Bullseye Snakeheads, Mayan Cichlids, and Blue Tilapia
Florida… it is the “Mecca” of Sport Fishing. Here in Florida, you can catch so many different types of fish that the choices are endless, in fresh or saltwater. One of the most interesting aspects of fishing in Florida is the introduction of “Invasive” or “Exotic” species in several waterways throughout South Florida, and how basic bass fishing techniques can land these fish. Fishing from a paddle board simply makes it more interesting!
From the small bodies of water near exit ramps to the canals that run through developments, these Exotics are becoming a sought after game fish.
Let me review a few ways I catch them…
Snakehead Fishing From a Paddle Board and Tackle Used
As I said, I don’t have to change techniques that I use when bass fishing to land one of these feisty fighters. One of my favorite ways to catch bass is to work a soft plastic frog around and through vegetation fields. My go-to is a Bass Addiction Gear Kickin’ Frog in Houdini color, or a Scumfrog Chugger in Black, both of which are a great imitations to the natural look of the frogs down here in South Florida.
For the Kickin’ Frog, I rig it on a 4/0 VMC heavy duty swimbait hook with a bait keeper. The weedless design allows me to work the frog through cover and not get hung up, and the heavy duty hook is very strong, which is key for aggressive fish like the bullseye snakehead. Now, while Bass will frequent these vegetation fields in a variety of depths, the bullseye snakehead will remain in parts that are closest to the bank where there may be a foot or less of water.
I believe that they do this simply to remain close to the pods of fry that stay within these areas, thus keeping them close to an abundant food source.
Working these frogs parallel to the bank near vegetation patches will surely bring an aggressive strike.
For my rod and reel, I love using a MH 7’ Falcon Bucoo spinning rod with a 2000 sized Daiwa Tatula spinning reel with 15 pound braided line tied directly to the hook. The medium heavy action rod has a soft tip to cast the frog a good distance, but the backbone to turn the fish when needed. As far as using braid, I normally prefer monofilament, but snakeheads love to hang close to structure as well and the braid helps me keep the fish on without worrying too much about line breakage.
I will turn to the Scumfrog Chugger when I am working vegetation fields with large open “pockets” that allow me to slowly work the chugger.
For this bait, I use a Falcon Cara T3 Jason Christie Frog Rod paired with a Daiwa Tatula CT with a 8.1:1 gear ratio to allow me to quickly pick up slack before setting the hook. As for the line, I upgrade to a 20 pound braid.
Fishing From a Paddle Board for Mayans and Blue Tilapia
Another of my favorite ways to catch bass is to work a spinnerbait around structure. My go-to is a RedLine Lures Pro Series in Houdini color with a double Colorado blade configuration. I love to throw it around brush piles, docks, and fallen timber.
I will use a 6’6” Medium Action Falcon Bucoo SR Casting Rod with a moderate taper paired with a Daiwa Tatula CT with a 5.5:1 gear ratio. For spinnerbaits, as well as lipless crankbaits, I prefer the slower gear ration so I can work the bait nice and slow and the soft taper of the rod allows me to softly drop the bait on the cast.
Now, while bass will often be caught in these areas, Mayan Cichlids are also inhabiting these same spots and will readily hit these baits.
While they are small in size, the Mayan Cichlid fight is very similar to a peacock bass…running side to side with small bursts of speed and pulling straight down.
Another rare species to get on the end of your line is the Blue Tilapia. This fish is much harder to catch, but when hooked…the fight is incredible. I have caught just a handful of these fish, but found that when a lipless crankbait is worked in deeper waters over submerged structure, if near a nest, a Blue Tilapia will strike in order to protect its territory.
The Blue Tilapia will fight similar to a redfish…it will continuously fight “downward” causing a great deal of stress to the line.
Their fight is unique, so if I get one on, I will quickly loosen the drag so the lure does not pull from the mouth and to release strain on the hooks which will possibly bend. These fish will eventually wear themselves out so let your rod and the drag do the work and you will eventually boat these feisty fish.
Why I Prefer Fishing From a Paddle Board
While the kayak industry has exploded over the last 15 to 20 years causing kayaks to evolve into fully outfitted fishing vessels, my preferred method for fishing is from my Kaku Kahuna paddle board. I do this for two reasons. One, I love a clean, flat deck. I feel that they are the most comfortable platform for me to fish from.
While I find the room to be beneficial for a variety of reasons, there is also a method to my madness. Many of these exotic species are brutal fighters and the bullseye snakehead is at the top of that list with regard to fighting until the end. These fish, in addition to their power, will also perform what many call the “Alligator Deathroll”, and these rolls will NOT stop when they get into your craft. These fish have been known to break their own jaws trying to escape fish grips, causing your line to wrap around a variety of items, and even in the net, they just simply don’t stop fighting.
I know all too well how self-destructive these fish can be when caught so I want to get them off the hook, photographed and back in the water as quickly as possible. A clean deck without pods, pedals, and rod holders, allows me to have a better chance of safely handling these beasts and my Kaku Kahuna allows me to do just that.
Secondly, I believe that a SUP is even stealthier than a kayak.
Due to the smaller overall size of my SUP, I can have even more of a chance sneaking up on Snakeheads. As I previously mentioned, Snakeheads loom close to the banks in less than a foot of water, and the fully padded, uncluttered deck of my Kahuna allows me to stand quietly in just a few inches of water so I can cast that frog just off of the bank and catch some giants that are just lying in wait.
Fishing From a Paddle Board: Closing Thoughts
I have learned over the years that for me, when it comes to kayak fishing, less is more. Fishing from a SUP may limit my ability to cover big bodies of water, but affords me the right amount of space to outfit my trips and find myself slipping into areas that even kayaks may not enter.
If you are looking to possibly hook a exotic species here in Florida, just bring your bass gear, because down here, when you feel that thump… you just might hook yourself a new species to check off your bucket list.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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