This time of year, Jimmy spent nearly every day on the water being paid $350 a trip to sell his fishing secrets to others. He made enough money during the summer months to support his wife and daughter for the entire year. Jimmy wasn't rich, but he paid the bills. Most of his customers were regulars, including Ricky, who had been fishing with Jimmy since college. Then again, most of his other regular customers showed up on time. Jimmy checked his watch again; it was almost seven.
Forty minutes late, Ricky Robertson stumbled down the dock with a battered blue cooler in one hand and an ancient flyrod in the other. First it was the conference call that ran late so he got caught in Atlanta traffic. Then the rundown hotel on the river didn't have wake up calls. And he forgot his alarm clock. This was supposed to be a vacation not an endurance event. "Hey Jimmy!" Ricky beamed with hopeful enthusiasm, knowing that he was in trouble.
Jimmy took a minute to appraise his wayward client. Ricky was pushing thirty, the same age as Jimmy, but his body was shaped by too many hours spent in the office. His athletic build was starting to gravitate southward and his handsome and once tan face was now drawn and pale. He wore a broad-brim hat, faded pink shirt, baggy green shorts and ridiculous flip-flops--probably purchased from the same convenience store where Ricky bought the beer currently sloshing in his cooler. Ricky's pale skin was painful to look at in the early morning sunlight.
Jimmy shook his head slowly. He knew no amount of chastising would change Ricky's tardy ways. "Ricky," Jimmy said dryly, "Next time you go to the beach, you should get out of the car. I've seen better tans on fish bellies."
Ricky glanced down at his white legs and laughed in his good-natured way that always endeared him to people. It made Jimmy laugh in spite of himself.
"Sorry I'm late, boss," Ricky said as they loaded the last of the gear into the boat.
"Tell it to the fish," Jimmy answered as he cranked the engine and pushed away from the dock. As Jimmy's boat sped across the flats, Ricky felt his world decompress. The early morning sun colored the water gold with accents of white provided by the wading shorebirds. The light wind was magnified by the speed of the skiff as it sped through the shallow water. Ricky didn't ask where they were going and didn't really care. He knew better than to pester Jimmy with questions this early in the morning. Jimmy knew where he was going and that was good enough. Ricky closed his eyes and settled in for the ride.
Jimmy ran the boat through a series of salt marshes until they escaped into a deep cove framed by the mainland on one side and Apalachicola Bay on the other. The calm water rippled as Jimmy cut the engine and began to drift with the incoming tide. A great blue heron walked gingerly in the shallows looking for minnows.
Under the bright sky it was difficult to tell where the water ended and the sky began. Jimmy scanned the horizon, looking for the giant osprey nest that appeared last fall. The osprey was there, watching Jimmy carefully, waiting for him to spook fish from their hiding places.
Jimmy glanced down at his friend who had somehow managed to fall asleep despite the 60 mph ride through shallow water. Jimmy pried open the live well and scooped out a particularly active pilchard which he slid down the back of Ricky's shirt. As the baitfish made its way down Ricky's spine, he jumped up, tripped over the cooler and narrowly avoided falling overboard by grabbing the center console of the skiff. "I'm up, damnit!" he growled at Jimmy.
"Good," Jimmy replied, "Let's start fishing."
Ricky tried to blink himself awake. "Where are we?" he asked.
"Jurassic Park or the G-Spot" Jimmy answered, "Depends on who you ask."
"Well, I'm asking you, Captain, since you are the only one here."
"We are in the middle of Jurassic Park... where all the big dinosaurs live. That's what we are fishing for, a big old dinosaur of a tarpon."
"And the G-Spot?" Ricky wondered.
"Because that is where all the action is," Jimmy replied.
They spent the rest of the morning searching for tarpon. Jimmy spotted a few singles but Ricky pressed too hard and missed the cast. They had one good hook-up but it turned out to be a six-foot bull shark. While Ricky was excited to finally catch something, Jimmy was relieved when the line broke and the shark swam off.
As the sun climbed higher into the Florida sky, Jimmy stood on the poling platform scanning the water for movement. Ricky stopped fishing and started drinking. "How 'bout it, Jimmy? You want to call it a day?" Ricky asked between gulps of the ice-cold beer.
"Not yet, brother, not even close," Jimmy answered without taking his eyes off water. He finally saw what they needed. There were pods of tarpon rolling on the surface about two hundred yards away. Jimmy began slowly poling the flats boat closer to the circling fish. They could hear the sound of the fish gulping air from the prehistoric lung on their backs.
"Get ready. Thirty yards at two o'clock. Keep it in front of him," Jimmy ordered. Ricky looked but couldn't see anything but water. "Just put the fly out there nice and soft," Jimmy was whispering now.
Ricky made two quick false casts and then let the line go. For once his timing was right and Ricky sent the fly just where Jimmy had told him. As he began to strip the fly back he felt a tug at the other end.
"For the love of God, set the hook!" Jimmy yelled. Ricky reared back with all of his strength. There was a pause and then less than twenty yards from the boat the tarpon erupted from the surface of the water, gills rattling like silver armor. As the fish hung in mid-air, it was eye to eye with Ricky. The 100-pound fish made a leap that was close to ten feet above the surface of the water.
After a series of spectacular jumps, the fish stripped off 200 yards of line and backing from the reel in just a few seconds. It would take Ricky almost half an hour to get half that much line back. For every twenty yards Ricky would retrieve, the fish would take back ten spirit-sapping yards.
An electronic chime of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony rang out from Ricky's cooler. "Can you get that, Jimmy? I'm kinda busy right now," Ricky gasped as he fought the fish.
"Sure. No problem," Jimmy replied. He opened the cooler, dug out the cell phone from a plastic bag and threw it into the bay. "If there is anything more important in your life right now than catching that fish, let's do you both a favor and go home."
Another ten minutes passed and Jimmy felt the air cool behind him. He turned and saw the thunderheads that had engulfed the horizon. Jimmy knew they should break off the fish and head for cover, but they were so close. A few more minutes would do it.
The temperature dropped 20*F as the cold rain began to fall. The entire skyline was black behind them. The distant rumbles of thunder grew louder and closer as Ricky fought the fish. Jimmy could see the flashes of lightning behind them. Every time Ricky got the fish close, it would see the boat and strip off another fifty yards of line.
"This is too dangerous," Jimmy thought. He started forward but Ricky said, "I think I've got him." Ricky was gaining line with every turn of the reel. Jimmy laid flat on the casting deck next to where Ricky was standing. As Ricky reeled in the line, Jimmy reached over the side of the boat and wrapped his hand once through the leader and brought the big fish to the boat. Its enormous body broke the surface.
Jimmy touched the fish along its side and pulled free a single scale. He turned to look at Ricky. As the air heated up around them, Jimmy heard a crackling sound followed by a catastrophic roar. The hairs on Jimmy's arms stood straight up. He saw the flash as the lightning ripped past their heads and struck the nearby channel marker. The buoy exploded and the water around it began to boil.
Just then the fish surged and broke the leader. Jimmy handed the tarpon scale to Ricky and cranked the engine. They ran the boat at full throttle through the shallow water. The heavy rain felt like pin pricks as they raced for safety. Ricky kept his head down studying the day's only trophy. The tarpon scale was silver with a bluish tint and nearly as big around as a CD.
Ricky started laughing. "What's so funny?" Jimmy yelled above the engine.
"Nothing," Ricky answered. "Every once in a while you have to do something really stupid just so you know you are still alive."
"You're alive now buddy... but just barely," Jimmy said with a smile.
The full moon left a silvery path across the rippled
surface of the water while dorsal fins gleamed in the light.
Tarpon feeding at night are noisy and the night was so still
that we could hear the gentle exhalations as they rolled.
Frequently there was an eruption as a fish took a shrimp,
and occasionally we heard rattling gill plates as a free
jumper took to the air.
Mark Nichols, owner of the D.O.A. Bait Co. accompanied me on
this night time trip to test his Bait Buster Finger Mullet lures
on these late-winter tarpon in Government Cut. We expected a challenge
since conventional wisdom has it that tarpon eat only shrimp during
this time period but the lure performed very well. It equaled
the number of bites on the live shrimp in fish weighing 25 to
60 pounds. We spent a few hours in a fish-fighting frenzy; we
were constantly re-rigging and marveling at the thrashing spectacle
before us. There is nothing like fishing for tarpon at night...
Tarpon are nocturnal feeders. This is partly because this species
is by nature more active at night and also because there is less
boat traffic to disturb them. Night tarpon fishing can be done
wherever there are tarpon, which includes 90% of the inshore saltwater
and a significant amount of the freshwater in south Florida. Some
likely places include residential docks, bridges, ocean inlets,
deep channels among flats, and off beaches. Snook, jack and mangrove
snapper are also sometimes caught when night fishing for tarpon.
There are many elements to successful nighttime tarpon fishing.
Tides are very important as most fishing spots depend on a certain
tide to be successful. Tide direction and speed determine the
amount of bait being swept through the area as well as the difficulty
the fish may face to hold its position in the current. You should
research individual spots to determine the optimal tidal state
to find the fish.
Moon phases are also important since they influence the magnitude
of the tides while providing various amounts of nocturnal illumination.
Full and new moon phases usually have the greatest tidal fluctuation.
Generally speaking, the greater the changes in tidal elevation,
the faster the current will be, flushing more bait through a given
area and encouraging the tarpon to feed. A new moon makes for
the best night fishing under a light, while a full moon provides
enough light for the fish to pursue their prey wherever they choose.
Three different fishing techniques are used depending on the
amount of available light. When tarpon are laid up or busting
bait under a bright light, the angler simply presents the fly
or bait to the fish and hopes for a take. While refusals are common,
the fish rarely spook because of a bad cast as they may in shallow
water. The brightest lights are usually found on residential docks,
around bridges, or alongside a large, commercial wharf. Halogen
lights produce the best fishing light. Any light that creates
a pool on the water's surface and provides illumination
several feet down will attract the bait and, as a result, tarpon
and snook, among others. Under a bright light, you are sight-fishing,
much as you would fish in the day in some well-known tarpon locations.
The second technique is to fish slightly dimmer lights where
the fish are not actually visible. Examples include the street
lights on a bridge or causeway. These fainter lights can also
produce fish. Here the technique should be blind casting repetitively
to the shadow line. While the fish may make their presence known
by occasionally attacking food on the surface, they often go undetected.
The last technique is for fishing in almost-darkness without
any artificial light and it can apply to any water where tarpon
are found. Here the fish are often located by sound. During full
moon periods, often very active times for tarpon, they can be
seen with the naked eye. Most anglers drift live shrimp, crabs
or live fish near the surface. Fly or spin fishermen will need
to blind cast repetitively in areas where tarpon are likely.
An understanding of what tarpon eat at various times of the
year is crucial to success. Generally, tarpon eat whatever is
currently in greatest abundance and will rarely take a different
offering. During the months from December to April, shrimp dominate
their diet. Drawn to the warmer waters of the ocean inlets, they
feast on the shrimp runs, particularly on an outgoing tide. During
the transition months of April, May, October, and November, mullet
migrate along the coast and make up the bulk of the tarpon's
prey. In the summer months, most of the larger fish have migrated
out of the area leaving the smaller fish behind. These tarpon
usually weigh between 10 and 30 pounds. Because of their small
size and the lack of other types of feed, these fish concentrate
on the tiny pilchards and glass minnows attracted to the lights.
In fly selection, the key to success is close imitation of the
size, shape and color of the current prey. The clearer the water
and the more light there is, the more precise the required match.
Bait fish and shrimp tend to be very pale and iridescent at night
so most patterns should be a combination of chartreuse, white
or silver. Imitation glass minnows flies are usually very small,
measuring 1/2" to 1 inch. Because of this small size, spin
fishing for tarpon when they are feeding on this food source is
not as successful as fly fishing since lures this small cannot
be thrown with spinning rods.
When choosing a leader, visibility is a primary concern. Flourocarbon
should be used in the smallest diameter possible depending on
the size of the fish. 25 pound test will work for fish less than
10 pounds, 40 pound for those weighing between 10 pounds and 30
pounds, 60 pound test for those weighing 30 to 80 pounds, and
80 pound test for the big ones. In really clear water, tie a leader
with an extra long shock (bite) tippet to get the knots as far
away from the fish's eye as possible. This will result in
more hits but renders catches ineligible for certain tournaments
and IGFA records.
In the winter, the tarpon that inhabit ocean inlets and the
environs are probably the hardest fighters of their kind. They
are in superb condition from feasting on plentiful shrimp and
swimming in the strong currents. The deep water and current also
work against the angler when the fish head for deep water to fight
it out. All the rules of standard tarpon fishing apply here: bow
when he jumps and don't strike until you feel him take the
bait or fly and run with it. A skilled captain to handle the boat
is very useful on account of swift water and boat traffic but
when fighting a fish busier areas, backing down with a small boat
is not advisable due to the large wakes produced by other vessels.
There can be a downside, in spite of all the excitement of tarpon
fishing at night. Performing simple tasks like knot tying are
more difficult, but good lighting on the boat will help. In the
summer, mosquitoes can be very bad, particularly near mangrove
shorelines. In seaports and busier inlets, there is a greater
danger of collision or swamping due to high wakes and as always,
navigation lights should be in good working order. Crime is also
a concern in the more urban locations and some boat ramps are
not safe at night. And while the presence of law enforcement makes
you safer, the night angler is often a suspect. Keep your licenses
and registration updated and be sure all required safety equipment
is on board. You may be stopped by a variety of local, state,
and federal patrol boats. When you are dock fishing, a homeowner
or neighbor may call the police to report a suspicious boat (yours)!
Though waterborne burglars may be an issue for these homeowners,
you usually have the right to be on the water as long as you are
not touching the dock or venturing past the pilings farthest from
the shore. Local laws may vary, but knowing the rules will ensure
your rights and safety.
Despite these drawbacks, those who venture out after tarpon
under the cover of darkness will discover peaceful waters free
from the fast pace and intense sun of south Florida while catching
more tarpon in the process.
Capt Adam Redford runs night tarpon, snook and Permit fishing
in Biscayne Bay and the Upper Keys. He also works out of Flamingo
in Everglades National Park. For more information visit his web
or call 800-632-0394
We left the dock in Ft. Lauderdale at 5 p.m. and set up our first drift at 6:30. After an hour of fishing, we hooked up with a 50-pound swordfish that was released by my father after a 20-minute battle. We reset our drift and things were quiet until 10 p.m. when the tip rod that was 50 feet below the boat started bouncing. Greg reeled in the live tinker mackerel to within 25 feet from the boat, where a sword got a hold of it and headed south.
Greg fought the fish for 90 minutes before making any real progress. Every time he would gain 100 feet of line, the fish would effortlessly rip it back off. At 11:30, the fish seemed to get a second wind and made a big run. We thought it was over, but Greg suddenly started gaining line quickly and after 20 more minutes, we could see a light rising under the boat. We readied the gaff and took a shot as soon as she was within reach. The fish just laid there motionless as we brought it in through the transom door and we slid it onto the deck before ever noticing anything peculiar. Suddenly, we noticed that the swordfish had no bill and half of its tail was missing. There were also slashes on its belly. We realized that a big shark had to have done this kind of damage and we quickly reached out and shut the transom door.
Knowing that the shark was probably still nearby, we slit open the stomach of the swordfish and started tossing out the contents while we attached a shark rig to one of the rods. As soon as we did this, a huge shadow appeared off the bow and began circling the boat. There was blood all over the deck so we took a bucket of water and rinsed the blood out through the scuppers. This really got the shark going. That shadow became clearer as it got closer and the blood in the water was too much for it to resist. Suddenly we had a mako that was easily over 500 pounds trying to stick his nose into the scupper hole. The Predator has a 12-foot beam and this shark was longer than that and just inches from our feet.
Even after the two-hour fight with the swordfish, Greg was ready to do battle with this beast, so he took a small piece of swordfish and put it on his hook. He flipped it out the back of the boat, but the shark wasn't interested at first. She kept her nose right up against the scupper while the bait drifted 20 feet back. Greg Salsburg grabbed the leader and pulled it in until he was able to dangle it on the mako's nose. The shark rolled and took the bait before resuming her search for whatever was coming out the scuppers. She didn't even know she was hooked. We thought about hitting her with the flying gaff but had heard the stories of green makos spinning into the boat and doing more damage than any of us wanted, so we decided we needed to fight this fish on rod and reel before gaffing it.
Greg yanked on the rod two or three times to let the shark know she was hooked and the shark took notice. The mako took off on a long run before making a huge leap out of the water and landing on the main line, breaking it clean.
Here we were, with a 200-pound swordfish on the deck, yet the only thing any of us could think about was the shark. It was easily the biggest fish any of us had ever been inches away from and more impressive than any living thing we'd ever experienced. We headed home and tried to figure out what exactly had happened.
Our best guess is that Greg's battle was developing into a standoff before this mako came along and got interested in the sword. The sword made a huge run to get away from the shark but it was not enough. The mako took away the swords weapon (its bill) and its motor (its tail) before making the move for the meat (the belly). Greg probably got that fish to the boat just before it was going to be finished off by the mako. The swordfish weighed in at 203 pounds after the damage was done.
The water across the lake began to explode. Bass were ripping
through the helpless shad with unrelenting ferocity. I looked
at the tip of my rod only to see a lure that vaguely resembled
a minnow. It only made sense to me to use a bait that fish eat;
their natural prey. From that point on, I began to explore different
ways to catch a bass's natural food, mainly lake shiners.
I first started catching shiners on cane poles at local ponds,
but this became too time consuming. I then purchased my first
cast net at the local K-Mart with money I saved from mowing lawns.
With about a half a loaf of bread and my new cast net, catching
enough shiners to fish with was easy.
From the first moment I began to fish with live shiners, I was
hooked. Nothing in my opinion compares to live bait fishing. It
all begins with your cork slightly bobbing up and down and slowly
moving around, and then all of a sudden, things begin to change.
The movement of your cork increases dramatically and then wham,
your cork disappears with a swirl. Maybe it's those few
seconds between the time the shiner gets nervous and the time
you set the hook that makes it so exciting. Sometimes the cork
will disappear less dramatically. It just slowly goes under. It
doesn't matter how it goes under, it's still a thrill.
After I began using live shiners for bait, artificials became
obsolete. Live shiners became a priority for me. This was a difference
between a lot of fishermen in the area and myself. This was very
apparent when you saw the amount of emphasis I placed on catching
them. Shiners were not always readily available in the local ponds
and sometimes I had to travel several miles to catch them and
then several more miles to fish them at my favorite bass fishing
spot. Indeed this was a challenge for someone who didn't
have a driver's license, but I always got it done somehow.
The result, I caught more fish. It was worth it for me to go the
extra mile to have the best bait. It still is today.
I've since graduated from those lakes and ponds to the gorgeous
Gulf of Mexico. I've spent the last twenty years fishing
these beautiful waters for just about every species of fish that
frequents the area. However, without a doubt, fishing for grouper
has become my favorite. Digging these fish out of rocks has become
an obsession of mine. Having a family that has been in the seafood
industry for four generations has given me the opportunity to
learn from some of the best. Whether I was decking on a boat or
captaining my own vessel, I quickly realized how important live
pinfish were to catching our limit of grouper. Just as shiners
were to bass fishing, pinfish were just as important to filling
the ice chest. I rarely left the dock without them.
With the priority that I placed on having live pinfish for every
offshore trip, I quickly learned how to fill the live well with
these frisky baitfish. But it was not until I decided one summer
to sell them commercially to local marinas that I truly mastered
the art of catching them. As you probably already know, catching
live pinfish may not be very difficult, but with a few helpful
tips, you can increase your catch dramatically and on a more consistent
Trap DesignIt amazes me at how much trap design
varies depending on the area your in. I've traveled all
along Florida's gulf coast and I've seen about as
many different trap designs as people who use them. Just as there
are numerous designs, there are just as many opinions on what
design catches the most. I've used just about every one
of them, and even designed a few of my own, and I still don't
have a favorite. My advice to you is to experiment. There are
many factors that affect the ability of a trap to catch fish.
Among them are water temperature, water clarity, time of year,
salinity, type of bottom the trap is on, etc.... Most local
fishermen have an opinion on what type and color of a trap works
best. This may be a good place to start. Especially if they contend
that the trap they're recommending catches fish in the area
that you want to place the traps. Try starting with the least
expensive traps and see if they're successful. Those small
fifteen-dollar hexagonal traps will sometimes out-catch those
expensive one-inch square colored traps, depending on the water
variables. I can't tell you how many times I've kept
those expensive traps in the boat and only used the cheap ones
because they would out-catch them, even when placed right next
to one another. Least expensive is also important because bad
weather, sharks, porpoises, boat motor props and bait pirates
(a term I will later define) can make them mysteriously disappear.
Nothing will ruin your day more quickly than to arrive at your
traps, expecting several dozen live pinfish, only to find the
BaitI've experimented with just about
everything to use as bait in traps. From cat food to grouper heads
and everything in between, I've tried it all. Keep in mind
that pinfish are scavengers and they'll eat anything dead.
My advice is to stop by your local seafood store and kindly ask
if you can take some discarded seafood wastes off their hands.
Don't forget your five-gallon bucket. I've rarely
been turned down. In fact, when I did it commercially, one local
seafood house gave me two 35 gallon trashcans full of discarded
wastes from the local sales of that day. They were glad I took
it off their hands. In those cans were grouper heads, mullet heads,
shrimp heads, crab shells and other assorted discarded wastes.
I didn't have a favorite and I don't think the pinfish
did either. They all seemed to catch equally. Before choosing
which bait to use, take notice of the size mesh of the bait holder
in the trap. The larger the mesh size of the wire, the larger
the bait should be. This will make it harder for the smaller fish
to eat all your bait before your trap can catch enough pinfish.
You can also freeze your own bait. Just keep the discarded fish
parts from you last trip. Don't pay for bait. Offshore fishing
is expensive enough.
Trap PlacementWhere you place your traps will
certainly affect the amount of bait you catch. Some fishermen
will insist that grassy bottom is vital to catching pinfish. I
disagree. I've caught just as many on mud and sand bottom,
and next to oyster bars as I have on the grass flats. The bottom
line is you need to place them where the pinfish are. Find the
fish by experimenting. Place your traps on different types of
bottom, at different water depths and next to different types
of structures. See what works best in your area. Keep in mind
that an area that may have water on it at the time you place the
trap may not have it all the time. Be aware of the tidal flow
and place your traps in an area that's constantly covered
with water. Also ask around to local fishermen. Chances are they'll
know where the pinfish are.
Bait PiratesIf you've run pinfish traps
long enough, chances are a "bait pirate" has probably
stolen your bait. I must admit, nothing angers me more than to
arrive at my traps and find the bait trap release door is open
and empty of baitfish. Those of you that have had this happen
know what I mean. It makes you look incompetent in front of your
charter, especially when they begin to realize they're not
going to catch as many grouper. In Florida, it's illegal
to pull a bait trap that's not yours. Still, bait pirates
refuse to be deterred and continue to steal what's not theirs.
Over the years, I've found some ways to keep the bait pirates
away. The first is to place your traps away from boating channels.
Try to place them in areas that are less prone to boat traffic,
especially boat traffic that's going offshore bottom fishing.
Pinfish aren't cheap. Their price per dozen generally ranges
from $3.00 to $5.00 or even more. This is all the motivation bait
pirates need in order to steal your bait.
Also, if possible, try to place your traps in front of waterfront
homes. Pirates tend to be less bold if they know someone may be
watching. I've had traps in front of homes go undisturbed
for years. Another way is to ask permission from homeowners to
use their docks. Docks are great places to catch pinfish.
Chute Size and DirectionI've always wondered
why two identical traps with identical bait, placed right next
to each other will catch different amounts of pinfish. One trap
may have fifty pinfish in it and the one right next to it has
none. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I've
found that the size of the opening of the trap's chutes
or their necks (where the fish enters the trap), can dramatically
affect the amount of baitfish you collect. It's important
that we make a distinction between the two different openings
of the chutes (necks). One end of the chute attaches to the trap.
From here the chute funnels down to the inner opening. It's
mainly the width of the inner opening of the chute I'm talking
about. If you have traps that are not catching that are among
other traps that are, you may want to adjust the inner opening
of those that are not. I like to have mine opened just enough
to allow my hand to barely fit in right up to where my thumb adjoins
my hand. At this point, you should not be able to push your hand
through the inner opening without forcing it through. Take a look
at the traps that are catching and try to adjust the traps that
are not to the same width. It's important to remember that
a chute that's adjusted too wide will allow more fish to
escape by swimming back through the chute and an opening that's
too thin will not allow as many pinfish to enter the trap.
Another important step in placing your traps is to point the chutes
in the direction of tidal flow. In other words, if the tidal flow
is north and south, then place your traps with the chutes pointed
north and south. I had a local crabber one time tell me that by
placing his blue crab traps in this manner, he increased his catch.
He recommended that I try it with my pinfish traps and as he predicted,
I caught more pinfish.
Although I've changed the type of fishing I do, I haven't
changed the type of bait I prefer. Live baitfish will always be
a priority for me. Whether it's the increased number of
grouper I catch or just the sheer excitement of fishing with them,
I've got to have them. And hopefully with these few helpful
tips, you'll experience more full traps and ultimately more
fish in your cooler.
Watch the Fins
Over a 3-year-period actually raising catfish (I have always been intrigued with aquaculture), I learned some plum handy, good-to-know tips I'd like to share.
The dorsal fin and the pectoral (side) fins of all catfish (including tropical catfish) are sharp, barbed and to be avoided. Upon entering your skin, the mucous-covered protein covering the barb is sloughed off and left in the puncture wound. After the initial pain sets in, the associated infection is a real attention-getter. Saltwater catfish wounds sting a lot more than freshwater catfish (in case you were wondering) but both can very easily become infected. Believe me.
In fact, a very severe puncture wound experienced by a friend courtesy of a saltwater catfish almost caused him to pass out from the pain. Even worse (from my perspective) it ended a potentially great day on the water fishing.
So here's the best advice: avoidance is your best defense.
Stay in Control
Control the fish while the fish is on the line and while bringing it on the boat, pier, dock or shore. Don't let the fish swing about on the end of the line any longer than necessary. Get it down on the ground immediately.
If a child has the fishing pole--stop, drop and roll, then run away! (Numerous people have been finned by a swinging catfish).
I've heard tales of fins in hands, knees, thighs, and bottoms (butts and sneaker soles). There are a variety of techniques for getting hooks out of these rascals. If it is a simple lip hook, grab the hook at the shank with a pair of pliers and turn the fish upside down over the rail of the boat and give a quick shake or two. That way you never have to touch the beast.
If the catfish needs to be handled because it swallowed the hook, I immediately snip off the dorsal fin and the two pectoral fins before I handle the fish. That puts you on a level playing field. A standard pair of catfish skinning pliers works well to snip off these fins. Make sure you dispose of these removed fins properly because they are still potential hazards on the floor of your boat should you kick or step on them. Once done you can safely grab the fella and remove the hook and release the fish.
This may sound cruel for a fish you are going to release, but I have had numerous catfish get entangled in my seines when I was harvesting them and would have to remove fins to get them out of the net. Upon recapturing the fish months later, they are no worse for the wear. Although the barbed fins do not apparently grow back, the soft fin coverings do. The fish can still actively maneuver on its way without its defense mechanism (PETA folks: it is really not that bad).
The third way (aside from cutting the line which does not hurt the fish), involves decisively grabbing the fish with the thumb and ring finger behind each pectoral fin with the dorsal fin straight up between the pointer finger and middle finger. There is some risk involved in grabbing the fish like this. In fact every time I have been finned it has been doing exactly this maneuver. Hence, I strongly endorse clipping the fins. The release is done in one quick fluid motion also.
Butt Juice for Catfish Wounds?
So you've been finned? You dummy. Now what?
Of course you yell, scream, then cuss a little (or a lot). About 15 seconds later the real pain sets in, as do your second wave of curse words.
Then--and you won't believe this trick--you take the very same fish that did the evil deed (presently without its dorsal or pectoral fins because you are now a convert) and you squeeze the juice from the anus onto the finned area. Yes, rub the fish's slime from this excretion all over and into the puncture wound. It will stop hurting immediately if it is a fairly shallow puncture wound. Yes, this really works.
Now what is the chemistry behind this? I don't really know. My best scientific guess is that there is a gland that is expressed which produces some very effective neutralizing and blocking agents. Upon discussing this with other buddies over a beer or two and cleaning a few catfish, they don't bother to think too hard about it and they just call it "Catfish Butt Juice" (also known as CBJ). But, whatever school one is from--it works.
Not sure you must use the exact same catfish you were hit with (or whether any other catfish will do). All I can offer is this: if you think you have been scraped or hit, use that same catfish! And here's some more advice: keep that same catfish for at least 30 minutes because the pain comes in waves and you can reapply the CBJ. The catfish does not have to be kept alive. Nor should it be for doing this evil, evil deed.
Now what is the doctor going to say about this practice? Well you can ask him/her when you get there. I don't really know, but at the point you have been actively finned you've already got a whole lot of foreign protein directly injected into a meaty part of your body. Topically adding a little more interesting goo can't really do much more harm and, besides, it takes the pain away--guaran-damn-teed.
If the catfish is fully stuck to you, you have really screwed up. Attempt to cut the fin so you can start your next round of the genuine First Aid as you rapidly make your way to Urgent Care. A web search for first aid of catfish stings recommends submerging in hot water to deactivate the poisons. The judgement call should then be made on when to apply ice (if at all) to decrease swelling and the spread of the poisons that were not deactivated. I carry both meat tenderizer and a product called Sting-Eze which has an active ingredient of Camphor which works on a lot of other stinging insects, as well as catfish and jellyfish.
Cleaning Catfish Quickly and Easily
If you have a lot of lively catfish you need to put down all at once, put them in a cooler and drain all the water out. Then, with the plug back in the cooler, take a single 16-ounce warm beer, freshly pop it and quickly but gently pour over the fish. Then close the cooler tightly. Give it about a minute completely sealed and viola! Dead fish in less than one minute.
Now, where and when can you use this interesting fact, I don't really know. Maybe on a bet you can use this little ditty to get rid of that warm beer in your hand and have someone fetch you a cold one. My best guess on the science behind this little known phenomenon is that the CO2 causes the fish to rapid-gill, directly injecting beer and CO2 into their system.
This displaces the oxygen and some type of an embolism in the brain occurs. (I can only hope to go this way myself). My preference is to keep catfish alive as long as possible, and then quickly clean them freshly dead.
Catfish clean easiest when they are fresh. Otherwise the skin sticks to the meat when you start pulling it off. I've seen cleaning of catfish performed many different ways with some more effective than others. Here is the quickest and easiest way I've found. I can completely skin a catfish in 30 seconds, and have it filleted out (with no bones) in another 30. No fuss, no muss. The trick is finding the zippers to their little "tuxedos".
Finding the Zipper
Now this quick and easy skinning technique is also important for saltwater fishermen because if you happen to catch a small hardhead catfish while loading up on pinfish for bait, throw the catfish in your live well (with fins removed). These make great cobia bait. Prior to placing the catfish on the hook, strip a piece of skin back on both sides of the catfish approximately one-inch, same as you would if cleaning the fish.
A fully-skinned catfish can swim around in a child's wading pool for at least 5 minutes; which is where I spontaneously tossed a fish I was cleaning to deal with the emergency of my four-year-old standing in a fire ant mound. So, pulling back and leaving a one-inch flap of skin on a catfish is merely a flesh wound to these fellas.
Getting the Best Flavor
To get the best tasting catfish, assessment of the water bodies where you are fishing is important. Catfish are susceptible to nutrients in the water and when the nitrite levels are elevated it imparts a very unique and unpleasant quality to the flavor of the fish. This condition is referred to as nitrite toxicosis or brown blood disease in catfish.
There is plenty written on the subject of brown blood disease and it is easily accessible on the internet.
What information isn't available is how to check for this condition in fresh fish and at your fish market. The ability to identify this flavor in catfish comes with experience but the test is simple: from a fresh cut area running directly down the backbone, examine the condition of the fillet for color and then simply smell the fillet.
If it smells stale, muddy and earthy this flavor will be present when cooked. This is indicative of brown blood disease. This is not harmful to the consumer, but it does impart an offensive odor and renders it less than the perfect fish to enjoy at the dinner table.
Now, with your new-found interesting and bizarre knowledge of catfish--I should probably have some type of legal disclaimer here in the article. So, here it is: Always know the difference between a catfish and an attorney!
One is a scum-sucking bottom dweller and the other is, well... a fish.
"Maannn..." my husband said aloud, with more than a hint of envy slipping out. He didn't have to say any more. After 25 years of marriage, I knew exactly what he was thinking: How was it possible that an entire family could labor so cheerfully together after (what he knew to be) an extremely hard day of fishing, in a tournament no less? Moreover, how was it possible they were still fishing together at all?
It was the voice of someone who has recently faced the disappointment of his (mostly) grown sons no longer having time to go fishing. "I'm really sorry Dad, but I've got too much to do this weekend... uuhh... I've got a party... a... a... paper to write... homework... a hot date, etc." Or his personal favorite: "Ummm... gee, I'm sorry I can't join you, but I need to give the cat an enema."
As a not-so-passive partner and a woman who shares his passion for fishing, I found myself in conflict: Part of me was empathetic; I recently endured my own parental heart-ache when, upon his arrival from a 5-week vacation, our youngest son ran right past his ol' ma and into the arms of his girlfriend. Owwwuch!
And then there's my all-knowing self-righteous side that's just itching to say "I told you so!" After all, what did the man expect? Both boys had been dragged offshore from the time they were in diapers and asked to entertain themselves for hours on end while their parents feverishly chased any number of fish from one end of the state to another.
No Saturday soccer games for these kids. Their lives revolved around the phases of the moon, weekend weather predictions, and of course, the seasonal migration of various species: kingfish, redfish, tarpon, Spanish mackerel, red snapper, trout and yes, even the winter sheepshead run. (You'd think he could take a rest for at least a month!)
Instead of honing their fishing skills on bluegill or catfish, Ian and Joseph started off with red snapper, bull redfish and an occasional jack crevalle.
Ahhh, the memories:
"Hungry son? Here you go, have a mustard sardine... or maybe a few crackers... Tired of fishing? Here's another tarpon scale to play with. Ain't it purdy?
"A nap, you say? Just lay down there on that wet life jacket and have a little rest. We'll be ready to head home in, oh, about eight hours." And then there was the time he decided to tag and release 1,000 fish in one year (which he did). Lord knows my enthusiasm--and marriage vows--were seriously tested that year.
So what comforting words could I offer my dear captain at such a time?
Of course, my first reaction was to blame myself for not protecting the boys from our affliction. But then later, a different answer began to percolate to the surface.
While they're not currently demanding to head offshore, they have developed many of the traits I admire so much in their father--one of the most tenacious and intuitive fishermen I've ever seen. It's just manifested differently.
Could it be possible that Ian developed his infinite patience from those untold hours spent playing on the beach, while we stalked trout nearby? Could all of that unstructured time spent looking out across the waves, waiting for a fish to bite--far away from a frantic TV culture--have contributed to his amazing ability to analyze an issue or problem from multiple perspectives?
If so, then it might also explain Joseph's enthusiasm for a good challenge and his extraordinary lust for life. It seems to come with the territory: spend enough time fighting huge fish under a boundless blue sky and something happens inside. To this day, he craves the freedom of open spaces and salt spray on his face. He's also the first to plunge into the surf every spring (clothing optional), no matter the temperature.
So, maybe we haven't done so badly, after all. And who knows, maybe with a little patience, a little time, in the not-so-distant future, one or both of our lovely lads will say, "Hey ol' man, let's go fishing!"
I just hope I'm within earshot when it happens.
It wasn't long before Hurricane Ivan slammed into the Gulf and took away her dock. It destroyed her office, her decks and pool, and a good part of her home. She was very sad.
To relieve the grief from her loss, she bought chest waders and waded out to cast her net into the beautiful emerald waters in front of her damaged home. This is where she meditated and where her neighbors often saw her, the beautiful wife and mother of two, an athlete accomplished in snow skiing, basketball, track and field, a part-time model, an ex-pharmaceutical and grits salesman, a financial wizard with several advanced degrees. They thought something was wrong. But they were wrong.
Everything was beginning to fall into place for the solitary wader. On Mother's Day she went to the bait shop and said, "I want everything I need to start fishing with a rod and reel." Tricked out, she went back to her seawall and immediately
caught a 27-inch redfish. She was so excited, she was screaming as if she had won the lottery and she took it to be a sign. She would be a fishing chick. The hurricanes could take away her home but she could "still feed the family," a satisfying
sentiment, albeit unnecessary.
Word spread along the coast and soon other women were "feeding their families" too. This lovely sea nymph, actually, drop-dead gorgeous vision
from any shore, Claudia Espenscheid, was so excited about her new passion that she emailed all her friends and decided to start an all women's fishing club, and it would be called, Fishin' Chix, no experience necessary. The motto: "Reel Women, Fun Loving, Like Fish!"
The 80 members, ages 30-something through 70-something,
desperately wanted and needed a diversion to help them deal with the destruction from the hurricanes, first Ivan then Dennis. And so the fashionable fishing club got underway with the first meeting at the Fishhouse Restaurant in Pensacola. It was gourmet. These ladies are no slouches. They wanted to sip wine and eat well while learning from the experts and guides who volunteered to coach them. (Who wouldn't?)
Claudia, who calls herself "the Martha Stewart of fishing,
no prison," set the tone for the Fishin' Chix: fun-loving, glamorous, stylish, pink. The women would have instruction,
they would fish and they would look good doing it. She started an online store so the club members could find special gear designed for chix. She started a newsletter, the Monthly Chum, with stories and a calendar of events. She quit her real job.
Claudia will tell you she is a risk taker, a team player with an athletic spirit, and she needed all of those qualities to pull off her very first fishing tournament, the Pink Rubber
Boots Ladies Fishing Rodeo, which benefited the Covenant Hospice Children's Programs.
She said it was like planning a wedding in only three months. And it was a huge success, donating over $5000 to Hospice.
The Pink Rubber Boots Ladies Fishing Rodeo was held June 3rd, from 6 to 10 a.m. with 75 ladies in designer boots competing for the bounty of donated prizes, aboard 26 boats whose captains volunteered their services and all the provisions for the anglers. Women were "screaming their brains out" for a pinfish. While ten-year-old Katerina Espenscheid manned the merchandise booth, her nine-year-old sister, Isabella, caught the 3rd place ladyfish. Of course being
related to the director, she was ineligible for the tournament prize, but was awarded a fish necklace for her catch.
The Fishin' Chix popularity is booming so Claudia can't find time to fish, cast or wade. She is busy planning for the future. And with her enviable energy and imagination the future looks like serious fun. She is expanding the online store. The next "meet and greet" new members' orientation
will be on a yacht. The next club meeting is a Dock Hop, a family event, along her waterfront with a fishing expert on each newly repaired dock, teaching skills (along with the required music and refreshments). Another tournament is on schedule for the fall which she calls a "picture"
tournament. It will be a "catch, photograph and release" rodeo in the evening, in the dark. Time to order a pink water-proof camera to go with the pink rubber boots.
Also, tugging on the cast net, are the requests for "Chapters" of the Fishin' Chix from around Florida and as far away as Michigan and Colorado. The Chapters will follow the direction of the original Fishin' Chix club, with by-laws, scheduled meetings, experienced
guides and charitable tournaments.
The original purpose of the club was to help reduce daily stress, to learn to cope with the aftermath of the hurricanes, to comfort and support
each other, to spread a passion for fishing and encourage enthusiasm for new skills and techniques. Will the lovely sea nymph ever find time to fish again? Will she wade again after her latest misadventure, which she tells with eyes wide as saucers?
One evening when the Espenscheids
and their neighbors were fishing from the seawall, Katerina caught a nice redfish. The plan was to release the fish but the line parted above the bobber before she could. Everyone was upset and feeling sorry for the fish as the bobber would disappear then pop up again. Someone
suggested Claudia get her chest waders and go after it, "But don't forget, you can drown in waders," they warned. She responded with a look of disbelief, "I may be a blonde but..." and headed out into the chest deep waters to free the redfish. After stalking the bobber for a few minutes with a net, she got close enough and lunged for it, miss-stepped and went completely underwater. Her waders filled up and pulled her farther under. She was going to drown after all. A combination of athletic ability and determination got her to the top but the redfish got away and she still feels bad about that. And, she believes you can drown in waders.
My granddaughter plays dress-up and sashays around saying, "I've had a bizarre life."Well, my dear, you have to meet the dynamic Claudia Espenscheid. She invented bizarre.
There are numerous articles about the Chix online from the Pensacola News Journal. Just "google" Claudia Espenscheid and enjoy a reel fishing trip. You'll be exhausted, guaranteed.
On Thursday, December 30, 2004, the City of Jacksonville Beach dedicated and opened the new Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier. Don Streeter, pier manager with Dania Pier Management, noted the incredible turnout citing attendance that topped the other two recently opened piers. Since losing our old pier after irreparable Hurricane Floyd damage in 1999, we have been lonely for the opportunity to walk far and above the waters of the Atlantic, drop a line, and see what might bite. No longer do we have to wait.
Though this is the most well-designed pier Jacksonville has ever seen, it is not our first, and some old timers might argue about it being the best. Our first pier, located between 2nd and 3rd Avenues North, in what was then known as Pablo Beach, was constructed of wood with palmetto tree pilings. In June of 1922, the daughter of Mr. Shad, president of The Pier Company, broke a bottle of ocean water on the end of the pier, christening it "Shad's Pier".
The opening was quite an event, and Mr. Shad stopped at nothing to make it memorable. The pier had yet to be electrified, so he installed his own 10-watt electric generating system. Hundreds of lights were run along the promenade and throughout the structure, making it visible as far away as Atlantic Beach. Although the pier offered ocean fishing, it wasn't long before it was referred to as the dancing pier. Built relatively close to land but on the pier nonetheless was a large dance pavilion, La Presa. The dance hall hosted some of the best bands of the time and was the highlight of evening entertainment for many years. Even when there was not a band playing, the locals were almost as happy dancing the night away to the jukebox.
Shad's pier was not without it's share of problems. Storms severely damaged the pier in 1925 and 1932, and then a fire in 1938 caused damage once again. By this time, Pablo Beach had changed its name to Jacksonville Beach and was incorporated as a city in 1925. The owners were able to rebuild the pier each time, and it remained a popular evening destination until Friday, October 13, 1962 when a fire gutted the dance hall and burned a large portion of the pier. Rebuilding was not an option this time.
Shortly after that, recognizing the need for a pier, a new all wood pier, owned by R.L. Williams, was constructed at 6th Avenue South. Some of the locals were hesitant to rejoice, as there was not a dance pavilion on the pier. Overall though, the pier was welcomed and accepted for what is was, a fishing pier. Originally extending 1,200 feet into the Atlantic, the Jacksonville Beach Pier was quite a structure, until September 9, 1964 when Hurricane Dora made a direct hit. Heading due west with sustained winds at 125 mph, this Category 3 storm hit at nearly high tide creating ocean levels eight feet above normal. The pier, less than a year old at the time, lost 192 feet to Dora. After necessary demolition and repairs, the remaining structure was 800 feet long.
Though the pier had been significantly reduced in length, there was no arguing the value of what still remained. From an afternoon of fishing, to a romantic stroll along the rickety old walkway, it could not be beat. One of the neatest things about fishing on the Jacksonville Beach Pier was the way it swayed with the waves. Ultimately, that swaying motion probably led to the demise of the pier, but while it was still with us, you could close their eyes and imagine that you were out to sea on a wonderful fishing adventure.
When my little brother came to visit in May of 1994, he caught a small hammerhead off the end of the pier. Other fish were caught that day, but there is something infinitely exciting about landing such a powerful creature, even if it was only a foot or two long! That feeling must have been only a fraction of how Blackie Ressor felt on June 5th, 1975 when he landed the world record hammerhead shark right off of Jacksonville Beach Pier. The shark weighed in at 703 pounds and measured 14 feet, 4 inches! The record has since been broken, and Allen Ogle who caught a 991-lb. hammerhead out of Sarasota, Florida holds the current record.
Hurricanes and Florida have become synonymous this past year, but a near miss in 1999 is how we lost our old friend, rickety and swaying as it may have been. Hurricane Floyd raged unpredictably in the waters of the Atlantic, triggering one of the most catastrophic attempts at evacuation ever. Those of us that were able watched the news. The news cameras were fixed on the end of the pier as it swayed back and forth like a drunken sailor. We all watched as the Jacksonville Beach Pier, after hours of relentless pounding by the waves, swayed one final time before the end of it went crashing into the ocean.
For those of us who were avid pier fisherman, and for those of us who had an odd affection for the pier, it was a very sad moment. At the very least, we knew it was the end of pier fishing for the fall bite. Realistically though, seeing the damage as we did, we knew deep down that it would be a very long time before we could fish the pier again. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend.
Now, in its place, right where 5th Avenue South dead ends in to the ocean, you'll find Ocean Front Park. Designed in a manner to offer a good deal of information about the hurricanes that have impacted the First Coast and the surrounding plants and wildlife, it also serves as a memorial to the pier. Centered in the park is a beautiful sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned in celebration of the park. But more moving and visual than all of that is the sidewalk. In the southwest corner of the park lies a brick map of the state of Florida (below). Beginning at the sidewalk on the south side of the park, and continuing to the map, are two curving lines, one in red bricks, one in tan. The lines represent the paths that Hurricanes Dora, (in red), and Floyd, (in tan), took as they ravaged the coastline. As you walk along the paths of the storms, it is hard not to imagine the wind and the waves pounding the very spot you are standing with enough force to destroy homes, businesses, and piers.
The powers that be in the City of Jacksonville Beach led the effort to save the pier and were instrumental in partnering with the City of Jacksonville to purchase it. Additionally, they contributed $250,000 dollars to help with reconstruction. Soon thereafter, it was determined that it would cost almost as much to rebuild the old pier as it would take to construct a new pier. After much discussion, the decision was made to construct a new pier and to relocate it north of where it had been, to the commercial district of Jacksonville Beach.
Originally, the new pier was supposed to be 1000 feet long, but luckily for us fisherman, someone thought to check the topography of the ocean floor at the proposed end of the pier. Turns out that there was a sandbar there that would have made it very shallow, even at high tide. So a local charter captain was called in to do an evaluation of the area and determine what would need to happen to make it a first class fishing pier. His answer was seemingly simple: make it 300 feet longer, and it'll be the best fishing pier in the state. As is the case with anything involving local government, 300 feet might as well have been a mile, but in the capable and persistent hands of all involved in the project, it was approved.
Jacksonville Beach was finally going to get a new pier, and with a budget of $3.5 million dollars, it was going to be a nice one! Plans included 1300 feet of handicap accessible pier, (20 feet wide), four cleaning stations, (two facing north, and two facing south), benches and sunshades along the way. At the seaward end, there was to be a 48- by 31-foot T-platform that would also serve in the future for fireworks displays, and at the entrance, a bait shop and restroom facility. At high tide, the water will be about 20 feet deep allowing access to deeper ocean species.
The project was completed as planned, within budget, and none too soon for the eagerly waiting fisherman! Though the pier's structure is primarily concrete, it's wooden deck panels are designed to break away in the event of a severe storm making it more resistant to the force of the waves and the wind. Needless to say, the pier no longer sways gently with the waves, it is now a formidable opponent to the forces of Mother Nature, and it will not likely crash into the Atlantic any time soon!
Since 1922, Jacksonville Beach has recognized and satisfied the need for an ocean fishing pier. Thanks to a combined effort by the cities of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach, the Duval County Tourism Development Council, the mayors past and present of both sites, and countless other city officials, we once again boast an incredible structure of which we can all be proud. As we lost our old friend and sadly said goodbye, we now welcome our new friend, (one of the best in the state I might add), and are eagerly creating new memories as each day goes by.
As the day progressed we each reached our limit on grouper and even managed some really nice mangrove snappers. What makes this even more impressive though is we were only three miles off of Sarasota, Florida fishing in 32 feet of water and we were all in kayaks. Now, I know what you are thinking because I have heard it a thousand times. "You can't catch grouper in kayaks! You'll tip over. You'll get towed to Mexico." I've heard them all, but the truth is, you can catch large game fish in kayaks.
As the water temperature drops, large game fish begin moving closer to the shore off of Florida's coastlines. Here in Sarasota they even come into the shallow waters of Sarasota Bay were people often take legal-sized grouper by accident while fishing for trout or sheepshead around the docks or bridges. This is the one time of year were it is possible for kayak anglers of all skill levels to find and catch large game fish within a short paddling distance. If you are willing to do your homework and fine-tune your style of fishing, then any kayak angler can land these bruisers.
Remember, the key to being a successful angler--whether you fish from a kayak or not--is doing your homework. This is what separates the really good and consistent anglers from the angler who occasionally has a good day. Know the fish you are targeting. Understand what kind of habitat it likes, or what kind of water temperatures it prefers. Read as much information as you can, whether in magazines or on the internet. Check maps and charts that show bottom topography. Talk to other anglers and learn what techniques they use and where they are fishing. Knowledge is key. The more you know when you hit the water the better your chances of success will be.
When searching for large offshore game fish, the first thing I look for is any kind of bottom structure that will hold fish. It doesn't have to be large a structure either. Look for ledges or quick drop-offs that fish can collect around. I also look for underwater springs and upwellings. As you are paddling to one location, watch your depth finder and mark any potential areas that you may want to come back and try later. Check local charts for hard bottom and Swiss cheese bottom. All of these are places to begin.
Once you have done your homework and located some areas close to shore to begin your search, then it is time to consider your tactics. What you need to do is actually take some big boat tactics and incorporate them into how you fish from your kayak. These small adjustments, coupled with the stealth of your kayak, will prove ultra effective for taking near shore game fish. Another key to success is learning to use your bottom finder and GPS effectively. This can mean the difference between a great day and a bad day. Take your gear out on the water and practice using it until you can differentiate the subtle differences in bottom structure and recognize fish from other debris. Up size your gear as well. When heading offshore I like to take a couple of large conventional outfits and some smaller, medium-heavy spinning outfits instead of my lighter, inshore gear. Since most of the fishing will be bottom fishing, it is better to go with a heavier line and tie into an even heavier Fluorocarbon leader. I often go with 40- to 50-lb. mono main lines on my conventional outfits and 20-lb. on my spinning outfits. This will come in handy during long up and down battles and fishing heavy structure where the chance of getting broken off is greater.
Once you reach the location you are going to be fishing, it is important to mark the structure or area you plan to fish. For this it is important to bring a couple of small marker buoys with at least 50 to 100 feet of line. Once you've marked the area you want to fish on your bottom finder, drop a buoy and move away. The last thing you want to do is drop your bait and tackle right on top of the fish you are fishing for. Instead, back off about thirty yards and drop anchor. Once the anchor is secure, let out the line until you are positioned about 15 yards off of your marker or watch your bottom finder and position yourself just on the edge of the structure. This allows you to drop your bait to the bottom and not alert the fish to your presence by dropping it right on their heads. Large fish will usually be circling the structure and will inhale your bait as they move around. Keep in mind; you will need a slightly heavier anchor than the typical kayak anchors and a lot more line. I typically go with a 10-lb. anchor and at least 150 feet of line.
The most crucial part of it all though, is what you do when you actually hook the fish. These fish are much larger than most fish that you will encounter inshore and will put up a hard fight. Fish such as amberjack and grouper, to name a few, will test your will. The trick is keeping your balance and center of gravity at all times. If you lean too far in either direction or let yourself be jerked about, chances are you are going for a swim, as well as losing the fish and your rod. I find the best way to combat such large fish is to let the rod do most of the work for me. I position myself in such a way that I am leaning a little farther back and I rest the rod across my leg and use it as a lever to pull the fish to the surface. Reel down to the water and get back as much line as possible and then let the rod slowly bounce back up. Essentially, it is doing the work for you. Continue this until the fish is weakened or until it reaches the boat. It is painstakingly slow and your back and arms will hate you in the morning, but the rewards of landing a large offshore game fish from your kayak is well worth it.
The last thing to remember as you head offshore, and probably the most important, is never go alone. Fishing offshore from a kayak can be more than just an adrenaline rush--it can be dangerous or even deadly. If something goes wrong it can prove fatal if you are by yourself. Always have someone else with you. Also, make sure you bring the proper safety equipment including a VHF radio, cell phone, first aid kit, Type III PFD, extra paddle, signaling device, and a throw bag in case the need arises for a water rescue. Most of all, use your head and don't take any unnecessary risks. Landing a fish isn't worth losing your life. Lastly, keep an eye on the weather. Offshore conditions can change quickly and what was once calm water can become three- to four-foot seas in a matter of minutes. Good luck and tight lines!
If you are reading this article, chances are you love to eat fish just like I do. Unfortunately there are several things you should be aware of before consuming certain types of fish. I could eat fish on a daily basis, but some of the things that I will show you here should give you pause when deciding whether or not to eat certain types of fish or fish from certain locations. The state of Florida does a very good job of posting warnings on consumption of certain fish species or of fish from specific bodies of water. I think however, that informing the public about what could happen to them or their family members if they disregard these warnings is much more effective. Some of the things that you will learn in this article are down right scary.
The easiest way to describe symptoms from this type of poisoning is that in many ways it can act like nerve gas or insecticide poisoning. It is the most common food poisoning that is not associated with bacterial contamination in the United States. Almost all ciguatera poisonings come from consuming fish caught on semitropical coral reefs or in tropical regions. Most of us associate ciguatera toxin with barracuda. We should also associate it with snapper, grouper and the jack family. About 75% of ciguatera poisonings come from these four types of fish.
Ciguatera is naturally occurring and is due to organisms called photosynthetic dinoflagellate algae. The higher up the food chain a fish is, the more of the toxin from these organisms a it accumulates. Also, the size of the fish also has an impact on the amount of toxin. I have never personally seen a case here in north Florida, with the exception of two physicians that ate fish from south Florida prior to being stricken with this disease.
Unfortunately, freezing, freeze-drying, heating and gastric acid have no effect on the toxin's protein structure. It also does not affect the taste, odor or color of the fish. Fortunately, there are test kits that can be purchased to test fish before consuming. One such test is Cigua-Check(R) which is apparently a very easy test for anyone to perform. All that is needed is a small sample of the fish in question's meat.
Symptoms that can be expected from ciguatera poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain usually within three to six hours after ingestion. Also, a characteristic symptom of ciguatera poisoning is the reversal of hot and cold perception. This means that you would feel cold when it is hot and visa versa. There are more than 100 other commonly reported symptoms to go along with the above, but ciguatera poisoning is rarely fatal and symptoms can last from weeks to months.
There is no cure for ciguatera poisoning, but the symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be treated. The diagnosis is purely on clinical grounds and no test has yet been developed to detect ciguatera toxin in the human body. Also, there are specific remedies for many of the other symptoms associated with this poisoning.
Scombroid is not specific to, but most often associated with, tuna (albacore, blue fin and yellow fin), mackerel, wahoo, amberjack and marlin, among others too long to list, unless I want to run the risk of boring you to death. When these types of red-meat fish are improperly preserved their muscle is broken down by bacteria to produce several types of histamine. These histamines cause an allergic type of reaction which includes flushing, a sensation of being hot, asthma-type symptoms, headache, dizziness and low blood pressure. The symptoms usually subside within 12 hours without treatment. Sometimes however, medical attention is necessary (and should be sought) if asthmatic or other severe symptoms occur.
Scombroid can easily be prevented with the careful preservation of all red-meat fish. Refer to previous "From Sea to Seasoning" article (page 80 of GAFF Vol. 1, No. 1) on proper ways to keep fish cold.
A few saxitoxin poisonings have occurred in Florida. All seem to have occurred from the consumption of puffer fish. This is a very dangerous poisoning, leading rapidly to paralysis and death. I hope I don't really have to tell you this but, DON'T EAT PUFFER FISH! They don't look appetizing anyway.
Of all of the marine-born toxins and infections, this organism scares me the most and should scare the hell out of you as well. It has been getting more media attention as of late because it is being reported more. In my opinion, it is still under-diagnosed as a whole which leads to high morbidity and mortality rates.
Vibrio vulnificus is found world wide, but here in the United States, there are more cases reported from the Gulf of Mexico. It is naturally occurring and found predominantly in warm coastal waters. You can become infected with this by eating contaminated seafood (mostly raw oysters in my experience) or exposing a cut to the marine environment.
Typically, in a normal, healthy individual, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are the predominant symptoms and usually self-limited. But, don't bet on it! Sometimes, in healthy people but more commonly in folks with liver disease or a dysfunctional immune system this bacteria crosses into the blood stream. The Center for Disease Control reports 50% mortality when this happens. In lay terms, half of the people with this blood infection die.
As stated in my previous article (page 77 of GAFF Vol. 1, No. 2) on Vibrio vulnificus, this infection is easily treated but unfortunately it is often not recognized early enough. Also, it is easily prevented by not consuming raw shellfish most especially in the warm months of the year when there are higher counts of Vibrio in our coastal waters and by not exposing open wounds to sea water. If they get cut in the water, I always put my patients on antibiotics even if the cut is minor and there is no sign of infection. For the patient, the penalty for being wrong is extremely stiff.
With all of the advisories that have been put out by the Center for Disease Control and our own Florida Game and Fish Commission concerning the consumption of many popular fish species along the Florida coast, I am amazed that they are so often ignored. I think that this is likely due to the fact that no one is explaining to the public what can happen if mercury exceeds an arbitrary "acceptable" level in the human body.
Mercury is a naturally occurring substance that has likely always been around in our marine environment due to erosion and volcanic eruption (although I'm no geologist). Unfortunately, the level of mercury has apparently increased due to industrial wastes such as coal burning plants, insecticides, computer manufacturing, household batteries and seed preservatives to name a few. In fact, probably several things within reach of you right now had mercury involved in it's production at some point.
One of the best-studied places on earth with respect to mercury contamination and poisoning is Minimata Bay, Japan. In the 1930s, mercury-laden industrial waste was being dumped into Minimata Bay. At the time, this was apparently an acceptable practice throughout the world. Over time, the mercury rose through the food chain until the fish in the Bay were contaminated. The villagers who consumed the fish suffered from multiple ailments and sometimes died. Babies born to poisoned mothers had multiple deformities including gnarled limbs, neurological defects and developmental retardation. In fact, methyl mercury, a particularly nasty form of mercury, is now thought to cause a form of cerebral palsy.
In our own local waters, contamination is no where near the level seen in Minimata Bay but we shouldn't look at it through rose-colored glasses either. With the help of a "mercury calculator" that can be found at http://www.gotmercury.org, I found that my consumption of 16 ounces of red snapper in a week's time gives me 390% more mercury in my diet than the acceptable Environmental Protection Agency limit. The level for grouper is not much different. I found this to be shocking, if not a bit depressing to say the least. I hope you will to.
We really don't hear much about mercury poisoning in the greater media. I think that this is likely due to the fact that most of us including the medical field are ignorant concerning what is an acceptable level of mercury in the human body. I suspect that even at levels considered acceptable we become prone to many neurological diseases not yet recognized to be caused by mercury.
Just when you thought fish was healthy, huh? Choose your poison: cholesterol-filled pork or mercury-laden fish. I'm not saying that I am not going to eat fish from here on out but, I am going to be cautious about the amount that I eat. I will also severely limit the amount of fish that my children consume as well. I will keep you posted on any new developments that I come across. In the meantime we should collectively put our feet at the throat of our law makers to clean up this mess. How about starting with the Everglades?
The snatch method was clearly superior despite the fact that I had never tried it before. It worked well for both treble and J-hooks alike. If you have no local anesthesia available, the push-through method can be diffi cult, espe-
cially under real conditions as tested. With the push-through method you have to account for undamaged tissue that you are about to pass the hook through. "Am I going to pass this through an artery?" is just one of the questions that should be asked. Ease-of-use score: Snatch method=5, Push-through method=2.
A companion then wraps a loop of 80-pound mono around the fi rst embedded hook and "snatches" parallel to the fl esh while Paul uses a fi nger to apply fi rm pressure on the hook's eye, downward and forward, in the direction of the mono.
Inset:" The "snatch" method's speedy result.
Dr. Paul begins the
stabilizing the hook
and then clipping
off the hook's eye,
Availability of Equipment
The equipment needed for the snatch method is readily available on any fi shing boat. All that is needed is a sturdy two-foot length of leader material and a not-so-good friend to do the snatching. For the push-
through method you need a sturdy set of side cutters and a pair of pliers. For those of you who have tried, you know how diffi cult some hooks are to cut without bolt cutters. Now, try cut-
ting one on rolling seas, in your leg while in pain. While preparing for this story, I looked at the side cutters that I keep on my boat for this purpose. They were unused and hopelessly rusted. It's a good thing I brought another pair! Availability of equipment score: Snatch method=5, Push-through method=3.
Value to Friends
As far as entertainment value for friends is concerned, the push-through method of hook removal is vastly superior to the snatch method. This was accentuated when I had to use the bait knife to cut an exit hole for the uncharacteristically dull hook to pass through. The snatch method happens so fast that it is almost anticlimactic. In short, if you are out to impress friends, use the push-through method. Entertainment value scale:
Snatch method=1, Push-through method=5.
Be advised, the "snatch" method, when per-
formed correctly, removes embedded hooks very quickly and has a tendency to shoot the hook across the boat or at the aid snatching the leader. Shield-
ing your face and eyes during the actual snatching portion of the procedure is highly recommended.
Pain Scale Comparison
As you can imagine, both meth-
ods hurt--as should be expected of
a sharp piece of metal being plunged
in to the depths of your fl esh. It's
the level of pain during extraction
that surprised me the most. I fully
expected the snatch method to hurt
like Hades when compared to the
push-through method. I envisioned
hunks of muscle, fat and connective
tissue attached to the barb when
it was backed out using the snatch
method. I'm not too proud to say that
my original hypothesis was wrong.
The fl eeting pain associated with the
snatch method was markedly less
intense than with the push-through
method. To drive this point home, I volunteered
to use the snatch method
for removal of a treble
hook, but I quickly re-
jected the notion of using
the push-through method.
Pain scale: Snatch method=2 (but quick!), Push-through method=4.
Another Real-Time Test
Later that evening I was too tired (really, too lazy) to put my fi shing poles in the shed where they are normally kept. Instead they were leaned neatly inside the house by the back door--over the dog bed. At about 2:00 a.m., I was awakened by God-awful howling and my wife's yelling. As it turned out, the family bulldog had impaled herself through the hind foot with a brand new Stretch-
30 treble hook. Having just removed three hooks earlier that day, I was preparing to use the snatch method before realizing it just wouldn't work with nothing to an-
chor the eye of the hook to. Thanks to lidocaine and needles, the hook was removed in the most humane manner possible using the push-through method. The family pet came through the ordeal with out so much as a limp, despite the fact that I deserved to be bitten for being irresponsible with such dangerous fi shing equipment.
Prevention is really the key so that you don't have to test these methods out yourself. Secure those fi shing poles and lures away from others at home and take the lure off of the line while under-
way in a boat if at all possible.
Permit are objects of intense angler affection. They are not
as well known or widely distributed as some
celebrated species like marlin, sailfish, tuna, dolphin or redfish,
but for an elite group of fisherman, they are considered the ultimate
sportfish. The feat of catching one on fly is arguably the greatest
challenge in angling and the challenge does not lie in the rarity
of the species. A day spent in good permit spots during the correct
time of year offers numerous casting opportunities. This fish
is wary beyond belief, fights as hard, pound for pound, as any
member of the jack family, can be extremely finicky about eating
and is dazzlingly beautiful. Such a combination assures the permit
top position in the Flats Grand Slam.
The permit is most often associated with the flats because that
is the classic way to pursue them. However, they are also found
around wrecks, reefs, off the beach, in inlets and even in the
open Gulf waters.
Stalking permit on the flats may be the best known method, but
also the most difficult. Understanding some of their requirements
is the first step. At high tides, permit will come to the crown
of flats and tail in a manner similar to bonefish. At low tides,
look for them along deeper edges of the flats or in adjoining
channels. The depth of the water is crucial, since permit cannot
go as shallow as fish with cylindrical bodies - like bonefish
and redfish. Permit also are more sensitive to cold than bonefish,
less sensitive to heat. They can be found on flats in the middle
of the day in the hottest part of the summer, whereas the bonefish
generally will not. Permit have a more specialized diet than other
flats species. They eat shrimp and occasionally some baitfish,
but crabs make up the bulk of their diet. Flats with good crab
populations are the best bet. Permit spawn in May and early June.
In those months, only the smaller fish are found on the flats.
Flats techniques involve poling across a flat, looking for tailing
or cruising fish. When a fish is spotted, the poler approaches
as quietly as possible to within casting range.
Some anglers prefer to stake out at a specific spot and wait for
the fish. If you are staked out, chumming with crushed crab will
improve your chances.
Live blue crabs are usually the bait of choice, available at
many local bait shops. Flies should resemble shrimp or crabs.
Presentation is key. A quick, accurate cast must be made. The
bait cannot land too close to the fish. You can cast beyond it
and reel back to put the offering in the fish's path. The permit
may refuse it and move off without spooking too badly. This is
your chance to reel in fast and make another cast. When - or if
- the fish takes the bait, do not react to any visual signs. Do
not set the hook at all. Wait until you feel it move off with
the bait and raise the rod tip to remove the slack in the line.
Striking a permit is unnecessary since it has one of the softest
mouths of all fish. Even a dull hook could imbed just about anywhere
in there. Reacting to the sight of a permit swallowing your crab
and setting the hook hard is a common mistake that usually results
in pulling the bait out of its mouth. Techniques for fighting
a permit are important, since the battle will be long and hard,
with many chances for the fish to win. The first run is liable
to spool you if you are using line that is light in relation to
the size of the fish. Therefore, you need to pole rapidly after
it or start up the engine and pursue under power, if there is
no danger of tearing up a flat with your engine. After the first
run, there are many other runs of gradually decreasing distance,
interspersed with long periods of stubborn resistance as the fish
turns its big slab side toward you to rest. During these periods
of rest, increasing the drag with some finger pressure on the
spool will help finish him quicker. Don't use too much drag and
when you feel the fish start to run, release the finger.
In some cases, a permit will run off the flat and dive into
the deep channel that borders it. Here, he will cut the line on
the edge of the flat. In the areas populated by sea fans and gorgonians
that permit frequent, if the fish gets out too far, the line angle
will cause it to become entangled in these underwater obstacles.
These are two more reasons to chase the fish as closely as possible
during the fight and keep the rod tip high. You can expect a fight
lasting 30 minutes to an hour from a 25 pound permit in shallow
water when using the customary, light 8 to 12 pound lines.
Permit are also common on wrecks, reefs and other underwater
structures on both of Florida's coasts. During May and early June,
they will spawn in these areas and the fishing is truly phenomenal.
Divers can enjoy the sight of these big, silver beauties swarming
around many popular diving wrecks in the Keys. The fish are in
mid- water or near the surface and rarely at the bottom. A crab
free-lined back into the current or cast to fish spotted on the
surface is the best method. Chumming with crushed crab is also
helpful in many situations. If the wreck or structure is large
enough to allow a permit to enter or wrap around it, then you
should use heavier line to stop him before he can do this. Lines
in the 20 or even 30 pound range would not be too heavy.
Inlets to the ocean along the east coast throughout the Keys,
to Miami, and all the way to Palm Beach, have permit. One popular
way to fish them is at night, during the summer months, on an
outgoing tide when large numbers of small swimming crabs are being
swept from the inshore waters toward the ocean. Once again, a
small crab free-lined back into the current is the proven technique.
Since the permit take the crabs right off the surface, it is necessary
to keep the bait right on top. Some anglers actually glue small
pieces of Styrofoam to a crab's back to prevent him from diving
down deeper. There is also a very specialized technique for catching
permit off the beach or fishing piers. Most notable is the Lake
Worth pier in Palm Beach, where the current all-tackle record
comes from. It involves using large bait casting reels and giant
surf rods to throw a live crab (assisted by a heavy weight) way
off the beach.
In the Gulf waters from Key West all the way north to Tampa,
permit can be effectively fished in open water, as well as on
wrecks. On flat calm days, you can spot large schools making wakes
and slicing the surface with their sickle tails. They are less
spooky here in deep water than on the flats. You can motor ahead
of them, then shut down and let them come to you. Then sight-cast
to the lead fish or others on the flanks of the school. A powerful
trolling motor will allow you to maneuver on the school more easily.
This is probably the easiest way to take one on fly since you
will have many more shots in a day. Where floating seaweed is
present - particularly Sargasso weed - you can find permit bumping
the weed with their noses to dislodge crabs.
In Florida Bay, many small permit travel through channels among
the flats accompanied by jacks and pompano. We get decent numbers
of them blind-casting jigs into the deep current-swept waters
in strategic places along the flats - like points or deep holes.
You will get the pompano and jacks right along with them. These
permit are usually small, 1 to 5 pounds, but sometimes there will
be a large one mixed in. Medium sized (1/4 oz) jigs in white,
pink or chartreuse, with either bucktail or soft plastic tails,
Rigging for permit is very simple. Tie directly to the hook
with 10 or 12 pound line. If using 8 pound or less, add a shock
tippet of about 2 feet of 12 pound leader material. Use the tip
of the 2/0 live bait hook to drill through the shell no more than
1/8" in from one "point" of the shell on the side
of the crab. The hook must be positioned with the point up - shank
down so that the crab rides correctly in the water. A good graphite
rod from 7 to 7-1/2 feet long, with a medium action and a good-quality,
long-cast spinning reel spooled with 8 to 12 pound, is the ideal
outfit for the bait fisherman.
Fly-rodders should use a 9 or 10 weight rod, due to the strength
of the fish and because you need to throw relatively bulky flies.
You could fill an entire book on the subject of fly selection
for permit. There are many theories and patterns simply because
the permit is notoriously fickle about taking any artificial bait.
They often even turn down live crabs - their favorite food. Only
the obvious rule about presentation depth holds true. That is,
if the permit are feeding on the bottom (usually only on flats)
throw a sinking fly, if they are feeding on the surface, throw
a floating fly. There many good articles in fly fishing journals
to keep you informed on the latest patterns. Some traditional
patterns that were once the "hottest" are Chernobyl
Crab, Merkin, Puff as well as numerous realistic crab imitations.
Again, presentation is important for both fly and bait fishermen.
Basically, anticipate or watch the permit's feeding behavior and
present the fly to him at the correct depth. A tailing permit
on a flat is feeding on the bottom and the crab or fly should
be retrieved in slow short hops. A permit in mid-water over a
wreck wants the offering at that level which will usually involve
free-lining. When permit are in inlets, open water or channels
drag the crab or fly across the surface.
A few final thoughts about catch-and-release of permit. Although
I should lie and say that permit resemble their cousin the jack
crevalle in edibility, my journalistic integrity forces me to
admit that they are closer to their other cousin, the delicious
pompano. Having said that, I should point out that first, the
larger the permit, the worse they are to eat. A 25 pounder is
not very palatable. Also, there is an unwritten code among permit
devotees that they should be released. The permit, along with
the tarpon and bonefish - create a lot of income to the local
economy of the Keys and, to a lesser extent, the Biscayne Bay
There are guides, tackle shops, marinas and even hotels and restaurants
who get a lot of direct or indirect benefit from the healthy populations
of these three "glamour species". For this reason, it
is the right thing to do to release permit, particularly when
caught in these heavily-fished areas.
I like to fish when I have a rare day off
and my honey-do's are done. Rarely do the seas cooperate.
Unfortunately, some of my fishing buddies get very seasick
in less than ideal conditions. Not being fond of going fishing
alone, I try my best to get some of those fishing buddies
help before the misery starts and the "chumming"
During my research for this article, I have come across too many
motion sickness remedies to list. I have also tried many of the
remedies over the years, often with limited success. I have also
come to realize many people try some types of motion sickness
treatment with no success at all and then determine fishing out
of a boat is just not for them. Unfortunately, my wife falls into
I am not going to say the widely advertised wrist bands, bracelets
and watches intended for the prevention of motion sickness are
bogus. But I will say I have not experienced very good results
using them on my boating expeditions. I have also not seen any
published data reporting the efficacy of these remedies. I will,
instead, focus on remedies and preventative measures that are
known to work for the prevention of motion sickness.
The first thing you can do is to take better care of yourself.
By this I mean getting intoxicated or being fatigued before going
boating is just not a good idea. Also, staying as cool as you
can while you are out there is paramount. A good way to do this
for us boaters who don't have air conditioning is to use
an insect sprayer filled with water to mist yourself and cool
down when you feel yourself over-heating. (I'm sure that
I don't need to say this, but ... make sure nothing
other than water has ever been in the sprayer!) Drinking copious
amounts of cold water will also help you from succumbing to sea
sickness especially when it is hot and there's not a ripple
of wind. Drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages while boating
or in the heat of the day can cause dehydration and thus lower
resistance to becoming seasick.
However, if you are one of those unfortunate individuals that
get seasick despite doing all of the above, there are some medications
that can help you if used properly. The key word in the above
sentence is: properly. Many individuals feel some medications
just don't work for them. I believe this is probably true
but more often; I think the medications must not have been taken
properly. There are some individuals who should not be taking
many of the motion sickness medications at all. I will try to
expand on that further in the article.
The Cause (over-simplified version)
Motion sickness results from confusing and contradicting information
being sent to the brain. Your inner ear has a sensory organ that
helps in the control of balance and spatial orientation (your
position with respect to gravity.) Your eyes also play a role
in this control although to a lesser extent (which is why you
can still walk with your eyes closed). When you are sloshing around
in a boat, your ears and eyes are sending your brain all kinds
of incorrect information. This in turn makes some of us sick!
Dimenhydrinate is known to most of us as Dramamine, in the original
formulation. For most, it has been a great standby if taken well
in advance. In fact, I believe it works best if taken before you
go to bed and then taken again at least 30 minutes before getting
on the boat. The biggest problem with this drug is either you
won't wake up in the morning or you can't keep your
eyes open and stay focused. That's a big problem if you
are the one being depended upon to get the crew back home safe.
I doubt the FAA allows pilots to fly after taking this medication.
This medication should be taken with caution by those individuals
with seizure disorders, acute angle glaucoma, and prostate enlargement.
Meclizine, also known as Bonine, Antivert and Dramamine in the
non-drowsy formula is known to be less drowsy than dimenhydrinate
(less, but not non-drowsy!). It has similar effectiveness when
compared to and taken the same way as the original Dramamine.
However, you stand a better chance of not coming home with a missing
crew member or running into a sea buoy when you take it. I have
used it on occasion and still do get a little tired, though.
Scopolamine is probably one of the most effective medications
used for the treatment of motion sickness. For our purpose, it
comes in a patch that is typically worn behind the ear at least
4 hours before getting on the boat. It can be worn for the next
three days if needed. If you start sweating heavily, be aware
the patch may fall off. Unfortunately, scopolamine also has quite
a few cautionary statements. Use with caution if you have a seizure
disorder, glaucoma, gastrointestinal problems, kidney and liver
dysfunction, a psychiatric disorder, problems urinating or are
elderly. Common side effects include: dry mouth, drowsiness, blurred
vision, dilated pupils, disorientation, dizziness, confusion and
hallucinations--to name a few.
Scopace I have recently become aware of a new formulation of
scopalamine, called Scopace. It comes in pill form and has a three-times-faster
onset of action than the patch. It will be a great alternative
for most people and likely more effective with fewer side effects
than the scopalamine patch. To start with, the dose can be titrated
or changed to minimize undesired effects of the medication while
retaining the same effectiveness as the patch. The cost is also
cheaper at a mere 35 cents a pill versus $5.25 per patch on average.
Because the onset of action is only one hour, Scopace can be
taken on an as needed basis or prophylactically and doesn't
have to be used before the boating trip begins unless you are
one of those unfortunate individuals guaranteed to have sea sickness.
Neither Scopace nor the scopolamine patch can be bought over-the-counter.
You must have a prescription. Scopace has the same side effect
profile as the patch although it is apparently less likely to
give you any problems.
I have been on many a boat where the boat's captain would
not head back to the hill when clearly most of the passengers
had nothing left to heave but bile. This can be a dangerous situation
due to eventual dehydration if left untreated.
For charter boats, I understand this is due to the loss of revenue
if they cut the trip short. The casual or private boater, however,
should really consider heading back home if any passenger has
intractable vomiting from seasickness. If you are one of those
fortunate individuals that have or will never experience seasickness,
try to remember the last morning after you tied one on with ol'
Jose Cuervo. Only then will you begin to understand.
Our last tournament of this season took place in Fernandina Beach the first few days of June. Coincidentally, I just so happened to be moving to that area the very same week, so getting ready for that tournament definitely posed new challenges!
When I arrived in the Jacksonville area, I had all of my personal belongings with me (things I didnt want the movers to handle) AND the boat AND all of my fishing equipment AND items that I might need for the tournament. My truck was loaded to the gills (cute fishy term, huh?!) and I headed for Jacksonville.
I joked with Christy while talking to her on the phone that I mustve looked hilarious driving down the road with my truck so full I couldnt see out any windows, and that I probably looked like the Beverly Hillbillies going tournament redfishing!
Christy stayed in Pensacola for most of the week prior to the tournament, as she had just recently accepted a great job offer, and couldnt join me in Fernandina until Tuesday.
I was living in a hotel (literally living) and preparing for the tournament by myself until my girlfriend Tracey Dalton joined me for a few days of torture (I mean pre-fishing).
A blue water fishing enthusiast, Tracey was eager to see what inshore fishing was like. A six-foot tidal fluctuation was something that Tracey had never experienced being out in the blue water, nor had I before fishing in the Jacksonville areaand boy, did we EVER learn about it!
I had lots of time to talk to Tracey about fishing for redfish when I accidentally positioned us in the middle of a muddy creek for about 6 hours! I couldnt believe how quickly the tide fell off, and we were sitting on mud, until the tide came back into the creek. What an experience!
Christy made it into town, Tracey left, and tournament day arrived. Christy and I were very nervous because we didnt feel prepared. Everything that we had learned to do correctly at the other tournaments was pretty much thrown out the window at this event because of all of the outside contributing factorsthe chaos with my move and the commitment to her new job had left us feeling a bit out of control.
During pre-fishing, I didnt find any fish until one of the last days and I couldnt get the fish to eat in that short time I was there. I didnt know why they wouldnt eat. With thirty fish all around this area, I was only able to catch one, so I was not confident about our game plan on tournament day. To make a long story short (can you tell how much I hate talking about ZEROING), we didnt weigh a fish on either day of Fernandina.
We made a thousand blind casts in every nook and cranny, visited oyster beds and creek mouths, but never was able to HOOK a slot-sized fish those two days. I have to tell you though, about how MANY fish we sawhow many fish were so close to our boat that we couldve touched them with the end of our fishing rods.how if DIP NETTING was legal, we wouldve weighed 13lbs. both days!
At one point, Christy and I were headed through a little trough in Sisters Creek and the reds were so close to the boat and so abundant, that I couldve reached out and netted as many as I wanted! Actually getting the fish to eat the plastic bait I put out therewell, that will take a lot more experiencehence, why Im preparing and planning already for the next FLW season.
In October of 2006, my goal for the 2007 season was to respectfully compete on the FLW East Redfish Tournament Series as an all womens team. I feel that Christy and I accomplished this goal. We finished in 101st place out of 150 teams. As first year tournament anglers, Im proud of our accomplishment. (I also enjoy saying we did better than 49 other teams!)
However, next year, we want to be participating in the championship. So, here I go again.planning for next year, going through the steps outlined in my first installment of this seriestrying to become one with the redfish.
Christy, thank you for being my partner and for being the sister I never had. Im so lucky to have you in my life. Im proud of you, I admire you, and I respect you.
One step that I will never have to go through again in my planning process is selecting the team. You are an amazing partner, a fabulous fisherwoman, and precious friend. I look forward to next yearand to all the practice time in between! I love you. Scott, I will never forget you asking me why in the world I decided to compete in the FLW. I dont think you will forget either. It only took me a few months to truly know the answer to that question.
Jef, words dont exist to explain my gratitude to you. Bond Photographics (www.bondphotographics. com) is amazing, and I cant tell you how lucky I am that you were willing to be involved with me and this adventure this year.
Beyond capturing priceless moments with your camera, you captured my mind and soul with your motivation, your selfl ess nature, and your talent. You are an amazing person (and darn good at catching those redfish!) and I dont know what I wouldve done without you.
I know that you didnt get proper photo credit so many times for your work, but I give you SO much credit for my success and ability to handle everything in my life. You are an inspiration to me, and one of the greatest friends anyone could be lucky enough to have.
Eric, thank you for allowing me to become one with a redfish, while you cared for our three children. I absolutely couldnt do this without your support. I appreciate your willingness to let me feed this crazy fi shing addiction, and am grateful you respect my dreams and aspirations. Thank you for being a wonderful daddy to our little future fisherman.
GAFF, thank you for sharing my story with your readers. I meet people all the time that read your magazine, and its their enthusiasm about fi shing that is so rewarding to me.
This is the true story of a young professional real estate agent named
Jody. Jody had everything going for him. He had a great job with a good
salary, a fabulous lakefront condominium in Marion county, Florida, and
a new boat. What more could he ask for? It appeared to him that he had
everything a man could want.
Well, it was Friday, the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, 1998. It was a cool morning around eight a.m. Jody was having a fresh cup of coffee on the upper deck of his condo, observing what a beautiful day it was going to be. He thought of a day of boating, swimming, and a barbecue cookout with some of his closest friends and family.
He called Dave first. Dave was looking for a day of sun, so he accepted Jody's invite and said he would bring Leanne and they would stop at a store for beer, soda and snacks. Jody then called Darlene at work to invite her. She said she would be over around four o'clock, after she got off work. "Great," Jody thought, and proceeded to call his sister Vivian to see if she and her husband Alan wanted to join the party. They had some prior commitments for the morning, but would arrive later that afternoon.
At that point, Jody began to prepare for the day, fueling up the boat and getting all the necessities; soda, beer, suntan oil, food, a radio, and other essentials. Shortly after he got back home, Dave and Leanne arrived. They loaded their spoils onto the boat and the three of them took off in the boat for a cruise around the lake. They found a good spot to anchor; they swam, tanned, drank a few beers, and enjoyed each other's company for the morning. While anchored, Leanne borrowed Jody's cell phone and called her boyfriend Chris to see if he wanted to join the party. Chris said he would be right over as soon as he stopped to pick up his shorts and something to drink. So they pulled anchor and headed back to the beach at the condo. Shortly after they arrived back, Chris showed up, along with Vivian and Alan. Since it was around two o'clock, and Darlene would be over soon, they decided to stay at the beach. They laid out in the sun, ate some snacks, and drank some beer and soda. Jody broke out the water tube so they could all take turns tubing and riding on the boat. They were all having a great wonderful time.
Around four p.m., Vivian and Alan had to leave. Everyone was getting sort of hungry so Jody fired up the grill and barbecued some chicken. Around that time Darlene showed up to join the party. They all stayed around the condo to eat, drink, and enjoy a beautiful beginning to the holiday weekend.
The sun was starting to set over the lake and they thought it would be a great idea to take the boat out and watch the colorful sunset, and then go to "Gator Joe's," a bar on the other side of the lake. Jody figured it was alright, and actually better, because no one had to drive back to the condo by car, all they had to do was pilot the boat across the lake. No problem! What could be better? They weren't in a car; they were in a boat. They took their time going across the lake so they could talk and enjoy a drink while the sun was setting.
When they arrived at Gator Joe's, Jody secured the boat and they went inside, ordered drinks, shot some pool, and shared fellowship with other friends. Around ten p.m. they all boarded the boat for the quick run back across the lake. They sang, laughed, and genuinely enjoyed the evening as they headed back across the lake.
It was very dark that night, but that shouldn't matter as Jody's dock and shoreline were well-lit. Dave noticed that they went beyond Jody's place and told him. Jody slowed down and proceeded to make a wide u-turn to head back to the condo. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital with tubes and wires all over him.
He didn't remember the helicopter "Life Flight" to the trauma center or the surgery he received. He'd had two operations already and would need a few more within the next year. He was a complete mess, physically and mentally, and he couldn't remember anything except little bits of that day.
A couple of days later, Leanne visited Jody and found him with his mouth wired shut and a trachea tube to breathe through. He could barely speak to her and whispered to her, "What happened?" She told him about Dave having a broken back and major leg damage, which would require many more operations and rehabilitation. Leanne also told him about Darlene requiring major surgery on her head to release the pressure built up on her brain.
You see, they had run right into someone's unlighted dock protruding way out into the lake as they were making a u-turn. No one aboard ever saw that unlighted dock!
Jody asked about Chris. Leanne paused. She didn't know what to say and he could tell by the look on her face that Chris had died in the accident.
Jody was devastated. He was so distraught he actually wished he had been the one to die. The grief was unbearable. How? Why did this happen? His friend Chris was dead, and Dave and Darlene critically injured, and almost fatally. His own injuries seemed so small. Five lives changed in a blink of an eye on that Memorial Day weekend.
Three weeks later Jody was released from the hospital. He was charged with one count B.U.I. (Boating Under the Influence) Manslaughter, and two counts B.U.I. with bodily injury. These charges carried anywhere from eighteen to thirty one years in the Florida State Prison System. The case in Ocala, Florida was a very lengthy and publicized one, as it was one of the first in Marion County. It was settled on January 9, 2003 when Jody agreed to a plea bargain and was sentenced to five years in prison and also being on a stringent probation for ten years after his release from prison.
Who would have thought going boating and having a few beers would have ended a beautiful weekend like this? They were in a boat, not a car. There was almost no one else on the lake that night. This is why all of them could party and enjoy themselves; no one needed to drive. There is no requirement to have a license to drive a boat.
The reason I'm writing this story is because I am Jody, and I'm writing this from the Florida State Prison in Lawtey, Florida. I want to inform you and all the people I can about this accident to let you see how quick a life can end and how devastated families and people's lives can instantly become changed from drinking and driving any vehicle, whether it is a boat, a car, or whatever it may be. Alcohol really and truly doesn't mix with driving or piloting any power vehicle. If you think about it with an honest heart, you may just find yourself in agreement. I've boated most of my adult life, and I've noticed whether people are fishing skiing or just going out on the water for a fun filled day with family and friends. The first thing many people put into their boat is a cooler full of beer or perhaps some other alcoholic beverages. It seems a lot of people think the way I once did, before I lost a good friend and my freedom. They know enough not to drink and drive a car, but a boat? Come on, what can that hurt? People who think this way are asking for an accident to happen.
Since this tragic accident occurred I have prayed to God, asking for forgiveness and direction to let people know the unforeseen dangers of drinking alcohol and boating. That is how I was led to start "B.A.D. Boating" (Boaters Against Drunk Boating). This program is designed to help inform people about the hazards and consequences of drinking and boating.
In my life many things have happened, some good, some bad; but I never expected something like this to happen. I will have these emotions follow me the rest of my life, grief, sorrow, regret, and hope. Hope that my telling you about this tragedy will open your eyes and the eyes of others, so the same fate will not befall them or you.
Stingrays and Catfish
Stingrays and catfish are similar in the fact that both cause local trauma and lead to envenomation. Medically, the major problem with these two fish is that they can leave their barbs behind in your skin or deep tissues and lead to infection. Some times this can be quite serious. I have had a few patients that have required surgery to remove barbs that have gone undetected for quite some time. One of these unfortunate individuals swore to me the fin of the catfish that stuck him came out completely intact.
Initially, after being finned by a catfish or a stingray, submersing the wound in hot water (not scalding!) for 30 to 90 minutes will provide quick and dramatic relief. This denatures or destroys the molecular structure of the venom and can be repeated if the pain starts to return. If the wound appears to be deep or continues to hurt or bleed this may be an indication that part of the barb is still within the wound and requires an x-ray or MRI. If there is any suspicion of the fin being broken off in the wound or that a joint is involved (like the knee or ankle) you need to be evaluated by a physician.
We all know what these are. In our costal waters we have several types with the scariest being the Portuguese Man-O-War. A good rule of thumb is that they all sting, with some being worse than others. The venom is produced from cells called cnidocytes. The venom itself is made up mostly of proteins and carbohydrates.
When someone is stung by a jellyfish, typically there is only a local yet painful burning or stinging sensation. However, sometimes an individual can have a severe systemic reaction (body wide, multiple organs) that can be very dangerous leading to shock and even possibly death. Thankfully, the vast majority of jellyfish stings are not this severe. Never the less, you should watch those individuals who are stung closely for signs of impending shock, which includes: anxiety, pale clammy skin, or even an altered level of consciousness.
For treatment of jellyfish stings, first remove any tentacles while remembering to protect yourself from being stung. Second, apply plain old vinegar to help inactivate the venom. Diluted rubbing alcohol, baking soda, lime juice and meat tenderizer can also be applied to neutralize the venom of our local jellyfish. Meat tenderizer is much easier to keep handy in your first aid kit for obvious reasons.
Lately, I seem to be catching more and larger moray eels. Few fish that I have ever boated seem to want to bite you more than these gnarly things. After I narrowly missed being bitten by the first two that I put in the boat I decided I would just start cutting the leader. The bites from these things can be very nasty. Bacteria such as Pseudomonas and Vibrio* have been cultured from even minor infected bite wounds from the critters.
If you ever get bitten by a moray eel, you can forget all about vinegar, meat tenderizer, hot water and what-not. These just won't help. You need to see a physician and get some antibiotics as soon as possible.
And a note to readers: Some things I find very interesting may bore you to death. If there is something you would like for me to write about in future issues, I would appreciate your input. Please e-mail me at: Feedback@gaffmag.net
Stingray Injury Treatment - Self-Care at Home
Care of the injured person begins at the scene and is first directed at safe rescue and removal of the victim from the water.
A stingray injury that does not need to be checked by a doctor is rare.
Copyright (c) 2005. E Medicine.com. Reprinted with permission.
Jellyfish Stings Treatment - Self-Care at Home
Care of the injured person begins immediately:
Marine Bites Treatment
Sea Urchin Puncture Treatment
Catfish Sting Treatment
Using top water lures in salt water can be a challenge for several reasons. Natural bait is more readily available and between the increased murkiness of the water and greater risk of structures like oyster beds, top water lures require some careful attention for success.
Varying the working of the lures, even the speed and jerks on the same retrieve can produce very good results. Slowing down on the retrieve and even hesitating for a second or two may convince a potential target that the bait is injured. Believing the bait can't escape, some fish will strike harder.
Don't set the hook just on the strike. A fish may head butt or tail slap the lure to injure it further. Or, sometimes a fish will hit a few times before taking the bait. Wait until the rod bends before setting the hook. If a fish is going to miss the lure altogether, you don't want to pull the bait out of reach and prevent a second strike from happening.
To target redfish, concentrate on the grassy edges over oyster beds, creek mouths, grass islands and points or changes along the shoreline. Finding a location in an oyster bed where high water leaves a depth of 3' to 4' around the bed, may mean good fishing. Try casting the lure over the top of the bed to target the hungry fish waiting in the deeper waters. Many of these fish haunt the same spot, waiting for the natural bait that often occurs there.
In shallow water or low tide, try casting 15' to 20' ahead of the fish's wake. Wait for the fish to get about 5' from the lure and then work it in a fast walk-the-dog fashion to create a reaction strike. Sometimes watching the fish to see where they're swimming before casting works well. If the fish keeps pushing up wake in a certain area, then ease in gently just enough to reach with a cast. Wait for the fish to pass again to avoid spooking it, then cast into the strike zone and work the lure. Redfish anatomy means they have to either come out of the water to bring their mouth above the lure or turn on their side to gulp it.
Speckled trout can be targeted in deeper water around the bend of a creek or point. Watch for places where the water current boils. Baitfish and shrimp don't maneuver well in the tumbling current, and become easy prey for the waiting fish. Using a floater-diver lure can imitate the disoriented movement of the baitfish though they don't bring on the heart-pumping surface strikes that you find with top water lures.
Speckled trout are well-built for top waters. With a mouth opening at the end of the head, it's possible to generate some real excitement. Sometimes it may seem you've wandered into a school of small trout, but at this time of year, you're likely to find a few big females hanging around the smaller males.
A great fighting fish with a light bite is the sheepshead. Understanding how sheepshead feed will help you catch more of these scrappers. Similar in shape to bream, sheepshead are significantly larger. Their teeth are made to eat fiddler crab and shrimp and they actually crush a meal before they eat it. Setting your hook as soon as you feel the bite will mean you miss your fish. Let the sheepshead crush the bait first, waiting for the telltale tick-tock and then heaviness at the end of your rod before reacting. As the fish crushes the lure, slowly raise your rod tip and let the sheepshead gulp the hook out of fear that the bait is drifting away. Look for sheepshead around rock banks, bridge and dock pilings, covered oyster beds, and inlet jetties. As water temperature drops below 70 degrees, usually around the first of October, the small males start biting. Two weeks later, the larger females join in. After water temperatures dip below 55 degrees around the middle of December, they tend to stop biting and head offshore. As temperatures rise again in mid-February, they come back to the inlets to spawn and feed. They'll feed until the end of April as the water warms back up to 70 degrees. These fish tend to be much larger after feeding offshore for several months, making them a prize catch.
Most fishermen will contend that topwater lures offer a rewarding, yet challenging method for taking reds and trout from Jacksonville's backwaters. Just don't forget to pack some shrimp or fiddlers if you want a real challenge.
"Are you D.C.?"
"Yes," I replied. "Hi."
"Hi. I'm Corey. We talked on the phone the other day."
"Yes, of course," I said. "Are you ready to go?"
As she nodded to me that she was ready I began to explain to her what we were going to do for her trip. I explained that there had been a lot of big snook around and that we were going to take an easy paddle around one of the islands and fish the dock and seawall lights for them. Enthusiastically she listened as I helped place her and her belongings in the kayak. Once she was situated I then grabbed the rest of my gear and made ready to get under way.
"You know that this is my first time?" she said, looking up at me with a playful smile.
"That's all right," I replied. "We'll take it nice and easy."
"Are you sure? I don't want you getting frustrated with me if I do something wrong."
"Just relax," I said in the most comforting voice I could muster. "We're going to take it nice and slow until you get the hang of it."
With that being said I moved to the back of her kayak and slowly pushed her into the water. All at once there was a look of hesitance mixed with excitement running across her face. As I held onto the back of the kayak I began to coach her in the proper way to paddle. With just a few brief words of encouragement she was off paddling by herself. I quickly turned to the beach and eased my own kayak into the water and made my way to catch up with her.
As I caught up with Corey she was already moving the kayak through the water with a great bit of agility. "Are you having fun?" I asked as I made my way up along side of her.
"Yeah," she said. "This is great. It's a lot easier than I had expected."
"Well let's get going then. The sun is going to start going down here soon and we want to be around the first set of docks by the time it gets dark."
As we made our way out of the secluded cove that was hidden amongst the mangroves and into Sarasota Bay we were greeted by a flurry of mullet jumping to get out of the way. Corey was as excited as a child on her first school field trip.
"What kind of fish are those?" she asked. "Can we catch them?"
As I began to explain that those weren't the fish we were after tonight a slight pout started to show on her face. But this was immediately replaced with a much brighter smile when I explained that we were after snook tonight and that we could expect to catch at least a dozen or more large ones before the trip was over. Satisfied with the positive outlook we made our way over the flats toward Lido and Bird Key.
By the time we reached Bird Key the sun was already low on the horizon and the dock lights were emitting their soft light on the warm waters below. Making our way towards the first of a series of lit docks I could hear the tell tale "schloop, schloop" of snook feeding on the surface. I motioned to Corey to slow up here kayak and we made a stop about 15 feet from the first dock light. I pulled up along side of her and pointed to the light. Already I could make out at least 20 fish laying up under the light, taking turns at feeding on the baitfish that were hanging around the outskirts of the lit area.
"Look at all those fish," she cried.
"Shhhh. We don't want to spook the fish."
I reached behind my seat and pulled a rod from its rod holder and began to get it ready for casting. As I reached into the livewell in the back tank well of my Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 I began to explain to Corey what kind of rod and reel set up she would be using as if she actually cared. She could care less about why this of Star Rod or what model of Shimano Baitrunner reel was filled with what size monofilament line. All she cared about was the fish under that light. As I hooked a large hand-picked shrimp under the horn and prepared for the initial cast it was all I could do to get her attention and get her ready to hold the rod.
The first cast was perfect. I flipped it under the dock just beyond the snook with barely a sound as it hit the water. I quickly checked the drag and handed the rod to Corey as I watched the lively shrimp begin to move farther into the lighted area under the dock. Just as I was about to begin explaining what to feel for in a strike I watched a nice snook race up and inhale the shrimp.
"Reel," I said, "reel, reel."
As she started to reel the snook made a couple of quick passes in front of the kayaks and then quickly made a run for the dock and its supports. I reached over and grabbed a hold of her kayak in an attempt to use the added weight and drag of my kayak from allowing the fish to pull hers under the dock.
"Pull back on the rod," I coached. You don't want him to get you under there and break loose on the barnacles. Pull back hard and then reel quickly to the fish.
"I'm trying, I'm trying," she cried.
"Good job," I replied. "Good, now one more time."
With this last pull Corey managed to pull the snook from under the dock and back into open water. In a few brief moments I was able to let go of her kayak and pull her first snook from the water. It was a nice fish measuring just over 28 inches. After I removed the hook I showed her how to hold the fish for a quick photo. Squeamishly she took the fish and I back paddled away to get a good shot of her under the light with her first snook. Wouldn't you know it though as soon as I set my paddle down to grab my camera the fish flopped in her hands and with a startled shriek she let the fish fall back into the water.
"It's all right," I said to her. "There will be plenty more tonight."
I moved back along side of her and began to prepare the rod for casting once again. As I cast the shrimp under the dock once again it was only a moment before she was hooked up yet again. This time a little smaller but still nice none the less. We pulled four more fish from under this light before the bite really slowed down. As I placed the rod back behind my seat Corey looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and asked if we were done for the night. I enthusiastically replied that it was just time to move on to a new light.
For the next four hours we stalked the waterways around Bird Key and Lido Key in search of snook. With each passing lit dock we repeated the success we had at our first stop. All in all Corey caught and released 36 snook that night with one topping out at 35 inches. Not too shabby for a first time angler.
Finally around 12:30 a.m. we made our way back across the flats to our launching site. All was peaceful as the moon shined down upon the water and the lights of downtown Sarasota could be seen off to our right. Not a word was spoken the whole return trip, both of us just taking in the serenity of the bay at night.
When we reached the beach I quickly pulled the kayaks up onto the beach and helped Corey get out and up to dry land. After standing and stretching for a moment she began to collect her things from the back of the kayak.
"That was great," she exclaimed as we settled the fee for the night's trip.
"I'm glad you had a good time. You caught some really nice fish."
"Yeah," she said. "I never thought it would be so much fun. It is great being so close to the water and seeing and hearing everything. I definitely want to do this again sometime."
"Good," I replied. "I look forward to it."
"Good bye," she said as she made her way up the beach. I watched her walk away up the beach as I began to pick up my gear and get ready to go home. As she neared her car she turned and waved one last time. I waved back and turned to haul my gear up the beach to my Jeep. As I pushed the final kayak into the roof top rack I took one last look at the moonlight as it illuminated the small waves breaking against the beach. Tired and weary I thought to myself that this had been another great night of fishing but for now it was time to home. With that I stepped up and into the driver's seat, turned the key, and made my way home.
sky turned light gray, signaling the approach of daylight.
As a gentle breeze tickled the back of my neck, my mind
was in another world while my eyes slowly followed a flock
of small shore birds in flight. A smile crossed my face.
Again, I managed to escape reality by simply wading into
knee-deep water. Suddenly, a large red fish decided to test
my reflexes. The topwater plug I left next to the breaking
waves was under assault. It was all I could do to pull myself
back to earth, gain control, and land a nice seven-pound
fish. For the next hour or so, the same scenario continued
until the rising sun and its rays eventually penetrated
the clear, shallow water I was fishing, exposing, and forcing
its inhabitants to seek safety in deeper water.
that particular morning, I was fishing along the back of
St. George Island located in Franklin County. It was Memorial
Day weekend and not a soul was in sight. The area I was
fishing was only a short walk from my truck. This place,
just like many other places along the coast of The Big Bend,
is one where a boat is not needed to experience quality
fishing. All a person needs to do to find places like this,
is a little homework. With a few maps and a bit of exploring,
you can tap into some of the best inshore fishing available.
The Franklin and Wakulla Counties are unique due
to miles of undeveloped coastline accessible by foot and sometimes
by only walking a short distance. These areas can be extremely
productive fishing spots at the right time, and there is enough
diversity that a person can usually find a spot for every season.
Year round fishing on foot is possible, though you must spend
the time to figure out when, where and how (i.e. the tides, time
of day, time of year and why different fish are present at various
A good set of maps for the region is a very valuable tool when
looking for out-of-the-way places to fish on foot. When I say
maps, I am talking about nautical charts, aerial photographs,
topographical maps and yes, a good road map of the area also helps.
These maps can be purchased through various vendors, as well as
county, state, and federal agencies. Some of the aerial photography
can be accessed on-line for free.
Much of the coastline in the Big Bend Area is either owned or
controlled by the State of Florida, the county you are in, or
by the National Fish and Wildlife Service. Access is generally
not a problem, but you will want to check to ensure you are in
accordance with the laws that govern.
Best Places to Explore
The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, east of the St. Marks
River, offers the angler who doesn't mind walking or biking numerous
opportunities. This portion of the refuge can be accessed off
U.S. Hwy. 98, at Newport. A map of the refuge can be picked up
at the front office upon entering the gate. The refuge impoundments
are separated from the Gulf by dikes. You can reach many of the
tidal creeks in the refuge by walking or. The creeks feature generous
numbers of sea trout and redfish during the late fall, winter,
and early spring. They are also home some very large alligators
-- so watch your step.
Farther to the west in Wakulla County is Wakulla Beach. Follow
U.S. Hwy. 98 west of the Wakulla River a couple miles, then turn
south on Wakulla Beach Rd. This road will take you straight to
the Gulf. Wakulla Beach is also part of the St. Marks National
Wildlife Refuge. From early spring to late fall, the possibilities
are endless. The creeks, grass shorelines, oyster bars, and submerged
grass flats in this area hold just about any species of inshore
game fish you can imagine, along with abundant wildlife, which
can be viewed while you are fishing.
Continuing on westward will lead you to the banks and mouth of
the Ochlocknee River and Bay. This whole system offers year round
opportunities as well. Mashes Sands is just east of the river
mouth. This section of coastline can be reached by turning south
off U.S. Hwy. 98, on to the first road east of the river, then
continuing until it dead ends at the Gulf. From here you can walk
west to the river's mouth, or wade to the east fishing the
shoreline, near shore structures, and various channels entering
the gulf. Numerous trout, redfish, flounder and several other
species of inshore saltwater fish live here and are present at
different times of the year. If wading is not your ball game,
there is also a county fishing pier extending out into the river
just north of the mouth. It is open to the public and accessible
from the same road used to access the water's edge.
Cross the river into Franklin County. Over the river, to the
west, you will see many places to fish along the banks of the
Ochlocknee River. All the best spots can be reached by foot -
even the area underneath the western edge of the bridge. This
side of the river can be productive for the shore or wade fisherman
throughout the year.
Your next stop is Bald Point. This is the area on the west side
of the Ochlocknee River at the mouth. The land is owned, controlled
and maintained by the State of Florida for public use. This area
is a well-known fishing spot and can be very productive at times.
It is lined with a maze of oyster bars and channels, the depth
of which depends upon the tides.
Alligator Harbor, which is between Alligator Point and the mainland,
also offers wading opportunities accessible from U.S. Hwy. 98.
From Turkey Point to Carrabelle, then along the way to East Point
and out to St. George Island, there are numerous places accessible
for great fishing. A majority of the places are overlooked by
the masses and hold fish on a regular basis during the season
of the year when the fish are present in the given area.
exploration are the keys to success when locating these out-of-the-way
areas to fish on foot. With a little bit of effort, you will be
able to locate some special spots that will produce fish consistently
without having to do much more than walk to the fish. Good luck
and remember, these places you will find are very special and
unique to our wonderful area, so leave it better than you found
it and "Conserve & Enjoy".
Each Memorial Day, a small barrier island, known
as Dog Island, off the coast of Carrabelle, Florida hosts a loosely
organized and somewhat rowdy event known as the "White Trash
Bash." Since there are no bridges to Dog Island, party-goers
and revelers alike arrive mostly by boat. As one would imagine,
large quantities of alcohol are consumed by many, including some
who are operating jet skies, yachts, and other powered vessels.
This year, the White Trash Bashers arrived to find a few folks
they probably thought were not on the guest list, to wit: officers
from the FWC. At least twelve unlucky bashers found themselves
winding down the party at the Franklin County Jail accused of
boating under the influence (BUI).
While the crime of driving under the influence (DUI)
has received quite of bit of notoriety from groups such
as MADD, SADD, and politicians seeking re-election, not
much attention has been paid to the crime of BUI. In reality,
there is not much difference between the two offenses when
it comes to sentencing day. Both offenses carry mandatory
penalties and mandatory adjudication which means a criminal
record that stays with the offender for the rest of his
life. One convicted of boating under the influence can never
have his record sealed or expunged. Both offenses are known
as crimes of enhancement which means subsequent offenses
are treated more severely. Moreover, the offenses are interchangeable
when it comes to enhancement sentencing. In other words,
one previously convicted of a first offense BUI can expect
to be treated as a second offender for his first DUI and
expect a mandatory jail sentence.
Perhaps the main difference between DUIs and BUIs is the fact
that one's driver's license is not suspended as the
result of a BUI conviction. Also, a refusal to submit to a breath,
blood, or urine test as a result of a BUI arrest does not result
in a suspended driver's license. If one is asked to take
a breath test following his or her arrest for BUI, failure to
do so will result in a civil fine of $500. Under Florida law,
that fine may be contested within 30 days and failure to pay it
simply means one cannot operate a vessel in Florida waters until
the fine is paid. However, one who refuses to submit to a breath
test for the second time following a DUI or BUI arrest will find
himself charged with a misdemeanor which can carry a jail sentence.
The crime of boating under the influence occurs when one is
operating a vessel in state waters when (a) his or her normal
faculties are impaired by alcohol or controlled substances, or
(b) his or her breath alcohol level is .08 or above or (c) both.
When one refuses to submit to a breath test, the State is merely
deprived of an alternate theory of prosecution (.08 or above).
One may still be convicted on the opinion testimony of a law enforcement
officer that his normal faculties were impaired by alcohol while
Typically, law enforcement officers use a series of tests known
as "field sobriety exercises" to establish that one's
normal faculties are impaired. These tests might involve reciting
the alphabet, touching a finger to the nose, or some other task
used to test manual dexterity.
There is no Florida law that requires one suspected of driving
or boating under the influence to submit to these tests and there
is no fine or license suspension if one refuses to perform field
However, refusal to submit to the tests generally does not prevent
a law enforcement officer from making the arrest. In other words,
while refusing to submit to field sobriety exercises and refusing
to submit to a breath test may result in a not guilty verdict
in a close case, one may still find himself spending the mandatory
eight hour period in jail that Florida law requires following
an arrest for BUI.
It seems every time I attend some sort of social function, I
am questioned at length about how one might avoid a DUI conviction.
"Should I take the test?" they ask. "What should
I do if I get pulled over?" I believe the same advice I
give on how to avoid a DUI conviction applies to BUIs. It's
pretty simple. Don't drink and boat, and keep your mouth
shut. As my good friend and mentor, the Honorable J. Lewis Hall
used to say, "Even the fish doesn't get into trouble
until he opens his mouth".
Along the Forgotten Coast of Northwest Florida, fishermen
have a serious fever and it is spreading at the speed of
light. Red snapper fever afflicts anglers of all ages and
sexes and there is no medical cure. The only temporary fix
for this malady is to enter the deep blue sea called the
Gulf of Mexico, wet a line and pump and wind on chunky red
snappers until the fever subsides. One could make a good
argument that the Florida Panhandle has the healthiest American
red snapper fishery in the state, if not the entire Gulf
coast. The season for recreational anglers runs from April
22 to October 31, with a bag limit of four fish per person
per day, at least 16 inches overall length. The Florida
state record fish stands at 46 pounds, just off the world
mark of 50.
WRECKS, REEFS AND RIGS
On the Florida Panhandle red snapper habitat is plentiful. They
live on artificial and natural, live bottom coral and limestone
reefs. The five Air Force alphabet towers provide excellent opportunities
for big sow snappers, especially during the summer spawning season.
Old shrimp boat wrecks are priority waypoints for snapper addicts.
Out of Apalachicola, there are numerous popular wrecks available
with lat/long coordinates available in the public domain. Every
year some of the most productive wrecks include the Angela, Gilmore,
Kendra, Stormy Seas, Flaming Star, One More Time, Miss Jem, Paula,
Endeavor and Empire Mica. A secret employed by wreck pros is to
look for offshore shrimpers anchored up during daylight hours.
They commonly anchor over wrecks and you should punch the numbers
into your GPS for future use.
Many moons ago, one would dive a wreck prior to wetting any
fishing lines. It was important to know how various species of
fish oriented to the wreck, as well as how much old rigging and
superstructure remained. This information facilitated the anchoring
process. Today, color sonar, bottom machines give us a clear,
on-screen look at what is down there.
GET A HOOK
One of the most important techniques used by snapper pros is correctly
positioning the vessel at anchor. Normally, the area around a
wreck is sandy bottom. Your standard Danforth anchor will work
in sand, provided you have sufficient chain and anchor line to
get a good bite in wind and current. If you don't have sufficient
scope and drag your anchor, it is possible that it may hang up
in other artificial reef material that has been deployed around
the wreck over the years.
Depending upon factors like water depth, wind speed and velocity
of the current, your best boat position may be 100 feet up current
from your marker buoy on the wreck. Snappers will orient to the
up current side and this will allow your chum/chunk baits to drift
back to target fish.
Another successful anchoring technique is to use an aluminum
wreck anchor and intentionally drop it into the wreck superstructure.
The aluminum tines will straighten and come free under power and
they are simply bent back into the proper position. An old trick
is to drop a weighted treble hook on heavy mono into the wreck
and cleat it. This method will not work in heavy seas or strong
currents. Also, remember that snappers are experts at running
you down into the wreck and breaking off.
Once you are anchored, you can find new fish by turning your
outdrive back and forth in the current. And moving forward and
back on your anchor line will sometimes put you over a new show
of fish. This simple process can be very rewarding.
LURE 'EM IN
All snappers respond well to chum if it is fresh and presented
properly. Mangroves (gray), lane and beeliners (vermilions) are
other targets of opportunity on wrecks. Chumming and chunking
will put more quality fish in your box. Favorite chunk baits will
include cigar minnows, sardines, pogies (LY's) and fresh
cut baits like bonito. When snappers are on the bite, they will
eat almost anything. Cigar minnows are pricey, when sardines sometimes
work as well. Have a designated bait cooler for large quantities
of precut chunk baits. Separate your chunk baits in freezer bags
and keep them on ice and out of the sun.
An excellent tool used to introduce large amounts of chum in
the water is called the Chum Churn. It is a plastic tube with
holes cut in the side. Small fish and cut baits are loaded into
the tube where stainless blades slice it up with a churning action
in the water. The tool simplifies the effort of cutting large
amounts of chunk baits onboard.
Once at anchor, begin chunking slowly. The basic objective is
not to feed the fish, but induce them into eating by sight, smell
and sound. A quality pair of polarized sunglasses will enable
you to see chummed-up fish near the surface. Larger red snappers
will swim to the sides and below schoolie fish. Adding a small
egg sinker to your flat line baits may be necessary at times.
Large snappers can be so leader-shy that they will not take baits
presented on 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders. The solution is to
tie a small live bait hook directly to your running line. Just
be aware that it will twist in current with no barrel swivel.
Chumming the fish up near the surface is the easy part. Getting
them to eat your offering is the trick. Sometimes you will see
fish that will not eat. We'll call them "lookers."
Others may be smaller, schoolie fish swimming together. We'll
call them suspenders. Then you will see your primary targets:
the biters. They are always the most aggressive eaters who are
super competitive and chase other snappers and triggers away,
as they take multiple chunks. Presenting your bait to one of these
teased-up, individual targets in cobalt clear water is the ultimate
sporting challenge. This exciting fishing experience is a highly
sensory one, simultaneously visual and tactile.
Tackle for chunky snappers varies based upon the size of the targets.
It runs the gamut from wispy fly rods to 50 pound meat sticks.
Generally, 20 to 30 pound class gear is appropriate. There is
one absolute in snapper fishing: lighter stuff with fluorocarbon
leader will "out catch" heavy gear. Having said that,
heavier rods and reels will give you a chance at a quality fish
on a wreck full of snags. Many charter clients are comfortable
with 20-pound spinning outfits like Penn 9500s and Shimano Spheros
14000s mounted on stout graphite sticks. Silky smooth drag systems
are necessary, especially when a king or cobia swims into the
chunk baits and wants to play. Sharp out of the box, small circle
hooks work just fine and allow for a healthy release of short
fish. Small, 100-pound class barrel swivels work best for leader-shy
Live bait catches more and bigger snappers. Over the years the
best experiences have been with small pogies, finger mullet, cigar
minnows, pinfish and hardtails. You can trap your own pinfish,
castnet pogies and mullet, and sabiki cigars and hardtails south
of the Cut on navigation buoys and live bottom. Spending extra
morning time catching live bait always pays off with a better
overall day's catch.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) put a moratorium
on the issuance of all new guide permits for the taking of Gulf
reef fish in federal waters. That includes red snappers. Whether
the species is being over-fished depends upon who you ask. The
age-old finger-pointing process will not end. The average fisherman
claims that commercial fishermen are allowed to over-harvest this
valuable marine resource. The commercials blame the guides and
recreational anglers for decimating the fishery. Shrimp trawls
are blamed for taking tons of juvenile fish. Historically, the
trend of fisheries management in the Gulf is likely to continue.
When fish stock assessments are done and decisions implemented,
the result typically is that recreational bag limits are reduced
and size limits are increased.
One proactive and revolutionary program is underway that is
successfully stocking red snappers in the Gulf. It is a mariculture
center that catches sow snappers and raises their young in captivity.
The juvenile fish are transplanted to select reefs for ongoing
study. If these types of stocking programs are successful on a
wide scale, the future of red snappers and other species may prove
to be a more sustainable marine resource.
Resource information for a red snapper fishing adventure to the
Splash your vessel: Ten Foot Hole (Apalachicola
City docks and boat ramp, downtown )
Transient Marina (full-service): Scipio Creek
Marina (850) 653-8030
Helpful info: Apalachicola Chamber of Commerce
Great eats: Owl Cafe (850) 653-9888
Beach rentals: Prudential Resort Realty (850)
Comfortable accommodations: Bridgette's
Bed and Breakfast (850) 653-3270
Every time you go fishing, whether offshore, inshore
or from the shore, you should consider it borrowed time. There
are always overt and hidden dangers associated with our loved
sport. Knowing that they exist and understanding preventative
measures to prevent them can minimize many dangers. Regrettably,
not all problems are prevented in time; so knowing how to recognize
problems and what you should do about them is always a major issue.
Damage caused by the
sun is one of the factors you should always address in any
outdoor activity. Nowhere is this more important than in
fishing. If you are old enough to read this, it is likely
that there has been enough significant, yet unapparent,
sun damage to cause skin cancer. My goal is to outline for
you how to recognize several types of skin cancer and preventative
measures that can keep you alive to fish another day. Please
keep in mind that self-diagnosis is never a good idea, especially
to the untrained eye. In fact, in my practice I never rely
on the visual presentation of any "suspicious"
skin lesion for diagnosis but rather on microscopic evaluation
of a small biopsy. It is important that you see your physician
for this guidance. Please don't bring a chunk of your
flesh to your doctor in a zip lock. We have more humane
and aesthetically pleasing ways of doing this for you (that
last bit was added because of a true incident).
As a physician, father and fisherman, the one
type of skin cancer that I fear most is melanoma. It has a very
high rate of malignancy and therefore death. It is believed that
1 in 90 persons will develop melanoma and some studies show that
50% of the time it is incurable by excision surgery alone. Personally,
I also find it the most difficult to diagnose because it looks
like so many other pigmented lesions (colored). Many individuals
have skin lesions that look potentially like melanoma from common
freckles to flat seborrheic keratosis (liver spots). There are
several characteristics of the most common types of melanoma that
should give you concern. First, change in color (black, brown,
speckled) of normal skin, lumps, bumps or moles. Second, irregular
borders or poorly defined borders of any color on a lesion. Third,
any changing skin lesion that you may find. Often many melanomas
are missed because they can occur anywhere on the body and go
undiscovered because it is not in typically in a sun-exposed area.
A good general rule is: there is nowhere the sun doesn't
shine, despite popular opinion.
type of skin cancer caused by sun damage is squamous cell carcinoma.
About 12 out of every 100,000 white males alone will develop this
disease. All races are at risk, but Caucasian males are the highest
risk group. It tends to grow slowly and spreads less aggressively
than melanoma. It can be any color shape or size and can form
crust, scales or ulcerations. Areas that I see most often involved
are the tips of the ears and the outer lower lip but keep in mind
that this can occur anywhere that you could imagine. Again, all
suspicious areas should be biopsied.
cell carcinoma can look much like squamous cell cancer,
but is much less dangerous on average. It can be incredibly
disfiguring if left untreated. Thankfully, it is the most
common type of skin cancer as opposed to the previous two
types mentioned. Basal cell cancers often looks like a smooth
mole or lump and usually has very fine blood vessels called
telangectasias on its surface although this is not always
the case. On several cases my patients' only complaint
to me has been concerning a lump that they always cut themselves
on while shaving. The ensuing biopsy showed basal cell carcinoma
on most of the cases. Although this type of skin cancer
is rarely metastatic compared to melanoma and squamous cell
cancer, it can be very invasive. This can mean relatively
extensive surgery to remove the entire tumor. The rule here
is to catch it early and report all concerning lumps, bumps
or moles to your physician and request a small biopsy to
be sure that it's okay.
Actinic keratosis also called solar keratosis
is though to be pre-cancerous and can turn into squamous cell
carcinoma. It is that red, scaly rash that is on your favorite
'old salts' head, nose ears or arms. Basically, it
is anywhere on the body that the sun typically shines or everywhere
if you reside in a nudist colony. A simple cream prescribed by
your doctor can help you here. Don't be shy -- no biopsy
is usually needed for this diagnosis or treatment.
Prevention of sun related skin damage is generally
easy. However, we (I include myself here) are often so busy having
fun, we forget the basics. The first line of defense is sunscreen.
I prefer a waterproof, quick drying type that is at least SPF
36. Bullfrog gel is my favorite. Often one application a day of
any type of sunscreen is not nearly enough. This is especially
true if you are swimming or sweating profusely. Take the time
to apply sunscreen before you get out in the sun and it is a good
idea to have help applying it to areas that are hard to reach.
Reapply sunscreen throughout the day. Try to wear a broad brimmed
hat that applies shade to your face and your ears. Please put
liberal amounts of sunscreen on your children! Most of the skin
cancer found in adults is the result of sun damage that occurred
decades earlier! Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants whenever
possible provides the best protection aside from fishing at night
or staying indoors, but who wants to do that?
To wrap it
up, protect yourself and your loved ones from future grief caused
by the sun. If you are like me, and most people I know who didn't
know that sunscreen existed when you were a tike or a know-it-all
teen, have your skin inspected by a professional or at the very
least someone else who has an idea what to look for. Follow up
on any "suspicious" findings with a doctor. Please,
pass the word along.
Part III in a Three Part Series
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.