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!