Shark fishing, to sum it up as simply as I can, is more like fishing for a diabolical creature that is hunting you. They are quick learners, which will figure out what you are up to. If you can’t keep them guessing – they will move on, leaving you behind to find a different bloody meal. However, done right, shark fishing can be a great opportunity to battle some heavy weights.
As my good friend Capt. Mike says, “The more flash the better!” During the late fall months while looking for bonefish on the flats you begin to find these heat seeking missiles silently waiting to destroy anything in their path. The winter months prove to be a good time to find the bigger “cuda” on the flats, but the old adage: they don’t get that big being dumb, came right out of a barracudas sinister grin. I guess they wouldn’t be so sinister if they didn’t have all those teeth, and their ultra aggressive nature, and their ridiculous speed, but then again they wouldn’t be such bad asses if they didn’t have all those great characteristics that they have; that we want to put a hook in and fight! Oh and did I mention that you hang a couple barracuda of the side of the boat and the sharks coming running like Russian mail order brides to a Microsoft stock holders convention.
Permit are Shaolin Nijias sent from outer space with eyeballs the size of cows and sight like an eagle. They have been called the holy grail of fly fishing, or the crown jewel of the sport. This is the fish that really tests an angler’s skill, and more importantly his or her PATIENCE. There are a lot of positive things to be said about them, what I have noticed is that more than anything they have a way of improving every anglers abilities. Anyone who has caught one will agree that each and every permit on fly no matter its size is a true gift.
Tarpon are undoubtedly the silver kings of the sea. The big ones mythically appear every spring to swim along there ancient underwater migratory paths, then vanish. But they leave behind their off-spring, (baby tarpon) to keep rods bent and hearts racing until they appear again. Imagine five foot plus creatures swimming in squadrons down the shore line in your direction, straight for your boat, and you feed your offering of a fly to one. When it eats your fly it transforms from what you thought was a fish to a; demon bronco with wings, and speed like a missile. Well that just sends shivers down my spine, gets my heart racing, and sends my head spinning with vertigo. Who wouldn’t like tarpon fishing, right? It can be an exhausting “battle” landing one, but it’s the smile at the end of the day that tells the story.
Snook are the “back country” quarry that finds its way into playing every role a fish could: You catch them on the flats sunning themselves in the winter. You find them swimming the grass flats among the redfish looking for a quick dinner. You watch them crash schools of finger mullet on shorelines. You find them in the mangroves deep back in the dark places were flies without weed guards don’t belong. You just seem to catch these hard fighting fish in all sorts of great places.
Redfish are the bulldogs of the back country flats. They sometimes are so copper in color you can’t believe they actually blend in to their environment as well as they do. Other times they are as pale and silvery as a bonefish. They are awesome fish that will eagerly eat flies that are laid out on their dinner plate. Their behaviors can be very similar to bonefish, in the way they swim the flats in search of crustacean meals or little wounded bait. Unlike the bonefish that swim around with weariness and agitation, they swim the flats with a chip on their shoulders.
Bone fishing in the upper keys is some of the best anywhere! Our average bonefish range from 4 to 8 lbs, with some upwards of 11-15 lbs. An amazingly high number of world record bonefish have been caught in the upper keys, and for good reason; our local waters are teeming with crabs, big shrimp, clams and other foods these fish love so much. Bonefish could be the ideal shallow water fish. They are skittish enough to keep the best of us humbled, while at other times reveal how aggressive a fish can be. Whether you find one big tailing fish working a shoreline in the evening, or in large schools, the variety of conditions and water we find these fish in are truly amazing. It’s enough to make you quit your job and move to the exotic waters around the world so you can hunt them.