by Capt. Matt Fueyo
This summer is a hot one there’s no denying that, but this red-hot fishing can’t be denied either! Big redfish, snook, Jacks and mangrove snappers have made their way out to Big Pass and New Pass (connects Lido Key to Longboat Key.) The key to catching these magnificent fish is working the tides and having the right bait presentation.
Our morning was nice and cool thanks to some late-night showers, but the humid heat set in fast. Our guests were 3 teenage boys who were a little tired from a week-long baseball tournament in Orlando. Jake and his friends have been guests of ours for three years now and it’s been fun to see these boys grow up, becoming young men. As the son of a military man, Jake was chipper and excited but his buddies were still a little slow to wake up. Capt. Bryan and myself caught our bait for the day and we began fishing. Jake has learned how to bait hooks and tie his own knots since fishing with us, so we give him a little more freedom. Right away he hooked up on some nice snook and we knew it was going to be a good day! I watched Jake’s line bounce, I said “now that’s a good fish”. The fight was on and we knew it was a good fish just by the bend in the rod and the drag screaming run. A few nice runs but not a jumper… Hmm what could it be? After everybody had cleared their lines and the excitement had calmed down, we all focused on the task at hand, land this fish! I backed the boat away from the docks and then she arose from the depths. “It’s a big redfish boy!!” I yelled from the tower. They were all in awe as Jake wrestled with the fish for a good ten minutes. He found out why we use a big landing net for big fish and after some proper fish handling techniques, we let the big female fish swim away. What an amazing fish as we all cheered and let the fish swim away to fight another day.
We then went into New Pass to look for some snook and saw the water erupting with a feeding frenzy of Jack Crevalle. We threw our baits in and immediately hooked up with a triple header of big Jacks. Nonstop action for almost an hour with triple and quad-headers of these wild fish. The boys were worn out and so were Bryan and I. The summer heat told us to hydrate, so after a quick breather and ice-cold water we got back to fishing. The snook and mangrove snappers were pushed up close to the rocks, so we readjusted our position so that we could focus on them more than the jacks. Jack Crevalle are a little bit “crazier” than the rest of the fish we target and if you’ve ever fought one these fish, you understand. They tend to run a little further off the rocks and will punish a bait for being in their zone. The boys had sore hands and wrists, but smiles from ear to ear and that’s what fishing is all about for us. In the charter boat industry, it’s important to us that are guests have fun, and catching fish and a lot of them is always fun!!
Reel Tight Fishing Charters uses live bait to catch 99% of their fish. The secret to our success is to “match the hatch” and what we mean by that is to match the small bait hatchlings that look like dark clouds in the water. These schools of shiny baits attract the fish we target. Our captains catch the adult version of the schools of hatchling baits. These baits are found in the grass flats during certain times of the year as well as the beach and further offshore. We present these baits on a 3/0 circle hook (Mustad live bait circle hook) with a 30# leader attached to our 7’ light/medium tackle rods and Penn battle reels. We have six of these on the boat ready to go at all times. Take advantage of the bite when it happens and always be prepared for a fight with the big one! We always check our leaders and our drags after each caught fish. Be sure that your bait is lively and ready to swim! These fish are feeding on live bait make sure to present them with a live bait! So many times, we see our guests throw a bait in the water that has been “hit” or has teeth marks on them. That’s a freebee for the fish gods as we throw those back without a hook in them.
Be safe on the water during the summer months as the amount of boat traffic increases. Keep your friends and family hydrated and make sure to have some form of shade on the boat. An umbrella in a rod holder can go a long way and will keep you fishing a little bit longer!!