In development all last year, the final publishing fell behind schedule due to the usual distractions. 2013 was unique, like most every year is. As a fishing guide, never easy if there are challenges and they exist. No snook to be caught in my overall region, I actually came up with more ways to diversify peoples’ experiences and replace some of those trips. More on snook is below. It is not uplifting.
The people, the fishing and all the other things: It was all very good this year. Several of the best fishing trips that are possible. Great achievements for people who had goals. Personal satisfaction: I enjoyed instructing this year more than any other.
2013 was a spectacular year. Off the water: My friends down at Bar Fly are also now Bar Fly Saltwater Grill (owners Jeff and Celeste). The place is available for group meetings and is just a great location to stop in. If I could just get them to show something other than fishing shows, I could have a little break from my daily life! They have fly tying nights, great food and you can count on it: You will run into a lot of the same people there who have made it their “place.” A lot of fishermen, you may hear some real fiction. But you will enjoy it there.
The arrangement that we came up with this Fall was to merge capmel.com with an existing radio show. This was something that was going to happen one way or another. When I was approached I was cautious because this is a big decision, especially when there could be other options any time I wanted to pursue it. I was impressed with this situation and agreed. The show shifted from a live Thursday broadcast to a recorded Sunday morning broadcast. I started out as a part of the show and then when everyone realized I could lift some burdens for everyone, became one of the co-hosts. The show airs on 1040AM from 8 to 9AM on Sunday mornings. But if you don’t live here, you can listen live on the internet or listen to any show at any time from the PODCASTS. The show, topics and guests are very well formatted and it is exploding in popularity. Many of my sponsors coming on as advertisers, I have little doubt that the show will expand and flourish in 2014 and forward.
Where do I start? If I told every story, this would be a modest sized novel. They all seem to be elevating their skills and enjoying what it was they wanted. They wanted to get a lot better at fishing. Pam is taking it up a couple more levels. She doesn’t have a tough day too often. She wanted something that gave her a relaxing diversion from work. I told her “why not catch the fish while you are at it” over a year and a half ago. She is doing just that and continuing to try to get even better at it. Pam is a good example in other ways, demonstrating a very good plan for enjoying the sport. Pam was a top finisher in the Captain Mel Classic. Pam is a popular member in the Bay Area Canoe/Kayak club. Pam has made friends with all the people I know plus a bunch more I have never even met. She is highly motivated by the fishing part but she is also pretty pleased with the friends she has met. Her stories are just beginning.
Brian will win the angler of the year at the Fat Cat Fishing Club. Monthly events, he has racked up enough points to likely win the angler of the year. The stories keep coming. People who have taken their experience with me and figured out how to do it on their own. To me, that is the goal in 80% of my trips. There are some that don’t care to learn, they just want me to take them to them and catch them: That’s just fine. There is absolutely no question: The Instructional Kayak Fishing trips that are coming up, there will be a lot more stories like the ones from the past nine years.
“There’s more to life than fishing” (usually yelled at me in a female voice)
At the holidays I got an unexpected letter from a past client. It made me sad that someone had been having life so tough but it is a story of victory. “Neil, I wanted to wish you a happy holiday and give you some special thanks. My year has not been a good one. The few times I did get to go fishing I did pretty well but that was not the important thing. I don’t think I could have made it through this year without these glorious days, seeing the things I did and taking my negative thoughts away for a while. I hope that next year gets easier, but if it doesn’t, my hobby is going to continue to help. The best lesson you ever gave me? We were finishing up and I caught my first four redfish on lures. My biggest trout and just plainly my best day fishing. You said to me *don’t forget to look at this* and there were the trees, birds and sparkling water. It dawned on me that you are on to something. No words can actually express my gratitude”
The third straight year of record attendance at Kayak Fishing Skool
Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure has been the host site for Skool for now seven complete year. Topics for all ten sessions are posted on my Seminars and Events page on my website. Skool is never in session November and December but is on the fourth Thursday of all the other months. My sponsors supply the Raffle that I do at the conclusion of every session. They also support the Captain Mel Classic in fantastic fashion. I can tell you that I am amazed that people attend so many sessions every year and for so many years now. There are the topics but I spend so much time covering the current fishing situation, the forecasted situation for the upcoming month, then taking all the questions that I think everyone always walks out with more information than they had when they sat down.
The store: Bill Jackson’s has elevated back to what they were years ago, especially in the fishing department. It is amazing what the right changes can do. That change, quite simply was a very good combination of better communication and a guy named Brad Lowman. Brad worked hard to fix all the things that kind of deteriorated. If you have not been in that department, go back in and look. It is what it should be. The owners: Mr. Bill Jackson passed away recently at the age of 98. He will be missed but remembered. Darry Jackson looked out for me and my business in several ways in 2013. I consider that a compliment. I appreciate that my clients are treated so well when I send them in to this place to be outfitted for their new hobby. I do not have excessive contact with Darry directly but it is great that he is supporting what I am doing. His staff, the same as all the other years, a few new faces but these people work hard in there and if they didn’t I don’t think they would be there anymore.
We got through another year, the third in a row, without having much of anything to endure. Most of my 20 full years in Florida there has been significant Hurricane anxiety for the early Fall time period. I’m happy that is the case. I have no problem with that trend continuing!
The 2013 Captain Mel Classic
The 2014 event is April 26 and I expect it to max out at 230 people. 200 in the lure divisions and 30 in the Fly division. The 2013 event went great. We skirted bad weather again, squeezing in the contest ahead of some very lousy weather. Catches were impressive in the most competitive event to date. The Fat Cat Tavern a TREMENDOUS part of the program. That location makes my job as tournament host quite easy. Bill Soleau has been a guest on the radio show and likely an advertiser/sponsor of all things capmel.com and Radio show moving forward. He is a great friend of the fishing community.
12 Fathom Lures
Another amazing year using their product. A majority of the fish caught, again, on their lures. For a few months of the year a lot of the action was on Mirrolure topwater lures. Craig sponsored the Captain Mel Classic as he did every other year. He kept me set up with lures to use for seminar raffles. He entertained when I needed to “get away” and I would come see him and “Big Fish Bonnie.” They are good friends and they will be talked about a great deal in 2014: 12 Fathom will be launching new products and very aggressive in letting the community know that they have them. I’m honored to be involved with Mike, Craig and this company. Stay tuned for these news items that I hope to be talking about as early as March! I hit the jackpot when I met these people. I love these lures and I am a better guy for having these people as friends.
Same as it was the year before: Tapping my many resources, I will be getting some instruction but I have paid attention to fly casters for years. I basically want to have the background so I can help a client who is not completely skilled in the art of casting and presenting a fly. I can make recommendations for professional instruction for those serious about trying out a new facet of Florida fishing. I have three full Lamson/St Croix setups and there will be product reviews on everything I have, developed in cooperation with Brad Lowman at Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure.
Articles, reports and product reviews.
Being on my email list, you would have a pretty good idea that I put out more information in 2013 than any other year, which is remarkable. I took over regional reports for two other locations for capmel.com, added two more other new columns and kept all the other existing reports as well. I continued to write for the Tampa Bay Times. I have several much larger projects coming into the scope. 2014 will be some of the same but will likely see some other very large projects in development when it comes to my pen and ink.
School’s Out! (Part 2) The Garrett Week
For another summer of fun, my nephew Garrett (now 15) came over to spend a week with me during his summer break from school. He is in high school now. He really likes it. He has changed over to a fly fisherman pretty much most of the time. But at the time he was here the pompano and black drum action was at peak. I gave Garrett and his Dad a lesson on piling fishing and then threw him into that fire. The average size drum was 35 pounds. Garrett got whipped a few times, with the fish reaching the pilings- then started to win those battles. After a couple of times out he was coaching other people how to do it. A regular at Bar Fly, Garrett is now dating older women, getting ready to learn how to drive and going fishing with his Dad whenever they find the time and the weather is right.
Great visits from people like Ryan and Stacy Bell. Now, Ryan got into most of the action on a drum and pompano trip but Stacy caught the biggest fish. She also learned that if you don’t let the thing on your lap, you don’t stink to high heaven the rest of the day. Residents of Indiana, I knew Ryan from umpiring Indianapolis and he was a manager and bartender at “The Slippery Noodle Inn”, the oldest bar in Indiana. Both chefs, the goal is to have Ryan and Stacy relocate to the Tampa Bay area. I know I would like to have them here.
What kind of fishing was 2013 and trickles into ’14?
Think about this day: 16 trout over 22 inches. Another 15 or so that were probably 16 to 21 inches? Unreal. Redfish: October was primetime for chasing the bulky schools that pushed up water. EASY fishing. Flounder action was the best I have seen since early 2005. Several days of over 70 caught and many other days where it was more than 40: The average size of these fish was impressive most of the year. Pompano action was fun and easy. The side species was the black drum. Pompano were dependable for most of July and half of August. Black drum, to me a nuisance, gave the people a thrill for several months. On an off day I floated one away from the pilings that by my weight charts would be close to 80 pounds. The clients caught several fish that were around 50 pounds.
Fishing pal Mark Michael, second bout with a brain tumor did not work out like the first. A loss of one of the truly nicest people you could have ever met. There to the very end: His wife Carla; his good buddies Chip Murray and John Callaghan. Mark liked baseball. He enjoyed my stories during our time fishing together locally, in the Keys and other trips we made the years I hung out with him. I did not have as much contact with him the last few years, but that was OK. He was my pal. A night of celebration with Chip and John the day after he died, we were all baffled that he had to be the one to go. He was the type you would like to keep around.
Another year without snook
Narrowly escaping another massive die-off from another rough January, I will not only not offer snook charters in 2014, I will tell you that the situation has worsened. People in other areas of the state are doing better toward recovery but are mostly experiencing small fish, which is good, but we are years away from having things go back to anything near what we had in 2009. The state: The Florida State Commission will not even respond to requests to get the stakeholders connected to the system to come up with the best way to manage the future of snook, which is the good numbers of juvenile fish in some areas. Not even acknowledgment of the letter, something that has damaged these stakeholders morale. The people who really care have spoken, but it has not fallen on deaf ears, it has been ignored.
Such a dismal situation, the pounding they took from the decision to reopen was significant, a mistake and will cause lasting damage in the Tampa Bay fishery. Gulf wide, my colleagues were disappointed in the shortsighted decision to allow this to happen and have great concerns moving forward. We hope that the officials do not ignore our current plea to modify slot limit regulations before the species reopens again this spring. I have made some new friends in my peer group. We all hope to accomplish something great and maybe see this species rebound to a respectable level: Something that is a long ways from being a reality especially from an agency that does not even acknowledge the requests of now 70 guides and just about the majority of the educated fishing community.
The Captain Mel web site: A great situation. It was two years ago I rebuilt the site at the same time Ginny Berman transferred ownership to me. A continuous process, the site builds every day. Strengthened by the radio show: The contributors are excellent and the general energy remains great. Public membership in the Forums the biggest item, the challenges are usually somewhat political and mostly a result that people don’t like positions of authority. Luckily, I have a background in such matters.
2014 is already set up to be a spectacular year. I look forward to living it and seeing what the stories are at New Years. I can guarantee: The stories along the way are going to be fun and it will be an impressive year of fishing around Tampa Bay.
Every day I was on the water made me realize I chose the right place to live; that I am doing a job that fits me very well; and that everything should just continue along the very same path.
Owner and guide: www.strikethreekayakfishing.com
(Cell) 727-692-6345 LivelyBaits@aol.com
Owner and site administrator: www.capmel.com
Co-host: Outdoor Fishing Adventures, 8 to 9AM Sundays on 1040 “The Team” ESPN Radio