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