Archive for the ‘Gulf of Mexico’ Category
Between travel, home construction, music festivals and meetings, I’ve been a bad blogger. But with cooler weather, more fishing takes place, although not necessarily more catching. Earlier this year, the Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids tournament was a huge success, in spite of some dicey weather. I was pleased to again get the opportunity to fish with Noah Brindise and his guests from Arthrex, including a former student Mike Moser, from the Sports Medicine group in UF Orthopedics. We caught a good number of fish, including this trout that was almost five pounds, and Mike caught this fine redfish….but as usual during this tournament, the nice redfish we caught were all over slot. This is by far my favorite tournament of the year, for a great cause, and I’m ready for next year already.
Later in the summer I had a fun trip with Mark and Sarah. Mark is an Ebola researcher from Maryland and his friend Sarah recently moved to Gainesville. Mark warned me that Sarah had not fished a lot, so I did something I haven’t done in about five years….bought some live shrimp. Sarah managed one trout on a shrimp before we both tired of dealing with ravenous pinfish, so I taught her how to throw a plug. About five minutes later she managed this fine redfish on a topwater, and later this fine trout. Mark also found a nice redfish and asked if there was something we could find so that Sarah would have something pull hard on her line….amazing how easy it is to find 40 pound stingrays when you’re fishing with cut bait. Forty-five minutes later she had her fill. A great trip, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again this winter.
In early September, in spite of heavy boat traffic from scalloping and lots of floating grass, we could usually find some redfish. Here’s a pair that Tommy Thompson and I found, along with a nice trout that Doug Barrett caught, all on topwaters.
I’ve had visits from several old friends, some from NC, Tennessee, and that distressed area of the US, Destin. Lark and Tom, old friends from my Nashville days, helped me hunt. Fishing was tough, but they did catch enough for one dinner….a small keeper redfish and a nice flounder. And my old high school friend Joe Jacobs came for a day to find things just as tough, catching this inshore gag grouper and a variety of fish, but not what we were looking for.
Most recently the fishing in Steinhatchee has been confusingly slow, for a month that historically is one of our best months of the year. The water has been very clear, although the floating grass has stayed around longer than usual to torture plug fishermen like me. We did have a minor red tide episode, but it fairly rapidly left the area. The migration of baitfish seems to be delayed, and there are a lot fewer mullet than I’m used to seeing this time of year. Hopefully things will swing around now that there is some consistent lowering of the water temperatures.
After months of tannin-stained water and massive quantities of floating grass, the waters around Steinhatchee have returned to the clear productive state of normality. The fishing has been excellent, both offshore and inshore. Somewhat atypically, trout have been moving into the Steinhatchee River in the absence of a major cold snap, and not surprisingly, nobody has complained yet. Silver (sand) trout have been everywhere, including in the river and at one of the recent hotspots near the Bird Rack north of Steinhatchee. One captain with a large party wanting a fish fry brought in 160 pounds of silver trout. On a brief trip with Capt. Tommy Thompson and Doug Barrett, we took several nice trout on topwater plugs near Rock Point over mixed grass and sand potholes. The next week I took Tommy and old friend Capt. John Peyton out for another reconnoitering. While we didn’t find any redfish on our early drifts, we managed to find some excellent upper-slot fish using topwater plugs south of Dallus Creek, again in an area of potholes.
We moved offshore as the tide dropped and found some large Spanish mackerel, several nice flounder and a good number of silver trout with the occasional speckled trout. There were schools of white bait scattered over a quarter-mile square area being attacked by mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish. The fishing was so good that I convinced my son Sidney and his girlfriend, Lee Ferinden, to come out for a trip. Fishing has never been Sid’s cup of tea, but he was excited to give it a try after a number of years. Both he and Lee re-learned how to cast. Again, we couldn’t find any redfish in the early morning flood tide, but as we moved out we again found large schools of whitebait. Returning to an area west of the Bird Rack at Big Grass Island, we found silver and speckled trout, at times catching fish on every cast. We also came across some giant Spanish mackerel which somehow were unable to get their teeth through the 25 pound fluorocarbon leader. The largest was over 5.5 pounds and looked like a small kingfish coming to the boat.
As I mentioned, we had reports of some trout being caught in the river. We noticed several boats landing lots of small silver trout, but some nice speckled trout have made it into the river as well; Chase Norwood, the son of Sea Hag owner/operator Charlie Norwood nailed this gator trolling a Mirrolure in the river.
I really had a great time with Lee and Sid, and I was glad we managed to catch a few fish as well. While ordinarily I don’t keep fish, we ended up keeping around 20 pounds of trout and mackerel filets to grill. The water temperature throughout the day ranged from the low to the mid-60s. Water was clear just about everywhere and we could see the bottom over 10 foot creek beds. Unfortunately the floating grass continued to make plug fishing challenging, but that is improving as well.Looking forward to a long holiday weekend to get in some more water time. As the water temps continue to cool down, the trout fishing could improve dramatically as the larger fish begin to school. That will be “Corky time” for us, time to fish my favorite cold-water lure, the Paul Brown Corky Devil from Mirrolure. Can’t wait for that cold weather!
It’s been a while since I posted, and frankly that’s been because I’ve had a lot of fun activities to attend on weekends (the Florida Outdoor Writer’s Annual Meeting in Titusville and a fun weekend kayak fishing with Grand Master Jerry McBride in Stuart) and relatively slow fishing at Steinhatchee. However, things have begun to pick up recently. The FOWA meeting was, as usual, a great learning experience. Spent some time with Mark Sosin, a television fishing pioneer, and Pat Ford, acclaimed photographer who has worked with Guy Harvey. Executive Director Tommy Thompson organized a great event that included a morning fishing trip. I got to fish with Drew Cavanaugh, a light-tackle guide who fishes the Mosquito Lagoon. Unfortunately the lagoon is suffering from an algae bloom so we fished directly in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Cape. We managed a few nice 22 inch fish, but I was horrifyingly frustrated when I lost the largest trout I’ve ever had hooked. She blew up on a topwater, made a number of runs around the boat with both of us thinking it was a redfish. She finally came up to the surface ten feet from the boat when the hook pulled. We estimated her at around 10 pounds. It was a great meeting nonetheless. It was a beautiful morning and this is one of the ones that didn’t get away.
Some pictures from the meeting…Tommy Thompson doing a photo workshop with Pat Ford and Mark Sosin looking on, and a meeting of the minds…Tommy Thompson, Ingrid Niehaus from Hobie in California, Jerry McBride and photographer Sam Root.
Closer to home, I fished several times over the past week and things are definitely returning to normal after a summer of darkened water from Tropical Storm Debby turned the usually crystal-clear waters at Steinhatchee a darkly stained coffee color. This past weekend Tommy Thompson and I returned to some of our regular haunts and found loads of baitfish and lots of activity. At one point we had a double; I had a nice redfish and Tommy a 22 inch trout. We managed to get a good pic and still released both in good shape.
This Thursday I took Brett Bentley and his father Jack out for a trip. Brett is a medical student at UF and his dad lives in Tampa, and Brett wanted to get in some fishing with his dad. They both have fished a lot in the past and although I expressed a little concern about the recent fishing, they were ready to go regardless. We left the Sea Hag Marina to an east wind of around 10 knots. Although the water visibility is still around a foot, we found some schools of baitfish and began fishing popping cork rigs in 3 feet of water over some mixed bottom. We immediately began catching good numbers of trout, mixed with ladyfish and the occasional sea bass and grunts. As the tide rose I worked my way into the shoreline to explore for redfish, but other than one strike on a topwater plug, there were none to be found so we moved back out to deeper water and continued catching trout, and drifted out further to the nearshore bars looking for Spanish mackerel. There were surprisingly few whitebait pods near the bars and we never found any Spanish. According to reports they are very plentiful in slightly deeper 15 foot depths along with kingfish, but a drifted pinfish didn’t connect. But we caught a lot of fish and Jack and Brett seemed pleased with the day.
While the trout bite is excellent right now, the redfish are inconsistent. We spotted some schools over the weekend, but things are still not quite back to normal. However, with the decreased rainfall and cooler temperatures this time of year, things will be getting better every day. Make plans to get over to Steinhatchee and take advantage of the smaller crowds and great flats fishing.
There’s an old saying that notes that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. No matter how long I’ve fished (which in my case is since I was about 4, which approximately dates to the stone age), I’ve always wanted to learn more, so I love fishing with people that are excellent at what they do. Capt. Tommy Thompson and I had the great opportunity to fish this weekend with the Zen Master of trout, DOA Lures “Director of Fishing”, Jerry McBride. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, Jerry has caught tons of over 30-inch speckled trout fishing in his home base in the Stuart/Jenson Beach area. While he fishes primarily out of kayaks and wading, he can on occasion catch fish from a boat, so we invited him on his way through the area to show us exactly how he fishes one of our favorite lures, the DOA Shrimp. We didn’t have ideal conditions….a bad storm came through and woke us up at 2 AM with lots of fireworks, and right behind it came the wind. Forecasted at 20 knots, we figured we’d find some places out of the wind in Tommy’s flats skiff “Photo Opportunity”. Addditionally we were faced with low water, keeping us away from some of our favorite places. We were fortunate in that the wind started out from the west and blew hard, keeping some of the tide in and giving us a little cushion before the rapid drop as the wind switched to the north.
We started at one of the small creeks, fishing the rapidly dropping water and quickly found a good number of small trout in the 14 to 17 inch range. Many people fish the shrimp very slowly and drag it across the bottom very slowly Jerry fishes the shrimp differently, with quick jerks and a slightly more rapid retrieve, but still slow enough to allow the shrimp to drop toward the bottom after each jerk. This mimics the activity of real shrimp, which jet upwards toward the surface and then drop down into the grass. Getting the weight of the shrimp is important and relates to several variables, primarily depth, but also wind (as it will bow the line and decrease the action). You can get a feel for Jerry’s technique from these Youtube videos showing Jerry fishing, and narrated by Mark Nichols, owner and inventor of the DOA lures.
We ran to some more sheltered areas as the tide dropped and continued to find some nice trout, the occasional flounder, and one redfish (I lost another at the boat). I love fishing with people with a good sense of humor and modicum of intelligence, but I liked fishing with Jerry anyway…to say nothing of the mango/key lime pie with which he donated to the Bite Me Fishing clubhouse. Looking forward to his return on a more congenial day. Thanks, Jerry!
#20 – No matter how much whiskey you’ve had, you can still fish.
#19 – A limp rod is still useful while fishing.
#18 – You don’t have to hide your fishing magazines.
#17 – It is perfectly acceptable to pay a professional to fish with you once in a while.
#16 – The Ten Commandments don’t say anything against fishing.
#15 – If your partner takes pictures or videotapes of you fishing, you don’t have to worry about them showing up on the Internet if you become famous.
#14 – Your fishing partner doesn’t get upset about people you fished with long ago.
#13 – It’s perfectly respectable to fish with a total stranger.
#12 – When you see a really good fishing person, you don’t have to feel guilty about imagining the two of you fishing together.
#11 – If your regular fishing partner isn’t available, he/she won’t object if you fish with someone else.
#10 – Nobody will ever tell you that you will go blind if you fish by yourself.
#9 – When dealing with a fishing pro, you never have to wonder if they are really an undercover cop.
#8 – You don’t have to go to a sleazy shop in a seedy neighborhood to buy fishing stuff.
#7 – You can have a fishing calendar on your wall at the office, tell fishing jokes, and invite coworkers to fish with you without getting sued for harassment.
#6 – There are no fishing-transmitted diseases.
#5 – If you want to watch fishing on television, you don’t have to subscribe to the Playboy channel.
#4 – Nobody expects you to fish with the same partner for the rest of your life.
#3 – Nobody expects you to give up fishing if your partner loses interest in it.
#2 – You don’t have to be a newlywed to plan a vacation primarily to enjoy your favorite activity.
And the Number One reason you should love fishing:
#1- Your fishing partner will never say, “Not again? We just fished last week! Is fishing all you ever think about?”
Had the opportunity to take Bob Lomprey fishing on New Year’s Eve day. Bob is a retired teacher from Wisconsin who has done a lot of fishing in his life, but primarily for northern pike and walleye in his native Wisconsin and in Canada. Since moving to Gainesville, he has wanted to get in some saltwater fishing, and he wanted to try some flyfishing. As always, the weather is a great determinant and after multiple forecast changes, we decided to try on Friday. The forecast was for 5 to 10 knots from the east, a high of 75 degrees, and sun. One out of three isn’t bad for NOAA; they got the sun right. Thursday the high was 76 degrees, so I was optimistic the water temperatures had risen above the low 50’s earlier in the week. Admittedly, when we left the Sea Hag Marina at 9, the wind was reasonable…but the water temp was 49 degrees. We tried some of my favorite river spots, and there were plenty of boats around, but we didn’t find any fish. With a mid-day high tide, I wanted to take advantage of the water and we ran to a recently productive creek but found clear water, no baitfish and no redfish or trout. Bob wasn’t getting a great introduction to winter fishing at this point, so I moved out of the creek and onto some close flats. Conventional wisdom says that in cold water, trout move off the flats and into rivers and creeks. Conventional wisdom failed to talk to the trout, however, and we found some nice trout in 3 feet of water over mixed bottom. We fished Paul Brown Lures exclusively, and when we started landing fish, Bob got out his 8 weight, but by then the wind was a good 15 knots from the south and his backcast was blown into the water, so we went back to catching fish.
These were slightly smaller fish than I had found inshore, but all were solid keepers between 18 and 20 inches. The bite was very soft and we lost quite a few fish when they took the lures without letting us know about it. They were moving through the flats in small schools; we usually caught one or two fish at a time before we started to drift again. There was enough activity to keep us out in the wind for some time. The careful observer of outerwear will be able to determine which of us is from Florida and which is from Wisconsin.
We still had an hour or so, and I wanted to try another frequently productive area in hopes of getting out of the wind so we ran to another close location to fish an area of rocky structure, and had a few bites but lost those fish. I finally had a solid hit, set the hook, and realized immediately this was not a trout, and we put a 5 pound redfish into the livewell. Bob kept some fish for his first taste of speckled trout and redfish and we were back at the dock by 3. A challenging day, but it turned out to be reasonable, except for not allowing Bob to give me some casting lessons, so we’ll save that for another trip. All in all, a great day on the water with an accomplished fisherman, and that’s always a good thing.
Summer is always a slow time for inshore fishing, and in the Steinhatchee area, it’s even more challenging because of the hordes of scallopers. Many of us just take it easy through the summer and wait for September 10, the closing date of scallop season. While we tried some trips during the summer, the redfish were few and far between and the trout were in very deep water, and between the 100 degree heat and mats of floating grass, it was more enticing to stay inshore and watch the antics at the boat ramp and marina. The crowds were large and so were the scallops this year, although the crop thinned a lot by the end of the season. I’ve been out over the past two weekends and things are returning to normal in terms of inshore fishing. There have been some large schools of redfish and they have been accessible on low water with topwater plugs.
On a recent trip, we were fishing close to shore on a rapidly dropping tide and when the water ran out, we decided to try fishing around one of the many offshore bars around Steinhatchee. These sand bars, some of which are within 2 miles from shore, can hold schools of whitebait and are a great place to target Spanish mackeral. With Tommy Thompson in Doug Barrett’s boat, we found ourselves fishing one of these bars and watching the fish swim across them. The first sizable fish we noted was a 7 foot bull shark which we passed on, but a few minutes later a large ray came across the bar; both Tommy and I were trying to figure out if a cobia was following it, and he had the first shot, so he tossed a DOA shrimp on his trout rig on top of the ray; a nice cobia immediately ate it and the fight was on. Without the usual crab traps or channel markers to provide cover, the cobia gave up the ghost fairly quickly. As we didn’t have a large enough net, I grabbed the Boga grip, knowing I was going to pay for this later. Getting a cobia into the boat with a Boga grip is guaranteed aerobic exercise. My shoulder managed to stay in it’s socket, and Tommy posed for a pic with the fish.
On another recent trip I took old friend and fishing partner Doug Fertig out to explore some old areas I haven’t fished in a while. We found tons of baitfish….schools of mullet, glass minnows, whitebait and juvenile ballyhoo everywhere, with lots of skipjacks, ladyfish and smallish trout paying them some attention. Mixed in where some larger fish, including Spanish mackeral, and we saw several small tarpon but couldn’t entice them. The tide was rapidly rising and the water was a bit high to find redfish, but we caught about 20 or so very reasonable trout mixed in with a number of shorts; Doug caught a fine 25 inch Spanish mackeral. We drifted over flats using topwaters and suspending plugs and had consistent action through the morning. We finally found some excellent fish near the outflow of two adjacent creeks at a slack tide around noon. It’s clear the fishing is on the way up as the water temperatures are on the way down. It should be an excellent fall inshore season ahead.