After moving to Florida in 2013, I joined a group of kayakers called the WaterTribe. They compete in extreme adventure-style kayak races across various bodies of water in the United States. The WaterTribe has an extensive list of required gear and a SPOT tracking device as well as a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) are part of the required equipment. I completed my first Everglades Challenge event in 2014. That particular race runs ~300 miles from Tampa Bay to Key Largo. At the start of the Everglades Challenge 2015, due to several rescues made by the US Coast Guard and other municipalities, the race was cancelled.
While I was still on the beach waiting for a fellow competitor to load his kayak, I personally observed the frustration and stressful moments expressed by race management as the events unfolded. During the back and forth communication, between race management and the USCG, it was very obvious their was a problem that needed to be addressed. The USCG demanded the race be put on a, “weather hold” and competitors were to immediately get to shore and wait for further instructions. Unfortunately, communication between race management and the competitors was an issue, and this was not as easy as it sounds.
Competitors were out of VHF radio range, from the handheld units race management on the beach, which left race management with no way to communicate directly with competitors. The only thing that could be done, was to call their cell phone and/or leave a message.
It was close to 5pm in the evening when my fellow competitor decided that we would just travel on to Key Largo just cruising and camping. As I made my way across Tampa Bay I thought about the days events and started looking into options which would have made what happened, a non-issue. Currently, the SPOT tracking device which is required for each vessel, it has its limitations. It sends information to let race management track progress and allows for the competitor to call for help if needed and check in, sending an “Ok” message whenever the “Ok” button is pressed. As you can see the dilemma here, it only provides ONE-WAY communication and even at that, it only guarantees the tracking location of the vessel, not the location of the competitor, as the SPOT is only required to be attached to the vessel not the competitor.
After a little research on the internet, I came across the Delorme inReach unit. Their are 2 models, the SE and Explorer. These do everything the SPOT tracker does, and a lot more!
The main point I want to make here is that these units allow for 2-way communication through a better infrastructure using the Iridium Satellite system.
I contacted the company and have worked with them to get to this point. I used one of their Explorer demo units for over a month. It was tested in the wet environment of my Hobie Tandem Island and Paddle Board outings. I used it mounted on my mountain bike and even during road trips attached to a RAM mount on my windshield. I was very impressed with all of the extra functions that it provides over a SPOT, plus the way it allows for interaction on social media.
Using the Earthmate app and a smartdevice, it can be paired through bluetooth and it gives makes using this unit a piece of cake. I have created some hyperlinks if you’d like more information on these. However, my focus is on how this device could improve safety and tracking for the WaterTribe events. I thoroughly tested out the units communication ability, durability and battery life. The 2-way communication is a real bonus here. I learned it is possible that a mass message could be send to all competitors at once from race management and responses could be sent from competitors. Even the USCG could send messages to the competitors f they felt so compelled.
While you can not just change batteries like the SPOT, this unit is easily recharged using any simple external battery like the GoalZero Flip 10. The unit when set to 10 minute interval tracking mode has a 120hr. life.
Delorme is also looking to do some proof of concept testing and the ability to host a Map Share page with all the WaterTribe competitors for each event. If you currently have an inReach unit and would be interested in participating in a trial let me know and I will add you to the list. This would also solve and issue of the SPOT tracking page problems in recent past. The company is hopeful that this would be available and fully functional by EC2016.
Here are a couple of examples of situations where this unit would have benefited a WaterTriber:
Last year during the Black Beard Challenge in NC, I was the shore contact for Kayakman7. He was 10 miles from checkpoint 1, around 3am when his rudder was damaged, and made his way to an uninhabited island. He was lucky that he had cell phone service, and was able to call me. However, if he hadn’t he would have had to use his SPOT or PLB to call for help from the USCG. This would have been expensive, as the USCG would have rescued him, and he would have had to get a salvage company to get the boat at a later time.
Which brings me to the WaterTribe members that had to be rescued by the USCG around the tip of Florida. They had no other boat traffic to call out to help for and had no cell service. They were anchored 5 miles south of East Cape, west of Flamingo. After spending a few miserable hours in the boat in some very bad conditions, they had to call for help. They were rescued by the USCG and they left the boat anchored. Unfortunately, when they went back for the boat it was gone.
I truly believe that the inReach device would have allowed for these guys to request specific help and they would have been able to safely make their way back to Flamingo with their vessel.
As with any tracking device their are plans to choose from and you have the flexibility to choose the one that works best with your activity level. You will find links to all information below.
Delorme has graciously offered a priority code for the WaterTribe members to use and receive a 25% discount on the unit and select accessories when purchased from their website: Delorme When checking out, enter the priority code: WATERTRIBE
http://inreachdelorme.com/ *This code will only be active through Sunday August 30th.
I have ordered mine and was impressed with the process and timeliness it was delivered. I look forward to any comments you have or experiences regarding these units you would like to share.
*** One thing I need to mention is that the discount does not apply to the inReach Extreme Communication Kit bundles. This is because the bundles are already discounted and they aren’t able to do further reductions on those.***
Here are links to more information regarding the units, Earthmate App and service plans.
What is inReach?
Product Information, Explorer
Product Information, SE
Product Subscription Plans
Mounting Accessory: Amazon
Fishing in Florida during the summer months can be rewarding, but it is also extremely HOT. I’ve tried several different ways to beat the heat while fishing from my kayak, but nothing has really worked. Recently, I came across this product made by Sport-Brella. It is an umbrella with a universal clamp and multiple swivel points. For me, the clamp easily attaches the umbrella to the Hobie seat and stays completely out of the way when your casting. This is also going to be useful for videographers and photographers alike, providing shade to allow for easier viewing of display screens while out filming on the water. The best part about the Versa-Brella, is the price. It can be found on Amazon for less than $20.
Click this link for specific product info and current pricing: versa-brella
Hai Truong Fishing
Phone – 786 405 4146
Those keeping an eye on General Management Plan changes coming to Biscayne National Park have foreseen this coming. The current GMP reflects on enforcing areas like the Featherbeds and Jones Lagoon No Motor Zones (my only question is whether these are no entry with a motor on your transom or you may enter and pole as with pole/troll zones) as well as making many areas near the west side of the bay idle zones. There is a stretch of reef just offshore of Elliot Key that will be made Marine Reserve Zones (my take on this is no fishing, no access for fisherman).
I attended a conference call set up by the ASA (American Sportfishing Association) this afternoon to listen in on where some of the folks in our industry stand on the GMP closures proposed in Biscayne National Park. I especially noted the statements made by representatives from both Navionics and Florida Sportsman Magazine.
Points discussed I noted most:
1. Navionics made a statement asking the ASA to become more proactive rather then reactive.
2. Florida Sportsman Magazine representatives touched on the fact that there may be a commercial benefiting aspect to the closure biased to favor those in the diving/snorkeling industry. This closure would not benefit recreational anglers but the recreational divers (not spearfishers) could ultimately see this benefiting them. Was there somebody on that side lobbying to get the closure?
3. ASA pushes those imposing the new GMP to show us supporting science to prove how the closures will be effective (currently there is a lack of science to support this effort’s success).
Either argument you present, no matter which side you stand on and whether you are pro or against the imminent changes coming to our Biscayne Bay, it is happening. Several questions arise in my mind. I wonder if National park service has planned more stringent and more present enforcement for these new laws. Will this truly be beneficial? Is this the start of even more proposed closures to come? These are points we need to consider.
Pioneering Conservationist Aldo Leopold once stated “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” I recently read this in a few brief excerpts of Leopold’s commentary and gave it some worthy thinking.
Simply stated, those that continually immerse/educate themselves on temperamental ecosystems better have strong will and thick skin as the changes, albeit nominal and often not easily seen by the general public, typically are unsettling. South Florida, like many beautiful habitats, is sadly riddled with significant issues relating to responsible usage and general preservation efforts of our natural resources. Resource management and subsequent funding for it typically falls by the wayside of many other politically driven profits centers. A sad cycle of corking holes in the dam until it warrants itself unrepairable, then 10X the capital has to be allocated to fix it, meanwhile ecosystems have suffered.
It’s without question as an avid outdoorsman and father trying to raise kids whom roughly spend 75% of their time in the confides of concrete, outdoor exposure and conservation are naturally of the utmost importance to me.
no matter what side of the fence you sit, prioritizing what’s best for the environment in your daily choices as a consumer/voter can be difficult. Yet shameless choices can be seen every day and exploration of our greatest natural treasures can often be a truly sad affair…….
Of course the current “system” never meets everyone’s needs and regulatory decisions are often made by those who rely on uneducated deliveries of “qualified” data. Yet as no surprise to anyone, both political and regulatory decisions are influenced by those with deep pockets. Yet our elected “peers” continually misuse funds, and cut funding to nearly all agencies in charge of managing our irreplaceable national parks. While my knowledge is local, this issue is vast. However many Corporations and Non-profits are making strides to help were they can, after all without the resource they too are dead in the water (no pun intended). From Costa Del Mar, to Hell’s Bay Boatworks, to Patagonia, to Simms etc. ………many are playing a larger role in conservation efforts, they frankly have no choice yet oddly many company’s do not participate in such philanthropy.
Project Permit hosted by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and sponsored mainly by Costa Del Mar and the March Merkin Permit Tournament provides a glimmer of faith that fishing oriented companies might follow suit and stand behind reputable conservation oriented causes.
I assume this view has given anglers weak knees since sight fishing on the flats began………….
It always amazes me how impressionable young kids are, so I make a decent effort to explain the reasoning behind choices made on the water. Now, I am not immune to mistakes and have made many, but any advice I can provide to others, particularly my children, to not repeat is a win. One of my most favored reggae prophets once preached “don’t let your mistakes be the mistakes of your children”. This is a strong suggestion that sometimes gets lost with all the white noise of the daily grind.
keeping an eye out for this fishery is a cause I can stand behind with ease……………
at the end of the day, anyone lucky enough to bring one of these fish boat side provides enough of the “hype” to keep you coming back…………
“The world lives within us, we live within the world. By damaging the living planet we have diminished our existence.” (George Monbiot)
Please follow me on Instagram @saltyperspectives for more fishing/hunting content
Sea, Sky, and Travel – Moments Etched in Image
Though photos got their start for me as support for content in articles and books, they’ve evolved into recording and journaling my passion for travel. Some of the destinations appearing here are St. Maarten, Miami, Alaska, Barbados, Belize, The Yucatan, Sanibel, Flamingo, Sarasota, Curacao, the Florida Keys, Israel, Greece, Louisiana, Italy, and Argentina. When photos are for my amusement instead of commercial requirements, I have no shame breaking all the rules. Focus and camera shake might be tossed to the wind, as will noise and graininess. Sometimes I saturate and boost to diabetic levels. My depth of field approaches are not consistent. I do think photos should be special units of emotions (both good and bad) and cherished memories as well as the traditional representational approach. Sometimes, it’s best not to just think out of the box- it’s best to leave that encumbrance entirely. More can be found at www.flatsfishingonline.com.
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.
My first experience fishing with Captain Rick Grassett of Sarasota was in the fall of 2013. About six months prior, he and I consulted about specific dates. The two days that he chose for us to fish landed smack dab in the midst of a huge southerly baitfish migration graced by fair skies and light winds.
Our early predawn start rewarded us with lots of snook under the dock lights of Sarasota Bay. Once the sun rose, we headed out to the Long Bar and continued to catch snook supplemented by chunky seatrout. On this first day we used the balance of our hours to fish the shallow flats to catch a redfish. An hour before quitting time, I caught and released a nice redfish and completed my Sarasota Slam.
The first three hours of day two were a carbon copy of the fast snook and then, trout action as the day before. But Rick and I were determined to meet up with the parade of baitfish schools barely a football field off the beach of Sarasota’s famed Coastal Gulf. Once we entered these grounds from the north side of Longboat Key, we sped over to a wreck loaded with huge Spanish mackerel that exploded our silver topwater plugs. Within an hour of this insane action, the Gulf waters eupted in a froth of action as huge schools of mackerel and big bonito (A.K.A. albies) savaged the terrified baitfish.
And the beauty of these two marvelous days of sportfishing was that it was done casting only artificial lures. Besides the aforementioned topwater plugs, Rick had a veritable tackle shop of D.O.A. soft plastic lures aboard his Action Craft skiff- and they all worked marvelously.
A Year Later-
Almost twelve months later after this marvelous trip, my friend Alan Williams and I were headed back to fish with Captain Rick in the midst of this stupendous fall season. The logistics would be the same. Our lodgings was the Inn on Siesta Key, a wonderful Key West-style venue right across from one of the finest beaches in the world. Each of the next two mornings Alan and I would meet Rick around dawn at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, his base of operations and an astonishing multi-purpose retail, charter, and boat rental enterprise dedicated to the marine life of boating, fishing, and so much more. As Alan and I headed north along Siesta Key Beach towards the Inn, we noticed a cloud configuration that could a spectacular sunset. And it delivered beyond our expectations.
As Alan and I ate dinner, we both wondered whether this spectacular cloud display did not presage an impending weather system. We checked the weather back at our room at the Inn and the TV weatherman confirmed that a cold front was headed our way in Sarasota. We estimated that our first day of fishing with Rick would not be badly affected by the front, but day number two would indeed feature blowy frosty winds from the north.
By the time we met Rick at CB’s the first morning, he already had a game plan in place that would factor in the approaching front. When we first launched his skiff, The Snookfin-Addict, Rick headed straight for a pass to fish the open Gulf for mackerel and albies. Although the front had not yet arrived, the pass was too churned up to let us through. Rick turned the skiff and headed to a southwestern shore of Sarasota Bay. He slowly idled onto some shallow flats and when he spotted large schools of jumping mullet, he cut the engine. As he poled about a hundred yards towards our target area, he explained that there should be redfish and snook amongst the mullet.
Alan requested a topwater plug and Rick complied. My own feeling was that an approaching front might keep these fish lower in the water column, so I asked Rick to give me a light spinner rigged with a D.O.A. swimbait. While we did see a couple large schools of redfish, they were spooky and on the move. The snook, however were hungry and eagerly attacked my soft plastic lure.
We also caught a few nice trout on the flats but were now hunkering for some variety. So Rick headed for the deeper flats of central Sarasota Bay. The wind was increasing so he put out a sea anchor to give us a perfect drift. It was here that we hit a jackpot with our D.O.A. jigs and caught flounder, grouper, jacks, ladyfish, seatrout, and bluefish.
Day two dawned with 30 M.P.H. winds out of the north and air temperatures in the fifties. This caused Rick to launch in Little Sararsota Bay. This gentleman of a captain fished these conditions all the way down to Englewood to give us some satisfaction. Alan was top rod with a snook and a flounder for the day.
As always, fishing with Captain Rick was a pleasure, I hope to fish with him again soon.
Captain Rick Grassett
South Carolina, commonly known to us sportsman as the “lowcountry”; is a part of the world rich in history, good food, great fishing, and that good ole’ southern hospitality of the true south. I had an opportunity to make my first visit to the lowcountry this early Fall. This was a great opportunity to live all the great things I had always read and heard about via old writings, bayside discussions, and social media. I spent a couple days in Beaufort and then in Charleston, taking part in some flood tide and lowtide fishing, cast and blasting, and without a doubt the best southern food this foodie has ever tasted.
The floodtide was a completely new experience itself. I witnessed the giant tides flush into the spartina marsh and fill in the once dry fields of spartina grass teaming with fiddler crabs and snails.
As the water rose, redfish began to snake their way into the grass, subtlety pushing over blades of grass like ninjas, sneaking into clearings and tailing on fiddler crabs.
And as the tide rose up and covered up the tails of redfish, it marked time to stow away the fly rods and replace it with a shotgun in hand. Shooting birds out of a flats skiff was a definite first and definitely won’t be the last. Rather then be stealthy, the name to this game is to make your presence known, flushing marsh hens (clapper rails for those curious about what they actually are) out of the grass, allowing us to take the shot. This is a practice rich in history to itself.
The cast and blast experience in the lowcountry was greatly complimented with some of the most beautiful coastal scenes I had ever witnessed.
Special thanks to my hosts for making my first visit really special:
Capt. Owen Plair (http://www.redfishbeaufort.com/)
Will Abbot (http://www.floodtideco.com/)
Andy and Connie Villacres
Len and Jeannie Villacres
Tarpon Tested Gear Review: Echo Prime 11wt Fly Rod, Nautilus NV G10 Fly Reel, Cortland Tropic Plus Fly Line
Technologies in Tarpon fishing have come a long way as demands in this fishery have changed since the days of the old Great Equalizer. Tarpon are without a doubt becoming more and more demanding of that perfect presentation. So there comes the give and take compromise between a fly rod labelled as a casting stick or a fish fighting stick. Finding that happy medium between the two is what makes a tarpon stick the best one in your hands. It is true that in most cases it is the indian, not the arrow, but it helps if the bow and arrow are fine tuned to make it easier for the indian to shoot/cast it into the wind, into a side wind, or lay down a presentation soft down wind.
Most tarpon fisherman I know who chase these fish with a fly rod prefer a 1 piece rod. There are many choices on the Market today offered from companies such as G Loomis (2 models), Echo, Hardy, Clutch, Orvis, and Biscayne Rod. There isn’t a best 11wt or 12wt rod, but rather one that fits you best. Choosing the right one for you means going out and casting each one before deciding on which one works for you. I am not on any pro-staff for either one of the aforementioned companies but I do fish rods in different weights from these companies mentioned. The opinions of this reviewer are completely unbiased.
Today I review one of the new comers to the 1pc market; the Echo Prime 11wt. The Prime is the least expensive off all the 1pc fly rods but don’t let the price tag or lack of brand exposure fool you. This 11wt is truly an awesome tarpon stick. It is the second best casting 1pc 11wt I have fished thus far. While not as fast as the Hardy Pro-Axis 1pc or G Loomis NRX Pro-1; the Echo Prime 11wt is fast enough to punch through all but the extremely windy days. It’s got a softer tip, which actually allows it to load fast for quick casts when fishing in the mud and fish float up unexpectedly. One remarkable thing about the 11 Prime is how smooth it casts and how tight the loops you can form with it with minimal effort. Weight and swing weight-wise, the Echo Prime feels very comparable to the Crosscurrent Pro-1, perhaps a tad bit lighter. The action on this rod is comparable to the older Sage RPLX-i. When the steel sinks into meat and a tarpon is attached, that is where this rod out-shines most. It is virtually indestructible, even at high stick angles. Another good remark I’d like to mention on this rod is the use of ceramic guides for the stripper guides, but one thing I’d like to see changed are the cheap clunky oversized snake guides. I feel the Echo Prime lineup of rods could benefit from lighter better quality snake guides. I’d gladly pay another $60 for this rod with that.
Because the Prime has a slightly slower tip then the faster Hardy 11 Pro-Axis 1pc that I am all very familiar with, I went ahead and paired it up with the lightest 5″ fly reel on the market. This would be the Nautilus NV G10. Pairing up with a lighter reel with any rod gives it a faster perceived feel. I’d wouldn’t even be afraid to go as far as dropping down to a NV11/12 or CCFx2 1012 to give this rod a faster feel. Yet, I’m a fan of chasing a tarpon down basically on plane so a 5″ reel is what I prefer on all my tarpon rods. The Nautilus NV Monster G10 sits on a NV Monster frame but has a larger diameter spool, reducing the need for excessive backing. I was able to fit 100yards of gel spun with 150 yards of 30lb dacron with an 11wt Cortland fly line. Without line and backing, the G10 weighs in at 9.9oz, making it truly the lightest fly reel in it’s class. The drag on the G10, as with all the NV lineup is completely sealed from the elements and uses carbon fiber and cork disks to apply the brakes. Most important to a tarpon reel, the drag is smooth and an absolute zero startup inertia. I have fished straight 60lb butt section to a fly and pulled on some very big tarpon with drag cranked down on the Nautilus NV Monster and it has proved more then strong enough to handle the extreme pressures. Obviously, this isn’t common practice in tarpon fishing, but I just wanted to see how the reel would hold up. Strength, light weight, and good looks; I would go on to say the Nautilus NV Monster and NV G1o are my preferred go to tarpon reels.
My fly line of choice with the Echo 11 Prime and Nautilus NV-G10 setup was the Cortland Saltwater and Cortland Tropic Plus Saltwater and Tropic Plus 9′ Intermediate tip lines. Unlike most other popular saltwater lines on the market that are oversized in grain weight, these Cortland Tropic Plus lines are true to grain weight and feature a 7-27-7 WF taper. It is not necessary to fish an extremely long leader with the Cortland lines. The Cortland Tropic Plus has a soft enough presentation so that longer leaders are not necessary (The purpose of longer leaders is to allow the fly to lay down a softer presentation). On the calmest of days, I am fishing a 14ft leader maximum but have been able to get away with a 10ft to 11ft leader on windier days. The Tropic Plus 9′ intermediate tip really allows for great control on your presentations to fickle FL Keys oceanside tarpon when the chop is up and current is strong.
Those with a more aggressive casting stroke who have a heavy push may prefer a rod like the G Loomis Crosscurrent Pro-1 but this Echo/Nautilus/Cortland setup would definitely be preferable for those who enjoy casting a rod with a softer tip, and those who can throw tighter loops without having to push hard. Enjoy your time on the water and may you all have a great remainder of the Tarpon Season.