Monday, October 31, 2011


Home in Port Charlotte
Highs in the low 80s, lows in the low 60s

Saturday I participated in a bragging rights fishing tournament with some local guys who all met on the website  The website has online community bulletin boards covering most metropolitan areas of the US.  Much of the topics of discussion on the website is related to real estate and standards of living.  Members or posters, as they are called, post messages or ask questions and others comment.  One of the most popular topics on the Sarasota/Bradenton/Venice board, which covers Port Charlotte, is a topic called Fishing Charlotte Harbor Area.  This is where I met the guys who fished with me on Saturday.  The names below refer to their online screen names on city-data.

Despite the gloomy forecast, it turned out to be a terrific day to be on the water in Charlotte Harbor. I launched from my backyard canal, accompanied by my new friend WPC, at 6:30AM and throttled up through Alligator Bay at 7:05 in misty twilight and 72* air, 73* water.

We tied up at the Fisherman's Village courtesy dock at 7:15. WPC and I prepped our lines while waiting for Big House to arrive. He pulled up, fashionably late at 7:55, accompanied by a Great White Egret bird riding shotgun on his portside bow. I wish I'd have gotten that picture. Foxrivman met BH dockside and boarded. The fleet headed south, through the morning mist, to Boca Grande Pass. The water was as perfectly smooth. We ran 32 knots at 4500 RPM the entire way.

The fishing teams stayed in radio contact on the VHF radio and updated each other throughout the day. It was a blast that will only be better with more boats next time.  We missed the participation of our friend Harbor Hopper and hope to get more city-data members on board with the next event.

Over the course of the day we fished Boca Grande Pass, the sand bar outside of Burnt Store Marina, and Bull Bay. We worked in water ranging from 65' to 2'. We caught and released short gag grouper, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, a giant pinfish and too many catfish.

We were surprised to see both rolling and jumping tarpon in the BGP. Unusual to see that many in late October. We suspect WPC hooked into tarpon or big sharks when twice his 30 lb braid ripped off the spinning reel at a rate that left him powerless to do anything but watch it peel off down to the the mono below the braid.

The first run resulted in the angler getting back everything except his bait and catch. The second time resulted in the fish departing with a substantial amount of braid, leader line and hook. We re-rigged to 50lb line with 80lb leaders but never hooked up with those.

We made a detour to Burnt Store Marina, where we met Mrs. WPC and their real estate agent. WPC signed an offer sheet on a house in PGI and did his part to help the economy of Southwest Florida.

I did as well, burning 40 gallons of marine fuel on 77 nautical miles for the day.

Highlights of the day included numerous visions of bottle nose dolphins doing full aerial leaps, like a Sea World show.  I see dolphin rolling at the surface almost every trip out but had never seen shows like we saw Saturday.  The low point of the day occurred when I navigated onto a grassy flat and got the boat grounded.  But I was able to recover by raising the motor to full tilt, getting off the boat and pushing us to 2' of water.  We were back underway in two minutes.
The winds never created one white cap on the water, all day long. We made the right call by keeping our plans, despite the forecast of 20 knot winds and rain that, thankfully, never appeared. Forecasters are often wrong, but it usually works against boaters. For once, the wind blew in our favor.

Click on pictures for full screen image.

Winds were forecast to be 20 but stayed 5-10 knots most of the day

WPC, also known as Mike, an American living in Germany for 4 years, came to SWFL to fish and purchase a home. He and his wife made an offer on a home in Punta Gorda and plan on moving here in May, 2012.

Rain was in the forecast and daybreak had a marine layer of mist that reduced visibility to a half mile. The above shot was taken in the afternoon when the air had long since cleared. We never got a drop of rain all day.

The winning fish was this 35" blacktip shark, landed by Big House, also known as Jon.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 80
simply gorgeous day

Our house guest this weekend was my wife's childhood friend, found on Facebook, after a 30 year absence.
Kaye lives in Kentucky, where Kathy was born and raised.  The gals picked up right where they left off, laughing and sharing, catching up for lost years.

We enjoyed meals at Sharkey's On The Pier, in Venice, and Benedetto's in Punta Gorda.  The ladies went shopping at Fishermen's Village and today we went for a little 3 hour tour on the boat.  It was an absolutely beautiful day on the water in Southwest Florida.

The new title photo above was taken from the dining deck at Benedetto's.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Home in Port Charlotte
70 at wake up; high of 87

For the second Saturday in a row, I launched the boat and went fishing.  Both days saw rough seas and tough fishing.  Last week I got completely shut out.  Yesterday I landed a few catfish and ladyfish.  I brought a new friend, Jon, out with me and he fared better than I.  I have made of couple of new friends/fishing buds through a local online bulletin board about local issues, including fishing.  Last week I went out with Jerrid, who is in his 30's and yesterday I took Big Jon, who is 56.  Both have boats of their own and we will take turns being captain and crew.  They are friends, as well.  My daughter teased me, saying, "so you're going on blind dates with men you've met online?"  Very funny.

In addition to cats and ladyfish, like I, Jon landed several nice bonnethead sharks, a few stingrays, some small mangrove snappers and a nice 25" Cobia, the first Cobia landed on my boat.  All were released.  Cobia is supposed to be good eating but they have to be at least 33" to keep.  We were looking for spotted seatrout or redfish but found neither.

The seas in the afternoon were pretty rough, with winds around 15 knots, seas consistently at 3 feet and a few rogue 4' waves that slammed us pretty hard.  When we got home it took me 2.5 hours to clean the boat and I was absolutely exhausted.  My feet hurt terribly.  I went to bed at 8:00 and slept until 5AM.  This morning, I still sore but rested.

For the first time since I moved here, Southwest Florida is experiencing Red Tide.  It's an algae bloom that kills fish by the thousands and irritates peoples respiratory systems.  The current bloom is 2 to 12 miles off shore but dead fish have washed upon our beaches.  It's not good for tourism.  In my travel yesterday, we didn't see any Red Tide or dead fish in Charlotte Harbor.  We covered about 50 miles worth of water, from 7AM to 330PM.  For a map of this trip, click here:

I had a few minor problems with the boat.  At one point the motor wouldn't crank.  The battery showed 12.4 volts but the outboard wouldn't turn over.  I called my buddy Subaru Jim, who has just returned to Port Charlotte, from PA, this week.  He suggested I pull out one of my house batteries and try it.  Bam!  That did the trick.  So now I have to take the original cranking battery back to Sams to exercise the warranty.

After changing out the batteries, my fish finder/depth sounder had no power.  This makes it really hard to navigate the flats, in 1-2 feet of water.  I got us stuck on a grassy flat in Bull Bay, just after low tide.  We fished there waiting for the tide to come in and after an hour or so, Jon got out and pushed us to deeper water.  Luckily my GPS shows the path I travelled coming in, so we just followed the same path of digital "bread crumbs" to get back out.  I'm hoping the fish finder power is related to my battery change but I will find out.

I'm also having problems with my oil sending unit.  On a 2 stroke outboard there is an oil tank, separate from the engine.  You fill this tank and a sending unit automatically transfers oil to the outboard and mixes it with the fuel to create 2 cycle fuel.  There's a small 1 quart reservoir attached to the outboard unit.  So my problem is the sending unit is not automatically transferring oil from the holding tank to the reservoir, so the engine alerts me every couple of hours that it's low on oil.  I have to shut down, pull off the cowling or engine cover, and manually fill the reservoir.  I'm told the problem is either with a clogged oil filter (which I have yet to find) or the sending pump.  I don't think it's the sending pump though because every once in a while it sends the oil automatically like it should.  (I have a gauge on my dash that shows me the levels and I can tell when it's been filled automatically).

Finally, as if all of this weren't enough, the boat seem to run fine in those rough seas but once I got to my canal system and had the final 35 minutes no wake trip to my dock, the boat was running rough.  It's hard to describe but it seemed like the engine was just rough, as if I needed to blow out the exhaust or something.  It could be time to change the spark plugs.  I've put about 70 hours on her and I'm not sure when the last guy did his last PM service.  I still need to purchase a service manual for the Yamaha 150TXR.

Sunday I will be finishing up our annual replenishment of red mulch in our yard plant beds.
Monday/Tuesday I am attending a "train the trainer" class in Tampa so I can certify others in crane signaling and load rigging.  The second half of the week I will be in the Miami/Homestead area, returning home Friday afternoon.

We have a house guest arriving Thursday for four days.  My wife re-connected with one of her high school friends, through facebook.  Kathy and Kaye haven't seen each other for over 30 years and of course, I've never met her.  This will be interesting.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


60* at wakeup in Western PA.  Calling for a high of 70.  Inspecting 3 golf courses today then spending tonight near the Pittsburgh airport before flying home Friday morning.

Yesterday it struggled to get out of the 50's as it rained all day.  Of course, I forgot to bring a jacket.

Last Saturday I fished really rough waters and was skunked.  I'm hoping for better results this weekend.

Here's a beautiful shot of the fall color near Donegal, PA on one of the golf courses we maintain.
Click on the photo for full screen.