Thursday, January 10, 2019

Florida: Jacks and Salt Water Dry Fly Fishing

Noah and I spent the first chunk our last East Coast day before going to Punta Gorda bouncing around freshwater spot with very little success. We found waterfowl. We saw some fish. And we found really good looking spots that we could not fish. It was frustrating. We had planned on breaking up our east coast time into fishing certain areas and certain types of water on certain days. This freshwater species hunt was not going well, so we changed the agenda, called an audible...

...and ended up close to Fort Lauderdale, fishing for strange new species in an inlet. There were things swimming around down there that we did not have names for. Names exist, of course, but we were not remotely prepared to put them to the species we were seeing. There were also tons of things swimming down there that we had seen, but never in person. This was going to be really, really cool.

My first move was to target the numerous small jacks that were hanging out on a few of the many buoys. I thought the first one I caught was a crevalle at first. Actually, it was a horse-eye jack. My list of jack species had just begun to grow.

Caranx latus
The next few to come up were blue runners, a jack species I had already caught back in CT in early fall.

Caranx crysos
 Thinking I had exhausted the jack species I started probing the bottom. I found tomtates to be the most willing species down there at the time. I added my first grunt to my life list.

Tomtate grunt, Haemulon aurolineatum

No, I didn't break his jaw. These little fish just have a huge, bright red mouth.

Finding another school of tiny jacks, I decided to bother them a little longer. My toying around with them payed off! I got something I was very much not expecting, a gorgeous little yellow jack! What a gem this fish was!

Carangoides bartholomaei
 The fish then got a break while I tried, and nearly succeeded, in catching iguanas. They are mean buggers. I learned a few things while trying to catch one. They are much faster than they look. They aren't great swimmer. Catching their tails is a lot easier than catching the rest of them. So... Noah ended up catching a fair number of fish on pieces of iguana tail.

After Noah caught yet another species of jack while casting out, I started to fish flies more actively as well and caught a few for myselg. My third new jack species of the day and fourth total jack species of the day was the leather jack. Handling these buggers was tricky. Their spines give quite a severe sting. But they are very pretty fish and it was a lot of one to see them swarm the fly.

Back to fishing near the bottom, I really wanted to get one of the sergeant majors that were just all over the place. I had one on briefly, had numerous takes... but I couldn't get one to hand. Then some folks came along throwing bread in the water. This resulted in a wild feeding frenzy of hundreds of sergeant majors. It was wild. Casting into the micro fish blitz I got a take. It wasn't a sergeant major, but a spottail pinfish.

Diplodus holbrookii
 Noah went to get out own bread, and soon enough we were creating our own feeding frenzy. The bulk of the aggressors were sergeant majors, with a handful of other damselfish and some pinfish mixed it.

Fishing subsurface proved to only be so effective. Looking into my box, I had a few foam bread dry flies. I tied one on and had a sergeant major first cast. I kept fishing it and kept catching. Salt water reef fish on a dry fly.
I did that!

Sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis)
Noah and I both got a few new species there, but we saw potential for more. So even though we were going to be on the Gulf Coast for the next four days, this little taste of East Coast South Florida inlets left us wanting more. We would be back.

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Thanks for joining the adventure, and tight lines.


  1. Rowan I love your header photo....great shot.

    1. Thank you!
      I'd wanted to use it for a while. Finding a way to make the title visible isn't easy and I still am not completely happy with it, but the photo itself more than makes up for it, I think.

  2. So many beautiful fish. Bread, well it works. Love your opening photo.
    Tie, fish, write, conserve and photo on...

  3. Fabulous fish buddy, awesome adventures, thanks for sharing.

  4. Very cool species. I've never seen the leather Jack before. Almost Mackerel like - really neat fish. If you can find Crevale Jacks - man they are fun. This has to be one of the coolest fishing trips I've seen - what a great adventure you guys are taking!

    1. We found some really huge crevalle jacks... We didn't catch the huge ones but the story will be worth the wait.