June 02, 2023
For a Texan growing tired of the building heat, the idea of fishing around the plentiful docks on both Florida coastlines as cooler coastal breezes blow underneath the star-studded nighttime sky sounds a little heavenly.
And not just because the Milky Way and its silent roar are captivating to look at. Because when you’re already tired of the air conditioning bill and looking for an aquatic escape from the daytime’s searing sunlight, the chance to do a little angling in an attempt to see if you can get something to bite is worth a trip into the dark.
With apologies to Shakespeare, and with that angling midsummer night’s dream in mind, it's probably little surprise that when the mid-summer visit to the ICAST fishing trade show in Orlando rolls around, any trip to central Florida by yours truly will likely involve a little bit of nighttime fishing. And when that’s the case, snook, spotted sea trout—or speckled trout as we call them in Texas—and other gamefish that might show up under the lights are all fair game.
Outdoor Sportsman Group editor and TV personality Jeff Weakley knows full well the attraction of lighted docks under the cover of darkness, living north of the greater Miami/Fort Lauderdale area along the eastern coastline of the Sunshine State. Near his Stuart home, lighted docks are numerous and the fishing possibilities are almost endless when the sun goes down.
And when the last rays of sunlight are indeed gone, the Florida Sportsman executive editor is all about launching his boat, donning a headlamp as temperatures cool and darkness descends, and casting flies into the shadowy crevasses of lighted docks where big snook like to hang out.
With any luck, a big silvery linesider will come slashing out of the dimly lit corners of the water column, thinking that a hapless baitfish is aimlessly wandering by. Instead, it’s a Weakley Special crafted of a tuft of feathers, fur, or synthetic material, wrapped onto a saltwater hook, and waiting to give Weakley a hard fight back to the boat. When that happens—and it happens a lot aboard Weakley’s vessel—it produces a fly-rodding memory to recall during the winter months, and maybe even provide a cover photo for the next issue of the magazine.
Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, the snook and trout that you’ll catch in such situations are small to moderate-sized. And those are tailor-made for Dock Fishing 101. But every once in a while, you’ll also catch a real denizen of the deep, at least the deep of the mangroves, inshore waters, and beaches where a double-digit linesider or a big gator-sized trout can test your angling mettle. And on rare occasions, there’s something truly world-class coming from these dark waters of the Florida coastline, even world record class monsters that come out to play and eat at night!
While one might be tempted to think that it doesn’t matter too much which flies and fly tackle you use in the dark of night to chase down an aggressive predatory fish like Florida’s legendary coastal snook or sea trout, that really isn’t true according to Weakley.
“In Florida's coastal waters, snook and sea trout are main targets and I like to tie my own flies for them," said Weakley. "I tie small white or pearlescent streamers on little hooks and I use these black monofilament eyes to give it a (baitfish) look, which the fish can't resist.”
If paying attention to the tiny details in such a small tool—in this case, the right fly to tempt a snook—is important for Weakley, then so too is what that fly is tied onto. Knowing that snook, and even pressured sea trout, can be spooky, the Florida Sportsman saltwater fishing guru opts for fluorocarbon to keep things honest when the bite and the subsequent fight is on.
"On my leaders, I use 20-pound bite tippet that is low vis and won't spook the fish,” said Weakley.
But as important as the right spot under a lighted dock is, along the right fly and leader to throw into that spot during a nighttime snook fly fishing mission, so too is making sure that there isn’t even a second wasted before sundown.
Why is that?
“(Before) I hit the water, it's nice knowing that my yard work is finished,” smiles Weakley before he heads out the backdoor.
With coastal Florida’s warm and wet tropical climate, a lush St. Augustine lawn can grow right before a homeowner’s eyes, meaning that lawn-cutting chores are a frequent occurrence during the warmer months. And since it’s almost always shorts and flip flop weather in the Sunshine State, when is it not ever warm, right?
To keep his home looking sharp after the frequent mowing chores, Weakley depends on a little man-made coastal breeze coming from his powerful, battery-powered Toro Revolution Electric Backpack Leaf Blower. And like the dock-light fly fishing tools he’ll use a few hours later, Weakley is particular about the lawn care tools that he keeps handy to get the job done right the first time.
That’s where the Revolution electric backpack leaf blower from Toro comes in, one that can blow away leaves and grass at 730 CFM thanks to generated wind speeds up to 160 MPH. While that might be a Category 5 hurricane if it’s a storm on the coastline in September, during the Great American Spring, with this Toro model in hand, it’s focused cleaning power that blows grass clippings back onto the lawn as natural fertilizer, leaves and twigs off the back deck, and anything else you need fast and powerful cleaning options for.
Featuring a variable speed trigger with a turbo boost, the Revolution Backpack Blower is powered by Toro’s versatile 60V Max* batteries, which are interchangeable with 75+ electric tools in the Toro Flex-Force Power System. With an integrated backpack design that brings both comfort and extra battery capacity to the yard work chores, this is a superior machine that helps Weakley get his lawn care done quickly, properly, and powerfully.
All so he can be finished by sundown, just in time to load the boat up, hit the water, and start casting flies as the Milky Way silently twinkles overhead.
Because somewhere in the brooding darkness of the Florida night is a behemoth snook or sea trout, one with a snarly attitude and a hungry belly, both of which are the key ingredients for the piscatorial fly-rodding fight of the year in Weakley’s mind.
And when that piscatorial battle is done, Jeff Weakley knows that he’ll sleep well later on with the lawn care done for another week.
Which means that once again, it’s time for an angling midsummer night’s dream for a guy who gets paid to help others turn their own fishing dreams into reality. It’s a nice job to have, right Jeff?