It's Spring Somewhere

By Dave Duwe - March 1, 2014
Knowing that spring is a long way off in Wisconsin this year, we decided to take a family vacation to Port Charlotte, Florida. Yes, we had sunshine and 80 degree temperatures for most of our trip. Anyone who knows me, knows that I never leave home without my fishing pole and this trip was no exception. I booked a couple of fishing trips and had my sights on some shoreline fishing as well. A local bait shop, suggested Captain Billy Barton of Scale and Tails charters. Billy, a life-long resident of Florida has had countless hours on the water and has spent many days 100 miles off shore catching anything from Black Tipped Shark to Grouper, on those types of trips, success could mean 10,000 lbs of fish. Four years ago, Billy decided to make in-shore fishing trips his specialty.
The trip I booked was an in-shore trip targeting Snook, Redfish and whatever else was biting. We arranged the trip around the incoming tide. The incoming tide makes the area more fishable with the added water flow. We started our tip just south of Port Charlotte keying in on sand flats with varied depth troughs that ran through the sand flat. When we arrived Billy spotted a school of Jack Cravelle and we were immediately hooked up with one that was approximately 15 lbs. The fish screamed out line and was almost too much for my son Nate to handle. The sand flat was approximately 3-4 feet deep. The presentation was as simple as any one I use for my guide business. A ΒΌ oz jig with a shrimp.

The set up was relatively light for saltwater, 15 lb Invisa-braid with a 20 lb fluorocarbon leader. The length of the leader was about 20 inches, the leader material was attached to the main line by a double uni-knot. The benefit to tying a leader on instead of using a swivel is less terminal tackle and you can reel the leader through the rod tip.

The rods were Abu Garcia Volatile 7' medium heavy teamed with a Penn Conflict 2500 reel. Fishing in ultra shallow water made very long casts a necessity. The fish were spooky and getting close scared them off. To move around the sand flat Billy used a 101 lb. bow mount Riptide made by Minn-kota and anchored the boat with a Minn-kota Talon. This was the perfect application for the electric anchoring system. If I guided in Florida, it would be a must have in my arsenal.

The sand flat action was very slow, the fish knew that master angler, Nate Duwe (age 11) was on- board. We caught a Florida stingray and had a few redfish on that pulled the hook. The most excitement came when Nate hooked up with a 3' Bonnethead shark. Billy was thinking about grilling it when the hook pulled out.

With limited success, we switched patterns and headed to the deeper cuts along the mangrove lined shorelines. We keyed in on the deep troughs near shore that these fish use as a highway. The fish here were also very easily spooked so we again had to use long casts to have any success. We finally hooked with our first redfish. The biggest of the day was a nice fat one just below the 27 inch slot limit. There was no way Nate was going to put our first legal fish back, it was dinner. It was not the best day fishing but Billy really tried and sometimes you just can't make them bite. As a guide, I can appreciate the effort knowing that some days are better than others.

As with the spring bite at home in Wisconsin, once the water temperatures increase the fishing will improve in Port Charlotte as well. Regardless of the numbers, we had a great day in the sun with pleasant 80 degree temps, a far cry from the negative temps we have back home, so who has any right to complain!

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .