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Spring 2014 began with cooler than normal water temperatures due to the coldest winter in 20 years. That kept the redfishing hot, but our migratory species were slow to arrive. As we got into mid-April and the water warmed the fishing turned on in a big way...just in time for the epic flood that occurred April 29&30. Thirty inches of rain that weekend flooded the rivers that feed into the Pensacola Bay system and turned the water to "chocolate milk" basically shutting down sight-fishing in the inland waters until mid-June. The fishing was tough after the flood, but as you will see below we were able to find plenty of fish and everybody had fun. Click on the thumbnails for full-screen photos. For photos from previous seasons, click on the links to these additional galleries: Winter 2014, :Fall 2013, Summer 2013, Spring 2013, Winter 2013, Fall 2012, Spring 2012, Winter 2012, Fall 2011, 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.

Jay Lanier was back on March 21 for another memorable day of redfish sight-fishing. Jay began the day by landing this beauty along the shore of the Gulf Islands National Seashore where the water was dead flat and Bahamas-clear. We found this fish in 4-5' of water, and Jay coaxed it to take a tan/white clouser minnow.
Double-click on this photo for a better view of the spectacular water as Jay releases his redfish. Some of our best redfish sight-fishing occurs in February and March along the Gulf of Mexico beaches. It's always best before the Spring Break crowds arrive...
When the wind shifted to the south we moved into Santa Rosa Sound and poled one of our favorite flats. It was our first trip to this area this year, and the water temperature was in the mid-60's from the unusually cold winter. The setting was surreal with glassy water and plenty of light. When we found the redfish it was as if they had never seen a fly, and fish after fish charged and ate the gray/white EP baitfish. It's amazing what zero fishing pressure can do for a fishery!

 

 

We quietly poled into position, slid the anchor over, and waited for the fish to move into range. Jay has a soft presentation and the ability to drop the fly undetected in front of the target. The redfish were totally unaware of our presence...
This was Jay's biggest redfish landed on the inside flats that day. The fish measured just under 29". It's interesting to note the different color and body dimensions of these "inside flats" fish as compared to the redfish along the edge of the Gulf. Double click to get a good view of this fish and then scroll up to Jay's first redfish. The Gulf redfish are lighter colored since they live on the white sand, and they are much more streamlined. The inside fish are fatter because they don't have to work as hard as the fish battling the Gulf of Mexico currents.
Jay's fifth and final redfish of the day all of which were released unharmed. The bar is set high for our annual trip in Spring 2015...
March 24 was a big day for 12yr old Henry Pfitzer. Henry battled this big redfish to the net using ultra-light spinning tackle and a SPRO bucktail jig.
The Kail family from Rockford, Michigan, were in town March 25 just in time to experience a major cold front similar to the one they endured in 2013. Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow...nothing stops the Kails! Here is Heather with the first sheepshead of the spring season.
We anchored close to shore with the 20mph north wind at our backs. The water was stained "iced tea" color from all the rain, but the bright sunshine gave us an outside chance of spotting a big redfish along the beach. Matt got out his fly rod, and the first pompano of the year ate the tan/white clouser on a practice cast. Never turn down a little luck when she comes your way...
We saw a school of redfish, but they were too far away for the fly rod. So 8yr old Jonah Kail put the jig out in front of them and hooked into this beaut. Way to go Jonah!

A little later another group of redfish appeared in the dirty water, but this time they were within Matt's extended casting range. The fish were in deeper water, so Matt went with a Rio Intermediate "Striper" line to help get the clouser minnow down to the fish. He was rewarded when this beautiful 23 pounder inhaled the fly. The clear, intermediate line makes a big difference when fishing off-color water. Matt was using a Sage Xi2 10wt and Tibor Riptide...bombproof by any standards.

 

 

The water cleared up considerably by the next day, and Brian Iwasaki landed this fine redfish on a fly rod made by his grandfather Russ Shields. Brian was on the bow with the line coiled on the deck as a big school of redfish came into range slowly moving into the incoming current. Brian cast "upstream" of the fish and let the fly swing down and in front of the advancing school. One l-o-n-g strip and this fine 20 pounder nailed it. Russ was thrilled to watch it all unfold... Of course all of these big redfish are released unharmed. We only use barbless hooks and take great care to quickly photograph and resuscitate the fish if necessary.
Nathan Britcher took a break from running a kids' camp in Michigan for a day of Florida flats fishing. We caught a nice sunny day, but the fish were scarce. Here's Nathan with his first-ever redfish landed on a Sage Xi2 8wt, Tibor Everglades, Rio "Redfish" floating line and EP gray/white baitfish.
By April 1 the Gulf of Mexico was gin-clear and spectacular...a perfect day for Atlanta's Kevin Maxey (of Emerald Coast Grand Slam fame) to land his biggest-ever redfish on fly. It was early enough in the season that the fish were still on the tan/white clouser.
Nice shot of the release from the stern of the skiff
Afternoon conditions were perfect to hit the inshore flats, and Kevin nailed (and released) this gorgeous redfish on a green/white baitfish pattern tied by Matt Wegener using EP fibers.
Charlie Forrest, St Paul, MN, was in town April 2 for his marriage to beautiful Nicky Phillips two days later. A day on the water with his old buddy "Gonzo" Gonzalez seemed in order, so out we went stained water and all in search of redfish. The Gulf was blown out as was the sand flat where Charlie had landed a monster the previous year, so we decided to try a favorite inside flat which we thought "ought to" hold a few fish... It was late in the day and we were losing our light, so Charlie got up on the poling platform (with the Flyline Tamer) where the view was a little better. We were anchored from the bow with the skiff settled quietly in 2.1' of water. We saw an object at 11 o'clock 90' away moving down a sand channel toward the boat, and thought it might be a ray. But Charlie from his perch high above the deck said it looked like a fish, and he laid out a perfect 80' backhanded cast that landed unfortunately right on the fish's tail. The fish immediately bolted but then did a quick, unexpected 180 and ate the fly! It was incredible! A miracle! But of course reality quickly settled in, and we realized Charlie was hooked into a giant redfish on his 8wt and a sz2 clouser minnow. After a 20 minute fight, Charlie brought this magnificent fish to the net. At 22# it's the all-time record redfish on the flats of Santa Rosa Sound, and it couldn't have happened to a better person at a better time. I'm sure Nicky would agree..
Ken Michaels was here April 3 with his high school buddies "the wolfpack", and we had a great time on the water as always. The fish of the day was this fine red snapper landed and released unharmed.
Tim Marsh was back April 4 looking for redfish, but it wasn't happening this year. We had to settle for a giant red snapper from Pensacola Bay.
Fishing buddies Mark Opitz and Perry Oaks were looking for redfish, too, on April 9. Mark found this fish in the stained water close to Pensacola Pass. If you look over the fish's head you'll see some cleaner water just beyond that point...
And that's where Perry found this beauty. Amazing difference in the water clarity a half mile apart...
The schools of jack crevalle showed up on April 10 just in time for Monica and Bill Smith! Bill had a ball battling this brute while Monica cheered him on... Watching a jack crevalle explode on a topwater plug or popper is a life-changing event
The jacks were here the following day, too, for the Whitman family from Alpharetta, GA. Brian's holding a nice jack landed on spinning tackle with daughter Ashton looking on. Can't remember, but Ashton might've landed that fish and needed Brian's help holding it up for the pic. Incidentally, "B" tried that day to land a jack on fly for the first time this year, and actually had a fish eat his popper... But the fish never took off, and the doggone fly just fell out of it's mouth
Robin Catalano, Acton, MA, with the fish-of-the-day on April 15. Oh yes, Robin knows jack...

April 16 was another red-letter day for Greg Catalano, Acton, MA. Sight-fishing with an 8wt for giant redfish in clear water?? Priceless. Here's "Dr Cat" with his first fish of the day..

And another... This fish ate a chartreuse/white half and half with gold barbell eyes.
Greg's final and biggest redfish of the day. Good memories of his "happy place" which he'll be thinking about when winter hits the Boston area later this year...
Two days of rain trashed the water for The Nature Conservancy's Bo Norris on April 21, but we decided to give the "honey hole" along the edge of the Gulf a try anyway. Right off the bat this pompano grabbed Bo's fly as he was blind-casting the "fishy-looking" water. Bo's first Florida pompano on fly...
And then the redfish showed up in spades. Bo was casting "upstream" letting the fly drift down before starting the long strips. When the fly started swimming up in the water column these big redfish would appear out of nowhere and run it down like steelhead chasing a McVey's Ugly (Upper Dean River Camp, British Columbia). It was insane! Bo shown here with his first redfish...
Nice release, Bo, from the stern of the skiff.
And a fine second fish...
And yet another. It was interesting that in the dirty water the redfish were happy to eat the tan/white clouser... a fly they were turning down just days before when the water was clear.
We decided to hit an inside flat at the end of the day, so Bo could experience the Florida Panhandle "bonefishing" experience. And it all worked out as we found this fish in a couple feet of water, poled into range, and Bo put the cast on target and watched the follow and the take! The big redfish in the Gulf are terrific, but stalking the smaller fish on the inside flats is just as exciting and even more technical.
April 23 was a day of R&R for Udo Koehler, Roy Davis, and Jerry Henning, and the sheepshead bite was wide-open. The fish Udo is holding weighed over 8#, and he landed it on ultra-light spinning tackle.
After filling the cooler with sheepshead we ran out to a wreck where the guys got their arms pulled off by huge red snappers. Snapper season was closed, and releasing this fish nearly killed Roy. Shortly after this trip they booked another day during the first week of snapper season...
Here's Jerry with another red snapper in excess of ten pounds.
Glenn Perry, Birmingham, on April 24 with the first of two pompano landed in stained water along the inner sandbar of the Gulf Coast National Seashore. We were set up looking for big redfish when this perfect pompano took Glenn's tan/white clouser minnow.
We were catching glimpses of more pompano coming by, so Glenn switched to the old faithful "pompano rocket"... and voila...this pompano took it in a heartbeat!
We found some big redfish in the Gulf and threw every fly in the box at them, but they weren't interested. So after the south wind kicked up we headed back inside to try our luck in the stained waters of Santa Rosa Sound. Glenn was blind-casting an EP clouser as we poled along a nice sand/grass flat, and this black drum gobbled it up.
A little later we were surprised when this nice flounder ate the fly...
We ran to another flat where the water was marginally cleaner and set up in two feet of water hoping for a redfish to come into range. When this fish appeared Glenn put the fly well ahead of it and let it sink to the bottom. When the fish was close enough to see the fly Glenn began a long, slow strip and the fish took it without hesitation. The redfish on this sand flat are usually silvery tan colored, but this fish had used its cloaking device to turn copper-colored matching the water which resembled iced tea.
Peter Petruzzi is always up for a challenge, so the following day we took the skiff back out in the Gulf to the stretch of beach where we'd found the redfish the day before. Once again the fish had "lockjaw" and weren't interested in any of the flies Peter presented to them. There were lots of big fish, too, milling around the sandbar in 3-5' of water. The wind had picked up significantly and we were taking the occasional wave over the bow when Peter decided to try one of his own inventions...a large, tan tarpon fly tied from EP-like fibers. One his first cast a fish broke out of a school and charged the fly, followed it, and finally refused right at the boat. When the next pod of fish came into range Peter put the fly out there and let it sink close to the bottom. This time he tried long (4-5') fast strips, and this 23 pounder shot out of the school and crushed the fly. We landed it, took the photo, and got out of there before the seas kicked up any more. As it was we got soaked running back 5 miles to the pass directly into 2-3' seas, but finally breaking the code on those fish was well worth the pounding. Peter, you're my hero...
Dennis Farkas was in town the day before the flood, and we were able to get in some early-morning live shrimp fishing in eerie conditions. This is a 4# pompano which Dennis' brother and local chef Nick Farkas prepared to perfection that evening.
Dennis landed and released about a dozen 18-20" speckled trout before Nick joined us. Chef Nick wanted some for that evening's dinner, so later on we slid a few into the cooler...
That afternoon we hit a bottom spot in Pensacola Bay, and Nick landed and released this snapper.
On May 5 the flood waters from the weekend storm hadn't yet made it out to the Gulf, and we were able to find some clear water a few miles east of Pensacola Pass. The jack crevalle were hard to see, but we found a school and Lundy Sparks watched this fish explode on a topwater "Chug Bug" and take off for Cuba.
The water in the Intracoastal Waterway was still trashed on May 13, but with the Gulf of Mexico blown out it was our only option. So Cooper Adams blind-casted an EP baitfish pattern all morning along some of our favorite flats. Tough fishing no doubt, but we did have some success. Here's Cooper with a nice 4# trout...
And a very nice deeply-colored redfish which we landed and released.
Rocket Man from Ft Collins was in town May 15, and we took the rocketship back out to the Gulf to try for the tough shallow-water redfish. After the "Peter Petruzzi experience" we anticipated the fish would be looking for something large, and we weren't disappointed. This is one of two 20# plus fish taken on back-to-back casts using a 5" Craft Fur baitfish pattern designed by Capt Clif Jones of Orange Beach. Thanks Clif...
Lena McWilliams learned how to cast an ultra-light spinning rod and work a topwater plug on May 28, and she was rewarded right off the bat with this 25" redfish. It was like a depth charge went off when the fish hammered the plug. Lena received a dose of good karma by releasing it unharmed.
Mason McWilliams watch Lena land fish after fish on spinning gear but never gave up his quest to land a speckled trout on fly. His first fish wasn't photo-worthy, but this nice trout made the grade.
Lena landed and released about a dozen fish of this quality all on topwater. It was a breakthrough day for her.
Ms. NE Mississippi Shan Carrasco took a break from the pageantry on June 9 and landed this monster red snapper in Pensacola Bay...in time for snapper season.
Naturalist Matt Wemple, staff writer for The Montana Sporting Journal, on June 11 with his first speckled trout on fly. The water was still off-color from the flood, but we were able to pick out the dark backs of some big trout along a favorite flat. The fish were eating the EP baitfish.
The redfish were better camouflaged, but Matt was able to spot this fish, make the cast, and watch the take...
Normally by June the big Spanish mackerel are abundant in Santa Rosa Sound, but not this year. The muddy, lower-salinity water kept the fish out in the Gulf, and we were concerned there would be no mackerel fishing until Bob Willice landed this beauty June 12 on a tan/white clouser.
Later that morning Bob landed and released this picture-perfect slot-redfish while blind casting a tan/white EP clouser minnow in 2-3' of water.
A tough June 16 morning was saved for Michael Siegenthaler when a school of a couple hundred jack crevalle appeared on the Caucas Shoal west of Pensacola Pass. We had the big topwater chug bug ready to go, and Michael put the heavy mojo on this fish...
We couldn't find the redfish until the next day when Michael landed and released this beauty on a topwater plug in Santa Rosa Sound. We keep the barbs mashed down on the lures to facilitate an easy release...

 

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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