Sunday, September 30, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012
September is coming to a close and it was a really great month overall. The redfish have been everywhere and almost every one we brought to the boat was slot legal. I take that as a sign of a very healthy population of these fish.
The trout are always easy to find in the fall and my anglers have landed some serious gators in the last two weeks. Jerry Francis from Georgia landed the beautiful 21 incher in the photo above on the Indian Field flats north of Matlacha. This was one of three big sea trout she caught within twenty minutes on that one particular flat, all on Gulp shrimp.
Speaking of Gulps, everyone who uses these baits knows that pinfish love to nip at them, which is both annoying and expensive after enough are ruined. I've noticed that some colors are more attractive to pinfish than others and the New Penny shrimp are on top of that list. They also don't seem to be as tough as other Gulps and get ripped apart really quick. The White 3" shrimp hold up really well and don't seem to draw as much attention from the pinfish but the reds, snook and trout still love them. I buy them in the big $39 buckets which is enough baits for an entire month.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Beavertail Skiffs today, their awesome 17 foot Strike. This semi-sponson hull is lighter than my BT3 and will pole in just 6 inches of water, and run on plane in even less. Best of all is the price which will be in the mid-$20k range as pictured. You can check it out, along with the new Aeon 20 from my last post, at this weekend's Tampa Boat Show. See you there.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Friday, September 21, 2012
Thursday, September 20, 2012
|The Beavertail BT3|
|The Aeon 23 CS|
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
I’ve spent much of the last two decades chasing tarpon all over Florida and the Caribbean. I’ve never kept a running tally but my anglers have boated hundreds of tarpon since I started guiding. In that time I’ve learned a lot about how to hook and land (and often lose) these great game fish. But more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about how to handle and release them safely back into the water.
Tarpon are the best example of a fish that is too valuable to be caught only once. They are a restricted species in Florida since they are inedible but also a huge source of tourism dollars to the state. A $50 tag is required for anyone who wants to kill a tarpon for a possible world record and only a fraction of those sold are actually turned in each year. Even though I have nothing against record hunters, I’ve never purchased a kill tag and insist on releasing every tarpon caught on my charters.
|My wife's first tarpon. It swam away just fine but holding them like this is not the best idea.|
For most of my anglers these are the fish of a lifetime so it’s just as important that we get a good photograph before sending them back to the water. That used to mean sticking a gaff through the tarpon’s lower jaw and hauling it up onto the deck of my skiff. This might have made for an impressive picture but it could also make for an even more impressive mess. Tarpon are covered with a thick, mucus like slime which sticks to everything they touch and makes the boat slippery as hell. To make matters worse, these fish have a nasty habit of emptying their bowels if you let them flop around on the deck or put any kind of pressure on their belly. It’s an understandable reaction to a stressful situation. You’d probably do the same thing if the roles were reversed.
|This mess came from a small fish. You don't want to see how much a 150 pounder can produce.|
More than once I’ve found myself holding a struggling tarpon in a headlock while covered in a lovely mixture of slime, poop, and saltwater, waiting patiently for my angler to show his wife how to turn on their new camera. Trust me on this one; it tends to spoil the moment just a little bit when the sun starts baking that stuff into your leg hairs.
Worst of all you’re doing the tarpon no favors at this point and drastically reducing its chances of survival. Gaffing and lifting them by the lower jaw is a terrible practice and I have not done it to a fish in a long time. A full grown tarpon can swallow a bowling ball but their jawbone was not designed to support a hundred pounds of weight. Even if you don’t lift them, the hole that a gaff creates is an open wound that can lead to infection or worse.
Finally, the tarpon you’re holding and photographing in your lap just put up a fight worthy of an Olympic decathlete. On average they jump, run, pull, and surge for up to an hour in very warm, shark infested water. Put yourself in the tarpon’s fins and you’ll realize that pulling one out of the water is like crossing the finish line at the Chicago Marathon, having your head dunked under a tub of Gatorade while ESPN interviews your trainer, and then being made to walk back home through Cabrini Green. Chances are it won’t end well.
|This really did not end well.|
These days, if one of my anglers catches a tarpon over twenty pounds the fish stays in the water. I quickly pop the hook out of its jaw if possible or cut the leader if it’s set too deeply. I only use non-stainless Owner hooks and they corrode quickly. You can still hold the tarpon by the lower jaw and get your face next to theirs for an impressive photo. After that it’s time to put the boat in gear and move the fish through the water until they’re fully revived. After a long fight this can take more time than most anglers realize, sometimes over fifteen to twenty minutes. But it’s important to keep them moving until they kick away under their own power. Watching a tarpon swim away healthy is worth much more than any photo you’ll ever take.
And coming back home not covered in slime and poop is priceless.
|The best way to handle and photograph a tarpon.|
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
These boater's bashes are a great time for everyone and they raise money for a worthwhile cause, the Bobby Holloway Memorial Fund. Like all the others, this one will be held at the Two Pines sandbar in the north part of Matlacha Pass. If you've never been there before it will be very easy to find. Just look for a couple hundred boats anchored together. Click here for more info.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
new BT3 for almost ten months now and have spent over two hundred days on the water with it. The Yamaha F70 hit 300 hours on Friday and so far has cost me exactly $0 in unscheduled maintenance. I can change both the power head and lower unit oil myself in less than thirty minutes right in my driveway. It's almost effortless with this engine. I'm still convinced that this is the most unbeatable combo for inshore fishing on the market right now. Take a ride in everything else first and you'll see what I mean.
Friday, September 14, 2012
|Theo's best redfish.|
|Some of our resident bald eagles are returning to nest for the season.|
I spent the entire week on the water and despite higher than normal winds and lots of clouds, I had some of the most productive trips of the year. The best day was Thursday when my long time angler Theo Chupein landed a Grand Slam. He caught a twenty pound tarpon first thing in the morning and over the next two hours landed three reds, a handful of trout, and a nice snook, all in some really cruddy conditions.
The redfish are really pouring on to the flats right now. We came across several small groups of these fish in Matlacha Pass and I've heard reports of huge schools roaming the waters of Pine Island Sound this week. Anytime more than two redfish get together they'll eat almost anything you put in front of them. When they gather in big spawning schools they get downright voracious. It's an amazing sight to see, the water actually turns orange as they push bait in front of them over the shallow grass. Watch for birds wheeling and diving on the flats as a sign of these big schools.
One other bonus to September is our insane summer heat and humidity has finally broken. It's acutally cool in the early mornings and I poled the boat all day without loosing five pounds of sweat. It really doesn't get any better than this time of year on the water down here.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
Theo Chupein and his dad first started fishing with me in Key West when he was 10 years old. This is his first trip to Matlacha and we shot out for just over an hour this evening to catch the bottom of the tide. Everything was perfect and hit the jackpot in the northern part of Matlacha Pass.