The Angler Magazine | May 2024 | Lake Okeechobee/Lake Istokpoga Edition

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Over the last few years, a burgeoning fshery has established the Gulf Stream out of Charleston as a big-time billfsh destination. Te ofshore trolling bite has been very good.

Capt. Mike Able keeps close tabs on the fshery. He and his brother, Graham, run Haddrell’s Point Tackle and Supply, a familyowned hunting and fshing store, which has grown to two locations and a fy shop in the Charleston area since their father, Mike Sr., started the business in 1983.

“Charleston has defnitely been put on the map with the billfshing we’ve had the last several years. It’s really been phenomenal,” Able said. “I mean, look at the Carolina Billfsh Classic. In the CBC last year there were outriggers full of sailfsh fags… we’re talking double-digit stuf. And not just the big boats. I mean, the big boats have an advantage, but guys are catching blue marlin from center consoles, too. You know the fsh are really chewing when the center-console guys are hitting fsh like that.”

Te Carolina Billfsh Classic (CBC) is one leg of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfshing Series. It is held out of Mt. Pleasant each June. Last year, with poor weather

conditions during the one-day shootout, 47 boats released nine blue marlin and 53 sailfsh. Te top boat released four blue marlin. Te second-place boat released seven sailfsh and a blue marlin.

Able said conservation eforts, particularly from the Governor’s Cup, have led to healthier stocks. He also thinks anglers are getting better at fnding and catching billfsh. Te run outside the ledge is still 50 to 55 miles, but these days captains can go straight to potentially productive water. Satellite services make it easy to identify blue water, weed lines, temperature breaks and color changes to make a solid gameplan before leaving the docks. Additionally, technology like Omni Sonar can pinpoint fsh with an efective range of 5,000 feet.

“You could mark a fsh from a half mile away and go over and drop baits,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can make them bite, but you know they’re in the area.”

Peak season for blue marlin and sailfsh is May and June, but blues will be in the area all summer. Sailfsh can be good into October or November, when wahoo enter the mix heavily. Able said a lot of marlin they catch are 150- to 200-pound “rats,” but they see some 300- to 400-pounders and an occasional 500-pluspound blue marlin. White marlin might also show up in a spread.

One of the perks of trolling out of Charleston in spring is you’ll also likely fll the box with dolphin and blackfin tuna. Capt. Able hung up his charter captain hat a few years back.

Now he fun-fshes with pretty remarkable success for billfsh and meat fsh by pulling a mixed spread with dredges, squid chains and circle-hooked ballyhoo from a ’34 Regulator.

Check out Haddrell’s Point Tackle & Supply at


Instead of going “bottom fshing” this season, I would focus on going “grouper fshing”… at least for gags while the season lasts. You can go ‘bottom fshing” for the next seven months, but let’s put some gags in the boat while the law allows it! Here are some tips to help you bag some gags.

• Having the right bait is a major part of this puzzle. A pinfsh trap in a productive area for just a few hours and an (otter-proof) foating bait pen at the marina are priceless.

• You must anchor up or use the trolling motor in “spot lock” to properly fsh any piece of good bottom.

• When I frst post up on a good-looking mark on the recorder, I have everyone else on the boat fre down whole frozen squid on a jig. At the same time, I use a sabiki to catch whatever baitfsh are available on the structure. Here’s how it works:

1) Te squid might catch a handful “bottom fsh,” and maybe a grouper or two.

2) Most importantly, it sets a nice chum slick on the bottom that attracts the real predators of the structure directly under

your boat, and they will be ready to eat.

3) Afer four or fve volleys of squid, everyone baits up with a beautiful baseball-in-diameter-sized live bait and sends them back down to the bottom together. Tese baits are too big for most bottom fsh to get their mouths around.

4) Now, the grouper appear on the scene, curious about all the noise and the good smell. What do they see? Tey see a pinfsh from the marina or whatever came up on the sabiki. I like to fsh these baits on one of my Crab Decoy Jigs, which makes it look like the bait is struggling in the grasp of a hungry crab or squid. A big grouper, and especially a gag grouper, sees this as a Happy Meal. Tey love crabs, squid and baitfsh, and with this rig they think they’re getting it all in one bite.

5) An added bonus is that this is clean tackle, free of excess hardware, that sends the correct signal to grouper and results in bites.

• Te downside to this style of fshing is it will attract sharks. It’s all fun and games until the man in the gray suit shows up. Ten it becomes hard work. Sharks of all kinds are drawn to struggling snapper.

For more info on the jig, tackle and/or bait, check out Tim Barefoot’s YouTube channel and website at

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May 1 marks the reopening of Atlantic grouper season here in the Florida Keys. Over the past four months of season closure, a multitude of released catches taunted local fshermen, and now the hunt is ofcially back on!

While the Keys might not be well known for grouper, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be. Between the reef, wrecks and ofshore deep-dropping, the Keys are home to a plethora of grouper species. Te reopening of red, black, gag and snowy grouper vastly

increases fshing opportunities here in our Atlantic waters.

When fshing for grouper on the reef, keeping your rig from getting rockedup on the bottom is the biggest challenge. Do not overweight your rig, and keep an angler on or near the rod at all times. Grouper are notorious for grabbing a bait and taking it back into their homes immediately. When you lose a big grouper, especially with a mouthful of your tackle, they grunt a warning to the other fsh. Tis shuts down the grouper bite. It is best to keep the grouper rod in your hand when possible and be ready to crank them away from their hidey-holes. Tere isn’t much room or time for error on the initial bite.

Fishing for grouper over wrecks can also be highly productive. Amberjacks, which received a short closure in April, can be caught as bycatch while wreck fshing for grouper. Teir season also reopens in May.

Deep-dropping ofshore also expands greatly this month, as snowy grouper and blueline tilefsh reopen. Yellowedge grouper remains year-round, but even with large grouper hooks, tilefsh can be a frequent bycatch. Deep-drop rigs can be modifed this time of year to include smaller hooks that welcome the tilefsh bite and increase productivity of each drop.

Te abundance of mahi-mahi this month sweetens the deal for heading shore to deep-drop. Not only can you fsh for mahi-mahi on the route to, from and on your deep-drop numbers, you can also chase birds for a chance to read the bottom for new deep-drop spots. Tere is nothing quite like fnding a new fshing spot, and with so much in season right now, it is the perfect time of year to scout.

Remember to check fshing regulations, as there are ofen surprise closures on many species. Venting and descending tools are required when fshing for grouper and are especially important at the depths where snowy grouper are found. One look at the bug-eyed balloon face of barotrauma will tell you these fsh cannot return home safely without help. It is easy to go over a limit of snowy grouper by accident, so have your gear ready and know how to use it.

Sweet E’nuf Charters specializes in grouper and is already booking up quickly for the much anticipated reopening. Give us a call to get tight!

Capt. Quinlyn Haddon guides with Sweet E’nuf Charters out of Marathon, Florida Keys. Contact her at (504) 920-6342 or

Find her on social @captainquinlyn.



Julia Bernstein, 12, of Miami, had a record-setting day fshing of Key West on Jan. 5. She set two new state records in a day by catching a 20-pound, 15-ounce cobia and a 1-pound, 8-ounce mangrove snapper while fshing with Capt. Dale Bittner.

Bernstein’s records were the frst two fsh certifed in Florida’s new saltwater record categories, which were launched in January. Tey both set the bar in the new Youth All-Tackle Weight category. Florida is also now recognizing state records for Youth and Adult Length Categories.

“‘Are those all cobia?’ I couldn’t believe it, as we pulled up to the wreck, there was a dark cloud on the surface of the ocean. Sure enough, it was a large school of hungry cobia, and they were ready to eat!” Bernstein said. She quickly hooked up to two smaller fsh, but in her words, “Tird time was the charm; it was an even larger cobia! We had a great afernoon, we caught six fsh from that school, one of which became the Florida state record and one of which is a pending IGFA Junior Record.”

Bernstein already holds 11 IGFA world records.

To fnish the day, they made one last stop, where Bernstein hooked up with her record mango.

“I worked hard to get it of the bottom and then reeled as fast as I could. Good thing I did, turned out to be a state record mangrove snapper!” she said.

Joseph Ingold set the bar for the redfsh length state record with an impressive 36.25-inch red he caught from a Kayak in Panama City in February. His story is of a slow day that turned exciting in a hurry.

“About halfway down, I hadn’t gotten a single hit, so I cast my paddletail and let it sink to the bottom while I grabbed a new lure to tie on. Once I got my new lure ready, I started to reel in my paddletail to switch it out,” he said. “About fve seconds afer I started to reel it back in, the redfsh hit.”

Ingold thought he had snagged the bottom, but then the fsh began to run.

“I got super excited and loosened up my drag at that point. I really didn’t want to break her of since I was only using 10-pound test,” he said. “When I landed the fsh, I honestly didn’t even think about submitting it for the new length record. I actively participate in the Catch a Florida Memory programs, so I just took pictures for myself and for the Reel Big Fish program. Afer I submitted for a Reel Big Fish, I was curious if anyone had submitted for the new length record and, to my surprise, it was still vacant. So, I took all the pictures I had and put in my application.” CALL

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You know spring has ofcially arrived when the eastern seaboard welcomes the arrival of voracious blackfn tuna! What better way to shake of the winter doldrums than to get out and target these small but mighty speedsters.

May and June are great months to target these fsh. Tey enjoy a wide range from Cape Cod to South Florida, and during the summer they migrate to temperate waters that remain above 70 degrees. Tey inhabit the warmest waters of all tuna species.

Blackfns are a schooling fsh and feed on migratory baitfsh, squid and shrimp. Tey frequently hunt the deeper side of the ledges and reefs common to the eastern seaboard. Tey commonly range from 5 to 20 pounds, with the occasional 30-pounder blowing up your bait!

Live bait is best for bigger tuna. I prefer goggle eyes, which can be caught or bought. Due to their hardiness, they are worth the cost to have on hand.

For live baiting, I use a Shimano Baitrunner OC size 6000 reel spooled with FINS 40G Braid. With the diameter of 6-pound mono, this braid has a tensile breaking strength of 45 pounds. I pair this reel with the Shimano Terez model TZS69M, 6-foot, 9-inch medium action spinning rod. I use a 6-foot section of Seaguar fuorocarbon in the 30-pound range for leader and Owner SSW 6/0 or 7/0 cutting point hooks. Blackfn are leader shy, so start with a 30-pound leader and move up to 40 only if you are experiencing breakofs.

I combine live bait with jigging techniques when targeting tuna. For high-speed retrieval of lures through the water column, which these fsh prefer, I use the Penn Battle III 4000 HS (high-speed) spinning reel. I pair this with a 6-foot, 6-inch Shimano Trevala B. I start of using Rapala Williamson Kensaki jigs in the 120- to 220-gram range.

Pro tip: Switch sizes and colors until you fnd what best “matches the hatch” rather than switching jigs.

I fsh early mornings, as tuna can be both light and boat shy. During a full moon cycle, the bite can turn of quickly as the fsh have been feeding most of the night. Once on my target area, I set up for a drif just outside the frst reef system, past the drop-of in deeper water to avoid bonito, sharks and kingfsh. Tis is typically in the 225- to 300-foot range. I deploy two live baits—one in the bow and the other in the stern—then jig in the middle. Check your fshfnder ofen to identify “scratches,” or fsh moving through, and mark the depth they appear in the water column. Target these fsh while jigging.

Te food quality of blackfn depends on proper bleeding when they are frst caught. Make a small incision behind the pectoral fn on both sides of the fsh to ensure the highest quality meat. Catching these speedsters will quickly become an addiction, and now is the time to make it happen!

Find Mark Ambert on Instagram @marksgonefshing_™; email:


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Since early November, when the frst reports came in from the Florida Keys, scientists have been looking into reports of fsh exhibiting abnormal behavior referred to as “the spins.” Bonefsh & Tarpon Trust (BT&T) recently pointed its fnger at harmful algae as a likely reason for this phenomenon that has killed numerous endangered sawfsh and afected fsh of 30 diferent species.

Fish with the spins lose equilibrium and swim upside down in circles, ofen following a stressful or stimulating event. According to BT&T, a majority of reports for this behavior originated in the Lower Keys, between Big Pine Key and Sugarloaf Key, but there have been reports farther west toward Key West as well as in Miami north of Biscayne Bay National Park. Among the species afected are popular sport and food fsh such as tarpon, permit, snook, jack crevalle, mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, cubera snapper, goliath grouper and redfsh.

In January, BT&T and the Lower Keys Guides Association launched a study with the assistance of numerous other organizations to determine the cause of these events. BT&T stopped short of calling its results conclusive, because there’s still testing to be done, but they indicated occurrences of harmful algae blooms in the gambierdiscus family are the likely culprit.

Saltwater anglers will likely be familiar with ciguatera poisoning caused by the accumulation of ciguatoxin in predatory food fsh. Gambierdiscus is known to produce ciguatoxin and other neurotoxins that can have diferent efects on human and marine life. BT&T in not yet sure whether this variant of gambierdiscus is producing any cytotoxin that would move up the food web, but evidence indicates it is such a toxin that is afecting fsh.

Tese harmful algae are more common in reef areas that are environmentally stressed, according to BT&T. Testing continues and should hopefully provide more insight into this algae’s potential impact to the fsheries.

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The New Angler Magazine – Lake Istokpoga/Lake Okeechobee is pleased to announce the New Angler Members Group, and we’d like to invite you to learn more about it and how to become a member.

We know that to become successful, we need the advertising support of local merchants and businesses in our magazine. And we are thankful for their support.

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Happy Mothers Day

Tangie Neff


A mother is your first friend, your best friend, and your friend forever. Moms are like buttons — they hold everything together. A mother's hug lasts long after she lets go. Life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother. Mother's Day serves as a reminder of the incredible women who share our lives.

My Mother kept a garden, A garden of the heart. She planted all the good things That gave my life its start. She turned me to the sunshine And encouraged me to dream.

Fostering and nurturing

The seeds of self-esteem.

And when the winds and rain came, She protected me enough.

But not too much because she knew I'd need to stand up strong and tough.

Her constant good example

Always taught me right from wrong.

Markers for my pathway

That will last a lifetime long. I am my Mother's garden.

I am her legacy.

And I hope today she feels the love Reflected back from me.

Proud members of the Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce
A Very Special Thank You To our Angler Members Group Don Norton 863-273-4998

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Airboat Wildlife Adventures

863-655-4737 4971 US-98, Sebring


Lake Placid Western Wear

417 US 27 S Lake Placid


Musselman's Appliances & TV

4230 US27N Sebring


*Skull Hill Archery ........................

1505 Parrott Ave, Okeechobee


Matt's Barbershop

5367 US 27 South Unit B, Sebring


Flippin' Out Salon

3605 Sebring Parkway, Sebring


*Lake June Pontoon/Jet Ski Rental

10 Lake June Clubhouse Rd, Lake Placid


Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce .......







Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce...... 863-467-6246

55 S Parrott Ave, Okeechobee


*First Baptist Church

1927 Blessing Ave, Lorida



Rachel's Dog Grooming 863-214-3334

1128 Corvette Ave, Sebring


*Angie Doughit


Lake Okeechobee Bass, Crappie/Bluegill fishing

*Captain Corky & Tangie’s Guided Bass Fishing Tours

Lake Istokpoga, Lake Placid, Lake June 606-584-0144

*Geoffrey Balog Bass Fishing Guide 863-840-3420

Lake Placid, Lake June, Lake Istokpoga

*Poga Boats Crappie/Panfishing Tours .... 937-217-8076

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Red's Bass Fishing Guide Service

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Gator Belly Baits .......................... 863-895-2248


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Heartland Tax & Accounting LLC

145 Center Ave, Sebring




*Okeechobee Tourist Development Council

304 NW 2nd Street Okeechobee




3816 Divot Rd, Sebring

18 North Oak Ave Lake Placid Lake June REPORT

Geoffrey Balog


So finally, the water temperatures are warming, and the fish are starting to move up in good numbers. Lake June is producing more numbers than quality, but that could change anytime.

The canals on the lake's North and South sides are very good areas to explore daily. Beds are starting to show up, and it won't be long before the females start moving up on those beds, so be vigilant and check them often. Sometimes, the morning is a very short-lived scenario.

The best baits right now seem to be Cinco, Trick Worms in black and blue, June bug, green pumpkin, and watermelon red. The offshore bite still seems to be a little stingy. The tree piles have been producing very little for this

fisherman, but that is not saying other techniques are working for others,

I have not heard anything spectacular about any of those; however, as the water begins to warm up and as time passes, fish will start returning to the trees for either post-spawn or pre-schooling conditions. The big deal right now is the consistency of the weather. Our bass do not like fluctuating pressure changes, and they do not like water temperature changes, so a steady weather condition is something that we look for to be something positive for the future.

This is Geoffrey Balog signing off for now. Contact me if you want to book a guide trip on Lake June until next time, tight lines, and we will see you on the water.

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Bream: Bluegill, Redear, or Shellcracker?

As we get into the late spring and summertime months, our bream species are getting ready to spawn. Bream (a collective term for bluegill and redear sunfish) spawn in Florida waters anywhere from April to October, with May and June being peak spawning months. Like other fish species, bream push up into shallower waters during spawning season and spawn during full moons. These fish make beds in sand bottoms but can also be found in areas with vegetation, like spatterdock pads or bulrush edges and cattails. Fishing for bream can be done with both live and artificial bait. It is best to use crickets and grass shrimp for live bait, while artificial lures can be popping bugs and small spinners. There is a healthy population of bream species on Lake Istokpoga. Fall electrofishing numbers show high catch rates for these two fish, as well as fish that are of keepable sizes. In 2023, biologists recorded over 500 bluegill and redears during sampling! Yearly angler surveys on Lake Istokpoga end at the beginning of June, so data might not fully capture how well the anglers do at catching bluegill and redear on the lake. Still, high catch rates are reported in April and May as waters warm up and these fish push into shallower waters to spawn. Please remember that the statewide bag limit for bream is 50 fish per person daily. Get out there this summer and try your luck! Maybe add a fish fry to your weekend summer plans! Tight lines!

— If you have any comments on any information related in this article, please reach out to Sara Menendez at

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Shellcracker or Redear Bluegill

Take a Bow; It's

Tarpon fishing is guaranteed excitement for any angler from seasoned to beginner. Tarpon are second to none for their size and large school numbers at certain times of the year. Most of the Tarpon in the Tampa Bay area run from 40 to 140 pounds plus. However, don’t forget those Trophy tarpons that can range from 70 to over 180 pounds. I need to take a moment to brag about my Grandma Bobby Wells; for years, she held the Texas Tarpon State record with a catch of 160 pounds, a fish that outweighed her by quite a bit in the picture.

One of the most sought-after inshore gamefish in the world is the Tarpon, known also as the Silverking or Sabalo. Since the early 1800’s, legendary anglers from Hemmingway, Flip Pallot and Lefty Kreh have been casting everything from fly’s, live bait and plastics to catch these gamefish. The Tarpon fishing here in Tampa Bay ranks as some of the best Tarpon fishing in Florida, along with Boca Grande, Sanibel Island, and the key of Islamorada. I thought I would share a bit of Tarpon knowledge I have picked up over the years with you; I feel understanding your prey sometimes leads to more catches. Tarpon inhabit warmer water. They are primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies but have been found north of Cape Hatteras and down to Brazil. The female Tarpon can grow as large as 300 pounds and reach lengths over eight feet long. In real life, females seem to live longer than males, reaching 50 years old, while males typically live until 30 years old. A female Tarpon can lay as many as eleven million eggs in her lifetime, so it is important to practice catchn-release, especially on these bigger fish.

Tarpons are toothless and swallow their prey whole; their mouths are hard, bony, and rough. Because a Tarpon’s mouth is so boney, once they take the bait, you need to practice a hard hookset, or you may not get the chance to fight this fish. Tarpon are one of the few species in the world that have a swim bladder. This bladder acts as a lung so they can breathe raw air, and they breathe like most other species through their gills. The faster a Tarpon is swimming means they will usually “surface or roll” more for air; that is the time when anglers can easily locate a school of Tarpon. The best position for casting to a school is positioning your vessel in front of them and allowing them to swim towards you. Once they are close enough, position your bait and begin casting in front of and into the school of Tarpon.

Now, there are lots of baits that you can use to catch Tarpon, such as small pass crabs, live bait, cut bait, jigs, and soft plastics. I personally like fishing with live pass crabs for Tarpon, but make sure you hook the crab

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BEST DAY OF MY LIFE Almost The Top Angler Profile - Mikeybalzz

On October 1st, 1932, something unique happened during the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. In the fifth inning, Babe Ruth strode to the plate and, with a pointing gesture, pointed towards the center field fence. He then hit a home run deep over the center field fence, causing one of the reporters to remark, “He called his shot.” Of course, I was not there to see it, but I loved playing Little League baseball growing up, and all I wanted was to someday play for the New York Yankees.

As I grew older, bass fishing replaced baseball, but I never forgot the story of Babe Ruth and his center-field home run. Unlike baseball, bass fishing is an entirely different sport. There are no at-bats or swinging for the fence. For many of the top anglers, it is all about confidence.

Of course, skill and experience greatly impact one’s success or failure. Predicting you will catch multiple giants on any given day is like pointing to center field. Yet that’s precisely what Mike Meisenheimer, better known as mikeybalzz, did recently on one of our lakes in Highlands County.

Mike is no newcomer to catching large bass on many of our lakes, and he has proven it many times

over with his interesting and exciting YouTube videos. With over 94,500 subscribers to his YouTube channel, Mike has filmed 843 videos demonstrating his fishing skills and knowledge.

On this particular day in March, during a trip to Highlands County, Florida, to visit his folks, Mike’s cameraman Quinton of Water Wonders Media was filming him on his Nitro bass boat as he explained how he caught a few big bass the previous day, but on this particular day, he plans to catch some giants. Stating his goal to beat his record of five bass weighing forty-nine pounds and change, he calls his shot, catching an 11.39-pound bass to start off the day.

Most anglers hope to catch a wall-hanger, a giant trophy bass, someday, but few achieve the feat. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, make the annual trip to Florida from all over the country to catch a trophy largemouth bass. Few are fortunate enough to see it happen, and even fewer have ever caught more than one trophy on the same day. I would imagine Babe Ruth shared a similar confidence when he blasted that baseball out of the park almost a hundred years ago.

Mike’s first bass was quickly weighed and released alive (with great care), followed by a second bass weighing 7 ½ pounds. It was not quite a trophy


fish but one that many anglers would love to catch.

TrophyCatch, a Florida Fish and Wildlife sponsored program recognizing large fish caught in Florida and released alive, considers a largemouth bass at eight pounds a trophy. Most bass fishermen would agree. An eight-pound bass is huge.

As Mike’s video continues, he bags his third lunker, weighing 9.32 pounds. It is a massive female with stocky shoulders and a bulging belly. This takes his three fish total to 28.28 pounds. It is a mind-blowing weight for only three fish, certainly enough to win most bass tournaments with a five-fish limit.

Bass number four cleared the trophy mark at 8.2 pounds, bringing Mike's total of four fish to 36.48 pounds. Less than four pounds from a 40-pound bag.

In order to reach fifty pounds, Mike needed to catch a fifth bass of close to 14 pounds or a couple of bass large enough to begin culling his two smallest bass of 6.7 or 7.5-pounds. But, as all anglers know, conditions change, and as the day progressed, the wind picked up, and the bite tapered off. Mike could see three large bass on his Active Target, but they just would not cooperate. Finally, he got a strike and landed a five-pounder. Releasing the fish without weighing it, Mike was confident and determined to do even better.

Eventually, he does, landing a large 6.70-pounder to bring his 5-fish total to a whopping 43.18 pounds of bass. An amazing feat for a bass fisherman. It is even more amazing to catch it all on film. Mike utilized his Lowrance Active Target to find the hard spots that held the fish.

Surprisingly, all the fish were caught on a 7’ medium-light Monster Bass Lunker Stik spinning rod combined with a Daiwa Exceler spinning reel and 12-pound test fluorocarbon line. Descent Mooneye jigs, Hog Farmers Spunk Shad, and small swimbaits

rounded out the tackle arsenal.

If you are a mikeybalzz fan, and you have watched any of his YouTube videos, you’ve heard Mike refer to giganotosaurus, megalodons, donkeyonalopolis, and freakin’ donks.’ He tends to get a little excited about catching these giants.

Pointing to center field when you are at bat takes a lot of confidence but stating that you’re going to catch a giant bass or five giants, and then catching an eleven-pounder with your first fish is confidence personified. — That’s mikeybalzz!


The Month of May Means Bluegill/Shellcracker Season

Well, here we are, folks. A new year and a new bluegill/shellcracker season just kicking off as we start the month of May. In most of our lakes here in Florida, March, April, and May are transition months, taking us from the final days of crappie season in late March and early April to the start of bluegill season by the first few weeks of May.

Lake Istokpoga is a great fishing lake for crappies and many anglers believe it’s even better for bluegills. Similar to crappies, bluegills move into the shallows to spawn, often in the hundreds, and even the thousands, building beds literally on top of each other.

Unlike crappie, which prefer to spawn in pads and bulrushes, bluegill will often spawn in large, shallow open water areas, making them far more accessible to most anglers.

From all reports, 2024 is expected to be a banner crop of bluegills, so schedule your pontoon trips early, up to 5 people. Give me a call at 937-217-8076.

My calendar will fill up quickly. We are now offering Pontoon rides on beautiful Lake Istokpoga.

May is also an excellent month for bass fishing since they are typically post-spawn and eating everything in sight. Corky’s calendar is filling up, too, so do not wait; call him today to book your guided bass fishing trip, 1-2 people 606-584-0144.

Special thanks to our supporters and sponsors Edgar Rods, Panfish Assassin, Reaper Rods, Bruiser Baits, Schooners BBQ Shack, Lake June Pontoons, Visit Sebring, Lithium Marine.

— “Imma Poga Gal” Tangie Neff. For more information contact Corky & Tangie’s Bass and Crappie Fishing Tours, Sebring FL | 937-217-8076

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Recipe ofthe Month

A Recipe for Mom this Mother's Day

Chicken, Pepper and Pineapple Skewers

A little sweet, a little savory. These savory-sweet kebabs feature smoky charred chicken punctuated with colorful peppers and caramelized pineapple— perfect for any cookout.


• 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 11/2-inch pieces

• 2 tbsp. olive oil

• Kosher salt and pepper

• 8 oz. fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch chunks

• 6 mini peppers (mixed colors), cut into 1-inch pieces

• 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges, then halved crosswise


1. Heat grill to medium-high.

2. In large bowl, toss chicken with oil and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper to coat; fold in pineapple, peppers, and onion. Thread onto skewers, separating layers of onion and using only 2 layers of onion at a time between chicken, pineapple, and peppers.

3. Grill, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes.

Happy Mother's Day!


EA Guide to Responsible Navigation and Youth Education

nsuring safety on the water is paramount for all boaters, and instilling these values in the youth is essential for the future of responsible navigation. This guide emphasizes safety checks, responsible boating practices, and making every boating opportunity a valuable learning experience.

Safety Checks for Smooth Operation:

Before embarking on any boating adventure, conduct thorough safety checks. Ensure the boat’s functionality, inspect the engine, and confirm that

all systems are in working order. Regular maintenance and pre-launch checks contribute to a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

Life Jacket Count, Lanyard Use, and Throwable Device:

One of the fundamental aspects of boating safety is the proper use of life jackets. Prioritize the count and condition of life jackets on board, ensuring there are enough for every passenger. Additionally, always wear the engine cutoff lanyard while operating the boat to enhance safety measures in case of unexpected events. Don’t forget to include a throwable device, such as a life ring or cushion, which can be crucial for assisting someone in distress and is often a legal requirement on boats. These throwable devices provide an additional layer of safety, especially in situations where a person may be in the water and in need of assistance. Jumping in after a person in need of assistance may seem heroic but can often lead to serious injury or worse to both parties.

Boat Functioning and Essential Accessories:

Check the functionality of the boat’s essential components, including steering, throttle, and lights. Ensure that navigation lights are working correctly for nighttime visibility. Additionally, equip the boat with a

Continued on page 14

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Continued from page 4

correctly, that is the difference between a catch and a loss. Hooking a crab in the body will kill it; make sure to put the hook through the very edge of the crab between the brown edge and the white underside, and always keep it in the water. Buying crabs can be expensive and, during the season, hard to find. Netting them takes quite a while, but it's fun if you have the time. Regardless, if you buy or catch them, you need to keep them alive; if you do it right, you can keep your crabs healthy and alive for days. A few tips for doing that are: Change the water twice a day “at least,” feed the crabs some cut bait to keep them healthy overnight, and do not keep any dead shrimp in the cooler or live well “when they die; they release a toxin that can kill your crabs”, if a crab dies get it out right away.

Moving on to natural bait, as you may know, Tarpons are opportunistic feeders, so they will eat almost anything if the time is right. As you may also know, if they have their mind on anything else, they won’t give you the time of day no matter what you throw. Some of the go-to live baits I have been successful with are Threadfin, Shrimp, Sardines, Mullet, and Menhaden. Believe it or not, I have also landed some nice Tarpon on cut bait that I have dropped into what I call a “Tarpon Ball”. A “Tarpon Ball” is when they are all schooled up and down deep in the water; all you can see is their dark shadows. Tarpon are known to scavenge the bottom for dead fish, so I am guessing that is why this works occasionally.

but make sure to spool up your reels with many lines. Most pros use anywhere from 30lb-65lb test. Remember, Tarpons have very abrasive mouths, so a good leader is a must; pros use anywhere from 50lb.- 80lb with a lighter leader during the day and heavier at night. Using circle hooks for Tarpon offers the best hook-up ratio and inflicts the least damage to the fish. Get a good fighting belt for tarpon fishing. You don’t want to break your back, so have it sized and ready before the hook-up. You will need some good shoes; nonskid, it can make the difference between the catch or a self-release.

Of course, you must “bow to the Silverking”, when I first started fishing for these awesome creatures, I did not understand this term. We are all beginners at some point, and I had to learn the hard way that if you do not “bow” and give slack in the line when they jump, there is a good chance you will lose your fish. By allowing the line to go slack it makes it harder for them to cut it on their gill plate or spit the hook, so “please take a bow” when they jump and point the rod towards the fish.

Let’s talk Rods; when selecting your tarpon rod, be sure that the rod has a strong backbone; it should have moderate give in the first one-third of the rod, then get stiffer. Many guides highly recommend a braided line,

Let’s talk about how to fish for tarpon and show you some good fishing manners. There are a lot of beginners out there, “Yes, I am talking to you,” so if you want to live to fish another day, follow some basic fishing etiquette. If someone is following a school, “get out of the way.” If they were on them first, don’t try to jockey into position, split the school, and have them dive down. A lot of times if you are in a position where the school is coming your way, stay put, let the school swim right into your bait and there is a good chance for a hook-up. There are going to be times when you are fishing next to other boats and anglers; you might get a hookup, try and control the Tarpon the best you can and move them away from the other boats. I learned this tip the hard way: if the fish swims under the boat, put your rod tip in the water right away until you can control where the fish swims. If the Tarpon swims to the other side of the boat, keep your rod tip in the water and walk around the front of the boat to the other side, keeping tension on the line, and move quickly.

Hopefully, these tips will help you up your game, and you might skip a few mistakes that I had to learn the hard way. Some top fishing guides in Tampa Bay and in Florida can really teach you a lot and put you on some great schools of Tarpon. Fishing with a professional guide can make a difference between landing the big one, or the one that got away. One thing I can tell you for sure, chasing the Silverking is worth it and it’s a lot of fun.

Misty Wells Producer & Host of “Let’s Take It Outside” TV show airing to 220 million on Discovery & Discovery GO, Bally Sun Sports, World Fishing Network, Waypoint TV, Hunt Channel, MOTV, TCT, Discover Florida Network & Carbon TV. Bass Pro-Outdoor Pro & Outdoor & Travel Writer. Founder of “A Reel Future” non-profit devoted to teaching the passion of fishing & conservation to foster children, over 3,800 children & counting.

“Let’s Take It Outside” with Misty Wells


Capt. Angie Douthit


Bass and crappie fishing has been on fire with record numbers of big bass, quantity of bass, and crappie limits being caught despite the spawn coming to a close until next November.

The bluegills are spawning now, and the month of May is a great time to fish for them.

Typically, when fishing for bream, my customers will use a 7 ft ultralight spinning rig with 4 lb. mono line, a small split shot weight, and a bobber tipped with either a cricket or red wriggler worm. Fishing for Bream provides a lot of fun, fast action, and great tug on the line, which is great for the little Anglers.

If you have not had the chance to fish the big O for our two-handed-size bluegill, now is the time to call and book your trip. I can accommodate three people when bream fishing.

...there is no safe place to get in/ out. I hope Glades County will step up and fix the much-needed ramp. The other three boat ramps used on the west/north sides are in great shape...

Some areas to try when bass and bream fishing have been the Shoal, Monkey Box, and Dupree Bar, around Dyess Ditch, parts of Horse Island, the North end of Tin House, 2nd Point, parts of Kings Bar, and Grassy. If you are fishing on the east side, try areas around Nub N Slough, Hendry Creek, and J & S back in.

Bass lures to consider are worms, swim baits/swim jigs, shallow jerk baits (hard/soft), some topwater, flipping/pitching (isolated cover), and shallow crankbaits. When pan fishing, color schemes include shad, bluegill, crawdad, tilapia, and live crickets/ worms.

If you are launching at the Indian Prairie boat ramp, use extra caution when loading/unloading your boat; there is no safe place to get in/out. I hope Glades County will step up and fix the much-needed ramp. The other three boat ramps used on the west/north sides are in great shape: Harney Pond canal, located in Lakeport; Scott Driver Park; and the old Okeetantie campground, which will soon undergo a major change to a Bass Pro Campground and Resort.

To book your next exciting and fun day fishing Okeechobee, call 863228-7263 or log onto, where you can find more trip information, customer reviews, pics, rates, and more. A big thank you to my sponsors: Toho Marine, Mercury, BnM Poles, Real Magic, Lews, Bullet Weights, Gene Larew, Pradco Brands, Mid-South Tackle, Maui Jim, Gill, and Rapala.

Continued from page 11

whistle, a crucial tool for signaling in emergency situations.

Teaching Youth to Navigate and Respect Waterways:

Empowering youth with navigation skills and respect for waterways is key to fostering responsible boaters. Utilize each boating opportunity as a learning experience, teaching them about buoy markers, understanding water currents, and interpreting navigational charts. Instill the importance of respecting the diverse ecosystems thriving beneath the water’s surface.

Respect for Others and Safe Distances:

Teach boaters, especially the younger generation, about respecting others on the lakes. Encourage maintaining a safe distance from other vessels, respecting no-wake zones, and being mindful of the impact of boat wakes on smaller watercraft. This not only ensures safety but also promotes a positive and considerate boating community.

Awareness and Environmental Stewardship:

Instill awareness in young boaters about the environment. Teach them the significance of maintaining clean waterways, avoiding littering, and being mindful of wildlife habitats. Emphasize the importance of environmental stewardship to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of our lakes and rivers.

In conclusion, prioritizing boater safety involves meticulous safety checks, responsible practices, and instilling a sense of respect for waterways in the youth. Remember, none of us knew how to boat until we were taught. Be the person who guides and enhances the growth of safe boating practices. By sharing knowledge and fostering a culture of responsibility on the water, we ensure that every boating experience is an adventure and a journey toward becoming capable, knowledgeable, and safety-conscious boaters. Let’s collectively strive to be mentors on the waves, shaping a community that values education, safety, and the joy of responsible boating for generations to come.

— Thank you! Lake June Pontoons | 863-464-0236

Voted BEST Boat Rental in Florida - Guide to Florida

Why Dads cannot be trusted to fish alone with their kids.

Capt. Dave Stephens'

Boca Granda Pass, Charlotte Harbor, and the Flats REPORT & FORECAST

Saltwater Fishing Games

Well, folks, I have been waiting to write about spring showers. However, it seems all spring has been nothing but showers. This spring, I have had a hard time pushing up into areas that I normally access for big snook this time of year. When Mother Nature has control, it is going to happen. I get smacked in the face with all this wind and rain.

There is always a plan B. Is it the plan we want to follow? Probably not, but is it the one that gets the rods bent? Normally, this time of year, I have clients who love to fish one fish. I know this sounds a little strange, but the one fish is what I call a lifetime fish. These clients book me to fish for a particular species of fish, one that we consider a trophy. Sometimes, we have to change plans. I have been able to introduce these

clients to what I call number fishing. It is a pretty simple concept; the name of the game is numbers. On some of my charters, we simply focus on quantity. Yes, we do have rules. It cannot just be any fish.

Let me lay out the ground rules. All fish considered game fish are one point, such as Snook, Reds, Trout, Jacks, and Snapper. Fish like catfish, ladyfish, and lizardfish are minus one point! So, the first minus you catch is a single point.

However, if your biggest catch is followed up by a minus fish, you lose your biggest. It is a fun, interactive way to keep people interested in a day on the water. You can make your own rules. It is just a fun way to get everyone excited about fishing. Sometimes, it should not be about the biggest; it's really awesome making it about the most.

Guess the one that can never be taken away? It's the first fish, and I always try to make sure my youngest angler always gets the first fish in the boat.


Step back in time and experience central Florida's history at the Lake Placid Historical Society Museum! Housed in a 1920s Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot, this gem is more than just a museum — it's a journey through the heart of Florida's past. Open Wednesday to Saturday, from 10am to 3pm, our doors are always open for history enthusiasts and curious minds alike. Admission is absolutely free!

Our museum isn't just about showcasing history; it's about living it - we bring the stories of central Florida to life in a way that's casual, fun, and inviting. Whether you're a history buff or just looking for a unique way to spend some time, the Lake Placid Historical Society Museum is the perfect destination.

— 12 E Park St, Lake Placid, FL 33852

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Pasco County scallopers will get a 40-day season in 2024 afer the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a change to the management region during a February meeting. Te season for the Pasco County Zone will begin July 10 and run through Aug. 18, annually.

Tese long-term season dates were informed by the 2023 post-season monitoring results by FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute as well as input received from stakeholders at virtual public workshops, in-person meetings and public comments.

“Along with moving away from the Independence Day holiday, the longer season will increase both the public’s safety and access to one of our state’s most fun family resources,” said FWC Commissioner Preston Farrier. “ Tere will be many positive impacts for the local communities.”

Te Pasco Zone bay scallop region includes all state waters between the Hernando/Pasco county line and the Anclote Key Lighthouse in northern Pinellas County, and includes all waters of the Anclote River. For complete regulations, visit

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You’ll fnd some real giants lurking in Florida waters, ofen hanging out near wrecks, structures and mangrove roots. Te notorious Goliath grouper is a massive, territorial and iconic Florida fsh that has experienced a remarkable comeback in recent years, prompting the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to introduce a lottery system for limited harvest.

It’s been quite the journey for these giants of the sea. Back in the 1990s, they were critically endangered, and conservation eforts swung into action

to protect them. Trough the 2000s, Goliath grouper started reappearing in South Florida’s coastal waters in greater numbers. Some saw this as a positive thing, while others focused on the negative potential impact on the marine ecosystem.

With their enormous size, reaching lengths of over 8 feet and weighing up to 800 pounds, these beasts could easily throw of the delicate balance of fsh populations and reef habitats. Despite the initial concerns, strict conservation measures and protective regulations led to a remarkable population rebound. Tey once again rule as apex predators; some would even call them bullies!

We were lucky to receive one of the tags to harvest a Goliath this year. Tere were specifc protocols to follow. Te FWC divided it into Category I and Category II, restricting the fshing areas. Additionally, there was a stipulation to use non-ofset, non-stainless steel hooks to improve survival chances. Tere was also a research element involved. We were issued a kit for taking samples and instructions on where to drop of the carcass afer our fsh was cleaned.

Goliath grouper have big appetites, eating large quantities of food to sustain their massive size. Tese underwater monsters can consume up to 5 percent of their body weight in a single feeding, so an average adult weighing around 400 pounds might eat 20 pounds. Tat’s a hefy meal by any standard. Tey also eat pretty much anything that moves, and they love crustaceans, especially stone crabs.

With our tag, we managed to catch one that fell within the slot size of 24 to 36 inches set by the lottery. We gave it a try, and to our surprise, it tasted great, like a meatier version of traditional grouper: white, faky and juicy, probably due to their diet.

Goliaths are a lesson in how tricky the balance can be between preserving our marine life and using it responsibly. From nearly disappearing to bouncing back in a big way, these amazing creatures keep us hooked on their journey. Tey remind us how everything in the ocean is connected and how important balance is. Whether we’re rallying to protect them or frying them up for dinner, Goliath grouper are a signifcant part of what makes Florida’s marine ecosystem so unique.

To see the episode of our Goliath Grouper Catch & Cook, go to “Bean Sportfshing TV” on YouTube. For more information about FWC’s Goliath Grouper harvest program, visit:

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Jigging or Baiting for Big Amberjacks

Amberjacks are powerful fsh with a never-quit attitude that makes them prized among anglers who live for the battle. Tey are a widespread species, with a pretty much worldwide range and prefer depths from 60 to 250 feet. Typically, they live near reefs and shipwrecks in small schools. Tis is due to their diet being mostly smaller fsh, crustaceans and squid that live around these structures.

An amberjack might live its whole life around these structures and only move due to lack of prey or for spawning. Amberjacks broadcast spawn, but usually in smaller groups. A single female can produce anywhere between 20 and 50 million eggs. Afer spawning, these fsh participate in some sort of courting and will stay in pairs. Adults can weigh up to 200 pounds and grow to 6 feet in length with a lifespan of more than 15 years. Most angler encounters are with fsh up into the 40-pound range.

Ofshore and nearshore in appropriate depths, you’ll want to look for AJs around structure. Most depthfnders identify structure as dark red patches that jut up from the baseline of the ocean foor. Good structure will have plenty of life around it, which will be represented on the screen as yellow and green blotches of bait and baitfsh.

Once you fnd your spot, use a typical bottom rig with enough weight to keep your bait on bottom in the current. Both live and dead baits work. It’s a good idea to butterfy larger baits, which is cutting the spine and ribs out while leaving the head and skin-on flets intact. For live baits, fsh any baitfsh in the 3- to 5-inch range.

Jigging is another fun way to target these monsters. My friend Nick DeGannaro recently caught a giant AJ on a jig, and here are a few tips he provided.

“Dropping a slim-profled jigging spoon and ripping it back up towards the surface usually elicits the bite, which will stop all motion you had going as the rod doubles over and line starts disappearing of the spool,” he said. “It really is a thrilling fshery, but one you have to show up prepared for, as it will push your tackle to the limits.”

DeGannaro’s go-to outft for speed jigging is an 8000-sized reel flled with 30-lb. braid paired with an E-Fish-Ent Custom Rods Phantom Jigger 250. He fshes a 40- to 60-lb. fuorocarbon leader, depending on water clarity, and either a glow or shiny jig.

Amberjack regulations vary on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, so check the regs before you go. While some enjoy the buttery favor of amberjack, others are turned of by the tapeworms most AJs have in their meat. Whether you plan to keep one or not, these reef bullies sure are a lot of fun to do battle with.

Emily Rose Hanzlik has caught more than 60 IGFA world records in various categories. Find her on social media @emilyhanzlikoutdoors.

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Surf casting is a great and inexpensive way to catch quality fsh. I’ve landed big tarpon and snook from the beach and small panfsh like whiting and croaker. You can catch dinner or experience the thrill of battling some the top sportfsh in the world.

GEAR: I carry two rods, one for big fsh and one for smaller fsh, so I’ll be prepared for whatever I encounter. My lighter set-up is an 8-foot mediumaction rod with a spinning reel flled with 10- to 20-lb. braid attached to 12 inches of clear 30-lb. fuorocarbon leader.

For tarpon, big snook, sharks and big jacks, you need 40- to 60-lb. braid (200-300 yards) with a 60- to 80-lb. clear fuorocarbon leader. For big fsh, you need a heavier rod and 6000-8000 reel with a bigger spool for more line.

LURES: Tie your lures to your leaders with a loop knot. My favorite lures include 4-inch DOA paddletail (pearl white or silver sparkle) rigged on a 3/8oz. chartreuse jig head; a 1- or 2-oz. spoon (silver Krocodile or gold Johnson); topwater plugs (Skitterwalk, Zara Spook, or various chug plugs); and shallow running crankbaits. If it’s windy or rough, you might need to fsh heavier jigs or spoons.

BEST TIMES TO FISH: First light and an hour before dark are the best times to fsh. Te best tides are early incoming and early outgoing. Avoid slack tides. I also use moon phases, which regulate the amount of rise and fall during each tide.

FIND THE FISH: Find the bait, and you’ll fnd the fsh. Bird activity is the most obvious sign of bait in an area. Tis could be pelicans, gulls or even small terns nipping at baitfsh. You also need to be able to spot baitfsh. Identifying the little splashes or dark mass of a school is critical.

I walk the beach looking for bait. When I see bait, I stop and fsh. Birds aren’t always there, and the bait just pops up for a few seconds and you need to be ready. Go to a beach access, get out of the car and scan for birds. If you don’t see any birds, it might be worth going to another beach access, but remember that fnding bait is sometimes just a matter of moving down the beach a hundred yards.

TECHNIQUE: Identify the feeders. Bluefsh, jacks, mackerel, ladyfsh, kingfsh and barracuda are all aggressive feeders that like fashy lures and fast retrieves. If you’re fshing for tarpon, a slow steady retrieve is better. Snook will hit a slow retrieve and can also be caught in shallower water by jigging of the bottom around the frst cut. Whiting, pompano and croakers are all easily caught twitching a lure of the bottom, but you must get it out to them.

Richard L. Matteson is a long-time contributor to Coastal Angler Magazine who reports for the Stuart Rod and Reel Club. Contact him at (336) 414-3440.

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Out Here

The fight for an unforgettable catch begins here, where 100,000 square miles of deep blue waters play home to speedy blue marlin and wahoo, massive tuna and brawny mahi mahi. Deep sea fishing in The Out Islands is a battle of wits, a test of perseverance, and a chance to prove your angler’s instinct. See what could be waiting on the other side of your line.


Summer Fsing ALASKA’S


is true for human visitors, too. Te summertime fshing in Alaska can be astoundingly good.

Imagine awe-inspiring natural landscapes cascading into a sea teeming with marine life. I’ve lived and fshed in Fiji, Te Bahamas, Hawaii and Florida. Tey are all spectacular, but there’s nothing like an Alaskan summer.

My own journey to Alaska began as a young man when I dreamed of one day fshing there. Like most young adults, I strived to get good grades and work jobs to pay bills and tuition. I took the mainstream approach of university studies. Shortly afer graduation, I obtained a position with a fnancial frm. I loved the work; I hated the monotony of a nine-to-fve work life. Afer a year and a half, I called it quits and fed to Alaska with no contacts or the faintest idea of what it would be like. It’s now been 12 years, and I still call Alaska home for the summer fshing season.

I operate Ketchikan’s Finest Fishing Charters. My fshing partner, Jake Smith, and I consider ourselves lucky for the opportunity to provide topfight experiences for clients every day.

Te prime fshing season in Ketchikan is May through September, and we provide customized charters for any group, regardless of age or experience. You can expect to catch halibut, salmon, rockfsh, cod and even Dungeness crab. We ofer full-day and multi-day packages, with daily catches aggregating over hundreds of pounds. In addition, we ofer cruise ship charters for salmon and halibut to ft each visitor’s port times. With pick-up and drop-of from downtown ports, it’s the best way to fsh during an Alaskan cruise.

John Muir, the famous naturalist, wrote that you should never go to Alaska as a young man because you’ll never be satisfed with any other place as long as you live. From frst-hand experience, I believe this to be true.

Alaska still holds riches beyond one’s wildest dreams. Hundreds of millions of salmon food into their native streams and rivers to spawn each year. Giant barn-door halibut scour the deep seas. Humpback whales migrate thousands of miles to feast on Alaska’s annual summer bounty. Eagles, bears and other wildlife abound and celebrate summer, when it’s a feast for all. Tis

Imagine riding to the richest Alaskan fshing grounds with humpback whales breaching on the horizon. Eagles soar overhead and swoop to pluck salmon from the sea. Te fshing is insane, with massive halibut and lightsout salmon fshing. It’s sensory overload in a good way, and an experience that should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list.

If planning a fshing trip in Alaska seems daunting, know that modernday Alaska is accessible to all. Tere’s no need for foat planes or dog sleds. Ketchikan is a two-hour plain ride from Seattle in a commercial airliner that touches down in a modern airport. From there, everything is at your fngertips.

Check out Ketchikan’s Finest Fishing Charters at Contact them (907) 617-4717 or e-mail


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The year is 2024, and technology is getting better and better. Whether it be the retail tech business or the fshing industry, there are tools now available that a few years ago we would have never thought were even possible. One of those technologies is forward-facing sonar (FFS). Tere’s a lot of debate about FFS in the fshing these days, but there’s no denying it’s an amazing tool when used correctly.

I have been using this technology since its earliest stages, and catching fsh while looking at my screens has become one of my favorite ways to fsh. It is extremely cool to watch a fsh eat your lure in real time, and it can also teach you a tremendous amount about what is happening under the water. Not only do I use this tech to fnd and catch fsh, I use it to pinpoint bait and areas with life, fnd sweet spots and diferentiations in an area, and eliminate dead water much faster ever before.

Figuring out how to use this new technology can be a little frustrating at frst if you don’t quite understand what’s going on. Spending time on the water, doing as much research as possible or getting someone experienced to teach you are the best ways to get an upper

hand. Fishing lakes where catching fsh isn’t very hard in general helped

me tremendously with deciphering what I saw using FFS. Smallmouth fshing in the north country was a big helper, as these fsh are aggressive and you get many opportunities to present baits and dial in your skills.

Another thing that helps you understand the picture on your screen is objects that are visible above the water. Point your transducer at a bridge, dock, tree or grass, and picture in your head what should be under the water while also watching your screen. Tis will help beginners dial in settings and get a better understanding of what is displayed. It takes time, patience and dedication to learn, but don’t get frustrated and try to have fun with it.

Tere are varied opinions on forwardfacing sonar and its place in the fshing industry, but it isn’t going away, it will only get better! Some of the coolest things I’ve witnessed and some of my best fshing days were due to the electronics on my boat.

Spending the time to learn how to use FFS is well worth the efort. Te technology is dominating pretty much every tournament right now, and it absolutely revolutionized the way I break down a body of water.

Tere are many resources out there to help you in your learning process and people like me who are always willing to answer questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out, tight lines!

Tyler Woolcott is a professional tournament angler and guide. Check out his website at



It’s well known that some of the best kingfsh fshing starts with a livewell full of frisky baits. Unfortunately, catching them can eat up much of your fshing time. Afer that, it can be hours of bump trolling waiting for a fsh to hit. Fortunately, for those who just want to head out for a couple hours of fun and blistering runs, it can be accomplished with artifcials. Besides getting you straight to the fshing, you can cover a lot more ground by pulling hardware, and it is not nearly as tedious.

Like using live bait, wire leader is crucial. Kingfsh have razor sharp teeth that will go through even stout mono with little efort. I prefer single-strand wire and usually opt for at least #7 (80-lb.). Single strand tends to kink afer just one fsh, but that’s not always a problem when pulling big plugs, as they will pull the wire straight. Also, watch your split rings. Tey can weaken the loop where it attaches to the lure, so be sure to constantly inspect your connections. I like to cover many diferent depths in the water column when trolling. I

start with a shallow runner like the Nomad 190 AT that runs 3 to 5 feet deep, which I set way back. I also like the Nomad Madmacs that run just slightly deeper. I run it 30 to 50 feet in front of my shallow long-bait to facilitate turning. Ten I like to go deeper with a DTX Minnow 165. I run that close to the boat and right under the prop wash. Tis is hands down my most productive bait. I fnd speeds of 6 to 8 knots usually work well. Tis allows me to cover a lot of ground and is fast enough to elicit a strike. I ofen fnd any slower and the fsh don’t seem interested. Te other great thing about these lures is the hooks are very large, and they stick once they make contact.

When you’re trolling the deeper-diving DTX 165s, you will need a reel with some signifcant drag, as these big-lipped plugs take a lot to hold in place. Te Accurate BV600, with its dual drag system, is a great reel for the job. Te BV X76H matches perfectly with it and is a great multi-duty trolling rig that doubles as an awesome grouper rod. Even though you don’t need a super-light tip, like with live bait, a rod that gives is a plus with these sof-mouthed fsh.

As for spots, look for hard bottom that holds bait. Wrecks and reefs are great, too. It sometimes pays to make wider circles around these structures to get away from the barracudas.

With a few lures and some know-how, you can easily head out and catch some kings without dedicating an entire day to your eforts.

The Return of a

Will Schmidt is a seasoned tournament anglers who has been writing about fshing for more than three decades.

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