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Winter 2017 was all about sight-fishing for redfish. There were lots of schools of big fish along the shores of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and plenty of "slot-sized" redfish on the inside flats. When spring rolled around the pompano and jack crevalle arrived in big numbers, plus the redfish fishing got even better. As a nice "bonus" there was even an impressive late-May run of false albacore. Check out these shots from the first half of 2017. Double-click on the photos for full-sized views. For photos from previous seasons click on the links to these additional galleries: Fall 2016, Summer 2016, Winter and Spring 2016 , Fall 2015, Summer 2015, Spring 2015, Winter 2015, Fall 2014, Summer 2014, Spring 2014, 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.

We begin the winter gallery December 21 with a nice shot of Brandon Pheabus and his dad Gary. The Gulf of Mexico was spectacular...flat and clear... plus we had plenty of sunshine for sight-fishing. There were schools of big redfish feeding along the inner sandbar, but we couldn't get them to eat until Gary tied on one of his own creations. Brandon had the first serious "follow" of the day on his next cast and then landed this beauty. I'm not sure who was happier, Brandon or Gary, but it was for sure a very special father-son moment. A few days later Brandon, a US Marine, was heading off to boot camp followed by training at Camp Legume. It was an honor having him on the boat.
On December 27 we found plenty of redfish of this quality on the sand and grass flats in Santa Rosa Sound east of Gulf Breeze. This is Braden Barkley with his first redfish on fly.
How about this monster redfish landed and released December 30 by Dane Vansant! This is a 25# plus fish landed on Dane's 8 weight. We catch some of our biggest redfish of the year during the winter months when everybody else is off the water. There are many days when we won't see another boat... Terrific job on this fish, Dane!
Dane doing a nice job resuscitating his redfish after the hard fight and brief photo session...
Tree farmer Bob Jenkins, Woody Creek, CO, on January 12 with a sixteen pound redfish hooked in 2 1/2' of water on one of our favorite flats in Santa Rosa Sound. We found dozens of big redfish like this in singles and doubles close to the dropoff along the outer edge of the flat. The fish were spooky because of the shallow water, so Jenkins placed the clouser minnow fifteen feet in front of the cruising redfish. He let it sit on the bottom until the fish came into range, and then one long strip did the trick. It was poetry to watch... a master in action. These big fish look like submarines in the shallow water. The cool water temperature makes them a little less active; however, they'll usually accommodate an angler who puts the fly in the right spot. Cold-water fly lines are important for the winter fly-fishing. There are times when the water temperature is in the high-50's making it impossible to get the memory out of a tropical line.
Jump to the Bahamas and you'll find my good friend Jonas Magnusson and me January 15 on our annual sojourn to Staniel Cay. In this shot I'm clearing the line as a bonefish streaks across the flat heading for the mangroves.
Jonas patiently waiting for bonefish to exit a tidal creek on the falling tide. Not sure it could get more beautiful...especially in mid-January.
A couple days later with my best fish of the trip...not huge but not bad for Staniel Cay.
Camouflaged bonefish in the blue-green Bahamas water... It's a different world down there and a fabulous, easy, inexpensive winter escape.
Back home to reality. Jonas hooked into a winter redfish on January 25. On days when neither of us is booked we like to wade the flats looking for redfish along the beach. The water was somewhat tannin-colored due to runoff from heavy rains in early-January, but it was plenty clear to spot the fish.
Pretty little fish released unharmed...
Yours truly with a similar-sized redfish that took a lightly-dressed EP clouser minnow tied by my friend and expert fly-tier Matt Wegener.
Yee-Haw!! Tobi Herron on February 3 with a killer redfish landed on light-tackle and released along the shore of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
On February 11 we went back to the flat where Bob Jenkins caught his big fish a month earlier, and once again the "submarine" sized redfish were active. Steve Clark landed this fish on the same fly Jenkins used...a size 4 lightly-dressed tan/white EP clouser minnow. You just can't beat shallow-water sight-fishing for redfish of this quality on 8wt tackle.
Steve's father-in-law Peter Arcoma was also on the boat that day armed with an ultra-light spinning outfit and a 1/3 oz gold "sidewinder" spoon. Steve was on the bow with "first shot" priority typically given to the fly-caster when this fish appeared within casting range. Steve laid a couple nice casts in front of the fish but got no interest. The fish spooked and disappeared off the stern. I was continuing to pole looking for another fish when I heard Peter's drag going off. He had seen the fish refuse Steve's fly, watched it swim away from the boat, and gentle flipped his spoon out in front of it. The redfish nailed it, and Peter ended up with the catch-of-the-day. Double click for a nice shot of Peter and Steve together with the redfish that weighed over 20 pounds.
Gary and Diane Stephens on February 23 with a fine bull redfish from Pensacola Pass.
How about that! Charles and Carolyn Binger with a terrific redfish "double" caught and released while sight-fishing March 10 along the edge of the Gulf.
Andy Anderson, from Scotland, teamed up with Chicago's Stephen Miller on March 15 for some redfish sight-fishing along the shore of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. A cold front had passed through a couple days earlier leaving us with cool temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and calm shoreline conditions. Andy landed the first fish on a chartreuse/white half-and-half. Check out the silvery-tan color of this fish camouflaged to live on the white-sandy bottom.
Stephen followed suit later with this beautiful, fat redfish...
Stephen was back the following day, and we found a pod of big redfish on an inside flat close to Pensacola Pass. Stephen coaxed this 40" redfish to eat a tan/white bucktail clouser minnow.
Greg Sharp was in town from Little Rock a few days later on March 20, but the fish along the beach had lockjaw. So after spending two frustrating hours with no takes we decided to run west of Pensacola Pass to look for redfish along Johnson Beach. As we crossed the point on the west side I thought I saw some "color" out on the Caucas Shoal. Turned out to be a school of 20-30 big fish, and they were eager to eat the fly. Greg hooked this redfish on 9wt tackle, and it ran off the shoal into the deep water of Pensacola Pass. Forty minutes later he brought it to the boat. The fish ate a #2 tan/white clouser.
My good friend Hutch from Idaho brought his nephew Paul Keith down for a few days in mid-March hoping for light winds, clear water, and lots of migrating jack crevalle and pompano. Unfortunately the Gulf was blown out, and we spent all our time hiding from the wind and searching for fish on the inside flats. The highlight of the trip was this very respectable redfish Paul landed March 21 while sight-fishing a flat close to Pensacola Pass. It was his first-ever redfish on fly, and now he knows what all the fuss is about. Good work, Paul!
The weather straightened out the following week, and we were able to explore some inside flats east of Gulf Breeze on the north side of Santa Rosa Island. The water was perfect for sight-fishing, and we found good numbers of redfish and trout in 2-3' of water. Here's Tom Zakriski, Albany, NY, on March 28 with his first redfish on fly.
We went back to the same area the next day and John Peschke landed this nice speckled trout on a tan baitfish tied from EP fibers. Daughter Anna couldn't pass up the photo op...
Jay Lanier and I have had some great days on the water, and March 31 was another one to add to the list. We were fishing a school of big, spooky redfish that had zero interest in any of the usual fly patterns. As a "Hail Mary" Jay tried a twenty year old tarpon fly I had in the box, and the whole school tried to eat it at the same time. Jay hooked up, fought the fish for a few minutes, and the hook fell out. Of course the school had disappeared, so I poled around until we found them again. Once again Jay delivered the fly (using the same unorthodox presentation as before), and this beauty beat the other fish to it. There's a lot more to the story, but I can't put it in print. Let's just say we "broke the code" on these fish, and I can hardly wait to tie up more of the secret pattern for next spring. Jay knows what I'm talking about...

Jay Pippen brought his son Will and friend Jack Hillman to town the first week of April for some Spring Break R&R. Since these guys are catch-and-release spin-fisherman I took them to some favorite sight-fishing flats usually reserved for "fly only". We were free-lining live shrimp on ultra-light tackle, and the action was terrific. Normally you can't get a sheepshead to eat a fly on the flats, but a live shrimp is a different deal altogether. Jack tossed the shrimp ten feet in front of this 3-4# sheepshead, and the fish rushed over and inhaled it. Very cool to watch...

How about this killer redfish! Will saw the fish coming down the beach 10' from shore in a foot of water and dropped the live shrimp in its path. It was a fabulous fight on the light tackle. Of course we took time to resuscitate the fish and release it unharmed.
Jack followed suit a little later with this beauty. It was almost unfair. These fish were so innocent and unsuspecting they'd break your heart.
Kevin Arculeo and Lloyd Johnson got rained out with a cold front passing through April 5 and had to settle for a half day on April 7. The wind was howling from the north, but we had plenty of blue sky and sunshine. We launched the skiff at Navy Point and snuck around the edge of NAS avoiding the big breakers in Pensacola Bay and headed for the Gulf. We rounded Pickens Point and were pleased to find calm, clear water. There was a tide line a few hundred yards to the east and to our delight a dark blob of big fish were cruising around it. We knew it was jacks, got out the big tackle, and it was GAME ON for the next three hours. Here's Kevin with the first fish of the day landed on a 3/0 white popper.
It took Lloyd a little while to get the feel for throwing a big popper with a 12wt in a 20mph wind, but it all came together, no one was injured, and he landed his first jack crevalle on fly. Congratulations, Lloyd! The photo credit goes to Kevin Arculeo...
Jay Pippen and the "boys" were back on April 8 and we found lots of activity west of Pensacola Pass. It was a perfect day for sight-fishing...clear water, sunshine, blue skies. Jay showed them how it's done with the first jack crevalle of the day landed on a 4 1/2" "chug bug".
While Jay was fighting his fish we noticed what looked like a yellowish-tan island as big as a house moving in our direction. It was a school of at least 500 black drum "floating" along just below the surface. Will Pippen threw a SPRO bucktail into the school and let it sink. This fish nailed it on the drop. What a beautiful, health fish! We hooked and released a few more before refocusing our attention on the jacks.
We caught the jacks on topwater plugs until everyone was worn out. Here's a photo of a rare jack crevalle "double" by Will Pippen and Jack Hillman. It started off as a triple hookup which quickly turned into a three-ring circus as the fish took off in different directions and all the lines (40# PowerPro) got wrapped together. As I was trying to untangle them Jay's fish got off and another line broke. Amazing as it sounds I just happened to be holding on to the piece of broken line that was connected to Jack's fish! The jack crevalle was tired and only 20' from the boat, so I handlined it in and we got the photo. Nice to have been wearing stainless steel gloves...
Terry Horn on April 12 with his first-ever pompano on fly. Too much shore break that day to get close to the beach, so we anchored just outside the break and waited for the fish to come through. This fish (and others) ate a pompano rocket variation in orange and yellow that Terry tied himself. Very satisfying to check the elusive pompano off your life list.
Montana guide Kinney Scruggs had a memorable 39th birthday April 13 along the shore of Johnson Beach chasing big jack crevalle. It took a few mishaps before Kinney got comfortable throwing the big popper on 12 wt tackle, but once he got it under control the jacks were in trouble. Here he is proudly holding his first fish of the day.
After Kinney landed his second jack we were hailed over to a 40' sport-fishing vessel for what we thought would be "congratulations" on landing the two big jack crevalle on fly. Instead we were greeted by a 6' buckass-naked woman who was very happy to share her complete frontal view as she alerted us to a park ranger with a stuck vehicle on the beach. It was quite a sight and one that Kinney and I won't soon forget. The nude woman plus two king-sized jack crevalle made for a birthday that's going to be hard to top!
It was a beautiful day April 18 for Bruce and Gregory Trumbull. Gregory broke the ice with this lovely redfish landed on light spinning tackle and a free-lined live shrimp. What a blast!
The fish didn't cooperate all day for Bruce and his fly rod until this impressive speckled trout saved the day...
Bruce was back on the boat a few days later on April 21 with daughter Heather's main squeeze Jake Tessler. We set up in one of our favorite ambush spots waiting for the jack crevalle. Bruce got "first shot" with a big popper on fly, and Jake got all the long and into-the-wind shots. Bruce had fish all around the fly but never got a take; however, Jake slammed it to two jacks of this quality. Bruce, who holds the amberjack boat record on fly, has never landed a jack crevalle. On the outside he was thrilled for Jake, but on the inside...
Bob Jenkins was back in town for some spring action on April 24, and we found schools of jack crevalle west of Pensacola Pass along Johnson Beach. Here's Jenkins with his first fish of the day caught on the old faithful big white popper tied by Ben Walters of Eastern Fly Outfitters. Double-click for a nice shot of the release.
Pensacola locals Tommy and Rita Bowen on a gorgeous April 25 morning. Tommy fought this 23# redfish for a half hour on light-tackle before bringing it to the net. The fish ate a 1/2 oz gold Sidewinder spoon. The Acme Sidewinder spoons come with treble hooks, but we replace them with barbless single hooks to protect the fish.
That same afternoon it was so beautiful that Bob Jenkins was up for some late-in-the-day fly-fishing. The water east of Gulf Breeze was pristine for sight-fishing, and Jenkins got this trout to eat a shrimp pattern.
Dave Rallis and MaryAnn Romero-Rallis, from Atlanta, had some excellent sight-fishing on May 3. Dave had his fly tackle, and MaryAnn was using spinning gear. Here's a picturesque shot of MaryAnn with her first redfish of the morning.
We relocated to a favorite "big game" spot hoping the jack crevalle would show up, and MaryAnn had a blast catching this jack on heavy spinning tackle and a Storm "Chug Bug" topwater lure.
Ronnie Johnson drove down from Montgomery to use a birthday gift certificate from son Brian. On May 9 we had a glassy-calm morning which made it easy to see the wakes created by 300 jack crevalle cruising along the shoreline in three feet of water. We positioned the boat in front of the advancing school, and Ronnie took the bow with a 10wt fly rod. Ronnie got the fly to the fish multiple times, but they just wouldn't take it. So in desperation he picked up the spinning rod and heaved the big chug bug out into their midst. One pop and this fish crushed it. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!
We hit that same stretch of beach the next morning and the jacks were there again. This time Greg Speer from Ft Collins, CO, connected with his Sage RPLXi 10wt, Tibor Riptide, and one of his own 2/0 bangers. Double-click for a great shot of the famous Rocket release.
Later in the day the Rocket landed his first pompano of the year in spectacular water down Johnson Beach. The fly was of course a Pompano Rocket tied by the co-inventor himself. With two of the three Emerald Coast Grand Slam species down I suggested we try to find a redfish. But Rocket declined saying he was having too much fun with the pompano and that we'd by crazy to leave the serenity of Johnson Beach to rush around looking for redfish. He was right of course, and we spent the next few hours catching and releasing pompano after pompano until the clouds came and it was over.
Bob Jenkins was baaack the next day May 11, and we headed straight down Johnson Beach to the pompano spot. There's that little yellow pompano rocket again...
Next we found the jacks near the Caucas Shoal and Jenkins put his Hardy reel to work... Two down and one to go on the Slam, but we never found a redfish.
David Parker brought daughters Maison and Ramsay out on May 15, and once again the jack crevalle sight-fishing was on fire. Maison's first fish was a monster approaching 25 pounds.
Ramsay worked her magic on this jack crevalle a little later. The fish were crushing the topwater chug bugs...
Way to go, Dad! While Maison and Ramsay caught their breath David picked up a rod and put the muscle to this fish. That's a picture postcard or Facebook cover page if I've ever seen one...
Richard Stewart, St Louis, booked May 18 and 19, and all we had to work with were strong east winds, overcast skies, and light rain. We got skunked in 7 hours of hard fishing on the 18th and were about to do the same on the 19th. I decided to try one last stretch of beach even though it was going to be pretty darn rough for the skiff. Richard carefully stepped up on the bow, and I got on the platform and started poling down-wind a hundred feet from shore in the 1' breakers. It was totally overcast and almost impossible to see anything on the bottom even though it was only two feet deep. A small grass patch appeared sixty feet away at 10 o'clock, and I thought there could be a dark streak lying beside it. Richard put the fly right on target, gave it one long strip, and this redfish hammered it. We landed it, got the photo, and headed for the dock. Thirteen hours of fishing and the magic happened in 5 seconds. When the fishing gets tough ya gotta just keep on fishing!
The wind blew hard for the next few days, but when brothers John and Jerry Earll arrived on May 26 the Gulf of Mexico was finally calm enough (barely) to look for the false albacore the bottom-fishing guides had been talking about. Sure enough we found them a couple miles offshore SE of Pensacola Pass. Jerry landed numerous fish on light spinning tackle while brother John went after them on fly. Here's John Earll with his first FA on fly.
Matt Herron and Patrick Dickerson got into the FA action on May 30 using 8wt fly tackle and #6 gummy minnows. Here's a nice shot of Patrick with a false albacore that took him well into the backing.
Patrick had caught "bonitos" many times on spinning tackle but this was his first time to experience the thrill of catching them on fly. You just can't beat it on 8wt tackle.
Nice colors on this fish June 1 for Duke Goeddel who was in town to visit son Tyler an outfielder for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
Bruce Trumbull June 9 with his first-ever jack crevalle on fly! We were set up on an inside sandbar hoping for some jacks when Capt Eddie Woodall called from the Gulf. He found two good schools of jacks down the beach to the east and had already landed numerous fish on spinning tackle. He said he'd keep an eye on the fish if we wanted to make the 5 mile run out there..which of course we did at top speed. We found Capt Eddie but at first couldn't see the fish. He was standing on his center console pointing at a stationary dark blob just outside the inner bar. We watched that spot for five minutes, and it never moved. I finally got up on the platform and poled us in range to check it out. To our surprise it was indeed a school of jack crevalle, and Bruce laid the popper out there perfectly. A couple pops and the school came to life in a big way chasing the fly until this fish finally crushed it right at the boat. Bruce strip-set multiple times and then held on as the fish exploded away from the boat. Twenty minutes later I netted it and the jack crevalle monkey was finally off Bruce's back!
The week of June 12 finds us fly-fishing for "baby" tarpon in the waters around Cancun with the outstanding guides from Here's my good friend Hutch (Ken Hutchison) and expert guide Enrique Trinidad with a typical tarpon in the 12-14# range.
What a setting! Tim Reischman with a baby tarpon caught and released in the mouth of a tidal creek.
Yours truly with a nice little fish in the ten pound range... These fish are perfect for 8wt tackle, but you had best bring your precision casting "A" game. Thanks to guides Enrique and Bernardo for all their hard work. We had a blast!
Patti Heacock closes out the spring photos with this very respectable redfish on June 19 the day before the effects of Tropical Storm Cindy reached us...


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)

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