Another year has passed by. It was a great one. The tenth year as a fishing guide, outdoor writer/speaker complete I think my eleventh year will be the busiest yet. All indications are that kayak fishing has sustained and my reputation as a teacher are going to keep the schedule busy moving forward. Catches were great but the overall experiences were outstanding. I am always very happy to see the clients move forward and be successful on their own.
2015 had some challenges. To close out the year I couldn’t lift my right arm. It is funny how much you can get done when you train yourself NOT to lift an arm. 1988, my final year playing baseball I tore my rotator cuff. It is torn again and pretty completely. With ice and heat and trying to give it as much “inactivity” as I can, it seems to be healing again.
Heat and rain: Record year for both. The long summer will just never end. 84 degrees today with 90% humidity. The “winter” months will be enjoyable. We had summer arrive six weeks early and last two extra months at the end. This was the oddest weather year I have ever encountered. We had nine record heat days to end 2015. Another quiet year for Tropical issues, what will 2016 bring?
What is significant about the Holidays 2015? It’s a numbers game. Christmas Day is exactly 22 years in Florida, full time. 1) I have now been a fishing guide as long as I was an umpire. 2) I have now lived in Florida as long as I lived in Arizona. Florida has worked out very well for me. I arrived here on Christmas Day 1993, not knowing a soul. Ten years in baseball. Ten years guiding fishing trips. I am extremely pleased where I am and look forward to “more of the same.”
My nephew, Garrett. He took to sharking this year. Now 17 he and his friends do some of that one their own. He spent two long weeks here during his summer break. While I was doing some launch repair one day I sent him into a hole and told him to try it there. He caught a big blacktip that day. It is fun to watch the younger generation exploring the sport I have enjoyed since I was three years old. He is getting really good at it, including significant catches on the fly rod. His girlfriend Katrina was a third place finisher in the Captain Mel Classic. His father Stu put in many days fishing in 2015. We definitely miss the visits of my father and time fishing. He enjoys his time on his porch and gardening and has hung up his fishing gear.
John Veil easily booked the most trips of anyone last year. We attempted 21 trips and got in 20 of them. John sent his 2015 statistics this week: “I caught fish of 38 different species including nine personal bests and five new species. About 15 of those are ones I caught only in Florida when fishing with you.” John continues to hone his skills and his 2016 trips will likely be his most productive yet.
The largest trout ever hooked on a STKF trip, easily over 30 inches, lost at boatside by Ron. A lesson learned, had I grabbed the leader instead of him, we would have had his picture with that fish.
Redfish, my second straight year where for me personally: I won’t kill one. The clients mostly let them go too but I decided if I want to take home a fish it will be another species where they are way more abundant. Others have followed the example and it looks like it has an impact on the fishery. For the sixth straight year I did not offer snook as a target species. Unlikely I will do so next year either. Issues for snook are far from over. Management of all our species are a major issue in the year to come.
The Captain Mel Classic was another success. Our fifth, the next one is on May 7, 2016. Ruben Salazar had the biggest win that is possible, unlikely anyone will accomplish what he did on tournament day. Ironic because he caught just two fish. One trout. One redfish. The happened to be the two biggest of each species for the day, winning him grand prizes and the bonus pool money. He won the Grand Prize in the No Motor division, donated by Ocean Kayak. He took cash and prizes plus all the money in the Bonus Pool.
At least eleven other former clients were first place winners in fishing events. There were a whole lot of other high finishes. The clients had a record year for going on to win tournaments (Ruben a perfect example, his big win weeks after a training session with me).
My sponsors are incredible. Quietly we have this symbiotic relationship that just “works.” I will likely be restoring one connection that is the only one I have ever lost. 12 Fathom lures, I used in a record number thanks to the pufferfish and pinfish of Tampa Bay. They make great lures for what I do. St Croix Rod and Daiwa reel remain big sponsors as well as Smith Optics sunglasses, Tuf Line and Silly Willy/Joe Jigs.
So, I did some fishing on my own too. On two of my solo trips on off days: I caught world record fish. I did not kill fish to submit for either record. The most notable was a black drum I caught in September. The current world record is 113 pounds. The one I caught probably beat that by at least 15 pounds according to my measurements and sources. It was massive. The other fish, a lizardfish. I sure don’t want to hold that record. The record which I think is still held by the original founder of 12 Fathom Lures is around 2 pounds. The one I caught was 29 inches and likely close to 3.5 pounds, easily. Incidentally 2016 is going to be an obnoxious year for this species. There are millions of small ones, more than I have ever seen.
Florida Anglers United, I co-founded and built the Executive Panel, the best set of fishing enthusiasts from around the state to be a consulting body for Florida resource management input. Our initial meetings with the Wildlife Commission will be in early 2016. Snook are just one item. Snook took a beating in the last harvest period. Because the state reopened the species to harvest, many of the younger anglers kept the fish that matured from spawn post-freeze, affecting our future for big snook particularly in this part of the state. We will propose regional management and angler input on populations to make future decisions make better sense. It is extremely frustrating that we just undid six years of recovery in one open season. That’s the feedback from a lot of areas on the Gulf coast. Entire stocks of slot fish, most of the biggest fish we had, have been removed from the resource.
The Dunedin Debacle: Reaching a resolution. A boycott of the kayak rental business is something most people have initiated. Because of that one individual I did not use the Causeway as a launch for over nine months. My interaction with the city of Dunedin and Pinellas County has been frustrating. It has been one of the most idiotic situations I have ever experienced. Not a single person who knows about this one understands it. It is in the city of Dunedin. The county owns the land. The one person out there thinks he has the exclusive on everything that goes on on that patch of sand. He will never get any referrals from me. Of course, he’ll be out of business anyway once he gets someone killed.
A web site owner: Capmel.com is currently going though a major upgrade. This will probably make it the greatest fishing web site on the planet. Connected to the radio show, we have a mega media monster going. The radio show is very popular and gaining listeners every week. We will max out on advertisers and we will be expanding the show this year.
All the rest: Kayak Fishing Skool in its ninth year, a monthly event at the store I also added The Kayak Fishing Academy, my most complete seminar one that I will do three times in 2016. Skool is the fourth Thursday of every month. Books. Everyone continues to ask when I will get published. It will happen. When I can, I work on the files. It is a project way on the backburner but it will happen.
I hope you have happy fishing in 2016! See you on the water!!
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” Radio