Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Dude-ing it up at the River Ranch Resort: FOWA 2013   Leave a comment

An event that I always look forward to is the annual meeting of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. As someone who started writing about fishing relatively late in life, I’ve greatly appreciated the educational aspect of the conference as well as making many friends among the really fine people that are members. I’ve also gotten an opportunity to visit places in Florida that I’ve rarely visited, if at all. Since I’ve been a member, we’ve had conferences at Homosassa, Punta Gorda, Tallahassee, Ocala, Naples, and Titusville. This year the conference was in Polk County at the Westgate River Ranch Resort, an actual dude ranch in central Florida, located on the Kissimmee River near Lake Wales. Even as a Florida native, I’ve never been to this area of the state. In spite of being about 25 miles or so from “civilization” (i.e. Lake Wales on one side and the Florida Turnpike on the other), the resort was comfortable and a great place to have a meeting. Not surprisingly, many of the activities at the ranch are directed toward outdoor activities, including riding, shooting, fishing and hunting.

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Our first evening event was a trip to Bok Tower and the surrounding gardens. The tower was built by Edward Bok, an immigrant Dutch publisher, and was built on the highest piece of land in Florida. It was dedicated in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge. The tower is covered with painted ceramic plates and the surrounding gardens provide a beautiful and relaxing stroll.

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The educational programs start with craft improvement seminars. This year, photographer Stuart Patterson gave a great talk about improving your outdoor photography, and guide and writer Rob Modys introduced many of us to the use of social media as a business opportunity. A fascinating session addressing writer’s block was given by an all-star panel: Sandy Huff. FOWA board member and freelance author with over 1700 published articles; Dorothy Zimmerman, communications director for Florida Sea Grant; and legendary television pioneer Mark Sosin, host of the longest running television program about marine fishing, Mark Sosin’s Saltwater Journal. After an update on Lake Okeechobee restoration efforts, FOWA member Jill Zima Borski presented her take on presenting yourself as an expert, teaching writing skills, and ghost writing. Good friends and well-known photographers Sam Root and Tommy Thompson did an outdoor session on lighting that was well-attended and instructive.

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At every FOWA meeting, attendees are able to fish with a local guide. Not surprisingly, this is something I always look forward to. The resort has a marina with direct access to the Kissimmee River. We gathered at the marina on a beautiful morning. An interesting aspect of the trip was that many of the boats went through locks that control the water level in Lake Kissimmee, something we don’t see on the coasts.

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Charles Wright and I got to fish with Arnie Lane (http://www.flwoutdoors.com/ap/bio.cfm?mid=151269), a professional bass angler on the FLW tour and one of the famous Lane Brothers. It was a tough time of year with pretty oppressive heat but we managed four or five fish, with Arnie nailing this really fine four pounder while Charles looked on from the front of the boat.

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The break-out session Thursday afternoon provides an opportunity for sponsors to show their new products and for us to try them out. Hobie representatives Ingrid Niehaus and Frank Stapleton presented two of their new offerings, the Hobie Sport Mirage and the Pro Angler 14.

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At the awards banquet, along with some excellent food (oysters, stone crab claws and shrimp as a warm-up), there were a number of presentations. FOWA provides scholarships each year to students who have shown an interest and productivity in outdoor writing or communications. This year we were shown an excellent film from the University of Miami team (http://waterlust.org/Waterlust.html). Patrick Rynne, from the team, submitted the film and took home a scholarship. Devon Caffaro from the UCF School of Journalism was also presented with a scholarship. Both are shown with FOWA president Ron Presley and Sea Grant Director of Communications Dorothy Zimmerman.

 

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One of the true highlights of the conference was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Flip Pallot, long-time host of the award-winning television show “Walker’s Cay Chronicles”. Flip has been in outdoor communications for many years, and it was great to see him honored in this way. Watching two legends of fishing sharing stories was a great experience as Flip noted that Mark Sosin actually gave him his start in television many decades before. Flip with his wife Diane is shown with Ray Presley and FOWA Executive Director Tommy Thompson.

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There were plenty of other activities….hiking, mechanical bull riding, kayak demonstrations and a Saturday night rodeo. Many took advantage of the skeet shooting range and there were several shooting competitions. Jill Borski took on some clays on the skeet range.

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This year’s meeting was another great experience and as always, I learned a lot from the experts. If you are interested in learning about writing, or have done some writing, you can join FOWA as an associate member. I’d strongly recommend it, for both the enjoyment and educational aspects of the meetings. The next meeting will be located closer to home for me, in Homosassa/Crystal River next August. You can find out more on the FOWA website, http://www.fowa.org/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted September 5, 2013 by grassflats in Travel

october update…   Leave a comment

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.

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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.

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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.

ImageThis 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.

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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.

Posted October 12, 2012 by grassflats in Gulf of Mexico, Inshore Fishing, Travel

Day 3 at River Palm…the Hobie Team takes us kayaking   Leave a comment

While we do occasionally fish from kayaks around Steinhatchee, it’s not something we do frequently. The team representing Hobie kayaks, from California and Florida, took a number of us kayaking on my last day in Stuart.It was a beautiful morning and we had breakfast at the tiki hut prior to leaving.

Organized as always by Jerry McBride, we launched from a small ramp at the Ft. Pierce bridge and headed north. The group included Polly Dean, writer and photographer for Game and Fish Magazine from Atlanta, Cheryl Little, the Redfish Ranger from Panama City, and Hobie reps Ingrid Niehaus and Morgan Promnitz from California, and pro staff Hobie folks Sam Root, J.D. Donohue,  Honson Lau, Jose Chavez, and Christina Altman from Ft. Lauderdale. This was my first time at trying the Hobie Mirage Drive system, which has developed a huge following because it is pedal-driven, leaving your hands free for fishing. The kayaks come in a variety of sizes and layouts. I was very interested to see how the pedal drive performed against current and wind, and we got a quick lesson as we pedaled north again the strong outgoing tidal current. In brief, it worked very well. Steady pedaling is the ticket, and it requires very little energy to do the short strokes suggested by the pros. I suspect I would have been a lot more winded had I been paddling.

We worked our way north, fishing alongside some beautiful islands with rocky shorelines and tons of oyster and sand bars with cuts to deeper water. There were plenty of mullet schools and the area looked very fishy. I was a  little distracted by learning about how to maneuver the kayak but managed several trout, jacks and ladyfish. Polly was interested in getting a picture of this relatively unimpressive trout.

However, there were some excellent fish around. These pictures were taken by Sam Root, a truly amazing photographer and fisherman. Sam’s most recent business efforts have included some of his beautiful pictures on the backs of mobile phone cases (http://store.saltyshores.com/). Morgan Promnitz nailed this huge trout and Christina Altman had this more modest specimen, but her picture sure looked better than mine.

We pulled into a beautiful cove on an unnamed island that had some benches and unloaded. There was a young manatee playing in the cove for us to play with, while Jerry prepared a fine shore lunch of grilled pork loin marinated in a jalapeno/cranberry glaze which was awesome, grilled fresh asparagus and some fine beans with lots of onions and brown sugar. It was great watching Jerry work while Ingrid, Polly and I waited for him to cook us lunch.

My ride was one of the latest models, the Pro Angler 12. Very wide and stable, with a remarkable seat that could elevate, recline, lumbar support adjustment…it was like sitting in an easy chair.  Had some extras I’ve never seen…a pop-up tackle locker with two Plano boxes and horizontal rod holders to keep the rods down when going through low hanging mangroves. The pedaling motion is quite easy as long as you remember to use small quick strokes and not longer ones, which really don’t add any speed. This is what worked well for me.

This is a nice video that shows how the drive works underwater.

All told, it was a fantastic few days. The fishing community in the Stuart area is very different than our relatively quiet area, but the fishing is great and there are lots of people to learn from.  And one person that I have to thank (maybe a little gratuitously) is the Master of all Trades and Media, Jerry McBride. Jerry works tirelessly for DOA, conservation, and the good of all people everywhere. Thanks for all you do, Jerry!

Posted June 15, 2012 by grassflats in Inshore Fishing, Product Reviews, Travel

DOA Lures…a great story, and a great few days   Leave a comment

I’ve been using DOA lures for many years, but only recently have I spent time in Stuart and learned about the company and the people behind it. Mark Nichols, the developer of the first artificial shrimp, is a study in persistence, ingenuity and dedication. From very humble beginnings (whittling artificial shrimp out of wood and pouring plastics on his kitchen table), Mark has built one of the country’s most successful lure companies. And one of the most aspects of the business that makes him the proudest is that his is one of the only, if not the only, lure maker that manufactures every product in the U.S., using only U.S. made components. On a personal level, I have heard many people make the same comment that was one of my first impressions of Mark….in spite of his legendary status as a businessman, he is one of the most approachable people around. His dry sense of humor and accessibility makes him a great spokesman for his company.

Mark’s dedicated staff in Stuart are committed to customer service. Jerry McBride, DOA’s “director of fishing”, is an incredibly talented addition to the staff. Jerry spent many years as an editor at Florida Sportsman magazine, and is one of the finest kayak fisherman in the world. I consider him a good friend, so clearly he has poor taste in friends, but other than that, he is an accomplished chef, organizer, writer, and social media guru (I know that title will make him smile). Jerry and Mark travel all over the country giving talks about their lures, fishing in general, and kayak fishing. Jerry came up this past year to do a kayak presentation at the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club that was the best presentation of the year.  Jerry’s daughter Jenny (who can fish with the best of them)  started at UF this year, and I have offered to be available to be available for questions from  her  in exchange for some favors, and the main favor was the chance to come down and spend some time in Stuart with the DOA folks and fish. So the day after the Reeling for Kids tournament, I headed down to River Palms Cottages, owned by another character who could merit an entire book, Rufus Wakeman. I’ve been down there several times in the past with Tommy Thompson, most recently last year during the CCA Interchapter Challenge tournament. The cottages are amazing, right on the water and in a tropical setting with fruit trees of all kinds on the grounds available for picking….everything from mangoes to lychees. A large thatched tiki hut is fishing central, and I had the opportunity to fish with several excellent local guides. Here are a few pictures of the weekend, which had some of the state’s finest fishermen, writers, photographers and hangers-on like me in for several days. And not just the state….we had people from North Carolina, South Carolina and California thrown in as well. Here are a few pics of the festivities….Mark and Blair Wiggins holding forth in the hut, and the view of the Indian River Lagoon from my cottage.

But the highlight of the trip was fishing. Jerry had asked me what I wanted to fish for, and given that I fish for redfish and trout almost every weekend, and that I grew up fishing for snook in south Florida, not far from River Palm, I wanted snook. The first day I had the great pleasure of fishing with Capt. Greg Snyder, a fantastic guide, and David Brown, a writer and photographer for Florida Sportsman magazine from Tampa. We ran out the St. Lucie inlet to fish the jetties, and within 30 minutes had three snook to the boat, including this fine 37 incher that Greg is holding. We were fishing 4 inch DOA shrimp on 40 pound leader and I was using my trusty Van Staal reel with 10 pound PowerPro braid, casting the shrimp alongside the jetties and letting them drift. Most of the battle was keeping the fish away from the rocks and it was exciting fishing.

After three fish, we had some live-baiters show up and the bite dropped off so we went into the river on some shallow flats to wadefish. Mullet were streaming from the deeper cuts onto and off of the flats and being hammered by snook everywhere we looked. Many just swam by our feet as we waded. We scored several more nice fish casting smaller shrimp and working them through the maze of baitfish.

The bite dropped off with the slack tide and we waded some of the flats to the east. We saw some large trout but never managed to get them to bite. David spent much of his time taking photos (he has some that he thinks will make some great Florida Sportsman shots) and really wanted to get a picture of a lookdown, a small but distinctive looking member of the jack family. We stopped at a shoreline that Greg knew held trout, and we caught a few small trout when I managed to actually get a nice lookdown to the boat, which made David’s day.

Day two I got to fish with Fred Caimotto, a young guide and manager of the Snook Nook, a Jensen Beach landmark that has been in the same location for at least 50 years…I remember going there as a kid. Fred and I fished the inlet early, and spent a few hours fishing docks in the St. Lucie River, just inland from the ICW. We saw fish but had little action except for a few small snook and some mangrove snapper. Finally I hooked a solid 27 inch snook right under a dock, which led to a frantic close encounter battle, with the fish wrapping around pilings, the trolling motor, and finally sawing through the light leader. We headed back for a lunch and I headed for my cabin for a rest.  There was more to come on the final day…a kayaking day with the Hobie team.

Posted June 15, 2012 by grassflats in Product Reviews, Travel

how about some delicious bass?   Leave a comment

The weather outside was frightful…at least on the gulf, with 20 knot winds. Capt. Thompson offered me a great Christmas present…a trip on Rodman Reservoir, one of the best bass areas in the country. I used to bass fish a lot, at Orange, Lochloosa and Newnan’s Lakes, and once on the Ocklawaha (which was dammed to create Rodman), but had never been there. We went with Capt. Sean Rush, of Trophy Bass Expeditions (www.floridatrophybass.com) who was involved in the infamous Florida Sportsman Calendar shoot with Tommy. Sean was a great guide….immaculate high-quality equipment, a great boat, and has been fishing this area for 30 years. When fishing for large bass, Sean favors using wild shiners, so Tommy and I gave up our avoidance of live bait for a day.  This is an interesting area to fish; the river was dammed at the time the cross-Florida barge canal was being built in the late ’60s. It resulted in a large body of fairly shallow water with tons of cypress stumps and vegetation that rapidly became a nationally-known bass destination. Every five years or so, there is a draw-down of the water to kill some of the shore vegetation, and we are in the midst of one of these drawdowns. With the dropping water levels, the fish are concentrated and the fishing gets even better.  This picture , showing the old water levels on the trees, will give you an idea of the amount of draw-down at this point, with another five feet or so to go.

With ten dozen wild shiners in Sean’s tiller-driven custom Sea Ark, we ran to some areas at the junction of the river and the reservoir. We were using 20 pound mono on baitcasters, tied directly to J-hooks without a leader.  Most of the time we free-lined the baits near shore vegetation, trying to get the shiners to swim up under the vegetation….where as Sean stated, “they might see some eyes looking back at them”.

We started catching bass immediately, most in the 2 to 3 pound range.  A major challenge for me was not using the braid I use exclusively, because mono requires a fair amount of experience to differentiate the pulling of an excited shiner from the fairly subtle tap of the bass eating it. Most of the time I knew I had a fish on when I saw the line moving away from the shore steadily. The hookset required some effort as well because of the stretching of the line which just doesn’t happen with braid. However, after a few fish, being professionals, we figured things out. Along with some fine bass, we also tangled with some chain pickerel. I’ve studiously avoided any pictures of the “cypress bass” (otherwise known as mudfish), but I did catch one that went at least 6 or 7 pounds).

 

 

 

All told, we caught around 30 bass, with the largest being this 6-pounder. We lost some fish that were certainly larger, several to straightened hooks. We had about 20 minutes of brief sunshine but most of the day was overcast and we had one little bit of rain, but in spite of fairly windy conditions, we were well sheltered in the area.

This was great fun. It has been about 10 years since I last went bass fishing, and in spite of the fairly tough conditions, we were able to fish in comfort, which would not have been the case on the gulf.  Special thanks to Tommy and Sean. This is something we’ll have to do again. And I strongly recommend Sean as a knowledgeable guide when you decide you want to get that trophy bass.

Oh, and in spite of the Napoleon Dynamite reference, no, we didn’t keep any bass to eat.  Catch-and-release is the way to go.

Posted December 12, 2011 by grassflats in Travel

Back on the water…   4 comments

Between traveling and bad weather (including 100 degree temps, which I consider bad weather) I haven’t been on the water much since July, but the recent cool spell meant it was time to get back to finding some fish.  I did manage to fish in Naples during the annual Florida Outdoor Writers Festival in the 10,000 Islands with Capt. Phil Deville and Sue Cocking, veteran sports writer for the Miami Herald.  A fascinating place….miles and miles of mangroves, through cuts barely as wide as the boat. We were there when Irene was passing just on the other side of the peninsula so we got some bands of rain during the trip (in spite of the great sky in this pic). We fished the mangroves and avoided the gulf, which was stirred up by several days of high winds. Saw lots of tarpon, caught a nice snook on topwater, and we bagged a few small reds, some trout and using jigs with shrimp sweeteners, Sue got a number of small mangrove snapper. We also had a few tarpon to play with, but never managed to jump any.

 

This weekend, I had several trips fall through, but I needed to get out and look around so I went by myself  (and left my clamp tripod at home). Went out at daybreak on Saturday morning, to find Deadman’s Bay on a low tide and full of whitebait, rainbait and varying sizes of mullet. I fished in 2 feet of water with my usual nickel SuperSpook and found several nice slot reds in the first hour, along with a number of trout of varying sizes. A little later in the morning I found one nice 22 incher that avoided the camera.

 

I ran to a bunch of my usual spots but after around 10 there were no baitfish, and no trout or reds. Water temperature was 77 degrees, better than it has been, but still about five degrees too warm.  But early, there were tons of small fish hitting the schools of small whitebait, so that sounded like a good excuse to try some flyfishing on Sunday morning for a few hours. It always takes me about an hour to get my casting chops back (especially given that even at their best, they are novice in nature). Sunday was exactly the same, and I found a lot of action with smaller fish, catching a number of jacks, trout, and several decent sized ladyfish, which are always fun on a fly rod. This trout was gorged on whitebait.

 

 

There are still plenty of scallops present, although the traffic was minimal.  School starting and a Gator football weekend kept lots away, but the scallop meats are huge and everyone I spoke to was limiting in an hour or so. The season is open until the 25th, and gag grouper season opens on the 17th. I anticipate some great fishing ahead.  Even Michelle, the maitre ‘d at the Tiki Bar, knows the fishing is about to get better.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted September 11, 2011 by grassflats in flyfishing, Inshore Fishing, Travel

Florida cca ICC….huh?   Leave a comment

Just in case you don’t know what that all meant, let me tell you a bit about the Coastal Conservation Association. The CCA is a non-profit conservation group that advocates for preservation of marine resources and the interests of recreational anglers. There are state chapters in most of the coastal states in the country, currently 17 states. Florida is one of the largest state chapters, and has a number of local chapters. I’ve been a member of the Gainesville chapter for about ten years now, and now help represent our local chapter on the state board with my friend Wiley Horton. Florida CCA is involved in legislative actions and legal activities that deal with the intersection of commercial and recreational interests and the preservation of resources.  Along  with providing manpower and resources for habitat restoration, CCA Florida takes positions regarding proposed changes  in state and national fisheries legislation. For instance, CCA Florida has taken a strong stand against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s recommendations to increase the bag limit for redfish from one per person to two. The redfish bag limit, along with the outlawing of gill netting, has resulted in an excellent redfish population and we see no reason to change this. For more information about CCA Florida, please go to this link:  http://www.ccaflorida.org/index.html

Once a year CCA Florida hosts an inshore fishing tournament that is a competition between local chapters: the Interchapter Challenge (ICC). For the past several years it’s been held in Jensen Beach at the River Palm Cottages, a place I’ve visited several times before that has excellent fishing in the Indian River, including the St. Lucie Inlet. Tommy Thompson and I decided we would take on the challenge, which it was. Some chapters (Orlando and Martin County, for example) had over 15 members fishing and the competition was based on the largest fish caught within the chapter; so, the more people fishing, the more the likelihood of catching some large fish. The winning team is the team with the greatest length of the largest three fish caught from each category: redfish, trout and snook.  All fish are measured on a tournament ruler, a picture is taken, and the fish are released.  Another of our challenges was the fact that the location of the tournament is in Martin County, which also happens to be the home of DOA Lures; Mark Nichols, the owner of DOA, and Jerry McBride, their major point man, fish about five days a week in the area and post their catches for all to see on DOA’s Facebook page. Let’s just say they catch a whole lot of big fish. And they were part of the Martin County group.  However, we knew we’d have a good time anyway, and since redfish have always been the challenge down there, and we love to fish for redfish, we figured we might have a shot, especially since Tommy is familiar with the area. This was their biggest year ever, with 125 anglers representing 19 chapters.

We launched the boat on Friday afternoon at a nearby ramp and staked it out in front of River Palm; that’s the Photo Opportunity on the right side of the dock.  After a great dinner at the chickee at River Palm, we enjoyed the open bar but not for long as we had an early tee time.

We ran north from River Palm to a bay with mangroves on the north side and interesting prefab houses on the south, with a large grass flat in the middle. The flat and the channel alongside of it were full of schools of baitfish. On about the third cast, Tommy nailed a fine trout, followed by a small but legal redfish. I was throwing desperately, since I knew we were going to lose the topwater bite as the sun came up. I made a long cast and as the line settled down, a very unfortunate brown pelican came swooping through. Fish on. I promptly broke the bird off  (he never even stopped, actualy) and had to re-rig. We continued to fish the area but had nothing but occasional swirls. We moved across the flat and decided to fish the mangroves on the other side for snook. We rigged with soft baits, Tommy with a DOA Shrimp, and me with a weedless soft plastic rigged Texas-style so it was weedless, which helps when you’re throwing into mangroves and skipping baits back into heavy brush. We were about halfway down the shoreline when I saw a fish roll on my bait and the line tightened. I set the hook and then started worrying. With my usual cavalier attitude, I was using the lightest rod and reel combo I had. When a fish is hooked in the middle of mangroves, the idea is to horse them out away as quickly as possible to avoid getting wrapped. Well, this was a big fish and I had little choice but to grab the spool and try and turn his head out of the mangroves. At one point he ran about 5o feet under a string of mangroves, then moved away from shore, and amazingly the line managed to make it through as well. Tommy moved the boat away from the shoreline and from then on it was just a struggle with a big fish on light tackle. As we got the fish closer, we were surprised to see that it wasn’t a snook, but a large redfish.  It measured 27.5 inches, without the tail pinched. At the time that seemed like a pretty reasonable fish. In retrospect, I wish we had paid a little more attention to pinching the tail and taking a more accurate picture, but more about that later.

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With a decent trout and what we thought was a great redfish (the largest redfish caught last year was 21 inches), we decided to spend the rest of the day trying to catch a good snook. We had a few hints from folks (we knew some fish had been caught in the famous Hole in the Wall along the edge of the inlet) but also had some recommendations to try some docs along the river. We fished with DOA shrimp along the docks, throwing into the shady areas under the docks. We finally located some (based on a suggestion from Drew Wickstrom, the media director of Florida Sportsman magazine) and Tommy managed a longspine snook that was two inches short. We had a few others on, but just couldn’t get one that would help.

As it turned out, that redfish was close but not enough for the individual prize, losing by a half inch to a 28 incher. Every time I look at the pic I wonder….could have been 28 with a pinched tail? Anyway, it was a nice fish and I had a great time. Not surprisingly, the winning team was Martin County, with the big redfish and big trout (a 27.5 incher) provided by Jerry Mcbride and Mark Nichols from DOA. Not that they didn’t have help….this is the entire chapter with their trophy (with Mark third in from the right in the back, and Drew with his thumb up in the front row).

The weekend finished off with a live auction and raffle items on Saturday. We left the boat in the water and actually went out for an hour or so Sunday morning but found only some large bluefish and jacks, although I had a large trout on that managed to escape. It was a great weekend. I would encourage anyone who wants to help with conservation of marine resources in Florida to join the CCA. Along with many other benefits,  you’ll get a beautiful magazine, Tide, every month. I’ve included some additional  pictures from the weekend, including Ron Pressley with the Mystery Fish Award for a large (but still juvenile) goliath grouper (he put the ruler in the water to take the pic as it is illegal to put them in the boat….way to go, Ron) and some pictures of next year’s state president, Jeff Miller and his wife Susan (Jeff is also the owner of Miller’s Marine in Ocala, where I have bought every boat I have owned since returning to Florida almost thirty years ago), and some random shots to give you an idea of the event, including a truly committed inshore fisherwoman, and a picture of Steve Furman from Tampa, who also fishes out of Steinhatchee, with a nice Indian River snook,. It was my first time but I look forward to many more.

Posted July 2, 2011 by grassflats in Inshore Fishing, Tournaments, Travel