A Rare (for me) Flamingo Fishing Report

A Rare (for me) Flamingo Fishing Report

Ken Shannon and Bob Stearns were both on my mind a lot this week, as I fished out of Flamingo with my son Maxx (thus the Flamingo Fishing Report). It would have been nice to have either or both of those gentlemen with us. I’ve had many great trips down there with Ken, and learned more fishing there one day with Bob than I had in a dozen trips on my own. Great human beings, both of them.

And of course, a blessed Easter to all.

News of the Week
The year 2016 is shaping up to be the roughest yet for the Indian River Lagoon system. There was a total fish kill in the Banana River Lagoon this week. My understanding is that the biological collapse was nearly complete. Zero dissolved oxygen in the water asphyxiated everything there that needs to extract dissolved oxygen from that water to stay alive- all the fish and shellfish, all the other invertebrates, all the rooted plant life that had managed to survive to this point. Air breathers like dolphins and manatees won’t be faring too well either, as there is absolutely nothing left for them to eat there. Interested readers can get more information here: http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2016/03/23/what-we-know—-and-dont-know—-fish-kill/82163574/

A tragic bit of news.

Tammy had given me a glowing report of her Econ trip last Saturday. I went by kayak on Tuesday and managed two sunfish in almost five hours, an ill omen for my charter the next day.

On Wednesday Wisconsin fly fishers Vic Gulla and his son Daniel joined me for a St. Johns/Econlockhatchee trip. Fishing was embarrassingly slow. In an all day trip they got a few sunfish, two gar, and two small bass. These guys are good anglers, too.

Early Thursday morning I pointed the chariot towards south Florida with the Mitzi in tow, meeting Maxx in Florida City at about 930. At Flamingo we got our backcountry permit, although we could not do what we wanted, which was to set up a base camp on the Oyster Bay chickee for three nights. No, we had to break camp and move every morning, a big waste of time and fuel, but park rules is park rules.

Our first night was at south Joe River chickee. Fishing in that area we got a couple ladyfish, a couple snapper, a small trout, a trophy lizardfish that I wish I’d photographed (don’t have any lizardfish photos), a few puffers, and some big, ugly gafftopsail catfish. The catfish would be a recurring theme on this trip.

flamingo fishing report

Maxx casts as the sun sets at south Joe River.


flamingo fishing report

Be it ever so humble. And they just cleaned the port-o-potty, too.

In general the water down there looks terrible and Coot Bay, which in my experience had always been clear, looks how the Mosquito Lagoon currently looks. I’m glad our state government is doing everything it can to keep Florida’s water quality at its historically high levels. Anyway…

Day two was spent moving camp to campsite B. We fished along the way, nabbing several more handsome sailcats. While casting a shoreline along which I was poling, Maxx also got a nice 27 inch snook on a pot-gut jig Bob Sterns had given me.

flamingo fishing report

Maxx about to boat his snook.


flamingo fishing report

A happy young man with a handsome fish.

We dropped off our gear at the second campsite and went looking for tarpon, the main focus of our planning for this trip. We found some, big, happy, rolling fish. One soon nailed my black and purple streamer and tried to kick my ass. It took thirty minutes of straining and grunting but Maxx finally leadered and lipped it, after which we used the trolling motor to revive it enough until Maxx couldn’t hold it any more. Awesome!

Maxx jumped an even bigger one on a deep-running DOA Bait Buster but it only stayed on for a couple jumps before tossing the bait.

flamingo fishing report

Tarpon on fly, it does not get any better!


flamingo fishing report

Yes, it was a solid fish.

Night two was spent at the Shark River chickee. There Maxx and I experienced the heaviest no-see-um concentration that I personally have ever been fortunate enough to witness. I got utterly devoured while making supper. We jumped into the boat and rode around while eating our spaghetti and no-see-ums (I guess we got them back just a little bit there) just so we could relax, after a fashion of speaking, in bug-free comfort.

The bugs were waiting for us when we got back.

We got into the tent as fast as we could. So we would have something to do in there about 800 of the tiny bloodsuckers came in with us. It was about an hour until dark, and we killed diminutive, biting nuisances the entire time, actually ending up with a relatively bug-free sleep.

The bugs were waiting for us when we woke up. Several clouds of no-see-ums, each with thousands of individuals, hovered outside our tent. The diabolical midges knew we had to come out, I guess. There was no wind to disperse them, so they just bided their time.

We broke down camp in record time but in that time they bit the snot out of us. A fast boat ride blew them all away. All that was left were the welts.

We went back to where the tarpon were the previous day. Most of them were gone. We sat down to wait, a nice breeze keeping the bugs away. A school of fish came, obviously going someplace. We followed and fished them for about thirty minutes, without a bite, then gave up and returned to the “spot” and waited.

Another school came. Maxx jumped one on the Bait Buster. Two jumps and it was off. We followed and fished them fruitlessly for about 20 minutes, then returned to the “spot” and again waited.

Another school came. I got a bite on a Bait Buster, a big fish. One jump and it was off. We followed and fished them for about 20 minutes, then returned to the “spot” and again waited.

No more came. We eventually gave up, since we had to go to the Joe River chickee for our final night.
On the way we caught a few seatrout, keeping two 16 inch fish for supper. The catfish again made an appearance. No shortage of catfish down there, that’s for sure.

Joe River chickee has a double platform. Our neighbor this night was an 83 year old gentleman who was down there fishing by himself. Right on, baby! I can only pray that will be me in 20 years, and there will still be such a thing as wild fish to fish for.

flamingo fishing report

Joe River sunrise, Easter morning.

And that, dear reader, is this week’s Flamingo fishing report from Spotted Tail.

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short- Go Fishing!

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2016. All rights are reserved.

Flies for Goodnews River King Salmon

Flies for King Salmon

This is the first in a series about flies used on the Goodnews River, Alaska.

Goodnews River king salmon typically rest in seam water that’s six to eight feet deep. There’s always a strong current. If you want to catch one with a fly rod you usually need a fast sinking fly line and a fast sinking fly.

Before my first trip there Bob Stearns allayed my fears about what to tie by telling me, “Those fish have never seen a fly before, never seen a fisherman. They will eat almost any well-presented fly.” Of course he was right. Most of the time the fish are way less fussy than the fisherman, and a heavy Clouser Minnow will often work as well as anything else.

That having been said, the old standard fly was a cerise-colored bunny leech tied on a size two Mustad 36890 hook, with a 1/30th ounce or heavier lead eye.

Bunny Leeches

Pink (cerise, actually) bunny leeches ready for deployment.


This hen king salmon took one of those simple bunny leeches.

Articulated flies (see how to tie one here) have become all the rage since I started working at the Goodnews River Lodge six seasons back. They take longer to tie but help prevent short strikes. You can tie big, crazy flies this way. For weight some tyers use lead eyes, others use tungsten cone-shaped beads. Both work, so use whichever you prefer.


This articulated fly, tied with both rabbit and Arctic fox zonker strips, was eaten by a king salmon.

On the Goodnews only single hook artificials are allowed, so you must break off the bend and point of the forward hook. Use an inexpensive iron for this work (I use a 2/0 Mustad 3407). Alternatively, purchase a special hookless hook made specifically for tying articulated flies.

Most guides at Goodnews like an octopus-style hook for the trailer, with sizes ranging from 4 to 1/0, the tyer’s personal choice. A larger hook is less likely to fail under duress. Some of us dress it, others leave it naked, again, a matter of preference.


Another king salmon falls for an articulated fly.

Effective colors include cerise, purple, hot pink, black, blue, orange, chartreuse, and combinations of these. Flash material is in good taste, and a rattle is easily tied in on the forward hook before tying in the dressing.

That is all you need to know about tying Flies for King Salmon.

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2012. All rights are reserved.

Bob Stearns Comments on Fishing the Full Moon

Bob responded to my last fishing report-

“You commented about the possibility of the full moon having an affect on fishing. There is no doubt in my mind that it does, both inshore & offshore. Probably too much night feeding activity. There are always exceptions, such as those full moon nights with a night-long heavy overcast. But other than the affect on tides, I cannot see any reason why the current “super moon” should be any different from any other full moon.

“One observation: For the most part after a full moon night it seems like the fishing is better during the late afternoon than early morning. I noticed that offshore repeatedly. But for inshore late afternoon can mean lousy, windy weather. Especially during the summer months…”

Thank you for your insights, Bob. It’s always good hearing from you.

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2011. All rights are reserved.

the trolling motor is off the boat; I forgot it could be that good


the Mosquito Lagoon Special

The Report from Spotted Tail 11/14/10

in this issue

more on winter fishing
a deadly approach to kayak fishing
mosquito lagoon special
Castalia flyrods
bonefish census
more on smoking fish

The Trolling Motor is Off the Boat
Yesterday son Alex helped me get the trolling motor off the bow of the Mitzi (the fasteners were a little corroded). It will stay off until about May 1st.

Why does the electric come off? It’s not needed for the winter fishing I do. Actually it’s a handicap. The motor and battery almost equals another person weight-wise, and in the shallow water of winter time every ounce counts. We want to get in the shallow water, where the fishies are!

Shallow water warms up faster on cold days, or after cold nights. Let’s not forget that the nights right now are the longest of the year. That allows for considerable cooling of the water.

If the water warms up by three or four degrees during the colder months, especially after cold weather, the fish will be feeding aggressively, often in the warmest water they can find. Where is that water? In the shallows.

The trolling motor is off the boat.

A Deadly Approach to Kayak Fishing
A question frequently asked during seminars is, “How do you find fish when kayak fishing?” Part of the answer is simply, “Experience,” but an important part of it involves the hunting methodology.

As a fly fisher I want to see the fish before I cast. They must be found, spotted, and then cast to. In order for me to see them the water must be shallow. So I fish places with large expanses of shallow water. Shallow means a foot deep or less.

Many kayak fishermen often spot the fish and then start casting. That is poor strategy. You must put the boat in a position to make a good cast, regardless of the type tackle being used. Will you blow some fish out doing this? Absolutely. Will you catch most of the ones where you position properly? Yes you will.

When I get the boat where I want it I use my foot to hold it there. Then I make my cast. That cast is usually less than 30 feet and is often less than 20.  I know exactly where the fly is and how close the fish is to it.

If you practice this approach, on a normal day you will convert about half of your shots.

Castalia Flyrods and the Main Fishing Report
Last spring Mike Richards sent me a 5-weight Castalia fly fishing outfit that he asked me to test. It’s a starter outfit, rod, reel, line, leader, even a fly tied on the leader, completely assembled for you. Inexpensive! Just add water!

I had caught a few bluegills with it, but on Monday when looking for a rod for the day’s fishing I noticed the Castalia still had the plastic wrap on the handle. I don’t take the plastic off the rod until it catches a real fish, so I knew it hadn’t. I took it.

The Castalia, kayak and I traveled to River Breeze (http://volusia.org/parks/riverbreeze.htm). Forecast was NW at 10-12, high of 72. It had been cold so I thought some fish would be found.

I paddled to the “fishing area” and put a new tippet on. While I was rigging I could see a fish tailing about 100 feet away. This does not make one tie better knots, but this one worked out fine.

I went to tie a slider on and the fly box was not in the bag. Stunned, I remembered that when I went tuna fishing with Jack Walker I had taken the box out, then forgotten to put it back in. All I had were minnow patterns.

I chose a #4 bendback, brown and orange. My tailer refused it.
I found another fish.  He also refused it.
The third one took the fly. He was about 22 inches long, immediately released, as were all the fish I got.

The next fish refused the bendback.

I paddled to shore and went on a search mission in the fly bag. I found a few loose flies in there, including a Mosquito Lagoon Special. I tied it on.

Another fish immediately presented itself. I missed the strike.

Lots of fish ate that fly though. I got a couple on second and third chance opportunities, pretty darn rare in the Mosquito Lagoon these days. Fishing was awesome, shot after shot at hungry fish. I got one dink, all the rest were in the slot to about 25 inches, and I released close to 20 fish. I forgot it could be that good.

The plastic is now off the handle of the Castalia.

I can’t say how long the reel would handle four and five pound redfish (and I’m sure it’s not designed or built for that purpose) but the rod certainly gets the stamp of approval. Although Sage and Loomis don’t need to worry about the new competition, for an inexpensive outfit it works just fine.

Bonefish Census Numbers Down
Bob Stearns sent me an email about the latest bonefish census in the Keys and Biscayne Bay. The news wasn’t good, with the significant drop in bonefish numbers attributed to last winter’s cold snap.

More on Smoking Fish
Finally, reader Lars Lutton had more to add on the subject of smoking fish: “I usually just ‘brine’ most everything in a solution of apple juice/brown sugar/soy- a little onion and garlic powder or the real thing and a shot of bourbon or two. overnight or a couple days – set it on the racks a couple hours til it gets shiny (pellicle) and smoke for about three or four pansful of hardwood or fruitwood. Nut woods like pecan or hickory (which I think grows down there), shredded corncobs, or cherry also work well.”

Ray Kotke added, “Just wanted to mention that if you wanted to try some good chips for smoking this winter, here is a link on Amazon.com where you can get some great wood for smoking fish. This brand is available everywhere up here, but maybe not down Florida way?

http://www.amazon.com/Smokehouse-Products-Assorted-Chips-Pack/dp/B001Y9NFI0/ref=pd_sim_sg_1 .”

Thanks for the suggestions, gentlemen! And happy fish smoking to everyone!

Embrace simplicity.

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short- go fishing!

John Kumiski