While it does not come as a surprise to most of my fishing peers, I have remained pretty local the last many months which did not bode well for my uneasy feeling of fishing this year’s Herman Lucerne Memorial Backcountry Championship . I did no partaking in the epic redfishing Flamingo had this summer and on the few rather infrequent visits I made over the last 6 months nearly all were in search of big tarpon. I suppose I was having trouble adjusting to the summer/early fall fishing pattern, which mind you can be incredible in the Park. Maybe the prospect of 3.5 hours on the road on my only given fishing day just was not in the cards this summer, maybe I was just being lazy. Regardless when the time came to start thinking about this tournament that we have added to our annual calendar of must do’s, I was concerned.
Everglades National Park can be spectacular this time of year, from slick winds and cloudy ornately ominous sunrises, to sights of early migratory birds, to cool mornings………….needless to say this is typically my favorite time to fish the here.
Those unfamiliar with the format of this tournament (concocted by Dr. Lloyd Wruble & Capt. Rick Murphy) there is a lot of strategy that goes into planning your day. Which of course can be and usually is influenced by tides, weather, recent fishing experiences, and in our case shots in the dark.
It is a two day event where anglers must fish within the Everglades National Park Boundaries and attempt to catch seven species on fly, spin, or general (bait) divisions. The total inches are then added up and the folks with the largest total inch count wins. However total species supersedes total inches, for instance you could have caught the largest fish but if someone happened to catch one more species than you, well you’re out of luck. The eligible species include bonefish, tarpon, snook, black drum, redfish, trout, and mangrove snapper. Fish caught on spin get an additional 25% total inches, and fish caught on fly get an additional 50% total inches. Naturally the rules lend themselves to the fly fisherman but on most cases the tournament is won by lure chuckers & bait fisherman.
While I choose to spend little to no time pre-fishing I did spend a few evenings at the vice relaxing wondering where we might look to fish and what the past many years of fishing the park could be drawn upon to formulate our strategy………………………
for da blackies……………
world famous mad mike golden crab….
another cool fly I used to use often on cruising fish in the skinny (has a strip of foam under the rabbit)…….
And on the morning of the tournament we found ourselves deep in the glades after a long run to areas we had not fished since high school. You see, the Park is a magical place that captures even the most subtle of observers. Areas that have only remained a burned image in the back your mind for the past many years are somehow still how you left them. This is the lure of a place like this. Of course this is attributable to the hard work by the underpaid pupils of mother nature, formally known the National Park Service.
Our day started much like I expected losing a few little tarpon on fly (little bastards never stay glued I swear), then my 8wt. snapped in two, and shortly after that our 9wt. splintered into pieces. Given the fact we were intending on fly fishing the whole day I was really setback. This type of stuff can only happen in a tournament, I swear to god. While I was shaking my head in discontent the humid morning blur of mosquitoes buzzing in what felt like the inside of my head sharply stopped in time, the undeniable slurp of a top water plug is enough to make anyone weak in the knees. Soon a oversized snook erupted from the surface with the text book “hey fellas watch me throw this plug” head shake………….our disappointment eroded immediately to pure panic which quickly lead to some serious high fives. With a big snook in the net we knew one of the hardest of the seven species was on paper for the team.
To be honest the rest of the tournament was a blur unfortunately with minimal pictures taken. Everywhere we looked fish swam to our bow and I’ll be damned if we did not immediately stick some steal in them……………beyond the first morning debacle everything seemed to go our way. While I cannot typically be overjoyed by our fish finding ability in the Park given our everly decreasing visits, I can tell you we are simply some very fishy folks. I have literally been fishing with my best bud Ross Reeder one day a week for over 18 years if not more and typically if we can see the fish there is a damn good chance we are slipping a hook in its mouth.
The 17.8 Pro still keeps me guessing, 30 gallons of gas, full livewell, more tackle than I can to reveal, three guys, basically a full tournament load………….and still has the ability to chase black drum with their backs out of the water. Captured on our new half 8wt half 9wt shoved together buggy whip….
the weather was not always perfect……….
While we didn’t need another tarpon on fly, It was hard to ignore a few large laid up fish…………
And on the last day after missing what I felt was going to be our only shot at a bonefish at 8:15AM (I was quite verbally abusive shortly thereafter)…………our Charleston native Chris Wilson spotted a huge plume of mud at 1:30PM which was made by one of the largest bonefish I have seen in the last few years. Lucky for us the big girl had a few smaller followers that want to play.
We immediately made our way to closest bar for a few rumski’s……
Grand Champion Angler ( Tim Borski original)
Hell’s Bay Top Skiff & Angler (15% off coupon on our next skiff & cool fish hook mount)
Team Grand Champions with 221 total inches and the only team to get all 7 species……………..
I highly recommend anyone looking to fish this tournament do so. The event is truly top notch as Linda Denkert literally spends the ENITRE year rounding up sponsors and silent auction items (which are incredible and all proceeds are given back to the park, from half off guided trips with some of the area’s best captains to paddleboards to anything you can imagine). In terms of what I got for a $350 entry fee, two full meals for me and wife at the Islamorada Fish Company, two evenings of top shelf open bar (I am a pretty thirsty dude), a angler bag that included a high quality lightweight fishing shirt, grubs of all makes, sunscreen, and more stuff that I can even recall. There are awards for EVERYTHING, from the guy that had the most cast in the trees to junior anglers to amateur anglers to professional anglers. You compare this to any other Keys tournament and you would agree for many of the $1,000 plus entry fees something just ain’t right.
maybe I will give the Park a few more shots before the cooler weather moves in……..
Every time some tells me they have a crappy job I show them this video. It is of a guy cleaning out a cobra pit. He must have been doing this job for quite some times. He does not even flinch when the cobra strikes at him.
Enter your video between
6/3/11 and 9/30/11, and you’ll
have the chance to land the
- Mercury outboard of your choice* (*Excludes Mercury Racing, two-stroke EFI and Sportjet engines)
- Or, a fishing trip for two with a Mercury Films Festival judge of your choice.
- Invitation to the Mercury Films Festival awards ceremony
This is my friend Adrian Gray’s entry. Cool stuff, done all on Canon DSLR.. vote for him if you get a chance.
Lots of cool time lapse.
This past weekend I came across something interesting that caught my eye. It appears that Vern Tokarczyk, the founder of Xfishsuf, has been clever enough to create a paddle board geared towards fisherman. I was very impressed with the amount of thought he had put in making the paddle board functional and comfortable. I always liked the idea of being able to stand up while fishing the shallows but several hours of standing and balancing would be murder on the body, thus the incorporation of a seat was a brilliant idea. It also allows 360 degree fishability, unlike a kayak. He also designed a compartment forward of the seat that could be used for storage or even recessed for a cooler. For the fisherman with bad knees or shoulders, or just too lazy to paddle, they have the option to pick a model and have it outfitted with a trolling motor. I also like the way the paddle board sits low in the water, therefore making it easy to grab a rail and climb in without much fear of tipping the entire thing over.
The Xfish company is located in Sarasota so hopefully myself or Sammy can make a trip down there and get one wet and see how middle aged clumsy guys fare on them.
Two months ago John and I drove 10 hours to do a trip in Louisiana only to have the named storm Don destroy our plans. Since the trip was already paid for it got rescheduled for September.
Due to other obligations John along with a few others just could not make it this trip and sold his spot to a couple other Tampa fisherman. The lucky few that go the spots were Jose, Chuck and Chris. These are all good Kayak fisherman that wanted to fish the Louisiana area for a change of pace.
The logistics of carrying all the kayaks was a bit of hassle but thankfully we found a friend(Peter) that let us used a Kayak trailer. This worked out nicely as we how have room on the bed of the truck fit all our gear for the long haul.
Chris was all up for the drive as we rondevu at his house at 9pm. We had to be there the next morning to load up and, yes we were driving straight through and yes, I’m too old to do that. As we packed I wonder how we would kill the time on the drive up. Four guys with all the gear and a 10 hour drive. It don’t sound like much fun but some how we got through it. Talks of fishing, more fishing, the meaning life, and religion debate passed the time. Nine and half hours later we were driving into Biloxi, MS to meet up with the mother ship boat.
With not much traffic on a Wednesday night, we were there quite early. Breakfast at the good old Waffle house, stops at Wally world and a visit the local Winn Dixie for the usual forgotten gear helped to fill some otherwise empty time slot.
We loaded the gear and our Kayak onto the Double Trouble trawler mother ship. With the help of the mates this didn’t take long at all. It gave us time to get our L.A. fishing gear and time to take a few photos of the trip. By 11:30am we were off on the 4.5 hour trip to fish the chain of island called Chandeleur islands.
What to do, what to do now on the journey out. All the gear was all ready and everyone was eager to wet the line and test some lures out. This day the fishing crew was made up of 11 fisherman. 6 in Kayaks the rest, including me was using the skiff to fish out of. Use four was from Florida the rest were from Louisiana and the surrounding area. Indeed, we took home the award for driving the the furthest.
All the guys on the boat were indeed pretty cool and the conversation passed swiftly. If you wanted to sleep you could. The interior of the boat was air conditioned and slept 12 fisherman plus the crew surprisingly comfortably. With two bathroom and a shower, full kitchen, hot and cold water, fridge it had the luxury or a nice cozy town house.
Once we got there the crew unloaded the boats and everyone was off fishing before it got dark. With that being said, the sunset there at 7pm central time zone.The fishing was good. Lots of bait activities and predators busting bait all around us. With only a limited light to fish everyone did quite well with plenty trout and a few redfish.
Dinner that night was prepared by the crew as everyone drank beer and watch the game on satellite TV. Us Florida guys talked of fishing for the bigger red fish in the am but all the other guys spoke of was catching their limit of big trout. By the way, fish limit in LA is 25 trout and 5 red fish per person. Compared to our 4 trout and 1 red fish here in Florida that was quite a jump.
Top water for sure was the ticket for the trout bite
The next morning we started off before sun came up. Our mission was to get on the beach and look for the bigger red fish. Once we got across the bar however, we knew it was not to be. With the big surf rolling in and nasty churned up seas it was not possible to cast out very far or spot the roaming fish school. By lunch time the afternoon storm rolled in and we decided to head in for a lunch break.
After lunch we had a change of plan. This plan brought us out to deeper water to concentrating on filling the fish box and this we did. The boys pack the cooler and brought some nice eating fish back for the fish fry that night. Chris had a nice catch of the day, taking in a 30lb black drum on fly.
The last day of fishing was quite interesting. I awake 2am in the morning to find the boat rocking and rolling while anchor. This was strange since it was suppose to be calm that night. I got up on the back the boat to find two other fisherman awake as well. The kicker was all the kayaks had came loose during the storm and had floated away into the darkness. The crew had been trying to look for it for an hour with a spot light to no avail.
By 3am I was tired and went back to sleep. We decided not to tell anyone since there wasn’t anything anyone could do until the sun comes up anyways. Needless to say the morning was filled with tension as by 9am the kayaks were still missing. The coast guard had been notified and the surround boats had been told about the situation. The crew did a search but with the strong winds and it being over 6 hours later the kayaks could be anywhere.
The kayakers decided to fish out of the skiff so at least they could get some fishing in for the day. After all, sitting on the boat mulling it over would not do anything to find it regardless.
By noon we had heard the good news on the radio. The kayaks had been found by one of the other boats in the area, all in perfect condition. Boy what a relief for everyone involved.
That night the crew cleaned up all the fish and made us jambalaya for dinner to cap off a great two and half day trip.
As the boat takes off we got out side to watch the sun set one more time before left it all to head back to Tampa, Florida.
Did I mention you can catch silver trout all night off the back of boat?
Besides cost of getting there and your tackle,
Our cost for this trip was $525 per person + tip, this included all meals, drinks and snacks for the entire trip. You bring your own alcohol.
$30 for the fishing license.
We slept on the boat all 3 nights so no hotel was needed. For the money I think it’s a fun affordable trip. You get to hang out, watch TV, and be near lots of fish first thing in the morning. Not to mention if you wanted to, you get to bring 25 trout and 5 red fish worth of fish home with you to eat.
Useful Fishing information:
10-20lb test spinning combo, medium light to medium heavy depending on lure choice.
Rod 7 to 7.5′ works great.
Jigs, top water lure works great.
Us Florida boys used DOA lures cals, Yo Zuri top water, Mirror Lure topwater and Mirrodine
Fly rods 8 to 10 weight depending on wind. Almost any fly will work but I prefer heavier flies if you are targeting red fish. Chris killed them on chartreuse clouser.
Since I was actually fishing(not just taking photos) for the most of this trip I used what ever camera was available.
I used a combination of iphone, kodak playsport and dslr photos for the report.
Crown Royal put on a fishing photo contest a couple months back and the winners won a full day fishing trip with Native Fly Charters, a new rod and reel combo, Crown Royal swag, and a tackle bag loaded with goodies inside. One of the winners was Tre from Stuart, FL. Tre was allowed to invite a guest with him and of course he wanted to share the great moment with his dad Russ. Also joining us was Crown Royals Pro Bass Angler Steve “Boogie” Brown. With 3 anglers plus myself, we took the 22ft Pathfinder and opted to fish the North Indian River. The water still remains high and dirty like it has been for the last month. Sightfishing has been tough for the most part so a lot of blind casting was done today. The Sea Trout bite still remains good around drop offs and grass flats in the 3-5ft depths. D.O.A shrimp under a popping cork seems to still work the best while the water is dirty. This method landed some nice Trout up to 26″! Some Tarpon were found in deep canals but did not want to play and a nice Redfish was put in the boat while flipping deep into the mangroves. It was great to see a father and son enjoying a day on the water with no worries…..just some good ol’ fishing!
-Capt. Willy Le
FINALLY… we had a taste of some slightly cooler air and light NE breezes last weekend. The slow transition from summer to fall has been evident in nature. The way the fish behave, the feel of the air, the lack of hot women prancing around at the boat ramp in Miami, my being able to stay out longer during a day of fishing, and my willingness to spend the extra 15 minutes outside cleaning the boat meticulously after a day on the water. I’ve spent a few days in the past couple of months pre-fishing for the Herman Lucerne Tournament but it seems that the last couple of days spent pre-fishing would be the ones that matter most with the changing conditions. Practice days for tournaments such as these can be harsh so I had to take some “me” time to do what I really wanted to do this time of year… chase after bonefish, permit, and tarpon.
We had good success on our practice days fo the Hreman Lucerne Backcountry Memorial fishing tournament. The challenge is to catch 7 species within the Everglades National Park in 2 days… redfish, bonefish, tarpon, black drum, seatrout, snapper, and snook. Though it is a difficult format, if our last 2 practice days will give us any merit, then I will feel confident. Jeremy and I will have to mix in blind casting, sight fishing, trolling motors, poling, fly fishing, plug fishing, jig fishing, and just about every style of fishing you can do in the glade’s to meet what nature throws at us these next couple of days. The good news is, my Maverick 18 HPX-V skiff is set up to do it all. I’m taking a day off to rest tomorrow before the weekend of hardcore fishing begins. Wish me luck and I wish you all good fishing this next weekend…
I put some redfish photos up on Facebook last night and got some good responses. I figure I share them with you guys since, I took these photos before I got on FB and even before the new SS was put together. Enjoy.
Here is the Official Flyer for the Fly fishing Expo.
Have not been able to type much since my finger is kind of screwed up from the finger tendon issue. (via: swordfish battle).
The L.A. trip that got canceled last month(Don storm) got rescheduled for this week so I’m in the middle of packing my gear now. The plan is to drive 12 hours and get out on a mother ship to fish inshore on barrier island for 2 1/2 days. I’m just hoping the weather stays good for us this time around.
This a trip anyone can go on and is relatively inexpensive. I will get you guys more details when I get back in a couple days.
Last week I was able to get a couple of the new G-Loomis microfiber shirts to try out. These are a little different than any other microfiber currently on the market since they have a vented back to help keep you extra cool. They are very comfortable and come in any color you want, as long as you want black or white. I would guess that most fisherman would opt for the white shirts due to the black just being too hot to wear most of the year. No matter what color you decide on, they both look great. Now you can look stylish on the water or around town, without looking like you’re wearing a fishing shirt.
At first, I was worried about the white getting extremely dirty and the stains not coming out in the washing machine. However, after a long day of fishing offshore, and getting covered in blood, I let the shirt sit overnight and washed it the following day. After just one wash the shirt looked just like it did when I got it new. With that being said, look for these shirts to be hitting your local tackle stores soon, but don’t expect them to stay there too long.