Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fish Caught: Snook, Redfish
High Tide: 10:45 AM 2 FT
Low Tide: 7:45 PM -0.25 FT
Wind: 5-10 SW
Air Temp: 75/93
Water Temp: 87 Clarity: clear
We decided to take the boat back home today. It was a nice stay at Eldred’s Marina and we’ll do it again sometime, maybe when its a little cooler. Karen drove me down and took the truck home and I set out for the long ride back to the Myakka River at about 7:15 AM.

Gasparilla Sound
One of the reasons we came down here was because I’d heard so much about fishing Bull Bay. As we came down on Monday we got a little lost coming around that point and it seemed a little far for us to travel out to Bull Bay each day. Well, having learned a little about the area it turns out is was only about a 35-40 minute ride in our slow (15 MPH top speed) pontoon boat. So I stopped on the way home to see what Bull Bay was like.

I was surprised to find buildings on stilts in the bay. I’ve been told fishing boats used these buildings to drop their cargo, could be true. I was dreaming about what it would be like to wake up there every morning, fishing right from my bedroom window. But it was awful hot out there, a fact which was not included in my day dream. What ever they are it was a bit of a surprise. The channel into Bull bay is about 6-7 feet deep. there were several boats in sight so I chose a spot away from them directly to the left as I entered. the water was calm and I could see lots of bait and mullet jumping on the point of a mangrove island which divided the bay from Charlotte harbor. I threw my cast net and got a net full of white bait and pinfish. I put a pinfish under a bobber and started throwing a Gulp 3″ Sardine. After about 10 minutes I hooked a small snook on my Gulp. It was a real fighter and managed to jump right near the boat and spit the hook. I was just straightening the Gulp when my bobber went down with a plunk. I grabbed that rod and set the hook on a nice sized fish. I was pretty sure it was a big red by the way it stayed down and moved a little slower swinging that big head until the hook came free. I never did get to see it.

I got a few catfish on pinfish and white bait and decided to try casting the shorline. There was a large area of dead mangrove, I assume the effects of Hurricane charley, along one point near to some deep water. I started at one end and about halfway down I got a perfect cast down a little opening between some dead branches. I cranked the Gulp out about 3 feet when a got a solid hit and set the hook on a very nice fish. A few minutes later I netted a nice 24″ red fish. So glad I stopped at Bull bay, I wish I’d made the trip out there on Monday, the first day of our stay in Gasparilla Sound.

The ride home was mostly uneventful. I hit a little rain just skirting the main part of a heavy downpour. I made my dock in NW Port Charlotte by 11:30 AM. I am glad to have the boat home and cleaned again but I’m looking forward to my next trip to Bull Bay and Gasparilla Sound.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fish Caught: Lady Fish, Trout, Black Tip Shark
High Tide: 9:45 AM 2 FT
Low Tide: 6:45 PM -0.25 FT
Wind: 5-10 SW
Air Temp: 75/93
Water Temp: 87 Clarity: clear
The shark was excellent. I marinated it with grapefruit juice and grilled it with garlic, pepperoncini peppers and rosemarry. It was a nice moist mild meat similar to red fish or bass.

So we went out again today to get a couple more. You’re limited to 1 fish per person or 2 per vessel, which ever is less. Karen and I were joined by Bimini, our neighbor so we were allowed 2 and we didn’t struggle too much to get them. We left the dock at Eldred’s marina about 6:45 AM and after netting a little bait between the 2 islands off from the Fishery Restaurant we headed out towards Catfish Creek. Our shark spot was just a little south and off shore from Catfish Creek in about 4-5 feet of water. We anchored and started chumming, threw out some chunked mackerel I brought from the freezer, some pinfish and tossed some gulp.
Gasparilla Sound
Bimini caught a ladyfish and we chunked that too. Shark seem to love ladyfish because that did the trick. We ended up with three in the boat and a bunch that cut the 35 lb florocarbon leader. A few catfish liked the chunked bait as well.

We went in shore to try for some redfish too but no luck. So we went back out to drift the grass flats. We managed a couple trout, one was 16 inches so we added that to the cooler, the rest were small.

It was a nice day but by 11:00 AM it was getting very hot, we headed home.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fish Caught: Trout, Black Tip Shark
High Tide: 8:45 AM 2 FT
Low Tide: 5:45 PM -0.1 FT
Wind: 5-10 S
Air Temp: 75/95
Water Temp: 87 Clarity: clear
We drove to Placida and got on the water by around 7:00 AM. We went directly to the 2 little islands off the Fishery Restaurant and with one throw of the net filled the livewell with small needle fish about 3-5 inches long. We headed straight east to Catfish Creek and fished some of the mangrove islands and channels near the front. I used up the rest of my Gulp Swimming Mullet on little trout and probably more pinfish but trout was all I hooked. It was slow fishing with nothing worth catching so I decided to try some deeper grass flats.

I found a place out in front of Catfish Creek where the water dropped from 1 to 4-5 feet so we headed over to see what it looked like. It seemed grassy and the depth finder was showing stands of bigger weed or something. So we put some of our needle fish out and I casted a bunch of stuff as we drifted along for a half hour with no more than small trout for our efforts.

Then, suddenly Karen’s pole got yanked almost out of her hand but before she could but her book down and tend to it the fish was off. A few minutes later she got another big strike and landed, after lots of moaning and groaning, a small black tip shark about 20 inches long. So we finally had some fun with a real fish. I dropped the anchor and started chumming with a bait chum I’d mixed. For the next hour we were catching and losing one shark after the other. We were using 35 lb Florcarbon leader which is pretty easily cut by a sharks teeth so we lost quite a few. We ran out of needlefish but Karen managed to get a small ladyfish in and I chunked that up. That was better than the needlefish and Karen got another slightly larger 24 inch shark in the boat.

It was around 10 AM and the sun was starting to get hot again so we decided to take our limit of 2 shark home for supper. It will be my first time eating black tip shark, I hope it’s good because it sure was fun catching. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

P.S. If you are wondering why I’m posing with the catch, you don’t know Karen. She didn’t want to get anywhere near that shark until it was cooked.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Fish Caught: Trout, Jack, Puffer
High Tide: 8:00 AM 1.75 FT
Low Tide: 4:15 PM 0 FT
Wind: 5-10 SW
Air Temp: 75/95
Water Temp: 87 Clarity: clear
We decided to spend the week fishing Gasparilla Sound near Placida, Florida. There’s a little marina called Eldred’s Marina on the Boca Granded causeway jus before the toll bridge to Boca Grande. They get $10/night to leave your boat at their dock for the night.

So we left home in NW Port Charlotte about 6:10 AM and headed south. We had a little motor trouble which took 20 minutes to straighten out and we got a little lost coming around past Turtle and Bull Bays but we made the marina by about 9:20. Our boat is a 23′ Crest Pontoon with a 40 HP Mercury Bigfoot so our top speed is only 15 MPH. It was a pleasant trip at that cool time of day.

We met our neighbors, Bimini and Julie at the marina, they agreed to give us a tour of the area and then a ride home. They’ve fished the area before so we welcomed their company and they are a lot of fun as well as serious fisher people. Bimini pointed me towards the live bait tanks at Eldred’s, which are on the end of a dock. There were about 20 HUGE snook just stacked up waiting for someone to throw dead shrimp from the tank. The biggest one I saw was at least 35 inches and fat.

We netted finger mullet just 10 yards from that tank and headed out with a full livewell to find some hungry fish.

We fished all around Bird Key and the 2 little Mangrove Islands in front of the Fishery Restaurant. We drifted the pass just to 100 yards from the Gulf the flats on the east side of the railroad trestle. We were catching small trout, pinfish, and occasional jack, pufferfish, but nothing we could bring home. We watched dolphins playing and feeding on the very thick schools of baitfish which were every where. It’s very different water from the mouth of the Myakka River that we know well.

We anchored near a sandbar and got out to swim and snorkel. There were lots of sand dollars, living conchs and all kinds of shells both alive, rented and empty to bring home for our garden.

It was 3:00 before we called it a day. That’s a long day on a boat in the VERY HOT sun. We’ll probably limit our trips to the cooler part of the morning for the rest of the week.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Fish Caught: Skunked
High Tide: 4:45 PM 2.25 FT
Low Tide: 12:30 AM .75 FT
Wind: 5-10 SW
Air Temp: 71/93
Water Temp: 85 Clarity: murky
Although we didn’t get a single fish in the boat it was a beautiful day to be on the water, at least early it was. We left the dock about 6:00 AM and watched for bait on the way out, no luck.

I threw a Gulp swimming mullet around the mouth of the Apollo Waterway with only a couple small hits. There was some action against the sea walls but I was unable to get any interest in my lure.

We got out to the El Jobean bridge about 7:30. The water was glassy calm and the sun was already very hot. We could see bait in the water, which I later netted and found to be glass minnows which were almost too small to put on a hook, but I managed. It didn’t help, nothing took the bait.

I did catch a small crab that was swimming past us and put him on a hook and cast him down at the bottom of a piling. Within about 5 minutes something picked up that crab and ran with it. But I think I was over anxious and didn’t give the fish time to eat the crab, I cranked up an empty hook. I think I’ll get one of those pyramid shaped crab traps for days like this. They say small crab is an excellent bait for snook, tarpon, red fish, just about everything I’d enjoy catching.

There were a lot of 2-4 foot tarpon rolling in the calm water and chasing the glass minnows. There were also a lot of nice big bait fish out in the harbor, but once again I couldn’t net them. They were just too smart for me.

We also watched a dolphin tossinng a fish about 10 inches long up out of the water. It appeared as if a larger dolphin was throwing the fish up perhaps teaching her baby to chase the fish.

It was so calm and hot by 10:30 we were cooked and headed home. A pleasant morning. On the way back up the canal we paused to cast some of our favorite spots along the sea walls. Got a couple smaller snook to come up after my swimming mullet but they were a little lazy and didn’t grab it. The heat seems to get to even the fish. But I bet they’d agree, it sure beats snow!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fish Caught: Goliath Grouper, Manatee, Update 7/1/07
High Tide: 11:30 PM 1.75 FT
Low Tide: 5:00 AM .8 FT
Wind: 0-5 NW
Air Temp: 72/91
Water Temp: 85 Clarity: clear
red grouper

Update July 1, 2007
WARNING: Thanks to Jim at Fine Bait & Tackle, 14503 Tamiami Trail, North Port, FL for setting us straight on this fish. It is a Goliath Grouper, or more commonly, Jewfish and it is Federally protected in any Florida water, on or off shore. There is a $5000.00 per fish fine plus your boat or car if you are in one. The easiest way to tell a Goliath from a Red Grouper is the end of the tail is round on the Goliath and straight on the red.

A very exciting day on the water started at 6:00 AM. We managed to net some sardines just under the bridge at Biscayne Blvd. We spent a little time around sun up at the end of the Apollo Waterway with a little action on top water and a ray on the bait.

It was only 7:30 or so when we anchored at the El Jobean bridge. I started getting small hits immediately on the sardines and finally landed my first red grouper. I’d never seen one before and wasn’t sure thats what it was but there you see the photo. I ended up with 4 in the boat from 6 to 10 inches. No where near the 20 inches we needed to get one to the dinner table, but still fun an unusual.

When I used up my bait we went looking for more. It wasn’t too hard to find them but netting them was another story. There was bait all over the harbor around El Jobean but these were much larger and very timid. My cast net has a very fine mesh and doesn’t sink very fast so we moved to the shallower water and tried to get some bait in about 3 feet of water. But the bait would dart away as soon as the net was in the air. After an hour of throwing a cast net your arms get a little weak, I finally gave it up with no more bait in my live well.

While not catching bait I noticed 2 or 3 manatee up in the shallower water. A few minutes later I saw what appeared to be a lobster pot bouy. If you’ve never been on the water up north you may not even know what that is. Lobster pot buoys are different from crab trap bouys in that they have a stick that rises above a bullet shaped bouy.

This marker was almost on shore and seemed so odd I decided to take a closer look. As we got about 50 feet away it started to move along the shore at a rate that had to mean it was attached to something that was swimming. As we pulled up along side of it it turned right into our path and I suddenly realized it was a manatee. I had to quickly shut down the motor and lift it up before the manatee and his/her marker passed diectly under our boat. Luckily we don’t draw much water and the 2 feet under us allowed the manatee to pass without banging it’s head but it’s marker bumped the aluminum a few times.

We wondered later if we are supposed to read the marker and report it some where? I can’t seem to find anything online about it. It seemed a little cruel to have that manatee towing that bouy but I suppose it may not even notice.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fish Caught: Mangrove Snapper, Redfish, Snook
High Tide: 5:00 PM 2.3 FT
Low Tide: 1:00 AM -.5 FT
Wind: 5-10 E
Air Temp: 71/91
Water Temp: 83 Clarity: murky

Left the dock at 6:00 AM, hot and muggy already. I netted some white bait just under the Biscayne bridge, a little scary with 50-100 bats coming back to roost, they were all around us. I was afraid of catching them when I threw the cast net.

Made a few casts by the mouth of the Apollo canal with a Gulp Swimming Mullet, lost a few tails probably to snapper. Threw my cast net and came up with 2 striped majjara (too big for bait) and a redfish about 10 inches long.

We stopped under the El Jobean Bridge and I used up my bait and a couple more Gulp playing around with small snappers.

We headed out for Trout Creek at about 8:30 AM. Came across 2 guys in a boat chasing something very large around on relatively light tackle. It came to the surface a few times, never jumped but we got a short look at what I think was a 5 foot shark. After 20 minutes watching we got bored and headed on, we’ll never know what it was for sure. If you were out near marker 9 on this Sunday morning please send me an email, I’d love to know what that was. Be glad to put your photo up here if you can get one to me.

Things were slow at Trout Creek, a lot of little bites on my Gulp, mostly just lost the tails. So I decided to try real shallow water, I pulled the anchor and poled into that first tiny shallow cove. I dropped the anchor just inside where I could cast to the entire cove. I finally tried a Heddon – Zara Puppy, about 3 inches long (its a small version of the spook). I immediately started getting snook smashing that spook out of the water. The hits were vicious but I never hooked one. I felt them many times but they seemed to be just attacking not eating. I was getting at least 1 hit every cast and sometimes 3 in a single retrieve. Some fish were very small but there were some nice big ones in there as well. It was a great 1/2 hour of action even though I had no fish in the boat. I did get 1 snook in the boat when I threw the cast net again, a small stingray as well.

We trolled around the harbor a while with no action. I did see a guy pull up a nice net full of sardines all appeared to be about 3 inches long, nice bait. This was also near marker 9 and I did mark some as I passed through. Not a huge school that I could see and tough to find to net but if you were in the right place, you were set for the day with bait.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Fish Caught: Snook, Jack, Mangrove Snapper
High Tide: 4:00 PM 2.25 FT
Low Tide: 12:10 AM -.25 FT
Wind: 10-20 W
Air Temp: 71/88
Water Temp: 78 Clarity: murky
Had a few days of rain and wind because of Tropical Storm Barry. So Sunday morning when we woke around 5:30 AM and the wind was light we decided to take a trip out. They were still predicting high wind so we decided to try the canal again. We left the dock about 6:30 and got about halfway out, just under the bridge at Biscayne Rd. and I noticed a large school of bait. I threw the net once and filled my live well with about 50 small green backs.

When we got to the end of the Apollo Waterway I saw a lot of action along the north sea wall, a place I never concentrated on before. So I set us up to drift the length of the wall and dragged a shiner while casting the Gulp Swimming Mullet at the wall. I got a nice 19-20 inch snook on the Gulp and immediately after letting it go I hooked into a huge Jack on the bait. A tiny little rod with a huge Jack is a lot of work and I went around that boat twice passing the rod between the openings in my bimini top before we finally got him in a net.

I caught a few small Mangrove snappers around a drain pipe that comes out of the sea wall. I had a small one almost to the boat when a snook that was very near 3 feet long tried to eat the snapper. He didn’t get it but he gave me a good look at him, I’ll be looking for him from now on.

It was a very pleasant morning, cool, breezy and refreshing. I think we will make many short trips to those local waters this summer.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Fish Caught: Redfish, Sheepshead, Jack, Mangrove Snapper
High Tide: 1:30 PM 1.8 FT
Low Tide: 7:30 AM .8 FT
Wind: 5-10 NE
Air Temp: 61/93
Water Temp: 79 Clarity: murky
Apollo Waterway, Myakka River, FLThis time of year I sleep with our sliding glass doors open to our screened in pool area. I was half awake this morning when I heard our neighbor’s boat engine start. A few minutes later Karen was calling from outside relaying the invitation to go out fishing with Bimini. I really wasn’t awake as I was pulling on clothes and running to the dock with two fishing poles and a PB&J sandwich for breakfast, dripping coffee down my arm. We were halfway down the canal before I wondered what time it was, 6:15 AM.

I normally travel out of our canal for my fishing grounds but Bimini and Julie, our across the canal neighbors, love fishing closer to home. And I must admit they eat more fish than we do. So I was excited to get the chance to learn a few things from Bimini. Julie is not an early to bed early to rise woman so she was sleeping in this morning, hence my chance to keep Bimini company for the early morning trip.

We went to the end of the canal (Apollo Waterway) just in sight of the Myakka River. Bimini anchored us in 2 feet of water pointing to an area just in front of us which she said had a little trough which fed the back reed filled waters. She said the big fish would move through this area to get to the bait in the shallow back waters. She was right, I hooked a huge jack shortly after starting to cast my Gulp Swimming Mullet, what a battle, as usual for a very large jack. Bimini had many hits on some white bait she had netted the evening before from the fishing pier in Placida. The sun rose while we were in that spot, while we had some action we didn’t get much in the boat. The tide turned in about 8:30 or so and we decided to move to a spot she liked on an incoming tide.

We anchored at the near end of a large dock were the tide woulld pull our bait under the dock. Since I was fishing a Gulp I was able to get a couple casts before Bimini got her bait ready and hooked a very nice 22” redfish. My first in quite some time, I was impressed. I went on to get a couple 12-13” Mangrove Snapper, at that size they are very good eating fish. Bimini was switching back and forth between live shrimp and the white bait. We were each catching mangrove snapper and sheepshead, letting smaller ones go but putting plenty in the cooler.

As you can see from the photo we had plenty to clean, it was an excellent supper with some left for the freezer for the less plentiful times. It was a very nice morning of fishing, I look forward to many more.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fish Caught: Snook, Lady Fish, Spanish Mackerel, Catfish, Stingray
High Tide: 5:00 PM 2.5 FT
Low Tide: 1:00 AM -.5 FT
Wind: 10-20 NE
Air Temp: 66/89
Water Temp: 79 Clarity: clear
Snook in Charlotte HarborWe left the dock about 7:00 AM, without checking the weather since the evening before. We made our first stop at the Bridge over the Myakka in El Jobean, FL. I bought a new Gulp called “Greenback” which looks very much like a threadfin sardine. It is shaped like a fish but has a lump on its tail that causes it to swim when you pull it through the water.

On my first cast with that lure I hooked a spanish mackerel about 19″. Nothing more there for a half hour and the wind started picking up and blowing us around so we headed for trout creek.

We anchored in that first big cove in trout creek, we were watching a bunch of pelicans diving as we approached, thought that was a very good sign. Well they weren’t afraid of us at all and for the 3 hours we fished there they kept up the comical group fishing all around us. I took a video on my little digital still camera, its not great but here it is, Pelican video.

Mackerel in Charlotte Harbor
My Mom and Dad are with us on this trip. They were fishing live shrimp, my Mom under a cork and my Dad on the bottom. Plenty of catfish for both and my Mom also got a stingray. I was throwing my new green back Gulp and got a couple ladyfish.

Then, about 11:30 I hit a huge snook on my Gulp. A great fight around the boat, under the motor, passing the pole between the bimini top and finally landed a 28″ snook.Unfortunately the season is closed because that 28 inch fish would have made a great dinner, I got 1 more about 23″ before we decided to leave. It was getting very windy out in the harbor, there were no boats looking for cobia like we had expected, maybe they checked the morning weather report.

We made our way into the shelter of Hog Island at trolling speed pulling a few lures. About halfway up Hog Island in 7 feet of water my Dad hooked a nice Spanish Mackerel about 22″. We got several more bites a small one in the boat and Karen had a nice one on that cut the 35lb florocarbon leader right at the boat.

It was a great day on the water, we were back at the dock by about 2:30 with fish to clean.