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2019 began with the usual outstanding bull redfish sight-fishing in the shallow waters around Pensacola Pass. Warming spring water temperatures marked the arrival of our migratory species: pompano, Spanish and king mackerel, jack crevalle, and ladyfish. Sight-fishing the inside flats for redfish and trout was very productive especially during the months of March-May. We even had a surprise visit from the false albacore in late-May. As always our clients had lots of fun and caught and released some terrific fish. We even had an Emerald Coast Grand Slam on April 23 for just the third time in 16 years. Check out these photos from the winter and spring seasons. Double-click the thumbnails for full-page photos. For photos from previous seasons follow the links to these additional galleries: Fall 2018, Summer 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017, Summer 2017, Winter and Spring 2017, 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 start off the year with Bob Jenkens, Woody Creek, Colorado, on a cool, sunny January 26 doing our favorite thing...sight-fishing for redfish along the beach of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The water was slightly tannin-stained but clear enough to easily see the big reds along the inner sandbar. This is the time of year when the fish are willing to eat a properly placed tan/white clouser minnow, and Jenkins can put it out there with the best of them. This first fish was an old battle-worn specimen. Check out that tail...
Bob's second fish was younger and a beautiful silvery-tan. Double click for a nice look at the fly.
A little less wind, blue skies, and warmer temperature for Jenkins two days later on January 28. Bob uses a TFO "Mangrove" 8wt for these brutes. It takes a while to bring them to the net, but really what's the hurry? Check out the blue in the fish's tail.
The fish turned off the tan/white, and Bob switched to a chartreuse/white "half and half" for his second redfish of the day. We had the whole shoreline to ourselves that day...
We came inside to one of our favorite spots late in the day where Jenkins got his fourth fish of the day...a fat 40+ inch beauty close to 30#. This was the best redfish of the week and worth a double-click.
Jenkins was baaack on February 3 for more fun with the shallow-water redfish.
March 12 was a bluebird day with a light northerly breeze, and the Gulf of Mexico was gin-clear and calm. David Streiler and Colin Fitzgerald were visiting from Kansas City, and we poled along the Gulf Islands National Seashore east of Pensacola Pass looking for redfish. There was enough shore break to create a small area of "sea foam" just inside the inner sandbar in 3' of water, and we spotted the school of big redfish hidden beneath that foam. We anchored twenty feet from shore leaving us 60-70' upwind from the fish. David took the bow with his 8wt and hooked this fish on the second cast. The fish took off down-current, and David took 30 minutes bringing it to the net. Beautiful silvery-tan eighteen pounder with the trademark blue tail.
Not to be outdone by his buddy, Colin took the bow and hooked this fish on his second cast! Once again the fish bolted down-current, and I turned to David and said "let's have lunch!" Which we did as Colin fought his fish against the tide and finally a half hour later to the net. This was a spectacular multi-spotted redfish also in the 18-19# range. Both David's and Colin's fish took a #1/0 chartreuse/white "half and half".

Incredibly the fish were still within casting range when David re-took the bow. It took a dozen or more casts, but he was soon bowed up on this stud. Colin was happy to have his sandwich while David did the heavy lifting.

We use only barbless hooks for the redfish and take great care when handling them. We never lift them by the jaw and take extra time to resuscitate if necessary.

Double click for a full side-view photo of this fine fish.

The school finally moved up the beach, and we pulled the anchor and poled after them. Colin saw this fish crossing the bar and coaxed it to eat a tan/white clouser minnow. And that was the end of a perfect morning... These young men are spoiled for life!

Here's a nice shot of Bill and Monica Smith with a baby redfish "double" landed and released in Gilmore Bayou on a difficult March 29. Awww aren't they cute!
Walter Baron from Cape Cod landed and released this "slot" redfish April 1 on an EP "Perfect Minnow". We had a NW wind that morning which made for perfect conditions along the flats of the Naval Live Oak Reservation.
Ellen Barry on April 10 with a very respectable speckled trout from Santa Rosa Sound.
It just wouldn't be right if Ellen's dad Tim Marsh didn't have some "big fish" action on our annual spring trip. This year it was in the form of a migrating jack crevalle that was more than happy to crush Tim's topwater "chug bug".
Steve Greife spent the morning of April 11 sight-fishing for very picky redfish on the flats of Santa Rosa Sound. This one made the mistake of eating Steve's EP baitfish.

Emerald Coast Grand Slam!

For the second time in three years Bob Jenkins, Woody Creek, CO, got the Emerald Coast Grand Slam on April 23. That's a redfish, pompano, and jack crevalle on fly all in the same day, and it has only happened three times in 16 years! It's quite an accomplishment, and hearty congratulations go to Jenkins. This is a nice shot of the redfish...a full-grown 14 pounder caught on an EP baitfish in 2 1/2' of water in Santa Rosa Sound . For the entire story, click here.

We moved out to the Gulf of Mexico and found a few pompano along the shore of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This fish ate the old faithful "pompano rocket". Two species down and one to go.
If you read the story you know the jack crevalle appeared out of nowhere while we were focused on the pompano. We managed to get ahead of the school, and Jenkins worked his magic with the 10wt and one of Ben Walters' big white poppers. And with that Bob had The Slam for the second time. As always we put the rods away, threw out the anchor, and popped the tops on two celebratory Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPSs.
When you're hot you're hot. Before we found the pompano Bob landed the second redfish of the day on his 8wt and a tan/white clouser minnow.
Robin Davidson and Greg Catalano, Acton, MA, were onboard April 29, and we ran out to the Gulf stopping in Pensacola Pass to check out the view hoping for inspiration. Conditions were perfect for sight-fishing: flat seas, plenty of sunshine, crystal-clear water both east and west of the pass. There were no birds giving us direction, but the shallow emerald-green Caucas Shoal to the west was too good to pass up. Approaching the point we saw a school of 200 big redfish milling around undisturbed in 4-6' of water. I killed the motor upcurrent, and the skiff drifted quietly toward the redfish. Robin was ready with a St Croix Avid series spinning rod, Shimano Stradic 2500 reel, 15# PowerPro braid, and a barbless SPRO bucktail jig. Greg had his 10wt locked and loaded, sink-tip line coiled on the deck and an EP mullet ready for action. Robin got off the first cast, and a big fish grabbed her jig as soon as it hit the water. The current carried us away from the school as Robin fought her fish. The St Croix rod weighs only 4.1 ounces, and Robin had her hands full with the 15-20 pound redfish. After about five minutes the doggone hook fell out, and we motored back within casting range to give Robin another shot. Once again she quickly hooked up and this time landed the fish after a 10 minute battle. That smile on her face spells r-e-l-i-e-f...
While Robin was fighting her two fish husband Greg cheered her on and waited patiently for his chance. After her two hookups the school had become wary of the boat and moved west of the point. We ran a wide loop around the fish, killed the motor a couple hundred yards upcurrent, and I quietly poled the skiff into range. Greg laid out a nice cast, let the sinking line drag the fly down into the midst of the redfish, and gave it a snappy strip. The fish fought for it, and Greg came tight to this beauty.
Robin took over and had a couple more hookups and long fights that came to frustrating ends. She was happy to turn it over to Greg who coaxed the biggest fish of the day to take his fly. Fine job Dr Cat!
Retired Gulf Breeze EPA Branch Chief John Rogers on May 3 with the first Spanish mackerel of the year. The annual mackerel migration reaches our waters in late-April, and large schools of Spanish come into the bay system where they spend the summer months beefing up for the return migration in October/November. This fish weighed around 2 pounds. By August it's not uncommon to catch 5 pound fish, and in September/October we catch them up to nine pounds! That's a Spanish mackerel long as your arm that will happily provide line burns and bruised knuckles as it streaks out 100 yards of backing. Hard to beat on 6 and 8wt tackle.
Schools of migrating jack crevalle came into the bay about the same time as the Spanish, and we started spending a few hours every day staked out in one of our favorite ambush spots. Bob Jenkins was back on the boat May 6, and we were "covered up" with them for 2 hours. We had 4 or 5 schools of jacks pass by the boat in the 20 minutes it took Jenkins to land this fish. Beautifully colored fish in the 16-18# range.

Bob's second jack...smaller but equally aggressive. These fish are cousins to the giant trevallies and fight just as hard pound for pound. In Pensacola Bay we sight-fish for them in water that's around 3' deep.

 

 

When the jacks stopped coming by we poled some of our favorite inside flats looking for redfish. Here's Jenkins with red #3 landed on an EP mullet imitation and released unharmed.

After some terrific redfish sight-fishing in January, the Grand Slam in April, and an outstanding day May 6 with both jack crevalle and redfish Bob Jenkins had "one of those days" on May 7. It was his last trip of the season, and things didn't go too well... All of us fly-casters know about "Payback", and Jenkins got a big dose of it on May 7. You can read about payback here.

Greg Hawley and Robert Baugh came down from Birmingham, and we started the day May 13 sight-fishing for redfish in the clear waters of Santa Rosa Sound. This fish charged Greg's EP "Perfect Minnow" from fifteen feet away and crushed it. Very unusual for a redfish to attack the fly from that distance.
We moved to our favorite ambush spot and waited hoping for the jacks to appear...which they did. Greg put the popper right on target with his 10wt. and fought this fish like a pro. As he was landing it we could see another large school of fish 500 yards down the flat.
Robert Baugh is a good angler with fly-fishing experience mostly limited to Western trout and 5wt tackle. Ravenous schools of jack crevalle in the 15-20# range and casting 4/0 poppers with a 10 wt into the wind from a rocking boat? Well, let's just say that was all new to him and a whole other order of magnitude. He bravely took the rod and stepped up on the bow as we idled in the direction of the fish. Our only chance was a down-wind cast, and the fish seemed to realize it constantly moving upwind of our position. Finally, the fish gave Robert the shot he wanted and he took full advantage of the situation. It was quite a battle, but the wheels remained intact and Robert brought this fine jack crevalle to the net. Hearty congratulations for an unusually difficult job well done!
The Gulf of Mexico was blown out on May 16 for Glenn Perry, so we focused on redfish along some of our favorite flats in Santa Rosa Sound. How about this first redfish! A 12# beauty that we found sitting still in 3' of water...60' from the boat. Glenn landed the fly softly, 8 feet to the side of the fish and let it sink. As the fly got close to the bottom the redfish moved slowly toward it. What a rush when the fish charged and ate it on Glenn's first strip! The tan/white EP mullet did the trick.
We couldn't find any more fish in the sound, so the Big Lagoon was our next stop. I had found some redfish there the previous week but didn't have a caster with the required skills to make it happen. No such problem with Glenn. He was throwing a new fly... Capt Richard Montgomery's "Crawler", and the fish loved it. The fly has lead eyes, lands with a loud "plop", and sinks quickly. The shoreline we were fishing was loaded with sea grass and at times only a foot deep. The trick was dropping the fly over sand spots, and having the fish rush over and it eat before it got caught up in the grass. Technical?? You bet. And exciting! This is Glenn's best fish... a beautifully colored ten pounder.
Greg Hawley was back in town on May 24 and brought his buddy Joe Mays. We ran east in the Intracoastal Waterway looking for clear water and found it a few miles east of Portofino. The redfish were there, and Joe got the first fish to eat an olive EP Perfect Minnow.
Greg quickly followed suit on the same fly with this 22" double-spotted redfish.
The fish got spooky later in the day, and I got in the water to pull the boat along the shore to minimize noise. Greg was up on the platform spotting for Joe and saw this lovely, fat trout on the outside of a grass bed 60' from the boat. Joe made his best cast of the day not only reaching the fish but dropping the fly a few feet left of the target. The trout surged forward, ate it, and exploded on the surface like big trout do. Joe deftly brought it to the net, we got the picture, and let her go. In a word...perfect!
Tim English was on the boat May 28, and we were hunting along a nice stretch of beach on the north side of the island. Water was calm and clear, and the redfish were very alert to any boat movement or noise from the push pole. Fish after fish sensed the boat 100' away and bolted to the deeper water. Tim was casting the big EP mullet trying to coax a strike on a bigger bait. We were poling downwind to the east with the sun at our backs. Perfect visibility made it easy to see the dark back of a nice fish high in the water column swimming westbound right at the boat. Tim put the fly in its path, and it immediately accelerated and ate it. The fish went airborne as it took off into the backing, and we saw it was a large pompano. Two or three more jumps and Tim brought it to the net. The pompano lived to fight another day...
Casey and Anna Culp came down from Birmingham for a half day of fly-fishing on May 29. The Gulf was blown out, so we elected to start off poling the north side of Santa Rosa Island in Santa Rosa Sound. We were working an area with mixed sand and grass with a surprising number of large trout feeding along the beach 10-20' from shore. The fish were finicky in the clear, shallow water, but Casey tricked this one into eating his olive EP Perfect Minnow.
We moved out a couple hundred yards from shore to a favorite Spanish mackerel spot where Casey blind-casted a clouser minnow hooking into this early-season Spanish.
A little later and back up on the beach Casey got a surprise take while casting toward a redfish in shallow water. This flounder was perfectly camouflaged sitting on the bottom in 2' of water. We catch them regularly while casting clouser minnows, but it's unusual to have a flounder come up in the water column to eat a suspending baitfish imitation.
We got a call from Capt Dan Storey that schools of false albacore were inside the bay, so we immediately stopped what we were doing and took off in that direction. The FA normally come up inside in mid-June. When they show up it's the main event for fly anglers for a couple weeks, and having them here in May for Casey and Anna was a bona fide treat! Anna perfected her double-haul that day, and it payed dividends with longer casts and more hookups. This 5-6 pound knuckle buster was her reward. She and Casey each spent lots of time in their backing, and landed numerous albies before the tide changed and the fish turned off.
Casey with a fine FA on a #6 clear gummy minnow.
June 3 was a frustrating day for Patrick Pedano until this nice redfish finally took his fly. We had poled a mile of beach and had dozens of good shots, but the fish were lethargic and totally uninterested in the fly. We resorted to the motto "When the fishing gets tough you just keep on fishing", and late in the day it happened. Since we were 7 hours into a 6 hour trip we declared victory and headed for Peglegs.
This jack crevalle almost killed Steve Greife on June 4. It was a blistering hot day with heat index of 105 when we found the jacks around mid-day on the Caucas Shoal. Steve, his dad Don, and I had been pouring down liquids all morning, but we were all approaching heat stroke territory. I had the boat on plane and everybody was cooling off in the breeze when we saw the big school of jacks floating happily along a foot below the surface. Steve got ready with his 10wt and big deceiver, and I idled the boat into range. On his first cast this fish crushed the fly and took off for Cuba. Steve has caught big fish on fly but nothing like this, and the exhausting fight lasted a half hour. When we landed it and got the photo the school was still in sight. Steve and I looked at each other, and he just shook his head. He was feeling weak and light-headed, so we stowed the rod and headed at high speed back to the marina. The breeze helped, but we all had to spend some time sitting in the air conditioning before things started feeling normal again. By that night Steve and Don were knocking back cold beers and raw oysters, and everything was again right with the world.
Each year in June when red snapper season rolls around we enjoy taking good clients out on weekdays for a chance to "load up the freezer". The snappers are plentiful and lots of fun on 8' St Croix "Tidemaster" heavy power/fast action spinning rods with Quantum Cabo 60 reels and 40# PowerPro braid. We catch most of our fish around structure in Pensacola Bay where the water is calm and nobody gets seasick. It's hard to describe the power of a 10 pound snapper and the effort required to keep them out of the wreck. Anne and Dave Walters, Johnson City, know exactly what I'm talking about, and here they are on June 12 with the picture to prove it.
   
Patti and Steve Heacock get the snapper fever every year, too. We always have a blast, and this year was no exception. Here's a nice shot them on June 15 back at the dock. There are always a few gag groupers in the mix, and Steve was ready when this one crushed his bait. The groupers live down in the wrecks and don't like to venture very far from their "happy spots". When a grouper decides to eat it comes out of the wreck at top speed with it's mouth wide open, grabs your bait, and runs straight back to it's hole. You have to stop it before it gets there, or you'll get cut off in the wreck. It happens fast, and you'd better be ready. What's not to like!

 

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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