Resolutions and Reflections

2009 was a very discouraging year for me. Never have so many things happened in such a short period of time that brought me disappointment, regret, and loss, but also realization and enlightenment to all aspects of my life. I have learned to be a better father, husband, son, brother and friend. Learning to make the most out of the time I have been given and not take my life for granted was realized. I am sure some of you out there can relate to what is being said.

That being stated, 2009 was a very interesting year also, it wasn’t all bad, and could always have been worse. I adapted to some problems life threw my way, and had some great times. Some good changes to my life occurred and great new experiences were had, as well as new friends made, and many new goals I had set for myself were accomplished. 2009 was definitely a roller coaster ride.

Of course, this is a website dedicated mainly to fishing and photography, so I will spare you the details. The goals and experiences discussed here are all last year’s fishing related hopes and achievements.

Below is an article I wrote last year at about this time for Salty Shores. It was not the usual “New Years Resolution” article, but geared towards fishing goals, as I explained above. I did primarily fishing goals for two reasons; the first being obvious-the piece was for a fishing based website, and second, I wanted to steer clear of the mundane resolutions that everyone always preaches. I am sure those that were reading (if any), feel like me; those articles are redundant, and surely most had read the resolution articles many times already at the start of the year. I was tired of seeing the same old stuff in the newspaper, magazines and television, so this is what I came up with. Even a fishing “resolution” article is a little ordinary to see, but this one is a little different than most. I am definitely glad I wrote it. I wanted to put up the article from last year and evaluate how I did on the goals I set to carry out. Of course, most fishing goals are easier to achieve than quitting smoking or losing weight, but the goals that one sets can be tough nonetheless.

Skim through the old article, it’s not too long, and then check out how I made out.

A Fresh Start-2009

Time for those resolutions. I know, I know. Another article about the annual changes some try to adhere to for the New Year. I have that new diet, quitting smoking, getting more exercise; the list goes on and on. To change it up a little, discussing some resolutions I may actually achieve just a little easier is best. So, this should be a no-brainer- fishing goals. I am an average Joe 9-5 worker. I was introduced to Florida salt water fishing five years ago after leaving my hometown of Baltimore. Moving to Ruskin, FL, I had no idea what was sitting in my backyard-Some of the best fishing in the Tampa Bay area. Ever since residing here I have been fishing at least twice a month, four times if I’m lucky. I have had more bad fishing trips (if there is such a thing) than good, but at least I am out there learning. As with all areas of my life, there are many changes that can be made to improve and educate myself, along with maybe putting a fillet or two in the fryer.

The first thing I feel is imperative for me is to find new areas to fish off the beaten path. The South Shore is pounded by fisherman and women all weekend; usually the “good” spots are covered up, or the fish wise up. Exploring more water to determine where else fish may be holding up is a priority. Learning the backcountry is a good start. The changes in depth, structure, and finding where the fish move during different tides will help me tremendously.

Changing tactics is a must. I have been stuck in a rut fishing the same live baits and artificials in the same ways for years. It’s time for me to have an open mind with my arsenal of unused tackle. If a certain tactic isn’t producing, what could it hurt to mix things up a little? It can’t.

Grouper fishing in the Bay. Having spent little time in the deeper water, the shipping channels of Tampa Bay will be a destination frequented regularly this year. Having just purchased two quality setups for grouper and tarpon, my first heavy duty combos that can handle the big boys will be used repeatedly this summer. I would love to catch my first keeper grouper, bottom fishing and trolling. It will be tough to pry myself away from the flats, but I need to soak some bait in the shipping channel. For me, it will be hard to have the patience to sit on the rocks for a while, but a sandwich and a cold one will help. Trolling for grouper is a different story; this method has so many variables, it could take more than this year to get a keeper running the edges. I will still be giving it a go.

Tarpon, Tarpon, Tarpon. My new heavy action rod for tarpon will have a pass crab or huge threadfin on the hook a few times during the annual run. Believe it or not, I have never even attempted to fish for tarpon. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence, limited knowledge of the etiquette expected while fishing for the silver king, or as with grouper fishing, a lack of patience. Hopefully I will be out this year with someone who can show me the way. Many stories have been told of catching these beasts, mine will be heard this year.

Last but not least, I will be spending more time on and off the water with family, and making new friends to fish with is also a goal. Fishing alone can be fun at times, but it can be unsafe. A bump on the head and a splash in the water is all it takes to wind up on the news. Be safe and good luck to all in life, and fishing in 2009. See you on the water!

So, there are the goals set for 2009, let’s see how I actually performed.

2010 Reflections

Finding new areas to fish and Changing Tactics:

I figure combining these two goals is best. Over the course of the year, I spent a good amount of my time looking for a few new “top secret” honey holes. This was partly because I resolved to do it, and partly because I had no other choice- it’s crowded out there on the South Shore of Tampa Bay. When you are familiar with and fish a certain spot on a regular basis, the fish may not always eat, but at least you know they are there and there is a possibility of landing a couple fish. This gives an angler such as myself confidence and makes it tough to not throw the anchor at that favorite spot. I forced myself (and whomever was on my boat) to go off the beaten path anyways. Being on the water scouting helped me out considerably. I found a few new, rarely fished spots that produced well. Fishing grounds other anglers would just run right by. Spots I didn’t think should have even been tried. I didn’t find all these new holes myself, some friends helped at times, but many were found on my own and were shared to return the favors done for me by others. I also used knowledge taught by others to scout these spots. Diving birds, mullet schools, baitfish and other clues were used on a regular basis to look for fish. This was a big change as I fished in the open water a lot, not just my normal mangrove lines and passes. Techniques I would never have tried the year before, such as different presentations and baits, lures that I have no confidence in, and different rigs were all used with success. Accomplishing these goals has been a huge confidence booster for me, and gave me the knowledge to adapt to the conditions around me for the most successful outing possible.

A favorite area to stalk the prey

Grouper Fishing:

To start, I didn’t do much, if any, trolling for grouper that I can recall. I focused all my attention to dropping baits in the shipping channels and deeper portions of the bay. Fishing with my friends numerous times, friends that have knowledge in this area of expertise, helped me learn the techniques of fishing, in different areas, as well as what to look at besides the depth finder. All I thought that was needed to be successful was sitting on the ledge and dropping a pinfish down to the bottom. Boy was I wrong. Now it’s the norm for me to successfully fish for grouper on my own with confidence. I have had success fishing for deeper water grouper in the channels, and even more luck when shallow water grouper fishing in areas I would never have thought a grouper would be hanging around. I really put an emphasis on learning all I could from other excellent fisherman, and putting my time in on the water on my own. Snapper fishing was also a plus; I found many new rock piles and techniques to pursue this fish as well. Overall, bottom fishing this year was great, much better than I expected.

Not a monster, but I will take it!

Limiting out on snapper and grunts with Rich

Tarpon:

Tarpon ribcage tattoo. Yeah, you could say I caught a small case of "the fever"...

Last year, I finally got off my summer inshore kick, and chased the “Silver King” with reckless abandonment. Reflecting back, when fishing for grouper and tarpon this year, I rarely even brought light tackle gear on the boat. This helped; I had no excuse to give up. After my first tarpon hook set, it was all over; I had the legendary “tarpon fever”.

 

Using the proper knots, leader size, and even analyzing what hooks were being used was like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. So I finally put that piece of the puzzle together, but there was more. When out on the water, I still had to use my head and as stated above, I had to make sure I didn’t stay one dimensional. Changing tactics and adapting was imperative. I learned that tarpon fishing is not just soaking a bait and waiting. For me, it was trying different methods, baits and conditions which helped me in landing my first tarpon. I can now say with confidence that I know how and where to fish for tarpon, and maybe even land one or two. 

Mission Accomplished, with the help of a good friend!

 Making New Friends and Spending Time with Family:

Over the course of the past year, I can’t say that I have made a ton of friends or networked to a great extent. I really didn’t want to try and become Mr. Popularity, because I’m not. What I can say is that while making some really good friends in 09’, quality has made up for quantity. Considering myself a very good judge of character, I surrounded myself with people who, as a good friend of mine would say, “Are assets, not liabilities”. You guys (and gals) know who you are.

As far as family is concerned, finding the time and spending it with my family was not always a top priority; sometimes this took second. In 2010 it is of a great significance to me, especially after some tragic events that took place last year. The times I did spend with the family were fun though. I finally put my father on his first snook, my family and I had numerous barbeques, camping trips and parties, and all of us enjoyed each other through a year of adversity.

Pops with his first snook, and a little too much sunblock on... 🙂

Quality time
Me and my tarpon chasin' daughter
My buddy Nick and a nice meal...

All in all, as I had stated, 2009 was a hard year. When reflecting upon the past years events, I won’t do much complaining about what happened and don’t want to change much about it. I learned a lot about life and feel I have become a better person in general. For 2010, I haven’t really come up with many resolutions. Some of my focus will be put towards furthering my knowledge of writing, photography, of course, fishing. Targeting some new species is something for me to look forward to also. I will be heading down to the Keys for some bonefish and permit action, with maybe a few tarpon mixed in. Continuing to make friends and doing a little networking will also be in the mix, and for sure, spending time with loved ones and making the most out of life is my top priority. We have all heard it before, but life is too short to take anything for granted.

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