Coastal Angler Magazine | September 2020 | Alabama/Pensacola Edition

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Mullet Run TARPON

Slob

Snook From The Beach

PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN IZQUIERDO YOUTUBE: RYAN IZ FISHING VOLUME 25 • ISSUE 306

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SLOB SNOOK By Ryan Izquierdo

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he anticipation is over. Snook season opened Sept. 1 on Florida’s Atlantic coast, and I know a lot of anglers who are excited to get that thump, fire up the skillet and enjoy a beautiful keeper snook with friends and family. Snook, in case you didn’t know it, are pretty much the most awesome inshore gamefish around. They grow large, up into the 30- and 40-pound range. They are aggressive feeders, and the fight is definitely something to write home about. Florida anglers are lucky to live in one of the world’s best places to catch snook. For everyone else, it’s definitely worth a fall trip to the Sunshine State to do battle with these tacklebusters. Regulations allow you to keep just one fish a day in the 28- to 32-inch slot limit. One of the best ways to catch that one keeper—or a giant slob snook—is beach fishing. You don’t need a fancy boat. All you need is your own two legs, a rod and reel and the appropriate tackle. Location — When fishing for snook, tarpon

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and other gamefish, there are a few key things to look for: birds flying/diving, baitfish being ambushed, obvious structure and current flow. I always bring binoculars to the beach and scan the shoreline for birds and baitfish. If you don’t see any action, keep moving down the beach. I drive my truck to every beach access, quickly hop out and scout. This is the fastest way to cover ground and scan for what you are looking for! The more you fish the beach, the more you will learn and understand a pattern. Snook are hunters; they stage up in obvious areas ready to ambush prey. The beach may all look the same on the surface, but underwater is a different story. Be on the lookout for deep holes, rocks, grass, dropoffs, swash channels and any other structure you might find. Any time sand meets grass or rocks, that’s a great area to fish. Look past the obvious structure, and sometimes that will yield fish other anglers fail to notice. Equipment — When it comes to beach snook fishing, finesse is everything. However, the goal is to get the fish in quickly to ensure a healthy release if it’s not a keeper. Typically, you want to

downscale your line, leader, and hook when beach fishing. My go-to set up is a 4000 spinning reel; 10- to 20-lb. braid; a 7-foot medium action rod; 3 to 4 feet of 30-lb. fluorocarbon leader; a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig-head; and 3- to 6-inch swimbaits, depending on the forage, depth and fishing conditions. Jerkbaits and plugs that dive 3 to 5 feet are also a good option. Matching the hatch is key. Use lures that look similar in size and color to what the fish are feeding on. Fishing with live bait is also a good option. I always keep a 5- or 6-foot cast net in the bed of my truck. It’s lightweight, easy, and gets the job done. Pilchards, threadfin, mullet, croaker and whiting are all great baits found on Florida’s east coast beaches. Keep an aerator and bucket with a lid to ensure the baits are alive and cool. The bigger the bait, the bigger the tackle you will need. I like to free line baits, but I carry pinchon split shot weights if I need to get baits down into the strike zone. I recommend 2/0 to 6/0 circle hooks for the best hook up ratio. Time — The best times to go fishing are at dawn and dusk. Tides are also extremely important. The best time to fish for beach snook is the first hour before and after incoming and outgoing tides. I’ve had the best results right before and after high tide. It is important to check the tides and plan ahead. I also log my catches in a small notebook, where I write down the date, tide, time, tackle/bait used. Start a logbook, and you will eventually have excellent data to use in planning. That is the best way to truly learn and master beach snook fishing. Follow Ryan Izquierdo on YouTube (RyanIzFishing) and Instagram (Instagram.com/Ryan_Izquierdo) to check out his fishing adventures.


Spider Rigging To Catch

Crappie C

By Darcie Arahill

rappie, also known as “specks,” and “sac-a-lait” and a host of other names, depending on where you live, are absolutely delicious and are easy to catch for the whole family. I grew up saltwater fishing and did not know much about crappie. However, all it took was one trip to the lake and I was hooked on these fish; on the correct light tackle crappie are just as much fun as larger fish, and more “yummy” than most! Crappie, both white and black variations, can be found in almost any body of freshwater from Michigan to Florida. I usually catch them in Lake

Okeechobee, Fla. Depending on the time of year, you will catch them in grass mats, along edges, in deep holes, and even through the ice. They generally hold tight to some type of cover like brushpiles or sunken timber, and they eat primarily smaller fish. Small minnows or baits that mimic small minnows work best. When the fish are biting, it is easy on many lakes to see where crappie are by the dozens of boats seeking to catch what I call “lake lobster!” This type of fishing is a way of life for many lake anglers. My favorite way to catch them is often called “spider rigging.” Anglers set out multiple specially designed rods, up to 20 sometimes, such as the BP Crappie Max Crappie Rod, with very light line and leader (no more than 4- to 8-lb. test), a bobber, then a split shot and a small hook. We generally use size #1, #2 or #4 Mustad Aberdeen hooks, and you can try different color hooks as well—gold, bronze or red. The easiest bait to catch crappie with is tiny live minnows from the local tackle shop. Set your rods at varying depths, and discover where they are biting! If you want to up your game, try jigging for them. Mustad crappie jigs are usually “ball head” jigs and come in a variety of colors. Drop your jig into deep holes and along grass mats or slow troll a spread of jigs around the mouths of creeks. You can attach a variety of trailers, curly tails, minnows and some even add spinners to the jig. Lastly, to really make it fun you can even fly fish for crappie. They will hit many types of flies, and be sure to focus on the size of the fly as much as anything. In conclusion, the only way to catch crappie is to GO, get out there! It’s time to bring the entire family, kids and everyone, for a wonderful day on the water and an even better dinner. This type of fishing is a great way to introduce young kids to fishing because it’s hard to not catch a crappie or other by-catch like bass, catfish, sunfish and bluegills when out the lake. Find “Darcizzle Offshore” on all the major social media platforms. Darcie has more than 850 videos of her fishing adventures on YouTube and would love to hear from you.

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hoisted and weighed when Backstabber brought in a 687.5-pound behemoth that launched them into first place. Capt. Kevin Lord (Square Footage) shuffled the deck again after lunch with a 547 pounder. Here’s the list of the top-10: 1st: Pete Speeches - Backstabber - 687.5 - $6,250 2nd: Keith Jordan - Bailey & Bella - 679.5 - $3,250 3rd: Kurt Christensen - Molly Jane - 671.5 - $1,500 4th: Keith Jordan - Bailey & Bella - 637 - $1,000 5th: Kevin Lord - 547 - $500 6th: Kurt Christensen - Molly Jane - 538 7th: Nate Bolduc - Cecelia Jean - 501.5 8th: Rusty Parmenter - Patricia Ann - 483 9th: Jeremy Loomis - Kelsey Anne - 466 10th: Shawn Moore - Katelyn A – 462

Dr. Walt Golet, adjunct professor from the University of Maine, and team members with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute collected biological samples from all fish landed for continuing work on bluefin tuna. In its second year, the Casco Bay Bluefin Bonanza is a charitable organization dedicated to raising funds for scholarships to Maine’s community college system. In 2019, the Bonanza

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RATTLING UP EVERGLADES SNOOK By Capt. Michael Okruhlik

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s with any saltwater fish, tide is of extreme importance when it comes to catching snook. Not only does the tide need to be moving, but with the large tidal swings in the Everglades, there needs to be ample water in the area you choose to fish. During stronger tidal movement, it is to your advantage to retrieve your lure with the current or at a slight angle crossing it. A lure worked upstream will most likely go untouched. When it comes to structure in the Everglades, you will find as many options as you will opinions and approaches to fish them. The most popular, and what comes to mind first are the vast picturesque mangrove shorelines. These are the areas where fishing shows are made, but I’m not convinced they are the best for catching mature snook. The Glades have an abundance of shell bottoms and islands, points littered with dead mangroves that mark the underwater jungle lying beneath. Then you have the less obvious, but productive, submerged sand flats that were once their own island before Mother Nature dwindled them down to what they are today, fish magnets! Granted, I’m no expert in fishing the Everglades. But in the 20-plus years I have been fishing there, I have noticed a few things on how larger snook relate to specific structure, water depth and the presence of different baits. The mangroves are the most obvious structure, and they are also the most heavily fished. Although popular, I don’t feel they are the most productive for the larger snook. All the large snook I have caught are 20 to 30 yards away from the shoreline in 4 to 7 feet of water. For me, currentswept points with a shell bottom have been the most consistent producer of big snook. Submerged sandbar points are also productive as long as there is current and bait. Surprisingly, small 1- to 2-inch minnows appear to be the best signal that large snook are in the area. For whatever reason, these tiny fish are followed by some monsters. When I see these small baitfish schooling around, I thoroughly cover that area with my Knockin Tail swimbaits. Snook rely heavily on their distinctive lateral line to feed, and I believe the rattle embedded in these paddletails draws them in for the strike. The next time you target snook in an area of mangroves, do not pitch into the roots and lose your lure. Fish the deeper water off the points, and be ready for that sudden thump from a heavy snook.

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Fall Fishing The IRL and Treasure Coast Beaches

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By Richard L. Matteson Jr.

eptember is an exciting month for surf fishing the beaches of the Treasure Coast and the Indian River Lagoon. It’s the beginning of the mullet run, which begins around mid-September and will stretch into October as shorter days and cooling weather bring mullet to their spawning grounds. Mullet and other baitfish are fodder for tarpon, snook, sharks and schooling bluefish, jacks, blue runners and mackerel. Fishing on the ocean shoreline, the St. Lucie River and in the lagoon will begin to pick up. The easiest way to follow baitfish is to watch for birds, as flocks of pelicans chase bait. Sometimes there are so many birds you can’t cast. Bring extra spoons and jigs, because bluefish and mackerel will cut your line. Tarpon: Silver kings are one of the prize gamefish of the world, and fall is a great time to hook and land one. Hooking a tarpon is one thing; landing one is another. Heavy 60-pound braid with an 80-pound clear leader is standard. Your reel should hold 250 to 300 yards of line. I have a Shimano Baitrunner with 40-pound power pro. I caught and landed a 40-pound tarpon a few weeks ago on a topwater plug. Tarpon like a slow and steady retrieve. I use standard jigs, shallow-diving plugs, porgies, silver spoons, 1- and 2-ounce Crocodile Spoons, rootbeer-color TerrorEyz and topwater plugs. Live bait works well, as do fresh cut ladyfish.

Make sure your hooks are strong enough to handle a tarpon. I use single hooks instead of treble hooks on my plugs. Setting the hook is important, as tarpon have hard mouths. When a tarpon jumps, give them a little slack while keeping in contact with the lure. Snook: In the lagoon, snook like structure (piers, bridges, mangroves). In the ocean, they cruise beaches and inlets following bait. Snook are rarely far from shore and can be caught in the first cut around the trough in early mornings and evenings. I recommend 20-pound braid with a 40-pound leader, although lighter tackle will also work. My favorite lure is a 3/8-ounce DOA jig with a 4-inch paddletail. I prefer pearl white or silver sparkle DOA baits. Bigger lures catch bigger fish, and I sometimes use a 1-ounce Tomahawk Jig in chartreuse with a curly white plastic trailer. Snook make a powerful first run, so don’t set your drag too tight. They’ll hit almost any type of lure from topwaters and jigs to crankbaits and jerkbaits. They also eat live bait like pilchards, greenies and sardines. Schooling Predators: Mackerel, bluefish, jacks and ladyfish are all schooling predators that like fast retrieves and shiny lures like silver or gold spoons. They provide lots of action during the mullet run. Bluefish and mackerel have sharp teeth, so expect your line to be cut, and be careful getting them off the hook. For more information about the Stuart Rod and Reel Club, call (336) -414-3440 or visit www.stuartrodandreel.com.

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atience. Any serious underwater photographer has to develop it, but mine was wearing thin. For 10 minutes I had been out-waiting a flamefish I discovered while poking around the Blue Heron Bridge snorkel trail in Palm Beach County. Slowly, the fish inched toward where I wanted him to be. Finally, he was sitting in the right spot. I snapped one picture, then a second. He seemed willing to pose. “Great!” I thought. “Now I can concentrate on getting something good.” Then suddenly my viewfinder was just showing haze. I looked up. Visibility had just been 20 feet. Now, parts of the reef structure were disappearing in murk. Photos were suddenly out of the question. Moving back from the reef, I looked around. About 5 yards up-current, five divers were treading water to converse at the surface. The flow from their fins was creating a silt storm on the bottom, destroying visibility. Seething, I swam off to find a new shooting locale. Although I’ve had time to cool off, I still think about that incident because it was unnecessary. If they had inflated their BCs while talking, there would have been no problem. But the Blue Heron Bridge is considered suitable for divers of all skill levels, and silting up your surroundings is rarely covered outside of cave or wreck diving courses. There’s no reason to expect every diver to have learned anti-silting techniques. Although it’s a relatively straightforward dive, BHB diving involves quite a bit of specialized knowledge. The more you know about tide windows, finding and identifying interesting critters, locating attractions like the shark statues or sunken boats, and, of course, perfecting buoyancy control, the more comfortable and enjoyable your dive will be. None of this is difficult, but acquiring that knowledge typically takes many dives. However, there is a shortcut to gaining this knowledge over time: Pura Vida Divers’ exclusive PADI Blue Heron Bridge course, a PADI Distinctive Specialty. Their course aims “to produce better divers at this unique dive site.” During the class, students are introduced to a broad cross-section of useful information pertinent to diving “the Bridge.” Andrea Whitaker, who frequently teaches the course, had some comments about the problem I encountered. “One of the most common mistakes I have seen over the years is overkicking at the dive site,” she said. “This will undoubtedly decrease the visibility for you and others around you, as well as disturb the incredibly interesting critters we are all there to see. As one key topic in the Blue Heron Bridge Specialty course, we discuss proper kick techniques and good buoyancy skills to truly enhance your dive experience there. By adjusting how you maneuver at this impressive dive site, you give yourself the opportunity to slow down and increase your luck at finding the incredible critters hiding there.” Give Pura Vida Divers a call at 561-840-8750, or check out their website www.puravidadivers.com to get started on your Blue Heron Bridge Diver course.

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saw my first large striped bass near Eureka on the Ocklawaha River in the 1960s. I was a kid watching a boat return from a day of fishing, and being unfamiliar with stripers, I was amazed at the size of fish that came from my river. I had a talk with Dad about upgrading my Zebco 404! In 1983, we started the first pontoon charter offering family fishing on central Florida’s Ocklawaha River. By then, catching a striper was rare. You knew immediately you had hooked something more than just a largemouth. With a striper on the run, you’re left praying your gear is heavy enough and that the drag is set right. The captain must be ready to up-anchor and chase a big fish! “Have you seen any stripers running?” used to be a topic of conversation between anglers, but it’s been a long time since this question was asked on the Ocklawaha. Striped bass are anadromous by nature, meaning they live in saltwater and run up rivers to spawn. Florida was once home to the southernmost native populations of Atlantic striped bass; however, due to loss of river habitat and water quality, natural reproduction ceased in the St. Johns River by the early 1970s. Stripers in Florida today are stocked and considered riverine. Stocked stripers spend their lives in rivers and lakes, and the long stretches of cool swift water necessary for them to reproduce no longer exist. Rodman Dam, completed in 1968, cut off migratory species from the Ocklawaha River. The Ocklawaha’s full length of swift cool current was the only river on Florida’s east coast that could support successful spawning. Rodman’s construction was part of a plan for the Cross Florida Barge Canal, which has pitted environmentalists against industry since the 1930s. An ongoing effort to restore the river continues today. For striped bass, Rodman Dam was devastating. Historic reports tell of fish weighing up to 30 pounds near the confluence of the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. These fish, which came from the Atlantic through the St. Johns, utilized the 64-mile-long, spring-fed Ocklawaha to spawn. Progressively, stripers disappeared from the Ocklawaha along with the eels they loved to eat. You can still catch stocked stripers in the St. Johns. In summer, they can be found in cool spring runs like Silver Glenn, Salt Springs and Croaker Hole, near Welaka. In winter, stripers are caught in the St. Johns up to Jacksonville. Farther north, the St. Marys River is an option. Stripers in winter have been caught below Rodman Dam on the Ocklawaha River. Various lures and live bait are options. Stripers like shad, eels and shiners, and anything silver catches their attention. Due to the warm water, stocked stripers in Florida don’t grow as large as those up north, but you will need to bump-up your bass tackle. Contact Capt. Erika Ritter, of A Cruising Down The River, at (352) 299-0282 and check out www.captainerikasfloridaboatcharters.com.

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f you have been in the offshore game long enough, you know pelagics don’t always cooperate. Luckily, in south Florida, you can almost always score some tasty bottom dwellers for dinner before you head back to the dock. Blackbelly rosefish make for some incredible table fare and are very easy to catch with the right equipment and a little local knowledge. Most important is a good bottom machine that gives you accurate depths to over 1,000 feet. Though you can hand crank with a pound or two of lead, you won’t ever want to do it again if you come up empty on the first drop. Electric reels are a must. It’s nice to have a modern, high-speed electric reel, but a 9/0 Penn Senator with a Fish Winch or Electra-Mate will get the job done. Rosies can be caught in depths between 650 and 1,100 feet, but I believe the sweet spot is around 850 feet. They like hard rocky bottom, but can also be caught on muddy bottom as long as there is some structure close by. The go-to rig is a chicken rig with five or six hooks. You can get away with 9/0 circle hooks, but some of the best in the game go as big at 12/0 or 13/0 because a snowy grouper or big golden tilefish may come calling. Depending on the amount of current, you will need 3 to 8 pounds of lead to keep your baits on the bottom. The best bait is squid, but chunks of bonito, barracuda or even dolphin bellies will work just fine. Don’t forget to add a light source to your rig. The small, water activated strobe lights in green or blue work best. Rosies have big yellow eyes, but it’s pretty dark on the bottom in 800 feet. Don’t skimp on the light. You can locate potential honey holes by watching your bottom machine while you are on the troll for dolphin. Pay close attention when you are between 700 and 900 feet. Mark any spots where you see a 5 to 10 foot depth change. Name those marks as prospective spots and try them out. Once you find a productive spot, don’t think that you have to go back to that same spot for each drop. Many times, the bite gets better a bit north of the starting point. Keep in mind that when you hit bottom, you will have to make adjustments to keep your baits on the bottom. When you get the first bite, don’t start coming up. Leave your rig on the bottom so you can get a few more bites and bring up 3 or 4 fish at a time. Be mindful to release the smaller fish, as they don’t yield enough meat to warrant dulling your fillet knife and don’t ever keep more than you need. The next time you get skunked offshore, try a little deep droppin’ for groceries! Gene Dyer is editor/publisher of Coastal Angler Magazine—Fort Lauderdale.

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