Friday, November 30, 2007

11/30 - Hurricane seasons I went fishin' in the Slop.

Today, was the last day of the Hurricane season in ya haven't gave that much thought, have ya'?

Well, I had my nose seriously out of joint yesterday. I had a charter on Wednesday, well it was scheduled at least. Then, Wednesday morning at 6:30am I called my customer and said, "well we won't be going in this Small Craft Advisory today, the winds blowing 20 knots from the N.E. So let's go tomorrow. There's gonna be light winds Thursday." My customer, says he doesn't want to go on Thursday, and we reschedule for next week.

I hang up thinking, W-H-A-T?

So I get all tangled up on Thursday doing the "Bob Villa" thing, installing new appliances in my kitchen. Well new to me, given to me by my Aunt who got "brand new" ones. So all day, all I could think of was, "incoming tide, Trout, Reds in the green water...slam dunking fish after fish on another 80 degree November day" . Yeah, that's what it would have been like. But for some reason my customer and I are not out there. I'm installing a dish washer, overhead Microwave, and a stove, with no hardware....."where's those damn screws??"

So of course, today's forecast wasn't nearly as good, as Thursday. Just so you know, if your a possible potential customer, ALWAYS TAKE MY WEATHER ADVICE. Being a fishing guide usually also means we are "marine weatherman" too. Most of the time the forecasts on TV are for a Walmart parking lot on the west side of J-ville. Screw that! Listen to me! I know my watery world, that's why YOU are hiring me....or so I think.

To get my nose out of joint, I had to go today. I had 5 dozen live shrimp still in my boat that Nick and I didn't use last Wednesday while in his boat, and they are now sub dividing the livewell and selling condos in there! They need to die in a Trout or Reds mouth. I hate it when they get too comfortable in there.

So I went at 8am. Which was too early, because the area I fished when I got there was a falling tide but had no real current. Plus, the water was really dirty. So I had to hang around and picked and poked till I saw that green water moving. Plus, today it was cold and overcast and windy from the NW and then North later in the day. But I did get to literally watch the "front" pass right by. The sky finally opened up, and it got sunny and warmer in a matter of just minutes as the mass of clouds headed south like a blanket being pulled across the sky.

So when that current came and the water cleared up, here came the fish. I was float-riggin along with my "L.T." rod and reel (light tackle), when I got my butt handed to me by a big Red that I couldn't stop. My 8'2" Loomis 'greenwater' rod bowed like a horseshoe, as I tried real hard to keep the fish out of the rocks. Pop! Went that 15# leader. So I grabbed my "B.T." the Loomis Bucara 8 footer (big tackle) that is a man's kinda rod! It has big handles, and handles big fish!

I pitched out and drifted to the same spot, and in the choppy water the float was bobbing up and down and when my eye caught up with it again, the float disappeared. I reeled fast and lifted...."Oh, no......another ass hander". And before I could yell "WHOA NELLIE", the leader popped on a rock. WOW, Big Reds in the Slop, again. If I forgot to mention, the water was nasty rough, and the waves were folding....again!

It seems that either the SLOP likes me or I like the SLOP, because I seem to always be fishing in it. It's okay. I can handle it.

As soon as those reds showed up they were gone, because I just couldn't get another bite like those. The wind was honkin' and the anchor kept pulling free, and every 5 minutes the boat would drift off the spot. ARRRGGG!

So I re anchored, in a patch of calmer water behind a high rock. Pitched out the B.T. again and started catching Specks! "Hmm, I can dig it."

But the only problem was that I didn't bring any ice for the cooler. I was doing a serious "on a budget" trips today. And man were these
Trout nice and fat. I easily had my limit of
5 trout as I rotated between the "B.T. & L.T." rigs.

Mixed in were those classic winter species, Weakfish aka: yellowmouths.
And they sure are spunky. I can usually call it when I have a Speck or a Yellers hooked up. The Speck just doesn't run like the other "less respectable Trout".

But I love 'em all. Yellowmouth Trout are just plain fun to catch, I think. But of course I really love those monster Speckled Trout. I like the way they hunt, and what you as a angler have to look for to catch'em.

I was really hoping to hook up another big Red, because I was now more alert and that blanket of clouds was now gone. The sun was out and the day just looked better. But as hard as I tried, it was just more Specks and Yellowmouth Trout. Either way, both were running 18-20 inches.
Which ain't bad.

You can see, I didn't take the time to even photograph the Yellowmouths the way I did the Specks. But I do respect the fiesty fight they give. They're not the "Rodney Dangerfield" fish, that everyone makes them out to be. If you're looking for fast action, and big ones, the jetties in the winter is your place! I've caught them to 6 pounds out there, and the largest was caught on a MirrOlure 52-MR. They will also take a jig and grub tail, and they will gobble a DOA shrimp.

I love the jetties in the winter!

I got about 10 Specks and 8 Yellers,
and the action just died. So I headed
into the river. Not far, but just inside.

The tide was now high as it was gonna get, I had 5 live shrimp left, and I wasn't quiting till either the bait was gone or I caught a Redfish!!

I had to be redeemed. My pride was hurt loosing those two big fish back to back, I'll admit to that!

So I anchored up on a spot where I've caught, Reds, Trout, Flounder & Sheepshead. Let me re-state that...really, by now there isn't many spot where I haven't caught all those species and more. But when I pick a spot to go to it's, "what have I caught here recently, can I float-rig it in these conditions, and is the current right?" That's what goes through my mind, before I drop anchor. Oh, that's another thing, "what's the best anchoring angle, to be able to drift the spot?"

My 3rd drift out I had a bite as I tightened up my line. It fought good, wanting to get back to the structure. But gave up kinda quick.......Pup Redfish. Well, I guess it's time to quit and go home, right? That's what I said I'd do, but now my curiosity was peaked, so I pitched out and made a few more drifts in what little current or wind drift there was left. Float went down and I had a nice Trout. It came to the surface three times and was really putting on a show for me as it jumped a few times. That's something not all Trout do. But this one was spunky.

Okay, time to pack it in. Clean out the livewell, put everything away and head to the ramp, and
not clean any fish. Which was a time saver, I thought. Because when I got to the boat ramp I
saw ole Bud, from Boaters World sitting at the ramp reading a book in his car. He said his wife was in Minnesota up in the 22 degree's, so he could do anything he wanted, and waste as much time as he wanted doing nothing. I told him, "sounds like your leading the life of Dave...because that's me. I do anything I want, mostly."

He'd never seen my new boat close up so I gave him the .50 cent tour, before I put it on the trailer and headed home, to do my BLOG report for all of you!

Please remember when reserving your charter:
-Heed my advice on winter weather, good or bad.
-Remember your hiring a professional Guide, not a Taxi cab.
-Try your best to do some kind of planning.
-Tides matter.
-Boat traffic matters.
-Weekdays are great.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/27 - Research & Development....or Fly Fishing?

Had a great window after the morning rains to go hit the inshore waters with a buddy in his 17 footer. So we went out as the tide was rising, went in some creeks and tried our best to figure out how to get from "East Hannah Mills" area, across from the Sisters creek boat ramp all the way up to Weir Creek....also known as, Garden Creek at the mouth of Ft. George above the Kingsley Plantation.

Well, we got pretty darn far up in there heading north. But the use of a 12 foot ladder would have been a great tool to have. Because as we went in creeks and got to dead-ends, we couldn't see over the marsh grass to find the next creek that lead north.

With just the aid of a small handheld GPS that had a map, we didn't get lost, but we never did find our way up to or close to Ft. George area via the maze of creeks back there. I did it once a long time ago, in my 17' skiff I had. I went from Weir Creek (Garden) all the way down to across from the boat ramp at the Sisters Creeks Bridge. It's serious back waters, and can ya' believe we still ran into another boat on a Wednesday morning??? The tide was high, so we really didn't fish much back there.

Frustrated we ditched our plans and came out a creek into the ICW, almost where we wanted....but still over a mile short of our plan.

The Trolling motor (of course) was going wacko. So we lost the real use of that item. So onward we went into the Ft. George area at high tide. Zero was going on, and only caught a big Whiting that had mosied in from the inlet and was sniffing around an oyster bar. And as the tide started to fall we hit all the places I've caught great winter Trout before....and I caught just ONE!

The whole area seemed dead. We went outside the bridge and of course every single bank with structure had a "LBA" on it......a land based angler. So we couldn't hug the structure. Nick my buddy said, "Boy, Jacksonville's un-employment rate must be thru the roof, since even on a Wednesday there's people everywhere ya go!"

So we worked our way back inside Ft. George. It's been more than a coons age since I've been up there and the place is just one huge sand bar these days, compared to years ago. But some of the same spots I used to fish were still the same. Still no Trout! So we tried another spot.....and Nick caught a really nice one. Then we had 2 questionable sized fish, we released. Then, I got a big fattie.

As all of this was going on, we started to notice that the whole boat was covered in small FLIES!

I'm not talking 50 or 100.....but a thousands of small FLIES. They were covering the whole boat. We laughed and joked about it at first, and I said, "hey buddy, I think ya need to pressure wash this boat with some Clorox and soap, ya have some funk attracting them". But really that wasn't it, maybe someone didn't shower?? hahahahah. They were coming out of the marsh grass or something. Attracted to the boat for some reason. And then came the gnats. At first they were just in our ears, but as we kept fishing we started getting them in our mouths as we talked....I swallowed a few hundred! Nick was freakin out! I kept fishing.

We were perfectly positioned on a spot that SHOULD have been a Trout fest. A beautiful bank with thick oysters, marsh grass and good water flow, and the tide was falling fast. If there's a classic looking Trout bank in Ft. George this spot was one of them. But the fish were sporadic. I even caught a big Lookdown. What a cool fish! A chrome hub cap, with fins and a mouth.

That's the cool thing about Ft. George and Nassau Sound. Sometimes you catch uncommon fish while looking for Trout.

By now the gnats were really bad. We couldn't breath they were so thick on us, and the boat was literally covered with flies. WE NEED TO HAVE THIS BOAT EXORCISED!!!!!

Nick couldn't take it a second longer. And he did his best. But I was the one in shorts, he had long pants on. Maybe I could take it because he caught one more trout than I did and I wanted to up him. I was willing to stay. I kept saying, "see when the wind blows....they all go away", but there was hardly any wind. I was just saying that to bide some more time for my float to go down!

We ended up leaving and had two big fat Trout in the box. And ran as fast as that lil boat can go, 40 MPH. Which is pretty fast! All the way back to the lil Jetties where we fished a really good spot. And on a Wednesday, remember....watched the USCG want to come hassle us, but turned away at the last moment for some reason, then watched boat after boat blow the "No wake zone", just after the FWC passed by. Then, got waked some more by idiots that just don't get it. And then watched the FWC come back and BLOW the no wake zone himself.

I think we learned their trick. When they want to run that zone behind the Lil' Jetties, they just put on their Blue Lights! And run thru it. Because it was WAY too obvious to us as we watched them pull into the zone, turn on the blue lights, get up on plane, and blast away.

Coincidental ????????

I think not. Because I've seen them do that before.

Can they not hit a Manatee? (and we all know these zones are all bureaucratic)

I think not.

One thing is, we can't prove that they do turn on the blue lights when they want to get up on plane and get a donut and cup of coffee back at the office. But C'C'mon...It's not an unobvious trick.

Hypocritical? I think YES.

So we sat there and fished a really great spot and caught Mangrove snappers, but NO trout. Then moved and tried another spot, and caught Mangrove snappers, and no Trout. I think we had some bad mojo, going on here today. Or either it was just a bad day. I went to my graphic when I got home, to check out what the deal was with the combined Barometer and winds.

And the barometer was LOW, as we fished, but so was the winds. I'm still trying to figure out the correlation between Barometer and slow fishing days.

Although not set in stone here are some basic guidelines.
Rising Barometer: Fishing is Best

Rapidly Fluctuating: Indication of good fishing (regardless of fluctuating up or down).

Static Barometer: Fishing is poor

Falling Barometer: First part of fall is good fishing. After the fall continues for several hours, the more the it goes down the poorer fishing will be.

Unusually Low Barometer: Don't bother going fishing!

This graphic has the 28th and 29th on it so is this just a forecast of the winds and barometer??

But it's what I look at in addition to the reports I use for the Mayport Pilots station dock, weather at:

Either way, we had hardly any wind today, but of course I have a charter tomarrow and the forecast is Small Craft Advisory 20 I'll be re-scheduling another one for later.

The problem is no planning. I get calls, and people want to go the next day. And we get blown out. So we end up planning anyhow for a day that isn't Small Craft Advisory 20 knots from the N.E.

Oh well. Tis' the season for small windows of good weather. And that's what I strive with me with me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

11/26 - The TIME to go is NOW!

Wow, what a great time I had today. It was 80 degrees alright, and sunny and full of fish too...amongst other big things. I had about 5 dozen shrimp living in their "condo" in my boat, so this morning I topped them off with 2 more dozen and also left the ramp with 50 pounds of ice. I had a feeling I'd need it. The full moon high tide, is what I had in mind. And it was a CLASSIC WINTER BITE OF FISH, today. But what wasn't classic, was the SEAS...wrenched & stirred by Mother Nature and the gravitational pull of that big white smiley face in the sky. The moon. That was present almost all day long.

Yep, if ya have one of the
"rough water"
boats there is; seas, and swells slamming the jetty rocks in excess of 6 foot or better ain't no thang!

If it can take so can I. And that's just what I did, because that's where the fish were at.

Not always are the fish in some comfortable lil' duck pond of water. Remember, that when the seas are stirring the predators are feeding. (see my 11/20 report for another day when the water was stirred up and the fish were going nutz!)

Confident, and safe is what I feel in my boat when in rough water. Stable at rest or at anchored, it's one fantastic fishing platform.

The incoming tide at the jetties had some spots looking like these photos, and other were flat and calm. Guess what? I tried the flat and calm and wasn't catching what I wanted. Only Whiting, and small Bluefish. I was after Speckled Trout, Redfish and a Sheepshead, on the float-rig, of course. Or maybe a jig-n-shrimp combo meal. (preferably the float-rig)

So as the tide got really high I went back to fish the S-L-O-P, and in 4 drifts of the float I had 4 big fat Yellowmouth Trout (weakfish). Hmmm...."no specks?" I thought. They gotta be in here somewhere.

Again, "this looks just too classic, for no specks to be in here with the yellers", I thought.

So I just kept at it. And after I caught my first Speck, I found just where they were...and commenced to whackin' em. It was rock and roll hoochie koo, let me tell ya!
But this is my kinda fishing! I live for this time of year. And I had the entire area to myself, which I loved. T-shirt, shorts and Croc' the warm sun, wackin' me some fatties at the jetties in the slop, all by myself. It don't get much better.

And the funny thing is, NOW is the time to reserve a charter, not in July. Especially is ya have a clue about fishing. It felt like June out there, but instead it was a winter day, and I was on my winter bite. I continued to catch Yellowmouths and Specks, sorting through the Specks keeping the largest, of course.

Then I made a slight move just to see what else was going on. So as you can see from the photos, I got closer and closer to the crashing waves on the jetty rocks. That's where I'll pull a Redfish from. So I set my float to the "correct" depth and made a pitch in behind those breakers.

And it didn't take long before my float went down, and with a funny kinda head shake I knew this was no Redfish. It was a Sheepshead. Although I find them a pain to clean, and they hardly have any fillet worth the effort, I'll keep this one, and let go any more I get.

Well, the next cast was up to the same spot. And I saw a huge wave approaching, so I grabbed the camera and put my rod in the rod holder and took a shot at that "comer" heading my way.

And when I looked back at my float, it was GONE. I dropped the camera on the leaning post, grabbed the rod and reeled fast and there it was.....My Redfish. As the boat pitched and rolled in the swell as it past, The fish ran me up to the bow and back to the stern. And then into the net it went. A perfect, 27 incher with the tail pinched. That last wave kicked the anchor free, so I picked up and went back to where the trout were.

I finished up the rest of my live shrimp playing with the Trout, and finished getting my Speck limit, while I was at it. I called a buddy that had a 1/2 day charter, who called me earlier. To tell him it seems to be calming down now, and the frenzy is on. He has a small boat, and I think he could bang a few real quick now....unlike earlier. So he headed my way. And was into some fish for his folks instantly.
There's nothing like going out for a little while and having a box of fish to clean, when you are by yourself. And I almost quit with a 1/2 dozen shrimp left, to go make a few casts for some Black Drum...I'm glad I didn't. I had enough to fillet back at the dock.

By the time me and my buddy left, it was quite calm. That's what I love about the jetties, sometimes.

If ya hang around long enough it's about guaranteed to be way different than when you arrived, out there.

I've heard the saying; "you have to remain rigidly flexible if you want to be successful out there 12 months a year".

That probably goes for all inlets where there's clashing of tides and current along huge amounts of structure and varying depths.

Although the jetties can really make me mad at times. You just cannot fight the "flow". I really feel sorry for the "newbies", with the 1st boat, taking the wife and small child, out there. Because it's so damn easy to get into trouble.
I really think if your a 90% of the time jetty fisherman, you've come up through the school of hard knocks. I know I have.

Here's the fruits of my labor. (aka: FUN)

Almost two one gallon bags of fillets, skinned de-boned and ready to share with mom....So I can come over for dinner. She's a way better cook than I am.

It don't get no fresher than that!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

11/23 - #1 Fishing day of the Year.

The day after Thanksgiving maybe the big deal for shoppers, but for me it's a big deal for fishing.

Let me set the scene.......for the #1 day of the year for fishing charters.

- I re-scheduled my Friday with a regular customer because of the winds at 7am.

- I got another call to take a guy that didn't care about the weather at 9am.

-Then my Saturday people called, and said "No way", I agreed. It supposed to be 20+ knots NE Saturday, it was 9:15am
-I got another last minute call for Saturday again!! I informed him of the weather in which he had no clue of, and put him on my list, it was 9:30am.

- I ended up going out at 11:30am on Friday with just one experienced guy, we caught maybe 15-20 Trout, and one Bonnethead shark (???) in the wind and came back at dark.

-No Saturday trips..........its "small craft advisory" 20+ knot NE winds! It's whippin out there!
But still a bunch of weekenders were out today.

I felt like a Taxi. Not a fishing guide service. Does ANYONE know what the "Weather Channel" is? How about the weather on the Internet? Or local TV channels??

-Myself and a guy also named Dave from S. Florida who fishes offshore mostly went out and caught 15 or so Trout, kept 7 and one Bonnethead shark, in the wind. The tide was full moon all the way, thats why we left so late...and we stayed out till dark. I even cleaned fish in the dark. It was really cold when the sun went down, too. At times it was tough fishing/

That was my 2007 "day after" Thanksgiving fishing, not much unlike other Holidays with bad weather. It's really too bad that no one wanted to PLAN and come and fish on Monday, Weds. or even Thursday morning, beacuse the weather was BEAUTIFUL then.

This time of year, "the Holidays", really are a distraction from the regular "normal-ness" of the fishing business. Between the weather, and all the last minute callers. I actually did get to make some kind of day out of this whole mess. I guess I'll still be here for the last minute Christmas and New Years calls, too.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

11/20 - My Motto is.....

After a sort of frustrating afternoon, fighting the tide. And bottom fishing along the jetty rocks, I told Charley & Brett my fishing motto (which has been posted on the bottom of this blog page, that no one ever notices.) So we packed it up and got on the heavy duty float rig rods, and got on a Redfish bite, like no tomorrow.

But earlier this morning, we bottom fished along the rocks and had a decent time, catching 4 Drum, and a monster Croaker. Along with a bunch of misc. bait snatchers.
Around noon the current was so blasting we couldn't even stay anchored up inside the jetties. The Full Moon, is fast approaching with a wierd swell. So when the tide did slow down, we watched another boat do all the big Black Drum catching. While we sat, with hardly a bite.....straight into the incoming tide too, and we still couldn't score!

So that's when I said, "ya know, when every instinct ya have is wrong, then the opposite must be RIGHT", which is my fishing motto. And that meant since the green tide water was starting to flow, I had a place in mind to hit, because our day wasn't done just yet! I broke out the big 8' G. Loomis BUCARA rods, matched up with Shimano Tekota 300's, a 2oz. trout lead, and a 2 oz Salmon Stalker float. My "HD" Float-rig rods! I love these rigs, the feel of confidence reigns supreme, when you have one in your hands. So we fished up tight to the rocks, and didn't get bit. Oh No! So try the opposite...right? And that's all it took to HIT PAY DIRT.
One big bad beautiful Redfish after another. All I had to do is make a small adjustment, in our depth and drift. Everyone got chances on getting their drag burned after the float-rig and live shrimp passed over a certain spot. The same spot I couldn't even think about getting my anchor near on Sunday, because of a homesteading Sheepsherd....(and if they only knew what my Float magic can do there.) If you remember reading my last report, you'll probably remember how frustrated I was with the weekender crowd. But what can ya's a zoo out there on weekends.

The Reds were ferocious, it was a classic bite. Soon as the float went over a certain spot it went down, Fast! The guys caught 10 back to back before we called it quits. The nice thing about sending a float out drifting is that anyone can do it, and the spot where they are is easily marked. Charley's youngest son, 10 years old had no problem sending the float out, but he needed a hand when it came to getting these big fish to the boat, though. I like helping the kids fish, and want so badly for them to have a good time, while learning to be a good fisherman. I wasn't nearly as lucky as some of the kids I get on my boat. I never went on a private charter with a guide. So when I have them out with me, I want them to have a really good time.

We easily boxed our limit of 4 just under 27"
and released the rest. When it's good it's really good out there at the inlet right now, I just have trouble being patient sometimes. I like to keep things "happening". Because I always feel, that is what people expect. But sometimes ya just have to sit through the slower parts of the day, so to get to the better parts of the day. Which means working and waiting for the right current or waiting on the tide to change.

Please check this link:
to see the rest of the photos of today's catch.

One thing that makes ya feel good is that after our big day, with loads of fish cleaning. After I got home and was washing the boat off. Charley called me and said he just wanted to thank me again for the great day, and that he'll definitely be back again. Hey, that's all I can ever ask for. It's like I told Charley earlier in the day, whatever we catch or don't least here on my boat we'll die trying!

It's that time of the year again, when everyone waits till the last minute to try and reserve their trips. All I can say is "early bird gets to fish on the prime days", so plan ahead! (2 wks. to 30 days)
This is the time of year also that the wintery "fronts" come about 3- 4 days apart. So there's a smaller window of good weather.

A bit of planning, meaning checking the forecast, and giving me a call well in advance, can certainly help your success rate. Weekdays when ever possible also will help your success rate, so we don't have to fish an area that's been beat by 5 other people before we get there. The St. Johns River sure does seem small, on a Saturday or Sunday, or a Holiday anymore.

It was a beautiful day today, that the forecast was for EAST winds, and to tell ya the truth, the winds were so light, I never even noticed which direction it was from. The perfect temperature, sunny skies and other than that current in the river. It was one fine day!

Monday, November 19, 2007

11/18 - Jetties....bound

Headed straight as an arrow, to the jetties (inlet)this morning with Mack & J.T. It was gonna be low tide in the morning, so we went immediately went to "jiggin" with live shrimp. And it didn't take long to locate some fish. J.T. was reeling his jig back to the boat when a big fish (redfish) followed it up off the bottom and slammed it just under the surface. And took off.....but for some reason the hook pulled after a good run. Then, Mack put the first pup Black Drum in the box, then a nice 26" Red, followed up by J.T.'s Drum. The action was steady as they learned the finesse of pitching up towards the rocks, and letting the jig-n-shrimp combo meal, bump lightly down the snaggy exterior of the jetty.

I had plans to attempt to duplicate what Nick and I did on Weds. But the tide was just about the opposite. So nothing was gonna actually be the same. But I had it in the back of my mind all day.

"How could I not?"

Isn't that all fishing really is? Going with what ya know from the last trip?

So as the falling tide faded, the guys lost a few and caught a few more small Reds, and then we moved on. I had big plans to go to my favorite Float-rigging spot, so we went and looked at it. But it wasn't ready yet. (and there was people everywhere) The tide means everything, there. So our float-rigs will, float straight down the jetty and into "the pocket" usually filled with fish. So we moved on to a spot where this time last year I caught huge Trout. But of course being a Sunday, someone was there...But he moved on and we got to anchor up. The guys let there floats go down the rocks, and started catching "pup" Reds. All 16"-17". Okay for the action, but no Trout!

Okay, time to go look again at my honey hole, because the tide was just starting to come in a bit.
This time there was a boat planted on it.

People everywhere! No where, was there a spot that hasn't been fished already. (that's the biggest problem around here for me!)

But mostly they were all Sheepherders. Without a clue of what that spot can give up to a good float-rigger. (Sheeps, Reds and Trout) My frustration level was getting pretty high! Have ya ever stared at someone long enough, hoping that they would just move? Willing them to disappear from the face of the Earth? Well, that was me! I so wanted to treat Mack & J.T. to what we did on that spot last Wednesday. I wanted my folks to catch fish like we did earlier in the week, so bad. I went an anchored up but could tell I wasn't in the right "lane". So I tried again, and again........and we didn't catch but one Speckled Trout for the box and one small throw-back Speck.

We only had a small window, to fish the spot as the green tide poured in. So we went back to try some jig fishing at the morning spot. And caught Bluefish. I was scrambling to fish a good spot, before the tide got to high. It's all about "water level" at this point.

We did see some guys wackin the Drum pretty good from where we were. They were just bottom fishing, and we were doing the light tackle thing. My heavier bottom rods were at home! Didn't need them on Weds. that's for sure. Plus, I had a lot more float-rig fishing in mind, that we weren't getting the chance to do. And I was getting really T'd off! ( if I can't float-fish, I start to get my nose out of joint)

I'm gearing up for Thanksgiving week mentally, right now. Cause ya wanna talk about a zoo? The day after Thanksgiving if the weathers nice or not is going to be like 4th of July week out there on the river. I think I'll just bottom fish and stake claim to a patch of bottom and go with it....

So we eventually ended up back at my favorite spot. Because the boat staking claim and acquiring their "Florida homestead exemption" finally moved on. So I slipped in. But the water was now high and there really wasn't any tide movement. But that's okay. I sometimes pick up some rogue Trout up in the rocks. Instead the guys caught a big Mangrove Snapper and some junk fish. Then, I figured I pick up a rod and make a few tosses. And as Mack and I were talking, I looked away from my Float for a second, and then looked back and it was GONE. I reeled up the slack and lifted.........AND HAD MY ASS HANDED TO ME ON A SILVER PLATTER!

The float was up in the rocks to start off with and whatever this was, had no plans of coming out of the rocks. It dove and pulled drag hard, but I was fishing a 15# mono leader on my Float-rig, with a #8 hook on the end. So all I could do was hold on and do my best to keep my rod high and attempt to get the fishes head up and out of the jetty rocks. It made no less than 5 or 6 drag smoking runs up into the shallowest part of the jetty. Still we never saw it. And then finally it turned away and came out a bit deeper, and then we saw it was a Sheepshead. The fish wasn't done yet, getting the net under it it took a few tries. All I could think about was my "tiny" little hook and that 15# mono leader. Sheepshead do not have line friendly bodies and leaders can easily get wrapped on their dorsal fin or belly fins as they dart back and forth. Thank goodness there was zero current. J.T. grabbed the net and laid it under the fish......MY GAWD, it was a massive Sheepshead! Weighed on the boga, it was a 10 pounder. Largest to date I've ever caught on the Float-rig. Which to this fisherman makes it EXTRA, EXTRA special.

If I was gonna catch one fish all day, I can't say that this would be it. I'm really in a life pursuit for that double digit Speckled Trout, but being that it's the start of Sheephead time it was a great catch. And what made it better is that I caught this monster right from the same spot that one damn boat "homesteaded" all day long.

And again, being caught on the "float-rig", with super light tackle made it so much more of a achievement, for me personally.

We ended up with 10 Reds up to the 26 incher, a few Drum, a few Blues, a few Trout, a big Mango, and the one monster Sheepshead.
If it was a weekday, we could have easily doubled or tripled that.

The wind is going to come around again...and the forecast for Tuesday is:
Which is my next day I'm going. Think if the wind is not all that calm I will take the bottom rods with me, just incase. The Black Drum are everywhere. And I like filling the box with them, too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Yep, compared to 4 days ago when the wind was HONKIN' 20 knots or better and the bite shut down to nearly came the WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY. Some take it, some let it go by.
Who do you think I am??

And man was it a day that made ya feel good to be an avid angler in North Florida. Cool, light breeze if any, slick calm waters, perfect tides, and some of the best live shrimp I've seen in awhile filled my live well to the rim.

Good company, great conversation, loads of laughs, no bait stealers, perfect water temp, and fish after fish after QUALITY fish!

Nick Watson, Drummer and leader of the band RATHKELTAIR joined me today. Being the kinda of guy that has his days off, and bangs on the pots and pans at night. I've sort of taken him under my wing, and helped him learn the ropes. And he's become a "Float Freak", like me. I'm a fan of the his band, also. He has a boat too, a 17 footer and we swap trips back and forth. Sometimes a smaller boat is just what I need to do a little R&D in, and Nick's always ready to go.

I've been absolutely DIEING to get out to the "big rocks", because it's that time of year that a short drive 2.5 miles out to the inlet and 2.5 miles back can mean an all day adventure, without a long boat ride anywhere else. Plus, the weather had the inletlooking gorgeous today. And so was the ocean, because 90% of the boats at the ramp looked to be heading offshore. They too haven't had it all that easy. The bite is on out there also. And the weather only gives you a few days of window to take advantage this time of year. Unlike inshore fishing, I can go about anytime. But the bite on the other hand, maybe limited
when a "front" pushes through.

We started off on a spot that in my mind is FAMOUS when it
comes to float-rig fishing the jetties, with a live shrimp.
Year after year, this is the 'go to' spot for about all I'd ever want. And we sat there for FOUR hours having our float's first drug under by big fat Trout, then Redfish, then a few Sheepshead. Which by the way is a "here's yer sign" tell tale that it's now the best time of the year for this inshore fisherman. When I start catching Sheepshead on the float-rig and live shrimp....My heart starts to flutter, I get so damn excited. Because that means the water temp is perfect, and it's go time for gamefishing fun.

We fished on this spot all that time and NEVER caught a single junkfish.

To put it plainly, Nick and I put on a "clinic" for all the
"Sheepherder's" near by dabbing over the side with fiddler
crabs. We banged one fatty after another. And Nick learned how
important the tide was. Besides water clarity, and the water
movement around the jetty rocks. Which makes this area special to a float-rigger, like me. I know when it's right...I can just feel it.
After hours past and the tide slowed, the bites dropped off
and it was time to make a move. So I pulled anchor and headed
to the next spot.

A very short ride to spot #2, I anchored up, grabbed my jigging rod,
pinned on a live shrimp and made a cast up to the jetty rocks.
My jig sank for about 4 seconds and I felt the distinct tap, tap through my Loomis 8'2" Greenwater rod, and Stren super braid line. I lifted up and there it was another healthy Redfish burning line off my low profile Shimano Curado reel. I was "first cast" lucky all day long. Then it was Nick's turn....I.G. (instantaneous gratification) for him too! We both had Reds from 25-27" long.

"We're gonna be in a rally of fish here again",

I said to Nick, as I netted his fish then rebaited. It was CLINIC time again. Because on almost every single cast we caught a beautiful slot sized Redfish....many times we got our timing perfect
and had double headers, having both of us setting the hook at the exact same time. Then came the first Black Drum, because I let my jig fall a bit deeper. And that's all she wrote....we wanted the Drum for the fish box. So Redfish actually became the bycatch of the day.
We wanted freezer fish. We had our 1 per person per day Redfish limit hours ago. And it wasn't all that hard to entice a Black Drum to the fish box either. They were so schooled up that in a matter of an hour or so we had caught 10 or more Reds (released) and put 10 Black Drum in the fish box.

The Drum ranged from 18" to a hefty 7-8 pounds. I love 'em.
I like to Blacken "black" Drum on my iron skillet outside in my
summer kitchen. (actually it's my outdoor 12 month a year kitchen) I have not cooked a single meal inside the house since
I lived where I do. I have a porch and deck on the back of my
detached garage, where I have my double burner fish cooker, and stainless steel gas grill. As a bachelor, I can get away with doing things my way. And I cook outside.
After we boxed our 10th Drum, we pulled up anchor and went
in search of more Speckled Trout. And I found them, no problem.
But many were just 15 inches (the legal size limit) but Nick and
I decided to go ahead and only keep larger ones. So we hit the
last spot of the day and that's where we found some fatties
again and topped off the second 72 qt. cooler I had in the boat.
Plus, I caught the first Black Margate of the year too, on the float-rig.
We burned about 12 dozen live shrimp between the 2 of us. And the shrimp we got from B&M bait and tackle were superb today. "Wade the shrimp man", from Nassau County must have had a banner day shrimping, as we had fishing. Because these "river crickets" were super lively and fresh besides being the perfect size. It was just a perfect day all the way around.

At the dock, we took the time to take all the fish we kept (our limits of Reds, Drum, Trout, and the two Sheepshead, Margate, and Yellowmouth Trout) out of the cooler for an end of day photo. I put Nick in front of the fish, got ready to snap the picture and thought, "if they bit like this everyday, I'd really have my work cut out for me when it came to fish cleaning".

Monday, November 12, 2007

11/11 - Patience was a virtue...with river traffic & high winds.

See this video? It reminds me of the St. Johns River on weekends.....

It's actually a video of a Hummer going down the street in Iraq. Fire power and armor plate is what I guess makes "everyone" get the hell outa the way??? YEAH, I DO WISH IT WAS MORE LIKE THIS WHEN THEY SEE MY "RIVER HUMMER" COMING!

Oh well, besides the wakes, the tugs, and inconsiderate's on the river (even in the no wake zones) the high N.E. winds played havoc with us today. Actually it was pretty nice at 8am at the boat ramp, and still nice at 10am when Taylor and Jamie met me there.

But as the day went on the sun went away and the wind blew harder. I guess it was a cold front passing thru. Damn, I worked hard as hell to get them on the Trout that I got on Friday. But adding the fact that there was so much traffic, and the wind, every place I went was a struggle or was already fished by someone.

We'd anchor up and would be hanging by a finger nail, and someone would wake us and we'd go flying away in the wind. All the while I was either re-rigging, getting out a snag, or having to stand ready to start up and move away from the rocks we were about to drift into.

I really need to go far away on weekends, and especially need to on the up coming Holiday's. Which means more fuel, and time used to just get away from what I refer to as the St. Johns River HUB, (from the jetties to the Dames Point area) because that's where the most traffic and people are. Because it's close to all the ramps. Same reason I'm there. I'll have to make a concerted effort to get away from the Hub.

We struggled and only had 4 Specks, a lost fish or two and a Mangrove Snapper. Two of the Trout were in the 20 inch range, and the other were 16-18". I knew things were getting worst, rather than better when I went to a few spots that we could hardly get a bite. And they should have been covered up with Specks.

That's this time of the year for ya'. I was just out on Friday when we had the NW light winds and had zero problems catching all the Specks I wanted, as I fished the same tide.

But I hope these two guys will fish with me again some day, because I tried to teach them as much as I could about Float-rig fishing, even though the conditions weren't perfect.

You have to think about it like this, "what would it have been like if we were out attempting to fly fish on this same day?" Probably even worse! Back when I had my 17' Carolina Skiff I took Fly fisherman out in the fall on windy days. They might have been very accomplished casters, but it still turned out to be a "few" fish day.

I stopped second guessing myself long ago. I go with what I know, and love. And my hope is that people have fun learning while doing...No matter what the conditions are.

Looks like Tuesday is the next "calm" day. I still have some Shrimp in the live well, actually mini Lobster size shrimp. So I may run north and give a few spots a try in preparation for the Thanksgiving week inside the HUB. Here's Wedesdays report as of right now:

WEDNESDAY WEST WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP. - "Looks like this is gonna be the day to go!"

We did poke our nose's toward the jetties, as I left the dock. The wind was really whipping, man there's got to be some good fish (Trout) stacking up out there. But every time I go to check it out it's really nasty conditions.

I don't know if I believe it, but my temp gauge read 65 degrees during the afternoon up in the shallows. Still a false kinda reading, being just the surface temp. I believe it's warmer down deep still. Because just last week it read 70 degrees.

Taylor, (the fella with the foul weather jacket on) is a Blog Reader, and it made me very happy
when he told me that he likes this my blog because it's always updated, and hardly a day or two goes by without a report. I appreciated the comment. Because I work hard to keep everyone informed and educated on what's happening. This Blog has become a habit, if I don't write something about fishing, my day feels incomplete.

Friday, November 9, 2007

11/9 - IT'S GO TIME !

What a gorgeous day. Cool on land this morning, and cold on the water, with lots of Florida sun! But don't let this photo scare ya...I look like that all winter. It maybe my Yukon Cornelius look, but actually I had a T-shirt and shorts under my foul weather gear. Remember, I'm the anchor puller and don't care to get wet or sick.

Largest Trout of the day was this one at 21 inches. And I swore it was a the first Sheepshead of the season on the float-rig and a live shrimp, because it fought like a Sheeps in the current. With that tell-tale side to side action, but I was real glad to see it was a good sized Trout instead.

I had my limit (5) and had to throw back around 6 more of various sizes.

I only fished 3 spots all day, on the falling tide. And I'm not even gonna count when I went to the jetties. Because I couldn't stay anchored up, even though I was tossing the anchor way up in the rocks. The swell and boat jerking from side to side in the wind at high tide, had me packin it in before I could even settle in.

Stopped by and talked to a couple friends that were fishing the north jetty with fiddler crabs, they caught 6 Sheepshead and even a Trout on a crab. Then they float-rigged a little and had 3 more Trout.

It's fall in full swing now. And I like it. The water temps are diving and the bait stealers today were almost non-existant. I even caught a Mangrove Snapper that went 14 inches. It was a real fatty and of course went straight into the cooler.

The NE breeze blew, but it wasn't that bad except at the jetties. So I went into the river and caught my Trout. Of course, the best bites are on the last of the falling tide as usual.

The last spot I hit, I ended up being right on time for it. I pulled up and anchored, pinned on a live shrimp, and pitched my float out. My first 4 casts were Trout, instantly. I love this spot, because if you time it right as I've learned, many time you can have a limit of Trout in 5 drifts of the float-rig. I ended up boxing a few more and released the rest.

Then, I pitched a jig and shrimp out because I was hoping for a Black Drum. Which is sometimes a frequent catch in the cooler water at this spot. But instead on my first cast, I hooked up an exact 27 inch Redbass. Man, what a light biter this fish was....tick, tick is all I felt through my braided line and Loomis, Greenwater rod. So I lifted up slowly, and then felt the weight of a big fish, and then set the hook.

Ya know, I notice everything on my boat. And I know a lot of "fishing's details" only come with experience. But all too many times I see people feel a tap, be it a small bait stealer or a goodsize fish and they rear back like they're setting the hook on a steel jawed Whale. Ya' know what happens if you hardly do anything, when feeling a tap, tap on your line? The fish will continue to eat the bait and move off with it. Especially, if it's a Red, Black Drum, Flounder or even a Sheephead. Because the fish we are after eat their food whole. So let them take it.

I have to constantly remind customers to not jerk. Light tackle fishing is all about "THE FEEL"....and if I mentioned this once, I mentioned it a thousand times; "Bill Dance and Roland Martin, and the whole slew of TV bass fisherman do nothing but make my people loose fish." Bass fishing is bass fishing....and I bet you don't have to do those slamming hook sets to catch a Bass either. It's just something we as saltwater light tackle fisherman don't have to do.

I prefer small fine wire, very sharp hooks. Because they are "sticky". Think about it, is it easier to drive a needle into a piece of wood, or a 10 penny nail? I use "needles" when ever I can, and leave the 10 penny nails to the Shark or Tarpon fishing, not Trout, Reds or Flounder or Sheepshead. Along with a whole bunch of other species. Then, I match my tackle to the hook. Tackle should always be matched to that one thing on the business end. I like long rods with a light tip, and light drag settings too.

Especially for Float-rig and Jig fishing. A light-action rod gives you the sensitivity needed to feel those tap, tap type bites of even large fish.

I'll never forget going to a seminar when I was a member of the Inshore Saltwater Anglers Club here in J-ville. It was given by a Tournament Bass Fisherman, and if I recall it was all about using soft plastic baits, and similarities between Bass and saltwater baits. The fella was very knowledgeable, but as he passed around some jigs and plastic baits, I about fell out of my seat!

He commonly used a quality jig head, that was painted real nice, and had a black chrome hook. The only problem is the hook was an 8/0 size!! Holy crap, I use an 8/0 hook for Tarpon and sharks, and he's using this monster hook for a 2 pound Bass??? The baits maybe similar, but that's where it all ended in my book. He'd probably freak out if he and I went to the Mayport Jetties and a I break out my jigheads that have a 1/0 hook, that's made out of thin wire. And can commonly catch Redbass in 40 feet of water.......10+ pound Reds at that! And that's just not me, I've had thousands of customers do it too. Which in my mind is like tournament fishing, because ever fish counts on a charter.

Oh each his own. That's why Baskin & Robbins has 31 flavors of ice cream.

Let's go's that time of year I've been waiting for all year. And if you fished with me this summer in the blazing heat, it's NOW the time of year I probably told you to come back for the "better fishing". Because you probably said as most do, "Dave, when's the better time to fish here?"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

11/5 - Too Long, Too Less

Well it's been some really beautiful fall weather.......and still the most popular month is JULY!
Why people want to come here and sweat in the stifling heat, I'll never know. the time of year to fish!

It was cool in the morning and oh so pleasant in the afternoon. I live for this time of year. I day dream about it all summer long. I'd like to be somewhere that's like this all the time.

Nick and I hit the water, with our little tiny "shcrimps". An acronym for shrimp and scrimping, combined. (they're obviously running tiny right now)

So small I was thinking....."where the hell did I put my #10 hooks??"
Float rig fishing ONLY, was our game. Looking for piles of Trout in the river, was the plan.
But there's that ole saying you can only do what the tide allows. So we tried variations on some of the same spots, just fishing out deeper rather than shallower. Outside a line of docks rather than up in them. But it produced Croakers and Yellowmouth Trout rather than our target fish...out sized Specks. And where I'd think this time of year the Trout would be stacked up, we'd catch (more like Nick) would catch one good sized fish. And that's all the spot would give up.

This certainly is'nt like "years past", in which we set our standards upon. Because what is fishing anyhow? Learning patterns, habitual traits, and following up on what you may have done days ago, that worked. Well, we'd find fish, alright but they'd be either "one or two" rather than a school, or they'd be "shorts".

And then we had to go get some more shrimp because we were running out, because of all the Mangrove Snappers that are still infesting every trout spot, rock pile, or dock piling. Right there is all the evidence I need to prove too me that the water temp just isn't cold enough down below yet. So when I read a 69-73 degree temp on my machine, it's really just a false reading. Because down below I'm sure it's warmer. Or is it that our livewell eating buddies are growing resistant to the clloer waters, compared to their southern cousins?
We fished all day long, and in my opinion not getting what I came for. Nick on the other hand was Mr. Lucky. He must have ate his Lucky Charms that morning before I met him at the bait shop. "Is that why it took him so long to get there, even though he lives 90 seconds away from B&M?"

There was times we'd drop anchor on a spot, I'd tell him "float your bait thru right there...the Trout should be 18-20 inches, no dinks" and he'd do it and catch one immediately! I'd try and come up with squatola or shorties! Then, he'd do it again. I told him,"see what a good fishing guide I am? I can tell ya everything there is to know about where they are and the size they'll be"....but I couldn't catch one myself!!!!! And this happened time and time again. And if I didn't know that I could be out here doing this all over again the next day, I would have been getting pissed.
Personally, I was keeping big Mangos and Croakers and yellowmouths so I could have something to eat, because it didn't look as if I was gonna catch any good sized Trout.....I was the small Trout guy all day, till the very end. While Nick had no trouble putting fish in the box up to 19 inchers. We didn't find any super studs, which was the days plan, and never even lucked into a Flounder or a Redfish.

I guess I did luck into a big Red on one spot. My float went down fast as it was 70 feet behind the boat, along a set of pilings. And before I could do a thing a very strong fish ran my float threw the pilings and got my line woven into ever barnacle encrusted pillar it could. I was like Larry Dalhberg on that TV show 'HUNT FOR BIG FISH'. I crouched, reared back, almost knocked Nick over, hit him in the head with my rod, and hung over the side of the boat, grunting and groaning.....doing all I could to reel, reel, reel, pull, pull, pull that ass-hander from out of the pilings. But it broke me off, before I knew what happened.

We ended up fishing all the way up to high tide in the late afternoon, being the died hards we are. Till hunger got the best of us and there was no current left. So Nick and I went to Capt. Dave's Club House, the Grand China Buffet on Mayport Rd. Where I spend a lot of lunch and dinner hours, with fellow fisherman.

Well, it's "time to go make the donuts", and clean the fish that Nick was graciously willing to split with me. And do some tidying up of the boat.

So if you're someone wanting a fishing charter, I highly recommend November 1st through June 30th. So what, if sweatshirts and hats are needed in the morning, right now. No passing out from the heat.....yep, I've had a few "Nanook's from the North" about pass-out from the summer's heat on me before. They just ain't used to it.
I'm so looking forward to what winter brings in the river and at the inlet's jetties.
-Jumbo Speckled Trout
-Jumbo Yellowmouth Trout
-Black Drum
-Redfish, on the float up in the rocks
-and NO bait stealers!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

11/4 - 2nd day after the BIG BLOW

So was it worth it?

To have that amount of wind during the week to have the wind back off and be back to beautiful skies on the weekend?

Depends on who your talking to, really. Because I was hoping for great weather when Kathy & Rick were here on Thursday and Friday.

But I sure did like the air temp today....we all were wearing our Foul Weather skivvies this morning. The girls came prepared, I liked that. And I enjoyed taking them.
I love this time of year! And could go without July and August altogether.

So today, it was Natalie and Shannon. And since I just did a brief talk on the big Reds, Thursday night and neither one of them had caught an extreme puller like them, we hit the river looking to pick a fight. Tried two spots and didn't have a sniff, soaking big pieces of cut bait in the current along so BIG rocks under water. I was wondering if they headed for the offshore waters yet, or maybe since the weather came through, it changed up the pattern I had found. Well, something happened....and that bait-n wait fishing was killing me.

So I bagged that and headed to an I.G. spot for the girls. And it was I.G. alright, instant-gratification. Because when I did a survey drift on the float-rig, I hooked the first Speck of the day. And then they were into fish for awhile, till the tide died out. Mango's and Croaker bites too with a jumbo Croaker on the float-rig...dang thing pulled like a Redbass.

I shouldn't have done any bottom fishing for the
Reds, since that was a waste of time. But that's the price ya pay to hunt for a really big fish. They really weren't worried about keeping any fish, but you know me, I like some stink in the box. And don't feel complete unless the box smells of Trout!

Man, was it a Zoo of Humanity as the day went on. Looks like I have to remind myself to cut and run north, to no man's land on days like this. I still have to get my ass back up to 'gator creek. Where the oyster beds are the size of trucks. There has to be some good fish up there now. And you can fish all day and never see a but a soul or two minding their own bees wax, unlike the mobs of coasties and every other law enforcement patrol on Earth, around Mayport.

Been thinking about Hilton Head S.C. and how I'd like to try my hand up there. Same terrain, no commercial ships/tugs, and no military!! The extreme affluent don't want to see tanker ships and hear incessant helicopter noise pollution near their pristine island paradise. Even though I couldn't live near their paradise......I'd sure love to fish it. Or as I always say but never do, "I just need to go north more."

Think Nick and I will go try it tomorrow, again. R&D, or more like Dave get's some fresh fishez in his fridge, for a change. Then, into the frying pan!