Page 1

Water LI FE

Charlotte Harbor, Lemon Bay, Venice, Estero, 10,000 Islands and the Gulf

The Don Ball School of Fishing

D ec em be r 20 17


from Water LIFE magazine

George Becker with an olive drab barracuda

T Tx xt t U Us s U Ur r F Fi is sh h P Pi ix x! !

weʼll use ʻem!

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

My fishin buddy! Tippy Canoe Bay, up in the islands. Bud Crihfield

Kidsʼ Offshore Trip

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Capt. Kaelin Olayer and Rob Hudson with the snook that helped them win the Downtown Showdown Tournament. Page 17

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Spanish Mackerel

By Bobby Vitalas Water LIFE Pier Fishing

Spanish mackerel are fun to catch. When catching Spanish mackerel, they move very fast in the water and they fight so hard. I have been catching Spanish mackerel at Sharkyʼs Pier in Venice. This Spanish mackerel was caught from high to low tide. Most of the time Spanish mackerel come in schools. If you find one, you are going to find another. The legal length to keep these Spanish mackerel in this area is from 12 inches or more; measured from the fork of the tail. And, they are a good eating fish too. The most common weight to catch for Spanish mackerel is from 1 to 3 pounds. The way I catch Spanish mackerel is to go spinning for them. I use artificial lures. The lure I am using is called the GOT-CHA lure, which is made by SEA STRIKER. The color is red head with silver body with red treble hooks and weight is one ounce. The model number is G501RH. GOT-CHA lures come in many different colors and weights. You can also try using other different color GOT-CHA lures in size 7/8 ounce weight too. But, I like using the one

Txt fish Pix to 941-457-1316

ounce lures at this Pier. The way I use this lure is to cast out as far as I can. When reeling the line in, you want a fast retrieve to move a lure at a pace that will interest the Spanish mackerel to bite. When casting with GOT-CHA lures, for my main line, Iʼm using 30 pound test Sufix Advance super line (Braided) color green. This line can cast very well. Then, for my leader line, I use 2 feet of 25 pound test 100 percent Sufix Invisline fluorocarbon leader line. At the end of that line, I use 6 inches of AFW 7x7 Surflon Micro Supreme knottable nylon coated stainless steel leader wire 40 pound test color camo, model number DM49-40-A. Also, they make this brand wire line in color bright, too. Using wire line will be good because of the Spanish mackerelʼs sharp teeth. If you want to use just wire by itself, and, no leader line, you can do that too. There are a lot of other wire lines you can get, not just this one. Just pick out the wire line that is best for you. So, if you go fishing for Spanish mackerel, try using a GOT-CHA lure. Have a good time fishing!

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Contributing Editors:

Photography: Senior Editor: Capt. Ron Blago Baitshop: Fishinʼ Frank Peace River: Capt. David Stephens Punta Gorda: Capt. Chuck Eichner Venice: Glen Ballinger Estero: Capt. Joe Angius Everglades City: Capt. Charlie Phillips Kayaking: Bob Fraser Sea Grant: Capt. Betty Staugler Beach Fishing: Mallory Herzog Pier Fishing: Bobby Vitalis Diving: Adam Wilson Office Dog: position open


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5 Phases of Fishing By Michael Heller Water LIFE editor Another year has almost blown by, some parts of it at well over 120 miles per hour! If you weren’t here for this summer you missed a lot of wind and water, and if you were here, you might still be missing some of your stuff! Sorting out my office after this summer’s fun I came across an old study about hunters and I couldn’t help but think how it also applied to fishermen. Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr. Robert Norton of the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, conducted the study of over 1,000 hunters. Among other things, they found that hunters pass through five distinct stages over their hunting lives in terms of their view of "successful" hunting. I believe the same five phases also hold true for fishermen. THE FIRST STAGE is The Shooter (or in our case the Fisher) Stage. The study found hunters, at this stage simply want to do a lot of shooting, be it doves, ducks, squirrels, rabbits or even deer. They want to test their shooting abilities, as well as that of their rifle or shotgun. Same goes for beginning fishermen. Snook, snapper, redfish, catfish and so on, it’s all about catching at the first stage. They are beginners and are often young as well. STAGE TWO is the Limiting-Out Stage. Eventually, simply burning

through a lot of ammunition (or bait) is no longer sufficient. Hunters and anglers at this stage still gain a lot of satisfaction from shooting or catching, but now the number of animals bagged, or fish caught, becomes important too, and limiting-out, is the goal for both venues. THE THIRD STAGE is the Trophy Stage. Eventually the weight of the game bag, or number of fish caught, becomes less important and the emphasis shifts from quantity to quality. Hunters at this stage gain satisfaction from being selective in taking game, such as a duck hunter who shoots only greenheads, a turkey hunter who only shoots long beards. For fisherman, the ‘slam’ becomes an achievement or maybe they target only specific species looking for ‘quality’ fish. Catch and release becomes important in this stage. Hunters at this stage often travel long distances to hunt trophy animals. Around southwest Florida we only have to wait for the next fish-migration to get here. STAGE FOUR is the Method Stage. For the sportsman at this stage, taking game is still important, but more important is how that game is taken. True satisfaction comes from the method used to take game, with particular emphasis on more challenging methods. In fishing it’s lighter tackle for bigger fish or maybe a fly rod for a more skillful presentation. Hunters might transition to


FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Mathew Myers caught some snapper today, with his dad Damien Myers

archery or muzzleloading. At this level sportsmen spend more time scouting, studying quarry and practicing skills such as game-calling or baitcasting. STAGE FIVE is the Sportsman Stage. After many years in the field, the hunter begins to place the emphasis on the total hunting experience. Being in the outdoors, enjoying the company of friends and family, and seeing nature in all its beauty now often outweigh the need for taking game. These hunters then turn to mentoring younger hunters for ultimate satisfaction. Anglers share this same perspective, especially in the mentoring of youth and the advance-


Estero Bay, real windy but we still caught 11 trout, this one, 18.5 inch long, released. Name not provided

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

ment of the concept of ethical angling. Not all sportsmen go through all of these stages, or in this particular order. Jackson and Norton found that it's possible for hunters to be at different stages with different species of game that they may pursue. In addition, a hunter's role models, as well as the amount of hunting they are able to do, will impact on how quickly they progress through the various stages. It is, I believe, exactly the same for fishermen. From my wife Ellen and I; Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year! ... and a Happy Chanukah too!






BAIT: Shrimp and Artificials Now in Play -By Capt. David Stephens Water LIFE Charlotte Harbor I would like to welcome all our friends from the north back. The past couple weeks have been absolutely beautiful, just like we would expect here in Southwest Florida. Our water temperatures have been starting to drop with these cooler mornings, bringing a change to our fishing patterns. For the most part, our baitfish have moved out of the Harbor, bringing in the shrimp bite. Not to worry fellow anglers, the fishing will continue to be very good, and changing your approach will greatly help with your success. Cooler water temps mean slower fishing and looking for fish in deeper water. When I say deeper water, I mean anywhere from 5-feet to maybe over 10-feet deep. I know that’s a pretty big window to look at when fishing on Charlotte Harbor, so I am going to break it down for you. If we are having some nice, beautiful, warm weather, it’s a good chance that fishing shallower areas, such as the outside of bars, will be very productive. Deeper potholes on shallow flats will also be holding feeding fish. Shrimp fished on a jig head

will produce very well; if you are fishing over structure, try a popping cork. If Mother Nature throws us a curve ball and we get a couple nasty cold fronts, I recommend searching for fish in deeper water. Areas such as creeks and residential canals might be your best bet. The cooler the water


If you would like to experience some of Charlotte Harbor’s finest fishing, give us a call or send an email. All of our charters are private and customized to fit your party’s needs. Capt. Dave Stephens, 941-916-5769 We do hydrographic printing, on anything ...on site!

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temperatures get the deeper you might need to go to locate fish. This time of year is one of the best times for using artificials. It seems to me, when the bait schools are few and far between the game fish begin to focus on other food sources such as shrimp, so now small soft-plastics on a jig head will work very well. Water color plays a big role in the selection of the bait I use. It also helps me decide what color bait to use. If the water is darker, I’ll choose a darker color bait. In cleaner clear water I will use a lighter color. One of the biggest problems I see when people use artificial lures is how they work them. Most of the time if you’re not getting any bites you are moving your lure too fast. This time of year the fish are slowing down and do not want to chase their food down, so keep it slow, and on the bottom. Our fish are like the locals here, the colder it gets, the slower they move.

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Not Quite Perfect

By Capt. Chuck Eichner Water LIFE Inshore Waiting for the right weather day might mean not fishing for weeks this time of year, so finally you give in and go fishing. At least that was the plan for me and my friend Mike. We met at his dock with a forecast of winds 15- to 20 out of the ENE at 7:00 a.m. and off we went. The plan was to head to the beach for whitebait and go from there on an incoming tide. Heading down the Harbor from the Peace River, the wind was out of the north and the following sea was tolerable, but I quickly found my rain pants were no longer water-proof so I was wet from the waist down in 15 minutes.

Looking ahead at Cape Haze, hundreds of birds were diving and we noticed the wind had shifted to the east, perfect for calm waters on the beach, but now maybe we could fill the well under the birds! We approached the diving birds and the fish finder showed lots of bait. Mike pulled out his new 12-foot cast net and laid out a perfect pancake! The heavy net was dragged in, but we had Christmas Treed the net with a thousand silversides,

so the next 20 minutes was spent picking the net clean. To add to the misery, two days earlier Mike had just had his boat detailed and now there were crushed dead minnows covering the deck with every crevice around the hatches clogged with guts. Oddly enough, the winds got stronger, so we decided not to clean the deck, figuring a wave over the front was bound to happen as we headed through a very rough Boca Grande Pass. When we hit the beach we noticed the wind had now shifted out of the northwest, a fog mist moved in and the temperature dropped.

This was nothing like the weather prediction of warm and sunny. Where did the cold front come from, we wondered. With 2-to 3-foot swells crashing the beach we realized getting bait was going to be impossible. We could not believe our bad luck. Birds in the air told us bait was near, but it was not worth throwing the net and risking falling in. Plan B was quickly created, which involved throwing lures once inside of Gasparilla Pass. The only problem was the tide was being held out by the wind, so there was no water. What else could go wrong we wondered? Plan C was to go to Whidden’s Marina off Boca Grande and get some shrimp. If

you haven’t been there it is one of the coolest old fishing shops you will ever see. We dipped four dozen shrimp, put them in the livewell and went inside to

pay. We met Capt. Wayne Joiner, one of the owners of the shop, which has been there for three generations! I reached for my wallet and it was gone and I looked at Mike for help with the money and a blank stare came over his face! Sheesh, how many things can go wrong in one day with no fish to boot! Mike was headed out to get the shrimp back out of the boat but Capt. Wayne kindly suggested we come back some other day and settle up and not to worry about it. Now that was some good luck and his hospitality brightened our day!


From there we decided to go into Bull Bay and get out of the wind. It didn’t take long to find fish either. We peered into a four foot trough and watched huge snook, 10-to 30pounds, casually swimming around. Unfortunately, they ignored our shrimp, and we watched as one crashed into a free swimming mullet but by then we were not up to the task of trying to catch mullet. By the days end, we managed a half dozen small snook, a few trout, flounder and snappers. Certainly not what we hoped for. When we returned to the dock it was obvious a wave never came over the front to clean the decks as mashed silversides were ground in and after the boat cleaning effort it was suggested the boat needed detailing again. Charlotte Harbor has many mysteries, one of which is changing wind directions when not forecast. Generally, 15- to 20mph winds should also be a clue to staying home. Occasionally, we have to be reminded that Mother Nature is in control and be happy with staying on shore. Editor notes: Fish shown here are from the following Sunday Capt. Chuck Eichner operates Action Flats Backcountry Charters He can be reached at 941-628-8040

Estero Bay: Low Tide Opportunities for Quality Gamefish PAGE


By Captain Joe Angius Water LIFE Estero December is a great month for inshore shallow-water fishing. The water temperature begins to drop, weather becomes more bearable, and there’s plenty of bait roaming the Gulf and our inshore flats. But there is one aspect of ‘winter’ time

fishing that intimidates a vast majority of anglers and that is the low and negative outgoing tides. It is these unique tides that have left anglers stranded, frustrated, and some have even run aground damaging their boat hull or engine lower units. Here are some tips for having success fishing and boating during some of the best tides of the year. First and foremost, my number one tip on boating and fishing in shallow water



is to actually know and understand that particular waterway. When I’m out with clients they will always ask me, “How do you know where and when to go?” I know my way around Estero Bay because, believe it or not, I too have been stranded, frustrated, and the bottom of my boat probably looks like Swiss cheese. I’ve put my time in. Looking back there was one thing I wish I had utilized more to prevent the problems anglers face on low tides. Today’s GPS and mapping devices have come so far and can now eliminate a lot of the headaches faced with low tide fishing. The three main techniques and services that I utilize to dissect a shallow-water flat are Google Earth, Florida Marine Tracks or Navionics mapping, and hands-on experience. Google Earth is a great starting point and can be used by the majority of anglers. This service provides up-to-date aerial photos, which really showcases

every inch of a service or mapping card but it is not final until an angler goes out into these areas and experiences it. Before I run my boat to a shallow-water flat, I always look for an area where there is a large pothole or very deep trough where I can get my boat off and on plane. Finally out on a flat where I can troll or pole my boat, the exciting and challenging part of fishing come into play. Start to remember the areas where small depressions on the flat are located, small creeks that funnel water from the mangroves onto that flat. Typically it’s these areas that attract bait and big gamefish like snook and redfish. Always look for ‘signs-of-life’ such as birds, bait, mullet, sting rays, and water movement. If an area does not produce sufficient life, note it mentally and move on to a more active area. To prowl the shallow flat successfully, I tend to have, at most, a half of a tank of gas (approx. 15 gallons), one live-well full with bait

an area’s shallow water advantages. Since I run a Simrad Go7XSE, I rely heavily on the mapping cards that are compatible with this unit. Florida Marine Tracks is a mapping card that displays red tracks in an area where it is absolutely safe for a boat with a specific draft to run. Along with this advantage is a crystal clear satellite view, similar to Google Earth, of the area you are fishing. At the end of the day, one could study

or no bait at all and a bunch of artificial lures. This technique gets me shallower, keeps my quieter, and makes my job poling clients around easier. Take advantage of low-tide fishing and don’t be intimidated by the things that may keep you from experiencing some of the most rewarding fishing. Hiring a guide can eliminate all of those anxieties one might have, but only if they have been there before. Fishing is about


experience, whether it’s a good or bad one. Anglers that learn from their experiences will become empowered through educating and learning with others. Enjoy and experience the true backwaters of Southwest Florida. Fish patiently and observe your surroundings. Respecting our fisheries will preserve the things that we love and provide future generations with the same fishing opportunities or better. Captain Joe Angius (727)-234-3171 Speak Easy Fishing Charters





Catching A Lot of Trippletail Lately By Mallory Herzog Water LIFE Fishing How do you know when i’ts winter in Florida? Cue the WIND! Yup, that’s right, another windy winter for our anglers – although, it’s better than snow, right? Being a Cleveland Ohio native I know snow all too well. All this wind really creates some casting champions. If you can land a white bait under those mangroves in a 15 knot wind you are a great fisherman. We do get the occasional lower wind days throughout our winter months and on those days we try to get our guests nearshore to explore the Gulf. Out in the Gulf, tripletail are hiding under floating structure and they are on dock pilings in and around our passes. These species snatch bait that swims or floats by whatever they are hiding under. For anglers they are a fun sight-cast, but like any fish there are some who are not interested in anything you throw at them. We were able to tag a few this month for Gray Fish Tag Research. I figured this would make for some easy recapture data. WRONG! A few days after tagging we spotted a fish we previously tagged. This fish moved to an entirely different location after the original catch. We were all excited to see it and hoped for a bite again. This triple tail

wasn’t into playing with us that day. It refused multiple live and artificial baits - think he recognized the boat? Last month we also had the opportunity to fish with some great families! Mostly inshore fishing, exploring the flats around Boca Grande and Lemon Bay. We offer fly fishing equipment upon request or anglers can bring their favorite set up on board. Our fly fisherman last month had a great bite, hooking into snook, snapper, sennet and even a gag grouper pulled out of the mangroves! All that on the fly made for an exciting day. Our angler was throwing a patterned fly that matched local bait fish in the area. When creating your flies its important to know what Attaching a fish tag these fish are attracted to! Looking ahead, as the water cools off in the month of December, you will start to see the annual winter visitors. More and more trout will be swimming though our grassy flats and big sheepshead will start hanging out under the local docks. Sheepshead are hanging around the dock pilings to

eat the barnacles that grow below the surface. There are many ways to target sheepshead: a shrimp on a slightly weighted hook ( a jig head or a pinch weight) works best for me. Amberjack doesn’t look to be opening at its normal date, instead having the season closed until April 30 in federal and state waters. This is pending approval and was discussed at the latest October Gulf Council meeting, but even if you can not throw them in your fish box, they are still an exciting catch and release fish as they make many anglers “cry uncle” with their tenacity and bursts of energy often taking anglers to the rail.

To book a trip with Capt Andrew Herzog Call or TXT 941-661-0304 Visit








Readerʼs Photos

text us

f r o m Wa t e r L I F E m a g a z i n e

CPT Dave Patton with a nice gag grouper caught casting artificial bait for snook in Pine Island Sound!

Don Darby, jack

Aidan Flack with a 32-inch snook. Dinner!

My name is Zachary Kunz from Cedar City Utah. We were guided by Captian John and Captian Matt

Dusty Helton 7.8 oz largemouth bass caught in a freshwater canal

Caine Petersen with a 16-inch pompano

Nicoleʼs first snook! Sanibel Causeway The West Wall, Bud Crihfield

Captain Greyshark Hazeltine killing the big snook in a new secret hole!

Caleb Cahill on vacation from Buffalo N.Y. with his first black tip near Boca Grande Pass with Capt Mike Meyers

Tim Flack and Troy Carmichal A couple of 39- to 42 -inch snook. 15 big babies in all cut bait. All released to live and fight another day



ur fish pix see page 4



FISH PIX! f r o m Wa t e r L I F E m a g a z i n e

Mike Weston albacore tuna

Mark Caton with his 1st cobia and a pompano on a Mirrolure Mirrodine D. Larson, black tip shark, Boca Grande

Jeff Constance , NY, kingfish , FishermanĘźs Village with Capt. John & Matt

30 inch jack caught in the PGI canals. Gretchen Sunderland

Gary Hood. Jack

Noah Blewett and his .2 ounce mosquito fish

Erik Herman, nice bass in the Cape and a black drum on Sanibel

Ross with a nice tripletail with Crooked Rod Charters

Captain Gavin Hazeltine back water snookin




FISH PIX! f r o m Wa t e r L I F E m a g a z i n e


Readerʼs Photos see page 4


text us ur fish pix!

We caught a nice kingfish out 8 miles on a free floating live shrimp. Circle hook with 15-pound mono leader. Wayne Stoutner

Twins Ashlyn and Kaitlyn, from Marietta GA with Kaitlynʼs first snook. Fishing out of Placida .

Took a day off to go Peacock Bass fishing on the East Coast. Capt. David Stephens

August 2017 in the Gulf, off Gulfport, MS. Ed Hathcock Punta Gorda.

Craig Schoenbauer, on his first ever Florida fishing trip, with his first ever pompano. Happy boy! Second two pics are after I cast OVER a mangrove. Baited hook fell into the water on the other side of the mangrove and this small snook hit and was “Hooked and Hung”! He finally flipped off, but not until we got these great shots. Hard to believe, but true. Last week, in-shore out of Cape Haze Marina. John Schoenbauer

Jeff Shaw with jack crevalle. Pine Island Sound. 11-12-17

Big redfish caught yesterday 8 miles out of Englewood in 50 f.o.w. Live shrimp. The tripletail was off a crab pot bouy in 30 f.o.w with a live shrimp.





FISH PIX! f r o m Wa t e r L I F E m a g a z i n e

On the East Wall Charlotte Harbor ... fall redfish. Scott and Shelly Hill.

Ian Roberts of N. Fort Myers with a Juvenile Goliath Grouper caught at Sanibel Bridge!, and one at Boca Grande

Mike Wikar with snook. Estero Bay

I caught this yellow jack in my channel behind my house in PGI on November 6. I threw him back in the channel after this photo. Bob Scholtes

Triggerfish, Robert Allers was the angler out 22 miles on a squid chunk.

Eric Sprouse from placida with a snook caught on hand picked shrimp in the Placida Sound

Karissa Lindly from Washinton Il. 30-inch red grouper. Showed all the boys up, that day!

Above and two at right, yellow hat is Gene Kingery. Thought you might like these pics from our fishing trip to Venice catching hog redfish!




Stump Pass: Waiting for what happens next PAGE

By Capt. Ron Blago Water LIFE Senior Staff 2017 has been a landmark year for those who have been following the saga of Stump Pass. After 20 years of hard work we finally have a safe, navigable channel from Lemon Bay to the Gulf of Mexico; we even have a large groin installed to slow down the sand migrating into the Pass. The dredging of the Pass and the beach fill work cost $2.7 million; the building of the groin, with its imported limestone, cost $2.2 million. The total was about $5.0 million. The lions share of the money was paid by FEMA and State of Florida grants. Charlotte County only paid $650,000 for their share of the project; that's about 13% of the total project cost. As luck would have it, less then five months after the project was finished we got hit by Hurricane Irma. The engineering review of the damage from the storm has now been completed. The southern portion of Palm Island lost 65,000 cubic yards of sand and Stump Pass State Park Beach lost 29,000 cubic yards of sand, all from erosion due to the storm. The Stump Pass channel received about 40,000 cubic yards of sand deposited in the Pass. That is about 10percent of the sand that was originally

dredged. The general opinion of the county engineers is that the groin did exactly what it was designed to do and prevented the pass from filling in. I guess you can say we were lucky this time since damages from Irma were classified as lite.

where Ski and Rag Alley join the main Stump Pass channel. This area was not part of the dredging project. It is not known whether the high sand in the area was always there or what effect the dredging of the Pass or Irma had on the situation. This area has a very dynamic flow pattern that changes constantly. County officials are

This holding yard for hurricane-orphaned boats is at TuckerĘźs Grade and I-75. Vessels collected by the county are held here while a last attempt is made to find their owners before the boats are scrapped.

With every dredging project and every hurricane that passes by there are always things you miss, and in this case it is the inshore portion of the Pass. People other than Capt Jack Pearson have reported sand filling in at the area

aware of the situation and the County Engineer is recommending that we monitor the area for at least one year so the flow patterns can stabilize. The last question that has to be answered is: How do you prevent boaters


from running into the groin? The groin, which is mostly underwater, was originally designed to have a caution marker at the outward end. The sign blew down in Irma and it was suggested that it be replaced with a lighted marker to warn boaters at night to stay away from the groin. But at the latest Beaches and Shores meeting the County’s consulting engineer pointed out a lighted marker at the groin might have the opposite effect we want. He said a boater returning at night might see the lighted maker and head right for it, thinking it was the entrance to the Pass. He suggested that the groin be unlit, but that we put lights on all the main channel markers. I like the idea of having lighted main channel markers, but I can't make up my mind on this one. If you have any ideas on how to keep boaters from hitting the groin, let me know.



Good Fishing Around 10,000 Islands By Capt. Charlie Phillips Water LIFE / Everglades City I hope all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are ready for the Holiday Season to be fully upon us. I am happy to report every day is a little better than the day before, down here in the Everglades National Park and 10,000 Islands area. Just like last month’s report, the streets are a little cleaner, the grass is coming back and best of all, our friends at Everglades Bait and Tackle are back open to supply all our fishing wants and needs. Last month, to keep the bills paid until I can get back to fishing full time, I got to haul some big, heavy, dangerous stuff west of the Mississippi. For my LaBelle friends, the bridges over the Ohio and Mississippi River in Cairo Illinois are as narrow as the Ft. Denaud bridge and a heck of a lot longer. Meeting another truck there had a pretty high pucker factor. After that, it was down to Texas and then back east. Now I’m excited to have some funds for some big work coming for the Laura Ann. In the Everglades National Park and 10,000 Islands area, fishing on the inshore side this past month, we have seen the redfish still continue to be

strong and plentiful. Average fish caught are running around 22-inches and the opportunity to catch several in the same area is pretty high as they are still schooled up. Soft plastics worked on a jighead or weedless hook is one technique as is using a large live shrimp under a popping cork to help sound the dinner bell in the areas you are looking. Also, some black drum being caught in these same areas as well as the deeper cuts and troughs. I again use some of the same techniques as for redfish, but opt for the scented soft plastic on the jighead vs the cork to keep the


My Dad with a redfish caught in the Everglades

to target and make good table fare, especially the smaller ones. Speckled trout fishing continues to be solid in the grassy areas down by Pavilion Key and off Marco Island. Going back to the tried and true popping cork, but opting for a plastic bait vs a live shrimp, will keep you fishing and not rebaiting after every bite. Lots of small fish in the mix, so treat them with care and respect as that’s the next crop of slot fish. Wet Dale from Buffalo with a rat red hands, leaving them in the water or using a dehooker in the offering down on the bottom. Black proper manner are ways to help ensure drum are powerful fighters and while we all do our part for the fishery. not considered the rockstars their redOffshore has been hit and miss, but headed brothers are, still are lots of fun


when it’s good, it’s been real good. Migrating cobia have made appearances, along with a few permit on the wrecks and rock piles. I am not hearing much about the grouper and snapper fishing lately, I haven’t personally made a trip out to check so not sure on that, but I plan to restock the freezer this month with red grouper for the New Year’s fish fry so I will keep you posted. As I close for this month, I wanted to say that I really appreciate all who take the time to read about our area and the thoughts, prayers and support shown to Everglades City post Irma. We are going to be fine and thanks to the love shown by all of you, we will get there even faster. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Years and that you take some time during this Holiday Season to get out on the water and enjoy the beauty of the place we call home.

Capt. Charlie Phillips: 863-517-1829 e-mail: Web:

Friend, Tom Lyons and his daughters with a trout

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Don Ball School of Fishing Offshore Trip #2

Water LIFE Staff Report Students from L.A. Ainger and Port Charlotte Middle Schools snuck out on the Reef Raider, between weather fronts, for the second of our annual 6th grade studentĘźs offshore trips. The trip started at the Englewood Bait House and went out into the Gulf through Stump Pass. The coming front had the fish biting. Snapper, grunt, porgys, grouper and a toad fish were only some of the species caught. For a lot of young anglers this was their first time offshore or their first chance to catch and release a fish. For a few it was their first time on a boat! Last month these students, along with students from Murdock and Punta Gorda, graduated from the eight week Don Ball School of Fishing program which marked the conclusion of its 17th year of classes. Students in the program receive a quality rod and reel, a tackle bag full of local specific tackle, a local fishing workbook, pliers and a t-shirt. Local merchants, Individual sponsors, Charlotte County and the Fish Florida Foundation make our program possible.

Photographs by Zac Sitzlar photography


Poor Man’s Lobster DECEMBER 2017

By Fishin’ Frank Water LIFE Baitshop Mullet, a jumping real estate salesman? Yes, mullet have sold more homes in S.W. Florida than anything else in history, I mean, think about it. You are looking at a house on the water, you look out back and see fish literary jumping out of the water, Like WOW! I want this house! Then you buy it, and find out the truth. Aside from they are everywhere, what is the truth about mullet? Here is the answer. Mullet are not vegetarians they eat almost anything, provided it is soft. Why soft? The reason is that mullet have a gizzard, just like a chicken. When I first came to Florida I was a bass player in several bands and at every party we played at, the food table was wild hog, cabbage palm, mullet fillets and mullet gizzards. Bowls full of fried mullet gizzards were a staple at parties. While not my favorite food, they are better tasting than chicken gizzards. OK, why is the gizzard important? Well, chickens and birds in general gather pebbles in their gizzards to grind up food, mullet can only get very fine sand from the bottom here in Charlotte Harbor and its canals. Watch, next time you see a school of mullet, they dive down and come back towards the surface streaming mud out of their gills, they are cleaning the mud from the sand. The sand is held in their gizzard and used to grind up food. Because the sand is so fine, anything hard, like the shell of a


shrimp, or the scales of a fish, would get stuck – in effect plugging up the gizzard – causing the mullet to stave to death. So mullet will eat worms, bugs, algae, meat, pretty much anything in front of them. Now mullet do not kill for a living and


split shot, at the bottom and a bobber at the top. For the bait I use a piece of a white soft-plastic or corn, or worms. I have also used a piece of white Gulp on the hook. Keep in mind soft... and you have to let the point of the hook stick out

EXCELLENT WATER QUALITY A squad of jacks, a tiny sheepshead and lots of little snapper swam under the Water LIFE dock, late last month. Mullet, the poor manʼs lobster, canʼt be very far away, and the mullet we have seen this season are very fat too!

will not seek and destroy, so they swim along and if there is something in front of them they will take it in their mouth and if it is hard they spit it out and is it is soft they will swallow it. So how do you catch mullet? Think sabiki rig - we use four or more hooks. My favorite one is the Mustad #4 gold hook. Tie them about 10 inches apart on the line and put a small sinker, like a #2

just a tiny bit when you rig it. I cast that out with a standard rod and reel. You do not need or want a long cast for this as there is chum involved. The chum for mullet is rolled oats, and laying mash. You can get them at any feed store. The proper way is to mix a tiny dash of water until you get a dough ball just hard enough to stay together so you can throw it at your bobber. The smell of the laying mash is what will make the mullet circle near the bobber,


the bits of rolled oats, slowly sinking, get the mullet to open and close their mouths and hopefully mistake the bit of white plastic with a hook in it for another piece of oat meal. If the bobber twitches, set the hook. Mullet are great fighters on the line and will jump and give you one heck of a fight. How to cook? Well I personally can't stand smoked mullet, but I love it fried, baked, or boiled, Yes boiled .... or, even better, steamed mullet; steamed it is a poor man’s lobster. I like it way better than real lobster. Boil it a minute or two, then finish by steaming, serve at the table with butter and lemon, Yum-mm. Last thought: you will set all of this up and throw your chum at the mullet and the mullet will scatter and run instead of feeding on it. Yes, that is possible. Sometimes mullet have to be trained to like the laying mash oats. So if you live on a canal get the chum and leave it dry, take a ¼ Dixie cup full and every morning toss it into the canal dry so it will float as long as possible. As you start to see fish get interested increase the amount. Soon, in a matter of days or a few weeks, you will have a whole herd of friendly fish waiting for you to toss the chum. I mix the chum wet when I am fishing, but I do it dry for prechumming. The only bad thing is, it is hard to eat pets. I grew up, in part, on a farm so I can do it, but for many people it can be.... well.... just don't name the fish or you will never get to enjoy your poor man’s lobster. Fishin’ Frank Port Charlotte 941- 625-3888 Ft Myers 239-634-1043


from Water LIFE magazine

Beau and son Gerald Beauchamp with Geraldʼs first kingfish. Right: daughter Lorelei with double hook up on a couple little red grouper. Nice day fishing out of Venice.


from Water LIFE magazine

Mark Mapes. 37-inch, 25-pound Gag Grouper caught 11/25 in 85-feet of water off Gaparilla Pass.

December Fish Movements PAGE


By Capt. Betty Staugler Water Life / Sea Grant Fish are always on the move, but sometimes they're really on the move. There are a number of things that trigger a fish migration. Sometimes it's temperature, salinity, or changes in habitat requirements; often however it's related to spawning. Let's take a look at December fish movements. What's showing up? What's passing through? Where they came from? And, where are they're going? Bluefish - These fun fish show up in the fall and winter. The equivalent of a fishy snowbird, bluefish migrate south each year when their New England and Mid Atlantic Bight waters cool, and then return back north once the waters warm back up. Bluefish are seasonally abundant in the nearshore waters off both coasts of Florida. Migrating bluefish often enter estuaries, and may be found in Charlotte Harbor. Interestingly, migrating bluefish segregate by size, with the largest fish traveling mostly along the outer shelf and smaller adults traveling in shallower waters. Cobia - We have two stocks of Gulf Coast cobia. Our offshore stock migrates



south to the Keys in the fall and winter where they hang out with the southward migrating Atlantic cobia stock. In early spring, our Gulf Coast cobia head back north and westward. A second Gulf Coast stock spends the summer inshore and then overwinters offshore. Spanish mackerel - are a pelagic, fast swimming fish that are prevalent through-

out Florida's coastal waters when water temperatures exceed 70 degrees. To remain in warm water, Spanish mackerel migrate out of the northern parts of the state in the fall of the year and return in April with the warming waters. King mackerel - like their smaller cousins above, most King mackerel summer in the northern Gulf. In fall, they migrate south in two separate groups; one group heads down the Florida coast, and


Bay and off Charlotte Harbor, so they're moving up and down the coast, but how far do they go? Another study found that DNA mixing (of offspring) occurs beyond adjacent estuaries, but mixing decreases with distance, an indication that spawning range boundaries do exist. Pinfish - migrate offshore to spawn from late fall to early winter, although one study found evidence that some spawning may also occur inside Tampa Bay. Fe-

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Falon Tefft fishing with husband Greg in the Caloosahatche Rver.. First tarpon, first bluefish! I've fished here for 24 yrs never caught one of them..lots of snook though..

the other moves south along the Texas coast. The eastern group spends the winter in south Florida, and many individuals move into the Atlantic along the east coast of Florida. The western group moves to waters off southern Texas, and some portion may move into Mexican waters off the Yucatan peninsula. In the spring both groups migrate back north to their spawning grounds. Pompano - appear to move north in the spring and south in the winter in response to changes in water temperature. This is reflected in the annual spring and fall run. However, the movement may in fact be west to east, because pompano begin to show up in the spring in southwest Florida at the same time they show up in the Panhandle. In some coastal counties, pompano can be found yearround. Despite its name, the range of the Florida pompano extends from Massachusetts to Brazil, but it is more common in areas near Florida. Redfish - Once our redfish are about four years old, they become mature and join large schools of adults offshore. In the fall, these adult redfish form large spawning aggregations in nearshore waters. Spawning occurs near the passes, so that eggs and larvae are transported into the estuary. A recent study showed that the same adult redfish spawned off Tampa

males carry an average of 21,600 eggs and likely spawn several times within a single spawning season. Pinfish live up to 7 years and become sexually mature at 1 to 2 years of age, and 4.3 inches or larger, standard length (SL). Standard length is how scientists measure fish. It is from the head to the end of the fleshy part of the body...where the tail starts. Gulf flounder - Adults spend most of the year in bays and estuaries, migrating into deeper offshore waters to spawn during the fall and winter (peaking between late October and mid-December). Specimens with ripe gonads have been collected at depths of 65-130 feet in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Larvae migrate inshore during January-February. Sheepshead - Populations of sheepshead spawn offshore primarily in the early spring (February-March). Prior to heading offshore adults group up in large numbers generally in deep water and around structure. Temperature triggers this annual migration to spawn. After a spawn, adult sheepshead come into the estuary and are dispersed. Post spawn sheepshead can be found in the open estuary, back-bay waters, rivers, creeks and canals. Capt. Betty Staugler, Florida Sea Grant Agent. UF/IFAS Extension, Charlotte County (941) 764-4346



Sometimes Unsubstanciated, But Often True

HOLIDAY tion they drove to the residence where the LIGHTS suspect was located. The suspect admitted In NOAA to possessing the still and making moonFisheriesʼ shine. While speaking with the suspect, the Bycatch Reofficers observed two more whiskey stills duction Ennear his shed. They gained consent to gineering search the property and with the help of two Program, reother ABT investigators, they located other searchers items used to make moonshine. A felony have found warrant was later issued for the suspectʼs that LEDs arrest for the possession of the illegal can play an moonshine stills. important role in proTWO TURTLE DOVES FWC officer reductive and quested permission to search their vehicle. sustainable A bird holding cage typically used to keep fisheries. the bait birds was discovered. Upon further The program uses LEDs in directing Chiinvestigation, a total of three bird traps were nook salmon to escape windows in Pacific located. A total of 2 indigo buntings, 1 blue hake trawl nets. grosbeak and 1 gray cat bird were located Data shows Chinook salmon are much inside of the traps. The subjects were cited more likely to exit the nets where lights are accordingly. There was no partridge found. placed—86 percent of escaped salmon use THREE WISE MEN the well-lit, LED-framed Officers received a openings. hunter harassment The lit escape windows complaint on a do not help the hake eslocal management cape because theyʼre area. Three officers not nearly as strong went to the area swimmers as Chinook the next morning salmon. The design exand posed as ploits the strong swimhunters. Shortly ming behavior of the after daylight, a Dec 8-10 Cape Coral Show see page 7 salmon so when hake subject arrived at are toward the back of the trawl nets, where the parking area meeting the description. the excluder device is positioned, theyʼre The subject drove a short distance away to generally too fatigued to swim out the eshis property which joins the state lands and cape windows. then began to shine a flashlight towards the three men and discharged a pistol four STILL OF THE NIGHT An FWC Lieutenant times from his fence line. At that point the located a whiskey still while investigating a lead officer stepped out and identified himdeer poaching case. After speaking with an self. Soon after, the subject was issued a investigator and passing along the informanotice to appear for several violations. SEAWALL UPDATE In Punta Gorda, where the city owns the seawalls and maintains them for a taxlike fee, there are 13 miles of seawalls that need to be replaced. The city cannot do the work themselves and they are hiring outside contractors. The city of punta Gordaʼs estimate it will take them ʻaround 18 monthsʼ to complete the replacements. Several homeowners there have reportedly asked to replace their own seawalls at their own expense and the city has refused, citing a potential decrease in funding the city will receive from FEMA. We have

KAYAKING: Trout at Three Sisters


New panels waiting installation

heard that lenders are now resisting closings on sales of properties that have sea walls in need of replacement.


By Bob Fraser Water LIFE Kayaking Last month I had a kayak fishing charter with Lee from Chicago. Lee hired me last year for a fishing trip, and he caught some nice size trout the last time. We launched my sit-on-top fishing kayaks at the 19th Street kayak launch site. I like this launch site for several reasons. I usually catch some nice keeper trout around there, it’s easy to launch a kayak, and I can usually get out of the wind, especially if it’s blowing out of the east, by fishing the west side of Hoagen’s Key Island. We started the day fishing the mangroves on our way towards the grass flats. We fished with a 5-inch camo color Gulp Jerk Shad on a weedless hook. We had a lot of small snappers bite our soft plastic baits, but no snook or redfish, which we were hoping to catch. When we got to the grass flats, Lee switched over to a Cajun Thunder cork and shrimp combo fishing 3-to 4-feet of water. Lee caught several small trout and some nice keepers, ranging from 16-to 18inches. I usually set up my clients with a Cajun Thunder Cork and live shrimp because it’s the easiest way for people with limited experience with saltwater fishing to catch trout. Most of my clients are visiting our area from the northern states. Some of them have experience catching bass, but haven’t fished our grass flats before. I usually fish with my clients if I only have one or two people, if I have any more than that, then I don’t fish. On that trip I had a chance to fish, I was using a Gulp soft plastic and a topwater plug. I caught a 20-inch trout on the topwater plug, and I had five other hits. I was using a brown and orange Skitter Walker. Shark warning for


fellow kayakers. While we were fishing, yesterday, Lee was telling me about a news report he heard about a kayaker in Hawaii that got attacked by a bull shark. A man had his legs dangling in the water when a shark came by and bit off his lower leg. The man bled to death before he could get help. Don’t ever put your feet in the water when kayaking, especially when fishing, because of the bait and fish in the water. When kayaking, paddleboarding or wade fishing be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Bob Fraser 941-916-8303






December – Predictions and Suggestions Charlotte Harbor Frank at Fishin’ Franks 941-625-3888

BackBay Xtremes Capt Dave Stephens


Marty Zachrich and Glen Ballinger, from Venice Fl, fishing offshore from Venice LA. 75-pound yellowfin tuna


from Water LIFE magazine

Give the Gift of a Fishing Trip!

all guides in this publication offer gift certificates

60-inch, 104 pound Amberjack caught by Glen Ballinger fishing with Capt. Joe Miller, Fish Galore Offshore Charters, Venice Fl.


from Water LIFE magazine

Martin Lakob (aka 'Tati') caught this fun 'Puffer' on a trip out of Gasparilla on 11/7 while visiting from Manhattan


from Water LIFE magazine

Fishing is all right. Spanish and king mackerel have been right near the beaches. We’re getting reports of them from 15feet of water out to 30-or 40miles, guys trolling are getting hit by mackerel. Try trolling an array with a deep diving plug on the bottom and shallower running plugs going up. Drag any small lure behind the boat and when you get a hit, stop and start casting, you’ll do well with the Spanish. Try a big pinfish 6- to 10feet below a bobber for the kings. There are cobia reports offshore, a lot of them have been seen, some caught. Amberjacks are doing pretty well, some guys have hooked them trolling king spoons. Snapper, and grouper fishing is pretty fair - the grouper should be in closer, but they are not there yet. There have been smaller gags in Boca Pass, but you have to kind of hopscotch to find them. There’s a little bit of permit around on the near shore reefs. In the Harbor, the best fishing has been in the straight, on Jug Creek Side or in front of Bull and Turtle Bay. Pompano, Spanish mackerels, quite a bit of snook and a scattering of redfish are around there. At the Cape Haze bar, there are reports of trout and some bluefish. We’ve also had jacks in the PGI and Port Charlotte canals. The tripletail has been sporadic around the Harbor – check floating debris or pitch them a tail-hooked shrimp on the shady

side of a Harbor marker. There are two types of snook at San Souci trestle: either wayover or way-under sized. The bigger ones want a live talapia in the 4-to 6-inch range. In the canals, try an X-Wrap for snook. There are some snook on the beaches too. Sheepshead are just getting started, the Ski Alley docks will be the place.

Lemon Bay - Placida Gasparilla Sound Jim at Fishermen’s Edge 941-697-7595

The inshore has been pretty good. Pompano are still around and the pompano fishing has been good. Some guys I know caught 10- or 15 in the morning one day. I throw a jig or a lure for them. Where we were fishing them, the topwater lure wasn’t so hot with floating grass. A jig or a fluke or especially a Yozuri 3D Minnow can be a lifesaver for fishing in the Bay; they are the right size and if you have the right color – the white one and the gold one, or the greenback model, you are good – but the white one is best. Flounder have been moving around inshore and getting closer to the beach. They are around the passes up in the sand and the bigger ones seem to be staying closer to the passes. The other fish really good now is the tripletail. We have caught quite a few up to 20pounds and friend had one up at 27 pounds. For a tripletail, that’s an east-coast job. With tripletail ,sometimes you have to fish the pods and not just troll by them. I like fishing a Cajun Thunder with a bait on it. Pull it along and then move away and let it settle, they like that. There have been some



The BIG-4 SHEEPSHEAD Structure along the ICW, trestles

blacktip and bonnethead sharks around. Grouper has picked up closer inshore. The near shore reefs giving up keeper sized cobia along the migration. There are plenty of little cobias, but for one person to get 7 cobia, all just under the legal 33 inches, in one day, that’s incredible. Spanish and king mackerel are also still around. Everyone wants to know about redfish. Redfish is the hardest fish to find. There are redfish in the backcountry, but you have got to know where. I think the red tide, three Octobers in a row, has limited the redfish population. There are just not as many reds around. Trout has been really good, many over 20-inches. I went three weeks in a row and caught a bunch of nice trout, a keeper snook and some flounder. I’ve seen a lot of red and gag grouper pictures, but you need at least 75 or 80 feet of water under you for them. And there are still some tarpon too. There have been some in the Pass, guys have been jumping tarpon here there and everywhere... and it’s almost Christmas!


Fish you can expect in

GROUPER Good on the reefs Deeper water means bigger


TRIPLETAIL Offshore under and around stone crab pots

SPOTTED SEA TROUT On the grass flats around the area.


Nearshore water temps are now low 70s Fish are slowing down

95˚ 90˚ 85˚


from Water LIFE magazine

Jerry Pirillo, nice black drum in 70 ft of water out of Gasparilla, with Cap'n Bob Gaydos.


from Water LIFE magazine


Robert Dimonda 12 years old black drum, El Jobean Bridge

75˚ 72˚ 70˚ 68˚ 50˚


from Water LIFE magazine


Lee Pidcock of Punta Gorda with a 24 1/2 Sea trout. Caught in front of Pirate Harbor


from Water LIFE magazine

Robert Cobb from Madison GA Grouper, Fishing with Capt. Joe Miller, Venice Inlet

This is a picture of my son, Jeremy Rotzoll, fishing under the El Jobean Bridge. He was visiting from Antigo, Wisconsin. No fish, but great time! Rick Rotzoll


from Water LIFE magazine

Zachary Kunz from Cedar City Utah. We were guided by Capts. John and Matt


from Water LIFE magazine

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Lora Hutchens, shark

Want to see your Fish Pix here? We only ask you donʼt send it anywhere else first!


from Water LIFE magazine



LAST CASTThis is the last

picture we receive before going to print.

Taken at True Value Hardware, Kings Highway






Water LIFE Dec 2017  

Fishing, boating and other water related subjects in the pristine environs of Charlotte Harbor Florida and the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Pres...

Water LIFE Dec 2017  

Fishing, boating and other water related subjects in the pristine environs of Charlotte Harbor Florida and the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Pres...