By: Randy Morrow
The sun had not yet peeked over the horizon when I gently nudged my Native kayak into the current. Another beautiful Florida Keys morning was on tap, and I was hoping to convince a few fish to eat a hand-tied fly before the midday heat set in. With all the water and all the incredible access in our archipelago, deciding where to go on a given day can be a problem (admittedly, a good problem to have). I decided to head for Raccoon Key, which had a published low tide at about 10am. There were several places to look for fish en route during the last of the falling tide, and then the incoming Gulf water, in theory, should bring some bonefish and permit.
My quiver of rods has become fairly routine – an 8wt for bonefish with a small, sinking shrimp pattern; a 9wt for permit with a heavier crab pattern; a 10wt for tarpon with either a baitfish or shrimp imitation. This will change somewhat in the winter months, but on a warm day like this, the species in which I was most interested were the 3 listed above, known locally as “the Big Three”. I’ve found having three rods setup differently to be a real time saver, eliminating the need to change tippets/flies as my target species changes. I simply put one rod away and grab another as needed.
My first stop to look for fish revealed an electric sight – juvenile tarpon rolling and feeding in a frenzy at the surface! To keep the current from pushing me too close to the fish, I set my anchor about casting distance from one edge of the group. My first few casts with a baitfish fly were greeted with somewhat half-hearted interest by the tarpon, which signaled to me that they were feeding on something else. I switched to a shrimp pattern and promptly engaged 2 tarpon about 20 lbs each, complete with the customary short bursts of speed and crazy aerial somersaults! As the morning light increased, the tarpon activity slowed considerably, and it was time to look for bonefish.
I poled my kayak into skinny water – about a foot deep – towards an area that had been productive over the years. Luck was on my side today, and I immediately started seeing small schools of roving bonefish, waking, tailing, and digging on the bottom. Similar to the tarpon earlier, my first casts were getting a weak response, so again I quickly changed flies from a shrimp pattern to a small, olive crab pattern. Bingo! The fish approved and I started hooking fish immediately. I fed 4 fish, lost two of them during the fight, but landed two nice specimens. One of the lost fish was so strong that it actually bent the hook on the fly!
As all this fishy business transpired, the sky grew increasingly threatening, with thunderstorms developing nearby. After landing the 2nd bonefish, it was time to head in and avoid what soon proved to be some nasty storm cells, with the lightning starting crack just as I pulled up to the boat ramp. Whew!
If I can help you with your kayak fishing adventures, ring, text or email and let’s get out there!
— Randy Morrow, Kayak Fishing Guide
LowerKeysKayakFishing.com | (305) 923-4643