Coastal Angler Magazine | May 2021 | North Central Florida/Nature Coast Edition

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST EDITION

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KITE! PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE DALTON INSTAGRAM: @BOMBCHELLE_FISHING

VOLUME 26 • ISSUE 314

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM

F R A N C H I S E

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MAY 2021


Secrets of a Billionaire Revealed “Price is what you pay; value is what you get. Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.” — wisdom from the most successful investor of all time

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Jackpot! Hoard of 1881-S Morgan Silver Dollars Found & Secured Mintage accounts for only 1.94% of all Morgan Silver Dollars Struck!

In 1859, Nevada’s Comstock Lode was discovered, and soon its rich silver ore made its way across the nation, including to the respected San Francisco Mint—the U.S. Mint branch known by collectors as the source of some of the finest U.S. coins ever struck. That includes the 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar, which exhibits crisp details, blazing luster, and the iconic “S” mint mark of the San Francisco Mint. Now you have the chance to add these historic, 90% pure U.S. silver coins to your collection!

Here’s the breakdown: in 1881, just 4.25% of the total Morgan series was struck. Less than half of those coins came from San Francisco. In the end, the 1881-S Morgan Silver Dollar accounts for just 1.94% of the entire series—and that’s before the mass meltings that have left so few coins for collectors to secure. And we can expect that even fewer of the survivors are of collector grade...

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(MS63) condition by NGC/PCGS

 Sealed in protective holder  1881-S accounts for just 1.94% of all Morgans Struck

Actual size is 38.1 mm

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)! Grading service varies. The condition of these coins are as though they were struck yesterday, despite being minted 140 years ago to circulate in commerce! And yet they have survived with a quality level of eye appeal that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

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1881-S Date

The Morgan Silver Dollar was struck from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921. In the 100 years since, most of these beautiful U.S. Silver Dollars have been worn out or melted down for their silver. It’s estimated that as little as 15% of all Morgans struck exist today in any condition. Even fewer come from this particular mintage.

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 Historic Morgan Silver Dollars  Minted in San Francisco  1881 date  140 years old  26.73 grams of 90% fine silver  Hefty 38.1 mm diameter  Certified collector Mint State-63

The Morgan Silver Dollar is the most popular and iconic vintage U.S. coin. They were the Silver Dollars of the Wild West, going on countless untold adventures in dusty saddlebags across the nation. Finding a hoard of Morgans doesn’t happen often—and when it does, it’s a big deal. So when we came across a recent hoard of 549 Morgan Silver Dollars—all struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1881—it was like hitting the jackpot!

Morgans from the San Francisco Mint

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The 1881-S Silver 1881-S Morgan Morgan Dollar accounts 1.94% of the entire series for just 1.94% of all Morgans struck. Don’t miss out. Call 1-888-324-9125 and use the special offer code below to secure yours today while our limited supply lasts!

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THE BASICS

By Michelle Dalton

Flying OF

Kites T

here’s something about kite fishing for big pelagic gamefish that gets me going. Flying kites presents baits with a natural appearance and allows you to cover lots of water for higher catch rates. Also, the technique provides the ultimate adrenaline rush, as you get to watch the strike happen. For those unfamiliar with kite fishing, let’s go over the basics. Captains consider everything from water color and clarity to baitfish and birds to determine where to start fishing. I like fishing edges, where water color turns green to a deep blue, usually somewhere in 100 to 300 feet of water. There are different kite designs for different wind velocities. Kites are typically launched and retrieved with electric reels. Launching kites is not a piece of cake, but with the right equipment, patience and steady winds, a beginner can practice and perfect the skill. Attached to your kite line are three release clips.

Each clip is assigned to a rod. An experienced crew will fish three live baits off one kite, with each reel’s line clipped to the main kite line. Although it seems like a potential tangled mess, it’s rather organized. For the bait lines, I use high-capacity baitcasting reels spooled with 20- or 30-pound monofilament. Attached to the mono, above the leader, there are a few terminal tackle items that make up your rigs.

First, a ceramic ring is attached to the kite line using release clips. Next, a neon float dangles in the sky above each bait to help track them from a distance. From there, a small egg sinker maintains the vertical drop that keeps baits at the surface. Finally, a bead separates the sinker from your leader. Your leader depends on the targeted species. For the toothy critters, I use an 18-inch wire leader connected to fluorocarbon with an Albright knot and a 7/0 live bait hook. For sailfish, I use 10 to 12 feet of 60-pound fluorocarbon leader with a 7/0 circle hook. By paying attention and adjusting the lines, the angler keeps the baits on the surface where they make the slight commotion predators find irresistible. The rigs suspend in air above the baits, completely out of sight of the fish. I prefer fishing goggle-eyes, threadfin herring and sardines. Healthy bait is far more likely to be eaten. Ahead of tournaments, my team and I spend weeks feeding and nurturing bait to keep it healthy. If you’re fortunate enough to hook a sailfish, don’t immediately clear the other lines. Sailfish often travel in groups. Leave those other baits in the water for a chance at additional bites. Traditionally, when winds start to die at the end of spring, the number of boats trolling offshore grows. However, kite fishing goes on year-round in South Florida. Even with very little wind, a kite will fly with the help of a helium balloon. Next time your friends want to troll around offshore, tell them to “go fly a kite!” Michelle Dalton books charters through her social media pages: @Bombchelle_fishing.

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on ply. ce mer ect ely. ng. COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

MAY 2021

NATIONAL 7


Humbled

ON THE DAVIDSON By Nick Carter

T

he Davidson River in Brevard, N.C. is one of the most widely publicized trout streams in the Southeast. It’s a challenging fishery with beautiful water that holds some very nice fish. Part of the Davidson’s appeal, or its main drawback, is easy access. The river flows roadside through most its publicly accessible length. There is small water in the headwaters accessible only by foot, but for the most part it is a park-and-fish kind of place. On a gorgeous summer weekend, a buddy and I heeded advice from the guys at Davidson River Outfitters to join the dawn patrol. We arrived on

the river at first light to find a pod of big fish, maybe four or five in the 16- to 20-inch range, hovering near the bottom of a bellybutton-deep run. They were clearly visible in low summer flows. For the next hour, we worked the run together, one or the other of us making the same drift repeatedly as the other man tied on a new fly. It was a challenge that bordered on infuriating to see those trout, an occasional belly flash belying the fact that they were eating… just not what we offered. We tried everything, right down to a size 22 red midge pupa recommended at the fly shop. Finally, because we had tried everything else, I

tied on a white Woolly Bugger—another Davidson River staple. Just twitching it through the hole, a fish we had not previously seen streaked from the periphery to slam the streamer. Those big fish didn’t even flinch as I stripped in a pretty 11-inch brown. As I released the fish, an older gentleman waded down the side of the run. He glanced out at the pod of big fish still sitting on the bottom. “Wasn’t the one you were after, was it?” he asked. My response was to offer him a shot at the run. He declined. “Don’t want any part of it,” he grumbled. “Spent all afternoon yesterday standing right where you are.” That’s a snapshot of what fishing the catch-andrelease, fly fishing only section of the Davidson is like. The river is full of fish—and some big ones. It is also frequently full of anglers. The steady pressure makes trout wise. Of course, there’s always a guy who lights up Internet message boards with a photo of a big old bruiser. He’ll give advice like, “Use a little split-shot to get it down,” but I suspect there’s more to it. Pressured fish are on guard. Catching them requires perfect presentation of the perfect fly and also being in the right place at that right time. Arriving early, staying late and fishing hard makes it more likely you’ll be there when a 2-foot-long trout makes a mistake. This story is an abbreviated excerpt from the book “Flyfisher’s Guide to North Carolina & Georgia,” which includes maps and GPS coordinates to access points for all the region’s best trout fisheries. Purchase the book on Amazon or by contacting the author at nsc8957@gmail.com.

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“Rooted” GET

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he Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. This jungle-like paradise provides crucial habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like manatees, American crocodiles and Florida panthers. It is a truly amazing land and seascape, and it’s home to an awesome angling experience like no other: an encounter with the “Silver King,” one of Nature’s most acrobatic and striking underwater wonders. Tarpon (Megalops), in brief, are like an enormous silver bullet. They are powerful, explosive and acrobatic fighters, with the stamina of an Energizer bunny. Due to their tolerance of a wide range of water salinity, tarpon swim the canals and ponds of south Florida. I’ve caught juveniles in freshwater ponds, so I’ve sampled the pure power of the species. But catching a true behemoth has long been on my bucket list. To achieve this, I traveled to Flamingo, the southernmost headquarters of Everglades National Park, in Monroe County, Fla. There I met Sam Root, an exceptionally knowledgeable Miami-based

By Rosemary J. White

IN THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES

fisherman and media personality who has traveled the world to test his fishing skills. I’ve admired Root’s media work, and have been fortunate to collaborate with him through companies like Mustad, Savage Gear and many TV platforms. On this trip, we set out to test the Savage Gear Pulse Tail Mullet and Pulse Tail Ballyhoo. These swimbaits are engineered to look and move like the baitfish they resemble, and are molded with Savage Gear’s pulse tail. The tail has a patent-pending split rear kicker that allows realistic swimming action fast or slow. The bait also features “line-through” rigging that allows the soft-plastic bait to slide up the line during the fight, giving the fish less leverage to throw the hook. With the aerial tendencies of tarpon, this is a pretty good feature to have. We launched out of Everglades National Park quickly to avoid being air lifted from the ramp by mosquitoes. The scenery was breathtaking. Winding through the narrow canals was like trekking through the Amazon. We arrived at our spot with the moon to the west and the sunrise to the east, both simultaneously visible. That was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

The action began immediately! We hooked multiple tarpon and got a first-hand perspective of why the line-through technology is helpful. An unobstructed fight, both from the lack of structure and the lack of a lure in the fish’s mouth makes for a pure battle of strength and endurance, on both sides of the rod. The acrobatics and sheer power of these fish as they launched into the air was mind blowing. At one point, it was all I could do to hold on as Root engaged the motor in pursuit of a monster tarpon with the reel screaming in my hands. After we exhausted ourselves—and several fish—we headed into the preserve canals to sightsee. We were ecstatic to get a glimpse of the American crocodile. The Everglades is the only place on Earth where both alligators and crocodiles coexist. When Root said it was time to “call it,” I cringed. I could have gotten lost for days fishing in the unparalleled landscape. The Everglades is a mix of different habitats including freshwater, brackish and salt, an angler’s paradise. I longed for more time to explore.

For more information on Savage Gear and their products, Sam does instructional “how to” videos on his Instagram @scssam. Follow Rosemary White @roasty194 for her fishing adventures that feature destinations throughout Florida and @daryn.white.fishing for photography.


Bow and pray.

Tarpon season in The Florida Keys is all about timing, skill and luck of the draw. Hook up and be ready to bow to the king. Stay tight and pray all those hours in the gym weren’t for naught. Whether you come just for thrills or to top your personal best, don’t miss the opportunity to experience true piscatorial bliss. fla-keys.com 1.800.fla.keys For the latest protocols on health & safety in The Florida Keys, please visit our website.


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SHRIMP: THE BAIT OF ALL BAITS

4) Shrimp (weedless, or as it comes out of the package) without a jig head I can go anywhere there are shrimp and catch trout, drum, snook and more with a very small tackle box. It’s the universal bait. My favorite is just the shrimp on the Barefoot Jig without a cork, but under the fixed and sliding cork is sometimes just the ticket. You can use the sliding cork Tim Barefoot around docks and snags at an irresistibly slow speed. The reason it works ears ago, I was obsessed with live bait of all kinds. I kept livewells so well is the jig head is balanced and will maintain a perfect horizontal with mullet, shrimp, pinfish and cigar minnows. I spent a lot of position with or without a cork. time tending to bait and battling the otters at the marina. My inshore bait of choice was the live shrimp… hands down. Live mullets will get the bite, no question, but the shrimp is simply irresistible. I would spend hours and hours catching, housing and feeding bait. I was just about at the end of my inshore live bait road when along came the DOA shrimp. I love everything about that soft plastic shrimp body. It’s pretty tough, looks just like a real shrimp and can be made to work in every single situation including depth, grass/roots and current when used with the correct hardware. I have to admit there are times when I may catch a few more fish with live shrimp, but I can carry my entire inshore tackle The key is to make the shrimp look like a real shrimp. box now in just a few small trays of jig heads, DOA shrimp A live shrimp does not move around stern- or bow-heavy. colors and a bottle of Pro Cure shrimp scent. It’s extremely A live shrimp moves thru the water slowly in a perfectly easy to just plug a DOA body on the jig, apply a liberal horizontal position. Just look at them in the livewell or at a amount of Pro Cure shrimp scent on the legs and underside, tackle shop that sells live shrimp. That’s the reason the DOA and start fishing. I have so much faith in this combination. catches so many fish: it swims horizontally. It’s just a given; they will eat it when properly presented. The weedless version of this shrimp can be extremely I could write several pages of this article regarding the effective for fish tailing in the grass or around mangrove different applications, but I’ll be brief. roots. This is one reason to keep one rigged and ready and I keep four rods rigged with shrimp: always moving around quietly. For videos of these variations, 1) Shrimp body on a 3/8-ounce Barefoot Jig. visit my website and click on “videos” 2) Shrimp under a fixed cork about 20 inches deep on a 3/8 oz. Barefoot Jig. For more from Capt. Tim Barefoot, visit 3) Shrimp under a sliding cork on a 3/8-ounce barefootcatsandtackle.com. Barefoot Jig (to suspend over shell beds).

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Summer-Long, Statewide Fishing Competition Launches May 29 C CA Florida, the state’s leading marine fisheries conservation, education and advocacy organization, will begin the seventh-annual CCA Florida STAR competition May 29. The summer-long event invites anglers and non-anglers to participate and win prizes valued at $500,000, including boats, motors, scholarships and more. Launched in 2015, Florida STAR focuses on conservation with its catch, photo and release format, conservation division and unique garbage division. Additionally, STAR is driven by its smartphone app, which allows participants to upload competition photos, eliminating the requirement to harvest or transport fish. “In the past six years, it’s been amazing to see STAR participants catch more fish, practice catch and release and support recovery efforts—all to conserve and enhance our state’s coastal waters and marine resources.” CCA Florida STAR Director Leiza Fitzgerald said. “But, what’s been just as exciting, is awarding more than $1.2 million in prizes, including $600,000 in youth scholarships, to the thousands of STAR registrants.” 2021 STAR features 17 divisions targeting 12 inshore and offshore species. STAR’s signature divisions include the West Marine STAR Tagged redfish, and prizes in this division are a Contender Boats 22 Sport, Pathfinder Boats 2200 TRS and Spyder 19FX Vapor all powered by Yamaha Outboards. For the first two youth anglers who win this division, prizes include two Salt Marsh Skiff 1656 tiller boats powered with Yamaha Outboards, trailers, Minn Kota trolling motors and Humminbird electronics. The other signature division, the Tigress Outrigger & Gear Tagged Dolphin Division, offers one winner a $10,000 cash prize or scholarship to the STAR registrant and CCA Florida member who catches the first

tagged dolphin. Dolphin are captured, tagged and released off the Florida Keys by the Dolphin Research program implemented by the Beyond Our Shores foundation. With a focus on inclusion of anglers of all skill levels, every fish an angler catches counts in STAR’s Power Pole Conservation Division. This division makes each participant a citizen biologist by documenting catches in the app with data to be utilized in research. Engagement of youth is another priority of STAR, and CCA Florida youth members (ages 6 to 17) can participate in the competition for free. Kids are encouraged to submit entries in the Youth Scholarship Division presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors for an opportunity to win one of 12 scholarships with a total value of $100,000. Youth may also garner community service hours by gathering trash and disposing of it properly in the Costa Kick Plastic Trash Division or even win a new boat, motor and trailer by catching a West Marine tagged redfish. Other divisions include ladies, kayak, guides and more. Since most division winners are determined by a random drawing, it is about submitting qualifying entries for an opportunity to be drawn as a winner. Registration is open throughout the competition and ends Sept. 6. To register for STAR 2021 or receive additional information on divisions, prizes and more, visit ccaflstar.com or Facebook.

Because every fish could be a winner!

CATCH. PHOTO. RELEASE. WIN. MAY 29 TO SEPTEMBER 6 CCA Florida STAR is the largest family-friendly saltwater fishing competition in Florida, and it’s unlike traditional fishing tournaments.

• $500,000 in Prizes & Scholarships

• West Marine Tagged Redfish Prizes Include Boat, Motor & Trailer Packages • 1st Tagged Tigress Dolphin/Mahi Mahi Wins $10,000 cash • 101 days of fishing $40 entry for current CCA members. All others add $35 for one year membership.

• Prizes for Additional Non-Tagged Non Species Snook, Trout, Redfish, Grouper, Kingfish, Dolphin, Tarpon & Lionfish

REGISTER NOW AT

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or the first time in decades, there’s an old-school inshore grand slam tournament slated for South Florida. The first Herman Lucerne Biscayne Legends Classic, presented by Hell’s Bay Boatworks, will launch on Biscayne Bay July 7-8 thanks to The Herman Lucerne Memorial Foundation and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Twenty-five teams will compete in an exciting one-day contest, chasing bonefish, permit and tarpon in what is perhaps the greatest urban inshore fishery on earth. Registration is open now, and space is limited.

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PERFECT THE

FAST CAST for Expedient Accuracy By Stu Apte

EDITOR’S NOTE: Legendary fly fisherman Stu Apte has fished worldwide for anything that swims for more than 70 years. Here he shares some tips on sight casting.

H

ow would you like to go after an elephant armed with a BB gun? In theory, that is what we attempt to do when we go after 100-poundplus tarpon—or any other fish you can see and must quickly cast to before they see you—with a fly rod and a comparatively light leader tippet. The difference is, you can’t get an elephant with a BB gun, but you can catch all kinds of 100-pound-plus fish with a fly rod using a comparatively light tippet. All you must do is learn to implement the proper fish fighting techniques, and how to get your cast to the fish with speed and accuracy. I started developing and teaching this back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I was a backcountry guide in the Florida Keys. I will try to describe how to do the fast cast: If you are right-handed, you will have the fly rod in your right hand and carefully hold the fly by the hook pointing away from you in the first finger and thumb of your left hand. I generally fish at least a 12-foot leader, so this is a little easier for people with a shorter leader. You should have approximately 8 or 10 feet of fly line out of the rod tip.

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Do a forward roll cast in the air, without letting the fly or line hit the water. Abruptly stop it before it reaches its zenith, and then shoot a little line on your back cast, once again stopping it before it reaches the end of the cast. This should load your rod enough to make a 50- or 60-foot presentation, sometimes even a 70-foot cast without even a full false cast. Yes, this is something you must practice for accuracy, but once you get it down and it is not difficult, you will catch more fish by doing a fast cast than anything else I can teach. Now, it is important to dress your line with Line Speed so it will flow through the guides easily. Depending on where I’m fishing and the quality of the surface water, I might have to dry and redress my fly line four or five times during the day. So I keep Loon Outdoors Line Speed or Stream Line nearby so I can use it in my Loon Outdoors Line Cleaning Tool. Reprinted with permission from Loon Outdoors: loonoutdoors.com.

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WACKY RIG FOR THE STAGES OF THE SPAWN By Tyler Woolcott

W

hen bass flock to the banks this time of year, it draws in a lot of anglers. Many times, it’s possible to locate big bass in the shallows, but it can be tough to make them bite because of pressure on heavily fished lakes. A wacky-rigged Senko is one of my favorite techniques in this situation. I slow down, stay farther off a spawning area and pick it apart with a finesse approach some anglers won’t try. A wacky worm flat out gets bit. Whether it’s a Senko-style bait or a Trick Worm, the size of fish I’m targeting and water clarity play a huge role in the decision. On a clear body of water with spotted and largemouth bass, I throw a smaller 4- to 5-inch worm. When the target is primarily largemouth, I throw a larger 6-inch Senko or a Magnum Trick Worm. Throwing the wacky worm is a more finesse approach, and it’s also versatile. A wacky-rigged worm is easy to throw and skip around docks, wood, grass, open water or any bank bass are attracted to. You catch fish spawning around the cover, those about to spawn and those finished up and looking to feed. People get overwhelmed in over-thinking color choice. I stick to more natural colors like green pumpkins and baitfish colors because, at the end of the day, you are trying to use finesse and present something natural. I often stick a nail weight in the larger end of the worm to get the bait into the strike zone faster and keep it there. Depending on depth, I use a 1/32- or 3/32-ounce WOO! Tungsten Nail Weight. Whether you’re fishing a tournament for $100,000 or just out fun fishing, getting a bite on a tough day can boost confidence and tell you you’re in a good area. I keep a wacky worm rigged at all times, and I throw it anywhere from

Florida to the Great Lakes when I’m struggling for a bite, especially on a highly pressured fishery.

Wacky Worm Gear A wacky worm calls for a spinning rod. Lighter line and a rod you can use to skip the bait helps put it where the guy fishing the bank ahead of you couldn’t with his baitcaster. I use a 13 Fishing Omen Black 7’1” Medium Fast action rod paired with a 3000-size reel. This rod is ideal. It is short enough to make accurate casts and skips. It has a medium action to reel into a fish and keep him on without pulling the hook. The fast tip helps you feel bites and work the bait appropriately. I use between a size 2 and a 1/0 Hayabusa Spin Muscle guard hook, depending on the size of the bait. My line of choice is a 10-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid in lime green. Depending on water clarity, I fish an 8- to 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader. Tyler Woolcott is a professional tournament angler and guide. Check out his website at tylerwoolcottfishing.com.

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F L O R I D A

red sn more estima using the Gu fishery Fo results lawma many the So traditi angler by exc South U. annou Atlant Th the Un Christ estima that ar Th largely includ of the for fish


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he congressionally funded Great Red Snapper Count released findings in March that showed red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico are more than three times as abundant as estimates NOAA Fisheries has been using to set seasons and bag limits for the Gulf ’s most important recreational fishery. Following on the heels of staggering results from this independent study, lawmakers now want to know how many red snapper there really are in the South Atlantic fishery. Based on traditional estimates, recreational anglers have in recent years been limited by exceptionally strict regulations. The South Atlantic red snapper season was just four days long in 2020. U.S. Reps. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) announced $3.3 million in federal funding in late March to launch a South Atlantic study modeled after the Gulf ’s Great Red Snapper Count. The South Atlantic study will be a 30-month project conducted between the University of Florida, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and NOAA Fisheries. Like the Great Red Snapper Count, it will estimate red snapper numbers over a wide-ranging area, including habitats that are not currently targeted by traditional fisheries surveys. The increased estimates provided by the Great Red Snapper Count were largely due to the study of low-relief, flat-bottomed areas, which are not included in traditional estimates derived largely from catch data. The results of the South Atlantic study will provide a better understanding of the fishery for fisheries managers.

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T

ampa angler Christian Greico scored a pretty good payday fishing the recent MLF Toyota Series Harris Chain event. Not only did he chalk a solid tenth-place finish, he caught a tagged largemouth that tacked an additional $5,000 prize onto his tournament winnings of $4,150, which included Big Fish for the event. The tagged fish, a 9-pound, 12-ounce giant, was the headliner fish in the Apopka Fish Challenge, which features cash prizes for anglers who catch fish of various species that were previously tagged by FWC biologists. The big bass was named “Jim Thomas” after the Winter Garden environmentalist who founded the conservation organization Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA). After the tournament, Greico contacted FWC about his “Jim Thomas” catch and was awarded a $2,500 prize from FOLA and an additional $2,500 from Bass Pro Shops for his approval of the fish into TrophyCatch. The Lake Apopka Fish Challenge offers anglers the chance to catch a tagged fish in Lake Apopka and return the tag to the FWC for a prize from FOLA. The fish challenge is also a study to see if the competition elicits changes to angler behavior and increases fishing efforts on Lake Apopka. Although “Jim Thomas” has been caught, there are still thousands of dollars’ worth of prize fish swimming around Lake Apopka. Tagged bass, bream and specks representing about $5,000 more in prizes are swimming the lake, so don’t stop fishing! The event began in January and will conclude on May 31. The TrophyCatch program rewards anglers who provide documentation of their catch and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. The FWC encourages anglers to join TrophyCatch to become citizen scientists and assist in the management and the conservation of Florida’s freshwater fisheries. The associated TrophyCare program promotes best handling practices for trophy bass to ensure that each TrophyCatch bass is released alive. Check out Greico’s video of the actual landing of “Jim Thomas” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_G0-bxAN20.

4 NORTH FLORIDA

MAY 2021

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COASTAL ANGLER North Central Florida/Nature Coast

Cary & Lynn Crutchfield ALACHUA, MARION, COLUMBIA, GILCHRIST, BRADFORD, DIXIE, LEVY, CITRUS

I

MAY

love May, because it is the last month before the south begins to bake in summer’s heat. I love days of no heat/no air, and my open French doors. My beloved Suwannee was in my yard last month but has now receded, and we are once again able to drive in and out. We welcome another new writer this month. Brent Woodard will be reporting on SUWANNEE/HORSESHOE BEACH, page 9. Please welcome him with a call or an email. See page 2 for this month’s recipe, Crispy, Buttery, Oven Baked Grouper. The “crispy” comes from Panko crumbs. Use the same combination of ingredients for any fish, shrimp or chicken. I love Panko crumps. Try sprinkling some on scalloped potatoes or baked macaroni and cheese for yummy crunch. See page 2 for a request for help for a young Dixie County resident, Tyler Hunt. Is your freezer overflowing with game and fish? Call our friend John Paige. You’ll be so glad you did! See page 11. Don’t forget about the Daddy, Daughter Dance in Cross City May 15th. See page 2. Once again, I want to remind you about The First Florida Cracker InvitationalCatch and Release Ladies Tournament May 22nd, Old Homosassa. For info, visit www.FloridaCrackerFishing.com. Send me the photos of your catch. Please remember to thank our advertisers and pick-up locations. Happy Mother’s Day, May 9th. She might enjoy a guided fishing trip? Congratulations to all our graduates! Our grandson, Spencer, graduates May 28 from Wakulla County High School. Stay smart. Wear your mask. Get your vaccine and stay alive! Lynn Crutchfield Co-Publisher Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida/Nature Coast

MAY 2021 EDITION

Find Your Outdoors Here! North Central Florida Nature Coast Staff SALES

Cary Crutchfield

EDITING & PRODUCTION Lynn Crutchfield

DISTRIBUTION Rosa Crisman

GRAPHIC ARTS & DESIGN Kathleen Stemley

WEB DESIGN Kristi Williams

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Dr. Kevin McCarthy John Freeze Noel Kuhn Capt. Jason Clark Capt. Dan Clymer Capt. Katie Jo Davis Capt. Tommy Derringer Capt. Andrew Fagan Capt. James Kerr Capt. Pat McGriff Capt. Bryan Smith Capt. Brent Woodard

CONTACT INFORMATION

crutch@coastalanglermagazine.com 352-542-0356 www.CoastalAnglerMag.com/NC-Florida

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Tide Charts Local Fishing Forecasts Monthly Recipe

Photo by: Suwannee River Water Management District


CRISPY, BUTTERY, OVEN BAKED GROUPER

F

Ex

I

Thank you to The Crab Plant for the grouper. Visit their Fresh Seafood Market or enjoy Cooked Seafood to go. You are welcome to sit at their table and view beautiful Kings Bay while you enjoy your delicious, freshly prepared meal, watching manatees, dolphins, pelicans and boats. Or, you can carry it home; your choice. Open Tues-Thurs 10:00-5:30, Fri-Sat 10:00-8:00. 201 NW 5th St. Crystal River 352-795-4700.

le “A u was th holdin excus you h your m

Lynn Crutchfield, Co-Publisher Coastal Angler Magazine of North Central Florida

COOKING DIRECTIONS

TIDES • North Central Florida Time Height

1Sa 2Su

3M

4Tu

5W

6Th

7F 8Sa

6:41 AM 11:35 AM 5:09 PM 12:48 AM 7:43 AM 12:27 PM 6:05 PM 1:49 AM 8:53 AM 1:34 PM 7:14 PM 3:00 AM 10:02 AM 3:00 PM 8:45 PM 4:14 AM 10:56 AM 4:27 PM 10:24 PM 5:15 AM 11:37 AM 5:36 PM 11:41 PM 6:04 AM 12:13 PM 6:31 PM 12:40 AM 6:44 AM 12:44 PM 7:16 PM

3.0 1.8 4.0 -0.2 2.8 1.9 3.7 0.1 2.7 1.9 3.4 0.5 2.7 1.8 3.1 0.7 2.9 1.5 3.1 0.8 3.1 1.1 3.1 0.9 3.3 0.7 3.2 1.0 3.5 0.4

HERNANDO BEACH

MAY 2021

9Su

Time Height

1:29 AM 7:20 AM 1:13 PM 7:56 PM 10M 2:12 AM 7:53 AM 1:40 PM 8:32 PM 11Tu 2:51 AM 8:24 AM 2:06 PM 9:06 PM 12W 3:29 AM 8:55 AM 2:31 PM 9:39 PM 13Th 4:07 AM 9:25 AM 2:58 PM 10:12 PM 14F 4:46 AM 9:57 AM 3:27 PM 10:47 PM 15Sa 5:27 AM 10:32 AM 4:01 PM 11:25 PM 16Su 6:10 AM 11:11 AM 4:41 PM

3.3 1.1 3.7 0.1 3.4 1.2 3.8 0.0 3.3 1.3 3.8 -0.1 3.3 1.5 3.9 -0.2 3.2 1.6 3.9 -0.2 3.1 1.7 3.9 -0.1 3.1 1.7 3.9 -0.1 3.0 1.8 3.8

KINGS BAY

High Tide -20 min Low Tide 58 min

High Tide 2 hrs, 20 min Low Tide 3 hrs, 7 min

CRYSTAL RIVER

WITHLACOOCHEE ENT

High Tide 36 min Low Tide 1 hr, 30 min

High Tide 7 min Low Tide 55 min

CEDAR KEY

Time Height

17M

18Tu

19W

20Th

21F

22Sa

23Su 24M

12:07 AM 6:55 AM 11:58 AM 5:29 PM 12:56 AM 7:47 AM 12:56 PM 6:29 PM 1:53 AM 8:45 AM 2:07 PM 7:43 PM 2:58 AM 9:44 AM 3:27 PM 9:13 PM 4:05 AM 10:34 AM 4:39 PM 10:38 PM 5:04 AM 11:18 AM 5:41 PM 11:52 PM 5:58 AM 11:58 AM 6:38 PM 12:58 AM 6:48 AM 12:36 PM 7:31 PM

0.0 3.0 1.9 3.7 0.2 2.9 1.9 3.5 0.3 3.0 1.8 3.4 0.5 3.1 1.6 3.3 0.6 3.3 1.2 3.4 0.7 3.5 0.6 3.5 0.9 3.8 0.1 3.6 1.1 4.0 -0.3

Time Height

25Tu 1:58 AM 7:35 AM 1:14 PM 8:22 PM 26W 2:55 AM 8:20 AM 1:53 PM 9:11 PM 27Th 3:50 AM 9:03 AM 2:34 PM 10:00 PM 28F 4:46 AM 9:47 AM 3:17 PM 10:50 PM 29Sa 5:41 AM 10:33 AM 4:04 PM 11:40 PM 30Su 6:32 AM 11:24 AM 4:57 PM 31M 12:30 AM 7:20 AM 12:20 PM 5:57 PM

3.7 1.3 4.2 -0.7 3.6 1.5 4.4 -0.9 3.5 1.7 4.5 -0.9 3.4 1.8 4.4 -0.7 3.2 1.9 4.3 -0.4 3.1 1.9 4.0 -0.1 3.0 1.8 3.7

HOMOSASSA RIVER ENT

HORSESHOE BEACH

SUWANNEE ENT

STEINHATCHEE RIVER ENT

High Tide 4 hr, 30 min Low Tide 5 hr, 41 min High Tide 6 min Low Tide 18 min

2 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking pan with foil. Place fillets on pan, and salt and pepper each side. Mix soft butter with minced garlic and spread over each fillet. Sprinkle generously with Panko. Bake until fish flakes, and Panko is golden. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges. Also delicious with chicken and so fast, and easy.

INGREDIENTS

• 1 Grouper Fillet per serving (or whatever fish you have in the freezer) • Salt & Pepper • 2 to 3 tablespoons Soft Butter per serving • 1 small Garlic clove per fillet, finely minced • Panko crumbs • Parsley minced

High Tide 12 min Low Tide 20 min

High Tide 2 min Low Tide 0 min

MAY 2021

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

By

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FLORIDA WATERWAYS Excuses for Not Catching Fish

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learned from a radio program called “A Way with Words” that one excuse used in Iowa for not catching fish was the strange statement, “We must be holding our mouths wrong.” Such an excuse or a variation of it (“It’s all in how you hold your mouth” or “Are you holding your mouth right?”) refers to a useless act that has nothing to do with the physical act of fishing, but may reference an act of holding one’s mouth By Kevin McCarthy correctly to succeed at something. You can try different facial gestures in front of the mirror to test out this theory. That got me thinking of other excuses for not catching fish. In the category of blaming the conditions, you can say “It’s the wrong moon phase,” “We have too many (or not enough) bait fish,” “Our lures were the wrong color,” “The water was too rough,” You’ve also got these: “It was too cloudy/windy/rainy/sunny,” “The captain/guide/netter/other fisherman was inept,” “We were trolling too slowly/fast/ haphazardly,” and “The wind is pushing the fish away/to the bottom/to other fishermen.” Another category would be to blame your bad luck on the creatures swimming below: “The fish are on vacation” and “The fish were biting when I was taking a nature call.” Finally, you can blame yourself: “I forgot to take off the hook protector,” “I bragged about how well I did on the last fishing trip,” “I followed another fisherman’s advice,” “I was too confident, even bringing along a bunch of cooler ice,” or – my favorite – “I forgot the beer.” You’re welcome to use any of these or even write to me at the address below with your own special excuse, giving me

A windy day at the beach

Fishing lures

permission to use it to my stay-at-home friends. And remember that you can always stop at a grocery store on the way home from a fruitless fishing trip, and buy some fresh fish – to be claimed as your own. But you definitely have to be prepared for the inevitable question: “Catch any fish?” One of my fishing friends, who used to fish with me off Cedar Key, wouldn’t put any bait on his hooks and therefore did not need any excuses to the question of “How did it go today?” When asked why he refused to put bait on his hook, he would reply, “I A fish on vacation actually don’t care if I catch any fish. I’m just out here for the sun and breeze.” He didn’t catch any fish, of course, but he really didn’t care. As I think back to his attitude, I think that in many respects he was right.

Fishing in the rain

A tired fisherman

Buying fish at a store

Kevin McCarthy, the author of North Florida Waterways (2013 - available at amazon.com), can be reached at ceyhankevin@gmail.com.

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MAY 2021

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FLORIDA SUWANNEE RIVER WATERFRONT

KATIE JO’S NATURE COAST ADVENTURES

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For Tyler

yler Hunt, son of Ronnie & Marie Hunt of Old Town, FL. is a house mover with Hunt's House Moving. He was severely injured in a freak accident while moving a home on Monday, March 15th. Tyler was struck in the head by a power line resulting in 140,000+ volts entering his body. The damage done to his body is severe and resulted in burns on over 40% of his body. Tyler's liver, kidneys and lower extremities were also severely affected. Tyler is an avid outdoorsman and spent every spare second hunting and fishing with his family and friends. He was recently married to Savannah, the last weekend in January. This young man has a very rough road ahead of him. If you would like to help him and his family, there has been an account set up for him at all Drummond Community Bank locations (Carol West-Hunt Benefit) is the name of the account. You can also donate through his home church, Faith Baptist Church, P.O Box 787, Old Town, Fl. 32680. Just mark it as "For Tyler". Any help would be greatly appreciated. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. If you want to make other arrangements, you can contact Pastor Dwayne Kight @ (352)-210-6389. Thank you and God Bless You! 4 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

MAY 2021

n a calm Tuesday morning, I made a short run nearshore to take clients for some cobia fishing about five miles off the coast of Crystal River. Little did we know, something big was soon to eat our 8-inch catfish, and to give us an hour-long fight, and the catch of a lifetime! As we pulled up to the spot and began chumming both the bottom and the top (as I always do for cobia) we caught a couple small gag grouper, and a few catfish. I decided to cut the barbs off of one of the catfish and throw him down to the bottom to use as bait (which is something else I do while cobia fishing). Within seconds, the drag was screaming, and my client was fighting something BIG! On a Shimano Saragosa 8000 loaded with 65-pound braid and 80-pound monofilament leader, I knew that we would have to fight this very large fish slowly and steadily, or it would break us off. Very soon, I realized that we had better move away from the wreck, being only in ten feet of water, otherwise we may lose the big fish by its entangling down under. Quickly pulling up the anchor and chum, the big fish begin to pull away in a very powerful motion, all while staying very close to the bottom of the Gulf. Within the hour of fighting, we named many different species of fish that it could possibly be, but none of us expected it to be a near 400-pound goliath grouper (Jewfish). Forty-five minutes into the fight, we finally were able to see color from the fish as it began rising, but then quickly heading back down, while leaving a large 10-foot boil on the water's surface. We knew then that it was "the" elusive giant goliath grouper that

has eaten many of my 4 to 5-foot sharks on previous fishing trips. This fish in particular has literally engulfed large sharks on the end of my line. About 10 months ago, this same goliath grouper broke the water's surface chasing a shark, while I was reeling it to the boat. Not only did it swallow the large shark whole, it also grabbed a mouthful of anchor rope that was tied off to the bow of my boat. With one large gulp, the fish ate the shark and anchor line, then headed straight back down to the shallow water wreck. The force of the grouper was so strong that it pulled the bow of the boat down to the water's surface, while pulling the anchor rope with it. Suddenly, the release of the rope rapidly forced the bow back up and I found myself holding on so as to not fall out of the boat. I had been fortunate to catch it all on video. With that, I have always dreamed of catching a very large goliath grouper, and I finally got my opportunity to do so. Of course, these large fish fight hard and wear themselves out, so I took the opportunity for an in-the-water photo while trying to revive it. After about 10 minutes of keeping it upright and swimming in the current, it gave me a big splash of the tail and went back to its home in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The giants of the ocean are protected and should never be removed from the water. It is important that once one is brought to the boat, that time is given for it to revive well enough to swim off, and perhaps be caught again another day. Capt. Katie Jo Davis www.fishcrystalriverflorida.com 772-882-8932

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CRYSTAL RIVER

CENTRAL FLORIDA INLAND

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ello from Crystal River, and with the warmer weather setting in, the fishing has been great here on the inside. Reds are starting to school up and the bite has been great. I focus on areas with hard bottom and lots of active mullet. Live pinfish are always a great choice for bait, free lined on a circle hook. Also, another good choice when the water temps start to rise is fresh cut bait. I like the beginning of the oncoming tide, and last of the outgoing when targeting reds. Trout are out in the deeper grass flats looking for cooler water. Look for spotty broken bottom. This time of the year, I’ll jig for them using 1/8 oz jig tipped with soft plastic. Give me a call to get out the water this summer. Capt. James Kerr 352-362-6893 Citrusfishingchaters.com

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lright Forest Fishers, whether you agree with the claim I'm about to make, or not; there is nothing you can say that will change my mind. As far as bass spawns go, I've witnessed some pretty amazing things in my time, but in all my years of searching, I've never seen as many big/huge bass as I did during the spawn! Not only were there big bass everywhere, but they were also acting far more aggressive than I have ever seen before. So, as far as I'm concerned, I claim "The Bass Spawn of 2021 to be the best spawn in the history of the National Forest”, at least the best in my history. The bass spawn has always been a very controversial issue, and for good reason. What happens during that time, will determine the future of that species, as well as the future of our sport (hobby, etc.). There's a large percentage of bass anglers who feel that bass fishing shouldn't be allowed during the spawning months. As a conservationist, I can understand why people may feel that way, but let's be realistic. There's no way to convince "Bass Bed Anglers" to stop the one thing they look forward to all year. Put yourself in their shoes. The adrenaline rush you get from slowly searching through a new, shallow grassy area, and finally spotting that first bed, is as good as it gets, especially, when you take a look around for nearby boats (trying to act calm, while freaking out), and

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MAY 2021

then you realize, you've got it all to yourself! Now that the bass spawn has passed, feel free to fish your heart out. This time of year is when the catfish and bluegill fishing start to heat up, so get the grease ready; a plate full of crispy, fried fish nuggets is hard to beat! As for those wondering about the results of the bass spawn, from the mass amount of bass fry, and the WELL ABOVE AVERAGE SIZE of spawning females and males, the future of our bass population is looking brighter than ever! John Freeze Kayak Fishing and Nature Tours OurNationalForrest@gmail.com 352-216-5798

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST 5


CEDAR KEY

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MAY 2021

ey everybody, turkey season has come to an end, which means look out for more boat traffic on the weekends, and y'all please check out all your safety gear before you get back on the water. It not only can save you from getting a ticket, but it can also save a life. May is just an awesome month! Not only do the reds, snook, and trout like to play, but you also will start getting more chances at cobia, tripletail, and tarpon. So if site fishing is your game, now is your time to shine. I'm going to give y'all some of the ways I target cobia, (I'll let y'all research the other two). Everyone knows you can find cobia around channel markers, but it seems like everyone is in disbelief when I tell them I look for manatees or sea turtles around shallow sandy bottom. Cobia have an awesome habit of hanging out underneath or around both those species. Now, I know what my go-to bait is for, them but remember there are two rules to fishing. Rule #1 is never give out all the information, and as for rule #2.... Until next month, stay safe out there, and I'll see you on the water. Capt. Jason Clark In The Slot Fishing www.intheslotfishing.com Capt.jasonclark@gmail.com 352-639-3209 Check out our new Popping Cork line at william-wade-tackle.html

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STEINHATCHEE NOT MAYBE, RATHER, MAY WILL BE GREAT!

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f I had to pick a single month to fish, I'd pick May. Maybe it's just getting out of the throws of winter, or better yet, all the fish are back and ready to play. The pelagics—Spanish, kingfish, cobia and such-- are back off our coast! The Spanish and kings are best found around areas holding bait fish. In the mornings and evenings, bait pods can be seen on the surface, which makes finding a good location easy. Trolling plugs, spoons or jigs can produce both species. Remember, kings like eating their Spanish cousins, so a great plug color pattern is Spanish. Live bait, sabiki rigged out of the pods, is perfect. The live bait can be cast on the outside of the pods, drifted around the pods, or bump trolled near the pods. The addition of a flashy skirt will often help. Skirts can also be used for strip baits such as mullet or bonita. The skirted strip baits can be trolled faster as to cover more water. Some folks use #30 test mono leader for Spanish. I prefer single strand wire in the #1-3 size for Spanish and #3-5 for kings, because either fish may strike at any time, and kings are likely to cut off mono leaders. On the flip side, mono leaders tend to produce more strikes. Do you feel lucky? Some people say, “But I don't

like eating mackerel.” How many days a year do you get to go fishing? Take some time to enjoy the dragscreaming-thrill-ride of a pissed off mackerel and you'll be talking about it for the rest of your life. In the meantime, bake some fish sticks. Actually, fresh broiled mackerel are excellent eats. Smoke some for delicious fish dip. Make a mixture of equal parts of butter and “good” soy sauce, marinate a king steak for 20 to 30 minutes; sprinkle sesame seeds and grill, filet mignon of the sea! I promise it will be AMAZING! My wife named our “puppy” Cobia, she said the puppy picked it, but it was all a scam so she could have another dog. Cobia are my favorite fish. Cobia will lazy up to a boat and volunteer, but targeting them is more hunting than fishing. Not enough space to elaborate. However, here cobia show up on the grass flats prior to offshore. So, when trout fishing, put out a heavy spinning outfit and drift a live bait on the windward side. You never know. Gag grouper are open in state waters. You might get a surprise while trolling for mackerel. Brian Smith BIG BEND CHARTERS www.BigBendCharters.com CaptBrian@bellsouth.net 877.852.3474 | 352.210.3050

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MAY 2021

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SUWANNEE/ HORSESHOE BEACH

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ello guys and gals! Captain Brent Woodard here, with my first Coastal Angler article, so please take it easy on me. For those who don’t know, I am a guide out of Horseshoe Beach, FL. I’ve been fishing there and Suwannee town, since I was a kid. Now, for your May fishing report. For inshore trout fishing, I’m here to remind you of the old faithful popping cork. This time of the year, it’s almost a guarantee to catch a good number of trout. Just tie an18 inch leader under a B52 with a jig head, and attach your favorite soft plastic. Do not be scared to throw hard baits, or fish on the bottom for these trout, especially on these low and negative tides. I’ve been finding most of my fish on the flats in various depths. I believe that has to do with these last couple of fronts we had. While doing this, you are likely to catch a mixed bag. The flounder and Spanish mackerel love this combination as well. If you want to primarily target the flounder, just find the potholes or vast sandy area, and slowly drag a shrimp across the bottom. This time of year, I keep a heavier rod and reel in the boat for the off chance that we spot a cobia cruising the flats. If you happen to stumble upon one, do not underestimate their power. They can easily snap 20 and 30 lb. leaders, so I would bump up to 50 or 60 lb., and pitch anything big at them, or live pinfish if available. Bigger redfish are finally starting to show up and return to their usual spots, and transition to their summer patterns. Most will tell you to target oyster bars, but I like to also run grass lines for the less pressured reds. The best way to target these fish is with the trusty gold spoon or ¼ oz. jig head, once again with your favorite soft plastic. Huge black drum are beginning to show their tails; pun

intended. Your best chances at hooking one of these dinosaurs is to find out where they’re nose-down, and put a shrimp or crab directly in front of them. May is definitely one of the better months to get on the water before the hot air and high-water temps arrive, and is also one of my busiest before the scallops get here. If you have any questions or want to get on the water with me, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Be mindful of our grass flats, we want our future generations to be able to fish these spots one day! Until next time, keep it Reel Native! Brent Woodard Reel Native Fishing Charters ReelNativeFishing@yahoo.com www.ReelNativeFishing.com 352-284-5514

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MAY 2021

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MAY 2021

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INGLIS/YANKEETOWN

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MAY 2021

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very year when the month of May approaches, the same thought enters my mind, and that is, COBIA, COBIA, COBIA! Here on the Nature Coast of Florida, the water temperatures finally reach that comfortable warm temperatures that cobia desire. In my experience, it seems after the last cold front in April, the cobia show up directly after the next full moon. When the water temperatures reach 68 degrees or higher, and remain steady, small schools of these fish move into our area, here between Crystal River and Cedar Key. With each week, the fishing progressively gets better and better, with more and more fish arriving, until we reach the magical month of MAY. Let’s go over some tips and tricks I like to use for cobia fishing. As many people know, here in Yankeetown, we have an incredible bottom fishery in shallow waters with a multitude of rockpiles, ledges, wrecks, and ridges, some natural and some manmade. As the cobia make their migration from offshore to our nearshore and inshore waters, these places provide enough good structure and protection for these fish to eat and spawn as they please, and get fat and happy. There are a few things that I never leave the dock without, number one is chum and I mean GOOD chum. I prefer to use the tournament chum; it comes in a white box with a green label. It’s a menhaden oil-based chum with little to no blood, which means little to no sharks, or at least much less than traditional shrimp and blood-based chums. The other thing is a good quality gaff. Aftco makes plenty of great gaffs in the 60 to 100$ range, that will do the job for years to come and won’t break the bank, or break on a respectable fish. When it’s time to anchor up, I prefer to anchor on the up-current side of the structure, rockpile, etc. that you plan to fish. Get the chum into the water and let it do its magic, one box at a time until the bite starts to heat up. My favorite live baits include pinfish, pigfish, and small six to eight inch catfish. I prefer

to drop one bait to the bottom and reel them up a few feet, and have one to two rods with a flatline, or on a balloon behind the chum slick very close to the structure. The tackle used for these two applications would be a 6 feet 6 inches to 7 feet 6 inches, medium heavy 15 to 30 lb. class or heavier rod, and a reel in the 5 to 6000 size with 30 to 50lb power pro. The Quantum Cabo 50 and the Shimano Twinpower 5000 have always been two of my favorites for cobia fishing. They both have very smooth, strong drags, and they hold a ton of line for those blistering runs! Cobia are strong, hard fighting fish, and they have a knack for finding the structure once hooked, so a smooth strong drag is key when fighting the man in the brown suit. Something I really want to stress, always keep a net on the boat. If the fish looks even remotely close to being a keeper, just get him on the boat and measure him. This helps to avoid killing undersized fish. Gaffs are only meant for the big fish! Also, I don’t ever go out fishing in the month of May without having a rod and reel rigged with a 10 inch black Hogy Eel, or just a simple freeline rig with a 4-6/0 circle hook ready to go with a live bait on hand, because you never know when you could see one whether it be in 3 feet or 30 feet of water. All in all, everyone enjoys fishing for, and catching cobia, but the bonus is to have a fish dinner after you’ve harvested that beautiful fish! Cobia have a ton of meat, so only take what you need. ONE good keeper usually makes the day, and fills a few gallon bags with cobia steaks for everyone, so let’s practice conservation and leave one out there for next trip. Captains Cove has everything mentioned above. If you have any questions or need some help before your next trip, stop in and see Jim or me, and we will get you geared up and ready to go. Tight lines guys and gals. Capt. ANDREW FAGAN Instagram: @redfish_drew EBB Tide Fishing charters

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t’s heating up here on the Nature Coast, and now is the time to dust off your heavier tackle. These couple of months, will bring some of the larger species our area has to offer. For the inshore and offshore anglers, it’s tough to beat a cobia for a great tug of war. Channel markers, wrecks, artificial reefs and your high-profile grouper structures, are ideal locations to target cobia. Inshore channel markers are always worth a look, and many times cobia can be seen just below the surface, circling the structure. With the absence of fishing pressure on the offshore locations, due to the gag grouper regulations, there should be plenty of hefty cobia for those willing to make a run. Chumming brings them right to the boat, and a live pinfish on a bottom rig, and one up top, will have the water column covered. The kingfish will be in good numbers as well, in the 30 to 60-foot range. Light drags, wire leader and plenty of line capacity is necessary to tackle a smoker king. Trolling a variety of plugs or spoons works well for those wanting to use artificials. Anchoring up over live bottom, and using an assortment of live and dead baits, such as threadfin herring, cigar minnows or a frisky live blue runner is kingfish candy. Keep an eye on the horizon for the skying fish, blasting through baitfish schools, to help you locate schooling fish. Homosassa is world renowned for its tarpon fishing, and now it the time of year history is made. Many fly fishing world records have been set here, and anglers from all over the world come to test their skill against the mighty silver king. The flats to

the south of Homosassa are primarily for fly anglers, and this is a specialized fishery On the inshore scene, trout, snook and red fish will be a ready to go as well. The trout will start becoming less structure orientated, and will spread out over spotty bottom. The spotty bottom of the sand and grass mix, ranging from 5 to 10 feet, will be the productive area. 1/8oz DOA cal shad tail jigs in the glow color and MirrOlure Lil’ Johns in the Bourbon color are hard to beat, and I prefer the chartreuse color jig head to be a great combination. On days when there’s little breeze, try a jig and cork rig combination. The sound of the clacking cork in the deeper water, usually draws the larger trout to your bait. For locating red fish, start on the outside rocky points and preferably on incoming tide. As the tide floods in, the fish move right onto the rocks, and a free lined live shrimp, pinfish or a fresh piece of cut mullet will get a hook up. If there are mullet jumping on a particular point, anchor up and give it a try. Also, cast plugs or soft plastic jerk baits on the outer points and river mouths as our snook population is quite strong. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions about the area. Good Fishing! Capt. Dan Clymer 352.418.2160 www.crystalriver-fishing.com

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MAY 2021

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ST. AUGUSTINE

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ay is a fantastic month for fishing in Northeast Florida. The inshore fish (redfish, trout, flounder, drum, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, etc.) will be on the feed with the influx of baitfish (finger mullet and pogies). With warming air and water temps, the nearshore fishing should be firing up as well, with huge jacks, cobia, and maybe even a tarpon or two--all waiting to put up that fight of a lifetime. Inshore, the redfish will be crushing the finger mullet, and that means a top-water plug, especially at first and last light, will be the go-to lure of choice. Look for large concentrations of mullet and toss your plugs around them. There's sure to be a redfish lurking around looking for an easy snack. Once the sun gets higher in the sky, I like to switch to a search bait this time of year. The water will become fairly murky, and a lure that makes some noise will be a good way to get the redfish's attention. Some of my favorites are spoons, twitchbaits, and the Saltwater Assassin Lil Boss paddle tail. Of course, a popping cork with a shrimp or mud minnow will catch its fair share of reds this month as well. May has always been a “gator” trout month for me. A top-water plug will account for some of the bigger trout catches this month. The outgoing tide along the ICW

banks, should be loaded with trout, especially if the baitfish are around. Once the day heats up a bit, I like to fish a 1/4-ounce jighead, paired with a soft plastic for the trout. Use a twitch-twitch-pause method, and most of the time they'll hit it on the pause. A free-lined live shrimp with a small pinch weight a few inches above it, is a great was to catch some trout too. The flounder bite has been consistent all year, and will be a good bet this month. Some of the bigger springtime flatties will start to show in the inlets. Use a finger mullet, or big mud minnow pinned to a jighead or fish-finder rig. Bounce the minnow (or mullet) along the rocks at the area inlets to find the big "doormats". As of report time, the cobia still haven’t shown up in good numbers along the beach. May could be a good month to get out and take a look for the brown bruisers. Even if the manta rays have moved on, the cobia will be on the pogy pods, along with quite a few heavy hitters like big jacks, sharks, and maybe even a tarpon or two, if the water warms up enough. The weather is so nice this time of year, even if the fish aren’t biting-- so get out there!

SURF & PIER

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he pompano and big bonnethead sharks finally made their appearance in the middle of April. That means that this month will be on fire. Our cold spring water temps delayed the run, but it is now GO time. This means perfect timing for the Florida Surf Casters 17th Annual 2021 Spring Surf Fishing Tournament. This is a fun family tourney with a kids’ division. It is sponsored by, and held at Strike-Zone Fishing in Jacksonville, Fl. The date is May 15th, 2021. For all the rules and regulations, please visit www.surffishingflorida.com. You can drop off your entry fee at Strike-Zone Fishing, or pay online. See you at the weigh-in! Now, I want to help you be more successful in the surf zone, specifically when it comes to whiting and pompano. The most Capt. Tommy Derringer important thing is matching the www.InshoreAdventures.net hatch when it comes to what they 904-377-3734 eat. These baits are donax clams (aka coquina & periwinkles) sand fleas (aka mole crabs) small calico crabs and shrimp. When using these baits, remember that even a two-pound whiting or pompano has a small mouth. Therefore, use a small piece of bait, approximately 1-inch x ½ inch. So, when cutting up your store-bought clams and

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MAY 2021

shrimp, remember smaller is better. If the sand fleas are huge, just cut them in half. When using blue crabs to imitate calico crabs, cut the knuckles into chunks the size of a sand flea. When it comes to rigging there are two choices. First is the double dropper rig. They are also known as a pompano rig or chicken rig. If you buy them pre-made, get the ones with 2/0 circle hooks. They usually come with floats, and or beads. The jewelry on them is not as important as the hook size, and good quality baits. Second choice is the fish finder rig, aka sinker slider rig. You will want to use the same hook size as on the double dropper. If you really want to get your string stretched, May is also the kickoff for big blacktip sharks. My baits of choice are either a whiting or pompano head. Once again, matching the hatch. Plant your sand spike deep and your drag light! Hang on and have fun! Noel Kuhn 43 years of surf fishing experience, surf fishing guide and long distance casting coach. Founding member of Florida Surf Casters club. 904-945-0660 www.TheSurfAngler.com

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Double of redfish for Mike Jersey and Harold Roberts of Indian Harbor Beach, Florida 4/12/21

rout fishing has been Grand, with a limit of 15 trout to 4.5 lbs. this past Saturday, in an hour and 45 minutes in 20 + knot w-i-n-d. The trout have rebounded from the Easter cold snap, and with water temps around 70 to 72 degrees, we are right on track for an outstanding May. My charters limited out on trout and reds four out of five trips last week, and while most of our fish came in on live pinfish under Back Bays, we have landed some fine trout on Assassin’s 5 Inch shads in Stinky Pink, Northern Minnow, Pink Ghost, Green Moon and Grey Ghost. I have bounced the 5-inch Shad Assassins on a 1/8-ounce Chartreuse Flash jighead in 4.5 to 5.5 feet of water. We have caught reds to 29 inches on Precision Tackle’s Flats Intruder HEX spoons in Gold. Most of the reds are still holding around humps and rockpiles near creeks and troughs. This year, with very little white bait showing up, so far (Today is April 15.) it is just hit-and-miss on the reds. The 1/2-ounce HEX gold spoon allows you to cover water quickly and find more reds. I also use Thunder-Spin jig spinners once I have the reds located. Jumped three monster 100 pluspound tarpon yesterday, so that won’t be too far away, while the 3rd week of June is usually “moving day”, when the tarpon migrate through our coast here in Taylor County. Haven’t seen a cobia yet, but May will bring them in to our grass flats up from Tampa. Keep a small blue crab handy for cobia in May. Meanwhile, Let's Go Fishing!

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16 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA/NATURE COAST

MAY 2021

Alligators, crocodiles get active this time of year.

A

s spring weather replaces cold winter, Florida’s alligators and crocodiles become active. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) once again reminds state residents and visitors to be cautious when having fun in and around water. Florida is home to two native crocodilians: the American alligator, which is found in all 67 counties; and the American crocodile, which may be found in coastal areas of the Keys and in southeast and southwest Florida. Both species have shared Florida’s waters with people for centuries. The FWC recommends keeping pets away from the water. There are other precautionary measures people should take to reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators and crocodiles, and they are available in the Living with Alligators brochure at MyFWC.com/ Alligator and the Living with Crocodiles brochure at MyFWC.com/Crocodile. The FWC advises people who have

concerns with an alligator or crocodile posing a threat to people, pets or property, to call the FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286). Alligators and crocodiles are an important part of Florida’s heritage and play a valuable role in the habitats where they live. For more information on alligators and crocodiles, visit MyFWC. com/Alligator

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NORTH FLORIDA 5


SURF FISHIN’ WITH A SABIKI RIG

By Chris Beardsley

F

ishing the surf is a grab bag when it comes to tackle and whatever is biting. I’ve been fishing the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico for more than 20 years, and I try to be prepared for virtually anything. My tackle box is like so many others. It holds DOAs, various swimbaits and paddletail combos, drop rigs, assorted jigs and weights and some twitch baits and poppers to shake things up. Like I said, I like to be prepared, and my attack is varied. I like to throw cut bait on a big rig for drum and sharks using a 2/O or 3/O circle hook on a fish-finder rig or a drop shot tipped with live pinfish. This is a great setup and can lead to some exciting rod bends. A cast net is great for gathering baitfish by the bucket, but a Sabiki tipped with a marble-sized piece of frozen shrimp is a great alternative. It’s no secret that Sabiki rigs are excellent for catching baitfish. Vertical jigging them is a common offshore tactic that can be equally effective inshore and from the beach. Pinfish, and the like, are small, so keeping the bait small is ideal. A side note, fishing a Sabiki can make fishing a lot of fun for kids since pinfish, croakers and catfish—oh, the catfish—are quick to strike and within easy casting distance from the beach; typically no farther than the first cut. Keep in mind, however, that they are also excellent bait stealers. Be prepared to rebait often. I like the smaller Sabiki rigs with size 14 hooks and just enough weight to keep it anchored. The colors of choice are hot pink and chartreuse with metallic matching skirts. Likely, most color combinations will work; just remember to keep the hooks relative to the size fish you’re after. The action can be fast and furious, and once discovered the Sabiki rig will fill your pinfish quota quickly. Surprisingly, the Sabiki catches more than just pinfish and other bait.

Bluefish, flounder, small jacks, shark, slot trout and whiting are all eager diners. Whiting, in particular, fall for this diminutive offering, and it’s a great way to fill a cooler. Since first trying Sabiki surf fishing, the variety and sheer volume of fish we’ve caught has left an impression. It could be argued that some days the bite is on, and an old boot would be equally effective… maybe. On the other hand, some of the largest whiting I’ve seen have been pulled from the surf using a Sabiki. Fishing the surf is a grab bag when it comes to tackle and whatever is biting, and I like to be prepared. With that said, I have no intentions of replacing my DOAs, swimbaits, etc. with a box of Sabikis. Instead, the Sabiki is now a permanent fixture in my surf fishing arsenal and something I’ll be sure to have on hand whenever I go. For more surf fishing tactics from Chris Beardsley, go to coastalanglermag.com.

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MAY 2021

LIONFISH FESTIVAL SLATED FOR MAY 15-16

S

how up in Destin and have a great time pitching in with the fight against invasive lionfish at the seventhannual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival May 15-16. Held on the docks at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and HarborWalk Village in Destin, festival activities include fillet demonstrations; familyfriendly games and activities; art, diving and conservation booths; and the world’s largest lionfish spearfishing tournament, the Emerald Coast Open. For more information, go to FWCReefRangers.com.

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SCREAMIN’ REELS TOURNAMENT SLATED FOR JUNE 11-13

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omen, men and teens are invited to a non-intimidating Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing Screamin’ Reels tournament with education June 11-13 in Islamorada. Hosted by the nonprofit Ladies Let’s Go Fishing Foundation, the tournament kicks off on Friday with a presentation on offshore fishing and conservation, plus a meet and greet from 6-8 p.m. at The Tavernier Elks Club. Saturday and Sunday is fishing, learning on the water and friendly angler competition for inshore and offshore species, departing from Whale Harbor Marina, Islamorada. Participants can fish from their own boats or

charters supplied by the organization. Prizes will be awarded to individual anglers, including Penn combos, art prints and other fishing items, presented on Sunday upon the return of boats at Whale Harbor. Prizes for inshore and offshore species and releases include Heaviest Fish Overall, Offshore Billfish Release, Party Boat award, Junior Angler, Longest Inshore Fish, Wild Card prizes and more. This tournament offers easy rules and is perfect for novice anglers. Charter boats fill quickly, so early registration is encouraged. Registration is $89 early entry, $99 regular per adult angler, $45 for teens and includes about $20 in gifts. Featured on national network television and more, the series is supported by major partners including Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation, Take Me Fishing, Vamos a Pescar, Mercury, Magic Tilt trailers, Shearwater Boats, Power-Pole, Penn, TACO Metals, Lowrance and Fish Florida. Largest Annual Sponsors are Freedom Boat Club, ICOM, CCA Florida STAR, Bob’s Machine Shop, AFTCO, Costa, Smith Optics, Frogg Toggs, Hubbards Marina, Star Brite and Future Angler Foundation. Local sponsors are Breezy Palms, Jeanne Towne of Fidelity Real Estate and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. Annual and class-specific contributors are listed on the website. 2021 LLGF event plans with fishing offered schedule includes: • May 15-16: Gulf Coast Inshore Saltwater Weekend Seminar • June 11-13: Keys Fishing Learning on the Water Inshore/ Offshore • Oct. 15-17: Keys Saltwater Weekend Seminar Inshore/Offshore • Nov. 20-21: St. Augustine Surf Fishing Academy Bimini Bahamas boat trip, Virtual meetings and more TBA For more information, go to www.ladiesletsgofishing.com and www.facebook.com/ladiesletsgofishing.

Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!®

Screamin’ Reels Tournament June 11-13 • Islamorada, FL Go fishing & win in the Florida Keys! Ladies, fish Saturday & Sunday, inshore or offshore, on charter boats or your own boat! Win prizes! Perfect for beginners or those who don’t fish a lot. Kickoff is Friday, June 11th. We will team you with others. No experience or boat necessary!

Only $89 per person to enter. Charter fishing additional for Saturday & Sunday. Can't make it? Check out the LLGF’s Fishing Fever Tournament on October 15-17, with full-day instructional & hands-on seminar on Saturday! Fishing Friday & Sunday.

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FLORIDA 13


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SOUTH FLORIDA’S EXOTIC

ALIEN FISH By Ryan Izquierdo

@RYAN_IZQ

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UIERDO PH

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he clown knifefish looks like guide, of Swamp to Sea Guide Service, in south it escaped from a mad scientist’s Florida to talk about his history with this amazing laboratory. Originally from tropical species. Here’s what he wrote: “I remember over 25 years ago when my mom Asia, it is one of the non-native species that have taken hold in Florida waters. With its would drive me around to the local tackle shops long knife-shaped body and black spots, it is a so I could speak with shop hands and check for beautiful species that anglers from all over the new pictures on the wall. On occasion, we would see a Polaroid tacked up with a giant silver alien world travel to target in south Florida. Clown knifefish are powerful and agile. fish with black dots all over it. When you asked They offer explosive thrashing jumps similar the guy at the counter what they caught it on, to tarpon, and are nearly impossible for most the response was always the same: a Gambler anglers to land without a net. I caught my first red shad worm, because that’s all you fished if clown knifefish when I moved to Palm Beach you weren’t using live bluegill. County 10 years ago. My biggest clown knifefish weighed more than 12 pounds. I caught it while fishing with my buddy Capt. Bill Lepree. It ate the last shad in the livewell as we were eating Publix subs. After some drag screaming runs, it got wrapped around bridge pilings and broke the line as it swam backward into the net. I once made a “Catch & Cook “Everything has made a Clown Knifefish” Youtube video. complete rebound since then. We’ve Let’s just say they’re not as tasty as learned to catch them consistently they are fun to catch. on bait, artificials and even a few on Any of the ponds and canals fly. I’ve managed to build a successful connected to Lake Ida in Palm guide business with clients calling Beach County are good places to from around the world to target target clown knifefish. I use light clown knife fish. fluorocarbon line, a small octopus Capt. Patrick Smith holds the world-record 14.5-pound clown “In 2018, I was lucky to have a hook and live shiners, shad or knife fish for Michael Donvito, the client who caught it. client catch the current IGFA record bluegill. They can also be caught PHOTO COURTESY OF SWAMP TO SEA GUIDE SERVICE. at 14.5 pounds. I’m sure that record on artificials and fly. Small white “It took another 15 years or so before I will fall any day, as we are seeing some absolute swimbaits, bladed baits and small hair jigs all work, and you’ll likely catch peacock and finally got my hands on a real clown myself. giants out there.” largemouth bass, along with many other exotic Unfortunately, it was during the freeze of 2010, Follow Ryan Izquierdo on Youtube when the canals were full of dead ones, along species when targeting clown knife fish. (RyanIzFishing) and Instagram @ryan_izquierdo I reached out to my buddy Capt. Patrick with dead peacock bass, shad and just about to check out his fishing adventures. Smith, a world-record holding clown knifefish everything else.


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GET SET FOR A

Summer Diving OF

By John Lidington

S

ummer is just around the corner. As temperature and humidity climb and seas calm, the best place to be is underwater! Now is the time to prepare, so your diving plans can proceed smoothly when the season gets hot. When do your tanks’ VIPs expire? If it’s during the busy summer season, schedule a VIP now. What about their hydro dates? Again, if the date is near, do it now. Hydrostatic testing will usually take them out of commission for several days. Don’t be without them when you really want to be diving. While you’re checking them, put fresh o-ring in the regulator seats, too. When was your regulator last overhauled? If it has been more than a year or 100 dives, it’s time for an annual service. But even with regular maintenance, problems can still occur when salt crystals, corrosion or plain old grit get where they shouldn’t be. If your regulator is still within a year from the last service, some simple checks will help catch developing problems now, before they impact your summer diving. Mount your regulator onto a tank, turn the air on, then off. Tank pressure should read constant for at least an hour. If it falls, air is leaking from the system and you need to do a careful bubble check of the regulator and all hoses to locate the problem. With air still off, gently inhale through each second stage mouthpiece. If they don’t hold vacuum, there’s an exhaust valve problem. Don’t forget your BCD. Exhaust valves and dump valves can get stuck when sitting idle for a while and may sometimes tear when used. After checking all those valves, inflate your BCD fully. Will it stay fully inflated overnight? If not, more thorough servicing is needed. Okay, your gear is set. But are you ready to dive? Summer is the best time for visiting Palm Beach County’s wrecks, reefs, turtles and Goliath groupers. That means drift diving. If you are new to drift diving, or want to refresh your skills, join Pura Vida Divers for a one-day PADI Drift Diver course. This class is scheduled every Saturday in May. Students will complete an independent online e-learning component, then do a classroom review before heading out for a two-tank dive to put skills into practice. On Sundays, follow up with the PADI Delayed Surface Marker Buoy Diver course. This one-day course covers the advantages and techniques to deploy your surface marker buoy (or “safety sausage”) on a line from depth. During busy summer boat traffic, a surface indicator is essential as divers begin their ascent. Both courses can be completed in one weekend. Contact Pura Vida Divers at (561) 840-8750, or visit www.puravidadivers.com.

18 FLORIDA

MAY 2021

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MAY 2021

OYSTER REEF DEPLOYED IN CHARLOTTE HARBOR

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ater quality, marine fisheries and recreational angling are set to get a boost after two dump truck loads of oyster shells were deployed in Turtle Bay in Charlotte Harbor last month. CCA Florida partnered with Ingman Marine, Abbott Construction, Lee Reefs, SanibelCaptiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), Capt. Jay Withers, Placida Point LLC, Clermont Oyster Bar and Lake County Solid Waste Division to make the project a reality. Abbott Construction hauled dried-out oyster shells from CCA Florida’s Oyster Recycling Program in Astatula to a staging area in Placida. The materials were loaded on a barge and deployed in Turtle Bay at a pre-permitted location. “This is a unique partnership involving a huge amount of support from the community as well as our sponsors and members,” CCA Florida COO Adam Miller said. “With all the water quality issues Charlotte Harbor is facing, it is important to partner together and do what we can to help restore the water quality, seagrasses and marine life.” The oyster shells, donated by Clermont Oyster Bar, are dried for six months to kill potential pathogens and will, over time, form a new oyster reef. “With an estimated 85 percent loss of oyster reefs worldwide, efforts for restoration must be made a priority all around the state, ” said CCA Florida Director of Habitat and Environmental Restoration Frank Gidus. In the near future, SCCF and Lee Reefs plan to deploy fossilized shell at the same site to serve as a host structure for new oyster growth. Oyster reefs filter pollutants, reduce turbidity and create habitat for a variety of marine species.

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Harris Miller

CAPTAIN GEORGE

Team misTress & Bernhardt PA MAY 2021 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM


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program GEICO

GULP! PADDLESHAD ®

YOUR FISH. OUR SCIENCE.

SCENT

TASTE

FISH SMELL 1000X BETTER THAN WE DO. Underwater. In current. And even in nutrient-dense saltwater, fish can pick up a scent at the parts per billion level. Think that’s impressive? How about a bait with the ability to trick that sense of smell into believing it is even better than real food. In scientific tests, Gulp!® proved so effective on saltwater gamefish, it actually outfished real bait time and time again. Not only does the scent outperform real and artificial bait, it has 400 times the scent dispersion of the best competing soft plastic bait. Now, Gulp! is available in all of the most popular sizes, colors and actions, including the new Firetail options. Berkley® Gulp! We’ve done the science, now you catch the fish. berkley-fishing.com ©2020 Pure Fishing, Inc.


THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE BITE Berkley Saltwater Gulp! Continues to Outshine Live Bait for Coastal Anglers

A

ll along the coast, as the highways near the busiest launch ramps, the bait shop signs announcing what’s for sale reinforce what most anglers already know: natural bait does a good job of catching fish. Live baitfish and live shrimp are almost always on the bait shop menu as they present the most natural food source. But even the frozen slabs of baitfish and chunks of cut bait that are also widely sold—baits which have no action to them whatsoever—are eaten by saltwater species if presented the right way. But why? The answer is simple, as it all pertains to one of the most misunderstood senses in fish biology: a fish’s sense of smell. It’s this sense of smell that inspired the development of Berkley Saltwater

Gulp!, the line of baits that has transformed saltwater fishing with their effectiveness, ease of use and value. For as effective as live or cut bait can be in saltwater fishing, it’s far from the perfect solution. Live bait can be very expensive and difficult to keep alive. Unused bait becomes a treat for pushy pelicans or gets dumped into the water. Presented with a problem, the scientists at Berkley set out to find a solution. Fish smell on the parts-per-billion level, the equivalent of a single drop of water in an Olympicsized swimming pool. This powerful sense of smell is extremely important to a fish’s ability to feed. Fish rely upon their sense of smell because they live in an aquatic environment filled with particles


and debris that can look like food. Their noses tell fish the difference between food and other organic compounds. Berkley scientists set out to make the first artificial bait that really appealed to a fish’s sense of smell. The first step was getting scent to disperse from a soft bait. While fish attractants and scents are nothing new, all of the competitive versions were oil-based. And just like the old adage reminds us, oil and water don’t mix. An oil-based scent that is smelly to a human has no effectiveness on fish since it is not soluble in water. That’s why Gulp! scents are water-based. The water-based scent formula, now known as Berkley Gulp! and which has since become synonymous with saltwater fishing across the country, caught more fish than live bait in headto-head tests. This scent, combined with the proprietary material used in Berkley Gulp! baits, disperses scent 400 times more effectively than any other soft bait, meaning it creates a scent field that is easily detected by fish and which continues to expand as the bait is retrieved. “I started really using Gulp! in about 2007, a few years after it came out,” said Capt. Jot Owens, who operates out of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., where he specializes in putting his clients on big redfish, flounder and other species. “And from the first year I started fishing with Gulp!, we were catching more and bigger flounder than we had ever caught before—and we were fishing in the same areas we had always been fishing. I don’t

know what the magic formula is, but it really wakes fish up.” Capt. Owens said he prefers Berkley Saltwater Gulp! for a host of species, but especially for redfish and flounder. His go-to set up for flounder varies slightly depending on whether he’s fishing inshore or farther out. The set up consists of a 6-inch Saltwater Gulp! Jerk Shad (Chartreuse/Pepper/ Neon or Firetiger) on a 3/8-ounce long-shank jig head. Because Gulp! baits are wet inside and out, they can come unrigged, so Capt. Owens relies on a Berkley Fusion19 jig that has lead lips and a wire hook to keep his Jerk Shad rigged properly. When fishing inshore, he uses a medium-fast Fenwick HMG Inshore paired with a Size 2500 or 3000 PENN Battle III DX spinning reel, which is spooled with 15-pound braid and a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. Farther out, he will increase the line size to a 20-pound braid mainline and a 40-pound fluorocarbon leader spooled onto a Size 3500 PENN Spinfisher. “Just make sure the bait is bouncing on bottom; I’m typically jigging with the rod tip pretty high,” Capt. Owens said. “It’s not that you won’t get bit dragging it on the bottom, but the bait is more effective bouncing up and down.” For redfish, Capt. Owens has his clients using 3- or 4-inch Gulp! Shrimp (Sugar Spice Glow or Chartreuse) on a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce jig head, increasing the weight of the jig based on fishing depth and current. The rest of his redfish set up is similar to that of his inshore rig for flounder:

medium-fast Fenwick HMG Inshore paired with a Size 2500 or 3000 PENN Battle III DX spinning reel, which is spooled with 15-pound braid and a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. “The best retrieve is a hop-hop; let it sit for a second or two then give it another hop-hop,” Capt. Owens said. “Redfish are really bottom feeders, so they’ll almost always hit it on the drop or while it’s sitting on bottom for the brief pause. The way the Berkley Saltwater Gulp! Shrimp is putting out scent, redfish pick it up with the same excitement as they would a hunk of cut bait even though it’s not moving.”


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Troll and Watch Bottom for Spring Grouper By CAM Staff

I CALL FOR YOUR LOCAL DEALER

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t’s a lot more fun to fill fish boxes when the various Gulf and Atlantic grouper seasons open in spring. These days, advances in electronics have made finding good grouper bottom easier than ever. There is, however, a trade-off. In the good old days, captains precisely timed their courses out of the pass in hopes of coming off throttle near a fish-producing rock pile. Before GPS and sonar, the best indicators of productive bottom were boats already there and catching fish. Successful anglers even welcomed new PHOTO COURTESY OF CRYSTAL LAFOSSE boats to the party, reasoning that more baits in the water served to excite fish into feeding. In case you didn’t notice, that’s not the way things work any more. Now any yahoo with a boat can plug coordinates into their navigation system and sleepwalk straight to a ledge or wreck. Community holes and artificial reefs are crowded and sometimes picked clean of fish. To avoid this, a good set of numbers is a jealously guarded secret. Camaraderie on the open sea is officially a thing of the past when picking up and moving off productive bottom is a logical step to avoid being marked in the mapping system of a passing vessel. We’ve traded open sharing of information for technological advancements the old salts couldn’t have dreamed of. With advanced radar, sonar, mapping and GPS, it’s up to the angler to spend time on the water to locate their own magic numbers. With grouper seasons opening in state and federal waters off the southern states, most species have finished with the peak of spawning. They have begun moving to deeper water and are hungry to feed-up and regain what was lost to the rigors of the spawn. However, grouper are also spread out more thinly right now than they are when they group up on deep-water structure in summer. You might not have to run as far to reach productive bottom, but you will likely have to do more spot-hopping to fill the boxes. It’s a good time of year to troll. Some fish will still be shallow enough to target with deep-diving lures. Using planers and downriggers, it’s possible to get lures down to 60 feet or deeper, and some very deep-diving plugs can get down to 40 feet on their own with the right braided line. This allows you to cover ground on and around those ledge coordinates you have marked. It’s a throwback to the olds days, when trolling up a grouper was the method for finding an area to stop and drop baits. If you keep an eye on the bottom machine, you might even spot a small formation you didn’t know was there. These small blips are the honeyholes that produce when the larger reefs and structure succumb to constant fishing pressure. Don’t care for boat rides and watching rods? Traditional bottom fishing may still be the best method. Check your shallower coordinates as you head out this time of year. Many boats ride right over good structure on the way to their deeper summer spots. Reefs or rocks as shallow as 40 feet will hold fish before they head out to their mid-summer haunts. Just be sure to drop some chum down upstream of the structure to bring them out of their hidey-holes. See your state’s saltwater fishing regulations to determine which species of grouper are open for harvest where you fish.

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NATIONAL 17


On the Swordfish Ledge

off Marathon

By Capt. Quinlyn Haddon

I

f you’ve ever been swordfishing out of Marathon, Fla., chances are you were deep dropping the same area I was in April, when the U.S. Coast Guard ticketed us for fishing in Bahamian waters. Dropping for swordfish is exhausting. Staring mindlessly at one single rod tip, it’s easy to lose your mind questioning if every other wave was a bite. It is also possible to spend an entire day doing the crazy-eyed swordfish rod stare and never get a nibble. During a slow drift along the ledge in 1,800 feet of water, our luck finally changed. A flock of diving terns approached and crossed behind the

boat. We opened bails on the flat lines and let pinfish swim toward the commotion. Immediately we hooked up and stole a school of mahi from under the birds. With four mahi hooked up along the port side, we had just begun the assembly line from hook to killbox when we were informed the U.S. Coast Guard was about to board our boat. Approaching from starboard to accommodate our fishing, three “Coasties” boarded to conduct a routine safety check. After about half an hour with our official guests on board, we finished with the school of mahi and decided to reel up the sword line. We activated the electric reel, and— distracted by our visitors—it took a moment to

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realize we were hooked up. The Coasties were going to have to put a pin in it. “Hang on fellas; we’re hooked up!” For the next half hour, we didn’t hear a word from our visitors. As the fish began to surface, the line scoped out underneath the Coast Guard cutter raft. We radioed asking them to move. After a lot of chaos and tight boat maneuvering, we landed the 150-pound swordfish with the Coast Guard on board. They even took the catch photos. It was all high fives and celebration until they asked us for our Bahamian fishing licenses and informed us we were illegally fishing in the Bahamian Exclusive Economic Zone. Later on, extensive research by Steve Steenstra, owner of Blue Magic Charters, revealed the Bahamian EEZ line runs about 24 miles from land, straight across the U.S. sword ledge. None of us, not even our GPS mapping knew about this line. A law enacted some 40 years ago had just been enforced for the first time. We were the first vessel cited. As I understand it, after visiting the Coast Guard Station in Key West, the EEZ line was drawn straight down the middle by default. Now that they’re enforcing it, recreational swordfishing from the Keys is threatened, along with the livelihoods it supports. As the situation unfolds, it would be wise to stay up to date before venturing offshore from the Keys. Capt. Quinlyn Haddon and Blue Magic Charters are following this situation closely. Contact her at (504) 920-6342 or through Instagram @CaptainQuinlyn and @BlueMagicCharters.



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ach spring, inshore anglers are greeted with big winds, big tides and small baitfish. There is no time where the size of your lure can make or break your trip more than the spring season. With the abundance of small baitfish in the water, it can be difficult to get the attention of your target species, especially when you are fishing with artificial lures. It is also very common to find gamefish gorging themselves on tiny glass minnows. This is routinely evident when you land a fish and they spit up these miniature meals. As anglers, we have two obstacles here: the sheer amount of forage in the water competing with your lure and the small size of the lure required. What I have found to be the most successful tactic is to use the smallest lure I can cast and appropriately present to the fish. Both hard and soft lures can be effective. Another key to success is color. I prefer a white-and-silver combination that closely matches the natural forage. I like to fish these lures on the edge of large bait balls when possible. I try to keep my lure on the edge or under the school to let the fish focus on a single target rather than a large mass.

By Capt. Michael Okruhlik

Using a slow-sinking lure is an advantage at this time of the year. A lure that will suspend or slow-sink is ideal. This allows the predator time to target your lure, and it also gives the appearance of a wounded baitfish, which is always a plus. When the bait is this thick, your lure needs to stand out, but you still need to match the forage in size and color. The use of tandem rigs allows for a couple of advantages. Casting two smaller lures could equal the weight of one of your typical offerings. This allows you to cast farther and still have the appropriate size lure. Rigging two small silver spoons with white bucktails is a great combination when fishing glass minnow schools. I also like to use a small floater/ diver with a small spoon trailer. The diving action in conjunction with the added weight of the spoon is a unique combination of action to entice strikes. Downsizing your lure presentation in spring can definitely up-size your catch. Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures, Controlled Descent Lures and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KNOCKIN TAIL LURES

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MAY 2021

NATIONAL 21


“For Me, It’s a Fishing Tool”

The 2021 Must-Have Anchoring System

“T

he easiest way I can explain ‘boat position’: if you’re at the baseball game, you’re either playing—which is fishing—or you’re watching the game, which means you’re not…” Capt. Mickey Brelsford decided he’d rather be in the game than on the sidelines, so installing the Rebel EZ-5 became a no-brainer after researching product information and helpful documents on the company website, then calling the drum anchor winch plate design that allows the drum to free-spool when the manufacturer’s technical support team for additional pointers. clutch plate is disengaged. To get that “ good, solid anchoring In the past, using a windlass yielded poor retrieval results position,” press and hold the “raise/power up” side of the and left no room for customization, like adding special button for about five seconds: this will cause the clutch plate to attachments or splicing rope and chain. Now, Capt. Brelsford once again rotate, but this time clamping down on the drum says his Rebel free-fall unit is the perfect fishing tool, providing and holding the boat at anchor. him a “good, solid anchoring position.” “Once I deploy my anchor and it goes into a free-fall, it’s “I don’t know how many times I’ve been on boats where straight down to the bottom as quick as it can go…” Brelsford [the line is] hanging up, snarling, getting knotted up in the said. “And then, once I set the anchor, I can free-line out as windlass or shredding line.” Brelsford said. much anchor rode as I need: that’s what I call ‘boat position’.” A retired policeman, Capt. Brelsford enjoys his time fishing As an added bonus, the Rebel drum anchor winch is near the coast of St. James City, Fla. on his 37-foot “Nostalgic compatible with an E-Z Anchor Puller wireless long-range Lady”: a 1981 Hatteras Sportfish that carries 300 feet of ⅝-inch remote, which controls your drum anchor winch from rope and 20 feet of heavy-duty chain. After adding a pulpit to anywhere on the boat. Capt. Brelsford purchased his on the his vessel, Capt. Brelsford used to pull up all his rope by hand, wasting time company website, ezanchorpuller.com. and energy on multiple retrieval and deployment attempts as he tried to find “This [unit] here—don’t worry about it—it just rolls right on and keeps on the perfect “boat position.” rollin’. That’s what it is: E-Z!” Unlike E-Z Anchor Puller Mfg. Co’s two direct drive series (the Hero To learn more, call 1-800-800-1640 or visit ezanchorpuller.com. and Patriot series), the Rebel drum anchor winch has a clutch and friction

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22 NATIONAL

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