March 24, 2021
With spring increasingly in command of the daily weather maps across the South, there are few better places to enjoy the season of increasing sunlight and warmth than on a saltwater fishing trip somewhere in Florida's vast coastal waters.
So says Capt. George Gozdz, the host of Unfathomed on Outdoor Channel and a longtime Florida saltwater guide who has lived virtually his entire life near the salt while learning how to target a multitude of inshore and offshore species.
While Gozdz is skilled at many forms of saltwater angling, given his druthers, he loves to sight fish the most. Fortunately, as spring deepens across the Sunshine State, there is ample opportunity to do that.
"I like to sight fish when the visibility is good enough for it," said Gozdz, who spent just short of two decades working in an emergency room before making the jump to saltwater guiding.
"It adds another element to the angling game and I love sight fishing for cobia and permit at this time of year."
With weather and water clarity being big factors in the sight fishing game, Gozdz admits that sight fishing isn't always an easy job to tackle.
Which leads to the first key of sight-fishing success, choosing the best weather conditions for an outing.
"Sight fishing is so weather dependent," said Gozdz, who has been known to spend 200+ days a year on the water. "You've got to pick your days based on the conditions."
For anglers who want to visually target fish like cobia, Gozdz says that they'll "...want (a) little cloud cover and plenty of sun."
A second key is to go at the right time of the day. And in general, we're talking banker's hours here since sight fishing usually gets better later on in the day.
"It's not an early morning thing and you can sleep in a bit," said Gozdz, whose family moved to Florida when he was just a few months old.
"The opportunities to spot fish are best with a nice high sun. If it's a cloudy, overcast day with low light, it's a frustrating exercise and it's just not worth it."
If weather and sunshine are key factors for sight fishing success on the salt, a third key is to gain some elevation before making a cast to a sighted fish.
"Yeah, in most of the sight fishing we do around the flats and the ocean, the higher you are, the better," said Gozdz.
"Whether it's a tower boat, a center console with a tower or just standing up on a YETI cooler on the front deck, anything you can do to raise yourself a foot or two off the deck makes a big difference."
For Gozdz’ fourth piece of advice, he points to the Maui Jim shades covering his eyes: "(Having) a good pair of polarized sunglasses (really helps too)."
Fifth on the list for improving your springtime sight fishing success is to properly approach an intended piscatorial target that is swimming along.
"You've got to know where the fish (is) going (for this to work)," said Gozdz. "You don't want to motor in on the fish with the big motor, you want to set up on the fish and drift in or use the trolling motor."
But won't the trolling motor actually spook a fish, especially in shallow water that can be measured in inches?
"The key with the trolling motor is not to change speeds a lot, which can alarm the fish," said Gozdz. "If it's a steady speed, they usually don't get spooked."
The bottom line when it comes to positioning a boat is for an angler to stay on his or her toes and to make good, educated guesses on the fish's intended travel route in order to get into proper casting position.
"Either way, you've got to anticipate which way the fish are going," said Gozdz.
A sixth key to effective sight fishing in the crowded waterways around Florida is to remember the Biblical golden rule - treat other anglers the way that you want to be treated.
"(Don't) forget to be courteous to other fishermen," said Gozdz. "If the fish get past you and are heading towards others who are waiting on them, go back around and start over and don't run over the fish."
What's the seventh tip from Gozdz for sight fishing success this spring?
That's easy - don't forget to have fun!
"No day is ever the same," said Gozdz. "I read a quote one time from a Greek philosopher that I've always remembered. It says, 'No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.' I thought when I read that, 'Wow, that's what fishing is like.'"
"Every second on the water, the variables change and we change with them too," said Gozdz.
"When you're fishing on Florida's saltwater, it never gets boring, something is always different."
And that's part of the fun, especially when an angler is out on the water, soaking up the springtime sun in Florida, and casting a lure, a fly, or a carefully selected bait toward a good-sized fish cruising by.
Put these seven sight fishing tips from Capt. Gozdz into practice this spring, and there might be an eighth tip to remember after a day of sight fishing. And that’s to smile big for the camera as you take a photo of a fish that you won’t soon forget.