As the hurricane season churns into full swing, it is important to
prepare yourself, your family, and your boat for the worst. Please read our top
ten things to do before a hurricane comes your way.
Develop a detailed plan of action to secure
You should either remove your boat from
the threatened area or take your boat to a previously identified storm refuge.
Be sure to identify and assemble needed equipment and supplies, keep them
together and practice your plan to ensure it works before the hurricane season.
As a back-up plan, arrange for a qualified and reliable friend or a licensed
professional captain to carry out your plans if you are out of town or somehow
incapable of securing your vessel before a storm.
If storing your vessel in a marina, check
your lease or storage rental agreement.
responsibilities and liabilities as well as those of the marina. If you fail to
follow any one of their necessary precautions, you may be named responsible for
damages in the event of a claim.
Owners of non-trailerable boats in wet storage
have options that include the following:
Secure the boat in the marina berth
Moor the boat in a previously identified
Haul the boat to a safe location
Owners of boats remaining in a marina berth
can take the following precautions:
Double all lines and rig crossing spring-lines
fore and aft. Attach lines high on pilings to allow for tidal rise or surge,
making sure the lines will not slip off the pilings. It's also important to inspect
the pilings and choose those that appear the strongest and tallest.
Cover all lines at rough points or where
lines feed through chocks to prevent chafing.
You can wrap them with duct tape, rags,
rubber hoses, or leather. If necessary, install fenders, fender boards or tires
to protect the boat from rubbing against the pier, pilings, and other boats.
charge the vessel's batteries and check to ensure their capability to run
automatic bilge pumps for the duration of the storm.
there are any doubts, you should seriously consider backup batteries. Be sure
to shut off all devices consuming electricity (except bilge pumps), and
disconnect shore power cables.
When a hurricane is impending.
After you have made anchoring or mooring provisions, remove all portable equipment
such as canvas, sails, dinghies, electronics, cushions, biminis and roller
furling sails. Lash down everything you are unable to remove such as tillers,
wheels and booms.
Maintain an inventory of both the items
removed and those left on board.
Items of value should be marked so that
they can be readily identified. You should also consider maintaining a video or
photographic record of the boat and its inventory in a secure location.
Consolidate all records including insurance
A recent photo of your vessel, boat registration, equipment inventory,
and the lease agreement with the marina or storage facility are important to have. Ensure that you
include the telephone numbers of appropriate authorities, such as the U.S.
Coast Guard, Harbor Master, National Weather Service, and your insurance agent,
and keep them all readily available. We've found a zip lock bag works perfectly
not stay aboard.
Winds, during any hurricane, can exceed
100 mph and tornadoes are often associated with these storms. Above all,
safeguard human life. Climate experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) continue to predict active Atlantic Hurricane seasons in
the coming years. We could experience several named storms each year, a few of
which may have the potential to become major hurricanes. These predictions
reinforce the need for boaters in hurricane-prone regions to have preparation
plans in place. Boat owners and the marine community should take proactive
measures to minimize the potential for injuries and damage to their boats.
Remember, key factors in protecting your boat from hurricanes or any severe
storm are planning, preparation and timely action.
For more information on hurricane preparedness
or other boating safety tips, visit www.nboat.com.
mechanics are finding themselves dealing with a flood of frustrated owners who
bring in their boats because the engine isn't running right or has a gummed-up
carburetor, only to bring it back as soon as a month later with the same
complaint. The problem is not the
engines - it's the fuel.
introduction of ethanol into fuel has caused a wide range of problems. Ethanol is a fuel, but blending it with
gasoline results in issues that are very often blamed on engines or the
mechanics who maintain them: rough idling, hard starting, gummed-up injectors
or carburetor jets and an overall loss of power and cruising range. Mechanics are reporting that the new
blended fuels are raising havoc with boat engines because the fuel breaks down
very quickly, forming gums too fast for traditional stabilizers to keep
up. The "tried & true" marine
fuel stabilizers and additives that rely on 50-year old technology just don't
work with today's new fuels. They
either cannot remove gum or they remove it in big chunks that end up causing
clogs. The solution is simple;
today's new fuels demand new technology, and that is Star Tron Enzyme Fuel
Treatment. Star Tron is a new,
very effective way of solving a wide range of fuel-related problems. It uses a proprietary blend of enzymes
to stabilize fuel chemistry and break down gum into sub-micron-sized particles
that can be eliminated while the engine is running. Star Tron will dramatically slowing the aging process in
order to keep fuel fresh and at peak combustibility even after long periods of
storage. Its enzymes are
particularly effective at cleaning the entire fuel delivery system to allow
engines to once again perform at peak efficiency.
formation is a major problem with ethanol-blended fuels. Because ethanol and
gasoline do not chemically bond, E10 can begin to break down and form gums very
quickly. As a result, engines that
come out of the shop after expensive carburetor rebuilds or injector cleaning,
but then sit idle for several weeks, may go right back to running poorly when
they are finally used. Star Tron
stabilizes fuel while it also disperses any existing debris to keep it from
clogging injectors or carburetors.
It also helps prevent phase separation that occurs when water and
ethanol bond together and then "fall out" of the gasoline, resulting in degraded
fuel and an engine that can't perform at its best.
powered by Star Tron-treated fuel start easily and run smoothly even after
sitting idle for extended periods.
The enzymes in Star Tron allow more oxygen to bond to the fuel
hydrocarbons which results in a more complete burn of the fuel charge, even in
ethanol fuels. This translates
into easier starting, better throttle response, decreased emissions, the
prevention of carbon deposits and an overall improvement in engine performance
and fuel economy.
since ethanol first appeared in marine fuel, Star Tron has been solving
ethanol-related problems, quickly and effectively. Star Tron works in all 2 and 4-cycle engines, regardless of
size or age.
more information or to find the dealer nearest you, log onto www.startron.com or call (800) 327-8583.
By Matt Draper
anglers consider heading out on the water their one opportunity to get away
from it all. They yearn for the peace and solitude fishing affords and hope
only to hear the sound of their drag or the splash of a fish as it tries to
fight free from the lure. Some, on the other hand, can't even imagine being
alone on the water and insist on sharing the experience with a close friend.
of the personalities involved, surprisingly few anglers choose to fish with
their wives. In some cases, that may be best-certainly there are wives out
there who are much happier doing something else-but for many anglers a
wonderful relationship-building experience could be going to waste.
It's possible this opportunity is so often avoided because
it seems too complicated. After all, you know how thorny it is for guys to
teach their wives to drive like them or to grill like them-"like them" being
the operative words here. So how in the world will you be able to teach them
the subtle nuances of making the perfect cast or applying the correct amount of
pressure with their palm to the spool to slow a speeding fish without breaking
the line? Granted, it won't be easy, but with a reasonable amount of patience
and just a hint of foresight, you may just find a new best buddy to fish with
that doesn't require coming up with another tired excuse to appease your wife.
I wouldn't send you off on this mission without guidance,
so here's what I learned in a nutshell from some wise old fishermen:
Number one - Don't try to teach your spouse (or
girlfriend) anything that has an element of danger involved. She will blame you
and only you if something goes wrong. If she gets finned, hooked or worse,
dunked, you'll receive the brunt of her frustration. The best thing to do is locate
a good friend or hire a professional (preferably an accomplished female angler)
to do the teaching. Women know how to explain things to women better than most
men do, and accidents will more often result in laughter, instead of anger.
Once your lady-friend has the gist of the goal and technique, you're ready to
In a perfect world, I'd leave it at that, but how many
guys are actually going to go through the trouble of finding and hiring a
female fisher to educate their sweet darling? That's what I'm thinking... not
many. So let me offer a few pointers for the do-it-yourselfers.
First, you have to disassociate yourself from her. Forget
she's your girl. Either get it in your head that she's a buddy's girlfriend, or
pretend you're courting her all over again. You know, back in the days when you
couldn't wait to spend your free time with her.
Next, slow down and explain everything you're doing. Speak
in laymen's terms, not the slang you and the boys babble. Explain why and how
you read the computers on your console. Where you are going and why you feel it
will be a productive place to fish on this particular day and tide. Teaching
her about some of the mysteries you've had to solve will peak her interest and
better help her to understand why you are so passionate about the sport.
Explain the mechanics behind a cast. How the rod flexes,
stores energy and slings the lure forward. Teach her this from the position
tennis pros use to teach a young lady the backhand stroke-you know, from
behind, while holding both of her arms to aid in her casting form and timing.
This alone could put a little spark in your relationship.
Explain how the different lures are designed to mimic
certain indigenous baitfish or invertebrates. Why you think the one she's
throwing is the best choice, even though it looks nothing like anything she's
ever seen swimming in real life. Impress upon her how she directly controls the
lure's action and that she can make it appear weak or injured, or frightened
and fleeting to entice a predator fish. (I find they're often better at this
than we are.)
When she hooks up with a fish, it's very important you
don't get overly excited and start raising your voice-women don't respond well
to that. Calmly talk her through the many elements of the fighting process.
When she does something wrong-and she will if it's her first fish-explain why
it's better not to do that particular maneuver and calmly continue coaching.
Remember, your goal is not to get the fish to the boat, but to make sure she
learns the correct way to angle and to do it while avoiding upsetting her.
Once her fish is in the boat, explain the different parts
of the fish and what makes the species easily identifiable. Now's the time to
impress her with any interesting facts you know about the fish. It may be a
completely foreign animal to her-help her understand it. Offer to let her hold
it. If she doesn't want to, no big deal, she'll probably want to hold the next
one she catches.
Hopefully you're starting to see what's going on here.
We're not talking about teaching your spouse or girlfriend to fish; we're
showing her all of the things that made the sport so special and alluring to
us, or more particularly, to you. The things that fascinated us in the
beginning and challenged our understanding of the sea are the same things that
will capture her imagination and bring her pleasure if delivered correctly and
in a pleasant or fun way.
I suggest you give it a
try. Who knows, you may start sneaking off with your lady on the weekends and
making up excuses to appease your buddies.
By Capt. Ron GauthierOn the list of creatures that scare people the most, sharks are right up there at the top for a lot of us. If you have ever gone swimming or capsized a small boat in coastal waters-off Florida or practically anywhere else-you know what I mean. Sharks are on your mind. This is especially true since Steven Spielberg's movie "Jaws" came out in 1975, based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. The star of the show was a great white, the embodiment of everything that frightens us about sharks: huge size, awesome power, cunning, speed, and a gigantic mouth full of razor-sharp, serrated teeth. Great whites are the largest predatory fish on earth. Specimens of over 20 feet and 5,000 pounds have been recorded, though the average length is a mere 15 feet-barely big enough to swallow you whole. Great whites can sense tiny amounts of blood in the ocean from over three miles away, and they have the capability of detecting minuscule electromagnetic fields generated by animals. They are so sensitive that they can perceive one billionth of a volt. Mainly, they prey on seals, small toothed whales, sea lions, turtles, dolphins, porpoises, and carrion. They have been clocked at 15 mile per hour. You may have seen film or video footage of great whites impressively breaching the sea in the process of taking an unsuspecting seal or waterfowl. Most studies tell us today that they don't find certain animals particularly satisfying, such as goats and humans. They taste but don't necessarily swallow. Humans, on the other hand, are their biggest predator (a fact they cannot comprehend, of course) and that has put them on the endangered species list. The only natural predator that they appear to fear is the Orca, or killer whale. It is reported that after an Orca attack, the population of great whites will completely leave the local area for a while. I don't blame them.Knowing all this, still, I found myself heading to Southern California with friends to join the crew of the vessel Searcher on a diving trip designed to bring me eye to eye with the great white. We arrived in San Diego in early September, surprised to find the weather a cool 50 degrees. Coming from Florida, I was picturing something a tad warmer, but the day was beautiful and we met the Captain and crew on the docks with anticipation and excitement-after all, we would soon be swimming with the most awesome sharks in the world. Once we had loaded our gear on board and the crew had packed the ship with the supplies necessary for 25 people out at sea for six days, we continued our journey to Isla Guadalupe (Mexico), a small island over 200 miles to the south off the coast of Baja California. The weather report looked good as we left the harbor dominated by the huge naval base, passing aircraft carriers and many other impressive military ships, even a nuclear sub. Beyond the quieter waters near shore, we steamed south on a course for Guadalupe Island, keeping a keen eye out for whales along the way, since we were reminded that there were several types of whales that migrate along the Pacific Coast. They're big, but they're hard to find. No whales.At last we arrived at Guadalupe, and the crew dropped anchor about 200 feet deep and a few hundred feet from the beach. We immediately spotted several types of seals covering the few beaches between the rocky outcrops. You see a lot of seals on the beach but they don't swim around the boat. After leaving their feeding grounds they hug the bottom to avoid attack, only to surface on the beach one at a time-a grim reminder that nature's own were smart enough not to get into the water with the great whites except out of necessity. Humans, well, we're a different breed, I guess. One of the techniques that makes diving with great whites so exhilarating is cage diving, the use of a form of underwater fortification that lets the diver get very close to these giant and potentially violent creatures. As it happened, the cages were dropped into the sea and fastened to the back of the boat by the crew while another crew member made the so-called "burley," a mixture of tuna, water, and other fish. Once the water around the ship was chummed, it did not take long before one of the crew yelled, " Shark!" Scott, a member of the crew, went over the rules and broke the group into teams before anybody actually got into the water. About this time, the adrenalin was flying through our blood as we watched a couple monster white sharks swimming around the cages and waited for our turn to enter the water. When the first team of divers got out, you could see nothing but amazement and awe in their eyes! Then their mouths started going nonstop-just running on like machine guns about the experience of being so close to these incredible creatures as they tore at the bait and rubbed and jostled the cages and how their power transferred to the water around them. They just hoped and prayed that the camera shots they took would somehow capture those moments as they felt them.Watching and listening, I had trouble holding my water. Then... it was my turn. What a rush. I dropped into the sea and within seconds came eye to eye with my first great white. His eyes were pure black. The colors of his torpedo-like body were extraordinary: deep dark blue with that characteristic white underside that adds camouflage to help in hunting prey. But mostly, I remember those eyes.After the first day of diving the crew pulled out the dropper cage. The plan now was to lower each diver down 30 feet and allow this courageous devil to sit on top of the cage with Scott stationed behind him, watching his back. If the sharks got too aggressive or started to sneak up on the cage, Scott would tap you on the back and you would drop into the cage. Well, that proved to be really an amazing time-what an adrenalin rush! There you were, surrounded by great white sharks, the water beautiful at 70 degrees, crystal clear with visibility stretching to over 100 feet. Oh, yes, we got some great pictures and video!_______________________________________For those interested, this trip was taken through Great White Adventures; their website is www.Dive@greatwhiteadventures.com
by Louie the Fish!
I got up this morning, looked
outside my small apartment near the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and saw an
almost clear blue sky, with very light trade winds. I had time to kill and an
urge to fish, so I grabbed my gear; a 6-weight TFO Axiom fly rod with an Orvis
Mid Arbor V reel, floating line, my pair of the locally-made, neoprene,
felt-soled reef booties, My FishPond USA Seychelles waist pack, shooting
basket, polarized sunglasses, hat etc., and off I went in my beat-up, old
Ten minutes later I arrived
at a spot on the south shore of Oahu, near Aina Haina, we call the Park. In
another ten minutes I had waded out to my hot spot coral ridge about halfway
out on the flat and was standing in ankle deep water. I began blind casting
downwind into a big area about waist deep where I know the elusive Hawaiian
bonefish often cruise. I had a very long leader, un-tapered 17 pound Vanish
Fluorocarbon almost two rod lengths long, and an orange fly, similar to a Crazy
Charlie, size 6, with large sinkchain brass eyes.
The ticket with blind casting
is to cast long, 60 to 70 feet if possible, to get out to the "stupid zone"
where a passing bonefish is not yet aware of the angler's presence. A slow,
jerky strip, with pauses to let the fly sink almost to the bottom, will often
inspire a strike. A shooting basket really helps to keep line organized, and
even though you can make a lot of casts before getting a strike, in the long run,
blind casting is the most effective way to fish many areas on Oahu.
On this particular morning,
with the tide just starting to come in, I had only made about ten casts or so
when something stopped the fly. I set the hook and a bonefish headed for the reef's
edge in a sizzling 100-yard run. Eventually, a nice six-pounder came to
hand--about average for Hawaii. That's how easy it can be, but like all
fishing, it can also be very hard.
Bonefish are found all over
Oahu, which has the best flats of any of the Hawaiian Islands. Access is easy,
and we have a fly shop here that basically pioneered the sport in this area and
they're always willing to help visitors (see www.nervouswaterhawaii.com). I
guide a bit for them, along with my buddy Ed Tamai. I have been guiding about
eight years now, part time, along with my 21-year-old, New Zealand born son,
Joaquin, who does most of the guiding (see www.louiethefish.com). We try to do
as much sight fishing as possible and have a small boat to access the few
offshore flats here. These offshore flats, and a few select spots on the south
shore, on the right tide and without too many clouds, are good sight-fishing
areas, but we resort to blind casting when needed. We seldom fish out of the
boat, as wading allows us to get closer to cruising bonefish.
I tie a lot of my own flies, re-inventing the wheel many
times over, but generally our fish like orange, tan and brown flies. I add weed
guards on most to prevent snagging the coral bottom. Crazy Charlies, Gotchas,
various crab and mantis shrimp
flies, and most standard bonefish flies work well here. The fish are not leader
shy, and some guys use 25-pound leader, but I stick to 17, in case I get that
IGFA record fish! Spin fishing with jigs can also work well on our bonefish.
The bonefish can be very big, with double-digit fish landed
on occasion. My biggest is 14 pounds, but I know of a guy who landed one about
18 pounds, 37 inches long--a potential IGFA record, had he killed it and
weighed it in. But we are almost all catch and release fly fishers here.
Hiring a guide for first
timers can make a huge difference, but Oahu is fairly easy to figure out for
the do-it-yourself anglers too, especially with Google Earth. The entire south
shore from Kokohead to Diamondhead is one long flat, only about knee deep on
average at low tide, and about 500 yards wide to the break zone. I can call my
guide buddies and find out where on this ten mile long stretch the bones have
been appearing, so networking helps. West of Diamondhead is Waikiki, seldom fly
fished at all, loaded with bonefish, slightly deeper wading, and of course, you
might have the misfortune of having some gorgeous surfer girls in bikinis
paddle right over your floating line. We suffer through these moments.
There are two lagoon areas,
Keehi lagoon and Kaneohe bay, with big flats which can be accessed by boat or
kayak, and kayak rentals are easy and inexpensive here, so that's a good option
for the adventurous do-it-yourself angler. Hawaii's outer islands are not as easy as Oahu. Only Molokai and Kauai have decent
flats, and access and fishing can be a lot harder.
When the fly guys visit here,
I also like to turn them on to our fun freshwater fishing. We have one long reservoir,
Lake Wilson, that is loaded with peacock bass up to eight pounds or better. My
friend Stan Wright is a longtime guide there (see www.Hawaiibassfishing.com), and I
have had some great days on that lake, both fly and spin fishing. Oahu, and
Kauai also have some great stream fishing. On Oahu, Nuuanu Stream is easy
access, and when I creep around in the bush there with my wee 3-weight fly rod,
I usually catch 10 to 20 smallmouth bass, from six inches long, up to my
biggest, a hefty 17-incher. I use nymphs, mini-jigs and big drys. Kauai Island
also has good trout fishing up high in Kokee State park. I am the secretary of
Hawaii's only Trout Unlimited Chapter (see www.tuhi.org),
and we are currently working toward enhancing this rainbow trout fishery. Also
on Kauai, an adventurous angler can find great peacock bass fishing in the
streams and reservoirs. But, that takes a bit of research.
One of the perks to having
your fishing holiday here is that Oahu, Honolulu and Waikiki are very much
favored by the fairer sex. While you are off fly fishing, wives can shop till
they drop, kids can swim, snorkel, surf, boogie board, or enjoy all the
countless tourist attractions available here, including the Zoo, the Aquarium,
and the gorgeous Hanauma Bay Marine reserve. There are restaurants of every
description, from Sushi bars, to Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Chinese,
Vietnamese, Thai, and just plain "local" food. Transport is easy--you can even
fly fish by bus--and hotels are offering great deals these days.
I think Oahu is the most
beautiful of all the tropical islands. I am sure it gets just as warm back
there in Florida, but here it's year round and we have almost constant trade
winds that make our climate arguably the best on the planet. The ocean water is
warm and clear, offering great snorkeling and scuba diving, and teeming with
fish if you know where to go.
So why wait? Jump on a flight
to Hawaii and try your hand at fly fishing in Paradise!
Louie the Fish!
Using a Mothership affords
By Jason Callaghan
I've been content for
several years to paddle the shorelines of Florida's coast fishing for resident
species such as redfish, trout and even migrating tarpon. I was always within a
couple hour's paddling from the public-access launch site where I started. As
flats skiffs, bay boats and offshore rigs would fly past me, I would silently
congratulate myself for having the disciplined patience to slow down and actually
find the fish that everyone else was passing by. But, as I fished the same area
of coastline year after year and caught the same species season after season, I
began to look at the wake left behind by those boats and think to myself,
"Where the hell are they off to?"
The saying goes: all
boats have limitations, and it's especially true of most paddle craft. The
range and speed at which one can get to any particular fishing area is, for
most kayak anglers, limited to a few miles in any direction. This was always my
perception of kayak fishing-until a few months ago.
I met Capt. Mike
McNamara of St. Marks Outfitters last year while kayak fishing together in a
local charity tournament. He talked to me about his budding guide and
outfitting service. He also expressed his desire to be able to guide clients on
unique paddling and fishing experiences.
St. Marks Outfitters
is no ordinary guide service. They cater to kayak angling and ecotourism, but
still offer half and full-day standard inshore/offshore excursions in one of
Capt. McNamara's boats. St. Marks Outfitters offers kayak rentals and a variety
of guided kayak angling experiences. They have a couple of 24-foot Carolina
Skiffs, each custom rigged and outfitted to carry up to four kayaks and kayakers
to outlying areas.
Toward the end of
summer, a friend of mine, Michael Ray, and I finally got a chance to go fishing
with Capt. Mike aboard one of his skiffs. He told us to bring our kayaks and
some sturdy tackle. After loading our kayaks and gear aboard the skiff, we
stopped and sabikied some pinfish, then headed about 10 miles offshore. We
anchored up over some rock piles and offloaded our kayaks in about 25 feet of
It was a bluebird day
with a light wind hardly making a ripple on the water. I didn't know what to
expect and was a little overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of my open
surroundings. I dropped a live minnow on a spinning outfit off the side of my
kayak and drifted quietly. Moments later controlled chaos erupted. My rod doubled
over violently and my drag started singing as the line ripped out and away, not
down. A few minutes later I caught a glimpse of the fish-brown with a white
stripe. A cobia! Eventually, with the help of Mike from aboard the skiff, I was
able to safely gaff and land a nice 25-pound keeper fish.
We continued to fish
the rock piles the captain had previously marked with a temporary buoy, while
Capt. Mike idled a few hundred yards away and identified more structure with
his bottom machine. He called us over, and after refreshing our bait supply and
getting a cold drink from the skiff, off again we drifted. Michael and I caught
some small grouper and jacks for a while before he started yelling-a big fish
was pulling him in circles. I had barely enough time to check on him when my
rod again bent over hard. This time the fish pulled straight down. After
several minutes of an extreme tug of war, I was again able to safely land an
even bigger cobia. Michael's fish was so big, he was unable to pull it out of
the rocks and it ended up breaking his leader.
I've been asked,
"Why go through all that hassle? You may as well just fish from a regular
boat." As we were heading back in after just a few hours of fishing, I knew the
answer to that question. I realized that I had just experienced something
special. It was the same feeling I had after I had caught my first redfish from
a kayak. It was the same feeling I experienced when I had a 100-pound tarpon
dancing on the end of my line and pulling my kayak wherever it wanted to go.
This was the feeling that even before I got back to land and my everyday life,
I knew I had to go experience again-and soon. I was finally able to go where
all those boats that had passed me had gone, and I wanted to go back again!
And I have. Not long after
the offshore trip, we planned an inshore daytrip to an area about eight miles
from the nearest public access. This outlying area is well known for the
hundreds of marked and unmarked limestone rock formations that lie just below the
water's surface. The rocks-which are a bane to gel coats, trolling motors and
the lower units of outboard motors-are also the very reason anglers are
attracted to this area. The rocks hold lots of bait, and that bait attracts
lots of fish.
After anchoring the
skiff a safe distance from the area we planned to fish, we set out in the
kayaks for a fun-filled morning of redfish and trout fishing. The shallow
drafting kayaks didn't mind the rocks one bit. Once again I was able to enjoy a
unique day of fishing from my kayak. I remember Capt. Mike remarking as we were
heading back in, "We just fished an area where the fish have never seen a kayak
Here at GAFF, we see it day in and day out-probably more
often than any other fishing magazine. Excited anglers snapping images of their
prize catches, so they can show the world through our pages their achievements.
These days, with fewer fish hitting the ice, and more being released to fight
again, these photos are often the only proof the angler has that the event ever
happened at all. Which makes one wonder: If it's the only evidence you have of
such a memorable moment, shouldn't the photo taken be one worth looking at?
It's sad, at times, when a proud parent sends in the shot
they took of their child's first fish and I have to turn it away because it was
so poorly taken. If the child's face is even visible, you can almost make out
how overjoyed they are... and how upset they'll be. It's not the child's fault
their parent didn't put any thought into what the photo would ultimately look
like, but it is the child who is robbed of a scrapbook memory he or she could
have shared with many generations to come.
Because of this, we decided it was time to spell out some
simple pointers that can improve the quality of your family fishing photos. By
no means will this substitute for the knowledge or pleasure you could gain from
attending a photography class, but this should allow you to produce images far
better than 85-percent of what comes through our doors.
Here are some basic, yet very important, things to think
about when preparing to take a photo of your friend or child's trophy catch.
Remember, you are capturing a fraction of a second in time to last for all
eternity, or at least until you accidentally delete it, or your computer
crashes-so do it right.
- Light right.
Pay attention to the location of the sun. If the sun is not
directly overhead, make sure it is at your back when taking the picture, so the
sunlight casts across the front of your subject. If the sun is directly
overhead, take the subject's ball cap off or use a fill flash to prevent the
harsh shadow created by the cap's bill from obscuring their face. Smaller,
inexpensive point-n-shoots will have a weak flash, so it is important to stand
close enough to the subject for it to be effective. Even with high-end cameras,
you need to learn the range of your flash.
Showing off a record catch to your buddies is great, but if
you can't prove it's you because the face in the photo is blacked out in
shadows, good luck with your claim.
- Be a director.
Select a pose or position that is flattering to the subject
and the fish. Make the effort to
show the fish's best side, not just its belly or back to the camera. If the
fish is dangling from a line and slowly spinning, time your picture for when
the fish's side is facing the lens. We receive countless, precious photos of
youngsters with their first catch, but the fish has twirled around and the
picture was taken while its belly or back was facing the camera. Often the fish
is unidentifiable-a real shame.
Also, pay attention to what parts of the angler are covered
by the fish or rod and reel. If the fishing line is running across the angler's
face, move it. If the float on the Boga Grip is covering part of the fish or an
important part of the angler, reposition the float.
- Watch your attitude.
It's been our experience that the best pictures involve a
happy angler. Unless you are dragging up fish commercially, you should be
having a good time. Have your angler smile, or better yet, laugh, if you want a
great photo that captures the mood of the trip. Excited anglers make exciting
pictures-deadpan, expressionless anglers seldom do.
- The big picture.
Look behind and around your subject. The picture you take
contains much more visual information than just the angler and fish you are
focused on. The truck and trailer to their left, the beer cans, the gutted
remains of future chum on the gunwale, the condo destroyed in the hurricane,
the bozo on the boat who isn't even aware you are taking the picture and who is
standing behind your subject scratching his rear end, all are damaging to the
final product and should be accounted for when staging the photo.
Also, be aware of your horizon in the background. Unless you
are purposely going for some sort of "artsy" effect by tilting the camera at a
45-degree angle, you're really just showing you didn't pay attention to what
you were looking at, and in the end, your final picture may suffer.
- Fill the frame.
Unless your subject has especially nice legs, they aren't
the focus of the portrait and therefore are not needed in the picture. Your
subject, fish and friend, are all that need be within the parameter of your
viewfinder or LCD screen. If your angler is holding the fish chest high, walk
up closer until their head, chest and fish fill the frame. Everything else is
just a waste of pixels. Your images will turn out much more interesting and
professional looking if you simply step up and shoot what is truly your center
- Go big.
Lastly, make sure your camera is programmed to take photos
at its highest resolution possible. If you want to take hundreds of pictures
throughout the day, simply to document the trip and email to friends,
low-resolution settings are fine. But, when that once-in-a-lifetime fish does
come aboard, remember to reset your camera to its maximum megapixel potential.
You can always reduce a photo later, but unless you're a photo manipulation
expert, you can't add information to a small photo and make it big and sharp.
We understand not everyone cares enough about photography to
put a whole lot of thought into this lesson. But, if you'll remember and
execute just a couple of these basic pointers, I can promise you'll notice a
distinct improvement in your photos the next time you pull them up on your
screen. And, I'm betting, so will your friends.
By Steve "Mazz" Mazzola
It is a warm, tropical winter day and we're high-speed trolling aboard
our boat the Venturesome. While zigzagging the Bimini ledge, I
look back to check the lines and I see a big foamy wake with ten pink toenails
in the foreground resting on the transom of the boat. My wife Chris is lounging in a beanbag chair reading a mushy
book. I bring my attention back to
the sounder when an adrenalin-filled yell erupts from my bride. "Fish On!"-those two beautiful words
that have come to mean so much in our marriage. The 50-wide is dumping line and our marital dance begins.
I am the luckiest guy in the world; I have a wife who loves offshore
fishing. And, at the top of our
list of winter species to target are Bahamas Wahoo. Disclaimer #1:
Now, I know I'm no expert on catching these magnificent predators and
there are plenty of folks out there who've caught tons more and been doing it
longer. But, I did find my niche
when I had to figure out a way to high-speed troll with just Chris and me on
our boat. So, when GAFF's
Editor-in-Chief asked me if I would be interested in writing on the subject of
couples fishing, I said sure!
After all, sharing information so others can enjoy the sport is a pleasure
in and of itself.
To be honest, wahoo had eluded us for years-we just couldn't break the
code. Then, high-speed trolling
became more publicized and in my frustration I decided it was time to
learn. I read all I could find on
the subject and discovered I would need to see this technique first hand. I was fortunate enough to ride along a
few times on a big sportfish off Palm Beach that had the game figured out. I quickly realized this was going to be
a big challenge for just Chris and me on our center console.
How was I going to manage 4 or 6 lines?
Who was going to drive the boat on and off the ledge?
Who was going to clear the lines?
What in the heck was going to happen when that big cigar
weight got to the rod tip?
How about hand-lining all that shock leader?
Gaffing a ballistic set of choppers... forget it?
Sure, a top-notch crew of four made it look easy, but how do
you pull it all off with just the two of us?
These were the questions that kept me up at night.
Well, I put the grey matter to work and decided I had to simplify the
First, I opted for just two rigs deployed at a time. Yes, we might miss some multiple
knockdowns, but I was willing to sacrifice that for a more manageable
Next, boat steering and line clearing duties. I decided since I was already at the helm, I would just stay
there. I have the knowledge at my
fingertips of where the ledge is and that is critical for getting off of it and
heading out to deeper water after a hookup. Also, I can manage our speed during the initial wahoo
runs. Chris, therefore, inherited
line clearing duty. More on that
The third stage is when the hoo stops running. Who is going to reel it in? This is where Chris and I switch roles. My thought is that if I'm on the reel
during the retrieve, I can better judge line pressure, boat tracking, and fish
behavior. And, since I am going to
leader the fish anyway, I may as well get on the rod early. Chris then takes over the helm and
makes small adjustments to throttle and steering based on my inputs while I'm
reeling in the fish. (Not much
yelling going on at this point!)
Also, she is the angler for all billfish, tuna and dolphin, so I figured
I would take one species for myself.
Finally, and this is the biggest point of all, we decided we would not
gaff a wahoo with just the two of us on the boat. We are lucky that we have the perfect transom door at the
waterline of our boat. Everything
I had read pointed to handling a wahoo through the transom door as a viable
option. I also read that a wahoo
pulled through a door would just lay there without going berserk. That clinched it for us.
When, Where and How
So, with all this background fodder out of the way, let me spell it out
for you, start to finish. I'll
call it the When, Where, and How.
Disclaimer #2: The when and where I learned by reading all the
information I could find, and by dock-talking to whoever wanted to share
information with me. I didn't
invent any of this. Nuff said!
In my opinion, the "when" is one of the biggest challenges to winter
wahoo fishing in the Bahamas. The
good news is the fish are there.
The bad news is you need to thread the needle between cold front north
winds to make a safe Gulf Stream crossing! Chris and I plan one trip per month in November, December,
January, February, and March each year.
Our perfect length of time is three days, two nights, but we will flex
to a two-day or even a one-day trip if the weather drives us into that corner. Safety first! Bottom line, if the winds have a north component or I see
the elephants marching on the Stream, we don't go.
A second "when" is ahead of an approaching cold front. If I see a cold front two days out from
our trip, I get very excited.
Don't ask me why, but a falling barometer seems to make them bite
A third "when" is the week of the full moon-another one of those
mysteries. The final "when"
depends on the tide schedule on the ledge over there. I want to be able to cover at least one complete slack tide
change while trolling. So, the
magical perfect world "when" is an approaching cold front two days out, the
week of the full moon, with good tides in the middle of the day. Good luck having all those stars align!
The "where" are the Bahamas ledges. Period! Bimini,
West End, Walkers, e.g., any of the defined areas with steep ledges. I like to run a zigzag pattern across
these ledges from 150 to 450 feet.
We seem to get fewer cuda hookups by staying deeper. Also, clean blue water has worked well
All Together Now
OK, lets put all this together now so you can see how Chris and I do
this on the Venturesome.
I setup a pair of 50-wides in the corners, safety tied to a cleat. Our lures are high-speed trolling
lures, heavy in front, rigged with 4 to 5 feet of cable. Behind the lure I run 30 feet of
300-pound mono shock, and behind that, a 32-ounce cigar weight with a couple of
feet of cable on each side of it.
Finally, the cigar weight is attached to my main line. I use all stainless double ball bearing
swivels to attach everything. We
deploy one at 100 feet and the other at 150 feet, as this seems to keep the
lures from finding each other during my crazy Ivan turns on the ledge.
Speed on our boat averages from 11 to 12.5 knots. I'll call it the sweet spot for our
hull. The boat feels good, the
water is fairly clean way back, and the speed is easy to manage. When we are setup, Chris takes her
place in the beanbag chair with her favorite book, and I take my place at the
helm. Note: Whoever is driving cannot be distracted
by anything. Not food, not Kalik
Golds, not conversation, and not bikini clad ladies (difficult at times). The boat driver's number one duty is
attacking the ledge and staying on it.
There is no point in going through all of this trouble if you aren't in
the zone 100% of the time. When
I'm driving, I'm glued to the sounder.
Chris has line watching duty (in between reading). Her job is to let me know if any line
is slowly pulling out which would indicate weeds or a tangle. Speaking of which, how much drag? I use just enough drag on the reel to
keep line from being pulled out at trolling speed. This has worked well for us and all of our wahoo have come
aboard with solid hook penetration.
At the musical sound of Chris' "Fish On" scream, the marriage dance
begins. I immediately do three
things: I start an easy turn off
the ledge (head for deep water to avoid getting sharked), hit MOB (so we can
come back to that spot), and put my gloves on (for leadering). Notice I haven't touched the
throttles. I maintain trolling
speed for about thirty seconds for three reasons; to keep heavy line pressure
for hookset, to avoid slack if Mr. Hoo decides to turn and charge the boat, and
to encourage his buddy out there to jump on the other lure. On my call, Chris starts bringing in
the other line if it hasn't been hit.
She clears the other line by storing the cigar weight in the haws pipe
(a rod holder will work) and walking the lure to the front of the boat. This does a couple of things for us; it
keeps the weight from swinging around and breaking stuff, and it gets the lure
way up to the front of the boat where the hook and all the shock leader are out
of the way.
When I start backing off the throttles, I do it slowly and smoothly and
I drop the port engine into neutral.
That's the side where our transom door is and I don't want that prop
spinning (learned that lesson the hard way). The starboard motor evens out at an RPM that gives me around
3 knots on the boat-key to keeping pressure on the wahoo's head the entire
time. Once the throttle is set, I
head to the rod and start reeling after the wahoo has stopped running. Chris now mans the helm and follows my
directions for steering and speed inputs.
At this point, small corrections to the boat are key for us.
The End Game
we get to the cigar weight breaking the surface of the water, the excitement
goes up a few notches. I always
try to remember that the experts say most wahoo are lost at the boat. I slow everything down in my mind when
it's time to handline all that shock leader. Chris' focus now becomes that of safety observer. She will call out if I'm stepping on
the leader or have a pile of it in a bad place. My focus is on the fish, which will usually start the final
fight when it sees the boat. When I see color I try to time the final wraps to
the rhythm of the fish. As the wahoo's head clears the transom, I slide it
straight into a corner to pin the head in case it thrashes. We have landed countless wahoo
this way and it has produced consistently for us.
Fishing with guys is a traditional brotherhood event. But, fishing alone with your mate,
especially when you target a tough, exciting fish like a wahoo, can be
extremely rewarding and may even be good for your marriage.
Romance on the Wahoo Highway - GAFF Magazine from GAFF Magazine on Vimeo.
Steve Mazzola shows the art of short-handed wahoo wrangling with his wife. Video supplement to the GAFF Magazine Sept/Oct 2009 article of the same name. http://www.gaffmag.net
By Capt. Jason Callaghan
As we slid through the lily pads in
our kayaks, our guide, Georgia, in excited but hushed tones, pointed out a bird
hidden in the vegetation on the edge of the river. The limpkin, as we
were told, was busy dining on a breakfast of apple snails and seemed hardly as
impressed with us as we were with it. By birdwatcher's standards, we were
getting a rare treat by observing a once near-extinct
species in an even more endangered habitat. We were near the headwaters
of the Wacissa River in the Florida panhandle and less than fifteen miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
On this day, Georgia led a group of
eight kayakers through the stunningly beautiful array of open springs and lush
flora of a truly unique river system.
There are at least 12 known springs along the upper 1.5 miles of the
river. The smallest, Cassidy Spring, is neatly tucked away in a half bowl
of cypress and sweet gum trees. The spring's opening, which is a mere
eight feet in diameter, is clearly visible from the water's surface. The
sand-lined banks around this natural swimming pool
seem to beckon a few hours of picnicking and swimming on a hot summer
a half-mile farther down river is the first access water trail to Wacissa's
largest first-magnitude spring. The shallow, tree-lined trail suddenly
opens up to an awe inspiring site-Blue Spring, a bright, emerald-blue pool more
than 50 feet in diameter and at least 30 feet deep. Though, on this day
we were to turn around at Blue Spring, the entire
length of the Wacissa is easily paddled in a full day.
The Wacissa River starts in the
town of Wacissa, Florida and is about 12 miles long. There is parking and a
small boat ramp at the river's start. At over 100 feet wide for most of
its length, the water flow is slow and conducive for paddle craft.
It ends in a broken flow of cypress swamps and near unnavigable wetland,
before eventually pairing with the Aucilla River.
This lower stretch was painstakingly excavated in the mid 1800's in an effort
to provide passage for cotton barges from the Gulf to the upper Wacissa.
The Slave Canal, as it is now called, was never fully completed and was
abandoned over 100 years ago. It remains passable only by canoe or kayak.
This stretch of the river offers a remoteness and pristine natural beauty that
can be found in few other areas in Florida. From the Aucilla it is
another few miles downriver to complete this unique estuary.
Wildlife on the Wacissa is truly
spectacular. Alligators, turtles, otter, and a host of smaller reptiles
and water mammals can be observed on its banks. There are few places in
Florida that offer the diversity of the Wacissa's bird population. Many
large birds such as herons, red tailed hawks, bald eagles and egrets thrive on
The fish population contains many freshwater species such as largemouth and Suwannee
bass, blue gill and catfish. Farther downriver into the lower reaches of
the Aucilla River, saltwater species such as mullet, seatrout, and redfish can
be found. On this day, Brad Kirn, a fellow paddler and avid freshwater
angler, was able to coax a few hungry bream and small bass into eating the
flies he offered. Fishing is very popular and productive along the entire
stretch of river.
Kayaking on rivers such as the
Wacissa offers a unique way to discover and experience Florida's interior
wetlands. Though most of our rivers have been clear cut for timber in the
last century, with our help, their recovery is well on its way. Aside
from the lack of a true mature forest and the introduction of some exotic
species, it is still possible to quietly slip down these spring-fed rivers and
imagine life here when the plants and animals
were their own caretakers.
Georgia Ackerman is the owner and
ecotourism guide for the kayak based The Wilderness Way just south of
Tallahassee. She and her highly qualified staff have been offering guided kayak
tours on many of north Florida's rivers for over five years. These trips
range from short and sweet beginner-friendly trips, to all day
excursions. Georgia's technical knowledge of both kayak touring and the
wildlife she visits is impressive. Though our morning spent with her on
the Wacissa River consisted of a group of kayakers with various degrees of
experience, from veteran to novice, she managed to give attention to the entire
group. Tour locations offered by The Wilderness Way include multiple
sections of the Wacissa, St. Marks, and the Wakulla River, as well as coastal
marine tours in the Florida panhandle. The Wilderness Way can be
at (850) 877-7200 or visited by web at www.thewildernessway.net.
Like anything else, the Florida Fisheries have stakeholders - a great many of them, in fact. You may be one of them. Just ask yourself one question to find out:
Would you be willing to release one fish today, to catch two tomorrow?
It's easy to say yes right now, but when you've got that gator trout ready to be thrown on the ice, it may be a tougher call. Stakeholders in our realm look forward to having the same solid fishing experience decades from now, and hold that dream far above the idea of filling the cooler to the top today. Sure, it's cool to keep some fish, but releasing those big ones does wonders for the reproduction of the species. Simply, the bigger the fish, the more eggs it can carry/fertilize. If one considers the value of that fish in the water versus in the cooler, a stakeholder would do everything possible to promptly release that fish. In doing so, an exponential number of fish will be created over a long period of time for posterity to enjoy.
The "big fish" is just one of many examples of how one could increase the longevity of quality Florida fishing. Much of it is simply doing the right thing concerning regulations, and keeping the waters free of harmful substances. Another aspect is communication to your fellow anglers about what it means to be responsible for the fisheries.
So ask yourself: Are you a stakeholder, or simply a participant?
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
So, we took up a collection of sweatshirts and rain jackets, saddled up, and throttled out to Turkey Point. The rain was more of a mist, with no electricity within sight or earshot, and the layers of clothing were more than enough to ward off the chill.
Spirits were high as we set up on our first drift. Jokes were made about the weather and the fact we were the only souls on the water. We were "real men." ...Until the wind picked up and brought with it the sort of rain you hear pounding the sea's surface long before it hits you in sheets.
Just as the "real men" were questioning the situation, Capt. Mike set the hook on a 22-inch red that was quickly followed by a spotty barrage of trout and more reds over the course of an hour. Most of the strikes were out of frenzy, but we still managed to bag four tournament-worthy trout.
The rain, forgotten, soon became a factor again when the fish had had enough. Soaked to the skin and hungry, we made a frigid run back to the house, calling ahead to make sure there were plenty of hot drinks waiting when we arrived. Nothing like pan-fried trout and hot coffee to kill off a January chill.
Moral: The fish don't stay in on a rainy day. Get out there and you'll have a good story to tell the landlubbers on Monday.
In Florida, the word "tarpon" insights visions of clear saltwater covering expansive grass flats; technical skiffs that draft only a mere, few inches of water; angler's sight casting to rolling fish along beaches, or to laid-up fish in the backcountry; flies tied to perfection and carefully placed in boxes like newborn babies in a crib. Thoughts of Boca Grande Pass may even drift in and out of ones conciseness. Yes, this fish - Megalops Atlanticas - has its own cult-like following of seemingly possessed anglers - rightfully so. But, this setting doesn't resemble a stereotypical Florida tarpon destination - maybe largemouth bass - but not everything is, as it seems. Especially, when it comes to late-summer tarpon opportunities in North Florida.
The feel of adventure was in the air. It was evident by the smile on the face of my good friend, as he pointed to a large alligator sunning on the river's bank ahead of us. Once again, Andy had made his annual pilgrimage from West Virginia to North Florida - a tradition spawned over five years ago - in search of some nerve-rattling excitement. The three-day quest we were embarking upon would provide spectacular views of Florida's wilderness and an opportunity to pursue a premier saltwater game fish in a place of solitude.
Ideal conditions were present, as I eased my skiff around the bend in the tributary river, which eventually feeds Apalachicola Bay. Alligator gars were breaking on the water's surface, clouds of bait were visible on the depth recorder, a swift current was flowing and in the near distance - tarpon were rolling. Little time was wasted as Andy proceeded to slip a stout casting rod from storage beneath the gunwale. He stepped to the bow while readying to cast in the direction of the next rolling tarpon. Barely a minute had passed. My focus was still on clearing gear from the boat's deck. I did not realize what the chaos was about, until I looked up to see a tarpon clear the water only a few yards from my skiff. I managed to unsnap the latch on my camera case and get a few quick shots of the action before the first tarpon of our adventure departed to points elsewhere. "Worth the price of admission, you get a picture?" and "Pick up a rod, start fishing!" were the next words I heard. Our short three-day hiatus was rewarded with many hook-ups, jumps and a few fish brought boat-side for release. Not bad for an escapade, cast during Florida's sweltering August heat.
During late spring, tarpon begin a silent migration invading the waters off Florida's Big Bend and Panhandle coasts. Anglers awaiting this invasion endure sleepless nights preceding the first sighting of these mighty fish. For the unwitting anglers, sheer amazement is onset by the tarpon's aerial antics and hard runs, when caught off-guard by a happenstance hook-up. Often times, these chance encounters result in an addiction, which may very well last a lifetime.
Through early- to mid-summer, tarpon sightings are common as they make their way across shallow grass flats providing light-tackle fisherman a coveted opportunity to place small artificial baits before them. Live bait anglers join the fishing fray; targeting fish feeding on bait schools around river mouths, passes and harbors. All of this fishing activity generally occurs until early in July. Then, for some reason, the number of fish seemingly diminishes and local enthusiasm wanes. Flats skiffs with guides perched on poling platforms, and fly fisherman, seem to disappear along with the numbers of fish. At this point in time, many anglers move on to targeting other species, and some just sit in the air conditioning reminiscing of recent trips, cooler days to come and next year. Little known to most, many of these visiting tarpon are still around. They have just taken up a different local residence.
Mid- to late-summer and into Fall, up rivers, generally out of the sight of bays and flats, waiting in deeper water where concentrations of mullet, crabs and other small finfish can be found, are tarpon - large tarpon - and for the most part, an overlooked fishery. These tarpon are not always easily found, but are present, and readily waiting to inhale a large plug or swim bait. Searching out these concentrations of fish requires time and effort, but is well worth the reward.
Being on the water early and late in the day provides the best opportunity to locate feeding tarpon in estuarine rivers. These fish are more active when the sun is not high in the sky. Deeper holes in the rivers, which hold bait, hold tarpon. Generally speaking, I confine my search to the sections of a river that are affected by the rising and falling of the tide. Look for surface rips or areas of increased current - current plays a key role. A good bottom machine can play a role in locating concentrations of bait and water depths of interest - find bait, find the tarpon. Pay special attention to sections of rivers where alligator gars and other fish are present, feeding, and breaking the water's surface - sure sign of bait. Tarpon may not always be visibly rolling on the surface, but if they are, you can bet for every one you see roll, there are several more present.
Due to the hard-pulling, tenacious attitude of tarpon, and the nature of fishing for them in these sometimes-tight confines - specialized, easy to cast, strong tackle is a necessity. Seven-foot, heavy-action, casting or spinning rods capable of accurately delivering medium plugs or swim baits are a must. Reels with a strong drag system, capable of holding a minimum of 200 yards of 50-pound braid are recommended. A three- to five-foot 60- to 80-pound fluorocarbon leader tied between your mainline and plug should be sufficient to handle the size fish you will encounter.
Tarpon can be finicky eaters. A wide selection of artificial plugs that can cover the water column, in different colors, will aid in your success. Remember, you will not be fishing in crystal-clear water. The artificial baits you choose do not have to be huge, but should create some commotion. Tarpon, for the most part, do not feed on extremely large prey. Your bait should only be heavy enough to accurately cast a respectable distance with the rod and reel you are fishing with. Strong, sharp hooks are a must to hook and land a tarpon. Don't be afraid of upgrading the hooks and split rings on the hard baits you purchase. I personally like to use artificial baits - soft plastic or hard - that I can vary the depth they run by the rate of retrieve. I am very fond of soft-plastic baits with a single hook like the D.O.A. Bait Buster. Though, lipped crank baits like the Bomber Heavy Duty Long A also do a good job of generating arm-jarring strikes from feeding tarpon. And, at times, a properly presented top water plug will open a hole in the water that can make your lower jaw bump the boat's deck.
Now, the summer heat has set in and the dog days are approaching. It's up to you; will you sit in the air conditioning dreaming of days to come, or get out and pursue the mighty Silver King in the shade of native fauna, somewhere along the upper tidal reaches of North Florida's estuarine rivers in a jungle-like setting?
Meet Chris and Lacey Rush.
Talk about a match made in the great outdoors of heaven. Mutual friends first introduced the couple to each other at a wild-game party. Quickly hitting it off, the two started dating - as one might expect - except, their dates consisted of stalking snook in the mangroves together. When asked what he remembered about their first date, Chris was quick to recall the sixty-pound tarpon Lacey expertly subdued.
They can't help themselves; after all, both come from a long line of serious and proficient outdoorsmen. Chris was raised in Fort Myers, Florida, and as the son of the owner of San Carlos Marine, spent every bit of his playtime learning and fishing in Southwest Florida's vast labyrinth of backcountry waterways and small islands.
Lacey was even more destined to spend her life on the water. Her fishing lineage goes back four generations. A true water baby, Lacey was swimming before she learned to walk. Her first real employment was at her father's fish market, Kelly Fish & Seafood, Inc., where she absorbed invaluable knowledge of the area's marine life. She spent her summers commercial diving for lobster in the Keys and when she needed extra cash for girly stuff, like hitting the salon, she caught and sold grouper from her local waters.
The self-confessed snook-a-holics dated for about a year-and-a-half, mostly on the deck of a skiff, before Chris popped the big question. They had just gathered the live bait they'd need to rip some more snook off of North Captiva Island, when Chris found a secluded stretch of sand to beach the boat. Once on the pristine shore, Chris knelt and proposed.
Chris had already established himself in the region as a successful guide with ten years under his belt before tying the knot. The addition of Lacey, who promptly earned her captain's license, has made Rush Charters a one-of-a-kind outfit. With three professionally equipped boats in their fleet, they can either pair up and help each other out with a large party, or split up and accommodate two separate parties in a single day. And don't go thinking there's a drop off in fishing prowess just because your captain is a lady. The skills Lacey has developed over her lifetime and her good ole southern hospitality has brought her annual bookings into the realm of Chris'.
Whenever scheduling permits, the tandem also enjoys competing in as many as twenty tournaments per year. And, they do extremely well. Visiting the "tournaments" section of their website speaks volumes about their ability to produce fish under pressure.
GAFF meets Rush
I had the privilege of getting to know the Rush's a short while back, when Capt. Chuck and I paid them a visit down in Matlacha, Florida, for an afternoon of shook hunting. They met us at a small ramp in their 2410 Ranger Bay. Dark grey clouds and an annoying drizzle forced the normally bikini-clad Lacey to sport her foul weather gear. She seemed visibly uncomfortable so bundled up, but assured us once we outran the weather, she'd be back in her trademark two-piece - three-piece, if you count the flip-flops.
We blazed along quickly through channels and around islands until we arrived at one of their secret, snook coves. The water was shallow and clear with a mottled, sand bottom, and the shore was wild with dense, overhanging mangroves. (Chris has won countless tourneys from this spot, so further elaboration on the locale would be uncouth.)
Lacey killed the big Yamaha as Chris jumped to the trolling motor and began scanning the water for the faint shapes that have defined his livelihood. Within minutes, the excitement escalated as Chris spied a slow-moving school of large snook easing out from the shadows. Like the team they are, Lacey grabbed their rods while Chris plunged into the live well for two frisky greenbacks. Dropping the Power Pole held us off the foliage by about eighty feet, allowing both to make huge casts and remain undetected.
I have to say; witnessing a young lady whip a live bait to a target under branches from that distance is pretty impressive. Five seconds later and they're both rearing back into their hook-sets, as heavy boils erupt just this side of the mangrove's reach.
We've all seen athletes who are so exceptional at what they do, that they make it look effortless. Well, that's exactly what I was witnessing. They just made it look easy. Snook after snook was carefully and silently stalked, and then plucked from its watery home like it didn't even have a choice. Over the next two hours, Chris and Lacey boated more and larger snook than I've caught in my whole life. Granted, I'm from the panhandle and snook don't live that far north, but this profession allows me to get around, a little.
Something else uncanny was Chris' almost freakish ability to see the fish long before anyone else could. He'd sneak up on a point 60 feet away and then start counting off the number of fish and their approximate weights. At times I thought he was just painting an exciting picture, since he had Chuck and me along for the ride. But, then he'd shoot a bait right were he said they were, and WHAM, he'd be hooked up again.
The weather we'd tried so hard to stay in front of finally caught up with us, so we covered up and shot back to the dock quite a bit sooner than we had hoped. Feeling kind of bad about cutting their day short, Chuck and I apologized for the conditions as we prepared to run for the truck. To our surprise, Chris and Lacey were delighted and planned to fish the rest of the day together; pointing out how rare it's become for the two to fish alone due to the success of their charter company.
The man's got it made
If you think about it... how many men can say that when they are spending quality time with their wife, doing what she loves to do, they, too, are doing what they love most to do? If that's not cool enough, try this on for size; Every November, Chris takes two weeks off and heads for Fulton County, Illinois, to hunt for giant whitetail deer. Occasionally, Lacey follows, as she also loves the rifle nearly as much as the rod. But, when she stays behind, she picks up all of Chris' clients, so he never even misses a beat... or a payday. Not too shabby, huh?
If you'd like the opportunity to fish with a truly unique outfit in the Fort Myers area, one that I can guarantee will put you on the snook and show you a great time, just go to www.rushcharters.com or give Capt. Chris or Capt. Lacey at call at: 239-482-0193.
Okay, guppies and whales, we're here to talk about your favorite subject, getting in shape for the big fishing vacation. Whadaya want, the long story or the short?
Time's flying, so let's get to the point: Walk 'n jog, hit the weights, and eat right. The trio is a snap, but must be practiced regularly and sensibly, and way before you board the boat and bait the hook.
If, on the other hand, you've got time in a net, we can take the long and circuitous route and discuss some of the finer points of going where you're going and getting what you need. Strength and health is for everyone, for all occasions.
You're a sport fisherman who is generally fit and loves your time and tasks aboard a rippin' and robust craft and at the smart end of a mean and unpredictable fishing pole, the line of which is extended in deep and blue Floridian waters. Grappling large fish is challenging and exhilarating - not a spectator sport for wimps and weaklings.
Preparing the boat, gear and bait is no easy task, and once you're on the big waters - with a little luck and skill, guesswork and knowledge - you just might have your hands full, and I don't mean with a brewski and peanuts. The thing straining the line and tormenting your pole might be bigger than your pickup truck.
You'd better be strong, enduring, confident and agile, Chum, or one slick fish will make a monkey out of you. You need stability in your torso, power in those shoulders, arms and back, and a heart that beats like a bass drum.
GAFF's beloved Editor-in-Chief, Matt Draper, is my nephew (don't tell nobody). Aware of my rep as an incorrigible musclehead who eats a case of tuna a week, he asked me to write an article for ya'll about getting in shape for fishing.
The last time I went fishing, I caught a bass, maybe it was a perch, from the side of my rowboat on Lake Gerard in New Jersey. I was 12 years old and the slippery fella was three pounds -- twelve inches. I had a few clanky-clunky years of weight lifting behind me, could run like the wind and was fish-fighting fit. I felt like a 50-horse Merc, and the hook, line and sinker had met their match that fine summer day in Still Cove.
I let the little guy go as quick as I could... back to its friends, family and sweetheart. To this day I can't fish, I can't hunt, I can't swat a fly or eradicate a spider, but I can squeeze the daylights out of a dumbbell.
Today, thinking of a fishing vacation, I imagine a bunch of guys loading a boat with tangled gear, some scraps of bait and plenty of ice cold beer. Fishing? In shape? What's it take... hic... to hoist a coupla... burp, snicker... cool ones? Matt's gonna kill me if he gets wind of my take on fishing and fishermen.
Here's my long-winded plan for the recreational sportsperson (not your typical worldwide physical wreck) who wants to add zap and capability to his body for the fishing trip this summer... and, incidentally, the job every day and a trip to the mall, market and park any afternoon.
Step # 1) Clean out the fridge and empty the cupboards: no soda pop, no beer, no chips, no sugary stuff and no grease; more protein, more water, more salads and enough fruit, and smaller meals regularly throughout the day. And last, but not least, include gobs of discipline, heaps of commitment and piles of perseverance regularly.
Go. Do not hesitate and do not look back.
Rule # 1) Fitness is for everyone: you and me and us and them and fishermen.
Pure, unadulterated fitness is, in fact, the most sensible and least demanding physical condition one can pursue, and is achieved by sound eating habits and fundamental exercise. Physical conditioning is common sense; fitness reflects personal responsibility.
I like to think of being in shape as the consequence of habitual conscientious living. We need to attend our fitness always, as we do our hygiene, literacy and civility.
Act # 1) Walk a lot, jog if you can, sprint if you're able -- three or four times a week: a mile minimum on the walks and rationality applied on the ambulatory upgrades.
Consider steady walking with a weighted backpack, up hills and stairs and across rugged terrain.
Fact # 1) You need a gym, down the street, around the corner or in your garage, on the deck or in the basement. Here's where you comfortably and regularly, and with attention and deliberation, practice your freehand and weight-resistant exercises.
Be strong and courageous.
Start #1) 10 minutes of torso and midsection exercises to warm up and get the body in motion, which leads to action, which leads to muscle and might, and endurance and endorphins... victory and euphoria (the list never ends), fame and fortune. Rope tucks and leg raises are my choices. Ease into everything, never rush. Push, but don't burst. Smile, be happy and never gripe.
Goal #1) Give yourself something like three hours a week for your dedicated resistance exercise: 60 minutes, three days a week or 45 minutes, four days or 30 minutes, six days a week.
If you're present and accounted for, committed and diligent, the few hours invested will reap great and inestimable rewards, today and tomorrow, in you and in those around you. You're becoming a better person and people notice it, including your kids, your spouse and you... of all people. One problem: Fish will hide.
Routine #1) Your menu, leg- and torso-stability, endurance and energy are in control. Congratulations! You are a rare individual, indeed.
It's time to focus on the strength of the arms and shoulders and back. You're ready for the primary muscle- and strength-building, push-pull exercises that enable you to wrestle the big ones and hoist them aboard... without fatiguing, tearing your biceps, trashing your back, groaning and losing a grip on your pole and yourself.
Wait, there's more. Exercise enables you to sit patiently as you watch your limp, unstrained line play dead in the baby blue waters -- forbearance and self-control are major benefits of disciplined training.
This is what I would do if I were you.
The routine -- the simplest (I did not say easiest) part of your job -- is composed of only three basic exercises: Standing barbell curl, 45-degree-incline dumbbell press and seated lat row. I call it The Shark. Perform 4 sets X 12, 10, 8, 6 reps of each exercise, take two days off and work out again throughout the weeks and months.
The all-purpose scheme, when done with form, finesse, exertion and consistency, along with your cardio and warm up, will equip you to reel in any gorilla swimming in your neighborhood any time.
Disappointed? Try these three - add them: Dumbbell clean and press, straight-arm dumbbell pullover, seated lat row. The Barracuda.
Bored? Give these a go: Bench press, squat and deadlift. The Giant Squid.
Confused? Try them all; mix them, match them and decide what works for you.
Lost interest? I know a fish market on the pier with a great assortment of fresh-caught fish in a barrel. Like the weights, just grab 'em.
Who is Dave Draper?
Dave Draper, formerly Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. World, lives and trains in California with his wife Laree. He is the author of three critically acclaimed fitness books, a frequent contributing writer in major fitness magazines, and the inventor of several proven weight training devices. As a movie and television actor, Dave toured with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Tate and Elvis Presley. He has appeared on 26 magazine covers, spoken at over 200 seminars and book signings, and holds a place in the Bodybuilder's Hall of Fame.
These tips are aimed at flats or backcountry fishing, but can be applied to almost any fishing adventure you seek.
Remember: you can share you're own fishing tips with the GAFF community by creating a free member account on our forums.
These tips and a conversation or two with your guide will ensure a great time on your next fishing charter. After all, it's all about getting out on the water and enjoying the day. When you're more prepared for what might happen, the luckier the fisherman you'll be.
Capt. Steve Friedman
The freedom that one feels from driving down the road with a fishing kayak strapped to your roof, seeing a potential fishing spot and being on the water fishing within minutes, is a feeling that is pretty difficult to explain. The word is out and more people are making the move to the "little plastic boats."
What usually starts as a simple alternative fishing platform, soon develops into a newfound appreciation and respect for the silent outdoors. Sometimes, your kayak or canoe will actually amplify shallow underwater sounds. Shrimp clicking; black drum drumming; oysters squishing. Oftentimes, the silence is deafening.
Your perspective on predation changes dramatically, too. After seeing bottlenose dolphin crashing mullet along the beach beside you, or seeing a monster snook launching a topwater into the air three or four times, one has a tendency to question our placement in the food web. Remember, all of this is happening at eye level on the water.
Many factors are feeding this transition to paddle fishing. With our current financial challenges, cost is probably the biggest advantage to most readers. No matter what paddle-craft you opt to begin with, you are looking at a one-time investment with very little, if any, maintenance and upkeep costs. Fuel and launch fees become a problem of the past, as well as the constant and costly outboard repair and service charges. We have already started to hear the horror stories of E-10 (ethanol) and the damage it is causing to fuel systems.
A new, top-of-the-line, fully rigged, fishing kayak should only set you back about $1000 to $1300. However, any used kayak, as long as it floats, is just fine and can save you a lot of the initial costs. If you look hard enough, you'll probably find one sitting in a neighbor's yard collecting dust. Rigging the kayak is a personal thing and I've seen a lot of money thrown into gizmos and gadgets. I've also seen some ingenious home-built devices created by kayak anglers.
Transportability is probably the second biggest benefit of kayak fishing and paddling in general. Think about the time you got a few miles from the house, skiff in tow, just to hear the trailer bearings start to whine. Most boaters, who trailer their boat, also have a story of "the man" waiting at the ramp, passing out tickets for trailer lights that only seem to fail when the ticket book is out. He never seems to believe everything was in working order just a few minutes ago.
Your tow vehicle is a big factor in the costs of boating, as well. The wife's 4-cylinder Toyota Camry doesn't quite tow that flats boat as well as the big, beefy truck most people are still paying for.
I know from experience I can get three rigged fishing kayaks on the top of my wife's Camry. One person can easily load most kayaks, with a bit of practice. There is an array of different rack systems and styles to choose from, if you decide to go that route. Some of these systems make loading or unloading even easier. As with anything, they can get as pricy and fancy as you wish.
If you decide to go with the rack system, keep in mind very few can go from one vehicle to another without new parts for the second car. Tried and true, is the good ol' foam blocks, right on the top of the car with a couple of cam straps, or even a rope. This method should cost no more than 50-bucks, or so. Remember, you should always use a bow and stern line if you plan to get on the highway or are driving long distances.
Now that you've found a boat and figured out how to get it to the water, let's take a look at getting that nice redfish or snook to the kayak. You should expect to learn something new on every trip. Anchoring, controlling drift and landing fish, are techniques that will require time to get used to. Hiring a professional kayak guide can significantly shorten the learning curve. There are a growing number of seasoned, kayak fishing guides, who have learned a lot of the lessons of kayak fishing the hard way. Many times, just watching the pro actually fish, is as valuable as any advice they can offer.
When you're with your guide, notice how they set up their kayak. Where are the rod holders? How do they store their tackle and gear? What type of anchoring system do they prefer? Usually, when introducing an angler to the kayak-fishing world, they are learning as much about the sport on the shore, as they are on the water.
Fishing tackle is an area of passionate debate with pretty much all anglers. However, in a flats boat, it takes a major slip-up to dunk a rod, so a several-hundred-dollar rod and reel combo is relatively safe from the elements. Before taking that high-end setup on the kayak, you need to realize rule one in Murphy's law of kayak fishing: It will get wet and eventually dunk, no matter how good you are. My recommendation is to start with one or two of your cheaper combos to ease the pain while learning. Lashing or tethering to your boat, anything you don't want to lose in the drink, is a good idea as well. It's tough watching your new gripper tool disappear into the murky depths. If it's not tied down, it will eventually go overboard.
With time on the water and a rod in your hand, these lessons will become ingrained into your daily fishing regime. Don't let the thought of trying something new deter you from getting out and joining the Revolution. The fish will come and the fight will be on. After hearing the drag scream and feeling your kayak being towed, I guarantee you will be a convert. Till next time we'll still be paddling.
Tight lines and good times.
Capt. Jason Sine
When Robbie Green and Jim Chalkey returned to the weigh-in at Gulf Shores Alabama, on October 14th, after completing the third and final event of the 2008 Gulf Coast Division of the IFA Redfish Tour, never did they imagine their performance would garner 1st place, thus pushing them into 2nd place in Gulf Coast Division points standing. An accomplishment, which is noteworthy, especially considering the less than perfect conditions they and other tournament anglers endured as Hurricane Ike traveled through the Gulf to the southwest.
An inside look
Having the opportunity to sit down and chat with Green and Chalkey was a pleasure, of course we talked fishing, but there were a few questions I hoped they would answer in an effort to shed a little light on this quest they have embarked upon. A quest which will ultimately end for this year, after they compete in the 2008 IFA Redfish Tour Championship in Panama City Beach, Florida, on November 7th-8th.
How it came to be "Team Redfish 101"
This on-and-off the water fishing camaraderie began somewhere in the year 2003. Their friendship sparked like many others have over the last few years, by exchanging light-hearted banter on BigBendFishing.net - an Internet forum where people meet to post their thoughts on fishing. As well, the two are both members of the Tallahassee based North Florida Gulf Fishing Club, which was founded in the spring of 2001 to provide monthly venues, both on-and-off the water, for people who love to fish.
Over the years, both Green and Chalkey, being avid inshore fishermen, have developed a mutual affinity for chasing and catching redfish. After many fishing trips and much time spent on the water, somewhere in the fall of 2007 - the subject was broached. The possibilities of the two teaming up to fish the IFA Redfish Tour together.
Putting the prop in motion
With the first tournament of the series beginning on May 10th, 2008, in Panama City Beach, the second scheduled June 21st at Navarre Beach, Florida and the final leg in Gulf Shores, Alabama - the fishing duo began to form a plan which would place them in a position to contend in the tour events.
Tournament fishing is not an inexpensive venture to pursue nor is the time needed to prepare necessarily easy to come by, explained Green and Chalkey, who are both very modest about their accomplishment, appreciative of those who helped them out and give credit to the support they have received. "Being able to find fish is a must, but without the other side of the coin it wouldn't be possible." They credit their families, sponsors and friends for their success.
All things worked out and the two were able to use relationships and contacts to find the sponsorship needed to fish. Sponsors from South Georgia, Tallahassee, Panama City Beach and beyond showed their willingness to support. Capitol City Bank, Pickett's Landing, Paradise Bar Grill & Bar, South Georgia Outdoors, Challenger Tackle, Grand Panama Beach Resort and Bite-A-bait stepped up to the plate, setting the portion of the plan needed to perpetuate them towards tournament reality into play.
Once the prop was turning they realized the need for a reasonable goal to be set. This was simple for these two humble anglers: not to look foolish, tops 20 finish, and catch a fish each event. Little did they know, they would far exceed this list of goals, by placing in each tour event.
Formulating a Plan
These two anglers put together a plan that would ultimately allow them to place in all three legs of the tour events. Not an elaborate plan, but a good, functional plan none-the-less. Their plan was and is - to keep it simple. This is not to say that many hours of planning and homework don't go into this ongoing adventure.
Green and Chalkey explained they spend many hours studying nautical charts and online maps of the areas they plan on fishing. They also informed me that it didn't hurt to take note of advice offered from someone like redfish tournament veteran Paul Chavis.
Once a tournament approaches they typically fish two weeks out and then the three days prior to the day of the tournament. They pre-fish the areas of interest, which they have located, and eliminate the ones where they don't find redfish.
Green and Chalkey explained, "confidence in your spots is a must, you can not start second guessing yourself". When tournament day arrives the two stick to their plan, and fish the spots in a rotation pattern, fishing each spot hard and fast until they find fish. When they catch a legal tournament redfish the fish goes in the live well until it can be upgraded with a larger fish. This goes on until it is time to proceed to the weigh-in.
Tournament fishing takes teamwork and understanding how your partner will react, especially if you want to be successful. Each member should have a primary duty and position in the boat. Both men each echoed the same sentiment " you have to compliment each other by using your strong points to work together". On this team, Chalkey stands on the bow and operates the trolling motor while Green is standing on a large ice chest behind him. This allows both of them to fish in front of the boat as they work through undisturbed water. When a fish is hooked-up, the person who doesn't have a fish on handles the Power Pole and netting duties. In other words; the left-hand needs to know what the right-hand is going to do. Though occasionally things too go a little awry joked the two, referring to the number of rods they have broken during the heat of battle. Green jokes " Heath Sanders at South Georgia Outdoors would think something is wrong if I didn't walk through the front door with a handful of broken rods the day after a tournament".
Baits and such
When questioned about their go-to lures and what produced the best for them, both Green and Chalkey replied "metal and soft-plastic". "Anything we can cover a whole lot of water quick with and keep moving". Occasionally they do fish top-water, but not generally on tournament day. The risk of loosing a good fish boat-side is too great. Their brands of preference for those who wonder is: Captain Mike's Spoons, Texas Red Killers (soft plastic), Bayou Bucks Spinner Baits and Bite-A Bait for top-water.
Speaking to these two gentlemen as a person who has been around the recreational fishing industry for a few years, I had one last question. Is there anything you would recommend to others who want to fish the tournament circuit? The answers flowed easily: "make sure you have a strong home life and a good wife, you will need the support and understanding", "treat it like a business because there is money involved and taxable winnings, if you are lucky" and most importantly "you have to remember your job is to represent your sponsors in a positive, professional manner whether you win or lose".
Both of these gentlemen are grounded in their careers, home-life, and communities. Their accomplishment as a team is one, which is noteworthy. When asked about what they were going to do about the upcoming championship in November? The answer came easily " keep on doing what we've been doing and show up to fish".
For more information on the Team Redfish 101 visit www.teamredfish101.com, or if you ware interested in information regarding the IFA Redfish Tour, details can be found at www.redfishtour.com.
Bumbling Boatsman, you deserve kudos on the positive end to your kayak fishing experiment. We see lots of speckled trout here in the Everglades, but rarely do they get that large. Most Everglades kayak fishermen have one thing in mind... snook... big snook. Some even go as far as to call redfish and trout "by catch."
When chasing these ambush monsters in the mangrove jungles around here, one has to be pretty much in-tune with their equipment, rigging and fish landing techniques. If not, a "spanking" by a lost fish could be the least of your concerns. Things have a habit of going south quickly on the water. Knowledge of your gear, the area and presiding weather conditions can be your saving grace.
Let's start with the basics - selecting a kayak. First and foremost, you need to answer a very simple question before going to your local kayak shop and swiping the card. Ask yourself, "Where do I plan to fish in my kayak?" The flats and inland bays, open water with wind and current, or backwater creeks and tunnels? This first question is crucial to get you into the kayak that works best for you.
There are many boat styles out there and each one has its pros and cons. The kayak you select will depend on many things. But, where you plan to fish is one of the biggest factors. Kayakers fishing Gulf and Atlantic coastal waters favor the sit-on-top style kayaks, so these types will be our focus here.
For inland bay and flats fishing, a comfortable, steady platform is a must. In this zone, a 14 to 15-foot boat seems to be ideal. The flats are the realm of the sight fisherman. Eventually, the flats kayak angler is going to want to see his catch and transition to an upright stance. In order for this to take place, a boat must be wide enough to support a shoulder's width stance. This specification will allow the angler to stand comfortably for long periods of time. With the proper kayak and a bit of practice, you will soon be landing and releasing smaller fish easily while standing in your kayak.
Most seasoned Florida kayak fishermen "swear by" the Heritage Redfish series. It is 31-inches wide, with a strong, flat-bottom, plenty of storage space and comes with a very comfortable, high, back seat. This is the perfect combination when making the transition to pole and sight fish from a kayak.
It is impossible to keep all water out of the cockpit of a kayak. However, some do a much better job than others. The Redfish kayaks are self-bailing and one of the driest fishing kayaks available. The cockpit floor is above the waterline for all but the heaviest anglers. Any water that gets inside simply runs right out. (Those holes in the bottom aren't rod and net holders, Bumbling Boatsman. They're called scupper holes.)
The scuppers serve two purposes. One, they allow water to run out, or in, on some kayaks. Two, they provide structural strength between the top and bottom halves of the kayak. Typically, the scuppers are the seam locations in a two-part boat being assembled at the factory. Regardless of what boat builder you go with, be wary of jamming anything into the scuppers - they are tough to repair and can quickly render a decent boat worthless.
Comfort is Key
There is a new breed of boat out, now, that deserves attention... the Native Watercraft Ultimate series. This series of boats gives the flats fisherman a great option in its craft design. It is a hybrid canoe/kayak with a tunnel hull, and a comfortable, lawnchair-type seat you'll have no problem sitting in for hours on end. The seat even comes out of the boat to serve as an equally comfortable beach chair. The secret is a breathable seat that positions your feet slightly below your bottom, which increases blood flow to your legs. In a traditional sit-on-top, your legs are in line with your hindquarters and tend to get uncomfortable after a while.
The tunnel hull also allows for a lower center of gravity, which is the key to standing with ease. We have had many kayak anglers who have never even thought about standing to fish. But, in their first chartered trip, they are fishing with ease while standing up. We use the 16-foot version of this boat for our fly fishermen. The angler stands in the bow while the guide in the rear maneuvers and positions the boat.
This brings us to the next zone of kayak fishing; open water. If you are interested in fishing open water, a 14-foot kayak is the minimum. Open water kayakers need to constantly consider some very important issues in their search for fish... wind and current. Together they are a recipe for chop. Chop can be safely fished in a kayak, but that water coming over your gunwales needs to go somewhere, and fast.
Sit-on-tops are still the preferred style, but because of the potential distances traveled, sit-inside models are fairly popular for open water. However, to be safely fished, they must be "skirted" to prevent water from entering the kayak. Once in, water does not leave a sit-in kayak by itself. It has to be physically removed by pumping or sponging.
The Native Watercraft Ultimate again is a good example. Being a hybrid kayak, it has no self-bailing scuppers. Though, this company figured that into the equation. They offer a set of skirts that seals the cockpit from all outside water intrusion.
Wind and current also present another issue to work around... tracking. A flat bottom boat will not track nearly as well as one with a pronounced keel. This can be overridden by adding a rudder to your boat. The rudder will either be foot, or hand operated - depending on the boat builder. With this simple device you can steer your boat while paddling. Thus, greatly eliminating the need to perform corrective strokes; like paddling on just one side to compensate for the wind or current. The rudder, for the most part, is a must for drift fishing. While the current moves you along, the rudder is used for positioning the boat to a desired casting angle.
The current here in the Everglades can move pretty fast on strong tides in the passes, or even in the open, which brings us to our last option in this fishing zone... propulsion. Traditionally, kayakers and canoeist have used double or single bladed paddles to get around. The times have changed and so have the trends. It looks like peddle drives are the latest and greatest. Peddle drives are operated by your feet and legs, freeing your hands up for fishing.
A couple of companies have addressed this market. Hobie Kayaks has had a drive system out for a while, and held a lion's share of this market, until recently. Their drive system is good for trolling and holding position in a strong flow, but it only allows you to go forward.
Native Watercraft has addressed this issue by producing a bicycle sprocket and propeller drive system, which peddles in forward and reverse. We have found this to be a tremendous feature for pulling lunkers out from under the mangroves or putting the brakes on an "Everglades Sleigh Ride." Both systems require about 18-inches of water to operate and will hinder you in the shallowest fisheries, unless the drive is retracted.
The Short Advantage
Another zone for the kayak fisherman and particularly popular here in the Everglades is - the backwater creeks and confined, tree-lined waterways. Here, the mangrove creeks interconnect remote, brackish water lakes. The dense mangroves cover the creeks entirely in a canopy of vegetation. These "tunnels" can be excellent fishing for snook and small tarpon. But, you have to have a kayak, canoe or helicopter to get at them.
This zone calls for a very short and maneuverable boat. One offering the ability to stand up and sight fish is also an advantage. Short is the major requirement here. There is nothing worse than getting a mile into a tunnel, and realizing a 16-foot boat will not turn around in a10-foot space. Paddling out backwards, that far, is just not going to happen.
Ideally, most creekers like a boat in the 10 to 12-foot range. These boats can turn on a dime and easily be lifted and turned around in a tight spot, should the need arise. Creeks give you the option to select either a sit-on-top, or a sit-inside, because they are usually protected from the wind.
The fishing kayak is really about several important things. Economical fishing, access to areas unreachable by other means, and lastly, it is simply a different platform to enjoy what we all love to do.
One old-timer here has been fishing these creeks for over 50 years in what looks like the very first 12-foot canoe ever made. He's also an avid fly fisherman, which is why his preferred paddle-craft is a canoe. However, in the big picture of things, fish do not care what you are in, so borrow your neighbor's kayak - the one sitting in the back yard covered in mildew - and get out on the water!
Future articles will focus more on rigging, techniques and boat types for fly, bait, and artificial styles of fishing. Until then, we will probably be paddling and fishing. Tight lines and good times.
Capts. Jason Sine & Charles Wright
Now that water temperatures are starting to cool off and the Northwestern fronts are back, stone crabs will start crawling. There are two main ways to catch stone crabs. You can either put out crab traps, or dive for them. If you choose to trap them, you are allowed as many as five traps per person without needing a commercial license. Each buoy must be clearly marked with the letter "R" and your name and address, and they can only be attended during daylight hours. Good baits for crab traps are fish scraps and pig's feet. Here's a hint - pig's feet last longer than fish parts.
The down side to trapping is it is a lot of work and you always have to worry about others helping themselves to your catch. Be forewarned, it is a felony to mess with other people's traps. If, on the other hand, you choose to dive for your "stoneys," you avoid the expense of having to buy traps and the hassles involved with baiting and checking them.
The equipment needed for catching stone crabs by hand, besides your basic scuba gear, should include: flashlights, crab gauge, bag, and a good fitting set of gloves. If you don't have a crab gauge, you can make due with a lobster gauge by putting a mark on it at 2
Running offshore 50- to 60-miles requires careful planning. The weather must be right for an enjoyable trip and all of the necessary supplies must be accounted for, including ice, drinks, food, bait, chum, and the right tackle. It's also very important to make sure you leave a detailed float plan with someone you can count on.
We're outa here
It's 6:00 am and we've finished loading the boat. We stop at the bait shop for BLT's and pick up the rest of our live bait before heading out. The weatherman is calling for 5-10 knots out of the northeast... hope he is right this time. The anticipation is running high, mile after mile to our destination - talking about the makos Marty and BJ caught just a few days before. Marty said his fish leaped out of the water over seven times and BJ's shark ate two baits, and they fought the fish on two rods!
We finally reach our spot and anchor a little up current from the spring, so we can fish for snapper and amberjack while we wait for the arrival of the fearsome mako shark. The first thing we do is put out a chum bag, then start to make our burley, consisting of cut-up fish, oil and water in a five gallon bucket. Really oily fish work best, like bonito, mullet, and jacks. Chop them into small pieces and add them to the bucket of burley, too. Get your chum slick going and keep it going, adding a cup of the chum mixture into the ocean every few minutes.
Next, we start fishing - knowing the commotion will help bring in a shark. Matt is already hooked up with an amberjack as I prepare the shark rods - Shimano 50's with 80-pound Blue Diamond on stand-up Crowder 50-pound-class rods. We tie a Bimini twist to a 150-pound wind-on leader, and then fasten a 15-foot, 500-pound cable and a 14/0 hook. We tie a balloon above the leader and put a nice piece of bait on the hook, float it out behind the boat keeping the second rod ready as a pitch bait. The bait should not have bones or scales that could hinder the hook set.
A few hours later the chum slick is looking beautiful and flowing out of sight. Matt and Tommy are getting a workout catching and releasing amberjacks one after another, and I am still chumming away. The wind has turned a little more out of the southeast and has pulled us off the spring, so the snapper bite is a little slow, but we came out to catch a mako and decide to stay there on hook till he shows up. Never ever give up. Matt's next bait stops on the way down, and then starts to go out. The drag starts screaming and we all look up - maybe the Blackfin tuna have found us. After a couple of laps around the boat we see color in the water, but it doesn't look like a tuna - more like a shark. The fish breaks the surface and I reach for the gaff - it's a real nice cobia that came in from the chum slick. We gaff the 50-pound fish and ice him down for the sushi man.
Time for teeth
We know the slick is working and we continue to chum and fish. Matt is on another large jack that is almost to the boat, it's a huge jack crevelle and he lets it swim around, thrashing in the water. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, this huge jagged-toothed mouth inhales the back half of the jack, cutting it off effortlessly. Everyone yells, "SHARK!" Blood fills the water as he swims around looking for the other half. I reel my bait back to the boat right in front of the shark and he inhales it, but he won't swim away from the boat. He swims to the back of the boat as I run to the front. The line goes tight, then starts screaming out away from us. "FISH ON!"
There is a float already on the anchor line and we pitch it over, leaving the anchor to pursue the shark. At first he runs away from the anchor line, pulling us 100-yards away before turning back towards the spring. I apply a little more pressure and he turns away again. Fighting off the front of the boat, I am anticipating his next move - a 15- to 20-foot leap into the air, but he stays down, pulling like a turbo-charged Porsche instead. After an hour-long fight, we see the beautiful blue color and the big fish makes it to the boat. Matt and Tommy are on the gaffs and they secure the mako next to the boat while I attach a tail rope. When handling large sharks, be extremely careful, one wrong move can change the day, or your life, drastically.
We pull the shark into the boat, but before we can get him on the floor, he shreds the bolster with one bite. We then put him into a giant fish bag and ice him for the journey home. Makos are fantastic table fare and the jaws make for a very impressive trophy - there will be nothing wasted.
We hose the boat off and head back to the spring to get our anchor; the shark pulled us more than a mile away.
There are numerous wrecks and springs in the Gulf of Mexico that are visited by makos in February and March. The spring we fished was in 150-feet of water and the spring hole dropped to over 450-feet. These ancient sink holes used to flow fresh water, but research shows they are no longer active.
Capt. Ron Gauthier is the host of Captain Ron's Ocean Explorer, and has a knack for catching giant fish and making the undersea world fascinating and fun. Check out www.ocean-explorer.com for more information and show times.
When working a puzzle most people start by locating the easiest pieces. These pieces are generally ones which can be spotted with out much effort; most of time form the outer edge, and give us some idea or a direction to work in completing the puzzle. Inshore fishing is much like a puzzle, but with one big exception. The puzzle is ever changing, so let's find a few pieces of the puzzle which are a given, call them the outer edge and work from there.
Define the area you want to fish. Purchase a good chart of the area you want to learn and study it. Don't try to educate yourself on a large area at one time. Remember this is a puzzle, one piece at a time.
The environment in which saltwater fish live is in a perpetual motion of sorts. The waters of the Gulf are constantly changing, by the day, minute, hour and its inhabitants have no choice but to roll with the flow. It is easier to notice subtle changes in a few square miles than a whole bay or sound.
During the hot months look for deep channels or cuts which hold fish and allow fish to congregate in times of lower water and concentrate on fishing the edges as the tides rise and fall. Inshore species such as sea trout will move up onto the flats to feed as the tide floods in and stage on the edge of the channel as the tide falls to feed on various bait retreating with the tide.
Plan your trips at different times of the day. Early morning, late evening, and night are some of the best times to fish when the water temperature in your area reaches the hot stage. Pay attention to what tides produce the best bite at these low light periods.
Teach yourself how to understand how tides affect the water depths, currents, turbidity and fish activity in the area you are fishing. Different tides produce different conditions. The intensity of a tide and the flood level of a tide are determined by the position of the earth in relation to the moon. Days just before the full and new moon will produce the greatest tidal changes. Study the moon phases and tide charts, understand them. Learn which moon phases produce the best tides and fish activity.
Learn to fish in different depths with different tactics. Slow drift bouncing a jig, bucktail, or deep running crank bait, then notate where and when you catch fish. Fish for the most part are structure oriented. Deep grass flats broken by patches of sand and rock mean structure and hold fish, especially during hot weather midday periods when fish become less active in shallow areas.
Baitfish buffets! During the hot months schools of baitfish can be plentiful. Pilchards, menhaden, glass minnows, etc. are game fish candy. Look for diving birds or try checking a channel edge on a hard falling tide and you shouldn't have any trouble finding them. Fishing around schools of bait can produce some great opportunities. Trout, redfish, tarpon, cobia, mackerel, ladyfish, sharks, and many other species all show up at one time or another when an easy meal is involved. Pay close attention to the bait and the conditions. If you can learn to pattern bait you can catch fish.
Last but not least record your observations. Keep a log of your time on the water so when history repeats itself by producing similar fishing conditions you will have a starting point. If you do not own a "global positioning system" (GPS) try to acquire one so you can accurately record where you have been fishing and have had success. Spend as much time on the water as possible. Go fishing on days and at times when you feel conditions aren't optimum; this will make you think even harder. Never be afraid to try a new tactic, bait or idea, you just might stumble on to something like another valuable piece to an ever changing puzzle.
It's the last Wednesday & Thursday of July in the Florida Keys and the midnight madness of the 2005 mini spiny lobster season is within minutes from opening. We keep looking down at our GPS waiting for that magic hour of 12:01 am. We can't stop talking about that succulent white meat that will soon be gracing our BBQ grills.
The Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus (Latreille, 1804), aka Florida spiny lobster, grows to about 15 inches in length. Like the other 20 members of the genus Panulirus such as the Australian, California, and Chinese spiny lobsters, it lacks the large pinching claws of their Maine lobster relatives. Its only defense is the spines that cover its shell, which help protect the lobster from predators. The Caribbean spiny lobster uses a second pair of antennae in sensory perception, which are found folded along side the body when not in use. These lobsters have a striped body, brown-gray in color with yellow spots on the segmented tail. They have compound eyes and can detect orientation, form, light, and color. If startled, lobsters will kick their large abdominal tails rapidly to swim away backwards to safety.
The Florida spiny lobster inhabits tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. This nocturnal species inhabits coral reefs where it hides during the day in crevices under ledges.
As the alarm on our GPS rings out across the flat, I flip the switch on the six underwater shrimp lights encircling the boat. The lights do their job and illuminate the flat in all directions. Bruce & Jenna then turn their head lamps on and step out onto the front deck. By the end of the night their necks will be sore and cramping from swinging their heads back and forth looking for those elusive red/orange eyes. It's not long before Jenna starts pointing to the portside of the boat yelling, "There's one, there's one dad."
I bump the engine forward in an attempt to bow into the bug. Bruce raises his bully net as the boat drifts closer and closer to our prey. Just before the current begins to take control, Bruce plunges the net down into the shallow water, trapping the lobster to the grassy flat three feet below. With a perfect stroke reminiscent of Tiger Woods at the Masters, Bruce swings the bug up and into the rear cockpit of the boat. I carefully reach down with my gloved hand and pick up the prehistoric looking creature, being careful not to get stabbed by the two horns protruding from its head. Using a metal measuring device, I carefully place one end between its eyes. I lower it along its carapace and watch as the gauge drops over the edge and touches the tail.
With a splash, back into the water he goes. As I watch the langoustino dart away into the darkness, I yell out, "Go grow up, we'll see you next year."
The spiney lobster sport season will fall on July 26th and 27th for 2006. The bag limits are 6 per person per day for Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, and 12 per person per day for the rest of Florida. The possession limit on the water is equal to the daily bag limit, and off the water is equal to the daily bag limit on the first day, and double the daily bag limit on the second day. Possession limits are enforced on and off the water. Spiny lobster has a minimum size limit that must be larger than 3" carapace, measured in the water. A reminder that possession and use of a measuring device is required at all times, and night diving is prohibited in Monroe County (only during the sport season). A recreational saltwater license and a crawfish permit are needed for harvest. Regular spiny lobster season is August 6 through March 31. The bag limit is 6 per person per day. Harvest of lobster is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the sport season. Harvest is also prohibited during both the 2-day sport season and regular season in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and no take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Call (305) 743-2437 or visit www.fknms.nos.noaa.gov for information about no take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Please call the Marathon Law Enforcement office at (305) 289-2320 for lobster harvesting regulations for Monroe County. Recreational trapping of lobster is prohibited (www.myfwc.com).
LOBSTER BAG LIMITS
Monroe County - 6 per person per day (2 Day Sport Season--July 26 - 27--and Regular Season--August 6 - March 31)
Biscayne National Park - 6 per person per day (2 Day Sport Season--July 26 - 27--and Regular Season--August 6 - March 31)
Elsewhere -- 12 per person per day (2 Day Sport Season--July 26 - 27) and 6 per person per day (Regular Season--August 6 - March 31).
As we continue to drift through the narrow, shallow channel, Bruce spots a pair of bugs unknowingly making their way into the gauntlet of awaiting boats) As we reach our quarry, Bruce again slams the net to the channel floor and shimmies it back and forth, forcing the lobster to entangle itself. Bruce swings the net backwards and quickly scoops the bug up and into the boat. As the lobster lands at my feet, I retrieve it and place my gauge along its back. The gauge is nowhere near falling over this time.
Into the livewell it goes. Only seventeen more to go as the "bug hunt" continues into the night.
Spiny Lobster must have a minimum carapace length of greater than 3-inches and the measurement must take place in the water. The carapace is measured beginning at the forward edge between the rostral horns, excluding any soft tissue, and proceeding along the middle to the rear edge of the carapace. (www.myfwc.com)
As with any activity, to be a successful "bully netter", one must make a small investment in the necessary gear. First and foremost is the bully net itself. A bully net is normally a two-foot diameter hoop net attached to a pole not less than eight feet long. The hoop of the net is bent at a ninety-degree angle to the pole. Basically, it is a shrimp dipping net with a right angle bend in it.
Depending on where you're at in the Keys, you may or may not need a boat. But it definitely improves your odds. I have seen successful bully netters in ten foot Jon-boats and all the way and up to twenty-eight foot pontoon boats. Bully netting is definitely a social event, but after years of chasing our prey, we have found that a flat bottom, maneuverable boat with a maximum of four people works the best. That gives you one boat operator, one spotter and two netters.
Next is a good hand held spotlight of not less than (1,000,000) one million candlepower. Not only do we utilize the hand held lights, but we also press into service the head lamps that we use during alligator season. Last but not least, we have fabricated a customized framework of PVC piping with shrimp dipping lights attached at the ends. The lights rest just below the waterline but not below the lower chine of the boat. This way the lights will not blow out by popping in and out of the water and if you're forced to run up on a grass flat, you won't break them off. We use six of them, but the most important are the two lights on the bow. The remaining four are located off the stern and off each side. Yes, we look like a UFO running through the water, but we find the bugs.
Since many smaller engines just have an alternator big enough to operate the running lights and several pieces of instrumentation, a pair of trolling motor batteries will be needed to run your lighting system.
And finally, a lobster-measuring gauge made out of metal, not plastic. We have found over the years that the cheap, plastic gauges can shrink or expand from lobster to lobster, depending on if its been left on the deck, in the cooler or in the water attached to the end of your tickle stick. In the past we have had legal bugs just after sunset and by midnight the gauge has shrunk by almost a 1/8th of an inch.
Early in our adventures, we always kept several of the plastic type gauges on the boat. We didn't realize there was a problem till "the man" came along side and checked out our catch with his metal gauge. We were suddenly in possession of three short lobster. After being schooled on the difference between metal vs. plastic gauges and a pleasant verbal warning, back over and into the water the short bugs went. My advice is to spend the extra couple of bucks up front. They may save you several hundred dollars on the other end when the marine patrol officer breaks out his "metal gauge."
We look down at our watches and its 2:45am. With three limits on the boat and the livewell bursting at the seams, we shut down the arena of lights and head back to the dock. As I push the throttle forward and come up onto plane, the still, humid air turns into a cool, refreshing breeze. As we approach the dock with smiles and thumbs up, the ladies are waiting to indulge us in a well-deserved cerveza and one of those good island cigars.
After cleaning and bagging our catch, I peel off my gloves and look down at several dozen deep paper cuts on my fingers and palms. I look up at Bruce and say, "yea, it's worth it." As I drag myself upstairs and to the bed, I think about how we just beat the "morning madness" and get to sleep in. Tomorrow night at sunset, we get to do it all over again, with nary another boat in site. Ah, paradise!!!
"See you on the Boat or in the Blind"
Sheepshead don't seem to be affected by the low water temperatures we will soon be experiencing. Instead, they head to offshore rocks, wrecks, and artificial reefs for their annual spawning activities. When this occurs, they bite with little caution and aren't too choosy about what they eat. Crabs, sea worms, sand fleas or fresh shrimp all seem to get the same number of bites, so I always opt for shrimp because they're easy to get and easy to use.
Perhaps the easiest fishing of all will be at the older artificial reefs. There may be a thousand or more sheepshead congregated over a single rubble pile. I have seen hundreds around the Steel Tower off Cedar Key and CFBC Marker #3 off Yankeetown. Then there are the secret spots like the old tripod marker lying down off Yankeetown and several little-known shallow water wrecks. Some old trap piles load up too. The trap piles are closely guarded secret honey holes. Some of the spring holes will have sheepshead, big mangrove snapper and an occasional grouper that will bite on the warmer days.
I generally use bait-casting rods or spinning rods. Twelve- to twenty-pound test line is adequate for any sheepshead because they fight fair, not trying to head into a hole like grouper. Yes, you are cut off occasionally, but it is most often an accident where you hook a sheepshead after your line has drifted behind some structure covered with sharp marine growth such as barnacles. The lighter tackle makes sheepshead fishing a lot of fun for everybody. Last year one of my clients caught a sheepie that weighed 14 pounds, 10 ounces. That sucker was a handful on light spinning gear.
Rigging is mighty simple too. I use just enough sinker to hold my bait near the bottom without letting it drift too far behind the boat with the current. Sinker weight will vary with the current flow. On slow tide days around the first quarter and last quarter moon, I can use 1/4- to 1/2-ounce. As the tide picks up speed around the new and full moon, I sometimes have to use as much as two ounces to keep my bait anywhere close to straight down. Egg sinkers are the sinker style of choice. I simply slide an egg sinker up my line and crimp a "Wavy Grip" sinker below it to serve as a stop rather than using a swivel. Sheepshead have crushing teeth rather than cutting teeth, so a leader is not really needed.
I generally use a #1-1/0 Mustad Sheepshead hook. These hooks are short-shanked, heavy wire hooks, designed to withstand the strong jaws and crushing teeth of sheepshead. I tie the hook to the end of the line with a simple clinch knot. It doesn't get any easier than this.
The rigging I have described thus far differs very little from what everybody else uses for sheepshead. Some folks opt for a swivel and leader but that complicates the rig, slows down re-rigging in case of a break-off and adds an unnecessary expense.
Here is where I do something that I have never seen anyone else do. I slip a 1/2-inch length of hot pink or orange flexible plastic tubing onto the hook. The tubing I use is 3/16-inch diameter. The best source of this tubing I have found is kid's jump ropes that are available in most toy departments. The purpose of this tubing is two-fold. First, it is highly visible. But most importantly, it gives the sheepshead a little something tough to chew on.
If you've ever watched sheepshead nibble on barnacles, you see them nip, crush, spit out the shell and swallow the soft insides of the barnacle. When sheepshead bite shrimp on a hook, the hook is immediately spit out as if it were a piece of shell. With the tough plastic on the hook, the sheepshead holds on longer while trying to remove the tubing or simply swallows the tubing, hook and all. Believe me, a lot of big sheepshead swallow the tubing covered hook. The tubing rig makes catching sheepshead child's play.
I always peel my shrimp and cut it into chunks rather than pinching or tearing it. A piece 1/2- to 3/4-inches long is adequate. I cut a dozen or so live shrimp at a time so that they stay fresh. Simply hook a piece on and drop it to the bottom and reel up a couple of feet. Place the rod in the holder. Forget what you've heard about sheepshead being sneaky biters. With the chewy plastic tubing, they hook themselves darn near every time with the rod in the holder.
You will need a dip net for the larger sheepshead. Smaller ones are simply lifted aboard. Their scales are hard enough that gaffing isn't easy unless you make a small gaff with a super sharp hook.
Sheepshead are the best eating fish we catch around here. It is mighty easy to fill a cooler this time of the year, but stop to consider the fish you are targeting offshore are there to spawn. When you kill one, you also kill untold thousands of potential sheepshead. The limit is 15 sheepshead per person and I personally think this is far too many. Five should be a gracious plenty. Catch a hundred if you want, but release ninety-five for tomorrow.
Sheepshead fishing is fun fishing. The work comes when you start to fillet them. I filleted 39 once last year, along with nine grouper. That took a mighty long time. You won't keep limits but once if you have to clean them yourself.
The idea of using live freshwater shiners for saltwater fishing first occurred to me when I had run out of pinfish over the top of an active grouper hole and nothing else would work to get the bite going again. In wintertime, the pinfish disappear to whom knows where and I was lucky to have the few pinfish that I did have with me at the time. Live bait on an active grouper hole is a guaranteed catch. If you ain't got em; you ain't got em. When one stops to assess how much valuable fishing time is spent loading up on pinfish the morning of a big offshore trip; the advantages become more and more apparent.
This still sounds like a crazy idea doesn't it; it's obviously fraught with problems. After all, how long does a freshwater fish live in saltwater? How do you keep these freshwater fish alive and transport them? What are the rules and regulations relating to this? And exactly how well does this insane idea work? Read on, now that you've been hooked....
First of all the benefits to this technique are: a) with some preparation you have bait readily available at any time of the year, no matter what; b) the bait is at your home and ready to go with no additional preparation; c) you spend your quality fishing time catching fish - not fishing for bait; d) when freshwater fish are exposed to saltwater they act erratically which in turn; e) and most importantly - increases the number of bites and fish caught.
There are no State, Federal of International rules or regulations that address using live freshwater baitfish in saltwater; (or for that matter the use of saltwater fish for bait in freshwater; but we won't go there right now). The only governing rules, which do apply to this process, are specific regulations pertaining to the manner of how these bait fish may be caught. Specifically, there are both net size and net mesh regulations for catching shiners. For catching panfish, which will be used for bait, the panfish must be caught on hook and line.
Shiners can be caught either by hook and line or by a cast net. To net shiners, I like to toss out a little bread; wait for the fish to start nibbling on the bread and then wrap them up with a good toss of my bait net. Note that according to the rules in Florida; no panfish can be kept if caught via this method and must be returned immediately to the water. However, panfish may be used for bait if they are caught on hook and line.
It is most important to carefully and gently handle the fish at all times; this is important to keep them in good shape for the coming trip. Remember the less the fish are handled the better off they will be. Upon catching the shiners, place the fish in well-aerated, large volume cooler. Don't toss them in the bucket; gently place them in the bucket. I have also found that a 30-gallon garbage pail works well with a bungee cord to hold the top on during this transport. Have a five-gallon bucket available to transfer water and fish as necessary. 48-quart coolers work well also for live wells; you can place about 25 six-inch shiners in a single cooler and close the lid and then gently add fresh water every 45 minutes until they are transported to your larger holding tank.
The goal here is to keep the fish in extremely good shape for the next leg of their journey to your house. I transfer the shiners into a large cattle trough ~ 500-gallon capacity - but here again, a 30-gallon garbage pail works just fine also. In the cattle trough tank I do not have any aeration or filtration because my surface area to volume ration for oxygen exchange is fairly high and I have added native plants, which clean the water and add oxygen. In a 30-gallon garbage pail, a simple sponge filter with a small air pump and the fish will be fine. I keep these fish for a week or two prior to taking them out saltwater fishing. Having commercially raised, transported and shipped fish for years, I have learned many tricks of the trade to keep the fish in good shape while both awaiting for the big fishing trip and while in transit to the fishing locations.
In order to keep these bait fish in good condition, make sure they have plenty of water (1/2-gallon per fish minimum) and if in doubt, add aeration with a sponge filter in the tank. Fresh water fish are much more hardy than saltwater fish; there is absolutely no way saltwater fish could be handled and transported as these shiners and panfish can be and then make it to the bottom with a hook through them still in good shape. As tempting as it may be, minimize the amount of food fed to these fish (stale bread) during their stay with you; this is extremely important approximately two days before the big fishing trip. The fish won't starve. Fish travel best with no food in their system; thus there is no waste put into the water which is what begins the cascading problems of poor water quality, elevated nitrates, low oxygen and then early death of your bait.
There are several tricks that can be used to transport these fish on the big fishing day. I typically put my transport cooler (a 60 quart cooler or larger) in my boat the morning of the fishing trip. The last thing I do before I pull out the drive way is transfer the bait into the boat. I net the shiners, put them in the bucket and transfer them five gallons at a time. It is important to keep the water chilled down by adding some ice to the water because the saturation level of oxygen is increased. Also keep the top of the cooler closed to keep the fish in the dark, which slows down their metabolism also. I have drilled a small hole through the top of my cooler and run my air line to my small battery powered air pump into the tank. I have a biologically active sponge filter in the tank, which helps with keeping the water quality in top shape.
The real trick to successfully transporting fish is assuring that the water temperature does not get too hot for the fish in the summertime, keep the oxygen level high and keep the water quality high. Directly before transporting the shiners, adding a few drops of Stresscoat; a commercially available medication for tropical fish also helps. Stressscoat helps a fish replace its natural slime coating, which it looses when netted, handled and transported. The product contains aloe, which helps to coat the fish and helps to prevent the loss of electrolytes and also protects damaged tissue on fish. 4 ounces is approximately $3.50 and can be found at tropical fish stores or on Internet. Just about a half an ounce in 15 gallons of water makes a big difference.
When you are ready to use the shiners, gently net the fish out of the tank quickly; don't get too much saltwater in the tank either. When I first started experimenting with this trick; I took 20 live shiners out and brought 10 live shiners home to test how hardy they are on the water. Approximately 14 hours later; and they were doing fine.
How long will a 6" freshwater shiner with a #6 Circle hook through his dorsal flank live in saltwater, anyway? About 27 minutes (in my saltwater live well.) How long will a freshwater shiner live in saltwater without a hook in it? About 27 minutes. So, my question to you is - How long does a live bait need to stay on the bottom where you fish? One added benefit is that upon emptying the bait well of the shiners; you have some reasonably clean fresh water to splash over your deck and bait station and tackle area on your ride in.
How well does this technique work? As you put that metallic glistening freshwater shiner over the side and you watch it glimmer and shimmer its way down to the depths of the bottom; don't set that rod down! It is another tool to have in your box of tricks; however, it is a lot like fishing.
"Just off the bow... 2 o'clock," I whispered. I could see tails rising from the shallow water covering the flat - my angler couldn't. The glare from the morning sun was directly in his eyes. I needed to reposition the skiff so my angler could see the school. Slowly and methodically, with the aid of my push-pole, I eased him into position. One well-placed cast later, an epic light-tackle battle occurred, and eventually, a beautiful copper redfish was brought boat-side for release.
Silence is golden
Shallow-water anglers are precarious and should probably be grouped into a separate segment of the fishing population - one by themselves. A segment that relies on polarized sunglasses and skiffs with very shallow drafts, that sport strange looking perches. These anglers pride themselves in owning reels with extremely smooth drags and rods capable of delivering offerings that weigh a mere fraction-of-an-ounce to fish well out of normal casting range.
Though the list of tools and characteristics mentioned may vary depending on the angler, anybody who pursues fish in extremely shallow water, and wants to be successful, has a common need; to be as quite as possible. Silence is golden when pursuing fish in skinny-water.
One of the most effective tools a shallow water angler can have at their disposal is a push-pole. Whether it be on an open flat, in a salt marsh or along the bank of a creek, the only potential noise with poling comes from the operator, or the pole contacting the bottom. Thus, alleviating the need for mechanical propulsion and reducing the chance of any non-natural noise, which may alert fish.
I don't know how long the push-pole has been around, but if I had to guess, it probably would date back beyond reed-boats on the Nile River. Of course, the push-pole has evolved since it's early years, but its function is still the same: propulsion and steering. Modern day push-poles can be found in a variety of lengths, including different end attachments, and are constructed from several different types of materials. It's up to the angler to decide what best fits their needs.
The process of choosing a push-pole, for someone new to the idea of poling a boat, may be just a little perplexing, so lets look at a few things that should be considered.
How long of a pole will one need? Generally speaking, if you are poling from a non-elevated position on the deck of a boat, a 12- to 16-foot pole will work fine. If you'll be poling from an elevated platform, an 18- to 22-foot pole would be a better choice. The longer the pole, the fewer times you will have to pick it up out of the water.
What type of bottom will you be poling across? If you will be poling in mud, you may need a little longer pole and you will definitely want a fork at one end of the pole. If you are poling over firm bottom structure, you may be able to get by with a slightly shorter pole. A pointed metal tip on one end of the pole is a big help when planting a pole on hard bottom such as coral, shell or oyster.
How much time will you actually spend using the pole? If you plan on spending the majority of your time poling, a lighter pole is the best choice. There are quite a few poles available from various manufacturers that are made of composites, which are both light and strong. If you are only planning on using a pole occasionally, or for staking out, pushing off, drift control, etc., a heavier fiberglass model will work just fine and should come with a considerably smaller price tag. Also, if you wear any type of jewelry on your hands, a pole with a smooth finish may be more desirable. The ridges or twists in some pole's finishes may cause unwanted noise, which can telegraph from the pole through the water column.
Once the length and construction of the pole you will be using has been decided upon, there are a few basics to remember when poling a boat. While poling, you are steering and propelling from the rear of the boat for the most part. If you want to go in a straight line, the pole should be planted directly center of the transom. If you want to steer right, plant the pole to the right rear of the boat, and to steer left, plant the pole to the left rear. Your results will be just the opposite of what you should expect from using a paddle, as the boat will turn in the direction of the side you pushed from, instead of away from it. Yet, it's really quite simple and only takes a little practice to become proficient.
The other portion to the art of poling is, proper body mechanics. You will want to reach as far up the pole as possible while holding the pole as close to your body as you can. The push-pole should be tucked in close to your body, intersecting at a point near your hip as you begin to push. As you walk your hands up the pole, bend at the knees slightly, using your weight to create momentum. This will allow you to take some of the strain of poling off of your arms and upper-body. Once you reach the end of the pole, repeat the process again.
I think if you give the push-pole a shot and begin to utilize it as a tool, you will see how it can provide access to fish that are not normally accessible at times. The advantages of using a push-pole are great and it is definitely a good addition to the shallow water anglers list of tools, but there are times when maybe a pole is not the most practical means of approaching fish in shallow water. Over the next two parts of this series we will cover a couple of other methods, which can be just as effective for the angler if used properly. So, get out, grab a pole and see if you can get just a little closer to a few of those skinny-water fish that have been alluding you, just out of casting range.
Part II: The Troll
An electric way to stay on top of the situation
Apalachee Bay is located at the northwestern extreme of Florida's Big Bend region on the Gulf of Mexico and is an inshore angler's paradise, plus my home stomping grounds. This bay harbors some unique features in its shallow waters, which make it an extremely productive fishery. But, at the same time, some of these features can become a boat owner's nightmare.
I was paying attention to the fish at the other end of my line pulling drag, when I happened to glance to my left and noticed we had drifted into an area of submerged rocks. Rocks which hold bait and big fish - the same type that like to eat gel-coat off the bottom of flats-skiffs and devour lower-units for breakfast. My intention was to be there, but not on top of a rock. With one quick motion, I pulled the release rope on my trolling motor and dropped the unit from deck to water. No damage was done and we continued to pull quality fish from the submerged area of structure, but making sure to stay on the peripheral. I have replayed similar scenarios in more than one instance in my saltwater fishing career and each time was happy to have a trolling motor at my disposal.
Trolling motors are a great addition to saltwater fishing boats while serving multiple purposes - the main one being an ability to move the boat and change direction with little effort, without the use of a combustion motor. When pursuing angling opportunities in relatively shallow water this can be a big plus. Positioning a boat to cast to a school of hungry redfish that is on the move or being able to get ahead of a pod of tarpon quickly, with very little commotion, is worth the cost of admission - if you are serious about your pursuit of inshore game fish. Remember, silence is golden when fishing shallow water. As well, a trolling motor can allow anglers to safely gain access to and navigate areas which may not be optimal for a boat's big motor.
Modern day saltwater trolling motors are an amazing work of engineering; capable of withstanding the harsh saltwater environment they are intended for use in. They are quite, energy efficient and can be mounted in various locations on a boat to best meet the angler's specific needs. Customization is no problem. If you can dream it, chances are it can be configured. Fore, aft, foot-control, remote control, removable, 12-, 24-, 36-volts, - name your power, variable speeds and multiple foot pounds of thrust are available. The choices are numerous and chances are, if you desire the addition of a trolling motor, one can be found to meet your needs.
The list of benefits is long and diverse, but with that said, a trolling motor is not the answer to all shallow water angling situations and can be a drawback in some situations. There are batteries to contend with which add extra weight to a vessel and electrical connections that may corrode. They take up some space and do produce some disturbance in the water, regardless of how quite they are. Though, many of the downsides can be avoided or adjusted to best meet a fisherman's needs.
The number of different models and designs of electric saltwater trolling motors available in today's marketplace can leave a buyer perplexed, wondering where to start. In an effort to supply a few standardized rules concerning the purchase and use of trolling motors, I contacted Joe Brown, Senior Brand Manager with Minn Kota. Minn Kota, a manufacturer of saltwater trolling motors and trolling motor accessories, supplies consumers with all the necessary information to make a sound buying decision. This information is available at www.minnkotamotors.com. But, I will not leave you at the mercy of a web search for some of the basics which Joe and I discussed.
As a rule of thumb, the more power the better. More specifically, the more foot pounds a motor produces, the quieter it is and the fewer disturbances it makes when pushing or pulling the boat through the water. The additional weight and space required, due to the size of the motor and number of batteries, should be taken into consideration when deciding on the proper trolling motor. Given that you don't want standard excess weight to negatively affect your boats performance.
Quality deep cycle marine batteries should be used to power the motor. Good, solid, electrical connections are important and the proper gauge of wire from the battery to motor connection should be used. This will keep electrical resistance to a minimum, provide an optimal operating situation and extend battery life.
Shaft length is very important and should be taken into account when deciding what model of trolling motor you are going to use, especially on a bow mount unit. In general, the center of the unit should be submerged a minimum of nine inches. The included diagram will explain how to properly measure shaft length. You will want to add a little extra length when calculating motor shaft length needed, if you plan on using the motor in rough water, as this will help minimize motor cavitations.
With the proper consideration, purchasing and installing the right saltwater trolling motor on your fishing boat should not be a problem. The use of a saltwater trolling motor will allow you to have one more tool to use in your pursuit of saltwater game fish and when the need arises, to move quickly and quietly into position for the cast of a life time.
Part III: The Drift
A Deep Look into Drifting Shallow Water
It was early afternoon, mid-spring. The rising tide's progress was evident as the previously exposed flat, of an hour earlier, began to disappear below the surface of the water. A light breeze was casting an ever-so-slight ripple on the bay. Small batfishes were flipping on the surface. The many sandy patches scattered across the vast saltwater grass flats were being revealed by the sun overhead. I remarked to the other two anglers on my boat "there is only one piece of the puzzle left to find... fish".
Vast areas of shallow water can prove to be very productive and sometimes very frustrating, for fisherman trying to locate concentrations of fish. Knowing where and how to start a search for productive shallow water is essential, along with the ability to move about quietly. At times, a trolling motor or push-pole are good options for moving about the shallows, like discussed in the previous two articles of this series, but not always. Drifting is definitely the quietest way to locate fish while exploring, looking for fish, or simply accessing shallow areas that may harbor fish.
On the particular day I am speaking of, we were fishing pristine St. Joe Bay, located in Florida's Panhandle Region. For those who are not familiar with St. Joe Bay, it is a hyper-saline environment. This means the bay's salinity is very high due to a lack of freshwater inflow, thus presenting extremely clear-water. Couple clear-water with miles of extremely shallow flats, and you'll find a shallow-water anglers wonderland. But, at the same time, these parameters can create a nightmare when it comes to locating fish for the area newcomer.
The afternoon was perfect to say the least, but not knowing exactly where to start, I eased my skiff up-wind of a flat, where on previous adventures to the bay I'd found success. I killed the switch on the motor, raised my jack-plate and cocked the motor hard to the right so the boat would drift beam first. Drifting quietly across the flat, we began casting in a fan pattern to every visible sand-indention within reach, in hopes of finding a willing customer or two. It didn't take long before we were into our first school of redfish, after that, we managed a few very nice trout. Once we located fish, we were able to stay in the area by quietly moving and strategically positioning the boat to drift the area numerous times.
Drifting in a boat seems to be a favorite way for many anglers to locate a concentration of fish, especially in deeper water. But, there is a difference in aimlessly drifting the flats trying to locate fish and drifting shallow water with a purpose in mind. When I speak of shallow water, I am speaking of water that is two-feet deep or less. Often, these shallow areas hold large numbers of fish just waiting to be caught. But, the trick to getting close enough for a well placed cast is accessing the area quietly. Stealth is the reason many kayak anglers are finding great success. They are able to get into shallow water with minimal disturbance. Traditional boat owners can do the same. Obviously, most traditional mono-hull boats won't float as shallow as a kayak, but many smaller boats do have the ability to float in a foot of water, and maybe less.
Respecting the Environment
First let me say, be very careful not to damage the bottom or sea-grasses when entering into any extremely shallow expanse of water. Prop-scars take a long time to heal and are having a devastating effect on Florida's shallow grass flats. Besides, entering an extremely shallow area with the big motor defeats the purpose of trying to be quite.
Know Your Boat
Finding the best time to fish shallow expanses of water is paramount and more times than not, a rising tide is the best bet. Fishing on a falling tide can be tricky and leave you stranded if you are not familiar with tides, bottom and water depths in the area. Use the tide and wind to your advantage. Allow the current to propel your vessel. Go with the flow and make sure the weight in the boat is evenly displaced. This will reduce the amount of hull-slap created and the possibility of the boat contacting the bottom in extremely shallow water. Know what the draft is on your boat.
Your motor is a rudder and should be used to adjust the angle and direction the boat drifts. I personally like to drift with as much of the boat's beam forward as possible. This gives each angler onboard plenty of casting room. A trolling motor or push pole can be used to adjust the path you drift on. But, remember you are trying to be as quite as possible. Experiment with different motor angles and learn how your boat reacts.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are irreplaceable when determining the direction you are drifting; especially when you are drifting an area repeatedly. The auto-track feature, when displayed, will provide you with a reference line of your current location and where you have previously drifted. Let me stop here and point out something very important. When you plan to drift an area multiple times, do not follow the track line back to the desired starting point. Instead, make a wide arch around the area you want to drift back through and stop the boat well ahead of your target location. This will minimize the chances of disturbing a productive area.
As well, a GPS unit will allow you to mark and save the location of bottom features, structure and areas that have previously held fish. If used in correlation with other information like wind direction, water temperature, depth and tidal flow... it can be a key to unlock an area's secret. Many marine GPS units available in today's market offer all the necessary information an angler would desire in a compact machine easily mounted on a small boat. Just think... why would you not want to know your current location, what the tide is doing, the water temperature, moon phase and depth - it's all applicable to finding and repeating success.
A small drift-sock or sea-anchor is important to have onboard. Several manufacturers like Minn Kota, offer different drift-socks tailored to best fit your needs. A drift-sock, when deployed, will slow the speed of your drift. Slowing the boat allows an area to be thoroughly dissected. The slower you drift through an area, the more likely you are to find fish. Additionally, the angle at which the boat drifts across the water can be adjusted depending upon where the sock is attached to the boat. Drift-socks can even help stabilize your boat in choppy water.
Using a stake-out pole like the Cajun Anchor, or a Power-Pole, which can be deployed quietly and with relative ease, will allow you to stop the boat during your drift if the need arises; whether it's to fight a fish or to thoroughly fish an area that is holding fish. A small anchor on a short rope may also suffice.
Getting it Done, Quietly!
Regardless of how quite we try to be we will always make a little noise, but there are a few rules which keep noise, or potential noise, to a minimal. Keep the cockpit of the boat clear of unnecessary clutter, which can be bumped into or accidentally kicked around. Try to keep movement in the boat to a minimum and speak quietly. Don't drop objects or slam lids on coolers and hatches. Focus on being quite and the task at hand. Be aware of your surroundings and the current conditions, and when you find success, take note - success repeats itself for a reason. When this happens and you recognize it, you are on the way to putting another piece in the puzzle of shallow-water fishing, and have probably begun to look deeper into the art of shallow water drifting.
Just Out of Reach
Big fish don't get big by not being aware of their surroundings. Long casts, or the ability to make a long cast is imperative. When fishing an extremely shallow area, I cast the bait as far as I can, then begin to retrieve the bait at different speeds to try and figure out what will entice a strike. My favorite baits are un-weighted plastic baits, small weed-less spoons, top-water plugs and shallow-running stick-baits. As well, small live-baits can be very effective in shallow water. Light or medium-light tackle is the best choice for this type of fishing. Eight-pound spinning outfits with seven to seven-and-a-half-foot rods are ideal for extremely light offerings. When using plugging rods, I like to use the same length as my spinning outfits and step-up to 12 to 17 lb line. Most of the time, I will use a double uni-knot to attach a three foot section of 16-20lb fluorocarbon leader to my mainline for added protection against abrasion.