Saltwater Sportfishing Lifestyles Magazine

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Saltwater Sportfishing Lifestyles Magazine
SaltwaterSportfishing
L I F E S T Y L E S
www.SaltwaterSportfishingLifeStyles.com
Shark
Tarpon Basics
Portfolio: Alan Williams
Florida Redfish
Targeting Snook
Wreck Fishing Permit
Spearfishing Wahoo
Bonefishing
On the Hunt for Lionfish
Springtime Sheepshead
What’s New!
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April 24 th - 27 th, 2014
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Top Winners of the
2013 Wahoo Smackdown
First Place - Team Brizzo
Second Place - Timeless
Third Place - Fishin A Loan
Ed Garcia, Daryl John, Dezy Garcia,
Alan Mastel
Triston Hunt, Johnathon Santana,
Jason Smith, Delvon Dean, Aaron Sikora,
Ryan Grotta, Ritchie Mancini
Kevin Marsh, Charlie Roach,Billy Thomas,
John Scarcella
Sign up for the next
2014 Wahoo Smackdown IV
February 27th - March 1st, 2014
[email protected]
www.BigGameClubBimini.com
25° 43.34 N | 79° 17.45 W
Toll Free: (800) 867-4764 Local: (242) 347-3391
contents
page 7
editorial | Saltwater Life is Good
by Richard H. Stewart
page 12
Boasting Boards
page 17
Tarpon Basics
page 30
page 39
page 42
by Pat Ford
Shark
by Captain Lace Allenius
Platform Habitats
by Richard H. Stewart
Puerto Rico Kayak Excursions
by George Large
page 55
Alan Williams Portfolio
page 68
Florida Redfish
page 77
page 80
page 84
page 92
page 100
page 109
page 112
by Captain Willy Lee
Targeting Snook
by David McLeod
What’s New Products
by Richard H. Stewart, Editor in Chief
Wreck Fishing for Permit
by Captain Jimmy Nelson
Spearfishing Wahoo
by Cameron Kirkconnell
Bonefishing
by Captain Jimmy Nelson
On the Hunt for Lionfish
by Stacy Frank
Springtime Sheepshead
by Cameron Ripple
Saltwater | 4 | Sportfishing
saltwater life is good
Since the beginning of human-kind, the oceans have nourished its growth
providing minerals for life but more importantly, providing fish for life.
Anglers from all parts of the world would easily debate where is the best fishing - rivers, lakes or the oceans. Truth is all
are great sources for fishing, but those who would say the
oceans have a passion for saltwater species and that woud be
their argument.
Welcome to our new magazine - SaltWater Sportfishing
LifeStyles. With the deluge of fishing magazines, one would
wonder why another? Unlike most fishing magazines that
feature a range of editorial covering lakes, rivers and the ocean, we choose to
only showcase saltwater fishing.
Another reason, we have a wealth of information and spectacular photography
flowing in from our several dozen professional anglers and photographers and it
seemed such a waste not to offer it to the angler community.
And lastly, we have an awesome design and production team, with over 38 years
of experience, and we believe you will enjoy the visual stimulation in the way we
have presented each feature story.
Saltwater Sportfishing LifeStyles is more then just another pretty angler
magazine, it is as its name says, a lifestyles magazine and therefore
willcover the many faces of an angler’s life from food to fashion
and travel to conservation.
So sit back with your tablet and scroll through the
pages and remember everything is hyperlinked
from the stories to the advertisment’s providing
instant access to a wealth of online information.
Best Fishes!
Richard H. Stewart
Editor-in-Chief
Saltwater | 7 | Sportfishing
the creative team
LIFESTYLES MEDIA
New Smyrna Beach, FL
352.817.5893
Richard H. Stewart
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
Sheila Greenfield
Editor
Carmen Rollard
Associate Editor
Captain Lace Allenius
Pat Ford, Stacy Frank
Cameron Kirkconnell
George Large, Captain Willy Lee
David McLeod, Cameron Ripple
Allan Williams
Contributing Editors
Richard H. Stewart
Art/Production Director
Sheila Greenfield
Advertising/Marketing
LifeStyles Media and its titles
Saltwater Sportfishing LifeStyles,
Lady Angler LifeStyles, Lady Shooter LifeStyles,
Lady Golfer LifeStyles and Scuba LifeStyles
is a division of Stewart Digital Media.
Richard H. Stewart
Founder/CEO
Additional divisions are EcoMedia and the
EcoGuide Travel Series and Ocean Realm Media
and the Ocean Realm Journal.
[email protected]
www.StewartDigitalMedia.com
CLICK HERE FOR MEDIA KIT
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Boasting Board
Ryan Shapiro and
Connor Dawson
caught this 395lb
swordfish in key west
in 2000 feet of water.
Ashley Barnes with a toothy 29lb
kingfish she trolled up in 20 feet
of water off a reef in Bay Port FL
on a Yo-Zuri 3D minnow.
Xavier Groenendyk caught this
big sailfish in Mexico on a C&H
cona classic.
Austin Chow got this
beast of a YF Tuna on
A Yo-Zuri Sashimi
popper in Punta Mita
Mexico.
Brittany, Carmille, and Laurn
caught this quality assortment of
grouper while staying at the
Plantation on Crystal River.
Steve Rodriguez
caught these delicious
hogfish in Homosassa
Fl on live shrimp.
David Mcleod yanked this tasty
convict in the boat on a shrimp
out of Homosassa, FL.
Ashley knight tricked this flounder
into eating a Yo-Zuri Crystal
Shrimp while wade fishing in Pine
Island FL
Christina Rudland caught this
monster barracuda on a Yo-Zuri
3D deep diver while trolling off
Fort Meyers FL
Jim Nelson Sr trolled
up this tasty bull
dolphin 2 miles off
alligator reef in
Islamorada on a C&H
Smokin Joe.
John King trolled up
this wahoo in Venice
Louisiana by an oil rig
Nate Nelson had a
blast reeling this Jack
in while fishing with
his dad in Yanke
Town, FL.
Jim Rodrigues caught this big
wahoo in the Cayman Islands on a
rigged ballyhoo.
Saltwater | 10 | Sportfishing
Lace Allenius caught
this big bull dolphin
on a Yo-Zuri 3D popper in Islamorada with
Capt Larry aboard the
First Choice
Sam Spornhauer will be eating
well after boating this respectable
trippletail out of Venice Louisiana
on a Yo-Zuri Crystal shrimp.
Saltwater | 11 | Sportfishing
Boasting Board
Ashley Long caught
this snook in Pine
Island FL while fishing
with Capt. Chris
Whitman.
Sam Spornhauer will be eating
well after boating this respectable
trippletail out of Venice Louisiana
on a Yo-Zuri Crystal shrimp.
Elise Noel and Josh Huff caught
this nice gag grouper double in
Yankeetown FL.
Sara Griffin wrestled this over-slot
redfish back to the boat on a
yo-Zuri Sashimi jointed lure right
before the afternoon storms hit
Cape Coral FL.
This is one of many
blackfin tuna Josh
Ardis caught on the
Yo-Zuri 3D popper
out of Duck Key.
Colin Mcphillips had some delicious sashimi after boating this
big YF Tuna in Mexico.
Sabrina Atwell trolled this smoker
kingfish up in Crystal River FL on a
Yo-Zuri 3D deep diver.
Snowy grouper is always a nice
surprise for John Saucier while
deep dropping on the SW
Louisiana oil rigs.
Take the Kids fishing,
they'll never forget...
Thanks Kingdom
Business Charters
Kevin Garcia caught
this snook by
bouncing a jig in front
of him in Crystal River
FL.
Barry Vance jigged
this big gag up on a
no alibi alien jig in
Bay Port FL.
Neil Patel caught his kingfish
trolling a Yo-Zuri crystal minnow
deep diver off Cape Canaveral in
35 feet of water.
Saltwater | 12 | Sportfishing
Courtney shows the guys how it's
done on Dania Beach...Nice Snook!
Ernie admiring one of
the nice snook from
last night while everyone was sleeping.
Sean Nelson caught this huge
black drum on a live shrimp in
YankeeTown FL with his dad Capt.
Jimmy Nelson.
Saltwater | 13 | Sportfishing
TRICKS & TIPS
Tarpon Basics
Postcard Inn Marina, The Florida Keys
A Florida Keys Marina in Islamorada,
at Postcard Inn Located at Holiday Isle
How to hook and catch your first mega tarpon
Postcard Inn Marina
Fishing Charters & Slip Rentals
84001 Overseas Hwy (MM84)
[email protected]
305-433-9941
by Pat Ford
Bad Habit
Capt.Duanehas20+years
ofexperiencefishingthe
Atlanticcoast,theFlorida
Keys,andtheBahamas.
Fishinghasalwaysbeen
hisfavoritepastime.Oneof
hisfavoritepartsabout
beingacharterboatcaptain
isgettingtoexperiencethe
excitementofhisguests
fishingaboardBadHabit.
CaptainDuaneandhis
crewcancustomizeany
chartertosuityourdesires.
772-321-4273
www.JustBumminIt.com
Florida Fisher
Intheearly1980′sCaptainStevediscoveredtheSouthFlorida
Fishery.Realizingtheopportunitytofishthisarea“yearround”
andthefantasticfishing,heresearchedthemanyareasinSouth
Florida.ThefishingintheFloridaKeyswasunmatchedforvariety
andsuperiorwaterquality.In1998hestarted“FloridaFishing
Headquarters”inIslamorada
305-393-1641 | www.TarponHeadquarters.com
The Suzanne Too
CaptainJohnhasover40
yearsoffishingexperience,
manyyearsoutofBarnegat
Lightandhaswonrecognitionbothinthenortheast,
andtheFloridaKeys.We
areafamilyownedfishing
businessandweknowthe
valueofhappy,funmemorieswithfamilyandfriends
alongwithrelationships,
camaraderie,teamspirit
andloyalstaff.
305-451- 0007
www.SuzanneFishing
Charters.com
Captain Bob Baker
CaptBobhasworkedasaguidefishingtheKeys,EvergladesNationalParkandsurroundingwatersthepast25
years.CaptBobBaker,FloridaKeyssportfishingguides,
offersIslamoradaFloridafishingchartersthoughoutthe
Floridakeysforsportfishingandbackcountryfishing.
305-664-8135
www.CaptainBobBaker.com
VISIT THESE HOLIDAY ISLE EATERIES FOR GREAT FOOD AND LIVATIONS!
A
nyone with basic fly casting skills can catch a hundred
pound tarpon on a fly if they
are willing to properly prepare
for the challenge.
I know it’s a bit intimidating if
you’re used to using a 5 weight
for trout, but you really do not
need the physical skills of Stu Apte
or Andy Mill to best a triple digit
tarpon. How do I know this?
Mainly because I have pretty basic
fly rod skills and I’ve caught a lot
of tarpon over the years. Now, if
you really want to catch you first
tarpon, here’s how to do it.
First of all you need to charter a
guide who chases tarpon with a fly
rod on a regular basis. Early in the
season- February thru April – Key
West is usually more productive,
but weather is an important factor.
Actually weather is always a key
Saltwater | 17 | Sportfishing
factor, but there’s nothing we can
do about it except pray a lot.
April thru July tarpon can be
found from Miami to Key West in
good numbers. June through
August they can be found in
Northwest Florida. The best
guides are usually booked up well
in advance of tarpon season but in
today’s economy there are a lot
more open days than you’d think.
If you can’t find a guide by
research and/or word of mouth,
contact The Fly Shop of Miami
(305-669-5851), Florida Keys
Outfitters in Islamorada (305-6645423) or the Salt Water Angler in
Key West (800-223-1629), but be
sure to tell them that you want
someone who specializes in
tarpon on fly. For Northwest
Florida tarpon contact Capt. Gjuro
Bruer at 850-685-5756. Gjuro’s
season is a bit later but very
productive. The fish up there
haven’t been harassed nearly as
much and the ones down south.
Decide when and where you want
to fish, do some guide research
and book early.
Now all a guide can do is find
the fish and put you in a position
to make a cast….the rest is up to
the angler. You have to be able to
cast a 12 weight rod 50 to 60 feet
accurately and to do that you
need to find the right outfit for
your skills and you need to
practice. Choosing a 12 weight
outfit is pretty simple. Andy Mill is
the best caster I’ve ever seen but
he uses a Tibor Pacific reel which I
find to be way too big and heavy.
A Tibor Gulfstream or a Nautilus
12 is much easier on the elbow
and will handle anything a tarpon
can dish out. If you insist on a
high retrieve ratio, try the Loop
‘Megaloop’ reel. Fill your new reel
with 300 yards of 50 lb Braid
backing and a visible ‘tarpon
Taper’ floating line. I put 100 feet
of 50 or 80 lb Dacron between the
fly line and the braid backing as a
transition. Braid can cut you finger if you try to put pressure on it
while the fish is running. The
floating line is the easiest to cast
and makes it easier for you and
the guide to keep track of the fly.
Tie on 10 feet of 60 lb florocarbon
for a leader and you’re all set to
pick out a rod. When your reel is
set up, take it down to your local
fly shops and try out every 12
weight they have, till you find one
that you can cast effectively. It
needs to ‘feel good to you’ and
When rod selection is
complete, you need to go out in
the back yard and practice. Do
not show up in the Keys and pick
up your 12 weight for the first
time. Tarpon fishing is expensive.
It’s not the time to ‘practice’. If
you’ve never fished in salt water
when you are trying it out, tie on a
heavy tarpon fly, preferably with
the hook cut off. Do not cast the
rod without a fly. You probably
should wet the fly and try casting
into the wind too. Avoid a ‘front
cork’ if you can – you’ll never need
it and it just makes the rod that
much heavier. Loomis, Sage,
Loop, Temple Fork, Scott and
many other companies make
excellent 3 and 4 piece tarpon
rods. You can go with an 11
weight if it improves your casting,
but a 10 weight is really too light.
You need a stiff rod to cast big
flies into the wind and plenty of
backbone to fight a hundred
pound fish, so take your time and
find the model that’s right for you.
before, find a casting instructor
and take a lessen or two. You
need to be able to shoot 60 feet
of line with two backcasts and put
the fly reasonably close to a fish,
the mere sight of which is going
to send your nerves into the
stratosphere. I guarantee that no
matter how proficient you are in
the yard, a school of six foot
tarpon gliding into range will
make you fall to pieces. A half
hour a day casting to a garbage
can top exactly 60 feet away,
hopefully, will allow enough
pieces to stick together long
enough to let you get your fly to
the fish.
In South Florida there are
two separate tarpon fisheries – the
Saltwater | 19 | Sportfishing
ocean and the ‘back country’. In
the ocean you will cast to a few
hundred tarpon on a good day
and if you’re lucky, 2 or 3 will eat
your fly. Cast after cast will be
ignored regardless of how
accurate it is. But don’t feel too
bad, they ignore most everyone’s
fly. Just make the best casts you
can as the fish are approaching, as
they’re going by, and as they’re
leaving. Eventually you’ll come
across one with ‘stupid’ written
across it’s forehead that will swing
out of line and suck in your fly.
Don’t give up, but be prepared for
a lot of rejection. The ocean fish
are tough!
The ‘back country’ on the other
hand has tarpon that will eat. You
may only have a dozen shots but
half of them will eat if they see the
fly. Capt Bruer’s fish along the
northwest coast also eat
aggressively and eating is very
important. The tarpon in the ‘back’
are more sensitive to wind and
weather, but if the guide says that
there are fish in the back, that’s
where you want to be. These fish
will be ‘laid up’ or cruising in
relatively murky water so they
prefer big flies that are harder to
cast than the tiny flies we use on
the ocean, but everything is about
getting the bite and the fish in the
back are far more forgiving on on
almost every level. Unfortunately
they still have the same effect on
your nerves.
If you are on your first tarpon
quest, do not worry about leaders
or flies. The guide will have both
and will rig your rod for you. Just
be sure to mention to him in
advance (for example, when you’re
asking him what he’d like you to
bring for lunch) that this is your
first trip and you’d appreciate his
expertise on rigging and fly
selection. Like in fishing,
presentation is everything!
Every guide will have his own
selection of ‘secret’ flies and he
will know which patterns to use in
each location. If you’re on the
lunch on his mind. This is phase
two of the process and there are
still a few things you need to do.
Keep your rod tip at the water
surface while you retrieve your fly.
Strip slowly – fast ‘jerks’ will spook
a tarpon as will a fly that’s
ocean, you will probably use a
toad, shrimp, or worm pattern on
a 1/0 Gamakatsu SL12 hook. In
the back flies range from toads to
huge purple monstrosities that are
killer in dirty water. Leaders are
usually composed of 20 lb Mason
Hard mono with a 60 lb
fluorocarbon shock, in case you
want to bring supplies. That 60 lb
section that you were using in
practice will be the butt section of
your leader.
Now let’s assume that you’ve
booked a good guide, practiced
diligently with a rod you can
handle and that you’ve just
dropped your fly in front of a
huge tarpon that, as you can see
through your polarized glasses, is
rising up behind your fly with
charging the fish. If a hamburger
ran across a table at you, you’d
spook too. Same theory. The prey
should be moving away from the
predator.
Always keep your rod tip down!
Tarpon do not ‘bite’ flies. They
suck the fly in by blowing water
into their cavernous mouth and
out through their gills. From the
angler’s point of view, the fly just
disappears while the mouth stays
open. If you try to set the hook as
soon as the fly disappears, you will
simply pull the fly right back out.
Wait till you see the tarpon shut
it’s mouth and turn his head, then
strip-strike him while moving the
rod (with tip still low) in the opposite direction of the fish’s turn. It
is also acceptable to strip-strike
Saltwater | 23 | Sportfishing
when the guides bellows ‘Hit Him’
from somewhere behind you. It’s
hard to set a hook in that concrete
mouth so hit him good but don’t
hang on too long because that big
old prehistoric herring is about to
go nuts. This is the best 60
seconds in fishing. Be prepared
for chaos.
Teamwork between guide and
angler is essential in tarpon
fishing. Standing on the poling
platform allows the guide to see
everything that’s going on a lot
better than the angler. Andy Mill
and Capt Tim Hoover were the
best. Tim would tell Andy whether
his cast was ok, too long, too
short, etc. and whether to cast
again. He’d tell Andy when to
slow down or speed up his
retrieve and when to twitch or
slide the fly. Capt Rick Murphy
does the same thing with me – he
literally talks me through the ‘take’
and the yells ‘Hit Him’ just to
make sure I’m not completely
mesmerized by the whole scene
taking place before me. Rick
readily tells everyone that I would
catch more fish blindfolded
because then I would be forced to
do exactly what he says and when.
I’d never admit it to him, but he’s
probably right. Don’t be offended
by the guide talking you through
the cast and hook-up. There’s an
advantage to having a coach at
the back of the boat, but there’s a
big difference between a coach
and a critic. No one wants to pay
$600 a day for a critic, whether
you’re a novice or an expert. Just
something to keep in mind when
researching a guide – find out
how compassionate he is with
newcomers.
When you get that first bite,
you’ll need to clear your line as Mr.
Poon heads for points unknown.
As everyone knows, when a tarpon jumps you need to ‘bow’ to
him by throwing your rod towards
the horizon. The reason for this is
that when a tarpon is swimming
his weight is diminished by
something like 80%. When the
takes to the air, flip flopping and
Consider it a necessary part of
preparing for you first tarpon
encounter.
There is nothing in fishing that
I have seen that compares to a six
foot tarpon inhaling your fly and
then going berserk at the sting of
the hook. Something like 8 out of
10 fall off no matter who the
angler is. Baby tarpon (under 40
shaking his head, he weighs 100
lbs again. The tippet will hold up
a lot longer if there’s no pressure
on it during the jumps. The best
instructions for fighting a big
tarpon on a fly rod are contained
in Stu Apte’s video “the Quest for
Giant Tarpon”, which can be
ordered from Stu’s website:
Stuapte.net. There’s no use in my
trying to explain how to pressure
a tarpon on a fly rod when you
can watch the whole process in
the comfort of your living room.
This video is absolutely the best
instruction you will ever find on
fighting a big fish on a fly rod.
lbs) are fun but nothing like their
parents. If you want to absorb the
total tarpon experience, go for the
big boys. The only complication is
‘addiction’ but that’s not really all
that bad.
Saltwater | 27 | Sportfishing
SHARK
By Captain Lace Allenius
Images By Captain Jimmy Nelson
slashing on the surface almost 100 yards from where
he originally took my bait.
Even though it was early morning, the sweat had
already begun to bead up on my brow as I was fighting the first fish of the day. Realizing that this shark
had now stripped almost 300 yards of line off my reel,
we pulled the anchor and began to chase my toothy
opponent. Motoring at a brisk pace across the flats,
we finally caught up to the 5ft lemon shark that had
devoured the hapless jack. The bloody handiwork I
had done to the bait fish had paid off handsomely.
Captain Lace snage a Nurse
shark on her second cast
T
he early morning fog had almost burned off the
surface of the water, dew from the night before
still covered our boat, and pelicans were diving on
schools of pilchards flicking on top of the water.
Mullet were bouncing frantically inside the live well,
and a steady stream of chum was flowing out from behind the boat. I felt a droplet of blood hit my cheek
from the jack crevalle that was twitching on my hook
as I cut off his tail. Slinging the large injured bait with
my Tsunami rod, I watched it hit the water. It was the
perfect spot in the channel for him to bleed out, and
draw in our targeted species.
Saltwater | 30 | Sportfishing
With my first rod secure in the rod holder, the sun
made its way above the mangrove lined channel. It
warmed my face and stirred an excitement in me,
knowing we were setting up at the perfect time of day.
Reaching my arm elbow-deep into the live well, grabbing a frantic mullet, and holding him tightly, I pierced
its lips with a large circle hook and slung my second
bait to the other side of the channel. With no time to
dry my hands from hooking the bait, my first rod made
a sudden jerk as it bent over with the drag peeling out.
I lunged for the rod, forcing it out of the rod holder,
and shouting for joy, “fish on!” With my knuckles turning white from gripping the rod, I saw a large shark
With the wind in my face, the sun at my back, and
the shark only a few feet from the bow of the boat, I
was able to get a good look at the beast we would
soon attempt to grab and release. My regular fishing
partner, Extreme Fishing Adventures TV host, Captain
Jimmy Nelson, bent down to grab the dorsal fin of
the shark. It shot under the boat with a powerful
splash, forcing me to run and maneuver it around the
bow to the stern. Covered in water, he was in position
for the second attempt to subdue our catch. I slowly
pulled the shark toward the stern of the boat, with its
head a few inches below the surface. Capt. Jimmy
reached out and grabbed the fin and leader, and we
now had hold of a very angry and unpredictable
shark.
Shark fishing is one of my favorite types of fishing
probably because of the danger aspect, the great
fight they put up, and the ability to catch them almost anywhere in the world. Some fishermen may
not like sharks for several reasons. Sharks have a bad
Saltwater | 31 | Sportfishing
“While targeting sharks,
there are several things
that should be done to
have a productive day on
the water”
wrap that’s been acquired over the years because they devour game fish, are difficult to dehook, and many fishermen have not
experienced the thrill of catching and releasing
sharks in a safe way.
I enjoy catching sharks of all types and sizes,
inshore and offshore. Small sharks are fun because they’re easy to land and pull into the boat
for a quick picture. Large sharks are thrilling because of the long battle, dynamite runs, and
their awe-inspiring beauty. No matter how
good you are at landing sharks, or how many
times you’ve done it, there’s always a nervousness that grips you when reaching down to dehook them. Naturally, the anxiety is due to the
shark’s volatile nature, and the damage it could
do with a single lunge and snap of its jaws.
While targeting sharks, there are several
things that should be done to have a productive
day on the water. Know the area you’re fishing
and know that it’s “sharky” water, have plenty of
chum, the proper tackle, and at least one experienced shark fisherman on board. Once you’re
set up, the best thing to do is chum the water
heavily. I generally get chum the day before at
a local cleaning station or on a fishing trip
where I will have by-catches of barracuda, jack
crevalle, lady fish, and other stinky species
known as trash fish. If you end up only catching
the dreaded “trash can slam”, don’t worry, because you can go for some huge sharks the next
day.
Once you have your chum, its good to tie several fish on a rope from the
edge of the boat, and chop chunks out of them throughout the day. This
keeps the smell of blood continually fresh in the water. In my Grizzly
cooler, I keep chum bags ready with frozen chum blocks.
help land the fish once it’s hooked. Medium to heavy
conventional tackle is the go-to tackle for larger
sharks. Large spinning tackle can also prove effective
if you’re able to follow the shark by boat, and don’t
need to turn him immediately. I prefer having too
heavy of tackle over too light of tackle while fishing
for these powerful creatures. On my typical conventional setup for larger sharks, I usually have 80lb mono
down to a 200lb wire leader with a 12/0 circle hook.
For smaller sharks, 65lb braid on a medium heavy
spinning rod with a 60-80lb Yo-Zuri power carbon
Now that you’re set up and the chum is pouring out leader tied off to a 100lb wire leader and a 7/0 hook
of the back of your boat, having the proper tackle will should be sufficient for sharks 50lbs and smaller.
Hang these from either side of the boat. It’s also
good to have one of my personal favorite chums, menhaden oil. One way to dispense menhaden oil in a slow
steady stream is to clip a can of Fish Bomb on a swivel,
and string it from the side of the boat. Press the cap
down to keep the can in free-flow, and this will create
your menhaden slick. If there’s a shark anywhere within
miles of your vicinity, you will have it swimming towards your boat in no time. Chum is your best friend
when shark fishing!
Saltwater | 35 | Sportfishing
Experience is the key when it comes to handling aggressive sharks. Once near the boat, the
shark can see you, and this adds an obvious element of danger. It’s important to keep your
hands, arms, and face out of the strike range of
its powerful jaws. Remember, sharks can turn
quickly and will bite an unsuspecting angler approaching from the side. It’s also critical to consider that sharks are a solid mass of muscle, and
they have impressive lunging power. Keep in
mind, nearly-landed sharks can see your hands
on the side of the boat and also on the tackle
connected to him. With the right amount of
caution and healthy respect, sharks can be handled in a responsible manner, although never
forget the sometimes unavoidable circumstance of human error. Experience with sharks
is gained over time, and it’s not a sport to be
taken lightly.
Preparing for our release, Capt. Jimmy and I
maintained a tight grasp on the dorsal fin of the
annoyed lemon shark. It thrashed under our
grip, and was becoming increasingly agitated.
The furious creature was breathtakingly beautiful, and its visible aggression made my heart
pump with excitement. Suddenly, the angry
captive spotted my hand on the leader, and
lunged out of the water in a stealthy attack! Instinctively, I recoiled as I could see the protruding jaws pulling back the gums to reveal its
dagger-like teeth. The forceful assault landed
on the rub rail of the boat with a loud, grinding
crunch. It was a sickening sound that could have
easily been the force of its teeth on my bones.
After a swift release, I was thankful to have escaped the attack unscathed. With my adrenaline still in high gear, I quickly cleaned my Salt
Life sunglasses, and eagerly began setting up
to catch another shark. Grabbing another hapless jack crevalle, I brandished my knife, and
created another twitching victim for the terrifying eating machines lurking below.
ANGLER NEWS
Platform
Habitats
New Federal Policy Steps Up Efforts to Turn
Gulf of Mexico Rigs Into Reefs
Offshore oil and gas platforms in
the Gulf of Mexico serve as valuable
marine habitat, supporting economically important recreational
fishing in the Gulf region. In the
face of increasing efforts to remove
these structures, this week the Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement (BSEE) released its
amended “Rigs to Reefs” policy that
will make it easier to turn inactive
platforms into new artificial reefs.
The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) applauds BSEE’s action which includes several notable
changes. The new policy supports
and encourages the use of obsolete
oil and gas structures as artificial
reefs; provides greater opportunities for reefing by reducing the fivemile buffer zone between reefing
areas to two miles; allows for reefing in place when appropriate in
Special Artificial Reef Sites; and
provides for extensions to regulatory decommissioning deadlines
for companies actively pursuing a
"Rigs to Reefs" proposal.
"Any angler who has fished offshore in the Gulf of Mexico knows
that these reefed oil and gas platforms are meccas for sportfishing,”
said Mike Nussman, ASA president
and CEO. “For a variety of reasons,
including some bureaucratic impediments, these important fishing
grounds have been vanishing at an
alarming rate. The new ‘Rigs to
Reefs’ policy should help reverse
the trend of eligible rigs being unnecessarily removed and allow
these important structures to remain in the water for the benefit of
fisheries and anglers.”
Non‐producing oil rigs in the
Gulf of Mexico are generally regarded as the most productive artificial reefs in the world. These
structures provide habitat for
dozens of fisheries, including many
recreationally important species.
Since 2006, removal of platforms
has exceeded installations and new
platforms are typically installed furSaltwater | 39 | Sportfishing
ther from shore, reducing their accessibility to anglers.
“We thank BSEE Director James
Watson and the numerous federal
and state agencies and stakeholders who worked diligently to develop improvements to the ‘Rigs to
Reefs’ policy,” noted Nussman.
“While there is still much work that
must be done to address this complex issue, this is certainly a positive
step and one that should result in
substantial benefits for the Gulf’s
fisheries and the Gulf communities
that depend on them.”
“Our trip started out with the idea of going
to a destination where we could fish from kayaks for
In-Shore brackish water species”
PuertoRico
KayakExcursion
byGeorgeLarge
Welookedintomanylocationsthatwouldgiveus
theabilitytouseourfishingtackleandfishinglures
inwatersthatwehaveneverbeforefished.
Whenchoosingsuchadestinationthereare
alwayslimitingfactorslike,gettingthekayaksthere,
findingaproductiveandsustainablefishery,what
fishinglureswewouldneed,whatfishingrodsand
fishingreelswouldsuitthispurposeandofcourse
howmuchwouldthisfishingexcursioncost.
Afterseveralweeksofresearchanddeliberation
wedecidedonTarponsNestLodgeinPuertoRico.
OurcontactthereisCaptainOmarOrraca.Heisone
ofthenicestCaptainsyouwillevermeetorfishwith.
HisknowledgeonthelocalwatersofPuertoRicois
vastaswellashisrecommendationsforfishing
tackletobringalong.
ThefirstthingthatCaptainOmartoldusbefore
webookedwithhimisthatPuertoRicoisprimarilya
livebaitfishery.Thattomewasthebestthingwe
couldhear,sinceYo-Zurioffersthefinesthardbait
luresonthemarket.So,Ifwecouldfoolthese
staunchlivebaitfeederswithourfishinglureshere,
thenwewouldhaveatremendousamountofconfidenceinofferingtheselateststateoftheartlureson
themarketforsaleanywhereintheworld.
Allthearrangementsweputintoplaceandnow
wehadtogettheHobiekayakstoPuertoRico,
whichiswhereMorganPromnitzcameintohelpus
out.Hobie,inmyhumbleopinion,makesthemost
comfortablefishingfriendlykayakonthemarket
Saltwater | 44 | Sportfishing
today.
WeusedthewelloutfittedHobieProAngler12’
forthistripandwhenwesaywelloutfittedwe’renot
kidding.Thesefishingmachineshaveeverythingyou
couldpossibleneedforadayorweekoffishing;
Miragepedalsystemforhandsfreefishing,duelrod
holdersforbothspinningtackleaswellasflytackle,
andLowrancegraphfordepthandfishfinding.It
trulyhasallthecomfortsthatanyboatofthissize
canpossiblehaveonit.
Article18:
Wearrivedmid-dayfromourflightsoutofFlorida
andweremetbyourtransportationdriverforthe
shortfifteenminuetridefromSanJuanairport.
AfterashortlunchwestartedtorigtheHobbies
tofitourpersonalneeds,theyadjustverywelltoany
heightpersonandcomewiththemostcomfortable
seatmadeforthetypeofwatercraft.
WeallselectedourpersonalfavoriteYo-Zuri
fishingluresandFluorocarbonLeaderMaterial.Our
arsenalconsistedofSashimiPencils,whichisa
topwater“Walk-the-dog”lure,toimitatetheprevalent
mullet;SashimiJerkbaitsandSashimiJointedlures
aswellasthenewCrystal3DMinnowsinFloating
andSinking.Wealsohadwithusthenew,for2013,
Crystal3DMinnowJointed“Waker”bait,which
swimsjustbelowthesurfaceandcreatesahuge
surfacedisturbanceandtheCrystal3DShrimpin
newcolorsfor2013.WealsousedtheEdgeTremblerMinnow,whichisanunderwater“Walk-the-dog”
Saltwater | 45 | Sportfishing
lurethatturnedouttobeafavoritetotheTarpon.
Thesefishingluresmadeupthemajorityofourday
todayselection,whichturnedouttobevery
productive,tosaytheleast.
Amongstourfishinglureselectionwealso
broughtalongwithussomeYo-ZuriDisappearing
PinkFluorocarbonLeadermaterialandthenewer
PowercarbonFluorocarbonClearLeadermaterial,
whichissofterandhasalowerlightrefractionindex
tothecolorofwater.
OurdailyroutinewastowakeupearlyintheAM
andhavealightbreakfastonthepatiobythepool.
Thenweheadedtothedock,alloftwentyfeetaway,
andloadedtheHobieKayaksontoCaptainOmar’s
skiff.EachdayweloadedfourKayaksontoa20’
boat,whichwasasighttoseewhenwewere
cruisingdownthewaterway.Wecruisedunderthe
bridgestakingustotheSanJoseHarborwherewe
wouldspendthedayfishingandenjoyingthe
wildlife.
Wewouldbringplentyofdrinkstostayhydrated
inthehotPuertoRicansun.EachKayakhadasmall
cooleronthebacktokeepourdrinkscoldoryou
couldpaddlebacktotheboatwhereCaptainOmar
wasalwaysholdingcourtwithsomeoneduringthe
day.
CaptainOmarsharedhisknowledgewitheachof
usandgavemehisperspectiveonthebaitfish,how
Tarponfeedandknowledgehehasgainedover25
yearsabouttheirmigratoryhabits.Thiswasvery
interestingtomehowtheylearnedtotravelfrom
eachbaytothenextthroughcanalsaroundthe
airport.
Thiswaterwayholdsmanydifferentyearclass
Tarponinit.Wecaughtjuvenilesofjust24”uptoa
monsterthatMorgancaughtover100poundsand
manyinbetween.ThisisjusttheTarpon,aswehave
notevenattemptedtheSnookfishingyet.
TheTarpon,whichwerealwaysrolling,boilingor
chasingsometypeofbaitfishmostoftheday,was
easilyseenbyallofus.OfcourseearlyintheAMor
lateintheafternoonproducedthebestcatches
howeverwedidcatchfishconsistentlymostofthe
day,exceptathighnoonwhenitwasjusttoohotfor
manoffish.
Wespenttheearlymorningscastingourtopwater
Crystal3DJointedWakerbaitortheYo-ZuriPencil
luresoverthegrasslinedpotholesontheflats,as
thefishwouldberoamingthoseareasearlylooking
foraneasybreakfast.Mostofthestrikeswerevery
aggressivewhentheyfedonoursurfacelures.Of
course,welostasmanyaswecaughtafteroneor
twomagnificentjumpsandfaststrongrunsthat
testedourdragstothemaximumtheycould
withstand.However,theDaiwarods&reelshelpup
tothetest.Wewereusingsomeverylightfishing
equipmentforthesefishandwerehavingthetimeof
ourlifedoingso.Whenwelostafishduetotoolight
oflineorsoftofarodtopenetratetheirbonyjaws,it
didnotmatter,asweweretestingallofthefishing
tackletotheirlimitstoseejusthowwelltheywould
holdup.
AfterthisAMblitzwewouldmovealongthe
Mangrovelinedshorelinetosearchforthemunder
therootsandbranches.
Wewouldthenswitchouttothesub-surfacelures
suchastheSashimiJerkbait,Crystal3DShrimpor
theEdgeTremblerMinnows,whichproducedsome
mightybigSnookforus.
ForthreedayswecaughtTarpon&Snook
consistentlyontheYo-ZurifishingluresandDaiwa
rods&reelsasweenjoyedthefisheyeviewfrom
ourHobieKayaks.
TheSnookfishingisveryunderratedandmost
peopledidnotspendtheirtimefishingforthemas
theTarponisthemainspeciesthataretargeted,
especiallysincethereweresomanyofthemofall
sizesandweights.
Onedaywespentthewholedaytargetingthe
Snookandwereabletocatchsomefinespecimens
ontheYo-Zurilures.OneoftheSnooks’favorite
lureswastheCrystal3DJointedWaker.Thebest
colorsweretheGold/BlackandRed/White.It
seemedthattheyreallykeyedinontheGold/Black
duetoitsBrightOrangeBelly.Sincethewateris
Tannic,thesecolorsstoodouttothemandtheyhit
themwithrecklessabandon.
Onedaywehadabeautifulfull-bodiedSnook
jumprightintothekayakduringthefightwiththe
Yo-Zurilurestillinitsmouth.Needlesstosaythat
wasanadrenalinerushwithabigfishflopping
aroundthedeckwithtwosetsoftreblehooksand
barefeet!
Afterwecompletedourthreedaysthere,we
lookedbackandanalyzedourtrip,inorderto
improveonanyaspectthatwecouldfromaproduct
developmentstandpoint,sotoofferthebestfishing
tackleequipmentmadetoday.
Welearnedmanythingsaboutthistypeoffishery
andthenatureofthesemagnificentfish.Wealso
nowknowthemostproductivestyles&colorsof
Yo-Zurifishinglurestouseonceyougetthere.Of
Saltwater | 49 | Sportfishing
course we are happy to share our learned knowledge as to
what may work in your area for these species or others since
Yo-Zuri offers one of the largest selections of high quality
fresh and saltwater lures available today.
So, if you’re looking to fish a very productive destination
that holds many quality Tarpon & Snook then we recommend
Tarpons Nest Lodge in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Alan
Williams
Porfolio
Saltwater | 55 | Sportfishing
Florida Redfish
By Capt. Willy Lee – Native Fly Charters
Redfish can be found throughout the
entire state of Florida in estuaries, lagoons,
bays, river systems, and even out in the
ocean. If you want to target redfish (or red
drum), A shallow grassy flat near deeper water
is a good place to start looking. I generally
look for signs of activity in the area before I
hop up on the poling platform. Good signs to
look for are any life on the flat like stingrays,
flickering baitfish, catfish, and most importantly cranes and egrets standing around staring at the water in search for small crustaceans
and fish to eat. If you find those key elements
around, you know there has to be some redfish close by.
A redfish’s menu consists of crustaceans,
shell fish, worms, and many small fin fish that
are present in the area. When searching for
food in shallow water, you will see a “V –
wake” steadily pushing, and as they root along
the bottom for crabs, shrimp, or whatever else
they may find on the shallow flats, their tails
will pierce the surface of the water making it
visible to anglers from a distance. That’s what
makes the redfish one of the most popular
sport fish to target on fly and light tackle.
Once you locate a tailing redfish, try to be
patient and watch them for a while before you
make a cast. You want to make sure that
you’re casting to the right spot in order for the
fish to see your offerings so look to see which
way the fish is facing because these fish don’t
eat with their tails so casting at the tail itself
will do no good. Don’t worry, tailing fish
aren’t as spooky as a laid up or cruising fish so
you can take more time, and sometimes get
Saltwater | 71 | Sportfishing
pretty close to them but it’s still best to keep your
distance. Most of the time redfish will tail while
slowly moving in one direction, if that’s the case then
try to lead the fish closely and let it come to your
bait or lure. Sometimes you will get redfish that will
do headstands and root straight down in one spot
trying to dig hard for something. When you see
that, you should place a cast right over the tail and
past it about 10 feet then retrieving the lure on top
of the surface so you can see when to drop it close
to the tail and letting it sit on the bottom. Once
your lure is next to the fish, give it a small bump,
then let it sit again just to try and get the fish’s
attention. Keep repeating that until you see a big
explosion and your line becomes tight.
Now that you know how to locate and cast to
redfish, you will need to know what lures, baits, or
flies work best on them. Small, weedless, soft
plastics are my favorites. I like to use a 3” paddle tail
or curly tail grub on a 1/16oz to 1/8oz 3/0 weighted
hook rigged weedless like the Owner Twist Lock
hook. D.O.A. Lures makes 2 great baits especially for
tailing redfish that I love to use, the D.O.A. Shrimp
and the D.O.A. Softshell Crab…exactly what these fish
are looking for. Color choices depend on the clarity
of the water. If the water is clean and clear, use a
more natural color like tan, brown, or olive that’s not
too flashy and shiny. If the water is muddy and dirty,
you want more flash and a brighter color to make
sure that fish sees it. Topwater lures and a gold
spoon are good for just blind casting and searching
a new area. For live baits, you can’t go wrong with a
live shrimp. I’m sure they will eat a small live mullet,
mud minnow, or a little blue crab, but a live shrimp is
a lot easier to present and soft for a better hook up
ratio. To cast such light baits and lures, the perfect
set up would be a 7-7’6 medium light-medium
action rod with a 3000-4000 spinning reel, spooled
with 8-10lb braided line, and about 2ft of 15-20lb
fluorocarbon leader.
Redfish are one of the favorites amongst fly
fisherman around the world because of the capability
Saltwater | 74 | Sportfishing
to sight fish for them. Anglers travel near and far
just to target these fish on fly. One of the most
popular destinations is the world famous Mosquito
Lagoon located on the Central East Coast of Florida
where tailing redfish is a daily occurrence.
A 7 or 8wt is all you will need for the average slot
sized redfish, a 9wt would be good for big breeder
fish and also may help in windier conditions. Good
flies to use for tailing redfish are crab pattern, shrimp
patterns, or baitfish patterns with good weed guards.
The weight of the fly is determined by how deep the
water is and how thick the grass is. It’s best to use
the lightest weight possible so the fly doesn’t make a
loud “plop” in the water causing the fish to spook off.
I like using bead chain eyes for a soft presentation
and decent sinking rate. Sometime the fish will tail
in super thick grass and a bead chain weighted fly
will not punch through to where the fish’s face is and
the fish will never see it. That’s when I like to tie on a
fly with heavier lead eyes on it so that the fly can
pierce into the thick stuff. Color selection is the
same as stated earlier for lures, clear water = natural
colored flies with light flash, dirty water = flies with a
lot of flash. Most small patterns will work, even
spoon flies will do the trick, but presentation is the
key.
Targeting tailing redfish takes patience. You will
not see them all the time, but when you do just stay
calm, try to keep your knees from shaking too much
and ease into position to make a comfortable cast.
Remember to watch them for a while and figure out
which direction they are heading or facing before
you attempt to make a cast. Tailing redfish is a
beautiful thing to witness in person. For someone
who gets to experience a lot of that for a living, I still
get as excited as if it was the first time ever seeing it
in my life.
Saltwater | 75 | Sportfishing
TRICKS & TIPS
Targeting Snook
Sub-Species
by David McLeod
S
nook are quite possibly one
of the greatest inshore game
fish to be sought after. Valued
for their distinctive “thump” while
striking your bait, drag screaming
runs, explosive acrobatic jumps,
and tasty filets, Snook are the
ultimate inshore species. They can
be found anywhere from Florida’s
backwater creeks and rivers during
the winter, to thirty-five miles out
into the Gulf of Mexico during
their summer spawn. Being a
temperature-restricted fish, the
Snook’s range is limited to areas
where the coastal water
temperature stays mostly above
50deg. F during the winter since
water 45deg. F or lower is lethal to
the fish. Snook can most readily
be found in the Southern half of
Florida, but populations are well
established throughout the
Caribbean, Mexico, and Central
Saltwater | 77 | Sportfishing
America.
There are four Snook species
that can be found in Florida:
Common Snook, Fat (or Cuban)
Snook, Swordspine Snook, and
Tarpon Snook. I am very fortunate
that in my hometown of Jupiter I
can find all four species in the
Loxahatchee River. The Lox is a
relatively small river when
compared to other Florida rivers
such as the St. Lucie, Peace,
Caloosahatchee, or St. Johns.
Such a small river system makes
concentrations of Snook easier to
find. While all species inhabit the
same waters and spawn in and
around the inlets during the
summer, the three sub-species
seem to like water with a lower
salinity. So if you want to target
the oddballs of the Snook family,
start looking where the fresh
water meets the salt. Meet the
family:
The Common Snook
Your average every day, run-ofthe-mill snook has a tapered head
and snout, lower jaw appearing to
have an under-bite, large fins, and
the signature solid black
horizontal lateral line that begins
behind the gill plate and ends at
the tail. A Snook’s color will vary
with habitat and water color. For
instance, this fish was caught
about halfway between the inlet
and the freshest part of the river,
and has taken on a bronze hue
matching the tannic-stained, lower
salinity water. In contrast, Snook
caught off the beach tend to be
almost white while back river fish
can have a black back. Common
Snook average between 16-30
inches and can grow to over 50
pounds with the Florida record
standing at 44 pounds.
The Fat Snook
Fat Snook earned their name
by having a deeper body than
common Snook, making them
appear a bit chubby. Most have a
slight hump on their head directly
over the gill plate. Their fins are all
in proportion to each other and
this species has the smallest scales
of all the Snook family. Most Fat
Snook are pretty small averaging
only 12-17 inches with few fish
caught over 20 inches. Like all
Snook, Fatties can live in 100%
fresh water and are sometimes
caught while fishing for
largemouth bass. Not a bad
surprise.
as someone squished a common
Snook from snout to tail and
made the fins more pronounced
leaving a compressed body. I have
found these to be the rarest of the
Snooks having only caught a
handful of them, although we
caught four under a single dock
on the day this photo was taken,
so go figure.
When it comes to targeting
sub-species Snook, keep in mind
that all Snook have these things in
common:
The Swordspine Snook
Swordspine Snook got their
name for having an exaggerated
anal fin that is so long that it
encroaches into the tail fan. The
smallest of all the Snooks, the
Swordspine is rarely found to be
bigger than 12 inches although it
has the largest scales of its kind.
The Tarpon Snook
Quite possibly the oddestlooking member of the Snook
family, the Tarpon Snook has a
larger than average eye and a
sharply up-turned mouth. It looks
Saltwater | 78 | Sportfishing
• Snook are primarily
structure-oriented fish, so look for
them around rocks, docks,
mangroves, seawalls, grass beds,
and anything else that might
provide cover. However, during the
summer spawn they can be seen
in large schools over sandy bottom.
• Snook are primarily
ambush predators. They spend
most of their time conserving
energy lying out of the current
behind some structure and will
use that energy to feed or flee in
short bursts.
• Like most other fish, Snook
are very spooky and sensitive to
noise while in shallow water. If
you can see the fish, chances are
the fish can see you too, so
understand that the clock is
ticking for you to make a cast as
soon as you spot one. This applies
when fishing dock lights as well.
• Snook are more likely to
feed when there is moving water
so plan to fish during stronger
moving tides.
While Snook can be caught
with all kinds of baits, I prefer soft
plastics. I firmly believe that the
most effective lure ever created is
the DOA Shrimp. Years ago, like
many other anglers, I had a few
DOA Shrimp in my tackle box that
I rarely used, and when I did, I had
little or no success. I would cast
them out and rip them through
the water like any other jig even
though I’ve never seen a real
shrimp doing that. The turning
point in my angling life came
when I watched a video of Capt.
Mark Nichols, owner/inventor of
DOA Lures, using his plastic
shrimp and catching fish after fish.
I watched and learned a few critical things that day.
1. Always cast up current or
crosscurrent but never down
current, because Snook (and most
other ambush predators) will face
into the current and wait for food
to come to them.
2. When fishing during
daylight hours, always let the
shrimp sink all the way to the
bottom before starting to retrieve.
3. Once your bait is on the
bottom, raise the rod tip to
eliminate slack in your line and
then make a sharp twitch of the
rod tip, letting the bait fall back
down. Repeat.
4. Pay attention to the drop.
Snook will strike your shrimp while
it is falling, so be extra attentive
and ready to set the hook when
you feel the thump.
While I have caught a fair
amount of sub-species Snook
during the day, my favorite way to
target them is after sundown. The
Loxahatchee River has lots of waterfront property and just about
every house has a dock. Many of
these docks have large bright
lights shining down into the water
and some even have underwater
lights. These lights attract tiny fish
and shrimp, which in turn bring
the whole food chain with Snook
being the most abundant predator
in these waters. Some lights maintain dozens of Snook pretty much
every night while others have few
or none. Although I fish it
differently than I do during the
day, my favorite nighttime bait is
the 3” DOA Shrimp but this was
not always so. I figured this out
one night when the water was
very clear and I could plainly see
that the daytime retrieve was
spooking the Snook when I
twitched the bait. So I waited and
watched as some shrimp came
swimming quickly through the
light just under the surface with
their noses down current…these
shrimp didn’t make it very far into
the light before getting devoured
by the waiting Snook. A tiny voice
in my head said “hey dummy,
make your shrimp do that” and
the DOA shrimp quickly became
my favorite nighttime bait.
I’ll break it down for you.
1. The up current casting
principle remains the same at
night. I like to start with the
shadow line furthest up current
and progressively work my shrimp
into the light, eventually skipping
the shrimp up underneath the
dock. I have had great success
making sure my bait starts in the
shadows and then is swam into
the light.
2.
Upon casting, instead of
Saltwater | 79 | Sportfishing
letting your shrimp sink, quickly
flip the bail with your hand (not
the handle), raise your rod tip, and
begin the retrieve. Reel steadily
keeping the shrimp just below the
surface. Too fast and it will turn on
its side and just drag across the
top, too slow and it will sink out of
the primary strike zone.
3. I tend to choose my bait
color so that it closely resembles
the color of the water. There have
been nights when changing up
the color has brought strikes on a
slow bite, and there have been
nights where I changed colors
after every fish and could not find
a color they wouldn’t eat. So
choose a color you have
confidence in and throw it with
confidence. My personal favorites
are 425 watermelon/holo glitter,
313 gold glitter, 382 clear/holo
glitter, and 309 glow/gold rush.
While some anglers are all
about catching big mamma
Snook, I usually leave the big
Snook, which are all females,
alone and have a blast catching
the small to medium sized fish on
10lb or lighter braided line. I am
not against harvesting a legal
sized Snook in season and I
believe that the population in
Jupiter can sustain the legal harvest of fish, but I see these fish as
being more valuable swimming
free for my clients and my children
to catch. There are plenty of
snapper and other tasty ocean fish
offshore for me to eat and I
haven’t killed a Snook in several
years. Since the sub-species Snook
rarely grow to the legal limit, there
will always be plenty of them to
catch if you know where to look
and how to target them. So why
are you still reading? Get rigged
up and go find some of these
amazing fish and good luck!
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bait, also 5 pound boxes of bait. Mackerel
or larger fish can be rigged and stored
ready for action.
Both trays are stackable, interlocking
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to the tray that is above it. Also, there is an
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Saltwater | 83 | Sportfishing
THE
WOW
FACTOR
Wreck Fishing for Permit
By Capt. Jimmy Nelson
Squinting through my polarized sunglasses, I see a
glimmer of silver flashing about 80 ft. off the port stern
of the boat. Immediately, I reach for a nervously swimming blue crab at the top of the live well. With a firm
grip, I slide my 5-0 J hook through the left horn of its
shell. I look back up quickly to see if the shimmering
silver reflections are still in sight. They are. I sling my
crab, and it lands right where I want it to. I keep my
index finger and thumb
softly placed on my
braided line and wait to
feel the crunch of the
shell. I feel a soft crunch
and a steady pull, and
move my fingers from
my line to my bail, flip it
over, and set the hook
for the first permit fight
of the morning.
With a doubled-over
Tsunami rod, and the
drag screaming a beautiful song that’s music to
every fisherman’s ears,
my adrenaline starts
racing as a trophy 40
plus pound permit puts
every ounce of its energy into getting back to
the wreck from which it
came. After its long initial run, I get his head
turned back at me and
gain some line back,
fighting through a battle
that requires enough
drag to keep the fish
from the wreck, but not
too much pressure that
the line breaks. to where
the line will break. Fishing for permit on the
flats takes finesse to
avoid coral heads and mangrove shoots but offshore
it requires just as much delicacy? The cast must be accurate, the hook set at the proper time, all while
avoiding the wreck, other boats, and even sharks who
would love to turn your catch into a meal.
Whether you’re in 40 ft of water, or 140 ft of water,
wreck fishing can yield a variety of different fish. One
of the favorite fish to target on wrecks in the spring
and early summer are permit. The reason permit are
so highly sought after in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico,
and Caribbean waters, is because they’re powerful
fighters, excellent table fare, able to be caught inshore
and offshore, and very unpredictable since they won't
always take the bait presented to them. There is an
abundance of permit on wrecks in the springtime, as
they spawn offshore on large reefs and wrecks.
Fishing over wrecks
has always been one
my favorite ways to fish.
Whether trolling for
kingfish or wahoo, jigging for grouper or
snapper, chunking for
tuna or dolphin, or
sight fishing permit and
cobia, wrecks always
hold something special
during every season of
the year. With large
amounts of fish congregating to wrecks in the
spring, choosing one
specific fish to target
such as a permit, is not
always an easy choice.
One needs to be fully
prepared when targeting permit. Nothing is
more frustrating than
arriving at a wreck, seeing a school of 20-50lb
fish circling the surface,
and having nothing in
the live well or bait box
to entice them. There
are only a couple baits
a permit finds hard to
resist and that would be
a live crab or live
shrimp.
Live crabs are by far
the best choice of bait for a permit. Offshore permit
are known for rummaging through sargasm grass for
shrimp, seahorses, crabs, and even small bait fish if no
crustaceans are available. Pass crabs are commonly
found offshore and blue crabs are a steady diet of the
permit inshore, so when presenting a pass crab or a
blue crab to a permit, your chances of a hookup have
greatly increased just by choosing the right bait.
Saltwater | 87 | Sportfishing
Choosing a rod, reel, line, and leader for offshore permit fishing is quite different than choosing tackle for
inshore permit fishing. Saying “I’m catching permit on
light tackle”, sounds really cute if you’re fishing on the
flats, but when fishing offshore on wrecks, using light
tackle is unheard of. One would learn very quickly that
upgrading the tackle is absolutely necessary for landing these powerful fish on wrecks. The rod of choice
is a 7-8 ft long spinning rod, 15-30 class or 20-40 class
accompanied by a 6500 class spinning reel. My line of
choice is 50-65lb braid with a 40 or 50lb Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon leader, tied off to a 5/0 J hook. Due to the
strength of a permit, a Cush It is another item I always
have handy while fighting these fish so that the butt
of the rod does not painfully dig into my hip during
the fight.
Now that you have the proper bait, the proper
tackle, and are over the wreck the right time of year,
the only thing left to do is position your bait in front
of the fish the right way. There are several ways to fish
a wreck for permit. You can fish from an anchored
boat, blindly drift over the wreck, suspend the crab in
the water, or sight fish. All ways can prove successful,
but I’ve had my best success with sight fishing for the
permit, no matter how deep the wreck is that I’m fishing over. I slowly cruise over the wreck, sun to my back,
find the highest place on the boat, have all eyes on the
water, looking for permit on the surface or below the
surface (flashing.) Sometimes the permit will swim in
small groups of only two to five fish, and sometimes
they can be spotted in schools of over 100 fish. Regardless of how many fish are spotted, the bait needs
to be placed in front of the school in the direction
they’re heading, so that the crab will have enough time
to slowly sink down into the strike zone. Permit will
generally take the bait one of two ways: you will either
feel them crunching the crab with the top of their
mouth before taking it down, or they will pick up the
crab and run very quickly. When the permit crunches
the crab in its mouth, make sure to give enough time
for the fish to fully get the hook in its mouth and start
moving away, before tightening the line and setting
the hook. When the fish grabs the crab and runs, give
it three seconds, flip the bail, set the hook, and hold
on because this will be the strongest run of the battle!
With salt spray on my shirt, sweat running down my
face, and laughing about how many double hookups
we landed that morning, the crew and I realize we have
done everything correctly to have another successful
day on the water. It’s very rewarding to plan a trip, set
up the tackle, fill the live well with bait, and go out and
catch exactly what you’re after. Growing up fishing
with my father, and gaining the experience and knowledge it takes to hook and land monster permit on
wrecks, has proved to be a yearly tradition and has become one of my favorite types of seasonal fishing.
W
henIwasakidIheard
aboutpeopleshootingWahoo
andTunaandIcouldnever
fathomhowitcouldevenbe
possible.
Whenfishing,Icanonly
rememberhookingthemand
thelinepeelingoffthereel
fasterthananythingweever
hooked.Ineverymagazineall
youhearishowfasttheyare
andtheseblisteringrunsso
howcoulditbepossibleto
everchaseonedownandput
aspearintoit!?
Spearfishing Wahoo
IthinkIshotmyfirstonewhenIwasabout
17yrsoldorsoandIwassuperstoked.We
wereintheFloridaKeysinthesummerfor
lobsterseasonfishingfordolphinandI
jumpedinonaweedline.AschoolofHoo's
camebyandIwassoexcitedIcouldbarely
containmyselfandsteadiedforashotonthe
closestone.
Asthespearhithimandhetooklineonthe
reelfasterthanIcouldbelieve!
IwassopumpedwhenIgothiminmy
handsIknewthatIwashookedonhunting
thesefortherestofmylifeandshooting
grouperwouldneverbethesameagain.
Thatfirst"WAHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!"
screamwhenIhitthesurfaceisstilloneofthe
mostrewardingsoundsinoursportandit
nevergetsold.
Myfirstwahooweighed4lbsandhadInot
beensoexcitedI'msurethatmyfamilywould
haveusedittotrollfordolphinseeingasit
wasjustashadebiggerthantheballyhooand
mulletwewereusinganyways.
Saltwater | 93 | Sportfishing
Cut to a dozen years later.
GRTarrandIhavebeenonthehuntfora
100lbWahooforanumberofyearsandhave
beencarefullystudyingwhere,when,andhow
ofMonsterWahoo.
Oneofmygoalsforlastyearwastoshoota
100lbHooandIconcentratedmyeffortson
beingintherightplaceattherighttimeand
waitingfortherightfish.
EverytimeI'veseenafishthatwaseven
closeto100lbsI'vehadmyhandsfullwith
anotherfish,sharkseatinganotherfish,orits
beenlayingonthedockandsomeoneelse
haskilledit.
Welanded80lbersand90lbersand
dozensinthe50-60lbclassbutcouldn'tbreak
thatfabled100lbbarrier.CraigClasen,
BrandonWahlers,BillDelabar,andourother
buddiesallsmashedgoodonesbuttheright
onewasn'tthereyet.
Whenitfinallycametogetherwasoneof
thosedaysthatshouldneverhavehappened.
Theelectronicsontheboatwerescrewed
up.Thefogwassothickwealmostran
agroundmultipletimes.Thewaterwasdirty
andnastyandthereweren'tthatmanyfish
around.
Whenwefinallyfoundtheschooloffish,the
boatfishingnearushookedupa500lbMako
Sharkandbrokeitoffsoweknewthat
somewhereinthatmurkywaterwas
somethinghungryforanythingunsuspecting
swimminginthatmurkywater....Notcool.Not
comfortingbutthesightof60-80lbfish
swimmingalloverwasbetterthananyliquid
courageI'veeverhadandbothBillandChad
hadsecured65and75lbfishwithinthefirst
halfhour.
Breakingthroughthemurkylayerat30feet
ittakesyouafewsecondsforyoureyesto
adjusttothecleardarkwaterbelow.When
theydothesightoftwo,fiveorfiftywahoois
insaneandIdon'thavetotellyouthestrength
ittakestobepatientenoughtowaitforthat
onebigfishtostartteasingtheminfromthe
backoftheschool.
After5divesandnobigfishIdroppedinto
themurktofindagroupof60-70lbersdirectly
below.Droppingrightattheirbacksto50feet
theywerepastthechanceforagoodshot.
Anglingtowardsthemtheleadfishturned
stifflyandtherestfollowedpresentingashot
withmycustomRiffe(WahooWhacker)150
cmEurogun.
Thefishspedoffwiththeicepicktipclearly
visibleinthedarkwaterasheflashedintothe
depths.
AfewnervousminuteslaterIworkedhim
upnotbeingabletosee4inchesinthedirty
surfacewaterandliftedhimintotheboatto
joinanotherpairofChadandBill'sinthe6080lbclass!!!Whataday!
Tryingtorelaxonthesurface,Ifoundthat
closingmyeyesgavemeafewextraseconds
ofclaritywhenIbrokethroughthemurk.My
eyeswererelaxedbutgettingyourheartrate
downwithnoreferencepoint,novisibility,not
abletoseeanyfishfromthesurface,and
knowingthereweretoothycrittersaboutwas
unnervingtosaytheleast.
Leavethesurface,fivelonghardkicks.
Openmyeyes-MurkMurkMurk.
ClearWaterandthereare50Wahoofrom
50-100lbsallaroundme.
Theonlywaytodescribeitistopictureone
oftheoldWorldWartwomovieswiththedog
fightsandtheplanesflyingallovercoming
fromeveryangle,above,below,andat
differentspeeds.Pureoverloadofthesenses
andaSpearfishermansdream.Nearlywithin
armsreachisaquadof70lbfish.Tomyright
and20feetoutisastudthatmustbe90+,
Comingdownoutofthemurkis10fishthat
lookliketorpedosdroppedfromplanesfalling
fromthecloudsabove.EverywhereIturned
werefishandIknewthatthiswasthedive
whereIwasgoingtohavetheonechanceto
landthatonefishthatwehadallbeen
searchingfor.
Andtherehewas.
Attheedgeofvisibility,hugeshoulders,
mouthslightlyagape,stayingwayout.
Betweenusweremorethanhalfadozenfish
thatanyotherdaywouldbethefishofthe
yearandweremucheasiertotake.Hewasat
thebackoftheschool,notinterested.
Turning,eyeslockedonhim,Ichangedmy
postureandthereactionofthefisharoundwas
instantaneous.Halfoftheschoolseemed
magnetizedandstartedzippinginandout
aroundmedoingtheirbesttobeascloseas
possiblewithoutactuallybeingontopofme.
TheBigfishcameinsteadilyandatthemagic
momenta90+lbfishcametohissideand
paralleledhimeffectivelyblockingmyshot!
Millisecondsfeltlikeminutesandatthelast
possiblemomentIpulledthetriggerat18feet
shootingoverthetopofthe90lbonehitting
themonsterjustbehindthepectoralfin.
Theone
HittingthesurfaceIyelledtoChadthatI
hadjustshot"theONE!!!!"
Witha100ftbungeyandRiffe2
Atmospherefloatheranhardbutnevertook
thebuoybelowthesurfacewegavechaseand
loadedabackupgunandfearedforboththe
fishandourownlegswhileIworkedhimup
fromthedepths.Whenhewas50feetdownI
madeadivetocheckhimoutandfoundthe
shotsecure.
WorkingtheshootinglinecloserIhadmy
handsontheshaftandstillcouldn'tseethe
fishthewaterwassodirty.Seeingthe
massiveshapeappearIpouncedonhimand
wrappedmyarmsandlegsaroundhim
screamingwithexcitementatthemonstrosity
nowinfrontofme.
Intheboatthefishonthedeckwasliterally
twicethesizeofthe65lbonewehadjust
landedsoweknewthatitwasapotentialworld
recordandbyfarthebiggestanyofushad
everseen.
Ahalfhourlatertheremainingbuoysinthe
watertakeoffanddisappearbelowthesurface
anditsafull3minutesbeforetheysurface300
yardsawayandBillworksa95lbfishto
completeourcooler(s)forour9thWahooof
thedayover60lbs.
Backatthedockwearebouncingaround
ideasonthesizeandareblownawaywhen
theofficialscalereads118.4-119lbs.
JustafewlbsshyoftheworldRecordbutbyfarthe
biggestWahooI'veeverlanded.The"ONE"isstillout
there.Wearegoingtofindhim.Itisonlyamatteroftime.
Thereismorethanoneplaceintheworldsoexpect
somehardcoretripsinthecomingyearsandsome
seriousstripedspeedstersbeinglanded.
www.spearblog.com
Saltwater | 98 | Sportfishing
Saltwater | 99 | Sportfishing
TRICKS & TIPS
Bonefishing
Suggestive Techniques for Handling a Bonefish Boat-Side
by Captain Jimmy Nelson
A
lbula Vulpes; better known
as the bonefish, is a species
worth protecting.
Theories of where our local
Floridian bonefishery is headed in
the not too distant future still
remains a topic to be discussed as
different groups can debate on
and on about this to no end.
Groups like the Bonefish Tarpon
Trust have devoted many hours
and dollars to research these
important topics and back them
with hard scientific evidence. Either train of thought can not
deny that water quality, habitat
change, the 2010 winter, fishing
pressure, and predation have
definitely effected the bonefishery
in a negative manner. The fishery
is changing indeed but this
write-up is not about where the
fishery is headed or whether there
Saltwater | 101 | Sportfishing
is a primary cause for why the
fishery is what it is today. This
article will discuss techniques for a
healthy bonefish release.
I truly believe that each and
every single bonefish we release is
just as important as the
next. Bonefish directly and
indirectly bring millions of dollars
to our sport fishing economy, as
well as help in keeping us locals
sane when we feel the need to
stalk a truly challenging species
on the flats. Though they are
scrappy fighters at the end of your
line, bonefish are actually quite
delicate and fragile fish.
Depending on how a bonefish is
handled boat side, harm can come
immediate or minutes later if
handled for too long outside of
their comfort zone. If we are to
help the survival rate of each
bonefish released, we must find it
within ourselves to take the extra
step to make sure they are
released healthy and able to
evade predators that may have
picked up the trail of distress left
by the battling bone.
I have had many conversations
with friend and avid
bonefisherman Dr. J.A. Llera, about
the state of our bonefishery as
well as different tactics he's
explored when carefully handling
these delicate fish. Bonefishing
makes up 98% of Dr. Llera’s
recreational time and he has spent
countless hours studying the
species from the eyes of an angler.
He has gone beyond
studying how and where they can
be caught (which he has pretty
well figured out accounting the
many bonefish he successfully releases on fly while fishing solo),
but also how to release his caught
fish back into the wild giving them
the best chance of survival. Dr.
Llera has even devised a sling
device used to measure the
weight of large fish that does not
remove the important slime
coating that protects a bonefish
from disease and bacteria. He has
also concluded that it is just as
important to have the fish in the
water revived before attempting
to handle it, then it is right before
releasing it. The best analogy for
this is letting a marathon runner
catch his breath after he has just
run a marathon. That is a wise
analogy that has stuck with me
since hearing it.
So we have touched base on
the 2 things to keep in mind; protecting the vital slime coating
on the bonefish, as well as
keeping the fish healthy and
energized before handling it. I
personally am sure that a simple
quick out of water and back in
photo op isn't too harmful to a
thought has definitely changed. I
share these thoughts with others
hoping to make some sort of difference, as little or big as it may
be.
So if you absolutely have to remove the fish from the water for a
photo op, keep in mind the 2
things discussed… slime coating
and fatigue. Make sure a bonefish
is revived before removing it for a
quick photo op and keep your
bonefish but I believe it is best to
keep the bonefish in the water as
much as possible unless you have
a memorable fish you absolutely
have to photograph or have to run
a weight fish back to the
tournament scales in an
oxygenated well. I mean how necessary is it to have 50 in the
skiff grip and grins of the same
person with a 5lb bonefish. I
won’t claim to be a saint in this
matter as I have made my
mistakes in the past when it
comes to handling these fish but
through mistakes, time, and
proper education, my school of
hands wet (or even use a rubber
glove) when handling the fish.
The biggest slime remover and
bonefish killer of all time is the
bonefish bear hug with a dry
cotton or microfiber shirt. If you
really care about the fish’s survival,
try to avoid that at all costs.
Handling the fish as close to the
water as possible will also lessen
any damage inflicted to the fish by
dropping a strong wiggling
fish onto the hard deck of a flats
skiff. If you release a bonefish and
it turns belly up, it will likely
succumb to predation or disease,
even if you poke it with a push
Saltwater | 103 | Sportfishing
pole to “motivate” it to swim
off. I'm sure most of us have
been down that road.
Rubber gloves and nets with
rubberized meshes are great
tools for controlling a bonefish
boat side. Keeping a fish in the
water inside a big net with
rubberized mesh will keep the
fish in the water and swimming
into the current without rubbing
off it's slime coating. I have
personally witnessed that a
bonefish releases much healthier
when using these types of net
and keeping the fish in the water
in the current boat side before,
during, and after handling. You
know a fish is healthy when it
just shoots out of your hand and
darts off instead of waddling off.
These nets with rubber
meshes can be found at most
local and retail tackle stores
today. You can even purchase
retractable versions for those in
skiffs with limited storage space.
They range anywhere from $20
to over $200.
No matter what you choose,
just keep in mind storability,
functionality, and durability. In
my experience, with proper
maintenance, even the cheaper
nets can last a long time.
Now that all the tools and
techniques have been discussed,
it is up to us to find it within
ourselves to take action in
protecting these magnificent
gamefish for not on their future,
but also for the fishery we hand
down to the next generation.
C O N S E R VAT I O N
Herman Lucern
Memorial Backcountry Fishing
Championship
On the Hunt
For the Invasive Lionfish
September20-22
Kick-offParty&CheckIn
FridaySeptember20,
2013
FullDayofFishing
Saturday9-21&Sunday
9-22
6:30AM-3:00PM
AwardsDinner
Sunday9-227:00PM
IslanderResort
MM82.1Oceanside,
Islanmorda,FL
J
eff Varga, left, with the first
lionfish kill of the day, gets
ready to stuff the fish into the
Stuff and Go, carried by Veronica
Platt, while Stacy Frank makes the
international underwater sign of
the lionfish in the background.
The black and white feathery
stripes of the lionfish flutter
tantalisingly just slightly out of
reach inside a hole in the rocks at
Thirteen Trees dive site on the
west side of Grand Cayman.
I have my yellow spear in my
hand, its rubber wrist band pulled
tight to the top of the spear by my
thumb as I ready it for release. I
take aim, urged on by dive master
Jeff Varga, with whom I’ve
practised shooting the spear on
land, but my attention is suddenly
drawn to more stripes just inside
the crevice. As I glance at those,
the beady-eyed lionfish, in a flash
Saltwater | 109 | Sportfishing
of sudden speed, disappears into
the interior of the narrow cave.
OK, so I’ve lost this one, but
maybe I can still get the one I saw
out of the corner of my eye at the
entrance, but on closer inspection,
this wasn’t another lionfish – it’s a
red banded coral shrimp. You
don’t want to spear one of those.
It’s a busy little crevice. As well
as the lionfish and the shrimp, it’s
also home to a large spiny lobster,
which is furiously waving its
antennae at me and the other
divers.
A little earlier, it had also been
home to another lionfish, but my
fellow would-be lionfish culler,
Stacy Frank, officially dropped the
“would-be” part of her title by
spearing her first lionfish in the
site, which incidentally also turned
out to be the largest lionfish
caught on our dive.
She made it look easy, but
admits her heart was beating fast
as she lined up the shot. After all,
hunting gets the adrenalin
flowing.
I’d been on lionfish culls before
and already have a Marine
Conservation Board-endorsed
lionfish culling licence, but that
was from the days when divers
could only legally catch lionfish
with nets. I’ve never actually
caught or killed a lionfish as I’ve
usually been either a spotter or
photographer on culling dives.
But, today, it was all going to
change. I had a spear and I was a
mission to hunt the invasive
species that are plaguing reefs
throughout the Caribbean and
consuming huge quantities of
juvenile reef fish. While Jeff drew
divers’ attention to a little drum
fish among the coral, I swam away,
peering hard into nooks and
crannies amid the reef, looking for
my quarry.
Fortunately for any lionfish in
the vicinity, we didn’t find any
more on that dive. After my two
lionfish culling training dives, I still
hadn’t managed to spear a single
one. Jeff, on the other hand, had
nabbed five and Stacy had caught
her giant.
To become a certified PADI
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lionfish hunter, one needs to
undergo classroom work, followed
by two dives. The novice hunters
take turns carrying the trident
spears and a large solid plastic
tube nicknamed the “Stuff and
Go”, into which speared lionfish
are placed during the dive. The
Department of Environment also
trains divers to hunt and kill
lionfish.
Stacy, Veronica Platt and I had
spent the morning poolside at
Comfort Suites, taking part in the
classroom part of our PADI
Lionfish Tracker Distinctive
Specialty certification. There, our
instructor Jeff from Ambassador
Divers educated us of the
physiology of lionfish, their prevalence throughout the region, how
quickly they’re growing and
breeding in the local waters (much
faster than in their native area of
the Pacific Ocean due to a lack of
predators and their abundant diet
here), and, of course, the best way
to kill them.
Stacy is a founding member of
the Lionfish University, along with
her brother, photographer
Courtney Platt, and Hollywood
screenwriter Jim Hart.
On our two dives, Courtney was
taking photos for Lionfish
University, so us divers posed for
the camera underwater, careful to
ensure the still venomous spine of
the dead lionfish don’t get too
close. Jeff has drilled into us the
importance of keeping the fish as
far away from our bodies as we
can, advising the other divers to
stay about 10 feet away from a
diver who is going in for the kill or
who has speared one of the fish.
A lionfish can deliver a nasty
sting and as part of the course,
divers learn the wide variety of
ailments a single sting can bring
on. These include nausea,
headache, swelling at the
puncture site, extreme pain,
vomiting and breathing
difficulties. The most effective
treatment, if stung, is to soak the
affected area in hot water as
quickly as possible.
Stacy informs us that it was this
long list of potential effects from a
lionfish sting that first got writer
Jim Hart interested in writing a
script for a movie about lionfish.
That film idea mutated into what
has become the Lionfish University as he figured his efforts collating information about lionfish
could be more useful in the real
world than on the big screen.
The Lionfish University has
launched a website on which it
shares information and resources
relating to the infestation of
lionfish. It aims to bring together
divers throughout the region and
globally so that strong community
efforts can be utilised to battle
this threat to the reefs. It also
works on collecting the latest
information available about
lionfish so it can arm its members
with as much knowledge as
possible.
When we’re done with our
dives, we bring our catch – six
lionfish in all – back to shore. It’s
not a huge haul – some dive boats
come back with many, many more
than that – but we’ve got two
good-sized ones and a few small
ones, and they’re all bound for the
kitchen at Stingers at Comfort
Suites.
There, chef Jhony Candia
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carefully cuts the spines off the
fish with scissors and scrapes the
scales off, before filleting each
one. He’s going to use the larger
fillets to make cerviche and use
the smaller ones for soup.
Despite their venomous nature,
only the spines of the fish carry
any venom. The flesh is safe to eat
and is quite delicious. A number
of restaurants in Cayman serve up
lionfish to their customers,
including Stingers, Tukka,
Michael’s Genuine, Guy Harvey’s
and Rum Point.
SPRINGTIME
Sheepshead
CONVICTS ON THE MOVE
by Cameron Ripple
When you think about springtime fishing, I bet Sheepshead are not
the first thing that come to mind, but maybe they should be. Are
there bigger fish out there? Absolutely. Are there more acrobatic
fish on the prowl? No question. Sheepshead, however, are one
of the best inshore species to target in the entire Southeast.
They travel in schools and present some very unique
challenges that can make them no easy target.
However, they are also among the tastiest of
all the salty creatures you may have the
pleasure of dirtying up your dishes with.
For me, the challenge itself makes
Sheepshead fishing so much fun. Small mouths, powerful jaws, and a
chew-and-spit eating that style makes
hooking up one of
these Convicts a
tall order. The
mouth on a
Sheepshead, and the
size of the bait you use,
is not what you would
expect from a fish that
commonly reaches
3-5 pounds, and sometimes upwards of 10
pounds. That means small hooks
with long shanks are in order. However, keep in mind that the jaws on a
Sheepshead are designed to pulverize the
shells of crabs, oysters, and other
crustaceans, so even a hook is not immune
from destruction. Finding the right balance
between hook size and hook strength can be
a frustrating trial and error process. Once you’ve narrowed down that margin
of error, you might as well take on the title of
expert, right? Hardly. Even with the right
tackle, hook set is critical. If it’s too soon, the
fish hasn't taken the bait far enough down. If
you’re too late, he's already enjoyed your
delicious fiddler crab and spit up the steel
trap. The timing has got to be just right, and
even the experts can miss as many Convicts
as they catch.Wintertime means cooler waters, rougher weather, and many times
unfavorable migrations. For the Sheepshead
fisherman, it means making the move to
deeper wrecks and reefs. Catching a bait
stealer is hard enough in shallow water with
light tackle that allows you to feel everything
that is happening on the other end of the
line. Add 50 feet or more of line, a 2-4 ounce
sinker (or larger in current), and beef up the
tackle to a stiff offshore rig, and well, you get
the picture. Most just give up and go for the
grouper that are residing in the same
areas. Many simply don't have the boat to
get to the fish during the colder months. This
vacation from your inshore honey hole does
not last though, and now is the time for the
return of the Convicts. Spring is not just time for the birds and the
bees, it is also time for Sheepshead to
congregate and breed. This occurs inshore,
at a rock pile, inlet, or reef near you! The
spring spawn makes an already schooling fish
pack up that much more, and their choice of
breeding grounds makes them a fish for the
masses. This is the time of year even the
shore fisherman can effectively target
Convicts in large numbers. Sheepshead are
known for being very selective eaters. Fiddler crabs are the most popular
temptation offered up to the striped target,
but shrimp and oysters can often be just as
effective. I actually prefer shrimp over any
other bait, but use what is available in your
area and what you are comfortable fishing
with. A jig or small crustacean-like lure also
can be very lethal, especially when
chumming. Shrimp-tipped bucktail jigs are
almost irresistible and are a great way to
cover a lot of water if the fish are tougher to
locate.
If you have never had the pleasure of
eating a freshly caught Sheepshead, you’ve
been missing out. A Convict is one of the
best tasting guests you could ever have over
for dinner. The meat is very mild and is great
just about any way you decide to prepare
it. The best part is the bag limit. In these
days of heavy conservation and in some
cases overly stringent regulations, a species
with 15 fish per person bag limit is not
Saltwater | 114 | Sportfishing
common. Convicts are seldom found alone,
so make sure you have plenty of bait and a
big cooler. Before you know it, you will have
dinner for you, the neighbor, and that guy
that always bothers you to bring him some
fish. On second thought, forget that guy.
Save what’s left for another day. Sheepshead
tastes great for months if properly frozen.
Sheepshead may not have the acrobatic
displays of Snook and Tarpon, and they may
not have the tugging power of a Cobia or big
Black Drum, but don’t write them off just
because of that. These bait stealing, shell
crunching, hook crushing, cooler filling
Convicts are the best of the best when you
account for the challenge, accessibility, and
table fare that they offer. This spring, when
you head out to pursue your favorite inshore
species, think about adding some
crustaceans to your arsenal and be on the
look out for the ever-smiling toothy thief, the
Sheepshead.
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