Saturday, September 1, 2007

Fish Caught: Snook, Goliath Grouper
High Tide: 6:15 AM 2.1 FT
Low Tide: 1:50 PM .1 FT
Wind: 5-10 S
Air Temp: 75/91
Water Temp: 85 Clarity: murky
Finally, snook are in season again. I went out on Friday to a local canal that has been holding sardines and netted a bucket which included sardines, small mullet and Striped Mojarra. On Saturday we left the dock by about 6:15 and got to the first fishing spot on the ApolloWaterway as the sun was just brightening the sky. I got a nice strike on a Heddon – Zara Puppy which I’m pretty certain was a mid sized snook. They love that top water lure, one of the few I’ve had luck with.

We went on to the sea walls down at the end of the canal and drifted through throwing a Berkley Gulp 4 inch White Swimming Mullet. The sea walls were alive with fish popping and any wake that brushed the walll seemed to energized the fish. I suspect they are eating those little bugs that always crawl just above the water line and the wake probably washes a few into the fishes reach.

I hooked something very large on the Gulp but lost it after only about 15 seconds. It felt big and more like a snook than a jack which are common to that area. Once the sun was up full the activity there stopped so we headed out to the El Jobean bridge.

The tide was moving extremely fast at the bridge. I saw tarpon rolling and was surprised that I couldn’t hook one up on the sardines. But it was hard to keep from being washed into the pilings and after losing a few rigs and only catching small goliath grouper we moved out to one of the bays behind Hog Island.

It was hot in the mangroves and not much action. I boated one small snook, about 18 inches, on the Gulp and the sky started looking very threatening. We headed back to the bridge with the intent of waiting out the storm under its protection. But after another half hour the storm seemed to be intensifying and the wind started blowing us around so much we decided to run before we got stuck in the worst of it.

It turned out to be one of those very local storms and in 5 minutes we were back in the sun looking at the storm coming slowly behind us. We were back at the dock just before noon, another enjoyable day on the water.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fish Caught: Lady Fish, Jack, Goliath Grouper, Mangrove Snapper
High Tide: 8:00 AM 2.0 FT
Low Tide: 4:30 PM .25 FT
Wind: 10-20 E
Air Temp: 75/96
Water Temp: 86 Clarity: murky
Today was the day we felt the most wind from hurricane Dean. So we decided to stay in the canals and avoid the rough water of Charlotte Harbor. Theres a spot I know where two canals meet and the currents have dug out a few holes to about 9 feet deep.
Jack from the Myakka river
On Sunday afternoon I took my cast net, a cooler and a bubbler over to a canal off Biscayne Blvd. and netted some nice sardines. I kept them overnight in a bait basket I made from plans available on So I didn’t have to worry about netting any this morning. We left the dock about 6:45 AM.

It was a nice cool calm morning. The first bait was in and I was baiting the second pole when the first one almost jumped out of the pole holder. I missed whatever it was. It went like that for the first hour with a couple big jacks, snappers and ladyfish making it into the boat.

We watched a big manatee swim right by the boat, mostly we only got to see a nose and the big swirls they leave behind.
Golisth Grouper from the Myakka River
Jacks are a tough fight. But then I hooked something that felt much different. It didn’t want to show itself to us but it wasn’t fighting like a jack, just kind of hanging near the bottom flippings its big head back and forth, and wouldn’t you know I hooked it on the smallest rod and reel I own. The reel stripped some gears and locked up, I had to flip off the antireverse and wind backwards to free it up but it wasn’t winding a smoothly as it should. The fish almost got me wrapped around a marker pole but finally we got a huge goliath grouper into the net. We took a quick photo but didn’t take the time to measure it, we estimate it was 20 inches long and very fat and heavy. Of course goliath are federally protected and carry a stiff fine of $5000.00 per fish. We threw him back.

You can tell a Goliath Grouper by the tail, the end forms a half moon or convex curve compared to a flat or concave curve for all other grouper. Click here for a better photo.

We got one more grouper and some mangrove snapper when around 9:30 the wind picked up and the fishing shut down. We headed back home with just a couple mangrove snapper for lunch, but it was still another great day on the water.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fish Caught: Lady Fish, Jack, Mangrove Snapper
High Tide: 3:30 PM 2.3 FT
Low Tide: 9:00 AM 1.1 FT
Wind: 0-5 E
Air Temp: 73/93
Water Temp: 88 Clarity: muddy
We left the dock at 6:15 to take full advantage of the cooler morning weather. I have been able to net bait fish at some point in the canal but this morning I couldn’t find any. So when I reached the Myakka I threw some plastics and popers with no luck. Unfortunately I am out of my favorite Gulp Swimming Mullets.

I poled the boat into some shallows with grass edges but all I netted there were tiny things that looked a lot like baby pompano or maybe jacks. but they were only an inch or less in length so useless as bait.

So we took a ride out to the El Jobean bridge to see if we could get some bait out there, but again I didn’t see any. So we went over to the Tiki Bar and picked up a couple dozen live shrimp.

I fed a few shrimp to what I suspect were Mangrove Snappers under the bridge but it was slow action and hot in that sun so we moved back to the Apollo Waterway ant threw the shrimp under the dock by what we call the “Hunt Home”.
Myakka River Charlotte Harbor
We had a little better luck there with Snappers but small. A lot of action behind the dock but we couldn’t seem to attract the attention of whatever was feeding back there. So we headed home.

Our neighbors, Bimini and Julie were parked in one of there favorite spots so we tied up and shared our last shrimp with them. We got a lot of small stuff like cat fish, mangrove snapper, ladyfish and one decent sized jack. There was a little more breeze there but it was still very hot so after the last shrimp we headed for home and the pool.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Fish Caught: Snook, Goliath Grouper
High Tide: 8:15 AM 2.1 FT
Low Tide: 2:15 AM 0.8 FT
Wind: 5-10 NW
Air Temp: 97/73
Water Temp: 87 Clarity: average
It’s been so hot an humid but not very much rain for this time of the year. We have a drainage culvert along the edge of our property that normally runs down into the canal pretty regularly in July and August. Snook love to sit just outside that torrent and catch frogs, bugs, etc. that get washed down. It has only trickled out of that pipe a couple times this season. And fishing in general has been a little slow and the weather has been too hot to enjoy it.

But we decided to get out early and since we had an 8:15 high tide we left the dock before 6:00 AM. I found some nice sardines schooling in the canal on my way out and put 30 or so in my live well. I casted the sea walls at the end of the Apollo Watery way with a Pop’R but no luck

We were anchored at the El Jobean bridge by around 7:00 AM so we still had the incoming tide. I was throwing a Gulp 3″ Sardine while letting the live bait drift into the bridge pilings with just a small split shot. Had a couple strikes on the Gulp when the live bait pole bent over pretty hard. I managed to grab it before the fish got free and fought a nice healthy 22″ snook to the boat. Of course that’s undersize and out of season so I tossed him back.

Did you know the snook regulations have been changed effective on the next opening day which is September 1, 2007? They changed the slot limit to 28″ to 33″ inches with pinched tail and the closed season was expanded to include all of December and February. Snook closed season is now May-August and December-February. But please check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for updates, they seem to want to change them frequently.

I also had a 3.5 inch striped mojarra that I fished under the bridge. A goliath grouper inhaled that and gave me a nice battle back to the boat. He was about 12 inches long and of course goliath grouper being a federally protected fish I unhooked him as quickly as possible and got him back in the water. It’s nice to see them coming back, I’ve heard of many much larger goliath being caught in deeper waters. Maybe some day we’ll be allowed to but one on our dinner table.

By about 9:30 it was getting awful warm in the sun so we moved under the bridge into the shade. I fed the rest of my sardines to what I assume where mangrove snapper but I never got one into sight. I saw quite a few tarpon rolling around in the shade but I couldn’t seem to hook one.

By 10:30 we were getting bored and hot so we headed home. A pleasant short day on the water, but I’m ready for cooler weather.

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.