In Praise of Peacocks
It would take hundreds of pages to review the stupendous success of peacock bass in South Florida-both it’s introduction and proliferation. The excellence of the fishery in the Sunshine State is such that it is no longer essential to travel to the Amazon to enjoy a truly viable fishery for this colorful battler. While South America boasts the largest specimens, Florida offers vast populations of good-sized fish that will challenge any flyfisher or light tackler. The following images were taken on trips with Captain Butch Moser of Delray Beach and land guide Hai Truong of Miami. Also pictured are Gus Montoya and the late Captain Ken Collette.
Today I decided to head out and do a little scouting my home waters of Tampa Bay.. ….. We just had a nice front came in with temperature in the 30’s. This might not seem too cold for many up north but for Tampa it is pretty darn cold especially for species like Snook.
I launched the boat at Bishop’s Harbor and did some fishing out front. It was somewhat dead, not a lot of bait around. All of the sudden we see a gigantic push coming out way. Some large dolphin were chasing a school of fish. We cast and cast in front and into the school but they wanted nothing to do with us. As they pass I realized they were school of a big 10 to 15lb jacks! I would have loved to get one but they were in no mood.
We moved to the back country started to spook redfish in pot holes…. this was no different than the jacks.. these fish even when we waded to them were very spooky and wanted nothing.
After being rejected again we moved even further back as the tide comes in. This time we find snook, big ones….. yup you guessed it.. again they wanted nothing. The water temperature must have been way too cold.
We decided to head in and we saw some bonnet head sharks on the sand flats. We didn’t have any bait and usually these things don’t eat artificial. I then remember I had some Savage gear crab and shrimp .. these things are 3D scanned and they look very very life like.
After learning to cast and do the proper presentation the sharks were totally fooled by these lures. We had lots of opportunity and landed 4 of the sharks sight fished on artificial which was very fun.
The key is be right in front of them about 2 to 3 feet. Once they see it fall they go crazy looking for it. These crabs have excellent action. I can’t wait to try the 1″ Manic Crab on a permit!
This is Captain Brandon Mullar and Lauren Alvarez a couple friends on mine down in the Duck Keys. Brandon is passionate about catching sword fish and is very consistent at catching them especially during the day time.
Here is a photo of them with a 500lb fish caught this last fall.
I also had a chance to shoot a video of how he rig his squid for day and night time sword fishing. He also said it works well trolling for Marlin.
In Praise of Permit
Here are some images of the permit I’ve pursued, caught, and released in Florida, Mexico/Yucatan, Belize, Roatan, and Little Cayman Island. In my opinion, they are the planet’s cagiest flats fish when pursued on jigs and flies. Catching them on an artificial is something to be proud of. One of the highlights of my angling career is the release of nine- yes, nine !- permit in one day out of Belize River Lodge. This was documented by Guide Raul Navarette and Mike Heusner, who gave me the magic lure- a white 1/4 ounce Popeye skimmer jig. In balance, these were young eager, fiercely competitive fish in three schools of approximately one hundred fish. The other permit I am most proud of was the (now-EX) World record permit of 23 pounds 15 ounces on 4-pound test.
Star Date Jan 26th 2015, Tampa Florida (a little Star Trek Geek reference)
I tried to do some fishing Friday morning and I have to say after being out there for 3 hours and only a catching a micro snook I was quite disappointed.
I had figure before the Saturday front the fishing would be good, I was completely wrong. The lack of bait the lack of mullet in the area It was a tough morning.
This Sunday with the winds down I figure I would try some winter spots near the river. Again, it was virtually empty. It wasn’t too long ago I told you the snook were near their spring area but with the ever changing conditions and the mild winter they are moving in a very unpredictable pattern. Well at least that is my excuse.
We struggled with working mullet schools if we found them. I did manage to catch a decent trout and a rat red over some patchy grass pothole area.
I was tired of blind casting and not getting any bites. It was a sunny day for a change so I decided to relaunch in a area where the bottom would be sandy. This way if there were fish there at least I could see them. Seeing them makes me feel like I”m not casting in vain. After all rule number one of catching fish is “fish where the fish are at”
We loaded up the Sandpiper and relaunched about noon. This way the sun would be high and the visibility would be idea.
We ran to about 2′ of water and put the trolling motor down. I wasn’t concern about spook fish at this point, I just wanted to see them to build confidence. At last I would know we were not just casting to sand.
We started to spook a few fish so I put the trolling motor on low and worked areas that were 2′ to 3′ of water. Most of the fish we saw were very spooky and we had no chance.
A few did eat however which made up for the first part of the day.
What did they eat? We were using the Logic lure in gold body and black back. I tried a silver color and they did not like that at all. Using the 1/16oz worked best as the 1/4oz made too much of a splash.
After a few reds we lost the light and called it day about 3pm. All we saw were redfish, the snooks after this front, I believe have moved back towards their winter area.
Logic lure rigged weedless Gold body with black back soft plastic with a 1/16oz jig head was the lure of choice.
Using braid 10 to 15lb test will allow you to cast a good distance. I was using a 40lb leader but for reds you can use 20lb leader no problem.
One of the cool thing about a small boat is the ability to go fishing and not worry about dealing with the hassle of a large vessel. I mean loading it, gas, launching, and the worst part , cleaning it.
Since we did the Breathe like Fish apparel shoot on Saturday I had to deal with all media Sunday. This leaves little time to actually get to fish.
The sun was out the tides was good so I figure I would try to get out for a couple hours. I am still using the Sandpiper 150 by Wingmaster. This 14′ 8″ boat is easy to deal with and if I use a gallon of gas that day it was a long run. The boat gets 8 to 10 miles to the gallon.
With a larger boats I have to worry about where I could launch and where I could fish. This small boat I can float and fish almost anywhere there is a body of water. Launching on a dirt ramp on low tide? no problem.
Now to the fishing.
As you might know 2014 was the warmest year since we started keeping track of weather in 1878. If you are on the other side of the climate change stuff the fish seem to believe this as well.
I must report that if you fish Tampa bay, the snook are not in their winter areas. I saw lots of snook in the spring area and were very active.
I actually want it to be cold so the fish are more concentrated. For the big trout to show up where I live it also needs to be cold and that has not been the case.
Snooks are abundant however. I caught a few small snooks and even saw a tarpon rolled. We are in the middle of January it should be a few degrees colder.
Usually I do well on jigs this time of year but right now the suspending mirrordine has been working great as well as the jerk baits.
I only manage to be out there for about 2 hours but the bite was good. No big fish but I did see plenty around.
Get ready for an early spring guys.. the fishing should be good real soon.
If you want to know how to use the mirrordine.
I bet there is fish back there, exploring with the Sandpiper 150. Panic Shrimp by Savage Gear and Rules #74 rod
I don’t know about most fisherman but I waste a lot of time looking at google map when I look for places to fish. Much of the map show ponds and small canals in places with out aerial maps you would never know it existed.
I often wonder if there were fish back there. Much of the places are too far for a kayak to travel to. A boat would get you there but it would be too large to get through the tunnels.
Now that I have the Wingmaster Sandpiper 150 to use many of these places are very accessible. One I get there it’s narrow enough and draft skinny enough to explore.
Today I suppose to fish the powerplant to look for cobia but my buddy was hung over from a Christmas party.This gave me the opportunity to do some exploring instead. I also wanted test a couple new items. A new Rules #74 rod by Dan James Rod and a Savage Gear Panic Shrimp I had just picked up from Tampa Fishing Outfitters.
I had the Rule #74 rod rigged with a 2500 Ballistic and 15lb braid. I tied on 20lb leader with the Panic Shrimp. The action on these are awesome. The sink rate is nice and slow and legs and antennae wiggles as it sinks. I saw the at Icast and was impressed indeed.
I put the cooler on the bow to get better visibility and put the trolling motor on low and let the breeze push me at bit. The 2nd fish I saw, wham!, he smokes it… about a 24″ red. So far so good I’ld say.
I noticed the hook got dislodged so I moved it back. The rubber legs , body and and antennae was totally in tact. It is a more durable body than the regular plastics. It should be because two of these shrimp retails for $8.00.
After some photos and release I looked for more. The wind died down and rest of the fish I saw were very very very spooky. That was it for the redfish but I noticed every time I tried to cast with authority the hook would slide off again making for an erratic action.
Conclusion: Great action, seem to have no problem fooling fish, cast ok (does tend to helicopter), body is tough but hook issue might be a problem.
The Rules #74 synthetic cork rod grip was comfortable. I have tried the carbon ones, it tends to hurt my hands after long periods of casting(jigging) and slips badly when my hands is wet.
To me the action was medium fast, and the bend of the rod was a medium to medium light. At 7′ I find it fairly lightweight and the microwave guide seem to lessen the vibration making long days of casting more comfortable. Dan James Rod uses HMX blanks and the model I had was white. It does come with a hook keeper.
The rod will retail for just under $200.00. The rod is inline in quality and price as most rods I’ve used by many of the companies using the Microwave guides. This rod for me should be great for jig fishing up 1/4 oz jig heads.
With the bite dead decided to do some exploring places I could never get to. It’s either too far for a kayak or too narrow for boat. The Sandpiper 150 can fish where kayak fish and almost just as narrow. This was a perfect compromise exploration skiff.
After beating down bushes and dozens of spiders I manage to get a couple of small snooks in the back country. Nothing earth shattering but it beats casting to redfish that run away from you when you breathe.
I got the Sandpiper 150 back in my possession to get more images so decided to get it out fishing with my neighbor Geoff. Today, the winds were 10 to 15 mph but we had plenty of sun so decided to do some sight fishing. This will give me the opportunity to test the poling and quietness of the skiff as well.
Since Geoff owns a bayboat, he did not make it a practice to pole much. Today it was all up to me to do all the poling.
We brought along a push pole I used in the Hobbie Kayak at only about 14′. I would rather use something a little longer at 18 or 20′ but we used what we had on had.
We ran the Sandpiper and idle until the motor started to bump bottom which was about 12″ of water.
I noticed the skiff runs well on plane in about a foot and floats in about 5″ to 6″ of water depending on load. Like most non tunnel hull boats I did not expect it to run very shallow anyways. It did float plenty shallow enough however.
As we idle in the light chop hull slap was undeniable. When Geoff got on the bow and I started to pole however it went silent.
The chine of the boat which was above water when the motor was running but once we fished and poled it noise totally went away. I had noticed it was very quiet with with the trolling motor before but now it was confirm.
It was stealthy enough that we would be poling in less than 12″ of clear water and would not spook a Tampa bay redfish until we were 10 feet away from one.
Every once in a while if the weight shifted, like when we were fighting a fish and the chine would leave the water I did hear an occasional hull noise.
With the position of the sun I had to pole into the wind 90% of the time and it was still quiet in the slight chop. With the beam at 52″ it was narrow enough that I could pole with just one hand, tracked very well and turned nicely.
With the motor down while poling turning was impossible. After I lifted the motor up it turned great and most impressive of all still tracked excellent.
I even put the pole between my legs, poled with one hand and had the spinning rod on the other. This allow me to fish from the poling platform as well.
As you can see the from the photos we caught a few fish. I caught 3 from the poling platform and Geoff caught 5 reds on the bow and one flounder.
Now that I got the poling characteristics down I did some speed test run using the phone’s GPS. I compared it to the vehicle speedometer and found it to be very accurate.
With the boat loaded and two anglers I was able to get 26.65 mph on the 20 horse. I will add the screen shot when I write the complete review of the boat after I get a few more photos.
In the meantime check out the crazy looking gills on this red fish we caught.
Using the Wingmaster Sandpiper 150 I recorded an afternoon of eats while fishing Houma, La.
During my travels in LA and Texas I was fortunate enough to run across a once a year shrimp hatch. This is when the marshes comes alive in October. The shrimp are hatching and getting ready to head offshore with the tides and the reds, trout and flounder gorge on them until it is over.
If you open a fish the belly will be full of shrimp. If you look for the birds in the morning you will see them diving on pods of shrimp getting spooked up by trout in the middle of the bay.
I like to see this happens near the grass lines as many times the backs of the redfish would come out of water as the shrimp tries to jump out of the way.
I was fortunate enough to hook up with a fishing buddy in Galveston Clint Barghi to help me capture some images. He poled me close the shore line as I snapped away with the DSLR. It is the first time I’ve seen this an I do believe I got some decent images.
I know where I will be during the fall season next year.