Posted by: cworthy | March 29, 2011

Waiting for Summer fishing in Leland



Reds like this one can't say no to a finger mullet live-lined in front of them.

Trout, Florida style, are fun on a fly rod.

While we wait for summer salmon and trout to arrive in Leland I thought you might be interested in hearing about some other fishing in warmer places in late March. Yesterday I planned to go fishing all day and stay at it until I was ready to quit. With no time limits on the day I decided to get up at 3:30 and head to the Indian River Lagoon, a huge piece of water here in south Florida. The plan was to fish for snook in the dark and then play it by ear once the sun came up. The snook season is closed, but you can fish for them as long as you don’t keep them.

I was in the water an hour before daylight with my fly rod and waded along making probing casts into the darkness. I tried a streamer and then a top-water, but it made no difference; there were no snook interested in my offerings. As it got light action from other species picked up. First a “keeper” trout and a “short” as well as a couple of lady fish. I had several hits that didn’t hook-up too.

The area where I was fishing was loaded with mullet. In the low light they were all around me. Occasionally I would see a bait shower as something chased them. It would have been a good time to net a few for later, but the fly rod was working and I stayed with it until the early bite ended. I think all the predators had eaten their fill of mullet.

I’d been fishing for a couple of hours by then and decided it was time to switch over to live bait. I’d carried a cast net and spinning rod with me. The problem with my plan was that the sun was up and the mullet could see me and kept their distance, just out of cast net range. It took a couple of hours to  get a dozen of the right size. The huge horse mullet knew I didn’t want them and swam all around, but those quick little finger mullet were hard to get.

Finally I had enough and hooked one under it dorsal fin with a circle hook and sent it out to see what its struggles would attract. It didn’t take long before it was noticed. I fish with the bail open and my finger holding the line. When there is a hit I let the fish run with it. Set the hook too soon and all that happens is the fish lets the mullet go. Wait too long and the fish swallows the bait and gets gut-hooked, which isn’t good if you want to let the fish go. Getting it just right is difficult.

Mostly what was eating the mullet yesterday were red fish in the 3 1/2 to 5½ pound range. Some blue fish too were interested. I caught half a dozen reds and was discouraged that the circle hook wasn’t working as I’d hoped. Either they swallowed and gut hooked them selves or they let the bait go. If I used a bigger hook it would have been too big for the bait to pull. Only one had the hook in the corner of its mouth (see picture).

I didn’t like the idea of cutting the leader and letting the fish go with the hook down deep, but that is what I did. I saw one great fish floating away dead.

I went back to the fly rod for the rest of the day and while I didn’t catch any more big reds I did get some trout and small reds, all hooked in the mouth. All in all it was a good day to be fishing.



  1. Bill, nice to see these Spring blog entries. Good stories, good pics, as always. I like the cast net alternative to packing in live bait; you’re a pretty smart guy. It’s interesting how much the results can vary by using different techniques in the same area/same day. The bonus is that it’s All Good, either way. Looking forward to seeing you back up here soon, and for some Mich fishing stories.

    • John,
      I was amazed at the difference between big live bait and flies. I fished the flies during the best times of day by starting and hour before light and fishing that way until the sun cracked the sky and had action, but the really big boys turned up their noses at imitations for the most part. Then after the early bite was finished I got the net out and tried for a couple of hours to catch small mullet. Those little guys liked to stay just out of range and could see the net coming at them in plenty of time to scoot. Still, some would screw up and eventually I would have six or nine in the bucket. I fished in the area where you and I did and threw out a live mullet and let it wander around. The big fish could see its distress and out of the thousands of mullet in the area they zeroed in on the one with the hook. I caught a lot of big trout, big reds and snook that way with a collection of ladyfish, blues, jacks, and catfish thrown into the game too.
      Now I’m back in Michigan and getting ready to fish for salmon and trout, but before I do I’m going to fly back to Miami and fish for tarpon, bones, and permit on a fly for a couple of days and then back to Jupiter for a couple of all-nighters chasing snook. When we left FL the snook were moving into the ocean with the bait and I was catching them on flies close to home. I have a burning need to see if I can find them in the surf at night and catch some of those big cows. One of the tarpon trips is a night trip and I’ve heard that it is fantastic. I’ve cast my fly rod so much in the dark that it is all the same to me. I might shorten up my cast a few feet, but there is always enough ambient light to see and even if there wasn’t I’d still feel confortible casting.
      Hope you got a turkey!

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