Sunday, December 27, 2015


Fished Saturday with Mark Maxwell. He wasn't a very good guest...he caught all the fish, hahaha. 
Actually on my very first cast of the day I landed a nice sized Ladyfish and thought it would be a great day of catching. It was, just not for me!  Mark caught 3 Speckled Trout in the slot, on the grass flats of the West Wall.  The tides were extremely low, as forecast. We beached the boat on a sandbar and really enjoyed doing some wade fishing in the 72* water. Mark even landed on of his keepers about 100 yards away from the boat and still managed to get it in the cooler.  He also landed a nice blue crab on hook and line. 

About noon we headed up one of our favorite creeks in search of Reds. Since we had the perfect baits shrimp, cut Ladyfish and quartered crab...we had to get Reds, right?  Wrong.  We saw a few short ones but couldn't get them to bite.  I had a real nice snook fight, with one acrobatic leap, then he realized I was under armed with 20 pound line and leader and he took me into the mangroves and broke it off.  

About 3 we went back outside on the high tide and crossed the West Wall Sandbar, drifting in 4-5 feet.  We each had shots at a few more trout and Lady's but only landed the one more Lady for Mark.  He missed his chance at a 4th keeper trout when a frayed leader failed above the popping cork.  Should have re-rigged after that battle with the mangrove tree, eh buddy?

I hooked something huge that swallowed a hunk of Ladyfish free lined behind the boat. Not sure what it was...saw silver flash in the water before the breakoff...also saw a huge opened mouth making me think it was my first shot at a gator trout but I can't say for sure. When it saw the boat, it turned tail and broke me off. My remaining leader was left noticeably frayed.  Whatever it was, it ate a big chunk of meat.  Didn't feel or look like a shark at all.  Might have been a huge spanish mackerel?  Not thinking sail cat because of the frayed leader. Of well...mysteries of the flats. 

Winds picked up at 4 and made for a choppy ride back to the ramp at Charlotte Beach Complex.  I was in bed by 7:45 and slept til 4 AM.  Another great day out there.  Mark shot this awesome photo of my Mako beached on the sandbar.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Tough finding fish of size yesterday.  No Pompano in my usual place in Placida...guessing water still too warm at 72*.  We fished from the Gasparilla Pass to Devilfish Key to Bull Bay and back to the Pass.  Caught many trout in the 8-12" variety, biggest being a quarter inch shy of a keeper.  Had a couple of strong breakoffs in the Pass at 28'. Landed baby red and gag grouper, grunts, small mangrove snapper. 

Funniest moment of the day. In Bull Bay, Mark had what may have been the first keeper trout. Right near the boat, his leader knot failed and the fish took the hook, shrimp, leader and cork.  We could see the cork bobbing around and the fish tried to shake it loose. Mark asked me to bring the boat over so he could try to get it back. I'm thinking, what?  We're going to chase a hooked fish and float all around Bull Bay?  As soon as the boat would get close, the fish would move, but actually not far.  We used the trolling motor to chase him around for a few minutes and Mark could see the trout. He took my net out and got a shot at it. He picked up the float and came up with the entire rig, including the intact shrimp.  The trout apparently was never hooked, just didn't want to let the bait go until we pushed him to.  That's the kind of day it was. 

The wind was much stronger than forecast...easily 15 much of the day.  Had continuing troubles with my Powerpole. Works great in my driveway and for much of the morning at sea and then decides to stop powering. Frustrating.  Feel like it has to be my poor wire crimping job.  It's the only thing that makes sense.  Nonetheless, we had another nice day on the water. Did 3 webcasts on Periscope, for over an hour of air time during the day and still had battery power left on my iPhone. Our wives enjoyed watching us from home. Never had a good excuse to turn on the Go Pro, although I wish I would have captured the run back from Bull Bay to Placida.  We exited out the north end of Bull Bay and ran hard and fast in really skinny water.  As we got back to the blue water of Gasparilla Sound, we avoided the swinging bridge by short cutting across the flats to the west end of the trestle.  Don't know how we didn't run aground in the few inches of water we flew across but it would have been cool to have on camera. 

We finished the last two hours in the Gasparilla Pass and lamented how this could be the first time Mark and I fished together that we didn't bring home at least one keeper. On his last cast of the day, Mark landed his first Spanish Mackeral, a very nice 18"er.  Mission accomplished. 

Tonight Mark and his family will join my wife and I for the Lighted Boat Parade on the Peace River.  Next weekend I take my youngest son (19) to Indy to see his Colts play the Texans. I tried to raise the boy a Cardinals fan but it didn't take.  After that it's Christmas at home, then NYE in Key West.  Have friends coming from Phoenix for NYE and will likely fish one day here before we take the KW Express out of Fort Myers.  2016 is coming. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Great day of catching fish and cheating Mother Nature. Winds were forecast at 15-20 with choppy seas. Made a plan with my buddy Mark to launch before sun up, stay near the ramp and be willing to abort the day if things got real nasty. He said yes and was at my house at 530 this morning.  We bought 4 dozen medium shrimp and launched from the El Jobean ramp just as dawn was breaking. Decided it might add to the fun if we broadcast part of our trip live on Periscope. We did 4 short broadcasts and had up to 13 followers at a time with us. 

We went into Tippycanoe Bay in search of trout. We found them and and a bunch of their friends. We caught easily a dozen trout, mostly 12-14"ers but found 3 fatties in the 15-16" range that went in the cooler. We also caught and released a dozen or more red fish, ranging from 12-16". A bunch of catfish, one sheepshead, my first black drum and two Ladyfish.  6 different species in 5 hours, upwards of 30 fish released.  Everything was caught on live shrimp under DOA corks with 1/0 circle hooks.  What a great day!  But it wasn't quite done yet. 

As we headed back to the ramp in 2-3' seas, I told Mark he still had a shot at the inshore slam. Trout, Reds, Snook all in one day.  Doesn't my sheepy count in the slam?  The channel between the Myakka and the El Jobean ramp is a great snook habitat. We trolled a Storm Twitch Stick lure. Mark hooked up with a very nice snook and said, "here we go."  I told him as long as he got the leader touch, it would count, since snook closed at the end of Novemeber.  He battle the big linesider back to the boat, surviving a nice jump and driving it back down.  As it approached the starboard stern, we saw it was a nice 30" snook.  At 8' away, poooof, he spit the hook. Gone. No slam.  Mark hooked one more, much smaller one in the same channel but lost it at the back of the boat.  No leader touch.  The slam eludes him again. 

We were off the water by noon as the white caps continue to build behind us.  Great day of Messing About in Southwest Florida. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Almost 7 weeks after reconstructive shoulder surgery I got back on the water.  My shipmate this day was Mark Maxwell, the Registered Nurse who'd provided my care while hospitalized overnight.  Our fast friendship was fueled by a mutual love of fishing.  Mark is from West Virginia and his wife is also an RN. They relocated to SWFL about a year ago. Mark is a seasoned Bass Angler but has never before fished in Saltwater. 

I'd planned on getting live shrimp to take along but when I went to change the batteries on my bait bucket, the air bubbler was corroded shut and back screw was stripped so I couldn't get it open. I've had such bad luck from those devices; one never lasting me a year. I got fed up and decided we weren't taking live shrimp.  I grabbed a bag of frozen shrimp and told Mark we'd catch our own live bait and try out these Berkely Gulp Shad soft plastics I had.  

We launched from my dock at 8 and headed South 172* for about 18 miles, running 30 knots in seas that ranged from glass to a light chop. At the Northeast corner of Pine Island, near Bokeelia, there are a series of really health grass flats that hold trout and pin fish.  The trout weren't there but the steroidal pin fish were.   Huge pins.  We used #6 bait hooks rigged under popping corks with 1" tips of frozen shrimp and caught a dozen pin fish, averaging about the size of my hand up to a couple of big boys that went 6".   

At one point, Mark's line started ripping off drag and he said, this is no pin fish.  I told him it was acting like shark and surmised it to be a Bonnet Head, knowing this flat.  Since he was bait fishing, he still had 10 pound line with that pinky nail sized #6 hook.  He fought the shark perfectly, letting her go on several long runs and each time working her back to boat until we could land her.  This became Mark's first real Saltwater catch (other than bait).

(Click on photo for full image)

The Bonnet Head is the best tasting of the inshore shark species. No special treatment needed except you must gut them and bleed them within 30 minutes of catch, then get them on ice. We'd had to bend the big girl backwards to fit her in my cooler.  And that tiny hook was kept as a trophy. 

(Click on photo for full image)

After filling the live well with pin fish, it was time to head to the west wall in search of Redfish. 
As I've said on here before, the west wall of Charlotte Harbor has many tidal creeks accessible by flats boats and kayaks.  On an incoming tide, it's hard to beat the action in any of these.  This day the tide was very strong, with some areas showing currents just ripping past the mangroves.  The tide was 2' above mean low and we were in 6' of water.  We approached under trolling motor only, selected an area that produced for me in August and pinned the boat down. 

Mark rigged up big with 30 pound test and a 4/0 hook with a large live pin fish.  He expertly cast it toward the mangrove, dropping it just before the foliage.  Within 5 seconds he felt the bait get wolfed down by Bull Red.  The drag was screaming up stream and just like that, snapped the 30 pound braid above his leader. The look on Mark's face was like I'd just told a 7 year old there's no such thing as Santa.  The next case was even more frustrating for him. 

He re-rigged and selected another oversized live bait and cast toward the same hole in the mangroves.  Once again, very quickly, Fish On!  This fight last longer, with Mark having loosened his drag a bit and patiently allowing the Big Red to go on some long runs before bringing him back toward us. When he'd gotten him about 20' from the boat he uttered those famous words..."Get the net."  At 10' away the fish surface and looked right at us. His face was huge, the grimace seeming to say he'd been in this situation many times before. His body was the kind men dream of the night before a big fishing trip.  It seemed like slow motion to us when 'Ol Red turned his head right and snapped it back left, spitting the hook and torn up, formerly live bait 5' away.  He slowly turned and swam back from where'd come. 

Twice more Mark would practice the kind of catch and release no angler wants.  Cast, catch, fight, see that beautiful Redfish glow and watch the fish release itself.  The advice I offered was that perhaps those big J hooks he was using should be switched out for circle hooks, which are designed to catch right in the corner of the mouth.  Additionally, he was rigged from braid to swivel to wire leader.  I prefer to rig braid direct to florocarbon leader with no swivels and either 2/0 circle hooks or these days I'm loving the Rockport Rattler Jig.

I chose to cut up the dead pin fish into big chunks and rig my Rockport.  Mark gave up the honey hole to let me try where all four of his hook ups had come.  I soaked a nice center cut pinfish steak for about 10 minutes before seeing the line slowly begin heading upstream.  There was no huge strike but when the line came tight, the drag ripped off the 20 pound braid with that unmistakable Redfish run.  I took worked him slowly, wearing him down, letting him run in the middle of the creek to his heart's content. Only when he would head for the trees, would I get aggressive in the fight.  I could tell he was hooked really good and wasn't going anywhere fast, so long as I didn't overplay my knots.   I didn't think about my surgically repaired shoulder once during the action.  When Mark netted him, the end result was a nice fat,mid-slot, Redfish measuring 24.5".  Hoping we could do better, I released my live well, telling him to patiently swim around in there for a while.  If we can catch bigger crooks, the Governor would grant him a reprieve and he would be pardoned for his crime.  But it wasn't to be. 

We gave it another couple hours in that creek, changing positions many times but the only new catch was a huge Sailcat Mark landed and released.  Storm clouds were gathering and it was after 4. 

We headed Northeast, crossing the West Wall Sandbar in 2' of water.  The seas were angry now, 2-3 footers, with 15-20 MPH winds and pelting rain. It didn't matter that we were soaked to the bone. We'd had a terrific outting and I was back in the game.  When we got to the canals we paused to take a shot of my keeper.  Later that night, I invited my red scaled friend to dinner. 

(Click on photos for full images)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

GoPro and Grandtwins

 Last weekend I mounted my GoPro camera on the poling platform of my Mako 161 Flats boat and it worked like a champ. This is the same mount they use on airplane wings so I was fairly confident it would stay put, I wasn't going to risk loosing it so I rigged a secondary line around it. If the suction mount failed, the entire assembly would remain tethered to my poling platform. No issues though. From trailering the boat to running the flats and channels, this thing didn't move. 

My battery lasted about 5 hours, mostly in standby, with the wifi constantly broadcasting to my remote. We shot about 20 minutes of actual footage during that time before it died. I spent more time searching for fish that day than shooting movies so I'm sure I could capture hours of footage on one battery if I chose to. Nonetheless, I will bring my second battery aboard next time and keep it in a waterproof pouch. 

We only caught a few fish this day and none were filmed. In future trips I plan to use my "selfie stick" mount to capture those amazing underwater fish fight scenes. This was my first go at the GoPro but I'm sure with time it will get better. I love the camera quality, am overly impressed with the suction mount and pretty pleased with the battery life. 

Here's a link to the final 3 minute video we shot and edited.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wonderful Day on the West Wall

Super enjoyable day on the West Wall. Launched from Charlotte Beach Cx Ramp at about 6:45 AM and headed Southwest at a 210 degree heading. 

Winds were blowing out of the east at 10 with a light chop. This would be advantageous in that it would give a little more water to cross the West bar and with an incoming tide the bait would be carried into the West Wall creeks.  If word was out in the fish schools, this would bring a crowd. 

I went a little past Mid Point and chose one of the many tidal creeks.  The sun was well behind the clouds, giving a little bonus time for top water action. A bone colored plug drew an immediate strike from a small snook and I landed/released him.  That would be the only top water hit for the day. My next bait of choice was a live shrimp under a DOA deadly combo.  I worked my way into the creek, moving about 25' at a time, casting and seeking a hit but fining none. 

After coming around the bend above, I cast the DOA float ahead to the left and then deployed another rod with a great new j.i.g. I bought at Franks Tent Sale, called a Rockport Rattler.  Jeff from Franks shop showed me how to rig a live shrimp on the Rockport.  I cast this one to mangroves ahead on my right and as soon as I closed the bail, BAM!, the fight was on.   I could tell by the drag pull this was a big redfish.  I had 20 pound braid and a 30 pound leader.  I was so glad he didn't hit the float rig, since it was half the tackle.  I battled the fish, used the trolling motor to my advantage to keep the bow mid creek, instead of drifting into the trees, where the big fellas would gain the upper hand.  A few times I had to fight to keep him away from that second line out there, thus the dangers of one anger with two lines out. 

The first time I saw his broad shoulders and big head turn at the surface I began to worry he may be too big to keep.  He was a nice one.  He went on several long runs away from me, each time being brought back with the firm Rockport hook set perfectly in the corner of his mouth.  After about ten minutes of patient fighting on my behalf and mad desperation on his behalf, I reached for my collapsible net and deployed it.  A couple minutes more to get him to get up and I had him. 

27", as big as your allowed to keep in the slot. He had to weigh a good 5 pounds.  8:45 AM and I was already limited out on Reds.  

The rest of the day brought just a flat head cat and a sail cat but I wasn't complaining.  I worked my way back north along the wall, stopping at a few more spots but getting no strikes.  I went up trout creek for the first time, hoping to complete an inshore slam but not today. 

By 1PM the seas were picking up and a few thunderheads rumbled in the distance so I called it a day.  The big fella made for 5 meals, weighing about 7 ounces each.  Not bad for one fish.  Enjoyed the victory dinner, coupled with a Sam's Summer Ale. 

I shot some video today, 2 short clips and one 4plus minutes of the creek I worked. Will put some YouTube links up when they are ready. The long one is quite enjoyable to me. 

Happy catching, everyone. Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Tough weekend for us.  After changing the fuel water seperator filter on Friday, I never started the boat. On Saturday morning before departure I decided to test start the boat on the trailer. I never do that. Good thing I did because the boat wouldn't start.  Fuel primer bulb wouldn't harden. What's the chance that goes bad too?  Next to none but since it's a maintenance item, may as well change the entire fuel line and bulb assembly, from the filter to the outboard. $50 at Wal Mart. 

New bulb still wouldn't harden.   Determined no fuel was getting through the new filter.  Took the filter off and found the outer corrosion was just as bad on the underside of the cap.  Scrubbed it up with some Emory paper, deciding next time I will definitely change the entire assembly.   Put it all back together...primer bulb hardened...good!  Motor started...better!  Let's go fishing. 

Worked the East wall behind the bar. Went as far south as Cormerant Key,mother went a mile back in the mangroves to search new grounds for Reds. Caught one short sheepshead (11") and 7 catfish.   Went back outside after high tide and was able to cross the bar at 1.5' above mean low.  Trolled a twitch stick on the way home and landed a nice 19" Spanish Mackeral that ended his day on my fillet table.  Made the dinner party at Celtic Ray at seven and was in bed by ten. 

Sunday we started at the Placida Ramp at 9am. We promised the wives we'd be home by noon, so we had a short window. After parking the truck and trailer I returned to find my buddy had broken a deck latch by forcing it open, not realizing they turn to unlock.  We headed out the channel until normal conditions but the second we tried to throttle up and run for the pass.....pppffftttt.  Dead in the water.   Trying to start her sounded very familiar to the previous day in the driveway.  My calculations told me we should have had plenty of fuel for a 3 hour fishing trip. (I don't rely on the gauge, since the sending unit is unreliable). I know what the motor uses and how many trips I get out of a 35 gallon tank.  But this day, I was praying I was wrong and we'd simply run out of fuel.  

We used the trolling motor to return from the Intercoastal to the ramp.  I had just bought a new 25' dock line (16.99) and it came in handy to load the boat onto the trailer....sans motor.  We drove to Race Track on 776 & Toledo Blade, where we took on 30 gallons of fuel.  This means we had 5 left and didn't run out.  Back to the driveway and back to the drawing board. 

Back to Wal Mart for the full fuel water seperator kit ($30). Returned home to find that, although the filters were universal in size, the fuel hose brass fittings were not.  Trip to NAPA  Trip to Home  Trip to West Marine...yes.   Cudoes to Jeff the store manager for excellent customer service!  Can't say what he did....but he took great care of us!  Picked up new 
deck latch while we were there ($45).  Thanks to my buddy for paying for what he broke. Also decided to spend $6 extra on a brass coupler to by-pass the filter system altogether, as a trouble shooting step.

Back home, the by-pass took 5 minutes to put on and the primer bulb hardened after 5 squeezes and I knew we were close to a solution. Boat ran perfectly on the by-pass.  Shut it down before we picked up any old crap from the fuel tank.  Installed the new seperator kit. Neighbor suggested throwing away the new $8 filter we'd run on yesterday....just in case the old cap had deposited any crap in there. Good call. Put another new filter on the cap assembly.  Changed out all old hose clamps too, since we were in there.  Remember, these flats boats take a lot of water into the bilge, so you can't be too careful with corroded parts.  Zoom....she runs like new!  

By 1 PM Sunday we were done and the girls had a feast ready for us, pool side.  Some Bucknut Style jalapeño poppers, a loaf of onion liverwurst from Kallis Sausage shop, with crackers, and our broiled Spanish Mackerel over crackers with hot sauce...yum, yum, yum.   Boat problems, what boat problems?  We drank and swam from 2-5 in a beautiful weekend of weather in Southwest Florida.

It's 530 as I finish writing this.  The girls just lit the grill for HUGE ribeye steaks and corn on the cob.  I'm trying to talk everyone into trailering the boat down to Placida for a quick Sunset Cruise after dinner.  Will let you know how that works out. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

40 to 1 ODDS

I fished this weekend with my next door neighbor Rolando on my boat. It was a real nice flat day so we started in the Gasparilla Pass, near Placida, catching Mangrove Snapper in 27',  later went 5 miles off shore to the Tremblay Reef, catching grunts and sheepshead at 40', went into the Myakka River, catching Spanish Mackerel at 10', moved to the backwater mangroves in the Myakka Cutoff and caught cats, trout and Redfish in depths of 1-6'.  Turns out the biggest fish of the day came in the shallowest water. 

We began in the center of the below chart, between Gasparilla Island and Little Gasparilla.  The chart here only shows 1' due to the wide sand bar that blocks much of the pass.  The depths south of the bar go 15-20' with a 25-32' hole in the center. This hole is a great spot for Mangrove Snapper but you've got to be skilled at the helm. This is a busy pass with big boats legally blowing through here at high speeds. It's unlawful to put out an anchor line in this narrow channel but you can drift fish or use your trolling motor. If yours has an I-Pilot, you've got a real advantage to sit atop the hole without being anchored down.   

The 39' fish haven shown on the far left of the next chart is the Tremblay Reef. Since this spot is so widely known, it gets a lot of fishing pressure. It can be hit or miss.  This day we pulled up small grunts and sheepshead.  The Grouper here are all too small to keep. You really need to go out 17-20 miles for legal Grouper.  Not gonna happen in my little flats boat. 

When I get over the fish, the I-Pilot half my spot without the need to drop and anchor and line.  It also provides flexibility to move around the reef with having to pull up anchor.  Rolando must have snagged and broke his line a half dozen times out here.  When you are reef fishing, you have to keep your sinker a few inches to a foot off the bottom to avoid this.  There's a lot of artificial structure down there to attract the fish but this also plays against the fisherman. 

Next we moved in-shore, using the trailer to cross the Peninsula from the Gasparilla Sound to the Myakka River in ten minutes.  On the water, this would take 90 minutes at 20 knots and burn a lot of fuel.  If you're running, your not fishing. 

We put in at the El Jobean ramp. Every parking spot was taken, as this was mid-day, but there was some space in the grass near the exit so, like about 6 other guys, I parked there...hoping I wouldn't regret it.  I have an annual pass for all Charlotte County boat ramps ($56). Since I have a pass, I don't have to use the kiosk and commit to a space number on a dashboard receipt.  I felt pretty good about using this available space as overflow parking, since I've paid my dues. (Turns out I was right. 4 hours later, no parking tickets for being out of position).

The ramp we put in at is at the very top of the above chart, just below the little book icon in my screen shot.  Rolando trolled a shallow diving plug (twitch stick) and caught a small snook on the way out of the channel. The left side of the above chart shows the Myakka River, to the left of Hog Island.  We caught Spanish Mackerel in the 10' depth to the left of Shoal Point.  If you start a drift, on the in-coming tide, at the number "8" marker, you will do well fishing live shrimp beneath a float with a 3-4 leader. Use 30-40 pound florocarbon or wire to avoid being broke off by the toothy Mackerels.  Shut your motor off and drift fish back to the number "9" marker, then motor back to the "8" and start again.  If you see birds gathering and diving, move over and start casting jigs into the action. (Have secondary rods ready with half ounce Bomber Nylure jigs on).  The area is also known to hold trout, pompano, tarpon and cobia at different times of the year.  The edges of the river hold snook and redfish throughout the year. 

The center of the chart shows the Myakka Cutoff.  This backwater mangrove area separates the Myakka from Peace River and is a favorite redfish hunting ground for me.  Even with my 6" draft on my Mako flats boat, I will only head in there on a rising tide and plan on leaving shortly after the ebb tide begins.  It's not the sort of place you want to spend the night. 

In the cutoff there are several tidal creeks which, if you can get in there, almost always produce big redfish. A trolling motor and a push pole are highly advised standard equipment. Any vessel drafting a foot or more must have a jack plate installed. 

Today, Rolando and I went in at .09 on the tide table and rode 18-20 knots over the 1-2' flats. 
We picked a creek that has been money for me before and put the power pole down in 1.5' of water.  What I do here is bring fresh or frozen lady fish, on 3/0 circle hooks, with a 2-3' 30lb floro leader and 20-30 pound braid on a medium duty spinning reel.  Cut a hunk of Ladyfish about two fingers thick and hook at least once through the tough skin, hiding your point in the fleshy white meat.  When casting, use a side arm motion to skip your bait under the mangrove trees.  If it's not in the shade, you're not in far enough and the catfish will get it. (As evidenced by the 3 cats Rolando landed).

After a 30 minute bait soak, we picked up and moved further up the creek, about 300 yards and around a bend, pinning down in a foot of water.  I eyed a nice section of trees that formed a short cave like opening and really my chances there.  A perfect pitch would garner a perfect strike from my red skinned scaled target.  I used my Penn Fierce combo with a 5000 series reel to put the bait right where I wanted.  I placed the rod in a holder on the poling platform and waited.  10 minutes later, the fight was on. 

The rod bent over and the dragged let out a brief zip before I reached it. As I gave the first turn of the reel I saw the big Red kick his tail and try to turn back into the trees.  I looked at Rolando and said, "this is what we came for!"  A minute into it, I saw the big back and shoulders in the shallow saltwater and told my guest to get the net.  Unfamiliar with its collapsible design, he struggled to open it and couldn't get the basket to fully open and lock. (Mental note: train guests how to open fancy expensive net before casting bait into fertile waters)

The big fish fought for his life to get back under cover and I recall finding this strange. Reds of the past in this spot have all run for open water. This guy was trying to use a snook-like technique to try and break me off in the mangrove roots.  I resisted the urge to grab my spool with left hand...a mistake that costs me fish before.  Instead, I gave a quick quarter turn of the drag to tighten up just slightly then I turned the rod away from him and steadily pulled back and reeled forth to regain line.  This was the answer that got him away from his shelter and allowed me to gain the advantage.  I go him near the boat and quickly worried he might be over the upper slot limit of 27".  He was a big, strong fish.  I allowed him to swim around for another minute while Rolando continued in vain the mess with the net, to no avail. I wasn't going to take a chance on trying to scoop this prize with a half a net and risk a break off.  I spied my lipping tool in its holster on the side of the center console but decided this fight needed to end by hand.  The fish came about one last time and took a half roll to his side, essentially tapping out of the fight. I stuck my thumb in his mouth and brought him aboard for a measurement. 

Immediately we could hear his big drum heartbeat, as he lay exhausted on board.  "That's a damn nice fish," Rolando exclaimed.  I was just hoping he wasn't too big.  I picked him up, estimating him at close 7 pounds, and gently laid him on the forward deck for the tale of the tape, both his and my heart rates regaining control.  26"....a legal harvest. My lucky day.  A quick couple of photos for the blog and he was placed on ice for a comfortable ride home.   

We stayed there and sought one for Rolando for about 30 more minutes but we were not to be doubled down this day.   I wanted to show Rolando a 6' hole in the cutoff so we picked up and headed out of the creek.  The hole priced a nice 18" speckled trout for Rolando, his best to date.  At 4:34 the tide turned and we knew it was high time to get while the getting was good.  With the tide chart reading 1.5' above mean low, we jumped on plane and sped out of the flats in a flash. 

Here's a satellite image of the Myakka Cutoff.  You can chose from mangrove islands in the middle or tidal creeks leading to saltwater lakes on the edges. Wherever your boat, kayak or canoe will take you. Just never attempt to go in there with an in-board.  Even in my flats boat, I have run aground on many occasions. As you can see below, the island is surrounded by shallow sand bars and grass flats.  The bottom can be very mucky, like quicksand when you step into it. As I stated, a 20' long push pole can be very handy in there...especially if you fish alone, as I often do. 

This day we fished in depths ranging from 40 to 1 foot. We landed fish in every spot but what are the odds the fish of the day would come from the skinniest of water?  That's what Southwest Florida fishing is all about. 

A nice one pound fillet, seasoned with Everglades Seasoning, broiled in the toaster oven for ten minutes at 350, paired with a baked sweet potato, makes for an excellent meal after a long day of fishing. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Default Boat Trailer refurbish

I had my 20 year old Galvanized trailer refurbished by Discount Trailer, on Poulson Drive, across from Murdock Stone. I had shopped the local classifieds for a used replacement and almost bought a good looking Shoreland'r trailer for $700 before my research revealed it was built for fresh water use only. Whew...near miss. 

New 17' aluminum trailers go for about $1,500-1,700 around here. Instead I took mine up to see Ralph at Discount trailer. He gave me an estimate of $500 to do what I needed. In the end, he gave me a choice on a couple of more recommended items and it got out pretty close to that. Here's what I got, using stainless hardware and aluminum replacement parts:
4 slide u-bolts on rear frame
2 heavy duty leaf springs
Perm spray on Waterproof grease on springs
4 med shackles
8 bunk brackets
2 safety chains/hooks
New Winch strap & safety hook
8 bunk brackets and u-bolts
3 tongue u-bolts
Axle service with rebuilt hubs
New lug nuts for existing wheels
Aluminum guide-on posts
PVC post covers with tube light kit
Electric wiring harness and new 4 way plug
Repair coupler unit
Labor to install all 
He got the trailer from me late Thursday night and I picked it up Saturday night. (He offered to let me come back and get it on Sunday, if I didn't want to wait). A service guy who works Sunday?! I was there watching him finish the last 2 hours of labor. Great work ethic and fast service, in my opinion. To stay close to his original estimate, I noticed he only charged me 2 hours labor for the entire job. 

Grand total $612.95  

I highly recommend this guy. I was surprised he had me leave the boat on but he said it was so he could ensure the boat sat perfect after the refurb. Made sense then. I am so glad I didn't buy a used trailer, especially with no knowledge as to what condition the hubs were in, or the inside of the painted steel frame, with a few specks of rust showing on the outside. He builds new ones too. He does annual wheel service on your hubs for $65-95, depending on your condition. Give him a shot at your business.  941-623-8576.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Home in Port Charlotte

We are in the midst of a cold front in Southwest Florida this Valentines Day weekend. Our cold fronts don't always mean cold temperatures but this time it is.  We had a low this morning of 41 but by Monday we are forecast to touch the upper 30s.  Will still reach the 60s each day but I think I'll spend this weekend warming up with my Valentine. 

A great project to tackle on cold or rainy weekends is preventative maintenance on your fishing reels. I have a small variety of spinning reels and conventional reels; Penn Fierce 4000 & 5000, Diawa 5000, Off-Shore Angler Frigate 4000 (poor mans Penn Battle but I love it), Pflueger President (cheap but dependable), Penn Senators, and last year I bought a Wright & McGill Sabalos 3500 to go with my favorite rod, the W&M Blair Wiggins Inshore Slam rod (I own 2 of these, the other has the Pflueger on it).

My other rods are Penn, Daiwa, Cabellas and Star.  I love them all for different uses, depending on what I'm targeting but the look and feel of those Blair Wiggins get my blood going. Back to the reel story!

The Sabalos was great for a year (casts really far) but recently the spool seized onto the shaft. It still spun but it couldn't pull the spool to change line size.  I call Wright & McGill and easily reached a customer service representative.  I explained my problem and he offered a quick solution.  He surmised that saltwater corrosion have gotten onto the shaft and possibly could be beginning to rust on there.  I told him that I was really good about rinsing all of my gear with freshwater at the end of every fishing trip and was surprised to hear that corrosion could get on there to that extreme within one year.  He suggested I use a anti-corrosion lubricant spray and let it sit overnight and then try to work the spool loose.  I prefer the Boeing Boeshield T-9 marine lubricant because it is waterproof and very reliable.

It took a combination of the lubricant and my rubber mallet but I got the spool off.  Sure enough there was some nasty black corrosion rolling all around in there. Some piping hot water from the sink loosened up and remove most of it and then I used the Boeing spray and some 120 grit sandpaper to remove the rest.  I rolled the sandpaper into a small tube and thoroughly cleaned the interior of the spool. I could feel and see the crap coming out of there. 

After cleaning it, it wiped everything down and then put a spot of Rem Oil (Remington gun oil) on all of the screws and moving parts for long term protection. It's good to do this at least 3-4 times a year, depending on how much use and abuse your gear gets.  I took advantage of the rest of this morning to PM all of the remaining reels I own.  The Rem Oil also works well for wiping down your rods and lubricating your line guides. 

The W&M rep recommended the following process for rinsing my reels after each use:
1.  Loosen drag all the way
2.  Spray down generously with fresh water
3.  Tighten drag down all the way to squeeze out any remaining water
4.  Loosen drag again for storage

As much as we lay out for this gear, it's best to take the time to take good care of it. This way, it's more likely to last for many years, like it's designed to. 

The Sabalos reel body, after cleaning it

Rolling up the sandpaper into a tube enabled me to run it it through the center of the spool and remove the remaining corrosion. 

The Sabalos 3500 is ready to go back to work next weekend. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015


To catch you up...I recently purchased a 21' Stiffy brand push pole for my boat. Transporting it home from 100 miles away was an adventure in itself but we made it without any problems. I had strapped it'll the top side of the bed wall of my truck, rested it on the side view mirror bracket and zip tied it there.   The need for such a tool lies in the skinny backwaters and flats of Charlotte Harbor, where it's often too shallow to even use a trolling motor.  My boat comes equipped with a poling platform to position me high above the deck so that I can both push pole the boat through the water, silently, and be high enough to sight fish to target. 

This is the story of the first outting with the big Stiffy.  The Stiffy has been the subject of much humor among my wife's friends, as well as my local online fishing forum.  This trip I was accompanied by a new friend, Pete, nick named Bucknut, due to his love of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. Living an hour outside of Chicago, He recently bought a second home in my area, on the Peace River. 

I'm sad to report I didn't put Buckeye on the fish. We tried and tried to find them and I found spots where they should have bee but they weren't. Nonetheless, we had a splendid day on the water. It had its challenges and lessons,more sure. My decision to go behind the the east side sand bar at a -.03 tide proved to be a poor one. We got around the #12 marker at alligator creek only to find there was 6" or less of water in 80% of the area. Less than I've ever seen in this area. We kept finding ourselves aground over and over. In that little water, the NEwinds, coupled with the weight of us two big boys, the big stiffy was ineffective. Even though we were well east of the sandbar there was just not enough water to float a loaded boat. So we stripped out of our warm clothes and took 500 pounds of weight off the boat by getting in the water. Amazing! She floats! We pushed the old Mako around until we go to thigh high water and would re board. We could use the trolling motor for a while and then the prop would start bumping, so we'd have to pull that and use the stiffy and eventually would float aground yet again. The tide was now coming in from the west but the easterly winds were fighting it off, all the while. 

We saw two other boats completely beached on the east wall sand bar. Those guys made the best of their situation by walking to knee deep water and fishing but got nothing. We did the same but from the boat. Our results were equally the same. This is not where I wanted to fish. During the couple of hours we were alternating between walking, poling, and trolling the boat we saw two boat come flying across the flats with their motors jacked straight up to heaven and they mercilessly continued south without a hitch. It was then that Bucknut commented this trip was worthwhile to confirm in his mind the absolute need for a jack plate in these waters. I've got to quit denying my own need and fulfill it. If you want to fish the mangrove islands and backwaters of this area, without regard for the low tides, it's a clear need. Bucknut bought his home up the Peace River near Whidden Bay. It gets real skinny up there, one you leave the marked channel. 

(For those who don't know, a jack plate is a hydraulic lift installed between your outboard motor and your boat. It allows you to raise the propellor straight upward, without tilting/trimming the motor. When you are in skinny water and you tilt/trim, the angle creates an effect of pushing water toward the sky and that propels the tran some of the boat further downward . . . Completely the opposite of what you need.  The jack plate allows you to raise the motor and prop up, while keeping the prop straight, propelling the boat forward and efficiently cutting through the shallowest of water.  Jack plates cost $1000 plus installation labor. It's the final piece of the puzzle to outfit my boat for the style of fishing I most enjoy here).  Meanwhile, back on the water . . .

By about 10:30 we had made our way sufficiently south to begin poling our way eastward in 0.9 feet of water, just south of Silcox Key. What a difference another 3" made. I positioned Bucknut on the bow while I took an elevated position behind him with the 21' Stiffy (does that sound bad?). We were fishing Z man hooks with Gulp swimming mullet in root beer color, with big paddle tails, rigged weedless style. The baits worked out really good in this grassy, weedy, shallow area. 

I had trouble making the boat go straight forward. Each time I was positioned correctly, the boat would turn from east to west. We surmised the east wind was my nemesis again. Bucknut reminded me, when you see those guys poling on the TV fishing shows, they are in pristine, cal water with no wind...not 10-15 MPH headwinds. Once I settled for pushing us in reverse, I made nice progress over ground.  

We stopped in several places, worked cut lady fish under the mangroves for a while but had not bites. We'd move around until we were about a mile into the mangroves altenating between lady fish, shrimp and even cranked my old trusty Storm twitch stick but all to no avail. We found what I believe to be a perfect target spot, with the tide flooding the mangroves and a large pool visible behind the trees.

We would want sure placement of baits if this was to our saving place. I suggested we get out and wade about half way to the target in order to cast perfectly under the shady mangrove, near the pool. We did it and soaked to nice lady chunks there for an hour. Despite hearing the occasional kill from the pool behind the trees, our baits returned to us in the same condition we'd delivered them. It was approaching 3 PM and I had a dinner party I was due at my 6 so we decided to pull out and go home. We were able to slowly motor out of the area and jumped on plane to take the same route out that had been so elusive on the way in. 

Bucknut and I got along great and found many common traits between us. Despite not catching fish he agreed it was a terrific day of new experiences for both of us. I'm certain we will fish together often.  

I made my dinner party next door but came home and went to bed at 8:30PM, exhausted. I awoke at 10 and begged my wife to get me a muscle relaxer, as I was having leg pains never known before. Despite the fact that I exercise by walking 100 miles a month, today's activities were just different enough to really kick my butt. I slept til 5 AM without a problem.

The open water in the background shows how far I poled us back to start.  Believe it or not, there's less than a foot of water seen here. 

Now we are waaaay back in the mangrove islands. Few boats come back here but many fish live here. 
It's this lack of angler pressure that makes these spots produce.  Despite today's shortfall, I will continue exploring these thousands of acres of back bays. 

Ignore these blog picture glitches and keep reading below


This spot had the water pool behind these mangroves and should have really produced fish.  Not today. 


Bringing the big Stiffy home

Setting up to refurbish the Štiffy.  Despite being 21' long it only weighs 4 pounds. It is made of graphite, wrapped in microfibers, for light weight and incredible flexing and bending capabilities.  I bought this model off of craigslist and it had to be repainted. 


One end has a crows foot for poling through sand and loose muck, the other has a pointed end for pushing off of rock, coral and hard bottom.  You can see the bare microfibers exposed in this shot. The manufacturer disclaims you will need to refinish these poles every few years.  The 100 mile trip we made home with it stripped off nearly every bit of paint that was left when I bought it.  UV rays are particularly harmful to the painted finish.  The manufacturer, Stiffy Poles, recommends using a 2 part polyurethane paint.  That crap is ungodly expensive. It would have cost me well over $100 to do.  Instead. . . 


I did use the 120 grit sand paper, recommended for roughing up the surface. Those microfibers were like glitter, filling the air all around me, so I protected myself with a full hooded facemask. 

Using a tip learned on a fishing forum, I repainted with Rustoleum appliance paint. It is an epoxy that drys intra used 2 coats and let it dry for a week before taking it into the saltwater environment.  Total cost of my refurb - $11.  Even if I have to redo this twice a year, it would take 5 years to equal the expensive alternative.  These Stiffy poles garner a kings ransom. New $700-900. I paid $300 for a used one needing a new paint job.  Thus, I was opposed to dropping another hundred on paint. Will let you know how long it lasts.