Coastal Angler Magazine | March 2021 | Lakeland & Sumter Edition

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LAKELAND & SUMTER 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

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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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om Brady made a big purchase when he moved to Tampa for the 2020 NFL season. No, not just a new house, but a $2 million yacht. His custom Wajer 55 is a perfect choice for Tampa Bay area waters. He named her ‘Viva A Vida’ after Gisele Bündchen’s charity. With a top speed of 38 knots and a range of 450 nautical miles, it can get far offshore in the Gulf of Mexico quickly. But he didn’t need all that horsepower to show his boat off during the Super Bowl Boat Parade on Feb. 10. Following a 31-9 beat-down of the Kansas City Chiefs, Brady, the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quite a few fans took to the water to celebrate. Brady’s yacht is comfortable and spacious with seating for plenty of guests, whether it’s the sun pads on the bow and aft or the U-shaped couch behind the cockpit. Underneath are two beds for guests, a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher, a full bathroom with a shower, and a master suite. One of the coolest features Tom Brady’s boat has in store is its extendable swim platform that can be raised to also act as a gangway.

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FLORIDIAN MARCH

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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.

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By Capt. Quinlyn Haddon



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Young Anglers Haul In

STATE RECORD

SWORDFISH

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

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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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TIPS FOR SPRING COBIA PHOTO COURTESY OF CAPT. TONY SUMMERS

By CAM Staff

I

f cobia aren’t already on the move, they’re getting ready to be. During the spring migration, cobia move out of the Florida Keys and run north along the beaches on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This sets the stage for an exciting style of fishing in which anglers cruise beyond the breakers, actively sight fishing for pods of fish. Here are a few things to consider before you head out chasing that spring migration.

4) Get A Late Start: Cruising cobia are easier to spot when the sun is high and there’s less glare on the water. This is especially true if you’re fishing from a smaller boat with a short tower or no tower at all. By heading out late in the morning, you’ll be covering water when spotting fish is more likely. Also, especially early in the season, cobia move higher in the water column as the sun warms the surface. Obviously, you should wear a good pair of sunglasses and ball cap to combat the sun’s glare.

1) Seek Cover: When they’re not on the move, cobia post up, sometimes in schools, around some type of structure. Check the channel markers, buoys, FADs and known wrecks. If they’re not on the surface, they might be deeper. A little chum can be the ticket to bringing them up. If you’re running the beaches, be sure to take a long look around any sort of floating debris.

5) Consider a Net: A gaffed green cobia will absolutely wreck your boat and your shins, if you’re not careful. Even after a grueling fight, a big net is a good place to let cobia expend some of their fury. It also makes it easier to release undersized fish. With a gaff or a net, be ready with the cooler lid or fish box open when you bring the fish over the rail. Chunk that bad boy in the box, slam the door and sit on it. You’ll need a moment to catch your 2) Keep It In Gear: As they migrate up the coast, visible cobia are breath, anyway. bombarded by anglers. They’re hungry—and no one ever accused them of being smart—but they can get a little boat shy. When you spot them cruising, 6) On the Fly: Once you’ve caught a few cobia on conventional tackle, approach at a steady speed and cast as soon as you can assure accuracy in a it’s time to bring a 10- or 11-weight fly rod on the boat. All the things that 3- or 4-foot window ahead of the fish. The farther the boat is from a cruiser, make this fish such a great target for sight fishing also make it an awesome the better your chances are of getting bit. And don’t throw the boat into adversary for fly fishers. reverse or take it out of gear. For some reason, the steady growl of a motor Just like with conventional gear, the window of opportunity begins to doesn’t alarm them, but popping it in and out of gear will put them down close as soon as soon as you approach a pod of cruisers. Cobia will cream a in a heartbeat. well-placed eel or baitfish pattern, but time is of the essence. Start stripping off line as soon as fish are spotted. The cast needs to be quick, so there’s no 3) Keep It All On Deck: When you get a shot, you should be ready with time for excessive false casting. Use a water load on the backcast to achieve an arsenal of baits and lures ready and waiting. If the fish is visible near the instant distance and let fly. If you misfire, pick it up and throw it again. surface, it will let you know pretty quickly if its interested in what you throw. It’s a good idea to fish an intermediate sinking line for cobia. This allows There’s a good chance you’ll get a few shots if you don’t spook the fish by you to fish the surface with fast strips or to let it drop a little deeper. A 9-foot, hitting it in the face. Have several rods ready with bucktails and soft-plastics 20-pound leader with a 30-pound shock tippet will stand up to most fish in in locally preferred colors. Or, keep a bucket on deck with live baits rigged open water, but you’ll want at least 200 yards of 30-pound Dacron backing. and ready to pitch. Large shrimp, eels, mullet, pinfish and whole squid are Whether it’s a 5-pounder or a 50-pounder that picks up your fly, you’ll need all good choices. a quality reel with a smooth drag. It’s more than likely any cobia will take you deep into your backing. For more information, go to coastalanglermag.com and search cobia. COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

MARCH 2021

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If you have a suggestion for a distribution location for Coastal Angler Magazine, please let me know. You can view all 35 magazines in the U.S., including The Bahamas, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands at www.CoastalAnglerMagazine.com Please feel free to send me any fishing photos and comments about the magazine-I would love to hear from you!

E dition Highlights & Business Spotlight Page 2-3 Sumter County Map Page 5 Tournament & Events Lunker Lovin’ Smackdown

Page 10 2021 FL Pikebike Nationals Page 14-15 Polk County Map Page 16 Find Us Here

Page 6 Learn To Fly Fish Page 9 Photo Of The Month

Polk & Sumter Edition Staff: Sales, Editing & Production- Mary Brasher Graphic Arts & Design - PPP Graphic Design Distribution - Mary & Larry Brasher, Joyce & Capt Dave Ochs Media Mgr - Patrick Powers Contributing Writers - Jim Veal Jr, Capt Dave Ochs, Capt. Scott Taylor, Capt Rick Burns, Chris O’Byrne, Capt Bobby Woodard, Hunter Towery

Facebook -CoastalAnglerMagazineLakelandVicinity • Twitter - @camlakeland • Instagram- camlakeland • Youtube- CAM Sumpter Lakeland Each month I will bring you the latest and best knowledge for you to put to good use. I also invite you to share my passion for this area and if you would like to become a contributing writer contact us. You can read our magazine online anytime or sign up for a free digital subscription. Just visit our website and never miss an issue! CoastalAnglerMag.com.

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Homosassa Area 1-Capt. Rick Burns 352-201-6111 8975 W. Halls River Rd • Homosassa, FL 34448 www.RealBurns.com Oxford Area 2- Oxford Mower & Repair 352-748-7485 • 352-748-7490 3185 E CR 466 • Oxford FL 34484 Landscaping Repair Service/ Outdoor Power Equipment Store Lake Panasoffkee 3- Pana Vista Lodge 352-793-2061 3417 Co Rd 421• Lake Panasoffkee, FL 33538 www.panavistalodge.com 4- Catfish Johnnys 863-793-2083 2396 N County Rd 470 • Lake Panasoffkee, FL 33538 www.CatfishJohnnyRestaurant.com Bushnell Area 5- Sumter Realty 352-793-3202 239 N Main St • Bushnell FL 33513 Agent Evan Merritt 6- Canada Meds 352-569-1484 512 N Main St • Bushnell, FL 33513-5112 7- Devine Family Jewelry and Pawn 352-444-2058 8271 W C-48 • Bushnell, Fl 33513 8- ParGas 352-793-1982 1452 W C 48, Bushnell, FL 33513 www.pargas.com 9- Papaw’s Country Store 352-793-1080 8271 W C-48 • Bushnell, Fl 33513 Deli, Groceries, Beer, Live Bait, Tackle, LP Gas Follow us on Facebook

The Scenic Sumter Heritage Byway Organization began as a Community Action Group in March 2009 in partnership with the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce with the express purpose of improving the southern entrance to Sumter County, therefore enhancing the visitor experience to the National Cemetary. The Veteran’s Memorial Hwy was designated soon afterwards, and pursuit of a Florida Scenic Hwy designation began. A Corridor Advocacy Group (CAG) began meeting with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District Five Scenic Highways Coordinator in order to pursue the “scenic” classification for a series of roads within Sumter County that encompass the communities of Webster, Bushnell, Sumterville, Lake Panasoffkee, Carlson, Rutland and the surrounding areas. The roads that comprise the 62-mile Byway traverse rural communities, pastoral farmlands, cattle ranches, parklands, lush hardwood hammock, and floodplain forests within the Withlacoochee River Watershed. The corridor highlights the scenic view and rich heritage of Sumter County through byway travel. Attractions along the Byway include the General James Van Fleet Trail State Park, Richloam Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, Florida National Cemetary, Lake Panasoffkee, Withlacoochee River and the Half Moon Wildlife Management Area. The Scenic Sumter Heritage Byway Organization is a grass roots organization committed to altering their vision for the byway based on a multi-year work plan. The SSHBO consists of volunteers who are passionate about the heritage, traditions, recreational and scenic resources fo their community. They work with their partners to showcase these resources, educate the community and advocate for community-based decision making that protects and enhances these resources. Find out how to partner, be a sponsor, or donate at www.sumterbyway.com.

Webster Area 10- Scenic Sumter Heritage Byway, Inc. 352-267-8801 P.O. Box 6 • Webster, FL 33597 www.sumterbyway.com/ sumterbyway@gmail.com Sumterville Area 11- Blackjack Sporting Clays 352-569-9469 3372 County Road 526 • Sumterville, FL 33585 blackjackclays.com • info@blackjackdays.com Dale Walker Owner/Operator Webster Area 12- Webster Hardware & Farm Supply Ace 352-793-4831 120 N. Market Blvd. • Webster, FL 33597 www.WebsterFarmSupply.com Wildwood Area 13- M&M Old Hickory Smokehouse Bar-B-Q 352-399-6597 7993 NE 7th Path DR • Wildwood, FL 34785

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Picture is Finn Clark with his nice 9lb Bass that he caught and landed all by his self without any help from his Dad James Clark !!!! He then took some pictures and released it to be caught again :-) We have been catching some pretty nice specs. No big numbers but the ones they are catching are real big. Bass fishing has been on FIRE. A lot of fish are being caught in the 8 to 10 pound class. Live bait is the bait of choice and I expect it to continue on for awhile. Mid to late March may be a good time to start looking for the shellcrackers and Bluegills. The water conditions are excellent right now so with a little warm weather they may take off. Submitted By: Jim Veal Jr. Pana Vista Lodge • Lake Panasoffkee, Fl. 352-79 3-2061

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Field& Stream, 125th[OCC1] Anniversary Issue Best Stories Ever Reviewed by: Chris O’Byrne

Field & Stream magazine’s 125th Anniversary issue is a celebration, a great read, a touchstone of sporting literature, and a starting point for people with any interest in the outdoors. This collectable edition of America’s great outdoor magazine is an overview of the best writing from the history of this industry leader. To create it Colin Kearns, the Editor-in-Chief of Field & Stream gathered dozens of samples of great writing and placed them in a specially bound volume worthy of a collector’s box. The anniversary issue celebrates great writing; (One goal of FeatherWater.com) Introducing various pieces, David Petzal, Rifles Editor, uses the phrase “…the best writing…” throughout the magazine. Of course, how-to articles about outdoor skill are front and center. But writings that motivates are also included. Dramatic and emotional stories are contrasted with, light and humorous stories. In addition to the great stories, it includes some remarkable literary passages. Give yourself plenty of time to read The “Ferocious” Commuter, by A.J. McCLane. And beyond the writing, it includes great photography. Check out the mallard in an autumn-blazing pond on pages 10-11 This edition of F&S will interest any outdoors person who’s ever picked up a Field & Stream in the last 125 years whether at the magazine rack, in a waiting room etc. will want to read and keep this volume. As a beginning point for readers, this magazine shines. It introduced me to John Merwin, and anyone with a half hour to stop and skim can also find an author to begin reading. Anyone whose read stories set in the outdoors, learned skills of the outdoors, or enjoyed sporting photographs will want to see if your favorites were included in this bit of history. This will also be a good gift for an old or up-andcoming outdoors person. It even features the Jackalope for those who think that’s indispensable. Field & Stream Best Stories Ever 125th Anniversary Issue, Colin Kearns Editor in Chief, Bonnier Corp. FLScustserv@cdsfulfillment. com, 134 pages. This is a must for any sporting library, pick on up today, Field & Stream Magazine Vol. 125, No. 4 (2020) 125th Anniversary Issue Best Stories Ever: Field & Stream: Amazon.com: Magazines.

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MARCH 2021

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CENTRAL FLORIDA REGION FORECAST How does it get any better than March in Central Florida? The weather is warming up, and we have Spring Training baseball plus incredible bass fishing, and THAT folks is a winning combination. Well, February turned out to be a better month weather-wise than was originally predicted by multiple sources. The first week was brutal then it stabilized and so did the bass fishing after that on both the Winter Haven Chains and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. We ended up catching better Just Another numbers of fish in Winter Haven but caught bigger Winter Haven fish on average out of Camp Mack. South Chain Morning! So starting out in Winter Haven, we’re still working with a mix of pre and post spawn fish and that makes for great days on the water. The air and water temps should be rather stable - even though we are always subject to cold/storm front for a day or two - which will keep the fish feeding. I’m a firm believer in fishing offshore over deep vegetation with a variety of shad imitation baits. Flukes, swim baits in your favorite brand, crankbaits, and jerkbaits are all highly effective this time of year. At some point this month the post-spawn fish should start schooling and chasing bait which brings your topwater baits into play. As for fishing with shiners I’ll have a combination of wild native and domestics from 3” to 6” whenever possible and switch them up until the bass tell you what they prefer that day. Some days it flat does not matter, other days they get a little particular as to their dining preferences. Heading east to Lake Kissimmee and fishing out of Camp Mack I’m expecting a lot of great trips making lots of memories with new and old guests alike. Here, trips are a little more customized for each guest and their fishing preferences. If a client is more focused on strictly artificial baits we’ll be using a combination of hollow body frogs & soft body frogs like Gambler Buzz’n Cane Toads, Gambler EZ Swimmers, senkos, and Zoom Trick Worms. Those are all baits that are highly effective up in the jungle in heavy cover, as well as offshore over submerged vegetation. For most trips though it’s fishing offshore over eel grass and hydrilla as well as shell beds in open water. On these trips we can effectively fish a combination of both live and artificial baits. I like to give 5”-8” wild shiners swimming lessons off the back of the bay boat while guests fish with lures up front. A few of the best baits are a Spook or Spook Jr, a Devil’s Horse, jerkbaits, bladed swimjigs, and of course you have to have some flukes or senkos on hand. Please remember to Catch, Photograph, and Release the bass you catch, especially during spawning season. “Let ‘em Go & Let ‘em Grow” Submitted By: Capt. Scotty Taylor TMC Guide Services, llc • 855-354-8433 Scott@TMCGuideService.com • TMCGuideService.com Capt. Scott is the official guide for VisitCentralFlorida.org & Guy Harvey Camp Mack Lodge, Marina & RV Resort

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FEBRUARY’S FISHING CONJECTURE There are so many great angling opportunities for the month of March in our Nature Coast area. We have our resident homeboy’s like Redfish and spotted Seatrout that have come off their winter haunt and are ready to oblige. Concentrate in the shallow grass flats for the trout, and the many mangrove island points for the reds. Utilize for the both of them, the “Fishbites” extreme scented plastics on jigheads under CajunThunder popping corks. Or, jerkbaits rigged weedless. Favorite colors are white, pink, and rootbeer. Never forsake your favorite topwater plug at this time of year also. If the water temp reaches a constant 68 degrees or higher, look for us to have a super Cobia season. It warms, they’ll show. Big 7” and 9” plastic jerkbaits or eels will suffice for the artificial end. For the live bait side, nothing satisfies the Cobe like a frisky Pinfish. Anchored up and chumming around the channel markers is a good start. Keep a good eye out and cast ahead of the Cobe to entice him into the bite. Have the Pinfish cocked and ready for a second or third Cobia that usually follows. The absolute best bet for the bite of March will be the Spanish mackerel fishing. Call us for a catching, not fishing, experience. We anchor off a near shore rock pile, throw in some secret mixture of chum to activate the bite, and then wait. Important: do not put down your rod to take your outer shirt off. The rig could easily end up in the drink. It’s that fast. Out of 2 trips as of recent, we’ve brought in, brought in, 79 macks. No telling the ones lost. However, the bite should continue through most of March if it doesn’t get too hot. Give us a holler and get in on some of this hot action. Submitted By: Capt. Rick Burns Real Burns Charters • 352-201-6111 Homosassafishingguide.com • www.reelburns.com

8 POLK & SUMTER

MARCH 2021

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KISSIMMEE CHAIN FISHING FORECAST As I sit here on Ground Hogs Day forecasting for the Kissimmee Chain for the month of March I quickly realized that if I was as smart at forecasting as the Ground Hog I would have stayed in my nice warm den for the next six weeks. When I forecasted harsh conditions for fishing this Winter, I knew that the fishing was going to be rough. I didn’t realize that Capt Dave with a 19" long Bass. on a scale of 1-10 that it would have a stink factor of 9.9. It doesn’t look like it’s going to improve much until the middle of March. It really doesn’t matter what species of fish that you are after, catching a limit of fish isn’t easy anywhere in the county. I don’t think the Bass will be in major spawning mode until the end of March or perhaps even April this year. The majority of Bass are still in either deep or running water. Fishing with live shiners, spinner baits and crankbaits in 12’-15’ of water can be good when the wind isn’t blowing 15-30mph. Otherwise, weightless Senkos in the running water either Texas or whacky rig is a good idea. If all else fails the Kissimmee River might be a good option at this time. The canals should offer some decent catches of Crappie and Bluegills. Slip cork rigs should work best. Submitted By: Capt Dave Ochs Kissimmee Chain Fishing (863) 589-6295 Back Water Fishing Adventures Lake Wales, FL 33898

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MARCH 2021

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Boat/Personal Watercraft/Canoe/Kayak/SUP Dealers Manufacturers/ New & Consignment Sales/Golf Carts Hillman Motors Inc. 2701 Havendale Blvd. NW Winter Haven FL 33881 863-967-4628 • www.hillmanmotors.net M-F 9-7, Sat 9-5 Closed Sunday

Millers Fiberglass Repair 1505 S. Lake Shipp Dr. Winter Haven, FL 33880 863-551-1551 bobby.mfr@gmail.com We Now Have A Certified Marine Technician Offering Service Repair On Outboard Motors. Your ONE STOP-SHOP For All Your Fiberglass Needs! . Family Run & Operated Since 2003 . Our Team is Certified In Gelcoat & Polyflake Repairs. No Job Is Too Big Or Too Small.

Our Family Serving Yours Since 1989 Central Florida’s Official Stingray Boats Dealer Factory Authorized Suzuki Marine Dealer Financing Available Gary’s Boating Center 15520 Hwy 27 • Lake Wales, FL 33859 863-638-0537 • 863-638-0527 Fax www.GarysBoating.com

Central Florida Trolling Motor Sales & Repairs

3780 Hwy 92 East • Lakeland, FL 33801 863-666-2248 • Fax 863-667-0213 cftm3780@yahoo.com www.cftmr.com

Carolina Skiff Mercury & Yamaha Outboards Bennington Boats Hewitt Boat Lifts & Dock Systems

M&M Old Hickory Smokehouse Bar-B-Q 7993 NE 7th Dr. Behind the Sunoco Mon & Tue Closed • Wed - Sun 11am-6pm 352-399-6597 Pulled Pork, Ribs, 1/2 Chicken, Beef Brisket, Fried Fish. Pulled Pork Sandwich, Rib Basket, Brisket Sandwich, Smoked Beef Sausage and Italian Sausage. Sides include: Corn on the Cob, Green Beans, Potato Salad, Collard Greens, Coleslaw, Fries or Baked Beans. We also provide Meat Only Combo’s! Disabled Veteran Owned Blackjack Sporting Clays 3372 County Road 526 • Sumtervile, Fl 33585 352-569-9469 • blackjackclays.com Blackjack Sporting Clays is proud to offer incredible amenities to both the public and private groups/events: 38 Stations; 3 Courses, Sub Gauge Course, Five Stand, Trap & Skeet, Cart & Gun Rental, Large Pavilions/Porch, Clubhouse, Merchandise, Paved Cart Paths, Bulk Clay Packages Sweet Ella’s Produce 326 State Road 60 E • Lake Wales Florida 863-223-8775

A unique, family owned indoor produce store which offers a LARGE VARIETY OF LOCAL fresh fruits, vegetables and Amish products. NOW Carrying: Gemma’s Jams!

Check out our weekly specials on facebook! Factory Warranty Service for Minn Kota, Cannon Downriggers, Lowrance Ghost Motors, Motor Guide.

Erwine’s Marine 250 S. Scenic Hwy • Frostproof, FL 33843 863-635-4492 www.ErwinesMarine.com Come in to check out our new line of Lowe's Jon Boats

Yamaha - Evinrude - Mercury - MerCruiser Volvo Penta - Avalon - Magic Tilt - Exide Technologies Power-Pole - Teleflex Marine Starcraft Marine - Engel Coolers & Tumblers

Pana Vista Lodge 3417 Co Rd 421 • Lake Panasoffkee, FL 33538 352-793-2061 www.panavistalodge.com Cottages - Rv Camp Ground Hook-Ups - Camping - Boat Sales & Service. JohnsonEvinrude Motors Sales & Service. Boat Rentals Pontoon Rentals - Licenses - Bait - Ice - Gas Ramp

Action Watersports 402 Progress Rd • Auburndale, FL 33823 Ph: 863-967-4148 The brands we offer: Hobie • Jackson • RTM Perception • Feel Free • Wilderness Systems Ocean Kayak • Old Town • Hurricane • Kiwi • Solo Skiff • Evoke • Pau Hana • Amundsen are all leaders in the Kayak, Fishing, and Stand Up Paddle Board industries. Our accessories are sure to make your water experience more fun and safe. Alligators Unlimited Airboat Nature Tours Captain John Wathey 863-696-0313 14400 Reese Dr. • Lake Wales, Fl 33898 airboatnaturetours.com Our Airboats are the “Real Deal” not 20+ passenger Air-Busses! This guarantees your EVERGLADES AIRBOAT TOUR to be personal and powerful!


Bait & Tackle Shops/Outfitters/Apparel Taylor Made Charters & Guide Service Central Florida & Great Lakes Bass Fishing Capt. Scott Taylor USCG Licensed Captian The Official Guide for VisitCentralFlorida.Org & Guy Harvey Camp Mack Lodge, Marina & RV Resort Scott@TMCGuideService.com 855-354-8433 Bridgemasters 2131 Highway 60 E • Lake Wales, FL 33898 Phone: 863-676-1009 • Fax: 863-679-1638 www.fishermanscandystore.com

AMPED LITHIUM OUTDOOR BATTERIES SOLD AT BRIDGEMASTER! Phillips Bait & Tackle 3780 Hwy. 92E • Lakeland, FL 33801 863-666-2248 cftm3780@yahoo.com Follow us on Facebook and Instagram Live Bait: Cricket - Worms - Minnows - Shiners. Large selection of Bitter’s Baits, Gambler. Lew’s, Halo, Bull Bay and Favorite Fishing rods are in stock.

Stones Bait & Tackle 2049 E Edgewood Drive • Lakeland, Fl 33803 863-940-4898 Instagram: Stones Outhouse Follow us on Facebook & Instagram A Variety of Freshwater Rods & Reels Avaiable: NEW Abu Garcia Revo X Spinning Rods & Shimano SLX Rods . Large Selection of Strike King, Zoom & Gambler Baits. HUGE Apparel Sale- Save BIG!! Now Available- Stone’s Bulk Senko’s 25Ct/50CT/100CT

Big Fish Bait & Tackle 6908 US Hwy 98 North • Lakeland Fl 33809 863-815-9492 wwww.CentralFloridaAngling.com Bob Woodard-Owner Live Bait- Rod & Reel Repairs

Stretch Outdoors Discount Outfitters 848 W Daughtery Rd. • Lakeland, FL 33389 863-608-1513 We Now Carry Googan Baits!

Come In And Check Out Our New Lew’s and Abu Garcia Fishing Reels and Great Selection of Gambler and Bitter’s Baits. We also Carry Fitgzerald Rods and A Variety of Fitzgerald Fishing Products and 13 Fishing Products! Guy Harvey Camp Mack Lodge, Marina & RV Resort 14900 Camp Mack Rd • Lake Wales, Fl 33898

863-696-1108 www.GuyHarveyCampMack.com

Always Good Fishing - Airboat Nature Tours RV Camping - Trophy Bass Fishing - Cabin Rentals Liars Motel - Home Sales

Ron’s Tackle Box The Old Angler’s Antique Gallery 380 S. Lake Shore Way • Lake Alfred, FL 33850 863-956-4990 • Fax 863-956-2525 imareellady2@aol.com Live Bait & Tackle - Cast Nets - Sportswear- Gifts & Decor Mon - Th 6AM - 6PM • Fri & Sat 6AM - 7PM

Back Water Fishing Adventures Captain Dave Ochs Guide, Professional Angler Lake Wales Fl 33898 Cell: 863-455-6886 Overdue Adventures FL. “Cracker” Fishing Style Family Fishing, Shore Lunches, Waterside Dining Snorkeling Trips, Scalloping Trips, Egmont Key Day Trips Capt. Daryl Brown First Mate: Joy Brown 518 Main Street • Auburndale, FL 33823 863-559-4480

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Reel Burns Charters Homosassafishingguide.com 352-201-6111 Manatee Charter

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Lakeland Area 1- Big Fish Bait & Tackle 863-815-9492 6908 US Hwy 98 North • Lakeland FL 33809 wwww.CentralFloridaAngling.com

Lake Alfred Area 17-Ron’s Tackle Box,LLC 863-956-4990 380 S. Lake Shore Way • Lake Alfred, FL 33850 www.ronstacklebox.com

2-Champs Sports Grill 863-647-5900 6645 S. Florida Ave • Lakeland, FL 33813 www.ChampsToGo.com

Haines City Area 18- Hoppy’s Marine 863-439-7616 31499 Highway 27 • Haines City, FL 33844 www.HoppysMarine.com

3- LineX Of Lakeland 863-581-9173 3000 State Road 37 S. • Mulberry, FL 33860 www.linexoflakeland.com

Bartow Area 19- Spurlows 863-635-0240 1264 N Broadway Ave • Bartow, FL 33830 SpurlowsOutdoorOutfitters.com

4-Phillips Bait & Tackle 863-666-2248 3780 US-92 • Lakeland, FL 33801 www.CentralFloridaTrollingMotor.com 5-Stone’s Bait & Tackle 863-940-4898 2049 E Edgewood Drive • Lakeland, FL 33803 6- Stretch Outdoors Discount Outfitters 863-608-1513 848 W Daughtery Road • Lakeland, FL 33389 Auburndale Area 7- Action Watersports 863-967-4148 402 Progress Rd • Auburndale, FL 33823 www.ActionWatersports.net

Lake Wales Area 20. Sweet Ella’s Produce 863-223-8775 326 FL-60, Lake Wales, FL 33853 21- Bridgemasters 863-676-1009 2131 FL-60 • Lake Wales, FL 33898 www.fishermanscandystore.com 22- Capt Dave Och’s Backwater Fishing Adventure 863-589-6295 Lake Wales, Fl 33538 23- Gary’s Boating Center 863-638-0537 15520 Highway 27 • Lake Wales, FL 33859 www.GarysBoating.com

8-Overdue Adventures 863-559-4480 Auburndale, FL 33823 Winter Haven Area 9. Caribbean Bait & Tackle 863-292-9755 1004 N Lake Howard Dr, Winter Haven, FL 33880

24-Guy Harvey Camp Mack Lodge, Marina & RV Resort 863-696-1108 14900 Camp Mack Rd • Lake Wales, FL 33898 www.GuyHarveyCampMack.com

10-Capt. Scott Taylor 855-354-8433 Official Guide for VisitCentralFlorida.org & Camp Mack’s River Resort Scott@TMCGuideService.com

Frostproof Area 25- Erwine’s Marine 863-635-4492 250 S. Scenic Hwy • Frostproof, FL 33843 www.ErwinesMarine.com

11-Hillman Motors Inc. 863-967-4628 2701 Havendale Blvd. NW • Winter Haven FL 33881 www.hillmanmotors.net 12- Marine Supply of Winter Haven 863-297-7003 1700 3rd St SW • Winter Haven, FL 33880 www.MarineSupplyBoats.com

Placida Area 26-Fly Em High Charters 863-224-1418 Capt Bobby Woodard 6499 Gasparilla Rd • Placida, FL 33946 www.Captain-Bobby.com

13- Millers Fiberglass 863-551-1551 1505 Lake Shipp Dr, Winter Haven, FL 33880 www.facebook.com/Millers-Fiberglass-Repair-157407427716301 14- Polk Tractor 863-967-0651 3450 Havendale Blvd NW • Winter Haven, FL 33881 www.PolkTractorco.com 15-RKY Seafood 863-294-2300 175 Ave A NW • Winter Haven, FL 33880 16-Sweetwater Guide Service 863-837-7028 336 Magnolia Ave • Winter Haven, FL 33880

14 POLK & SUMTER

MARCH 2021

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Support Your Local Polk County Businesses!

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Central Fl Trolling Champs Sports Grill Ciao Bella Paid Supporters of the Magazine Crowder Ace Hardware Auburndale Curtis Design Lake Alfred Action Watersports Extended Stay America Gary’s Oyster Bar & Grill Auburndale Library Fish City Grill Harvest Meat Market Best Western Inn & Suites Fun Bike Center Ron’s Tackle Box Hamptons Clubhouse Gino’s Barber The Lake Alfred Chamber of Grill Smith Marathon Commerce Overdue Adventures Harvey’s Pizza Connection Hibbett Sports Lake Wales Pro Nails Hooters All Star Grill Sal’s Pizza Huntington Hills Golf & Alligator’s Unlimited The Twisted Crab Country Club Brandi’s Barber & Beauty Townsend Motors Inc. Jin Jin Chinese Bridgemaster Traders Pawn Just Move Camp Lester Walmart King’s Wok Cherry Pocket Restaurant LaQuinta Inn Crazy Fish Bar & Grill Winter Haven Laundry Dyer Chevy AAMCO Transmission LineX of Lakeland Gary’s Boats Andy Thornals MoJo’s Restaurant Grape Hammock Ard’s Awning, Inc. New Moon Japanese Rest Guy Harvey Camp Mack B&W Exhaust Pro Off The Wall Adventures & Caribbean Bay Bait/Tackle/ Lodge, Marina & RV Resort Outfitters Harvest Meat Market Rest. Old Salt Marine Jay Bee’s Rest Cypresswood Golf Club Outcast Watersports Jennings Fish Camp Dairy Queen Phillips Bait & Tackle Juniors Fish Market Fields Equip. Pinch A Penny Lake Haven Bait Harry’s Old Place Red Top Pit Stop Lake Market Hillman Motors Russell’s Western Wear Lake Wales Country Club Howard Johnson Hotel Sandpiper Golf Club Liars Lair Saloon Jeep Shoot Straight Leadfeather Guns & Archery McKibben Powersports Shooter’s Honda Marine Supply Sky Powersports Oakley Trucking Miller’s Fiberglass Repair Stones Bait & Tackle O’Reilly Auto Parts Mobil Gas 1200 3rd St SW Stretch Outdoors Pizzanos Pizza Old Man Franks Tint Masters Quality Boats Oyster Bar Topatio’s Mexicano Rest. Ridge Glass & Mirror Polk Tractor Tropical Smoothie Cafe Rural King RKY Seafood Market Tubes’n’Hoses of Lakeland San Diego’s Mexican Grill & Shiner’s Unlimited Uncle Nick’s Spurlows Sports Bar Walmart 98N State Park Schacks BBQ Walmart S. Fl. Ave Sunoco Scores Family Sports Cafe Wedgewood Golf Club Sweet Ella’s Produce Tanner’s Lakeside Winners Circle The Twisted Prop Bar & Grill The Port Rest XYZ Liquor Vinny’s Smoke-n-Grill Walmart Weikert Ford West Marine Highlands Bamboo Wok US 98 Frostproof Davenport Gator’s Dockside Anchor Down Bait & Tackle Davenport’s Ale House Dicks Sporting Goods Posner Bagwell’s Bushnell Chamber of Commerce Center Optimum RV Hungry Crab Juicy Seafood Crowder Ace Hardware Anglers Tackle Shack Erwines Marine & Bar Beef O Brady’s Frostproof Mobile Village Mannino’s Pizza Blueberry Hill RV Indian Estates Polk Outpost 27 Breezy Oaks Good Sam Park Posner Park Chrysler/Jeep/ Korky’s Kountry Store & Bronson’s Camp Outlaw at Saloon Dodge Indian Bow Little Dixie Mart Ramada Bushnell Medical Clinic Mini Mart Citgo Rickert Properties Bushnell Pharmacy Way Out West Byrd Insurance Agency Lakeland Canada Meds of Sumter 716 Burgers & Brew Haines City County Adventure Archery Lakeland Devine Jewelry & Pawn Chamber of Commerce Ariana Barber Shop China Park Love’s Travel Stop Baymont Hoppy’s Marine Papaw’s Country Store Big Fish Bait & Tackle Pilot ParGas Ridgewood Lake Golf Club Brewlands Bar & Grill Red Oak RV Broadway Food & Gas Walmart Sumter County Realty Bubbaques The Wood Shed Bull Bay Tackle Company Walmart 16 POLK & SUMTER

MARCH 2021

Panasoffkee AA Discount Beverage Big Bass Grill Lakefront Restaurant and Marina Big Cypress Fish Camp Catfish Johnny’s Countryside RV Idylwild Fish Camp Kal’s Food Lake Panasoffkee Realty Lake Panasoffkee RV Village Mo’s Rest. CR Pan Hardware Pana Vista Lodge Shell Spirit Truck Stop Sumter Co. Chamber of Com. The Dam Pub The Inside Out Grill Thousand Palms RV Resort Tom & Jerry’s Swamp Boat Tours Tracy Pt Fish Camp Babson Park Crooked Bass MiniMacs Wildwood A Cut Above Polish Shop Chrome Shop Crevalle Boats Cover All Storage Dani’s Sports Bar & Grill Hungry Howies M&M Old Hickory Smokehouse BBQ My RV Storage Old Salt Marine Salty Boats SPARR SpyderMX T/A Truck Stop Traditions Antique Mall Wildwood Antique Mall Wildwood RV Village The Villages Buffalo’s Barbershop Beef O’ Brady’s SouthernTrace Plaza Dickey’s BBQ Pit (Traverse Trail) No. 1 Chinese (Traverse Trail) Custom Apparel & Gifts Hampton Inn Lighthouse Seafood Shell Streetrod Productions The Villages Fishing Club Walmart Winn Dixie (Burnsed Blvd) Oxford Oxford Mower & Repair River Ranch Westgate River Ranch

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Webster Country Village Power Equipment Dough J’s Scenic Sumter Heritage Byway, Inc The Webster Westside Flea Market Webster Ace Hardware & Farm Supply Dundee

Chilton Signs

Sumterville

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PHOTO COURTESY OF TROPHYCATCHFLORIDA.COM.

Woody Bozeman caught this 9-lb., 15-oz. largemouth from Orange Lake in January.

Orange Lake Regains Its Legendary Status S

outheast of Gainesville in southern Alachua County, Orange Lake has a storied reputation as one of the best freshwater fisheries in Florida for largemouth bass, crappie and bream when conditions are right. At nearly 13,000 acres, it is large but relatively shallow, with an average depth of 6 feet. Connected to the Floridan Aquifer through numerous sinkholes, water levels can be very dynamic, and habitat conditions on the lake can change dramatically. During periods of extended drought, the lake can drop low enough to eliminate access. Abundant rainfall, such as that which accompanies tropical storms or hurricanes, helps to replenish the lake. These cycles of drought and refill have been recorded on Orange Lake

since the early to mid-1900s, and they have likely been occurring before recorded history. The lake’s fish populations have proven resilient in the face of such dramatic changes in water level, and it is likely they even benefit from these periodic resets in habitat conditions. Since the most recent drought of 2012 and the refilling of the lake in 2013, fishing in Orange Lake has been getting better every year. Recent angler interviews by FWC staff have shown excellent fishing for black crappie and bream. Anglers trolling or drifting jigs and minnows in open water do well for crappie in the fall and winter months. As crappie move shallower in preparation for the spring spawn, anglers do better targeting nearshore vegetation. Good catches of bluegill and redear sunfish can be had from spring through early fall as fish congregate to spawn in nearshore vegetation. Live baits such as grass shrimp, crickets or earthworms fished in open holes in the vegetation account for most of the fish. Although a little slower to rebound than the panfish, largemouth bass fishing is excellent for both numbers and size of fish. Creel surveys, electrofishing surveys, TrophyCatch submissions and bass tournament results have indicated a healthy bass fishery. Orange Lake lays claim to the second-heaviest bass ever submitted to the TrophyCatch program at 15.8 pounds. A remarkable five-bass tournament bag limit of 45.2 pounds was caught in Orange Lake. Bass anglers on Orange typically do well flipping soft plastics in and around emergent pads and floating vegetation mats, especially during the springtime spawn. Anglers should also target submerged vegetation with spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, soft plastics, and topwater lures. In addition to healthy populations of fish, Orange Lake’s abundant aquatic habitat supports excellent numbers of other wildlife. Waterfowl hunting, alligator hunting, frogging and bird watching are also popular activities. The lake can be accessed from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Park near the community of Cross Creek and at Heagy-Burry Park near the town of McIntosh, just off of US 441. The lake can also be accessed from nearby Lochloosa Lake via passage through Cross Creek. A handful of fish camps also provide launch opportunities on the lake for a nominal fee. For more information, go to myfwc.com.

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nglers pursuing reef fish in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico will now be required to have a descending device or venting tool on board, rigged and ready for use. The new regulation has been in the works since 2019, and Congress signed it into law in January. It applies to recreational anglers, including charter boats, as well as hook-and-line commercial fishermen. Led through Congress by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the DESCEND Act was also supported by a coalition of fishing and conservation groups, including the International Game Fish Association and the American Sportfishing Association. The primary targets for conservation are economically and recreationally important Gulf red snapper, which are particularly susceptible to barotrauma because of the depth at which they are caught. With strict regulations and short seasons, red snapper and other reef species must often be returned to the water after being caught. Many of these released fish never make it back to the bottom. The rapid change in pressure from being brought to the surface from depth causes a condition called barotrauma. Barotrauma is a buildup of gas pressure in the fish’s body, which makes it difficult or impossible for them to swim back down. Consequently, countless fish returned to the water can die at the surface or fall victim to opportunistic predators. “Considering that a significant percentage of recreational fish are caught and released alive, the use of descending gear will increase the number of fish that survive to be caught again at a larger size or later when in-season,” said Ted Venker, conservation director for Coastal Conservation Association. “This conservation-minded law is an important piece of our overall efforts to reduce all sources of discard and bycatch mortality, and ensure marine resources are healthy now and in the future.” A descending device is a weighted hook, lip clamp or box that will hold the fish while it is lowered to a sufficient depth to recover from the effects of barotrauma and be released. A venting tool is a sharpened, hollow device capable of penetrating the abdomen of a fish to release the excess gas pressure in the body cavity when a fish is retrieved from depth. The Florida Wildlife Resources Commission warns: “Descending devices and venting tools should only be used when fish show one or more signs of barotrauma and cannot swim back down on their own. It is essential to work quickly when using these tools and return the fish to the water as soon as possible. Anglers should choose the device and method they are most comfortable with and that best fits the situation.” For more information go to myfwc.com.com

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PHOTO BY ANTHONY PLANAS

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ollowing the 2003 listing of smalltooth sawfish under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a team was assembled to recover the population of this endangered species. But what is recovery and how do we achieve it for smalltooth sawfish? Under the ESA, recovery is restoring a species to the point where they no longer require the safeguards of the Act. To guide managers and researchers, the ESA directs NOAA Fisheries to develop recovery plans that outline a path to secure self-sustaining wild populations. A recovery plan for smalltooth sawfish in the U.S. was published in 2009. Sawfish may be delisted only if data indicate improvement in the status of the species to the point where it is no longer appropriate to be considered endangered. For smalltooth sawfish, that means ensuring long-term viability of the species through substantial increases in abundance and range. Smalltooth sawfish in the U.S. are considered and managed as a single population. All sawfish receive equal and consistent protections, regardless of where they are. Sawfish in Everglades National Park are just as protected and important to the population as those in Tampa Bay, Indian River Lagoon, Texas or Georgia. While we are seeing encouraging signs, we are a long way from recovery. Modest increases in sawfish numbers are likely the result of the 1992 protection from harvest in Florida, the 1995 Florida gillnet ban and the 2003 ESA listing. However, until recovery is truly documented, it is critical that local, state, and federal regulations and protections remain in place.

You Can Help Save Smalltooth Sawfish

CoastalAnglerMag.com

Angler Guidance ▶ Release sawfish immediately ▶ Never lift from the water or drag ashore ▶ Do not use gaffs or ropes to secure ▶ Cut the line as close to the hook as possible

Diver Guidance ▶ Keep your distance ▶ Avoid disturbing sawfish ▶ Do not chase or pursue ▶ Never feed or touch

Help track recovery and steer research by sharing information about your sawfish catches and sightings at www.SawfishRecovery.org.

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MARCH 2021

NORTH FLORIDA 7


NON-STAINLESS Circle Hooks Now Required

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nglers using hook-and-line with natural bait to target reef fish like snapper or grouper from a vessel in Florida’s Atlantic state waters are now required to use non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks north of 28 degrees north latitude (near Melbourne) and non-stainless steel hooks south of 28 degrees north latitude. These changes are consistent with requirements in Atlantic federal waters that recently took effect and, along with emphasizing best fishing practices through educational resources and strategic messaging, will help conserve fisheries for the future. Non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks are already required when fishing for reef fish in Gulf state waters and have been a successful tool in increasing the number of fish that survive release. Non-stainless steel hooks degrade faster in the marine environment compared to stainless steel or other non-corrodible metals. Use of these hooks may ultimately improve survival if the line is broken or the hook cannot be removed, and increase a fish’s chance to shed the hook over time. Additionally, non-offset circle hooks more often hook fish in the mouth rather than the gut, which reduces internal harm to the fish and decreases de-hooking time for the angler. Allowing the use of other types of non-stainless steel hooks south of 28 degrees north latitude accommodates for regionally important south Florida fisheries, such as yellowtail snapper, in which the use of J hooks allows for greater efficiency and reduces discard mortality. FWC encourages the use of tools such as descending devices and venting tools when barotrauma occurs so long as they do not delay release.

From left to right: J-hook, circle hook, non-offset circle hook, offset circle hook.

To learn more about proper fish handling techniques, visit MyFWC.com/FishHandling.

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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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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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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,

M Y

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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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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STURGEON SEASON LASTS JUST TWO HOURS

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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.

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


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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

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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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MARCH 2021

NATIONAL 23


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