Coastal Angler Magazine | August 2020 | Alabama/Pensacola Edition

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Big Baits, Lowcountry Big Grouper REDS PHOTO BY CAPT. JOHN RYAN • INSTAGRAM: @FILLETSHOWFISHING VOLUME 25 • ISSUE 305

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Sight Fishing Reds In The South Carolina Lowcountry

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By Nick Carter

oling his skiff through grass in shin-deep water, Capt. Josh Boyles was the first to spot a big redfish crashing bait about 100 yards away. The vast grass beds around Hilton Head, S.C. were inundated in an especially high tide, and we had been working them for a couple hours with limited success. Most of the limited success was blamed on a pair of trout anglers with little saltwater fly fishing experience. Boyles had already put us on a couple fish. We had botched both royally. Conditions seemed right, with plenty of water for reds to push into in search of crabs, but the fish weren’t showing themselves. And we needed to see fish in order to cast to them with one of Boyles’ Swamp Fox flies on an 8-weight fly rod. “I’m not going to lie. This is pretty slow,” Boyles said. “We should be seeing a half-dozen fish at once and trying to decide which one to go after.” With classic tailing redfish behavior, fish root around with their noses in the muck. On the other end, their tails wave above the surface like little beacons. Reds are not hard to find when they do what they’re supposed to. These fish were not cooperating. Instead of seeking tails, we were reduced to watching for unusual wakes and nervous water. Boyles hypothesized the fish might be eating baitfish or shrimp instead of crabs, which would account for their horizontal position in skinny water. As we poled slowly to where the fish was spotted in an open pool amid a sea of grass, I stripped line from the reel and onto the deck. There was no additional sign of the fish, but we had to check it out. The tide was beginning to turn out, and it would take all the fish with it. Boyles had earlier explained why tailing reds are great sport for fly rodders just getting into the saltwater game. Redfish are comfortable in the shallows, so they don’t spook easily. Also, they feed actively and opportunistically in the grass. If they see the fly, they will most likely eat it. When our redfish reappeared, it was right in front of the boat. So close that it made casting difficult. I saw it for a second, but Boyles could see it clear as day from the platform. He began barking instructions. “Two o’clock, about 15 feet out,” he said. “See the wake?” The fish was moving right to left across the bow. I made a timid first cast, which caught the wind and plopped down off target. “Pick it up! Do it again,” Boyles said, urgency entering his voice. “Play the wind. Put it in front of him.” The pressure was on, and the second cast was better. “Strip it… Strip it… Now stop!” Boyles instructed as he watched the action unfold. “Give it a little twitch.” He didn’t have to tell me to set the hook.

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Al Tro tha imp dee pol clas The fish swirled. I jerked back hard with my line hand, the rod pointed right at the commotion. With a jolt, the redfish was on and streaking across the flat! Pound-for-pound, nothing pulls like a red, and this was a big one, spending its last season in the marsh before it would move offshore to join the rest of the big bulls. Capt. Josh Boyles is a veteran Lowcountry guide who offers local and international fishing experiences. Email him at joshboylesfishing@gmail.com or call (843) 816-2229.

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SiriusXM Fish Mapping: SERIOUS TOOLS FOR SERIOUS ANGLERS

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hether it’s a weed line, a color change or a temperature break, success in the wide-open environs of offshore fishing depends on finding the features that hold baitfish and predators that hunt them. With this in mind, SiriusXM has developed a powerful new set of tools to help serious offshore anglers narrow the field of search and find fish more quickly and efficiently. Combined with SiriusXM Marine’s weather data, the company’s Fish Mapping service is so advanced it almost seems unfair. But when you’re competing for big tournament money or have a boatful of clients or friends to keep happy, any advantage is welcome. Real-time data and eight dedicated features pull together information captains need to save time and fuel in pursuit of the ocean’s biggest gamefish. All of it is marked directly on the boat’s display, making it easy to identify areas where fish are likely to be. Here’s a list of those fish-finding features: • Fishing Recommendations: Based on data-driven analysis from oceanographers, the service recommends hot areas for specific species overlaid on your chart. This tailored information is kept fresh with twice-weekly updates to keep you on the action as it evolves. It can be viewed in combination with Fish Mapping’s other features to help solve the puzzle. • Weed Lines: Vast drifting weed lines are always hotspots for hunting pelagics. They provide food and habitat for open-ocean baitfish and shrimp, which draws in the big-game species. Finding them can be tricky, though, since they are constantly moving. Fish Mapping’s Weed Line feature updates every 24 hours to display where weed lines have been sighted recently and where they are most likely to form. • Sea Height Anomalies: Areas where sea height is noticeably different from the surrounding water often indicate an upwelling, where nutrient-rich water pushes to the surface. These are favorable conditions that attract baitfish and gamefish. Using realtime radar and sea-surface models, experts analyze the data and identify upwelling areas every 24 hours. This feature can also be used to locate downwelling areas, so you won’t waste your time fishing nutrient-poor, unproductive water. • Surface Temperature Contours: Different species prefer different temperature ranges, and Fish Mapping’s easy-to-read temperature contour lines quickly and clearly illustrate water temperatures to home in on the ideal conditions for your target species. This feature updates with current temperature data every three hours. • Sea Surface Temperature Front Strength: There’s no need to spend hours running and searching for significant temperature variances between bodies of water. These “ocean fronts” are hunting grounds for big pelagics, which take advantage of concentrated nutrients and fish-movement barriers created by 6 NATIONAL

AUGUST 2020

precipitous temperature changes. Fish Mapping estimates the strength of these ocean fronts and updates them every 24 hours. There tends to be good fishing where temperature fronts and plankton fronts coincide. • 30 Meter Subsurface Temperatures: Surface temperature is not always a good indicator of what lies beneath, where pelagics do most of their hunting. This feature tracks water temps 30 meters below the surface and updates every 24 hours to help you find your target species’ preferred temperature range. • Plankton Concentration Contours: Baitfish feed on plankton; big fish feed on baitfish. It’s easy to understand why concentrations of plankton can lead the way to good fishing. Displayed with green contour lines on your multi-function display and updated every 24 hours, Fish Mapping makes quick work of locating productive water. • Plankton Front Strength: Strong plankton fronts offer good conditions for gamefish to hunt. Baitfish prefer nutrient-rich stained water. Gamefish prefer clear water where they can spot their prey. When the two conditions exist side-by-side and coincide with a temperature front, it presents optimal fishing conditions. The plankton front strength feature displays these conditions on your display and updates every 24 hours. With tools like these, it’s easy to see why SiriusXM’s Fish Mapping service gives serious offshore anglers a leg-up on open water. They even offer a one-month trial of the service because a test drive will prove how valuable their up-to-date, easy-to-access information is. For more information, visit www.siriusxm.com/FishMapping

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UNDER SEA THE

What It’s Like to Spearfish I

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AUGUST 2020

and relaxed, and “becoming one with nature” will you be part of the tribe. This unlikely fraternity of ocean hunters is made up of men and women of all ages, races and socio-economic status. The only rules here are made by Mother Nature, and the only requirement is an unspoken bond with the ocean and a respect for its resources. Unlike our mostly predictable lives, every dive is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. I’ve experienced a school of mantas flying by, a gentle whaleshark ambling along, a sunfish scratching itself on our anchor line. I’ve experienced the exhilaration of being accepted by a pod of wild dolphins. I’ve been bumped by a hammerhead and stared down by a menacing mako. I’ve endured jellyfish stings, sealice rashes, and a crab in my ear canal. The most thrilling sight of all—after paying your dues—is spotting your prey in the shadows.

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By Sheri Daye

have a friend at work who is horrified by my spearfishing. He asks, “Why don’t you just buy fish at the market? Aren’t you scared of sharks? What’s it like?” I know spearfishing will never be his cup of tea, but I try to explain why it’s mine. The simple answer is it’s fun to jump into tropical water and choose a delicious fish for dinner. But the truth is those flat, warm, fishy days are few and far between. The truth is that weathermen are liars, visibility can turn ugly, and fish are unpredictable. The truth is that underwater hunting is hard work in an alien environment. One of many challenges is to become comfortable underwater—so comfortable that fish believe you belong there. Fish sense herkyjerky motions and aggression, which means you will never be able to stalk them unless you learn to control your movements, and more importantly, your emotions. You must also overcome the primal fear of becoming the hunted, which is ingrained in all of us. And, as a freediver, you must become adept enough to achieve decent breath hold times. Only after persevering, learning to be smooth

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When hunting tunas, the sight of the yellow finlets speeding under you will make your heart thump. When hunting wahoos, the silver ghost appearing out of nowhere will take your breath away. The realization that your eye has caught the silhouette of a black grouper in the reef will send you into adrenalized stealth mode. Back at the dock, as you fillet your fish and watch the sun set, you feel a sense of accomplishment and relief to be back on solid ground. But you also feel a sense of longing to be back in the weightless, quiet, unpredictable, beautiful ocean. As cell phones begin to ring, traffic on the way home raises your blood pressure, and thoughts of work invade your brain, you begin to plan your next trip back to the soul-cleansing world beneath the sea. Sheri is a world-record holder, host of Speargun Hunter, and producer of “The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo” in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Follow “Sheri Daye” and “The Blue Wild” on Facebook and Instagram.

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Discovered! Unopened Bag of 138-Year-Old Morgan Silver Dollars Coin experts amazed by “Incredible Opportunity” The Morgan Silver Dollar is the most popular and iconic vintage U.S. coin. They were the Silver Dollars of the Wild West, going on countless untold adventures in dusty saddlebags across the nation. Finding a secret hoard of Morgans doesn’t happen often—and when it does, it’s a big deal. How big? Here’s numismatist, author and consultant to the Smithsonian® Jeff Garrett: “It’s very rare to find large quantities of Morgan Silver Dollars, especially in bags that have been sealed... to find several thousand Morgan Silver Dollars that are from the U.S. Treasury Hoards, still unopened, is really an incredible opportunity.” -Jeff Garrett

 Historic Morgan Silver Dollars  Minted in New Orleans  Struck and bagged in 1882  Unopened for 138 years  26.73 grams of 90% fine silver  Hefty 38.1 mm diameter  Certified Brilliant Uncirculated by NGC

 Certified “Great Southern

Treasury Hoard” pedigree

 Limit five coins per household Actual size is 38.1 mm

the southern gentleman by giving the coins the pedigree of the “Great Southern Treasury Hoard.”

But where did this unique hoard come from? Read on...

These gorgeous 1882-O Morgans are as bright and new as the day they were struck and bagged 138 years ago. Coins are graded on a 70-point scale, with those graded at least Mint State-60 (MS60) often referred to as “Brilliant Uncirculated” or BU. Of all 1882-O Morgans struck, LESS THAN 1% have earned a Mint State grade. This makes these unopened bags of 1882-O Morgans extremely rare, certified as being in BU condition—nearly unheard of for coins 138 years old.

Morgans from the New Orleans Mint

Don’t Miss This Rare Opportunity—Order Now!

The U.S. Treasury Hoard

Given the limited quantity of coins available from this historic hoard, we must set a strict limit of five coins per household. Call quickly to secure yours today as supplies are sure to sell out quickly!

In 1859, Nevada’s Comstock Lode was discovered, and soon its rich silver ore made its way across the nation, including to the fabled New Orleans Mint, the only U.S. Mint branch to have served under the U.S. government, the State of Louisiana and the Confederacy. In 1882, some of that silver was struck into Morgan Silver Dollars, each featuring the iconic “O” mint mark of the New Orleans Mint. Employees then placed the freshly struck coins into canvas bags... Fast-forward nearly 80 years. In the 1960s, the U.S. government opened its vaults and revealed a massive store of Morgan Silver Dollars—including full, unopened bags of “fresh” 1882-O Morgan Silver Dollars. A number of bags were secured by a child of the Great Depression—a southern gentleman whose upbringing showed him the value of hard assets like silver. He stashed the unopened bags of “fresh” Morgans away, and there they stayed...

The Great Southern Treasury Hoard

That is, until another 50 years later, when the man’s family finally decided to sell the coins—still in their unopened bags—which we secured, bag and all! We submitted the coins to respected third-party grading service Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), and they agreed to honor

Regular 1882-O Morgans sell elsewhere for as much as $133, and that’s without the original brilliant shine these “fresh” 138-yearold coins have, without their special NGC hoard designation, and without their ability to tell their full, complete story from the Comstock Lode all the way to your collection.

1882-O Morgan Silver Dollar NGC Certified BU from the Great Southern Treasury Hoard — $99 ea.

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GovMint.com • 14101 Southcross Dr. W., Suite 175, Dept. MSH230-01, Burnsville, MN 55337 GovMint.com® is a retail distributor of coin and currency issues and is not affiliated with the U.S. government. The collectible coin market is unregulated, highly speculative and involves risk. GovMint.com reserves the right to decline to consummate any sale, within its discretion, including due to pricing errors. Prices, facts, figures and populations deemed accurate as of the date of publication but may change significantly over time. All purchases are expressly conditioned upon your acceptance of GovMint.com’s Terms and Conditions (www.govmint.com/terms-conditions or call 1-800-721-0320); to decline, return your purchase pursuant to GovMint.com’s Return Policy. © 2020 GovMint.com. All rights reserved.


H Photo courtesy of FWC TrophyCatch.

James Wirtz caught this 10-pound, 6-ounce beast from an unnamed Florida lake on June 16.

Deep Summer’s Shallow-Water Option By CAM Staff

ere’s some advice for bass anglers sick of the summertime grind. Instead of dredging out deep ledges or dragging worms on offshore humps, go shallow and beat the banks. Yes. You read that right. In deep summer, bass that aren’t stacked up deep will scatter to seek out the best water conditions and feeding opportunities they can find. And while you probably shouldn’t throw all your tournamentday hopes into this pattern, which really is hit-or-miss, hitting it right can lead to some of the biggest largemouths of the summer. Wave action is a key to this pattern. On lakes with heavy boat traffic and on windy days, waves slamming into the banks oxygenate water. While water conditions across the rest of the lake are hot and stagnant this time of year, the shallows offer higher oxygen levels that attract baitfish and bass. By the same token, the backs of creeks with some current often offer better oxygen levels as well as cooler water. Vegetation oxygenates water, also, and provides shade from the stifling sun. Bait is another reason big fish will be up shallow. All of the bream species—the bluegills, shellcrackers, redbreasts and others—spawn during the full moons of summer. When they bed up in colonies, they do it in the shallows, often in just a couple feet of water. Bream beds are buffets for big largemouths, which hang just off the beds waiting on any strays small enough to fit in their mouths. Now, beating the banks all day looking for one big fish in the scorching August heat doesn’t sound like much fun. But that one kicker fish you need to bolster a tournament limit is not likely to be hanging out with all those 2-pounders suspended on a deep ledge. These are also great tactics for fun fishing, when you’ve got the luxury to only fish the comfortable morning and evening hours. In low light, a buzzbait burned around a bream bed or in the shadows of a blowdown can be just the thing to draw a reaction strike from a big girl lazing in the shallows. Running a spinnerbait, bladed jig or square-bill crankbait around and under shallow docks can be very productive. Resist the urge to slow down and pick apart cover with a jig or worm. Shallow fish will be scattered this time of year, so it makes sense to cover a lot of water. Hit all the stumps, grass, rocks and any other cover you encounter. Keep moving, but do it slowly and quietly. Keep your distance, and make long casts. Sound travels far and fish spook easily in the shallows.

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By John Saporito

How To

Beat

The

Pressure

F

lorida is home to some of the best and most diverse fishing on earth. The state also offers unmatched access to its fisheries. But with easy access comes a great challenge: fishing pressure. Fishing pressure results when

a population of fish is overexposed to fishing activity. Fish are capable learners with strong survival instincts; they become progressively more difficult to fool and catch as they experience our repeated attempts to capture them. Since they

pass their survival prowess on to their offspring, subsequent generations are empowered to avoid capture. Therefore, every fisherman should learn to cope with this obstacle so they may enjoy a lifetime of productive fishing regardless of how the future of Florida’s fisheries unfolds. While the less-traveled offshore waters may not show the effects of fishing pressure, the most accessible waterways in the state certainly do. This impacts many of our favorite gamefish, including inshore icons such as tarpon, snook, redfish and sea trout. The state gamefish, largemouth bass, is also subject to immense pressure. Fortunately, there are steps every angler can take to ensure even the wariest gamefish can be tempted to strike. The first is to use stealth when stalking your target species. The best way to avoid spooking fish is to not alert them to your presence in the first place. When fish know you’re there, they instantly become more difficult to catch. Be careful with every move, whether wading, walking a shoreline or positioning a boat. When you find fish that won’t bite, consider making a move. The problem for most fishermen is they prefer to fish easily accessible locations. The easier the access, the higher the pressure, and this shows

in how fish react to baits. Seek out locations that are more difficult to get to. Give yourself some space, and the results will speak for themselves. If you find fish that won’t bite and decide not to move, a good alternative would be to show them a finesse approach. Downsize lures and baits, cast quietly, and eliminate components of the rig a fish may find intimidating. A final remedy for fishing pressure is simply to fish off times. A dozen or more fishermen in the area around you is not ideal, neither are boat motors, jet skis and loud radios. By fishing the times when others are least likely to be on the water—think late at night and very early morning—you give yourself a tremendous advantage. While graveyard shifts might not be as relaxing as sitting on a beach chair in the afternoon sun, the fishing is likely to be more productive. Although fishing pressure is a growing problem, it presents an opportunity for anglers willing to take the steps to prepare for it. With a little know-how and proper execution, you can keep your rod bent on any of Florida’s fabled waterways. John Saporito is a lifelong fisherman and student of the seas.Visit him online at guerillaangling.com.

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FLORIDA 5


Paul Kolacia, of Rock Grass Fishing Charters, reports good things out of Homosassa

Bay Scallop Reports A

Mixed Bag

E

arly scallop season reports were mixed and across the board up and down Florida’s west coast. While poor weather and murky water led to reports of dismal results for many scallopers, others crowed of quick limits for those in the know.

More like diving than hunting Easter eggs, going deep seemed to be the key in most areas early on. With plentiful scallops reported in 10 to 15 feet of water, many casual scallopers were left scratching their heads. Meanwhile, those willing to work for

Dive iNTO

them were filling buckets. It’s worth noting that charter captains who are on the water daily seemed to have an edge on the rest of the crowds. These early results might bode well for late-season trips, as unfound scallops remain in the water. With a few storms from the southwest to push them in shallower, the tasty bivalves should be much easier to find. Pasco County’s short, July 17-26 season came and went after presstime, but the remainder of the scalloping zones will be open this month. The zone including Franklin, Wakulla and northwest Taylor counties remains open through Sept. 24, and there have been several good reports from St. Marks. The Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties zone also closes Sept. 24. Early reports from Hernando Beach, Homosassa and Crystal River were discouraging early on, but things seemed to be picking up nicely in mid-July. The zone off Dixie County and the remainder of Taylor County is open through Labor Day, and reports out of Steinhatchee went from bad to pretty good within a few days in mid-July. Everyone’s waiting eagerly for the Aug. 16 opening at St. Joseph Bay. FWC’s scallop-count numbers were off the charts for St. Joe last

year, and although the release of the 2020 counts has been delayed by COVID-19, it stands to reason there should be good numbers there. Bag and vessel limits are 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or a 1/2 gallon (4 pints) bay scallop meat per vessel. Vessel limits do not allow an individual to exceed their personal bag limit. When scalloping in open water, divers should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device, and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a diversdown flag or device in open water or within 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Boating/Regulations and click on “Divers-down Warning Devices.” Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/ bayscallops. Harvesters can indicate where they harvested scallops, how many they collected and how long it took to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.

SCallop Season Come experience Scallop season in Crystal River and Homosassa. Be a part of the tradition that creates memories of a lifetime with family and friends. discovercrystalriverfl.com/scalloping

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AUGUST 2020

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A Perfect Day Out Of

PANAMA CITY By John Saporito

T

he rod slammed down. I hit the lever to engage the electric reel. It growled and started winching up something big from the bottom 175 feet below. The rod twitched and bounced as it pulled in line. Then the monster from the bottom almost stopped the electric reel. The rod bent for all it was worth. The reel stopped, and the line broke. We were all speechless. I was fishing with my friend Andrew and new friends Darrel, Brent and Gene. We were 52 miles out of Panama City Beach on Andrew’s 43-foot Yellowfin. It was one of those nearly perfect days, with the smoothest water I’ve seen in a long time. It was the first time Darrel had ever been fishing, and it was Brent’s first deep sea trip. On the way out to deep water, we saw a float and circled back to find a school of small mahi mahi hanging around it. I occasionally forget things when loading the boat, which is hard to believe because I keep everything but the kitchen sink on the boat. Well, somehow 14 rods seemed like enough. Trouble was, all the spinning setups were left behind. “Well, this is going to be tough, but we can catch these mahi with bait casters,” Andrew said. He rigged one up with a small hook and weight and cast it out. He handed it to Darrel, who hooked his first fish ever. He was all smiles when that mahi came over the rail. I remembered

8 FLORIDA

AUGUST 2020

by Gary Turner

my first bluegill I caught with my dad years ago. I know how good Darrel felt. At the first drop, we rigged rods with 8/0 Owner Circle hooks and 1.5-ounce weights. Soon we were catching all kinds of fish off the bottom: some red snapper, black grouper and some really nice trigger fish. Brent hooked one fish that put up a real fight. He was making ground, when all of a sudden it yanked hard enough to pull Brent to the rail. Then the line lost all its resistance. There was still weight, but no fight. As it neared the top in the clear blue water, you could see the head of a nice red grouper sheared in half by a big shark. As we continued our day, we moved around, dropped some live pinfish and caught more snappers, and groupers. We encountered a grass line with a bunch of mahi on it and caught a few small ones before I had a big bull break off right at the boat. I know I had the kid-who-dropped-hisice-cream look on my face. The last spot was the big fish bottom. Live baits were put down and the bite was on. We all got a shot at some big fish in this spot, but they kept breaking us off. The two electric reels gave it their best shot, but to no avail. You really couldn’t ask for a better day with friends on the water. Contact Gary Turner at gary@purgeright.com.

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Co


Cool Off With A

SUMMER WADE

By Capt. Michael Okruhlik

W

ade fishing comes natural to me. It’s the preferred method of inshore fishing where I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast. And for those willing to give it a try, it’s a great way to catch fish wherever the bottom composition allows. Wading is a great way to catch fish all year long, and it is a perfect way to keep cool and catch fish during the dog days of August. It also puts you in tune with your surroundings, the bottom contour and structure, and gives you the ability to stealthily cover an area more efficiently. Here are some guidelines I follow on a hot August morning: I start early, and I’m in the water before safe light. Starting under the cover of darkness gives you an edge. Tossing a topwater lure tight to the shoreline is my go-to method. There is nothing more exhilarating than a blow up under the cover of darkness, and amplify that by 10 when the lure is near you! I start out near the shore and fan cast in all directions to thoroughly cover 180 degrees around me. Start with short casts and gradually increase

Photo courtesy of Knockin Tail Lures.

your distance when entering a new area. If you start by casting as far as you can and catch a fish, you will ruin any opportunity of getting a strike from the fish that were between you and the end of that long cast. This is truer in a skinny-water environment than in deeper water. I like to change my retrieve every few casts to see if a particular cadence outperforms others. My cadence is also determined by the type of fish I am targeting. Trout and reds have no problem hitting a lure on the pause, but snook will shy away from a motionless plug. As the sun begins to rise, I might or might not change my lure. For bass anglers, keep in mind that while bass might be less eager to hit topwater during a high sun, saltwater fish do not appear to mind. If they are still eating on top, I will not switch, but if

a change is required, I tie on a 4-inch swimbait and continue fan casting toward the shore. If the bites are not there, I ease out a little deeper. Depending on depth, work from the bottom to the top on alternating casts until the fish are located. To cover new water on my wade back, I zigzag from shallow to deep. This allows me to cover a wider variety of structure and bottom contour while hitting any repeat areas from a different angle. This can often be productive, depending on how the fish position themselves in relation to the structure. Be safe and take a kid fishing, even wade fishing. Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures, Controlled Descent Lures, and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

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FLORIDA 9


Motorized Kayak Wins

2020 ICAST BEST OF SHOW

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t goes without saying that an online 2020 ICAST was very different from the bustling mega-show that has descended on Orlando in recent years. That said, one of the show’s highlights—The New Product Showcase— matched well with the new virus-inspired online format. The world’s top brands and most innovative creators rolled out their latest and greatest, and there’s some cool new gear out there. The coveted Best of Show award went to Johnson Outdoors Watercraft for their Old Town Sportsman Autopilot. It is a kayak purpose built for an electric motor. A short-shaft trolling motor with 45 pounds of thrust is seated through the deck in front of the angler. It is controlled with a wireless remote. Among other cool features, GPS-anchoring with the Autopilot is new to the world of kayak fishing. Here’s a rundown of the ICAST category award winners: • Boating Accessories – Minn Kota Raptor Shallow Water Anchor. • Giftware – Garmin quatix® 6X Solar watch • Footwear – Under Armour Micro G Kilchis • Eyewear – Costa Del Mar Ferg • Women’s Lifestyle Apparel – Simms Women’s Challenger Jacket and Bib • Men’s Lifestyle Apparel – AFTCO Saba Recycled Seam-Free Boardshorts • Warm Weather Technical Apparel – AFTCO Diffuse Air-o Mesh Fishing Shorts • Cold Weather Technical Apparel – AFTCO Reaper Windproof 3-layer Softshell Jacket • Coolers — YETI Roadie 24 • Electronics – Humminbird Coastmaster Charts • Cutlery, Pliers, Tools – Line Cutterz Dual Hybrid Micro Scissor • Fly Fishing Accessory – Frabill Floating Trout Net • Fishing Accessory – ATC Tsuka Handle System • Kids’ Tackle – Abu Garcia Gen Ike EZ Cast Baitcast Combo • Terminal Tackle – Rapala VMC Crossover Rings • Tackle Management – Plano EDGE FLEX • Ice Fishing – Rapala STRIKEMASTER LITHIUM 24V • Fishing Line - Berkley FluoroShield • Freshwater Soft Lure – A Band of Anglers Hyperlastics Dartprop Pro SK • Freshwater Hard Lure – Z-Man Chatterbait Jackhammer Stealthblade • Saltwater Soft Lure – 13 Fishing The Mullet • Saltwater Hard Lure – Shimano SP Orca 150 Flash Boost, Blue Sardine color • Fly Fishing Rod – Hardy Zane Pro • Freshwater Rod – St. Croix Legend Xtreme spinning • Saltwater Rod – St. Croix Mojo Inshore • Rod & Reel Combo – Abu Garcia Virtual Casting Combo • Fly Reel – Hardy Ultradisc UDLA Reel • Freshwater Reel – Shimano Vanford 2500 Spinning Reel • Saltwater Reel – PENN Battle III Reels 10 FLORIDA

AUGUST 2020

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FLORIDA 11


Photo courtesy of Texas Sharelunker.

This 8.5-pounder caught by Hunter Manning came from Texas’ Sam Rayburn Lake, which ranked as the seventh best bass lake of the decade.

California’s Clear Lake Named

BEST BASS LAKE OF THE DECADE

S

ince 2012, Bassmaster Magazine has released an entertaining annual ranking of the country’s best bass fisheries based on data compiled from various sources. With COVID-19 making this year’s data hard to come by, Bassmaster decided to look back and pull together a list of the best bass lakes of the decade. California’s Clear Lake was the surprising pick for Best Bass Lake of the Decade. While considered a West Coast powerhouse, Clear Lake has never topped the Best Bass Lakes list until this year. However, in the past decade, California’s largest natural lake has also never ranked below tenth in the country and has been the top-ranked Western fishery for the past three years. Anglers can expect to consistently catch big bass in a fishery where an average bass weighs more than 5 pounds. In fact, a bass over 16 pounds was landed at Clear Lake last year. Combine that production with a pristine setting in California’s wine country, and you have a bucket-list fishing destination. Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, home of the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, took the No. 2 spot, matching its 2019 rank. Like Clear Lake, the Big G has never been named the Best Bass Lake in the nation, but it is rarely out of contention. Guntersville is known for breathtaking scenery and easy access, but big fish swim there as well. Most big-bass prizes are awarded to fish topping the 8-pound mark, with 10-plus-pounders taking center stage on occasion. True giants call third-place fishery, Lake Erie, home. While most of the tournament data comes out of Buffalo, N.Y., anglers can expect smallies in the 6-pound range anywhere along the shoreline, which includes New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, where you can catch the smallmouth of a lifetime, is in the fourth spot. Rounding out the remainder of the Top 10 lakes are California’s Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta at fifth; Toledo Bend, on the Louisiana/Texas border, at sixth; Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir at seventh; Texas’ Falcon Lake at eighth; Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene at ninth; and Florida’s Lake Okeechobee at tenth. The rankings identify the Top 25 lakes in the nation based on headto-head comparisons. As for bragging rights on which state has the most fisheries in the all-decade rankings, that title goes to Michigan with seven lakes. Right behind the “Great Lake State,” there is a three-way tie with California, Florida and Texas each placing six lakes on the list. See www.bassmaster.com for the complete list of the Best Bass Lakes Of The Decade. 12 FLORIDA

AUGUST 2020

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AUGUST 2020

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AUGUST 2020

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Summer Smalljaws

If you’ve never made a trip north to try catching smallmouth bass in moving water, you need to!! A change of scenery and water can be an eye opening experience. First, you’ll need to understand a few things about the water and the fish. Not all moving water is productive. Narrow your search area down to areas where water moves differently than the surrounding water. Structure, rocks, drop offs, etc. can all effect the flow of water. Obstructions, such as large rocks, create areas of slack water on the down current side of the rock. This is a prime area to target. Cast a fly or lure in the flow on each side of the obstruction and then directly in the slack water. Fish will also use the front side of obstructions to ambush prey. Anyplace where the bottom changes depth needs to be fished. Put yourself into the mind of a fish, they use the current to bring their food source to them, so any place where they can take advantage of an ambush point, needs to be fished. Smallmouth will be facing upstream most of the time. You can use that to your advantage by approaching likely fish haunts from downstream. Once you get a smallie hooked, be prepared, they fight HARD. Even the small ones will give you a great fight. Smallmouth are aggressive predators that will attack lures with reckless abandon. For me they rank in my top 3 favorite species to catch, only being bested by tarpon and flounder. Trust me, it’s worth it to drive north, find a creek, and get wet.

Jeff Jones

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Mobile Bay

It’s the end of July and feels like the middle of August. Water temps are in the upper 80’s and will be hitting 90 degrees by the end of the month. With all the rain the past couple of months the water is still trying to clear up in the delta. The bay looks good. So, if your looking for some trout action you better be on the water before sunrise because they will be headed for deep water as the sun comes up. Look at some of the docks on the eastern shore early or some shallow points near deeper drop offs for some top water action. Once the sun comes up focus on the deeper structure like the rigs in the south end of the bay, Middle Bay Lighthouse, or drop offs in the Mobile River. Live shrimp on slip corks is the way to go in these deep water hideouts. If your looking for redfish, look for shell bottoms in three to six feet of water along the rivers in the Delta. Docks along the shore south of the causeway and the Mobile river are worth a look too. Try soft plastics on a 1/4 or 3/8 oz jig head or my favorite Hildebrandt spinner baits with a size 41/2 gold blade. Colors I like are root beer/chartreuse, white/chartreuse, electric chicken, natural shrimp, and chartreuse/red. A live shrimp on a carolina rig will also be productive. Don’t be surprised if you find a flounder hanging out in these same places. If your looking for some flounder action a curly tail grub on a 3/8 oz jig head or a bull minnow on a carolina rig will help you find success. Look at the points in the delta like Tensaw Point or any of the many others that look like it. It looks like we’re in for a long hot summer, so hit it early and fish hard so you can be headed for the AC by noon.

Catch you later, Capt Dan 251-422-3474

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AUGUST 2020

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ALABAMA/PENSACOLA 9


Lake Martin

July has been good striper fishing for the most part . We had some very good trips with lots and lots of days the entire fleet of guides would be limited out and releasing fish within 2 hrs of the trip . August is going to be as always very hot and more than likely a high volume of recreational boat traffic . In saying this I highly recommend you getting out before daylight on the lower end of the lake and concentrate in very deep water trolling deep at around + or - 3 mph and trying your luck at catching one of the best fighting fish on Lake Martin . Keep in mind that most any of the stripers you catch this month are going to have a tuff time surviving if you try to release it so go prepared with lots of ice to keep your catch fresh for a delicious meal after a hot day of fishing in August . Another fun fish to catch this month are bream . Get yourself some light tackle , some crickets , a box of worms or even a fly rod and go fill your cooler up ( of course stay under the legal limit ) . I look for these fish around docks , back of pockets and up down the shorelines up in the river . You may also try drifting worms on the bottom in the main river channel up north of Camp ASCA for the best tasting catfish you’ll ever put in your mouth . If you haven’t eaten any catfish out of Lake Martin then your missing a treat . Well folks I’m going to go find me a cool place to unwind and probably take a short nap because 3 am comes early for me and these hot days take it out of all of us but it’s still worth trying your luck fishing in August on beautiful Lake Martin ! Until next time tight lines !!!!!!

Capt David B Hare Alex City Guide Service 256-401-3089 Alexander City, Al. davidbhare@yahoo.com www.alexcityguideservice.com

10 ALABAMA/PENSACOLA

AUGUST 2020

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ALABAMA/PENSACOLA 11


Dauphin Island Fishing Forecast The thermometer is still showing as a long red stripe ! It is still very hot and the water is warm and gets warmer as the sun rises, so you will need to fish early in the morning and late in the afternoon to get the best bite for speckled trout. I will continue to use live shrimp under a popping cork in the shallow waters early. In the deeper areas you can suspend a live bait under a slip cork to find the fish. Once you locate fish, a plastic shrimp imitation or finfish imitation will also produce quality fish. I prefer the Vudu shrimp in several colors, natural, brown and the Cajun pepper or a Matrix shad in the same color patterns. I have been top water fishing a lot lately to avoid the heat. I have had a lot of success with the Yo-Zuri 3DB Pencil and Hydro Pencil top water plugs in the natural clear or bone colors. There is nothing like a blow up on a top water plug early in the morning before the sun rises. Also, another great way to catch trout and redfish is to look for diving birds and ease or drift into them casting toward the divers. Be quiet, big motor off, use stealth ! Sometimes you will find the school the birds are diving on is loaded with catfish and other trash fish, but the trout may be under those trash fish. The Redfish will be in their usual spots too, over oyster beds and shells and along the points of rivers and around streams that dump into the larger bodies of water; salinity and water temps don’t affect the reds like it will the trout. The big bull reds will be on Dixey Bar and around the Sand Island lighthouse. These are our breeder stock fish, so please practice “CPR” : Catch, Photo and Release. The triple tail or blackfish will still be here, look for floating debris as they will float along under it. Call me, let’s go fishing! Until next time, tight lines, and good fishing to you Capt. Charlie Gray Gray Gulf Charters Dauphin Island / Mobile Bay / Ft Morgan Alabama 251.379.5067 Charlie@Graygulfcharters.com www.Graygulfcharters.com

12 ALABAMA/PENSACOLA

AUGUST 2020

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ALABAMA/PENSACOLA 13


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Cranking in Marsh Redfish!

There are few things out there that are more fun than targeting redfish cruising around the marsh. Something about seeing redfish with their tails up and backs completely out the water gets the adrenaline flowing! With that being said, targeting these redfish can be a little tricky due to the thick grass mats submerged beneath the surface and the continuous snags from oysters around every bend. However, with the right lure you can effectively target these redfish while reducing snags. One lure that I have had a tremendous amount of success on for marsh redfish is the Yozuri 3DB Wake Bait. This lure is designed to be retrieved 2-6 inches beneath the surface which is ideal around submerged grass and oysters. The Yozuri 3DB Wake Bait also has a lot of flash from the 3D finish along with loud rattling chambers that have been proven to get redfish fired up! These wake baits can be thrown a country mile allowing you to cover an enormous amount of water in comparison to other lures. The wake bait is also one of the easiest lures to retrieve being that all that is needed is a simple, steady retrieve. Great areas to throw the wake bait are around shallow oyster beds, creek mouths, and flooded marsh grass. Some of my best days catching redfish have been in areas where the wake bait was making steady contact with the oyster beds. Redfish dig around the oyster beds looking for crabs and bait fish, and with this lure coming through the area deflecting off the oysters, it is highly likely to get a reaction strike from a nearby redfish. There are several videos available on our YouTube channel “Southern Salt Kayak Fishing” that show us using the Yozuri 3DB Wake Bait to catch upwards of 22 redfish in a single 4 hour trip, as well as videos on how to use the wake bait to maximize your success on the water. Be sure to stop by and check us out on Facebook and Instagram as well. Until next time, tight lines!

Nathan Rich

Custom Inshore, Offshore, and Freshwater Rods 251-379-7239

www.ChubbyFishingRods.com @ChubbyRods COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

AUGUST 2020

@ChubbyRods ALABAMA/PENSACOLA 15


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AUGUST 2020

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CCA Florida Showcases Successful HABITAT RESTORATION PROJECT

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ast month, Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida) joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt for a special event commemorating the success of its Fantasy Island habitat restoration project in Tampa Bay. The onetime eroding Fantasy Island, located in Hillsborough Bay near the mouth of Alafia River, suffered severe destruction due to heavy traffic from the nearby ship channel. In an effort to restore lost habitat to the bay, prevent further erosion and improve water quality, CCA Florida the Building Conservation Trust (BCT) – the national habitat program of CCA – and Tampa Bay Watch joined forces to launch the restoration project in 2016. “The Fantasy Island project is not just about habitat restoration, but habitat innovation through use of innovative design and science-backed data,” CCA Florida Chairman JD Dickenson said. “In collaboration with our partners, our work has enriched the ecological system for oysters, birds and fisheries while improving water quality and increasing opportunities for Florida’s anglers” To kick off the project, more than 1,000 oyster domes and 40 tons of fossilized oyster shells were placed in two feet of water to allow low and high tide exposure. The development of a thriving oyster reef stabilized 700 feet of the island’s southern shoreline. Today, planted spartina grass has spread to stabilize the sand, and the placed reef balls and oyster domes are now covered with new oyster growth. Additionally, the island has become home to various species of fish and sea life, and white ibises can be found nesting on almost every tree. CCA Florida and BCT secured $50,000 of the necessary $150,000 for the project.

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he Florida mini-season for spiny lobster opened July 29 and 30, bringing out the usual horde of divers looking to get a first crack at lobsters that have been unmolested since April. Chances are the reefs will be crowded with divers again during the first part of the general season, which opens Aug. 6, but the crowds usually taper off as the more easily accessible lobsters are snatched up. Veteran divers will tell you the best way to fill your 6-bug limit with lobsters much bigger than the 3-inch carapace length limit is to find an isolated rock pile away from the larger, more well-known reefs. A small structure in a vast expanse of flat sandy bottom consolidates spiny lobsters and makes them easy to catch. These isolated areas are also less likely to have been picked over by other divers. The Atlantic Coast, from the Keys up to about Jupiter typically offers the best visibility and accessibility to an abundance of spiny lobsters. Although they can be found all the way up to the ledges off Jacksonville Beach, catching lobsters in northeast Florida involves deeper dives and limited visibility. For more information and complete regulations for Florida’s 2020 lobster season, go to myfwc.com.

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LAKE MANAGEMENT PLANS

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ere’s your chance to be more involved in the management of your favorite Florida fisheries. FWC has launched a new Lake Management Plans webpage designed to strengthen communication and encourage stakeholders to become more involved with the management plan process. The FWC’s lake management plans focus on the management of a system’s fish, wildlife and habitat. They are intended to guide the successful management of fish and wildlife on these systems for their long-term wellbeing and the benefit of people. The FWC is committed to designing these plans using stakeholder input and feedback to help guide management activities on individual lakes. Input from the public is vital to the success of these projects. The FWC is actively gathering input on each PHOTO COURTESY OF EXPERIENCE KISSIMMEE plan through multiple methods to ensure stakeholders can be involved in the development of management goals and objectives. The FWC is currently developing lake management plans for the Harris Chain of Lakes, the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Lake Okeechobee. If you would like to get involved in this planning effort, select the lake in which you’re interested, click the “Get Involved” button and send us your information. Check the webpages for information on the progress of the plans and for completed management plans. For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lake.

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You Can Catch ’Em, But...

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You Can’t Keep ‘Em! Y

ou might not be allowed to keep snook through the summer months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch them. And right now is a good time to target large snook. In fact, this catch-and-release period may be one of the best times for serious anglers to land a fish worthy of a photo to hang on the wall. In summer, snook are in the spawning mood. They can be caught in the surf, often very close to the shore, and also around inlets and ports leading to the open ocean. They’ll move in and out with the moon phases through about September, but they don’t generally move too far. If you’ve got a good area for snook during the fall mullet run, chances are the snook will be nearby during the summer months. For the same reason, the best surf locations will be near a pass. Typically a 15-pound snook is enough to make most anglers very happy. But this is the time of year is when 20- to 25-pounders are caught, and a 40-pounder is not out of the question. The Florida state record snook was caught out of Fort Myers in 1984 and weighed 44-pounds, 3-ounces. But with no way to certify a weight during the summer because fish must be released, there’s no telling how many have topped that mark in the more than three decades since it was caught. Many anglers chase snook with artificials, as they are a fish that will readily jump on jerkbaits, spoons, soft plastics, topwater plugs or flies while they are not spawning. However, bait can be and fisherman’s best friend when

targeting truly big fish. Snook will eat any small fish as well as live shrimp and crabs. Pilchards and other schooling baitfish make for good chum and bait. But if you’re specifically after the fish of a lifetime, sink a big hung of cut bait to the bottom. Large mullet heads and ladyfish heads are known for producing trophy-size snook. Morning, evening and night will be

the best times to fish, as snook are notoriously nocturnal. Sure, 20-inch snook caught in the backcountry on flies or soft-plastic shrimp are a ton of fun, and you can do that through the fall and winter. But summertime is your best opportunity to land a snook that’ll make your jaw drop and your reel scream. So get your hands stinky with some real bait and catch the fish of a lifetime. Just be sure to take care with the fish and revive it well before release. Those big snook are responsible for making the next generation of fish for us to catch.

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By Peter Cammann

n over 30 years fishing the flats at Luquillo, Puerto Rico, two of the funniest people I met there were Reggie and Manny, a couple of pals from New Jersey on their first visit to the island. I had waded a few yards from shore, keeping my legs covered with water, so as to stay cool and was having a great time catching and releasing cero mackerel, which are related to Spanish macks. As Reggie and Manny walked by, I hooked into one and promptly lost it. “I told you it looked like he was catching fish!” said Reggie. “So, where’s the fish?” Manny asked. “Out in the water, where it belongs,” I replied. “Smart-ass!” Manny shot back as Reggie laughed. Thus, we became friends. The first thing my new pals wanted to know was whether there was a reasonable chance I might catch something while they watched. I explained that the rate of an angler’s success was directly related to the number of fish in the water, divided by the number of people taking note of what the angler was doing, divided again by the probability that the angler in question may well have caught the last fish he was apt to encounter for the rest of the day, which in itself was damn near a sure thing. “That bad?” Reggie marveled. There was always a chance, I offered. “Maybe we might be able to get you to give us one for dinner?” Manny asked hopefully. Now saddled with an audience that expected to be fed, I began to feel the pressure. I got two hits and lost them both at the strike. Another fish took me into a weed bed about 70 feet out before it snapped off. Dinner was beginning to resemble an abstract concept. Still, Reggie was optimistic and he urged me on. I believe I might have eventually met with some success, but for Manny’s query a few minutes later. “Hey, Pete! You mind if I take a dip? It’s getting hot watching you.” Manny waded into the channel I was fishing and submerged. He came back to the surface with a smile on his face. He bobbed about in the water, contemplating the clear blue liquid and feeling it cool him down. He paddled about for 10 minutes before climbing out onto the beach. “We done here?” he asked. “I dunno,” Reggie remarked. “Are we, Peter?” They looked at me with a mixture of expectation and mild disappointment. After all, I had offered the vague promise of a fish dinner, delayed their swimming hour while they waited patiently for it, and then failed to deliver. If I had possessed a conscience, I might have felt awful about it and offered some kind of apology, which I believe my new friends would have graciously accepted, if only out of pity. Instead, we looked out on the ocean wondering where the fish had got to and laughed like hell. Peter Cammann has written fishing stories for magazines and newspapers for over 30 years. He is the author of three books: Fishing Vermont’s Streams and Lakes, Ultralight Spin Fishing and a novel titled SlipNot, all of which are available on amazon.com.

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AUGUST 2020

FLORIDA 17


MARK SOSIN

GUCKEN MEMORIAL REEF

Photo courtesy of Swordfish Sportfishing

FISH & FISHING

HOOK ‘EM UP

DEPLOYED OFF ANNA MARINA

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pair of pliers can help you land more fish than you have in the past. Most anglers ignore the logic of that statement, preferring to follow the same rut in the road that they have in the past. The process is simple. All you do is use pliers to mash the barb on the hook or hooks. One squeeze with those pliers and you have dramatically improved your chances of hooking the next fish that picks up the bait or attacks your lure. Historians tell us that barbs were put on hooks originally to keep the bait from falling off. Conservationists recommend barbless hooks or at least hooks where the barb has been flattened to help prevent injury to a fish that will be released. That’s a valid reason, but a much more compelling one centers on the fact that your ratio of hookups will begin to soar, particularly with species whose mouths are lined with piscatorial equivalent of cinder blocks. There’s more to the story. Serious anglers choose their hooks carefully, opting for light wire rather than the stout stuff that could lift a truck out of a ditch. The finer the wire, the easier it penetrates. Huskier hooks with oversized barbs bore wider holes in a fish’s jaw, sometimes falling out regardless of how tight the line may be. Climb out of the trench of tradition and take a hard look at the hook sizes you presently use. Smaller hooks prove more effective than larger ones in terms of hooking and holding a fish. It’s a gambler’s bet that you’re using hooks that are way too big for the task at hand. Remember that bigger or heavier wire does not mean better. An itinerant philosopher of questionable fame and barely a wisp of glory insists that whatever most people believe to be true will probably prove false. Try his thinking on these statements. 1) Fish straighten light wire hooks easily. 2) It takes a big hook to catch a big fish. 3) Without a barb you’ll never land a fish. 4) If you use big bait, you need a big hook. 5) The more hooks you have on a lure, the better your chances for a hookup. Let me share two examples: An extremely successful captain with whom I have fished for years uses very small hooks with live bait on the offshore grounds. His hooks have a shank of just less than an inch and a gap of a half-inch. The fish he lands on those tiny hooks would amaze you. A captain with whom I fished in Costa Rica uses small hooks for billfish. The first thing he does is mash the barbs on his hooks. Then, he sharpens every hook and triangulates the point. If you had a chance to fish with him, the first thing you would do when you got home, is buy a pair of pliers.

For more from Mark Sosin, visit

CAMFISHING.COM

18 FLORIDA

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fter three years in the making, the Sean Gucken Memorial Reef was recently deployed just 5 miles off Anna Maria in west Florida. CCA Florida spearheaded the reef project, in an effort to honor its late member who unexpectedly passed away in 2017. Sean Gucken, of St. Petersburg, a revered angler, free diver and spearfisherman, was also a devout advocate for protecting Florida’s waters and marine resources. The deployment is a tribute to his passion, and the Gucken Reef will continue his legacy by helping create new fisheries and habitats. The concrete was deployed on the Manatee County “Bridge Reef,” a pre-permitted artificial reef site roughly a quarter mile square. The concrete reefing materials were donated by Port Manatee and Westra Construction. The Bridge Reef is located west of Anna Maria Island, 27º°30 55.44 / 82º 49 1.56 central point. A separate memorial module for Gucken will be deployed on the Bridge Reef in a private ceremony later this year. Thanks go out to partners Yamaha Outboards and Building Conservation Trust (BCT) for supporting this project and continuing Sean’s legacy.

LIONFISH CHALLENGE ENDS ON LABOR DAY

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ime is running out to register and compete in the 2020 Lionfish Challenge. The Lionfish Challenge is an incentive program that rewards harvesters for their lionfish removals. The Challenge is open now and will run through Labor Day, Sept. 7. Register online at FWCReefRangers.com at any time. With a tiered system, everybody can be a winner. The participant who harvests the most lionfish will be crowned the Lionfish King/Queen. There are two categories: recreational (number of lionfish) and commercial (pounds of lionfish). Participants with an active Saltwater Products License and lionfish sales within the last year will automatically be included in the commercial category. The recreational category is open to all divers who do not have a SPL. The more removals, the more prizes you win. To qualify for the Challenge, harvesters must collect 20 lionfish (recreational) or 20 pounds of lionfish (commercial). Once those initial lionfish have been submitted, the participant will receive a commemorative 2020 Lionfish Challenge Coin and Dri-Fit long sleeve T-shirt. Recreational – the first 20 lionfish must be submitted to the FWC Lionfish Team via photo of all lionfish laid out so they can be counted. The photo must include the harvester’s name, date of harvest (shown on phone or dive computer) and their signature. After the qualifying tier has been met, the harvester must submit their lionfish tails with their information (harvester name, date of harvest and signature) to a verified checkpoint. A 2020 FWC Lionfish Challenge Submission form must be filled out and sent to Lionfish@MyFWC.com. Commercial – catches are submitted via electronic trip tickets. The trip tickets must include the harvester’s name, date of harvest, amount harvested (pounds) and the harvester’s signature.

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Diving with Endangered Sawfish By Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

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Sweat THE SMALL STUFF

Life is a Beach!

Y

By Richard Matteson – Stuart Rod and Reel Club

es, summer surf casting on the beach is about big snook and tarpon. Perhaps overlooked are the smallest table fare on the beach, whiting and croaker, which average 10 to 12 inches in length and weigh less than a pound. Their meat is white and very tasty, and if you catch enough of them you’ve got a fine fish dinner. I always keep a bag of whiting and croaker in my refrigerator and add to it as I go. Whiting and croaker are mostly bottom feeders unless they encounter schools of glass minnows, which they follow and blast on the top or corral along the shoreline. Standard techniques for catching them involve sand fleas, live shrimp, cut bait and dead shrimp fished on double rigs with small hooks. You can also use ¼-ounce jig tipped with shrimp. I prefer to use standard jigs (3/8 to ½ ounce) with a 2- or 3-inch plastic body. I shorten the 4-inch D.O.A. paddletails so they are 2 ½ inches long. The trick is to bounce the bait on the bottom and to jerk it near the top. Sometimes they’ll miss, and you’ll snag them around the mouth. Whiting and croaker are Sometimes they’ll take the jig in their often overlooked when mouths. When there’s baitfish and fishing the beach. they’re feeding, it’s easy to catch a dozen fish in a few minutes. Whiting and croaker are an unrestricted species, which means an angler can harvest 100 pounds of fish and there’s no size limit. Smaller fish are harder to fillet. On light tackle and a spinning reel and thin rod, a 1-pound whiting can put up a fight. They are pretty strong for their size. Because of their small mouths, they flip off jig hooks. The bite to hook-up ratio isn’t great. So, if the big fish are not hitting, try fishing the bottom for croaker and whiting. For information about the Stuart Rod and Reel Club, visit our website www.stuartrodadnreel.com. 20 FLORIDA

AUGUST 2020

he population of smalltooth sawfish in the United States experienced a dramatic decline during the 20th century due to overfishing, habitat loss, and the species’ limited reproductive potential. Given the decline, smalltooth sawfish were listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act in 2003. The ultimate goal of the listing is to recover the population to the point that it no longer needs the protections; therefore, NOAA Fisheries convened the U.S. Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Implementation Team to develop and implement a plan to recover the U.S smalltooth sawfish population. One of the best ways to track the effectiveness of ongoing management and conservation efforts is to collect information about sawfish encounters from divers, fishers and others. Because of their countless hours in the water, we are seeking to partner with the diving community to collect information about their sawfish sightings. Our team developed the guidelines below to inform divers about how to safely and legally enjoy encounters with sawfish: • Keep your distance • Avoid disturbing sawfish • Never chase, feed, or touch them • Share information about encounters Divers should note that advertising expeditions aimed at encountering endangered smalltooth sawfish can be considered “targeting,” which is a violation of the ESA. Therefore, it is strongly urged that the following conservation messaging be included in all advertisements and social media posts regarding sawfish interactions underwater: Sawfish are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Help protect this critically endangered species by following NOAA Fisheries viewing guidelines available at www. SawfishRecovery.org. Share sawfish observations by visiting www.SawfishRecovery.org, calling 1-844-4SAWFISH, and/or emailing sawfish@myfwc.com.

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lso known as the “gray snapper” and to many locals as “mangoes,” the mangrove snapper derives its name given its abundance in Florida’s mangroves. Anglers can find mangoes around shoreline structure year-round. Although larger individuals of the species (14-plus inches) venture offshore once matured, they return to inshore waters from June to September to spawn. Weighing up to 10 pounds as adults, they can be found under docks, along rock lines and bridges all over the Florida coast. With delicious white meat and as a highly sustainable seafood option because of their abundance, mangrove snappers make great table fare. From a boat or from shore, night fishing is the best way to catch mangrove snappers. Cooler waters and darkness result in more aggressive fish. I prefer spinning tackle for chasing mangoes. A 6- to 7-foot medium-light action spinning rod outfitted with a medium spinning reel is a common setup. Use 10- to 20-pound-test braid. The abrasion resistance is necessary because big mangrove snappers are known for bulldogging runs directly to rocks, oyster-covered pilings and other structure. The limited stretch of braid also allows for better sensitivity to bites. A 7- to 10-foot 20- to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader is also key. Mangrove snappers have excellent eyesight, so a tough, low visibility leader can often be a necessity depending on the amount of moonlight when fishing. The additional abrasion-resistance of fluoro as compared to mono can often mean the difference between an unsuccessful trip and one resulting in several offshoresize keepers. In terms of bait, live shrimp or sardines are often the preferred snapper fare, and mangroves can typically be spotted swimming toward the surface to ambush these prey. However, if live bait is unattainable, large cut chunks of pilchards, mullet, ballyhoo or even squid will suffice. A simple fluorocarbon leader tied to a weightless size 1 hook serves as the best low-profile method of naturally presenting bait. A knocker rig is a good second option when fishing waters exceeding 10 feet. When searching for potential structure, look for pilings, bridges and docks with protective cover such as rocks. Mangroves also prefer some current. Some particularly good places to look are jetties close to inlets, which commonly hold large schools of snapper. As ambush predators, mangrove snappers tuck tight to cover and wait for whatever prey might swim by in the current. After locating good structure, cast your bait a few yards up-current, letting the bait drift naturally toward areas where snappers are believed to be hiding. When a mango bites, be patient. They frequently carry a bait back toward cover before swallowing it. After setting the hook, anglers should put pressure on them quickly, as larger snappers take advantage of structures to sever fishing lines.

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New Laws Should Curb Florida’s

By Terry Gibson

SEWAGE TREATMENT CRISIS

I

By John Saporito

on septic tanks and provides an infrastructure grant fund to lower costs for rate payers. In summary, the 111-page Clean Waterways Act provides: 1) new stormwater regulations that reduce nutrient loads; 2) upgrades to domestic wastewater infrastructure; 3) conversion of polluting septic tanks to municipal systems; 4) improved regulation of sewage biosolids application, as well as; 4) advancements in best management practices to reduce agriculture nutrient contributions. Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) Rep. The Clean Waterways Act Bobby Payne (R-Palatka) championed Clean Anglers are forced to live with billions of gallons Waterways. It passed unanimously. of sewage spills because local governments that The Environmental Accountability Act own wastewater utilities have raided the utilities’ revenues, called “Enterprise Funds,” to pay for The Environmental Accountability Act is the other government services instead of reinvesting in enforcement arm. Wastewater utilities viewed the infrastructure. By forcing each utility to provide the meager fines for spilling sewage as the cost of the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection business. Environmental Accountability increases with plans for maintenance, repairs and upgrades, fines by 50 percent to $15,000 per day for sewage and an explanation of how they’ll pay for them, dumping and other point sources of pollution. the Clean Waterways Act should discourage such The fines may go into a trust fund that may only short-sighted behavior. be spent on repairs, upgrades and other efforts to Clean Waterways also makes it the DEP’s improve water quality. obligation to regulate septic tanks instead of the Rep. Randy Fine (R-Melbourne), and Senator Dept. of Health, which many critics accuse of Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) championed the aiding and abetting the septic tank industry. It Environmental Accountability Act. It also passed strongly discourages new construction that relies unanimously. don’t have to tell anglers that Florida has a major poop problem. Aging, ailing wastewater infrastructure is major culprit that feeds harmful algal blooms and spreads fecal pathogens into an overwhelming majority of Florida waters. Septic tanks, which pollute by design, represent 30 percent of the state’s wastewater “infrastructure.” Thankfully, on June 30, Governor Ron DeSantis signed two pieces of legislation into law that will significantly reduce pollution and contamination in waters of the Fishing Capital of the World.

Federal Action Our organization has also worked on the federal level to increase funding for water infrastructure repairs and improvements. Congress significantly increased funding levels. There is also a great deal of bi-partisan support for Covid-19 stimulus packages that include massive funding for water infrastructure.

What You Can Do Reach out to your elected officials to express your concern about sewage pollution. The Clean Waterways Act and the Environmental Accountability Act will now go into the rulemaking process, where the “teeth” get applied, or not. Meanwhile, we need support on all levels of government to fix what is at a minimum a $16.5 billion problem in Florida. Jensen Beach-based Terry Gibson is the Government Affairs Director of the American Water Security Project. He is a veteran outdoor writer and has served in many editorial capacities at several fishing publications.

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BIG BLUES TOPPING LEADERBOARDS R

eports are coming in from this summer’s big-game tournaments of some huge blue marlin topping the leaderboards. The largest we’ve heard of so far— 964 pounds— was a big meal shy of achieving grander status. There were also a couple of big fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico, one of which is a potential Alabama state record. The near-grander was caught July 4 in the Cape Verde Islands off Africa’s North Atlantic coast by La Onda Mila, captained by Marty Bates. The fish won $464,000 and the 2020 Blue Marlin World Cup, which is open in waters worldwide for a single day. Another qualifying entry in the Blue Marlin World Cup was 667.2-pound blue, caught by Done Deal and Capt. Jason Buck from the central Gulf of Mexico. Weighed at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, Louisiana, Done Deals’ big fish earned $339,200 for the optional Big Blue Challenge consolation prize. It was a big payday for Done Deal. Their 667.2-pounder was also entered in the July 4 Gulf Cup, in which boats may fish out of any Gulf of Mexico port. Done Deal earned an additional $128,000 for its catch as the Gulf Cup champion.

The next day, July 5, Ginger Myers sat in the chair of the Fleur-de-lis and battled a huge 851.9-pound blue to submission during the 2020 MONGO Offshore Challenge. Weighed at Orange Beach Marina, the fish is a pending Alabama state record and it also puts Myers in position to claim the largest blue marlin ever caught by a woman from the Gulf of Mexico. She’ll have to wait for the results of the MONGO, as the tournament runs through Oct. 15.

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NEW ATLANTIC SNAPPER-GROUPER FISHING THE FLATS OR BAY? REQUIREMENTS

N

ew gear requirements required for anglers targeting snapper and grouper species went into effect July 15 for Atlantic waters from North Carolina through Florida. NOAA’s new regulations are designed to decrease mortality rates for released fish and require anglers to have a descending device on board and readily available while grouper or snapper fishing. The new rule also requires the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper or grouper with hook-and-line gear and natural baits. More than 50 fish species fall under the umbrella of the snapper-grouper ‘complex,’ a diverse collection of offshore fish that are sought-after table fare and critical to a healthy ocean ecosystem. Some of the most commonly encountered snapper-grouper species are black seabass, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, red snapper, gag grouper and spadefish. Many snapper-grouper species live a long time, grow slowly, and reach maturity at a late age—all of which makes them vulnerable to overfishing and makes each adult fish valuable to the overall population. Because these fish are often pulled from deep waters, they’re at high risk of barotrauma, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when fish undergo rapid pressure changes. Barotrauma, often accompanied by bulging eyes and bloated stomachs, can be a death sentence for caught-and-released fish. Fortunately, barotrauma can be reversed through the use of a descending device, which helps anglers return fish to deep waters from which it was caught. Descending devices can range from sophisticated, commercially available instruments to a DIY weighted hook.

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GO GROUPER FISHING,

NOT JUST BOTTOM FISHING Tim Barefoot

I

t’s not a coincidence...people who go “grouper fishing” come home with grouper in the box. People who go “bottom fishing” might catch a grouper, but they are more likely to fill the cooler with grunts, pinkies and sea bass. If you’re dropping cut squid and minnows on a high-low (chicken rig), you’ll have plenty of action, but you are not fishing for grouper. In order to specifically target grouper, you have to put baits on the bottom, and tackle that will accommodate that bait, in order to eliminate the trash bites. I love to eat grunts, pinkies and sea bass as much as the next guy, but I specifically target the grouper bite with the size and kind of bait I use. From an anchored boat, I typically start everyone out with whole squid and minnows to get the party going on the bottom. This creates a “chum slick” and gets the fish all excited. After half a dozen drops of sacrificial baits each, we change over to larger live and butterflied baits. Wherever you fish, the best bait to use is the bait that is there. That’s why I stay on the sabiki while everyone else is sending down squid. I’m fishing for grass grunts and beeliners (vermillion snapper) to be used live or butterflied. Don’t think for a minute that a 12inch beeliner is too big to use as bait. It’s not. A foot-long butterflied beeliner is the perfect bait for a big grouper.

The idea is to use baits that grunts and pinkies can’t fit in their mouths. If they do eat it, it will take them a long time and a lot of small bites. The angler must be patient with big baits like this. You’ll feel a lot of little “tap, tap, taps,” and then all of a sudden the little fish will stop biting. When the nibbling stops, it’s time to get ready. A lull often signifies the arrival of a bigger fish. It’s getting ready to happen! Live grass grunts on a Decoy Jig are probably my go-to big gag grouper bait, but a big butterflied beeliner is just as good. In the past, when we had abundant and inexpensive bait like frozen cigar minnows and sardines in 5-pound boxes, it was easy to take a few boxes of minnows and a couple boxes of squid for these sacrificial “chum” baits. Now, we have to be more creative. I keep a pinfish trap fishing a few days before a trip and butterfly a large bag of the biggest pinfish. You can also sabiki or cast net larger pinfish on any wreck or fish-cleaning station with a little chum. Cast net a few dozen big turbo pogies (menhaden) as a back-up if you can’t find big pinfish. If you’re interested in catching big grouper, fish big baits on heavy-duty tackle, and be ready for the big bite! For a video on how to butterfly baits, see https://youtu.be/UzdxiTkjvHI.

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Finding Trout On

SUMMERTIME TAILWATERS

I

By CAM Staff

f you’re looking for a way to beat the summer heat, fishing a tailwater trout stream is an obvious choice. With predictable flows controlled by hydroelectric dams, these are waters where temperature and oxygen content remain relatively stable year round. For trout and angler alike, tailrace fisheries are an oasis in the deep summer heat. While life in all but the highest-elevation free-flowing streams is suffering from heat-induced lethargy, tailwater trout remain active and healthy. Whether it’s the White River in Arkansas, Maryland’s Gunpowder Falls or Georgia’s Toccoa River, there are some constants when it comes to fishing tactics in deep summer. No two rivers fish the same, but trout prefer similar conditions wherever they live. • Fish High — When cold water from the bottom of a deep reservoir is pulled through generation turbines under various methods of oxygenation, flows released below the dam offer excellent conditions for trout. This only extends so

far downstream, though. Summer heat and the sun warm the water, which is also robbed of its oxygen content in the absence of aerating shoals. For anglers on most tailwaters, this means the first few miles below the dam will be the best place to fish. • Fish The Morning — In the depths of winter, sleeping in and fishing the warmest part of the day is often recommended. The opposite is true in summer. Anglers and trout will be more comfortable in the early morning before the sun has had a chance to heat the shallows. Fish are more likely to be up and feeding when the sun is not cooking their backs. Get on the water at daybreak for a few hours of action and then go eat brunch.

• Fish The Shoals — Shoal-broken water has more oxygen. Trout seek out water with higher oxygen content, and their metabolisms also churn when there’s more oxygen in the system. Especially in low-light conditions, work the runs and pockets in the shoals to find actively feeding fish. • Fish The Holes — Find a good deep hole beneath a turbulent shoal and use plenty of weight to dredge the bottom. Deeper water is colder water. When water temps begin to rise, trout go deep. You might find a pod of hungry trout hugging the bottom, or you might find that one fish big enough to have the whole lie to herself.

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130 Piece Tool Kit with Case

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72" x 80" Camouflage Utility Cover

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18" x 12", 1000 lb. Capacity Mover's Dolly

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300 lb. Capacity ATV/Lawn Mower Lift

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Limit 1 coupon per customer per day. Save 20% on any 1 item purchased. *Cannot be used with other discount, coupon or any of the following items or brands: Inside Track Club membership, Extended Service Plan, gift card, open box item, 3 day Parking Lot Sale item, compressors, floor jacks, power stations, safes, storage cabinets, chests or carts, trailers, welders, Admiral, Ames, Atlas, Bauer, Central Machinery, Cobra, CoverPro, Daytona, Diamondback, Earthquake, Fischer, Hercules, Icon, Jupiter, Lynxx, Poulan, Predator, Tailgator, Viking, Vulcan, Zurich. Not valid on prior purchases. Non-transferable. Original coupon must be presented. Valid through 9/17/20.

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7/9/20 12:06 PM



Tears From A Volcano

Limited to the first 1600 orders from this ad only

Uniquely American stone ignites romance

O

n May 18, 1980, the once-slumbering Mount St. Helens erupted in the Pacific Northwest. It was the most impressive display of nature’s power in North America’s recorded history. But even more impressive is what emerged from the chaos... a spectacular new creation born of ancient minerals named Helenite. Its lush, vivid color and amazing story instantly captured the attention of jewelry connoisseurs worldwide. You can now have four carats of the world’s newest stone for an absolutely unbelievable price. Known as America’s emerald, Helenite makes it possible to give her a stone that’s brighter and has more fire than any emerald without paying the exorbitant price. In fact, this many carats of an emerald that looks this perfect and glows this green would cost you upwards of $80,000. Your more beautiful and much more affordable option features a perfect teardrop of Helenite set in gold-covered sterling silver suspended from a chain accented with even more verdant Helenite. Limited Reserves. As one of the largest EXCLUSIVE gemstone dealers in the world, we buy more carats of Helenite than anyone, which lets us give you a great price. However, this much gorgeous green Helenite Earrings for this price won’t last long. Don’t miss out. Helenite is only found in -a one section of Washington State, so with purchase of call today! Helenite Necklace Romance guaranteed or your money back. Experience the scintillating beauty of the Helenite Teardrop Necklace for 30 days and if she isn’t completely in love with it send it back for a full refund of the item price. You can even keep the stud earrings as our thank you for giving us a try.

4 carats of shimmering Helenite

FREE

$129 value-



“I love these pieces... it just glowed... so beautiful!” — S.S., Salem, OR

Helenite Teardrop Necklace (4 ¼ ctw) $299* ..... Only $129 +S&P Helenite Stud Earrings (1 ctw) ....................................... $129 +S&P

Helenite Set (5 ¼ ctw) $428* ...... Call-in price only $129 +S&P (Set includes necklace and stud earrings)

Call now and mention the offer code to receive FREE earrings.

1-800-333-2045 Offer Code HEN304-01

You must use the offer code to get our special price.

Stauer Rating of A+

®

14101 Southcross Drive W., Ste 155, Dept. HEN304-01, Burnsville, Minnesota 55337 www.stauer.com Necklace enlarged to show luxurious color

* Special price only for customers using the offer code versus the price on Stauer.com without your offer code.

• 4 ¼ ctw of American Helenite and the Ultimate Diamond Alternative®, DiamondAura® — Gold-finished .925 sterling silver settings — 16" chain with 2" extender and lobster clasp

Stau e r … A f f or d the E x tr ao r di n a r y .®


Meet the Watch That Shook Up Switzerland A watch that revolutionized timekeeping at a price equally as radical.

I

Wear it today for only

$39

n the history of timepieces, few moments are more important than the creation of the world’s first Piezo timepiece. First released to the public in 1969, the watch turned the entire industry on its head, ushering in a new era of timekeeping. It’s this legacy that we’re honoring with the Timemaster Watch, available only through Stauer at a price only we can offer. Prior to Piezo watches, gravity-driven Swiss watches were the standard bearer of precision timekeeping. But all that changed when the first commercially available Piezo watch came onto the market. The result of ten years of research and development by some of the world’s top engineers, they discovered that when you squeeze a certain type of crystal, it generates a tiny electric current. And, if you pass electricity through the crystal, it vibrates at a precise frequency–exactly 32,768 times each second. When it came on the market, the Piezo watch was the most dependable timepiece available, accurate to 0.2 seconds per day. Today, it’s still considered a spectacular advance in electrical engineering. “It was like a magnum bullet shot at the most sensitive spot of the mechanical watch industry... Switzerland was terrified.” —Ariel Adams of A Blog to Watch. With the Timemaster we’ve set one of the world’s most important mechanical advances inside a decidedly masculine case. A handsome prodigy in rich leather and gold-finished stainless steel. The simplicity of the watch’s case belies an ornately detailed dial, which reflects the prestige of this timepiece. Call today to secure your own marvel of timekeeping history. Because we work directly with our own craftsman we’re able to offer the Timemaster at a fraction of the price that many Piezo watches cost. But a watch like this doesn’t come along every day. Call today before time runs out and they’re gone. Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. Spend some time with this engineering masterpiece for one month. If you’re not convinced you got excellence for less, simply send it back within 30 days for a refund of the item price. But we’re betting this timekeeping pioneer is a keeper.

[

Timemaster Piezo Watch $299*

TAKE 8

Offer Code Price Only $39 + S&P Save $260 OFF IN 7% STA

NTLY!

1-800-333-2045

When you use

Your Insider Offer Code: TPW221-01 You must use the insider offer code to get our special price.

Stauer

® 14101 Southcross Drive W., Ste 155, Dept. TPW221-01 Burnsville, Minnesota 55337 www.stauer.com

*Discount is only for customers who use the offer code versus the listed original Stauer.com price.

Rating of A+

Stauer… Afford the Extraordinary.®

your

INSIDER OFFER CO DE

• Precision Piezo electric movement • Stainless steel caseback and crown • Cotswold® mineral crystal • Crocodile embossed leather strap fits wrists 6 ½"–8 ½" • Date window display • Water resistant to 3 ATM


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