Friday, April 30, 2010

4/29 - Rubber legs needed

Hit the big rocks around 3:15pm and took along my "grasshoppa" Chris C. with me. Or as James at B&M bait & tackle called him....."If you're a Jettywolf apprentice, does that make you a Jetty-pup or cub?" I told James Wolves have pups, bears have cubs, "get it right, will ya!"

So the "pup" and I blasted our way on out to the south jetty tip. I had a plan on this low,low full moon tide. Search for some Tripletail, till the tide got right and then whack some Yellermouth Trout and what ever bites afterwards.  Sight casting them three tailed fish isn't as easy as it sounds. If ya don't know the habits and practices of a Tripletail, I'll let ya "google" them.

We eased along the tide rip line, looking for a hovering 'tail. And to make a long story short, we saw six of them. Caught zero. Five out of 6 were small, probably the size size of a good fresh water Crappie (aka: to a Florida Cracka') a "speckled perch".  One was a keeper sizer in the plus range. It came to Chris' live shrimp, and even came to my "Shiney Hiney" shrimp lure but wasn't aggresive at all. That was the first larger one we saw, or we ran into the same one all over again, and it literally swam off the rip and to the boat! But for some reason the shrimp didn't get in it's face. These fish are known to reach 20 pounds with ease. Table fare, excellente!

Remember, everything seems a bit late. Here's last years first sight casted one I caught by myself on a solo day on March 12th.

That day I saw no less than 10 Tripletails, but it sure was hard to spot, drive the boat and cast. Kinda like Cobia hunting, it's best if someone is spotting and someone is driving. But of course I did a solo trip last year and caught a sight casted Cob too.

If I had to wait for someone else to go, I'd never get my fish. Because when it's go time. I'm not waiting on ya'. Especially the way the Cobia are around here.

So after a bit of Tripletail frustration the tide was half ass right. So I got the Jettywolf in position. It took a bit of adjustment. The SE wind was building and going one way, the tide started to run the other way. And not long after the jetties were 100% vacant. Because the seas picked up. Just like last Saturday with Don, Lisa and Nathan. "HOLD ON SHUT UP AND F-I-S-H!" These photos I took at a low level, just before they all turned to whitewater on top.

At first every single cast and bite on the Float rig was a "float down, reel set and no fish."  I soon figured it out after two dozen live shrimp were wasted. The Spanish Macks were up in the rocks. We'd get a twitch of the float sometimes and then nothing. Then, I finally caught one, Chris caught a Yellowmouth Trout, then some Bluefish, then it was really sporty. And the action was steady, steady steady. We were doing all out combat fishing in the bucking seas. And again.....this is why the Jettywolf was built. She handles the "slop" like a thoroughbred with waders on! Chris was loving it. Just like Don, and Lisa last week. But not Nathan, he was seasick. It's action at the extreme level for jetty fishing. Water's hitting the side of the boat and even with my high sides, is rolling over the gunnel. But we're dancing around and having a ball, setting the hook and reeling in fish.

Then, a large twin engine WellCraft trolls by us. I said to Chris, "watch me whack one while they're trolling for 12 inchers...."  And between the swells my float says Bye,Bye. I reel and set the hook on a screamer. Isn't it something, I knew that was gonna happen. The guys in the Wellcraft got all bug eyed. And before you could say Brutus T. Redbass they were anchored up near us. But weren't there long, at all.

This over sized Redbass had so much "spit and vinegar" in it, I had to work to keep the fish out of the jetty rocks with all I had. But pulling isn't the key. Because my tiny wire Kahle hook, is just that; tiny and thin wire. So it's knowing when to pull. Add in the fact that the fish had folding rolling waves to play in. It was a great battle on the ole light tackle float rigging Skakespeare 7'6" Ugly Stik Striper rod.

We caught fish till the baitwell was empty. And man did we wish we had more shrimp. Because I had the Hydroglow fish attractor light and would have loved to see what we could do after dark. So we headed back in to clean our limits of Yellowmouth and the Spanish Mack I caught, under the boats big LED floods.

It was a great afternoon of rubber leggin it, along the jetty. And like a Jettywolf, we were at the end of the rocks howling at the full moon, making the turn back into the river, feeling successful even though we caught no Tripletail.

And I'm glad my young "Jettypup" friend got to experience it, too.

Next up: Saturday morning at 7am with two fella's.

Monday, April 26, 2010

4/24 - Saturday, leaving late.

Had a super great crew aboard Saturday. Number one, they were all about departing at 3:00pm, as everyone else was going home. I liked that. And number two, Don B. was aboard. And I really like, Don. From the first time we went out years ago, Don will keep you in laughing all day long. The other thing that was neccessary for a late departing Saturday trip was BIG TIME sea legs!

My first spot was "white water", but I knew the fish would be there. Exciting as all hell, in small doses. The boat sat in the trough and whallowed back and forth, water crashed and slapped the side of the boat and a few times splashed right in! Yes, it was "hold on and fish". But Don and his friend Lisa, and young 14 yr. old Nathan were up to it. I said, "we're gonna whack some big Yellowmouth Trout, maybe some Specks, too." This is what the JETTYWOLF was built for. I've fished here many times before in these same exact conditions. Sometimes the fish are chewin' in a spot and it's not going to be super comfortable. But it's gonna be a whack-fest! So you gotta be there.

And I was right. Don, Lisa, and Nathan started reeling in  fat Yellowmouths to 20 inches, no problem. The fish were scattered though. So it took some finding them. I just told Lisa, "Don't get too comfortable with them. Because the next time your float may go down it could be a big Redbass. And it won't act like a Trout!"  Sure enough, about 5 minutes later, her float goes down, and see ya later......the RB takes off on a 100 foot run down the rocks. In these seas, the battle was magnified. Standing, reeling, rod bending, drag pulling, swells folding, all made the fight, that more intense. Besides the 15 pound mono leader, and the number 4 Kahle wire hook, along the big nasty granite boulders.

The Redbass ended up being a 28-1/2 inch fish, and was a good picture taker, then quickly released to fight another day.  I thought I took a few pics of the fat Yellowmouth Trout. Especially the one that Nathan caught. But, I guess not, in all the excitement. Don said he was loving it. Lisa was hanging on a having a blast trying to hook up more Trout. Not long after Nathan catching the largest one, he was down and out for the count in the bow, sea-sick. So after Lisa's Redbass, we moved on. I didn't want to sit there any longer, the poor boy was not looking good. So we moved on.

As we pulled away from the jetty. Guess who shows up? I see it about 10 swells away, poking it's head out of the water. It's Flipper!!! The friendly Dolphin again. It saw us bouncing around in the seas and came straight over and again.....asked us for a free fish, sticking it's head out of the water along side the boat and smiling the Dolphin grin at us a few times. I wasn't about to give it a big Yellowmouth Trout. And we never even caught a single Bluefish (believe it or not). So after not getting a freebie, it swam away.

My whole plan was working. There was hardly a boat around at 5pm. No traffic, no wakes, no anyone! I was loving it. So the plan was to go do some Sheepshead fishing, after the Trout. Yeah, can ya believe it.
The Jettywolf was going Sheepherding? Reason being is, they are going NUTZ! The buck Sheepshead seem to be just about everywhere. The spawn, I guess is in full courtship of sorts. Not that a Sheepshead has only just one life love....

So I pulled up on the spot that a few weeks ago we caught a 10-1/4 pounder. The spot is deep, has great current and I know, doesn't get hammered by the masses. The anchor line was tight for only 5 minutes and Don, sitting up on the bow was already slowly pumping the first Sheeps to the boat! We looked up and there he was rod bent and bucking, with a big grin. Them danmed Digital Cameras, I ended up getting a shot of Don dropping the fish instead of holding it. (just like when I tried now for the 3rd time of getting a photo of Flipper!) My Digital Camera is way tooooo slow to react!

Nathan, was now back feeling alive. And was having a hard time feeling the tap,tap, of the Sheepshead bite. Don had 3 fish in 5 minutes back to back. Lisa had her fair share, no problem. So I helped Nathan out.

All the buck Sheepshead ranged from 2-4 pounds. And I wanted to see if we could catch that big "sow" that could be near. So I even tried a few drops. But instead of fiddlers I tried jumbo live shrimp. And yeah, I got tons of bites. But only caught the first Jack Cravalle of the season. Lisa caught a pup Black Drum at 16". I would have liked to see a 10-15 pound Black Drum too, for Nathan. That would have been something. But, the Sheepshead kept chewin. And as the sun went down, the bite went in and out as the tide slowed too. So we left for the dock with a 72 qt. cooler full of 6 Trout, 1 Black Drum, and 10-12 Sheepshead.

My plan worked out great. And Lisa even had headlamps, thank goodness. Because half way through the fish cleaning, it got really dark! 

Friday, April 23, 2010

4/22 & 23 - A little bit of every thing.

My buddy Jay Perrotta of BlackLab Marine & RockSalt boats was in town as of Thursday afternoon.

Bringing that big RockSalt 34 welded aluminum boat up from S. Florida. To just show folks. So my dad and I met him over at Morningstar Marina, as he pulled up from the St, Johns. We've been keeping tabs on Jay's travels north through the ocean and ICW via the forum that's my second home. I bought my boat from Jay when he lived in Maine. And the Rocksalt 34 is a different breed of aluminum alloy welded boat. It's monsterous and can seriously GO FAST.

With twin 350 V-8 Yamaha's, and the yacht quality look of  the hull and interior. The boat was a "must see", at this years Miami International boat show in Febuary. And I didn't hit Miami this year. So I missed it. But this was even better. Jay and the Rocksalt being in J-ville.

Painted 1/4" plate alloy with toilet, two sinks, two livewells, racing seats, 700 Horse Power, three electronics boxes, and console and hard top that the crew can do chin-ups on. Nothings coming loose on this boat! Fish "holds", not just boxes, and storage out the ying-yang. This is a awesome offshore fishing machine. And it's all made out of the same material my boat is. 5053 Marine Grade Alloy.

The ride comes later. Jay and his buddy needed nurishment and some cold drinks. They had just run from New Smyrna Beach this morning in the ocean to Jacksonville's St. Johns River inlet. So off we went to Singletons Seafood for fried oyster Po' boys with crunchy onions on top.

My dad and I helped Jay by giving him and Charlie a ride to rent a car in Jax Beach. But my ride would come on Friday. I had nothing else to do. And wouldn't miss behind the wheel time on this big bad ass boat. So I met Jay at the Marina on Friday morning and we went cruising. The spit will roll out your lips when this boats lighting it up out the jetty rocks.

No seas, dead azz flat calm. Bummer.....ya want some "sporte" seas in a boat like this.

This would be more like it.

If I was an Long Range offshore guy and really wanted a boat to get customers there and back fast, I'd only have aluminum, of course. And this would be the boat I'd have custom built.

4/22-23 - Night Fishing shake down.

Hit the river at 8pm after hanging with Jay, Charlie and Pop's, and the Rocksalt 34. Had my buddy Nick who's the drummer for the band, Rathkeltair (Celtic Rock Fusion: ) with me. He's a night owl, so he was a good choice. We did a shake down night fishing trip and got back home at 2:30am. 
Tried out my LED's I mounted on the top of my windshield. And my new Hydroglow light for fish attracting, yes it attracts! (UPDATE: hydroglow customer service sucks!! I found that my light sinks like a rock, and is supposed to float. Darrel Keith, Mr. Hydroglow himself said he'd replace my light a week ago, and now the phone number doesn't work, and they do not reply to emails sent. I've now read that others on forum that others have had bad customer service from him. There's others, I'd try them.)

The tide was falling and hauling butt. We caught fish, a few Specks, some sand trout (yeah small sand trout), some Blues naturally, and a few Yellowmouth Trout. The hydroglow light is supposed to FLOAT. And it didn't. It sank. So that was an issue. The current was a issue too. And we tried a few docks that have lights on all night. Ones I have been just dieing to try, with not much success. But all was good till maybe mid-night. And that's when it got colder than a well diggers ass out there. And I needed more than I had on.

Yeah, COLD, and a tad windy too. Next time, I'll actually have a game plan, also. But this was just a shake down. Now Hydroglow is sending me a new light, and I'll return this "sinker".

I loved it. NO one around. The whole river to myself. If it wasn't so dang cold it would have been better.
But I can see this summer is gonna be different for me. Because I'm not gonna put up with wakes, jetskis, Poke run race boats and ghetto cruisers, waking me. And every spot will be open to fish.

I'll be heading out in the evening with customers, if they can.  Why not?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

4/21 - Instructional day #2

Joe W. aka "joebagel",  new to the local fishing scene took advantage of my book two days in advance, one passenger trips. And today was day number two. Joe wanted to do a day at the big rocks, the Jetties.

Being Joe has friends to take, he wanted to kinda try it all. And also wanted to see how to troll for Spanish Mackerel. So he brought along some Planers and spoons and we worked the rip-line outside the jetties, along the rocks. But no Spanish Macks, just Bluefish. Yes, Bluefish the "scurge", the saltwater Piranha are still everywhere. Keep that in mind, because theres a few species that simply just won't compete with them. And Specks are one of those species.

Okay, we got the trolling how-to done. So we went and anchored along the Jetty tip. There were plenty of "Sheepherders" out there that obviously enjoy cleaning 2-3 pound 'heads for the meat. I'm not one of them. But we gave it a try for the last of the tide. And Joe caught his first ever Sheepshead.

I caught a few "grease tester size" Whiting, and added them to the box. The tide was changing, so it was time for us to split if we were gonna do any Float-rig fishing for Trout. So I dragged up the hook and we moved on.

The anchor line barely came tight by the time Joe was bending a rod. They weren't Specks, but they were absolutely ferocious yellowmouths, "weakfish". If they looked like Trout, ate like Trout, then they must be Trout like.......AND I LIKE THAT. And before ya know it our measily 8 limit was in the box. I believe it took about 20 minutes total, if that to get the 8 up to 18-19 inches. It was a whack'em festival!

The shrimp were getting slim in the bait well, I brought 6 dozen. And we still were going to jig the rocks too. But I asked Joe, what's better "one in hand or two in the bush?"   So we kept whackin the fatties. After this winter, all I wanna do is see my float....disappear! And there's that old saying, "why leave fish to go find fish?"  So, after no less than 25 of them. We did move on. And tried jigging the rocks and only caught more Bluefish.

The Blues are getting's a trivia question. "why are Bluefish called Bluefish, when they're actually greenfish?" answer: "Cause the guy who named them that, was color blind."
It was a fun day. And a really nice day out yonder too. Joe again learned alot I'm sure. It was kinda action packed, which was good.
Next up for me: Thursday Night R&D night fishing with my buddy, Nick.
Then, a Saturday charter with an old customer. 
Please book trips well in advance. And on weekends "think evening / night trips" if you want to fish without wakes, noise, jet skis, and heat.

Monday, April 19, 2010

4/19 - "weekends, us against the world"

I believe the title says it all about this weekend. Besides there being "no bite", on the bottom really. Saturday we searched high and low for some BIG Black Drum, Redbass, and sow Sheepshead along the channel edges in deep water, bottom fishing with fillet mignon as bait; fat Chowder Clams, Blue Crabs, and Shrimp. And couldn't give away a bait! Not from a lack of trying either.  I worked hard.  Add in the drag boat packs, and just so many wake makers in the river that it made for a challenging day. Weekends lately, have been more like fighting to find a spot to fish comfortably and not as productive as they should be. This time of year.

Did I really fish through "sub zero" weather all winter, for this??

(did last weeks 5 days of East and N. East winds have such a damaging effect on the river and blow out the big Drum, Reds and "deep channel Sheepshead?" Along with the flood tides being super weak??)

Sunday was the same thing. Instead of three guys, I had two gals and a 8 year old boy. So I kept it simple. Wanting at least to get into a Whiting bite or something on the bottom, we ended up getting no bites, or just stingrays at the jetties. The boats around us all had stingrays too. So it was a "here's yer sign....." kinda day. When you can sit on hard bottom areas in the river, fishing three live shrimp, and they do not even get's a ,"here's yer sign."

This weekend alone, we had a big ugly ghetto cruiser drive down the side of my boat on anchor at the jetties, then cut across my bow so close that I thought it would grab my anchor line. Then, the same idiot went over and almost drove into the jetty rocks bow first. Then, drifted back into another boat on a trolling motor, so close that he had to run off the bow and start his engine and back up. Then, the idiot repeated that a few more times. All the while alone except for what looked like a 3 year old little girl sitting in the passenger seat.
IF YOU'RE HAVING ENGINE, OR STEERAGE PROBLEMS......YELL OUT, "I'M HAVING PROBLEMS!"  So we all know to do some Self Preservation, because of you. This dude didn't say a thing, which led us to believe he was just another mental case.

The ICW was un-fishable. The wakes from big boats at high speed, poker run type Fountain race boats, and just plain "me, me, me'ers". Had the banks muddy and the water all chopped up.

For this reason, is why I'm almost considering that all weekend trips need to be "night fishing trips" or at least evening types, from here on out. 

On a stranger note:

Yesterday, while I had the two gals and the young boy aboard. We were at the jetties, anchored up. And the usual Dolphin swims by.

There's where the usual, ENDED.

We all know that around here, that the local Dolphin population really has no interest in us as boaters/fisherman. They swim on by and do their own thing. Inter-action is very minimal, if any. I even tell people that they don't pay much attention to us. And I believe compared to other parts of the state, it may have to do with water claritiy. Their sonar, not their eyes are their way around the St. Johns river.

So as we sat anchored inside the north jetty, a single Dolphin swam by the boat. Then made a B-line straight at us. Ellen, and Mary Beth and young Jack, and I stood there in amazement! The Dolphin came over and stuck it whole head out of the water and  looked at us. If it could have talked it would have said, "Hey ya'll have any spare fish ya wanna give me??"

This wasn't like some freak, brief encounter. The animal went under water and came back up and did it again a few times. RIGHT, on the side of the boat! It's head and mouth were so close I could have just leaned over and pet it on top of the head. It moved it's mouth, opening and closing without making a sound. It was absolutely amazing.

All the years I have spent inshore, in the river, behind shrimp boats, and offshore. No matter what the Dolphins are doing, they don't seem to care about the "people" inside a boat. I've had them mating on the side of my boat, jumping across my bow make, and even chase me around in a creek, thinking I'm the daily crabber, changing baits in the crab traps. And not a one has come out of the water, and looked me in the eye. And looked as if it was wanting to have a conversation!

But it gets even better...  

Later in the day, I mean several hours later. I was heading down the ICW behind the Lil' Jetties. It was PACKED with ever concievable boat heading north and south. Even the Coasties with a guy and his canoe  straddled across the coastie boat, packed with stuff and flying a Canadian flag off the back. Which was strange. A hard core international canoe'ing adventurer?

So we were just iding along southward. I look over and see a Dolphin. It had the same exact cut in it's dorsal fin as the one at the jetties....I said, "Hey look, is that the same Dolphin?" to my crew. And before they could even say "I think so", the Dolphin came over to us in all that boat traffic and I dropped out of gear and it did the same thing. Swam up to the side of the boat, stuck it's head out of the water within a foot of the boat, and smiled at us. At least that's how they look. It moved it's mouth and swam down the side of the boat, turned around and came up and smiled again. We figured it remembered us??

Does it like aluminum boats?

Then, after a minute. It swam off heading towards the river. Ellen got several photos, and said, "that was the highlight of this trip." It had to be. We fished live shrimp on floats, and on the bottom with not a single bite, other than a Whiting, a Seabass, and a few clear-noses Rays.

I gave her my card with my email address on it. And she may send me the photos, as proof. It was an amazing experience, after all these years. This Dolphin, maybe one that grew up in Marine Land or something and was released, is all we could figure. It knew people, was freindly and seemed to pick us out of the crowd, somehow. Of course, like a dog it was begging for a treat, I'm sure. And I know for a fact it's illegal to feed them. All I had aboard was one Whiting and lots of live shrimp. But we were so freaked out, we all stood in amazment talking to it.

Wonder if it can hear us?

It was like I-95 on the ICW. And all I could think about was how nice it'll be out there with no one around, at night.

Hopefully Ellen will send me some pictures of the Dolphin. My camera of course messed up, because I was asking it to work too fast. It locked up on me. Right when I needed it the most.    

Thursday, April 15, 2010

4/15 - Tax day.....and March winds in April

I know we're a month behind as far as the fishing is concerned. That's a given. Because of the temps we had starting back on Jan 1.

But this is more like March winds, this week. I GOTTA WET A LINE, I GOTTA CATCH ME SOME TROUTZ!

I not only installed new night fishing lights on the boat but also put in two new rod holders so my TGT rod riggers work better for deep water bottom fishing, and spoon trolling this summer.

So, here's the MARINE forecast for the next few days. I hope they are a little bit right?

930 AM EDT THU APR 15 2010









I might be able to go "try it" Friday.

Now I'm waiting on something I've also wanted for a long time....A "Hydro Glow" light.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

4/14 - Long awaited "LIGHTS".

Well, since the winds howling 20 knots, and no one calls to fish on weekdays anymore (afraid to loose their jobs, I guess) I had a few days to install my new LED lights for night fishing/ tieing knots/ getting out tangles/ birdnests, pinning on a shrimp correctly and such. Drawing only one Amp each, LED's are the new fangled lights for boaters. Next up comes one of those slick underwater lights that goes on the transom (?). I also have and always carry a flourescent tube light, and a car head light "rubberized" spot light. So my night trips this summer means we shouldn't have any lack of light, if we need it.

With too many LED's to choose from on their web site I ended up emailing Larsen electronics in Texas and said "HELP, ya'll have too many choices!"

The ones I installed are their line of extreme enviroment lights. And they sure are heavy duty. In a soft light, flood pattern. I'd really like to offer this summer when it's hot as all hell in the afternoon. A depart before sun-up and fish till noon'ish. Then, a depart at 8pm or so and fish till mid-night'ish trip. Totally staying away from the heat and all that weekend river traffic.

Here's some install photos, and one that looks like I saw a ghost. It was just dad, the camera man.

Next up:  Saturday & Sunday a crew of 3 each day....."hope this wind lays down as forecasted.".

Sunday, April 11, 2010

4/10 & 4/11 - From wakes to big wind

On Saturday I had aboard the Jettywolf, Tony and Maria. And it was also the 400 boat Redfish "spots" tournament. It was a calm morning. A bit too calm (weather wise). I guess you could say that the "clues" were in the sky, at sun rise. As boats gathered for a shot gun start to the "spots" tournament.

Red skies in the morning mariner's take warning......Red skies at night, are a mariners delight.

Yep, it stayed calm for a few hours. And as the afternoon wore on. Here came the N.E. winds.

I had plans on keeping it real simple. With a forecast of NE breezes, a front approaching, and with a tournament going on. Keeping it simple I thought would be a good idea. Really I just wanted to do the same thing I did last Saturday with the Hamrock crew, and that was catch Black Drum and Big Redbass on the bottom along the channnel edges of the river.

Well, the approaching weather front shut down ALL the bites. Big fat juicey clam on the bottom along hard ledges, topped with a succulent piece of smelly shrimp rigged on long shank pro baiter hooks. Four rods out at all times. Usually a NO fail situation.

And from 7:30am to 4:30pm we had ONE, bite from a targeted fish!!!!!!!!
Yes, I said one bite from a decent fish. Oh we had plenty of bait pecker bites, of course. But targeted species; Big Redbass, Sheepshead, Black Drum. I COULD NOT BELIEVE HOW DEAD IT WAS.

The one throbbing, rod bouncing bite we did had was this 10 pound and some change on my boga-grip Sheepshead that Maria effortlessly reeled up from the deep on the heavy duty meat mover tackle.

Yeah, the was a big sow Sheepshead that the herders missed during February 27th's 10th annual El Cheapo Sheepshead tournament. And if we were in the Sheepshead tournament, I wouldn't have minded one bite all day. But I was still pumped after last Saturday's big fish trip, and so badly wanted a day like that again. We did catch a Whiting on the big circle hooks intended for nothing but big fish. So we did catch two fish.

Bazzarro world strikes again! Hardly ever around here can you actually duplicate a day. It's the nature of fishing the St. Johns in Jacksonville. And after 14 years as a full-time guide you'd think I'd be used to it by now. But I'm not.


4/11 - with "Joebagel"

A member of my Jax Trout Trackers message board/ forum, Joe W. aka: "Joebagel" and I talked about his wanting to do a few instructional charters. Emphasis on getting some pointers, learning some techniques, and N.E. Florida tide information. So we planned on doing two trips. On on Sunday and one on a weekday in the near future. I wanted to do just weekdays. But Joe said that maybe kinda hard for him. So I said, "okay, let's try this Sunday."

After yesterday's bottom fishing foray. I opted to start Joe out on jigging, and float-rigs. We both arrived at the boat ramp minutes apart, and the morning winds were honkin'! And this was now the big wind after yesterday's initial push. The sky was dark, and the wind was a good 20 knots out of the E.N.E. Not the best day to learn all the in's & out's of float-rig fishing. But we tried anyhow.

After showing Joe how important tides are, and showing him how much I depend on the Florida Sportsman Tide Planner books, for not only accurate local tidal information. But how I use the book to reserve all my charters and make notations in. We started going through Why and How of the float-rig and live shrimp. Joe was a bait caster, so that was a relief. It was dead high tide. But I picked a spot where the wind was at least broke up and wasn't all that bad in the ICW.

First fish, was my first 2010 Spanish Mackerel on a float-rig. "Hmm, you'd think that would happen at the jetties instead of the south intra-coastal waterway. Then the tide started to fall, so I adjusted the boat position, and before ya know it, Joe has a fish hooked up and it was peeling a little drag.

A 21 inch Redbass, right after I told Joe, I seem to catch Reds usually too big to keep, or too small to keep, especially up in the ICW like this. So that fish hit the cooler after this photo!  I believe Joe has this float-rig thing figured out. But we needed a Trout really. So he can start posting reports on Jax Trout Trackers. We moved around a bit, but didn't stray from this calm area.
Next fish which came off a Jig-N-Shrimp combo meal was a nice Flounder. While we dropped out some clam baits on the bottom near some pilings.

Nothing came from the clam baits out behind the boat on the bottom, probably because the tide was really hauling butt, so we decided to go look around. Joe wanted to know where the Sisters Creek boat ramp was and White shell rocks. So we traversed the SEAS in the middle of the river. YEAH, seas! The falling tide against the ENE 20 knots of wind had the river looking and feeling as if we were offshore somewhere. 2-3 foot roolers white capping made the river a total wash board. So with hardly a spot to fish without being in the heavy winds we headed back to wherew we started so we could fish a bit more.

Joe asked a good question, "what wind is really bad for fishing?" My answer was one that didn't take much thought....."any wind over 15 knots with the word East in it. Southeast, Northeast, or East over 15 knots is not fun to fish in. Especially for the Trout fishing float-rigger."

I think Joe was liking the "thinking man's" fishing technique. So we went back to fishing the floats and live shrimp. And we needed a Trout. At least one to make a inshore slam and at least one to accomplish what we were out here for. And that's when Joe's float went down and he caught a nice keeper Speck.

Not long after the ICW traffic got rediculas as usual on a weekend, that's why I don't fish it very often. There's just not enough water between us and all those boats passing by. And the tide died out so we packed it in on day one of Joe's instructional trips. And we headed back through heinous seas in the river. It was all out rough as a cob right in front of the Coast Guard station in Mayport. And we felt like I was in the General Lee on Dukes of Hazard as the Jettywolf flew over the white water.  Back at the ramp I quickly took the sides off our inshore slam, and Joe and I agreed that instructional trip #2 is going to be a weekday and at the jetties.....and won't be a day when the winds 20 knots with east in the direction.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Building of one tuff boat....the Jettywolf

The choice was clear for me. I needed room, lots of it. Economy, and low maintenance. Instead of going to the boat shows. I searched for builders. And found Pacific, ready to build my next boat.

The rest is history...
Now there's Tom on Amelia Island with a 26' customized hard top, John in St. Augustine with a tricked out to the max 23 super-top. And me in the middle with a open center console, along the First Coast of Florida.

"want a life time boat?"
Book a charter aboard the Jettywolf, for the ultimate sea trial.

4/8 - Into the darkness..."Let there be Trout & Light!"

My plan for adding some seriously high powered, low power consuming LED lights to the JETTYWOLF, is now in progress. I ordered my lights today.

Extreme enviroment SS and Alumminum lights that I'll be attaching the top of my windshield. In a "flood lamp" configeration. Two will serve as both stern lights and or one stern, one bow. I hope to not only add light so we can Trout fish at night, but to also illuminate the area around the boat, also. While drawing only one amp per light.

If you've ever traversed the St. Johns at night it can completely change your out look on what you think you knew about the river. I've night fished just a few times with friends. And of course back in my Towboat/US days last year got a few rude awakenings, while coming back from down of a dredge operation "crew boat".

So, beyond carrying a spot light. I want light to fish by. "Spreader lights", as they're know to the T-top crowd.

And not to forget that the BEST TARPON fishing at the Jetties, is always around mid-night in the summer. Numerous Tarpon can be caught/ hooked and landed at night. They are just "less wary" at night. With no other boats around, and no heat, as another up-side. But my primary purpose will be Trout, on the float-rigs.

Trips will be offered (after I R&D everything) for two persons only, no kids. Departing at sundown, and finishing up when ever we say Uncle, or get uncontrollable yawning.... 

Even my inshore Trout trips are narrowed down to sun-up to 12:00 noon by July, because of the heat. So now two trips could be booked in one day, even. A very early morning, and a sun down. Catching the coolest parts of a July day.

Think about it.

Because the heat will be pouring on before we know it. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

4/4 - Easter Sunday.....went deep.

Had Dave H. and his two sons aboard, and glad I did. I remembered the name, but couldn't remember when we were out last. So I looked through my log books and found it. April 8th of 2004, is the last time Dave and sons fished with me. I even wrote down that we had 5 Reds, 3 Sheepshead, and 15 Trout, all at the Jetties and all on Float-rigs and live shrimp.

Can ya do that at the Jetties this year?


The Jetties have been completely invaded by the 6" Bluefish, that eat everything that moves, which includes all the shrimp in my livewell. And could I take them there and produce a day like we had back in 2004 with even Sheepshead or Reds on the float-rig. No way.  This history making N.E. Florida winter we just had, altered everything about float-rig fishing those rocks. Everything I do there in the spring, isn't working. Does it really upset me......hell yeah. But there isn't a damn thing I can do about it, either. I just hope that someday which I thought maybe by April, comes back to normal. But that has not even come close yet.

So since the only alternative is hitting the bottom, that's what we did. I had a burlap sack full of giant chowder clams, and a coffee can full of well seasoned frozen shrimp. The perfect cocktail for a lingering smell, down deep on the bottom. With a long shanked 11/0 circle pro-baiter hook, and heavy metal to keep it in one place, on heavy tackle. I'm not a huge fan of the "bait-n-wait" game, but whatcha gonna do? The Black Drum are around and quite hefty. Plus, it's time for the Jettywolf boat to try and catch one the size of a Army foot locker, anyhow.

So with aquired 4 days earlier and kept cool, we headed out at 7am. I thought the river might just be a real zoo, but it wasn't too bad. Guess everyone wore themselves out on Friday and Saturday. Oh, by the way I remember a few Easter Sunday's when I had 4 and 5 person limits of Specks, before 1pm. Damn those were the days, huh? That was in the back of my mind all day long as I cracked clams shells, and had clam juice running down my arms and fragments of shells all over the boat by the end of the day. One thing float-rigging is, it's clean fishing for sure.

The tide was low at 7:30am at the inlet. So I ran down river. No sooner got anchored up, and was prepared for a wait till the tide slacked before we'd get the first Drum. But that didn't happen. The current was smoking as usual. And the rod bumped. And we got the first drum of the morning. And then got chased out of where we were by the all mighty not having a clue Marine Corps Police. Yep. The rules change along Blount Island weekly. As the first drum was being reeled in. We had to move. Last week, last year, the rules were along Blount island were different.......the security zone is on my chart plotter even and wasn't the same as what these dudes were barking at us. Then, they said they checked their chart and they were wrong. We could be on a different imaginary line. Key word: some ones imaginary "LINE".  Via my charter plotters red line, I was just fine.

Nice Black Drum in the 12 pounder range. Just like last Friday when I was out doing some R&D. We eventually moved on and out to the Jetties. The tide was so weak that the same place I caught Drum on Friday was now nothing more than a slice of moving water on the south tip. But one thing is for sure, the spawning Whiting sure are fired up. So I broke out some lighter tackle and the guys used dead shrimp pieces and caught about a dozen nice friers while we kept a 1/2 dozen. Many went back that should have ended up in the fish box. But my crew didn't know these fish lil' fish, don't have to be big to be super tastey, fried up in some Zaterains.

The south tip of the rocks was just not happening for us. So I made a move and there we found Reds. No keepers of course (under 27 inches) But nice fish none the less.

WANT T-U-F-F? TRY OUT A SHAKESPEARE UGLY STIK CHARTER BOAT SERIES ROD. - BPS has them, all. The true test was today. My crew reeled up these fish, straight off the bottom, while using heavy lead to keep the baits in position. Yes, the rods are my "meat-movers" and yes, that's why I'm using them. 6'6" heavy action. Because ya never know when we'll hook the VW beetle sized Black Drum. And Cappy Dave want to be prepared for TROPHIES! No room for error, then.

Then, another big Black Drum for the fish box. (they sure are a Redfishes ugly cousin aren't they?)

Then, we finished the day with another big Red. And headed on back to the dock to clean Drum and Whiting.

There was parts of the day where we had to wait on the right current of course. Not every minute is packed with action. That's the nature of the game. And having the right bait and lots of it really helps.

Advanced reservations is the only way for me to have adequate time to get the proper amounts of the right bait. The bait that catches Drum and Reds like these. Always call, as far in advance as you can.  Less than 72 hours notice many times, is not enough time, to get what I want and you'll want. The old saying is, "good bait ain't cheap and cheap bait isn't any good."


4/5 - Back to Float-rigging, with Tim from St. Pete

Got a call from Tim a regular aboard the Jettywolf. To confirm he would be in town on Monday. It was short notice, but if it's Tim it's okay in my book. I was  hoping to get back on the Trout and at least find some, where maybe the Bluefish aren't.

Well, spot one had no Trout on it at all. Spot two was perfection as far as the tide was concerned. But we only got a good sized Yellowmouth.

A 14-1/2 inch Speck and a small Flounder. And it was a world tour of the St. Johns river, too. We hit alot of spots, from the Damnes Point area all the way to the south & north jetty. It was DEAD. And so was my my quest to get back on the Trout. Tim and I have had days together that were absolutely EPIC! Like last Summer, when we did  2 days in a row of nothing but float-rigging the jetties and had over 50 Reds of all sizes, monster Mangrove Snappers, Jacks, Tarpon hook-ups and a tackle testing two days I'll never forget.

That is what I wanted for Tim, today. Or at least some thing near it. But we ended the day just catching one bluefish after another. And I guess that'll be the theme for awhile now. So I guess no light tackle drifting the perverbial live shrimp......?  No, not till I see a change. And for me it'll be like quitting smoking. De-Toxing myself for just a week or so from having my float rig rod in my hand, will be tough.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

4/2 - R&D for Easter Sunday.

It's official, the lil' Bluefish have invaded the inlet.

There's no way you can float-rig fish the rocks right now without handing every shrimp to a Blue on a bronze platter. I tried. So, it looks as if we completely lost this years early spring Trout bite at the Jetties. This heinous winter keep them hunkered down in a few select creeks, then as the water temp rose slowly, I figured we'd get a trickle of them heading to the ocean. NOPE!

Then, when the bubble finally breaks, and the water temp reaches 63 and were steadily over the 60 degree "tipping point" the nasty lil' Blues show up along with some small sharks, cow-nosed Rays, plain old Stinger Rays, and still no jetty Trout! Or if they are there, you can't even get a bait to them. Lures don't even work, because there so many Blues. But the Trout could be there, too.

Next up will be small Jacks, and then Spanish Macs. Maybe by then, the Blues will dispurse and I'll get a chance to Float-rig for Trout at the big rocks. For big spawning Trout. Till then, I wouldn't run a single float-rigged shrimp down the inlets rocks. But you can, and let me know what ya come up with.

Prepared, I went and did some R&D for Sunday's trip with some folks I had aboard the boat all the way back in summer of 2004, the Hamrock group. I brought monster chowder clams. And quickly switched from float-rigging the rocks to bottom fishing outside the rocks.

The Whiting were all over the clams at first on the mid incoming tide, but my hook was a bit too big for them. So I only caught a few. The clams were of course intended for that 50-60 pound Black Drum. Not a half pound Whiting.

I planned on this, so an abundance of clams was needed. It didn't take long to get bit. And as I have said before this is MEAT fishing. No light tackle sport fishing involved, at least not today. The rod bounced back and forth hard and I knew I had the mornings first Black Drum. I cranked it to the boat with my heavy Ugly Stik charter series rod and Accurate twin drag (ATD) reel. Heavy leader and a Mustad Pro Baiter long shank circle hook made short work of ole rubber-lips.

Drum are 100% smell feeders here in our deep dark water. So keeping a fresh clam on and smelling good is important. I have a few tricks on the how's and why's, that I use and it all worked like a champ. Between the hook, tackle and presentation. I was happy.

A 28 inch, 8.5 pounder. Did kick and put up some fuss on my "HD" tackle. But loosing the fish was not a worry. I just reached over and slung the Drum into the boat. One down, and a one 50-60 pounder needed, for the JOSFC "inshore board" year long tournament. 

The fish sure looked bigger than 8.5 pounds! But into the box it went. Saw no one yet tangle with a VW beetle sized one. So "a bird in hand is better than two in the bush"... is what I always say. Kind of not good, because if I had gotten a monster today, I would have two over 24" then...."free Black Drum anyone?" With all the fish being caught looking like this size. And being out there by myself. I was only allowed one over 24 inches. So to keep more Drum, I would have needed more bodies aboard. Or smaller fish.

So I pitched out all new Clam on 4 rods and waited. The Blues and Whiting tasting the new clams was a real pain. Having to constantly be checking baits over and over again.   But the bites were there. Unlike when I fished with DOA Rob in 45 degree water....." we would loved to of had bites back then."  at least, so no complaints out me!  The rod bounced hard again. And I cranked another exact same size Drum to the boat.

I had a few ripped off baits, a few runs and then no hook break-offs. And a few more Whiting ingesting my large circle hook. And the bite quit. As the tide started to change and a long rip line heading my way confirmed that. So I changed positions and even marked big fish off the rocks in 65 feet of water. So I tried it. The tide was slack and the Whiting were all over my baits.

So I tried float-rig fishing one more time, on the North Jetty.  Figuring I may get a Redbass like I usually do. But the Bluefish were here too. Which confirmed my "the Bluefish are everywhere out there", suspicions.

It seems to me that the big spawning Sheepshead should be off the rocks out on the mud or sand, because this is the time of year I catch them no where near the rocks. So I tried a spot that usually produces a big 7-Striped Jetty Snapper, by now the tide was starting to fall perfectly. Not too fast, not too slow. So I anchored up on the spot and was there 5 minutes and the heavy duty Ugly Stik started to bounce. I just left it alone.

If it's a whopper Sheeps, it'll eat that clam and by the time it does and I check the rod, it'll be crapping the hook...."that's what I let them do." It means no loosing the fish, not a chance!  Sheeps don't eat clam like a shrimp, or a blue crab, or a fiddler. They inhale, and swallow that juicy clam. So after a few minutes, I grabbed the rod and just felt for tension. That's all. No Bill Dance hook set. Just feel for tension, then movement. And then, just reel fast with that long shanked circle hook. YEP, FISH ON!

Not a super sow Sheepshead, but a decent 8 pounder. Nice and thick and full of roe. Then, I caught two toadfish, ands that's a "here's yer sign" kinda thing. So with no more sheeps bites I took off. Went looking down river for a new spot to try and the river was a complate zoo of boats. Had two idiots in Go-Fast noisey pointy boat, race by me even and cut straight in front of me, that I had to grab the throttle and come off plane. But as usual, no idiot goes unpunished in the long run. They ended up floating down river with the engine hatch up and something wrong as I slow peddled  by them looking for a spot where it wasn't 4 foot seas in the river from all the wakes. Good for them. I hope their engine blew up!

I stopped on one spot and anchored but the tide was screaming, and no Drum is gonna bite when the boats planing in current like this. And the SE sea breeze was honking. So I headed back to the ramp to clean my fish.

Decent morning, and a no good afternoon. Too may people and not enough water in the river for them all.

I'm sure Sunday will be the same exact way. Looking back in my log books at Easter Sunday, it's always been tough Trout fishing the river because of all the people. So Sunday I'll be leaving the float-rig rods home and going bottom fishing instead. Hope for a big Drum bite, as I'll have 4 people aboard plus me, that's 5 Drum over 24 inches we can keep, if they want too.