Florida Fishing Report: Florida Fishing Charters

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Florida fishing charters

Florida Fishing Report


Shake, Rattle and Roll

Few images transfix the minds of sportsmen than those of a giant tarpon exploding in the fury of a surface to air ballistic missile.

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overall, the winter has been unseasonably mild and dry. These conditions are typical of a moderate La Nina just as we had in the winter of 2005-2006. Occasional cool snaps are normal in this weather pattern. The combination of the two opposing forces keeps fishes and anglers moving as the fish are often spread throughout their annual range.

We are now just a couple of weeks away from the vernal equinox and the start of higher daytime tides.

Inshore gamefish nestled deep in the backcountry will be returning to the flats with consistency and out of necessity. In addition to fishes needing to replenish body fats lost during the winter to become wholesome, some of the species, also need the protein and oils to prepare for the rigorous activity of their upcoming spawning that begins in spring and early summer.  For our area, these vital sources of sustenance are scaled sardines.


John Burns of Ottawa Canada accomplished in just a couple hours what many have tried for their entire lives, a 45 by 75 fork (80 overall) 200lb giant tarpon in 2007.

"Salty" North Suncoast livebait experts have been catching the sardines virtually all winter. When the baits first migrate into the area, they are most commonly found adjacent to deep-water structures, river and canal mouths, and along the beaches.

During the warming trends, the trout bite has been red hot. In the deeper grass flats adjacent to the ICW, school-sized trout are cumulus. Underneath the flocks of birds in the same areas, bluefish and ladyfish are wreaking havoc on the baits. "Gator" trout are consistent on the shallow flats around oyster bars, creek mouths, bends and cul-de-sacs.

For the past year, the North Suncoast has experienced one of the best redfish cycles in recent memory. Parallel to last winter, we have had several recent trips in which we easily achieved double digit catches on a single drop of the anchor. Late winter reds are notorious for hanging around riprap, oyster bars, and rock piles catching some rays at the top of the flood tide. At low tide, I have been finding a few "tailing" reds on the grass flats adjacent to deep water.

Soft plastic jerk worms or eels are producing both trout and redfish for artificial enthusiasts. Savvy livebait anglers will overload their livewells with scaled sardines and live chum the baits into the fish they have recently patterned. While these baits are staple to a pro's remarkable success, the logic of targeting fishes that are just exiting the backcountry and moving onto the open flats gives the pro their edge. Traveling great distances to acquire both livebait and fish are everyday norms to these aficionados.

"I find a peerless nexus with those with which I share and provide this opportunity and experience. It is the tarpon that is the catalyst that creates perpetual bonds and timeless memories with those I cross paths with in life."-RM


Nikki Alfano gets a helping hand from CEO deckhand Brian in documenting her first tarpon catch.

Finally comes what we all been waiting for. Giant tarpon will be the quest of those who hail from all parts of the world wishing to test their mettle against the greatest big game fish on earth. Each year tens of thousands of tarpon congregate along our coast in numbers second to none in the world.

The beauty of this fascinating species is its character traits of purity and non-discrimination. Unlike other big game fish, tarpon inhabit areas close to land that are accessible by million dollar yachts, wooden row boats, or from someone standing on a fishing pier. They care not of what class society you come from. They are not reserved for a social drift during martini hour, Grey Poupon and fine Cuban cigars. They like you just the same if you drink Busch beer, enjoy Vienna hot dogs and chew Copenhagen. They could care less if you offer them live, dead, or artificial bait. They will burn the gears of a Penn International reel just as they will a Zebco Rhino. Tarpon are American-built.

When I reflect back over my life, few memories stand as vivid as the fury of a giant tarpon dancing off the bow of my boat. Morning has broken as the sight of a ballistic surface to air missile launches. The vibrations of beating hearts travel through the deck at mach speed and radiate up through my feet. Thunder fills my vitality with complete satisfaction. No matter if its under the cover of darkness, lost in time on a calm and gin clear flat, or off a busy highway with the roar of morning rush hour traffic as the backdrop, it is only silence that I hear while I serve eyewitness to the mystique of stalking this ancient animal.

I find a peerless nexus with those with which I share and provide this opportunity and experience. It is the tarpon that is the catalyst that creates perpetual bonds and timeless memories with those I cross paths with in life. It is these small snapshots in time that make the tarpon immortal, not the animalís incredible 125 million years of being. We are fortunate not to catch them, but that they catch us and create treasured experiences that can never be taken away or replaced.

From the outside, the obvious attraction may seem superficial of small fortunes of fame and personal gain for a tarpon guide. However, the truth is, there is actually little of that in this. We do it for the love, the passion and for the freedom that we can. And we will. The cost of freedom has never been easy in the shadows of the principals of our founding forefathers. That is the American tradition of the utmost consequence often missing in the bottom line of the fine print of hidden agendas. While politics and special interest may find their way into our fisheries despite the will of the people, I remain vigil and will not back down for what I believe is equally fair in man's meddling of tarpon.

For me, the intrigue of tarpon is found within the theater of serenity, euphoric desertion and sovereignty that I can share with many who have the same common ambitions as myself. The ferocious rattle of the gill rakers, the majestic tail walk dance of the silver king, and the stamina of the wild beast against man are all just bonuses. We merely play our role as pawns in a game held in the king's court. A challenge we refer to as our annual calling. Many of you have become like family to me over the years. These experiences we share will never be taken away and I am looking forward to "catching up" with you real soon.

For our first time guests to the big dance, hit the gym and stock up on the Ben Gay!

Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!

Robert McCue


L to R: PTTS host Joe Mercurio, Robert McCue, Brian Timmons and Chuck Jenks embrace the coveted Jim Beam Tarpon Cup. 
And then there were three. Long time friend and teammate Willie Longnecker has decided to leave the team and pursue the coveted Jim Beam Tarpon Cup with his son in 2008. We understand and respect your decision Willie. Your presence will be missed. Best of luck!

*My most recent reports published in The St. Petersburg Times can be found here.

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Last Update 24FEB08
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