THE CAPTAIN AND HIS ART by Jon West         

Itís 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 finest.

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.

His 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. flyrodgirl.jpg (13332 bytes)

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 a lifetime.

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.Scottysnook.jpg (16313 bytes) "Hundreds of Tarpon released each year, some intentionally"

Snook -- 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.  
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Redfish -- 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 winter.

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 big specks.

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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.

email or call (727) 560-6762