Sunday, December 22, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
Lows 60s, highs 80s

I fished the past 2 Saturdays and brought home tasty Pompano for dinners. 
Also caught a lot of Jack Cravelle and Bluefish.  Those aren't table fare for me but they sure are fun to fight and great practice for landing larger, in-shore, species.  For much of the morning, I was accompanied by some huge bottle nose dolphin, whose presence put a damper on the fishing. 

The trolling motor on my Mako flats boat has the new Minn Kota i-Pilot feature. It is a GPS enabled virtual anchor. Once I set it, it captures the longitude and latitude of my position and self adjusts to the current and wind to hold me within a few feet of that spot.  I have to say, it is absolutely amazing. 

I fished both days in a strong incoming tide, enhanced by the wide channel narrowing to a bridge opening, coupled with 10-15 mph winds.  The i-Pilot held my position and allowed me to concentrate on landing fish, not running the boat.  With my newly installed Power-Pole shallow water anchor system, I now have the tools I need to fish where I want to and (hopefully) catch what I want to. 

After I had my dinner secured in the fish box, I moved onto the mangrove channels in search of redfish but none were found this trip.  Nonetheless, accessing the skinny shallow flats just to get near the habitat is a fun adventure. 

These photos show the areas where I fished yesterday. 
Click on each one for full screen images. 

This first shot shows the Little Gasparilla Pass, where Placida Harbor meets the Gulf of Mexico.
The bridge I fished can be seen where the word Boca is listing the Boca Grande Causeway. 

This shot shows a wide angle of the Gulf Inter Coastal Waterway, along the Cape Haze peninsula. 
The barrier islands separate the ICW from the Gulf, seen left of the beach. 
I saw a huge manatee along this route yesterday. 
There are mangrove islands along along here, which can hold redfish at anytime...if you can find them. 

Every inshore channel in this photo was visited by my boat yesterday.  And every fish living there stayed well hidden from me.  Still, it was a beautiful tour of the sights and sounds of life on the barrier islands. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 85*

Struck out yesterday.  Worked the east side between the keys and the sand bar from Alligator Creek to Pirate Harbor.  Had a pretty late start and was pleased to have made it behind the bar when the tide was already at .07 and falling.  Many crab traps were already exposed. 

After the turn of the tide I went out to the Jug Creek shoal and fished the grass flats. Saw a lot of activity from 2 to 245 but only hooked a puffer fish. Not sure what was chasing and feeding on the mullet but I tried 4 different lures and caught only grass. Tried top water, even though the sun was still high. Kept me out of the grass but no strikes. 

Went up Jog Creek for the first time...nice channel, looks like it would hold lots of redfish but I could find any.   Threw my spoon lure into the mangrove trees twice but was able to maneuver the little flats boat right to them and get it back.  (That was the luck of the day). 

Really the best news, besides the beautiful flat water and gorgeous weather, is that I filled my gas tank up yesterday morning before leaving home and found that my 3 previous fishing trips consumed a total of 9 gallons of fuel. My last boat would use 9 gallons of fuel in 3 hours, not three days.  Yet one more reason I'm glad I made the switch. 

Here's a couple photos on the water, taken at 35 MPH, running home.
Click on each picture for full screen. 

Click on picture too see full image

Below is a photo of where I fished.  Look at the right side and see the Keys listed from Silcox Key down to Crow Key.  You can see the long sand bar the runs the east wall of Charlotte Harbor.   Most days, the sand bar is a foot or two under water. Today, that sand bar was a peninsula.  At the bottom of the photo, you can see the Jug Creek shoal, directly beneath the letter k in Bokeelia Island.  That's about 20 miles from my house.  I've had good luck on sea trout there in the past but not today. 

Click on picture to see full image

Below is a close up of the Shoal, in the upper left-center.  Jug Creek can be seen as a narrow, winding channel, in the lower right, above Toms Bay. 
Click on picture to see full image

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 82

Work, work, work and the occasional fishing trip has kept me pretty occupied for the past few months. 
The biggest news is I've sold the Key West boat and bought a Mako flats boat.   I decided, since I'm usually alone when I fish, I likely won't go off shore often enough to have a bigger, more gas using, boat.  Plus, I found myself more and more often trying to get into shallower and shallower water to find Redfish, Trout and Snook. 

In the summer of 2012 I had occasion to fish the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway with 3 friends on 2 boats.  I ended up on a Mako flats boat and really liked the design, size and setup. My friend, named Billy, had found this boat in a barn in GA and gave her new life through good old fashioned elbow grease, new wiring, and some fine tuning of the original Mercury 115 outboard.  It was like the boat had just rolled off the assembly line in Miami.  The design was so stable and user friendly.  I kind of obsessed over that boat for many months afterward.  

I learned the history of Mako boats. They started in Miami in the 60s by a guy named Robert Schwebke, who was a fisherman that designed and built a boat to his own needs.  He picked the name Mako after the shark species that is known for being so tough.   They used high quality materials and workmanship that built a great reputation with fishermen over the decades.  In 1992 hurricane Andrew hit south Florida and tore the roof off of the Mako factory. Their insurance company denied their claim and they were shut down for 6 months. When production started again cash flow was a big problem. The Schwebke's took on financial partners, who would later lead to their demise. In 1995 they decided to take the company public but a poor financial quarter killed their stock price from the start and it got delisted.  The company ended up being bought out by Tracker Boats (Bass Pro Shop) in 1996 and while the name and reputation survived, after the turn of the century the quality of their boats began to decline.  It seems profit margins took priority over materials and craftsmanship.  These days, a pre-1996 Mako boat is known as a Classic Mako; built to last, from a time when things were just plain made better.  Makos from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are fished everydays all around the globe.  Owners gather both in person and on a website for Classic Mako owners to share information, refurbishment advice, photos and stories of days gone by.  Robert Schwebke's son, Brett, is a member of the web forum and offers a unique historical perspective of the vessels built under his and his father's watch. 

So back to my decision to sell my Key West boat.  I'd spent over a year searching the web for the rare Mako 161 flats boats.  They were designed to float in 6" of water, yet survive being towed across the Atlantic to fish the shallow waters of the Bahamas. Brett Schebke told me less than 200 were ever manufactured, and only produced for model years 1993 & 1994.  I found the occasional ad online but the listings were years old and boats long ago sold.  I knew once I found her, I'd need cash ready to buy right away.  There'd be no time to sell my boat if I didn't do it before finding the next one. I put my boat up two weeks ago and sold it to the first looker for full asking price. 

There was a Classic Mako 161 flats for sale in Naples, FL.  It had no motor and had been re-painted. I had no problem with putting a new outboard on it but was concerned what might be hidden under new paint.  I decided to call my friend Billy to ask his advice.  Imagine my shock when he told me he was going to sell the 161. He'd already purchased a  Mako 191 to be his next project and needed the cash flow.  Coincidence or fate?  I consulted with a few other friends and my Dad.  Everyone agreed the turn key boat from a friend was a better investment than the one from a stranger, needing to be put back together.   There's a chance the 20 year old outboard could need replacing soon but if I get a few more years out of it, I'm really ahead of the mark. I drove to Stuart, FL and brought her home the next day.   The very vessel I'd fallen in love with while fishing the Atlantic ICW was now mine. 

I wasted no time in getting her on the water last Sunday.  I caught dozens of Ladyfish in the Myakka River then headed into the mangrove flats.  I explored some shallow water tidal creeks, where my previous boat dare not venture. The kind of place that weeks or months could go by without seeing a human being. I pinned her down in less than a foot of water and shortly thereafter brought home a 21" redfish for dinner.   My day was complete.  I marked the spot on my GPS but wasn't sure when I'd return here. There are thousands of spots like this to explore. My home water, Charlotte Harbor, is fed by the Myakka and Peace Rivers.  These two rivers are splintered with hundreds of tidal creeks and backwater bays.  All are affected by the rise and fall of the tides of the Gulf of Mexico and hundreds of square miles of Charlotte Harbor.  This is why I moved here.  This is what moves me. The peace and quiet, the fun and sport, the challenge and occasional success.  This is the vessel to get me there and bring me back. 

Click on each picture for a full screen image, then page back to view the next. 

First Redfish produced from the new boat

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Finally took the time to write a blog.  I've been crazy busy with travel and work but I went fishing today
with a buddy visiting from SoCal.  Launched at 6AM from Charlotte Beach Complex.  Returned at 4PM.  Tides were high at 730am and low at 115pm.
Weather was beautiful all day until that 4pm squall across the north end of the harbo, near the beach cx ramp.  We got the boat landed though, in what had to be gale force winds.  Now the report:

Hobbs Point, outside the bar - snook on top water lure at first light
Pirate Harbor, east side keys - small mangrove snappers on live shrimp, with a split shot
Pirate Harbor canals - snook trolling rapala XR8, sliver belly, black/green body
Myakka cutoff Hog Island side - 2 keeper red fish on cut frozen lady fish during rising tide in 1' of water.
We tried live shrimp, dead shrimp, cut frozen pinfish and got zero interest from the Reds.

Cutoff was really mucky at low water..  My outboard intake was clogged with seaweed algae and overheated a few times until I cleared it. No harm done but I will choose to do my lower unit service now instead of the schedule in December.  I have to ready for snook season on Sept 1.  We will finally get to keep and eat snook.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 90

Happy hurricane season!  We now have a tropical system being investigated in the Gulf.  Officially, Invest 91 has a low (20%) chance of tropical cyclone formation in the next 48 hours.  That being said, West Central Florida is anticipating significant rainfall out of this system. Some regions may see as much as 5-10" over the next 5 days.  Most will see in excess of 2".  There shouldn't be anything dangerous in this system but its a good reminder to ask yourself what you may need later in the season.  When we bought our generator, it was the early track of what became Hurricane Irene, that made us pull the trigger.  The storm ended up missing FL but I've never regretted the purchase.  The way I looked at it, by the time the storm set its definite sights on our area...the 2 or 3 generators in stock at Sams would sell out quickly.  We dropped the $1000 hoping we'd never use it.  So far so good, but I've got hundreds of dollars of frozen fish to protect, so what the heck.  We also had an electrician wire a direct plug to our breaker panel, so we don't have to use extension cords.  We bought a small stand alone a/c unit too, so we plan to sleep comfy at night.

We don't want any hurricanes but we'll be ready if the power goes out for an extended period.

First spaghetti models for Invest 91 are below.  Click on the image for full screen.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Weekend

Home in Port Charlotte
Morning low 65, high 91

It's been nearly two months since I blogged.  My Dad says if I don't post soon, he's going to cancel his subscription and request a refund.  

Since my last post, neighbor Fred has been living on his boat in the Keys for the whole month of May; Subaru Jim and neighbor Jerry each went north to PA for the summer; my wife and I vacationed in AZ; I worked in PR, CA, PA, IL, NJ, and of course FL.

I've been spending the majority of my time exercising and eating right.  In 12 weeks I've lost 39 pounds and 5 inches off my waistline.  

Yesterday I went fishing in the Myakka Cutoff, a sort of short cut between two rivers; the Myakka and the Peace.   I found a very secluded spot that produced two Redfish, a 26" and a 23", as well as 5 sailcats, which are not desirable to me.   I'm going to try that same spot again today.  Right after I walk 10.2 miles.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
Low 58, high 80

Today's off shore report - took the worst wave of my boating life passing thru Gasparilla Pass at 8AM today.
Boat bow got almost vertical and for a brief second I fear we would go backwards and capsize. Instead we came down into the base of a six footer right behind the rogue wave and we got drenched.

That was it....we were out. That inlet was an absolute washing machine but once we cleared it, it was 3-4 footers that we were thankful for. I knew the ride out would be rough but was confident (and correct) that things would lay down about ten AM.

We fished live shrimp with 3 oz sinkers and needed them bad. Every 30 seconds we had to open the bails just to keep the bait on the bottom. We caught keeper Red Grouper, Lane Snapper and Porgy in 80 feet of water. We released short grouper, short flounder, lots of 12" and under porgy and a variety of lizards and squirrels.

Ride back was better with following seas but the Gasparilla Pass was still worthy of a short (and answered prayer). We hit the ramp just after 5 AM. This was my first trip with a new 70 year old neighbor. He was a good sport about the waves. I'm really grateful I didn't put him in the drink.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fillet of Pompano

Small craft advisory? What small craft advisory?

After a 19 hour day of work and travel that had me wake up at 3:50AM in Chicago, fly to work in Detroit, connect through and lay over in Baltimore and get home at 11PM...I was thrilled when my work schedule was cancelled today due to rain. The rain wasn't bad but there was a small craft advisory out.

We launched at 840 AM and worked the Myakka River. There was a strong incoming tide and very light winds ahead of the approaching front. Typically, right before a weather disturbance arrives, the bite gets hot.

At 1010 AM the river started boiling with white bait being chased by Pompano, big Ladyfish and Spanish Macs. What fun we had for the next 2 hours! We limited out on Pompano and filled the well with ladys to use as cut bait this Saturday when we head off shore for the first weekend of the new Red Grouper season.

Those Ladyfish were flying out of the river like crazy. They got into such a frenzy they started hitting our bare hooks. One flew out of the water and landed right into our open live well. We laughed so hard...

By the time the frenzy finished we had bloody decks, shirts and legs.

We finished the day with a 22" speckled trout and a 33" snook....released, of course. By 1 PM the squall arrived and we beat feet for the boat ramp. I had fresh Pomano for dinner tonight. What great meat that is! Here's a shot of the spec and the approaching storm. Saturday is Grouper Day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
Low 46, high 77

I fished all day yesterday with my buddy, Subaru Jim. We started out the day in the Myakka River, at the El Jobean bridge, in 48* weather at sunrise. The tide was a weak one, with a whole lot less current than we usually prefer.

Jim landed the first fish, a 14" Silver Trout. Minutes later, I got slammed by a big snook who hit near the old abandoned wood pier. It fought to take my line back under those ancient pilings but I dragged him back into open water. It took about five minutes to really get him under control and next to the boat but then he darted beneath the hull from starboard to port side and SNAP! went my rod. Okay now I'm in shock. Jim hollered out, " it doesn't matter, keep reeling." Somehow, I kept the fish on and brought it back to the boat. We took him out to relieve him of the jig hook and take a few photos. He measured out to 28" and had a huge fan tail. Of course the season is still closed for Gulf water fishing so we had to release the prisoner of my little war. I'd won the battle but the snook had disarmed my weapon, a Pflueger President, that had taken so many snook this winter.

I placed the snook back in the water and held him upright for several minutes to properly revive him. As much as I'd love to taste that meat for the very first time, I still enjoy doing the right thing and letting them go to be caught another day...perhaps by someone reading this. A few kicks of that majestic tail signaled he was ready to return to the depths below. And away he went, under his own power.

Fortunately I had a Penn Fierce 4000 combo to get me through the day. We pulled out of the river at 10AM, catching nothing else there. Twenty minutes later we put in at Placida and fished the intercoastal waterway. I landed a gorgeous 24" Redfish and the two of us landed countless sheepshead, keeping the 12 biggest. Jim added a black drum to our tally and we spent over an hour filleting fish at home.

I know some would frown upon using that light Pflueger rod and 15 pound line when targeting snook but I loved the action and the sensitivity of that rod. It caught me more snook this winter than all of the 5 years I've lived here. But I guess it caught just one too many.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


59* and clear at wake up in Miami.

Long workday ahead but then homeward bound. I've earned an extra office day after flying to Boston on a Sunday and not getting home until late the following Friday, last week. Grateful not to be in the North's latest storm but thoughts are with my friends and colleagues who are going to be out in it.

I haven't fished for a couple of weeks. I've been so busy on the road there really hasn't been time or energy on the weekends. Subaru Jim is back in Pennsylvania for a short period of time. He will give his son a break from work and then Jim will return to Port Charlotte.

This weekend we are remodeling a room in the house to become my new home office.

My wife, my daughter Kimber and I have booked a Caribbean cruise for Thanksgiving week. It will be our first cruise ever. We will join my wife's brother and his entire family. They are very experienced cruisers.

Time for me to get ready for work.

Monday, February 4, 2013


On the road
Hampton Inn, Ft Pierce, FL

Last weekend I doubled my lifetime total of snook catching.
The Snook is one of Florida's most prized gamefish. Since the 100 year freeze of 2010, the snook have been considered endangered and were removed from the Florida wildlife commission harvest list. Even when they are in season they are governed by a slot limit. This means you can only keep one fish per day and they must be between the slot of 28 to 32 inches. Anything smaller and anything larger must be returned to the water.

Saturday morning Subaru Jim and I braved the 40° morning cold front and ventured out in search of the snook. It only took two casts for Jim to be hooked up. Between sunrise and 8 AM Jim caught three and I caught two, followed by a third around 9AM. Each one of them would have been a keeper but we did the right thing and released them alive and well, after quick photos.

By 11 AM we were back at my house for a nice breakfast, courtesy of my wife.
She really appreciated our excitement level at the day's adventure. She agreed to let me go back out on Sunday morning and do it again as long as we promise to be home by noon.

Sunday morning Jim and I were joined by Al and the three of us went back to the same spot on the Myakka River. It's not often that I can out fish these two experts but on this day, that's exactly what I did. I landed two more nice snook and the boys were shut out. Our friend Jerry had brought his boat out with two guests visiting from New Jersey. Jerry's friend caught one snuck and a nice speckled trout. Jim, Al, and I decided to head for the ramp at about 9:30 AM but Jerry stayed behind.

Back at Jim's we received a call from Jerry, saying his boat was dead in the water. He needed someone to come and tow him in. Jim and I prepared to head back out but we heard a loud noise coming from one of his boat trailer tires. Loose lug nuts were accompanied by a loose lug bolts; this trailer wasn't going anywhere.

We got in my truck, went to my house and hooked up my boat and headed for the ramp. I told Jerry in while Jim waited behind with my truck. As I approach the ramp, Jim backed my trailer in and I told Jerry's boat right up to the ramp as I loaded upon my trailer. Moments later, using a rope we pulled Jerry's boat onto his trailer and everyone was underway. I arrived home at 11:58 keeping my promise to Kathy.

I almost forgot, we also completed a boat project this weekend. I had been having problems with my trailer lights so Jim help me install a new wiring harness and new LED taillamps.

I am on the road this week in Fort Pierce, Palm beach, and Wellington Florida. I will make it home late Thursday night and the fishing conditions next Saturday look great.

Here's a few photos of the snook we landed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
Low 53, High 82

Yesterday the fishing fleet returned to the Gulf of Mexico for the last weekend of Grouper season, until it re-opens April 1.  This time I joined Jerry on his Sailfish 1900, along with his friend John, for John's first fishing trip into the Gulf.  Subaru Jim was joined by a new guy named Bob, on Bob's 22 Robalo, and Al brought a boatload of 5 on his Bayliner 23 Trophy.

Al is selling his Bayliner, as it is a cuddy cabin, walk around style hull and he wants a center console.  The CC is a better hull configuration for the type of fishing we do around here.  I helped him out by creating a craigslist ad that generated a prospective buyer, who joined us on this outing.

We launched from Gasparilla boat ramp at 8 AM.  It was a chilly start, at 50* but it warmed to the upper 70's while we fished.  The seas were a little rough going out to the fishing grounds, 25 miles off shore, banging the hull against the water and even getting airborne on a few rouge waves.  Once we stopped it was quite comfy.  We had a highly productive day, catching more keeper size Red Grouper than I ever had before.  Between Jerry, John and I we boxed 11 Grouper, ranging in size from the minimum 20" to a big pig of a 26" fish Jerry hauled in.  There's a 4 fish per angler limit on Grouper, so we were just 1 shy of limiting out.  I also kept a really nice Lane Snapper and a big ol' Grunt, all good eating.  We fished as far out as 29 miles, in depths ranging from 80-100 feet.

We released quite a few short Grouper, as well.  Subaru Jim and Bob landed 2 keepers and I'm not sure what Al's tally was.  The ride back in was about 90 minutes and it was rough early but settled down as we got closer to shore.  We rode in the Robalo's wake for a while and that helped.  I was riding up front in Jerry's boat and took some sea sprays to the face but was able to shoot this little video (below), along with some still shots.

We arrived back at the ramp just before 5PM.  I'm sad to see the Grouper season end for a few months, but for went out with a bang.

Video clip, running the Gulf

Where we fished:

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I took my friend Joe out fishing for the first time. He lives part time in his native New England and he spends his winters, along with his wife and her parents, in their home in Port Charlotte. (See our trip to their home last September) Joe told me that he has never caught a Florida fish. He changed that 30 seconds after we started fishing.

I have the boat on the trailer so we could get easy access to the intracoastal waterway and Gulf of Mexico. Remember from my house is quite a long ride to get out to the Gulf. We were joined by two other boats, piloted by Jerry and Al. Subaru Jim rode on Jerry's boat and Al had two other guests on his boat.

We launched out of Gasparilla Park at 8:30 AM. The ride out was a little bumpy with 2 to 3 foot seas and winds of 10 to 15 mph but each time we stopped to fish, it was very comfortable.

Immediately upon dropping his first live shrimp to the bottom of the 70' deep water, Joe hooked up and landed a nice Lane Snapper. Within an hour we caught and released a dozen or more and put six snapper in the cooler. I told Joe he just might go home and tell his wife "we need to get a different boat." (They have a very nice deck boat but it's not for off-shore action)

We made four more stops at different locations in the Gulf and pulled up fish at three of the four spots. We caught and kept grouper, snapper and porgie, and we released lesser amberjack, short grouper and many more small baitfish that attacked our shrimp. We fished in depths from 70 feet to 85 feet and were as far as 25 miles offshore. (See our check-in points on the map below)

Of course I carry my satellite positioning transmitter or SPOT, and am able to check in hourly or as needed. If the need ever arose, all I have to do is push a button and the Coast Guard would be on their way. Traveling in a fleet of three boats also improves our safety. The new Garmin GPS that my wife got me for Christmas is able to communicate with my marine radio, using NMEA technology, giving us another avenue of emergency communication. The fact that I am a certified Red Cross CPR instructor put Joe's wife a little more at ease at the thought of me taking him so far out to Sea.

At 4 PM I knew we would have at least an hour ride back to shore, so we pulled up our lines stowed our gear and put some Scott Kirby music on the radio for the ride home. The sea gods were more than cooperative as the wind laid down to less than 5 mph, making for nearly smooth seas the whole trip home.

Joe caught so many fish we stopped counting the individual number of fish but we knew he landed at least six different species on the day. It was another great trip and a fabulous way to start out the new fishing year. Below are a few photos from our day.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


I bought a parking pass from Charlotte County for $53.50 that gives me unlimited parking for 2013 at the County's many boat ramps and the beaches of Port Charlotte and Englewood. That's a much better deal than paying 75 cents an hour.

I hauled the boat out of the canal and onto the trailer for an off shore trip, out of Gasparilla Park.
Using the trailer will save me about 20 gallons of fuel vs traveling from my backyard canal boat lift. The reason is because of the Cape Haze Peninsula. I either have to boat around it or drive my truck across it. I have previously posted on this subject.

Today I will be joined by my New England buddy, Joe, on my boat. Subaru Jim is back from PA and he will be with his neighbor, Jerry, on Jerry's boat. Our friend Al completes the fleet with 3 on his boat. We will burn more fuel but have much more room on deck of each boat and will cover three times of the reef area when looking for the fish. Should be a great time. Check back for the story and photos later tomorrow.