Trophy Muskie Caught Off the Beaches of Sanibel July 23 2014, 0 Comments

I cannot tell a lie. There was no Muskie caught in Gulf off of Sanibel, but hopefully the headline and photo got your attention. Actually, I landed and released this 43” beauty during a dynamite fishing trip we take to Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada each year. Like maybe having “Sanibel Fishing” annually jotted down on the calendar, we never miss this trip with two other couples that are fellow fish heads like ourselves. In addition to Muskies, we seek and usually catch our fill of lunker Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Walleye. And, of course no trip would be complete without having a shore lunch or two consisting of fresh caught Walleye and Northern fried over an open fire, steamed potatoes, Bad Ass Beans and piping hot cream corn served right out of the can.

Whether fishing in fresh or salt waters, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, knowledge is power. Yes, it helps to be able to proficiently work a rod and reel with various offerings. That comes with repetitiveness and time. However, unless one figures out what species of fish is being targeted, weather and water conditions, what they’re eating and finally, where they are inclined to be, your catch rate is likely to be subpar. Now, this being said, just about the time you think you have it all figured out, the angling can be like sucking swamp water with little if anything caught. Most of us have experienced this. And that’s my friends, why they call it fishing.

I have been very fortunate over my lifetime to do extensive fishing in both fresh and salt water. This, I believe, has translated to having increased success with guiding and/or personally tossing lines with Barb and friends. Let me offer a few examples of how these types of waters complement each other.

When fishing around Sanibel/Captiva and Pine Island Sound, some obvious key factors in locating fish is to have sound knowledge of tides (moving water) and what the birds and bait of choice are up to. While this can also be the case in fresh water, I don’t see as many anglers utilizing these markers. They should be; the next lunker could be capitalizing on them.

As it relates to the above, here’s what happened in Canada. Barb and I set-up our boat in an area just in front of and to the side of a 1/4 mile long narrow channel that split two uninhabited islands. Invariably, in areas like this, there usually will be movement of water (current) in and around the entry and exit points of the channel. Like many other fish species, big Muskies usually don’t like to expend a great deal of energy. Instead, they will usually lie in wait in some type of structure just off the main current and wait for their meal to come floating by. Then, it’s POUNCE, eat, return to their hide-out and wait for the next tasty morsel to come by.

Now, Muskies can be found in a variety of habitats. Because of our experience with utilizing tides and currents in Florida waters, we’ve added areas where there is water movement to the mix in finding and landing one of these elusive fish. In fact, it was in this exact area described above that one cast on the edge of the channel near some pencil reeds, produced the heavy strike from the 43” Muskie in the picture.

On another occasion, our friends Joe and Rita, who are damn good anglers, commented on how many big walleyes they caught one day were up tight in the shallow waters spawning and eating their fill of crawfish. Okay, with this knowledge in hand, we matched our spinner baits’ color to crawfish and proceeded to cast our own lines in about 1 1/2 feet of water. In short order we were landing some beauties similar to what Joe and Rita had done the day before. Or, there was the day Barb and I saw a flock of seagulls going crazy in the middle of a bay and small bait fish jumping everywhere to avoid them. We edged over to them and began casting into the bait pod. Barb got one big strike (probably a big Muskie or Northern) and then gone. But man, did that get the adrenaline flowing.

Switching gears, our sensitivity to identifying structure while in fresh water over many years has also blended well with salt water. We’re just that much more cognizant of its importance. For example, when fishing the flats with a salt and pepper bottom (mixture of sand and grass), a cast into the sand area and a slow retrieve into the adjoining grass patch (or vice-versa) can produce a gator trout. Or, casting down a pier, and reeling in live or artificial bait by the vertical posts, can produce a whomper hit from a big ol’ Sheepshead, Snook, or Redfish. (Check out guest Mitch's gator trout as testament to this during a recent outing in June.)

As a Guide, I do my level best to get clients on fish. That’s why, even on days I’m not booked, I spend a lot time on and off the water studying what will create a greater opportunity for catch success. Again, there will always be those “bummer” days where the fish just aren’t biting. However, it’s my continuing passion, both professionally and personally, to better understand and deliver the next great day of fishing on the water.

Many of our guests are avid fisher people. Others are rookies who are “catching the bug.” Hopefully, by imparting knowledge we’ve learned of both fresh and salt water fishing, this will translate to greater success whether angling with a guide or on your own.

Feel free to contact us any time about fishing in salt and/or fresh water. Better still, come aboard the Hey Mon Sanibel for an outing to remember. Or, give us a shout about assisting with a special trip to Canada. We’ve got North America covered for you and we’re just a phone call or e-mail away.

I am honing my fishing knowledge on Minnesota lakes right now. In early September, Barb and I will return to Sanibel for the upcoming season. Should you need a Guide or just want to get out on the water down there between now and then, contact me right away. We will set you up with several outstanding partner guides of ours who are anxious to assist.

Muskies being caught around Sanibel? Nahhhh. But jump on board the Hey Mon Sanibel this coming season, and there could be the next monster Snook, Red, Cobia or Tarpon just waiting to give you the ride of your life.