Coastal Angler Magazine | January 2021 | Mississippi Gulf Coast Edition

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Go from fishing to wakesurfing to conquering the water. The all new 25-foot FSH® Series from Yamaha is perfect for those who want to get the most out of their boating experience. With fishing-friendly features like a GPS Simrad® system and dual livewells, along with a premium layout and the patented Yamaha swim platform, the new 25-foot FSH Series guarantees you’ll be in the center of everything you love about life on the water. #RUNTHEWATER YA M A H A B OAT S . C O M

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10:41:29 AM




By Gary Turner


his year has not been my best fishing year. I did end up doing a little fishing, just not nearly as much as usual. So, this is the list of fish I want to catch in 2021. Some of these will not be very impressive to some of you, but some of them might seem worthy of adding to your own bucket lists. Here is my list, in no particular order: 1) Swordfish: With my friend Jimmy Dean’s help, I hope to land a swordfish out of the West Palm Beach area. This will not be easy, but hopefully I can get a shot or two. 2) Salmon Shark: This smaller cousin of the great white weighs up to 1,000 pounds and can measure 10 feet long. I plan to fish out of Resurrection Bay, Seward, Alaska. As of right now, I don’t have a captain selected, so kindly e-mail recommendations. 3) Halibut: I’m hunting a halibut heavier than 300 pounds. This will also most likely be out of Seward, Alaska. I have several friends who fish out of Seward for halibut, and it might take several years to find this fish, but every halibut is an adventure. 4) Blue Catfish: I would like to catch a 100-pounder or better. I like the Tennessee River in the Guntersville area for good odds of making this happen. 5) Snakehead: Why? Because I’ve never caught one. The Miami area is where I plan to look for these fish. 6) Oscar: I’d like to catch a very large Oscar. I love these fish, and years ago I used to raise them. The fact that they grow wild and big in south Florida makes me want to catch them, and they are supposedly very tasty. 7) Alligator Gar: This is a trip I have talked about for years and haven’t

f A r s w d m

been able to pull off. A friend and I have talked about fishing for giant alligator gar, so I just have to get out to the Trinity River in Texas to make it happen. 8) Tarpon: I have caught tarpon but never one of great size. Hopefully, on one of my trips to Florida, I will catch the right time and place and make it happen in 2021. 9) Bluefin Tuna: This one might be on the list for a few years, but I’m giving it more and more thought. A friend has been telling me about catching tuna in the Prince Edward Island area. The more we talk, the more I want it. My other choice of locale is North Carolina. 10) Goliath Grouper: I’d like to reel one up and take some awesome pictures before release. Again, this is a Florida trip. I have several friends who want to do this, too, so it should be a great trip. That’s my list for now. If you have time, email me and tell me about your list for 2021. Contact Gary Turner through email at

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By Capt. Michael Okruhlik


ow that we are in the clutch of winter’s grip, let’s talk about how if affects speckled trout and what you need to do to catch them on the coldest of days. Several years ago, I fished a south Texas trip with my brother and brother-inlaw. We planned it with one thing in mind and one thing only: big speckled trout! As luck would have it, the coldest front of the year blew in the day before our three days of fishing began. We had anticipated a wade-fishing event on muddy bottom in waist-deep flats, but with the water temp at 38 degrees when we reached our spot, we had to adjust. The muddy shallows were no longer waist deep as the tide was blown out by stiff north winds. They were also void of visible baitfish. With hands so cold they refused to move without assistance, we decided to grind it out in a deep channel in the vicinity of our original spot. When most would have stayed in the hotel, we decided to give it a try since we had driven hours to get there. We threw slowsinking lures and soft plastics on a jighead. When we decided to call it a day, we had one small red and an 8-pound trout, which made it all worthwhile. Anytime I see a fish of that magnitude, it doesn’t matter what else was caught. On day two, the weather warmed only slightly, but the wind had died down considerably. Rather than make the long run to mostly barren grounds, we decided to fish closer to the ramp in an area with multiple deep dead-end channels in close proximity to each other. In these channels, we bounced soft plastic off the bottom and had a banner day. The three of us easily landed 40 to 50 trout. Most of these fish were solid 2- to 4-pound fish with a few 5- and 6-pounders and one heavier than 7 pounds. The bite was very subtle, and the jig had to be on the bottom. The sun came out in the afternoon, and the water began to warm considerably. The wind also shifted to the south, and the evening temps didn’t drop nearly as low as they had been. The next day we went back to the exact same location and only caught a few trout. The lesson from this trip is the trout don’t want to be in those dead-end channels, but that’s where they need to be during cold snaps. They did not go in to feed; they were there to survive. Once they knew the threat of the freeze was over, they left and went back to the open bay. Although these canals can be a great place to fish when it’s cold, timing is everything. Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures, Controlled Descent Lures, and the owner of

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s I’ve written before, we’ve all experienced the slowdown that happens around 10 a.m. You might have seen my column last month, in which I covered slowing it all down and sending baits deeper during the middle of the day. Like I said, wahoo don’t have Maui Jims… so they use water depth to get the right amount of light they want and constantly look up to see the silhouette of any given bait. This is exactly why all the dark colors work best, and only the planer rod is the one producing bites during the middle of the day. Again, who says you have to go 6 knots, and/or have to use a ballyhoo? Slow it down. Fly a kite with artificials, and use big natural baits on the downrigger to get results. A big beautiful squid on the downrigger on a Barefoot Cats and Tackle Chin Weight and a spread of artificial squid and/or flying fish on the kite, along with the outriggers loaded up with natural squid is a beautiful spread. With one squid at 50 feet and one at 75 or 100 feet, you are putting a completely irresistible bait at the depth of the fish. The squid on the downrigger will be the “hot” rod on a consistent basis. It’s a complete no brainer… this is the food they eat… at the correct depth. I’m not saying the surface bite does not work during the middle of the day. There have been many beauties caught on a ballyhoo during the middle of the day. All I’m saying is, I’ve fished many times when the bite died right around 10 a.m., and only the planer rod got bites. The kite adds a completely new dimension to the spread, and it also adds reality to the spread. When squid and flying fish get pinned against the surface and they’re scared, they jump! The kite picks the baits out of the water and makes it look like they are jumping. This is a good reason


By CAM Staff


uring winter, there’s a fish we can usually count on to provide consistent action and high-quality fillets for the table. Even when a cold snap shuts inshore fisheries down, bait-stealing Sheepshead will still be chewing shells with their hook-crushing chompers. They are almost always game once you find them, and cold, calm days can bring

to keep at least one red squid in the spread. When squid get scared, they turn red. A red squid coming out of the water is another “no brainer.” Pancake trolling weights for the downrigger are the way to go. They are slimmer, have less resistance and have less “blowback” with more speed. A stout release tension is best for this application. As a matter of fact, the tension should be tight enough to “set the hook” and allow the slack to come tight after the strike. The stinger hook will hook the fish 90 percent of the time with a squid, as the fish almost always eat the back half of the squid to disable the squid’s beak. This is the only thing on a squid that could injure a fish.

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some of the best fishing of the year for both numbers and size of these black-barred convicts. Year-round, sheepshead can be caught wherever structure makes a home for barnacles. Bridge pilings, piers, jetties, wrecks, sea walls, oyster beds, any type of structure will suffice as long as it’s been in the water long enough to develop growth. This time of year can be the best time to target larger breeding-size sheepshead. When inshore waters cool, it sparks an offshore migration. Ahead of the early spring spawn, convicts in the 5- to 10-pound range congregate on deeper structure in 30 to 60 feet of water. This can make for easy pickings… if you can figure out how to get a hook-set. Those black-and-white prison stripes aren’t the only reason sheepshead are called convicts. They are thieves and will chew through a boatload of bait if you don’t pay attention and get a feel for that light, nibbling bite. Even in 15 feet of water, it takes practice to time the hook set. The challenge is amplified when you’ve got 40 or 50 feet of line out. A vertical presentation and staying in touch with the bait are absolutely critical when targeting deeper winter sheepshead. You want to drop baits straight down, as close to structure as possible. The limited stretch of braid paired with a short fluorocarbon leader of a foot or less helps with detecting the bite. Abrasion resistance around all that structure is also important. Using 20-pound-test for mainline and leader is usually enough to muscle a hard-fighting sheepshead out of structure. A simple fishfinder rig with just enough weight to keep your presentation vertical in the current is a tried-and-true rig. The lighter the weight, the easier it is to feel the bite. Find the sweet spot where your bait stays put. A small short-shank bait hook works well. Take a variety of baits and see what works. Fiddler crabs are the all-time sheepshead favorite, and convicts also crunch up live or dead shrimp, crab parts and clam or oyster meat. Drop that bait straight to the bottom, lift it up a few inches and then wait with a tight line. If you’re not getting nibbles within 15 minutes or so, it’s time to move. If you do feel light pecks or even a little added resistance on the line, set the hook immediately with a short, sharp upward jerk. Then haul the fish as quickly to the net as you can. Sheepshead are known for snapping lines on structure as well as with their teeth.







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stuttering buzz from the stern brought Ken to his feet. He cranked in a Spanish mackerel to get things started. It was followed by a bluefish, and then Adam got a second Spanish. Here off New Jersey, this trolling bite was what we had hoped for. Things were good. With patience restored, we got reoriented and trolling. I was tying on a green crocodile spoon when one of the reels started screaming. Ken let the fish run a long time before he tightened the drag and started gaining. When he first saw the fish, his face lit up. He kept saying, “It’s a king!” in a high, tight voice I’d never heard before. Off New Jersey, a king mackerel might be once-in-a-lifetime. As Ken brought the beast boat-side, Adam swung and missed with the gaff, then hit it square in the head with a second shot. Ken took his fish and stood there grinning while Adam and I muttered, “yeah, great job.” We trolled another hour. While Ken grinned at the horizon, Adam focused on the depth sounder to hide his jealousy. I was jealous, too, so I stared at my rod, blinking one eye at a time. The jealousy ebbed once we got on plane headed home. We’d all caught dinner. I’d made peace with my lone bluefish when Adam hollered, “Woah!” He slammed the boat into neutral. “That was a cobia! I thought it was a shark, but it was a cobia!” Adam was excited, talking fast. I didn’t see anything. Neither did Ken. Adam swung the boat around, retracing his wake. “There! Throw something! Cast!” he shouted. My eyes focused in on a lumbering golden-brown cobia. The fish swam closer to investigate. Ken cast. The fish didn’t see his lure and kept swimming… toward me. Just feet away, I plunked an epoxy jig in the water. I saw the wide mouth open and inhale my lure. I froze. The huge fish, old and ragged and covered in scars, was looking me in the eye. I was hypnotized. With Adam and Ken yelling, I snapped out of it and set the hook. It felt like a brick wall on a medium-heavy spinning rod. I cranked twice and my rod bent double. Too much drag. I moved to loosen the drag and saw the cavernous mouth open and the head shake. The fish was still looking at me as if to say, “not today.” The rod slacked. I heard the jig whiz past my ear. My jaw dropped as I watched the fossil swim away. The boat was quiet for a minute, and then they started busting my chops. That went on for the whole ride in. By the time we hit the inlet, I was able force a laugh. Looking back, maybe I’m glad I lost it. A fish that old deserves to swim. From now on, though, I’m keeping my drag nice and light.


The Return of a



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By CAM Staff

ow’s this for a bucket-list fish? There is a potential new all-tackle world length record for Siberian taimen. According to the International Game Fish Association’s Facebook page, Maxim Mamaev caught this 156-centimeter (more than 61inch) fish while fly fishing Russia’s Tugur River. If approved, it will best the previous record by 16 centimeters (about 6 inches). Siberian taimen are the largest, most ferocious species of salmonid on the planet. Growing to weights in excess of 100 pounds, they look and behave like giant trout and feed on fish, ducks and small mammals like muskrats. Their home waters are the rivers of northeast Asia, where they can live up to 50 years. Over the last few decades, the rise of taimen as a spectacular gamefish is a good thing. They have been fished and dammed almost to extinction across much of their native range. There are just a few large and remote drainages left where they thrive in Mongolia and Russia, and their appeal as a sportfish, especially for fly anglers, has helped develop strict regulations to protect them. The Tugur River is home to the largest Siberian taimen in the world. Isolated in Russia’s Far East, it feeds the Sea of Okhotsk and runs through an 80,000-acre nature reserve that protects many species of fish, including the


Pacific salmon that pile into the river in late summer to spawn. It doesn’t hurt that much of the drainage is accessible to anglers only by helicopter, but the salmon run definitely contributes to the unparalleled growth of Tugur taimen. The nutrient transfer from saltwater to fresh during a large salmon run is well documented. Everything feeds on salmon and their eggs, and large taimen are capable of gorging on whole adult salmon. The current world record Siberian taimen by weight was caught on a fly by taimen researcher Matt Sloat on the Tugur. That fish, caught in 2018, weighed 101 pounds. There are multiple un-certified Tugur taimen reported to weigh into the 150-pound range. According to National Geographic, the largest Siberian taimen ever caught weighed 231 pounds and stretched a tape to 83 inches. It is rare, however, for anglers to encounter taimen of such enormous size. With such long lives, they grow slowly, and the larger individuals are old and wise. Most taimen caught on the fly weigh less than 20 pounds. But you can keep those 100-pounders in the back of your mind when you’re packing up your 9-weight rod for a trip to Siberia.





Catching Cold-Water Bass In Small Lakes By CAM Staff

t’s the time of year when big-water bass anglers bundle up in their bibs and parkas and slug it out through bitter reservoir winds to drag jigs on the bottom. For some of us, finding joy in such misery seems masochistic. Why brave the cold winds of big water when countless sheltered ponds and small lakes are there to provide winter bass fisheries that’ll scratch the itch? Small waters often fish very well this time of year. Whether casting from the bank or a jonboat, here are a few tips to take with you. 1) Find Warmer Water: Carry a thermometer. Water temps just a couple degrees warmer than surrounding water will consolidate baitfish and bass. In spring-fed lakes or ponds, an underground spring will provide relatively stable temperatures year-round. During winter, flows from a spring are likely warmer than the main body. Where there are no springs, look to sun-warmed rock or metal structure. Muddy shallows are also known to warm more quickly in the sun. 2) Play the Weather: The smaller the volume of water, the more easily influenced it is by weather patterns. On a small lake, water temperatures can increase dramatically with a single day of warmer-than-normal weather. The bite can go from non-existent to wide-open in an afternoon. String together a threeday warming trend, and your pond might exhibit spring-like feeding patterns. 3) Find the Fish: On small waters there are limited areas where bass can go to find comfort. Rather than spreading out in search of forage, bass group up in areas where they are comfortable. If you don’t find fish on sun-warmed rip-rap, look to the steep drop-offs at pond dams or creek channels. They might be down there stacked up in 10 feet of water. 4) Match the Hatch: Bass are not as aggressive when they are cold, which means you have to go with a more natural approach. Bugs and frogs aren’t on the menu this time of year, so baitfish imitations like jerkbaits and crankbaits are your best bet. Reel them down to depth and fish with slow twitches. If crawfish are active year-round where you fish, a jig is absolutely a good option. 5) Cover Water: Covering water is relative. This time of year, you’ll want to slow it down. Yet you still need to encounter fish to catch them. One of the great things about small waters is you can fish a lot, or all, of a small lake or pond in a single afternoon. Fan cast and work your baits slowly enough to be effective, but keep moving until you find that area where fish are piled up.



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