Coastal Angler Magazine | March 2021 | Alabama/Pensacola Edition

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ALABAMA/PENSACOLA EDITION

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SIGHT FISHING

TRIPLETAIL

CAPE COD BLITZES

RECORD BREAKING SWORDFISH VOLUME 26 • ISSUE 312

PHOTO CREDIT: TOMMY LADO COURTESY OF CHEYANNE SINGLETARY

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM

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A V A I L A B L E

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MARCH 2021


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By Nick Carter

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ripletail are some of the most exciting gamefish that visit inshore waters. Their peculiar tendency to hang near the surface around floating debris makes them perfect for sight fishing, and on top of that they are absolutely delicious. Capt. Jeremy Davidson is an angler devoted to these oddball fish. His charter service, Southern Salinity, is based out of St. George Island, where he specializes in inshore tripletail on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. “They start to migrate to shallower water when that water temperature starts rising,” he said “It’s wind and water temperature dependent, but everything starts to move in March or April—the bait, the pelagics, everything.” Throughout the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic Coast, tripletail move shallower in waves. Davidson said the timing is different by location, but the patterns are similar. First, scads of smaller

fish move in from offshore through the passes to find homes on floating debris. The early spring bite is characterized by plentiful opportunities at smaller fish. By May or June, larger 8- to 12-pounders settle in on trap buoys, floating vegetation and tide lines. Big fish in the 20-pound range arrive in deep summer. They’re there to feed and procreate, said Davidson, which means they are primed to pick up a bait. However, catching tripletail consistently is more difficult than it might appear. THE SETUP: To spot tripletail, you must train your eyes to look beneath the surface. Fish will stay with a piece of floating cover as long as it harbors the small crabs, shrimp and glass minnows tripletail feed on. Cover could be anything, and Davidson recommends checking out everything floating on the surface. You might spot the fish itself, but the first indication is usually the sub-surface flash of a turning fish. When Davidson spots fish, he leaves the boat in gear and noses into the current to point the bow at the fish within casting range. THE CAST: “Do not hit that fish,” Davidson warned. “Pick a spot out past it. I don’t care if it’s the treeline. Just make sure to pitch past that fish.” Casting past the fish with an underhand pitch allows the angler to retrieve the bait slowly through the strike zone. If the tripletail doesn’t take the bait on the initial retrieve, it’s time to flip the bail and allow the tide to carry the bait back past the fish. “It’s a slow dance,” Davidson said. “Retrieve it slow and easy.”

THE TAKE: Don’t set the hook! Tripletail feed delicately. They ease up and pluck their prey from near the surface. Then, to avoid spooking their next meal, they move away before engulfing it. “Let that fish roll down or go the other way,” Davidson said. “Give it 5 or 10 seconds, then lift up and he’s on. Then he turns into a wild man!” THE FIGHT: The harder you pull on a tripletail, the harder and wilder it fights back. This is important because, along with brute strength, these prehistoric fish have a sharp, line-slicing gill plate. Davidson reiterated his slow dance metaphor, saying you can sometimes lead a fish right to the boat by taking it slow and easy. “Square up with him. Keep your rod tip up, and let him run if he wants to dig,” said Davidson “Walk him around the boat. Stay square with him, and pump him in slow and easy.” THE RIG: Tripletail eat shrimp, pogies and artificials, but Davidson prefers to make a fresh-shrimp lure. He pops the heads off large restaurant-quality shrimp and pinches the flappers off their tails. Then he runs a 2/0 or 3/0 3X Strong VMC circle hook up the tail and out the second notch before turning the point back into the bait. This hides the hook and allows the shrimp to swim like a lure. To make pitching the rig easier, he ties an elongated float, like Boat Monkey’s Cigar Slip Float, between braided 30-lb. main line and a 2- to 3-foot leader of 30-lb. fluorocarbon. More advanced anglers might go bobberless for better control while working the bait. To do this, tie the braid directly to the leader with a double uni knot. Capt. Jeremy Davidson owns Southern Salinity, which runs charters on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. See their website at www.southernsalinity.com.

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ver the last few months, I’ve shared some techniques in these pages that people seem to be trying with some success. When you think about it, incorporating squid into your offshore spreads really is a nobrainer when you can find and purchase good whole squid. One of the best ways to rig those squid, and ballyhoo for that matter, is with a Chin Weight coupled with a “stiff-rig” stinger hook assembly. Recently, I’ve received quite a few calls and e-mails from folks all over the country asking for a simpler way to achieve the end result of a stiff-rig stinger hook. I had to go to the barn, have a few cocktails and dig deep, but here it is: The simple way to keep a stinger hook in a rigid “stiff ” position without snelling it or making a cat’s paw connection. If the terminology is throwing you off at this point, stay tuned, this actually is a very simple solution that anyone can achieve with a limited amount of materials and know how. The key to this rig is inexpensive heatshrink tubing over a standard crimped-wire connection. Granted, you might only get a bite or two out of this rig before teeth shred the heatshrink tubing and it’s no longer rigid. However, it’s so easy to make this rig that you can churn

Step two: Make a second crimp at 90 degrees to the first crimp. This is a (small) diameter in the cable to fit over a 7/0 or 11/0 Tim Barefoot Chin Weight (as shown in photo). Step Three: Slide a ¾-inch length section out dozens in different lengths of heat-shrink tubing over the crimped for different sized baits and keep them at the ready. Cut your cable to the connection of the hook and heat with a lighter correct length and make a few crimps… that’s in the vertical position. That’s it! all there is to it. Step One: Make a standard crimped connection using the High Seas 1.0 crimp and the American Fishing Wire 175# (7x7) or 49 strand cable.

Now, if you’re a visual learner like I am, go watch the video I made on the process. See it once, and it will be like a light bulb going off in your head. It really is that easy. For more information and to watch the video, go to barefootcatsandtackle.com. Click on “Heat Shrink Tubing Stiff Rig Stinger Hook.”

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INSHORE STRATEGIES FOR THE

PHOTO COURTESY OF KNOCKIN TAIL LURES.

Most fish are still in transition between the deep mud and the shallow sand or grass flats, which keeps them spread out through the bays. Add high winds, cool fronts and the small size of the forage, and you have a tougher puzzle to put together than the other three seasons. Here are a few tips to help you sort though this maze and hopefully land a few more fish this spring. First and foremost, baitfish are extremely small this time of year, and it is not uncommon to find dozens of small glass minnows in the bellies of trout and redfish in the spring. This makes my first tip obvious, so I won’t waste a lot of space here, but downsize your lure presentation if you can. Obviously, this can impact one’s casting abilities, so rigging small lures in tandem can be By Capt. Michael Okruhlik a plus and assist in casting distance. Something else I like to use in the spring is a clear or transparent lure with some glitter, or maybe one with a light translucent color. I choose these because it’s more difficult for the fish to see the lure’s actual size, which gives the appearance that it’s smaller than it actually is. I’ve found this to be a productive alternative to downsizing. While choosing a typical-size trout and redfish lure for this application, I look for one with subtle movements. I like either a darting-style bait or a paddle lure with a very subtle vibration. Strong, big-vibrating tails have their time, but early spring is not one of them. One thing I notice about schools of small baitfish is their movement. When displaced, they seldom dart deeper, and most of their movement is side-to-side or upward. Due to this characteristic, I also like a lightweight lure with a slow sink rate. I feel this better imitates spring forage movements and increases strikes. I like a lure that twitches side to side that doesn’t sink very fast on the pause. In early spring while the fish are in transition, they will start to congregate on sandy shores with grass. This will be the main cover for the small fry. While employing these techniques and lure choices, concentrate efforts on broken grass flats with potholes and distinct edges. These areas are best when they are close to deeper water. I hope you find these tactics helpful and as the weather warms and you pring is around the corner, and a lot of fishermen who hang up their gear enjoy the outdoors, don’t forget to take a kid fishing! for winter can’t wait for the temps to rise. Although the enthusiasm is high to wet a line, spring can be the most difficult season to successfully Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures, Controlled pattern and to consistently catch inshore fish. Descent Lures and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

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ith a five-release first day, Michael Jordan’s boat, Catch 23, held on to win the 58th annual Buccaneer Cup Sailfish Tournament Jan. 20-23. This year’s event featured a fleet of 38 boats and a total of 63 sailfish caught. It was a big win for Catch 23. The big, beautiful boat has been making national headlines in tournament circuits the last few years, primarily because of the star power Jordan brings to the deck. But now Catch 23 has a big win to hang its hat on. The Buccaneer Cup is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious sailfish release tournaments. It was held this year out of Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida during the traditional heart of the area’s sailfish season. The name Catch 23 pays homage to the jersey number Jordan wore through six NBA championships with Chicago Bulls. The custom 80-foot Viking is wrapped with the elephant print that first adorned Air Jordan 3 sneakers and now also appears on Jordan’s jet. Since 2019, Catch 23 has competed in several high-stakes marlin tournaments in mid-Atlantic. It also saw duty in the last two Stuart Sailfish Club Light Tackle Sailfish tournaments, and placed third in 2019. At this year’s Buccaneer Cup, Capt. Stetson Turney led Catch 23 to five releases on the first day of fishing, Thursday Jan. 21. The action came in spurts. Catch 23 called in its first two releases at 9:11 and 9:31 a.m. Jordan was on the reel for the first one, and angler Jimmy David cranked in the second. The team hung two more release flags just before 2 p.m., when Danny Young fought a sailfish to the boat at 1:47 p.m. and David got his second at 1:53. At 3:28 p.m., Jordan reeled in the fifth release of the day to earn the boat 1,000 points and a solid Day One lead. The tournament awards 200 points for each sailfish release using live bait and 300 points for each release caught on dead bait. Catch 23 did not call in another release until just before noon on the final day of fishing Saturday, Jan. 23. This allowed the eventual secondplace boat, De-Bait-Able, to climb into contention. De-Bait-Able, a 60-foot Viking, captained by KJ Zeher, called in two releases on the morning of Friday’s Day Two. Both fish were handled by angler Cameron Walsh. Saturday saw De-Bait-Able make a big push with four releases between 8:27 a.m. and lines out. Anglers Jay Lanigan, Mike Lanigan, Laura Rassel and Tom Walsh battled in their catches to give De-Bait-Able 1,200 points at the end of Day Three. They were one fish shy of catching Catch 23, which called in releases for anglers Annibal Moya and Danny Young on the final day of fishing. For more information on the Buccaneer Cup, go to www.buccaneercup.com.

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FLORIDIAN MARCH

F

lorida is home to one of the most incredibly diverse fisheries on the planet, and every change in season brings entirely new fishing opportunities to our doorstep. With long summers and short winters, temperature changes in autumn and spring bring the most dramatic shifts to our fisheries. Changes are unpredictable this time of year, and the month of March can be absolutely incredible or a total bust. It only takes a few degrees of water temperature rise to bring on full-on spring fishing. This is a wonderful time of year to be an avid fisherman. The delicate and seemingly minuscule weather changes are extremely impactful to the mysterious behavior of fish. We are on the precipice of the next fishing season, but it is based on many factors, none of which are your calendar. Florida is an annoyingly perfect place to be a boater and angler. It may seem like there are always too many boats out there competing for the bite, but, unlike places like Louisiana, where the fishing spots are marked by giant oil rigs, every venture is an opportunity to find a new honey-hole. One of the super-secret offshore coordinates found by the company I work for has been reliably fascinating throughout the year, or even throughout a week. This fishing spot is a unique little ecosystem. The bottom finder is usually marked up like a child’s crayon drawing, yet the species landed can vary greatly from day to day, or season to season. I was fishing this location recently and we caught 53 lane snapper in a few hours. We returned a few days later, and the bottom finder looked the same. We expected to catch lane snapper again, yet it was all mangroves. Then, all of a sudden the screen showed no fish. It was completely blank. This was just as interesting as any other change that had happened there. The fish would reappear on the screen, and disappear, and the bites and lack thereof, followed instantly. All of this happened back and forth within two to five minute intervals. Everyone on board began watching the screen to know when to expect a bite, and then we saw what we had all surmised. Big marks appeared on the screen zipping along solo. There were predatory fish down there. Luckily, we were able to land these predators visiting our honey-hole, and confirm that they were not just sharks. They were giant bull redfish, one of which came up double hooked. Likely not residents of this area, they had stopped by for a snack on their springtime journey through our area. This time of year is unpredictable, and I would never dare claim to understand all the mysterious behaviors of fish, so I will refrain from giving a fishing report. I will, however, say it is a great time of year to be surprised. Capt. Quinlyn Haddon fishes with Reel Lucky Fishing Charters out of St Petersburg, Fla. Give them a call at (504) 929-6342 and check out Capt. Haddon’s social media @CaptainQuinlyn.

8 FLORIDA

MARCH 2021

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By Capt. Quinlyn Haddon



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The Pompano Beach fishing scene was buzzing in mid-January. Fish were really chewing out on the swordfish grounds, and it seemed everyone with a boat was running 15 miles out to the trench to get in on the action. That buzz rose to near hysteria the evening of Jan. 20, when four anglers between the ages of 17 and 21 returned to the docks at Lighthouse Point Marina. In their boat was an enormous 767.8-pound swordfish. It was a new state record. Here’s the story as told by 21-year-old Timmy Maddock, the new record holder:

I

had just returned from fishing in Costa Rica when I heard the swords were biting. I asked my buddy Hunter Irvine to go swordfishing, and he was ready! That evening, I swung by Big Dog Tackle in Pompano Beach where my girlfriend, Jaime Johanson, is the store manager. I bought fresh baits to rig for the next day’s trip. Hunter and I were up at 5:30 a.m. to load his 31-foot center console. Jaime and our other buddy Jeremy Rafferty met us there. At the sword grounds, we got a good bite on our first drop but were confused when the fish didn’t come back. After making three more drops, we heard on the radio there were bites to the south. We picked up and ran a couple miles south to find five boats stacked up in the area. Out of courtesy, we moved south of the other boats and dropped. The rod went slack the second the lead hit bottom. The four of us kind of looked around at each other, wondering if we had gotten cut off. I engaged the electric reel and started bringing in line to check. After a couple minutes, there was weight on the rod tip. “We got one on!” I yelled. The line was slack because the fish had shot straight to the surface. With the rod loaded and the darts ready for battle, the fish came straight up and jumped out of the water! We were all excited, thinking we might have a 400- or 500-pounder on the line. The lead was off within the first 15 minutes, and that fish raced all over the surface for 30 or 45 minutes before going back to the bottom. While she was up, we couldn’t get a dart in her because she was hauling ass all over the place. After two hours of hard fighting on the bottom, there was a nervous silence. We had begun to speculate how big she really was. She came halfway up and back down four or five times. The last time she dove, she was at 2000 revolutions off the LP electric reel. That’s when we think she died. We tightened the drag to gain line. Every time the boat rocked on a wave, we gained a foot. After an hour and a half of rocking, we finally got the wind-on leader back on the reel. Her head popped out of the water and we all freaked out, knowing she was dead and the fight was over. Jaime grabbed the gaff, holding her phone in the other hand to record this epic moment. Jeremy backed the boat to the fish on the surface, and Hunter put a dart in her to close the deal after more than five hours. When we got her tied off, happiness and adrenalin filled us all as we jumped around and celebrated. We spent 20 minutes trying to get the fish in the boat before radioing for help. Rob Doda was out swordfishing by himself, and he left his spot to come to our aid. He left his boat floating and jumped aboard to explain what needed to be done. After 30 minutes of all five of us pulling, we got her through the tuna door. The boat was taking on a lot of water from the weight on the back corner. We dropped Rob off at his boat and drove as fast as we could to the dock. 12 FLORIDA 1 LOCATION

MARCH 2021 JUNE 2020

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• Word got out quickly as soon as we reached communication range. The folks at Big Dog Tackle led the search to find an IGFA certified scale. Shaughn Miller of Offshore Anglers of Pompano Beach agreed to meet us with a scale at the Lighthouse Point Marina fuel docks. There was a small crowd on hand. The girth of the fish’s tail was bigger than most men’s waist. As she was hoisted from the boat, the scale climbed 400… 500… 600! Everyone was cheering. When she was finally vertical, the scale stopped at 767.8 pounds. It was insane, to say the least. The fish yielded more than 400 pounds of meat that was given away to family, friends and Filet for Friends charity. Some of it was eaten during a celebration barbecue for the community, where many got a taste of the official Florida state record swordfish.

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Lake Martin

February here on Lake Martin overall was an awesome month for catching deep water stripers including the 33 lber in the photo below . We averaged 20 plus stripers per boat per trip with some days producing 50-60 . March should keep producing record catches especially the first part of this month out on the deeper part of the main lake with stripers being found in huge schools around extreme changes in the contours of the lake bottom. As we move into mid to late March you should be able to hook up with huge stripers by pulling planer boards in the creek channels and the river channel. As I remind anglers every year anywhere north of the rail road bridge should not be attempted by any angler or boater that is not familiar with this area, it is very dangerous to say the least and you can find yourself in trouble quick this is definitely an area that you can not rely 100% on your maps on your charts due to the sand bars and certain log jams occasionally move with constant swift waters flowing . This is for sure an area that hiring a knowledgeable guide could be a plus not only to put you in the best fishing spots up river but also teach you have to safely maneuver while making your way north . March also will produce numerous crappie fisherman and hundreds of bass anglers along with lots and lots of Saturday tournaments so pay pay careful attention to the heavier boat traffic and please for everyone’s sake do not operate your boats above safe speeds . March also starts the rise of water levels as the power company started holding water at Martin dam on February 29th. With water levels rising there will be floating debris for the next several weeks so be extra cautious not to hit it because not only can it cause expensive damage at worst cases it can actually throw you out of your boat and cause bodily injury or death. Anglers can find fishing to be very productive around docks at night ,with the rising water levels and dock lights being turned back on this month not only will the crappie move to these lights but the bass and the stripers can be found at several docks around the entire lake . In closing I would like to remind everyone that the CDC still says outdoor activities ( while keeping safe distances and wearing the proper PPE ) are recommended and what better outdoor activity is there in March than a great day of fishing here on Lake Martin . Stay safe my friends and tight lines .

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Mobile Bay Winter turned out to be a cool one so far and that has water temps colder than usual. As of the middle of February our rainfall has been close to normal. This could make for a earlier spring as long as we don’t get a ton of rain in the second half of February. March fishing is all about finding salty water. If the rain is less than average, the Mobile River will be a good place to look for specs. The Theodore Industrial Canal is another place to find specs coming off their winter naps. Bull reds are still hanging out in the passes at the gulf. Some of the near shore rigs may be worth checking out as well. Orange Beach is a good place to find salty water and some big specs will be around the deeper docks in Old River and in some of the canals. I use soft plastics on jig heads for reds and Mirrolures for trout. Typically I look to the creeks that flow into the bay like Fowl, Dog, Fish, Magnolia, Bon Secour, and the Theodore Industrial Canal. Once the starts to warmup, the Shoals and grass fats around Dauphin Island should be worth checking out. My favorite baits are soft plastics on jig heads and Mirrolure’s glad shad. Try bright colors, chartreuse, pink, or white in dirty water and natural shrimp, root beer, or chartreuse in clear water. If I’m in salty water less than 4 feet Mirrolure’s Catch Jr. or Catch 2000 are my first choice. The key this month will be to find the salty water. If your fishing the rivers look deep and fish slow. As the water warms up, more bait will show up and the feeding frenzy will begin. Good luck and stay out of the rain.

Catch you later, Capt Dan 251-422-3474 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

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LIFE IS A BEACH I

’m expecting awesome spring action at the beach. Longer days and warmer weather will start bringing snook from the deeper water around the inlets to feed in the surf early in the morning and late in the evening. Tarpon will start navigating the inlets and going along the beach. Pods of bait will have snook, tarpon, large jacks, mackerel and bluefish feeding on them. Even though the pompano bite and mackerel bite will start to end, the whiting and croaker bite will improve, and they will be hitting live bait, small jigs and spoons where you find bait. Follow the Bait: Fish will be following pods of glass minnows, greenies and other bait as they start heading north. Look for pelicans in the water and gulls and terns that dive at the tops of waves, picking off bait. When you go to the beach, look for birds that have located schooling bait or bait pods. The general rule is: No birds, no bait. Find a beach where you can see birds and/or bait. If you walk down to the water, you will see activity around the trough behind the closest breaking waves. You will see splashing or small fish jumping if there’s going to be fishing action. Birds will usually be concentrated on large schools of bait and big pods. The Early Bite is Best: My experience is 15 minutes before daybreak until early morning is the best time to fish the beach. It’s the best snook bite, and the fish will be around the trough because the bait will be in the wash. Usually the bait will start moving out after daybreak. Reels and Tackle: I use a medium to light spinning reel (400 series) with 10to 20-pound white braid on a 7-foot rod. A long rod gives you longer casts. I use a 30- to 40-pound fluorocarbon leader attached to the braid with a uni knot and attach the lure with a loop knot for better movement. Lures: My favorite search bait is a 3/8- to ½-ounce chartreuse jig with a pearl white paddletail, which gives the lure more movement and even works with a steady retrieve. That steady retrieve is useful in rough, windy weather. I use a variety of retrieves depending on whether the fish are hitting near top or off bottom. Usually, I try and fish near the top by holding my rod tip high, twitching the lure, and using a fast retrieve. For bottom feeders like whiting and croaker, I let the jig sit on the bottom and give it an exaggerated jerk, which brings it to the top. I also like shallow-running crankbaits and spoons in gold or silver. For long casts in wind and bigger fish, try 2-ounce silver crocodile spoon.

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No angling library would be complete without stories of battles won and lost in The Keys. From marlin and tuna to wahoo, grouper and kingfish, our waters are teeming with the most eulogized game fish in the world. Moral of the story? Time to come down and write your own epic tale. fla-keys.com 1.800.fla.keys For the latest protocols on health & safety in The Florida Keys, please visit our website. COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

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f you’re looking for a fishing adventure that’s just a short flight away, where the fishery is as good as any on the planet, and you won’t have to mortgage your home to afford it, don’t overlook Mexico and Belize. Flights to Cancun are available from almost every airport, and if you shop around, very inexpensive flights can be found. Once you get there, accommodations are very reasonably priced, and meals are cheaper than here in The States. I have fished the “Mayan Riveria” from Cozumel to Tulum, with results that are pretty awesome. What’s more, I had most of the areas I fished entirely to myself. I am a fly fisherman, and I spent days wading turtle grass flats for species like tarpon, bonefish, snook, a variety of snapper species, pompano and even the elusive Permit. I recently returned from a trip when the weather was marginal, at best, with high winds and rough seas. Still, I was able to produce several different species, along with some world-class triggerfish. These odd-looking warriors can be found hanging out on shallow coral reefs, and they are a ton of fun on the fly. I also spent a day fly fishing with my friend Will Robins, who owns and operates Fly Fish Costa Maya, in Chetumal, Mexico, near the Belize Border. In one morning, we hooked and broke off four trophy-sized triggers and had legitimate shots at three permit in the 10- to 15-pound range. If you know how difficult permit are to catch on the fly, you’ll understand that just having a few opportunities to cast to them is exciting. The highlight of the trip was a triggerfish we landed that would have been a monster anywhere. If Belize has been on your bucket list, the waters of Ambergris Caye are as good as their reputation. I’ve fished the caye several times with personal friend, Hilian Martinez. Most consider this man among the best in the country. Belize is also very easy to travel to, and reasonably priced. With a little homework, the waters of the Yucatan Peninsula and the waters of Belize can also produce good numbers for those who desire DIY fishing, without a guide. These are just a few examples of opportunities that await just a few hours away in a place that’s as beautiful as it is productive. A world-class fishery awaits, and it’s a lot closer and more attainable that you ever thought possible.

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SPRING TROUT IN THE SMOKIES

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14 NATIONAL

STAY LOW FOR

By TAM Staff

uide Ian Rutter is fired up about spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ample rains and a mild winter bode well for the wild trout that inhabit more than 800 miles of trout streams in the park. This time of year, fish are perking up to feed on an abundance of aquatic insects. But there’s another reason the Smokies are inviting to anglers in spring. The summertime crowds, with their campers and inner tubes, haven’t yet invaded the larger rivers. Ian and his wife, Charity, run R&R Fly Fishing out of Townsend, Tennessee. They have guided anglers in the park for a quarter century and live a stone’s throw from Little River, one of the largest and most popular streams in the Smokies. From high-elevation brook trout rills to roadside rivers, they fish it all, but Ian said it’s wise to stick to the larger flows in lower elevations this time of year. In March, and even into April, it’s likely there will still be snow on the ground up in the hills. Trout thrive in cold water, but their metabolisms slow, and they feed less readily in icy temperatures. Also, the bugs they feed on are mostly dormant at higher altitudes, which can make things slow for fly fishing. Meanwhile, down in the valleys, larger rivers like Little River, Deep Creek and the Oconaluftee will be waking up. In afternoons, even on cold days, fish should be looking to the surface for hatches of mayflies like Quill Gordons, blue-winged olives and blue quills. Throw in a few early brown stoneflies, and you’ll see why the Smokies are known for great dry fly fishing. “Oftentimes you’ll have some combination of those bugs all at the same time,” Ian said. “They’re not too particular. And even the one’s that are particular aren’t as particular as some folks think they are.” Being sneaky is more important than fly selection, Ian said. Trout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are wild, stream-born and extremely wary of predators. So wading very carefully and making short accurate casts are important to success. Another thing about trout in the Smokies is they grow slowly. Fishing is less about catching big fish and more about the overall experience. “I like to say, ‘your results may vary,’” said Ian when asked about angler expectations. “We do catch some 16-inchers, but the important thing to remember is it’s a wild trout fishery. There aren’t any stocked trout that were put in last week at 14 inches. A 16-incher might be 10 years old. It’s survived every type of predator out there, so it’s super-smart and difficult to catch.” A proficient angler can expect to catch good numbers of brightly colored 8- to 10-inch wild trout. Any angler can expect to wade through some of the most gorgeous mountain trout water in the East. For information on fishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, contact R&R Fly Fishing through their website at randrflyfishing.com.

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From proprietary fabrics that breathe to superior functionality and bold graphics and colors, GILLZ is in a class of its own. It starts with revolutionary, chemicalfree GillzTec fabric. It’s engineered to quickly distribute moisture 360 degrees across the garment, so the moisture evaporates much faster, keeping you cooler. The cross-breeze ventilation system channels cooling air under the shirt. In

fact, you’ll find GILLZ shirts breathe like nothing you’ve ever worn. And of course, all of their shirts provide UPF 50+ sun protection, so you can fish from sunup to sundown safely. GILLZ masks feature “gills” that channel air down your neck and mesh mouth openings that prevent your sunglasses from fogging. Plus, their masks can also be worn in a variety of ways to suit your particular needs. Functional hybrid shorts with pockets where you need them also feature four-way stretch fabric, an expandable waistband and a vented, gusseted crotch that lets cool air in. And who couldn’t use some cool air down there? And you’ve got to check out the epic designs and styles. Each color and print is inspired by and pays homage to nature and marine life. You’ll find bold, confident styles for anglers like you. Whatever your destination – the Bahamas, Florida Keys, Outer Banks or the Gulf of Mexico… whether you’re fishing offshore, the flats, lake, or river, only GILLZ Technical Fishing Apparel brings this level of durability, comfort, and performance to the table. That’s why it’s the choice of many pros. Rest assured, GILLZ will continue to push innovation and performance to the limit with elite new products. So, breathe in that moment out on the water when your muscles are working overtime and the sun is beating down. You’ll know that GILLZ apparel breathes with you so you can be at your absolute best. See the latest GILLZ collections by checking out their website: www.gillz-gear.com

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MARCH 2021

NATIONAL 15


LOCAL ANGLER CRUSHES VIRGINIA SWORDFISH RECORD A daytime deep drop expedition yielded spectacular results for a Virginia angler this past September. It took four months for the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament to officially announce it, but a 597-pound swordfish caught by Nicholas Kontodiakos on Sept. 25, 2020 absolutely crushed the existing state record. Kontodiakos, of Norfolk, Va., was drifting in 1,000 feet of water off Virginia Beach when the massive swordfish hit a bait suspended at 800 feet. Caught along the southern edge of Norfolk Canyon, Kontodiako’s fish topped the existing record by more than 130 pounds. The previous record of 466 pounds was caught in August 2019 by Tony Gower Jr., of Virginia Beach. Kontodiakos and fishing buddy Trey Wallace left Rudee Inlet at 4:30 a.m. aboard the angler’s 2007, 29-foot SeeVee. After arriving at their location, they made several long drifts and had a couple of bites that did not come tight. The lines were set for “one more drift” before they planned to head in for the day. At 3:30 p.m. the deep “buoy rod,” with a rigged dolphin belly on a blue and white skirt, came tight. After wrestling the fish for nearly five hours, it was clear it was a large swordfish, and when the fish was finally secured at the transom, they began to relax. But securing the fish to the transom was

just round one. Round two consisted of couple hours of inching the fish onto the deck. Kontodiakos’ passion for swordfish began a decade ago while living on the east coast of Florida. “I had no idea how to go about catching them,” he admitted. After moving to Virginia Beach and realizing there were swordfish 60-plus miles off the Virginia coast, he decided he needed a bigger boat. Unfortunately, even with a bigger boat, his lack of success in Florida tagged along to Virginia. “No one wanted to fish with me because I never came back with any fish,” he said. Relentlessly perusing information on the Internet and talking to successful anglers eventually began to payoff, and his success improved in recent years. He said he’s caught a swordfish in every month of the year except January. It was nearly midnight when the pair pulled inside Rudee Inlet on Sept. 25. A call had already been made to alert the Virginia Beach Fishing Center of the catch, and the boat’s bow was pointed straight to the Fishing Center’s main dock. Representatives from the Fishing Center were dockside to assist, and a small crowd of onlookers had assembled, despite the late hour. The fish measured 180 inches total length,

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with a lower jaw fork length of 111 inches. It sported a hefty girth of 69 inches. Kontodiakos used a custom Joe Leffler 80-pound class rod, teamed with a Shimano Tiagra 50 reel, spooled with 80-pound PowerPro braid and topped off with a 25-foot, 250-pound Moni mono leader with a Mustad 7691, 11/0 hook, attached to the business end.

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MARCH 2021

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p b sh It’s the fry can Bu catchin vetera tips to 1) crappi hold o times shallow “Th for the the spa mid-5 As Then seek o of cree back o Th targets spawn could have m Sa the 10 discard


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pringtime is crappie time. When water temps begin to climb, the crappie schools move shallow to stage on structure before the spawn. It’s the time of year when loading coolers for a fish fry can be quick and easy. But the thing with crappie is you’re either catching them or you’re not. With that in mind, veteran crappie angler Dan Saknini offered some tips to consistently catch slab crappie. 1) Know The Cycles: The comfort zone for crappie is 35 feet and shallower, said Saknini. They hold on deep brush during the coldest and hottest times of year, but in milder weather they move shallower in search of optimal water temperatures. “This time of year, the crappie are fattening up for the spawn,” he said. “Their comfort zone for the spawn is when water temperatures rise into the mid-50s, preferably closer to 60.” As the spawn begins, fish stage up on structure. Then they’ll move extremely shallow in waves to seek out spawning areas on the banks and backs of creeks. The females move in, lay eggs and move back out. The males stay shallow to guard the beds. Through the stages of the spawn, Saknini targets brush in 15 feet or shallower. With the spawning season lasting about a month, these could be pre-spawn fish or post-spawn fish that have moved back out. Saknini shoots jigs in and around docks in the 10- to 15-foot range. Many lake homeowners discard Christmas trees off their docks. These are

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the docks you need to find. 2) Locate Structure: Regardless of the season, black crappie school up on some type of structure. They change depths, and move off structure momentarily to feed, so catching them consistently means knowing the locations of brushpiles at all different depths. Saknini said good electronics and prospecting are key to being a good crappie angler. If you fish a lake that allows it, you can build your own honey holes. “I probably sink 50 or 60 brushpiles a year,” Saknini said. “Then I go back and fish them. There might be fish there, or there might not, but I always have another one to go to.” 3) Ditch the Minnows: Fishing a minnow under a bobber is traditional, and it can be effective. However, Saknini said fishing jigs is a far more efficient. “Once you get used to jig fishing, it’s always more productive,” he said. “If you’re fishing a minnow, it’s either under a bobber or on a downline, and it’s stationary. With a jig, you’re moving and covering water.” Crappie are lazy and won’t chase a bait more than a few feet, Saknini said. There could be fish all over a piece of structure, but you wouldn’t know it if your minnow is just a foot out of the strike zone. With a jig, you can cover water vertically and horizontally for a better chance of passing through that zone.

PHOTO BY NICK CARTER

Catch More Crappie

Dan Saknini is a member of Lanier Crappie Anglers Club. Check them out at www.laniercrappieanglers.net.

FREEDIVER SPEARS WORLD RECORD SNAPPER

reediver Stephanie Schuldt broke a world record in late November when she speared a 19.3-pound (8.8 kg) dog snapper in the Bahamas. At a depth of 45 feet, Schuldt stuck the big snapper with 9-foot Headhunter Nomad roller polespear while wreck diving off Nassau. The fish qualified her for the International Underwater Spearfishing Association’s women’s world record for the species in the sling/polespear division. It also outweighed the men’s record of 19.1 pounds, which was caught by JonMichael Degidio off Grand Cay in 2016. “At the end of my breath hold I saw the dog snapper swimming in and out of the wreckage,” wrote Schuldt in a description of the event. “I came back up to the surface and told my boyfriend, Matt, ‘There is a world record dog snapper down there.’ I took some time to get a good breathe-up, dropped back down into the wreck and got a solid holding shot on the fish. It fought for a bit on the way up, but I was able to clear it from the wreck and get it to the surface. Once at the surface, it tried to bite me and tangled up my float line, but I was able to grab it by the gills and swim it back to my boat.” Even on a rod and reel, Schuldt’s fish would have been impressive. The IGFA all-tackle world record weighed 24 pounds. It was caught back in 1994 by Capt. Wayne Barder off Abaco. Check Stephanie Schuldt’s adventures at www.saillaviecharters.com. COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

MARCH 2021

NATIONAL 19


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here should be a betting pool for just how quickly the Black Lake, Michigan sturgeon season will end each year. In 2020, the season lasted just six hours. This year, the scheduled Feb. 6-10 season was shut down after two hours of fishing when the harvest limit was met. Imagine getting all geared up to go spear fishing through a hole in the ice for these big prehistoric fish. The season opens at 8 a.m. Then, at 10 a.m., your hopes are dashed when Michigan DNR knocks on the door of your ice shanty. Apparently, that’s the way Black Lake sturgeon season goes for a vast majority of anglers. More than 500 anglers registered to jockey for a harvest quota of just six fish this year. It’s a credit to Michigan DNR that they even hold the event at the 10,000-acre lake, which is connected to Lake Huron by the Black and Cheboygan rivers. Rehabilitation of the lake sturgeon population in the watershed is an ongoing effort, and this limited harvest creates excitement around the effort. There are reports of anglers who have fished the season for decades without getting a single sturgeon. The six fish caught ranged from 50 to 63 inches and 25 to 61 pounds. Three of the fish had been tagged before during studies of the spawning run up the Black River. A 61-inch-long female, estimated to be about 20 years old, was tagged during the 2006 spawning run. Male sturgeon have a lifespan of about 55 years. Females can live longer than 100 years. For more information, go to Michigan.gov/Fishing. 20 NATIONAL

MARCH 2021

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ooking through Facebook and reminiscing on traveling for boat-show season, one conversation starter I remember most fondly is, “That’s too big for my rope locker.” In spite of American fiberglass OEMs like Sea Chaser and Sea Pro factory-installing the Rebel EZ-4 on specific series, there’s still a popular myth that drum anchor winches are built predominantly for aluminum boats. One too many boaters have told me this when they stopped at our company’s booth during the 2020 season, and while we’re officially homebound due to the pandemic, we’re as busy as ever answering questions and informing customers about our product. We want to help them achieve the best anchoring results for them. From newbies who have recently embraced boating, to longtime hobbyists who have extra time to add new features on their boats, there is usually an anchoring solution, whether it’s a Patriot direct drive unit or a Rebel free-fall unit. “You can click the ‘Products’ tab on the website and select the winch that interests you,” Sara Hitchins, E-Z Anchor Puller’s office and trade show manager said. “Select the unit you’d like to view and the link to the dimensional drawings are on the product page. One way to measure is to make a cardboard cutout at home to measure against your boat.” If you’re one of the new boaters looking for a new fiberglass model or researching that windlass upgrade on your family boat, these center consoles from customers and builders prove that a drum winch looks sexy on center consoles, too! SEA PRO: Sea Pro Boats introduced the world to their 320 Deep V Center Console at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, joining Carolina Skiff to become another American fiberglass OEM to factory-install E-Z Anchor Puller’s Rebel EZ-4 free-fall unit, adapting the innovative technology one year after Georgia-based OEM Carolina Skiff began installing. SEA CHASER: “I liked it so much I installed a Patriot on my own personal boat,” Ed Johnston, engineer at Carolina Skiff told us when we saw him at the Miami International Boat Show. The 35’ Sea Chaser also uses the free-fall Rebel EZ-4 and hides it in the rope locker. PARKER: “I know this is an old post, but I love my EZ on my 2820,” one writer on Classicparker.com posted to a company thread, “I have 600’ of dyneema, 75 of nylon and 50’ of chain. With lots of extra room still.” Live2fish posted several pictures depicting the Rebel EZ-4 unit resting on a bow pulpit. ARIMA: Mark Fitch was an avid poster of his installation process on ArimaOwners.com, documenting his journey with various “beer breaks” in between. Mark’s 1987 Arima Sea Pacer was sized for the Patriot EZ-1, a smaller complete 316 stainless steel unit. He still tags #ezanchorpuller in his fishing posts.

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MARCH 2021

NATIONAL 21


HUGE SWORDFISH SETS NEW FLORIDA RECORD

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n Jan. 20, four young anglers from Pompano Beach, Fla. set out early from Hillsboro Inlet to get in on the fast action being reported from the swordfish grounds, some 15 miles off the coast. They returned to the docks that evening with a 767.8-pound swordfish that set a new Florida state record. The official record holder and the man who manned the LP electric reel was 21-yearold Timmy Maddock. The 31-foot center console they fished from belongs to 17-yearold Hunter Irvine, who put the final dart in the enormous fish. Lady angler, Jaime Johanson, 20, videoed the landing and got in with the gaff, while Jeremy Rafferty, 21, manned the helm as they subdued the new record. It took five and a half hours to fight the fish into submission. It took almost another hour and a radio call for help to get the swordfish through the tuna door and safely in the boat. Rob Doda, who was fishing solo nearby left his boat floating and boarded Irvine’s boat to help haul the giant fish onboard. It was an epic catch for the group of young anglers, and the 400 pounds of meat their fish yielded was shared with friends and family, with the charity organization Filet for Friends, and at a celebratory barbecue for the whole Pompano Beach fishing community. To read Timmy Maddock’s account of the catch, see the Florida section of this magazine or online at www.coastalanglermagazine.com. 22 NATIONAL

MARCH 2021

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


NEW ENGLAND AWAITS

warm water, and they’re looking for that constant bait source. That’s what the rivers provide.” Action is fast in tidal rivers like the Weweantic on the north side of Buzzards Bay. Murphy walks the dog with topwater baits like a 7-inch Lil’ Doc to draw explosive strikes from good numbers of stripers in the rivers. They’ll also eat By Nick Carter soft-plastic eel or herring imitations like those made by Hogy, and although these river fish aren’t the monsters Murphy pursues later in the season, there aren’t many anglers who’d turn their nose up to consistent topwater activity from fish up to 20 inches. As the season progresses, the bite moves to the mouths of the rivers, where stripers ambush herring moving out. This is where some of the bigger fish come into play, and they also can be taken on topwater. By mid-May, Murphy said he’ll be chasing the classic New England bass blitzes, when schoolie-sized fish ball up bait and crash the surface. At this point, fish will have spread up around Cape Cod or through the Cape Cod Canal into Massachusetts Bay. Action ou can almost feel the excitement building on the coast of can be intense for fish in the 2- to New England. Winter is ebbing, and soon warming water 10-pound range. conditions will spark the migration of striped bass up the “You can go out early in the Atlantic coast. Jack Murphy will be waiting when they arrive. morning any day and find blitzing Murphy and his partner, Jack Loveday, co-founded Lucky Jacks schoolies,” Murphy said. “You can Fishing in Marblehead, Massachusetts. For them, April begins the catch 30 or 40 fish in just a couple busy striper season off Rhode Island and Massachusetts. hours.” As you read this, striped bass are spawning in tributaries of By the first part of June, anglers Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and the Hudson River. When in search of big fish will head 5 to water temperatures rise into the 50s, these fish push north with 10 miles offshore to find big pogy huge schools of menhaden to feed ravenous post-spawn appetites. PHOTOS BY SEAN MAIORANO PHOTOGRAPHY (menhaden) schools. This is a Murphy said the first fish collect on the south side of Cape Cod WWW.SEANMAIORANOPHOTOGRAPHY.COM short-lived first-light bite. in Buzzards Bay. Timing is dependent on weather and water temperatures, so “When you come on one of these schools that’s getting harassed, you’re in Lucky Jacks spends spring studying winds and water temps to try and intercept the first waves of migrating fish. They normally show up in the second or third for a heck of a day.” Murphy said. “We’ve had a few days when our smallest fish were 37 pounds, and 40- to 50-pound fish are very possible.” week of April. “When river herring (alewife) push into the rivers to spawn, the first waves of stripes will be right on their tails,” Murphy said. “They’re looking for that Check out Lucky Jacks Fishing at www.luckyjacksfishing.com.

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SAVINGS SAVE RIGHT NOW ON

SELECT SUZUKI OUTBOARDS

INSTANT SAVINGS Instant Savings on select models when you buy a new Suzuki Outboard. See your dealer for details.

REPOWER FINANCE Rates as low as 5.99% on new Suzuki outboards on approved credit.* [60 Months]

SIX YEARS OF PROTECTION 3 Years Limited Warranty + 3 Years Extended Protection, No extra charge.

Gimme Six Extended Protection promotion applies to new Suzuki Outboard Motors from 25 to 350 HP in inventory which are sold and delivered to buyer between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21 in accordance with the promotion by a Participating Authorized Suzuki Marine dealer in the continental US and Alaska to a purchasing customer who resides in the continental US or Alaska. The Gimme Six Promotion is available for pleasure use only, and is not redeemable for cash. Instant Savings applies to qualifying purchases of select Suzuki Outboard Motors made between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21. For list of designated models, see participating Dealer or visit www.suzukimarine.com. Instant Savings must be applied against the agreed-upon selling price of the outboard motor and reflected in the bill of sale. There are no model substitutions, benefit substitutions, rain checks, or extensions. Suzuki reserves the right to change or cancel these promotions at any time without notice or obligation. * Financing offers available through Synchrony Retail Finance. As low as 5.99% APR financing for 60 months on new and unregistered Suzuki Outboard Motors. Subject to credit approval. Not all buyers will qualify. Approval, and any rates and terms provided, are based on creditworthiness. $19.99/month per $1,000 financed for 60 months is based on 5.99% APR. Hypothetical figures used in calculation; your actual monthly payment may differ based on financing terms, credit tier qualification, accessories or other factors such as down payment and fees. Offer effective on new, unregistered Suzuki Outboard Motors purchased from a participating authorized Suzuki dealer between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21. “Gimme Six”, the Suzuki “S” and model names are Suzuki trademarks or ®. Don’t drink and drive. Always wear a USCG-approved life jacket and read your owner’s manual. © 2021 Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.



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