, he added a bonefish courtesy of a live shrimp near Lignum Vitae Key. His next day was more eventful. Smith cranked up a sprinting 4 pound bone that was mudding and digging along a channel edge near the Swash. Only moments after this release, his cork plunged downward, connected to a 14 pound permit that chewed a quarter-sized live crab. Shortly after the ‘mit was dehooked, the float again descended, and 15 minutes later, Andy had his trophy 30 pound permit posing for pictures.
Andy Smith gorgeous permit
Father and son Pierce and Russell Scranton from Seattle, WA found a small pile of surfacing tarpon, post dawn, in a basin near Panhandle Key, and carefully squeezed 3 inch terrified pinfish into the school. They had 9 thumping bites and landed 4 spectacular leapers from 30-60 pounds, all on 15 pound spinning gear. A 3 pound bonefish scooped up a shrimp from some sandy bottom near the Pollack Keys, and an hour later, and miles away near Vaca Cut, a permit tailed on Russell’s crab and shuddered in ecstasy as it crunched the bait and zipped off on a 100 yard dash for safety. The 24 pounder was well fought and reluctantly mugged for a picture after 15 minutes of touch and go on 10 pound spin. Their next day got off to an earlier start, with a 2 for 4 performance on 15 pound spin and pinfish to boat a pair of 30 pound tarpons. Pierce clearly had permit envy from the day before, so he collected his own silver disc of 20 plus pounds that pulverized a pass crab as it drifted in a productive seam of current and weeds near the Long Key Viaduct Bridge.
Pierce Scranton’s shimmering permit
Russell Scranton’s permit
Andy Novak ,owner of LMR Tackle and noted Biscayne Bay expert Captain Carl Ball from Fort Lauderdale, ventured to the Lower Keys for a productive outing using both sides of US 1. At dawn, they stealthfully camped next to an active group of gurgling baby tarpon that were eager to devour smaller eyeglass lens-sized pinfish near Sugarloaf Key. In less than one hour, 8 tarpon out of 14 bites were landed, with some launching into the air 6 feet or better! Andy and Carl moved to strip banks in the Cudjoe Basin area to take 3 bonefish on live shrimp, from feeding groups in 3 feet of water moving over mottled bottom. Carl dropped a foam-eyed shrimp imitation pattern perfectly into a dark group of small tarpon to watch the center fish follow, rise up, and slurp the fly hard in crystal clear yard deep water over thick grass near Loggerhead Key. The ensuing spectacle was dazzling, with at least 8 full jumps on the light 7 weight. Andy’s shrimp then sank directly in the line of a cruising permit near Shark Key. After the eat, he somehow made it through scattered and hazardous weeds and other obstacles on bottom to get his permit and Grand Slam! Back in Islamorada the next morning, as weather worsened, the day belonged to Carl. He wound up a 6 pound mutton snapper in the dark that beat all the tarpon to the punch and dusted a sizable live pinfish. After dawn, Ball’s next pinfish plopped in the path of a single roller near Lower Matecumbe and the cork jerked down after a silver flash underneath. A 25 pound stick of silver dynamite hit the air several times on its way to being released. Carl’s nickel-sized crab later skipped in just a few feet ahead of a waking mass of permit marching down a strip bank near the Calusa Keys. He came tight and fought in his 16 pound permit. With winds increasing, the rodtip buckled over in a trough around Cotton Key and a 2 pound bone that found a live shrimp in the blustery conditions was at boatside for Carl’s Super Slam!
Andy Novack’s permit for a Slam
Carl Ball’s tarpon on fly
Carl Ball’s Slam permit
Maverick Blogservation: Once the water temperatures are high, there is no weather that will make bonefish, tarpon and permit totally inaccessible. In many cases, wind, rain and conditions considered prohibitive can actually produce the best days in terms of quantity and especially quality. Marcy and I snuck out between bands of passing by Hurricane Dorian recently for just 3 hours. Fish were eager. We took a bone on fly, and 2 minutes later a permit on shrimp (had 2 other perms eat the fly) and had 2 tarpon engulf pilchards and caught one for a Slam.
And the tarpon makes 3 for Krowka
With the exception of cold fronts (predictable passage schedule) and depressions or hurricanes (plotted and timed tracks) daily weather in South Florida, and the remainder of the state for that matter with all else being equal, is simply a matter of observing and then adjusting, safely, of course. Over time, the amount of days that forecasters recommend you stay in the house and the weather turns out very fishable, is exactly equal to the days that are totally rained out but were predicted to be fair.