Page 1

SINCE 1969

• SWORDFISH GEAR GUIDE • CLASSIC SKIFF REBUILD • FLY FISHING, DIVING, BASS FISHING, HUNTING

CHUM AND GET ’EM CURRENT ADVICE FOR DELICIOUS YELLOWTAIL

KARL WICKSTROM TRIBUTE X STARTED A

MAGAZINE, SPARKED A X REVOLUTION: 50 YEARS OF ADVOCACY

JUNE 2018


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FEATURES P 26

P 38

P 46

P 56

DEPARTMENTS

P 60

11

P 68

Openers Turning of the tide

12

Florida Waypoints Fort DeSoto Park

FS SEMINARS

22 Sportsman’s Kitchen Gumbo made simple

24 On the Conservation Front Survey on environmental issues

92 Florida Tide Charts Plus Prime Timer for peak action

95 I’m a Florida Sportsman Sharing the boat

96 An Outdoor Happening Airguns get the go from FWC, p20

Bowhunter’s success

ON THE COVER: Tavernier charter captain Ryan Van Fleet knows down and dirty techniques for yellowtail. David Conway photo.

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“The marine resources of the State of Florida belong to all of the people of the state and should be conserved and managed for the benefit of the state, its people, and future generations. To this end the people hereby enact limitations on marine net fishing in Florida waters…” See the tribute to Karl Wickstrom on page 26

ACTION SPOTTER 75 Keys 76 South 77 10,000 Islands 78 Southeast 79 Southwest 80 West Central 81 Big Bend 82 East Central 83 Northeast 84 Northwest 85 Panhandle 86 Tropics

Permit over the wrecks, p77

p74

CATCH MORE ONLINE www.floridasportsman.com Check out the Florida Sportsman website to stay up to date with the action around the state.

Weekend Fishing Forecast Improved Forum and Much More! s o c i a l

m e d i a

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JUNE 2018

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PUBLISHER

Blair Wickstrom

ADVERTISING

EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jeff Weakley FOUNDER Karl Wickstrom MANAGING EDITOR David Conway ART DIRECTOR Drew Wickstrom BOATING EDITOR George LaBonte PROJECTS EDITOR Rick Ryals ASSOCIATE EDITOR Brenton Roberts

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FIELD EDITORS

Pepe Gonzalez (KEYS), Alan Sherman (SOUTH), Steve Dall (10,000 ISLANDS), Ralph Allen (SOUTHWEST), Bill Sargent (EAST CENTRAL), Ray Markham (WEST CENTRAL), Tommy Thompson (BIG BEND), William Greer (NORTHWEST), Chaz Heller (PANHANDLE), Brett Fitzgerald (TROPICS)

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S U BS CR I PTI O N I N Q U I R I E S 1(800) 274-6386 Should you wish to change your address, order new subscriptions, or report a problem with your current subscription, you can do so by writing Florida Sportsman, P.O. Box 37539, Boone, IA 50037-0539, or e-mail us at ftncustserv@cdsfulillment.com., or call TOLL FREE 1 (800) 274-6386. BE AWARE THAT FLORIDA SPORTSMAN ONLY ACCEPTS SUBSCRIPTION REQUESTS FROM AUTHORIZED AGENTS! WE MAY NOT HONOR REQUESTS FROM UNAUTHORIZED AGENTS, AND YOU THEREFORE MAY LOSE YOUR MONEY IF YOU BUY FROM AN UNAUTHORIZED AGENT. If you are offered a subscription to Florida Sportsman, please call 1-800-274-6386 to determine if the agent is authorized. For more information on subscription scams, please visit www.ftc.gov.

Subscription rate for one year is $26.95 (U.S., APO, FPO, and U.S. possessions). Canada add $13.00 (U.S. funds) per year, includes sales tax and GST. Foreign add $15.00 (U.S. funds) per year. Occasionally, our subscriber list is made available to reputable irms offering goods and services that we believe would be of interest to our readers. If you prefer to be excluded, please send your current address label and a note requesting to be excluded from these promotions to: Outdoor Sportsman Group – 1040 6th Ave, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10018-3703 Attn: Privacy Coordinator, or email your label information and note to privacycoordinator@outdoorsg.com FOR REPRINTS: For Reprints/Eprints or Licensing/Permissions, please contact: Wright’s Media — TOLL FREE 1 (877) 652-5295.

FLORIDA SPORTSMAN Vol. #50 Issue #06 (ISSN # 0015-3885). Published monthly by OUTDOOR SPORTSMAN GROUP, 1040 6th Ave., 12th Floor, New York, NY 10018-3703. Periodical postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing ofices. POSTMASTER: Send address change (Form 3579) to Florida Sportsman, P.O. Box 37539, Boone, IA 50037-0539. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: 500 R. 46 East, Clifton, NJ 07011. Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 41405030.

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For questions regarding digital editions, please contact digitalsupport@outdoorsg.com

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Anthony Smyth 914-693-8700 Copyright 2018 by Outdoor Sportsman Group All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission. Florida Sportsman® is a registered trademark of Outdoor Sportsman Group in the United States. The Publisher and authors make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of the information contained in this publication. Any reliance or use of the information is solely at your own risk, and the authors and Publisher disclaim any and all liability relating thereto. Any prices given in this issue were the suggested prices at the press time and are subject to change. Some advertisements in this magazine may concern products that are not legally for sale to California residents or residents in other jurisdictions.

HUNTING bowhunter.com bowhuntingmag.com gundogmag.com petersenshunting.com northamericanwhitetail.com wildfowlmag.com

SHOOTING gunsandammo.com handguns.com rileshootermag.com shootingtimes.com irearmsnews.com


Dream wide open.


FLORIDA WAYPOINTS

27.6326° N 82.7189° W

By David A. Brown

Monumental Fishing FortDeSoto,atthemouthofTampaBay,guards exceptional bay and beach fishing. his 1,136-acre Pinellas County park comprises Madelaine, St. Jean, St. Christopher, Bonne Fortune and Mullet keys. The V-shaped Mullet Key—largest of the bunch—offers the secluded East Beach, the heralded North Beach and the park’s namesake military site strategically and centrally seated. On Mullet Key’s southwest corner, just below the fort, stands the 1,000-foot Gulf Pier. East of the fort, the Bay Pier extends 500 feet toward the mouth of Tampa Bay. During the Civil War, Mullet Key and nearby Egmont Key served as Union blockade posts, but it was more than 30 years later when construction of a fort began, during the Spanish-American War. Serving as a subpost to Fort Dade on Egmont Key, Fort De Soto saw U.S. military presence during WWI and WWII. Ultimately, the fort never fired on an enemy and Pinellas County bought the property in 1948. Dedication as a park came on May 1, 1963. In 1978, Fort De Soto’s 12-inch mortar battery

T

WHERE

was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. If you glance to the surf, near Bay Pier, you’ll see weathered remnants of a 3-inch gun battery destroyed by a 1921 hurricane. Waterfront markers indicate the original building locations. To present matters, fishing: Fort De Soto has over seven miles of waterfront, three of which hold soft white sand beaches. Amenities include a large and well-maintained launch ramp, shower/restroom facilities, 7-mile asphalt multi-use trail, kayak rentals, a designated dog park and a 2,200-foot barrier-free trail with a wheel chair-friendly path and interpretive stations. Daily ferry trips (weather permitting) run from Bay Pier to nearby Egmont Key. FS

The fort’s big guns never fired on an enemy. Below: Redfishcaught by Dave Erskine, well within mortar range.

WHEN TIPS BAIT & TACKLE

WHAT’S IN A NAME LODGING GAME PLAN

Fort De Soto Park EATS


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FLY FISHING EXPERT HOW-TO AND GEAR

After splashdown, leave the foam spider to drift and wriggle seductively in the surface film. Deadly on big bluegill.

Sometimes it’s not how you move a fly. It’s how you don’t. By Mike Conner hile working my popper in an opening in a hydrilla mat, I kicked over an open beverage at my feet, spilling it on the deck. I set my rod down to clean up the mess, leaving the bug in the water. As I reached for the can, I heard “NOKKK!” and looked back to see a swirl. I grabbed the rod, stripped in line and was surprised that the fish still had it. After a spunky, circling fight, the biggest bluegill of the day popped to the surface. Fittingly, that wise old bream crushed the bug after a long pause. The others I had hooked were smaller, and took my bug on the move. I slowed my retrieve after that fish, and it paid off with a few more bronze, purple-headed slabs. One clobbered my bug after a rest of more than 30 seconds! I know the tactic works, but like most fly fishers, I slip into the bad habit of fishing flies too fast. Spotted seatrout are another great example. Like

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big bluegills, they will eyeball and follow a popper, foam Gurgler or deerhair divers. Snook, tarpon and jacks typically lose interest in topwater flies if you stop moving them. Trout do not. In fact, the biggest seatrout seem to relish attacking a “dead bait,” especially if it is bobbing on a choppy surface. My biggest trout on fly tackle were caught in Florida Bay and the Indian River Lagoon on windy spring days. Dahlberg Divers bobbing in place on the surface between strips were their undoing. Same thing applies with subsurface flies, particularly where tidal current is strong.

www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

When I fish streamers for bridge snook, I cast across or downcurrent of my skiff. The streamer swims parallel to my position on a tight line. I strip very little, or not at all. I keep it in the shadowline, the strike zone, that way. Try this, and hold onto your rod!

STOP AND DROP Some flats species will track a fly just fine, but sometimes you draw them into view of your boat and it’s game over. Bonefish, redfish and permit expect a crab, shrimp or small baitfish to skedaddle right into the grass or mud to escape certain death.

Make your fly do that! Once you have a fish’s attention, stop and let it drop. Often the fish will take it on the dead fall, or pin it to the bottom while it rests. Permit are known for this, and I have watched in fascination at big Biscayne Bay bonefish that hovered over my resting fly before jamming on it. Reds will do likewise, and even snook in the surf eat this way. During the last two summers, I had great success with an oversized (No. 1) Gotcha “bonefish” pattern. Snook up in the wash would pursue the fly, and when I’d stop stripping, they’d pin it to the sand as a bonefish does. FS

Don’t Cast Again Here’s a tip for those who fancy big, smart Florida bonefish, or our redfish that are quickly adopting the same attitude: STICK WITH YOUR FIRST CAST. Once you present the fly, even if you feel the fish won’t see it, don’t pick up when the fish are close to the line or fly. The line pickup, especially if it’s not cat-silent, will send ’em packing. Instead, move the fly. Jump it off the bottom. Sometimes the fish will detect the movement, or hear the fly move, and change course. If it does, don’t strip it again. Watch for the fish to pluck it off the bottom. The tipoff is the fish dips, and its dorsal fin sticks straight up.


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Photos may show optional or special edition equipment available at an additional cost. Local taxes, license, registration and doc fees vary by state and are in addition to prices shown. Prices are suggested and approved by the manufacturer. Details in pricing, savings, features and promotions may vary by location and are subject to change without notice. Void where prohibited by law. Best efforts are used to ensure the accuracy of our advertising, however, errors may sometimes occur. See your local dealer for complete information. Prices shown do not include dealer freight and prep charges, unless otherwise noted. F.O.B. Springfield, MO, USA. Prices shown are based on United States currency. © 2018 White River Marine Group, LLC


DIVING Rules for XGolden Sharing Waters

EXPERT HOW-TO AND GEAR

You run 30 miles offshore to a wreck and there is a boat already anchored on the spot. You guys are geared up and ready to dive, but there’s stink-eye coming in strong from the other boat. Maybe they’re flying a diver-down flag, and have their own guys in the water. Maybe they’re just hook-and-line fishing. Now what?

Lions are hard on native fish but easy on the grill. Also rewarding for CCA members like Tien Nuygen, holding 2017 STAR Lionfish entry.

Fourth annual CCA angler recognition event ofers rewards. alling all divers! In addition to popular hook-and-line categories for redfish, dolphin and many other species, this summer’s CCA Florida STAR angler recognition event offers excellent prizes for the highest number of lionfish taken. Starting May 26, you simply photograph and log your kills on the STAR app. After the event concludes Sept. 3, CCA will announce the Lionfish Division winners. Any STAR-registered angler who is a current

C

CCA member in good standing at the time of entering the tournament can participate. Lionfish of any size may be taken on any type of spearfishing gear—slings, guns, pole spears, etc. There is no limit to the number of lionfish entries daily. Lionfish entries can be made in addition to any other STAR division entries, consistent with the rules for each division. Each lionfish must be harvested and photographed, but they are not required to be photographed individually and are not

X Diver-Down

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required to be photographed on the STAR measuring device but the official device must be included in the photo entry. First prize is a 3-day, two-night trip to a Guy Harvey Outpost and two tickets to an Outpost Academy. Second prize value is $600; third, $400. Also check out the many lionfish derbies running through the FWC. See the Commission’s Saltwater page and find Lionfish under Regulations. FS

RESPECT THE ANCHOR First, put yourself in the other boater’s position. How close would you feel comfortable having someone anchor to fish if you were already there? If it feels awkward, it is. So don’t do it. If you don’t have the option of going to a nearby spot until the present divers leave, say hi, ask how it’s been, and if they mind if you guys jump in and do some spearfishing. Or offer to wait until they are done fishing. If they are having a slow day, they may say go for it. If the fishing is slow and diving good, tell the anchored boat where the different types of fish frequent, what rig or bait might work better or even help them reposition their boat. Generosity goes a long way. Couple other pointers: Don’t swim right by an anchored boat. Never swim or anchor in another boat’s chumline. A WELL-ORDERED DRIFT When boats are drifting and spearfishing/fishing on a spot, check the current and watch what the other boats are doing. Usually, one will start upcurrent (behind) the last boat in line and put out their lines or divers. You do a full drift; when you’re done you go to the back of the line. Too often I’ve been cut off by other boats “short drifting” which is an epidemic in South Florida and can lead to screaming matches. Do not “short drift” someone; that is extremely rude. If boats are fishing something drifting—a ray for cobia, a board for mahi, etc.—number one thing to do is go and find your own! –Cameron Kirkconnell


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Some discounts, coverages, payment plans and features are not available in all states or all GEICO companies. Boat and PWC coverages are underwrittenby GEICO Marine Insurance Company. Multi-Policy Discount available to auto insureds that have purchased a boat policy through the GEICO Marine Insurance Company. GEICO is a registered service mark of Government Employees Insurance Company, Washington, D.C. 20076; a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary. Š 2018 GEICO


SPORTSMAN’S KITCHEN

X

A simple take on the classic. umbo should be a part of every cook’s go-to inventory of dishes that are tasty and can take advantage of a variety of ingredients. I like mine with shrimp and Andouille sausage, but there’s nothing wrong with using gator meat or crawfish tails for a more “swampy” version. There are, however, a couple of gumbo essentials. First, there’s the roux, which is simply flour that’s been fried in oil to a consistency and color of peanut butter. And then there’s the filé powder, the ground leaves and stems of the sassafras tree. Without roux and file, gumbo isn’t a thick and rich stew. It’s just soup! Many gumbo recipes call for lots of chopping and cutting of the vegetable trinity—bell pepper, onion and celery—as well as garlic and tomatoes. I’ve found a shortcut involving store-bought “sofrito” tomato cooking base that shortens prep time and doesn’t negatively affect the end product. Also, all gumbo recipes call for rice at serving time, but be sure to use loose-grained parboiled rice, as regular long-grained rice grains are just too sticky to be authentic. FS

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½ cup canola or peanut oil ½ cup all-purpose flour 12-ounce jar Goya Sofrito tomato cooking base 1 quart Swanson seafood stock 1 tbsp. kosher salt ½ tsp. ground black pepper ½ tsp. cayenne pepper 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves 2 bay leaves 1 pound Andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 tbsp. Zatarain’s Gumbo Filé Powder 4-6 cups cooked Uncle Ben’s parboiled rice (1 cup per serving)


The road to paradise Isn’t

Actually a Road.

Where you’re going there are no roads. No stop lights. No traffic jams. Because paradise doesn’t have a street address. It’s the water kissing the sky along the horizon. The sun on your face. Paradise is out there for you to find. You just have to pick a Cobia and go.

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Scene from the St. Johns shows facets of Florida life our wetlands support—and why water quality is so critical .

The Florida Sportsman Panel conservation survey results. he first Florida Sportsman Panel survey on conservation and environmental issues in the state yielded some surprising results and confirmed what everyone knows: Inshore water quality is the number one concern of Florida anglers. Case in point: The discharges from Lake O to estuaries on both coasts is the single issue of greatest concern to most anglers. First, a bit about the survey. The Florida Sportsman Panel survey system was created this year to gauge our readers’ opinions and beliefs on issues of importance to recreational fishers and hunters in the state. Survey results give voice to the specific viewpoints in this diverse group and are not only valuable to us at the magazine, but also to wildlife and fishery managers, outdoor

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companies and others. Surveys are delivered by email link to panel members, and results are not linked to the respondent, i.e. they remain anonymous. You

can join by clicking PANEL at the top of the Florida Sportsman website or by going directly to floridasportsman.com/panel. The conservation survey ran for two weeks in the spring. Some

www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

275 of the 550 panel members participated. A high proportion of respondents had extensive experience in Florida fishing: more than 50 percent have been fishing in Florida for more than 25 years, and another 21 percent have fished in Florida for 15-24 years. People who have been fishing in Florida only 1 to 4 years were only 5.8% of respondents. In fact, the percentage of respondents correlated well to the time they’ve spent in Florida. The upshot? Those with more time invested in the Florida outdoors were more likely to take the survey and express their opinions. Respondents were also well-traveled in Florida: a third of respondents traveled out of their county to fish, shellfish or spearfish more than 10 times a year, and another fifth traveled out of their counties between 5 and 10

times a year for these activities. Only 10 percent of respondents did not travel out of their county to pursue the sports. Fishing was the favorite activity of 89.5 percent of respondents. One admirable respondent added, “I can’t say any one particular is my favorite. I recently took up hunting which occupies most of my time at the moment. I love fishing, spearfishing, shellfishing, crabbing, clamming, kayaking, boating, kite surfing, etc., etc.” Indeed, many of us know that dilemma. Unfortunately, more than half—53 percent—of respondents answered that they felt the quality of inshore fishing was on the decline in Florida. Fourteen percent felt that it was improving. When it came to offshore fishing, 44 percent felt that the quality of fishing was declining, followed by 41 percent who felt it was


staying the same. That a majority of respondents believe that inshore fishing is declining correlates with the issues of greatest concern revealed by the survey. In response to the query to name the most pressing conservation issues facing Florida today, the top four were, in order, Lake O discharges (52.1%), agricultural runoff (36.9%), nearshore water quality (33.5%) and plastic/trash in waterways (32.3%). As mentioned earlier, the single issue of greatest concern to most anglers (30.6%) was discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Of least concern to respondents were sea level rise (4.6%) and extinction of plant and animal species (5.3%). Other specific issues offered up by voluntary comments included, “commercial fishing,” “weed killer on lawns,” “sewer system discharges,” “loss of forage fish,” and “lack of water reaching Florida Bay from the north resulting in massive salinity and dieoffs,” among others. There was strong support for the development of the reservoir and water cleaning facilities south of Lake O. In response to the question, “Do you believe that the reservoir south of Lake O designated by SB10 should be built to alleviate Lake O runoff to the coasts?” 64.5% said yes, 7.6% said no, and 27.9% answered Don’t Know. Interestingly, while climate change and sea level rise ranked low as concerns across the board, the majority believe that human activities are contributing to climate change. In response to the question, “Do you believe human activities, such as fossil fuel burning,

release carbon dioxide or other emissions that are contributing to climate change?” 61.6% of respondents answered yes, while 38.4% answered no. Of those respondents who answered yes, because of those beliefs, 68.5% installed energy efficient home features, 50.3% changed their voting/political activity, and 42% purchased a more fuel efficient vehicle.

state management of resource regulations and game management actions: 38.5% believed agencies were doing a bad job, 39.7% answered indifferent job, and 21.8% said managers were doing a good job. Federal managers of NOAA received less positive opinions of their management of resources and regulations: 54.4% said they were doing a bad job, 31.7%

The graphic reveals that a majority of respondents to the first-ever Florida Sportsman Panel survey on conservation and environmental issues feel that the quality of inshore fishing is on the decline. It was one of 17 questions asked in the survey, which yielded some surprising results.

Results of this survey would suggest that while a majority of people believe human activities are influencing climate, they are perhaps more concerned with immediate, visible consequence of poor resource stewardship in Florida. In a section of the survey devoted to opinions on management and regulations of game and sport, agencies received mixed reviews on their performance. A high percentage (46.0% of respondents) said that Florida’s governments were doing a bad job of protecting the state’s fish and game and its natural habitats, 35.7% considered it an indifferent job and 18.3% believed they were doing a good job. Slightly better were opinions of

said indifferent job and 13.9% called it a good job by federal managers. In one of the survey’s indicators of the importance of conservation and the environment to respondents, a vast majority of people answered the last question: “Please describe the one action that could be taken in your area that would have the most impact on conservation in Florida.” More than 180 people of the 275 who answered the survey took the time to write a response. These were wide-ranging answers, of course, that shed light on the variety of threats facing enjoyment of outdoor activities in the state. There was great concern for the health of the Everglades voiced in this com-

ment section, and numerous opinions on overcrowding, lack of access to hunting and fishing, misuse of public funds intended for conservation, use of lawn fertilizers and weed killers and the need for greater enforcement, among many others. There were also positives brought out, such as the point made by the respondent who praised the contribution of “our active spearfishing population to help educate others as well as help preserve our marine ecosystem by taking lionfish and destroying ghost traps when they come across them.” Pointing out the critical connection between conservation and outdoors activities, another respondent wrote: “I live in the Tampa Bay area. There are 4 contiguous counties with no WMA for hunting access (Pinellas, Manatee, Hardee and Desoto). Surrounding counties have minimal WMA lands (Hillsborough, Polk and Sarasota). This is the most densely populated region of Florida and all of us must travel at least an hour and a half to reach crowded public lands. Most of which have extremely limited hunts. “As you know conservation is most important to those with a stake in it. Mainly, fisherman and hunters. There’s no problem with access for fishermen. I’d like to see more done to improve hunting which in turn fosters more support for conservation of our terrestrial and wetlands.” Those are the kind of important comments and viewpoints that need to be heard by all of us, and by managers and politicians repeatedly, over and over. FS

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“Lean over. Hold the fish higher. Smile. Hold the fish out towards the camera. Relax.” These were the commands you’d hear from Karl while he was shooting a possible cover. Though best known for his editorial work, Karl was an enthusiastic photographer.

26 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com


Florida’s

True Champion


Florida’s

True Champion

“Our goal is to make every outdoorsman’s moments in the sun more enjoyable—and more productive.”

“The people who decide which and how much of the public’s property may be taken for private profit—whether that property is fish, wildfowl or ofshore oil—simply cannot be the same people who profit.” T


“No one has any ‘right’ to take our commonly owned or managed wild animals in great quantities while the next man on the beach is limited to a single fish or two.”


Florida’s

True Champion

“... all we needed was someone to start this.”


“It’s just the shameless and influenced oicials who don’t get it, or pretend not to see the nastiness before their very eyes.” —Karl Wickstrom

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Boating just became even more effortless. elm Master,® now featuring SetPoint.™ Many have already discovered the ease, convenience and intuitiveness of the Yamaha Helm Master fully integrated digital boat control system. It moves large offshore boats in incredibly agile ways, making tight marinas and docking situations easier to navigate. w, Helm Master gives you even more control—with SetPoint. This new suite of control functions includes FishPoint, DriftPoint and StayPoint. Programmed using our new CL7 touchscreen display, engaged via the new joystick and guided with unique dual-antenna GPS navigation technology, these functions maintain position, heading or both. Suddenly maneuvers that are dificult for even experienced captains can be automatically achieved via Helm Master. To learn more about Helm Master with SetPoint, visit YamahaOutboards.com/HelmMaster.

FishPoint™ This mode maintains position. It’s perfect for stationary ishing directly below the boat, and uses quiet, lower-RPM power.

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38 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com


Yellowtail Down and Dirty By David Conway, Managing Editor

Tactics to turn on the bite day and night.

ou won’t come home clean, but you’ll come home with ish. It’s yellowtail season in South Florida and the Keys, and we all love those days with perfect conditions, when the wind and current line up and your baits zip back to hungry ish in the chum line—but we don’t always get them. Capt. Ryan Van Fleet, of Good Karma Charters in Tavernier in the Keys, employs some down and dirty tactics for yellowtail for those days. hese tactics can be used elsewhere in Florida of course, as yellowtail are widespread around the southern end of the state. hey can also be used anywhere and anytime current runs a bit strong near reefs as they produce mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, grouper and other reef species. But wear your old clothes. It’s only ive miles to Capt. Ryan’s reef locations from his dock at Tavernier Creek Marina. he Gulf Stream swings close to the reef there, which can be great for access to pelagics ish like wahoo and dolphin, but can foul up reef ishing with its powerful current and clear water—making it hard to get a chum slick going and fool the sharpeyed yellowtail. So Capt. Ryan learned to play dirty. “April through June, into July, are best to catch the big yellowtails. I like cloudy days, or low light conditions, like late in the day. If I’m ofshore and having a slow day, I’ll

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wait until it’s late to go in and yellowtail, ‘cause you know it’s going to be good. For visitors to the Keys, if it’s bright and sunny and you don’t have a lot of chum, I’d go out and catch dolphin irst and wait until late to go for yellowtail for a couple hours.” I made the 3 ½ hour drive down to ish with Capt. Ryan on a spring morning. Ater lunch at Habanos at Tavernier Creek Marina, by 3 o’clock we were ishing at spots where, he said (and showed me the pics) he was catching 4- and 5-pound lag yellowtail the night before. I was a bit surprised—such nice yellowtail so close to the mainland? “I can get 4- and 5-pound yellowtails right here in Tavernier, and from what I’ve seen, it’s like that up and down the Keys. You just have to know where the congregations of those bigger ish live, and you have to stay in touch with it, because they do move.” Of course, for us, winds were up, pushed by the late season front we watched roll down on us from the north, and the current pushed right up onto the reef, against that wind.

PUT YOUR CHIPS DOWN Bring one hundred pounds of chum in 25 pound blocks. “I like the Killer Bait brand.” He uses old cat litter bins to hold the frozen blocks. Start with 50 pounds in the water in two big, open-mouthed chum nets. Wait a bit before ishing, maybe 30 minutes, 45 minutes to get www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

JUNE 2018 39


Bury that bait in some loose chum. Mold it into a chum ball, below, and let it fall. Right, cover the line with some loose chum as you drop the bait.

them biting. Later, once that 50 pounds is gone, drop down to 25, maybe to 10. “You don’t want to overfeed them. I like to get the ish up and get them eating so it’s easy. I commit to a spot and give it time, typically an hour or even more. he bigger ish tend to come later in the chum phase. You’ll also see that the grouper and the muttons will also sneak in ater a while, and I’ll wait at least an hour to bottom ish for them.” We were in 75 feet of water just of the reef. “here’s a reason why ish are here, and they’ll be nearby too if the reef is healthy, with good rocky bottom and lots of bait,” he says. “I don’t ish any spot over and over. I’ll move another hundred yards or two hundred or even a mile and ish there, so that I’m creating another productive plot. So if you go to one spot,

and someone’s there, you’ll have another nearby spot you can go to.” Even if people are only in the Keys for a week, he tells them to do some research with the depth inder and try a few diferent areas. With the wind picking up the line and the current running strong under the boat, it was tough to feel the bait sinking into the current and the line pulling of. So Ryan put the rod in the holder and ingered out the line. his takes some skill, because you have to feel the exact instant the ish takes the bait, then pick up the rod, close the bail and catch the ish. But ingering the line out gives you a better connection to feel the drit of the bait in the current. “Your pull needs to match the pull of the current,” he says. “I’m not ighting the wind with the rod. he 30-pound braid cuts

grouper and the muttons

40 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

through the wind to let the bait drop, but I still might need to put the bait in a chum ball to get it down faster where the current will take it.” Ryan uses that 30-pound braided mainline and tries to get ish on his outit with a 30-pound luorocarbon leader of about six feet. If they’re line shy, he’ll switch down to the outit with 15-pound leader. But he likes 30-pound because with it he can haul in the bigger ish fast and keep them from any sharks or ‘cudas. He likes 3/0 Gamakatsu livebait hooks because they’re strong; they don’t bend and cost you ish. “he little yellowtail jigs, those hooks will bend.” We started to get the yellowtail, one at a time. For bait, he’ll use slivers of bonito, fresh dead goggle eye if he has them or slivers of speedo he’ll catch in the chum line with the ice-ishing rod he brings along. “hat ice-ishing rig is perfect size for picking up bait by the boat.” Live pilchards are a great bait, if you can get them. he recycling bin on his deck is full of his


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time, the ish get lethargic. hey’ll eat the chum, but they won’t take the bait. Even on light leaders. hose winter days, I won’t even take out bait, just a lot of menhaden green chum (TournamentMaster green chum). For that trick—you get really dirty doing it, but when all else fails—there’s something in the menhaden green chum. It’s like little gizzards of ish, and you pick them out, looking through the thawed chum, and put ‘em on your hook and you’ll get bites. Everybody thinks I’m crazy, but I learned that trick from an old-timer, an old yellowtail isherman, and those guys know how to ish.”

HUMAN COMPETITON

a lot of folks won’t even bother loose chum. here’s no sand in it. It’s only scratch grains mixed with water. he product he uses is called Home Grown Layer Crumble. It’s yes—chicken feed. “I mix it with water until I get it the consistency of a dough ball. It binds up well, but it takes some mashing up. It holds together well in the saltwater. “If I get in a pinch and cannot get block chum, this stuf gets them to the boat without the use of raw chum,” he laughs. “It costs $30 for a 50-pound bag. I just added some ish oils and menhaden milk to the mix and put it in the chum bag. Just shake it and you’re set. Also works great for patch reef ishing.” Did I mention Capt. Ryan calls his spots the Fish Farm? For the chum ball, you bind up your hooked bait in the loose chum the size of the baseball. You drop the chum ball, let it sink down into the current, let it ride into the strike zone, then give the line a tug to pull it apart and attract the ish. Alternately, without a chum ball, cast out your bait, give 42 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

it a headstart in the current, then throw out a handful of loose chum to cover your line. But the chum ball will help the bait sink faster in hard current. “Some guys will dilute their chum ball mixture into a slop,” he tells me, “and they’ll throw it out into the water to cloud it up and throw their line and get the ish feeding at the same time. hat works really well on the bright days with really clear water.” We had a decent box of ish ater two hours, including a nice mutton snapper, when the front came down and we had to duck back into the marina for safety. We waited it out, and headed back out for sunset. “his is my favorite time to yellowtail of all,” Capt. Ryan said. “And the mangroves come out at night, too.” His clothes were absolutely splattered with chum. His boat was a mess. On the way out, he said, “here is another little trick to the menhaden chum. In the winter

Let’s face it. In the Keys, barracuda and sharks aren’t your only competition. Get out there irst, with a lot of chum. “If you’re coming in at 11 o’clock when everybody’s chum slick has been going,” Capt. Ryan says, “you’re probably going to get your butt kicked and waste some money. hey have the ish in their chum, and you’re not likely going to take them away. Remember, if the current is ripping, you’ll have to watch to see that your chumline isn’t blowing away to nothing and just staying on the surface. You can try the chum balls then.” As for proximity, you don’t want to be ishing in another guy’s chum slick. His general rule is, if he can hear their conversations, he’s way too close. “here’s yellowtail up and down those reefs. So ind an area where nobody’s ishing and try it,” he advises. On the other hand, when conditions are tough, as we had it, a lot of folks won’t even bother yellowtailing. hat’s better for you. he next morning, we pretty much had the reef to ourselves for the irst few hours and we were putting ’tails in the boat. Capt. Ryan takes his time between ish, gives them a few minutes to get closer to the boat again where he wants them. One at a time, but in they came. Ater about 2½ hours the speedos and the ballyhoo moved in, the yellowtail got bigger, and Capt. Ryan put down a speedo head in a chum ball that produced a black grouper on spinning gear. he down and dirty tactics take some time and patience, but they paid of with another productive session ishing—our third session in less than 24 hours. FS


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When the journey is more than half the fun. ne of the very best things about fishing from a Personal Watercraft is the price of a day on the water. I have stunned other captains with statements like this: “Yeah, I was just 20 miles offshore fishing for tuna, trolled part of the day, did some jigging and just filled my tank back up for $25 premium.” That alone should shine a light on how affordable it is to get into PWC fishing. Mix that with the speed and excitement of getting there, and you’ve just figured out

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why PWC fishing is so much fun. I was recently in the Florida Keys fishing out of Marathon and Islamorada on my Sea-Doo GTX 155, which is my personal saltwater PWC pick of 2018. Out there where the green turns to blue, the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream, I had a double header on king mackerel and a double on sailfish. There is nothing like having a pair of 4-foot sea predators inches from your toes to get the adrenaline flowing. Having that rod spool out right in

front of you is addictive. If you like fishing, you’ll absolutely love PWC fishing from a Sea-Doo. If you’re not excited to get your Sea-Doo out on the water fishing yet, consider the low cost

fishing that is a consideration is storage. Well, Sea-Doo has heard the call and is offering a unique racking system on its 2018 models located on the rear swim deck.

If you like fishing, you’ll absolutely love PWC fishing from a Sea-Doo. of storage and maintenance; ease of launching; not to mention all-in, you’re one third the price of a boat, and you can still take your child or spouse out with you for a bonding day on the water. The only thing about PWC

There’s one more thing about PWC fishing. On a vessel this size, you might think rough water would be a bad day out. For an experienced PWC operator with proper safety gear, however, choppy seas are just another piece of the adventure.

Adding electronics mounts, rod holders and fish bags from companies such as Railblaza and Maverick Fish Hunter make customizing your PWC for your fishing needs a snap.


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GEAR UP FOR as ten years ago, k in 2008, when irst set out to try our d at catching broadbill rdish during aytime. We had already learned how to target them at night while driting with a multiple rod spread in the Straits of Florida. It seemed routine that our sleep and social lives sufered every time the seas were calm enough to get ofshore at night. It wasn’t until we heard the stories of South Florida daytime pioneers Richard Stanczyk and R.J. Boyle consistently catching more and bigger swordish during the day, that we decided to forego the sleepless nights and give daytime swordishing a try for ourselves. Armed with crude tackle by today’s standards, we set out towards the deep structure that had delivered as a great nighttime swordish location over the years. Our rod was an old white 7-foot iberglass marlin trolling rod with roller guides. Our reel was a manual two-speed 80w, our line was 100-poundtest hollow-core Dacron, and our deep drop weight was a stick of heavy rebar with a monoilament loop duct taped to the top. We had no clue how to properly deploy the bait or drive the boat. We didn’t stem the current with the boat; rather once we hit bottom, we simply locked up the reel past strike and let the drit ride. Ater the irst hour someone thought it was a good idea to check the bait. Ater 20 minutes and three sets of burned-up biceps, we retrieved our bait and then dropped it back to the bottom again. An hour or so later, someone looked over at the rod and said

attempt. It was just that easy… so we thought. In reality, our experience was a lot of beginner’s luck. We wouldn’t see or catch another one for many weeks. We started to igure out what we were doing wrong, what we were doing right, and started to catch a few swordish. Since that day back in 2008, my friends and I on hree Swordfish are great Buoys have eating and widely solely pursued distributed in deep swordish during ocean waters all around Florida. the daytime, having forever given up on nighttime swordishing for good cause. R.J. and Richard were right: We consistently catch more and bigger swordish during the daytime. Over the last decade we have honed and reined our tactics and tackle to the point where we routinely catch swordish. We ish on a Venture 34 powered by twin 350 HP Mercury Verados, owned by Seth Funt in Palm Beach Gardens, on Florida’s lower Atlantic coast. We are recreational anglers with professional day jobs. We ish throughout Florida and the Bahamas. We love to share our passion for ishing with others, and pass along a little of the knowledge that we have collected along the way. In this feature, we want to discuss our daytime swordish tackle and gear, and explain why and what we use to consistently put swordish in our boat. It’s likely you’ll have your own priorities and your own sources for gear, and that’s ine. Do pay special attention to the performance characteristics of the various parts, however.

DAYTIME SWORDS

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Tools of the trade for deepwater drifts in the Straits of Florida. By Michael Grant questioningly, “Does that rod look heavy?” Well, an hour later, with each man taking as long of a shit as possible cranking up the line, we saw our irst swordish come up into the daylight. A solid 100-pound-class ish was literally winched up to our boat and stuck with a harpoon we had borrowed from a friend. We had done it. We had caught a swordish during the daytime on our irst


An electric reel truly capable of managing what’s liable to take the bait 2,000 feet down is a good investment. Hooker Electric on Shimano 80W.

Above: Weld-free roller tiptops protect the line; the tip sections are fairly light for sensitivity. Left: Basket with poly ball and line for harpoon. Upper left: Strobe light aixed to wind-on leader. www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

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DAYTIME SWORDS the Hooker Electric Shimano Tiagra 80WA, but don’t let the BeastMaster’s small frame and sleek look fool you. he BeastMaster is actually capable of pulling more drag than the Tiagra 80WA, and can put out as much as 55 pounds of drag and pull up to 250 pounds of maximum winding strength. It features a brushless GigaMax motor that provides high torque, high variable speed control, and exceptional durability. In addition, the BeastMaster has a digital line counter and audio drag alert that beeps when line is being taken out (instead of an old fashioned mechanical clicker). his reel can be picked up and moved around the boat with ease to ight a swordish standup style with the manual reel handle or to move around the primary rod should the lines get crossed or wrapped up. While we use the Shimano BeastMaster 9000 on our secondary combo, it certainly can be used as your primary outit. Due to its smaller line capacity, we recommend spooling it with a maximum of 65-pound braid to ensure that you will have more than enough line on the spool to reach the bottom in a high current situation.

RODS

LIght but rugged power-assist reels, such as the Shimano BeastMaster 9000, are good secondary options.

his is specialized ishing that’s rough on inadequate gear. Also remember to get your annual Highly Migratory Species vessel permit from NOAA. It’s cheap.

REELS Large conventional reels are a must for daytime swordishing. hese reels need to hold several thousand feet of braided line and have heavy drag capacities. While manual reels such as Shimano Tiagra 50s or 80s or Shimano Talica 50s can be used by anglers looking for an arm workout and a more sporting ight, we prefer to exclusively use electric reels. HOOKER ELECTRIC SHIMANOTIAGRA 80WA WITH AUTOSTOP For our primary swordish

reel, we use a Hooker Electric Shimano 48 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

Tiagra 80WA with Autostop, digital line counter, and automatic level-wind. It is the Cadillac of swordish reels and has every feature that we want in our primary reel: backup power handle for manual cranking while on the leader, high line capacity that can hold more than enough 65- or 80-pound braid to reach bottom, simple mechanics, Bluetooth remote, variable speed control, aluminum frame and spool, and a reliable, smooth, and stout Shimano drag system capable of pulling up to 44 pounds of drag. SHIMANO BEASTMASTER 9000 For our secondary swordish reel that we like to simultaneously ish out of the back of our boat, we use a Shimano BeastMaster 9000. his light weight reel may feel and look like a plastic toy when held and compared against

Key factors to consider when choosing a daytime swordish rod: strength and power, tip sensitivity, and guides. It goes without saying that you need a rod with a lot of power. Not only is this needed to pull a swordish that might be over 300 pounds from the bottom of the ocean, but the stresses and load caused by ishing with 10 to 12 pounds of lead weight attached to the line are enough to overload most rods. As a general guideline, rod blanks rated for 80-pound-class tackle are a minimum for this application. Of course, not all rod blanks and materials are created equal. An 80- or 130-poundclass broomstick-stif blank made from iberglass or graphite may have enough strength and power to ish a heavy lead and pull a big swordish of of the bottom, but you may never get that opportunity if the rod is too stif for you to see the “bite” when a swordish attacks your bait. You need a rod blank that is strong but also has a light and sensitive tip so that you can see the swordish’s subtle strike on the bait a couple thousand feet down your line. As for guides, a sealed ball-bearing roller tip machined out a of single block of titanium or aluminum with no welds, seams or


bends (such as a Winthrop tip) and solid ring guides thereater is critical to ensure that your thin braided line does not get nicked, chafed, cut, or damages under heavy loads. he best daytime swordish rods that we have found are made by Ralph Crat of Craty One Custom Fishing Rods in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. hink of these guys as the Orange County Choppers of the ishing world who instead of building custom motorcycles, build one-of-a-kind rods to meet the demands of specialized angling. Just as Ralph does for all of this customers, he listened to our criteria of what we needed our rods to do and built us daytime swordishing rods to do just that. He chose the Jigging World Black Giant blank that was originally designed with enough power and pulling power to catch monster bluein tuna, yet has a much thinner diameter and less weight than conventional blanks of iberglass or graphite. hese rod blanks are made of super lightweight carbon iber, feature a very

available for daytime swordishing today. But talk to veteran anglers, tackle shops and hometown rod builders—perhaps there’s a combo you’d prefer.

LINE

Stick weights with quickremove longline clip, which attaches to a loop on the wind-on leader.

heavy actions rated up to 55 pounds of drag (with no line or lure weight limit), yet have a very thin and sensitive tip. According to Ralph, bluein tuna up to 850 pounds have been landed on this blank. Each of our daytime swordish rods is matched with a corresponding Stuart Fishing Tackle No. 4 long aluminum bent butt. In our estimation, these rods are the strongest, lightest and most sensitive models

Braided line is a must due to its ultra thin diameter and no-stretch characteristics. Our choice is Power Pro Maxcuatro Hi-Vis Yellow in 65or 80-pound test. his line is made with the newest Honeywell Spectra HT ibers. We use Power Pro Maxcuatro because we have found it to be the thinnest diameter braided line per pound class on the market—it’s about 25 percent thinner than original Power Pro lines of equivalent strength. he thinner diameter cuts through the water better, reduces the amount of scope in the line, and allows us to ish the bottom water column with less lead weight.

WIND-ON AND BITE LEADERS WIND-ON LEADERS We use wind-on leaders that range in length between 100

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DAYTIME SWORDS and 150 feet, made with Suix Superior Monoilament ranging between 130- and 250-pound-test. Our wind-on leaders are each made by Seth Funt and feature over 200 hand-tied wax loss stitches on the whip inish on the hollow-core loop section and the lead loop connection section used to attach your stick weight. We are now selling these to the public through the ChatterLures and Hooker Electric websites. But you may ind other systems to your liking at shops specializing in bluewater ishing. BITE LEADERS Our 6- to 10-foot bite leaders between our swivel and hooks are of Suix Superior Monoilament of 250- and 300-pound test. We like Suix Superior Monoilament as we’ve found it has superior tensile strength, durability, abrasion resistance, and excellent strengthto-diameter ratio. All qualities that are vital for protecting against chaing and breakage during long ights with big ish.

Harpoon and sturdy gaf are often used in tandem to secure a very large fish. Bottom right is premade leader.

TERMINAL TACKLE SWIVELS We use a premium-quality ball bearing barrel swivel between our wind-on leader and bite leader. Our swivel of choice is the VMC Stainless Steel HD Ball Bearing Swivel with Welded Rings Model SSHDBBSWR in size No. 5 rated for 335 pounds. hese swivels feature independent, dual-rotating top and bottom axes and the welded ring ends provide added strength. hese swivels are a critical component to prevent your wind-on leader from being twisted up and ruined during fast drops to the bottom. HOOKS Hooks must be high quality, strong and sharp. Our hooks of choice are VMC Hooks Model 8700 Dynacut Southern Tuna Stainless Steel in sizes 9/0, 10/0, and 11/0. hese hooks are 6X strong, have four cutting edges, and are made out of high quality stainless steel for longevity.

DEEP DROP LEAD WEIGHTS We use narrow lead stick weights between 3 and 12 pounds, depending on the current and whether they are on our primary rod or secondary rod. A general rule of thumb is that the secondary rod weight should be one half or less of the weight used on the primary rod. We attach our weights to the wax weight loop on our wind-on leader with a small longline clip and use approximately 6 feet of 50-pound monoilament between our weight and longline clip. Best place we’ve found to pur50 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

chase deep drop stick weights is he Lead Bandit (squareup.com/store/lead-bandit). heir price is excellent and they ofer $9.99 on lat rate shipping. Good for you, bad for your mailman.

STROBE LIGHTS We attach one to three strobes to our wind-on leader up from the swivel. Our favorites are Diamond Duralite Strobe Lights in white, purple, blue, and multi-color (disco) colors. hey are high quality and seem to have the longest battery life on the market. We lock our lights in place on the leader with rubber or poly band hair ties that can be purchased at any grocery or drug store. We buy the lights from Lindgren-Pitman, a South Florida irm.

LANDING GEAR HARPOON AND GAFFS Ten-foot harpoons give us added range over that of conventional gafs and are our primary weapon of choice to make irst contact

with a swordish boatside. Ater sticking a swordish with the harpoon, one or two 8-foot aluminum gafs are used to subdue the ish and bring it into the boat. Each harpoon dart tip section is connected to 1,000 feet of nylon ¼- or 3/8-inch rope and neatly coiled into a plastic ish basket. We attach a rubber anchor ball or large foam trap loat to the rope basket with 300-pound monoilament just in case a harpooned swordish decides to head back to the bottom and take all of our rope with it (believe me, it happens). Our harpoon of choice is made by Poon Harpoons. We use the Atco Taper Tip Aluminum Gafs because they are light weight yet heavy duty and reliable. GLOVES Swordish are muscular beasts, their bills are sharp, and they can thrash violently while being subdued. Our favorite gloves are End Game Gloves made by Pelagic. hey are lightweight and lexible but are Kevlar reinforced for maximum strength and protection. FS


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Music in the Mangroves

Islamorada guide boat owned by Gary Skrobeck. Right: Vintage Islamorada.

Notes on a Florida Keys classic: ’72 Willy Roberts. By George LaBonte, Boating Editor alk to any of the old guard Keys lats guides who were around in the 1960s and you’ll ind that most of them ished on a Willy Roberts skif at some point. Many owned one or more, and almost without exception all of them will fondly recall a simpler time when ish were numerous and lats uncrowded. In 1965 while enjoying a vacation in Islamorada from his successful career as a musician, Skip Paxton (a.k.a. Gary Skrobeck Sr.) was ofered a job playing piano at the historic Green Turtle Inn for bar customers made up largely of tourists and ishing guides. he local guides took a shine to young Skip, took him under their wings and soon thereater Skip traded the keyboards for a skif. hus began a new career for Skip. While maintaining a relationship with the locals in the early years, among them Mr. Roberts himself, it was only natural for Skip to have a guide boat of his own from this small, custom shop. Fast forward

T

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a half century and Skip remains in Islamorada still working his trade on the same lats out of his very own vintage Willy Roberts boat. Nearly two decades passed before his son Gary came along. Being raised by a veteran guide in the Florida Keys will almost certainly have an efect on a youngster growing up. Living on what is essentially an island surrounded by salt water and countless ishing opportunities would only compound this matter. Younger Gary was completely immersed in the lifestyle, always on a boat, in and out of the water and working around the industry in any way available to him. Whether ishing work or boatyard work called, there were options and Gary took advantage of most of them. During my visit with the father and son team, the younger captain recalled seeing the very boat he now owns for years at a local marina. Built for another guide, Jack Roberts (no relation), Gary saw the boat in its declining state and oten dreamed of

owning her, perhaps guiding clients of his own one day. For whatever reason, call it rock fever or just the restlessness of youth, the urge to leave the island struck Gary. Ater high school and college, Gary spent a tour on the mainland as a service writer for Viking Yachts in Riviera Beach. Working in the business for a few years kept him around boats and ishing and provided predictable revenue stream. But there was something missing. he pull of the islands was too powerful. Gary found himself back in Islamorada. he islands had changed much since the days when his father had begun his career. Back in the 1960s, ish far outnumbered boats. Today, it seems, everyone in the


The bones were in good shape for a 45-year-old wooden boat. Original cedar stringers and ribs would support new bulkheads and decking, and the hull bottom and sides reglassed and prepped with epoxy primer.


Multitalented Skip Paxton—pianist, flats guide, craftsman, father—lends a hand with Gary’s console and finishing touches.

the only one who puts limitations on what you’re capable of. Steer the course. Hard work always pays of.” With this attitude in hand, Gary bought the boat.

WOOD, SWEAT AND YEARS Keys goes by “Captain” and the lats are saturated with pressure from countless boats, anglers and Jet Skis alike. Undaunted, the young captain threw his hat into the ring. Ten years passed and Gary was thriving in his chosen trade. A more seasoned guide at this point, he found himself faced with a challenging opportunity: the chance to own the very same 1972 Willy Roberts skif he

had admired from afar for years. here’s always a catch, however. he boat had seen better days and had even spent a bit of time on the wrong side of the ocean surface. Restoring the skif would involve a serious commitment of time and money along with a generous serving of sweat. In the captain’s own words, “A job like this can be tedious, physically tough, and at times redundant. At the end of the day, you are

Old wood boats don’t always age gracefully. Neglected boats that have sunk, even less so. his old classic was a prime example of the latter. Gary and good friend Chris Evert dove into what would be an arduous project. hey began by sanding the entire hull to bare wood. As with any wood hull used in tropical waters, a skin coat of iberglass would be necessary to guard against water

On the Water Project Dreamboat TV Whilefilmingthisskif for “Project Dreamboat Television,”Ispent a day on the water with both generationsoftheIvory KeysOutfittersteam: SkipPaxtonand Gary Skrobeck. Atonepoint,IlistenedintentlyasSkipsuggestedtoGaryanareawemightstart out fishing. He clearly had respect forhisson’sabilitiesandnoticeablydidn’t want to seem pushy. Theyoungercaptain—havingalreadyoferedto meaplanwhich tookus north, in the opposite direction—respectfully pushed back to see how committed his dad was to the idea. Each not wanting to ofend the other,seemedfirminhisopinionofwhereweshouldstart.At no point did this diference of opinions createany staticandultimately,theyounger skipper respectfully deferred to his mentor. Andyet itwascleartomethat atorchwasbeingpassed.Skipwas obviously very proudofGary’saccomplishmentsonandof thewater.Garyclearly had enormousrespectforhis father’s longevityin thebusiness. They seemed to genuinelyenjoyworking togetheron thewater. Skipsharedaseriesof talesfromthepast,and somethingstruckme as Ilistenedtorecollectionsabout thehistoryoftheseboats,old guiding storiesandanglingachievements.How manysecretsspots,howmuch knowledgeofthesportanditshistoryand tacticsfadesinto the shadowsasthe“OldGuard”enter thesunset oftheir careers? Insomany casesthelast generation,havingno oneto leave theirlegacyto, takethesesecrets withthemintoeternity. Thankfully, this would not be the case with these twogentlemen. —G.L.

58 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

George LaBonte, writer and TV host, scans for fish as Gary poles and Skip assesses conditions.


intrusion as well as against the destructive Teredo navalis (shipworm.) Since this boat would not live in the water full time, worms would be less of an issue, but it was important to add glass to build a super fair surface for the inished appearance and paint. he sanded hull was hot coated with two coats of West System epoxy before applying 10 oz. iberglass cloth. Next, the glass was pre-sanded and faired before shooting AwlGrip D8002 High Build epoxy primer which was also blocked down and faired starting with 220 gr. sandpaper and working up to 1,000 gr. he highly inished surface was shot with multiple coats of Awlcrat 2000 in Ice Blue. Moving topside, a complete gut job of the interior was completed, leaving only the original ribs, stringers and foredeck. he original framework of white cedar was in exceptional condition beneath 45 years’ worth of paint and dirt due to this wood’s superior durability. With this skeleton intact, the interior/bilge was sanded, primed and painted, again with AwlGrip. A series of templates was made next starting with the cockpit deck. Using ½-inch Coosa board, Gary cut in a new deck. He elected to pre-drill the Coosa material at every screw location and ill each hole with epoxy before fastening the stainless steel screws. Tedious as that sounds, Gary emphasizes the importance of providing the best possible bonding surface to every screw. In his words, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to ix it?” Next, all bulkheads and the at deck (including all hatches and gutters) were templated and constructed using ½-inch Coosa Blue Water Series, the highest density version of this board available. With bulkheads installed and the deck laid out, they laminated/epoxied two pieces of this material around the hatch lids and plunge routed the gutter tracks, itting it all together to ensure a lush and level surface when the lids were closed. he topsides were then inished and painted with Awlcrat 2000 in Snow White. Deck surfaces were taped and rolled out in two coats with a 70/30 ine/ coarse mixture of AwlGrip Griptex for the non-skid surface. Vintage Willy Roberts boats are known for having lots of wood trim and accents and some are completely decked out in it. Gary elected not to go all the way with the wood, but he still wanted to retain the old classic’s personality to some extent. Skip’s abilities in woodcrat along with a locally

acquired supply of scrap material were put to use next. With a load of epi (Brazilian walnut) and hickory a friend donated from another project, Skip got busy creating a laminated set of hatch covers and door frames and a classy looking deck for the poling platform. He also recreated the original rod holders inside the cockpit and the push pole holders out of the Brazilian walnut, lending the boat a nice vintage quality. Modern touches include hydraulic

steering, GPS, Lenco Trim Tabs, and a 90HP Yamaha engine. Finally, an aluminum fabricator friend of Gary’s from his time at Viking, Steve Salis, built the poling tower. Two years later, she was water ready. With his established book of business and a vintage Willy skif in better-than-new condition, Gary had brought dreams to full circle: his own vision of owning and working a legendary boat, and a family legacy that had begun with his father in a smoky bar some 50 years ago. FS

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JUNE 2018 59


By Larry Larsen

Fishing live shrimp for largemouth bass is a St. Johns River tradition—and might work near you, too.

Productive summer pattern: Locally caught shrimp hooked through horn and fished below a sliding cork.

ATASTE OF SALT

he summer day was sunny and heating up fast as Welaka guide Fred Chivington launched his bass boat on a small canal of the west shore of Lake George. Within a few minutes the captain had my ishing partner for the day, Debbie Hanson, and I heading for a group of pilings on the big lake. Fred glided up to one, tied up and readied our baits. His livewell was full of beautiful frying-size white shrimp. My partner and I grabbed our spinning gear and swung the hooks toward our guide who was waving a couple of lively baits at us.

T

Our shrimp were rigged below a sliding loat and tossed out toward the pilings just 15 to 20 feet away. Within 5 minutes, Debbie was reeling in a 14-inch largemouth. Ater a quick photo of her and the ish for her blog, the bass was released. I handed Debbie’s camera back to her as Fred hooked another shrimp. Her cast to the same area had just settled down when the shrimp kicked to the surface and started to circle the bobber. Another 16-inch largemouth was quickly brought aboard by the lady angler, and I was again asked to 60 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

take a photo. Debbie, publisher of the website www.SheFishes2.com, had an ongoing need for photos. hen, she hooked two more quick ish from her spot and I got to wondering if Fred had been giving me “unproductive” shrimp or maybe the “wrong end” of the boat since I only had one bass to her four in that span. All was good though, as my side of the boat soon became very productive. I caught and released six in a 10-minute spell. We ended our three-hour stint with 29 largemouth and a couple of hybrid striped bass


Debbie Hanson struck first with a plump Lake George largemouth, then two more, leaving the writer scrambling to catch up.

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ATASTE OF SALT The writer, Larry Larsen, and Debbie Hanson with a pair of nice bass taken on the shrimp netted below.

Coastal Shrimp Runs Shrimp migrate into tidal estuaries and freshwater spawning areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines of Florida from early summer to mid-November, depending on the area. Areas where I have employed live shrimp for bass near the St. Johns River mouth (in northeast Florida) include Julington Creek, the Nassau River and the lesser known Thomas Creek. I’ve also used shrimp efectively in several Florida Panhandle creeks of the Apalachicola River watershed located west of Tallahassee. The estuaries there discharge brackish water into Apalachicola Bay, which welcomes a great shrimp run during September and October. There are about 50 freshwater streams and rivers in the vicinity flowing into the Apalachicola River where largemouth bass eagerly feed on live shrimp. Some of the best are Montgomery Slough, the East River, Brothers River, Howard Creek, Brickyard Cutof and Owl Creek.

62 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

caught and released from that one area. All bass were over 12 inches and ive were between 16 and 18 ½ inches long, and that’s a good half-day’s ishing anywhere. Fishing shrimp on the St. Johns River and its adjoining lakes is a fun way to enjoy the bass ishery and guide Fred Chivington is an expert at it. he 64-year-old has been guiding bass ishermen on the river and nearby lakes for 49 years. His clients oten catch and release 30 largemouth each while ishing live shrimp for a day. One of the guide’s better areas for bass catches on the St. Johns is just north of the Palatka docks. It was there where one of his clients caught the guide service’s biggest live-shrimp-baited largemouth, a 10 ½-pounder! he yearly St. Johns shrimp spawning run usually gets underway sometime in late May or early June when they move into the river and head south upstream. hey begin to spawn north of Palatka around Racy Point, but the shrimp you cast net there will only be around 1 ½ inches long, according to the guide. hose baits are generally too small to be efective for largemouth but the shrimp run continues on southward to Astor which is about as far upstream as they migrate. “From July on through about mid-October, the white shrimp is a very productive, oten overlooked live bait for bass and other species,” Fred explains. “On weekends in August and September during the peak of the run, the river from Palatka down to Lake George will be crowded with boats and people tossing cast nets from the bank out over the water in search of the bait. Shrimp caught in August will run about 3 inches in length while those taken in September will be 5 to 6 inches long. hat’s the best size!”

TIPS FOR LOCATING AND GATHERING THE BAIT While live shrimp may be available at some bait stores near the coasts in a few areas, it is not available on the St. Johns River so you will have to gather your own.


Fortunately during the spawning run, shrimp can be found with the cast net anytime during the day. At night, they do move shallower, however, according to the guide. Fred uses a custom made 8-foot diameter cast net with a mesh size of around a half inch and a lengthy hand line (50 feet) so that he can go ater shrimp when they are deep in 20 feet of water. His net has a sewnin, sot nylon webbing near the weights that helps to keep the net fully open (due to wind resistance) upon release. Some people with cast nets not having the webbing will add a continuous strip of duct tape around the base on each side to accomplish the same thing. Still others sew in a pliable lawn chair webbing around the circumference. Some shrimp netters chum a likely spot with a mix of food pellets and mud. hey’ll place it in a mesh bag and hang it over the gunwale or drop it on a rope of a deep-cut bank if using a cast net from that position. Ater many years on the St. Johns, Fred knows where they usually are. Some of his best areas to locate shrimp are Beecher Point on the north end of Little Lake George, the west side of Wilson Cove which is about one-half mile south of the Palatka Bridge, Racy and Federal Points which both lie north of Palatka and south of Riverdale, near Dunn’s Creek and around Turkey Island just north of Welaka. Basically, the guide will be looking for hard bottom and a good current with a nearby dropof. he shrimp travel in “veins,” according to Fred, and they may all be moving at a certain depth such as 17 feet. When he moves into an area, he will drop his trolling motor, turn on his depth inder and be on the lookout for the “clouds” of shrimp. On cloudy days, they might be as shallow as 14 feet and on bright sunny days, the shrimp might be 23 feet down! Just prior to my trip with Fred, he had gone out the day before and caught 250 shrimp in about 15 minutes. He has a 200-gallon tank at his home to store the shrimp overnight and brought 150 of them in his livewell for our use. “I will feed them with hog food pellets and keep the water running on shrimp,” Fred says. “hey will clean up the water ater a few days and if they are properly cared for, the shrimp will easily last a few days. In really hot weather, I may add ice cubes occasionally to keep the shrimp fresh and lively.”

EFFECTIVE GEAR/RIGS FOR LIVE SHRIMP Spinning tackle is most efective when using light baits like shrimp. he ideal rig, according to Fred, is a straight shank “J” hook in size No. 1/0 or 1 for a 4- to 5-inch shrimp or No. 2 or 3 for a 3-inch bait. Attach the single hook to a 24- to 30-inch long 17-pound test line luorocarbon leader tied to 20-pound braid. In most situations and especially in

current and/or around cover, the guide will add a sliding cork with bobber stop about four feet from the hook. He notes that it is more diicult to cast the shrimp with a stationary cork. Fred will also add a small split shot or two about 12 inches above the hook. he goal is to keep the shrimp near the bottom, yet not limit its mobility. Best way to hook the shrimp is to pass the hook through its head from one side to the other just below the horns, a sharp forward

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www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

JUNE 2018 63


ATASTE OF SALT TIDE, CURRENT AND TECHNIQUE extension of the shrimp’s shell. Avoid piercing the dark spot in the head where the brain is located. Doing so will kill them instantly Most productive live shrimp ishing techniques for largemouth and render them useless for largemouth. Horn-hooking helps the involve tide or current movement because it is needed to “push” shrimp look natural as it is swept along by the current. During a or bring the bait into where the ish are oten located. Fred believes bite, you may see the shrimp lipping on the surface around the that the outgoing tide running through docks and pilings is cork, but usually the bobber simply disappears. hen, you reel normally the most productive for catching St. Johns River and up any slack and set the hook. If your bobber is gliding along the Lake George bass. At times, though, the tide could be running too water’s surface without being pulled under, reel any slack in and set strong to efectively ish the bait. If the bass are located more than 5 the hook. or 6 feet deep on a bar and the tide is running hard, he may opt for Another rig that I should positioning the bait rig right on mention is one I used several the bottom. years ago while living in Tide or no tide, Fred is alGrass Shrimp Jacksonville. It was a cane most always ishing structure: pole and later a 10-foot, partially submerged timber on 2-piece B&M medium acthe river banks, docks, pilings, tion iberglass pole (without sand bars, bridges and jetties. a reel). A couple of bass club “Obviously, you need a buddies and I used shrimp little current to move a shrimp on numerous occasions in up into pilings under a dock the quiet eddies and sloughs because it is hard to toss one of the St. Johns and under underneath a low boardwalk,” the docks along it to amass Fred says. “hat can be big catches of largemouth. provided by the incoming or he action on the poles was outgoing tide, wind or runof/ usually exciting, and more low from upstream. I just than a few times, we lost a position my boat upcurrent trophy-size bass or two to from the structure and feed the the barnacle-clad pilings. shrimp out so that they move into or through it if possible.” One important thing he has learned over the years is that when the shrimp are thick in the river, the bass are pulled deeper to feed on them. He will still start ishing his live bait shallow to see if there are active shallow bass. For example, his rigs will be set up to loat the shrimp at around 4 feet deep in 6 feet of water. He’ll slowly move to deeper areas and dropofs, adjusting his bobbers, until he identiies the prime depth. VARIETY ON SHRIMP Not all of Fred’s notable ishing days using shrimp on the St. Johns River and associated lakes have been black bass-based. he guide has had numerous days where his two clients caught big numbers of stripers and hybrid stripers. One hundred ish days with “stripes” averaging 1 to 3 pounds by his anglers with an “up to” of 10 pounds are possible. So are days when his two customers catch a dozen each averaging 5 or 6 pounds. His boat’s biggest striper caught on shrimp around the pilings was a 12-pounder. “When you get into a school of hybrids or stripers, you can catch them quicker and longer than you can catch largemouth,” he says. “he hybrids and stripers will hit dead shrimp, pieces of shrimp and even frozen shrimp. he largemouth won’t generally. hey only want to eat lively shrimp.” One technique that Fred uses on the hybrids and stripers plus most panish is to chum the waters with pieces of the dead shrimp. While it won’t work well on largemouth, it can activate the other 8 or 9 species that might strike on the St. Johns and Lakes George and Crescent. For more information on live shrimp ishing, contact Captain Fred Chivington of the St. John’s River Guide Service by phone at 386-329-3159. FS 64 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com


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I

Of Florida’s two saltwater catfish species, this is the one you’ll want to cook and eat… Try it!


cork around oyster beds for reds. hat’s the fun of it—the catties are just about everywhere and usually willing when other species take a siesta. More than once when novice angling friends and family were in town and I promised them a great day on the water, the sailcats have made the day with their willing ways and tenacious battles…leaving guests and host smiling! Just take great care in removing that hook! A ish gripper in the mouth is a good technique—and deinitely preferable if you will be transferring one of these slippery ish into a livewell, cooler or stringer. If you’re limited to bare-handing them, my technique is as follows. First let the catish calm down a bit and stop the trademark spinning when you lit it out of the water. Gaftopsail catfish won this blind taste test at the Island Cafe in Everglades City. Letting it bump up against the side of your boat can speed PREPARING this process. hen form a “V” between YOURCATCH your thumb and foreinger and slide your As the good chef stressed, taking good hand in behind the prominent dorsal in care of your catch of catfish is just what you and the two nasty spiked pectoral ins. would do with a prize redfish. Fortunately, Once you have a irm grip, remove the sail cats are easy to clean, producing nice lure or hook. my home waters, I ind sail cats most consistently in deeper channels between islands or in creeks with three to four feet of water and a decent tidal low—the same places you can ind speckled sea trout, snook and redish. But they oten surprise me by nailing a baby bass-colored jerk bait that I’m pitching under mangrove branches for snook or a plastic shrimp on a

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GAINING RESPECT AT THE DINNER TABLE Despite their reasonably well-established reputation as good ighters, skepticism about sail cats at the dinner table is rampant. I took it upon myself to prove once and for all the gatopsail catish is no slouch there, either. To start with, I conducted a semi-scientiic, blind tasting test at the venerable Island Café in Everglades City. Freshly caught sail cats went head-to-head with two ish lauded in the culinary department, speckled sea trout and sheepshead. Fillets were handed to the chef at the café who then produced a platter where each species had been grilled, blackened and fried. A couple of angling friends with highly experienced palates and I sampled the ish, and the sail cat won out over the typically more coveted ish.


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Tyler Stenger got the red snapper of Port St. Joe in 80 feet of water using live grunts.


Action Spotter June 2018

Keys

By Pepe Gonzalez Pepeskeywestcharter.com (305) 304-0983

BEST BET June ofers some of the best yellowtail snapper fishing of the year. This is a Keys-wide event and the bite happens at the outside edge of the reef. Make sure you bring a lot of chum. Sunset trips are a great time. Live bait is always a plus, but squid or bonito strips will work as well. Please make sure you harvest them in a responsible manner.

Shoulder Season f you have not made it down this spring to the spectacular Florida Keys to experience some of its legendary fishing, June has all of the most sought after species, for a portion of the price during what’s known in the business as shoulder season—between high season and low summer season. Pack up the car, go online and find some accommodations. Sofia Rodriguez If you are planning on towing your with a couple nice boat down, I suggest a quick visit yellowtail caught to the trailer repair shop to grease of a deep reef in the hubs and check the condition Islamorada. of your trailer brakes. It’s one thing to tow your boat to the local boat ramp, but you’re going to want your boat trailer in good shape if you’re towing a few hundred miles. We have seen countless flats that surround the Florida Keys. Many of them will boats laid out on US 1, and you don’t want it on your travel to the Gulf wrecks and towers like the S tower trip. That little check up and preparation goes a long and P tower. They can be found out there almost yearway when trailering. round. What this means is that us light tackle boats Inshore, you can expect the large schools of tarpon won’t have that many permit to play with in the deeper to slowly begin to migrate north as the month moves waters, but the flats guides are going to have a field along. Some fish will remain in the Keys for the summer day with them. and even into the fall, but the large schools that can be Offshore, the mahi bite has tapered off a bit as well, seen in Key West Harbor or the Bahia Honda Bridge will but sometimes running further can produce a nice make their exit sometime in June. catch. Throughout the spring, mahi can be found in Also the large schools of permit that gather to large numbers throughout the Keys, and in June you spawn offshore will begin to disperse. They can be may have to make it out to Wood’s Wall off Key West, found around the Western Dry Rocks or to the humps in the Middle Keys, to find them. Over and wrecks like the Cayman Salvage, those deepwater structures, you can find drops in depth Joe’s Tug, The Duane and The Bibb. of hundreds of feet that create changes in currents By the end of June, most of the permit where weeds and debris will gather. The baitfish tend are done with their spawning, and will to congregate around these weedlines and usually the make their way back on to the shallow mahi-mahi are close by. Also, keep an eye open for wahoo and marlin raising up to feed on your mahi. The best fish to target on the flats in June is still tarpon. Capt. Jamie Connell says that June is his favorite month to fish for tarpon on the flats, as the bite is the most consistent. There are plenty of big fish around Original Big Pine and the weather tends to be cooperative. Also, if you’re and Lower Keys Dolphin worn out from casting heavy gear and fighting tarpon, Tournament you can always go look for bonefish. The summer is a Don Hawley Tarpon Fly Tournament great time to target those little grey rockets. DIVING Expect great visibility along with a target rich Ladies Dolphin environment of snapper and grouper. Lobsters are not Tournament in season, but mini season is around the corner. Now is Ladies the time to scout out where the honey holes are. Please Tarpon Fly Tournament pay attention to the rules and regulations. State and federal regulation can be diferent and ignorance is not Gold Cup bliss in the eyes of the law. Be particularly careful to Tarpon Tournament avoid entering the water with spearfishing gear in areas of-limits to that activity. This includes Monroe County waters north of Long Key to the Dade County line, as well as smaller areas within the Keys Marine Sanctuary.

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KEYS SCENE

Dolphin will be the target at this month’s Ladies Dolphin Tournament in Tavernier.

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Action Spotter June 2018 Zachary Sherman, the writer’s son, with a black grouper caught of the Miami coastline.

South

By Alan Sherman getemsportfishing.com (786) 436-2064

BEST BET June is snapper fishing time in South Florida. Largemutton snappers normally school up over the reefs in certain locations as they spawn on the full moon. At one of these spawning spots, catching a 5-fish limit of 10-pound plus mutton snappers can be quite easy. Mangrove snappers will start their spawning season this month, also. Mangrove snappers typically spawn over reefs in 15 to 80 feet of water ofshore of South Florida at night. There is an aggregate snapper bag limit of 10 fish total.

Bluewater Season ffshore fishing from Deerfield Beach south to Ocean Reef will provide plenty of action from king mackerel, sailfish, lots of bonito, large blackfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin. These fish will be feeding near the surface to about mid-way to the bottom. These pelagic predators prefer live threadfin herring, goggle-eye jacks and large pilchards, but will eat vertical jigs and trolled and drifted rigged ballyhoo. Most of this action will take place outside the outer reef line from 80 feet of water out to 300 feet of water. Over the offshore wrecks and ledges, amberjacks, almaco jacks, gag, black and red groupers and spawning mutton snappers will bend your stout bottom fishing rigs to the max. Catch some large live pinfish in the bay and hook one on a Mustad Ultra Point 8/0 shortshank hook and send the bait to the bottom. Hold that fishing rod tight because these fish don’t play around. A sure way to beat the heat of daytime fishing is

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SOUTH SCENE Miami Dolphins Foundation Fins Fishing Tournament Annual FIU Alumni Fishing Tournament Bluewater Movements Saltwater Slam Lionfish Bash, Coconut Grove Marine Industry Association Day

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to try your luck at snapper fishing at night on your vessel, or on one of the many partyboats that are located just a few minutes from the ocean inlets. For a reasonable fee these partyboats will provide you with a fishing rod and reel, tackle and bait and a spot on the rail. Most partyboat anglers go home with a bag of tasty fillets. The inshore fishing for catch and release snook can be quite good. Casting Rapala Skitter Walks and live baitfish along the seawalls and shorelines in the Intracoastal Waterway or up tight to any shoreline can bring an explosive surface strike. Jack crevalle over 10 pounds are always patrolling the same waters. Over the shallow flats from Haulover Inlet south to Key Biscayne, large seatrout continue to feed on mullet schools that are migrating north for the summer. Fillet a dead mullet and cut two long strips from each fillet. Use a float with a 30-inch length of monofilament leader material and a No. 2 shortshank hook, and attach that strip to the hook. Cast that rig out away from the boat and let it drift with your boat. Pop that float every now and then and wait for that seatrout, which might weigh as much as seven pounds, to eat your bait. Plenty of jacks, ladyfish, barracuda, sharks, snappers, snook and tarpon feed in the same areas. Casting ¼-ounce jigheads tipped with a soft plastic fish tail or a hard bait in the same areas will get you plenty of action on these flats. The fisherman looking for bonefish, permit, sharks and a few tarpon won’t be disappointed this month. You’ll need a shallow water skiff to get on the fish, as there aren’t many wadeable flats that can be reached from land anymore. The best areas to target these fish are from Key Biscayne south to Ocean Reef. An early morning incoming tide is a favorite for shallow water flats fishermen. The cool early morning water coming in from the ocean results in hungry bonefish, permit and tarpon tailing, cruising and mudding as they look for tasty crabs, shrimp, worms and small baitfish. HUNTING June in Zone A is a great month to get your gear, licenses and permits ready for the upcoming hunting season.


Action Spotter June 2018 Kate Murphy with her father Jim Murphy with Kate’s first permit on a crab fishing with Brian Sanders out of Chokoloskee.

10,000 Islands

By Steve Dall captainedscharterboats.com (239) 405-9898

BEST BET The nearshore permit bite should be strong all month, so take advantage of it by hitting the many public wrecks and reefs in the region. Focus on those that have a bit higher relief (such as the famed Kidd) to find the most active populationsofpermitanddon’t forget the countless towers southwest of Cape Romano. It is hard to beat the tried and true choice of blue crabs as a bait selection when targeting these drag screamers.

All Out Action une provides anglers throughout the 10,000 Islands region a plethora of opportunities, from permit to migratory tarpon fishing, snook and seatrout, but one species just never seems to get the publicity it deserves. That is the fantastic shark fishing we have in our region. While many an avid angler scoffs at the mere mention of shark fishing, many folks have never truly caught these monsters in shallow water and we have plenty of them hunting the shallows in the month of June. The 10,000 Islands are a fascinating area to fish for shark because there is an abundant population of these predators, and they vary in size, numbers and relative power. At the apex, literally at the top of the food chain, are the bull sharks. These are easily the most famed shark of our region for their voracity, pure size and power. From the lemons with their dual dorsal fins combing the oyster bars, to spinner sharks busting through shallow water mackerel schools, the opportunity to catch what could be the largest fish you ever tangle with is available to you in the month of June.

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10,000 ISLANDS SCENE Greater amberjack in Gulf state waters closes Gulf gag grouper opens in state and federal waters Phase II of the application period for the statewide alligator harvest program begins Marco Sportfishing Club monthly meeting Inshore Ofshore Wars II Tournament The Florida B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Region Pro/Am Qualifier Tournament

These sharks are here this month for one reason and one reason only…food. The rising water temperatures bring in hordes of bait including glass minnows, threadfin herring and large pilchards, all of which will stake up residency in the nearshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico along with the region’s passes and outside islands. While the sharks are not necessarily feeding on these baitfish primarily, they certainly find the fish chasing these baitfish to their liking. Spanish mackerel, bonito, kingfish, jack crevalles and others have the shark’s interests. The basic tackle setup is fairly easy and relatively moderately priced. Tackle is certainly key as you need to properly outfit yourself to not over-fatigue the fish or cause harm to yourself, so definitely have some stout spinning gear ready. One or two combos in the 7-foot range that can accommodate a 6000- to 8000-sized reel, spooled with 50-to 65-pound braided line will suffice. On the working end of your braided line, look to have a 3-foot wire leader with a quality offset circle hook in the 9\0 or larger range that has a large gap size to the hook. Keep in mind that if the gap of the circle hook is too small, your hook runs the risk of turning into the bait resulting in missed hook ups. Now that your gear is in order, bait and chum are paramount, so put in the time to acquire it. Large mullet, jack crevalle and ladyfish are three excellent shark baits and can make for some fun fishing in acquiring your bait, especially with kids aboard. Once loaded up, have a few chum blocks and/or some of the many liquid or dry chums that are now available on the market. These alternatives to traditional frozen chum blocks are just as effective if not more and are far more easy to work with from a cleanliness standpoint. Stake out transition areas that act as highways for baitfish and predatory fish. Large passes and bottleneck openings with deep water access and current flow are excellent choices. Areas such as Dismal Key Pass or the areas in and around Whitehorse Key quickly come to mind as top summertime shark spots, as do the countless river mouths to the south of the region. Once in your area, set anchor to allow your baits to drift with the tide and deploy your chum so that your slick is taken by the tide. An outgoing tide in these areas is tough to beat as the chum slick will make its way to the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico and draw in sharks as that tide also flushes the bait out of the backcountry to waiting predators. HUNTING With visions of the fall thunder chicken season and the archery deer season open in late July, a quick trip to your local retailer or gunsmith during this month is a smart move. www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

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Action Spotter June 2018

Southeast Kevin Wipp and Jordan with a 20-pound blackfin caught in Jupiter in 220 feet, using live sardine.

By Brenton Roberts Brenton.roberts @outdoorsg.com

BEST BET Tangle with the tarpon this month as they push into the inlets and along the beaches throughout the region. On the beach, schools of rolling fish will be your target. Cruising the beach at first light will be your best bet. The less pressure they have, the more apt they are to eat. A live sardine is my go-to when fishing these schools. Read what the school is doing and play them accordingly. Always get as far ahead of them as you can, and kill the motor. You want to be quiet.

Run and Gun

une is a great month to fish offshore. With consistent fishing and calm seas, just about any boat can get out and take advantage. We all know Mother Nature is quick to change, though, so venturing out to blue water, especially in a small boat, requires steady monitoring of the weather. Afternoon thunderstorms build quickly. When I head out on a smaller boat, typically 24-foot or less, with a single outboard, I prefer to be back in the inlet by noon, beating the storms. Out deep, the swordfish bite is one solid option this month. “I typically fish 1,600 feet or deeper when targeting these tasty billfish,” says Capt. Jonathan Earhart of Chaos Fishing charters in Stuart. “Daytime fishing, I like to fish a bait on or close to bottom, when fishing at night, these fish rise, making it slightly easier, allowing us to deploy baits in the 100- to 500-foot range,” he explained. If the swordfish bite is slow, the pelagic bite is best out into the Gulf Stream this month. “Outside of Palm Beach County KDW Classic 10 miles, you can Bluewater Movements Saltwater Slam expect pelagics such University of Florida BCN South Florida Club Ofshore as mahi, wahoo, tuna Tournament and the occasional Bulls for Brooke Fishing Tournament marlin,” said Earhart. West Palm Beach Fishing Club meeting “You may be able to find some mahi

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trolling or drifting weedlines in close, but generally you will need to venture farther out for summer mahi action.” On the reefs and wrecks, Earhart loves to vertical jig for jumbo amberjacks around the structure. “AJs are a favorite for my clients this month, with fish averaging 30 to 50 pounds.” Cobia are a nice bonus when vertical jigging for AJs. They are a shark’s favorite meal, though. Best bet for landing your cobia if a shark is after it is to open your bail and let the fish swim freely, hopefully getting away from the sharks. You can then finesse them away from the structure and into the boat. Don’t pass up the full moon snapper bite. Large mutton and mangrove snapper feast around the moon this month. Anglers often produce fish well over 8 pounds. Earhart prefers to fish structure in the 70- to 90-foot depths. With strong current and wary fish, especially the muttons, Jonathan fishes a 50foot leader on a 3-way swivel. The amount of weight varies with the speed of the current, but you need to stay glued to the bottom. Your bait will then at times swing up and off the bottom with the current. Crushed grunt plugs, goggle-eye plugs, and live goggle-eye are Jonathan’s go-to baits. The bites can be very subtle. I prefer to put the rod in a gunnel rod holder and be watching the rod tip for a bite (a headlamp is required at night). Fishing a circle hook, let the fish take the bait for five seconds, proceed to crank, then lift the rod out of the holder. With such a long leader, you will need to hand-line it in. I like to store the weight in a rod holder or in the corner of the cockpit and bring the fish to the boat. Be sure the leader is not tangling around anything. You don’t want to pull the hook if that fish takes one last run. HUNTING Phase two alligator application dates run from June 1 through the June 11 this month. Phase three application follows up, running from June 15 to 25. Other than that, wild hog and rabbits can be hunted on private land.


Action Spotter June 2018

Southwest

By Ralph Allen www.kingfisherfleet.com (941) 639-2628

BEST BET Your best bet this month is to head west out into the Gulf to your best snapper and grouper bottom. Why? So you can take advantage of a brief period during which the seasons for red snapper, red grouper and gag are all slated to be open simultaneously. Federal season for charter boats starts June 1 for 51 days. A state red snapper season of 40 days was proposed to start June 11. These regulations are new and complex so be sure to go over them before fishing.

Good As It Gets or more than 100 years Boca Grande Pass has pretty much been the center of the tarpon fishing universe, attracting more fish and more fishermen than anywhere else. Tarpon will probably be caught there every hour of every day this month that weather conditions allow fishing to occur. Boca Grande tarpon can be caught on almost any moving tide, but the late afternoon hill tide crab flush has long been a popular time to fish the big pass, and the tides look good for this on the weekends of the 2nd, 16th and the 30th. If Boca Grande Pass is too crowded for your tastes, then nearby Captiva Pass sometimes offers tarpon action rivaling that found at Boca Grande. Tarpon are also showing most mornings along the Gulf beaches all along our coast, and the inshore black water tarpon fishery in Charlotte Harbor is starting to crank up too. Snook fishing on the beach is very good. Expect to see lots of undersized fish punctuated by a few larger specimens. You’ll either find them slowly traveling parallel to the beach, or holding around structures such as rock outcrops, groins, pilings or blowdowns. If you’re fishing mid-morning as the sun begins to rise, sometimes they’ll hang in the shadows cast by beachside trees or condos. It takes a practiced eye to spot beach snook, which are precisely light colored enough to blend in perfectly with the beach sand. Live baits are killer on these fish, especially if you can find a few that haven’t been bumped recently, but artificials will work too and are much easier for shorebound anglers to manage. A simple white bucktail is sometimes all you need, but slowly-retrieved silver spoons or plastic shrimp that are dead-sticked in the wave wash work very well too. Shark fishing is on fire. From baby blacktips and spunky little blacknoses all the way up to angry bulls

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SOUTHWEST SCENE Gag grouper scheduled to open Flatsmasters Redfish Tournament, Laishley Crab House Ladies Night Out Howl at the Moon Tarpon Tournament PGI Fishing Club monthly meeting Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters Club meeting

Ladies get a tarpon tournament of their own June 9.

Jack Palluck caught the 8-pound largemouth on a Texas rigged Baby Brush Hog in a rock pit in Ft. Myers.

and hulking hammerheads, they’re here and they’re hungry. Everybody has their favorite spots, but you can probably catch at least a few sharks almost anywhere along the edges of the ICW if you set up a chum line and wait long enough. Live baits such as small jacks, blue runners or ladyfish work really well and some guys use live stingrays for bull sharks. If you’re into cut bait, fresh-caught mullet, ladyfish or bonito are prime choices. Last year at about this time there were significant numbers of sawfish being caught by shark fishermen in some areas of Charlotte Harbor. If you should happen to hook one of these odd animals do not attempt to remove it from the water. Get a rough estimate of its length, then, being careful to avoid that tooth-studded snout, clip the leader to let it go. Then make a call to report the capture to the FWC’s sawfish hotline at 941-255-7403. HUNTING Most Florida hunters hang up their boots for the summer and survive these lean months by thinking ahead to future hunts, but you might need to be doing more than just thinking about next season. Application periods for many quota and limited opportunity hunts are now open and while filling out forms is no fun, in today’s world it’s necessary to access much of the best hunting on public lands.

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Action Spotter June 2018

West Central

By Ray Markham

Grace ‘Gracie’ Harbord caught this 34-inch snook on a scaled sardine on the Honeymoon flats fishing with her dad, John Harbord.

CaptainRayMarkham.com (941) 723-2655

BEST BET In a battle with the big boys, few fish for their size can bend rods like members of the jack family. Thirty-poundpermit onmedium tackle can bend rods, make you sweat and feel the burn like nothing else its size, making permit this month’s best bet.

Summer Bites

ag grouper stake out territories on reefs, ledges and ofshore wrecks. Giant tarpon roam the beaches followed by sharks. Monster black drum own the real estate around upper Tampa Bay bridges, and the largest snook of the year prowl the passes and barrier islands from New Pass to Anclote Key. Depending on the species, the heat of summer either drives fish deep where cooler water is comfortable or to the shade of mangroves, docks, bridges or other cover. With gag grouper reopening June 1, much of the action for legal sized fish will be in federal waters beginning at about 100 feet or around 30 miles of Pinellas and deeper. The “D” Artificial Reefs of Sarasota in 100 to 110 feet can be productive for not only gag and red grouper but also permit, cobia, wahoo, king mackerel, hogfish, mangrove snapper and more. Anglers should check www.myfwc.com for updates in both state and federal waters on closures and changes in size or bag limits. Mangrove snapper begin spawning on full moons over the next month. These scrappy fish have keen eyesight and are very cagey when it comes to taking bait from hooks. You can find these fish in both Federal for-hire red snapper Gulf season starts deep and shallow locations with the Rough Riders Charity Fishing Tournament largest mangos in State season for Gulf red snapper starts pending approval deep water beyond Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Youth Summer Camp the 20-fathom mark. Scallop season starts in Levy Bonito, wahoo,

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dolphin, and blackfin tunas ride the bluewater currents this month and if you head out to the Steps and beyond, blue marlin, white marlin, swordfish and many others can surprise you. Sailfish might also be in the spread but it’s not out of the question to find them just of the beaches. Inshore and nearshore anglers have some big fish to target as well, including tarpon. Heavy tackle with lines testing 50 pounds and greater can shorten the battle with a tarpon, for a better release of the fish which might have to contend with sharks after release. Full and new moons will put tarpon in line with passes leading out of major bays like those at Boca Grande and Tampa Bay. Outgoing tides, early in the day but especially in the late afternoon, will have strong currents that will provide tide rips and weed lines where crabs and shrimp will be swept out with the tide. This will put fish in an ambush position to intercept these morsels. If you’re a live bait angler, pinfish, jumbo shrimp, menhaden, threadfin herring, big horse minnows and fresh cut baits like ladyfish and mullet are efective, but on the outgoing tides, small crabs like calico or blue crabs are best. Black drum in the 30-to 50-pound range hang around the bridges in upper Tampa Bay. Soak a half blue crab on the bottom with heavy tackle to battle these brutes. Catch and release action for snook might be as easy as it gets now. Males, schooling up in passes and on the beaches, are aggressive in preparation for the spawn that occurs several times over the summer months around new and full moons. Larger females crush dead baits fished on the bottom. Dock lights are prime attractors for snook at night. The lights attract shrimp and glass minnows that are top forage for these fish. Fly fishing might be the best way to catch snook since flies cast here can be tied small enough to imitate the natural forage present. HUNTING While there are opportunities to hunt wild hogs and other small game that have no closures, many hunters take advantage of one of the 10 FWC public shooting ranges in the state. The two closest to West Central are Tenoroc and Knight Trail Park Pistol and Rifle Range in Nokomis. There is a small fee for each. A variety of guns and archery equipment may be used. Emphasis is on safe and responsible handling of firearms and skills improvement in target shooting.


Action Spotter June 2018

Big Bend Michelle O’Sada caught this beautiful inshore 30-inch redfish on live shrimp out of Crystal River on a trip guided by Capt. Ian Gaz.

By Tommy Thompson capttommy@me.com saltwateranglersguide.com

Our Flats BEST BET Catching a bag limit of keeper spottedseatrout should be an easy game this month. Try drifting the 4- to 6-foot grassflats with a live shrimp or small pinfish under a popping cork, paying special attention to any deeper, white sand holes that you encounter. All trout are ambush hunters and there’s no better hideout than in the tall turtle grass that borders sandy or rocky pockets on our vast flats.

BIG BEND SCENE Reeling For Kids Tournament Nauti-Girls Tournament Homosassa Cobia Tournament Bay scallop season begins, Bay scallop season begins,

t’s summer, and our Big Bend grassflats are officially alive with bait and predators. Daybreak comes early, and anglers targeting larger-thanslot, 20-inch plus, spotted seatrout can beat the heat by getting out in the dark, fishing as the sun crosses the horizon. That timing almost guarantees you’ll be back to the dock in time for brunch—with a nice catch. Trophy seatrout don’t school up this time of year like the lower and middle slot version of the species. Typically, they cruise creek mouths and the perimeters of shell bars, solo, in search of small mullet, a favorite prey. One of my favorite things to hear while fishing on calm pre-sunrise summer mornings is the sound of big trout striking mullet in the distance. When it comes to pinpointing big hungry seatrout, your ears can be more valuable than your eyes this time of day. Equally important to catching big seatrout is your ability to keep quiet and your terminal tackle. Stealth means no slamming of cooler lids and/or “high-fiving” your fishing partner, and making long accurate casts. As for terminal tackle, topwater plugs like MirrOlure Top Dogs or Heddon Super Spooks, in light colors,

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make just the right amount of racket necessary to draw the interest of big trout. And, if there’s floating grass, the bane of all topwater enthusiasts, give the weedless D.O.A. PT7 a try. Finally, a few words of advice. The annual bay scallop season is just around the corner. Don’t despair or let early-season scallopers ruin your plans to target finfish. It won’t be long before the flats will become crowded with throngs of snorkelers chasing the “elusive” bay scallop, competing for grassflats access with fin-fishers. But there’s plenty of water to go around. With the exception of Dixie and southern Taylor Counties, the scallop season doesn’t begin until July. Dixie and southern Taylor counties open on June 16, but even then that leaves plenty of time to fish that shallow coastline. However, know that there may be confusion this year, as the FWC has reworked the bay scallop season dates this year, making it almost as hard to understand those regulations as those for Florida’s snook harvest. The new regulations affect our important Big Bend scalloping ports (Bayport, Homosassa, Crystal River, Steinhatchee and St. Marks) and were chosen to protect the fragile bay scallop species as well as the economic health of our Big Bend communities. But remember, before you go, to review the new harvest area boundaries online at www.myfwc.com/fishing/ saltwater/recreational/ bay-scallops/ HUNTING If you’re just itchin’ to shoot at something this summer, how about some clay birds? There’s no better practice for shotgunning ducks, dove or snipe than a few rounds of 5-stand. Robinson Ranch in Inglis, Bradford Sportsmen’s Club in Graham, Hernando Sportsman’s Club near Weeki Wachee and Gator Skeet and Trap Club in Gainesville all have excellent facilities and are open to the public.

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Action Spotter June 2018 Howie Griin, with dad Howard and sister Hope, and the big bluefish he caught on the beach near Ponce Inlet.

East Central

By Bill Sargent sargentwb@gmail.com

BEST BET Trophy seatrout fishing peaks in the Indian River Lagoon system in June with some of the best results coming within several miles of Sebastian Inlet. Trout will be receptive to surface plugs worked to imitate an injured mullet in zones holding schools of mullet particularly during low light morning periods. Work the plugs around the edges of the mullet schools.

Gather ‘Round n its 24 years, more than 17,000 youth have made the annual Kids Fishing Clinic at Port Canaveral each June one of the largest children’s fishing events in the state. They get new rods and reels, lunch, photos, a better understanding of conservation, and go away with some cherished memories. This year, on Saturday June 23, some 600 kids between 5 and 15 along with parents and friends will cast their lines for catches from the docks at Canaveral’s Cruise Terminal No. 1 from 8 a.m. until noon, rain or shine. “It’s all about kids having fun. For some it will be their first fishing trip and everything’s free,” said Eric Griggs, who heads up a large force of volunteers from area fishing and service clubs. “We know it stimulates interest in fishing, because we’re seeing parents who took part in our clinics as kids years ago now bringing their kids.” The Florida Sport Fishing Association (FSFA), a Cape Canaveral organization with 250 members, founded the clinic in 1994 and continues as the major contributor and

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EAST CENTRAL SCENE New Smyrna Beach Ofshore Tournament Florida Sport Fishing Association 50th Ofshore Tournament Sebastian Exchange Club 25th Blue Water Open Six-week Ocala Outdoor Adventure Youth Camp starts Florida Flyrod Club meets at Kay’s Bar-B-Q Halifax Sport Fishing Club

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a principal sponsor along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Canaveral Port Authority that donates the use of the . cruise ship terminal and dock. Fish Florida and the Sport Fish Foundation also contribute. Those attending this year are in for a special treat because cruise terminal No. 1 is Port Canaveral’s newest and most modern facility completed in December 2014. It’s on the south side of the port immediately east of Sunrise Marina and Grill’s Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar, businesses that also contribute. The terminal’s address is 9050 Discovery Place, Port Canaveral, 32920. Parking will be free. Catches usually vary from sailor’s choice, lookdowns, sea robins, and margates to sheepshead, small drum and flounder. Prizes will not be awarded for catches. The FSFA places chum bags along the docks the night before to boost catches. The dock is open, spacious and high above the water. Folding chairs, hats and sun block are recommended. For more on the clinic contact Griggs at eric11@cfl.rr.com. A major fund-raiser for the clinic is the annual FSFA Ofshore Tournament, scheduled for June 2 out of Port Canaveral. The club is celebrating the tournament’s 50th anniversary with a special Captain’s Party at Merritt Island’s Kiwanis Island Park on June 1 starting at 6 p.m. Prizes will exceed $17,000 in cash, boosted by a $5,000 big fish prize that last year was claimed with a 44.5-pound grouper. A $3,000 general slam prize will be ofered along with five places in each species category: dolphin, wahoo, king mackerel, and grouper. Cash also will be ofered for the heaviest cobia and amberjack, along with merchandise for top catches by women and juniors. For more go to www.ofshoreslam.com. Also on June 2 the Sebastian Exchange Club will host its 25th Blue Water Open outside Sebastian Inlet with headquarters at Capt. Hiram’s Restaurant in the town of Sebastian. Proceeds will benefit scholarships for youth and programs fighting child abuse. Prizes of $19,000 in cash include a $2,500 top boat and four places in each of four fish categories. Go to: www.fishingforcharity.org. HUNTING May and June are the last months before the sultry temperatures of summer discourage East Central hog hunters from working the woods. Hogs are legal game year-round on private lands and hunters are encouraged to take them. In fact, a hunting license is not required. However, hog seasons are established on most wildlife management areas. Hogs can be taken with legal rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, crossbows, bows, pistols and air guns.


Action Spotter June 2018

Northeast

24 Hour Action By Rick Ryals Rick.Ryals@OutdoorSG.com

BEST BET It’s time to dust of the kingfish tackle and look to the beach for the biggest kings around. The full moon is June 27 and the first big spawners will be on the beach, spread out from the Chum Hole south to the Captain’s House. Live pogies and ribbonfish are what most kingfish pros will tune up for tournament season with, but big live mullet are not to be overlooked.

NORTHEAST SCENE Florida Lure Anglers Annual Championship Clay Roberts Memorial Tournament Jacksonville Ofshore Sportfishing Club Jr Angler Tournament Jacksonville Ofshore Sportfishing Club The Kingfish Tune-Up Tournament

n June, inshore saltwater is a 24-hour proposition. Trout will smash surface lures early and late, but dock lights get better as the month gets hotter. You’ll need moving water, and lights that are close to the water’s surface. This generally means the top third of the tide. Both the Intracoastal and St. Johns hold plenty of nocturnal trout in June. There’s no way to figure out why some docks are hot some nights, and some aren’t, but just keep moving until you find the right one. Reds are just about everywhere, and they’ll be crawling around in plain sight at dawn and dusk in less than eight inches of water. You’ll also be able to find upper slot and oversized Ryan Danhour picked reds willing to crush a deep running crankbait. this 40-pound cobia out of a pod following a Tuck in close to the jetties and try to run your big ray around a wreck diver tight to the rocks by casting parallel to in 100 feet of water the jetty. It’s also still a good time to fish for a of Jacksonville with mixed bag of jetty dwellers by casting jigheads his friend Captain Cole and small live shrimp into the rocks. Reardon. June may well win “Best All Around” for offshore fishermen. First off, the weather is usually pretty dependable. There’s bait on the beach, and plenty of reef dwellers to eat it. Few boats fish the old fashioned way, but pulling ballyhoo blue marlin fishing, June is your month. Many boats will and/or cigar minnows will still get you plenty of bites hit the ledge early to pull enough dolphin for the grill, from school sized kings, bonito and the occasional and then hit the deep in search of a blue. They’re out dolphin. there, it’s just a matter of putting in your time. Out in the blue water, the fish are starting to filter For freshwater fishermen, it’s time to put on the inshore. The good news is, dolphin, wahoo, sailfish, and sunglasses and do a little sight fishing. Bream fan out tuna can be found in 120 feet of water. The bad news beds en masse. Old timers can smell the bedding fish, is there’s miles of open water from 120 to 180 feet for but if you’ve got a nose as challenged as mine, you’ll the fish to spread out in. Generally the bigger dolphin need a flats boat or something with a poling platform will be deep, and often times the biggest dolphin of the or spotting tower. Years ago, I fished with a man who year will be caught on marlin lures trolling off the shelf lived on Lake Santa Fe. His attack was simple. He’d in deeper water. If you want to dedicate a day strictly to just look out his back window and make mental notes as to where the boats were bunched up catching bream. After nightfall he and I would work Beetle Spins through the beds and rack up big numbers of spawning bluegills. HUNTING It’s all about the hogs in June, but hunters be warned to get to your kill in a hurry, and get it on ice. The hotter it gets the sooner a hog goes bad lying on the ground. Camp Blanding and Jennings Forest are in need of hog hunters thinning their herd.

I

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JUNE 2018 83


Action Spotter June 2018

Northwest

By Bill Greer wagreer@comcast.net

BEST BET The weather is starting to heat up but there are a number of cool rivers to fish in North Florida. Rivers such as the Ochlockonee have miles of shady shoreline where small bass can be caught with a fly rod or ultralight tackle. Small crankbaits will catch both bass and redbreasts when cast up under the drooping willows and other shoreline vegetation. Fly rod streamers and bugs are perfect for this type of fishing as well. Of course, crickets, worms and cane poles were made for fishing these rivers and often out fish everything else.

Sydney Brockway with a red snapper taken of St. George Island. Federal for-hire season starts June 1; state June 11.

FeverSetsIn here are two kings in town this month: tarpon, the silver king, and kingfish. Anglers treat them both with respect, if not reverence, and in fact some anglers even bow to them on occasion. Either one is capable of stripping all of the line from a reel, breaking a rod or making an angler’s knees wobble. King mackerel are usually the first of the two species to show up in North Florida. As soon as the water temperature reaches 68 degrees and the schools of bait fish show up, the kings start appearing. Tarpon prefer warmer water, 75 degrees or above. When the water reaches this temperature, anglers can bet on seeing tarpon. Kings start appearing around many of the ofshore markers, reefs and towers. It’s often in 40- to 60-foot depths. The Alphabet towers are fairly predictable spots to encounter kingfish. Both the K and the O towers are good bets, especially if the schools of Spanish sardines

T

NORTHWEST SCENE Gray triggerfish season closes North Florida Gulf Fishing Club Slot Tournament FWC Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic Reel Money Team Trail

4-county gag grouper season closes

84 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

are around them. These great baitfish can be caught with a bait net or sabiki jigs. Lively sardines are often free-lined near the surface or fished under a float or balloon. Kings can also be found around some of the inshore artificial reefs, especially later in the month as the water warms up. The Rotary Reef can be a good reef to fish that’s close in and easy to reach. A live sardine, pinfish or menhaden fished just under the surface around these reefs can produce not only kings but also cobia and grouper as well. Trolling is always a good option for finding kings especially if they are scattered. It’s usually good to troll in an area with some type of structure. This can be natural or man-made reefs, wrecks, markers or towers. Structure is usually what attracts baitfish and that’s what kingfish are after. Large schools of baitfish in open water are another option for trolling as well as casting and free-lining. Tarpon are what helped make Florida famous for fishing. Anglers in the 1800’s used to travel here from all over the country to fight the silver king. North Florida certainly has its share of this great gamefish, and June is the month when anglers can find tarpon scattered throughout this part of the state. Just because they can be seen doesn’t mean they can be easily caught. Often anglers see schools of tarpon rolling on the surface. If they are rolling and moving, it may be just what they are doing, traveling. This can be a diicult time to catch one. Sometimes a live bait, lure or streamer placed in just the right place in front of them is productive. A better tactic is to choose a place where tarpon go to feed. West Pass, between St. George Island and St. Vincent Island, is a very good place to hook one. They usually feed near the bottom in this deep pass so fast-sinking lures or flies are the most efective. Heavy jigs, plugs and weighted fly lines are needed to reach them. Apalachicola Bay above the bridge can be a good place to find schools of tarpon. They sometimes feed in and at the mouth of the tidal creeks that empty into the bay. The Lanark area east of Carrabelle is famous as a place to see schools of tarpon in clear water but its fame attracts a lot of anglers in a small area. Most of the tarpon fishing here is sight casting with fly rods. The mouth of the Ochlockonee River also sees some tarpon action. This is over the mud flat on the northeastern side of the river mouth. Of all the places tarpon frequent, Mud Cove is one of the most predictable. . HUNTING There are still a lot of hunts on National Wildlife Refuges to apply for. The deadline for these hunts is June 15, 2018. These include St. Marks Archery, General Gun, Mobility Impaired and the St. Vincent Sambar Deer hunts. Quota Hunts can also be applied for until June 15, 2018. These hunts include Archery, Family Quota, General Gun, Mobility Impaired, Muzzleloading, Wild Hog and Youth Hunts.


Action Spotter June 2018

Panhandle

Crunch Time hen it comes to picking a target species or two for June, the first thought for everyone has to be, “Finally it’s time for some red snapper.” But then again, mahi, tuna, billfish, grouper, kings, Spanish, and even tarpon can cloud your judgment. The great thing to me about June is that everyone gets to pick their own species to target. Though I have to agree with most people and say that June is the time to find your favorite bottom spot and look for those snapper. After that, take some time and switch gears: There are plenty of other species to round out the box. Black Mark Akerson and Jeremy snapper, vermilion snapper, lane snapper, Chance with red snapper white snapper, scamp grouper, gag grouper, of Panama City. This year’s king mackerel, and if the water is right... state red snapper season is mahi-mahi and wahoo. scheduled to start June 11. When it comes to snapper fishing, it’s hard to make a bad choice. These fish will eat almost anything when hungry. Squid, northern mackerel, cigar minnows, hardtails, threadfin hot, big baits are not always required, as small cut baits and pinfish will all work. Artificial lures like jigs will can work just as well, plus they may even help entice work too. They can hold on almost any structure big or some other species to add some variety to the box. small—sometimes so small you never even mark it. MakIn my experience the larger fish will come from either ing your two-per-person count means trying to focus on around the larger wrecks, mid-water column similar the larger fish. It can be challenging at times, but some to amberjack, or from high above a small manmade key elements can be found in fishing methods used by structure like a pyramid. Deeper wrecks are not always those guys who always seem to find the big ones. better. Some of the best fish caught every year are less Techniques do vary but the local standard is a Carothan six miles from shore. My favorite part about fishing lina rig with a 6- to 12-ounce egg weight above a swivel during the summer is keeping my eye on the bottom with 5 to 6 feet of 60- to 100-pound mono and a 5/0 to machine for new hot spots. The snapper will hold high 7/0 circle hook. (Circle hooks are required for snapper in the water column with lots of other life closer to the fishing with natural bait in the Gulf.) Light leaders will structure, making them easy to spot on a fishfinder even get more bites but also break more fish of. It’s a risk you at high speeds. have to be willing to take, and if the water is super clear Filling the box these days means switching gears and it may be needed. Live baits will always work a little chasing diferent species. Vermilion, lane, and white better and sometimes the larger live baits can be ideal snapper can be found around the natural bottom areas for finding those larger red snapper. When the bite is using two drop rigs with small cut squid and northern mackerel. Smaller leader can also make a diference in this case. When the water is clear, these fish can be finicky with all the prime live bait swimming around. Downsizing hooks and leaders can help. Sometimes even going to a light, 30-pound Carolina rig with a single hook can help. Black snapper are particularly finicky and using light leaders is a must. The ideal setup would be using a GPS-capable trolling motor as an anchor just up current. Then chumming heavy with quarter-size chunks until the fish rise. Hiding the hook in the bait and drifting it back with the chum is an art but will get those delicious black snapper to bite. Be sure to keep a flat line out when you can, because you never know when that king or mahi-mahi is going to swim by.

W By Chaz Heller gotmfishingcharters.com (850) 529-8655

BEST BET Fishing for redsnapper over the smaller pyramids or larger wrecks will be great. A dead northern mackerel or larger cigar minnow is ideal on a Carolina rig. I like to use an 8-to 10-ounce weight with the fast summer currents and a 6-foot pieceof60-poundfluorocarbon and 6/0 circle hook from Eagle Claw. Look for the larger fish to hold higher up in the water column. Be sure to let the fish eat before slowly lifting and coming tight. Reminder: Make sure you added the free Gulf Reef Fish Angler designation to your fishing license. See myfwc. com and look under Licenses & Permits.

PANHANDLE SCENE Bottom Fishing Seminar SanDestin Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Pensacola Sports Association Bud Light Fishing Rodeo Destin Emerald Coast Redfish Circuit Pensacola International Billfish Tournament

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JUNE 2018 85


OUTDOOR DIRECTORY

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JUNE 2018 89


FLORIDA TIDE STATIONS Fernandina • Mayport • Jacksonville • St. Augustine • Daytona Beach

MAYPORT MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

MONDAY

FRIDAY 1

2

3

11:21a 11:

4

TUESDAY 5

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 6 7 8

5a 1:23p 1: a 2:09p 2: a 4

2:59p

:1 a 3:5 p 4

9

:0 a 4:5 p 4 4

3p '

10

11

12

6: 7a 7: p '

13

7: 2a 8 '

14

8: 7a 9: '

2

24

25 7: 9a 1

15 9: 3a 1 '

7

16

17

p 10: 9a 11: 4 '

17

18

19

a 1: p '

MONDAY

20 2: p 2 '

21

a 3: p ' '

22

: 3a 4: '

23

p 4: 3a 5: p '

11

26

27

28

29

p 8 13a

p 8:55a 9

p 9:36a 1

1p 10:15a 10

30

Tide Corrections Fernandina Beach Nassau Sound Amelia City Mink Creek Halfmoon Island St. Johns River Pablo Creek Jacksonville Ortega River

3p 7

12:

MIAMI

1: a

High -0:18 -0:03 +0:54 +1:58 +3:00 -0:23 +1:39 +1:24 +2:27

Low -0:01 +0:06 +1:03 +2:32 +3:21 -0:17 +1:15 +1:50 +2:50

Orange Park Green Cove Bridgeport Palatka Welaka Atlantic Beach St. Augustine Inlet St. Augustine Daytona Beach

High +3:49 +5:26 +6:58 +7:26 +7:46 -0:25 -0:21 +0:14 -0:33

Low +4:14 +6:13 +7:32 +8:21 +8:25 -0:18 -0:01 +0:43 -0:32

Cape Canaveral • Sebastian • Vero Beach • Ft. Pierce • Stuart • Jupiter • Palm Beach • Hillsboro • Ft. Lauderdale • Miami • Homestead • Key Largo

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

MONDAY

FRIDAY 1

2

3

11:09a 11: 2.2' 2

4

TUESDAY 5

4a 1:16p .2' 2'

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 8 6 7

1 47a 2:05p 2:34a 3:00p .1' 1.9' 2.1' 1.9'

9

:25a 3:59p 4:18a 4:59p 2.1' 2' 2.1' 2.1'

4p '

10

11

12

7:02a 7:48 2.3' 2.6'

24

25

13

7:55a 8:40 2.4' 2.7'

26

14

15

16

17

8:48a 9:31p 9:40a 10: 2p 10:33a 11:1 2.5' 2.8 2.6' 2 ' 2.6' 2.

27

28

29

18

19

:59a 1:21p .7' 2.5'

30

7:20a 8:02p 8:05a 8:44p 8:47a 9:2 p 9:27a 10: 2p 10:06a10:4 2.2' 2.4 2.2' 2.4 2.2' 2. ' 2.2' 2. ' 2.2' 2.

MONDAY

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

MONDAY

FRIDAY 2

3

12: 0a 11:53a 1: 1 1' 1.8'

11

12

21

22

23

:49a 3:23p 3:46a 4:27p 4:44a 5:28p 2.5' 2.4' 2.4' 2.3' 2.3' 2.3'

High -0:41 -0:09 -0:30 +0:15 -0:21 +0:19 +1:39 +1:45 +0:56

Low -0:41 -0:14 -0:14 +0:01 -0:18 +0:38 +1:15 +2:13 +1:17

Rickenbacker Cswy Dinner Key Marina Cape Fla. (west side) Soldier Key Turkey Point, Bisc. Bay Pumpkin Key, Card Sd. Tavernier Alligator Light Long Key Chan., east

High +1:19 +1:19 +0:49 +0:55 +2:35 +3:12 +0:31 +0:42 -1:10

Low +1:10 +1:50 +1:0 +1:19 +3:25 +3:15 +0:27 +0:33 -1:07

Chatham River • Florida Bay • Marathon • Key West

TUESDAY

1

10

20 2:21p 2.4'

Tide Corrections Cape Canaveral Ft. Pierce Inlet St. Lucie Inlet Jupiter Inlet Palm Beach (ocean) Bahia Mar Port Everglades Miami, 79th St. Cswy. Miami Marina

p '

1

KEY WEST

1:53a 2.6'

13

14

15

12: .

02a 1'

16

8:16a 9:4 p 8:59a 10:36p 9:44a 11: 6p 10:31a 12:15a 11:21a 1.8' 1.2 2' 1. ' 2.1' 1. ' 2.2' 1 1' 2.2'

4

17

1:

TUESDAY 5

2:02p 1.5'

:53a 1.1'

2:57p 1.4'

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 8 6 7 :43a 1.1'

4:02p 5:31a 1.3' 1.2'

5:16p 6:15a 1.2' 1.4'

21

9

6:34p 1.2'

18

19

20

:46a 2:10p 1.2' 1.8'

3:41a 3:16p 1.3' 1.6'

4:36a 4:32p 5:31a 5:55p 6:23a 7:15p 1.4' 1.4' 1.5' 1.2' 1.6' 1.1'

22

23

1

24

25

26

27

p 8:34a 10: 4p 9:11a 10: 3p 9:47a 1.8' 1' 1.8' 1 1.8'

28

29

30

Tide Corrections Vaca Key Sombrero Key Knight Key Pigeon Key Molasses Key Money Key Bahia Honda No Name Key Big Spanish Key

11:19p 10:23a 11: 3p 10:59a 12 1' 1.8' 1 1.8'

1:

Prime-Timer Tables for JUNE 2018 Are fish and game more active during intervals of the lunar orbit? It’s a theory. Shown are “prime” times of moonrise, moonset, and when moon is directly over and under Lakeland, midpoint of Florida.

92 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

RISE 11:00 PM 11:45 PM — 12:26 AM 1:04 AM 1:41 AM 2:16 AM 2:52 AM

OVER 3:36 AM 4:24 AM 5:12 AM 5:58 AM 6:43 AM 7:28 AM 8:13 AM 8:58 AM

SET 9:00 AM 9:50 AM 10:41 AM 11:33 AM 12:26 PM 1:20 PM 2:14 PM 3:10 PM

UNDER 4:00 PM 4:48 PM 5:35 PM 6:21 PM 7:06 PM 7:51 PM 8:35 PM 9:21 PM

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

RISE 3:28 AM 4:06 AM 4:47 AM 5:33 AM 6:25 AM 7:23 AM 8:26 AM 9:31 AM

High -1:04 -1:01 +0:17 -1:09 -0:50 +0:56 -0:39 +1:43 +3:26

Low -0:3 -0:38 -0:183 -0:39 -0:11 +1:4 -0:22 +1:28 +4:35

OVER 9:45 AM 10:34 AM 11:27 AM 12:23 PM 1:23 PM 2:26 PM 3:29 PM 4:30 PM

Cudjoe Key Bird Key Sand Key Light Dry Tortugas Flamingo East Cape Sable Shark River Pavilion Key Everglades City

SET 4:08 PM 5:08 PM 6:12 PM 7:18 PM 8:24 PM 9:29 PM 10:30 PM 11:24 PM

UNDER 10:09 PM 11:00 PM 11:54 PM — 12:53 AM 1:54 AM 2:57 AM 4:00 AM

High Low +3:58 +2:59 -0:19 +1:00 -0:55 -0:38 +0:35 +0:40 +5:35 +7:28 +3:56 +4:43 +3:20 +4:381 +3:26 +4:17 +4:55 +6:51


FLORIDA TIDE STATIONS ST. PETERSBURG MONDAY

TUESDAY

Apalachicola • St. George • Tampa • St. Petersburg • Sarasota • Punta Gorda • Ft. Myers

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

MONDAY

FRIDAY 1

2

3

6:03a 3:21p 1.4' 2.6'

10 1

11

12

13

29a 12:18p 1.5' 2.5'

:35a 12:53p 1.5' 2.6'

3:39a 1:31p 1.5' 2.8'

14

16

24 1

17

26

27

28

29

:21a 12:26p 1.5' 2.5'

3:17a 12:57p 1.5' 2.5'

4:04a 1:27p 1.5' 2.6'

4:42a 1:59p 1.5' 2.6'

5:14a 2:33p 1.4' 2.6'

11

9:45a 7:56 1.7' 1.8'

20 9:03a 7:05p 1.6' 2.1'

9

10:18a 9:27p 10:48a 10:5 1.8' 1.7' 2' 1.6

21 9:40a 8:39 1.8' 1.8'

Tide Corrections Carrabelle Apalachicola West Pass Tampa Bay Pass-A-Grille Beach John’s Pass Bradenton Anna Maria Sarasota

p

22

23

10:15a 10:21p 10:49a 11: 1.9' 1.6' 2.1' 1.

High +0:35 +2:00 +1:33 +0:07 -1:34 -2:14 -1:24 -2:07 -1:38

Low +0:31 +2:44 +2:17 +0:26 -1:30 -2:04 -0:55 -2:31 -0:58

Venice Inlet Englewood Placida Punta Gorda Boca Grande Captiva Is., outsid Matlacha Pass Pine Island Fort Myers

High -2:02 -0:57 -1:27 +1:06 -1:12 -2:20 +0:43 -0:19 +2:08

Low -1:38 -0:40 -0:59 +1:27 -1:56 -2:28 +1:28 +0:26 +2:44

St. Marks • Steinhatchee • Suwannee • Cedar Key • Homosassa • Tarpon Springs • Clearwater • Naples • Upper 10,000 Islands

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

MONDAY

FRIDAY 2

3

12

13

8a 12:46p 2 20a 1:25p .3' ' 5'

14

15

:55a 2:45p 3. ' '

4:41a 3:28p 3 ' '

27

28

29

3:01a 2:11p 3.1' '

3:35a 2:43p 4:08a 3:15p 3 2' ' 3 3' '

3:09a 2:04p ' '

TUESDAY

4

5:00a 3:56p ' 3 2'

10

19

30

1

12:

9:09a6:37p 1.6' 2'

8:24a5:48p 1.5' 2.4'

'

MONDAY

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 6 7 8

1

25

ST. MARKS

18

5:42a 2:59p 1.5' 2.9'

1

5 8:26a 5:35p 1.5' 2.2'

15

4:41a 2:13p 1.5' 2.9'

TUESDAY

4

5

7:03a 5:43p 3' 3 3'

16

17

18

7:55a 6:38p 3' 3'

19

6:59a 5:53p 3.2' 3 '

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 8 6 7 8:53a 7:59p 3' 2.7'

20

7:49a 6:59p 3.1' 3.2'

9:52a 9:47 3' 2.7'

21

8:44a 8:28 3.1' 2.8'

9

10:44a 11:19 3 2' 2.8'

22

23

9:43a 10:1 p 10:41a 11: 3.2' 2. ' 3 3' 2.

0

24 12

25

26

:45a 12:59p 2.9' 7'

:25a 1:36p 3' '

30

Tide Corrections Indian Key Round Key Pumpkin Key Coon Key Cape Romano Marco Naples Indian Rocks

3p '

PENSACOLA MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

MONDAY

FRIDAY 2

3

4

12:26p 1.6'

11

12 9:22a 1.4'

24

25

13 9:53a 1.6'

26 9:19a 1.5'

14 10:34a 1 '

27 9:52a 1.6'

Low -0:48 -0:55 +1:00 -0:361 -1:03 -1:08 -2:04 -1:25

Clearwater Dunedin Soldier Key Tarpon Springs Cedar Key Tavernier Suwannee River Steinhatchee River

High Low -2:20 -2:07 -2:22 -2:17 +0:55 +1:19 +2:35 +3:25 -0:29 -0:305 +0:31 +0:27 -0:26 -0:14 -0:15 -0:03

Pensacola • Destin • Panama City • Port St. Joe

1

10

High -1:05 -1:06 +0:39 -0:45 -1:17 -1:04 -1:59 -1:29

15 11:22a 1 9'

28 10:28a 1.6'

11:05a 1.6'

2:07p 1.4'

16

17

18

12:13p 1 9'

29

TUESDAY 5

30

2:32p 1.2'

19 2:42p 1.4'

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 8 6 7 2:36p 1.1'

20 3:19p 1.2'

Tide Corrections Port St. Joe Panama City Wetappo Creek Lynn Haven West Bay Creek Harris, Narrows

11:41a 1.6'

11:23a .9'

21 12:33p .9'

High -0:24 -0:43 +1:01 -0:26 +0:18 +1:37

9:45a .9'

22 9:10a .9'

Low -0:51 -0:44 +1:40 +0:20 +1:23 +2:51

9

23

8:33a 1.1'

Destin Pensacola Bay Warrington Lora Point Bay Point

High -0:27 -1:23 -0:27 +0:36 +1:23

Low +1:20 -0:34 -0:30 +1:03 +1:27

3p '

17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

RISE 10:38 AM 11:42 AM 12:45 PM 1:45 PM 2:42 PM 3:39 PM 4:34 PM 5:29 PM

OVER 5:28 PM 6:23 PM 7:14 PM 8:02 PM 8:49 PM 9:35 PM 10:21 PM 11:08 PM

SET — 12:13 AM 12:57 AM 1:37 AM 2:14 AM 2:50 AM 3:26 AM 4:04 AM

UNDER 5:00 AM 5:56 AM 6:49 AM 7:38 AM 8:26 AM 9:12 AM 9:58 AM 10:44 AM

25 26 27 28 29 30

RISE 6:24 PM 7:17 PM 8:08 PM 8:57 PM 9:42 PM 10:25 PM

OVER 11:55 PM — 12:43 AM 1:32 AM 2:20 AM 3:08 AM

SET 4:43 AM 5:24 AM 6:08 AM 6:55 AM 7:45 AM 8:36 AM

UNDER 11:31 AM 12:19 PM 1:08 PM 1:56 PM 2:44 PM 3:32 PM

MOON PHASES

First Quarter



Full Moon

Last Quarter

New Moon

Maximum Tidal Flow

www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

JUNE 2018 93


I’M A FLORIDA SPORTSMAN

Lifetime Fishing Buddies

They’ve got a handful of fish tails, that’s for sure. Recent mackerel trip of Stuart found Ralph Hudson, left, and Karl Wickstrom reflecting on a half-century of adventures (a few of them pictured at right).

t was a rainy fall night in Coral Gables, 1969. Karl Wickstrom, publisher of a new fishing magazine, saw a young man casting on a seawall. “Go give him a copy,” he told his 8-year-old-son, Blair. “Anyone out in this weather must have the fishing bug.” And that’s how Ralph Hudson, a 28-year-old insurance guy from Kendall, was introduced to one of the first issues of Florida Sportsman. And how Hudson would become fast friends with the publisher. Recently, the two of them reflected on five decades of fishing trips. Blair, who would succeed Karl as publisher of Florida Sportsman in 2001, listened in.

RH: A lot of people envied my relationship with Karl. I couldn’t count the number of times others wanted to come along on our trips. There were so many memorable trips. In the beginning we rented boats wherever we went. I recall my first tarpon on a light spinner.

RH: Prior to moving to Miami in 1968 my fishing experience had been all fresh water, bass and bream. Karl opened my world. From Jacksonville to Key West and Steinhatchee to Everglades City, plus The Bahamas and Costa Rica, there weren’t many spots Karl and I missed.

KW: A good fishing buddy is knowing what the other is going to do. Someone you can rely on. They show up on time. Fishing is worth showing up on time.

I

KW: Ralph wasn’t full of bluster or self-promotion. He had good character. He was easy to spend time with. He was interested in the environment, the government; he liked birds, even the opera.

KW: Catching fish was always important. RH: That was clear! I remember fishing hard all day in Flamingo, and not doing so well. And I also recall stopping at more than one bridge on the way home to drop a hooked mullet head. There was no way of talking Karl out of that one last cast.

RH: I don’t know that any trip we took wasn’t prefixed with Karl’s favorite expression: “They’re gonna be jumping in the boat.” And jump they did. For nearly 50 years Karl and Ralph have remained friends, bound by the fishing bug. FS www.floridasportsman.com/IMAFS www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

JUNE 2018 95


AN OUTDOOR Hunter Gary Goforth with a 288-pound boar taken on a friend’s ranch.

“I’m always

that wild game provides.”

A Good Night The peace of the woods, the adrenaline of the hunt. By Gary Goforth

friend asked me to come out to his ranch north of Lake Okeechobee to help reduce the population of feral hogs, which had been destroying the area’s wetlands and his newly planted pastures. As an avid bow hunter I didn’t have to be asked twice. I have a green flashlight mounted to my bow that illuminates the area directly in front of my sight pins, and this combination has proven very efective. Once at the ranch, I trekked about 2½ miles and set up in an elevated stand by 5 p.m. By 7 it was dark—a sky full of stars—just beautiful, peaceful silence. Around 9, I heard heavy footsteps. As I was reaching for my bow, a hog turned to the clearing and began growling and grunting. He again turned, then retreated deeper into the woods. About 9:30, I heard heavy footfalls again, from the same vicinity. I reached for my bow, turned on the light and came to full draw. I noticed he was walking slowly from left to right. I looked through the bow’s peep sight and made out the sight pins silhouetted against the green glow of the hog, but did not squeeze the trigger because he was broadside—and I needed a quartering away shot to put the arrow underneath the boar’s protective shield. Within seconds he turned about 45 degrees to his left and gave me the shot I wanted at 18 yards. I released the arrow. The lighted nock brilliantly traced the arrow’s

A

| SEND US YOUR STORY If you have had an interesting, exciting or funny experience in the outdoors, tell us about it and send us a picture: It might qualify as “An Outdoor Happening.” If your story is chosen, you’ll receive a Florida Sportsman book set worth over $100. Send your story and one or more photos to Outdoor Happening, Florida Sportsman, 2700 S. Kanner Hwy., Stuart, FL 34994. By e-mail: davidc@ floridasportsman.com

96 JUNE 2018 www.FLORIDASPORTSMAN.com

trajectory and I saw the arrow strike true. The boar bolted away, and I watched anxiously, following every step. To my relief the hog crashed into a patch of palmettos along the edge of the clearing about 35 yards away, and then silence. He was down. I hung up my bow and sat down, wrapping my arms around myself to contain the shivering caused by the cold and adrenaline. After a few minutes, I climbed down and slowly proceeded to where I last saw the lighted nock, and there he was—and he was huge! It was going to be a challenge to get this beast back to, and then into, the truck. For over an hour I tried to load the boar into the ATV. Ultimately, I had to drag it back to the truck. Another 20 minutes and it was loaded into the truck and packed in ice. After a long dark drive, I arrived home in the early morning. I’m always grateful for the wonderful meat that wild game provides, and my friends Herb and Tom came over to help process the animal and share in the bounty. The boar weighed 288 pounds, had cutters more than 2 inches above the gum line, and based on its molars, was approximately 5 years old. The shield protecting the shoulder muscles, ribs and vital organs was a full inch thick—my patience in waiting for the quartering away shot had paid of. FS


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