with the usual outstanding bull redfish sight-fishing in
the shallow waters around Pensacola Pass. Warming spring water
marked the arrival of our migratory species: pompano,
mackerel, jack crevalle, and ladyfish. Sight-fishing the inside
flats for redfish and trout was very productive especially during
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
We even had an Emerald Coast Grand Slam on April 23 for
just the third time in 16 years. Check out
for full-page photos. For photos from previous seasons follow the
links to these additional galleries: Fall
and Spring 2017, Fall
and Spring 2016 , Fall
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
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".
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.
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
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.
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
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
upcurrent, and the skiff drifted quietly toward the redfish.
Robin was ready with a St Croix Avid series spinning rod, Shimano
15# PowerPro braid, and a barbless SPRO bucktail jig. Greg had
his 10wt locked and loaded, sink-tip line coiled on the deck
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
shot. Once again she quickly hooked up and this time landed the
fish after a 10 minute battle. That smile on her face spells
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
killed the motor a couple hundred yards upcurrent, and I quietly
poled the skiff into range. Greg laid out a nice cast, let the
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.
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!
Gulf Breeze EPA Branch Chief John Rogers on May 3 with the first
Spanish mackerel of the year. The annual mackerel migration reaches
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
her go. In a word...perfect!
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
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
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.
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
but it's unusual to have a flounder come up in the water column
to eat a suspending baitfish imitation.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
The snappers are plentiful and lots of fun on 8' St Croix "Tidemaster"
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.
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
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
open, grabs your bait, and runs straight back to it's hole.
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!
a great day on the water with Gulf Breeze Guide Service!
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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