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Friday, July 3, 2015

Caught Catching Fish with a Kite
When angling from a drifting boat, on the offshore or inshore of Florida waters, one is at the mercy of the tides and wind currents. If the wind is prevailing in the correct direction, you could use a balloon but by doing so, one risks polluting the marine environment with a piece of discarded latex or rubber. The possibilities of this discarded material being ingested by marine wildlife is far greater than one would expect, thus resulting in a sick fish or dead animal. Many different styles of fishing have originated in the hopes of catching the ‘Big One’. Perhaps the most effective style of getting your bait off the beach, or away from your boat and out to where the fish are is kite fishing.
Kite Fishing is a technique of fishing that involves flying kites, and using the kites to suspend live baits, dead baits and even hardware on the top of the water. This type of fishing is highly effective both in a boat, as well on the beach due to a not so new concept but a new idea in catching bigger fish off the beach without a boat. Sport fishing charter boats have been using this technique for 20 years to hook into the wide array of big game species that swim through our waters. With a ‘Caught in Flight’ kite, you too can now catch that big one just as the professional Charter Captains do, whether on the beach or out in the vessel of your choice.

In kite fishing, live bait is best but small cut baits will work too. Only certain types of baitfish will work effectively under a kite. These bait fishes include goggle eyes, mackerels, blue runners, pilchards, mullet, sardines and thread fin herring. There are many other types of baitfish used under the kite, but these types of live baits survive the best. Start out by selecting your spot to fish. When kite fishing, you must select a area of water with tidal movement, like a area where there is a rip current, a temperature gradient, a color change or over the top of an artificial reef, like the Venice reef just off the beach south of Sharky’s on the Pier where a number of years ago, the City of Venice Florida dumped a gazillion tons of old sewer pipes to re-bar structure to the then flat bottom. Now, it is teaming with grouper to Ling (Cobia), sharks and more.
Once you have selected the area you want to fish, choose which kite you are going to fly. I like to carry a light wind, medium wind and heavy wind kite for different wind conditions. Gauge the wind and choose the appropriate kite for your conditions that day. Kite sizes differ for different wind speeds and velocities. Choose the right kite for your wind speed. A quick look at your local weather station can tell you the wind speed predicted for that peculiar day or check out Magic Seaweed MSW for all Florida wind information. In addition, when was the last time you flew a kite? I was just a kid so remember before you go kite fishing, practice makes perfect. If this is your first time flying a kite then I would suggest you spend some time accessing what is around you and looking for dangers. Always avoid flying near power lines and roads.

With two fishing rods, just as in trolley fishing, a baited fishing line (whether a lure, fly or fresh bait), a kite and a little wind, I can guarantee that areas further out than you could have imagined will be at your fingertips. Using a kite allows you to fish in areas that up until now have been simply unattainable by the conventional casting method. With a bit of practice you can even fish two kites off one line for more coverage. The removal of any twists in the line is also something you will need to do. Place several high quality swivels between the kite line and the kite when in flight. This will remove any unwanted twists that may be present. From the highest point on your vessel, launch the kite and slowly release the drag on the kite reel, as the kite starts drawing line from your reel control the speed, making sure it's not too quick as the kite will fall from the sky and not too slow so that the kite flies above your head. Rule of thumb: keep it about 50 ft off the water. If you are going to fly two kites simultaneously, you will want to put a small lead on the lower corners of each kite, depending on which direction you want each kite to spread. The weight for this should be about 1/8 ounce for light kites and about ½ ounce for heavy kites. If weighted properly, the kites should spread apart from each other enough so that when the baits are out, the baits will not tangle together. Once the kite is airborne, and are about 50’-75’ off the beach or your watercraft, you should have a small barrel swivel tied every 50’ or so feet along your kite line. Use a snap swivel and attach your first kite clip to the kite line. Set the pressure of the clip release by tightening or loosening the setscrew on the clip. You want the clip to release with slightly more pressure than the bait fish will likely be able to put on it himself.
Now you are ready to bait your rod. I like to sew my baits on with a wax line bridle. This gives you the most possible hook exposure and increases your hookup chances. Use a needle and sew the bait through the back of its neck, just behind the head of the fish. Do not go too deep. About 1/4 of the bait fish’s body is as far as you want to stick that needle. Catch the loop of the wax line bridal on both sides with the hook and twist it up. Then stick the hook back underneath the entire bridal, making the hook tight to the body of the bait fish. The fish, angled with his head up when he is dangling; forcing the bait fish to struggle to keep his head below water so, he can breathe. This will cause many vibrations which is the desired effect when kite fishing. Once the bait is the desired distance from the beach or your boat, you must make constant adjustments to keep the bait right on the top of the water. The bait should be under the water, but the hook, leader and fishing line should all be out of the water. Placing a colored ribbon on the snap swivel of the fishing line, which is about 8’ out of the water, just above the bait gives visibility if there is a glare or the bait is out of sight at a quick glance. Indications that you are receiving a ‘hit’ or ‘bite’ happen if the water under your bait boils, a fish jumps directly under the clip area or your reel is screaming out. The best thing to do when you get a bite is to free spool your reel, tethering it with your thumb and let the fish eat the bait. Lock up the rod into strike position and start winding as fast as you can to get the slack out of the line. When you come tight, the line will pop out of the pressure release clip. Keep winding until you come tight on the fish. When you come tight, set the hook with a couple gentle but firm tugs with the rod. This will set the hook into the fishes jaw. If using a circle hook, simply apply pressure by raising the rod tip slowly up while pressuring with a steady retrieve.

The best part of kite fishing is you get to see the whole bite sequence and the hook up ratio are usually very high. It takes quite a bit of practice to become proficient with kite fishing technique. Keep trying though for practice makes perfect! I have yet to find a more effective or exciting way to catch that big one while fishing kites on inshore to the offshore of Florida waters and for that matter, right from the very dry beach.

Friday, January 31, 2014

In Hot Pursuit; The Raw Claw-Stone’s

In Hot Pursuit; The Raw Claw-Stone’s

She built low to the ground and always in Hot Pursuit because this Stony is about her claw and her d├ębut was this morning. In search for the elusive crab”, Elusive you say? Yep, these shell fish are always on your baits when fishing or at a glance swimming by on the top of the water when you don't want them but try and more times than not, at this time of year they can be elusive and hard to catch! The other night we were trying to hook up with a big shark and couldn't keep our baits on the hook long, enough to get a bite, for the crabs were hungry. Therefore, today I brought the crab baskets and will try for a crab dinner and as an extra treat, I will be using my bridge net as a super sized crab catcher. It Ought to be hot tonight!
You can purchase crab baskets, string or bridge nets from your area dept. stores and they work well. They are easy on the pocket book too, with the exception of a bridge net, which start at around thirty bucks for the small ones and up to seventy for the large ridged ones as I use in King fish to Cobia/Snook hauling. Crab baskets, as are bridge nets are designed to lift your catch from the waters below bridges, docks or piers, much like a landing net. Baits range from left over fried chicken bones to fish scraps. I like using an oily fish like the Jack Carvel or mackerel carcasses and heads. The Jack, as is the Mack is easy to catch and you get to fish while crabbing; the better of two worlds! Jacks will hit shrimp, cut bait, or anything that fits in their mouths when feeding which, by the way seems to be all the time when schooling. They can be found in cuts, passes, along the beaches and in the bays. I catch more than not using jigs or Got-ch-A's. Butter flied out and attached with wire to the bottom of the crab basket, I am armed to catch crabs. You don’t need a large armada of baskets to catch crabs. For this outing, I am using two baskets, a bridge net filled with two pieces of Jack in the crab baskets, and three Macks tied in the middle of the bridge net. Lowered to the bottom and checked periodically on fifteen-minute intervals. If no crabs within four checks or an hour, move the traps and repeat until your bucket is full.
The air temperature this morning is in the mid 70’s. No need for ice, just a bucket and with luck we will get some crabs. Dropping our baskets to the bottom next to the pile on out here on our city pier "Sharky's", I await for supper. This time of year along the Gulf coast crabs of all varieties can be caught. Spider crabs, hermits, stone claws, speckled or sand crabs and the infamous Blue Crabs tally up to what may be caught along with the occasional clown crab. All of these varieties may be caught today but we are only interested in supper; blue claw and sand crabs, though it is possible to capture a stone claw, they usually feed only at night. When catching the famous Florida Stone Claws, you must remember that you are only after its claws and the Stone Crab claws must measure at least 2 3/4-inches in length measured by a straight line from the elbow to the tip of the lower immovable finger and Stone Crab Claws are seasonal from October 15-May 15 here in Florida.
Clown crabs are considered ornamental, as if those one sees in a fish tank, spiders are funny looking and are considered bottom scavengers like their brothers the horseshoe crab. Blue crabs, sold the world over like Stone Claws are seasonal from May to November in Florida, though can be caught year round for recreational purposes with no females bearing eggs and a ten gallon limit per person, per day. Though I believe in 'limit your catch, don't catch your limit'!
Checking the net every five to ten minutes for crabs and to ensure you still have bait is my rule. When handling your catch be careful. The claws of the sand and blue crabs can cut you and are painful. The stone claws may not cut you but they can break your fingers. Be prudent when handling these critters. Best rule is to approach from behind by placing your foot (if you have shoes on) lightly on the back of its shell and pick up by grabbing both claws simultaneously. Place in bucket or ice for safekeeping. On the stone claw crab, if the claw is a keeper, twist counter clockwise until the entire joint and claw is removed with a quick jerk and be careful not to pull the claw off as to not injure the crab. They will grow a new one back to catch next year, so after removing its claw return the crab back to the water.
Stone crab claws are high on the list of favored Florida seafood. These crabs have the unusual ability to cast off their legs or pincers if caught by one leg or experience extreme temperature change. The separation always occurs at one of the joints to protect the crab from bleeding. During the life of the crab, the same appendage may be generated three or four times.
Florida law takes advantage of this ability of regeneration by making it illegal to harvest whole stone crabs. One or both of the very powerful black-tipped claws may be removed provided the length of the forearm measures 2 3/4 inches. If not, the claw must be left on the crab and the live stone crab returned to the water. If is also unlawful to remove claws from egg-bearing females.
It is a good idea not to put it back in where you have your traps or you will catch the same ones repeatedly. I walk them down to the other side and drop them back into the water.
Please note that when catching your own crabs it is illegal to catch female crabs during the summer months when they have eggs. How do you know the difference? Look at the abdomen on the underside of the crab. The female abdomen is dome shaped, like the U.S. capitol; the male abdomen looks like the Washington Monument.
OK, it is time to clean the crabs. Today’s outing only produced about two dozen sand crabs but what a dinner that will be for the family at home.
The crabs have to be alive and must be cleaned first! That means taking kitchen shears and cutting away the eyes and mouth. Then you must pull back and remove the top shell to expose the gills so they can be removed. Finally, you must pull away and remove the bottom tail flap, known as the apron. These steps are done to remove the parts that are inedible or are bitter and will impart unwanted flavors.
All that is left is to boil up my catch. The cleaned crabs and stone claws are cooked by placing them in boiling water and heating the water back to a boil. Total cooking time should be 7-8 minutes. Running cold water over the cooked claws is often suggested to insure the meat does not stick to the shells. Most people are purists when it comes to crab meat and prefer it cold or steamed only long enough to heat it and served with clarified butter or warm lemon butter.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Trollies & Kings

Trollies & Kings

Trolleys posted on the end of the pier at Sharky's, are an indication of the onslaught to come in weeks, if not days ahead, of the annual Spring migration of Scomberomorous cavalla, the Kingfish or better known as King Mackerel. This biannual migration of the Kings occurs first in the springtime and then again in the fall before water temperatures become too cold for their comfort. Trolley rigs account for most of the Kings caught from on the boards of the pier. Stretching out more than seven hundred feet from the shoreline is the Venice City Pier, also known as “Sharky's on the Pier.” The pier is an excellent place to catch mackerels, sharks, Reds, Trout, Snook, Tarpon and just about anything that swims in the Gulf of Mexico. The reason so many fish are found near the pier and large sharks, to fourteen feet, along with monster King Mackerels up to fifty plus pounds is that the pier falls just short of a geological feature on the bottom, which causes a metalimnion to occur. A metalimnion represent a rapid decrease in temperature with depth; also called a thermo cline. Sharks performed a regular duel migration, spending the day below the thermo cline and rising towards the surface at night, as this is an adjustment to their internal body temperatures with the top of the water column being warmer than the bottom. This thermo cline acts as an air conditioner does to us; hence many sharks too are caught off the pier to which it is named. This small to medium drop-off or subtle cliff, follows the coastline for miles from offshore in to a point by the pier and extending itself northward to the reaches of Tampa Bay. As little as a two foot difference in depth to six feet or more turns this thermo cline into a flowing current or highway to which fish follow. During the spring and now that it is Fall, the biggest of the mackerels, the kingfish, will start their southern migration back to the tropics following the kings highway, as anglers wait in anticipation of catching a trollied King, over the subsurface terrain!
The Terrain!
Besides this thermo cline being a virtual highway to fish of all kinds, it is an invitation for sharks in dining out on the passing menu choices. This thermo cline, occurs because of a number of outcrops along its route, coupled with a few freshwater geothermal springs and the remains of a ancient fossilized coral reef just to the south of the pier, to which I named “The Bone Yard.” Between shifting sands from the currents, erosion, and beach re-nourishment programs, the Bone Yard has entire fossilized mammoth tusks secured to the bottom along with other artifacts, bones and teeth from days long gone by. Just to the north of the pier lies the Venice reef. Created in August of 1980, it has been used as a dumping grounds for concrete rubble, bridge materials, culverts, re-bar and the remains of the old Venice Pier. Plot numbers, 2706.296, 8228.91, it is a real treat in fishing for more sharks, shallow water grouper, cruising barracuda and Ling (Cobia). Not to mention all the bait stealer's including nice snapper to convict fish, the Sheepshead, making the Venice Pier at Sharky's a focal point right in the middle of a fishing phenomena.
Boaters Beware!
There is a 300 foot limit to which you must adhere to this rule. There is no motoring, drifting, fishing, mooring or trolling within 300 feet of the end or sides of the pier. Refusal to obey this City of Venice Ordinance can result in being boarded by the FWC, Sarasota Sheriffs Dept., or the Venice Police patrol boats. Citations can be offered if you do not heed the blue and white warning signs on the outsides of the pier or if the authorities are not around or slow in arrival, an eight ounce anchor weight, cast from twenty feet up on a twelve foot surf rod with say a Penn 4/0 and twenty pound test line might just become part of your vessel. Angered anglers in trying to catch a King Mackerel with a trolley, do not like their space invaded or trespassed. It is just as easy to stay away and FYI that thermo cline is not close enough to the pier to cast to, so stay further out and catch the fish that the pier angler can only wish.
Trolley Rigs!
Trollies need anchors to work. Think of a trolley as a planer board. The pier is twenty feet off the water. Generally, a long rod or surf-rod with a small conventional reel like a Jig-Master up to a 4/0 or large spinner spooled with a light line and a anchor weight attached is cast as high and far as possible. Anchors are usually home-made from eight ounce weights with wire applied around them and bent upwards, looking like a small rope gaff, boat anchor or grappling hook. The best I have seen were made by a gentleman known as “Frenchy”, who cut re-bar into five inch long pieces and wrapped stainless steel wire, like found in a coat hanger, around it with the use of electrical tape, in forming five or six, nine inch hooks pointed out. After this anchor is cast, one tries to “Anchor it” to the bottom as securely as possible. The rod is then secured into a pipe that is tied to the side of the pier. A second rod is rigged with a Kingfish rig and attached to the secured line, the anchor line, by way of a quick release, baited and free spooled out to where the anchor line meets the water. The second rod is either leaned to the side of the trolley or placed in a rod holder, put into gear and the drag is adjusted to almost a free spool with the clicker on.
The Live Baits!
Baits are generally by preference and live baits are best. Also, different baits can be used to entice certain fish to bite, rather than others. Sometimes, the bait does not wish to participate with the angling event at hand and you are stuck with what ever you catch, even though you are targeting a particular species. Pinfish are always around the pier pillions. Pinfish are excellent in catching Tarpon off a trolley. Kingfish are the principal in mind but if all you catch for bait are Pins, that is what one uses. Kings will take Pinfish too but there are better baits in the pot, if you can just catch them. Ladyfish catch Tarpons but big Ladies will bring in a curious King as it splashes to skips across the water. A legal mackerel, twelve inches at the fork, is an excellent intimidating a big king. Mackerels are carnivorous, as they will eat each other if possible and smaller than them. Cigar minnows as live finger mullets can be deadly in producing many a bite but the best “Cotton-Candy” bait in catching King Mackerel along the Kings Highway is the Blue runner and the bigger, the better. Once kingfish season, the full migration is in swing, is hot, the best choice bait is a live Blue Fish. Again, the bigger the Blue, the bigger the King. With the trolleys are in place, anglers go about the ritual of catching the trolley baits. Trolley baits are caught with regular spinning rods throwing spoons, jigs, straws or Sabik’s and will consist of legal Bluefish or Spanish, Blue runners, Ladyfish and large Thread Herring to Cigar minnows. Placing the bait hook just under the dorsal fin of the bait fishes and either allowing the stinger to swing free or hooked just under the anal fin, the bait is ready for presentation to its prey. Free spooling out the baits, on twenty to thirty pound test line, with stand up gear, the bait rods reel positioned next to or on the railing with a Down-East rod holder in gear, clicker on, with a light set on the drag, the wait is on.

Dead Bait:
Dead baits are possible when the bait bite is off but only with certain types of fish. The dead bait must be butterflied but not cut away from the head, only the tail. The perfect bait in enticing a bite is a legal mackerel. As the currents or wind moves the anchor line back to fro, the wings of the butterfly ripple along side the bones or backbone, giving the interpretation of a live injured fish in rest. Now wait for the bait in a bite.

King Fever:
Now that the wind is starting to blow out of the north by northwest, stiffly at times and the water temperature starts its dip down towards the seventies, the biannual run of migrating King Mackerels begins. All along west coast of Florida beaches, westerly winds bring in the bait and right on, their heels are Kings, big kings averaging between twenty to thirty pounds right up on the beaches. Venice municipal pier, Venice, Florida extends right into the migratory highway of these streaking giants of the deep. Trolleys across the “T” represent the beginning to the end of summer with unrestrained bouts in battles of but a few short weeks to capture the biggest king of the year. It is fun to follies as each hook-up represents a choreographed moment, in as anglers each move to intertwine their lines in freeing the fish in its flight to freedom. Last Sunday as the water plummeted into the lower eighties, pods of bait danced the shoreline to dipping birds and also in a flight was that of the cast nets, casting their nets or dipped the Sabik’s in frenzy of a fill for the down buckets.
Anchors set to the tune of the trolleys in an erratic line across the rails, as each baited their favorites and released them down the lines. Hurry up and wait mode over took the minutes to hours ahead as we each awaited a wind from the west. A slack wind meant a changing of the baits in a wetting fashion of the changing of the guard as each expired to become a chum delight or an offering for later in the night. As the prevailing wind of the west increased to a stiff blow and the swell increased to a white water chap, “FISH ON!” as all scampered to see who was on deck. A 4/0 screamed in agony as all but a few yards to the spool before a head was turned. In a matter of moments, over four-hundred yards of thirty-pound Diamond stretched to the horizon. As the battle ensued, two more hook-ups took place creating a choreographed moment as each angler moved about shouting his direction on the deck to the battle hymens of the King with a weaving of lines as each fish took its own path. At the same time Spanish were caught as fast as a line hit the water, most in the twenty-four inch range, mixed with monster twenty-pound Jacks and Blues to Ladies bring up the rear. The birds, skimmers, eagle gulls, sea gulls and pelicans shot like missiles honing in on the targets below in frenzy while tipping lines on the dive, a three-ring circus of dazzling feats to fish. To my own amazing disbelief, while casting a light spinning outfit equipped with but a six-foot Sabik a fifteen pound Bonita (tiny tuna) slammed the top feather and made a dash to the horizon. I maneuvered around those who were hooked up to the kings, knowing all the while, this was not to, as I had on no wire with 12 pound Cajun line. Eighteen minutes later, my gaffed Bonita was on the deck at my feet. A great catch and one, which will be chunked this winter, when baits are scarce and the Bull bite is on. When the bite occurs, the King moving at lightning speeds will dump a couple of hundred yards of line off the reel in seconds. The clicker screams and the fight is on as more fish move down the Kings Highway! Trolleys posted on the end of the pier at Sharky's, are an indication of the onslaught to come in weeks, if not days ahead, “FISH ON”!

Shark Conservation, and the Shark Tagging

Shark Conservation, and the Shark Tagging

Sharks make up for over half the fish found in South American and our southern waters. I have been on a Shark tagging for nearly 12 years now. From Tiger Sharks to tiny slivers of the Bonnets to Dog fish, they have been caught, checked on growth and a tagging release program is put in place. Shark Conservation, and the Shark Tagging programs, along with some safety briefs are obverse. The apex predator, that regulates the Ocean, feel the compassion towards themselves and many of them are part of the shark populations around the world. My program starts at my home, here in South Florida, where some of the largest roam our warm waters. Would love to share mt info with others who are on the hunt .

In a mad dash for open water, the reel screamed out yards per second and all on the deck scrambled to their feet. “Which One! Which one” somebody screamed as the rod, center rail, bounced in rhythms to clicking out line in rhyme to that of poetic justice. Music to a shark fisherman’s ears. Pointing towards the middle rod “This one, it is this one” as all noticed it was that Penn 4/0 and bouncing eight foot rod. Edwin Anderson swiftly picked up the rod and as in a choreographed moment, lifted with a one, two, three jerking moment and it was “FISH ON!”
He must have rehearsed this moment in his head a thousand times, for this was a bang up performance where he was in command of the prey at the other end of the line. Screaming drag, pole at the perfect angle this fish tried to shoot the pier not just once but three times as he pursued this fish vigorously.  Nineteen minutes and a shark appeared under the burning spotlight. That cold deep eye of the shark as it rolled and turned at the side of the pier. A gaff was uncoiled and another Josh lowered the pier gaff as if it were liquid falling from a glass and gracefully allowed it to come at rest atop its dorsal. With lighting like reflexes, he pulled tight in an upward thrust and whoosh a perfect gaff set. I have yet to see one better! All hands on deck and fisherman to tourist alike heaved and hauled this six foot, seven-inch Shark up to and on the boards of the pier. On the line to up and over the rail this shark danced, thrashed and spun like a top on the boards, its no wonder why they get the nickname Spinner Shark.  Edwin tried the line to the hook or “Pullmans Method” to free it from the sharks grip but to no avail. As I applied pressure to the sharks snout, with my foot, as Josh pulled tight the wire leader and cut it with pliers so as to be able to set this monster free but not before Tagged and  recorded the sharks vitals and like a medical bracelet, attached a shark tag to its fin for NOAA. Over the rails again and this shark, can be caught another day.
Great Team Effort by All!
That is the way it is supposed to happen, Good Job.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Finicky Fish Finder

The Finicky Fish Finder
Geological features on the surface of the earth, to include the bottoms of lakes, rivers, streams and canals are considered tectonics, where our team of Ed and I are in search of that winter Lunker, a real slob hiding in ambush for an offering. Through Bass tectonics and lure presentation, we will catch those hard to bite, finicky eaters, and winter bass! The holy grail of winter bass fishing is the current edges along the sides and culverts emptying into these bodies of water. These are as important to finding bass in canals as structure is to finding bass in lakes. The canal bass will go into the current looking for food, then dart back into the slack water adjacent to the current to rest. The ideal time to fish for bass is when the water levels are low and there is good water clarity with stable water flow. Bass are very predictable when the water levels are stable and the water is clear. If you happen to be bass when the water is rising, due to an afternoon rain storm or the opening of a weir or dam at one end or the other, as the water rises or falls, the fish will often go into a feeding frenzy, because of all the worms and insects that are washed and exposed from the banks. Think of tectonics as changing structure or a moving bottom; in geological terms, it is movement in causing, or resulting from structural deformation of the earth's crust. I use the term loosely in this article as each time it rains, footings crumble, a bank or a cut can occur from wash outs, culverts moving water through them can cause underwater swelling through the grass growing on the bottom of the lake or body of water ; a movement of the earth has taken place, though small, causes and forms structural habitat to marine and aquatic creatures. It is an analogy or better yet a correlation of a tectonic event. By watching for and fishing these normally ignored occurrences in a flowing body of water, big bass can be caught and on a regular basis. Florida winter bass tectonics is all about fishing marine to man-made structure that holds fish.

Whether angling a urban canal in North Port or taking to the open water of Okeechobee, a basses metabolism becomes higher proportionally as the temperature gets higher. When in cold deeper waters, they show less active and need to eat less. Just as in winter angling, less eats mean more casts in provoking a strike, unlike the fall where dropping water temperatures cause a turn on to baits in filling up body fats and protein for the winter, when offerings can be slow and far between. Winter bass, like all other times of the year travel in schools of around the same size and are usually stacked around structure according to dominance. Culverts with fresh running waters into a canal are great bass attractors as when the water flows out it pushes mud up or over to the dominate side of the stream. This can cause mini-eddies along the banks to which cold water bass hang in wait for a floating morsel to eat. In winter fishing, bass are cold blooded so movement is at a minimal. Using too much energy in tracking a meal is just something a bass will not do in the winter, unless provoked.  To this end, one has to bring the baits to the bass in order to hook it up. In angling for winter bass, you have to take into account that they are predators but not active ones, as their favorite meal is not actually the one they will struggle for. The bass would rather wait patiently for its victim to come by and unexpectedly get in their way. Winter bass very often go for injured or less energetic prey even though this might not be part of their regular menu. A bass's menu in general is crawfish, minnows, worms, insects, frogs and even small birds, if it can get its mouth around it. For an experienced fisherman, knowledge of the eating habits is a must in angling for these fish anytime of the year. The old saying of match the hatch always applies when freshwater angling for Florida Largemouth Bass. Frogs, like bass and all the various minnows to Pan fishes are cold blooded, so if the water is cold, so too is the prey. Slowing down your retrieve and start, stop intervals if using a jig or worm are your best bets in a hook up.
Rocks to outcrops and floating vegetation provide fish a safe haven from birds of prey and others who to are out in search of a winter treat. Hydrillias, water lilies and dead floating debris are too ambush points where bass hang out. In catching winter bass, a toss of a Ringed worm out and hold on to your hat as the bait flutters down, there could be a fish on at any minute. A Ringed worm is a worm rig that has a great temptation to bass that are in a neutral or even negative feeding mood, as in winter angling. There’s something about a Ringed worm’s look and action that makes the bass turn on its bite.
The Ringed worm is a Gulp Black worm that is hooked through the middle of a small “O” ring so the two ends droop down in an inverted U-shape. The O-ring rig is positioned at the worm’s mid-point, and then the hook is hooked through the O-ring instead of inserted through the worm. This rig is cast out and allowed to sink to bottom, twitching seductively up off bottom, then allowed to sink again. This type of angling is good around shoreline cover, docks, and weed lines. Tackle consists of a seven-foot rod and spinning tackle with six to ten pound test line. Hook sizes should range in the 1 to 2/0 range. Purchase your “O”-rings at a plumbing store and make sure they are small, as Gulp worms are not the biggest kids on the block and you want a tight fit. Insert your hook right through the O-ring and Not the worm! Ringed worms are in general fished with no weight but if need be, a small, no head; finishing nail can be inserted into one end or the other of the worm. Tossing your bait out in a flip motion of an underhanded cast towards the sides of the pads or floating debris and letting your Ringed worm slip down to the bottom. As it is sinking, watch for even the slightest twitch or bump, as this could be the presence of a bass coming to dinner. As you see the twitching line or feel pressure of any kind, raise the rod tip slightly even to you eye level and if any, slowly reel in your slack. Hook set is not needed as the point of your hook is already exposed through the ring and it its mouth, “FISH ON!”
Bites in cold water are always subtle unless you are trying to provoke a strike. Bass will attack a bait if presented consistently, to the point where it pisses it off and it becomes provoked. This type of winter angling is best during the heat of the day or generally around two O'clock, anywhere. As the water column warms, baitfishes such as Bream to guppies will invade the shallows to soak up the warmer waters. Big Bass too move into these areas but generally hide under pads to overhangs in order to ambush any prey to which comes too close. Sometimes, unless you are a Pro-guide like Mike Shellen, who can throw up under the hand, without getting hung, you have to use an alternative approach and cast as close to the spot, over and over again, until you provoke a strike. Top water baits are best in achieving this method of fishing. The Bass Pro XTS is an excellent top water and is one of my favorites. I used the XTS in a provoke strike under a bridge, on a canal, in North Port Florida, by continually casting to the rocks edge where I had noticed a swirl of water from the tail of a good sized fish. I came up with a nice six pounder, which is about the average size of the big ones in North Port, that is until my son, Edwin, using a Baby Hedden Bomber hooked it up with a seven pound fish moments later. The ole' man got beat again!
Bass tectonics on a lake, like Okeechobee, in south Florida are vast in number as the bottom changes every year with water level movements, dams and locks opening to closing, cat tail patches vast and as far as the eye can see, to moving gator holes and floating docks above. Lake Okeechobee has 780-square-miles of water to find fish on. Spawning usually begins in October and can last through December. That puts the bass on this lake either in the shallows or heading to the shallows. The Big O is a shallow lake, which can make it dangerous during a winter chill or front. After the passing of a chill, the Bass head for deeper waters and at three to four feet, that is about it, unless you know of a gator hole or two, you best bet is to get a guide or fish the Rim Canal, which circumferences the lake for releases to feed the fruit trees and irrigation.  The northwest corner of the lake is generally the first spawn of the year. The bass migrate into the shallows, which hold eelgrass, peppergrass, lotus pads and bulrushes close to deeper water, spawning to ambush points in feeding. The outside edges of the hydrilla beds, in 6 to 10 feet of water, are the first significant areas of cover between the open lake waters and the spawning shallows. Find good spawning cover near a channel or sharp drop where hydrilla walls meet the shallows is best done if using a guide who knows the area and can put you on the fish of your dreams. Captain Mike Shellen, , enjoys the angling and will put the angler in you, as well trips with him produce more than just a bunch of bass, you will  “enjoy seeing all of the bird life and other creatures that is present on and around the lake. We have been seeing a lot of Manatees in the areas where we are fishing, and have enjoyed observing them as they eat water lettuce and other vegetation. We have been sighting Eagles almost daily as well; the return of healthy habitat has triggered a resurgence of these proud birds around the lake.” Captain Mike and when I say Big Bass, these guys can eat the ones Ed and I caught up in North Port, like candy. A trip to the Big O would not be the same without a trip with Capt Shellen! He suggested.
Buzz Baits to cover a lot of water in searching for concentrations of bass and triggering some of the bigger fish to bite. A single plain aluminum blade with a white and chartreuse skirt can be very good but if the bass just follow or strike short, try a shift to a darker color skirt, such as black. If the buzz baits show fish or are slow to no strikes, shift time to my favorites; the top water and if there are too many weeds in using the surface lures there are always the stand by’s; Carolina or Texas rigged worms in the eight to ten inch variety, or maybe just a Ringed worm will boil it up for a bite. For the biggest fish, the use of live shiners are your best bet, but I'll stick with the hardware in angling the tectonics of Florida Winter Bass.
“FISH ON!” ™

Friday, August 23, 2013

At Snook Haven little has but changed but the faces and style that all that remain of a day from the past. If you sit back, you can still hear Johnny Weissmuller ordering a cold can of brew from over the bar back. Old style pictures still hang at crooked angles and if you listen carefully, ignoring the hustle and bustle of the modern world down the road! Let your ears hear a raptor’s cry as, Marlene orders the same, waiting from a break in the rain, before filming again begins with Revenge of the Killer Turtles (1947). As an old Florida, bayou-style restaurant and pleasantly primitive entertainment venue, Snook Haven Restaurant & Fish Camp has been a fixture in Venice for more than 50 years. Even before that, fishermen traversing the fish-filled waters of the Myakka River in the early 1900s camped in the area.
Used as everything from fish camp to fish house, this journey back into time is well worth the time to visit. Back when I first moved to Venice, Florida, Snook Haven is where all who try and set up a head quarters and rendezvous for ReelnFish Charters. Running clients up the river for a chance to mingle with our Florida wildlife and catch Bass to freshwater Channel Catfish. Big cats in the twenty pound plus range on light tackle to cane poles. Camping on the banks or overnight pack-ins. Moving down stream we would catch everything from Snook to Reds and if the tides are right, you can catch Bull sharks on one side of the river and Bass on the other, along with an occasional Blue crab too. Now retired to angling and writing about it I enjoy my visits back where “Tarzan” slept lazily along an out stretched branch of a giant oak draped with Spanish moss beyond the restaurant's waterfront, back deck. There one can find a canoe tucked between a fleet canoes to kayaks loosely tied to the aging dock. Here you can elect to explore the slow-moving waters by powerboat or as Snook Haven's slogan states - "You and a Canoe" – paradise to me! In the canoe, the river is yours, at eye level with the crocks, the beauty is bountiful.
Snook Haven is on the sun-dappled shores of the winding Myakka River in Venice. Think giant oaks draped with Spanish moss, graceful cabbage palms, and tea-colored waters flowing by. Two movies have been filmed there, the most famous a Tarzan flick called Revenge of the Killer Turtles. On Thursdays, the public is invited to hear the Gulf Coast Banjo Society practice from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and every Sunday the place overflows with weekend bikers and other regulars who gather round the shaded outdoor picnic tables to listen to live music.
For overnight stays, you can bring your own RV or rent one of the fully furnished cabins. Call first, though, as many are undergoing renovation. Snook Haven also offers guided pontoon boat charters up and down the Myakka River. Bring a camera; one November afternoon, one of the largest alligators the boat captain said he’s ever seen charged the charter and dove straight under. Even grown men shrieked. But the boat also meanders down some spectacularly scenic stretches of pristine county-owned lands that will never be developed.

Mike and Donna Pachota, with their son Justin and daughter-in-law Cheri, are the new concessionaires at Snook Haven. Pachota is planning a smokehouse menu with a variety of smoked meats and southern-style sides such as collard greens and baked macaroni and cheese. The banjos will be back. Count on bluegrass jams every week under the oaks and cabbage palms. The canoe and pontoon boat rentals are coming back too, along with a new menu and some craft beers to sip on the deck overlooking a scenic river bend. A new kitchen to go along with a new smokehouse menu. Some of the first through the door like Venice resident Terry Tingley are taking notice. "The place looks 150% better on the inside then it ever has. The outside is still wild and wonderful. The Duyn's said the alligator is will soon be on display at the Snook Haven Restaurant in Venice. Hank Duyn and Shawn Koss were in a 14-foot John boat on the Myakka River, Monday, when they made the catch. Two friends on a hunting trip ended up catching a 12-foot gator. Just another new member to the unforgetable toppings of Snook Haven and those killer tomatoes!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Collage of the 1st TOF PICNIC, FT. DESOTO, FL.

Thanks to all who showed up, a little bit of rain did not keep our hundreds away, hey we are fishermen and the fish are wet all the time!