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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

January 2018


from Water LIFE magazine

Lost this monster amberjack to a giant tiger shark Kyle Martin

Txt Us Ur Fish Pix! Pix! weʼll use ʻem! See page 4

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Dustin Kemp, caught a mangrove snapper

Latest AJ Regs are Confusing see Scuttlebutt page 21

FISH PIX! from Water LIFE magazine

Madison Shaudys with an amberjack off Captiva





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NEVER in my life will we forget today’s fishing trip!!! We just had a 15-foot great white come inside our boat chasing a huge snapper me and Jacob were reeling in. The whole back corner of our boat tilted sideways and the great white was on the boat for about 2 seconds still trying to get the snapper that we just pulled up. I ran to the front of boat screaming bloody murder and Jacob and Derek ran to the other side. The great white was biting our boat while it was still reaching and chomping its jaws trying to get the snapper that was laying there before it finally gave up and pushed itself off the boat. We have bite marks inside and outside the boat and it broke the step ladder on the boat too. I’m still shaking. Anyone standing there would’ve been dead. I’ll never get the sound of those giant jaws chomping out of my head! Facebook friend BOATERS TAKE AMERICA'S BOATING COURSE TO BECOME COMPETENT

According to USCG 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics, 77% of boating deaths occurred on boats where the operators had NO boating instruction. There was a 7.3% increase in boating accidents, a 12% increase in the number of deaths and an 11.1% increase in the number of injuries compared to 2015. Of the drowning victims 83% were not wearing a life jacket. Peace River Sail and Power Squadron will present “Americaʼs Boating Course®” a Two-Day Safe Boating Course, beginning at 8:30 AM on Saturday January 27, (also on Saturday, February 10,) at the Punta Gorda Boat Club, 802 Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda (just west of Gilchrist Park). The sessions will cover boating law, safety equipment, safe boating practices, navigation, boating emergencies, personal watercraft, charts, GPS, trailering and more. Attendees will receive the Americaʼs Boating Course manual and after passing an exam, a completion certificate. The class is approved by the FWC for the Florida Boater Safety Education ID Card, required for anyone born after 1 Jan 1988. The course is also approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard. The $65.00 fee (first person, $25 for second sharing materials) covers the cost of the manual. For more information, call 941-637-0766 or email Registration deadline is January 24.

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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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100,000 Shovels JANUARY 2018

By Michael Heller Water LIFE editor A rain swollen Lake Okeechobee has been belching its polluted contents out onto Florida’s coasts for months. Red Tide is hanging around the inlets, dead fish litter the beaches and inshore. Migratory ducks have been rolling over dead in Charlotte Harbor. Oyster restorations are dead or dieing, clam farms shut down, anglers are complaining about dead seagrass and a declining redfish population. Did I mention Hurricane Irma? I hope this year is better. Worse yet, most of that runoff this past summer wasn’t at all fresh, it was rainwater that fell on the heavily fertilized, heavily mined, heavily pest controlled, heavily petrol-polluted and over cess-pooled, central Florida. Then it flowed down the rivers, much of it into Lake Okeechobee, much of it over Mosaic’s phosphate mines and into the Horse Creek and the Peace River watershed. And when the runoff eventually went out into the Gulf or Atlantic, all the natural sediment and nutrients in our bays and estuaries was flushed out with it. It will take all of us to fix this. A bill to start to fix Lake Okeechobee was passed by the legislature, the project was funded, but it will take more. And our country suffered $300-Billion




in natural disasters last year. Federal funds will be getting tighter. I believe we must act soon. But what to do? In 1789, the French Revolution started with women in the marketplace protesting the high price and scarcity of bread. Their demonstration drew the support of groups advocating political reform and a constitutional monarchy. The protestors turned into a mob of thousands who marched with pitchforks to the Palace of I added the shovel heads to this 1789 colored engraving of the Womenʼs March to Versailles. Versailles, where in a dramatic and violent confrontation, they shovels, just like the French Revolution, start to flow, south, where it naturally successfully pressed their demands to except this time, instead of pitchforks, and historically wants to go. King Louis XVI. The masses spoke, the people will have shovels. Just like in France, when the people’s change followed. We can do the same Think of it: 100,000 people driving to march displaced the ancient privileged thing, but it will take all of us. Lake Okeechobee with shovels in their orders of the French nobility, in Florida, In Florida the masses are talking on cars and gathering at the base of the the people rising up to demand meansocial media about fixing the state’s polHerbert Hoover Dyke at Lake Harbor. ingful and immediate environmental relution problems, but meaningful action When we all start digging, the National form will be a historic moment. has yet to take place. Media spotlight will shine on Florida’s But it will take everyone getting inThere are currently over 30 organizapollution problems like never before... volved to make this work. I set up a tions actively involved in the Okeeand change will come, I guarantee it. facebook page called 100,000 Shovels. chobee water issue and yet none of them Imagine the news footage of 100,000 Go to it, follow it and like it. I will mesare getting any notable press. people with shovels, digging. This will sage you when a date is set. Keep your Local news is not enough. These isbe the Governor’s moment to show what shovel handy; either they make progress sues need National media attention to he really stands for, and if the Governor by summer or we start digging. get past the financially powerful agriculsits down on the job, we just keep digWhat do you think? Will you sign tural industry. My suggestion is 100,000 ging. One way or another the water will up? Will you show up with me?





FISHING: It’s Not Like When I Was a Kid -By Capt. David Stephens Water LIFE Charlotte Harbor When I write these columns I try to focus on fishing patterns for the time of year. I also like to give tips to help local anglers have a more productive day on the water. This time I’m going in a different direction. I get asked often by my clients is the fishing as good as when you was growing

up here? I try to down play it by saying we had great fishing then and now. When the truth is, its not even close to as good as it was then. Every year the fishing keeps getting tougher, and I feel bad for the next generation. I wish I knew the exact reason for the decline, but all we can do is form opinions. I grew up fishing the Peace River and the north end of the Harbor. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, how ever I don’t remem-

ber dealing with red tide on the north end of the Harbor like we have the past couple years. In fact, I can only recall one other year where it was bad in that area. That was so long ago I couldn’t even tell you the year. Is this going to be the new norm for the Harbor? I would like to think not. Last week I was running down the West Wall, outside the bar, and noticed 4-6 dead Blue Bill Ducks. The following day I saw several sick and dead ducks on the east side. I do not know the reason for this, however I know it is not normal. This year we had a major flow of freshwater runoff. We had several days of very high ran falls, I’m not sure of the exact amount. Then, not long after that, we had hurricane Irma. These two incidents dumped an excessive amount of freshwater into our area. Enough that we had major seawall damage in PGI and erosion issues everywhere. Another thing that I’ve noticed since then is a lot of our grass flats are gone. Areas that seemed to have the most damage are areas around creeks where high concentrations of freshwater runoff came out. In order for us to have really good inshore flats fishing, we have to have grass flats. All the food sources that predator fish feed on live in and on the grass flats.

Are we as fisherman placing too much pressure on the Harbor... more than Mother Nature can handle? Every year the population of South West Florida increases. I can remember when I would go fishing and not see a boat

hardly all day long. A weekend day was like a weekday is now. It’s our right as Americans to live and fish where we like, but I’m just wondering, are we taking more than can be replenished? Do we need stricter seasons on certain fish? Maybe closing more species to fishing during the spawn cycle?


All I do know is we as fisherman need to come together to help get our Harbor back to a healthy condition. If anyone has any recommendations please feel free to give me a call or an email me. I’m willing to do my part to help. My direct email i s 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





Are the Peace River Oysters Growing? PAGE




Did the Oyster Restoration project survive this summerʼs storm run-off?

The oyster plots near the Harbor Walk in Punta Gorda


By Michael Heller Water LIFE Editor I’ve been skeptical about this project from the beginning. I thought it was too far up-river, in the fresh water, to be successful. I didn’t think the oysters would get enough salt. So when I waded out last month and it looked like there were new oysters that had grown in the two years since the project began, I was encouraged, so I called the Oyster Recovery Partnership in Annapolis Maryland and sent them some pictures I took. They wrote back: “Those oyster plots look very nice but I’m not sure if they’re growing! It is hard to tell if any spat are on the shell in the first picture, and the next pictures I’m not sure about either. Since they look like they’re a few years old and they’re in those intertidal clumps, I would guess they’re alive at least, unless you see a bunch of open shells (oysters should not be gaping when they’re not covered by water). I would wait until you get more information from the folks who monitor them before printing any definitive info on how they’re doing.”

There are many open, or gaping, oysters

We had continuously low salinity this summer. The majority of the oysters I saw last month appeared to be open. Was that fatal or is it just a set back? We are waiting to hear more. Please stay tuned!

Bluefish & Pompano JANUARY 2018

By Capt. Chuck Eichner Water LIFE Inshore Two of the hardest fighting fish that swim in our waters are also the easiest to catch in the winter, they are the pompano and the bluefish. Without a doubt, they are my favorites when the waters are chilly. These flashy silvery gamefish occupy different waters than the most sought after speckled trout. Trout are just about anywhere there is submerged vegetation in 4 feet of water, but not these two. Bluefish and pompano are nomadic, traveling constantly with short visits to our sandbars or should I say snack bars! Charlotte Harbor, the intercoastal waterway and the beaches all have shoals and hard sand areas where these fish can be found. When searching for pompano you might want to keep an eye on your wake as you cruise the waters because they will often jump once you have disturbed them. Many charter captains don’t fish for them unless they see them jump, but I fish dif-



ferently. These fish, like any others, get disturbed by the presence of a boat. Running over them will often turn them off. I prefer to idle and look at a distance for their black tails. Pompano have a very defined large V-shaped black tail that stands out against a sandy bottom and it’s easy to spot on a sunny day. Using any type of small jig with a short

hackle or feather tail will work or just use a plain jig head. Tip either with half of a shrimp and you are in business. My key water depth for pomps is in 3-to 4-feet. Deeper than this and you catch ladyfish. Pompano is certainly one of the finest eating fish that swims so between its amazing drag-pulling-escapades and occasionally jumping.... seared on a pan, its

my winter favorite fish! Most will find they luck into pompano and can’t pattern them. The key to consistently catching pompano is to change spots constantly until you hit a school. Since they are on the move where they were yesterday doesn’t mean anything. Bluefish on the other hand, I find a bit more predictable. They will often be in the same places as the pompano, but I have certain spots where I can expect them to be day after day. The same jigs work for bluefish as does any fast moving plug or spoon. For table fare they are good, but choose the smaller ones and remove the dark red


meat or it is too fishy tasting. Both fish will burn drag and both jump occasionally which is a good thing. Bluefish have some seriously dangerous teeth so handle carefully, pompano have a soft pliable mouth. If you find your lures bit off, then bluefish are in the area. If you add a steel leader you won’t get any bites from either of these fish. They are just too smart in the clear winter waters. The silver flashy revved up fight of these amazing gamefish will make your day and a perfect evening at dinner. Capt. Chuck Eichner operates Action Flats Backcountry Charters He can be reached at 941-628-8040

Estero Bay: A New Year, a Fresh Start... and the same Stubborn Fish PAGE


By Capt. Joe Angius Water LIFE Estero Year after year I make the promise to myself that I will follow through with my intended New Year’s resolution. This year I will not be bound to any promises. Simply, my goal in life beyond the year of 2018 is to become more proactive in perusing photography. At the core of my soul I am a fisherman. I will never take the time to slow down and try to capture the impeccable essence of fishing through the accessible technology of today. It has always been land the fish, admire it for a few short seconds, revive and release it, and make another cast. As a captain this practice of mine has definitely changed, but not enough to where I'm proud of my abilities. With this being said I am very hopeful that I will produce higher quality photographs for my social media pages and in doing so, catch my clients a fish and a memory of a lifetime. Even though my attitudes toward the New Year have changed, the fish that have been stubborn this past year has no intention of changing. This January will provide anglers with optimal weather and water conditions at Estero Bay and Bonita Beach. Sheepshead, black drum, redfish, and trout have been the opportunistic feeders honing in on live shrimp. In some scenarios dead shrimp will work, but I highly recommend using live shrimp. Good bait, such as mullet and pilchards are around roaming the



shorelines and swimming out in the Gulf where the water temperature seems to hold better. Don't forget or underestimate the bait holding powers of the muddy backwaters. This is where on low tide the mud banks warm up and attracts bait fish as the tide rises. Being that it's shallow and brackish too, this allows the backwaters to be a messy but

very productive bait spot. I'll usually pick up and use finger mullet, mud minnows, and creek chubs. Mud minnows are by far my favorite backwater bait for redfish and snook. The majority of the fishing that I do involves live bait as mentioned above. I find that it's important to match the size of your hook to the size of your bait. I'll most likely always start out by using an Owner 1/0 hook. This size hook is great for sheepshead and mangrove snapper, but I've caught some of my biggest fish using it as well. For larger baits and especially cut bait, I'll bump my hook up


to a 2/0, 3/0, or 4/0 circle hook. A small hook on a medium to small sized bait will allow it to swim naturally instead of the hook acting as a weight. And a large hook on large bait will ensure that contact will be made to the hook when a fish strikes your bait. Once you have your hook selected to the bait you’re using, the next best adjustment to make for this month is your leader. When the fish are in the area you are fishing, but you can’t seem to get them to bite, I would ensure that my leader is at least two and a half feet in length. Strictly use 100percent fluorocarbon; 30pound test leader is a great starting point for figuring out how aggressively or hesitant the fish are behaving. Hopefully, some of these tips can help anglers hook and land more fish this year. Remember to always remain safe on and off the water by following the rules and regulations that are in place and be a responsible boater. Take advantage of the beautiful weather that January historically offers and truly enjoy the unique ecosystem that Estero Bay is. Captain Joe Angius (727)-234-3171 Speak Easy Fishing Charters










ReaderĘźs Photos

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

Hank Stebbins caught his first Cobia. Charlotte Harbor.

Snook on East Side of Charlott Meghann Whittemore, Joshua L 2.5yo-Gunn

Grouper Gag 34" 13.5# Randy & Greg Team

John Byrd of Punta Gorda 10lb bass at the web.

First snook was 39" second was 40" and the decent red was 21 Noah couto

Cameron Fannin- Got this little fighter in Englewo Jessica Ermirio catch and released black drum at Fishermen's Village

Lane Hall Charlotte Harbor Sheepshead while fishing with his Granddaddy

Top: My husband, Pat Hinchliffe, caught this nice flounder on Longboat Key. I caught my first bonefish on Longboat Key. My husband was extremely proud of me because he hasn't even caught a bonefish. He tells me it's rare around here.



text us 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

te Harbor, Lewis and nar Lewis,

Two bigger than legal snook this week. Roy Byrn


Josh Rabb with Goliath grouper Josh Stewart of Punta Gorda, 3 lb bass caught at the web

Leslie Dodd with a Schoolmaster Snapper caught on the Tremblay Reef.

31 in PGI snook caught and released by Steve Doerter fishing with Captain Ken Pepper

Rick Johnson from PG had offer to fish Government Cut in Miami. Last snook of the season




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

Tail hooked this guy. 20 minutes of ectasy ... followed by severe disapointment and a little sobbing... lol


ReaderĘźs Photos see page 4

20 in red Bud Crihfield


text us ur fish pix!

Dan Murphy, Cobia, Approx. 45-pounds Myakka River, Port Charlotte

Leslie Dodd with a nice Trout caught in Lemon Bay.

Steve Obrien, snook

Will Robb from Punta Gorda Ventura Lakes. 16-pound cobia from Charlotte Harbor. 11/27/18

Phil Eikenberg, King mackerel, 46-inches 12/23/17 John and Jack from Washington DC. Gary in the middle from Cape Coral. Six big red grouper. Out 40-miles from Boca. What a day for them. Jack on the same trip with a big trigger. To bad he had to put it back





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

Kyle Martin, the angler on the cover this month, with a whole AJ and a tripletail

Justice Sargood, goliath Cranky Hank with a smoker king from in front of the Sanibel pier

Marc Dingman Black Drum

Robin Sprague, Key Largo, aboard the SeaLady with Capt. Bert in 1,300 to 1,500-feet of water. Cliff Clanin had a great day with this 15-pound gag grouper Ed Notes* Happy New Year!

Justice Sargood, snook

Madison Shaudys with her 50-pound cobia off Captiva

Chris Dennison, King mackerel 11/27/17. Off Edison Reef




Whatʼs Happening to the Seagrasses? PAGE

By Capt. Betty Staugler Water Life / Sea Grant Seagrasses are flowering plants that grow underwater in marine and estuarine environments. In addition to flowers and their seeds, seagrasses, like plants on land, have roots and leaves that do different “jobs” for the plant... that is, the roots access nutrients buried in the sediment, while the leaves photosynthesize (convert sunlight to energy). Worldwide there are about 60 seagrass species. In Florida, seven species occur and six of these can be found in Charlotte Harbor. Each seagrass species has its own preferred salinity, light requirement, and depth. Some carry most of their biomass in their leaves and establish very quickly (pioneer species) and others carry most of it in their roots and grow more slowly.

sects have been monitored annually in upper Charlotte Harbor since 1999. Think of a transect as a road with between five and fifteen locations spaced along its length. Each year, staff from the CHAP return to these precise locations – several hundred throughout Charlotte Harbor, Gasparilla Sound, Lemon Bay, and elsewhere -- by get-


have looked at storm related sedimentation are limited, but in general sedimentation effects have been very localized. For instance, only one of more than 25 sites monitored in the Indian River Lagoon was found to have sedimentation impacts due to the storms of 2004 and 2005, and it was minimal. This study did not address recovery time. One of the interesting phenomenon related to Irma was that the water left the Harbor. Did that have an impact on the seagrass? Maybe, but doubtful…some species, like turtle grass (the wide bladed grass) don’t like their blades to be exposed, but since much of their living biomass is in their roots, any impact from air exposure would likely be temporary.

What kind of seagrass restoration efforts have occurred in our area? Restoration efforts have included projects to improve water quality, projects to stabilize sediments, projects to encourage natural recruitment and direct plantings to re-establish seagrasses. A couple of the most visible What happens to seagrass in the winter? restoration projects in our area have been Seagrass abundance changes throughout the the bird stakes in Turtle Bay and Lemon year. Peak seagrass growing occurs in the Bay. Bird stakes, generally constructed of warm summer months. In the fall, seagrass PVC pipe with a wooden block on top that growth slows and becomes dormant. Winter serves as a perch are often used to encourstorms tend to cause old blades to sluff off, but age seagrass to re-establish in areas damfear not, the root systems are still alive. In the Seagrass around Charlotte Harbor – Left: 10 years ago, Right: last month aged from prop scarring. Birds are attracted spring, new shoots sprout beginning a new growto the stakes and while they roost they poop in ing cycle. During the winter months, seaweed (scientists ting in the water, with dive masks near the bottom, to esthe water. Nutrients from the bird feces help to facilitate call it macroalgae) may become dominant. This can be timate how much seagrass is present. The purpose of seagrass colonization into the damaged area. A more reconcerning, but it’s important to realize that in the winter, long-term resource monitoring programs such as the two cent restoration project in Lemon Bay used sediment when seagrass is dormant, macroalgae are the primary mentioned above is to detect changes in the environment. tubes (think of socks filled with sand) to stabilize a mile photosynthesizers, providing vital food and energy to the On a good note, Charlotte Harbor seagrass have been staof prop scars. These tubes are marked with PVC pipes. estuary. ble to increasing in most areas over time. The tubes bring the elevation up to the surrounding height making it easier for nearby seagrass to recolonize. How are seagrasses monitored? Seagrasses in CharWhat effect does red tide or storms such as Irma These tubes have been in place a year and when I went lotte Harbor are monitored in two ways. Since 1982, the have on seagrasses? Red tide generally will not have a out with the County’s natural resources staff in October Southwest Florida Water Management District has connegative impact on seagrasses but can have a negative to monitor them, so much seagrass had recolonized that ducted aerial surveys to determine seagrass acreage impact on animals that feed upon them if red tide toxins you couldn’t tell where the scars were anymore. This within Charlotte Harbor. This is accomplished by taking make their way onto the plant tissue. Likewise, seaproject will be monitored for a couple more years but apphotographs from an airplane flying at a known elevagrasses are resilient against storm damage. However, impears to be very successful. tion, and then identifying regions of seagrass coverage in pacts can and have occurred. For instance, after Of course, great restoration success does not make each image. In this way, researchers can estimate seaHurricane Charley, seagrass abundance dropped for a prop scarring OK. Seagrass beds are essential nursery and grass resources across a very large area in a short amount couple years. Of course, 2004 and 2005 were very wet feeding grounds for many sport fish species. And scars of time. In contrast a monitoring program conducted by years, so the impact was likely related to increased freshhurt. So, let’s be seagrass safe. Happy 2018! the FDEP Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves (CHAP) water and decreased light levels. Recall each seagrass Capt. Betty Staugler, Florida Sea Grant Agent. describes both where seagrasses grow, and how much species has unique requirements so during this time shifts UF/IFAS Extension, Charlotte County seagrass is there. Twenty-six permanent underwater tranin species composition would have occurred. Studies that (941) 764-4346 Beautiful 3/2 Canal Home with metal roof in the O'Hara area. 10 minutes out to deep water waterfront! and a 10,000lb covered boat lift. Tile and tile wood plank throughout. Updated bathrooms, gourmet kitchen, granite counters. Covered lanai and large spa. $299,900

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Winter Sharks and other Heavy Pullers By Mallory Herzog Water LIFE Fishing Most people know our large shark population visits in the spring - sharks follow the tarpon and bait schools as they migrate up the coast. But what few anglers realize is that sharks are here year round. Winter time is one of our favorite times to hook up to an ocean predator! In the cooler months (December through February) the sandbar shark migration swims though South West Florida, so on recent charters our guests have had a blast hooking into these powerful fish. Having the opportunity to tag, name and release their catch is an exciting, handson experience for a recreational fisherman. A sandbar shark is built like a bullshark, just slightly more slender. Easy to identify by the raised skin between its dorsal and tail fin (called the dermal ridge) the sandbar sharks travel great distances yearly; we have been tagging them since we joined the tagging program in 2010. This species has a high rate of recap-


ture and although the longest time between a tag and recapture for NOAA is over twenty years, we personally have had a few that have been recaptured just months apart. Winter species seem to average between 4-to 6-feet while our spring sharks are mostly above 8-feet. Other cool water species include blacktip, hammerhead, bull sharks and nurse sharks. Want more BIG fish?! Goliath Grouper are still hanging around on our Gulf wrecks. These fish love structure and many of our artificial reefs make a great habitat for them. Some of their favorite hang outs are old cement drainage pipes, where they hide inside, waiting to ambush prey that swims by. What a big lazy fish, right? But when your bait drops in front of it, thanks to today’s GPS down-imaging, be prepared, these fish are known to break you off. Captain Andrew uses, at minimum, 600-pound line to pull them out of the structure they run back to hide in.

Amberjack have been an abundant catch on most rocky bottoms in the Gulf. We’ve been catching this species in as shallow as 36feet. Eating live bait or topwater lures, these fish are a powerhouse, peeling drag off the Penn Slammer 6500 reels with ease. AJs are one of our favorite winter time catches as the cool waters bring them closer to shore. You have to know how to get them fired up, then once one commits you will have the entire school in a frenzy. This month these fish are legal in Federal waters only, until Jan 26. You can check out for the latest, ever changing, AJ regulatiuons. To book a trip with Capt Andrew Herzog Call or TXT 941-661-0304 Visit



A History Of Mullet PAGE


By Fishin’ Frank Water LIFE Baitshop Around 8000 B.C. mullet were important part of the life of the Paleo-Indians, and then later, when the Caloosahatchee Indians came around 500 B.C. they were also dependent on mullet for food. The Muspa Indian were here when Jose Caldez of Cuba began using Charlotte Harbor as a base for seasonal fishing. It was the fall Mullet-run the Cubans came for. Mullet is the reason people first started to live here. This began about 1705 which lead to more year-round camps. It has been said that others believe that Don Jose did not get here until 1784 ...but, either way, this area was a seasonal fishing camp with the mullet as the basis for the season. Many other types of fish were caught, but as they rowed out or sailed out to find fish it was the vast schools of mullet that shook the surface of the water and that is what a school of mullet is called today, a Shake of Mullet since they shake their heads slightly out of the water, causing a huge ripple when thousands of mullet move forward towards the Gulf to spawn. One of the big reasons, that mullet fishing was profitable is they could get the fish to Europe by the time of Lent. Fish was not considered meat so it could be eaten during Lent. It is thought they jump to get rid of parasites, or to digest food, or to escape predators. OK maybe I think they jump because they can. And someone should teach them to land. Every jump a mullet makes ends in a belly flop. However they learned to jump, they skipped the last part of the class. Splash/flop/plop. Mullet have been caught pretty much the same way all through time using throw, seine, or gill nets. Throw or cast nets were common just as they are in use today by fishermen. The mullet boats have changed more than the nets. First there



were canoes and rafts, then skiff type boats with oars and then sails. Some of the first net boats were called skip jacks, sail powered fishing boats able to get in shallow waters and still hold a load of fish.

Then came motor boats with coal or wood fired steam engines that could maintain two maybe even three miles per hour. Then came gas or diesel inboard engines and the single biggest change the out board engine was invented. Boats began to get fast, it was the speed of the boats that ended the use of the ice houses, and Mullet fishermen began using gill nets. Gill nets were stacked in the back of the boat and the fisherman found that by putting the out board in the front of the boat, it offset the weight and it was not getting tangled in the nets. One end of the net had an anchor tied to it and when you saw fish, you tossed over the anchor and then used the boat to encircle the school, trapping them. You may see mullet fishing boats carrying or pulling a tiny little boat along with them, this is to increase the amount of nets they can use as it is calculated by the boat, so you are allowed two boats worth of netting. Most second boats are small made of ply wood and 6 to 8 foot long but they qualify as another boat. In the beginning, when the fish were caught, like in the 1700s, the fish were scaled and slabbed, that is to say, the skin was left on and lead weights were placed on top of them to press out the juices and dry the meat. This also kept down the maggot damage. The fish were dried and or smoked and were sent to markets in

Cuba and Europe. This practice of processing fish did not change a lot until they figured out how to make ice. By around 1900 ice factories were becoming more common, although you could not eat the ice until 1929. Ice boxes were the I-phone of the day. Ice made in large blocks was delivered to people’s houses and placed in the ice box to keep their food cold. Same thing for the fishing industry, Ice was made at a factory like the one in Punta Gorda, then taken around the Harbor by truck, then flat barged out to the fish houses where the fish they had caught were put on the barge to be trucked back and ice was loaded onto the boats. If you were catching a lot of fish south in the Harbor or near the Gulf coming back at a speedy 2 miles an hour it would take a day to get to Punta Gorda where the fish house was, so to save time, the boats could fish more if the fish was transported by truck. That is why the fish or ice houses were scattered up and down the east side of the Harbor. Mullet has never gotten the credit for being a tasty fish, but smoked mullet and the row from the mullet or eggs of the mullet is a medium priced caviar and


male or female is to squeeze them and see what color the row is. Orange or Red is female, white row is male. It is very illlegal to waste or to throw over board half your haul of fish, but people do it and hundreds or thousands of Dead male mullet are tossed over board each year. Now in the fall, or early winter, mullet get the urge to gather into great schools and head out into the Gulf, the thought is that they swim down in schools and the water pressure squeezes the roe out of the fish and it mixes as the roe floats to the surface. It is that urge to school up into the shakes of mullet which makes them a target for big commercial fishermen. They can be caught thousands of pounds at a time. The prices of mullet is on its way down, people still go out and catch mullet, but less each year. One problem is that when the smaller boats who use cast nets and or small seine net stop mullet fishing, that could be very bad for mullet. As the large purse seine boat who travel the off shore waters, will not strike a small school of 3000 pounds of mullet, but the larger schools they will strike and nothing Dead mullet on our beach last week. Is this Red escapes a purse seine boat. The entire Tide or the result of commercial mullet dumping? school is wiped out. They are history. So that is the Devil in the detail. While the smaller boats breaking up the sought after in China Asia and Russia. big schools and catching some of the mulThe meat itself has very little commercial let may be a bad thing, a worse thing may value. Once, before Viagra was invented, be if they do not break up the school and white roe or mullet sperm, was thought to the entire spawning schools of mullet be a very powerful aphrodisiac, but now swim offshore are wiped out by the purse the white roe of the, male mullet no seine boats out in the Gulf... out where longer has any commercial value. This you never see it. brings us to why you see so many dead Me, I don't know the correct answer. mullet in the water. The female mullet will fetch from.75 cents a pound to $2.75 a pound where as the males have a market value of .05 cents. The only way to tell if they are

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



Good Fishing at 10,000 Islands

with some guests has had me all smiles lately. This month I had time to travel in some different areas, looking at the impacts the storm had, and the biggest By Capt. Charlie Phillips thing I can say is, be careful. Water LIFE / EverThere are glades City snags all As we begin a new over and lots year, I have to say of hazards that this past Christthat can remas holiday season ally make for found me in a more a bad day. Christmassy Spirit Slow down, than year’s past. check your While I always look route and enforward to the holisure there is days, as they are a still a good busy time with way to get clients, family and around to friends - on the boat your favorite as well as on land fishing hole. this year it means Just because even more to me peryou have run sonally. a cut your In December I fientire life, nally got back on the My anglers and their mother from Asheville NC. doesn’t mean The two young ladies caught the trout. water and started runit’s still there ning a few trips again. after a big This is since Irma. Our boat is better storm. than ever. We used the down time to go I noticed that the bottom contour rethru her bow to stern. Our place in Laally didn’t change a lot, though there is Belle is coming along nicely, and while debris scattered all over. Use the low we are still a ways down the road, we tides thru the winter to find the hazhave a plan to get ourselves established ards…and some new structure to fish. back in Everglades City. And most imThere are a thousand new “inshore portantly, I am happy, my family is reefs” out there now, so take time to do healthy and my dogs still go crazy some scouting and you could very well when I get home each day!! That’s Livbe rewarded later. It’s amazing to me to ing the Dream in my book. see the power the winds had on the Finally getting back out on the Mangroves. water to share our beautiful Everglades Down south in the park, the trees


are greening back up, but a great many places I ran to in the 10,000 Islands are still bare. I wonder how long, if ever, it takes for these beautiful mangrove forest to get back to Pre Irma conditions? The fishing was good in December, both inshore and offshore. Inshore I saw big snook, over slot reds, giant drum and even a few trophy permit being caught. Offshore was a little more scattered, but anglers were reporting back good catches of snapper and grouper as well as more tripletail and a few cobia. I would expect January to continue with more of the same, but as we usually get our real cold starting in midJanuary, I would expect to really switch to a true winter Everglades pattern soon. Next month we will touch on those tactics we have found success with, as well as one of my favorite wintertime activities, camping in the Glades. Stay tuned, stay safe and watch for those snags and hazards.


Some of the mangroves took a hard hit

Guests of Everglades City Fishing Charters with some stud Everglades snook

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

Capt. Joe Snook said the school of black drum was the biggest he had ever seen and was composed of fish of this size

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Top 10 Stories from 2017 PAGE

By Capt. Ron Blago Water LIFE Senior Staff

Each year I like to go through my notes and pull out 10 items that I thought were important but not covered enough by the main stream media. Here are my items for last year, they are in no particular order of importance. #10 In 2016, 152 people were killed in boating accidents involving canoes and kayaks in the USA. That's 22% of all boating deaths that year.

#9 The Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the result of agriculture and industrial run off, has reached a record high of 8,776 square miles. That's larger than the state of New Jersey. #8 Snooty, the longest surviving manatee in captivity was found dead




under mysterious circumstances two days after his 69th birthday party. Authorities are still investigating the death. No arrests have been made, as of yet.

#7 Red Tide has been playing Peek A Boo in our area all year. It was first found in Sarasota in January, then it showed up in Charlotte Harbor in March. Now it is being reported in Collier County. Nothing major, just normal red tide stuff. We still don't know what causes it or how to control it.

#6 The manatee population in Florida has again reached another record high in 2017 with 6620 counted.

#5 For the 7th year in a row, the leading cause of manatee deaths in Florida is classified as Undetermined. So after 30 years of picking up and studying dead manatees, the best answer

S.O.S. Dead fish littered the shore on a part of Charlotte Harborʼs West Wall, last month. The question is: are these all male mullet? If so, this is not Red Tide, the fish may have been illegally dumped by commercial mullet fishermen who only want the females.

to the question of what is the leading cause of manatee deaths is - we don't know. Maybe it’s just old age.

#4 It's been quite a while since a hurricane paid us a visit but our number was up when Irma came a calling. The last three days before she hit were full of uncertainty. Should I ignore Irma, should I board up the house, should I evacuate? Irma hit the Keys then went across to Naples and finally turned north and I swear it was heading straight for my house. Fortunately, Irma passed 40 miles to the East and I survived a close call.

BONUS FACTOIDS  The top 20% of income earners pay 95% of all income taxes. The Bottom 50% pay no taxes.  For the first time, in 2017, Americans spent more money eating out than eating at home.  IBM has more employees in India than in the United States.  Chicago had 765 murders in 2016 That’s it for 2017. Let’s all be safe out there.

#3 In February Charlotte County agreed to become the 15th county in Florida to have a State Manatee Protection Plan. What this means is that any future waterfront development plans must now have the approval of another government bureaucracy. In exchange for our right to control our own waterways county officials received a bag of magic beans.

#2 Less then 60 days after Charlotte County signs onto a Manatee Protection Plan, the Federal Government removes the Manatee from the Endangered Species Act.

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#1 Finally after 20 years, Stump Pass has been dredged and marked. We also have a stone groin on the North side to slow sand from filling in the pass. Unfortuatly most of the groin is under water.

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KAYAKING: 4 Women and a Fish JANUARY 2018

By Bob Fraser Water LIFE Kayaking I had the pleasure of taking out four women today on a kayak trip. Three of them are retired, and one still works as a teacher. Being a retired teacher myself, we had some things in common to talk about besides fishing. Two women were from Minnesota and the other two were from Massachusetts. Although these fisher-women had plenty of experience with freshwater fishing in their local areas, including flyfishing, they had very little experience in kayak fishing in saltwater. Beth, the person who arranged the trip with me, said going kayak fishing was on her bucket list. I was happy to help her check that item off of her list. After a brief instruction time, we hit the water with one tandem and three single kayaks. We launched at 19 Street in Boca Grande to fish the Three Sisters area behind Hoagen’s Key. We started the day with a very low tide, so we had to paddle across the shallow grass flats for a good 20-25 minutes to find water deep enough to fish with our


live shrimp and Cajun Thunder popping corks. Eventually we picked up a few small trout and some lizardfish, which the ladies have never seen before. About an hour later one of the women caught a nice pompano that gave her a good fight. She said, catching the pompano was worth the trip. The women were persistent trying to find fish; we did a lot of paddling to find bigger trout. We caught quite a few small trout just Northwest of Hoagen’s Key, in about 5-foot of water, but it was a tough day trying to get the big trout to bite. We certainly picked a beautiful day for being on the water, light winds, bright sunshine with just a few clouds. The temperature was perfect. We even saw some dolphins playing.

If you want to book a kayak fishing trip with me, I can be contacted by phone, email or you can visit my website and request more info. Bob Fraser 941-916-8303




Sometimes Unsubstanciated, But Often True

REQUIRED ONLINE FISHERY TRAINING IS HERE Designed to help grow the dusky shark population, NOAA Fisheries Amendment 5b went into effect Jan 1. It requires Commercial fishermen with Highly Migratory Species (HMS) permits and recreational fishermen with HMS permits, who catch sharks of any species, to use non stainless circle hooks. Additionally recreationa anglers with HMS permits are now required to obtain a shark endorsement, which requires completion of an online shark identification quiz and fishing regulation training course. NOAA says, there will also be ʻadditional recreational fisheries outreach.ʼ SST XL BAIT MOLD. It is 100-pounds of billet aluminum. It took Chris Cenci 18 months from start to finish to design this

soft plastic bait. It's very much a science. Plastic temp, correct pressure, how long you hold the pressure. Then comes the chemistry part of it...the mixing of it all to get the correct color and good lamination. Laminated bait is a bait with the top and bottom a different color. Watch for this bait!

AJ WILL CHANGE SOME MORE At its December meeting the FWC set the greater amberjack recreational season in Gulf state waters to be open May 1-31 and Aug. 1-Oct. 3. Then, NOAA Fisheries said, a week later: “The greater amberjack recreational seasonal closure will be January 1 - June 30. The greater amberjack recreational sector will open January 1, 2018, but is closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, January 27, 2018.” Since the state tries to mirror the Federal rules, some of this is still going to have to change. But as of now, AJ is open from January 1- to Jan 26, but only in Federal waters, 9 or more nautical miles out in the Gulf.

DO NOT PASS GO While assisting the United States Coast Guard with displaced vessel operations, FWC officers observed an individual operating his dingy in an erratic manor. The officers observed the stern of the dingy go below the waterline and the vessel fill with water. The officers quickly assisted the operator of the vessel who was clinging to the outboard motor cowling of the submerged vessel. The individual was placed aboard the patrol vessel and transported to his sailboat located in the vicinity. After displaying many indicators of impairment during field sobriety exercises, the individual was then arrested and transported directly to the county jail. OFFICERS RESPONDED to three hunters who swamped their boat while preparing to duck hunt in Escambia Bay. The three young hunters ran out of gas about four miles from the boat ramp and drifted away from the shoreline. They had a friend bring them gas, but they were unable to start the motor once they filled the tank. By this time, they had drifted out into the bay and strong north winds had created a stiff chop. They attempted to anchor the boat using a heavy lead anchor, but improperly tied the rope off to the stern. The boat quickly took on water and swamped. Luckily, the three young adults donned their life jackets and began to swim to shore. One of them had a waterproof case on his phone and called 911 while swimming. Avalon Fire Rescue located the boys and pulled them from the water. Officers located the boat and recovered it along with the huntersʼ shotguns and most of their belongings. The hunters were treated at the hospital for hypothermia.

FIRST SHOT OF WWII The USS Ward, a Wickes-class destroyer serving the U.S. Navy, had been patrolling the Pearl Harbor entrance on the morning of December 7, 1941 when she spotted an 80-foot-long, midget submarine, trailing the USS Antares into the harbor. The USS Ward lined up and sunk the Japanese submarine and in doing so history says she fired the first American shot in World War II. On December 7, 1944, three years to the day later, the USS Ward was iherself sunk after coming under attack by several kamikazes in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Last month the remains of the USS Ward were located.

and do custom fiberglasswork too!






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

BackBay Xtremes

Trout fishing has been sporadic because of red tide around the area. I’m praying for rain. We need a good rain storm but it doesn’t look like we’ll get one so Red Tide will probably be an issue through January. Trout in Lemon Bay has been good. Shrimp and blue crabs don’t die from red tide, when the tide is around the fish will evacuate Lemon Bay and then when the Red Tide leaves, they come back and feed on the shrimp that are feeding on all the stuff the red tide killed. So

Capt Dave Stephens



from Water LIFE magazine

Fish with a Guide

Robin Sprague aboard the SeaLady with Capt. Bert on Christmas


Dusty Helton 12 inch bluegill from Water LIFE magazine

Youʼll learn something and youʼll catch more fish!


from Water LIFE magazine

My first king mackeral caught Offhore Stump Pass. Regina W. 12/2/17

Red Tide actually brings in more fish. I’m not expecting catastrophic red tides on the east side of the Harbor, the trout fishing is still OK along the sandbar there. Along Pine Island Sound, south to St. James City and back into the ICW: when the Red Tide is there the fish leave, but they come back so you are sort of fishing between the blooms. Tripletail have been around in record numbers and sizes, but you’ll be playing Red Tide Hop Scotch with them too. More of them from Port Charlotte north than from Charlotte south. The

smaller ones are to the south. Red Tide has not affected the reef fish in the Gulf. Snapper, grunts, porgys...etc etc: all in 40-to 60-feet; lots of gags and red grouper are around but you’ll be going through a bunch to find the slot, keeper-fish. Inside the Harbor there are a gazillion redfish: they are south of Ponce Park, below Alligator Creek, and they are there in phenomenal numbers; the bad part is what do you do to get them to eat? Maybe a diced up bag of frozen shrimp, chumming with the shrimp to get the smell out there and then freeline or float a shrimp in there. Guys have tried blue crabs, chunks of ladyfish but for some reason or other, (maybe the water?) they won’t eat. It’s possible it’s the red tide but I’ve caught a lot of fish in Red Tides – looks like 2017 ended as strange as it began. Outside the bar, at Bull and Turtle Bay it’s also been difficult to get redfish to eat. In the creeks on the west side, in the north Harbor, or at Matlacha and Two Pine, the fish are there, but again, you have to figure out the magic bite. The oyster beds on east side, the clam fields by Bull Bay have good populations of sheepheads, eating the crabs and other stuff that lives in the oyster beds. Offshore, there have been some king mackerels and some Spanish, but most fishing is out



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

in 40-plus feet of water, beyond the red tides. In freshwater, these are the months for bass, crappie, and bluegills. There is no red tide in freshwater and every seatrout and snook lure you have will catch you a bass.



Fish you can expect in

GROUPER Good on the reefs Deeper water means bigger

SPOTTED SEA TROUT On the grass flats around the area.

TRIPLETAIL On the crab pots and Harbor markers


Nearshore water temps are high 60s to low 70s Fish are slowed down

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

Fishing has been OK. There has been a little bit of environmental mishaps lately, like there is when the mullet run is going on. There are an awful lot of dead fish around. You know they are killing a lot of fish when the only fish you see dead are mullet, it’s not all red tide. There have been a lot of whiting and black drum and sheepshead on the beach. Pompano fishing at the piers has been good. The Bay seems to be OK. I had some guys that had some really good catches. One lady told me she took her grandkids fishing and they caught 15 var i e t i e s ; grunts, pinfish, snook, t r o u t , sheepshead, on and on, the kids were so happy. Guys are doing OK in the Bay with sea trout. You have to work to find the bigger by Bernie Simon, 22" ones, but they FISH PIX! Caught Mangrove Snapper, 12/23/17. are there. Sheephead to 14 inches and mangrove snapper are at the pier on the Tom Adams bridge and on the Coral Creek boat docks. Guys are still catching snook, a lot of smaller juvenile ones, and I’ve seen some nice keeper redfish pictures from Turtle Bay, at the south end, at the cut. And there is STILL quite a bit of tarpon around guys have been catching tarpon in the Pass looking for grouper – by accident! Offshore, nice African pompano and the triple tail are off the chain - really good fish. Guys have been catching them almost like hunting bonefish; you need good glasses, you have to read the water, know the pots, I’ve seen all kinds of pictures lately. Snapper; lane, yellowtail, vermillion the whole bunch of them, they are catching them all, now. In freshwater, I’ve had guys catching bass and crappie and snook in the Rotonda canals ...and baby tarpon and some tilapia too.... in Rotonda.

95˚ 90˚ 85˚


from Water LIFE magazine


Willie, redfish, Bull Bay


Art Hewitt, cobia


from Water LIFE magazine

72˚ 70˚ 68˚ 50˚ 45˚

from Water LIFE magazine


from Water LIFE magazine

Tommy Tucker. I got these nice sheepshead out of St James City


from Water LIFE magazine

Jack Cronin, age 13 Ft Myers, grouper off Ft Myers.


from Water LIFE magazine

Vinnie Cirello Snook on a live shrimp

from Water LIFE magazine

FISHING RIGHT NOW: depends where

LAST CASTThis is the last

picture we received before going to print.

Doug Koenig, king mackerel, caught at Edison Reef






Water LIFE Jan 2018  
Water LIFE Jan 2018  

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