Coastal Angler Magazine | February 2019 | Northeast Florida

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA EDITION

Tampa's

Treasures

Record-Class

Blackfish Inshore Rigging Tips PHOTO COURTESY OF DARYN ANDREW WHITE VOLUME 23 • ISSUE 288

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LIFE ON THE COAST IS BETTER WHEN YOU STAY CENTERED.

190 FSH SERIES

Make the most of the open water with Yamaha’s 190 FSH® Series. Our all-new 19-foot center console boats have been redesigned from the ground up for more fishing and family fun. A saltwater corrosion resistant driveline protects you from the harshest elements. And with an extra spacious layout and new storage pods to keep all of your gear, the 190 FSH Series will put you in the middle of everything you love about living on the coast. Starting at $29,799.

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FROM SHIP TO SHORE

All trademarks mentioned are owned by, or licensed to, the AkzoNobel group of companies. © AkzoNobel 2018.

© 2 0 1 9 H AVA LO N K N I V E S

AND EVERYWHERE IN BETWEEN.

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For over a century, a league of canned crusaders have been fighting to keep boats safe from barnacles, slime, algae and other aquatic evils that rob your boat of its true performance. With advanced know-how and unique capabilities, each antifouling is tailored to different conditions, and has the power to defeat fouling in all its forms. Micron® WA is a water-based formula that’s powered with advanced Water Activated Matrix technology to efficiently release active ingredients over time for valiant multi-season protection. Micron® WA is easy to apply and clean up, making it ideal for boaters in all waters and regions. For super-powered antifouling protection and proven performance, choose Interlux®.

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Tampa Bay, A Jewel On

Florida’s Gulf Coast By Rosemary J. White

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ampa Bay has some of the very best fishing in the state of Florida, which means it is some of the best fishing in the world. What makes Tampa Bay so unique is the many different varieties of both freshwater and saltwater fish to catch, as well as the many different ways to catch them. If you are not a boat person, Tampa offers the world’s longest fishing pier, the Old Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Here you can catch snook, tarpon, grouper, black sea bass, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, sheepshead, red snapper and pompano. That’s 10 species of highly desirable fish from just one location, without a boat! And if that list alone is not impressive enough, fishing the bridge is convenient, too. You’ll need some specialized gear, but once

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you’ve got it you can drive right onto the pier to your exact sweet spot and unload. It’s also lit at night! There’s no limit as to what time of the day you can fish. Feel like delving into the ocean world a little deeper than a concrete bridge? Tampa Bay boasts the stunning Fort Desoto County Park. Here you can simply slip on a pair of old sneakers and wade into cerulean blue waters and lush seagrass beds. Sound surreal? It is. Wading is a stealthy approach to fishing. In addition to species from the list above, you can also catch redfish, trout and flounder. Looking to fish the deeper waters of the bay? About 45 miles out, the water depths start to reach the 80-foot range. Out here, the possibilities are endless. Varieties of grouper, assortments of snapper, arrays of sharks, blackfin tuna, sailfish, mahi, amberjack, jack crevalle, permit and bonita can be added to the previously mentioned lists of available species. What if you tend to lean more toward the fresh side? Tampa Bay has some of the most diverse freshwater fishing opportunities one can imagine. Use a kayak to quietly glide through the tannic waters of our creeks to catch largemouth bass that grow upwards of 10 pounds. The creeks also hold massive bluegills, crappie, toothy alligator gar, tilapia, catfish and carp. The secret to what makes our freshwater fishing so thrilling is that you never know what you are going to catch. You see, many of our saltwater species inhabit our freshwater, as well. It is not only possible, but it is common to catch a big largemouth and then five minutes later a 15-pound common snook. Tampa Bay offers a temperate climate, direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, artificial reefs, a unique slowly sloping continental shelf, and an abundance of freshwater feeds. From grass flats and mangrove systems in our inshore ecological system, to the deeper channels throughout the bay and Intracoastal Waterway, anglers have the opportunity to catch anything from sharks to Goliath grouper. The potential for the catch of a lifetime exists on every cast.

*At Ma sal inc

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*At participating dealers only. Qualifying retail customers may receive instant savings off the selling price of a Honda powered boat package or Honda Marine engine(s) sold for repower. This promotion is limited to new Honda Marine 40 HP through 250 HP outboard engines, 2014 and newer models, sold and delivered between January 3, 2019 and June 3, 2019 and registered by the Dealer in accordance with American Honda Motor Co., Inc.’s sales registration requirements. Only Honda Marine outboard engines sold for personal use qualify for this promotion. Fleet, commercial & government sales are ineligible. Engines sold under special pricing / promotions including (but not limited to) demo and tournament fisherman engines are also excluded. Honda Marine reserves the right to modify, amend, cancel or revoke, in whole or in part, this promotion at any time without prior notice. © 2019 American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Always wear a COASTALANGLERMAG.COM personal flotation device while boating and read• your owner’s manual. All Honda outboards meet EPA and CARB emissionIlevels. THEANGLERMAG.COM I FEBRUARY 2019 NATIONAL 7

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NauticStar Introduces

SEE IT AT THE MIAMI INTL BOAT SHOW BOOTH A237 The 251 Hybrid offers a fresh new look and a new 25-foot model to NauticStar’s very successful hybrid lineup. This unique multipurpose vessel offers the perfect size and features for a family friendly pleasure boat and a tournament ready fishing platform. NauticStar has also moved into the 30-foot plus category with its

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newest member of the family: the 32 XS Offshore. This outstanding saltwater performer delivers all the necessary fishing features for the serious angler with a smooth, dry, comfortable ride with cutting edge styling and comfort features never before seen in a boat of this style and size. With its 10’ 6” beam, the 32 XS Offshore offers a spacious and comfortable bow that features large forward lounge seating with arm rests and plush wrap-around bow seats. The head console has a fully lined interior with a sink, SeaDek floor and electric flush toilet. It has a spacious and ergonomic helm to allow for dual 12-inch or 16inch multifunction displays. The leaning post features ergonomically correct Llebrock double billfish seats with flip-up bolsters and pivot arms. It has a sink, tackle storage, and a slide-out, 35-quart YETI cooler. The D-channel, integrated T-top can be fitted with a variety of options such as a retractable shade and fold-down cockpit television. Aft, the jump seats flip-up for a spacious fishing deck with sizable, infloor fish boxes and large port side dive door. “Engineered for exceptional reliability and performance, the new 32 XS Offshore carries forward NauticStar’s 100-percent wood-free construction and one-piece foam filled fiberglass stringer system,” said Ryan Witt, director of engineering. “Additionally, we’ve added some great new design features such as sculpted hull sides, a sideentry cockpit door, and large insulated in-floor fish boxes. The 32 XS Offshore also features cutting edge technologies with NaviOP digital vessel control system and Klipsch custom-tuned audio system.” “I am very proud of the team and all they have accomplished over the past year,” Schiek added. “These new models are truly exciting and we look forward to introducing many great new models in the future.” The 251 Hybrid and 32 XS Offshore will be on display in Miami at booth A237 and available for test rides in the Yamaha in-water display. For more information on each of NauticStar’s new model introductions, please visit: 195 Bay - https://nauticstarboats. com/boats/nauticbay-boats/195-nauticbay/ 251 Hybrid - https:// nauticstarboats.com/boats/hybrids/251-hybrid/

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auticStar Boats, a subsidiary of MasterCraft Boat Holdings, Inc., has been reinvesting in the business at an accelerated pace, specifically, modernizing the plant and developing leading edge new products. The Company launched the new 195 Bay Boat in August, followed by the 251 Hybrid in September and will debut its largest offshore model yet, the 32 XS Offshore, at the Miami International Boat Show. “To say we have been busy at NauticStar is an understatement,” NauticStar President Tim Schiek said in a statement. “We have assembled a strong team of marine experts focused on delivering the highest quality and best performing boats in their segment. This is not only driving continuous improvement in our boat building processes, but throughout the entire organization. We have also implemented a more disciplined product development process that is delivering more new products, at a faster cadence, with increased consumer insights and innovation that ultimately will deliver the best boating experience for our consumers at a reasonable price.”

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

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Get A First Look At Miami International Boat Show

THE ALL NEW

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NAUTICSTAR’S

251 HYBRID

Three Exciting New Models!


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With its sleek lines and stylish contours, the new 251 Hybrid offers a fresh new look and a 25 foot addition to the NauticStar Hybrid lineup. This unique multi-purpose vessel offers the perfect size and features for a family friendly pleasure boat and a tournament ready fishing platform. If you need a serious fishing machine for yourself or a boat with enough room for a large crowd, the 251 Hybrid is the boat for you! Check out all the incredible features of the 251 on our website and design the boat of your dreams.

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By Tom Schlichter

Winter Bulldogs Out Of Ocean City, Maryland By Tom Schlichter

Ron McClelland caught this 24-pound blackfish aboard the Fish Bound out of Ocean City, Md. in April of 2018. Mate Kevin Twilley helps hoist the beast. Photo courtesy of Fish Bound Charters.

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enneth Westerfeld was expecting a big blackfish when he set up on a solid, single-tug while wreck fishing out of Ocean City, Md. back in January of 2015. What he wasn’t expecting was a new International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record at the end of the line.

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“We were into big blackfish right off the bat,” explained the Queens, N.Y. angler, “and I knew immediately when I set the hook that this was a double-digit white chin. I got three quick turns on the reel and then all I could do was hold the rod high and tight while she dove for the wreck. More than half way to the top, however, she got a second wind and tore 40 feet of line from my drag, which was nearly locked tight. I couldn’t believe the power. That’s when I knew this one was more than special.” When the monstrous bulldog finally hit the deck, Westerfeld was stunned by its size. Back at Sunset Marina in Ocean City, the huge white chin officially tipped the scales at 28 pounds, 8 ounces. That blackfish, still the all tackle world record for the tough-lipped bottom feeders, was decked aboard Capt. Kane Bounds’ six-pack charter boat Fish Bound, a vessel on which Westerfeld has taken several ’teen-sized bulldogs over the years. “I’m convinced there’s even bigger blackfish in Maryland waters,” he said. “A couple of years ago, an experienced SCUBA diver reported seeing two giant blackfish on an offshore reef there—the smaller one he estimated at 30 pounds.” Capt. Kane agrees that bigger fish probably lurk in the 80- to 150-foot depths where he concentrates most of his blackfish efforts. “I think our ’tog have a little longer growing season than up north,” he reasoned. “That makes a difference with a fish that can live more than 30 years. In 2017 alone, we had five that broke the 20-pound mark. Three of those were released.” You’ll want to fish heavy in these waters if giant ’tog are your target. Bounds recommended conventional outfits with smooth drags and 50- to 60-pound test braided lines. He also goes big on hooks, choosing 5/0 and 6/0 sizes over more traditional 3/0 and 4/0 selections. Expect to need 8 to 12 ounces of lead to get to the bottom. Monster blackfish bite right through the winter months, with many of the largest fish decked each year in February, March and April. Westerfeld advised anglers looking for the blackfish of a lifetime to use fluorocarbon leaders no matter which rigs or hooks they choose. “Maryland’s waters are pretty clear in the winter and low visibility fluorocarbon leaders really provide an edge,” he said. “Seaguar’s 60-lb. test Blue Label fluorocarbon leaders have worked well for me. They have great abrasion resistance and impact strength, plus very little stretch—three things you really need with these brutes.” To fish with Capt. Kane on the six-passenger Fish Bound, contact: www. fishboundcharter.com; 443-497-1361. Open boat fans can check out the Morning Star (http://morningstarfishing.com; 410-520-2076).

COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

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Central Florida Bass Are On The Beds By Nick Carter • Photo by Brett Cannon

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hile largemouth bass across much of the country remain hunkered down in a winter pattern, bass in central Florida are running full tilt in all three stages of the spawn. Right now tournament angler and guide Ricky Congero is wearing out big Florida strain largemouths on the eight Kissimmee Chain lakes around Orlando. Whether you’re an angler in need of a road trip or if you’re sitting in an easy chair waiting on your reservoir to get right, Congero’s tactics might help steer you to the largemouth of a lifetime. Starting in November and December, Kissimmee largemouths begin staging up in prespawn behaviors. The first big waves of fish hit the flats toward the end of January. They’ll move in and out with the passage of cold fronts, but from January into early March there will be fish in all stages of the spawn. The key to locating them among miles of thick vegetation is to find hard-bottomed shallow flats. “You can pattern them year-round based on the spawning flats,” Congero said. “During prespawn, they’ll be staged in the first grass maybe

100 yards off those flats. Postspawn, they’ll move out into the dense hydrilla and hyacinth.” Congero starts by covering water with moving baits like swim jigs and Chatterbaits in search of bass preparing to move up. When the smaller males arrive on the flats to fan out beds, it’s an indicator that fishing is about to get very good. “If you start catching a bunch of young bucks on the flats, the big females won’t be far behind,” he said. In the tannic waters of the Kissimmee lakes, it’s difficult to spot fish on the bed. Instead of sight fishing, Congero looks for the locations big females prefer. “You always find the bigger females bedded on isolated pads, as opposed to the big clumps of pads,” he said. “They’ll spawn right at the base of the stem.” And while heavy braid and heavy-duty tackle are mainstays for hossing big fish out of thick vegetation, fishing beds requires stealth and finesse. Sizing down to 17- or 20-pound fluorocarbon, Congero likes a short 5- or 6-inch Senko. A staple on the Kissimmee lakes is black with a blue tail. He Texas rigs it with 1-ounce tungsten bullet weight, which is pegged to the head of the worm. This allows him to feel when his bait hits the stalk, at which time he lets it sit on the bottom until the bass picks it up. “Don’t set the hook as soon as you feel her pick it up,” he warned. “She might just have the tail in her mouth and you’ll come back with half a worm. Wait until she’s swimming off with it. Reel up all the slack and give her a second or two before you set it.” For a guided trip, contact Congero at (973) 6998981 or email info@blackcloudfishing.com. Follow him on Instagram @Ricky_Congero.

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VISIT AND Visit andEXPLORE Explore Burnsville, NC Burnsville, N.C.

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hether you’re hiking, exhibits. The restaurant, conces- through Yancey fishing or camping sion stand and gift shop are open County. hether you’re hiking, fishing or Mountains and the South Toe in the mountains or May thru a fun camping in the mountains, at- October. River Campground Valley. StretchingEnjoy nearly has 9 tent sites only. attending a performance at Parkfilled day on tending a performance at Parkway 500 miles through the mountains the Playhouse ororcoming North Virginia way Playhouse comingtotothe theMt. Mitchell Winding of along the Carolina southern and water, catching Crafts Fair Crafts or Carolina Literary without a single red light, Mt. Mitchell Fair orMountains Caro- edge of Yancey County, the Blue the the fishBlue native to Festival, there’sLiterary alwaysFestival, a good day waiting Ridge one of the best lina Mountains Ridge Parkway givesParkway travelersisan our mountains. for you in Burnsville, North Carolina, espe- scenic drives in America. there’s always a good day waiting amazing view of the Black MounWe is guarantee cially for travelers who like to discover their The Blue Ridge Parkway the forown youjourney. in Burnsville, North Car- tains and the South Toe River your fishing only access to Mount Mitchell County is home State Park at Hwy andwill mileolina, Yancey especially for travelers whoto waterfalls, Valley. Stretching for nearly 500128trip be full campgrounds, hiking post It’s five miles sumSnakeroot Ecotours offers custom tours like to discover theirbackroads, own journey. milestrails, through the355. mountains of to of the fish-catching clean rivers, and six the 10tohighest peaks mit. and The Parkway by Civilian Con-Observation at Mount State Park. of one ofplatform the wildest andMitchell most scenic corNorth Carolina Virginia was – built Yancey County is ofhome experiences! in the eastern United States. servation Corps labor in the 1930s. Workers ners of Western North Carolina. They invite and not one single redlight – the waterfalls, campgrounds, backToe River, Located in southern Yancey County, used dynamite to blast tunnels through the you into astoundingly Southern diverse Appalachian habitatsMounand Blue Ridge Parkway is one the a Carolina roads, hiking trails,(6,684 clean feet) rivers,is the Hemlocks, Black Mount Mitchell highest mountains andofcarve road through rough, and reveal the mysteries of the Southern Appatains. More info at www.snakemountain of the peaks Mississippi River. It drives remote terrain. The Parkway rises to an el- lachian scenic in America. and six of theeast 10 highest in best Mountain Campgrounds are all lo-Mountains. See more info at www. rootecotours.com. was designated North evation over 5,000 as it off passes through snakerootecotours.com. Blue Ridge Parkway is thefeetcated Eastern America. the first state park in The Highway 80 in the South The Burnsville-Yancey ChamCarolina in 1916. Today it features an obYancey County. Located in southern Yancey only access to Mount Mitchell Toe River area of Yancey County. servation platform on the summit next to Enjoy a fun-filled day on the water, The Burnsville-Yancey Chamber of ber of Commerce and Visitor State Park at catching Hwy 128the andfish mileCounty, Mount Mitchell (6,684 State Park and and Visitor Center is located at Elisha Mitchell’s grave and an interpretive nativeMount to ourMitchell mountains. Commerce Center is located at 106 West Main post 355. It’s miles to thefishing feet) is the highest mountain East Crabtree Meadows by Main Street in Burnsville. Inside museum with historical and environmental Wefive guarantee your trip will be full are of accessed 106 West findofa inforhelpful The restaurant, standThe Parkway fish-catching experiences! was built by the Blue Ridge Parkway. you’ll find aStreet. of exhibits. the Mississippi River. It wasconcession des- summit. helpfulInside staff you’ll and lots and gift are park openinMay through River, Carolina Hemlocks andEcotours Black offers staff and lotslodging, of information mation shopping,on CCCOctolabor in theToe 1930s. Workers ignated the shop first state North Snakeroot cus-on attractions, ber. Theincampground limited to used only nine Mountain are all located off dining and local businesses and services. The attractions, lodging, shopping, dynamite to blastcampgrounds tunnels tom Carolina 1916. Today itisfeatures tours of area one of of the wildest tent sites. Highway 80 in the South Toe River Visitor Center and office are open Monday& dining, and local businesses through the mountains and carve an observation platform on the most scenic cornersthrough of West-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call Winding along the southern edge of Yancey County. Mountand Mitchell State Park road through rough, remote ter- ern summit to Elisha services. Visitor Center and office Carolina. Yanceynext County, the Mitchell’s Blue Ridge a Parkway and Crabtree Meadows areNorth accessed by theWe invite (828) you 682-7413. givesand travelers an amazing view ofrain. the Black Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway rises to an ele- into astoundingly diverse habitats open Monday thru Friday 9am to grave, an interpretive museum with historical and environmental vation over 5,000 feet as it passes and reveal the mysteries of the 5pm. Call (828) 682-7413.

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More than 1,400 boats—in water and on land, over 1,100 exhibitors, new boat models and product debuts, demo docks, marine electronics pavilion. Miami’s hottest fishing spot. Catch everything from sport fishing yachts, center consoles, dual consoles, downeast boats, express fishing boats, bay boats, and walkarounds from all the top brands, plus a Sportfishing Pavilion packed with fishing tackle, accessories, clothing and more.

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THE ALTERNATIVE TO BUYING A NEW BOAT

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hat a wild, wet and woolly week it was for the fleet fishing the Pelican Yacht Club Invitational Billfish Tournament out of Fort Pierce, Fla. Jan. 9-12. First, the fleet of 30 fishing teams crushed all the records for the 39th annual tournament, and for the 65-year history of sailfish tournaments fished in eastern Florida waters. The final tally was 969 sailfish caught and released. The tournament’s second day of action wound up being the single best day in sailfish tournament history for any event fished north of Palm Beach County in waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A total of 712 sailfish were caught and released by the 27 boats on the water that day. The top three boats that day accounted for 121 sailfish by themselves — JT, led by Capt. Mark McDevitt, had 41 sailfish; Cowpoke, led by Capt. Mike Brady, had 40 sailfish; Alikai, led by Capt. Patrick Price, had 40 sailfish. The 41 by JT, owned by David Johnson of Beach Haven, N.J., stands as the new record for the tournament for a boat in a single day. Consider also that tournament rules stipulate fishing time as 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. But since the boat departed Fort Pierce Inlet each day, and the sailfish were concentrated in an area north of Patrick Air Force Base and south of Port Canaveral’s main channel some 45-50 miles north, tournament boats were forced to sacrifice up to 1:45 of fishing time each day just to reach the best fishing. But when they did, they were rewarded, at least for two days. The event began Jan. 9 when Grand Slam, led by Capt. David Grubbs

of New Smyrna Beach, sat down on an area so packed with hungry sailfish that it looked like a feeding frenzy under his boat. Grubbs felt it was going to yield some fish, and ran there because he knew it would produce bites. Few, if any, in the fleet knew his plan. By noon, the cat was out of the bag. Big time. He wound up with a Treasure Coast area then single-day record 38 sailfish catches that day and a substantial lead on his competitors, known to be some of the best sailfish skippers in the western hemisphere. Teams racked up catches of an incredible 86 double-headers, 45 triples and 15 quads. It was truly staggering. On Jan. 10 the fleet followed the leader, Grubbs and crew, to the fertile fishing grounds off the Space Coast and helped him achieve something many experienced sailfish specialists thought could only be accomplished in Mexico or Costa Rica. The captains called it epic and incredible, unbelievable and amazing. But it wouldn’t last. On Jan. 11 the fish had either scattered a bit, moved back north out of range, or simply quit biting, like fish of any species do. The fleet of 27 fishing that day picked up “just” 93 releases. Saturday, with a smaller fleet fishing because of lay days mandated by tournament rules, those numbers dwindled more. The final day anglers tallied only 29 releases, reminiscent of the season’s start in December when sailfish bites were very hard to come by.

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Close Encounters of the Shark Kind By John Lidington

A diver observes a reef shark near Shark Canyon. In natural encounters, when sharks are not being fed, they rarely approach divers much closer than this.

“K

atharine the Giant Great White Shark Lurks Off Florida — Again” If Katharine was here, as the South Florida SunSentinal announced on Nov. 26, winter was on its way. Usually this snowbird shark from Cape Cod arrives first, and being a great white, she always makes the news. For divers, though, her arrival means the migrating lemon and blacktip sharks are on the way. It’s shark time for Florida’s Gold Coast! When I started diving in the 1960s, the arrival of sharks meant the departure of divers. Prevailing wisdom held that sharks were dangerous and unpredictable and should be avoided. That outlook on sharks began to change in the 70s. Scientists, such as the University of Miami’s Dr. Samuel Gruber, had turned shark behavior into a major study area. H. David Baldridge analyzed data from more than 1,500 cases in the worldwide shark attack file established by Dr. Perry Gilbert to identify the real factors behind shark “attacks.” The emerging picture showed an animal superbly adapted to its environment by its 400-million-year existence in the oceans. Man, as a newcomer to their world, was not seen as food, and usually ignored. In his 1974 book “Shark Attack,” Baldridge wrote: “I wish not to generate any

fear of sharks in the mind of any reader, yet a healthy respect for these beautifully adapted beasts would appear to be justified…” It took the PR genius of Jacques Cousteau to popularize this science and help dispel unnecessary fear of sharks. The air of authority gained from his highly regarded TV series lent credence to his book “The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea,” in which he documented divers regularly interacting with sharks. Sharks were becoming accepted in the diving world. But there was a bump in the road. At the same time “Shark Attack” appeared, Peter Benchley published Jaws. His depiction of sharks as malevolent killing machines was promptly translated to visual form in Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation. The impressions from those twin horror assaults did eventually fade, but for quite a while it was the rare diver who didn’t experience flashbacks of huge toothy mouths while doing back entries. The twenty-first century has seen divers’ attitudes shift even more favorably toward sharks. Today many divers want to encounter sharks. They regularly visit sites naturally frequented by sharks in hopes of diving alongside these majestic fish. When diving Jupiter during the winter shark migration, your chances for shark encounters skyrocket! According to Shana Phelan of Singer Island’s Pura Vida Divers, “The most common sharks we see year round are nurse sharks, reef sharks and lemons. Our most active shark months are in the winter, with lemons in January and blacktips in January and February. Winter sightings are most likely at Shark Canyon and on some of the wrecks.” Shark Canyon, here I come! Pura Vida Divers hosts regular shark dives in February. To learn more about these awesome creatures, book a PADI Shark Conservation Specialty Diver class, or hop aboard their next charter. Contact Pura Vida Divers at 561-840-8750 or visit www.PuraVidaDivers.com.

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By Craig Sutton

F

ishingNosara’s celebration of its tenth season of fishing continues, and as always the action in northwest Costa Rica is unbelievable. All five boats are in the water and scoring big for guests with 72 trips this month. Yellowfin tuna and dorado are the staple catch this time of year, but in December we welcomed swarms of marlin in the mix. The team nabbed 19 marlin releases, 47 sailfish releases, 209 dorado, 106 yellowfin tuna and nine roosterfish releases. The catch of the month came on Dec. 30 as the Discoverer nabbed a monster 350-pound blue marlin. Angler Bob Brescia battled this beastie all the way to a safe re-

lease and then followed up with two nice sailfish releases. They also added a tasty dorado for the dinner table. Amazing work all around by Capt. Carlos and the big battleship! Capt. David on the 23-foot Adventurer fished every day from Dec. 20-28 and scored a wide variety of great fish for his clients. Yellowfin tuna were in the mix, even though we aren’t anywhere close to their peak season. It’s a great sign to see these football-sized “yella fellas” this close to shore this early in the year. The 27-foot Explorer also proves that you don’t need a big boat to catch big fish in Costa Rica. Capt. Fico and Mate Elias have grown into master fishermen and their skills continue to sharpen every time they hit the water. The consistent dorado action continued for the Explorer at the end of the year. It’s great to see that the well-established patterns are continuing for our fishery, and there is no shortage of late-season mahi on the menu Capt. Alex of the 32-foot mega-panga Harvester welcomed Gage Bonestroo and his son for a fun day of catching on Jan. 7. Big dorado kept these boys busy, and it’s always fun to see a young angler enjoying the craft of sport fishing. Here’s what Gage had to say: “Took my 6-year-old son on his first offshore fishing trip with Alex on the Harvester. It was one hell of a day! Captain and first mate worked hard to put us on fish… and they did! Great lunch and friendly crew. Thanks, Craig for a seamless experience. Top notch.” Laura Blair and her family scored five sailfish releases on Dec. 27. “We had an awesome time! Capt. Carlos and Kevin were an excellent team and provided top-tier service as we landed a tuna and five sailfish. We had some great tuna sashimi and seared tuna steaks provided by the fish my daughter caught within the first 10 minutes of putting the lines out! Thanks again, Laura Blair.” If you have been reading this report for a while and waiting for the right time to visit, stop reading and call ASAP at 904-591-2161 or e-mail craig@fishingnosara.com so we can make your fishing dreams a reality.

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By Steve Wayne f you have been living under a box of Whopper Ploppers and were unaware of the recent changes in professional bass fishing, the Bassmaster Elite Series roster of professional anglers has changed. With the newly created Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour, many Elite Series pros left the Elite Series in order to compete in the newly formed Bass Pro Tour. The Elite Series responded with a reduction of their tour roster to 75 anglers and welcomed many new faces. Here’s a lineup of the Florida Bass pros competing in the upcoming 2019 Elite Series. Who will you root for? • Drew Benton, of Panama City: The 2018 BASS Elite Series Lake Travis champion has amassed nearly $300,000 in winnings since 2016. Expect Benton to do very well in 2019 as he is beaming with confidence from a very successful 2018 season. • Drew Cook, of Midway: A BASS Opens qualifier, Cook had two top-three finishes during the 2018 season of the BASS Opens Series. He has had a good bit of success fishing a variety of waters outside of Florida. Expect him to be a contender for Elite Series Rookie of the Year. • Koby Kreiger, of Bokeelia: This seasoned

I

Florida pro Drew Benton with the BASS Elite Series 2018 Lake Travis Champion trophy. BASS Photo.

2 NORTH FLORIDA

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pro returns to the Elite Series after fishing the 2018 season on the FLW Tour. Kreiger has big-league experience and should fare well in both smallmouth and largemouth fisheries. • Kyle Monti, of Okeechobee: A second-year Elite Series pro, Monti returns after a season-high 34th-place finish at Grand Lake. Monti cut his teeth bass fishing on Lake Okeechobee, so expect him to do well at the first Elite Series stop on the St. Johns River in Florida and grass filled Lake Guntersville later in the season. • Cliff Prince, of Palatka: This veteran Elite Series pro returns with seven top-10 Elite Series finishes. Prince should be the odds-on favorite to do well if not win on his home waters of the St. Johns River Feb. 7-10. • Bernie Schultz, of Gainesville: This veteran Rapala pro has amassed over $1.2 million in Elite Series winnings. Schultz is deadly with everything from a spinning rod to a flipping stick. Watch him to do well in 2019. • Jessie Tacoronte, of Orlando: This second-year Elite Series pro returns after missing the 2018 season due to shoulder surgery. Look for Tacorente to bounce back after a sub-par first season. He should be healthy and ready to go for 2019.

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

A

s a young boy growing up in a small town, being outdoors was the thing to do, and fishing was my favorite pastime. I have vivid memories of biking to ponds and creeks with my buddies and trips to the Texas coast with my family. When I wasn’t fishing, I watched fishing on TV. Hank Parker was one I tuned in on regular basis. So, you can imagine how humbled I was when I met Mr. Parker with my two sons. My youngest gave him the age-old trick of, high-five, down low, too slow! Mr. Parker doubled over laughing.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have published articles in a national fishing magazine, for which I am truly grateful to Coastal Angler. Nor did I imagine someday I would design and manufacture my own line of fishing lures. Without fishing, none of this would have been realized. Since we are in the season of giving, give the gift of fishing to a child so they can have similar memories. On a recent trip, I took both of my boys, 5 and 7, fishing in the kayak. This was a lure-only trip. The boys wanted to get some casting practice, and they wanted to trick a fish on Dad’s lures. The tides had been relatively high for the past several weeks, and I had been catching some good reds on one particular flat. The area had some small islands and a grass flat that tapered off to a cove that was about 6 feet deep. I explained to my boys the lay of the bay and explained how some areas had drains or slightly deeper channels that drained off the flat and into a cove. These were the areas where we would cast because the fish would use them like roads as the tide was falling. I explained it was like a leaf floating down a river. Once they selected the color of lure they wanted to throw, I strategically anchored the kayak in a position where they both had the opportunity to fish the area properly. It wasn’t long before we had the first fish, a 16-inch trout. After a few more trout for both, the excitement really began. My youngest hooked into a 7-pound red! The fish took him 360 degrees around the kayak, tangled in his brother’s line, and went under the anchor rope! After the fish was landed, we took a few photos and I continued to show them the value of catch and release, which we did with all fish that day. To say that I am a proud father is an understatement. In 2018, my oldest landed his largest trout, which weighed more than 5 pounds, and my youngest caught his largest red! Take a kid fishing and let them make their own memories. You never know where it might take them. Captain Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Controlled Descent Lures and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

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Fishing Report & Forecast Mayport

JO

T

F

Capta

By Capt. Kirk Waltz

he dead of winter has surely grabbed the Northern Forty-Eight and I am sure many folks are starting to get a case of cabin fever. North Florida is no exception and has its fair share of cold weather. That being said, it doesn’t mean you have to become a certified coach potato. Good fishing does exist this time of the year and it can be fast –n- furious. Remember cold water and associated weather slows down the metabolism of fish so when you can fish do so slowly. Good numbers of reds, though many will be 14-17 inches, will school up in creeks and shallow areas to absorb heat from the sun. Small jigs tipped with small shrimp, fiddler crabs, and mud minnows work well. Look for shell bars, rock piles, and pot holes in creek bends. The ICW south and north are great areas to hunt. Try Sherman’s Creek, Chicopit Bay, Dutton’s Creek and further south as far as Cabbage and San Pablo Creeks to the JTB Bridge. North try Sisters, Clapboard, Hannah Mills, Garden, and Broward creeks to name a few. Try working these creeks on a mid low falling tide. And remember to fish slowly. Reds, sheepshead, trout, bluefish, and black drum will be the most predominate species you will encounter. In the big river to the jetties look for the big black drum to slowly begin to show up. Outgoing tides at the bottom of the tide when it slows are great as well as the very top of the flood too! A good fresh piece of cut blue crab is by far the best bait but, a nice jumbo fresh shrimp can be just as productive. Fish on the bottom checking the edges of hard breaks and steep drops in river elevation. The edges of both the north and south jetties are great too and can provide some decent catches. In many instances you can also pick up some very large sheepshead and bull reds in this fashion. The big stones or jetties at Mayport are one of my favorite go to places this time of year. Good numbers of sheepshead, reds, drum, ringtails, 4 NE FLORIDA

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blues, and trout hang around the inlet rocks feeding on small crabs, shrimp, and available bait fish. Jigs, float rigs, and the old sliding egg sinker rig can produce great results. I like a 7’6” Penn Allegiance II rod with 3500 Penn Spinfisher VI spooled with 20lb braid. This rod is perfect for sensitive light bites and allows the angler to feel the slightest nibble. Work the lower tides around clear water conditions and at times check it at the high outgoing too! Good numbers of multiple species can be caught on nice warm weather calm conditions. These high pressure “bubble days” are great days to plan an outing and hop off that big warm couch! This is also prime sheepshead and ringtail fishing during this time of the year. Fiddlers and small shrimp are best and a little chum can go a long way too! For the chum just purchase a small amount of oysters at the bait shop. Take a 5 gallon bucket and dump the oysters into it. Grab a 5 pound hammer or a solid piece of pipe and crush it into real small pieces. The small pieces will contain little chunks of shellfish that when dispersed can really ring the dinner bell for fish feeding close by. It’s a great way to get the fish fired up. The offshore scene will be red hot on the sea bass front. Look for great numbers of black sea bass to move in closer as the water cools. Try all the local party ground spots for a limit of these great tasting fish. The hard bottom spots are usually the better ones to check first. Try putting down a bottom rig with cut squid, cigars, Boston mackerel, and sardines for fast and furious action. Visit us on the Outdoors Show radio program every Saturday from 7 am to 10 am on 1010am or 92.5fm for the latest in weather, tides, and fishing forecasts. For charters and info go to www. Enterprisefishingcharters.com or call 904.214.7560 or 904.626.1128.

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NE Trophy Bass -February Marks Trophy Bass Seaso By Bob McNally

T

here is a boat load of angling tactics when targeting Northeast Florida trophy largemouth bass, however the time of year is more

to be your priority. double-digit Florida largemouth bass, while a select group of seasoned produced super mild weather conditions, promising some of Florida’s season begins in late January and runs right through the month of May. However, a key time to target large female bass will come during the full moon of February, which occurs on February 19th. Way back in time during the 1997 River City bass Tournament, Gary Pittman weighed in seven bass that tipped the tournament scales at 40.11-pounds. Gary caught his winning catch while working a plastic

includes pitching to small open pockets of water in the grass

river and bass lake shorelines that harbor shallow sandy weed “Every trophy bass has its own personality,” Gary Pittman

variety of bass lures, however the plastic tube lure has to be m in the shad, white, or purple color patterns. A second choice

with a 5/0 bass hook and depending on the bass cover, attach to 1-ounce bullet weight onto my bass line. Obviously the th cover, the heavier the worm weight I will pitch with.” Lots of skill is also needed when detecting strikes from tro during the spawning season when bass will typically pick up

strike. “I would have to say that I fee one out of ten trophy bass strike the spawning season,” Gary Pitt said. “Most of my strikes are de actually watching large female b

clear areas of the lake or rivers s you can not only locate trophy b also see giant female bass strike lures.”

244

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/19 3:55 PM

JOSFC - February Captain Trina M. Polkey

F

ood, fun and fellowship was had by all at the December Christmas meeting. Ham, turkey and member specialties were all on the menu. With a single winner for the Lure Tree one lucky participant took home three buckets of lures.

We will have the Big Red Bus at the clubhouse for a blood drive. Please join us for a good time and

LO AD in Northeast Florida. M Plocated S Oare located on privat RI lakes these Z F whichEmakes S! it even better if I c permission to access the lake. I

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access the shallow portion of th save a life. where bass are more than likely March 9th, El Cheapo Sheepshead Tournament (https:// to a small Northeast Florida lak www.elcheapojax.com/). Come Hannah took the plunge into the join us for the largest Sheepshead I noticed a huge female bass lay “icy” St. Johns. Tradition dictates tournament in the world, and one log in her sandy bed. I tried cat that a JOSFC member is thrown with a variety of lures, without s in the USA. We open the doors around 6:00 MAYPORT FLORIDA a small jig right in front of her f catching three in one day on a late if you want to come early to visit, bass was megaton! dinner at 7:00, and we generally December outing. Deadly trophy bassistechnique involves coaching large wild shiners to swim deep under a variety of aquatic tryThe to get started with the meeting one of Northeast Florida’s best month for targeting trophy quickly set the hook before she sp January 17th was our annual vegetations. month of February is considered 7:30, and have mark. a Swap Party. Folks broughtlargemouth their about Immediately the big bass swam o bass weighing overwe the will ten-pound Carolina Skiff “extra” gear to the clubhouse for water, turned and jumped. Her m JVX 18 Center Console a little horse trading. As they are open to the public, you do not Suzuki 4 Stroke have to be a member attend.inWe say, one person’s “extra”crawdad gear is with a tantalizing slow to retrieve an area of the St. John’s clearly see the jig hook barely gripping her tremendous mou Magic Tilt Trailer family so to feel free toPitman’s career largest bass another’s dream rig, or something River whereare bass werefriendly beginning spawn. bring the kiddos! If they areduring a little the month ofEarly like that (that could be just me). 14.12-pounds weighed and was taken February I’m guessing between 14-15 pounds. Entry have Feeweighed. Only $100 PER BOAT Reels, rods, rope and anchor balls too young to appreciate the guest for more info & registration: were just some of the gear looking speaker, please bring them a quiet purchase a replica mount which will last for eternity. For cur www.elcheapojax.com activity to do at the table with you. for a new home larger female bass move onto the beds to spawn,” Gary Pittman said. hope toduring see you there! Upcoming: “Clear waterWe is critical the early spawning season as clean water Our next regularly scheduled typically warms up faster than stained water.”

March 9th 2019 GRAND PRIZE:

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Fishing Report & Forecast St. Augustine Inshore By Capt. Tommy Derringer

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et ready for some of the most exciting fishing our area has to offer this month… its sight-fishing time! Well let’s hope so… at report time we’ve had some serious rainfall amounts to start off the winter. The water has been murkier than normal, making sight-fishing conditions tough. But hopefully after a few more cold snaps the water temps will get into the low 50s, which will mean clearer water and great sightfishing conditions. The reds will be schooling up big time in the clearer, cold water. Not only will the redfish be schooled up but the black drum, sheepshead, and trout will be as well. When trying to locate the schooled-up reds, start on the lower tide stages (a negative low tide is even better) as it tends to get the reds more grouped up. Flats and creeks with an abundance of oyster bars and dark mud are great places to look. Something else I’ve noticed over the years is that redfish tend to hang out in areas where the small mullet are this time of year. There’s not a ton of baitfish around right now, but if you find them, you’ll most likely find the reds as well. Another area to look for schooled-up reds is in the back of some of the bigger creeks off the ICW. Just about all the creeks from Palm Valley to Mantanzas Inlet will hold a good amount of reds this time of year. Slowly make your way as far back as possible,

closely eyeing around the exposed oyster bars on the low tide and you’re more than likely going to run into some big reds. I really love to toss artificial baits at the redfish this time of year. My go-to setup is a paddle tail called a Lil Boss by Saltwater Assassin rigged on an 1/8oz Saltwater Assassin jighead. It seems to be the right size and is small enough to not spook the fish when casted near them. It’s nice to toss the paddle tails in a lighter color like white or chartreuse this time of year because you are able to clearly see where your lure is in the water in relation to the fish which makes sight-fishing that much easier. If targeting drum or trout, fish the deeper holes in the creeks and the ICW. There will be a lot of nice slot-sized drum around, but the trout have been a little on the smaller side. The drum will readily eat fresh dead shrimp or crab on the bottom while the trout will like some more lively. My go-to setups for trout right now are a free-lined live shrimp or a paddle tail like mentioned above. Whether you’re fishing for drum or trout if you find one you’re probably in the right spot to catch some more as they too tend to school in big numbers this month. The sheepshead bite has been good the past few months and should continue to go strong. The old faithful fiddler crab on a fishfinder rig will account for quite a few catches, but one less popular, but effective way to catch the real monster “heads” is to use a halved or quartered blue crab, especially at our inlet rocks. …Tight Lines! Capt. Tommy Derringer 904-377-3734 www.InshoreAdventures.net

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Serving Up More.

Fishing Report & Forecast Nassau Sound By Capt. Tony Bozzella

A

lthough we are limited what we can fish for, February can be great for shallow water red fishing. Backcountry waters of North Fl. can be at its clearest point of the year. Mid afternoons on the mud flats when the wind and sun cooperate, can be very productive. Mud minnows & shrimp paired with the lightest TBS Jig, fishing around

mid to the last of the outgoing tide around the rips coming off the oyster bars can be outstanding. Through up current and stay in tune with your bait as it may roll with the tidal movement. Polling at this time can also be very productive. Slipping up on a backing or tailing redfish, again, mid day when suns overhead and wind minimal, can be a great experience. Fly anglers can take advantage of this time of year as well. Many times you may have a shot at a tasty Sheephead or Black Drum. Shrimp is a good choice and they will be in these areas. Anglers wanting trout should start out soaking shrimp/ Muds in some of the deeper holes and bends of creeks with moving water for best results. Many trout will be below the 15 inch minimum. If the standard float rigs is not your style, throw a bright colored soft plastic when the sun is out and a darker color when overcast and slow roll, keeping in contact, on the bottom. Reds Blues and flounder can be in the mix. Dress warm and fish!!

Capt. Tony Bozzella / TBS JIGS www.tonybozzella.com 904 651 0182

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NE Trophy Bass -February Marks Trophy Bass Season By Bob McNally

T

includes pitching to small open pockets of water in the grass. Some of his best trophy bass fishing comes from shallow sloughs off from the river and bass lake shorelines that harbor shallow sandy weed bottoms. “Every trophy bass has its own personality,” Gary Pittman explains. “That’s why I carry a variety of bass tackle on board my fishing boat, including spinning and casting tackle. I prefer the fluorocarbon fishing lines testing from ten to twenty-pound test. I also bass fish with a variety of bass lures, however the plastic tube lure has to be my favorite in the shad, white, or purple color patterns. A second choice would be a plastic crawfish in the same color patterns. I rig the soft plastic lures with a 5/0 bass hook and depending on the bass cover, attach a 3/16 to 1-ounce bullet weight onto my bass line. Obviously the thicker the cover, the heavier the worm weight I will pitch with.” Lots of skill is also needed when detecting strikes from trophy bass during the spawning season when bass will typically pick up a lure with their mouth and drop it off from their bed with little if any signs of a strike. “I would have to say that I feel only one out of ten trophy bass strikes during the spawning season,” Gary Pittman said. “Most of my strikes are detected by actually watching large female bass mouth my bass lure. That is why it’s extremely important to fish for spawning bass in clear areas of the lake or rivers so that you can not only locate trophy bass, but also see giant female bass strike your bass lures.” One of my favorite winter bass fishing patterns includes fishing small lakes located in Northeast Florida. Many of these lakes are located on private property which makes it even better if I can get permission to access the lake. I also prefer to fish from a small “Jon” boat that can access the shallow portion of the lake where bass are more than likely spawning. During a past trophy bass fishing trip to a small Northeast Florida lake I was fishing solo from a 14-foot Jon boat when I noticed a huge female bass laying like a log in her sandy bed. I tried catching her with a variety of lures, without success. I then beached my boat and began flipping a small jig right in front of her face, this bass was megaton! She finally snapped at the jig, which I Deadly trophy bass technique involves coaching large wild shiners to swim deep under a variety of aquatic vegetations. The month of February is considered one of Northeast Florida’s best month for targeting trophy quickly set the hook before she spit it out. Immediately the big bass swam out to deep largemouth bass weighing over the ten-pound mark. water, turned and jumped. Her mouth was larger than a five-gallon bucket and I could clearly see the jig hook barely gripping her tremendous mouth. She crawdad with a tantalizing slow retrieve in an area of the St. John’s River where bass were beginning to spawn. Pitman’s career largest bass tossed my jig and I have for years tried to figure how much she would have weighed. I’m guessing between 14-15 pounds. weighed 14.12-pounds and was taken during the month of February Bass fishermen are encouraged to release their trophy bass and while fishing Florida’s “Withlacoochee River. purchase a replica mount which will last for eternity. For current “I look for some of the best late winter bass fishing to come during the afternoon hours when male bass have moved off from the beds and freshwater fishing regulation please visit www.myfwc.com. larger female bass move onto the beds to spawn,” Gary Pittman said. “Clear water is critical during the early spawning season as clean water typically warms up faster than stained water.” One of Gary’s many successful trophy bass fishing techniques here is a boat load of angling tactics when targeting Northeast Florida trophy largemouth bass, however the time of year is more important than how good a bass fisherman you are. And oftentimes, where you chose to test your bass fishing skills has to be your priority. Certainly, most freshwater fishermen only dream of catching a double-digit Florida largemouth bass, while a select group of seasoned bass fishermen accomplish this feat on a regular basis. This winter has produced super mild weather conditions, promising some of Florida’s very best trophy bass fishing of the year. Typically, the spawning season begins in late January and runs right through the month of May. However, a key time to target large female bass will come during the full moon of February, which occurs on February 19th. Way back in time during the 1997 River City bass Tournament, Gary Pittman weighed in seven bass that tipped the tournament scales at 40.11-pounds. Gary caught his winning catch while working a plastic

8 NE FLORIDA

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ACGFA - February News

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By Will Niemann

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e had a great turnout for

Our next general membership meeting will be on February 19 at the St Augustine Shriners Club on Moultrie Creek. Social hour begins at 5 followed by dinner and the meeting at 7. We always end the evening with a fantastic

Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all who contributed. February marks the beginning of our in club slam tournament. Eligible with a cash prize to the winner. You must be an ACGFA member to you’re not a member, join us for our next general membership meeting and join in the fun.

entire family. Whether you’re a man or woman, young or old, amateur or pro, we at ACGFA welcome you. We look

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EL CHEAPO XIX

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or me it’s hard to believe that the El Cheapo Sheepshead Tournament will be 19 this coming March. Did you realize that the 1st Annual El Cheapo started with only 34 boats and the tournament/ JOSFC provided only for 3 cash prizes: 1st, 2nd & 3rd way back in 2000. Today’s tournament will offer not 1 but 2 prize boats from Carolina Skiff with Suzuki outboards and Magic Tilt trailers. We will have a Carolina Skiff JVX 18 with a 60 HP Suzuki 4 Stroke and trailer along with a JV15, Suzuki tiller drive 4-Stroke motor and trailer. We also have prizes down to 15th place. These are wonderful prizes for a low cost entry fee of only $100.00 per boat. This is all because of the terrific growth and love for the tournament. At our peak, the tournament boasted 458 boats. The tournament is still family friendly as it was since the beginning and the good folks at the JOSFC has kept it that way. Sheepshead technology has evolved over the many years of the tournament. Sheepshead or by their scientific name: Archosargus probatocephalus is part of the sparidae family of fishes meaning they are closely related to the porgy according to www.fish4fun. comm/sheepshead.htm. Now days, if you are keen on winning a new boat, then pre-fishing is in order along with keeping a secret. It is commonly believed that sheepshead are home bodies. Once you find them, they will tend stay within that area. If you catch that 14 pounder prior to the tournament and take it home, well then you may have just eaten your winnings. It used to be, sheepshead fishermen just got a bunch of fiddler crabs and they were off. However, to win the boat, pre-fishing and bigger baits are a must. Bigger baits means bigger crabs: blue crabs. We all know that larger fish prefer bigger baits and sheepshead are no exception. Some of the past winners to the El Cheapo has caught their winning fish on ¼ blue crab. All of

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our winners know to have the fish in the weigh-in line at or before 4 pm. Over the years, the winning fish have come from both inshore and offshore. There are as many large sheepshead swimming up and down our river and intercostal as there are in the near shore wrecks. These fish move in and out of the estuaries on a regular basis. However, if you wish to win the ultimate prize then please visit us at www.elcheapojax.com to register on-line or look to your closest bait & tackle shop for El Cheapo posters and fliers. The XIX El Cheapo is begin held on March 9, 2019. The Captain’s meeting is on March 8, 2019 and day-of-registration will start around 5 pm. Tournament site is at the Mayport boat ramp: 4870 Ocean St, Mayport, FL 32233. I am looking forward to seeing everyone out there! Best wishes for fishing, Rob Darner Tournament Director, El Cheapo Sheepshead.

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Fishing Report & Forecast Fernandina / Amelia Island By Terry D. Lacoss

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triped bass will be active in the upper reaches of the Nassau and St. Mary’s Rivers during the first of the out-going tide. Trolling with minnow type plugs close to deep river banks, railroad trestles, the I-95 and highway 17 bridges is a standard winter striper fishing tactic. However, casting led head jigs rigged with a white, or chartreuse plastic curly tail at creek mouths, bridge pilings or deep bends in the river is also a deadly winter striper fishing tactic. Striped bass will also take weightless, black plastic worms when all else fails. Many fishing seasons ago outdoor writer Bob McNally and myself were casting large plastic worms to the I-95 bridge supports Located on the Nassau River when a 15-pound striped bass ambushed McNally’s weightless worm. Mutt Daniels enjoys excellent Nassau River striped bass action while fishing dead on the bottom at creek mouths with cut baits. Some of the Nassau and St. Mary River’s largest striped bass are caught while fishing dead on the bottom with live finger mullet, large shrimp, half a blue crab, or with cut mullet.

Wahoo fishing is excellent while high speed trolling at Amelia Island’s “Big Ledge”. Here water depths drop off sharply from 180-1,000 feet of water in less than one mile. Having a speedy boat that can handle winter weather is almost a necessity as this deep-water drop is located some 55-miles east of Amelia Island. Closer to land, black sea bass, flounder, sheepshead and triggerfish bottom fishing will be excellent at nearshore live bottoms, rock ledges and sunken wrecks. “Kings Bay” artificial reef is located only five miles northeast from the St. Mary’s inlet, offering some of the best winter bottom fishing for sea bass and sheepshead. Winter sheepshead fishing is also excellent at the St. Mary’s jetty rocks as well. “I have been doing a lot of experimenting with both braided and monofilament fishing lines,” Kenny Crawford said. “Typically, I will fish one rod and reel with braided fishing line on one side of the boat and one with monofilament fishing line on the other side of the boat. I have found that monofilament fishing lines attract more bites than braided fishing lines.” What I personally have found when fishing close to jetty rocks, barnacle clad pilings or any structure where a hooked fish might run my fishing line around structure and break off when using monofilament fishing lines. However, when using braided fishing line, you can color the last four feet of fishing line with a black magic marker helps promote more strikes. This sneaky fishing trick works well when using monofilament fishing line too. Terminal sheepshead fishing tackle fishing reels loaded with twenty-pound monofilament fishing line. A ¾ to 2-ounce egg sinker is threaded onto the terminal fishing line, followed by a plastic bead and a 50-pound barrel swivel. An eight-inch section of 17-pound test fluorocarbon fishing line is then employed as a shock leader. Finally, a #1-#2 live bait hook is attached to the business end of the shock leader using a palmar knot. Winter fishermen will also find excellent sea trout and red bass fishing in the deep turns of the intra coastal waterway where an afternoon flooding tide provides the best action. For more Amelia Island fishing information please call (904) 2612870, or visit www.ameliaangler.com

Largemouth bass will be spawning in the upper reaches of both the St. Mary’s and Nassau Rivers during the week prior to the full moon and right on the full moon. Some of the best spawning action will take place in Boggy Creek where shallow sloughs and a flooding tide may produce double digit largemouth bass. Casting a gold floating minnow type plug, weightless dark colored plastic worm, or drifting a wild shiner under a small float works best. Be sure and take a photo of your trophy largemouth bass, length and girth measurements, then release your catch. Replica mounts can be purchased which look exactly like your real catch! Bream will also be bedding in the upper reaches of these seldom fished tidal rivers. Fishing with a small piece of shrimp, or live cricket for river bream. Catfish will take a cut bait fished dead on the bottom as well. Be sure and have both a fresh and saltwater fishing license on hand when targeting both saltwater and freshwater game fish. 14 NE FLORIDA NE FLORIDA 12

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hat a crazy winter we have had. Back in January there was a blast of cold water that rolled down from above North Carolina. This cold current raged south all the way past Cape Canaveral to our south. This made two things happen. First is that the surf and pier fishing two to four hours to the south us went off crazy good! Meanwhile, back here in N E Florida a lot of fish escaped the frigid 60 degree water by heading inland. Numerous fishermen reported limits of Pompano miles from the ocean. They were trapped inland by a wall of cold water at the beach. Now here we are in February and those trapped fish are now filtering back onto the beaches. If we do not have another cold blast, we could

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have a very early Pompano run this year. The low end of their tolerance is 64 degrees. Flagler Beach Pier is already reporting good catches of Redfish, Sharks, Pompano, Palometa, and Whiting. Since sand fleas are very hard to catch in cool water conditions, my favorite baits are clams and Fishbites. Fresh big clams from the seafood markets are best. However, we now have a couple of alternatives. There are two new players in the bait biz. Pre-salted clams are now available by Dunkin Bait and Native Clam. I have used them both and they work. Presalting makes them tougher so they stay on the hook ten times better than fresh or unsalted frozen clams. The fish that escaped the cold water by heading south will be coming back very soon if they are not here already. My favorite tool to use when finding the best bite is my computer. Just search sea surface temperature charts. My go to is sstcharts/Rutgers. It is very easy to use with multiple ways to look at current temps. I really like the color chart mode. Remember 64 and above is go time. Look for this to occur first in New Smyrna then Ormond. Noel Kuhn Surf fishing guide and long distance casting coach. 904-945-0660 www.TheSurfAngler.com

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Fishing Report & Forecast Fernandina / Amelia Island By Terry D. Lacoss

G

S

B

triped bass will be active in the upper reaches of the Nassau and St. Mary’s Rivers during the first of the out-going tide. Trolling with minnow type plugs close to deep river banks, railroad trestles, the I-95 and highway 17 bridges is a standard winter striper fishing tactic. However, casting led head jigs rigged with a white, or chartreuse plastic curly tail at creek mouths, bridge pilings or deep bends in the river is also a deadly winter striper fishing tactic. Striped bass will also take weightless, black plastic worms when all else fails. Many fishing seasons ago outdoor writer Bob McNally and myself were casting large plastic worms to the I-95 bridge supports Located on the Nassau River when a 15-pound striped bass ambushed McNally’s weightless worm. Mutt Daniels enjoys excellent Nassau River striped bass action while fishing dead on the bottom at creek mouths with cut baits. Some of the Nassau and St. Mary River’s largest striped bass are caught while fishing dead on the bottom with live finger mullet, large shrimp, half a blue crab, or with cut mullet.

Wahoo fishing is excellent while high speed trolling at Amelia Island’s “Big Ledge”. Here water depths drop off sharply from 180-1,000 feet of water in less than one mile. Having a speedy boat that can handle winter weather is almost a necessity as this deep-water drop is located some 55-miles east of Amelia Island. Closer to land, black sea bass, flounder, sheepshead and triggerfish bottom fishing will be excellent at nearshore live bottoms, rock ledges and sunken wrecks. “Kings Bay” artificial reef is located only five miles northeast from the St. Mary’s inlet, offering some of the best winter bottom fishing for sea bass and sheepshead. Winter sheepshead fishing is also excellent at the St. Mary’s jetty rocks as well. “I have been doing a lot of experimenting with both braided and monofilament fishing lines,” Kenny Crawford said. “Typically, I will fish one rod and reel with braided fishing line on one side of the boat and one with monofilament fishing line on the other side of the boat. I have found that monofilament fishing lines attract more bites than braided fishing lines.” What I personally have found when fishing close to jetty rocks, barnacle clad pilings or any structure where a hooked fish might run my fishing line around structure and break off when using monofilament fishing lines. However, when using braided fishing line, you can color the last four feet of fishing line with a black magic marker helps promote more strikes. This sneaky fishing trick works well when using monofilament fishing line too. Terminal sheepshead fishing tackle fishing reels loaded with twenty-pound monofilament fishing line. A ¾ to 2-ounce egg sinker is threaded onto the terminal fishing line, followed by a plastic bead and a 50-pound barrel swivel. An eight-inch section of 17-pound test fluorocarbon fishing line is then employed as a shock leader. Finally, a #1-#2 live bait hook is attached to the business end of the shock leader using a palmar knot. Winter fishermen will also find excellent sea trout and red bass fishing in the deep turns of the intra coastal waterway where an afternoon flooding tide provides the best action.

A E S In

Be

w

For more Amelia Island fishing information please call (904) 2612870, or visit www.ameliaangler.com

Largemouth bass will be spawning in the upper reaches of both the St. Mary’s and Nassau Rivers during the week prior to the full moon and right on the full moon. Some of the best spawning action will take place in Boggy Creek where shallow sloughs and a flooding tide may produce double digit largemouth bass. Casting a gold floating minnow type plug, weightless dark colored plastic worm, or drifting a wild shiner under a small float works best. Be sure and take a photo of your trophy largemouth bass, length and girth measurements, then release your catch. Replica mounts can be purchased which look exactly like your real catch! Bream will also be bedding in the upper reaches of these seldom fished tidal rivers. Fishing with a small piece of shrimp, or live cricket for river bream. Catfish will take a cut bait fished dead on the bottom as well. Be sure and have both a fresh and saltwater fishing license on hand when targeting both saltwater and freshwater game fish. 14 NE FLORIDA

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The Flagler Sportfishing Club is presenting Benefits of being a Club Member this month. The Club Meeting is set for February 5, 2019. Learn who our sponsors are and the value they bring to the members. Learn the many free tournaments and social events that the club offers. And meet the Board on a personal level and learn what they do to support the club. This month is swap and shop which means a sale of any members fishing equipment that is displayed?

February 5, 2019: Monthly Member Meeting: VFW Palm Coast – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – Quick Tips at 7:00pm; Meeting at 7:30pm at the VFW on Old Kings Rd. in Palm Coast. February 23, 2019: Black and Red Tournament Join the Flagler Sportfishing Club after January 1 and receive free 3 months of Membership. https:// flaglersportfishing.com/clubmembership/ Contact: Chris Christian @ chris@ flaglersportfishing.com

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Fishing Report & Forecast St. Augustine Offshore

1

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Big and Small Water temperatures are cold and that should be good for Wahoo fishing. The best case is when water temperatures stay in the 60s until at least the 23-fathom mark. But Not always. Sometimes the water temp change is 120 ft and closer. But when the conditions are right, colder water pushes the fish out to the shelf edge where they are easier to locate. High speed trolling is one of the best ways to catch them. It is also a great way to locate Wahoo due to the fact you cover more territory. Any local bait and tackle stores can get you set up with the right stuff. I prefer to pull baits mostly because it allows my charters to catch fish other than Wahoo. With the fish congregated near the shelf edge double digit days are 16 NE FLORIDA

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not uncommon. In addition to Wahoo there will be plenty of black fin tuna around. We pull a mixed spread of wire and mono rigs. The normal set up is a blue and white islander ballyhoo rigged on wire behind a planner. The flat line will be a wire rig as well. The rest of the spread will be a mixture of wire and mono rigs depending on what is biting. Usually I will pull one larger bait on one of my shotguns. The other will have the tried and proven cedar plug. If bottom fish are your thing just remember Grouper are closed. If the troll bite is slow, it usually only takes a couple of drops to catch enough Vermillion snapper, Red porgy and Triggerfish for dinner. There really isn’t a reason to fish a larger bait in February so double hook rigs are the way to go. Watch the weather, stay safe and ‘Let’s Go Fishing’

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“Let’s Go Fishing” Captain Robert Johnson Jodie Lynn Charters wwwJodieLynnCharters.com (904)540-2628 jlfishing@bellsouth.net

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Fishing Report St. Johns River By: Richard Hamilton

W

ell, let's start this month with the best known biter for this time frame, the Speck. These slab-sided beauties will or should be busting it all over. The later part of last month was the beginning, starting at the full moon this past 21st. And now each week should get better and better. The only fly in the ointment will be the cold fronts. That can stall or stop the spawn until the water warms up. Places to try will be the lakes, Rodman, the creeks in the River. Such as Deep, Six Mile, Trout and Governor's being the easiest to fish because of much less boat traffic. And the less boating activity, the better the fishing experience. Lures and baits: Minnows are the top live bait. Lure-wise: Road Runners, Maribou jigs. Tube jigs, curl tail jigs. You want to start deep if it's cold and slowly work your way shallower. Once you locate them, stop and fish the heck out of the area. So good luck with this one. Large mouth will be next. Spawning activity occurring usually south in the Springs areas. But you can still work the normal spawning areas and catch some. Also points and bars up above the Shands should get you some fish plus the ability to catch a 18 NE FLORIDA

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Red or two. Methods lure-wise will be crank baits, lipless crank baits and Carolina jigs. Schooling fish may also be around so keep looking in the water for bustin' bait pods. Also, as the month progresses, you'll want to start working Shiners around the local spawning flat and in the mouths of creeks and in canals. So go to it and have a good time. Hybrids and Stripers are around the Shands and the Buckman. Work the pilings with grubs, lipless cranks and minnow imitations, such as Rapala's. Also shiners, either free swimming or under a float. With these, you want to work with the moving tide and allow your bait to work towards and past the pilings. So go already. Reds are active but stubborn. You'll probably catch some fishing with crabs or bait shrimp on the bottoms. All you need is an area to go to, like the piers, and you're good to go. That's about all I've got for this one, so 'til next time, Keep your line wet and your lure movin'.--Richard.

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he Nassau Sport Fishing Association is non-profit organization dedicated to develop and promote saltwater fishing in the Nassau County area while adhering to state, federal and local regulations, to encourage compliance with rules of water safety by club members and the general public, and to promote youth related community activities. The NSFA is currently planning a wide slate of events and tournaments for 2019 that are open to the public. Please watch

our website for more information at http://nsfafish.net Or first surf fishing outing is being scheduled for 22-Mar from 2:30 to 6:00pm at American Beach on Amelia Island. If you are not already a member, please look for our flag and introduce yourself. This event is open to the public. See you on the water!

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Fishing Report & Forecast Flagler Inshore By Captain Chris Herrera

A

s water temps hopefully continue to cool after January’s warm spell, water clarity will get better and better till it reaches “Gin Clear”. Hitting the flats once the sun is high and with incoming tide will give you sight fishing opportunities for redfish and sheepshead. To find sheepshead on the flats look around oyster bars till you see the striped bandits nibbling away. A stealthy approach is a must by either poling or quietly using your troll motor. A rig I like to use is a 1/0 Daiichi octopus J hook with a bb split shot a few inches above the hook, I then rig a shrimp weed less by cutting off it’s tail for scent and inserting hook through the tail and back into it’s body for a weedless rig. Bigger Sheepsheads will be hanging around deeper water structure like docks, bridges, channel markers and area Inlets. Fiddler crabs, oyster crabs and oysters are offering that are rarely turned down by sheepshead hanging around deep structure. Trout fishing should be catch and release only as the season is normally closed but with new regulations trout remain open year round and bag limits are up to six instead of five fish. Look for trout to school up around ICW creek mouths, deep holes in creek bends and Matanzas Inlet. Small soft plastics like Fishbites Extreme paddle tails or curly tails on a ¼ ounce Slayer jig head will attract schooled up trout. Gator trout will be sunning on mud flats during the heat of the day and a live mullet swimming on the surface will tempt even the wariest trout. Redfish schools will be on sun baked flats during higher tides and roaming the ICW during low tides. Multiple fish can be caught as long as you’re quiet and do not get to aggressive with your approach. Artificial lures is better in my opinion as you can get multiple cast to schools if spooked and don’t waste time rebating. Fly fisherman

test their cast and accuracy by sight fishing laid up and cruising redfish on the shallow flats. My go to flies are flats bunnies, merkwans and just about any fly that resembles a bait fish. Black drum are relatives to red fish and noted as good table fair when caught less than 5 pounds and can hold their own once hooked. Recent outings have produced good numbers of “puppy drum” which range from 2 to 6 pounds. Simple rigs are used to catch Black drum, one of my favorites is a Slayer inc. ¼ oz. jig head and a live or fresh dead shrimp hooked through the head. Since Black drum are bottom dwellers and feed almost exclusively on the bottom other good baits that produce “stink” are quartered blue crabs, clams and oysters. Black drum are primarily found in deeper water but during those cold spells look to sight fish them on the shallow flats... Capt. Chris Herrera Serving Flagler Beach, Palm Coast, St. Augustine www.palmcoastfishing.com 386-503-6338

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Approximate Correction Times Palm Valley ICW: H: +2:20 L: +2:00 +/- for Other regional Locations JAX Beach: H: -:29 L: -:20

TIDE CHART - February

Mayport Degaussing Structure 30.3967° N, 81.3950° W Date

Day Time

Hgt

Time

Hgt

Time

Hgt

Time

Bings Landing: H: +2:57 L: +2:44

Hgt

St. Augustine Beach: H: -:07 L: -:15 St. A City Dock: H: -:04 L: +:09

Major Feeding Periods

01 Fri 06:00 AM 4.65 H

2:08 PM 0.07 L

06:19 PM 4.00 H

10:05 AM-12:05 PM • 10:30 PM-11:59 PM

02 Sat 12:13 AM -0.14 L

06:46 AM 4.71 H 12:53 PM -0.09 L 07:03 PM 4.09 H

10:55 AM-12:55 PM • 11:20 PM-11:59 PM

03 Sun 12:59 AM -0.28 L

07:28 AM 4.77 H 01:35 PM -0.23 L 07:44 PM 4.16 H

11:45 AM-1:45 PM

04 Mon 01:41 AM -0.37 L 08:08 AM 4.80 H 02:13 PM -0.32 L 08:22 PM 4.20 H

12:05 AM-2:05 AM • 12:35 PM-2:35 PM

05 Tue 02:19 AM -0.38 L

12:55 AM-2:55 AM • 1:20 PM-3:20 PM

08:45 AM 4.79 H 02:50 PM -0.32 L 08:58 PM 4.23 H

06 Wed 02:56 AM -0.31 L 09:21 AM 4.74 H 03:25 PM -0.25 L 09:34 PM 4.24 H

1:40 AM-3:40 AM • 2:05 PM-4:05 PM

07 Thu 03:31 AM -0.17 L

09:57 AM 4.65 H 04:00 PM -0.11 L 10:09 PM 4.27 H

2:25 AM-4:25 AM • 2:50 PM-4:50 PM

08 Fri 04:07 AM 0.01 L

10:32 AM 4.52 H 04:34 PM 0.04 L 10:45 PM 4.31 H

3:05 AM-5:05 AM • 3:30 PM-5:30 PM

09 Sat 04:45 AM 0.21 L

11:09 AM 4.37 H 05:10 PM 0.19 L 11:24 PM 4.37 H

7:10 PM-9:10 PM

10 Sun 05:26 AM 0.38 L

11:48 AM 4.22 H 05:49 PM 0.30 L

4:55 PM-6:55 PM

11 Mon 12:06 AM 4.44 H

06:15 AM 0.51 L 12:31 PM 4.07 H 06:34 PM 0.35 L

5:10 AM-7:10 AM • 5:40 PM-7:40 PM

12 Tue 12:54 AM 4.49 H

07:10 AM 0.57 L 01:21 PM 3.94 H 07:27 PM 0.33 L

6:00 AM-8:00 AM • 6:30 PM-8:30 PM

13 Wed 01:50 AM 4.54 H

08:12 AM 0.54 L 02:20 PM 3.87 H 08:26 PM 0.21 L

6:50 AM-8:50 AM • 7:20 PM-9:20 PM

14 Thu 02:53 AM 4.64 H

09:16 AM 0.39 L 03:26 PM 3.91 H 09:30 PM -0.03 L

7:45 AM-9:45 AM • 8:15 PM-10:15 PM

15 Fri 04:00 AM 4.81 H

10:20 AM 0.11 L 04:32 PM 4.08 H 10:33 PM -0.39 L

8:40 AM-10:40 AM • 9:10 PM-11:10 PM

16 Sat 05:04 AM 5.07 H

11:20 AM -0.27 L 05:32 PM 4.36 H 11:34 PM -0.82 L

9:40 AM-11:40 AM • 10:10 PM-11:59 PM

17 Sun 06:03 AM 5.36 H

12:16 PM -0.69 L 06:29 PM 4.67 H

10:45 AM-12:45 PM • 11:15 PM-11:59 PM

18 Mon 12:31 AM -1.24 L 06:58 AM 5.61 H 01:08 PM -1.08 L 07:21 PM 4.98 H

11:50 AM-1:50 PM

19 Tue 01:24 AM -1.57 L

12:15 AM-2:15 AM • 12:50 PM-2:50 PM

07:50 AM 5.76 H 01:57 PM -1.35 L 08:13 PM 5.21 H

20 Wed 02:16 AM -1.72 L 08:40 AM 5.77 H 02:45 PM -1.46 L 09:03 PM 5.36 H

1:10 AM-3:10 AM • 1:50 PM-3:50 PM

21 Thu 03:07 AM -1.67 L

09:30 AM 5.63 H 03:32 PM -1.40 L Thu 09:53 PM 5.40 H

2:10 AM-4:10 AM • 2:45 PM-4:45 PM

22 Fri 03:59 AM -1.43 L

10:19 AM 5.38 H 04:21 PM -1.18 L 10:44 PM 5.34 H

3:00 AM-5:00 AM • 3:35 PM-5:35 PM

23 Sat 04:54 AM -1.06 L

11:09 AM 5.04 H 05:11 PM -0.86 L 11:35 PM 5.20 H

3:50 AM-5:50 AM • 4:25 PM-6:25 PM

24 Sun 05:50 AM -0.62 L

12:00 PM 4.67 H 06:04 PM -0.48 L

4:40 AM-6:40 AM • 5:15 PM-7:15 PM

25 Mon 12:29 AM 4.98 H

06:49 AM -0.21 L 12:54 PM 4.32 H 07:01 PM -0.12 L

5:30 AM-7:30 AM • 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

26 Tue 01:26 AM 4.74 H

07:49 AM 0.15 L 01:53 PM 4.04 H 07:59 PM 0.17 L

6:20 AM-8:20 AM • 6:50 PM-8:50 PM

27 Wed 02:29 AM 4.53 H

08:49 AM 0.39 L 02:58 PM 3.87 H 09:00 PM 0.36 L

7:10 AM-9:10 AM • 7:40 PM-9:40 PM

28 Thu 03:35 AM 4.41 H

09:49 AM 0.51 L 04:03 PM 3.84 H 10:00 PM 0.42 L

8:05 AM-10:05 AM • 8:30 PM-10:30 PM

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DOUGLAS BOAT & RV STORAGE PARK Fishing and Politics?

F

ishing and politics do not normally go together, but because politicians have clearly gotten in the business of screwing up fishing, it’s time we get involved in the process so that we have a voice. Jimmy Hill is running for mayor of Jacksonville FL and the election starts this March. Jimmy is a well-known person in the boating and fishing world with 21 years putting on The Southeast US Boat Show at Metropolitan Park and Marina until the city of Jacksonville terminated the event in 2017. We all remember this and we all know something did not pass the “smell test” with what the city told us about this situation. Jimmy has been sharing this story and because of that, he found out that many fellow businessmen have had the city do similar things to them under this current administration. So, Jimmy did what any of us would do - he is getting involved and fixing what is broken. Jimmy is a fighter and has a background that makes him a series contender in this election. He has served as an Atlantic Beach City Commissioner and had a very strong record of common sense nononsense governance. Jimmy advocates for accessibility to the water as an important part of the Florida lifestyle. He is engaged and active as an advocate for boaters in other ways as well. Jimmy is part of one of the FWC small craft advisory subcommittees. He has a diverse background that makes this run for the mayor of Jacksonville a valid and a bonafide race. Folks, Jimmy has qualified to be on the ballot and as you may know, this was no small task. He has a great team behind him, but

he needs our help. Jimmy’s campaign needs volunteers and they also need a bit more money to increase the awareness in this race - a race filled with failed political regulars. It’s time to send a real common sense person, a professional captain, and longtime boating community member that understands Jacksonville and knows how the game is played. Jimmy’s background and experience make him the first real choice we have had for real representation. He is focused on removing the corruption and lack of transparency that plagues much of this city government at many levels. Jimmy has the patience to even kingfish with a tenth place finish in this summers Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament 2018. He is not only the best person for the job he has integrity - he will restore transparency he is one of us and he is willing to serve. Lets seriously get behind this guy and help him represent us. Jimmy can be reached at 904759-2758. His information can be seen and you can help him at jimmyhillforjacksonville.com.

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1/21/19 11:00 AM


By Chris Beardsley

A

s an avid surf fisherman, I enjoy the variety of fish that can be caught from the beach. Of course, catching anything worthwhile can be a challenge. Depending on the tide, time of year, time of day, water temperature, lunar phase, what color socks the mailman is wearing and what uncle Eddie had for dinner last night can all play a part. This is especially true when targeting speckled sea trout, especially big gators. With so many things swimming just off the shore, targeting a

Grouper Closures In Florida Waters

single species from the beach doesn’t always pay. There are, however, ways to increase your odds. Using the proper bait, lures and techniques are paramount. When surf fishing, I like to consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. In other words, I like to come prepared. If one thing doesn’t work, I don’t wait long to move on to the next thing. I have favorite confidence baits. There are times, however, when those fail and I’m quick to change it up. When targeting big trout from the beach, I like to throw a gold spoon. It’s a quintessential bait for nearly anything, and it rarely fails to produce. With low visibility or when it’s slow and the big gators, or little specks for that matter, just aren’t interested, a paddletail with contrasting colors is a great choice. Again, the gold spoon is killer in low-vis situations, but a 3-inch Bass Assassin Chicken on a Chain rigged with a red or chartreuse jig head also fits the bill perfectly. I also like the Berkley white paddletails with the same color jigs. Another way to put a good gator in the cooler is try bouncing a Doc’s Goofy Jig off the bottom, just like fishing for pompano. The pink and yellow seem to produce best, and don’t be afraid to be a little aggressive with them. When fishing a paddletail or a Goofy Jig, let the jig contact the bottom then give a sharp lift and let it drop until it contacts the bottom again. Raise your rod tip straight up and allow the jig to drag across the bottom. Give it an occasional twitch, and then repeat the sharp lift action. Changing the tempo of the retrieve and frequency of your lift can make all the difference. Long casts are crucial in the surf, and require a medium action rod at least 7.5-feet long. I use 30-pound-test braid. The super thin diameter coupled with the ability to really load up the rod provides plenty of inertia to launch relatively light baits a good distance into the surf. Targeting gator trout in the surf is challenging, and using the old standbys is often great strategy. But using a variety of baits and techniques can increase your odds of success.

Canada Meds of Sumter County

G

ag grouper closed to recreational harvest in Gulf state and federal waters Jan. 1. The same day, several species of grouper closed to recreational and commercial harvest in Florida state waters of the Atlantic and all state waters off Monroe County. This Atlantic seasonal closure includes: gag, black, red, FWC Photo yellowmouth and yellowfin grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby. A similar closure is in place in Atlantic federal waters. For gag grouper, state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor and Jefferson counties will reopen to harvest April 1 through June 30 and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. All other Gulf state waters (except waters off Monroe County, which follows the Atlantic state season) and all Gulf federal waters will reopen June 1 through Dec. 31. In the Atlantic and state waters off Monroe County, several species of grouper, including gag, will reopen May 1. Grouper information, including Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico grouper regulations, is available online. Go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater Fishing Regulations” then “Groupers” under the “Reef Fish” tab.

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he Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council would like to gain a better understanding of yellowtail snapper in the Southeast region of the United States. It is seeking information from anglers and divers about trends or “strange things” that scientists and managers may need to know. A scientific stock assessment of yellowtail is scheduled to begin in February of 2019, and the council would like to know if you have noticed anything “fishy” about yellowtail, or yellowtail fishing, in recent years. The information provided will help inform scientists and managers as they formulate a current understanding of the yellowtail stock. Please visit our “Something’s Fishy About Yellowtail Snapper” questionnaire at http://gulfcouncil.org before Feb. 8 to report anything you’ve noticed about yellowtail in the Gulf of Mexico. Contact Emily.Muehlstein@gulfcouncil.org with questions.

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FISH & FISHING

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onsider this an important decision. Other than deciding whether or not to use one, a surprising number of anglers seldom give leaders much thought. As long as there is some type of buffer against the deadly dentures of some species or the abrasive hide of others, fishermen tend to be satisfied. Their attention shifts to other aspects of the sport. Choosing the right material and proper construction for an effective leader are some of the most overlooked challenges in rigging. The ultimate, of course, centers on fishing a light line without a leader. That seldom is possible on the saltwater scene. Experience will prove to you that the fish you hook has teeth, abrasive skin, or the bottom is rugged. Any of these factors will end the battle almost before it starts. The general rule is that the heavier the leader material, the fewer strikes you will get. The solution demands a compromise. You want the strongest leader possible without sacrificing too many strikes. Monofilament leader invariably produces more strikes than single strand wire or nylon coated wire. Sometimes you have to use wire or every fish of a given species will cut you off. When you do use wire, rely on the shortest length that will produce favorable results. For offshore trolling, a short length of wire makes it easier to rig a bait. Some anglers even insist that a skipping offering being trolled works better if there is a short length of wire in front of it. The length of the leader is equally significant. From

MARK SOSIN a protective standpoint, if the species you seek has an abrasive body, the leader should be longer than the average fish you might catch. Then, when the fish is moving away from you and the line streams over its back, you have the protective advantage of a leader. This part of the leader does not have to be as heavy as the short length around its mouth and gills, but it should be stronger than the line. Fly fishermen become aware of a leader’s importance very quickly. In that type of fishing, the leader helps to turn over the fly properly so it lands on the water delicately. In very clear and shallow water, a longer leader enables the caster to enjoy a more delicate presentation where the fly line lands farther from the fish. This is particularly important on the saltwater flats for a variety of species including bonefish, permit, tarpon and redfish. Fly leaders take many basic forms, but the most important thing to remember is that each succeeding section should be shorter than the one before. The majority of tournaments and all recordkeeping organizations establish specific leader requirements. It makes sense to study them before you decide to compete or fish for a record. Leaders are a critical part of rigging each outfit you use. Cutting corners or ignoring details can be a serious mistake. If you lose a trophy fish because of a faulty leader, you’ll have a hard time forgiving yourself.

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Queen Conch In The Bahamas Sheri Daye

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hile hunting for that perfect fish for dinner, you sometimes run across other tasty treats. One of my favorites is from the Bahamas: the famous queen conch. This creature is as delicious as it is beautiful and deserves to be treated with great respect. Their slow growth and late maturation makes them susceptible to overfishing. Once abundant in the Florida Keys, it became illegal to harvest them in the 1980s when they were harvested to the point of collapse. It’s taken quite a few years to see the beginning of a comeback, but they will likely need continued protection for years to come in the U.S. In the Bahamas, the importance of this valuable resource has been realized and rules are in place to protect it. The recreational limit is six, and they must have a thick, well-formed lip—meaning they had a chance to grow into adulthood and reproduce. Also, they must be harvested while freediving. Inside the conch shell is a soft-bodied mollusk, which is in the same family as clams, oysters, octopi and squid. They live near coral reefs and seagrass beds and can reach up to 14 inches long. Besides humans, they have a few predators in the water—loggerhead turtles, nurse sharks, spiny lobsters and more. The meat has been consumed for centuries by islanders in the Caribbean and serves in a multitude of dishes such as salads, chowders and fritters.

Conch Tips:

1) Regulations are subject to change so double check before harvesting any marine life. 2) When diving, it is easy to see that in certain places in the Bahamas, especially close to highly populated areas, the conch are 16

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not as abundant. Do not take any from these areas, even if it’s legal. 3) They are easy to spot and move slowly, so use good judgement. Target mature adults that have reproduced and are toward the end of their lifecycle. Consider taking less than the legal limit. 4) The mollusk is not easy to extract or to clean, so if you don’t know how, make sure you have a professional on hand at the end of the day to help you or teach you. 5) Don’t forget to check for pearls in the mantle. These pink pearls are beautiful and more rare than traditional pearls. 6) The inedible part of the conch (the guts, also called “slop”) makes excellent bait for fishing, especially for mutton snappers. Nothing goes to waste! 7) You might (or might not) want to eat the pistol, also known as “Bahamian Viagra.” It is part of the conch’s digestive system and looks like a clear noodle. 8) The Bahamas exports conch to the U.S., but bringing your own conch meat back to the U.S. by boat is strictly prohibited. Safe diving and Happy Hunting! Sheri is a world-record holder, host of Speargun Hunter, and producer of “The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo” in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Follow “Sheri Daye” and “The Blue Wild” on Facebook and Instagram.

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As fisherman, we all know how hard live bait can be to find. Seasonal weather patterns change the way fish are biting, so a variety of bait is key. Bait fishing is so important that fishermen spend weeks prior to tournaments catching bait and then keep them penned up all for a couple epic days of fishing. The last thing you want is for your bait to die because of a pump failure. At Hooker Electric, we have designed a durable, strong and long-lasting baitwell system. This system is capable of supplying multiple livewells with its adequate DC brushless motor. You will no longer need multiple pumps to supply each livewell. Now, by adding the Hooker Electric custom manifolds, you can divert water to the designated wells by adjusting the amount of water flow to each well with our variable flow knobs. This allows you to run all of the wells from one Hooker Electric pump and have another one for redundancy. The system is easy to use with the variable flow dial, without having to restrict the pump. This Hooker Electric livewell system is a plumb-andplay setup with a variety of sizes. It’s available in 2500, 4500 and 7500 GPH and we also offer an on/off feature for the pumps. For more information, visit www.hookerelectric.com or check out their Instagram page @Hookerelectric_pumps.

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he older I get, the more I like to fish inshore for all the usual suspects from the Northeast, down through the Carolinas all the way to the Keys. From stripers and specks, to drum and snook, every fish loves a shrimp or minnow imitation under a float. And this includes many freshwater predators. I always keep a float rig tied on when fishing inside. Popping, cigar and oval floats all have their place, and an added “clicking” sound adds value, especially when fishing a soft plastic shrimp under the float. There are plenty of commercially available floats, but I want to share a simple and effective way to achieve the same end result… and one that will rarely foul or tangle. Whether the beads are external or internal, the clicking sound is perfectly married with the splashing sound that drives fish bananas. To make the simple external-bead-style clicking float, view the video below. Allow 1/16- to 1/8-inch clearance (total, not both ends) between the beads and ends of the pegs to allow the beads to tap the plastic pegs. Follow the instructions below to make the internal-bead-style clicking float. Materials: 80-pound fluorocarbon; small plastic beads, like those found in sliding cork kits; small swivels; a commercially available foam slip cork with plastic pegs. Steps: • Thread braided mainline through the plastic peg and one of the small beads. • Feed the mainline through to the other side of the slip cork and then tie it to one side of the swivel. • For the other side, thread a fluorocarbon leader through the other peg, thread on a small bead and tie it to the other end of the swivel.

• Press one peg securely into the slip cork, and then pull the bead and swivel into the float’s interior channel. • Press the second peg into the cork, and your slip cork is now a clicking float. The tiny beads slide back and forth on the line to tap the plastic pegs inside the float. • Tie a 3/8-ounce jig head and a soft plastic shrimp onto the leader, and… just add water. There are a number of opinions on how deep to fish below the cork. I like between 18 and 24 inches of fluorocarbon, depending on water depth. This same tackle works extremely well in freshwater for striped and hybrid bass in moving water. Just use a fluke-style soft plastic instead of a shrimp. The largest largemouth bass I caught this year was under cigar float with an internal clicker. I was fishing a Super Fluke for striped bass. Smallmouth bass in rocky rivers are complete idiots over this same rig. Wherever you are, and whatever you’re fishing for, a float rig is something you should keep tied and ready on the deck. Visit Barefootcatsandtackle.com. For video instructions on making a clicking cork, see:

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nglers are catching a lot of big largemouths in Texas. Last year’s Toyota ShareLunker Program, which tracks bass heavier than 8 pounds, certified 486 bass caught from 89 Texas lakes in 2018, and that’s just the fish that were reported. At the beginning of 2018, the Toyota ShareLunker program debuted a new year-long season for anglers to enter bass for prizes, recognition, and to help enhance bass fishing in Texas. Anglers entered largemouths into four categories including six “Legacy Class” bass of 13 pounds or heavier that were entered during the spawning window Jan.1 through March 31 and loaned to TPWD for the selective breeding and stocking program. The total number of entries in other categories who provided citizen science data included: five “Lunker Legend” bass 13 pounds or heavier caught outside the spawning window or not loaned for spawning, 107 “Lunker Elite” bass weighing 10 to 12.99 pounds, and 368 “Lunker” bass at least 24 inches or weighing between 8 and 9.99 pounds. The top five ShareLunker producing lakes in 2018 included Lake Fork near Quitman with 73 entries, Lake Conroe near Houston with 41 entries, Lake Athens in Athens with 28 entries, Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Jasper with 21 entries, and O.H. Ivie Lake near San Angelo with 17 entries. For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker program visit https:// www.facebook.com/ShareLunkerprogram and https://texassharelunker.com/.

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FRESHWATER Nevada’s WORLD-CLASS CUTTHROAT

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he International Game Fish Association (IGFA) keeps the most extensive list of fishing records in the world. With categories for all types of tackle and species, some records are more impactful than others. This potential all-tackle length world record for cutthroat trout is without a doubt an impressive fish. Adam Garcia caught and released this giant cutthroat on Nov. 11, 2018 while fishing Nevada’s Pyramid Lake. The fish measured 85 centimeters in length, or more than 33 inches. Once the paperwork clears, the fish could dethrone the old 81-centimeter length record. Garcia is no newcomer to the record books. According to IGFA records, he holds four line-class world records for weight, all cutthroats caught from Pyramid Lake in 2016 and 2017. Some of those were actually longer than his Nov. 11 fish. The biggest one, which holds the 16-lb. line class record, weighed 24 pounds. Pyramid Lake is a large and natural desert lake near the California border northeast of Reno. It is the world hotspot for giant cutthroat trout, where anglers can wade from shore and cast jigs for record-class fish. Every single one of IGFA’s line class cutthroat records were caught from Pyramid, as well as the all tackle world record, which was caught back in 1925 by John Skimmerhorn.

Surprising Winter is the Best Planting Time

I am often asked when is the best time to plant fruiting plants. My answer is usually the same; the best time is 20 years ago or today. The second best time to plant is during the winter months. Plants are dormant, and can be easily shipped and planted with no stress on the plant because there is not a lot of maintenance once the plant or tree has been planted. Simply dig a good hole, water thoroughly

at planting, and take the rest of the winter off. Even though there are no signs of growth above ground, the root systems will have time to get adjusted to their new location and begin to initiate new root growth. There are plenty of advantages of growing your own edibles. First of all, you know what has been done over the course of the growing season from a chemical stand point. Second, the fruit just taste

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better coming out of your home orchard versus buying fruit from the grocers that have little to no flavors. Thirdly, it is good for your soul and you will feel more connected to the environment and nature. Whether it is an apple tree, muscadine vine or a blueberry bush; now is the time to plant. Let’s Grow Together. Greg Ison, Ison’s Nursery and Vineyards, 800733-0324, www.isons.com

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TIPS FROM A PRO

Cold-Water Bassin' BRANDON LESTER

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ebruary is one of those transition months. Spring is just around the corner, and it might have already arrived in some places, but it’s still wintertime for most of the country’s bass fisheries. Bass are cold-blooded animals, which means the colder the water is, the more the fish’s core body temperature decreases. That also means the fish’s metabolism slows down. Metabolism is the chemical processes that occur which allow the fish to maintain life, grow, heal and make energy. Humans are warm blooded, so our body temperature stays a steady 98.6 degrees. A fish’s temperature drops with the water temp, which makes them more sluggish the colder it gets. If you’re like me, you’re ready to eat three meals a day and some snacks 365 days a year. It’s different with fish. In warm water, fish feed every day, throughout the day and into the night. In the winter they don’t feed nearly as often. One reason is they don’t move around as much, so they don’t come into contact with prey. Fish feed-up heavily in the fall when the water is still warm to put on weight. Bait is plentiful then, and instinctually they feel cold weather coming. I have way more 20- and 30-fish days in spring than winter. You’re not likely set any records for fish catches in cold water. Fish bite for two basic reasons, either because they’re hungry and the bait looks like food or because the bait has come into their territory

and they instinctively attack it. Reaction strikes are greatly reduced during the winter. In water mid-50 degrees and lower, you really need to make the fish want to eat in order to catch them. I try and fish the warmest water on a lake, as fish in these areas will be more active. A couple degrees in water temperature can make all the difference. Slower-moving baits work best for cold-water bass. I like baits that stay in one place and can be worked slowly, like a jig. A suspending jerkbait with Mustad KVD trebles will hang in one place, hopefully right in front of their face. Use lighter line in cold water, as it allows the bait to move more realistically. Eight or 10-pound Vicious fluorocarbon is preferable on a jerkbait. Objects in the water, especially rocks, retain heat. On sunny days, the shallow water near rocks on the bank will often be warmer. Keep in mind that fish don’t bite nearly as hard in cold water. You will feel them kind of “load up” on the bait instead of slamming it. The fish are just picking up the bait and doing as little as possible to catch it. Those “light bites” increase the importance of having a sensitive rod. I build my own rods and will tell you that MHX Rods from Mud Hole Custom Tackle help me catch more fish, especially in cold water. Higher quality graphite makes a more sensitive rod. MHX Rods are much more affordable and the quality is better than a vast majority of rods out there. For extremely light bites, I recommend the NEPS series of blanks built with Winn Grips.

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