Eco-Tour with a Side of Mackerel

by Capt. James Vadas

Being a local fishing guide and teaching people about fishing makes up the majority of my days on the water. I also provide eco tours and sunset cruises for visitors of Anna Maria Island. I recently took my mom and the ladies of her Bunco club from Chicago to find some dolphins and a beautiful sunset. After the incredible show from the dolphins jumping in our wake, we headed west through Long Boat Pass. I realized we had a little bit of time before sunset, so why not check out a few near shore reefs? I use the Humminbird on side view scan to study the bottom structures for fish, while waiting for sunset. I had just passed over the second set of reef balls when my guests noticed some fish jumping on the surface. What kind of fish are those? Spanish mackerel or possibly ladyfish. I explained how the Spanish mackerel have tendency to feed voraciously, blowing up on top of the water like that. I also mentioned how they have sharp teeth and cut your line frequently, calling that a Mack attack! I asked them if they wanted to catch one. They were not so sure. I may have made them sound intimidating, with all those teeth. My mom, an avid fisher-woman, encouraged her friends to give it a shot. I showed them how to cast and quickly retrieve the 1/4-ounce jig head we used as a lure. Within a few casts each one had caught and reeled in their very own fish. The pictures we took just after captured the sunset and big smiles of these now proud lady anglers. I’m confident they won’t hesitate to try fishing again, if given the opportunity. The eco tour with a little fishing mixed in, was a perfect afternoon trip for these ladies, especially when the Spanish mackerel are feeding on the surface just off the beach.

My mom also caught a Spotted Sea Trout on the reef, which is kind of odd. They are normally found in about about 6 feet of water. I do love catching and cooking trout and so do my kids. I prepare trout filets skin-side down on aluminum foil, pour melted butter over, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees.

With all this talk about trout, I decided to try out some trout spots in Tierra Ciea Bay the following day. I set up 2 of my Penn 4000 battle combos with green 15# braided line, tied to float with rattle beads, then 3′ of fluorocarbon leader, #2 circle hook with a full live shrimp. Cast those floats behind you and drift about 1.5 mph over the grassy to sandy bottom transitions. I use a 40″ drift sock behind my 23′ Panga to maintain a slow drift. It keeps the boat tracking in a straight line, kinda like a tail on a kite. If you drift those bobbers off the back you can set up a couple of lures to cast into the direction of your drift on the front of the boat. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the floats off the back. We casted ¼ oz. jig heads with various colored rubber paddle tails soft swim baits that resemble finger mullet and shiners toward the edges of the grass and sand. Slow retrieve seems to work better because the water is still a little cold. The speckled seatrout like to stalk your bait before eating it. I have noticed this when using a live bait. If it starts to swim around frantically, right before your line tightens up and the rod tip bends over, you know you are about to get a bite. I like to imagine that a speckled trout, with his bright yellow mouth and two big front teeth, thinks he’s a jaguar hiding in the grassy jungle about to pounce on his prey. The live bait comes back in spring when trout are spawning and we can actually see these trout taunt and bully our live baits, before they strike because our water is gin clear. Come and see for yourself. Yours Truly, Captain James.

Capt. James Vadas, owner/operator of Living Water Charters on Anna Maria
Island, FL can be reached at 941-812-1245. You can also find him: https://livingwatercharters., FB-, Insta- @