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Water LI FE

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

The Don Ball School of Fishing

February 2018


from Water LIFE magazine

Billy with one of his 30-inch red groupers

Txt Us Ur Fish Pix! weʼll use ʻem!

Styrofoam beads... and other pollution page 5

See page 4

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Hunter Higgins, drum fish, Burnt Store Isles

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Gual Mangrov, redfish

Guy Rosenbalm, jack cravelle in the Cape Coral mangroves, January 11 FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine





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Bridge Built (around) 2012 Already Crumbling

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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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Lake Okeechobee: Army Corps of Engineers Dragging their Feet

By Michael Heller Water LIFE editor Close to 17,000 readers and internet views, 100 different posts on various blogs and web pages, barbershop and bar room discussions ...... and we only have 50 likes and followers on our 100,000 Shovels facebook page, a page designed to help build support for the Everglades Restoration and the Okeechobee outflow problem. I thought it was an act-now idea, you, apparently wanted to wait. And now, our friends at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are waiting as well. The Corps of Engineers are notorious ‘waiters’. Getting a dock permit from the Corps during the period of early manatee regulations, took years. Waiting is their favorite response. Last month, Florida environmentalists urged Gov. Rick Scott to step in and fix the current design for a holding lake that they say does too little to store and clean the polluted water needed to repair the suffering Everglades. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State's partner in fixing the old flood control system that diverted the River of Grass in

the first place, has so far not followed through on a deal to help plan the project. Their input in planning is important because their approval will ultimately be required. Back in November, the Corps agreed to work on the project if the district paid for the services, but, according to the district, the deal fell apart over the scope of the work and "numerous roadblocks and course changes." At a district meeting last month, governing board members slammed the agency for not holding up its end of the bargain. In a letter signed by 62 members of the Everglade’s Coalition, members claimed the South Florida Water Management District failed to design a project big enough to both store and treat water. Last year, lawmakers approved a reservoir after repeated releases of dirty water from Lake Okeechobee left Florida’s southern coasts coated with slimy algae. The law allowed the district to use land set aside for a previous reservoir, or swap state-owned land with surrounding property owners to increase the size of the reservoir, but the law ruled out taking land through eminent domain. Why emi-

nent domain was ruled out needs to be explained, since situations like this are what eminent domain was designed for. Environmentalists say five alternatives drafted by the district don’t work either because they fail to explore land swaps or consider the potential environmental benefits (more fresh water flowing into the Everglades) in a best case scenario, which is a requirement under federal rules. In addition, two deep water alternatives may not provide enough clean water, and three larger surface alternatives convert an existing shallow treatment basin - that has dramatically cleaned up polluted water coming from the lake and sugar fields - to be part of the deeper reservoir. Converting that feature could jeopardize the State's legal settlement over federal Clean Water Violations. The concern is that the alternatives will result in a reservoir plan that is neither cost-effective nor likely to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congress. The Corps of Engineers and the Water Management District are due to submit their plan to Congress on October 1.


A sandal was a frame of reference for the white styrofoam beads covering the water and mangroves at the Laishley Park boat ramp in Punta Gorda last month. The likely source was the Marriott Suites Hotel, under construction across 41-north. How long until the beads show up in the stomachs of our local critters? How long before our Harbor is done?





FISHING: Finally it’s Good Again By Capt. David Stephens Water LIFE Charlotte Harbor I’m glad that I can finally write about some good fishing. Over the past few weeks we have had some crappy situations going on in the Harbor. Some of them I can say with a smile, was good ol’ Mother Nature. In the last month we have had some cold weather. It was getting close to the point I thought we where going to have some issues with snook. But I’m happy to report I have not seen any fatalities with these recent cold snaps. So let’s get back to the good fishing, shall we. These last few cold snaps have really given the Harbor a cleansing. These low

tides have washed away all the poor quality water that was hanging around. Over the past week I have experienced some of the best sea trout fishing on the north end of the Harbor in a while. We have been able to have half days with over 100 hundred fish to the boat. Yes folks, I said that correctly over 100 fish caught. I’m not saying we’re catching monsters, but we are getting our share of good fish. One of the biggest factors that has been helping keep the bite going has been the water temperature. On these post cold frontal days when the water has cooled below 62-degrees, I have been focusing on deep water. In true Florida fashion after a few days of cool weather we always have

some warm days. During these warmer days the sun heats the flats up to over 65-degrees and the fish move back to the flats. It hasn’t been easy keeping track of fish moving from shallow to deep, but paying attention to the water temperatures makes it a lot easier. When picking the best bait, I would also look at the temp of the water. Winter months is by far my favorite time to get out the artificials. The biggest reason fish migrate to deeper spots is to find warmer water, so it only makes sense that when Mother Nature sends us some cold weather, the fish move deep to slow down. On those days I prefer shrimp on a jig head and I’ll slow way down and fish closer to the bottom. Luckily for us, those days are few and far between. As the water warms back up, fish begin to migrate back onto the flats in search of food. Soft plastics work great at locating


feeding fish and some of my favorites are paddle tails. These types of baits allow you to cover a lot of water. When you locate fish using this technique you can catch a lot of them very quickly. Water color plays a big role in what I chose. This time of year, we normally have clean water, so I focus on lighter colors, like pearl and chartreuse. If we have some winds and rain or an over cast day, I’ll throw a darker color. Just remember one thing, slow down. The biggest mistake people make with artificial lures is working them to fast. However you like to fish, just get out on Charlotte Harbor and do it!

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





Red Grouper PAGE





By Capt. Chuck Eichner Water LIFE Inshore The only guarantee you have with winter fishing is that Mother Nature will create challenges for you, and grouper fishing in the Gulf adds even more challenges. The obvious first step in planning a trip is finding the right weather day. Sounds easy right? Just find a calm day and go out. Wrong! Since most of the winter is windy, it takes 3 days for the ocean to calm! The first couple days after a blow you can expect 3-4 footers. Two of my grouper trips in January were on that third calm day and the winds were light and seas calm. The only catch is calm weather in the winter means developing inland fog with almost no visibility and/or offshore sea fog. Navigation in the fog is scary and dangerous. To manage this, I have Eisenglass snap on plastic windows and side curtains. This keeps my eyeglasses clear of water. You will also need others standing watch for other vessels. If you are lucky enough to have radar than you really have it made. My first trip in January we ran 40 miles from my dock in fog and the second trip

we ran back 40 miles in a sea fog. Pretty miserable to be honest but the catching was worth it! Successful red grouper fishing requires you to have a variety of baits. We start our day sabikiing baitfish offshore and catch pinfish, bluerunners, cigar minnows and squirrelfish. Also, our frozen bait includes sardines and chum blocks for snapper fishing. Grouper prefer different baits on different days, you have to experiment. The next step is looking for fish. I don’t grouper-fish in much less than 80 feet and deeper is often better. While running on plane look for baitfish near the bottom and “marks” on the sea floor. Set up a drift with bottom rigs or jigs baited up. I prefer a large bucktail tipped with a live fish. The type of rod you use makes a difference in presentation. A short rod of 5 ½-feet will out-fish a 7foot rod most days because the vertical stroke and angle will keep the lure closer to the bottom with smaller “jumps” off the bottom. The distance behind the

boat you fish your bait will change the presentation as well. Some days grouper fishing is as technical as largemouth bass fishing! Another very important factor is controlling your drift speed. The Gulf currents are quite strong any day and with wind the problem is larger. A drift sock or sea anchor is an important tool most days on my boat. If you drift too fast you will not catch nearly as many fish even with increasing your weight. Dealing with a sea anchor is a hassle, but going way out into the Gulf and going home fishless is worse. Two sea anchors, one off port and starboard is often the way to go. Red grouper are a nomadic fish. They move around following their food source which often varies with water temperature. My game plan is the same. I move around constantly reading my bottom machine, telling my anglers to “drop em’” and then picking up and moving or resetting a drift. Many anglers drop lines and


drift for a ½ mile or more but most spots aren’t much bigger than your boat! Grouper set up on small variations on the bottom to ambush bait. Rocks, holes in the bottom, live bottom with sea fans and coral provide enough of an ambush point for grouper to stage on. The Gulf is absolutely full of grouper right now and most are undersize ... but there are still plenty of large ones out there. Mangrove and lane snappers are also plentiful, so coming home with dinner is pretty much a guarantee. By late summer I would expect catching a limit of legal grouper will be a breeze! Capt. Chuck Eichner operates Action Flats Backcountry Charters He can be reached at 941-628-8040

Sheepshead at 10,000 Islands FEBRUARY 2018


By Capt. Charlie Phillips Water LIFE / Everglades City Thirty one days into 2018 and it’s looking to be a great year down here in the swamp. I have been surprised by the real winter we are getting this year vs last, but hey, maybe that will keep the hurricane count down for us this coming summer, so I’ll take it. We are getting better every day down here, but still have a way to go. I have learned some hard lessons thru this process, these past few months. In Everglades City, we didn’t have insurance as our little park model house could be easily replaced, we thought, if we ever found ourselves exactly where we are. What we didn’t anticipate is that the rules would change on us and going forward all new homes, both park models and regular style, have to be placed on stilts.



Not necessarily a bad thing, but about $50K we didn’t plan on as an out-of-pocket expense. And in LaBelle, we have learned that just because you have insurance, that doesn’t mean they are going to do what they are paid for when the time comes. Were it not for a loan from the SBA, I am not sure where we would be, but thanks to that help, we are making progress. The biggest lesson I have learned thru all this is that just because you lose the house, that doesn’t stop the mortgage payment: so with that in mind, I am doing all I can to not only keep the bills paid, but to keep moving ahead with progress as well and that has forced some changes. I am now traveling two weeks and fishing two weeks. Me and my boat. Weʼre Open for Business again! You don’t have to be

a math expert to figure out that if you have dreams of getting rich from being a fishing guide, you are in the wrong business. At $500 a trip average, and let’s say 150 trips per


The two sheepshead pics are from a trip last month, with slot fish from the mangroves as well as offshore. The sheep are here!

year, you will bring in 75K. Sounds like a lot, until you learn about the gross and net!! That’s a topic for another day, but I will say this to aspiring guides: do yourself a favor and have something to fall back on when you need to. Guiding is a wonderful profession and I love it, but life has speedbumps and when they arise, the bills don’t stop. I’d rather be a part time guide (some people think that’s and insult, but it’s not) it’s a guide with his bills paid, a guide providing for his family!! I don’t have a lot to report on the fishing front this month as after the New Year’s I took off on the road and

when I have been home I’ve have had Florida Guides Association events, of which I am still President. I am back to fishing next week so I will work to have a better report for next month. I will say though, that I know the sheepshead bite all thru the Everglades and 10,000 Islands has been great. Not just offshore, but inshore as well. When I have been able to get out, I have had numerous shots at fish, spotted visually in the bushes. Yall take care out there and I greatly appreciate all the thoughts and support. We are open for business and would love to get you booked in that 2 week window each month I am home. Give us a shout Capt. Charlie Phillips: 863-517-1829 e-mail: Web:

Estero Bay: The Phase of the New Moon PAGE



By Capt. Joe Angius Water LIFE Estero Ever since the water temperature dropped last month, only live shrimp have been on my mind. On my last charter the redfish we kept had full bellies and in their stomachs were a mixture of small shrimp, crabs, mud minnows, and mojarra. Knowing the variety of what they have been eating tells me the post-front conditions made them very opportunistic and hungry. It will be extremely important to have a variety of baits while fishing this February and do not to overlook the advantage of

having live shrimp. An important lesson I’ve learned being out on the water is that it’s better to have live shrimp than not, because almost every fish species will eat a shrimp. This was more of a life lesson geared toward my ego of netting bait in the morning. Needless to say, having every type of bait under the sun, but no shrimp will humble any


fisherman that prides himself on cast netting bait every morning. With that being said, the fish species I will primarily want to target this month will be tripletail, redfish, speckled trout, sheepshead, and black drum. All of these species will be interested in a shrimp offering, but if they are too stubborn to bite it will be good to have a variety of baits in the live well. If you do try other baits on the fish around you, but they aren’t actively feeding, then check your leader and hook. In cases like this, where fish may be finicky around your bait, I will lengthen my leader to about three feet, downsize my leader strength, check the knots attaching my line-to-leader and leader-tohook, and lastly adjust my hook size accordingly. Remember that your hook size needs to match your bait size, and use fluorocarbon leader. The one environmental factor that I am particularly excited about this month is the new moon on February 15th. Moon phases have a major impact on fishing and this new moon will take lead in the spring fishing we will encounter. Tournament an-

glers and most fishing guides utilize information about moon phases to help pinpoint where and when the bite will be on that particular phase. In my experience, this new moon should produce a strong tidal fluctuation that will spark schools of redfish to feed heavy on the flats. The new moon will offer a wide variety of tide heights to allow all anglers to take advantage of this lunar event. This event will take place surrounding the new moon date. My advice would be to scout areas by driving over various flats at safe cruising speeds to try and ‘lift up’ schools of fish. When schools are found power down a few hundred yards away and slowly approach the fish. If the school gets ‘blown out’ from driving over them, mark the spot


beautiful aspects of being out on the water and to take advantage of the things that are there in front of you. Whether it be birds diving and foraging, dolphins playing with their food, there is always an experience to be had. Be respectful of the place you are fishing or visiting and don’t let small moments get past you.

Captain Joe Angius (727)-234-3171 Speak Easy Fishing Charters

on your GPS or take a mental note and return to the area within the next day or two to quietly fish the school. Every year, month, week, day, and hour is always completely different. While fishing in Southwest Florida, don’t become frustrated if the fishing is tough. Enjoy the

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Readerʼs Photos


text us ur fish pix - see page 4


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

Phil Dodson and Eric Sprouse( r) with a nice amber jack caught 25 miles out on Philʼs Grady White Good Timing under the direction of Capt Shannon

Joe Rizzo from Rotonda West (Toronto) caught and released this 26-inch gag grouper from Boca Grande fishing pier on January 18. Oh why can't it be grouper season!

This my friend Colton his first shook caught and released. I took him Angus sister and mom and dad out fishing for his 5 birthday, they caught about 40 fish, all species Thank you! Tommy Tucker

Tim Row off Key Colony Beach 25-pound Wahoo

Joe Sheaffer, redfish 1/8/18

Gail Koromhas Caught this sheepshead off the dock at Manasota Key in Lemon Bay

From the beach at Indian Rocks on Jan. 7, by Kevin Parry

Steve Row 27-inch yellowtail off Key Colony Beach

Dave O'Brien from Port Huron MI, caught this 19in sheephead Fort Myers Beach.

Rich Harris, breaking in the new year with this 35-inch snook in the Hazeltine secret hole.





Three photos below: Black Drums, caught by Bernie Simon 41” and 35 lbs. Notice the gold color

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

Jeff Boomershine, 38-inch Red Drum Caught and released out of Stump Pass

Lia-black drum

Bo Reynoso, age 13, Bass in a pond at The Verandah in Ft Myers

Bill Cadwaladerʼs first catch and release bonita

Brian Rodriguezʼs first catch and release gag.


Tyler White, Pine Island redfish, guided by Capt. Matthew Lee

Johnna Latty, grouper caught off of Marco Island

Wayne Price and his pompano caught in Charlotte Harbor.





Readerʼs Photos


text us ur fish pix! see page 4


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

Troy Snyder, big red

Noel Price, Florida Flounder

Mylee with her permit she caught on the Placida Pier! Looks like a serious fisherwoman, ready to party. Capri sun in one hand… permit in the other!

Christian Fec amberjack Out of Stump Pass

Permit, not pompano. Had to look closer at the catch!

Double header of fat jacks for Ian and Dave in the Caloosahatchee!

Dan Urquhart, Venice My second ever amber jack



Winter’s Almost Done By Fishin’ Frank Water LIFE Baitshop Where do fish go? Well that would depend upon which fish, but let’s say in general they are like our snowbird friends. Fish go to where the water is most comfortable, lets say like this January, as the water was in the middle to high 50s, so during a bright sunny day the fish would like to get up on the flats to sun themselves and get warmer – the sun will warm up very shallow water quickly and the small bait will start to move around. But as night falls and the water on the flats gets colder, the fish will drop down into water at least 6 feet deep to avoid the colder surface water – so as the water temp gets close to 60, look for shallow flats within a couple hundred feet of deep water of at least 6-foot or more. Sharks, like black tip and most other sharks for that matter, will just pack up and leave for the Keys and enjoy the warmer water there. Then, as the temperatures come up, they head back north, following the moderate temperatures. Tarpon do the same thing; colder water they go south; warmer water, north. King mackerel have become an interesting case study as kings like 68 to 72 degree waters and for years they spent the winter in the Keys or south and summers in the Panhandle of Florida, always fol-


up north we would swim in a lake in early July. The top 4 feet of the lake waters lowing the perfect temperature. But in the were warm and comfortable, but if you last few years they start north and often by stopped to tread water and you feet went June the waters of the Panhandle and the down, the water was still freezing cold north Gulf are the same as the water temp down there. here so they scatter all along the Gulf February should be a great month for coast, where it becomes of matter of food catching as well as fishing. Trout and red source for them – where the food goes fish will be in very good numbers in the they go, since now the water is the same upper Harbor from Cape Haze North. temperature all over. Places like the Myakka Cut Off and the This month we are going to see warmer Skating Rink will see a big increase in days and some colder days. It is how long fish this month as will the northern half of the east and west sides of the Harbor. For the last month, if you wanted to catch fish you learned to “dead stick” your bait. In other words, don't move it. But by the end of February you are going to start working things more again and I will be using any jig head as I am letting it sit. As the waters FISH PIX! Paul Fec with a 200 + pound goliath grouper, warm, I switch to a Rockcaught last month, out of Stump Pass port Rattler jig head and the cold lasts which determines if the fish start to sharply lift the tip of my rod makleave. Air temperature changes quickly ing the jig head bounce up and hit the botand the first foot of water depth will tom hard getting their attention. Last change in a day, but each foot further month, to increase the bite, I would let a down into the water take two days to dead shrimp get just a bit red or rotten and change and down 6 feet it takes weeks to then slice a piece of that tail, put it on the change. Picture it this way; when I lived hook first and then put on the live shrimp. from Water LIFE magazine


Why?... well, dead rotten shrimp give off a lot of stink/smell making it more likely for the fish to find it and get interested in eating it. When looking for fish I will look for bright sand with patches of dark grass. As the sun hits the dark grass the dark color allows the sun to warm it up, like a solar heater, so, why not fish a flat covered with dark grass? Because the fish could and will be anywhere on it, warming in the sun. But the bright white sand and small patches of grass make my search area that much smaller and so I know better where to cast my bait. Remember, shrimp is the best cold water bait, so once the water temps fall below 70 degrees start using shrimp. But as I said before, you might need more scent than a live shrimp normally has. A stinky piece of dead/frozen shrimp left on the deck or live well lid to ripen in the sun, can and will enhance the bite, then, as the water temperature gets over 72 degrees, do not bother adding the extra stink. Fish are more willing to move to find a faint smell and hunt for food more aggressively as the water warms up. Well good luck out there, and if you have any questions E-mail and I will try to answer them.

Fishin’ Franks Bait & Tackle Port Charlotte: 941- 625-3888 Ft Myers: 239-634-1043




Interact and Network with Fisheries Researchers PAGE

By Capt. Betty Staugler Water Life / Sea Grant Attention recreational and commercial fishers, and guides. Do you fish in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico? Are you interested in how our fisheries are managed at the federal level? Do you question stock assessments? Do you feel your opportunities to be heard are limited? If any of these apply to you, you might be interested in the Marine Resource Education Program (MREP). MREP is a program developed by fishermen for fishermen. It is administered by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and delivered by the planning team, which is comprised of folks from the Gulf, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils, FWC, and a host of others including recreational and commercial fishers, and guides. I am on the planning team and have participated in the program and I have to say it’s fantastic! So what is it? Well, the program consists of two workshops designed to help participants better understand the science that goes into fisheries management and then how the management process works. Each workshop is roughly 3 days and if you are selected to participate (the program takes about 30 applicants annually), the programs provides travel support. What is unique about this program is that during the workshops participants have ample opportunity to interact and network with fisheries researchers and managers, from the statisticians to Roy Crabtree at the top of the food chain for NOAA’s Southeastern Region. This all happens during the workshops and also during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, most of which are family style. By the end of the program, these folks are no longer talking heads but someone you know, and likewise you are someone they know. To give you an idea of what happens at each of the key concepts is breaking down roles, which at the federal level can be confusing. What is NOAA Fisheries role versus the Fishery Management Council’s role? And, how do the State’s fall into all this management scheme? At the fisheries workshop (held in late April), you will learn the different compo-

nents that make up a stock assessment. You will understand how fisheries dependent data and fisheries independent data are used, and you will learn how uncertainty is dealt with. You will learn why stock assessments in a marine environment is so much more difficult than stock assessments in a forest. You will learn how age and growth data are obtained from otoliths (a fish’s ear stones), and you will have the opportunity to both visit an otolith lab and also use otolith slides to develop your own age and growth model for a fish species. You will also learn how things like age and growth, reproduction, habitat, and diet are factored into stock assessments. And, how anomalies like hurricanes, red tide, oil spills, etc. are accounted for.

and statistical committees and advisory panels. You’ll learn about the process from when an issue is identified through scoping, to public hearing, and rule making. And, you will learn how meetings are conducted and what your opportunities are for participating, and the best ways for you to participate. You will also have the opportunity to participate in a mock Council process. Most people hate to role play but we’ve found this is one of the most meaningful activities for workshop participants. In survey evaluations we’ve been told this activity really helped them feel more confident when attending and participating in the Council process. Fisheries Science: April 24-26 St Petersburg Fisheries management: Nov 14 - 15 Tampa

If it’s not obvious yet, the goal of MREP is to educate fishers so that they



MERRITT ISLAND - On Sunday January 7, Four men were arrested for allegedly fishing with an illegal gill net in the Indian River Lagoon Gill nets are designed to allow fish to get only their head through the netting, but not their body. The fish's gills then get caught in the mesh as the fish tries to back out of the net. As the fish struggles to free itself, it becomes more and more entangled.

Gill nets pose a hazard to endangered species because dolphins and sea turtles can become entangled in the net and drown.

You will learn about the peer review process for stock assessments and how the stock assessments are used during the management process. During the management workshop (held in November), you learn about the different Councils and their role in balancing competing fisheries interests. You will learn about the laws that govern fisheries management as well as other laws that affect fisheries management. You’ll learn about the makeup of the Councils from Council members, to staff, to advisory bodies including the science

are more likely to attend and participate in fisheries management. This could be by attending a Council meeting, providing public comment or thru participation on an advisory panel. If any of this interests you, I hope you will apply. The next class will be selected in March. Visit for more information or to apply. Capt. Betty Staugler, Florida Sea Grant Agent. UF/IFAS Extension, Charlotte County (941) 764-4346

The men were allegedly fishing with a gill net in excess of 2,000 square feet, a third-degree felony, in the Banana River near Pineda Causeway off of south Merritt Island, Florida. Florida Fish and Wildlife also charged the men for illegal possession of snook out of season; undersized red fish, stone crab, and sheephead; and over the bag limits of sheephead, red fish, and mullet; and failure to display a fishing license. All four men were booked in the Brevard County Jail on bonds exceeding $10,000.

The IRS does not endorse any particular tax preparer. For more information go to



Here and Now

By Mallory Herzog Water LIFE Fishing Winter decided to visit Florida last month. All across the State a chill was felt, anglers and fish are just starting to thaw out. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to warmer months ahead. They are predicting a warmer than usual February and I am hoping the weather man is right, but how often does that happen? Our cool water fish are as fired up as ever. Our local nearshore wrecks are filled with exciting species this time of year. From permit and grouper, to barracuda and greater amberjack. These

Tod Ingham - cobia off Captiva

Matto and sheepshead

fish are great fighters and a few make a delicious meal as well. If you haven’t heard, anglers have some new cobia regulations beginning Feb 1. Changes have been made for both recreational and commercial fishermen. Anglers can now keep one cobia per person and only a total of TWO per vessel in Gulf waters. Be sure to

Ed Colman Permit



check out for the latest regulations. With the cold fronts we’ve had anglers are finding a few inshore species, not only on the flats but in the Gulf too. These fish left our shallow water and canals, in search of deeper and warmer water as well as food. The water temperatures began to drop a few weeks back. Anglers have been catching snook along our artificial and rock reefs. Redfish have been caught in Bull and Turtle Bay, it’s a great time of year to use shrimp and jig heads for redfish. The BIGGER the shrimp the better, I like to use rattling jig heads in pink and white color. If you can’t find large shrimp, which happens in the winter time, try a piece of blue crab or

pinfish middle, these baits have a scent that carries in the water and are irritstable to a hungry fish swimming by. On this page anglers in our community shared some amazing catches with me via the Boca Coast facebook page.

Derek Molle - Redfish Bull Bay

Dale Austerman - Charlotte Harbor snook

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

Chris Hamm- South Gulf Cove snook





The Missing Manatees By Capt. Ron Blago Water LIFE Senior Staff LATE BREAKING NEWS - The Florida Fish and Wild life Commission has announced the results of their latest manatee population survey for 2018. Fifteen observers searched and recorded manatees in 21 areas through out the State, 6,131 manatees were counted between January 6 and 8. Last year’s survey found 6,620 manatees, a record. In 1990, the State legislature approved Fla Statute 370.12 which required an annual, impartial, scientific, benchmark census of the manatee population. The first census was done in 1991 and they found 1,267 manatees. Between 1991 and 2018 the census has been conducted 32 times and has showed a rapid rise in the manatee population over the 27 year period. Counting manatees is not as easy as you would think, a strict criteria has to be followed to have an accurate count. The water temperature has to be below 68 degrees for a few weeks before the count; the colder the better. The water should be as clear as possible, the wind should be low and the skies should be clear and bright. When those conditions are meet, then they go looking for the manatees.


The easiest places to look is the warm water discharges from industrial plants and electric power plants. During the cold weather, manatees stack up in these areas like sardines in a can. Next place to look is the manatee observation areas through out the State. These areas are usually close by the warm water discharge plants like the power plants north of Tampa or the power plant in Ft. Myers. Natural warm water springs are another easy spot to count manatees. Homosassa Springs near Crystal River has been known to hold over 800 manatees at one time in a two and a half acre spot called Three Sisters. Easy counting. Another part of the survey is the aerial flights that go looking for manatees. They usually look for deep water channels near shallow water where manatees will hide to get out of the cold. These are the hardest manatees to count. Some manatee experts have estimated that these surveys could be off by as much as 40-percent in some years. These are the ones I call the missing manatees. Scientist are quick to point out that these surveys are not precise enough to be used in estimating the population of manatees in Florida; but if you see over 6,000 manatees at one time you can't say there are less than 6,000 manatees.

Low water in the Peace River last month

All the error is in under estimating the population. Recently, I rode shotgun with a friend of mine to visit his sister in Lake City, Florida. For those not familiar with Lake City, it’s close to the Georgia border in the middle part of Florida, where I -75 crosses I-10 in Columbia County. His sister lives near the Ichetucknee River which is 6 miles long and flows into the Santa Fe River. At the headwaters is Ichetucknee Springs which is reputed to be the clearest spring in Florida. The river is also



known as the most popular tubing river in Florida. It is not uncommon to have over 300 people in inner tubes floating down the river on a hot summer day. Of course when I was there it was 23 degrees, a new local record low, so I spent most of my time indoors around the fire place. Talking to the locals I was surprised to learn that there were manatees in the Ichetucknee enjoying the constant 74 degree water that flow from the springs. I was also told there were sightings of manatees in the Santa Fe and the Suwannee Rivers. That surprised me because Columbia County is not on the list of counties that even have manatees, so I assume they are not being counted. It got me thinking about all these freshwater manatees that have never been counted in the State wide census. These are the missing manatees. Let's face it, 15 observers to cover the whole state are going to miss a lot of manatees. The FWC should ask for volunteers from the environmental groups to help out with the counting. Most people these days have cell phones with cameras and GPSs. They could track down these manatees, take a picture and GPS location and e-mail the information to those people who are managing the census. This is how you find missing manatees.


833 - BOAT



Water LIFE Staff Report The Southwest Florida Kayak Anglers Association is all about sharing information and ideas. We have members from all over the U.S. from beginners to guides to tournament anglers. Our motto is: there are no secrets. No matter where you are from, all are welcome to join us on the forums and share information, learn new techniques and meet new friends. You will always be treated with respect here. Congrats to Unagi2 on a club record 29.25-inch ladyfish. He unknowingly approached a rare place in the record books. After a little research, we found out that his ladyfish fell just 3-inches short of an IGFA all tackle world record. Florida weight record is 6-pounds and 4oz, this fish was pushing that tally, unfortunately the fish was not weighed and was not eligible. However,


the ladyfish is the new club record, shattering the mark by nearly 9 inches! Another rare occurrence recently happened in Southwest Florida, while fishing on Sanibel an angler caught a very nice Bonefish pictured above. After polling the area for sightings of these fish, it seems to be very rare. A few people said that they had caught a baby or two in a cast net, but only a few reported that they had heard of one actually being caught on a hook and line. Pretty cool what you may find in our waters!!

and we do custom fiberglass work too!








The Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club created the 2.4mR Can/Am Series which included over 13 boats competing in multiple races from December 2016-April 2017. Following up on the success of the series, The US Class Association asked CHYC to host the series again. In addition, Charlotte Harbor will be the host site for the 2018 2.4mR Western Hemisphere Championship with registration, vessel launching and social events taking place at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club. World class para Olympians and other highly ranked sailors will compete for the title. Following is the remaining schedule which includes the Western Hemisphere Championship:

Golden Conch

By Peter Welch Water LIFE Sailing The 2018 Golden Conch Regatta was held on January 13 & 14. This annual regatta is sponsored by the Platinum Point Yacht Club at Burnt Store. Nineteen boats in three classes raced in the Harbor near Burnt Store and seven Harbor 20s raced in the upper part of Charlotte Harbor. Brisk winds and choppy seas made for exciting racing and stiff competition this year.

Photos by Fran Nasher Burstein

2.4R Meter Racing on Charlotte Harbor

February 21-23: 2.4mR Western Hemisphere Championships February 24-25: 2018 2.4mR CanAm Series Race # 4 Results Non Spinnaker 1 Fancy Free - Jerry Poquette 2 Playmobil – Jay Nadelson 3 Vixen – Brock Johnson True Cruising A 1 Blue Heron – Brian Lawton 2 Diva Gorda- Rudy Gottschlich 3 Serendipity – Mike Busher True Cruising B 1 Buckeye II – Art Gates 2 Pipe Dream – Iras Sramek 3 Perfect Match Walter Schroeder Harbor 20 1 WillSee -Camille Amy 2 Flying Cloud – Christy Van Heek 3 H20 – Jim Nuzzo

March 29-31: 2018 2.4mR CanAm Sailing Series Finale

Space-X to Launch Tesla Roadster Toward Mars Water LIFE Report Adapted from the NY Times

On July 16, 1969, a Saturn-5 rocket sat on Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. At 9:32 a.m., the first stage ignited and 7.5 million pounds of thrust lifted Apollo 11 into space and Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon four days later. Today, at that same launchpad, techni-

cians working for SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, are preparing for the maiden flight of the Falcon-Heavy, the


world’s most powerful rocket since the Saturn-5. All of the parts for the Falcon-Heavy rocket arrived in Florida late last year. Since then, SpaceX has been modifying the launchpad to handle the larger rocket. This month the company is expected to conduct a critical test that would light all 27 engines that will power the Heavy at once, with the rocket anchored to the pad. A normal Falcon 9 booster has nine of SpaceX’s Merlin engines, each putting out 190,000 pounds of thrust. The new Falcon Heavy triples that to 27 engines with a total of more than 5 million pounds of thrust. The new Falcon-Heavy will be able to carry more than 140,000 pounds to lowEarth orbit, or more than twice as much as current competing rockets. Aboard the demonstration flight, which will take off in the weeks (or months?) ahead, will be a red Tesla Roadster built by Musk’s electric carmaker Tesla. If everything goes according to plan, the car

will travel around the sun in endless ellipses that extend out into Mars’ orbit. After years of falling short of optimistic predictions, SpaceX is now consistently sending accident-free payloads to orbit and landing the boosters back at the Space Center, to be reused for future flights. SpaceX successfully launched 18 of its workhorse Falcon 9 rockets last year. The Heavy is essentially a Falcon 9 with two additional Falcon 9 boosters attached its sides. That configuration triples the horsepower of the rocket at liftoff. SpaceX designed the heavy-lift rocket largely by rearranging pieces they already had. SpaceX advertises a price tag of $90 million for a Heavy launch.

In 2011, Mr. Musk said he expected that the Heavy would have its first flight in 2014. Now he admits “We were pretty naïve about that.” “At first,” Musk said, “it sounded really easy. Just stick two first stages on as strap-on boosters. How hard could that be?” “But then everything changed,” Musk said. “All the loads changed. Aerodynamics totally changed. We had tripled the vibration and acoustics.” So the central core rocket was redesigned and reinforced to handle the stresses, which is one of the reasons the Heavy is more than three years behind schedule. While the two side boosters will be reused rockets from earlier Falcon 9 flights, the core and second stage are new. If the test flight succeeds, SpaceX has four additional Heavy launches on its manifest, including one for the United States Air Force. SpaceX also announced, last year, that a Heavy rocket would be used to sling the first two space tourists on a week long trip around the moon..... but Space-X has offered no additional information about that flight since.





Sometimes Unsubstanciated, But Often True

SHOCKING Fishermen from Boulogne blocked the entrance to Calais, France's busiest passenger port, in order to protest the use of electric pulse fishing - the use of electric shocks to send bottom fish like sole up towards a trawl net. The European Parliament has voted to ban it, but until regulatory action is finalized it goes on.

TESTING MHI Vestas Offshore Wind and Clemson University in South Carolina have announced testing of the worldʼs most powerful wind turbine, the V164-9.5 MW. Verification of the wind turbineʼs gearbox and main bearings is to be carried out at the Universityʼs 15MW test bench. The V164-9.5 MW wind turbine is the turbine most likely to be used for the first round of major offshore wind projects in the U.S.

NEW SNAPPER REGS COMING NOAA Fisheries, in collaboration with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management PH CHANGE Council (Council), intends to KILLING prepare a Draft EnvironmenBayshore Pier, in Port Chartlotte, OYSTERS tal Impact Statement for an closed for Repairs In recent amendment to consider a years, there have been near total failures of state management program for recreational developing oysters in both aquaculture facilired snapper in the Gulf of Mexico ties and natural ecosystems on the West Coast. These larval oyster failures appear to DUMBER THAN DUMB When the operabe correlated with naturally occurring uptor of the vessel saw the FWC officers waiting welling events that bring low pH waters underby the dock, he turned around and threw two saturated in aragonite as well as other water bags of oysters overboard. The officers quality changes to nearshore environments. stopped the subject who stated he would Lower pH values occur naturally on the West rather throw his catch over than receive a Coast during upwelling events, but recent obticket for undersized oysters. The subject was servations indicate that anthropogenic CO2 is ticketed for interference with an FWC Officer contributing to seasonal undersaturation. Low pH may be a factor in the current oyster reproSTILL PAYINʼ BP said on Tuesday it would ductive failure; however, more research is take a new charge of $1.7 billion in relation to needed to disentangle potential acidification claims over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, effects from other risk factors, such as raising the company's total costs to around episodic freshwater inflow, pathogen in$65 billion, higher than the $61.6 billion the creases, or low dissolved oxygen. It is premacompany estimated in 2016. ture to conclude that acidification is responsible for the recent oyster failures, but FEE IS FREE Spiny lobster trap tag fees acidification is a potential factor in the current waived for 2018-19 season. As commercial crisis to this $100 million a year industry, fishermen and women begin to purchase their

spiny lobster trap tags, this is a reminder that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has waived the $1 per trap spiny lobster trap tag fee for the 20182019 season. This waiver was approved at the December 2017 Commission meeting as an action in response to Hurricane Irma

GRRRREAT Officers observed a vehicle swerving in and out of its lane. Suspecting that the operator may be driving under the influence, the vehicle was pulled over. The operator was covered in frosted flakes cereal and claimed he was having a diabetic problem.

EMS was contacted to ensure he was okay. A license check revealed the operator had been arrested four times previously for driving while his license was suspended. After being cleared by EMS, the operator was arrested for felony habitual driving while license suspended. A search incident to arrest of the vehicle revealed two packages of methamphetamine, a marijuana cigarette, a

Water LIFE Staff Report One local captain told us: “I live by and talk to Patsy who buys most of their fish,” a friend of ours had said. The general consensus is that most of the females went offshore and spawned during Irma. I think the majority of the females that they caught this fall were already spawned out, making them valueless. Throw in the red tide and it only got worse. Another Captain noted: Southwest Florida mullet may early spawn around Thanksgiving, but that is mostly dependant on our weather and temperatures prior... We had some great catches back in the day, around or just after, Thanksgiving. But culling so many worthless white roe mullet over the past 12 or so years (mostly dead ones) and the added effect of red tides has devastated our mullet fishery over the last several years. That's the truth about mullet season in 2016, 2017, 2018. One

Woodys Pawn Guns & Gold $ 9 99 Concealed Carry - live fire, private range, training

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NETTED FWC officers located a vessel loaded down with monofilament gill net tucked back in a creek. The boat had no motor attached and was apparently being used as a place to store the net so that it could be accessed for illegal use. The officers seized the net and the boat. When they measured the net, they found it to be over a half mile long. The investigation is ongoing,

of the biggest problems is the price they pay for white roe mullet...PERIOD. The buyers are NOT smart enough (or actually don't care) to find a market to make them (the white roe male mullet) worth while so they could keep and sell them. Even during the gillnet days, we at least got payed minimum of. 50-cents a pound for them... and yes, our 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 -inch mesh nets culled most of the white roe fish. The big boy buyers don't care. They DON'T care about the fine balance of our delicate estuary. The last few years white has by far exceeded red roe in catches! There are plenty of factors involving this. I did not see the amount of cast-netters this year as in prior years and I'm sure that was due to not having as much mullet this year. Mullet fishing is a dieing profession and it has been for a decade. I sold all my mullet boats two years ago and gave up a lifetime of commercial fishing.... you just can't make a decent living at it anymore

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THEFTS CONTINUE We had a 150 and 300 Yamaha stolen last night (January 23rd) in Naples. “We had onsite security until 3am, and they must have come after they left. It just does not end,” .... a local boat dealer According to the FWC investigators, “one major problem we are having is that the suspects are changing, renting or stealing the vehicles they use to commit the crimes, so it is very difficult to predict what they are bringing in to our County.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Hatteras N.C. ... fishing continues

Mullet Fishermen Talk About This Past Season

Semi Trailers at Placida used for hauling mullet to the processing house, this past mullet season. We are here every week and this year it seemed quiet to us.

scale, cash, and some paraphernalia.

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anything in the store!

5218 Duncan Road, Punta Gorda, FL 33982







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

BackBay Xtremes Capt Dave Stephens


Fish with a Guide


from Water LIFE magazine

Jessica Sasso with an over the slot redfish, released back to Myakka River.

Youʼll learn something and youʼll catch more fish!

Randy Rhinesmith, employee at at Rio Villa Bait & Tackle, with a topwater amberjack caught with Big Bully Outdoors, Capt. Andrew Herzog


from Water LIFE magazine

For me, business is slow and Trump is to blame for it. If everyone wasn’t back working more people would have time to go fishing! The fish to look for now are trout, redfish, sheepshead and tripletail. There will be some amazing fishing ... as soon as the wind dies down. Tripletail are still along the coast, all you have to do is find something floating. We are hearing, now, about larger fish, bigger tripletail, and that’s a nice upgrade. Permit are in the near Gulf in good numbers. You are allowed two fish, 11- to 22-inches is the slot and one of your two can be over the slot. The rule is a lot like the old snook rule, when they allowed one over the slot. Mary’s, Power Pole, Helens, Novak and Trembly reefs all very likely have permit and also a good selection of snapper including some bigger yellowtail. Gag grouper are at the reefs too, and red grouper which are open now ... but you are going out to the 60foot-of-water line for the red grouper.... where as the gags are in closer to shore, like 3 miles... but the gags are closed season right now. Cobia is now one per person or two per boat. They restructured the cobia law to make the commercial and recreational bag limit for cobia the same.

Along the beaches, near the passes, there are pompano and a few smaller flounder. We are also seeing more black tips than I would expect and a lot of bonnet sharks. Trout is picking up all over the area. We are seeing the nice sized trout that we expected to see a couple of months ago. At Alligator Creek the guys are bottom fishing for trout, trout seem to be deeper in Alligator Creek. Bull Bay has the larger trout and the guys are getting them on tandem rigged paddle tail lures. Shrimp under a bobber is still the best in Turtle Bay where there are smaller fish. On the east side of the Harbor, outside the bar, there are quite a few trout and the big ones are in 3- to 6-feet, outside the sandbar. Redfish have been hitting Capt. Karl’s Strike King Rage lure in crawdad coffee scent. He says he’s been bottom bouncing it with a Rattler jig head and a 1/4 oz hook on it. Lift the rod and jump it slowly and the redfish seem to like that. The lure looks like a blue crab with its claws up. Paddletail shads are the big thing where people are looking for fish. This month try a bright colored tail on your paddletail. The redfish are liking this, but I have no idea how this came to be. Snook fishing is doing OK, mostly with the Mirro Lure marsh minnow. With natural bait, it’s still all just

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The BIG-4 SHEEPSHEAD On Trestles, docks and other structure

about shrimp for snook. Let a dead one sit out and get ripe for scent and then put a live shrimp on top of it. The better sized tarpon are up at the Shell Creek Dam, East Spring Lake still has tarpon, but they are small. PGI has small tarpon and where Alligator Creek goes under 41, there are a lot of very small tarpon there too.


Fish you can expect in

GROUPER Good on the reefs Deeper water means bigger


TRIPLETAIL moving offshore on the crab traps

SPOTTED SEA TROUT On the grass flats around the area.


Nearshore water temps are mid to low 50s Fish are slowed way down 95˚

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

There’s been some spotty fishing action around, all through Lemon Bay the docks seem to be giving up sheepshead. The guys are limiting out on them, they have been using shrimp or some guys use the sand fleas, if they can find them. One Canadian guy who comes into my store tells me he gets all the sand fleas he wants from Stump Pass or Manasota Beach. There has also been pompano around the Tom Adams and the Gasparilla Pier and more at Ainger Creek. There has also been black drum on the beach and flounder of sorts... not a ton of them but some, and guys are catching them 15-to 16-inches. They are along the rocky areas on the shore. You have to look for the spots in the good weather and then in the bad weather you’ll know where to go. Also been a lot of stuff on the close in reefs like Trembly and Novak. The guys got into permit there and they were permit and not jacks - there must have been a lot of bait out there, it was going on multiple days. There’s also been some redfish and snook action and we got into some big trout, nice fish in the 20s, but not an abundant amount. There were sheepshead, pompano and some Spanish mackerel around in the passes last week. Black drum have been around at the Placida Pier, one of the guys brought me some seafood chowder out of the drum and it was pretty good, he brought me a bowl of it. For redfish you gotta fish the potholes, that’s where my friends were getting them, mostly on shrimp.

90˚ 85˚


from Water LIFE magazine


Joseph Schultz Hog Fish


from Water LIFE magazine


All I got for my birthday was a monster Redfish! Happy birthday to me! - Bud

72˚ 70˚ 68˚ 50˚


from Water LIFE magazine

Bruce James caught this nice sized Gator Trout while fishing with Captain Michael Werner.



from Water LIFE magazine

Dan Urquhart Venice 55 pound Amber Jack.. My first ever!

FISHING RIGHT NOW: tied to the weather FISH PIX!

LAST CAST from Water LIFE magazine

This is the last picture we received before going to print.


from Water LIFE magazine

Joe Marchert Largest fish I ever caught! 36 inch Red.

My name is Frankie Forrest and i caught this nice AJ. On left is captain Gary Farmer






Water LIFE Feb 2018  

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

Water LIFE Feb 2018  

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