I was on may way to Wisconsin in January last year because I was foolish enough to tell my good friends that I would love to learn about ice fishing. Since I live in Miami, Florida most of my local friends and family thought it was a bit foolish as well. But always up for a challenge and to learn new outdoor adventures I packed up pretty much every article of clothing I owned and headed north. I was told the ice was sufficiently thick enough to make fishing safe and I should get up there. I now pass onto you this information in the hopes that you can have as much fun as I actually did. Go figure!
Ice fishing is not only a thing you can do to get away from the phones and confusion of work for a bit but it in some areas is a social gathering place as well. The lake I was fishing near Eau Claire, Wisconsin was set up like a little community. Small structures known as ice shanty’s or ice huts were scattered around like tents in a camp ground with bunches of guys and gals making the rounds, spreading fishing news of the day, discussing the Green Bay Packers and sharing are shot of their favorite schnapps. Some of these ice huts were permanent requiring trucks or snowmobiles to move them while others were pop ups, and easily moved. One gentleman even had a bed and satellite television in his shanty! It should be noted that these huts are not place over just any spot on the frozen lake, but over areas that have produced fish in the spring and summer and marked with a GPS. For my initiation into this type of fishing I was forced to sit on a plastic bucket outside the hut.The first thing I realized that very few of the techniques I use for offshore fishing would help me out here, as ice fishing is very specialized and requires special tackle and gear. The number one thing you need to ice fish is an ice auger or something to cut a hole in the ice. You can get a power auger or one that you work by hand, but the bottom line is you need to create a hole (or several holes) in the ice that are about 8-10 inches in diameter. Once the hole is drilled, have a skimmer ready (looks like a soup ladle with holes in it) as its frickin’ freezing out and you need to keep the hole from freezing over. There were several holes drilled and my buddies each would try different methods to try and figure out what the fish were hitting best on.
At first I thought they were joking with me when I was handed a very short rod only about a 2-3 feet long with only two guides on it, but this made sense to me as I looked at the hole I was fishing through, and there is no need to cast. Ice fishing rods are made of material that can handle the cold temperatures (such as composites). The ice fishing reels are suited to the types of fish we could catch and the pound test line used. Some reels may have a closed face to protect the line while others may be spinning or baitcasters. The type of reel depends largely on the type of fish and depth of water.
A gadget called a tip-up is an important device for ice fishing with live bait such as worms, waxies or minnows that suspends the bait at a preset level under the ice. When a fish strikes it triggers a trip bar that is basically a short pole with a flag on it that alerts the fisherman to the strike. It’s usually a bright colored flag so that an angler fishing several holes can spot the triggered tip-up at some distance.These short rods are actually pretty good for using lures through the hole or colored jigs, often tipped with some bait (waxies, worms, minnows). This was my method as I sat on my bucket rod in hand, occasionally raising and lowering the rod tip to create action of the jig. I now prefer to use brightly colored lures and jigs, sometimes also using a glow in the dark hook made by a company called “Flirty Girty” as it seems to out produce others. When fishing in a dark and cold time of the year.
Small sonar systems called flashers are often used to locate fish or bottom structure much like I use in the ocean looking for wrecks, reefs and schools of fish. These units can detect fish instantly and even show your bait in relation to the fish when used properly. Even newer technologies such as underwater cameras are being used to scout fishing areas. Combine all this with the ability to pinpoint spots with your GPS and the newest maps and you have a major advantage of those ice fishing just a decade ago.
One of the things I like most about ice fishing is that when I am visiting my friends I can get out on the frozen lake at pretty much anytime of the day. A quick call to the local tackle shop and I can have a good idea of what types are fish are active and at what times of the day. I will dress according to how I will be fishing, inside a big ice shanty complete with heater, a small pop-up tent or sitting on my bucket freezing my gushy off. If you are by yourself, which is not always recommended when fishing the ice, you can get a plastic sled to pull all your gear. There are times of the year where you can drive across the ice as well. There are risks with ice fishing, falling through the ice is merely one of them. Proper ventilation in ice shacks and frostbite are just a few others.
So now you basically have enough information to get you started ice fishing. It’s a lot of fun if you are dressed for the cold, and prepared with the specialized gear needed for this type of fishing. Many of the fish you will catch you are already familiar with if you have fished that area previously. Whether it’s a social event such as a tailgate party on the ice or just to get out of the house in between football games, Ice Fishing is definitely worth the effort and preparation.
I hate when someone comes up to me and asks me what type of fishing rod should they buy? So many times I feel like screaming at them “how the hell should I know!” its kind of like a complete stranger asking you what food should they eat? Without knowledge of what they like, any allergies and how much they want to spend its very hard to answer this question. Buying a fishing rod is no different but it is very exact depending on your use for it. There are so many choices but this choice may not be all that difficult if you know what you are looking for. Remember that different types of fishing require different types of tackle and you would not use a fishing rod designed for Tuna when you are fishing for Trout. The same goes for the quality of the rod just like the quality of a restaurant, there is a great difference between MacDonald’s and a 5 star restaurant, both are considered meals but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
If you are a beginning fisherman there are quite a few inexpensive choices you can make and most of them won’t break the bank. Pretty much any tackle store or Walmart will have what you need, but if you are a tournament angler or somewhere in between your choices will need to include a few more factors. Do you travel to your fishing grounds? Do you fish from shore, a pier or do you own a boat? Basically, the more often you fish and the type of fishing you do should determine the quality of the rod you purchase. This fishing rod should also fit your fishing style, such as a rod that breaks down into 2 or more sections if you travel, a longer rod if you fish from piers or the surf or one with specialized guides if you troll from a boat. Although there are some rods that can do double duty for several species of fish and are adequate for both fresh and saltwater it is quite often about the experience of the angler that determines how much wiggle room you have with your rod and reel. But this doesn’t mean you can use a tuna stick for trout or visa versa.
Most fishing rods are designed to accommodate either a spinning reel, conventional reel or baitcasting reel and again the choice comes down to what you are planning on fishing for. If you are fishing for crappie on your local lake you may choose a spinning reel and matching rod for this type of fishing, taking into consideration that lighter line will give you a better feel for any bites and working a jig or lure. Match the rod to the reel to the line for the species and water conditions! For large offshore species you may need to sacrifice some sensitivity for a rod with backbone and a reel with a smooth drag and capable of holding a large quantity of quality fishing line. I will say it again and again, the key is to match all the equipment to the target species. Often the equipment used for a great many species will overlap and you can use the same tackle with only minor tweaking. For those on a budget this is an important consideration.So now as you narrow down where you are most likely to fish and what types of fish you are most likely to target, you now need to consider what techniques you enjoy using to fish for them. My brother only uses live bait and I prefer to use artificial lures most of the time so we both have to tailor our tackle to these individual techniques. With live bait he needs a more sensitive rod to feel the bait or fish indicating an imminent strike, while I need a rod that allows me to cast repeatedly and work my lure with maximum action and efficiency.
Most rods will be made out of either fiberglass or graphite. Fiberglass has been the tried and true material but will be a bit thicker in diameter for similar strength and reliability. Graphite is the overwhelming winner when more sensitivity is needed. Fiberglass is probably a bit heavier that graphite but the difference is not so great as to make it a deciding factor. Balance and action are the important factors. Rods are considered to have a fast, moderate-fast, moderate or slow-action, much of the action is dependant more on the taper and construction of the Fishing rod that the material used. A rod that flexes mostly near the tip is said to have an Xtra-Fast taper, while a rod which seems to flex over the entire length of the rod employs a Slow taper.
So now that you have a lot of the information you need to purchase a fishing rod, and keeping in mind that the wonderful people at your local tackle shop or outdoors superstore will be able to guide you in your choice, its time to make a choice. If price and durability is a factor than look towards the less expensive fiberglass, if you need increased sensitivity and can afford it, look into graphite. But again, it really comes down to a balanced outfit and what you are most comfortable with. Many rods will serve your purpose but only a few will really feel like a great fit.
Walleye fishing is an art. I have been out on the lake and seen several boats in close proximity to one another and one guys is doing a number on the fish while the others are starting at him like he just won the lottery and rode off with the prom queen. The truth of the matter is Walleye fishing is not all that difficult if you just know what to do. Depending on what time of the year you are fishing, here are some great tips to make you more successful and the guy that everyone else is trying to figure out.
The key is to understand that at different times of the year and at different water temperatures the fish will have different patterns.
It is vital to understand these habits and to search those types of locations that the fish are most likely to inhabit or move to at that time of the yearand what they most likely will be feeding upon.
After the snow melts and the first signs of spring are in
air the Walleye will usually be very close to the shore and should be found in
sandy areas with patchy sand bars along wild rice beds. Also, look for rocky
jetties or structures that are close to sandy bottom. At this time of the year
the sandy bottom is key as this is where the Walleye will spawn. Early spring
Walleye will be very aggressive and a variety of baits will work especially
jigs. Fishing with jigs is relatively easy once you develop the touch and you
can use various jig heads from 1/8 oz to ¼ oz fitted with a Twister Tail. Have
an assortment of white, Yellow, green and black and try different colors until
you find the one that gets them to strike. In the spring, adding a small piece
of bait such as a worm or belly strip works great all year, but spawning fish
are usually ravenous to begin with. You will find some colors work best at
certain times of the year while others work year round.
When you find an area that is holding fish, understand that
the males, which are a bit smaller, will usually stay shallower and closer to
the sandy areas, which are the spawning areas. If quantity and hot action is
what you are looking for these are the areas to work, if you want a bigger
fish, the females which are larger can be found in the same general vicinity
but just a bit deeper.
I like to cover some ground so I enjoy trolling along the
shore until I get a strike then I will either begin to jig or begin casting
various crank baits and lures such as shallow running Shad Raps, Floating
Rapalas and Junior Thunder sticks. I have had the best results using silver and
blue. Just because it’s still spring and possibly still a bit chilly, do not
forget about fishing at night for Walleyes. This is the time when the larger
females will make their way closer to the shoreline. Remember that this time of
the year, the sandy bottom is key. If it’s the big Walleyes that get your
juices flowing, then try the above-mentioned techniques, but at night. Also, be
on the look out for any weed lines and grassy cover in close proximity to the
sandy bottom, as the big ones will be moving out from that cover to feed. If
you are trolling, go a bit slower than you would during the day.
Towards the end of the spring and throughout the summer, you will need to
modify your Walleye Fishing techniques to account for the warmer waters. Just
like beach-goers heading for shade or under their umbrellas in the summer,
Walleye too will head for the weeds or into deeper water. You can get down to
them with jigs and the Infamous TwisterTails, white seems to work the best
during the warmer months but again, bring an assortment of colors as what works
in one area may draw blanks in another. Like most fishing, you have a good idea
of what works but still need to experiment. Work the deeper weeds and
structures drifting until you find fish.
In the warmer months you can use the same night Walleye fishing techniques
as at other times of the year and troll until you find the fish. Again these
will more than likely be larger fish and the big females will be in deeper
water than the spring so troll appropriate lures to cover more area at the
right depth. Fishing for larger fish during the day requires you to get down
deeper to where the larger fish will be and once you locate them, mark the spot
so you can repeat that drift. Remember that surface water is considerably
warmer than that at the bottom and you need to identify and fish below that
temperature change to effective go after big fish, usually near the bottom.
In the summer you should also look for baitfish on the surface possibly even
in open water as schools of Walleye may be suspended under them waiting to
feed. Trolling the open water with a fish finder is a great way to locate them.
Again, pay attention to possible water temperature changes if possible. If you
have no depth finder you can try blind trolling if you see schools of baitfish
and then jig or cast the area if you get a strike.
Remember that the bigger Walleyes will usually be found nearer to the bottom
and depending upon the area you are fishing and depth of the lake this could
vary greatly but depths from 15 to slightly over 30 feet seem to produce the
bigger fish. Weeds and rocky jetties that drop off quickly are always a great
place to try, and don’t be afraid to experiment with various jigs, lures and
even baited bottom rigs. Those guys that are catching all the fish have figured
something out by experimentation, you can too!
It was 7am as we headed out of Boynton Beach Inlet in South Florida for a crack at the schools of Mahi (dolphin) that were reported to be prowling the weed lines that had blown in with the mild easterly winds. It was pretty calm despite a few passing rainsqualls that moved by along with a small waterspout that just couldn’t seem to touchdown. It was the beginning of another wonderful day fishing on “The Wet Spot” along with my close Captain Mitch Dinnerman and our friend Bob Crapo. Bob and I began preparing the rigs while we all kept an eye out for Patches of Sargasso weed and diving birds. Our initial plan, as usual was to troll rigged baits until we had fish around the boat and then begin to through chunked baits at them. Our rigs were the basic for trolling for Mahi (Dolphin), ballyhoo rigged to swim without spinning, with or without a colored skirt such as an Ilander. A rigged ballyhoo is probably the most often used bait for trolling, as this is due to the fact that it’s easy to rig and easy to use and most importantly very effective for a variety of species such as Mahi (Dolphin), King Mackerel, Sailfish and Tuna among others.
We found a weed line only a few miles offshore with only one other boat working the area and began to troll, this was not at all a joyous experience as there were many tiny patches of weed that kept fouling our rigs and it became a never ending battle of clearing one line then putting it back out, only to have to bring in another to repeat the process. This quickly became tiresome, quite boring actually when the sound every offshore angler longs to hear, the sound of the clicker indicating line leaving the spool quickly, Fish On! I’d love to say that battle was epic, one for the ages, but unfortunately a 3 lb dolphin is not quite the stuff legends are made from. We released this undersized fish unharmed and decided to go further offshore in hopes of getting away from the vast amounts of patchy weed in order to troll up something bigger.
After Trolling around some current lines and smaller patches of weeds for time we noticed several birds searching the surface and then diving, we then noticed fish breaking the surface. After a few minutes it was determined they were Skipjack Tuna and although lots of fun on light tackle we decided not to re-rig with feathers and try for some. About 20 minutes later and about 15 miles offshore we saw a floating lobster pot buoy with a lot of rope hanging down from it near a relatively large carpet of Sargasso weed. We immediately hooked up! Again not an overly impressive battle but a nice Dolphin (Mahi) came over the side in just a few minutes, this time a bit bigger but still only about 9 lbs. We were hoping for those in the 20-40 lb range. As it was a beautiful flat calm day and we had plenty of bait on board, we decided to chum using some chunks of pilchard and other baits we had and it wasn’t long before swarms of small Dolphin (Mahi) were darting out from under the weeds like squadrons of fighter planes going off on a mission.
If you have never seen Dolphin all lit up hoping to feed in the brilliant blue offshore waters you are missing one of fishing’s grand spectacles!
To catch Dolphin by chunking them is relatively simple, depending on the size but for these school-sized fish a spinning rod with 15-20 lb test line and pretty much any fish sized appropriate hook will do the job. They key to this type of fishing is to keep the fish around the boat. To do this you can either keep one hooked fish in the water as the others will swarm nearby hoping for a snack, or just keep chunking pieces of bait into the water, but just enough to keep them interested. This type of fishing is not rocket science although finding the fish is usually much more difficult than catching them.
You never know what type or size fish you may encounter when drifting around these offshore weed patches and you should be prepared for anything. Frequently we will catch a small jack or baby tuna and rig it up and drop it down a bit deeper for a shot at a big Dolphin or Wahoo. It’s important to practice conservation when catching a lot of school sized Dolphins and you need to pay attention to size restrictions and catch limits, as it’s very easy to limit out if the fish are around. You don’t need to take home every legal size fish you catch, just take what you need and try your best to release the others in good shape, circle hooks help in this area. Who knows, the ones you release today might become that giant Bull Dolphin of a lifetime in a few years!
There is nothing better during the dog days of summer than to grab a rod and head off to your favorite stream in pursuit of Trout. Although I would much prefer to be in some of the high mountain streams in Montana, I do fairly well on my trips to the Driftless area of Wisconsin and some of the small creeks there. There are some things I have learned in other areas that serve me well whenever I am in pursuit of the tasty Trout of summer!
Remember that trout like cooler water and the hot summer sun can warm up a shallow stream to the point where the Trout may get a bit stressed out. The warmer water and anglers mucking up the stream can really do a number on the fishing. Trout prefer water temperatures of between 50 65 degrees (depending on the type of Trout as well) so you may think about fishing at higher elevations after a period of very high Temperatures. The streams at higher elevations may be a bit smaller but hey will also be a bit cooler as well. If you are fishing in an area that doesn’t vary much in altitude try and think like a Trout, where would you find the cooler water? Look for deep pools and holes in the bottom that may be a bit cooler than the shallower areas. Keep a thermometer in your vest for just such an occasion.
Time of day is also very important in pursuit of summer Trout. Not only is it a bit cooler during daybreak and dusk but also the fish tend to feed more voraciously at these times. So, if a nice vacation of sleeping in with breakfast in bed at your favorite bed and breakfast, forget it, you are here to fish! Think about what kinds of food the trout may be eating and then figure out what time of the morning these little Trout tasty treats are fluttering or hopping about. This plays out in the last hour of sunlight as well and is my personal favorite time to fish. Yeah, I am the guy that likes to sleep late! But if you get the chance to stand on the bank or wade a shallow pool when the Trout are rising to feed on a recently hatched insect population, I guarantee you that it is something you will never forget.
So what have we learned about summer Trout fishing? The key is to look for cooler water! Remember that you are not immune to the effects of the sun either and should take necessary precautions yourself, this means drink plenty of water and use an appropriate sun block, and for those of us who have grown just a tad taller than their hair, a cap and a high SPF lotion for our heads as well. You should also consider using the cool water as a climate control system as well; cool water and thin waders can keep you at optimum temps or even a pair of shorts and old sneakers will do if you don’t think hypothermia will kick in. Finally, a light shirt and breathable vest and you are ready for a summer Trout adventure.
Florida has some of the finest fishing in the world, and contrary to many opinions it is still part of the United States and relatively simple to get to. If you are traveling to the state and are not a part –time or full time resident here and have no boat then your best bet is to charter one of the fine captains in the area and head offshore for a day of blue water, blue skies and hopefully lots of action. If you have your own boat and have long dreamed about leaving the sheltered waters of the bay and heading offshore in search of the many game fish that call these South Atlantic waters home but are not sure how to get started than this article is for you! If you are an accomplished offshore angler, adept at rigging baits and following thermo clines then pass this by, as you know this stuff already. I mean c’mon! We can write a whole article just on what knots to use!
To start off, ask yourself the question, “am I experienced enough to fish offshore and is my boat adequate for the adventure?” If you are not sure, then do not go offshore, or at least not without an experienced person on board. It is also a very good idea to carry a PLB or personal Locator Beacon, this is a device that when activated will send a signal to the search and rescue teams to come and get you, immediately. The great thing about fishing off the coast of Florida is that you really don’t have to go that far to catch a variety of species such as Sailfish, some Tuna species, King Mackerel, Dolphin and Wahoo to name a few. While there is a resident population of these species present pretty much year round, some times of the year are better than others. I’ll give a brief rundown of the usual suspects.
Sailfish can be had pretty much year round, but the best fishing is usually in the winter and early spring. When South Floridians feel those cold fronts of November and December you can be certain that the Sailfish wont be far behind. You don’t have to run as far offshore as one may think for them, as although they can be caught in almost any depth, they are typically caught between 90 and 200 feet of water. The simple way to catch them (remember this article is for the offshore newbies) is trolling with rigged ballyhoo, place a skirt in front of this and troll a few rods at varying distances behind the boat and you’re in business. When you get a bit more experienced you can also drift live bait such as Pilchard and Goggle eyes and if you really get going you can learn to fish with a kite to dangle your bait on the surface making it an enticing treat for a variety of game fish. Have a pair strong gloves and a pair of pliers to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water and pull him along until he regains strength and watch him swim away. This of course is after you all lean over and take pictures!
Dolphin, also known as Mahi Mahi can be caught year round as well with the best fishing taking place in spring and early summer. The methods used to catch Dolphin are pretty much the same as for sailfish or any of the other species we will mention with the subtle differences primarily coming in depth, color of skirts and thickness of leader or wire line. If you are not skilled at rigging, a newbie to this type of fishing can just purchase rigged ballyhoo at the bait shop and be done with it. Slip a skirt over the rigged bait and go for it! Don’t forget to buy some non rigged bait as well because small to medium sized dolphin travel in schools and if you troll one up, keep him in the water for a bit and look for some of his friends to be lurking near the boat. If so, tie a hook to the end of a line, place a chunk of bait on the hook and you can limit out in just a matter of minutes. Dolphin are usually found in deeper, cleaner blue water, and although they can be caught blind trolling along currents and just about anywhere, they do prefer weed lines and flotsam. Larger dolphin can be caught with live bait under the weed lines and around floating objects trees, cargo pallets and even abandoned crab trap buoys.
King Mackerel or Kingfish as they are sometimes called are another year round resident but as with most of our South Florida Game fish, some seasons are better than others. They can be caught using the same methods as Dolphin or Sailfish but require a wire leader as they can bite through most lines like they were butter. King Mackerel are predominantly found in 60-200 feet of water and tend to hang around structures or changes in the bottom contours which cause current variations. In Summer months when trolling seems to work best you may try using a planer or trolling weight to get your baits down a bit further, but during the spring there is nothing more fun than drifting live baits while listening to some tunes and munching on some chips. If you have trouble finding live bait (pilchards, Pinfish, etc.) dead ballyhoo will produce as well. Wahoo can also be caught in the same areas you fish for all these fish; they are incredible fighters and one of the tastiest fish in the ocean. You would need a bit more expertise to actually target them with bigger rods and lures. To target Wahoo, many anglers do what is know as High Speed trolling, in excess of 12 knots with lures covering the surface and deeper into the water column. Wahoo seem to be most active around the full moon.
As for Tuna, most of the species that you will catch in the areas you can safely fish will be Blackfin Tuna; they are tasty, great fighters and can be part of a mixed bag while fishing for the above-mentioned species. For the bigger Yellowfin Tuna, well, if you are reading this article, you are probably not ready to go out on your own, as they require long-range trips, better equipment, bigger boats and a good crew. But the thrill is amazing as line rips off the reel and you are holding on until that initial run has subsided. When fishing the far offshore trips there is also the possibility of running into a big Blue Marlin or a White Marlin, but that’s for another story!
So, You have some basic information now on how to fish for some of South Florida’s favorite offshore game fish. Keep in mind that in most parts of South Florida the depths you will fish may be only 2-5 miles from shore. Pick out your favorite rods in the 20-50 lb class grab a friend and some rigged baits and head out for a great adventure! A friend once asked me when is the best time of day to catch Sailfish and the others, my reply was quite simple, “anytime you can get out there!”
Schools out! Oh my god how are we going to entertain the kids and keep them out of trouble! This is a dilemma faced by many parents, especial single moms and dads. We all want to engage in outdoor activities with our children and spend quality time with them, but especially to reverse the mind numbing effects of video games and to keep them off of their Wii or Xbox for a short time. Any time outdoors is time well spent if it can actually bring you and your children closer together and perhaps have an incredible adventure as well! The warmer weather is here, and your local lakes should be teaming with Panfish, including Sunfish, Bream, Crappies and a host of others. They are all very simple to catch, don’t require expensive equipment and are actually quite tasty too!
The first thing you need to do is outfit your self with all the necessary gear, but don’t forget to also have a bucket, a knife and a pair of nail clippers along with you, they are often forgotten but frequently essential, a small towel should be taken as well. Most of the equipment needed can be found at your local Wal-Mart, Target, Sporting goods store or perhaps there is a bait and tackle shop nearby that can not only outfit you, but give you suggestions on what is biting and where. It is also important to check on any regulations or the need for a fishing license in your area. Nothing can ruin a day faster than rain, mosquitoes or a game warden who is having a bad day!
Many of the stores sell packages that contain all the equipment you will need, but lets break it down into a few essential items. The rod and reel should be relative to the size of the fish you are trying to catch, in the case of most Panfish and Sunfish and Crappies, it should be light. The rod and reel should be matched to handle line in the 6-10 lb test category. Pound test (lb test) is generally thought of as the breaking strength of the line. You can look on the rod or reel and see what it is rated for. Line that is too light will easily break if you hook a fish that you do not have the experience to handle and if it gets snagged or caught on the bottom you run the risk of it breaking. Line that is too heavy for your task will be difficult to cast and could cause wary fish to shy away. The hooks should also be relatively light a size 8 should do the job nicely, remember, the higher the number the smaller the hook. Tie the hook to the end of the line and you are half way home! You next need to place a bobber a few feet above the hook. How high above the hook really depends on how deep is the water you are fishing. The size of the bobber should not be large for these fish. Remember you want it to float the bait at a particular depth yet be light enough to be pulled under to indicate a fish strike. Sometimes very small weights attached to the line called split shot can help. I’d start off with the bobber about 2 feet above the hook and adjust from there, a very small split shot the size of a small bb should be in between the float and hook.
For the species of fish you are targeting, just about anything will work. Sunfish and Bream are not all that picky and are usually in great numbers. Try different things, usually a worm or a piece of a worm is sure to bring results and can be purchased at most of the stores mentioned earlier. You can even make the adventure bigger by first going on a worm hunt to catch your own bait. If all else fails, almost anything that will fit on the hook may work. I’ve even seen Panfish caught using Pillsbury dough and pieces of a hot dog!
Now comes the most complicated aspect of the adventure, where to fish? Just about any body of water should do as most lakes and streams have something swimming in them. If you can’t ask the local bait shop owner then just look on a map, find a nearby lake and head out, in short order you should be others fishing there as well. Most anglers will be happy to assist newcomers, but be careful not to crowd them, remember they are here to catch fish too. If you don’t see anyone else fishing, look around for any spots that are flat and near the water, you may even see things left behind by previous anglers in that spot, if not go ahead and try anyway, you may be lucky enough to find your very own honey hole or hotspot. Just cast your line out a few yards from shore and wait it out, I prefer water that is about 5-8 feet deep for Panfish.
Finally, this is about fishing, not necessarily catching. Although catching a fish with your son or daughter will highlight a great day, it is more about spending time together outdoors. Our children miss so much when their world revolves around a TV or video games and we miss so much in being able to spend time with them. Let your inner child loose and take a kid fishing!
I was jogging along the beach the other day in the late afternoon and decided to see what the locals were catching on the jetty. I normally don’t pay too much attention as I’m used to hopping on the boat and going offshore for Dolphin or Sailfish, but today felt a bit different. It was a bit choppy and the end of the jetty was unusually crowded with anglers and the surfers were out in force as well. As I got to the end of the jetty I was greeted with cries of Pompano! Pompano! Next thing I knew 1-4 pound Pompano were being lifted up onto the rocks every couple of minutes.
I love eating the white flakey meat of the Pompano, they are perhaps among the finest table fare of any fish in the ocean and available in many of Florida’s better restaurants. The Florida Pompano is within reach of any anglers that can walk onto a pier, fish a jetty or cast from the beach. The Florida Pompano is an excellent fighter although they only average a few pounds and fish over five pounds are considered monsters. For those who know how to fish for them, they are available mostly early spring through early fall.
The prime bait for catching Pompano is the ‘sand flea’ also called mole crabs, most small crustaceans and shrimp will work as well but sand fleas are by far the bait of choice for the accomplished Pompano fisherman. These fish travel in schools so if you see one caught, there will probably be more to follow. One of the things I love about Pompano fishing is that I don’t have to be in the crowds at the tip of a fishing pier or the end of the jetty to catch them, pompano like to feed just on the ocean side of a shore break or sand bar where they can ambush small crustaceans being washed out with the current or tides.
They tend to feed on the incoming tide and the early part of the outgoing tide when water depth is optimal for them to move in closer to shore.
Any medium spinning rod with 12 lb test line will work just fine as remember, these are fish that average one to four pounds but fight like heck, and since they feed just beyond the shore break mega long surf rods are not a necessity either. But this should be determined by surf conditions at the time. Small circle hooks can be used as singles or in multiple hook rigs. I prefer one 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook hanging about a foot above a pyramid sinker. I have a preference for pyramid sinkers as they will hold bottom better than bank or egg sinkers.
In my next article I will go over catching your own sand fleas using a sand flea rake that can either be built or purchased at stores such as Bass Pro shops or Gander Mountain. It should be noted that once you find a stretch of beach that is abundant in sand fleas there is a good chance it will hold Pompano as well. After all you can use these little critters as your advance scouts! So, find the sand fleas, find some choppy water with a shore break and an incoming tide and cast to the far side. Then start daydreaming of a great wine to go with your incredible Florida Pompano meal!
I have finally realized that I am no longer the spring chicken I used to be, scampering up 14,000+ peaks, hiking many miles into the Everglades or fishing 20 miles offshore of my home in South Florida by myself may not be the smartest thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my adventures and they will have to pry the throttle or walking stick out of my cold dead hands before I am relegated to a rocker on some front porch. It is for these reasons that I have decided to purchase some sort of Personal locator beacon that will not only give me the peace of mind that I can be found and rescued in the event of an emergency, but will also ease the fears of those that care about me and have concerns over my adventure lifestyle.
I spent quite a bit of time researching various products, asking many questions at the local Bass Pro Shops in Fort Lauderdale and Gander Mountain in West palm Beach and comparing the answers of the sales staff with my own personal needs. They were all very informative and were all also in agreement that for my needs I needed something that was extremely reliable and hopefully would never need to be used. There were several models that were reviewed, some that allowed friends to track your progress and send text messages and others that were geared strictly for imminent danger and life threatening situations.
After weighing all my options and needs, and deciding that reliability in such a device outweighed price and occasionally used features, I had narrowed my decision down to a select few, all made by the company ACR which deals primarily in Epirbs, PLB’s and other life support devices. The several models I looked at from this company confused me for a while as they all seemed quite similar. I visited their website and then sent an email to their customer service manger detailing my intended uses for a Personal Locator Beacon and how my journeys are quite often water related. I was very pleased with his response and have copied here in hopes it helps others contemplating purchasing one of these units.
Look no further than one of the two units below.
• SARLink 406 GPS PLB
• AquaLink 406 GPS PLB
The SARLink is sold by the Outdoor Industry because the voice of the Outdoor customer tells us that they want smaller and lighter. So we responded by taking all of the air out of it to make it as small as possible, and because of this it doesn’t float. However, because a small portion of the Outdoor consumers also recreate around water, we do offer a floatation pouch accessory.
The following is the physical differences.
AQUALINK P/N 2882 9.2 oz OR 260g 2.3 x 5.8 x 1.45″ 5.9 x 14.8 x 3.7 cm
SARLINK P/N 2883 8.9 oz OR 252g 2.3 x 5.8 x 1.25″ 5.9 x 14.8 x 3.2 cm
Because it floats and you have no problems with a unit a little bigger than the Sarlink, the Aqualink would be your best bet.
You can then also use it for any overland excursions you may want to add to your travelling itinerary.
I am now planning to purchase the AquaLink 406 GPS PLB this week and regain my confidence that if I Journey into the great outdoors I will also be coming home with more great stories to share. Remember that when purchasing such units, they should be considered a method of last resort and not because you ran out of gas but because your survival is seriously in question.
The rich waters off the coast of South Florida hold an incredible variety of species of fish, some of them more popular than others. We all know about the Sailfish, Dolphin and Tuna for the game species, and various types of Grouper and Snapper for the bottom dwellers, but recently I have begun fishing the bottom in the deeper areas for other bottom species, the Tilefish, in this case the Blueline or Grey Tilefish.
After a very long while, my good friend Mitch purchased a very expensive Electric Rod and Reel combo, as he had been going out on other friend’s boats equipped with such tackle in order to pursue day time Sword fishing, which can take place in up to 2,000 feet of water. After a substantial amount of time and effort, I convinced him to rig the Electric Reel and re-enforced rod holders in his 25 foot contender and presented him with several deep drop snapper rigs along with a promise that I would finally chip in for bait and gas to give a try deep dropping for Tilefish somewhere between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The Blueline Tilefish also called the Grey Tile are frequently caught in the South Florida waters with the larger Golden Tilefish caught a bit deeper but less frequently.
The Blueline Tilefish is usually found in water ranging from 250 to 750 feet deep. The lesser depth although sometimes fished with conventional tackle can produce Tilefish when fishing for Snapper and Grouper as these fish are quite often found in the same areas. Tile fish prefer a bumpy mud bottom in which they can construct burrows in which to live. They can grow up to 32 inches (smaller than the Golden Tilefish) and live up to 15 years. The Grey Tilefish have a diet of crabs, shrimp and many other bottom creatures which may contribute to its excellent taste when cooked. It is an extra lean fish with firm white meat and a very mild flavor.
Deep Drop Fishing for Blueline Tilefish is mostly done by means of an Electric Reel and a very stout rod. The rod is secured into a re-enforced rod holder and plugged into an outlet on the boat. The weight of this tackle alone makes stand up angling impossible, and the weight used to get down and hold bottom while drifting in 500 or more feet of water can be anywhere from 2 to 12 lbs depending on current. If you are a fishing purist and must try conventional tackle, make sure your cardiologist has given you a stress test as this will surely be a workout. If you are having trouble holding bottom with more than 12 lbs of lead it may be time to head to your favorite watering hold and watch football.
The rig is actually quite simple, a multi-hook snapper rig with circle hooks, many anglers prefer to use 60lb test leaders but 80 will work too and a very heavy lead weight depending on the current. You want to be able to bounce over the bottom as you drift. Braided line is a must as it is thinner and will not stretch like monofilament. Cut baits such as squid, Bonita or Barracuda will work fine as baits that are too soft such as Pilchard will come off the hooks to easily.
The winter months may be a bit trickier for this type of fishing as you need to keep the baits on the bottom and unless it’s very calm and little current, this will be hard to do. In some areas, Fishing for Blueline Tilefish can take place just 2-3 miles from shore and in very calm conditions is fun and very easy. In a short while you will be able to figure out the bites from the bottom and multiple fish per drop is not uncommon. This is a very simple method of fishing and the sight of a fish common up from the depths is quite exciting, especially when you don’t always know what strange creature might be on the end of the line. Cleaning the Grey Tilefish may require a bit of practice as there are quite a few bony areas to avoid when filleting them, but the wonderful mean it will turn into is definitely worth the effort!