Contrast marked December: strong wind and calm, unseasonably warm and sometimes cold, excellent fishing and not so good.

The best action took place in Little Sarasota Bay out of the Vamo launch. Fishing there didn’t produce quantity, but it did result in quality. The first trip of the season there resulted in five snooks to 35 inches, redfish to 27, spotted seatrout to 20, jack crevalle and ladyfish. Most of the fish were taken on MirrOlure Lil Johnson light jig heads, but we also used MirrOlure MirrOdines and Zara Super Spook Jrs.

We fished out of Vamo on several occasions and managed a Slam (snook, trout, redfish) all but two outings.

I also took an oversized redfish while using a new rig: Pop-N-Fly Rig. It’s a foam cylinder that is tied between your fly and fly line. It’s used much like a popping cork. You use strong strips which makes the cylinder gurgle. That “calls” the fish (it imitates feeding fish or baitfish). When a snook, red, seatrout or other fish hears the commotion and comes up to investigate, it usually will eat your fly.

My first time out with the rig wasn’t disappointing. I caught and released a 30-inch redfish that inhaled a synthetic Clouser Deep Minnow.

I was impressed

Realize that redfish are out most challenging fish on a fly rod. They’re adamant to catch in most situations.

I can’t wait to try the Pop-N-Fly in right conditions. You can watch a Pop-N-Fly video at:

Fishing The Manatee Lake

Sid Whitsell, an accomplished fly fisher from Montana, opted to fish Lake Manatee with me on a blustery day. We caught large bluegill on nymphs under strike indicators and popping bugs. Sid did hook one of Lake Manatee’s famous large channel catfish, but couldn’t keep it out of the vegetation.

The next day, Lake Manatee produced great action, but mostly in the afternoon. By noon, we had nine bluegills. When we got back to the boat ramp at 3 p.m., our total included 50 bluegills (mostly large), two channel catfish, two gars and a 4-pound bass. My little No. 12 Snymph (simple nymph) accounted for most of the fish.

Two more Lake Manatee outings resulted in 110 mostly large bluegills.

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Back in the salt, Dwight Meade of Siesta Key joined me for an outing out of Vamo. He wanted to learn that area. Dwight picked an excellent day to learn, because (for whatever reason) the action was slow. We landed two snooks and a 19-inch trout. We also lost a sizeable redfish on a Johnson Silver Minnow Spoon.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton fished the Manatee River on a relatively slow day. We landed seven bluegills and three channel catfish on No. 12 Snymphs.

I fished Roberts Bay on a scouting mission out of Blackburn Point and a very blustery day. I was prepping for scheduled fly-fishing trips. The stand-up fishing platform was very tough because of strong easterly winds, but I still managed six large ladyfish and a couple of decent spotted seatrout.

Because of continued strong wind, Jules Sisk of Ottawa, Ontario and I headed to Venice to fish a tidal creek off the Intracoastal Waterway. We totaled 22 little snooks, a jack crevalle, ladyfish and spotted seatrout on baitfish imitations and MirrOlure MirrOdines. Jules not only caught his first snook but also completed five.

The spot is perfect if you’re looking for your first snook.

Fly Fishing New Yorker

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John Mallia of New York and I headed to Venice to fish that same spot on another windy day. Using MirrOlure MirrOdines, we landed 17 snooks, three mangrove snapper, and a spotted seatrout.

That spot usually results in mostly small snook but will give up larger specimens on occasion. We’ve also taken redfish, flounder, and small barracuda.

Mallia and I headed for a lake just east of Naples the following day. I’ve fished the lake on many occasions this year with decent success. My last trip to the location with Vinny Caruso (Dec. 16) was slow, but we did manage seven peacock bass and a couple of Mayan cichlids. We also lost three large fish on “fly” to broken leaders and straightened hooks.He did happen to have the new fishing kayaks 2017 magazine with him, that just blew my mind. I can’t wait to buy a new one.

Mallia and I weren’t so lucky since John had five or six blowups from decent peacock bass on topwater plugs, but didn’t hook up. He also had a few hits on a D.O.A. Shad Tail on a 1/16-ounce D.O.A. jig, but only managed one decent largemouth bass.

For whatever reason, that particular spot has slowed down tremendously since late summer and early fall.

Caruso and I drove to Alligator Alley which should be prime this time of year. When we arrived at our favorite spot, we were greeted by high and flowing water. That’s not supposed to be the case this time of year.

Fishing along Alligator Alley is best in shallow water. And that’s usually the case from mid-December through May. It looks like we’ll have to wait a month or so to return.

I’m excited by a new product I ordered from Rexfly (rexfly.com). It’s a casting system for fly fishers that I can’t wait to try. The Rexfly casting guarantees that you’ll cast farther or you get your money back.

I will let you know how it works as soon as I give it a few tries. I’m excited by it. Without going into detail, I will just say the system makes a lot of sense.

JANUARY FORECAST: The colder weather has shown up, so that will change things dramatically as the fish enter the winter period. Snook should move up creeks and rivers in search of warmer water. I usually fish local tidal rivers this time of year and have done exceptionally well until that last two years. Redfish and spotted seatrout action should be right on the shallow flats. Pompano, jack crevalle, bluefish, and flounder should be on the increase. In fresh water, I anticipate decent action on bluegill, channel catfish, and speckled perch. If the water levels drop, I expect substantial work on Oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill and stumpknocker along Alligator Alley.

I offer 4-hour, 6-hour and 8-hour trips in fresh and salt waters. We fish from Tampa Bay to The Everglades. I also suggest trips for spinning enthusiasts and fly fishers. I supply all tackle, leaders, flies, and lures.

I also supply bottled water on all trips. On all-day trips, I provide lunch.

I recommend anglers wear a long-sleeve shirt, cap or hat, and sunglasses. We don’t wade on all trips, but you should wear flats boots or wading shoes. If you don’t have any, then wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet.

We like to “layer” this time of year. Mornings can range from cold to chilly, but things typically warm up by late morning.

This is our busy time of year. If you’re thinking about booking a trip, please do so at your earliest convenience. Visit www.releasereels.com for more information on the best fishing kayaks the market has to offer.