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Fall 2011 was spectacular with cooler temperatures, clear water, and outstanding fishing. The biggest Spanish mackerel of the year thrilled both spin and fly-fishing clients with their screaming runs. Redfish and pompano were active on the flats. The red snapper and grouper fishing in Pensacola Bay produced all-time records for both species. Schools of massive black drum were dependable sight-fishing targets along the shores of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. But the coup de grace was the "Running of the Bulls". Around the end of October the surface of Pensacola Bay exploded with more giant redfish than we've ever experienced, and the incredible action continued throughout the season. If that wasn't enough, the false albacore winter run started in early-November! We've never had the FA (bonitos) on the beach this early. Here are the photos and videos from the fall season. Click on any of the images to see the full size photos. For photos from previous seasons, check out these additional galleries: Summer 2011, Spring 2011, Winter 2011, Fall 2010, Summer 2010, Spring 2010, Winter 2010, Fall 2009,Summer 2009, Spring 2009, Winter 2009, Fall 2008, Summer 2008, Spring 2008, Winter 2008, Fall 2007, Summer 2007, Spring 2007, Winter 2007, Fall 2006, Summer 2006, Spring 2006, Winter 2006, Spring 2005, Summer 2005, Fall 2005. Use the back button on your browser to return to this page.

Back again to kick off the fall season is Wade Knight, Tigertown, TX, with an impressive Spanish mackerel landed on ultra-light tackle 1.5 miles offshore at the wreck of the WWI battleship USS Massachusetts.
Casie Knight also got into the hot Spanish mackerel action on September 21. The "Mass" was loaded with them that day. Make a long cast, count to three to let the #2 Clark spoon sink, put the rod tip in the water, crank as fast as you can, and hang on!
Wade's fishing buddy Tom Moodie took a break from the Spanish and landed the first bull redfish of the season.

Bernie Smelstoys Jr and Sr on September 23 with another nice Spanish mackerel caught this time on the grass flats of Santa Rosa Sound. Check out the "sooty-black" dorsal fin on this fish. It's the easiest way to distinguish Spanish mackerel from juvenile king mackerel. Kings have a gray dorsal fin.

Dan Matassino, September 23, with a Pensacola Bay red snapper to be proud of...
The final member of the Smelstoys Fishing Team was Dave Bird who landed the biggest redfish of the day
Andy Sherrill and Hobart McWhorter were in town October 2 fly rods in hand when we found a school of big black drum ambling along a foot below the surface west of Pensacola Pass. Andy threw a tan/white clouser in front of the school where it was immediately eaten by this pompano...the believe-it-or-not first pompano on fly for 2011! The pompano were swimming with the drum and happily free-jumping around the school.

 

Imagine a situation where you're trying to keep the fly away from the pompano! After landing three pompano in short order we changed to the bigger "go-meaux" flies from Deep South Outfitters, Birmingham, and Hobart McWhorter landed this and another monster black drum. Andy hooked three or four, but they all came unbuttoned. If we weren't purists we might leave the doggone barbs up every now and then...

 

Kameron Bellamy had a ball Oct 3 catching and releasing big Spanish mackerel while fishing with his grandpa Gordon Kelsay.
Of course Gordon had to do it on fly, and who could blame him...

Steve Schuman, Baltimore, and a lovely red snapper landed and released on October 11.

Steve got style points for releasing this Pensacola Bay gag grouper even though the season was open.
Glenn Evans, Tulsa, OK, October 12 with a hard-fighting Spanish mackerel on fly
Glenn's fishing buddy Kirk Byrn was happy to land the Spanish on ultra-light spinning tackle and a Sidewinder spoon (single, barbless hook)
Graham Pollock on a bright, sunny October 14 with calm seas and clear water. We were looking for schools of redfish and black drum when we noticed a big cloud shadow moving in our direction...except there weren't any clouds. It was a huge school of jack crevalle swimming in tight formation. We had the big spinning rod with a 4 3/8 inch topwater "chug bug" ready to rock 'n roll. Gotta be Graham's Facebook photo...
Here's Graham releasing his second jack after a typically epic battle
Stephen Larson and Brian Whitman were here from Atlanta on an incredibly beautiful weekend October 15 &16. We started off Oct 15 blind casting for big Spanish mackerel on a grass bed in Santa Rosa Sound. This is Stephen with a beaut landed on his old faithful St Croix 6wt outfit. Tiny reel...big fish...hardly seems possible.
Brian Whitman with one of many Spanish mackerel landed on tan/white clousers and released unharmed. These fish are so powerful and toothy that we use 80# mono bite tippet.
After lunch we moved out to the Gulf of Mexico and found it to be picture-perfect. We poled the beaches east of Pensacola Pass sight-fishing for pompano until it got too late to see fish. Never got a hookup. Here's Stephen laying out a nice cast in idyllic conditions...
October 16 started off nicely with Brian landing his first false albacore on fly
And then things got very interesting. We decided to run west of the pass and almost immediately found a huge school of big black drum just below the surface. The fish were hungry, and for the next few hours Stephen and Brian landed fish after fish on 8 and 9wt tackle. Stephen's first fish weighed 24 pounds.
Brian Whitman with one of his playmates on October 16
We had a number of double hookups but took the time to land both of these fish together for a rare "Drum Double" photo. It was pretty wild and we captured it on video. Click HERE. CAUTION: ADULT LANGUAGE
Brian, Capt Baz, and Stephen with a sunset toast to their all-time best day on the water together. Let the good times roll!
Virginia Wages, Memphis, TN, having fun with a big Spanish mackerel on October 18
Sarah Wages and friend. Check out the teeth on this Spanish mackerel
Sarah's pal Kelsey Reynolds landed the most impressive Spanish that day...one of the biggest of the season.
Later in the trip we moved out in the bay for some bottom-fishing and David Wages landed the biggest fish of the day
A nice shot of Arnold Boles, Athens, GA, while fishing with a couple buddies on October 20
Arnold's buddy Larry Pope with the biggest redfish of the day October 20
But it was Brannon Culpepper who landed the boat record 15 1/2# Pensacola Bay gag grouper that day. Congratulations, Brannon! Double click on the photo for another view of this fine fish.
We started the day October 21 flipping live shrimp around the docks in Santa Rosa Sound, and Lori Walker-Nall, Nixa, MO, landed her first redfish
Next we moved to the grass flats for some fly-fishing, and Jeff Nall had his knuckles busted by the big Spanish mackerel.
Bonus catch! Jeff and a flats pompano landed on a tan/white clouser with 80# mono bite tippet... Go figure.
What a way to end the day! Jeff Nall and a late-afternoon redfish on October 21.
Tom Zavoral, Shereen Alyse, and a soon-to-be-released red snapper in Pensacola Pass October 22.
Earlier in the day the Spanish mackerel gave "Z" a good workout on his 8wt

Woo Hoo! The redfish are coming! The redfish are coming!! That afternoon we found the first school of bull redfish on the surface about a mile west of the pass, and Z coaxed this one to eat the old favorite go-meaux. The annual "Running of the Bulls" is right around the corner...

Shereen got this beauty to eat a SPRO prime bucktail jig. That's a lot of fish on a 4.1 ounce ultra-light St Croix rod.
Big time fun for mother and son! Creagh Proctor battled this giant Spanish to the boat, and son Gannon snuck into the picture. You've got to love it...
Tom Blair and a super-fine Spanish mackerel on fly October 26
Tom's guest October 26 was Danny Bergin from Manhattan, IL, and this was his first day of saltwater fishing. Danny was amazed at the power and speed of the Spanish mackerel.
But it was the false albacore that really blew Danny's mind! Sight-fishing for the FA demands lightning-fast response time and accurate casting. It's ultra-light sport fishing of the highest degree.
On October 28 Jesse Quillen brought his friends Derrick and Spencer Ross to town, and the fishing was red hot. After spending the morning hammering the big Spanish we moved out to Pensacola Bay for some bottom-fishing. Derrick was hoping for a grouper but got this nice redfish instead. Not a bad trade...
As the afternoon progressed the grouper fishing turned on big time. Here's Spencer Ross with a fine gag grouper en route to the cooler.
Jesse Quillen had been "snake bit" with the groupers on previous trips but not today! Jesse likes to take a few fillets home, and his timing was perfect. Grouper season closed three days later...
We had to work our way through the red snappers to get to the groupers. Now that's the kind of problem a person can deal with... Jesse with a "lit up" red snapper
Spencer Ross with the all-time record Pensacola Bay snapper. This incredibly powerful fish weighed 19# on the bogagrip. It was shocking to see this giant fish when it first came into view a few feet below the surface.
The "Running of the Bulls" officially started in Pensacola Bay on October 30, and Greg Catalano, Acton, MA, and John Moylan were on the boat to witness and participate in the mayhem. Here's John with a typically fat, brightly colored redfish in the 22-25# range.
Greg Catalano is not only a skilled fly-caster, but he's also one of our luckiest clients. Year after year Greg seems to be here when something very special happens. This time we were nearing the end of a two-day trip, Greg had a flight out that afternoon, and we were staying on the water as long as possible hoping the magic would happen. And that's when the redfish came to the surface, Greg grabbed his 12wt, and landed this beauty. The man's got some seriously good karma going on..
We had a few minutes left in the day before heading for the airport, so we drifted around some schools of bait while John worked a SPRO bucktail jig slowly along the bottom. He hit the jackpot with this monster redfish in the 28# range...the biggest fish of the trip. Way to go, John!
Arlen Reynolds and Jeff Honea took a break from their pharmacy on October 31 and had a heck of a time catching redfish, red snappers, and gag groupers around Pensacola Pass. This grouper weighed over 10# and Jeff released it for next time...
We were fishing on the east side of the pass late in the afternoon, but way across on the other side by Ft McRee hundreds of pelicans started crashing the surface. We ran over there at top speed and found a huge school of bull redfish exploding on top. Arlen hooked up immediately, landed this fish, and asked Jeff to join in the photo.

A little later Jeff landed the biggest fish of the day. This is one of those shots that could grace the cover of Florida Sportsman.

 

 

Kevin Barnes, Athens, GA, met his fishing buddies Jon Benstead and Chris Windram for four days of fly-fishing in early-November. The Gulf was blown out Nov 3, but the false albacore moved just inside Pensacola Pass where "Barney" landed the first fish of the day.

 

With the challenging fly-fishing conditions we decided to try "deep-dropping" streamers on weighted lines around some inshore structure. How 'bout a Pensacola Bay red snapper on fly?!

Marlin Johnson and Josh Sullivan had fun around the same structure on November 4, but they were armed for the "big boys" with stand-up 50# class tackle and fresh, cut menhadden. Here's Marlin with an impressive gag grouper.

 

Later in the day Josh and Marlin got to experience the "Running of the Bulls", and we captured it all on video. Here's Josh with as fine a bull redfish as you'll ever see. For the short Youtube video click here.
Marlin Johnson with another of many bull reds landed on a wild and wonderful November 4.
While Marlin and Josh were on the boat our fly-casters from the previous day were fishing by themselves along a pristine stretch of beach in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The seas had calmed down from the previous day, and the the albies were feeding along shore. Here's Jon Benstead, Tuscaloosa, AL, landing his first FA of the day.

"Hail to the Victor!" A very satisfied Jon Benstead before releasing this false albacore. Photo by Chris Windram.

There a lots of beach-fishing opportunities for our fall visitors, and as you can see in the photo not many take advantage of the situation.

November 5 was a challenging day. Seas in this photo look calm, but there was a significant shore break and enough wind to make accurate casting difficult. Intermediate sinking lines helped control the line in the wind. We anchored just outside the bar, and let the fish come to us. Kevin Barnes was fishing from the stern of the Mako and was the first to hit paydirt.
There was a spot where the albies were swimming close to the breakers just outside the sandbar, and we drifted into range hoping to take a shot at a fish moving in the troughs between waves. Chris Windram from www.saltwaterflies.com was on deck and made a perfect cast to a fast-moving single. The following one-minute video captures the moment and the raw excitement of the false albacore fly-fishing experience. Click HERE.

 

Jon Benstead had been "snake bit" along the shore but got back on his game later in the day when we found schools of fish feeding inside the pass. Once again perseverance paid off...

There was a strong south wind the morning of November 6 making the Gulf unfishable. In this photo we are drifting the dropoff at Pickens Point, and Chris Windram is on his knees blind-casting for false albacore in the strong current. Double click to get the full effect. Talk about hard core! Looks like we're fishing in the North Sea...
But late in the afternoon as if on queue the wind settled and the bull redfish came to the surface for Barney, Jon and Chris. It was a perfect ending to an outstanding trip. Kevin Barnes with a monster redfish taken on a crease fly while both his buddies are hooked up.
Talk about having your hands full! Jon Benstead with one of numerous bull redfish landed and released unharmed on November 6.
There were so many redfish that Chris Windram started "playing" with them...dropping the fly just over the side and trying to pull it out of the way of fish charging out from underneath the boat. He wasn't quite quick enough this time. We filmed some of the action that day, and you can view it HERE.
On November 7 Pensacola area Zaxby's owners Carter and Stuart Brown took a break from the restaurants and went fishing. You've gotta do it sometime. This is Carter out in Pensacola Bay with a beauty.
We spent a little time bottom-fishing in the bay and Stuart landed and released this very impressive gag grouper.
After landing numerous bull reds on spinning tackle Stuart pulled out his fly rod and coaxed this fish to eat a green/white "go-meaux". Love that late-afternoon sun reflecting off the golden redfish...
Duke Goeddel, Hillsborough, CA, on a cold, windy, overcast November 10. A cold front arrived the day before, and the wind was howling from the NW. It would've been easy to stay home in front of the fire, but we decided to take a chance and get out in the middle of it. Duke was rewarded with his first Florida false albacore.
A little later we spotted a large brownish-red mass which turned out to be a school of big redfish. Duke landed this and another on his 11wt before the school disappeared in the dark water outside the second sandbar. Sure would've been nice to have a little sunshine that day...
Late in the day we ran to the west beyond the Perdido Key condos and found a few schools of FA crashing baitfish on the surface. What little you can see of this angler belongs to Rocket Man, Ft Collins, Colorado. Thanks for the hand gesture, Rocket. The false albacore seem to bring out the worst in some people...
The following day the wind settled down and the sun came out...a perfect day for redfish sight-fishing on the grass/sand flats of Santa Rosa Sound. As always the fish were spooky, but Duke used his expert casting to land two fish of this quality on a Puglisi gray/white baitfish pattern. Redneck Riviera "bonefishing" at its finest...
We had a tough time finding the schools of big redfish that day but finally saw pelicans crashing close to shore by Deadman's Island. The fish weren't on top, so Duke dredged the bottom with a heavy sinking line and a green/white go-meaux. It was like a steelhead "take" when the fly just stopped and you felt that big head-shake.
Mystery angler with another bottom-dweller along the Deadman's Island dropoff
On Duke's final day the redfish were once again elusive and never came to the surface in large numbers. Undeterred, Duke was blind-casting his sinking line around resting pelicans when this fish nailed the fly. When things get tough there's only one thing to do...keep casting!
On November 15 Bob Lemire, Boulder, CO, landed the new all-time boat record Pensacola Bay gag grouper while fishing with Shawn Osborne. This fish weighed 16 1/2#, and Bob was relentless bringing it to the surface. VERY impressive for a guy with no saltwater fishing experience!
If that wasn't experiential enough, the bull redfish came to surface later in the day for Bob and Shawn. Here's Shawn Osborne who recently moved to Pensacola from Memphis. Welcome to Paradise, Shawn!
Bob Lemire with one of numerous fine redfish in Pensacola Bay on November 15
Well look who they let out of Yellowstone Park! Travis Akins, inventor of the green weenie, on a brief visit to Pensacola November 16. Welcome back, Trav! You'll find Travis in the summertime managing the retail shop at Yellowstone Lake. Drop in to see him, and he just might direct you to some off-the-beaten-trail spots for cutthroat trout. Or not...
Another cold front blew through that night creating windy but sunny conditions for Dave and Mark Walters on November 17. We focused on the false albacore that were tearing up the surface a few hundred yards offshore. Dave broke in his new Sage One 8wt on this fish, and we got a 2 minute video of the fight. Click HERE Love the way Dave's color-coordinated with the FA...
Conditions improved a little for Mark and Dave the following day, and schools of bull redfish came to the surface in Santa Rosa Sound. Mark Walters landed this trophy on an 8' St Croix rod, Quantum Cabo 60 reel, 40# PowerPro braid,1 1/2oz 7/0 Owner jig head (barb mashed down), and 8" "chartreuse sparkle" swirl tail grub.
Of course brother Dave went after them with his 12wt with a sinking line and beautiful streamer tied by son Ben of Eastern Fly Outfitters. We took a video in two parts: Vid Part 1 ; Vid Part 2. For custom flies, leaders, and any other fly-fishing needs you can contact Ben Walters, Eastern Fly Outfitters, Johnson City, TN. 423.928.2007. www.easternflyoutfitters.com
Steve Schuman and Stephen Drazin came back to town November 20, and this time they brought their friend and contractor Hank Twist for his first-time saltwater fishing experience. Steve Schuman set the bar high with this redfish.
Stephen Drazin followed suit with another beauty.
With very little instruction Hank got the feel for casting and working the jig and immediately connected with his first saltwater catch...
The following day was gorgeous, and Hank used his casting skills on the false albacore
And on the bull redfish...
Rob Donlan, Sacramento, on a warm but overcast November 22. We ran up the Intracoastal Waterway to the east and found some slot-redfish feeding around a sand bar in a couple feet of water. We anchored on the edge of the bar and took shots at fish moving around the edges and across the sand. This is Rob with his first catch landed on an EP gray/white baitfish, size 1/0.
After a while the action slowed, but we continued to wait hoping for one more fish. Just as it was time to go the biggest fish of the day appeared on the bar 80' away heading straight for the boat. Rob laid out a perfect cast a few feet left of target to not spook the fish. It was a beautiful thing to watch this redfish veer over to the fly, follow it for about 10', flare its gills, and suck it down. We got the picture, released the fish, pulled the anchor, and headed for the dock.
Casie and Wade Knight, Tigertown, TX, came back for a return engagement November 23, and Casie got it all started on her first cast...
Dang, Wade, that's a pretty nice redfish!
Well there it is! The "Let's Fish" dynamic duo of Wade and Casie Knight from Tigertown showing off with an impressive redfish double on November 23. If ya got it flaunt it!
Happy Thanksgiving, Michael Wallace! Mike Wakefield, Jacksonville Beach, FL, on November 24 while fishing with Tim Yelverton of Ft Walton Beach.
Timbo got his licks in with this beauty landed and released by Deadman's Island.
Wade Knight came back solo on November 25 and landed his first false albacore. Now Wade knows what all the fuss is about. You have to catch these "bad little dudes" on ultra-light tackle to understand why they're known as pound-for-pound the hardest fighting fish in show business...
We spent the rest of the day chasing the big redfish, and Wade landed about a dozen fish of this quality. It was another fabulous day of bull redfish fishing and a great way to end Wade's vacation.
Bruce Yepsin and Gary West drove over from Mobile November 26 and found the big redfish willing to cooperate. Here's a nice shot of Bruce with a 20 pounder
Gary West looking good with one of the biggest fish of the day
Dave Yelverton, Charlotte, NC, was here for a few hours the morning of November 29 and connected with one of the more impressive redfish of the season. Way to go, Big Dave! Nice to have you on the boat...
November 30 started off with a bang. Mike Youkee and Ray Sutton from the UK climbed aboard at the Navy Point boat ramp, and we headed out to the bay from Bayou Grande. Three minutes out of the channel we saw pelicans diving and the redfish came to the surface all around the boat. Both Mike (pictured here) and Ray landed fish on fly. Mike got this one on a 9wt, 240gr sinking line, and a green/white "go-meaux".
Ray Sutton had the 10wt with 325 grain sinking line...same fly. No problem. Check out the belly on that redfish.
Late in the morning we moved to the Gulf looking for false albacore and finally found them east of the Pensacola Beach pier. Mike landed this fish on a 9wt with an intermediate sinking line (Little Tunny line from Scientific Anglers) and a size 6, clear gummy minnow.
December 1 was tough, but Brian Riddle got this fish to eat by the dropoff at Deadman's Island. Good job, Brian! Saved the day.
Bruce Trumbull, Littleton, MA, and a perfect slot redfish landed and released December 9. We were in 2' of water, Bruce dropped the fly (Puglisi baitfish) right on target, and the redfish just swam over and ate it. Made it look easy. What's not to like about that!
Matthew Vann wanted a perfect day weather-wise to introduce sons Eli and Moe to the excitement of sight-fishing along the edge of the Gulf, and December 18 was exactly THE DAY! Light north wind, bright blue sky, and gin-clear water. We were anchored inside the inner bar when a school of redfish approached in three feet of water. This fish followed Matthew's green weenie about 10' before eating it. The leader was almost in the rod tip...
Eli and Moe caught a bunch of redfish of this quality on ultra-light spinning tackle. They're officially hooked on the whole sight-fishing thing, and who could blame them...
Matthew and what has to be his favorite false albacore to date. It really doesn't get any better. You know it's good when you witness the 10" roostertail coming up from your fly line and begin to wonder if you're going to run out of backing.
December 19 was a "Happy Anniversary" trip for Jeremy and Rose Kader, and it turned out to be all about false albacore. This is expert-angler Rose with her first "bonito" landed on ultra-light tackle and a 1/2 oz nickel-colored Acme Sidewinder spoon. We replace the treble hook with a single hook and mash the barb down for quick releases. Capt Baz managed to sneak into the background.

Jeremy Kader looking good with a false albacore in the final photo of the season.

It was a truly outstanding fall; we hated to see it come to an end. Of course now we're enjoying the great winter fishing, and the good times continue to roll...

   

 

Itís always a great day on the water with Gulf Breeze Guide Service!

Gulf Breeze Guide Service
P.O. Box 251
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32562-0251 (USA)
Tel: 850.934.3292 or 850.261.9035 (cell)
Email:
gbgsfishing@aol.com

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