We’ve had some very weird weather for October…record-high temperatures, and later in the month, persistent winds and floating grass. A good time to have some work done on your boat…so I did. At the Florida Outdoor Writer’s Conference in Ocala last month I won a $200 gift certificate from Bob’s Machine Shop, one of the nation’s best known makers of jack plates. I had been thinking about getting a jack plate after talking to Ray Markham at the meetings, who has a similar hull to mine and loves his jack plate. This was a great opportunity to get it installed. If you’re unfamiliar with jack plates, essentially they are just a hydraulically operated plate that the motor is attached to that goes simply up and down. That means you don’t really need to tilt the motor, and by just raising it when idling in shallow water, the propeller is actually above the bottom of the boat, causing less seagrass damage. Additionally, it can make jumping up on plane in very shallow water much easier with a pocket tunnel hull like mine. Charlie Norwood at the Sea Hag Marina installed the plate and Tommy Thompson and I decided to take it out for a test run on Friday, which looked like the only day with a forecast of less than 15 knots of wind. The jack plate worked fantastically, and I was able to idle in very shallow water without churning up grass. It didn’t affect the handling or the ride of the boat. We didn’t fish long, but Tommy did find this nice red on a topwater and we caught several trout as well in the 2 hours we were out.
On Saturday I was invited to fish with Ken Knopf, a long-time Gainesville fisherman and dentist, and Ed Ellett, every fisherman’s favorite insurer, whose father was one of the driving forces behind the Gainesville Offshore Fishiing Club (http://www.gofc.us/). I’ve been a member of the club for over ten years and have made many friends through the club, including Ed, Ken, Wiley Horton, and even my regular fishing buddy and alter ego, Tommy Thompson. These are some of the finest fishermen in the Big Bend area and I have learned a great deal from them. The club has changed a bit over the past few years and is now very active, with great attendance at our meetings and many tournaments, learnaments and other activities that can be a great source of information for beginners in our area.
The club has several year-long tournaments that members can enter, receiving points based on the heaviest caught fish among 8 targeted species, four offshore species and four inshore. The highest point total for the year wins the most prestigious award, the John Ellett award. I won the award in 2001, but I had caught only 7 of the 8 species. In spite of the fact that a number of other anglers have caught all 8 species in one year, I have been unable to pull off that feat for the past 7 years. Each of those years I had 7 of 8; sometimes I lacked a cobia, sometimes a kingfish. Given the cobia I caught a few weeks ago, I was finally in a situation to have caught all 8 species in one year if I could only catch a kingfish. Ken Knopf, last year’s Ellett award winner, took on this task. Ed Ellett, who needed a cobia for the year, and I were hosted by Ken on his beautful 30 foot Whaler, Knot on Call. After a false start at Cedar Key, which was getting hammered by storms, we drove up to Steinhatchee and fished in heavy seas on a special spot relatively close to shore in just over 20 feet of water. Using live pinfish, we chummed for a while, but the rough seas made it difficult to determine if there were any pods of baitfish around. Ed fished a weighted bait on the bottom for cobia and I free-lined a pinfish on a light stinger rig for kings. After a short period of time, I had a pickup, set the hook, and then endured several long runs until this 28.15 pound king came aboard, which as of today is the largest king weighed in so far this year in the club.
Ed and Ken also nailed several cobia and one gag but unfortunately they were just short of being legal. Ken also landed this fine Spanish.
For someone like me, who almost never gets to go offshore, being in the club has allowed me to share trips with offshore captains and expand my knowledge considerably. I usually go offshore every year with Wiley Horton (http://tunersportfishing.com/) and trade trips with him, and I will do the same with Ken and his wife Debby. If there is a local fishing club in your area, put forth the effort to join and make some time to get to know the current members. It’s a great way to improve your own fishing and you’ll make friends that will last for many years.