Thursday, June 30, 2005

White Crown Pigeon's Guide Migrating Tarpon?

White Crown Pigeon (Columbia Leucocephala)

Why does a old Key West Tarpon guide get excited about a Pigeon?

Let me explain who this bird is, a striking fellow, asphalt in color with a very distinct white skull
They frequent the Bahamas, Cental America, Mexico, Cuba and the Florida Key's also the Everglade's but, no further north.

The White Crown Pigeon is known to cross large bodies of water and are fruit and seed eaters,
they also prefer to roost in the smaller Mangrove islands, staying in remote areas and avoiding
human company.

White Crowns arrive the last week of April, first of May, breeding begins in July in the Florida Keys after a few months of gorging themselves on Poison Wood Berries, Sea Grapes and other wild fruit.

The chicks feed non stop and in less than 40 days are airborne and more or less on their own.

I first became aware of White Crown's 20+ years ago when, I noticed at dawn headed west of Key West in my flats boat, these black, white crested birds darting low, passing a few feet over head and sometimes change course to purposely fly over my skiff as I headed west and they headed east toward Key West to find food and water.

At times on my way home from west to east and the White Crowns flying in the same direction
at about the same 25mph, they would match my speed and cock their heads watching
and darting across just over head in a somewhat playful manner.

This gave me time to study and after a little local research I found that they were hunted by the
Conch boys from their skiff's in the old days and would end up in the rice for dinner.

So why does a Key West flats fisherman care about the big fat pigeons?

We believe that the migrating Tarpon that show up in the Florida Keys come from Central America, Mexico, Cuba, Maybe. Some recent research suggests this.

The migrating spawning Tarpon schools show in the Key West oceanside flats beginning the last few days in April or first few days of May.

An old guide pal of mine one early May, asked me if I had seen anything of the Ocean Tarpon schools and my answer was "won't look for them until I see the White Crowns flying over the skiff!''

He said, as you would imagine, " the what?"

Ofcourse, I went on to tell him that the White Crown Pigeon's bring the Tarpon to the Keys every spring.

Now every April he askes, "any White Crown's yet!?"

I can tell you that every year, the first day I look for the ocean flats Tarpon, I have seen the White Crowns for the first time that morning.

Consider this!

I recently found the April 1832 Audubon drawing of a male and female White Crown Pigeon.
The notes Audubon wrote, as he did on most of this drawing said,

" we went into the thick mangrove of the Florida Keys to shoot White Crown's as they
arrived recently from Cuba"

Removing tung from cheek and going to bed....

Who brings the Tarpon to the Keys

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Key West Permit and Bonefish Summer

This is the time of year that it is inportant to be started early to catch the fishes on the salt water flats during the coolest water temps of the day.

It can be wonderful fishing with a rising or falling tide depending on who and where your fishing.
Some area's produce Tailing Permit on the flat edges, taking advantage of the crabs washing off
the flats, other spots are best as the water rises, the rascals push up higher and higher insearch of yummies.

Bonefish will also show on the incoming tide on some flats and swim against the falling tide on
other flats, but in the summer, midday will usually slow down as the water temps come up quickly sometimes reaching the mid 90's.

Often we have found fishing will pick up as the sun begins to drop along with the water temps on the flats edges, especially on the drop offs into a deeper channel who's current may be bringing cooler water along with a few forked tails.

The summer Tarpon will react to these early and late tide changes also and many days in the summer months, this will be the only time that Tarpon are activily feeding.

Noon time is best for siesta!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Not the size of The Fly, It's The Motion Of The Ocean

Stuff happens or Not!

Once in a while all the missed shots, pulled hooks, broken leaders and other misfortunes that befall saltwater anglers are washed away with one lucky, Ripley's type day.

Not long ago I was fishing with a guy that has fished with me many days, for over 20 yrs.
We were Gulfside staked on a big sand spot on the flat, just off a big channel, we were waiting for
Tarpon that will rise out of the deep and swim over the white spot and hopefully gobble our offering, a large orange and green Tango Fly.

So there we were late in the day and no Tarpon. "Lets give it another 20 mins and pack it in "
said too hot Kert. "Ya ok " I relented and 20 mins later I was insisting we give it a little moe time!

Fine said Kert as he roll casted the big Tango out into the sand, just to make sure the fly was
free from the bottom, should we need it for the wish fish.

He was nerviously swishing the rod tip right and left when, with a shout and wining scream of the fly reel drag, Kert shouted "something on my line," smoking well into the backing.
Pulling the stick, across the flat, after the unknown assailant.

20 mins later Kert hoisted the biggest Bonefish he ever saw out and over the side, a good 12 lb
fish. The Bonefish ate a 3 inch Tarpon fly tied on a 2/0 hook!?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Key West Flats Fishing

Summer pattern is welcome by ol' guides.

Ofcourse the spring Tarpon migration spawning run is something the fishing guides and flats fisherman look forward to every year.

My personal view is that any animal lover would enjoy the spectacle of 50 to 100 Tarpon weighing 30-150 ponds swimming in a perfect circle doing the love dance and usually oblivious
to all offering live crab or fly but, not always!

When one of the love birds decides he could use a little snack mid-forplay, it can be electric.

The next sound you hear will be a loud knocking, as the anglers knee's match the speed of the line leaving the reel.

His eyes popped from his head, mouth open and deaf to the instructions of the fishing guide.

Then with luck or experience, the flats fisherman pulls himself together and the battle continues, as the other 97 Tarpon explode in all directions, upset at the interruption of the orgy, they soon resume the dance few yards away.

Exhausted the ol' guide looks forward to the summer of Bonefish and Permit in the skinny water and......... Tarpon a day......or two......................mike

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bad Light Big Permit In Key West

Tuff lite the last few days but when the permit Tails are up along with the wind, you can get really close to spooky Permit on the Key West flats.

Most good Permit fisherman will trade 15-20MPH for flat calm anytime, you cant fool the cagy
Permit without some wind chop to camo your movements and to breakup the surface so he isnt spotting you before you spot him.

Today on the flats northwest of Key West we had no light but, we had plenty of wind and Permit tail's in the air to give us very approachable targets.

We got lucky right off and Tony hooked the first of three and after 20 mins of reel smoken runs
I hoisted the sucker out for his photo shoot and some high five silly boy stuff.

We did spook some Bonefish schools but, they were on their way west by the time we saw them.

We had to settle for two more Permit, one a close call on an old crab trap line and the big one of the day another cover girl about 18lbs.

That one is probably getting bigger in Tony's stories as you read this..........mike

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Key West Bonefishing Fly's

Going through my fly stuff again and sorting out the Bonefish flys, Nasty Charlie's, Gotya's,
Swimp's and a new favorate Boonespoon.

Ol' Forrest the Texas guy that builts these rascals, calls me every few months and we BS about
the state of the union, the ramifacations on the Euro in a global economy but, mostly fishing flies.

He developed these little spoon flies mainly for Texas Red Fish but in the smaller sizes, draggin
one in the sand infront of a Florida Key's Bonefish will get bites.

I have had good luck with Boonespoon's on Pompano also and Forrest is ready to experiment with sizes and colors.

My favorate's are silver, gold, chartreuse in dime size with a little maribu tail.

Nasty Charlies catch a lot of Bonefish to, sand, olive and brown work best for me, some guys prefer too, in the right places.

Smaller crab patters including Merkins and old Jan Isley's Rug Fly.

Want to know how Isley came up with the Rug Fly? Ask the guy that rented him the apartment
on Truman ave. back in the early 80's .

The apartment with the holes in the shag carpet..........another ol' guide story!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fly Fishing Key West Backcountry

Still some secrets in the Key West Backcountry , believe it or not small places that hold Bonefish and Permit on just the right stages of the tide.

You get there early and it might be over in an hour or less but thats what it takes sometimes,
Permit may run out a slu on the falling tide, but have entered the area much earlier, from a different direction.

Bonefish will sometimes enter a flat at the first sign of incoming tide and mill around on that same flat for hours, but maybe today they hurry across and back into the channel only to reappear on the next flat.

Maybe they spent the night inside the basin and will feed into the tide from the other direction
and cross from behind you, no doubt giggling, as they circle around you, you stare west.

These are just some of the sneaky stuff the silver speedster's of the Key West flats will pull.

Websters defines (sneaky) "one who acts in a furtive or shifty manner, a stealthy escape

hummmmmmm.......... guess Webster was a flats fisherman !


Monday, June 20, 2005

Key West Fly Fishing / Rest for the Wicked

The migrating Tarpon school's are winding down the end of June is here and the nasty
worn out, sun fried Ol' guides are getting some sleep.

After 70-80 4am getups, I'm starting to recover, a little !
Yesterday I rode the motorcycle up the keys, just for lunch ! Slept to 6am today !

Now we will settle into the summer flats fishing pace that will still require 4am getups but, I'll have breaks from the action......maybe I'll go to a movie, early movie.

July will bring some good Gulf side Tarpon action and also some skinny water Bonefish and Permit fishing and that will be fun.
The efforts the last few months have been Tarpon Tarpon Tarpon, love the beast's, I really do but.......time to see my other little buddies and play hide a seek on the flats.

Gulf side Bonefish and Permit reports from my guide pal's are good already!

The Marquesas will be approachable now that the onslot of child guides is over, makes me sad to see pressure that area gets during the Spring Tarpon migration.
Many of the experienced flats guides avoid the Marquesas from April to mid June, not many years ago, I would leave if I found more than 5-6 skiffs in the Marquesas........ now, 14-18??
Looks like Prom night!

The lower Key's have hundreds of good Tarpon areas, thousands of acres of flats to fish but,

You have to know it! chaserkeywest