Coastal Angler Magazine | January 2020 | Alabama/Pensacola Edition

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ALABAMA/PENSACOLA EDITION

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Winter's

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Switch It Up Offshore

PHOTO COURTESY OF DARYN ANDREW WHITE VOLUME 25 • ISSUE 298

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Photo courtesy of Big Ol’ Fish Guiding Service, bigolfish.com

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hether saltwater or fresh, good striper fishing awaits those hearty enough to brave winter on the water. So layer-up, zip into that parka and go. Some of the biggest fish of the year are feeding right now. On the southern end of their fall migration, striped bass are holed up for the winter off North Carolina. They’ll be chowing down and following schools of bait up and down the coast from Wilmington to the Outer Banks. Many years, Oregon Inlet sets up as the epicenter for the bite, but striped bass can be found in most area inlets. The key is to follow the birds and find bass blowing up on menhaden, glass minnows or eels. The action can sometimes come in close enough that surf casters can catch stripers from the beaches of the Outer Banks, but the best bet is to hire a local captain with recent intel and a fast boat. A little farther south, Wilmington offers another option, as stripers pile into the Cape Fear River, where they hold around structure, drop-offs and creekmouths and can be caught on artificials or even flies. These resident fish are a separate group from the highly migratory fish that winter off the Outer Banks. Cape Fear stripers are catch-and-release only, and must be returned to the water immediately. Keep an eye out for tagged stripers swimming these waters. Finally, on freshwater reservoirs across the Southern states and up through the Mid-Atlantic, fisheries stocked with striped bass produce pretty well for anglers this time of year. While smaller schoolie-sized stripers tend to get tough during the coldest temperatures of the year, the larger fish will still feed. The action won’t be as fast as dropping downlines to massive summertime schools, but the fish that do eat tend to be larger. Tactics will vary depending on the fishery, but when water temperatures stabilize or during a warming trend of a few days, the biggest fish in the lake tend to move up shallow—sometimes very shallow— behind schools of small shad. Find the flickering shad, and you’ll find the stripers. Sometimes you’ll see them plucking bait near the surface. Stealth is imperative in catching them, and a soft plastic such as a Fluke will usually out-produce live baits in such situations. It’s easier to cast and slowly retrieve an artificial. Another popular tactic is to cover a lot of water trolling wide spreads of small live baits or pulling an umbrella rig loaded with swimbaits, or both. When prospecting like this, it’s wise to seek out good information on where the stripers are holding. On many lakes they spend winters down by the dam. On others, you might find them way up in the creeks.

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12/10/19 9:01 AM


It’s boat show time! And the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which produces 18 boat and sportshows across the country, is investing in more experiences and education than ever to meet the desires of attendees and inspire the next generation of the boating workforce. Attendee favorites will return, too, from fishing ponds to Super Thursdays. Here are some 2020 show season highlights. • With a need for skilled workers in the marine industry (more than 31K open jobs), NMMA boat shows are expanding Boating Career Days, offering the chance for students and job seekers to learn more about opportunities in the boating industry, get career advice from marine professionals and check out job openings. Last year the program attracted more than 550 students across eight shows. In 2020, the program is expanding to 14 markets: New York, Baltimore, St. Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, Louisville, Atlanta, New England, Atlantic City, Minneapolis, Northwest, Miami, Norwalk and Tampa. • New for 2020, NMMA is introducing The Discover Boating Experience (DBX), the “Hub for Boaters,” an educational marketplace that provides space to mingle, enjoy expert seminars, explore new products, learn boat care, discover new technologies, learn to navigate a boat show and more. DBX offers a place to relax and have a drink while enjoying a variety of topics, inspirational stories and live music. • The Progressive Boat House features an Occulus Rift Virtual Reality boat race game, the Annapolis School of Seamanship’s expert seminars and a docking pool with a remote-control boat and helm station to master docking skills. • Returning favorites include free fishing for kids and special deals, like $5 tickets after 5 p.m. and Super Thursday, offering deeper discounts, exclusive pricing and incentives. • Ongoing education for boaters and anglers of all skill levels is a hallmark of NMMA boat shows with free daily seminars.

The Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show, Presented by West Marine cruises into the docks at Miami Marine Stadium Feb. 13-17. Great deals and hands-on experience with hundreds of boats and the associated gear are the big annual draw. Highlights of the 2020 boat show include:

• Costa Conservation Village will showcase the work of some of Florida’s leading environmental organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, Captains for Clean Water, and Costa’s Kick Plastic program.

• Presentations on sustainable seafood from esteemed Chef Allen Susser and an opportunity to get a signed copy of his new cookbook, “Green Fig and Lionfish: Sustainable Caribbean Cooking.”

• Junior Captains Program, where kids ages 13-17 can learn to operate a boat with Annapolis School of Seamanship.

• Boat US on-water training with Intro To Boating, Women on the Water and Precision Docking.

• The Progressive Boathouse, offering boating seminars, a remote-control docking pond and an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality boat race game.

• Wining and dining at three full-service, sit down restaurants at

the Show including: Latin Café, V&E Restaurant Group Showcasing menu items from Havana 1957 & La Cerveceria De Barrio and SuViche featuring select menu items from Novecento.

• For more information, visit www.MiamiBoatShow.com.

For more information and the schedule of 2020 NMMA boat shows, visit to www.boatshows.com. 4

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The easiest way to find bait when you’re ready to go fishing is by using the new Baitfinder App, available for free download on both Apple and Android devices. Bait shops are the best possible resource for local information on what’s biting, and on what bait, to ensure you have the right equipment and knowledge before you head out to target a specific species of fish. Everything about Baitfinder is designed for anglers, by anglers, allowing all bait shops in your area to advertise their bait availability in real-time. There’s no more last-minute anxiety about locating bait or driving all over to locate the bait you’re looking for. Anglers can reserve their bait of choice prior to getting to their favorite bait shop to pick it up, and it’s all easily done on the app! Let your friends know of this free app, and encourage all your local bait shops to enroll at: WWW.BAITFINDER.COM

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By Nick Carter

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otivating yourself can be tough when daytime temperatures fall into the low 20s and ice forms on the edges of Southern tailwater trout fisheries. Even on these dam-fed systems, where water temperatures remain relatively consistent, trout become difficult when tiny midges are the primary food source. But there’s a phenomenon that occurs on some tailwaters that makes fishing the cold snaps worth sucking ice out of your guides. It’s called a shad kill. When it happens every fish in the river takes part in the feast. Shad kills are caused by extended cold weather. When air temperatures drop into the teens or lower for several days in a row, baitfish in reservoirs that feed our tailwaters suffer from plummeting water

temps. Either stunned and dying or just diving deep to find more comfortable conditions, shad and blueback herring get sucked into dam turbines. What’s washed out into the tailwater is a mix of chopped up, whole dead, and quivering stunned baitfish. “All of a sudden, they get flushed out into the tailrace. It’s like chumming the river in that upper mile or so below the dam,” said Bill Stranahan, who guides with Southeastern Anglers on Tennessee’s Hiwassee River. “Good browns and rainbows will key in on it. The ones you catch are so stuffed they look like they’re about to pop.” Fed by high-mountain winters on Appalachia Lake, the Hiwassee shad kill is a good one. In the Arkansas Ozarks, the White River sees shad kills almost every year. The Cumberland River in Kentucky and Georgia’s Chattahoochee River below Lake Lanier are two other tailwaters where trout put on the feedbag for these events. But shad kills are not like a hatch you can follow by calendar. It takes rapidly cooling water temps to disorient the numbers of baitfish necessary to be noticeable in the tailrace. During the winter’s hardest freeze, intrepid anglers should hit the water near the dam and watch for activity. “You’ll see them floating down the river stunned or dead,” said Stranahan. “Sometimes you’ll see fish coming up to the surface to swipe at them.” White and flashy are the keys to catching fish during a shad kill. White Zonkers or other bunny flies, white Woolly Buggers, anything that looks like a dead or dying baitfish will work. Stranahan said to match the size of the baitfish you see in the water and to experiment with depth and presentation. Sometimes a jerky retrieve is preferred, while other times a dead drift is the ticket. At times trout will feed on the surface, and some days call for a sinking line to get the fly down. Shad kills can be ephemeral or they can last a couple weeks when conditions are perfect. It’s the kind of thing you have to be on the water to encounter, and when it happens it brings out the biggest fish in the river.

Contact Southeastern Anglers through their website at www.southeasternanglers.com.

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after wrestling it from between the pilings, it turned toward open water. As I felt the battle shift in my favor, the line parted, likely from earlier contact with the pilings. “That can happen when you’re fishing up tight like this,” said our skipper, “but some days you have to dig in to get the big ones. Other times we’ll find them in more open water around oyster bars or in the surf.” Captiva Island, on Florida’s southwest coast, is prime territory for snook, redfish, sea trout, tarpon and a variety of other inshore species. “Our waters produce so well because we have a ton of bait, structure and opportunity here,” said Fischer, proprietor of Tarpon Fischer Charters (http:// www.tarponfischercharters.com). “Pine Island Sound, on the backside of the island, for example, has several passes that allow water and bait to flow in and out. The Peace, Myakka and Caloosahatchee rivers also empty into here. I run a lot of my charters out of South Seas Island Resorts (https://www.southseas. com) at the north end of Captiva, and from there you can be fishing in the sound or the open Gulf in a matter of minutes.” Snook and redfish top 40 inches, tarpon range from chickens to 200 pounds and sea trout are abundant. Those species are resident, noted Fischer, but come December and January, offshore action also kicks in with snapper, sheepshead, grouper, kingfish and cobia, among others. For anglers, these waters call for medium-light spinning tackle. Rig a size 3/0 J-hook or a light jighead on a 2 1/2-foot leader of 30-pound mono to freeline live baits around structure, mangroves or the surf edge. Add a 1/2-ounce splitshot two feet above the hook to get down in deeper water or stronger currents, or add a float two feet above this rig to fish the flats. If you prefer to throw lures, toss a 4-inch paddletail, Rapala Skitter Walk or Zara Spook. Fischer favors a 7 1/2-foot, 8- to 17-pound class Bull Bay rod and Shimano 4000 spinning reels for his inshore fishing. Keep in mind this area occasionally suffers from red tide blooms. “It can be here one week and gone the next.” Fischer said. “If it occurs during your visit, simply head for the cleanest water you can find.”

By Tom Schlichter

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apt. Nick Fischer nodded at a boat dock ahead. “There should be a Launching is available at South Seas Resorts (if you are staying there) or good one under there,” he said. “We had a couple there this morning from the Sanibel Island Public Boat Ramp ($5/hr. parking fee: 239-472-6397; but saw a real solid fish just before we left.” 888 Sextant Dr., Sanibel.) Nearby, the ‘Tween Waters Inn is another good spot It didn’t take long to confirm a nice snook was home. I hooked it and, to spend the night. More info at www.fortMyers-Sanibel.com.

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t’s prime time for wahoo in the sparsely populated southeastern Bahamas, where a fleet of boats shows up each winter specifically to target some of the biggest wahoo in the world. Just off San Salvador and Cat Island, precipitous ledge drops within a 15- or 20-minute boat ride from shore are a magnet for wintering wahoo. The prime wahoo season runs from November to about April, when fish are densely congregated. Triple-digit weights are not uncommon, and the average wahoo will tip the scales between 50 and 60 pounds this time of year. High-speed trolling is the name of the game. Pulling lures at 14 knots and zig-zagging along the ledge over depths from 400 to 600 feet is the kind of fishing that produces world records. Five current IGFA line-class record wahoo came from the waters off San Salvador and Cat Island. Two of those weighed more than 150 pounds. When that reel goes off, screaming from the pull of a big fish moving at 60 mph, it’s important to crank down on the drag and power it to the boat as quickly as possible. Oceanic whitetips are thick in the area, and they’re known to show up and rip a trophy fish to shreds.

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Winter can be brutal, but to the saltwater fly fisherman it can be the greatest time of year to catch some quality fish on the fly. The beaches, flats and bays are practically deserted, the “sunshine” fishermen having retreated to their firesides at the appearance of the first raindrop or snowflake. It’s time for the serious fly flingers to put on thermals, grab a fly rod, and head for the water. Two of my favorite wintertime saltwater fish are the speckled trout (or spotted seatrout) and the redfish, two game fish that thrive in cooler water and make for some great fly rod action even “when the frost is on the pumpkin.” The speckled trout is a coastal fish found on the shallow mud flats and sand flats from North Carolina to Texas. A fish generally traveling in large schools, the “speck” is capable of providing fast action on the fly whether you’re wading or fishing from a skiff, kayak or boat.

A proven way to locate the “speck” is to look for depressions, channels, holes or cuts on or along these areas. Once located, cast into them with a floating or intermediate line, a 9-foot leader and a baitfish pattern. A weedless fly like a Bent Back works well. The key to catching speckled trout in cold water is to retrieve the fly sl-o-o-o-wly using short, jerky strips. The strike is often as light as an aunt’s peck on the cheek, so keep close eye contact with your fly. Another worthy wintertime adversary is the redfish, a fish found in the same areas as the speckled trout. Redfish (red drum), can tip the scales from 5-pounds to a heavyweight of 40 pounds. These members of the croaker family take up residence near breakwaters, pier pilings, channels, estuaries and marshes. They are a great match for the fly rod. Redfish can be finicky eaters and sometimes the fly needs to be placed close to their noses, especially in colder water. An accurate cast is essential in fishing for these rascals. Come prepared with a 9- or 10-weight rod, a floating line (weight forward), a 9-foot leader and a pocket full of crab patterns, as reds favor crustaceans. Don’t hang up your fly gear at the first signs of the winter solstice. Winterize yourself and go fly fishing; it beats sitting in a chair and dreaming of warmer weather.

For more Bowman, go to

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By CAM Staff

E

veryone seems to gets excited about those spring runs, when cobia push north in their migration and can be targeted by sight while cruising the beaches. With the run-and-gun nature of these tactics, it’s arguably the most exciting way to catch them. But it’s not the most efficient. Die-hard cobia fans know that wintertime, before the big move, provides some of the best fishing of the year. Consolidated is a good way to describe cobia populations during the winter. On the Atlantic coast as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, fish have moved southward and offshore in search of comfortable water conditions.

At no other time are cobia populations so dense around the Florida Keys, but they can also be found grouped up on deeper wrecks and reefs along both Florida coasts. In the warmer waters of the Keys, deep jigging the ocean-side reefs with butterfly jigs or 1-ounce bucktails will haul up a mixed bag, which will likely include cobia, and chumming them up to the surface is also tried-and-true tactic. Out on the reef line, anchor up and drop a chum bag of chopped-up frozen baitfish and wait for the action to come to you. Cobia will show up with sharks, as well as various mackerel and snapper species. Whether it’s pinfish or shrimp, present your bait weightless, and you might want to add a wire leader for the toothy critters in the melee. Farther north on both coasts, resident cobia are schooled up and easier to locate than they are at any other time of year. Find a good winter day, with warm sunshine and calm seas, and make the run to offshore wrecks or reefs. The key to this is water temperature, so look for temperature bands with surface temps around 70 degrees, and find some good structure with bait present on the sonar. Again, chumming can bring cobia right up to the surface, which leads to fast action on live baits, but jigging is a tactic that is both fun and effective for targeting fish you actually spot on the screen more than 100 feet down. It’s quicker, cleaner and more efficient than live bait. The key to this technique is finding the magic depth where the cobia are schooled up. Drop a 2- to 6-ounce jig, depending on the current and depth, vertically to the depth you’re marking fish. Experiment with the action until they eat. Some pump a jig up with fast, short jerks, others prefer to swing it up high and let it flutter back down. Both techniques will work, and the jig should be sweetened with either a 7-inch soft-plastic trailer or a natural bait like cuttlefish. Some of the biggest cobia of the year come off wrecks and reefs in winter. So head down to the Keys or make the run offshore and catch them before they scatter with the spring run.

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By CAM Staff

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ahamian waters did not disappoint for the more than 70 anglers competing Nov. 7-10 in Bimini’s Wahoo Smackdown IX. Hosted by the historic Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Marina, more than 1,500 pounds of fish were landed during the event. A fleet of 14 boats fished, with 11 teams making it to the leaderboard. Over the two days, 108 fish were caught, the largest weighing

52.7 pounds. Team Blitzsea, out of Pompano Beach, Fla., took top team honors with their six largest of 16 fish weighing a total of 251.4 pounds. It earned them $8,200 in cash winnings. Second place Team Remain Calm, also out of Pompano Beach, Fla., earned $4,500 in cash winnings with 13 fish for a total catch weight of 238.3 pounds for their six largest. Another Pompano Beach team, Team Mi Novia, finished third, taking home $2,500 in cash winnings for a total catch of 13 fish and a total catch weight of 190.7 pounds for their six largest. Team 4 Play caught the largest fish of the tournament, at 52.7 pounds. Outstanding catch went to Indecisive for a 23.5-pound king mackerel. Top Lady Angler went to Lisa aboard Blitzsea. Top Junior Angler went to Luke Pinder aboard Bad Habit. Tournament coordinator Beth Watson said the weekend “went flawlessly,” despite some rough seas and rain with squalls up to 40 knots on Day 2. “The teams that did attend were amongst the most competitive we have seen in all of our years of hosting fishing tournaments,” she said. Tournament festivities included live local entertainment nightly, a cocktail reception for the Captains’ Meeting, a barbeque at Sharkies Bar & Grill on day one of the tournament, and a closing awards party in the Hemmingway lounge, featuring a buffet, live entertainment and a full open bar. Sponsors included David Dunleavy Performance Fishing Apparel, Juno Bait, Carey Chen Marine Artist, Morita Custom Gaffs, CS Custom Lures, Starbright, Paul Cuffaro Brand, Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grill, Mermaid Vodka, Tropic Ocean Airways and Piper’s Angels. With more than 50 record-setting catches in the waters around the island, Bimini has often been referred to as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Plans are already underway to make Wahoo Smackdown 2020 the biggest best one yet!

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By Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

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awfish are shark-like rays named for their saw-shaped snouts. Smalltooth sawfish were once found in coastal waters from Texas to North Carolina; however, fishing mortality and habitat loss led to dramatic reductions in both their numbers and range. Now they are regularly found only in southwest Florida, especially around Everglades National Park. NOAA Fisheries listed the smalltooth sawfish as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2003. Because of the protections afforded by the ESA, it is illegal to target, harm, harass or handle sawfish in any way. While it is technically illegal to catch a sawfish except with a research permit or in a fishery where incidental take has been authorized, captures do occur while fishing for other species. Mortality from incidental captures in both commercial and recreational fisheries is an ongoing threat to this endangered species. It’s the responsibility of all fishers to follow guidance to quickly and safely release, without harm, all sawfish caught while fishing. Sawfish are powerful animals that can whip their saws very quickly, which can cause serious injury to the angler and the sawfish. The number one rule to remember when releasing a sawfish is to leave it in the water at all times. Because of the ESA protections, it is illegal to possess a sawfish. Removing it from the water is considered possession and is a clear violation of the law. Do not lift a sawfish out of the water onto your boat or a pier, and do not drag it onto shore. Simply cut the line as close to the hook as is safely possible. Never remove the snout, called a rostrum, as sawfish use it for detecting and catching food. In addition to being illegal, removal of the rostrum severely limits the ability of the sawfish to find enough food to survive, and could result in death from starvation. Mishandling and

By Will Schmidt

I

magine slowly stripping a shrimp fly, with prey in pursuit, when your guide says, “Quick… pick it up before the bonefish gets it.” It seems nonsensical, but it happens more than you think while casting at permit in Ascension Bay, Mexico. Known to many fly fishermen as one of the most permit populated places on earth, the waters of the southern Yucatan hold much more than world class permit.

the purposeful injury or killing of captured sawfish is both illegal and detrimental to the recovery of the population. These guidelines ensure the safety of both the sawfish and the angler. If you catch or see a sawfish, take a quick photograph of it, estimate its size, note your location, and share the details with scientists. The details of your sightings or catches of sawfish help to monitor the population and track the recovery progress. Share your information by calling 844-4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or visiting www.SawfishRecovery.org. For more information about sawfish research, conservation, and management in the United States visit www.SawfishRecovery.org.

The journey starts with an easy flight to Cancun. From there, a two-hour van ride to Tulum might still have you wondering how to get away from all the tourists. However, once you board your panga and start the hour ride through the pristine waters of the lagoon system of Ascension Bay, you will realize you are truly on the path less traveled. Once back on land at the Grand Slam Lodge just north of Punta Allen, you’ll be greeted with margaritas and shown to first class accommodations in your beachfront villa. You will also notice there is nothing else around, and you are actually at the end of the road in the middle of nowhere. This fishery is nothing short of amazing. Home to a lobstering community, there is no other commercial fishing. All the recreational fishing is catch and release. These waters hold more permit than anywhere else I know, but be forewarned they are still permit and not easily fooled. Additionally, the number of bonefish here is staggering, and although not typically as large as the fish you’ll encounter in the Bahamas, they average a respectable 3 to 4 pounds in quantities that are astounding. There are also large numbers of tarpon, snook (which the guides seem to get particularly giddy about), jacks and barracudas to keep you busy all day. One of the other unique aspects of fishing here is each boat has two guides, the head guide and a junior guide. The second guide is extremely helpful to the angler as an extra set of eyes as well as for quickly changing outfits for the variety of species encountered and to help manage tangle-prone fly line. If you want to be spoiled, two guides does it. Ascension Bay is one of the greatest fisheries I have experienced. This is a renowned destination for fly fishermen seeking permit and a wonderful intro for anglers new to saltwater fly fishing. To see the quantity and quality of fish here, you would expect to travel much farther and stay in far more rustic accommodations. I recently returned from a trip in the “off season,” which is in reference to the number of tourists not fish. In three days of fishing, I never saw another angler while fishing. It provided us with abundant, pressure-free, happy fish to target. Will Schmidt is an experienced tournament angler who has been writing about fishing for more than two decades. For more information, check out grandslamfishinglodge.com.


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DIVING REPORT

EVERYONE LIKES IT WET, BUT WAIT TILL YOU TRY IT DRY BY: KERRY FREELAND / DIVE PROS

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was recently forced to ride my motorcycle to work on a cold blustery day. My pickup was in for needed repairs and the rain was not slowing my ever-growing pile of things that needed attention. As I gracefully age, I have found that what used to be lagniappe comforts have become pretty much a necessity, like, being warm. Harkening back to my youth, when two wheels were all I had, I put on some leather, covered my skin with appropriate clothing and took off. Due to my previous experiences and having the right gear, I was warm. The wind, the rain, the cold, all bounced off me; I was warm. Most people would look at me and think I was probably freezing, but nay, I was warm. I reference this experience because it is the same scenario when one is diving in colder water. With the proper experience and the right gear, you too can be warm. Wetsuits are wonderful things, they fit tightly and come in differing thicknesses to accommodate the water temperature that you will be diving in. A wetsuit allows water to contact your skin and you warm it, they are tight so that the water does not circulate out of the wetsuit. The thickness of the suit provides the insulation between that warmed water and the outside. The problem is that when you add to the thickness of the neoprene, you reduce your mobility. It becomes harder to move because you are working against the wetsuit, it wants to retain it original shape, but you want to bend your elbows. Additionally, you must add

more weight to submerge this thicker neoprene wetsuit. Caribbean water temperature suits come in 0.5mm thickness to 3 mm thickness. In the Gulf of Mexico our temperatures vary enough that a 3 mm wetsuit just won’t cut it in the cooler months. When the water gets into the low seventies and sixties most people need more insulation. In the winter months, we at Dive Pros sell 5 mm wetsuits. They provide enough protection for most of our Northern Gulf of Mexico temperatures. In addition, you can layer up with vests and hoods to keep you warmer for shallower waters, which tend to be cooler. Over the years we have tried thicker wetsuits, but the consensus is that people don’t really like anything thicker than the 5 mm when it comes to mobility and comfort. But if you’re like me, and you really want to be warm, let’s talk drysuits. A drysuit is just that, you don’t get wet. There are seals at the wrist and on your neck that keep the water out of the suit. Your body does not have to warm a layer of water. Your body is nice and cozy inside a fleece unisuit underneath the drysuits outer shell. Of course, you could always swim up to Holiday parties with your tuxedo underneath, like James Bond. But seriously, you never get wet, and thus your body does not have to use as much energy to stay warm. A drysuit fits looser, allowing for varying thickness of insulation to be worn underneath. The colder the water, the thicker the insulating suit, or underwear, would be. Because a drysuit fits loosely it can pinch you as you descend. If the folds of material happen to catch your skin as you go down the increased pressure will pinch your skin. Therefore, we have a valve on the suit to add air to the suit and another to vent the air from the suit. By adding a bit of air into the drysuit, you relieve the pressure against your body and the suit moves off you. The thickness of the underwear is not the only insulating factor. The different materials that the drysuit is made of will have

an effect as well. There are some neoprene and crushed neoprene drysuits that inherently require less insulation to be worn underneath. My first drysuit was a neoprene suit that fit pretty snug, it was good for my first experience as it did not require much insulation but did require a lot of weight to submerge. Nowadays drysuits have become much more sophisticated. They have even come down in price. It used to be that when the seals on the wrist or neck wore out, you had to send it off to a repair facility and have a new set glued into the suit. Many of the new suits now have the ability to remove and replace the wrist or neck seals in the field, by the owner. This is a huge improvement over the older drysuits. Over the years Dive Pros has sold every major brand of drysuit available. These days the leader must be Diving Unlimited International, otherwise known as DUI. DUI has led the way with replaceable seals, heavy duty materials that are very pliable for comfort, and now they offer lower cost drysuits with these desirable features. There was a time when the potential drysuit owner had to be prepared to shell out thousands of dollars to be warm and cozy in these cooler waters. Now the prices have dropped to about $1500.00 for a quality drysuit with replaceable seals. Once only the realm of commercial divers, public safety teams, and those with big budgets, drysuit ownership is now within the reach of the masses. Give Dive Pros a call, give your shop a call, we can get you the proper gear and the proper training to keep you warm and cozy under the waves, all year long. For more information, contact Dive Pros at #850-456-8845

2 ALABAMA / PENSACOLA, FL | JANUARY 2020 | COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


LAKE MARTIN BY: CAPT. DAVID B. HARE

H

appy New Year 2020 !!!! I hope everyone had a great holiday season. Each new year brings with it some of the best boat shows around the country. Two of the best boats shows (I personally am set up at) are The Atlanta Boat Show at the GWCC which is held January 16th thru January 19th. See Alex City Guide Service at Booth # 141 and then my next one is The Birmingham Boat Show at the BJCC January 23rd thru January 26th see Alex City Guide Service at Booth # 2. You will see the latest and greatest boats, marine products, fishing products, charter fishing guides, etc., etc. that 2020 has to offer. As always, you’ll find all kinds of activities for the children and the young at heart. I personally will be working our booth along with some of our best guides will be with me to answer any and all questions for you concerning Lake Martin. Most (if not all) vendors will be offering boat show specials including yours truly will be booking charters with a “No Deposit Required Special”, so stop by and book your favorite date or dates with us. Now on to fishing this month, believe it or not winter fishing on Lake Martin has always been very good with January being no exception. If you’re not an early riser then you’re in for a treat this month because most anytime this month the bite is great all day long so sleep in if that’s

what you prefer and then get out on the water and have some of the best bite activity you’ll ever experience. Whether your fishing Stripers, White Bass, Spotted Bass or Crappie you will have fun. Large schools will be found in the deeper areas around the lake and I promise they are just waiting on you to drop your favorite jig, spoon or live bait in front of them. Taking a little time and watching for gulls or scanning the lake with your electronics you will find them and then it’s on. Say that you don’t like sitting still well put your downriggers on and do some trolling it will pay off for you also. Say deep water fishing not your thing either well then you’re in luck ( if your searching for that trophy striper) put some planer boards out with live bait or some shallow running crank baits or some top water baits ( ex: Redfins ) being pulled behind the boards at 1-1.5 mph . Using the planer board technique work long shallow points, under water islands, creek channels, or some flats (Blue Creek) has all these features along with other areas of the lake. I personally like pulling boards when I’m working water depths of 25 ft or less. Let’s talk a little about catch and release due to the high volume of fish boated in the winter it’s the perfect time to be able to keep some fish for consumption but there’s never a better situation to be able to release fish unharmed with almost a 100% survival rate if they are not gut hooked or kept out of the water too long ( ex : take a quick photo ) and get them back in the water ASAP.

As always you need to wear your PFD (life vest), but definitely in the winter. You need it due to hyperthermia setting in fast if you were to become overboard. Keep you some extra dry clothing in your boat , a fully charged phone ( not in your pocket ) on board , tell loved ones where you intend to launch from plus what areas you more than likely will be fishing and a departure time for them to expect . Even though my wife might not know where I’m talking about when I text her of locations I plan to be while out on the water she will have a copy of the text and definitely can forward it to friends or god forbid first responders if I fail to come in at end of the day . It’s very critical that rescue squads and first responders to at least have an area to begin searches from. There is no need to be nervous about fishing at any given time but it sure doesn’t hurt to be prepared for an emergency if it was to come up. Capt. David B. Hare Alex City Guide Service 256-401-3089 2036 Cherokee Rd Suite 205 Alexander City, Al. 35010 davidbhare@yahoo.com www.alexcityguideservice.com Fbook/alexcityguideservice/LakeMartin

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MOBILE / DAUPHIN ISLAND BY: CAPT. CHARLIE GRAY

H

APPY NEW YEAR! Well, another decade behind us here and you look up and its 2020 and with Christmas behind us, we can start planning for the new year and hopefully warmer temps soon which leads to good fishing, wishful thinking I know, but hey it beats dreading winter. The trout fishing has been good in the area and will continue for a little while longer. Down my way, farther south, with lower air and water temps the trout will still be in the deeper tidal rivers that dump into the Bay and Sound. If you can find live shrimp, by all means get some before you leave the dock, if not the good ole shrimp and minnow imitations will work well fished on a 1/8 to 1/4 ounce jig head. I am using Vudu shrimp still under a cork with some Vudu shrimp sauce (scent) applied to the under body. I am also using paddle tail swim baits like the Matrix shad in a variety of colors, but I like them with some yellow or bright green in them. I am fishing deep from 8 to 12 feet and even deeper in the holes where the water temperatures and salinity are constant; AND remember present the baits SLOW, SLOW , SLOW and keep the jig head in contact with the bottom as much as possible; A slow troll in the middle of these rivers also can produce nice fish. Troll a jig or a rattle trap or other hard bait like a Yo-Zuri minnow or Mirrodine on the bottom, go slow either in a natural drift or by using a trolling motor

on a very low setting, just drift as naturally as you can; There will be redfish in these areas as well as specks and white trout. If you get a calm day and can get out into the bay or sound, the white trout will be around deeper structure and around the gas rigs in these areas, there may already be a few sheepshead there as well; soon the sheepshead will appear but probably not schooled up in big numbers like they will in coming months as the annual spawn occurs, you can use dead shrimp or other fresh dead bait to target these species. There will be whiting aka ground mullet off the gulf beaches, use a small piece of fresh shrimp on a small khale hook and a small split shot above the hook to keep the bait on the bottom or close to the bottom, or use a bridge rig with a one ounce weight and fish just off the beach or between the sand bars. We are still fishing and booking trips through the Winter, call me to discuss or book for Spring and Summer, dates are filling up ! Call me, let’s go fishing ! Capt. Charlie Gray Gray Gulf Charters Dauphin Island / Mobile Bay / Ft Morgan Alabama 251.379.5067 Charlie@Graygulfcharters.com www.Graygulfcharters.com

4 ALABAMA / PENSACOLA, FL | JANUARY 2020 | COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


MOBILE BAY / EASTERN SHORE BY: CAPT. DAN KOLENICH

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he water temps are is the 50’s. November and December left us with poor trout fishing on the causeway. All the saltwater on the causeway headed south in October. So, if you are looking for some trout or redfish action, look in the deeper parts of the rivers and creeks that flow into Mobile Bay like Bon Secour River, Fish River, Magnolia River, Dog River, Fowl River, and the Theodore Industrial Canal. All of these are local watersheds and will still have some saltwater in the deeper creek beds. I like to drift with the falling tide working a soft plastic on a jig head on the bottom as slow as I can. Explore the small creeks where the creeks flow into these rivers. Don’t be surprised if a red takes your bait. If you’re fishing artificial bait, my favorites are a Mirrolure Glad Shad or High Tide Shrimp soft plastic on a jig head. I start with a white/chartreuse, root beer/chartreuse, chartreuse/red, or natural shrimp rigged on a 3/8 oz jig head. On warmer days look near the banks instead of the deeper water for reds. Work your bait slow and expect bites to be soft and slow.

’s Mobile ha Yama Y L N O Master ian Technic

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OFFSHORE REPORT BY: CAPT. DON MCPHERSON with maybe a few more chilly days. I like January fishing for bull redfish. You must have patience as you approach the gulf. That is the time to start scanning the surface for bait activity, birds diving and maybe redfish on the surface. Ride slowly and look. I prefer to place a couple of #3 spoons behind planers as I ride and watch for activity. Once I find any kind of activity then I like to cast a curly tail grub. This type of fishing can be a blast. These big bulls can weigh 20-30 pounds. The typical north wind in January is blocked by land and condos along the beach and presents nice calm water within a couple of miles. This is perfect for redfish fishing. My other favorite type of fishing is finding and hooking into sheepshead. Again, this fishing is done with light spinning tackle. February should also provide the same fishing.

Don’t stay inside all winter or in a tree stand. Take a few days and travel to the Alabama Gulf Coast. There is seafood year round and always nice accommodations at a discounted rate available in the winter. Let’s Go Fishing! Capt. Don McPherson 251-752-0235 Getaway Charters www.getawaycharters.com

Offshore Fishing

Nearshore Fishing The month of December provided us with the typical weather of pretty days, some chilly days and a few rainy days. January should be similar

The key to offshore fishing in January is selecting that nice calm day. We have those days. You just have to plan, and watch the cold fronts. Find a day in between fronts and you are usually good to go. Scamp grouper, vermillion snapper and white snapper are good tasty fish that will be in season. Deep drop fishing is also good in depths over 400 feet. You will usually find the tilefish in depths over 600 feet. A high speed troller may catch you a king mackerel or wahoo offshore.

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Getaway Charters offers half day to full day fishing charters for Orange Beach, Perdido Key, Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan and surrounding areas. We welcome first-time anglers to the well experienced anglers. Our charters are also very family friendly. Kids as young as four years old often join us. Morning or afternoon trips are available. Looking for the more serious deep sea fishing for snapper, grouper, wahoo and more? Offshore big game trolling, deep drop fishing and offshore bottom fishing are all options. We have three beautiful fishing boats with cool a/c, comfortable seating, clean restrooms, Sirius Satellite Stereo and friendly captains and deckhands. Come join us!

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KAYAK REPORT BY: BENTON PARROTT

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he cold temperatures are still around, but hopefully that will be improving soon! The colder water temperatures have made things difficult to find fish. Dead end deep canals are producing good trout and some reds. Soft plastics like the Saltwater Assassin sea shad and Korky fat boys have been my go-to baits. I fish the sea shads on a 1/8oz. pro-elite jig head and let them fall slowly to the bottom. A slow retrieve with small twitches should get a bite. Same things when

fishing Fatboys. Keep tension on the line so you can feel a strike but maintain a slow steady pace. As always when we get a few sunny days in a row, don’t pass up shallow flats near deep water that the fish will come to feed. The shallow water of the flats will heat up first and get the fish that little extra boost to eat. Soft plastics flutter bounced, top waters, and twitch baits all produce reds and trout on these warmer days. Not to miss in February is the MBKFA Speck-

Tacular. Feb.1st -3rd it is a MBKFA members only CPR (Catch, Photo, Release) tournament consisting of the longest 3 speckled the angler can catch. For more info or to join the club go to MBKFA.com. The KBF is running a month-long online CPR Redfish Challenge based on 3 slot reds. More info can be found at kayakbassfishing.com The inaugural season of the Hobie Bass Open Series aims to provide a true open format and an elite feel for kayak anglers across the country and it kicks off Feb.23-24 0n Lake Chickamauga, TN. Each open allows the top finishing angler to earn a spot on the North American team for the Hobie Worlds 9! As always, we have a running tab on what’s going on in the kayak community at our Facebook page Kayak Fishing U. Always dress for the water temperature and not the air. One wrong move could spell disaster if you aren’t prepared. Remember while fishing from a kayak to always think safety. We are low to the water and not always easily seen. Keep a 360-degree light on at dark and low light conditions, wear a PFD, keep hydrated, and let someone know your float plan. Benton Parrott Hobie Regional Team / Pro Staff Fishing Guide dbparrott@bellsouth.net

ORANGE BEACH BY: CAPT. JOHNATHAN WILLIS

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or most of winter our game will be chasing schools of speckled trout, this is one of my favorite types of fishing we have to offer simply because there are just so many fish tight together. All of the main tributaries that lead off of the main bays have muddy bottoms that stay warmer in than the sand bottoms in the lagoons. Therefore weather will depend on where in these tributaries the fish are for example, on a warmer blue sky day the schools will be in 2-3ft of water closer to the mouth of the tributary but on a freezing day all of the trout will follow the bait farther toward the very back in 3-5ft of water. My go to lures are a Matrix Shad soft plastic on a 3/8oz jig head and jerk baits depending on how aggressive the fish are acting. We wish you the best of luck from Gulf Bay Charters! Captain Johnathan Willis Gulf Bay Charters 850-454-6937

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2020 MOBILE BOAT SHOW

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obile Boat Show March 6-8, 2020 at the Mobile Convention Center. This year’s event features boat dealers from Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina. The show is inside and outside with over 200,000 square feet of the new 2020 boat models. Buying at a show is truly the best prices of the year. There are manufacturer and dealer incentives in the “off season” that are not available after March. The “all dealers in one room” experience creates a competitive environment favorable to the buyer as well. Manufacturer representatives from each boat brand are at the show working with the local dealers of offer an extra layer of support and information about all the new year’s models so you can be sure you are getting the product information and you need to make a decision. Onsite financing is available at the show as well as all the extras you will need to outfit your boat such as electronics, towers, canvas products, audio and boat insurance. And after you pick your new boat, we also have the best selection of tackle, boat lifts and marine accessories available at the show. The Mobile Boat Show is truly a one stop resource for all your boating and fishing needs.

The Mobile Boat Show also is a great resource for education, family fun and entertainment. The kids 101 program spear headed by Capt. Ronnie Daniels of Fisherman’s Guide Service has put together a great learning and fun experience for young beginning anglers. Kids of all ages can go through a series of education and fun stations featuring interactive games that teach water safety, casting, knot tying, and other skills and the first 100 kids will receive a fishing rod and tackle box with lures. It’s a great place to get beginner anglers involved and ready to get out fishing and enjoying the outdoors. There are so many fun things to do at the show and one of the highlights is always the fetch and fish dog show. This family fun show teaches the basics of dog training and includes a 41 ft tank filled with water and 4 Labrador Retrievers that dive in the tank during the show. You can also meet and ask questions with local and regional fishing professionals and guides at the 106.5 FM Guides Corner. They broadcast live from the show all weekend and have the answers to your fishing questions and information on our fishing our local waters. The Alabama Dept of Marine Resources brings live animals from our local waters in their “touch tanks” for everyone to touch and learn from the biologists there at the show. You can fish for trout at the show in the Trout pond benefiting Camp Rap A Hope children’s cancer camp. The Mobile Boat Show is March 6-8th at the Mobile Convention Center. It’s the biggest show on the Gulf Coast so don’t miss out on the best selection. This year shows show is sponsored in part by Hancock Whitney Bank and IP Casino. Adults tickets are $10.00 and kids 15 and under are Free. There is a $2.00 military discount. For more information on the show you can to go to www.gulfcoastshows.com

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM | JANUARY 2020 | ALABAMA / PENSACOLA, FL 19


Pick up a copy of Coastal Angler Magazine every month at these local businesses! Grand Bay, AL

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C

orey Kitzmann, of Davenport, Iowa, knows what it’s like to catch a freshwater monster. The 57 ¼-inch muskellunge he caught back in August was recently certified as a new Minnesota catch-and-release state record. The nearly 5-foot-long muskie measured 25 ½ inches in girth and had an estimated weight of 47 pounds. Kitzmann was fishing alone at Lake Vermilion, a more than 40,000-acre Canadian Shield lake west of Lake Superior. He was working a bucktail on 80-pound line when the toothy critter ate. “When I set the hook, I knew immediately that I had a nice fish on,” he said. “It wasn’t until the fish made its way to the side of the boat that I realized I had a true giant.” But getting the fish to the boat wasn’t the end of the fight. Kitzmann was able to net the fish solo, but he had to wave down a nearby boater to help haul it out of the water for photos before a successful release. Minnesota’s certified-weight state record for Muskie is 54 pounds. That 56-inch fish was caught way back in 1957 at Lake Winnibigoshish. The IGFA all-tackle world record for muskie has stood since 1949. It weighed 67 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught from Lake Court Oreilles in Wisconsin.

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By John Lidington t’s January—named for Janus, the two-faced god who looked forward and backward at the same time. It’s also New Year’s resolution time. That’s when we look at what we should have done, to figure out what we ought to do. Doing this, I’ve come up with a long list of shortcomings that could stand some attention in 2020. But resolutions don’t have to focus on negatives. Accentuating the positives is equally important. One such positive event was a special snorkeling session at the Blue Heron Bridge. The 6-year-old granddaughter of some friends was coming to visit, and they wanted to introduce her to snorkeling. They heard the Blue Heron Bridge was a great site, but had never been. Knowing it’s a spot I frequently dive, they asked if I would guide them. I agreed, and we chose a day with an early afternoon high tide so

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the weather would be at its warmest. Of course, the bridge delivered its usual magic—magic that was amplified and transformed by a 6-yearold’s reactions to experiencing it for the first time. We swam the full length of the snorkel trail—saw the sunken boat, the shark statues, the rock piles and the artificial reef castings. I pointed out critters left and right to a very excited audience. When we reached the end, she insisted on retracing our path back to the beginning. She wanted to see everything again! As we wrapped up, it hit me that even though I had not seen a single frogfish, octopus or nudibranch, I was psyched. I realized that I’ve come to treat the standard cast of fishy characters—angelfish, barracuda, porkfish, grunts, parrotfish, porgies and so much more—as background noise while I search for “rarities.” Familiarity had bred complacency. It took the contagious enthusiasm of a 6-year-old to knock me out of my rut. That was a special afternoon. I’d like to think I helped start someone on a lifetime of appreciation for the marine environment. But it was important for me, too. I felt good that, through a small investment of time and effort, I could make someone happy. I also welcome a renewed enthusiasm for what I had begun to treat as commonplace. So what’s my New Year’s resolution? Well, I have three grandchildren, spaced a bit more than a year apart, with a fourth on the way. I resolve to offer all of them a good introduction to snorkeling. Obviously, that’s a multi-year resolution. It will let Grandpa interact with them in a way that will keep them excited and my outlook fresh. If I’m really lucky, they will transition to PADI’s Junior Open Water SCUBA Diver program as they turn 10, opening up even more years of fun for us. If you’ve got someone to take under your wing (or fin), get out in the water with them! There’s no shortage of easy snorkeling sites in Florida, and Pura Vida Divers will show you where to go. The rewards are great for all involved. Give Pura Vida Divers a call at (561) 840-8750 or make an online reservation through their website at www.puravidadivers.com.

a few inches wider, a few #10 self-tapping stainless screws, some indoor/outdoor carpet and a pool noodle.

G

Tim Barefoot

ot an aluminum jonboat that makes a lot of noise with hull slap? The Silencer eliminates this hull slap noise and allows you to get closer to the fish. With a few basic hand tools and materials, you can have a jonboat that is as quiet as a V-hull fiberglass boat. Internal insulation reduces the noise of hull slap, but The Silencer eliminates the chop that causes this hull-slap noise all together. Sure, you will have to drill a few holes in your bow, but this simple homemade gadget allows you to get closer to wary fish. Fish hear your noise way beyond casting distance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated by watching trophy fish swim right past the boat in shallow water. These fish have lockjaw. They’ve heard the boat, and they’re trying to get away instead of smashing that topwater lure. Noise absolutely matters! Fish are not stupid to the sounds of trolling motors and hull slap. There is nothing I can do about trolling motor noise, but when you need to get closer to fish upwind, the Silencer allows you to get within casting range without the noise from hull slap. I created this method due to my own frustration at watching fish spook before they were in casting range. From ponds to the Intracoastal Waterway and the sounds, aluminum boats offer advantages for fishermen. But their built-in disadvantage is they are noisy. The materials for The Silencer are simple. Everything you’ll need for this project can be purchased at the local hardware store or flooring supply store. All you need is .125-inch (1/8 inch) x ¾ wide aluminum (or stainless) bar stock cut to the width of your bow or

STEP 1: Sew a loop of the carpet around the pool noodle (as shown in photo). The carpet should be as wide as your bow and slightly longer than the height of your bow off the surface of the water. STEP 2: Screw the aluminum bar stock and the non-pool-noodle end of the carpet to the bow rail. Drill (.187) 3/16-inch (clearance) holes in the aluminum bar stock, and match the self-tapping holes in the bow of your boat to match. Use an impact driver or drill to “seat” the self-tapping screws into the bow rail, through the clearance holes in the bar stock and the indoor/outdoor carpet. STEP 3: You’re done. Toss the pool noodle end of The Silencer off the bow. Chop is absorbed by the carpet and pool noodle, leaving an eddy of still water between The Silencer and your hull. For a detailed video of how to DIY, visit

BAREFOOTCATSANDTACKLE.COM click on: “The Silencer.”



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By John Saporito

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ith winter temperatures upon us, its time to switch tactics when targeting inshore gamefish. The warmer months feature an abundance of life on the flats and shallow beds, but winter shows the opposite trend. Both gamefish and their prey seek out stable water temperatures, many moving upriver and into creeks to find refuge from the cold. Due to the high specific heat capacity of water, many fish will escape the cold by moving into deep-water areas of our bays and estuaries.

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Often, fish will congregate in passes, boat channels, and around bridges, where the bottom has been scooped out, creating places that assure consistent water temperatures. These deep-water haunts are excellent places to score in winter, where fish can keep themselves at the appropriate temperature while exploiting the bottom structure and moving water to help with their feeding activity. Whenever deep moving water is in play, there is one technique that stands out above the rest: jig fishing. Jigs are the most effective tool when it comes to pulling fish out of a lateral current. Their unique ability to ride naturally through the turbulence and get down to the bottom where fish are holding makes them ideal for this style of fishing. A single upright hook allows them to bounce off most obstructions and has the strength to hold heavy fish in heavy current. But not all jigs are created equal. The two main styles of jig in use today are the nose-eye and offset-eye. The nose-eye jig has its eye in a forward position on the head of the lure, while the offset-eye jig has its eye in a centered position on top of the jig’s head. The offset-eye jig is superior thanks to its knack for maintaining a horizontal orientation during retrieve. This makes natural presentation with the offset-eye jig a cinch. Weight is a critical factor when using jigs. The lightest possible jig that can get and stay within a few feet of the bottom will net you the most fish. Too heavy a jig will drag uselessly in the bottom sediment, while too light a jig will be unable to reach the deep-water strike zone. Water depth, current speed, wind speed and direction, line material and diameter, and the type of trailer used on the jig are all variables that go into weight selection. Once you’ve selected the appropriate jig, cast it up-current, allow it to sink to the bottom, and let the current sweep it toward any fish-holding structure that might be present. This structure may consist of bridge abutments, dock pilings, boulders, sand waves, ridges or holes. If you can get your jig to glide through the strike zone close to structure in fast deep water, hold on! A jig can help you clean up with your favorite inshore gamefish all winter long. John Saporito is a lifelong fisherman and student of the seas. Visit him online at guerillaangling.com and follow on Instagram @guerilla_angling.

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COLD WEATHER BASS HAMMERING SHAD

Travis Poole with a fine winter bass caught while fishing with C-note Charters. By Randy Cnota hen the north winds blow across Florida, bass experience significant shock from rapidly dropping water temps. Those fronts actually kill many shad; not all, but many. Through the fall and winter, bass tend to school and follow balls of shad to take advantage of feeding opportunities available due to the cold. The abundance of forage and the natural urge to fatten up turn bass into eating machines. Airline_Ad_CoastalAngler_8-1-14_Layout 1 8/1/14 1:14 PM Page 1 action and As a shad dies, it flails about in a jerky twitching

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eventually sinks. If any bass are around, it will never make it to the bottom. Lures that mimic this action and excel this time of year include jerkbaits, A-rigs, spinnerbaits, lipless and deep-diving crankbaits and spoons. The flutter spoon is a personal favorite due to its ability to trigger a feeding response when other lures won’t. The erratic fluttering motion as it falls appears as a very familiar sight bass have been witnessing as shad succumb to the cold. When they strike, you’d best be holding on tight! Spoons are a great tool for scouring depths from 5 to 50 feet. Not only do they generate bites in open water where schools of bass roam for bait balls, they are deadly fished around deep and shallow grass beds. For this, rig a spoon on 50-pound braided main line with a 15-pound-test monofilament leader and cast to grass edges. Allow the spoon to fall into the grass, and then rip it out to generate bone-jarring strikes. Note: 99 percent of spoon bites come as the lure falls on a slack line. Suspending jerkbaits provide a different action needed for winter bass. When it’s bitter cold and bass are depressed from the conditions, you need to slow down while still presenting a shad imitation. Fished on light fluorocarbon line, jerkbaits reach deeper depths than you might think. In clear cold water they produce with reliable results. Long casts and slow retrieves with long pauses between twitches will get cold bass to move and strike. As winter moves toward spring, I cast a lipless crankbait at shallow grass near deep drop-offs. Bass will start moving closer to spawning areas long before they actually spawn and will continue to feed. If weather conditions create a slight rise in water temps, this technique can be hard to beat. Even if water temps are still in the low 50s, but have increased slightly, a fast retrieve will allow you to cover vast areas and pluck off many bass that have started to scatter from their winter schools. During these coldest times of the year is when some of the biggest bass are caught. Don’t let the conditions deter you from searching out that trophy bass. Bundle up and get after it! Randy Cnota is co-publisher of the Panama City/Destin/Forgotten Coast edition of Coastal Angler Magazine and owner of C-note Charters. Contact him at (229) 834-7880 or randyc@coastalanglermagazine.com.

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By Michael Okruhlik • Capt. Michael Okruhlik Photo courtesy of Controlled Descent Lures.

or those who enjoy targeting speckled trout of larger proportions, we know they are not easy to come by. The majority of trophy trout hunting is done in cooler water temps and below normal feeding patterns. Utilizing solunar tables for feeding times can improve your hookup ratio and help you get the edge on gator trout. When I was a child, I would look at the calendar on the wall and see how many fish were on the day I had a trip planned. Multi-fish days built the excitement and anticipation while zero

fish still left me wanting to go, but lessened my expectations. During my younger years, I also found no consistent correlation between my success and the number of fish on the calendar and soon felt no reason to review it. I felt it was more of a folktale than a tool. As I matured into a somewhat better angler, and started spending more time saltwater fishing, I once again started to study the solunar tables along with the tides. To be clear, these tables are not a magic act, nor do they place fish where they are not, but I am a believer that if you are on fish, they will be more aggressive during the feeding times specified in the tables. Many people misinterpret the major as the better bite. This is not necessarily the case. The major vs. the minor is the length of time the bite will last. The major is typically two hours long while the minor is about an hour and a half. Both can share the same intensity of the feeding period. I plan each trip around the bite times. Naturally, I fish more than the two hours of the major bite, but I place myself in what I feel is the prime area during the bite. One rule that I stick to is to fish during the feed times rather than travel from one spot to another. On a recent trip, I wasn’t having any luck and considered moving locations. I checked the time and realized the bite was approaching. I decided to not move during the bite and continued to fish the once non-productive area to realize an aggressive feed during the specified time slot. I find this approach especially true when hunting gator trout. They do not feed that often and are difficult to catch, therefore utilizing the solunar can give you the edge for catching these larger specks. As I stated previously, these solunar tables do not guarantee you will catch fish. However, if you have the correct conditions of tide, wind, water clarity, temps, bait and most of all FISH, giving it your best during the feeding times greatly increases your odds of catching fish, and gator trout. Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Controlled Descent Lures and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

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urf Expo is coming to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center Jan. 8-10. It is an enormous one-stop shop, where retailers can stock up for the upcoming season. The expo’s Bluewater category is designed specifically for retailers of fishing gear, apparel and accessories. Here is a list of Bluewater vendors at January’s Surf Expo: Smithfly, Monster Cooler, Fish Hard Gear, CEECOACH, Big Ocean Sport, Apparel by Home Run, Kanga Coolers, Float Pak, Mang Gear, Fish Hippie, Ugo Wear, Reel Happy, Hooked Soul Fishing Company, 5Fin, AFTCO, Marsh Wear Clothing, Heybo Outdoors, HUK, Tormentor Fishing Products, Jeep by Buck Wear, Bimini Bay Outfitters, Salt Life, Pure Lure Reel Fishing Gear.

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MARK SOSIN

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ll of us have enjoyed those rare days when fish would ingest virtually any lure or bait tossed in the water. Those experiences are certainly the exception, because fish are selective about their diets and seldom vary extensively in their choice of foods. Only when they cannot find enough of their standard fare will they range in their choice. Let me share a few examples: It was a beautiful day on the offshore grounds with a strong current that should hold fish. As the hours passed, our frustration increased. We couldn’t even raise a fish. Finally, the captain told us to reel in the lines. It seemed obvious he was going to try another spot, but that wasn’t his intention. Instead of moving, he took the trolling lures off the rods and rigged them with a single hook. One of the outfits had a sinker so it would go deeper. Then he turned the boat broadside to the current and cut the engine. We were now being pushed by the natural flow of water. A live baitfish was put on each hook and then streamed off the starboard side of the boat. He chopped up dead bait and threw a handful overboard as chum every couple of minutes. It didn’t take long before the big guys hit the live bait, and it suddenly became a banner day because the skipper did something different. More than 50 years ago, the late Joe Brooks told me no

one to his knowledge had caught an Allison (yellowfin) tuna on a fly, and he was sure I could do it. Joe set up a trip for me to Bermuda, where yellowfins responded to chum. I had fished chum slicks with a fly with my father since I was a young boy, and we simply cast in the slick and retrieved the fly. I can’t remember ever having a problem with that method. We were anchored on the edge of a bank in Bermuda, with the current taking chum off the edge into deep water. Tuna were devouring chum, and I was sure it would only take a cast or two to hookup. To say I was wrong was an understatement. The tuna ignored the fly as I retrieved it. They swam around it and kept eating chum. Finally, in desperation, I dropped the fly into some chum that lingered on the surface and did not move it. To this day, I can see that tuna inhaling the fly. It weighed 53 pounds and 6 ounces. The point to remember is that if the more common method isn’t working, try a modification. A friend and I were both fishing the same plug. He kept getting strikes, while nothing touched my offering. Finally, he showed me how he periodically vibrated his wrist. It made the lure flash, and that’s all it took. In a similar situation, another friend and I were using diving plugs. He kept hooking fish while I couldn’t buy strike. While I followed a standard retrieve, he would pause for an instant periodically. That allowed the plug to float upward before diving again. Simple, isn’t it? Before you claim there are no fish where you are fishing, try a few variations to standard practice. You might be surprised with the results.

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heepshead are some of the tastiest fish in the ocean. They are abundant throughout the Gulf and up the Atlantic coast, usually holding tight to structure like piers, pilings, seawalls, jetties and wrecks. Sheepshead are easy to find, but difficult to hook. They have hard mouths and teeth designed to crush the shells of barnacles, shrimp and mollusks. They’ll crush bait, and the hook, without an angler even knowing they were there. That’s why a dropshot rig is a good tool to have. The standard Carolina or fishfinder rigs are effective, but the added sensitivity of a dropshot, where everything is in line, lets you know the fish is there before it gets away. You’ll get two taps. Set the hook on the first one, because the second tap means the fish is gone. Fishing a dropshot rig is simple. Drop it to the bottom and reel up any slack. With a sensitive rod, the smallest peck is transmitted to the angler’s hand. Here’s how to tie it: • Use a double uni-knot to secure 6 feet of 15- to 20-lb. fluorocarbon leader to a 10- or 15-lb. braided mainline. • Use enough weight to stay in contact with the bottom, and tie it into the end of the leader. • Choose your depth, typically about 2 feet up the leader, and use a Palomar knot to tie in the hook so it rides point-up. Use a sharp J hook (#1-4) depending on the size of the bait, whether it’s a fiddler crab, sand flea, pieces of clam, or shrimp.

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INSTANT SAVINGS

IN

SAVSTAN IN T GS S

SE AVE LE CT RIG SU HT ZU KI NOW OU TB ON OA RD S

REPOWER FINANCE

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]

To learn more, visit www.suzukimarine.com. 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 01/01/20 and 03/31/20 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 01/01/20 and 03/31/20. 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 01/01/20 and 03/31/20. “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. © 2020 Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.



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