Sunday, December 28, 2014


Launched from Placida Park ramp at 830 AM just as a heavy fog was lifting. Worked the east side of the Gasparilla Sound in 5-6 feet, catching a dozen undersized sea trout and one barely legal keeper that was fat enough to at least keep in the live well to see if he could be beat.  He couldn't.  Was rigged with a DOA deadly combo and live medium sized shrimp. 

Trolled south along the 5' to 1' drop line, trolling the Storm Twitch Stick at 4 knots, 100' behind the boat.  I'm not sure but the screaming drag may have awakened me as I was drifting off to sleep.   Landed a really healthy, 22' Ladyfish.   Redfish bait!

I headed straight for Bull Bay, coming in from the north side, or backside, via Sandfly Key.  It always thrills me to run 20-25 knots in 1-2 feet of water at low tide.  It scares me too but once I make it across the flat, I break into a big grin.  If it sounds like I'm bragging...I'm not. In fair disclosure, I ran soft aground trying take the same route home.  I really thought I was tracking my bread crumbs closely but obviously not.  No harm, no foul. 

Worked the cut bait and the shrimp in 2-3' on the rising tide in Bull Bay but to no avail.  I saw some movement that looked promising but had no hookups. 

The best part of this day, besides the weather and the fact that I was fishing...occurred when I was working the trout.  I looked in the distance and notice another boat, with 3 anglers silhouetted against the sky, with shimmering water in the foreground.  Photo opp.  I laid down across my bow to get the shot right.  As they drifted by I called out an offer to text it to them and they accepted.  I'd love for someone to take a shot like this of me on my boat. 

Click on the photo for a full screen image

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Launched from Placida Park at about 10am. Such a nice day, I was surprised there were empty spots at the ramp. Tried my favorite Pompano hole on the incoming tide but no go today.   Zipped down the ICW to Devilfish Key and caught lots of short trout in the 12-14" range on Deadly Combo corks rigged with both live shrimp and artificials. Both caught fish.   Moved around a lot looking for the bigger ones.  Found the short ones all around the island.  Went to the West end of Bull Bay and finally landed a nice one at 16" and put him on ice. So funny how big the keepers seem after you catch a dozen short ones.   Kept moving, kept catching but all shorts.  Landed areal nice size sail cat and decided this would be the one I try the taste with. Fishin Frank says the saltwater, Gaff Topped, Sailcats are very good eating. Anyone have any prep and cooking suggestions for that?  Not into breading and frying. 

Moved back to Gasparilla Sound on the outgoing tide and looked for my Pompano but they were still somewhere else.   Used the iPilot to set the boat over the top of the 32' hole in Little Gasparilla Pass and the bite was on.  Caught and released dozens of Gag Grouper, which were too short even if they were in season, and dozens of mangrove snapper.  Was catching on every cast and getting 2-3 fish on the same bait at times.  Caught my limit of mangrove snapper and then gave up the position to a family with kids, who were catching nothing 50 yards away.  

The waters of Placida Harbor and the Gasparilla Sound are separated by the many miles long Cape haze peninsula. This separation also puts Placita far away from the tannin stained water of Charlotte Harbor, fed by the peace River and the Myakka River.  That distance, coupled with the white sandy bottom's near Placida, make for much bluer water.  Although both areas have excellent fishing opportunities the distance from the boat ramp at Placita Park to the little Gasparilla pass and the Gulf of Mexico is no more than 10 minutes.  A far cry from the hour or more ride it takes to get to the Boca Grande Pass from Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda.  This is why, even though I live on a canal with a lift, I value the use of my trailer so much.  Save gas, save time, save money. 

The intercoastal waterway from Placida to Stump Pass and Venice further north off a wonderful sightseeing opportunities (mansions to mangroves) for boaters of all kinds.  One of my favorite apps on this route is Don Pedro state park.  It's tucked away off of the intercoastal via a well hidden cut through the mangroves with a sign that is even better hidden in the trees.  There are bayside boat slips here where you can tie up and self-pay two or three dollars to enjoy the park. The park features clean restrooms cabana covered tables and barbecue grills suitable for picnics. Out-of-town guests will marvel when you walk them two minutes up the path and they see the Gulf of Mexico.

Diverse boating opportunities such as this, added with Charlotte Harbor, the rivers, and points further south towards Matlacha and Sanibel make this area paradise found. 

Although last Sunday's cold front had me dressed in snow gear, today's weather was absolutely perfect, all day. Great day on the water.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


On Sunday morning I took advantage of the only opportunity to get out and launched the boat in 38* weather, for a solo trip. I geared up New England style with my Under Armor Cold Gear thermals and full head/face mask, flannel lined jeans, regular fishing shirt and a down filled jacked. Of course I brought my favorite fishing hat to go with it.  Even though my Classic Mako flats boat has no windshield, I really wasn't cold. The right clothing can make all the difference. 

I launched at before sunrise, in hopes of getting the top water bite, and headed south from Charlotte Beach ramp to Pirate Harbor.  By 8 AM the sun was fully exposed and I hadn't a single bite. Too cold for the fish to surface, maybe?

I followed the east side sand bar further south near Fines Key, just north of Burnt Store Marina and worked DOA shrimp under popping corks.  Sure this 58* water would be full of speckled trout, right?  If it was, they were feeding. At 9AM I stowed the down jacket. 

My next strategy was to slow troll a Rapalla XR8 until I got a bite, then stop and work the area.  I trolled past Burnt Store Marina, saw a guy out of his Kayak wade fishing wish a fly rod.  A sure sign of a Northerner, eh?  Watch him for a few minutes but he wasn't catching either. 

My troll continued into the North end of Matlacha Pass and into Smokehouse Bay. Here, I worked the DOA combo sporadically over the sea grasses but the results were the same.  Trolling West past the Jug Creek Shoals would surely produce....nothing. 

By 11 AM it had warmed enough to remove my Under Armor gear.  I'm not sure this stuff is even sold in FL...I bought this in Pennsylvania whole working up there...but it does great down here too!

The Jug Creek Shoals is where I caught my first ever speckled trout and this time of year is typically where we find them. Just not today. At 12:30 decided to head back via the West wall. I set a slow troll to begin with and put two lines out; the Rapala accompanied by a Storm Twitch.  Finally, something hit the Twitch!  Unfortunately it ended up being a lizard fish.  These toothy bastards look like something out of a horror movie but at least he proved I wasn't snake bit.  I released him back to his ugly existence and continued trolling, only to be immediately hooked up again. . . With another lizard. I swear it's the same one I just released. After giving him his final reprieve and a stern warning, I set out again.   

I trolled for about fifteen minutes more before deciding to call it a day, brought in the lines and stretched the old Merc's legs out to 24 knots on the ride home, only stopping to put the down jacket back on, as the wind chill was quite cold.  The water was smooth as glass and made for a great ride.  All was not lost, as a day of slow fishing turned into a day of great boating. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014


My daughter visited from Phoenix, last month, and I took her fishing aboard the Mako Flats for her first time.  She caught Spanish Mackerel, Gag Grouper and Mangrove Snapper along the Gulf Intercoastal near Little Gasparilla Pass. The Pompano are in for winter, as evidenced by my last two trips out but none were found on the day my daughter visited.  We enjoyed her fresh Mackerel, broiled and served over club crackers with green pepper tobasco sauce. 

For Thanksgiving, we had planned to take the Key West Express out of Fort Myers but high seas foiled that plan and the boat was cancelled for the day. We made the six hour drive down and traffic was fairly light. We stayed at the Double Tree Grand Key, as usual, and the place was terrific, as always.  This year we opted in for the Thanksgiving dinner buffet and it was well worth the $33 per person.

We enjoyed four live music acts while in Key West.  Scott Kirby, at the Smokin Tuna Saloon; Michael McCloud, at the Schooner Wharf Bar...these are our usual favorites, but we found two new cover bands at Sloppy Joes Bar and loved them both.  Karri Daley is a Key West local and her band will be on our list every time we go back.  We also enjoyed a visiting group from Hattiesburg, MS called Whiskey Kiss.  The music in the Keys is yet one more reason we keep going back, every chance we get. 

The day before my daughter arrived, I caught these two nice pompano.

She did pretty well herself out there

While listening to Scott Kirby at the Smokin Tuna, we paused for a selfie.  Yeah, those are coats we were wearing to protect ourselves from the 62* wind chill in Key West that night. 

Kimber and Kathy at Mallory Square in Key West, taking in the memories of last Thanksgiving when we were all on a cruise in the Eastern Caribbean. 

Father and daughter slurping oysters at the Schooner Wharf Bar, while listening to the music of Michael McCloud

Karri Daley and the band at Sloppy Joes

Kimber and I walked a 5k a day during our Key West vacation

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fishing on vacation week

Friday I Launched at 6:15 and searched for trout all morning, in vain. Okay, I caught one little baby off of the jug creek shoals but searched all around there and even ventured up way east of Useppa in the pine Island Sound. Nada. That rig we built last night was pretty cool and I used it all day. It did snag and tangle on itself a few times but I believe it will catch trout. 

Spent the afternoon in Placida Harbor and it paid it off with a couple of really nice Pompanooooooo.
Caught excessive numbers of Jacks and Blues as well, but at least we were catching fish. 

Beautiful weather and light chop in the ICW. 

Went back out today for a late day, spontaneous, solo short trip. Left my house at 4:15 PM, launched the boat at Placida Park ramp at 4:35.  Had a big bluefish on the line at 4:45. Followed that with 3 jacks but I wanted Pompano. Wasn't to be today. The wind was whipping on the incoming tide but my iPilot held the virtual anchor in place. Love that thing.   I pulled up at 5:50 and headed for the ramp. Was on the trailer at 6 and home by 6:20.  Wife had chicken fajitas ready to eat at 6:30.  Not a bad consolation prize. After dinner, flushed the Merc and put everything away.  

Football tomorrow, working in Rockville, MD next week. Thanksgiving week will head for Key West via the KW Express. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014


After a long work week on the road I made a last minute decision to go fishing on Saturday morning.  Since I'd been so busy working I hadn't paid any attention to any upcoming weather forecasts until after I had invited a new neighbor to come along.  Bill from Jersey bought a house down the street from us a while back and recently brought his new to him Grady White walk around console down from Jersey to Port Charlotte.  Soon we will take his boat off-shore but this trip was to be on my Classic Mako flats boat. 

I was shocked when I saw the coastal weather forecast called for 25 MPH winds, 7-14' seas, bays and inland waters rough.  It seems a weather front was due to come through the area on Saturday, bringing sudden chilly temps and high winds to Southwest Florida.  I decided to not cancel my plans, instead opting to get up early and check the weather buoys (via an app) for live readings before making my final decision. 

I awoke a half hour before my alarm was set to go at 4:30 AM.  Outside it was 61* and calm.  The Wind Alert app showed coastal winds in the low 20s but the rivers and bays were experiencing just 3-5 MPH.  Sure, there was a small craft advisory, but I figured we could launch out of a nearby ramp, into the Myakka River and judge the conditions live. If it was rough, we could easily abort but if it was doable we would fish close enough to run to safety if needed. 

We launched at 6:30 in total darkness but the water was calm. We worked top water lures with no success for the first half hour. The best part was the beautiful 60 degree temperature and view of the coming sunrise. 

Does this look like a small craft advisory is needed?

We moved into Tippycanoe Bay and switched our lures to suspending jerk baits and my favorite, the Storm Twitch.  Jersey Bill really cast with skill, dropping his lure very close to the mangroves. We only had to retrieve a couple of errant throws. At about 8 AM my guest was the first to hook up, landing his first ever Red Drum.  Although it was a baby I convinced him to pose to celebrate his first of the species.  The golden red scales showed even brighter in morning sun.  We released him to fight another day. 

We continued working along the mangrove shorelines until I found a creek I'd never explored before. The incoming tide allowed me to enter the shallow finger channel confident I'd be able to get back out.  The depth was 1-2 feet coming in but dropped off to 4' as we passed the mouth.  This would be a good spot for predator fish to lay and ambush bait being swept in by the tide. 

Sure enough, in no time I was hooked up with a nice fighting Redfish.  He hit the Twitch Stick as well.  He measured 20" and had some nice meat on him.  

We worked that creek for another half hour but had no action. I figured the commotion created my my hookup spooked the other fish away so we moved on.  We went into one of my favorite areas, the Myakka Cutoff.  Bill really enjoyed exploring these area and commented that he understands why the flats boats are so popular here. 

Just after the turn of the tide the wind and the waves followed suit.  When white caps start appearing in the normally protective Cutoff you know it's going to get rough.  We agreed to call it a day and head for the ramp. I couldn't help but snap a final picture of my neighbor with the now building seas behind him as we entered the wide Myakka River. 

We made it to the ramp without incident and spotted other boaters launching to start their day on the water in these conditions.  Don't people know enough to check the weather forcasts?

Before the day was done we were getting gale force winds in Port Charlotte but by then I was comfortably napping in bed and my Redfish fillets were chilling in the fridge before being served for dinner.

(The cold front will bring morning lows in the 40s!  This could make tomorrow's victory splash more like a polar plunge.  The 6-1 Cardinals play at the 5-2 Cowboys.  We get the game at home so we're very excited.)

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 91, morning low 78

Can't believe it's October. Our pool has been done for a couple of months now and we enjoy it more everyday. We are still swimming in 84 degree water. There's a first of the season call front blowing into Sotheest Florida tonight and our morning low is forecast for 61. Don't think I will swim tomorrow but we will be opening up the new sliding glass doors to the pool cage and let fall inside!  Things will warm back up again into the 80s and even 90 next weekend.  I've almost finished re-installing the landscaping that was destroyed in the house remodel and pool construction.  One more shrub island to fix up and all I have left to do is grow grass back in.

I fished the canals a few times in September and landed several small snook but no keepers. My daughter gave me a beautiful new fillet knife set for my birthday but I've yet to try it out.  A buddy came to visit and fish the harbor but we struck out.  On the way home we got caught in a violent summer squall that tested the limits of the Classic Mako Flats boat. The waves were solid 3'ers with the occasional rogue 4 thrown into to renew our faith in the Lord.  Thankfully we made it home.  We ran only 45 miles on 35 gallons of fuel but we still ran out of gas 2 miles from home.  In normally light chop seas my range is about 100 miles.

Things with my job are still highly unsettled. Someone new was hired for the job I hold but I'm still there. What they have planned for me, time will tell.  For now, I'm very busy traveling and doing what I do.  It's a very anxious situation but that's all I can share about it for now.

Today is my bride's birthday and she wants to go see a movie. Tomorrow I will do yard work in the nice weather in the morning and then we will go to a local pub to watch our Arizona Cardinals take on the Denver Broncos in the afternoon/evening.  If the Red Birds can prevail, they will be 4-0 on the season and I will celebrate with a victory splash in the new pool; something I previously could only do at my buddy Chuck's house, 3 streets away.   Even in January, we will celebrate wins with a Florida Polar Bear plunge.  I should mention, we didn't opt for the heater with this pool.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


It's been about 100 days since I felt the urge to blog. I lost my Dad and biggest fan on April 7th.  He was suffering from cancer and suffer he did. It was a relief to all when he passed at the age of 81. I was lucky enough to be at his side at the very moment he went to God.  It was the first immediate family member to die in my lifetime. May God bless him and keep him near me all the days of my life. 

I've fished a couple of times since I've been away but not for over a month now. I've got a friend and one of my grandsons coming in July, so we will certainly get out there. So much has happened in the last 100 days. 

My youngest of 4 graduated high school, ending a 27 year run of my paying child support to one or 2 ex-wives. 

My wife of 14 years had her youngest get married and bless us with our 8th grandchild (between our 7 combined kids)

We did a partial remodel of our home, knocking out 12' of block wall and 2 windows, replace it with 12' wide pocket sliding glass doors, equipped with hurricane resistant impact glass.  We're now on day 64 of a custom pool installation. The paver deck is being put in as I write this. 

My wife fell and broke her hip, undergoing a partial hip replacement surgery last Friday. I'm staying home to be the caretaker, while still being able to work in my home office.  After the 4th of July holiday I have to go back on the road, so our 14 year old grandson will come "Mimi-sit".

The company I've worked for for the past 8 years entered into a merger with another huge landscape company, making us a 21,000 employee company with over 2 billion in sales.  While this sounds great, I am nervous what the future will hold for me there. These types of mega mergers always come with staff changes and I'm hoping not to be one of them.  The good news is that I'm on the integration team so that likely means I'm in the long term plans.  I'm hoping Dad will put a good word into God and see that I'm taken care of. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 77*

I took the Mako 161 out fishing the canals around my home for a few hours this past weekend.   Things were fairly uneventful, catching some small snook and redfish that were released. I did land my first redfish with multiple spots, or false eyes as they are known. Most redfish have one black spot on each side of their tail.  Researchers believe this is used to fool predators and give the redfish an advantage to escape.  Occasionally anglers will land redfish with multiple spots and this is considered a treat.  I don't know what causes the phenomenon, I just think it's a rare catch.

As sunset drew near and I was on approach to my home port, I decided to continue 3/10 of a mile to the end of my canal channel in order to give my line one last chance to produce.  There were no strikes to the end so I turned around and headed for home.  I called my wife to tell her I was coming in for a landing.  With just a few hundred feet left I shift the boat to neutral and picked my road up from the rocket launcher in order to reel in and put it away...or so I thought.

The hit came on the first turn of the reel and I knew it was big.  I was armed with a one week old Wright & McGill Sabalos 3500 reel spooled with 20 pound test Power Pro braided line, with a 2' fluorocarbon shock leader on a one week old W&M Captain Blair Wiggins Inshore Slam rod.  My lure was the Storm Twitch 3/8 oz in Pearl Shad.

The fish went on several long runs, testing that drag. Since I was alone on board, I had to work the rod, reel and pilot the boat to chase the fish and get some line back.  I've lost my share of big fish and have learned what not to do.  My focus was on keeping the line tight while trying to not lose control of the boat in in the narrow canal.  I could have dropped the Powerpole anchor but given the long runs the fish kept doing I thought best to leave the boat mobile.    Besides, the Powerpole would give this fish one more thing to wrap itself around and prevent me from landing it.

My next door neighbors had just docked their boat and they could see I was hooked up.  I thought briefly, at least I will have a witness who will know I had something big on, should the behemoth escape me.   But this was to be my fish.  When it flashed it's enormous head past me it confirm my hope. Snook,  there it is!

The fight would go on for some fifteen minutes. My neighbor would later tell me she wondered why I was taking so long to bring it in.  Really?  My arms are killing me and I need two more.  My net is a collapsible type, to save space on board. When you need to deploy it, it takes two hands to slide a shaft forward and lock it into position.  Somehow, between shift the throttle, steering the boat, handling the rod, reeling the reel and running around my deck to keep the fish from crossing under the boat and snapping my rod in two (which a snook has done to me), somehow I managed to open and lock the net.

The big snook took one more run, toward my neighbors dock piling. If he wraps himself around that, this story end badly.  But it didn't.  Even though he was too big for the net, I managed to land this linesider.

Florida size limits on snook are slot limits. You can't keep snook smaller than 28" because they are still growing. You can't keep snook bigger than 33", as they are the spawners.  This is the first time I can remember hoping a fish wasn't too big.   My boat has a Florida law stick sticker with a ruler for quick measuring.  My luck continued as it came in right at the top of the slot.

I've spent years searching the waters of Southwest Florida for a snook like this. How was I to know I'd find him in my own backyard?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Home in Port Charlotte
Low 67, high 82

I fished both weekend days. Saturday I launched the boat at 7 AM and landed 3 Spanish Mackerel and 1 Speckled Trout by 9 in the morning near the Charlotte Beach Complex.  A boat with three older guys ran over my trolling lines and got braided line wrapped around their prop shaft. It took about 40 minutes to clear that mess but we were able to and departed without bad feelings. 

Things slowed in the afternoon so I returned to troll the canals. I hooked a nice large snook that fought hard in the mangrove trees on one side of the canal, then crossed over to the other side and mixed itself among some pepper tree branches. I was confident I could wear him down and kept constant tension on the line but still, somehow, he broke me off and escaped with a brand new lure. 

I re-rigged and dropped another trolling line. It wasn't long before I was hooked up again.  This snook did several aerial leaps in an attempt to cut my line with his gill plates but I controlled him and landed him with the net.  24" is too short.  That first one would have been the one to keep.  

Sunday I was joined by my old snowbird friend, Pete from Buffalo, NY.  It has been about 4 years since Pete was here and I was thrilled to take him out on the Mako Flats boat.  We launched at 540 AM, hoping to be on the grass flats before sunrise and get that top water trout bite.  Unfortunately in the darkness I miss-judged my proximity to the east side sand bar and ended up running the boat aground pretty hard. We both had to enter the thigh deep water and it took us about thirty minutes to work the hull loose from the sand I had buried it in.  Pete, at 71, is still in great shape and was very good natured about the mishap. We got back underway but had missed the topwater bite. 

We decided to troll a residential canal community called Pirate Harbor.  The canals there are extremely deep water for our area, averaging 20'.  I hooked some snook in there last summer while fishing with my buddy Jeff, from California.  Today, Pete hooked up on a monstrous fight that turned out to be a big Jack Cravelle.  These are not table fare but a lot of fun to fight on light tackle.  Pete did a great job controlling the fight and I used the net to help him land it.  A quick photo, then we released the scrapper.  Later in these canals we encounter a huge manatee, seen below. 

We left pirate harbor after the tide turned and fished the flats outside the sandbar.  We landed many Ladyfish and kept a few for cut bait to seek Redfish later.  A pod of bottle nose dolphin was drawn to us by all of the Ladyfish activity.  Those dolphins followed us for over an hour, as we tried to leave them.  There were many other boaters around us but all we saw being caught were Ladyfish. 

About 12:30 we headed for the Myakka Cutoff and one of my favorite Redfish creeks.  We pinned the plat down in about 2' of water and cast cut Ladyfish into the mangroves.  At 2 o'clock Pete was hooked up with a decent fighting Red.  It measured out at 21" and was pretty beefy, so he went in the live well.
Ten minutes later I had one shot at my Red on the opposite shoreline but I didn't have a good hook set and I missed him.  I saw him flip at the surface so I knew what I'd lost.  For the next hour it was nothing but catfish so we pulled up at 3:30 and headed for the home port. 

On the way in, we trolled the canal again.  That lucky Pete landed a decent Spanish Mackerel and another big old Jack.  We kept the Mac and planned on releasing the Jack but he had inhaled so much of the lure that he died during surgery.  We kept him and later put him to rest inside my crab trap along my dock. 

That night I was absolutely spent from back to back fishing days but I certainly wouldn't have it any other way.   Below are a few photos from the weekend.  Click each one for full screen imagery. 

On Saturday the air temperature was 55 but the water was 70, resulting in a beautiful foggy sunrise.

The morning water was nearly flat
The Charlotte Beach Complex and fishing pier.  There is a free boat launch here but you pay to park.

Saturday's catch; Spanish Mackerel and a Speckled Sea Trout

Buffalo Pete and one of two Jack Cravelle landed on the day

Pete's Redfish, landed in the Myakka Cutoff.  He graciously donated those fillets to the Captain.

The Captain and crew on the return to port after a long day that included a 4 AM wake up call, an aquatics workout to pull the partially buried boat out of the sand and a lot of casting/reeling in fish. 
It was a 14 hour marathon and worth every minute. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Home in Port Charlotte

55* at 4:30AM. 

Boat uncovered at off the lift at 4:50.  First cup of coffee at 5. Today I pursue the "Centropomus Undecimalis" better known as Snook.

Here's a shot from a year ago when we weren't allowed to keep them.  It's not enough to find them; each angler is allowed to keep one per day but keepers must meet a slot limit of 28"-33" only.  Even if I don't find a "slot fish" they are a blast to fight, catch and release.  

The season is open from March 1 - April 30.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Home in Port Charlotte 
Low 63, high 82

I recently put the boat on the lift in my backyard canal.  I have been trailer in for so long, I can't remember the last time I had used the lift; at least 6 months or more. This time of year, when the harbor and Gulf waters cool, we get a lot more fish up the canals seeking warmth. 

The water temperature was 62* when I launched Saturday morning at 8AM in a misty fog.  After a long week of mind wrenching work at my desk, I needed some escape.  The only live bait I brought was a single blue crab from my trap. I wanted to give my artificial baits a good workout today.  I used only the electric motor to quitetly drift the ebb tide and trolled a lure that's worked well in the past.   I used the auto-pilot feature on my trolling motor to steer the boat so I could stand on the bow and cast a top-water lure at the docks along my route. Twenty minutes into the trip, the trolling lure was hooked up.  

In tidal waters, when you go out fishing alone in the canals, there's always a risk of drifting into someone's dock or boat while you are focused on bringing your fish in.  That's not a problem now that I have the Powerpole shallow water anchor system.  When the rod goes off I shift the boat to neutral, or in this case click off the Minn Kota, and push a button on a key fob around my neck. (There's another button at the helm but the key fob allows me to deploy the Powerpole from anywhere on board).  The Powerpole uses hydraulics to push an anchor pin into the sea floor and secure the boat in depths up to 8', which is a lot of the backwaters in a Southwest Florida.   It takes about 5 seconds for the entire process to occur. 

My first fish was a juvenile snook, about 15" long; safely released and I was back underway.  About twenty minutes later the trolling line went off again. This time I landed a nice 12" mangrove snapper. They only have to be 10" to keep so he went on ice.  I've never thought of snapper as a fish to troll for so this was a nice surprise.   About 4 of these would make a nice meal. 

After the fog burned off I switched my casting lure from a top water plug to a gold spoon.  Hopes were high as I slowly cruised the mangrove lined channel leading to Alligator Bay, near the Port Charlotte Beach Complex, but again my casts were met with no strikes.  Entering the open waters of Charlotte Harbor, the trolling plug again jumped off.  Throttle, neutral; Powerpole down; fish on!  A nice speckled trout, measuring 18", would mean I was eating well that night.  I called my wife and told her I had dinner covered.   

I saw a friend, Glen, coming across the harbor and waved him over. He doesn't usually fish weekends but with the rains over the past week, he wanted to get out. He said he spent a few hours up the canals at the end of Midway but had struck out. He was headed for home at slack tide. 

I spent the couple of hours trolling areas of the Peace River between the Beach Complex, Bayshore Pier and the US41 bridge.  No strikes were made but it was nice to silently cruise the area.  By noon I had run the trolling motor batteries down to about 25% so I fired up my outboard for the first time all day and cruised around under power scanning the sonar beneath the bridges.  Not much action there. 

By 1PM the tide would be slowing flooding the backwater creeks so I headed for the Myakka Cutoff.  The Harbor was glass flat. Even if I wasn't fishing it would be a wonderful day out here.  The water depth in the Cutoff ranges from a few inches to three feet.  It takes some time to learn where you run in there, especially during the winter extreme low tides.  Flats boats like my little Mako are right at home.

I headed for a creek that I hadn't yet tried; one Glen told me about a few weeks ago.  The approach to this creek was so skinny I had to leave the trolling motor cradled, raise the outboard completely and push-pole my way across a flat of 6".  I set up at the mouth of the creek and quartered out that blue crab I'd brought along.  While I let the crab soak under the mangrove trees I stayed active by casting lures in the opposite direction.  I gave it two hours, both at the mouth and just inside but this creek wasn't going to produce today.  At 3:45 I pulled up to head in.  The incoming tide had brought sufficient water for me to use the trolling motor to cross the flat and I was able to fire up the Merc 115 by 4PM.  I ran 32 knots across the smooth Harbor to the entrance to my canal channel.  I couldn't resist trolling that lucky plug on the incoming tide.  That was a good decision. 

As soon as I made the turn from the Countryman to the Pellam Waterways, BAM!  Biggest strike of the day.  Neutral...Powerpole down, Snook on!  With 15 pound braid and a 20 pound leader, I knew I'd have to play this right. Snook fight by not just pulling hard on your line and trying to wrap your line around dock pilings, they jump out of the water and contort their body to use their razor sharp gill plates to cut your leader line.  20 pound florocarbon could fair like butter to a hot knife here.  He made several runs for the many dock pilings but I kept him out. He made several aerial leaps but I used the rod to drive him back down and keep the line tight.  The action drew the attention of 4 different homeowners who stopped their yard or boat work to watch the fight.  I don't mind being the center of attention, so long as I don't get beat.  After a fun five minutes I wore him out and persuaded him to the side of the boat.  Two of the spectators started shouting to see the fish and offered to take a picture.  I pulled prize out of the water and measured it out at 27".  If I'd pinched his tail, he would have been 28.   That's the minimum size for snook keepers but unfortunately the season doesn't open again until March 1. This was February 1.  One guy told me the season opened today but I knew that was for the Atlantic waters only.  I took a quick photo of my own, then posed for the neighbor before putting my catch back into the water. I knew he was tired from the fight so I held onto his tail for a few minutes to give him an opportunity to get revived and re-oxygenated.  Another neighbor hollered out, "Hey, let me fillet that thing before you release it."  I wish.  I whispered to the fish, "Let's meet back here in four weeks, okay?"  He didn't even look back as he swam away. 

It's hard to believe I've been fishing these waters for more than 6 years and I still have yet to taste what I'm told is the most delicious white meat fillet in this part of the world.  For 3 years the snook was under a protective catch and release only order, after the freeze of 2010.  I caught them but I always released them.  When the season opened last September I never had occasion to catch a slot sized keeper. The Gulf fishing rules mandate, in order to harvest snook, the fish must be between 28-32".  The narrow slot is a further measure to protect one of Florida's most important game fish.   Perhaps by making them so hard to come by only adds to their legend but I sure would like to savor that flavor. 

My consolation prize was the trout & snapper dinner, accompanied by a baked sweet potato. I went sleep last night dreaming of that snook and shaking my head that I'd landed it a month too soon.

Click on pics for full screen

A quick pic before release

A low quality image from a neighbor's flip phone 

Monday, January 13, 2014


Home in Port Charlotte 
52*, high going to 81*

Tough week of work found me in CA, NV, MD and GA before returning home after midnight Saturday morning.  Went to be at 2 but launched the boat at 9 for some much needed fishing. Brought my old buddy Mike, from Arizona with me to catch us some Redfish and boy, did we ever!

Winds were blowing 15 MPH, so it was a choppy ride from the El Jobean ramp to the Myakka cutoff but that's only a 5-10 minute ride in open water, so it's not big deal.  As soon as we reached the cutoff, the thick cover of the mangrove trees makes the wind a light and comfortable breeze. With an incoming tide, we pinned the boat down in a foot of water, in the center of a creek.   Using cut Ladyfish on 2 lines and quartered blue crab on 2 lines, we cast lines under the mangroves off all four corners of the boat and waited.  It didn't take long.  

Having lost a monster of a Red in this same spot a few weeks ago, I brought a lot more patience with me this day...and my good net.  When the Penn Fierce rod started twitching I told Mike I would leave it in its holder and wait for the right moment.  With the size baits we had out, I could see the fish sampling and nibbling the offering before engulfing the hook.  We waited a good five minutes while the fish played with it but when the rod completely bend over and the reel drag cried out, it was time to go to work.  A five minute fight with 30 pound braid wore him out and Mike sealed the deal with my net.

He measured right at 27", which is the top of the slot.  Redfish are regulated by a slot limit. You can't keep them smaller than 19" and you can't keep them bigger than 27". This fish was perfect.  After a few photos we put him on ice, telling him we'd see him at dinner.

Rebaiting and recasting into the same spot, it was now time to wait again.  This time, it was nearly an hour.  We had time to enjoy a sandwich and hydrate with some bottled water.  Can't forget to protect against dehydration in this 83* January weather.

The next rod to go off was the Blair Wiggins In Shore Series.  This is currently my favorite rod. I have it spooled with 15 pound braid on a Pflueger spinning reel, with 30lb Flourocarbon leader line and a 3/0 circle hook.  There was no playing with this one.  The Red hit the cut crab hard and took off with it. Mike went to work on a real big fish.  The 10 pound fish put all he had against the 15 pound line and it was a close, well fought fight for about ten minutes.  Each time the fish got close to the boat he'd see the net and run for his life.  Mike demonstrated great patience and skill with the rod.  The result was another top of the slot Red Drum but this one was clearly fatter than mine. 

Not a bad catch for an Arizona angler!

Since the limit is one per person per day, it was time to head to a different spot to find different fish. 
We left the comfort of the cutoff and braved the high wind and seas to get into Tippycanoe Bay, where we caught and released short speckled trout and kept a couple of 12" sand trout. 

Later, we pulled the boat out off the El Jobean ramp and relaunched it from Placida Park, near the Gasparilla Pass at the Gulf of Mexico.  With the protection of the leeward side of the island, we fished in very calm seas.  Using the i-Pilot, we held position over a 26' hole.  Since it was after 3PM now, there was very little boat traffic coming and going through the pass. I suspected most had gone home to watch the NFL playoffs.  

From this spot we used shrimp tipped jigs to catch keeper mangrove snapper and sheepshead, as well as catching and releasing short Gag Grouper and sharks we didn't want to mess with.  By 5PM we could see a storm front approaching from the North so it was time to call it a day.   We enjoyed from Redfish fillets for dinner that night, coupled with my wife's homemade Navy Bean soup.  

As I write this on Monday morning, I'm preparing for a business trip to Houston.  Before departing for the airport, we plan on eating a sample platter of fresh sheepshead, trout and snapper fillets coupled with Caribbean rice. 

Below are a few shots Mike took of my boat on the water. 

Next Sunday I will be hosting my work team for a fishing trip before 3 days of meetings.
We will have a total of 6 people fishing on 3 boats. 
Stay tuned.