Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fish Caught: Redfish, Snook, Jack, Catfish, Mangrove Snapper, Stingray
High Tide: 2:05 AM 2.2 FT
Low Tide: 10:20 AM -0.5 FT
Wind: 5-10 NE
Air Temp: 68/86
Water Temp: Clarity: dark
My two sisters, Judy and Kate, walked for breast cancer (Judy is a survivor) in Tampa last weekend. They were both very tired and struggling to walk on blistered feet, so they spent a couple days with us, one sitting by the pool and one sitting on the boat. As it turned out the day on the boat was not all that physically relaxing. A good thing!

We got Kate up and on the boat by 7:00 AM, a miracle I’m told. And we started right off catching small mangrove snapper and catfish. The bite was light and we fed a lot of those little thieves very well. We tried a couple spots and got a couple keepers one over 13 inches. We ended up by the docks at the end of the canal were we added several small reds and a very small snook to the tally.

It was a nice cool, lazy, breezy morning when an odd noise slowly caught everyone’s attention. It sounded like the squall line of a big thunderstorm with the big heavy rain drops hitting the water and racing towards us. The sound increased in volume until we had to raise or voices to speak above it and the water came alive under the far end of the dock. The splashing spread out across the canal and came in our direction until we were surrounded by splashing, roiling water. It was such a vicious feeding frenzy we were actually getting wet sitting on my pontoon boat a good 2 feet off the water.

And everyone hooked up with a jack varying from 9 to 12 inches long. Lots of fun. I wish I had my video camera so you could see and hear that approaching wall of white water. I’ve been around feeding jacks before but never such an aggressive bunch and never that close. You could hear them hitting the bottom of the boat, I’m sure the net would have picked up 3 or 4 per scoop if we’d wanted.

Of course it ended any other fishing as they passed. They continued to resurface in huge schools for the rest of the day. We motored out a short way into the canal and caught and released a few more before a guy stopped and asked what we were catching. When we told him he asked if he would be bothering us if he dropped his seine net next time they surfaced. We were anxious to watch and told him so and about 10 minutes later we got to see him in action.

I think he said he’s allowed 3 (maybe 4?), 500 ft nets on board. When the jacks showed themselves again he raced off to one side of the school and tossed one end of his net in.
Then he circled around the outside of the school letting the net feed out until he circled back to the beginning. He then pulled both ends into his boat, tied one end off and started hauling the other end in. It looked like a tough job. He had a big u shaped area around the back of his boat that he put the net and fish in. It looked like a gill net, the fish were mostly stuck in it. We could see lots of jacks and lots of catfish. When he got the whole net in, about a half hour, he shoveled ice on top of it.
We asked a few questions and found out he estimated that haul to be about $200-$300 worth of fish. He said it would take him 2-3 hours longer to get the fish out of the net. Each catfish would have to have all 3 of its sharp spiky fins cut off to get them free of the net. I assume he sells all this as bait to crabbers but we didn’t get the chance to ask that. It was interesting to watch but we all had to wonder about taking so many fish in such a short time. But I guess we have the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission taking care of limits and fishing methods to preserve the fish at sustainable levels. I hope they know what they’re doing.

We wondered back home slowly, got a few more mangrove snapper for the cooler, trolled up a few more jacks and small reds and got back to the dock before 2 PM.

I think Kate and Judy got the kind of rest they needed. I know I had another great day on the water and look forward to seeing them again soon.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fish Caught: Lady Fish, Sail Cat, Catfish, Stingray
High Tide: FT
Low Tide: FT
Air Temp:
Water Temp: Clarity:
I just don’t have the time to write out a nice pleasant story. But I wanted to keep you all posted on fishing in my end of Charlotte Harbor/Myakka River. We went out on a few short trips over the last week. The last trip was Sunday morning, we left the dock at about 6:30 AM.

On all 3 trips we caught a lot of junk fish, no reds, trout or snook. But we caught lots of cat fish and ladyfish.

But more importantly is for the first time this year the deep water around the el Jobean bridge was full of bait. I threw my cast net once and had to shovel bait back off my boat because I didn’t have room to keep so many bait. They were there all 3 trips.

And on Sunday huge schools of ladyfish came in from the harbor to devastate the bait. The bird were diving everywhere. The water, calm due to no wind, was alive with schools of fish and birds were diving as far out as we could see.

I have to believe that something worthwhile will be coming in to feed on all this bait. I hope I can find the time to get out there again soon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fish Caught: Redfish, Sheepshead, Catfish, Mangrove Snapper, Stingray
High Tide: 11:30 AM 1.8 FT
Low Tide: 8:00 PM 0.2 FT
Wind: 5-10 NW
Air Temp: 75/91
Water Temp: Clarity: murky

A few weeks back I helped my dad install a new door on his back porch. The new door replaced a storm door he had installed just a couple years ago and I had need for a storm door at my house. So my sister Kate was kind enough to bring the door in her new truck and my mom and dad came along for the ride and a short fishing trip.

I went down to El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop about 6:30 AM and picked up 4 dozen live shrimp and a couple bags of frozen that I decided to try as chum. Mom, dad and Kate arrived, said hellos and toured the house and yard to see all the updates and dad and I rushed them into the boat. Even with two of us pushing it was a late start, we left the dock about 10:30 AM.

There were storm clouds to our south east so we decided to stay in the canal and out of the lightning. We dropped anchor and Kate got the first sheepshead within a minute. In the next half hour we caught sheepshead, mangrove snapper, catfish and a small redfish. All were way under keeper size except one sheepshead my dad caught that was an inch or two over the 12 inch minimum. Then the action just stopped and after a half hour without a bite we moved to another spot.

We tried several other spots over the next few hours and continued to catch small reds, snappers, sheepshead, catfish and rays. My mom hooked one huge ray which acted just like a big red for a while, a little bit of excitement. We even took a short ride out by Bird Key which is just out into the Myakka River. The tide was really rushing out fast out there, I think too fast for any fish to be hanging around, we didn’t get a single bite.

So we headed back to the canal, stopped and played with little fish along the way and hit the docks by about 3:30. It’s still too hot to be out there for too long. We were all tired and glad to be back in the cool house or pool. Its always nice to be on the water but its an especially a great day on the water when shared with family.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fish Caught: Redfish, Sheepshead, Mangrove Snapper, Stingray
High Tide: 5:00 PM 2.0 FT
Low Tide: 11:00 AM 0.5 FT
Wind: 0-5 E
Air Temp: 73/91
Water Temp: Clarity: muddy
So it’s been about 8 weeks since my last fishing trip. That’s just way too long, I hope to make up for the missing time in the next few months. I haven’t been neglecting my favorite pastime, I started out for a fishing trip a couple times in July only to have problems with my outboard. Apparently the ethanol they now put in gas is not real good for outboard motors. And I own a 2003 Mercury which has a reputation of it’s own for less than top quality fuel lines. So the fuel lines started dissolving and the gummy rubber got into all the internal parts of my motor. To make a long story short (and get on to fishing) I had to replace all the gas lines from the tank to the motor and all the internal lines including the fuel pump which also lost a few rubber grommets to the ethanol. I learned two things that might help you if you have a boat and are forced to use gas with ethanol, which you must because its hard to find it without ethanol.

There is a product called “Stabil” which is sold in Wal-Mart and most auto parts stores that you should add to ethanol based gas before using it in your boat. I also found my fuel pump online for half the price that I could get it at the marina. If you’re looking for boat parts try ishopmarine.com.

So we left the dock about 6:45 AM with 4 dozen shrimp from El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop. When we got to the end of the canal by the seawalls the water was glassy and I didn’t see any sign of fish in the water at all. The tide was moving out fast so I drifted the length throwing Gulp swimming mullet and dragging a shrimp. It probably took a half hour to get down to the docks and I still had the same shrimp, not good.

So I dropped the anchor and let a shrimp drift under the docks. I started getting action from small mangrove snappers immediately and was pleasantly surprised to get redfish mixed in now and then. But everything was so small, not a single snapper was over the minimum 10 inches and the biggest red was only around 12 inches. But I caught a lot and it was fun.

Our canal was recently dredged and they put up a bunch of new markers on big poles. So the contour of the bottom is very different. I let the boat drift again and threw the Gulp and dragged the shrimp until I got a couple bites. I dropped anchor and threw some shrimp into an area that had never produced anything for me before. But the newly dredged channel comes up very close to the shore here and apparently the fish like the new terrain. I was catching small snapper and redfish on almost every cast. There were stingray and sheepshead mixed in too. It was a busy day but nothing to eat.

We made a run out to the El Jobean bridge for low slack tide to see if there might be some snook feeding when the tide turned in. But all I did there was leave a few hooks in the bridge, not a single bite.

The thunder started booming in the distance so we decided to call it a day. Lightning catches my attention a little more since our neighbors house was struck and burned a few weeks ago. We were back at the dock by around 12:30 just as the first spits of rain came down. It was a great day on the water, many more in the near future, I hope!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fish Caught: Lady Fish, Catfish, Mangrove Snapper
High Tide: 4:00 PM 2.2 FT
Low Tide: 12:01 AM 0.0 FT
Wind: 5-10 S
Air Temp: 77/91
Water Temp: 85 Clarity: murky
Well, over a month with no fishing. I’ve got to stop letting that happen. But finally, we took the time to get back out even though it was only for a short time.

I ran to El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop to greet them as they opened at exactly 6:00 AM and picked up a couple dozen nice fresh shrimp. So by 6:30 we were on the way down the canal.

As we got to the end of the Jupiter Waterway there was a lot of action on the water surface so we anchored and threw a Gulp Swimming Mullet at the swirls. But nothing was interested so I put a shrimp on with a small split shot and cast it in the deeper water. After catching 2 small catfish and not a lot of action we decided to move on.

I worked the Gulp hard passing through the sea walls and under the docks along the way but the only action was from very small Ladyfish. So we anchored and threw some shrimp at the docks.

That’s when I started getting plenty of action. But only from very small mangrove snapper. I don’t know how many I got in the boat, a lot. But only one was over the 10 inch minimum and that was only by 1/2 inch.

By about 10:00 AM I’d used up my shrimp and it was already getting hot, even though the south wind was really picking up and we got a few light sprinkles of rain. So we turned towards home, another nice day on the water.

As I was writing this I got to talk to one of my neighbors that is on vacation this week. And he spent a lot of his free time out on his boat. He has been having no luck with fish all week. I checked the Waterline Magazine and it seems its been a tough week for fishing for almost everyone. But, that usually turns around with a great day of fishing, I hope I’m on the water for that!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fish Caught: Mangrove Snapper, Spanish Mackerel, Catfish
High Tide: 1:00 PM 2.0 FT
Low Tide: 6:30 AM 0.9 FT
Wind: 0-5 E
Air Temp: 70/87
Water Temp: 82 Clarity: murky
My Dad had open heart surgery about 5 months ago so he’s been working hard at getting back up to par. He finally felt strong enough to spend a day on the water so he and Mom came out for a few days and today was our fishing day.

I got 4 dozen shrimp from El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop and we got on the water by about 7:30 AM. My Dad really likes to fish for trout and I’d heard of a spot they were getting them recently. It’s out just a little past the El Jobean bridge and we went right there and made a couple drifts through the area. But there was nothing there.

So we moved back to the bridge and anchored so we could drift the shrimp, on the incoming tide, into the it. We immediately started catching mangrove snapper. The first was a monster 14 inch fish but after that they were mainly under 10 inches (10 inches is the minimum limit) and while we got an awful lot of snapper, I was catching one on every cast for about an hour, we only ended up with 5 keepers. A nice supper for 4 people.

I also was just starting to retrieve a shrimp that had drifted past the snapper zone when something grabbed it and I hooked it. It seemed obviously different than the snappers and we finally netted a nice big 18 inch spanish mackerel. We’ve found these are very tasty when pan blackened so we added it to the cooler.

There were a lot of dolphin in the area and my Mom spotted a couple playing just on the other side of the bridge. They were jumping several feet out of the water and splashing back. They continued to do this several times after Mom pointed them out to us. It must be a good life as a dolphin in Charlotte Harbor.

We went through our shrimp very quickly with all the snapper action and it was beginning to get a little warm so we headed back to the dock by around 11:30 AM. Another great day on the water, one of many more I hope to spend out there with my folks.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fish Caught: Sugar Trout, Sail Cat, Lady Fish, Gar
High Tide: 3:00 PM 2.4 FT
Low Tide: 11:45 PM -0.5 FT
Wind: 5-10 E
Air Temp: 71/88
Water Temp: 81 Clarity: murky
We had a little BBQ for Memorial Day and all our guests came by boat. After dinner we packed up a couple boats and ran out to the El Jobean bridge. I had some shrimp from El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop and a couple others had been catching and freezing mullet and rays for a few days. Shark was our goal.

The sun was down but the sky was still brightly colored when we anchored up just a few hundred yards north west of the El Jobean bridge in the Myakka River. The tide was ripping out so our baits were carried towards the bridge and the El Jobean fishing Pier. In the top photo on this page we’d have been just in the right edge of the picture. We set up some IV drips (literally) of menhaden oil, tossed out a bunch of varied baits both on the bottom and under corks and settled in for the night. The radio played some great classic rock, the wind blew just enough to keep bugs away and keep us comfortable on a nice warm night.

It was a night to catch big sail cats and that started immediately. I think Beth probably got the first and the most but I think I had the biggest. The sail cats kept us busy all night long. I know most people don’t like them but they are really very good to eat. They need to be quite large to make it worth the effort of filleting them but we were catching some of the biggest I’ve seen and we ended up with a cooler full which are headed for the dinner table.

There was also a school of sugar trout and I seemed to hit that hole with a shrimp on a lead head jig. I pulled in just shy of ten sugar trout and tried a few as bait under a cork. But they only attracted the attention of some big sail cats. The bait was about half the size of the sail cats but they ate them anyway.

Julie hooked into what we had hoped was our first shark. But when it got into view of the boat lights it was a huge, nearly 4 foot long, gar. It was almost scary thinking about bringing that thing into the boat to unhook. But luckily, after playing with it for a while, it released itself.

And that’s about it for the night. Sounds kind of uneventful as a fishing trip but I assure you it was not. It was midnight before we decided to head home. The hours passed in what seemed like minutes. Good weather, good music and most importantly good friends made for an extremely enjoyable evening on the water. I hope to do it again soon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fish Caught: Spadefish, Sheepshead, Jack, Sail Cat, Catfish, Mangrove Snapper, Skate/Ray
High Tide: 2:00 PM 1.75 FT
Low Tide: 8:00 AM 0.5 FT
Wind: 0-5 S
Air Temp: 66/89
Water Temp: 75 Clarity: clear
I was sitting on our dock yesterday when my neighbor, Bimini, was bringing her Mom and Dad in from a day of fishing. They had spent the day trying to catch spadefish from under a dock where they’d stumbled on a large school with some large fish. I’d only caught them accidentally and they were always small so when Bimini asked if I’d want to go back with her in the morning I couldn’t resist.

I went down to El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop a little before 6 Am and picked up 4 dozen shrimp and by 6:30 we were on our way down the canal in Bimini’s boat. When we got in site of the sea walls the water was alive. So we cut the engine and drifted on the outgoing tide casting Gulp and drifting some big shiners caught from the Venice pier.

Bimini had several misses on her shiner and I cast my Gulp in front of a big, fast moving wake and hooked up with a nice big jack that kept me busy for the next 5 minutes. We got a couple rays and catfish and when we reached the end of the canal the tide was just turning in so we headed back to drift some shrimp under the docks.

We immediately spotted a school of spadefish feeding on jellyfish delivered to them by the incoming tide. I can say that’s what they were eating now because once we started catching them, each one would regurgitate a small pile of jellyfish onto the deck of the boat. I had never known any fish to eat jellyfish but I did some Googling and found it is a favorite food of the spadefish. I’d noticed my last trip out there seemed to be a lot of jellyfish in the water, I guess that’s why the spadefish have moved inshore so far.

Bimini had spent a day already catching these fish so she told me what I needed to do. A smallish hook with a 3rd of a medium shrimp and the shrimp had to be shelled first. She also said a steel leader but I couldn’t get myself to use a steel leader with such a small hook. What fish is ever going to take that bait that was so obviously attached to a big bulky steel leader, right? Well after hooking several spadefish and having them wrap my line around the docks pilings and snapping me off I accepted Bimini’s steel leader. We got a lot of spadefish after that, letting many smaller ones go (no size or bag limits) and keeping the larger, platter sized fish you see in the photo.

Here’s the best spadefish catching story of the day. They are extremely strong fish. They turn that wide body against the water and they go just about anywhere they want and you better hold on to your rod with two hands. So once you managed to hook one (they nibble at the shrimp until there is just a tiny piece left) the big ones just run right under the dock and around and around the pilings. I hooked a good one and it ran three times around the piling nearest the boat until I could no longer see or even feel him on my line. So Bimini runs to the back of the boat and puts slack in the anchor line while yelling to me to let my line slack. She runs back up and moves the boat right up to the dock piling and tells me to hand the pole under the dock to her. After we did this 3 times the line was still snagged in the barnacles and oysters, it wouldn’t unwind any further and I still couldn’t feel a fish. So I dipped the rod down under the water and started trying to untangle it from the pole when suddenly the spadefish burst out from under the dock and the line came free from everything. My thirty pound mono leader would have been useless under those conditions. I’m surprised my 20 lb. Power Pro Spectra braided line held, I don’t think Fireline would hold up to that abrasion. But we netted the fish.

When the tide really got moving fast the spadefish moved off and we started feeding the little mangrove snapper that are almost always there. I got three that were between 11 and 13 inches which is a nice size for eating.

We drifted on the tide for a while throwing Gulp and floating a couple of the big shiners. A big shark hit Bimini’s but it quickly spit the hook and we couldn’t seem to hook it again even though we saw it a few more times. The bait was pretty lively and that shark gave up trying to catch him even on a cork.

So by about 2:30 we were tired and still had to clean fish so we headed home. Another great day on the water.

The spadefish was good eating. We blackened it, the taste is great, the meat is a little mushy in texture but overall very good blackened. I’ll gladly spend another day fighting with the spadefish.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fish Caught: Mangrove Snapper
High Tide: 6:30 PM 2.2 FT
Low Tide: 2:30 AM -0.5 FT
Wind: 5-10 E
Air Temp: 61/89
Water Temp: 74 Clarity: clear
Its been way too long since my last fishing trip. A lot of work is not always a good thing but considering the economy I guess I won’t complain. This week we have a guest from Connecticut, Lorraine, staying with us. So I but in some very long hours to make sure I had time to get her out on the water.

So I got 3 dozen shrimp from El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop and about 9:00 AM we left the dock to see what we could do. Bimini had also given me a few nice shiners our frien Dave had caught from the Venice Pier.

We stopped at the docks at the end of the canal and immediately started catching small mangrove snappers. Many were right about the 10 ” minimum but I kept throwing them back hoping we’d find some a little bigger. I wish I’d kept them.

The tide was very odd, not really maintaining any movement, just a lazy in and out never moving quickly in any direction. I suspect the east wind was blowing a lot of water out of Charlotte Harbor and keeping our tide from coming in. In the calm clear water I could see some pretty large spade fish coming up along the dock pilings but I was unable to get them to eat my shrimp. Bimini managed to catch a few large ones the day before and I’d hope to get a few. But no luck.

We finally got bored and decided to head to the El Jobean bridge where we anchored in about 12 feet of water with the slow tide dragging our bait into the bridge. On one of those nice shiners I hooked something quite large but I couldn’t hold it away from the bridge and it finally cut my line. My guess from the slow heavy fight is a big goliath grouper, but maybe a big snook, I’ve pulled many from that spot.

I was catching lots of small snapper and finally got Lorraine to hold a pole and she got her first 2, ever, fish. Two small snapper.

We went back to the canal and I threw my Gulp Swimming Mullet up and down the seawalls and was finally rewarded with a nice 12 inch snapper and that with a couple that were just legal made a wonderful lunch on Thursday.

We finally called it a long day about 4:00 PM. Headed for the dock and some wonderful margaritas. another wonderful day on the water.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fish Caught: Sheepshead, Mangrove Snapper, Skate/Ray
High Tide: 7:00 PM 1.75 FT
Low Tide: 11:55 AM 0.75 FT
Wind: 10-20 SW
Air Temp: 57/86
Water Temp: 74 Clarity: murky
Our friends from Connecticut, Tom and Arlene, are here in Florida to get a little relief from the long winter they endured up north. They’re staying with Tom’s Mom and Dad and during a wonderful lasagna dinner last night we met Tom’s brother Robin and his wife Patty who are also on vacation from New York. We had a wonderful evening and planned to go out fishing the next morning, so Tom & Arlene and Robin & Patty where knocking on our door a little before 10:00 AM Sunday morning.

We decided to catch the low slack to incoming tide at the El Jobean bridge to see if the snook would be feeding so we went straight out there. It was much nicer day than the last time Tom and Arlene were with us and anchoring at the bridge was a simple matter. I had 4 dozen shrimp and half a dozen pass crabs from the El Jobean Bait & Tackle Shop and we started throwing them and a Gulp white swimming mullet at the bridge. It was slow at first on the outgoing tide but as the tide turned in we saw a little more action. Arlene was the first to land a fish, the 10 inch mangrove snapper you see in the photo. Tom was holding it while trying to stay out of the photo because Arlene didn’t want to touch it. A seasoned fisherwomen knows how to bait hooks and remove fish with little more than a flash of a smile, while keeping her hands completely unsoiled.

I had a monster hit on my Gulp in the open water between the bridge and the boat, after giving it some thought I suspect it was a shark because the line was cut cleanly off. When the tide turned in I tried the pass crabs and on my second cast, the crab was right up near the bridge with a small sinker when something that felt large picked it up and took off. I gave it a few seconds, tightened the line and set the hook. I had a nice sized fish on, I was fairly certain I had the snook I’d come here for. But I could also tell it was near or in the encrusted cement bridge piling and in just about 5 seconds the line cut. I fished the rest of the crabs with no luck.

Tom caught a fish I’d never heard of before, a toadfish. I don’t know why but he knew the name and I Googled it just to be sure. Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s Toadfish page. Its an ugly looking fish which we threw back.

It was slow at the bridge so we moved back to the canal. Tom got a 10 inch mangrove snapper and a stingray but mostly we just fed the tiny snappers. Karen was feeding some huge blue crabs and we tried to get them into the net but they were too quick for us. We tried a couple spots in the canal but it was a slow fishing day. I think Monday or Tuesday would be the day to go out with a front coming down for Tuesday afternoon. But I have to get back to work so get out there if you can and let me know if my prediction is right.

About 3:30 we headed back home, a few of the snowbirds sporting bright red patches of skin. We all shared the 2 mangrove snappers for supper, but had to supplement it with burgers and salads and wine and beer. But I think a good time was had by all, I know it was a fun day for me and we’ll look forward to Tom, Arlene, Robin and Patty coming back next year. Oh, and we ended the evening by standing in the yard and watching the space shuttle launch. It was kind of an anticlimax and it wasn’t long after that I gave in to the long day and was sound asleep on the couch.