AND HIS ART by Jon West
amazing what you see when you slow down and observe life in
the skinny water.
Imagine standing on the bow of a classic skiff, silently gliding
over knee-deep water as your native guide puts you within casting
range of tailing redfish, snook, tarpon and trout. See the fish,
stalk the fish, make the cast, catch the fish. This is flats
fishing in its purest form. The experience is not unlike stalking
wild big game in the silent woods. This is mano y pesco at its
You owe it to yourself to fish the skinny water of Tampa Bay
with Capt. Paul Hawkins, one of the most experienced and noted
guides in the area. Capt. Paul has been profiled in major magazines
and newspapers throughout the country including Florida Sportsman,
Saltwater Sportsman, Saltwater Flyfishing, the Suncoast Fishermenís
Guide, the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times.
guiding and flyrod skills have earned him numerous tournament
and state record citations. He is a master of his craft and
has fished local waters for more than 40 years, including the
last 15 as a full-time guide. His specialty is light tackle
and flyfishing for tarpon, snook, redfish, trout, permit, pompano,
mackerel, kingfish and cobia. Capt. Paul can teach you how to
present a lure, fly or livebait to fish that you will see before
you catch them.
Unlike many local guides, Capt. Paul has
spent his entire life fishing Tampa Bay. He considers the Bay
his backyard and prides himself on knowing where the fish live.
Very little time is spent running from one spot to the next.
Capt. Paul is a master of the push pole, a lost art in the era
of 50 gallon livewells, hydraulic jackplates and high-powered
trolling motors. This means you get to spend more time fishing
and less time catching bait and flying around the flats. Not
only is Capt. Paul a throwback to the days of old, so is a day
on the water with him. Catch fish the way it was years ago,
before technology complicated the simple life on the flats.
Itís more than just a day of fishing, its the experience of
WHATíS ON THE MENU?
Tarpon -- Capt. Paul is a tarpon hunter at heart. From late
April through September you can hook up with the king of the
inshore fish. From tossing flies at daisy chains of hundred
pounders on the crystal clear Gulf shoals to flipping plugs
at slow rolling fish in the dark bay, Capt. Paul will put you
in them. Book in advance as the tarpon season fills up quickly.
Most days are booked by anglers who return year after year to
fish with Hawkins. Throw in the occasional giant permit and
you have some of the finest sight fishing north of Islamorada.
"Hundreds of Tarpon released each year, some intentionally"
-- Capt. Paul maintains a spring and fall affair with big linesiders
in the bushes. Work the mangrove lined shallows, sight-casting
to big snook laid up in the roots and cruising the edges. Dynamite
action on topwater baits that blows away any live-bait pothole
chumming sessions you may have seen. Catch snook with Paul when
other guides say it is too cold or thereís no bait around.
-- Tailing red at two oíclock, 50 feet. Can you make the cast?
Catch big reds in knee-deep water throughout the year with Capt.
Paul. Book a day for sight-fishing tailing reds and you will
become an addict. Especially good action in the late fall and
Trout -- Catch lots of big trout (just like the good old days)
with Capt. Paul. Fifty fish days are not uncommon when the action
gets hot. You havenít lived until youíve thrown top waters for
The rest of everything -- If it swims in local waters, Capt.
Paul will put you on them. Kingfish and mackerel trips in the
spring and fall are drag-screaming parties. Or if you want some
quality table fish, book a snapper or grouper trip. Cobia make
an annual run and can be sight-fished for bruising action.