Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fresh Water Feature Pt.2 - Peacock Bass

Peacock Bass are an invasive species to South Florida's freshwater lakes and canals.  They are normally found in South America, but were introduced to South Florida freshwater ecosystems in 1984 to prey on other non-native invasive species.  Since Peacock Bass cannot tolerate cold temperatures, they are to found anywhere in the country except Miami - Dade county, Broward county, and Palm Beach county.
Peacock bass can grow up to 100 cm in length and are easily recognizable by their brilliant green and orange coloring, they also feature a distinct eye spot on their tales that resembles the eyes on a peacocks feathers.  In adult fishers (primarily males but occasionally females) a distinct rounded hump can be found protruding from the forehead.
Peacock bass are widely renowned freshwater sport fish; so much so that travel agents even arrange fishing trip to Florida and South America for just the chance to catch one of these fish.  They put up an impressive fight and tend to run the line once they've been hooked.  My personal recommendation for peacock bass is a light and flexible tip rod with a solid backbone, and 5/8 lb test line.  They need some stretch in the line so the lighter the better.  During the mating season which occurs shortly before and during th rainy season, Peacocks become very aggressive especially around their nest, so they will devour practically anything put in front of them.  I prefer live bait such as shiners though, or a bottom water green and orange swimming lure.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fresh Water Feature Pt.1 - Large Mouth Bass

Large Mouth Bass are a native freshwater species of bass that can be found throughout lakes and canals of the United States, primarily in the Southern states though.  The female largemouth can be significantly larger than male, and is easily recognizable during the spring spawning season by their fat belly which is full of unfertilized eggs.  They are primarily a dark greenish brown on top that fades to a whitish belly.  All of their miscellaneous fins are a dark green and they have trademark large beady black eyes.  
Largemouth bass feed primarily on small bait fish, crawfish, and insects; although it is not uncommon for the larger bass to feed on small water birds and even baby alligators.  Prey items can be 50% or larger than the bass itself and still be consumed.  Largemouth bass are highly sought after by anglers for their exciting catch and eagerness to eat, which leads to less time sitting and waiting with a line in the water.  Fly fishing has become the new trend in the world of fishing especially in large freshwater game species like the Largemouth.  Fly fishing for Largemouth can either be done with a top water lure or worm imitations tied with brightly colored natural or synthetic materials.  
My preferred method for bass fishing, especially Largemouth is a midwater swimming lure; reeled in a slow continuous movement, or live bait such as shiners (the larger the bait the larger the catch) on a lightly weighted line with a sinker to draw the bait to the bottom of the water.  With bass you tend to need a lighter class rod with a flexible tip and line ranging from 5 to 8 pound test.  Anything higher can be seen by the fish and is less likely to lead to a successful catch.  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shark Fishing

One of my personal favorite types of strictly recreational fishing is shark fishing.  My favorite and most productive place for shark fishing is off the docks of Stiltsville.  I often go out to Stiltsville and stay at the Miami Power Boat Club house all the way at the end of the channel; which makes it a prime location for shark fishing.  Sharks prefer deeper, cooler waters; but at night they move up on the shallow flats surrounding Stiltsville to hunt and pick off easy meals. Sharks are scavengers by nature they search for already dead or dying prey to feed on, they are basically the garbage disposals of the ocean. They commonly are found with strange stomach contents when examined for science (yes they do find the occasional license plate in there stomach).
At Stiltsville you can catch many species of sharks, but most commonly found at Stiltville are Lemons, Bull sharks, Nurse sharks, Sand sharks, and the occasional BlackTip.  Catching a shark is fairly simple; its the reeling them in part that gets kind of complicated sometimes if you're not using the correct tackle or are more of an inexperienced angler.  I prefer to use a large big game class rod, with an 8000 series Penn reel.  When it comes to shark fishing, the proper line and leader is vital.  Minimum 300 yards of 20 lb test line, with a wire or steel cable leader. Personally I prefer using circle hooks to decrease the chance of gut hooking or other injuries to the shark and ensure a safer release for both the angler and shark.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Mahi Mahi

Mahi Mahi, or "Dolphin" are probably the most sought after catch from the South Florida shores.  They flourish in the warm tropical waters between South Florida and the Bahamas.  They are an oceanic pelagic species, which mean they inhabit deeper water off shore, past the continental shelf.  They are usually found in deeper waters between 800 ft and 2500 ft deep. 
Also known as "Dorado" meaning golden, they have a lifespan of up to 5 years, but seldom surpass 4 years.  Dolphin have long compressed bodies with a single dorsal fin extending from the head to almost the tail.  With sharp concave caudal tails, they are distinguished by their golden sides and brilliant blues and greens on the top and bottom of their bodies. Males are distinguished by their large block shaped head, and are generally much large than the females.  Catches average between 15 and 35 lbs, with 40 lb Bulls (male) being exceptional.  Just like with any average though, there are always outliers of up to 90 lb dorado caught off the coast of Hawaii and several small Bahamian islands.
Dolphin live in schools, primarily made up of one large Bull (male)  and a few smaller Cows (female), along with several small juvenile "schoolies".  Once they reach full maturity and mating age (usually around 4 or 5 months of age), Mahi Mahi will leave there school in search of a mate.  Once found, the Bull and Cow will travel together constantly mating and forming there own school.  This is why often, when you hook up on one large fish, another of the opposite sex is close by and usually your next hook up.  This is known as a "double hitter".  
Mahi Mahi put up an exhilarating fight once hooked.  A large fish can fight for upwards of an hour, leaving both the fisher and the fish exhausted.  With white flakey meat, they are extremely sought after in restaurants and fish markets alike.  
My recommended method for landing a large Dolphin is to troll deep waters, with several lines let out trailing behind the boat, baited with fresh ballyhoo along with a skirt placed over the bait.  Fresh ballyhoo are preferred, but frozen can be used if thawed and if one breaks the spines to allow for more movement in the water.  Mahi are most prevalent during the summer months off the Florida Coast, and can insure for an exciting day out on the water followed by a delicious dinner that evening.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mangrove Snapper

One of the most common fish found off the Florida coast, is the Grey Snapper, or as it is more commonly known, the Mangrove Snapper.
Mangrove Snapper can be found anywhere in the Western Atlantic, from Massachusetts to Brazil, but the they thrive in the warm tropical Florida waters.  They are typically a grayish red, but can range anywhere from a bright red to a cooper red.  They also have a dark stripe running across its eye if observed from the top when its under water.  The species can reach up to 35 in, but the average length is roughly 16 in.
Mangrove snapper are a common target for the Florida fisherman, and are highly prized for their light and flakey meat.  You can use just about any bait, but frozen/fresh shrimp, squid and minnows are the most successful and useful in landing a decent size Mangrove Snapper.
My personal favorite way to catch Mangrove Snapper is on light tackle, and with frozen shrimp bait.  Snapper, unlike most reef fish are weary when it comes to eating, and it can take several tries to finally hook one on your line, but once you do make sure you fire up the grill and prepare yourself for a delicious meal.
A 20 in Mangrove Snapper, caught this past summer of Pacific Lighthouse in Miami

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Runnin' of the Red's

Each year between November and December, the Red Drum, otherwise known as the Red Fish begins their journey up into the bays and bayous of Northern Florida to partake in their annual spawning rituals.  Red Fish are a dark red color on the back which fades into a white belly, with a characteristic eyespot near or on the tail.  A three-year old Red Fish typically weighs between 6 and 8 pounds.  Once a Red Fish reaches 27 inches in length, they become known as "Bull Reds"; its these that are the legendary catches.
Red Fish, have a slot limit, which means that any fish caught under 18 inches or over 27 MUST be released, so sadly if you happen to be lucky enough to land a Bull Red you cannot keep your catch.
In the Florida Panhandle the Bull Reds can easily exceed 30 pounds in schools of 30 or more members.  This area is one of the few places in the world, that this breath taking spectacle takes place.
When hungry, a Bull Red will eat just about anything, even an old smelly gym sock.
When targeting larger Bulls, I prefer to use 20 to 30 pound class set up, with a 4000 Penn Battle reel, I prefer this as it ensures a safe release of the fish as the fight does not tire the fish too much.    I have also noticed that after years of fishing the Running of the Reds, one of the easiest ways to ensure   landing a monster fish is to troll several lines though areas of vegetation and the swampy bayous.  As weird as it may seem to troll for Red Fish, it is the only way I've ever landed a Bull Red.

A 35in Bull Red caught in Pensacola, FL 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Florida Fishin'

Florida is a state known for its pristine beaches, sunny weather, and legendary fishing.  
Most people come to Florida during the summer months, to enjoy the beautiful beaches and try their luck on the catch of the lifetime.  Occasionally, one of those random tourist get lucky and manage some sort of miracle catch, but more often than not, they end up empty handed. 
That is usually because, tourist and even people that call Florida home often lack knowledge of actual productive fishing spots, that only the old timers and a few of their followers know.  Also, most people attempt to fish for the wrong thing in the wrong spot.  
Ive seen it more times than I would like to admit, poor tourist trying to catch a monster bull Mahi-Mahi while drifting the reefs of Miami.  It is literally impossible to catch a Mahi off a Florida reef no matter what time of year it is. Another common mistake, is attempting to catch billfish, like Marlin or Swordfish in shore; the only billfish you could hope to catch off a reef would be a Sailfish, and every day a Florida Sailfish sighting becomes more and more far fetched.  
My hope for this blog is to help at least one family, not waste an entire day out in the hot Florida sun, hopelessly fishing for a catch that just won't happen.  Every week I will have updates of what fish are running hot right now around Florida, and stories of legendary Florida Catches.