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Drop Shots Work

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Drop Shot Works When Fish Won’t Hit Other Lures
From The Fishing Wire

The technique of drop shotting a small plastic worm has been around for well over a decade and Brent Ehrler has used it frequently in FLW® bass tournament competition, but the Yamaha pro admits he’s still astonished at how productive the technique can be.  “Whenever I can’t get a bite by fishing a worm or jig on the bottom, I’ll try drop shotting because it suspends my lure above the bottom, and I can keep it in one place as long as I want to,” he explains. “It works anywhere and at just about anytime. I’ve caught bass as deep as 90 feet with a drop shot on Lake Shasta in California, and as shallow as one foot on Lake Norman in North Carolina.”

Drop shotting originated in Japan as a light tackle finesse presentation for heavily fished lakes where largemouth bass were extremely reluctant to hit lures. A hook is tied to the fishing line 12 to 15 inches above a sinker, which is at the end of the line; Ehrler prefers six to eight pound fluorocarbon line and a 3/16 or ¼-oz. sinker. With the sinker on the bottom, the lure, usually a plastic worm four to seven inches long, wiggles and vibrates freely above it.

“One of the real keys to this technique is shaking your rod with a slack line so the sinker never moves. All the action the worm makes helps draw bass to it,” continues the Yamaha pro, winner of the 2006 Forrest Wood Cup FLW® championship. “Most of the time, I’ll make a cast, let the sinker touch bottom, and gently start shaking my rod. If I don’t get a strike, I’ll reel slowly to drag the sinker along the bottom just a couple of feet, then shake my rod again.

Brent Ehrler likes drop-shooting deep, but says it works on any structure.
“When I’m fishing boat docks and piers where this is an excellent tactic, I can cover an entire side of the pier with a presentation like this.” Ehrler prefers deeper docks, but he’ll use the drop shot technique around practically any type of cover and structure when he thinks bass may be suspended above the bottom. Sometimes he’ll vary his presentation by lowering his rod so the worm actually falls right beside the sinker; then he’ll raise his rod so the worm swims back up. He’ll repeat this several times in the same spot before reeling in for another cast.

“Even though the drop shot technique was developed for light tackle and fairly small lures, it will certainly attract big bass, too,” he notes. “I’ve caught nine and 10-pound bass at Clear Lake and in the California Delta, and I know other anglers who’ve caught larger fish,” he says. “It’s just such a natural presentation. “There are a lot of variations to drop shotting, too. You can ‘walk’ your lure by raising your rod and reeling so the sinker comes off the bottom, then lowering your rod so the sinker and worm fall again. If bass are hitting your lure as it falls, then you can create multiple falls this way.”

The easiest way to start drop shotting on any lake, however, concludes the Yamaha pro, is probably by fishing a visible structure like a boat dock and just shaking your rod as the sinker and lure fall beside a corner piling. “If you do this,” says Ehrler, “chances are you may not need any other type of presentation.”

Early Morning: Big Trout (Merrill Memories)

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Another in our “Merrill’s Memories” Series
 Photo by Captain Rick Grassett
All is set for a wonderful day of fishing. Reports of impressive catches light our collective fires. Then the weatherman throws a wet blanket on our plans, coming up with a windy, daunting forecast. “Winds to 25 knots,” To go — or not to go fishing. That is the question. And in this case our answer was a resounding “yes.” So we all assembled at the Seminole Ramp in Clearwater, got our gear and defied the forecast. Though chilly, we eagerly jumped into Fireman John Litz’s boat and off we went on the early morning dark! Here are the late Merrill “Canoeman” Chandler’s observations of the morning.

By MERRILL “CANOEMAN” CHANDLER, (1929 – 2002)

I find it a little disconcerting to start an article with complaints against the weather people. Well, a wrong forecast isn’t always a bad thing. The day that Capt. Mel and I went fishing with “Fireman” John Litz had been estimated to have winds gusting upwards of 25 knots.

We left the Clearwater ramp and sped across near mirror like water, making comments about how difficult a weatherman’s job must be. We were not at all disappointed with the weather conditions; in fact we were extremely pleased knowing that at least for a few hours we would have the benefit of a whitecap free, half-day of fishing.

John directed his craft to a location where he and Capt. Mel had caught goodly numbers of hefty trout just a week ago.

The tide was just about to change directions so the drift was not too fast. Just right for fishing deeper grass flats.

A couple of trips back Capt. Mel had introduced John to the DOA Shrimp and I wanted John to see just how effective the DOA TerrorEyz would be in these conditions. I rigged him with a gold/black back lure that has been notably productive for me in the past. The lure proved itself when we all had hook-ups. We caught and released a number of small trout and acrobatic ladyfish. We decided to move to another location and return later when the tidal movement was better.

I watched a skimmer flying with its mandible touching the water making a pattern on the surface as it searched for baitfish.

We passed over areas that looked perfect and I suggested that we stop and toss a few lures. That place proved to be quite productive with each of us landing some trout in the 18 to 23 inch class. This was to be one of those rare days when we kept some fish for our own consumption. John wanted to supply an evening meal for he and his firefighter companions.

The weather conditions still were as good as could be expected and when the tide turned a slight breeze filtered across the water.

As we were only going to fish for just a short time we made the move back to our first stop. I know that Capt Mel had visions of repeating a previous trips good fortune.

The winds had increased measurably so John rigged a sea anchor to slow our drift.

The fish had turned on as each of us landed many. I was having a hot hand on some silver trout. Nothing to brag about in the size department but I prefer silvers to the speckled variety for table fare. We made a couple more drifts in the same area and there proved to be only one location that held the silvers.

The wind increased to the predicted strength as we ended our day of fishing. Fortunately it was at our back as we headed to the ramp.

Fishing with “Mr. Congeniality” Fireman John was an extreme pleasure. It had been my first opportunity to fish with him but not the last, I am sure.

As for the weather people I offer my sincere apology for doubting your predicting abilities. I just wish that you could be a little more precise as to the time. We almost scrubbed the event.
 *The fishing community misses Mel Berman, The Canoeman and Fireman John, who died during a boating accident in 2011.

Eight Tips For Better Weekend Fishing

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 by Capt. Clay Eavenson , originally posted to B3fishing.com

There’s no doubt that weekend fishing is tough. Every moment, from the time you arrive at the boat ramp to the time you pull the boat out of the water, can be a test of mental fortitude and self restraint. Here are 8 tips to help you have a more enjoyable weekend fishing trip.

1.) Be 100% Prepared the Night Before Your Fishing Trip

We’ve all done it. We show up at the boat ramp on a (busy) weekend and we forget to bring everything we need or we don’t have everything ready. Take 1 hour out of your Friday night and make a check list. Get everything ready and do everything on your list THE NIGHT BEFORE YOUR TRIP. List everything you need to take and then place those items by the front door before you go to bed. Example: Fishing poles, tackle box, chum, sunglasses, hat, boat keys, wallet… etc. Then list everything you need to have done for the boat to be ready to fish the next day. Example: charge the batteries, put the plug in the boat, fill up with gas and oil. Finally, you should list the fishing related “to do’s”. Rig all your poles the way you want them to be rigged for when you’re ready to fish. Don’t wait until you see the fish you are targeting to get your rods rigged. You might miss that bite first thing in the morning if you wait that long.

2.) Leave Your House Early

It’s a beautiful weekend. You know that every Tom, Dick and Harry is going to be at the boat ramp. Studies show that 98.8% of the people that arrive at the boat ramp won’t have read this article and they will severely wreck your mood if you roll up to the ramp 20 minutes after sunrise.  Show up 30 minutes before sunrise and launch your boat before the crowd of crazies show up. I guarantee that just getting there 30 minutes earlier than you really want to will help you keep your stress level to a minimum.

3.) Know Your Boat Ramp Etiquette

DO NOT LOAD YOUR BOAT WITH IT BACKED HALFWAY DOWN THE BOAT RAMP! Loading your boat while blocking the boat ramp is the number one way to get your a$$ chewed out  by someone waiting on you to load your rods, food and gear at the boat ramp. Load your boat away from the boat ramp. If you make a routine stop at a bait shop or gas station nearby, load your boat there. Otherwise, load your boat in an area that will not impede others from launching their boats. Once you have everything loaded, then launch your boat.

Also, learn the protocol for each ramp you use. Some boat ramps have docks designated for tying off to that do not have ramps. If your favorite ramp has one, USE IT. Launch your boat and drive it over to that dock and tie off. Then run back to your truck and go park your truck and trailer. Don’t take up a ramp dock while you park your truck.

4.) Don’t Fish the “Bent Rod” Pattern.

Don’t be “that guy”. Sometimes you see someone hooked up on a fish and it’s awfully tempting to drive over and start fishing where you see people catching fish. Trust me on this, you will ruin the fishing for everyone… INCLUDING YOU. You’ll disturb the fish being caught and neither you nor the successful angler, who obviously read this article, will catch much once you roll through the fish he’s catching. Not to mention that once you do invade someone’s space, you’ll probably also get an ear-full from the boat that got there first.

Find your own fish and take pride in doing so. Get away form the crowds. It’s much more enjoyable and relaxing to catch fish without the tension of encroaching upon others.

5.) Be Flexible.

Weekend fishing is tough. There’s no doubt about it. There are more anglers, guides, jet skis and pleasure boaters on the water that there are during the week. That means that more people will be running through and/or fishing your favorite spots. At times this virtually eliminates your your chances at targeting your favorite species of fish. So what do you do? You can either explore new water or target other fish. As a full time guide I sometimes choose to target other fish if boat traffic is particularly heavy. Like today, we tried for redfish for about an hour and then all my other spots had been blown out by other anglers. We could have pouted about it but we made do. We actually ended up with a great day. We got about 30 trout with 10 being keepers, a couple of keeper mangrove snapper, a surprise keeper gag grouper on the flats and a few big spanish mackerel.

6.) Go Home Early or Stay Late.

On the weekends you’re going to deal with a ton of drunk pleasure boaters. My experience has been that they get off the water between 2pm and 5pm. So if you don’t want to deal with a cluster “you know what” at the boat ramp when you’re heading home, then get off the water around noon or plan on staying out until close to dark. You wanna’ talk about keeping your stress level low? This will do a world of good for your blood pressure. I have seen people back their truck all the way into the water, people bang their boats into others and all manor of  other follies that will make you want to pull your hair out. Add alcohol, a crowded boat ramp and inexperienced boaters together and you’ve got a recipe for a coronary. Avoid the rush at all costs to keep your sanity.  Leave early or stay late.

7.) Be Patient and Lighthearted.

Just choose to not let things bother you. You’ll live longer, I swear. On the weekends you’re going to deal with buffoons at the boat ramp that are either hot headed or just stupid. Just keep your head down and do the right things to get in and out. You’re going to deal with people that are fishing the previously mentioned “bent rod pattern”. Just get over it. There’s nothing you can say to them that will make the situation any better. You’re just going to have to deal with all manor of inconsiderate, incompetent and ignorant people. Just don’t let it get under your skin. There is absolutely nothing your can say or do that will remedy the situation. It’s like the comedian Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid”. So just laugh it off and move on. You’ll be much happier for it.

8.) Choose to Have Fun No Matter What Happens.

When I was young and when things wouldn’t work out the way I wanted them to, I would really let it bother me. Without fail, my mother would always tell me, “Happiness is a choice”. Just her saying that used to bother me too. But as I’ve gotten older I see that she was right. We can go out there to have a good time and we can either choose to let our circumstances affect us or we can choose to have a great time fishing no matter what. We can catch all manors of fish and enjoy all types of situations if we just choose to do so.  So, next weekend, CHOOSE to have a great time. Follow the steps I’ve laid out for you and you’ll have an easier task ahead of you. But there are sure to be some wrenches thrown into your plans and when they are, choose to not let the situation you are in dictate your ability to enjoy fishing. Choose to enjoy it no matter what and you’ll find that finding the joy in fishing isn’t that hard after all.

 

Etiquette… where did it go?

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Originally contributed to ProAnglersJournal.com

by Capt. C.A. Richardson on August 18, 2009

Inshore fishing has grown in popularity over the last few decades bringing throngs of new anglers to the sport; unfortunately a by-product of this popularity is poor conduct. Pioneer inshore greats like Bill Curtis, Joe Brooks, and my good friend Stu Apte were looked at as gentlemen in this sport, who pitted their significant skills and light tackle against formidable shallow water quarry all the while displaying a great deal of respect for their fellow anglers. Back then and even through most of my fishing career there has always been certain customs and etiquettes that anglers abided by when sharing the water… ensuring good experiences for all. Today, there are a lot more anglers fishing the shallows and you would think that common sense and respect would play an even larger role but quite the contrary is happening now!

In the beginning, inshore fishing or flats fishing had etiquette similar to the sport of golf; honor and respect for others and the environment were exhibited by all anglers making for many positive experiences and thus attracted many newcomers to our sport. For the sake of comparison, let’s match up a few similarities between golf and shallow water etiquette. In golf, you wouldn’t drive a ball up onto a green until the party ahead of you putted out and left the green. In shallow water fishing it’s not a good practice to ease up on fellow anglers (the bent rod pattern) working a school of fish or a piece of structure to get a cast in on their fish or spot unless you’re invited! This bent rod scenario is maybe the biggest problem in the sport today… try to find your own fish it’s part of the mystique that got you into the sport in the first place.  Also, in golf you wouldn’t walk onto another golfer’s putting line on the green, it’s a definite lack of respect and sportsmanship. The same applies when fishing the flats… you never cut off another angler’s water who is already working a flat or mangrove shoreline to get in front of him. The right thing to do is to fall in behind him and fish his used water or better yet find another area altogether! And here’s a final comparison between golf and inshore fishing, in golf you wouldn’t drive your golf cart onto the manicured fairways and greens (you would be asked to leave)… carts should stay on the cart path. Just as you shouldn’t run your boat over shallow flats while others are trying to fish… use the channels and deeper areas to run your boat then ease up onto shallow fishing areas either by trolling motor or push pole, give other anglers plenty of room!  All of these comparisons are obvious common sense scenarios yet we still we see too many lack of etiquette situations occurring every day. We must stop ourselves and demonstrate better sportsmanship toward our fellow anglers or the poor behavior that exists now will perpetuate to our younger anglers and eventually effect the survival of our sport.

Below are a few “Rules of Thumb” to follow while enjoying flats fishing:

  1. If you think you’re too close to another angler/boat… you probably were “too close” a hundred yards ago!
  2. Running your boat for the expressed purpose of locating fish on a flat or a shoreline is unacceptable… it demonstrates very little regard for everyone else and changes the natural behavior of the fish we are all trying to catch.
  3. If you’re leaving a flat that others are fishing, do not fire up your outboard and just go (definitely poor etiquette)!  Trolling motor or if you have to slow idle behind the other fishing boats in their used water (not in front of them) for an acceptable distance (500 yds. is good) before getting your boat up on plane.
  4. If you see another boat catching fish on a flat or working a school of fish in shallow water… do not encroach unless invited.  Spanish mackerel & Bluefish schools in the bays or on the beach are great to share with other boats but a school of redfish in two feet of water should not be crowded because everyone loses!
  5. If another boat is working a flat or shoreline, try to be cognizant of the direction or area he/she is working towards… don’t cut off his water to beat him to a spot.  You wouldn’t want someone to do it to you!

Again it’s up to all of us to be good stewards of our light tackle sport and to lead by example so that we’ll all enjoy better fishing for years to come!

Etiquette Of Catching Bait

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By CAPT. GENE ZAMBA

 Each morning bait fishermen head for a popular place were locals gather to catch white bait. In some areas, such as those around Anclote Key on a weekend morning there will be as many as 30 boats packed into a small area. As more anglers hit the waters each year, these venues become more crowed, and with it elevated tensions and emotions. It’s really not very pretty. I have observed a lot of very unhappy, yelling and screaming anglers out there lately.

I’ve had a lot of mornings recently when I set the anchor — started chumming — had the bait were I wanted it — and along comes a boat that motors within 20 feet, tosses out his anchor and yells over “morning Captain!” I wanted to respond with some kind acerbic comment, however, I kept my mouth shut because he likely had some small children and women on his boat. Frankly, he would have gotten an ear full of nasty words if they were not there.

Why would I get mad? Well, I just spent 20 minutes getting the bait were I wanted it and had one good toss of the net that produced about 100 pieces of nice bait. I only needed one more good toss and then I’d be off with my clients fishing.

What this guy did was run all my bait off by running his motor all the way up on me, way too close to were I was chumming. Then, letting the motor run as he was trying set an anchor that apparently didn’t hold well. This is to say nothing about his kids running around on deck.

This lack of common (maybe not so common) bait catching etiquette compelled me to pick up my anchor relocate at another bait stop, and start the process all over again. That exercise chewed up another half hour of what could have been my clients fishing time.

Therefore, I would like to offer for your consideration some basic rules of chumming and bait netting etiquette to help newcomers understand how we can all help each other and get better at catching bait. I genuinely believe that can also help all anglers in the area get out sooner. Above all, it can make for a much more pleasant experience all around, and get everyone out to their fishing destination much sooner.

Here are a few helpful tip that could facilitate this concept of bait netting cooperation:

1- Always approach an area at idle speed. When you get to within 300 yards of another vessel chumming and netting bait, shut off your motor. Use your electric tolling motor, a pushpole, or better yet, if the wind is blowing out of the right direction, let the breeze do the work.

2- Above all, never ever set up within 100 yards of another boat that is chumming and netting bait.

3- When you get to the bait spot, try to set your anchor as quickly as possible — and make sure it holds. I see a lot of problems out there because people are not deploying the right kind of anchor. One anchor that I can recommend holds well in grassy, sandy bottoms. It is called a “Sea Claw.” You might want to consider getting one . It’ll save you a lot of anchoring problems such as when your anchor slips, drifting your vessel toward that other boat already in the process of chumming up bait. If this does happen, by all means let them know that you are slipping and likely will be drifting by them. By the way saying “I’m sorry” is not a bad idea either. Above all, don’t start your engine until you’ve drifted well past the anchored vessel by at least 100 yards.

4- Keep your deck activity down as much as possible. This will not only help you in your qu3est for baitfish, it helps everyone around you. Slamming your net’s lead line down on the deck will also have the effect of running the bait off.

5- When you’ve acquired sufficient baitfish, remember, it doesn’t mean that everyone around you is finished catching bait. Pull up your anchor and move out of the area the same way you came in — quietly and avoid getting near any other boat. After moving to at least 300 years away from everyone, start your motor and idle away and before you take off.

It just takes is a bit of consideration and all of us can get quickly our bait and enjoy a productive Florida fishing day

Tight lines and good fishing.

Capt Gene Zamba

Everything About Snook

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 By
ALEXIS A. TROTTER, FWC-Florida Marine Research Institute

With the recent reopening of snook season, we present this comprehensive reference prepared by fishery scientist Alexis Trotter. In it she reviews state regulations, as well as the ongoing fisheries management efforts in protecting and enhancing Florida’s snook populations. It’s a valuable guide for anglers and what they can do to make sure this prized species survives for future  generations.

Cameron's great snook, caught with guide Neil Taylor

The common snook, Centropomus undecimalis, is one of the most recreationally and economically important sportfish in south Florida waters.  In 2001, snook was the fifth most targeted species on the Atlantic Coast and the fourth most targeted species on the Gulf Coast.  Furthermore, 41 percent of all resident saltwater license holders also purchased a snook stamp.

It is also one of the most highly regulated species in state waters, having been declared both a gamefish (1957) and a species of special concern (1982).  Current regulations vary by coast, but include a restricted size for harvest, closed seasons, and strict bag limits.

ATLANTIC COAST

New Slot Size:  28” to 32” total length

Closed Season:  June, July, and August.  December  through January.

New Bag Limit:  1 per person per day. 

GULF COAST (including Everglades National Park and Monroe County)

New Slot Size:  28” to 33” total length

New Closed Season:  May, June, July, and August.  December through January.

Bag Limit:  1 per person per day. 

Snook research through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Marine Research Institute is a cooperative effort between three groups; Fish Biology, Fisheries Independent Monitoring (FIM), and Fisheries Dependant Monitoring (FDM).  The Fish Biology section has three main projects aimed at collecting specific data.  The first, and largest, project is the Snook Intercept and Carcass Recovery Program in which data is collected directly from anglers at popular fishing locations and boat ramps or indirectly from anglers leaving their filleted carcasses at designated bait and tackle stores.  The primary goals for this project are to determine catch effort and release rates, as well as the age, sex, and size composition of the snook fishery on both coasts.  For this program, each coast is divided into three regions and a minimum goal of 70 sampled carcasses per year is set for each region.  In addition, biologists from the National Park Service collect data from two locations within the Everglades National Park.  A list of designated bait and tackle stores for each coast is provided at the end of this article. 

The other two projects are far less intensive, however they have the potential to provide the greatest amount of solid data for this species.  The Independent Angling Survey began in May 2002 and is conducted through our Charlotte Harbor and Tequesta Field Laboratories.  This program consists of biologists mimicking the fishing public, with respect to both gear type and fishing location, in order to obtain a controlled estimate of catch effort, release rates, and the size and sex composition of the snook fishery.  Initially, snook of all sizes were sacrificed to determine the ages of snook at lengths that cannot be obtained from the fishing public.  In 2002, Charlotte Harbor biologists conducted 61 fishing trips.  121 snook were caught and measured between 7.5 inches and 32.7 inches total length.  The Tequesta staff made 66 trips and caught 269 snook between 12 inches and 44.5 inches total length.  Data for 2003 is not yet available.

The final major project is the Angler Logbook Program in which selected recreational anglers and professional guides record data from as many, if not all, trips where snook are the targeted species.  Data collected includes catch effort, release rates and sizes, and the lengths of all snook caught.  This program began in 2002 and there are currently 32 participants on the Gulf Coast and 36 on the Atlantic Coast.  This project has the potential to become the single greatest and most important provider of quality information regarding the common snook fishery, however it is entirely dependent on the cooperation of the fishing public.  Throughout 2002, nearly 700 trips were recorded on the Gulf Coast and almost 400 were recorded on the Atlantic Coast.  In 2003, eight anglers on the Gulf Coast have recorded 85 trips, while eleven anglers on the Atlantic Coast have conducted 243 trips targeting snook.  Current participants are asked to submit their data to either the St. Petersburg or Tequesta Fish Biology staff.  If you are interested in participating, or know someone who may be, please contact one of the biologists listed at the end of this article.

Finally, there are two specialized projects aimed at analyzing specific life history parameters of common snook.  Independent feeding ecology projects are being conducted on both coasts to determine the diet of snook at different life history stages and to compare feeding habits with prey selection and availability.  An analysis of a 14-year tagging database is also being conducted to determine the movement patterns of common snook along the Atlantic Coast.  Previous studies on the Gulf Coast have determined that snook generally move less than 10 miles from the location in which they were tagged.  However, snook on each coast are genetically separated and show marked differences in multiple life history parameters.  It is currently believed that Atlantic Coast snook do demonstrate distinct seasonal movement patterns and analysis of this database will provide answers to those questions, as well as a clear definition of seasonal habitat preferences.

With the season open again, we would like to encourage anglers to continue to help as much as they have in the past.  If you encounter a biologist at a ramp, pier, or jetty, please take a minute to answer their questions.  The interviews are usually a few short questions, but can provide a great deal of valuable information.  If you have caught a legal sized snook, please allow our biologists to take necessary samples (this will not affect your fillets) or donate your filleted carcass at one of the participating stores listed below.  If you are dropping off a carcass, please do not break the backbone and try to leave all internal organs intact.  Also, if you would like to receive updates and information about the data collected, please leave your contact information with the carcass.  Finally, if you are interested in participating in the logbook program, please let one of us know.  This project is extremely valuable to us and we will try to accommodate participants any way we can.  

Official Atlantic Coast Drop-off Locations 

Brevard County:

Whitey’s Bait and Tackle – 9030 Hwy A1A, Melbourne Beach

Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle – 9700 S A1A, Melbourne Beach

St. Lucie County:

White’s Tackle Shop – 521 N 2nd St, Ft. Pierce

Snook Nook – 3595 NE Indian River Dr, Jensen Beach

Martin County:

Gaffer’s Bait and Tackle – 4480 SE St. Lucie Blvd, Stuart

Palm Beach County:

Fishing Headquarters – 633A Alt. A1A, Jupiter

Lott Bros. – 631 Northlake Blvd, N. Palm Beach

Broward County:

Kingsbury and Son’s Tackle, Inc. – 1801 S Federal Hwy, Ft. Lauderdale

Angler’s Bait and Tackle – 230 E Dania Beach Blvd, Dania Beach

Miami-Dade County:

High Tailin-it Bait and Tackle – 20264 Old Cutler Rd, Miami

Pirate’s Den at Black Point Marina – 24775 SW 87th Ave, Miami

A-OK Fish “N” Bait – 732 S Krome St, Homestead

Don’s Bait and Tackle – 30710 S Federal Hwy, Homestead

Jack’s Bait and Tackle – 35412 S Federal Hwy, Florida City 

Official Gulf Coast Drop-off Locations 

Hillsborough County:

Rodbender’s – 5200 W Tyson Ave, Tampa

Gandy Bait and Tackle – 4923 W Gandy Blvd, Tampa

Shell Point Marina – 3340 W Shell Pt. Rd, Ruskin

Pinellas County:

Bonnie’s Bait and Tackle – 613 S Ft. Harrison Ave, Clearwater

Manatee County:

Discount Tackle Outlet – 3113 1st St, Bradenton

Sarasota County:

New Pass Bait and Grill – 1498 ½ Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters – 1249 Stickney Pt. Rd, Siesta Key

Lee County:

Master Bait and Tackle – 4465 Bonita Beach Rd, Bonita Beach

Lehr’s Economy Tackle – 1366 N Tamiami Trail, N. Ft. Myers

Seven Seas Bait and Tackle – 4270 Pine Island Rd, Matlacha

The Bait House – 16758 McGregor Blvd, Ft. Myers

Angler’s Outlet – 4404 Del Prado Blvd, Cape Coral

Dead or Alive Bait and Tackle at Everest Marina – 1838 Everest Pkwy, Cape Coral

Shack Baits at Punta Rassa Ramp – 18500 McGregor Blvd, Ft. Myers

Fish Tale Marina – 7225 Estero Blvd, Ft. Myers Beach

The Bait Box – 1041 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Island

Collier County:

Angler’s Answer – 11387 Tamiami Trail E, Naples

Sunshine ACE Hardware – 141 9th St. N, Naples

Marco River Marina – 951 Bald Eagle Dr, Marco Island

Moran’s Barge Marina – 3200 San Marco Rd, Marco Island

Caxambas Pass Bait/Ship Store – 909 Collier Ct, Marco Island   

For questions or information regarding Atlantic Coast snook, contact:

Jim Whittington, Tom Eddie, Laura Lambremont, or Beau Yeiser

P.O. Box 3478

Tequesta, FL 33469

(561) 575 – 5408

jim.whittington@fwc.state.fl.us

tom.eddie@fwc.state.fl.us

laura.lambremont@fwc.state.fl.us

beau.yeiser@fwc.state.fl.us 

For questions or information regarding Gulf Coast snook, contact:

Ron Taylor or Alexis Trotter

100 Eighth Avenue SE

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

(727) 896 – 8626

ron.taylor@fwc.state.fl.us

alexis.trotter@fwc.state.fl.us

 

Everything About Lures

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By CAPT. MEL BERMAN, 970-WFLA

Ever wonder who the first brave soul was to eat a raw oyster, drink cow’s milk or chow down on snails back in the early days of man? Had to be someone very hungry and with lots of what we might call “chutzpa.” That same conjecture goes through our mind as we ponder who was the first ancient to try to fool fish with a lure.

Back in the Dark Ages, the rivers, lakes and seas had to be overflowing with all sorts of baitfish – some that have undoubtedly become extinct. Yet, there was that Neanderthal with enough “chutzpa” to attempt catching fish with a small piece of twig or something he crafted into an imitation bait.

We’ll never know who the father of the original artificial was back at the dawn of man, but several modern day anglers and lure manufacturers owe him (or possibly her) a great debt of gratitude. The lure industry today generates billions of dollars annually in sales, whose products are enthusiastically deployed by countless fishers worldwide.

Why artificials? That’s a question to this day that goes unsatisfactorily answered for a large segment of the fishing public — those who choose to pursue their favorite fish species with baits that Mother Nature was kind enough to provide.

Yet, there are those in the other camp who would never even consider buying a bait bucket crammed with live shrimp, harvesting a pail full of worms or fiddler crabs, or chumming up a school of baitfish and repeatedly throwing a castnet.

In this argument, we shall remain neutral. Certainly there are advantages and disadvantages to each discipline. However, today it is our mission to look into the use of the several types of available lures, how to work them, and to determine the reasons why folks enjoy using them.

Let’s begin with the latter and learn what it is about using lures that is so compelling to this vast army of artificial bait users.

For one thing, those addicted to these pieces of plastic, wood and metal will tell you that they enjoy a much more interesting fishing trip. With artificials one has the ability to cover a vast area, as opposed to casting a shrimp or other live offering in one spot, then hoping and praying that a fish will come by and eat it.

As a dedicated lure thrower once said, “I like the idea of always doing something, instead of sitting there drowning a live bait.” However, at the core of the “artificianado’s” devotion is the sense that they are “putting one over on the fish” – making the finny critters perceive through various techniques that something good to eat or even annoying is passing by.

Then there is the joy and challenge of experimenting with a variety of lures, working each at varying retrieves, twitches and slurps, even modifying them ourselves with different configurations and colors. We do all this to see what kind of response that plug, spoon or jig will evoke. And one never knows what the results might be.

On the other hand, we know deep down that the most consistent lure fishers are those who doggedly stay with one specific bait. It could be a plug, jig or spoon they know catches fish, and will work it until it produces strikes. Invariably these determined individuals wind up with at least as many hook-ups as any itchy lure-changer.

The fact is that, to be a successful angler, you need to get intimate with that one special confidence bait. It should be one with a proven track record for you… a plug, spoon or jig with which you’ve achieved a consistent measure of success. Stay with it. Put it through its paces. Try various retrieves. Observe what it does in calm or choppy waters.

Once you get a fish to bite, note how fast or how slow you were working the lure. Did you twitch lightly or rip it through the water. Were you keeping the rod tip down, up, or off to the side? Get satisfactory answers to all these questions, making mental, or even written notes of these details. All of these are important snippets of information that can ultimately educate you in the productive use of your one preferred lure. Above all, have patience. Stay with it. Give that bait ample time to work for you.

You might want to conduct a brief experiment: During your next fishing trip, try using that one preferred artificial exclusively all day long. Leave the loaded tackle box closed. Resist the temptation to change. You could very well surprise yourself and wind up with a successful and rewarding new fishing tactic – using your very own confidence bait.

The big payoff for all, however, comes when one observes the huge wake of a lunker chasing down that topwater plug, a hungry fish “binking” a jig, or brutally nailing a well-presented spoon.

Let us now examine the various types and categories of available artificial baits and, most importantly, how to work them for optimum results.

Virtually all the artificials we shall discuss are capable of producing very gratifying results when worked properly and under the appropriate conditions. We’ll describe each type and specifically how to work them. In most cases, you should be able to translate the techniques described for your own favorite brand of lures.

Also, bear in mind there are many factors which can affect fishing conditions and how the various species responds to a given bait. Weather, tides, cold fronts and other atmospheric phenomena could very well be inhibiting factors. Nevertheless, each set of even adverse circumstances present an interesting challenge, and could actually prove to be a valuable learning experience. Experienced anglers will tell you that’s what separates the men from the boys, so to speak. Above all, persistence is the key. Give these artificials half a chance, and we feel confident that you should soon be elevating your fishing ability.

Among the most popular lure styles is the jig. Comprised of a lead jig head with plastic or fiber jig tails, they are among the easiest to work. Simply flip it out, let it drop, twitch it upward, let it drop again. Repeat several times until it is retrieved back to the angler’s fishing position. Most of the time fish will strike on the drop.

Several anglers enjoy fishing success by simply casting the jig out, down toward the bottom and then slowly “swim” the jig with an occasional light twitch. Jig tails with some kind of wiggle action work best using this technique.

You can also “Texas rig” a plastic jig tail, placing it on a worm hook and working it on the surface like a topwater plug or, adding a bit of lead weight, reeling and twitching it just below the water’s surface.

Another element to consider when jig fishing is the design of the jig head itself. Most are of the so-called “cannonball” variety – perfectly round, with or without painted on eyes.

Then there are those jig heads that impart some additional action to the jig. These could be flat, oval or other configurations that provides various kinds of enticing action to this versatile bait.

Colors play a key role in the success of any jig and, even though fish cannot perceive the spectrum as humans can, they do recognize dark vs. light, sparkling or reflective tails and certainly the swimming action of each type of jig.

And finally, there is the issue of eyes on a jig head. Many fervently believe that a jig head with eyes attracts fish much more effectively that head without eyes. These days, there are now available jig heads with la
rge holographic eyes built in, which many insist will catch more fish.

In our next installment, we’ll talk about other major types of artificial lures, how they work and how to catch fish with them. Stay tuned.

Firehouse Fish: Merrill Remembered Series

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By MERRILL ‘CANOEMAN’ CHANDLER (1930 – 2002)
 

Every so often, Poseidon, the God of the sea, will allow his subjects to go on a striking rampage. As a rule it is often yesterday. I’m sure that you have heard someone say, “You should have been here yesterday.” Well, we were there when it happened today

Capt. Mel, “Fireman John Litz and myself usually fish at least once a week and the past few outings have enabled us to hone our casting skills. Oh, we did catch a few stragglers; just enough to keep our interest, but nothing like this trip.

The water temperature has been hovering around the high fifties making the fish quite lethargic. I guess these past few sunny days have heated the waters to a degree that is acceptable for the trout bite to turn on.

We left the Seminole ramp in Clearwater shortly after seven in the morning. Capt Don Mason was waiting for his clients to show up and he told us that the trout had really started to hit and directed us to a few choice locations. Most of the folks here are quite free with telling hot spots. That is a far cry from some of my northern buddies. When you ask them where to find fish they are most informative. “In the water!” Would be the reply. To say they are closed mouth would be a gross understatement. Even my best friends in Vermont will make me put on a blindfold before they will lead me to some of their prime fishing holes.

One day, a few years back when Capt. Mel visited me at my cottage “Noah Genda” in New Hampshire, we went to see a weigh in at a bass tournament on the Connecticut River. Mel asked one of the anglers what he used to catch a nice bass. Well, one would have thought that he asked for a date with the guy’s wife by the way the fisherman reacted to Mel’s question.

But I digress, as I seem to do frequently these days.

The tide was high and falling with a beautiful southeasterly breeze to aid the drift. Bountiful sea fog seemed ready to engulf us but never did impair our fishing. We were at our most favorite location when John set up the drift. As is usual my lure hit the water first. However it was John that brought in the first fish followed by a clone on Mel’s line “Looks like a pair of firehouse fish to me.” John said as he measured the duo of eighteen inchers. We usually will keep one or two fish that Mel and I will share but today we were on a mission.

Firehouse fish are ones that will be eaten at the evening meal at the fire station.

“The guys really enjoy a meal of fish once and a while.” John said.

John was tossing his favorite Capt. Mel Measles DOA Shrimp out and just trolling it back about fifty feet. Mel opted for the new CAL shad tail jig in the Avocado/Red glitter and I had the same only in the Rainbow Trout color.

We drifted in and out of many hot areas with Mel and John battling for top honors. I did get my share but they both seemed to hit larger fish. I did get a little chatter from the two as to why I caught all of the small ones. But I paid little attention.

With the ice chest loaded with the required amount we continued to catch fish but we released all of the rest.

I had a great hit and that fish took line at will. A loner bonnet head shark grabbed my lure and headed south. That fish qualified me for the top length honors. After a photo, the sleek critter was returned to its watery home.

As we were about to leave that area an FWC enforcement boat pulled along side and one of the officers asked to inspect our catch, plus check to make sure that we all had fishing licenses.

It was a pleasant surprise to see officers on the job. They commented on the fish that we had caught and also told how, a few days back; they did a lot of paper work writing citations. An obvious reference to anglers caught with illegal catches,

That was the first time in over five years that I have seen any form of law enforcement people on the water. After checking our licenses and safety equipment the FWC guys bade us good luck as they departed.

The sun had reached its apex and the breeze freshened as we decided to call it a day.

One more stop at the favorite spot allowed us to land more of these legal size fish. And since we already had a generous catch for our firehouse friends, we released them all.

So you see it is possible to have a good day even if it was suppose to have happened yesterday!

Fish “Smell O Vision”

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By CAPT. MEL BERMAN, 970-WFLA

Several years ago we were heading offshore to one of my super-special, super secret grouper loaded hole. Conditions couldn’t have been better. The moon was in its second quarter, air temperature; a balmy 76 degrees, seawater; 74 degrees. To cap it all off I had two of my favorite (and late) fishing cronies aboard — Peterson and the outrageous Billy Ray Conner, both outstanding grouper diggers and fun guys with whom to spend the day.

As we navigated past the park at the mouth of the Anclote River, I turned on my depth recorder. Attempting to change the range, I could not turn the knob. It had absolutely corroded into place.

Billy Ray, being helpful as always, rummaged through his oversized tackle box and came up with a can of his favorite corrosion busting spray. Then Billy Ray liberally showered the offending knob with that smelly, oily stuff.

“Boy that sure stinks,” observed Pete. “Yeah, but try turning that knob now” said Billy Ray proudly as he gave us a demonstration of the ease with which it now can be turned. Then, carefully wiping all the excess lubricant off the recorder, he sat down for our trip to my recently discovered honey hole.

Running the last loran microseconds down to zero, the recorder started marking a load of heavy grouper on the bottom. We couldn’t get set up quickly enough. “Boy, there’s some fish in that hole,” Pete observed.

After dropping our marker jug and anchoring up over the fish laden rock pile, all aboard eagerly grabbed a frozen sardine and eased it down to the gags below.

Pete and I received immediate strikes, reeling in instant 15-pound keepers — none for Billy Ray. Again, lowering our baited hooks to the bottom, it was still the “Pete and Mel Show,” with Billy Ray chalking up a big goose egg.

This sequence was repeated several times until a completely exasperated Billy Ray, normally an awesome grouper digger, decided to try and figure out why the fish were shunning his bait offerings.

Then the imaginary light bulb lit up inside Billy Ray’s brain. “That darn corrosion spray,” he yelled. “The fish can’t stand that smell.”

Reaching into his tacklebox, Billy Ray got out some hand cleaner, thoroughly washing and rinsing his inadvertently scented paws several times. Then Pete reached into his box and gave Billy Ray another bottle of fisherman’s scent remover to rub into his hands..

That two-pronged remedy did the trick. On the very next drop, Billy Ray pulled up the biggest fish of the day.

About 9 years ago, I went snooking with my late pal Merrill ‘Canoeman’ Chandler and then 620-WDAE Program Director Brad James. The night before, I had an annoying stiffness in my back — so I hauled out the muscle cream, and started liberally rubbing that smelly gunk all over my back. I thought I had washed my hands sufficiently after the rubdown but, as later experiences revealed, I didn’t really get the odor completely off my hands.

Setting up at our first spot, Brad nailed an almost keeper snook on a Love Lures Floatin Jig. Then, moments later, Merrill snagged a hawg right by the mangroves, using a small shad tail jig. Unfortunately, the big fish cut him off in the bushes and it was gone.

Meanwhile, I tried switching to what Brad and then Merrill were using. I couldn’t even get a tap. I was left with a feeling of frustration and totally inadequate to the fishy task at hand. Where most of the time I can hold my own with these guys, this day I couldn’t catch a cold!
Then I asked Merrill for one of those identical jigs from his supply and to tie one onto my leader. Now since I personally never touched the lure, it didn’t become contaminated with the obviously obnoxious odor imbedded in my hands That did it, and it wasn’t long before I caught my first snook of the day. Later, using Merrill as my lure tier, I was able to keep right up with my fishing partners, hooking several really nice big fish of many species.

Of course, the reverse is true. There are many scents available that actually draw fish to your bait. Recently, I have been doing very well with the new product, UltraScent. It’s a small pill-like tablet with a hole in the middle through which you put your leader, just above the bait or lure. There, UltraScent emits a continuous scent in one of four different natural flavors — shrimp, crab, menhaden and their “Original.”
The point I’m trying to make is that you should be always aware of all fishing conditions – even the odors on your hands and baits. Smells – wanted or unwanted – can really have a great effect on your fishing success.

Fish Hooks For Snook

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By CAPT. FRED EVERSON 

Because snook come in such a wide range of sizes, and because the initial surge of the strike is so strong, the hooks used for snook fishing require careful selection. Don’t count on 10-pound test line breaking before the hook straightens. I once used some worm hooks designed for bass fishing when the store was out of the hooks I like. It is amazing how fate plays upon such minor details and will not let you get away with making that sort of mistake.

Of course I put that hook into a jerk bait and on the first cast from the boat there was a terrific swirl right next to the anchor line. The big fish was instantly 60 yards from the boat with my drag singing. I didn’t tighten the it, but I did apply all the pressure I dared, and I was actually able to stop the big snook’s run. Then I kept the pressure on to turn the fish and suddenly the line went slack. I thought I had broken my line at the leader knot, but after reeling it in I found the hook still attached to the leader, — only it was not “J” shaped anymore, it was more like an “L.”

That was a hard lesson to learn. Hooking very big snook on the flats in broad daylight is not an everyday occurrence. But you can bet I will never make that mistake again. In fact, I now look at all the hooks I use in snook fishing with a very critical eye.

I use several types of live bait hooks for snook. When fishing by myself, or fishing with experienced anglers, I use a #1 live bait hook for sardines and shrimp. I like the forged bronze Mustad hook, which is incredibly strong for its size. And size is important in live bait fishing, because you do not want the weight of the hook to impede the natural action of the bait.

Capt. Chet Jennings fishes with a lot more clients than I do, and for that reason he relies on Eagle Claw Kahle hooks style #L141 size 1/0. These hooks are designed to set themselves in the corner of the fish’s mouth by merely applying steady line pressure. This hook is an excellent choice for rods left in a rod holder, or for inexperienced anglers, or if catch and release is the order of the day. These hooks are a compromise between the more traditional “J” hook, and the more modern circle hook. Circle hooks are favored by longliners and tarpon fishermen for a reason. They work, and they work as well untended as they do in the hands of an angler. Maybe even better untended, because if you try to set a circle hook as you would a conventional hook, you will miss the fish most of the time.

I am especially wary of factory treble hooks on lures, even if the lure is labeled for saltwater use. That might apply only to corrosion resistance, and not to strength. I replace most factory-installed trebles with 4x strength bronze hooks. These will rust if you don’t rinse them off, but that’s the idea. If a snook breaks me off, I want the hooks to rust out of his mouth quickly as possible.

I fish a lot of soft plastic, and for most of these baits I like the True Turn Brute offset worm hook. It’s a bronze hook and it will rust, but it is as strong as the name implies, and comes with a very good point.

I also fish a lot of jigs, and I am equally fussy about the strength of my jig hooks. I am using RipTide’s jig heads because they have an excellent hook, well pointed and super strong. However, there are a number of quality jig heads in this corner of the port.

To check any snook hook for strength I like to try and flex it with my fingers. If the hook flexes much more than a hair, I don’t trust it for snook.