Tuesday, February 28, 2012


San Juan, Puerto Rico
low 73, high 82; brief passing showers

Sunday I went for a late day, spontaneous fishing trip with Subaru Jim and Jerry, neighbors of mine.
We went ahead and bought 100 live shrimp for $25 but didn't end up using many.
We only stayed out for 3 hours but it was pretty productive.  I landed several speckled sea trout, one of which was 17" and a keeper size (photo below).   All of my trout were landed using a hard plastic, artificial lure, called a Badonkadonk.  After my keeper, Jerry was sold and decided to rig up a hard lure too.  Jim made the comment, "100 live shrimp aboard and all these fish want is plastic."

Jerry tossed a Yozuri suspending lure, about 5" long, and cranked it back to the boat at a medium pace.  After several casts his rod bent over in a classic big fish hook-up.  I was fishing 10lb line but Jerry had 30lb out.  This had to be something worthwhile.  He thought shark but I didn't think so in these waters we were in. Subaru Jim thought Snook but wasn't sure.  When it came close enough to the boat to flash it's grey and white lateral strip from head to tail, I shouted out, "Cobia!"

It was a big one.  It took all three of us to get him aboard.  Jim maintained the helm to keep the boat away from grounding; I manned the dip net and Jerry angled the prize.  After about 5 minutes of battle, the Cobia was netted.  When I lifted his big body out of the water the net handle broke under his weight.  We would later weigh him in at 16 pounds.  I hoped he wouldn't eat my trout in the live well, but they lived peacefully together in there for another 30 minutes while we fished.

Jerry and I were a little hard on Jim, who came out on the short end of this trip.  He is usually the best angler between us but today he was shut out; save for a few catfish that are junk in our waters.

We returned to Jerry's, where he expertly filleted all the fish while Jim and I cleaned Jerry's boat.  We continued to razz Jimmy and he took it all in stride, flashing that gorgeous gappy smile of his.  He's such a good guy...we just love him.

The next day I headed to Miami and Puerto Rico.  Jerry stayed home to work his home-based business.  Subaru Jim went fishing, as usual.  He called me in PR to say that he got the last laugh.  He trumped Jerry's 16lb Cobia with one that weighed in at 64 pounds!  See the photo below.

Subaru Jim with the catch of the winter season!

Your author with his first ever keeper size Speckled Sea Trout.  Look at those fangs!

Jim holds Jerry's Cobia while I try to avoid "fish envy" with my trout.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Home in Port Charlotte
Morning low of 70...very nice

After a day of outdoor projects at the house it was time to hit the Harbor for some overdue fishing.
I trailered the boat to Placida Park and gave new meaning to the term boat launch.  For some dumb reason I disconnected my safety strap before backing all the way into the water and when I did back down, the stop of the truck was enough to launch the boat off the trailer.  Thank goodness I had a bow line laying upfront.  I ran chest deep into the water and was able to grab onto the line and hold the boat back.  (whew)  Can't see myself doing that twice.

I didn't launch until 3PM so I planned on staying out until the very last light of the day.  The air temperature was 78 and the water temperature was 70.  I boated up to the north end of Pine Island sound and pinned the boat down in 4 feet of water.  I was quickly on the Speckled Trout, using shrimp tipped jigs on 10 pound braid.  No keepers yet but it was still fun catching the little ones.  I landed some pin fish that were as big as my hand.  I had a really nice fish on that fought hard and never showed himself.  As soon as I got him under the boat he freaked out and sliced right through my 15 pound florocarbon leader.  I was thinking it to be either a bonnethead shark or a spanish mackerel.  Later, I had a better idea of what it was.

I moved the boat to skinnier water and pinned down in 2' of grass and switched to top water plugs (Skitter Walk). I recently checked out a book from the library about secrets to fishing Southwest Florida.  It had navigation charts and identified precise areas where you could target specific species.  The author said this area was consistent for 4-6 pound speckled trout.  I found the exact spot and, even though the book was published in 1991, as soon as cast toward where the author recommended.... BAM!  CHUG! WOOHOO!  What fun.  I found the giant specks and they were exploding on my lures with every cast.  They were also getting off the lure too.  (insert Homer Simpson voice...DOH!)

As the sun set behind Cayo Costa I briefly wished I could stay the night.  The action was just heating up at 6PM.  I switched rods and threw a Badonkadonk jerk lure (quarter oz pinfish style).  The first cast produced a HUGE hit and this one was hooked good.  On 10 pound test with the drag set lightly, he put up a fun fight.  I didn't know what it was but when it flashed by the boat, I knew it was the biggest of the day.  Every time he got near the boat he would take off on another long run.  I played him right and when I got him near the boat, I didn't know if it was a baby tarpon or a sand trout or what it was?

I was careful to keep him alive in case I would have to release him.  I ruled out tarpon as soon as I got a good look at the shape of his mouth.  He was about 22" long, silver colored, with big eyes, short teeth and he had a purple streak running laterally from gills to his big forked tail.  Anyone care to guess before I give it away?

The sun was well past the horizon when I promised myself two last casts.  Once with the Skitter Walk...nothing.  Once with the Badonkadonk...BAM!  Enormous ladyfish.  She leaped, she flipped, she ran but there was no getting off.   This was easily the biggest lady I've caught...easy 25".  It was great fun watch the acrobatic show but in the end, she wound up in a bag in my freezer as cut bait for the next trip.

At 640PM I plugged in my nav lights and pulled the shallow water anchor pin.  It's been fun but I gotta run.  In the twilight of evening I ran 38 knots back to the Gasparilla Bridge.  It was pitch black dark when I got the boat tied up at the Placida ramp.  The only other guys there with me were the Fish/Wildlife Commission officers loading their boats up to end their day.  I showed one of them the photo I took of my 22" mystery fish and he identified it for me as a Blue Fish.  I didn't tell him I had the fish onboard, just in-case...hahah!  He said they only have to be 12" long, so a 22"er would be a really nice one.  I guess I should get one of those laminated fish identification pamphlets to keep onboard the boat.  In doing some online (the next day) I learned how sharp those blue fish teeth are.  Most people who target them use steel wire leaders.  In thinking of the fight put up by the blue fish I landed, compared with the ?fish that cut through my floro leader, I bet that was another blue fish.

Loading the boat back on the trailer was much smoother.  I'm getting better at this solo stuff, which is one big reason I bought a smaller trailerable boat.    

In just 4 hours I had a great time out there.  This will help get me through the next two weeks; working a week in Massachusetts and a week in Puerto Rico.  All this travelling for my job is tough, as you can imagine, and it would be easy to get the blues.  Spending four hours Messing About in South Florida turned out to be a better way to catch the Blues.

Click on pictures for full screen image

Speckled Sea Trout is what I was targeting.  I found them but the keepers are going to take more practice.  I  had more top water strikes than I can recall but only boated the 12-14"ers.  Keepers are 15-20" size, with four allowed per day.  One of the four can be bigger than 20".  I will certainly be back on this grassy flat to target the big ones.

This 22" blue fish weighed about 5lbs.  He put up a real nice fight.

Sunset over Cayo Coasta Island, near Boca Grande Pass.

Night had fallen by the time I got back to the Gasparilla Bridge, near Placida Harbor boat ramp.
Where I fished

Friday, February 10, 2012


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 82, cold front coming tonight

I spent the work week in Virginia and arrived home today at 2:30PM.  At 3:30 I made the quick decision to launch the boat for a couple of hours.  I trailered it over to the Charlotte Beach Complex and was fishing by 4:00.  There's a front moving through tonight that will bring us some weekend rain and cooler temps but tonight it was gorgeous out there.  Warm temps and a cool breeze of about 10 knots.  I pinned down among the mangroves but didn't have any luck there.  I pulled the anchor pin and just drifted with the incoming tide.  I deployed the trolling motor and used that to counter the breeze and tide.

In 2 hours I caught and landed a small trout, flounder, catfish and a ladyfish.  Nice little variety for a spontaneous trip.  I enjoyed a few cold beverages out there and the sunset was my dessert.  Here's a few pictures from my private happy hour.  Click on pictures for full screen.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Home in Port Charlotte
Low 61, high 82

On this Super Bowl Sunday I am taken back to my experience 4 years ago for SB 42.  That game also featured the Giants and the Patriots.  We all remember what a great game and a huge upset the Giant victory was.  My memories are of spending my first ever Super Bowl alone.  I had just moved to Florida.  Kathy was in Arizona trying to sell our house and I was living in a rented condo.  My Dad called me during the second half and said his satellite service was out and he couldn't see the game.  I ended up giving him play by play over the phone, while he naturally gave color commentary.  It was a great experience for both of us and I wish we'd had it recorded.

Yesterday I launched the boat from Matlacha, on Pine Island. The forecast called for east winds, 10-15mph and a "moderate" chop.  Subaru Jim was with me and we had high hopes of finding speckled trout.  Unfortunately, the only highs we experienced were high winds and high waves.  Winds exceeded 20 MPH and waves were 3-4' (moderate chop?).  We anchored down in 8' of water but the anchor kept getting pulled loose by the bouncing bow of the boat.  There were a ton of fish on the finder but we just couldn't risk getting grounded in these conditions.  There was a sand bar nearby that would have ruined our day if we got pushed onto it.  We tried a second spot in 5' of water, protected by the lee of the island.  Our anchor held here but all we caught were small pinfish (bait) and a few ladyfish (sport).  We were going to have to rough a few miles back to the trailer so we let discretion take the better part of valor and called it a day after just 2 hours on the water.  It's been a great few weeks of fishing action and I guess we were due for a letdown day.  With wave heights hitting 4' in-shore, I can't imagine what the conditions out in the Gulf must have been.

I have attached a couple of screen shots showing where in the world we were.  Click on pictures for full screen.
Positions recorded by my Satellite Locator, after I pushed the OK button.

Same position, zoomed in map; Matlacha Pass

The channel here is over a mile wide and the winds were whipping; near Bokeelia, at the northeast end of Pine Island