Where are we staying,what are we doing, where are we eating? Common questions we faced on a daily basis. For most people who prefer a rigid schedule of planned events, well this trip would not have been for you. We all packed light and were very flexible for whatever sounded fun. Looking back it’s hard to believe we were able to fit as much as we did into a week. A couple of days and nights touring and partying in Old San Juan, followed by a mountain top hike through the El Yunque rain forest. A short drive to Farjardo and a $2 ferry we found ourselves in Vieques. Being friendly to the locals while waiting for the ferry managed to get us a hookup on a taxi, hotel, biolumenscent bay trip, and the infamous scooters. Cruising the island we felt like members of the Hell’s Angels, but in reality we probably looked more like we belonged in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. After two days of exploring and searching out the baby tarpon we decided to head back to Puerto Rico and go zip-lining and tour the Bacardi factory. One last adventure was to go see Arecebo (world’s largest radio telescope).
For me the two best parts of the trip were the new moon trip to Bioluminescent bay. Watching the fish run away from the boat looked like shooting stars under the water. However it was too dark for photos and video, the images I’ll forever hold in my memory. The other was the the scooter rentals. A mere $40 and you kept the thing overnight. We raced, explored, crashed, toured, crashed some more. Even had the police pull us over but those secrets will remain on the island.
Here are a few photos from along the way. I’m sure Sam will complete his “part 2″ for a more detailed description of the trip.
If you’ve never eaten a soft shell crab before, you need to do yourself a favor and call your local seafood market. Every spring, our blue crabs go through a molting phase and shed their hard shells, leaving behind an entirely soft body. The entire blue crab is edible after the crab has molted – even the legs and claws. There’s very little prep involved…just remove the gills or “dead man’s fingers” and cut off the eyes and mouth with a pair of culinary scissors. Dredge the crab in your favorite seafood breader and drop it in the fryer.
Unfortunately, once spring redfish in SC have had a taste of a softshell crab, they basically go lock-jaw for a short period of time and won’t eat anything else. I will tell you from experience, it HURTS to put a soft shell crab on a hook and fire it off into the sea. However, you won’t find a more effective redfish bait on a spring day when the fish won’t cooperate. Here’s one Carl was forced to feed a crab to this weekend – the crab barely settled to the bottom before this fish came along and roped it. Thank God the redfish are back on a mullet diet and things are normal again – no more fishing with culinary delicacies.
Capt. Jay Nelson
There are several occurances in my world of fishing outside my daily routine that brings me to travel a long distance with flyrods in hand; the Palolo worm hatch in the lower keys during Spring, the big redfish that show up in Louisiana during the cold winters, the False Albies that show up on Florida’s Gulf coast in the Fall… niether of which I had a chance to take part of in 2011. I started this year’s travels right when my buddy Capt. Willy Le (www.NativeFlyCharters.com) informed me that it was time to make a trip North for the weekend. So I packed my gear, threw some warm fishing clothes in the Jeep, and decided to document some of this trip with my iPhone.
Fri, 6pm… check weather!
Fri, 7pm… Make fish food!
Sat, 4am… Departure from Miami!
Sat, 8am… take a boat ride!
Sat, 8:30am… fight Sea Monster, give fly line morning stretches, and try to break fly rod!
… and yes, that is backing
Sat, 8:45am… shake hands with Sea Monster!
Sat, 10am… catch a 38″ Redfish!
Sat, 11am… play with small redfisher until it is time to go!
Sat, 4pm… make quick stop at a local bass pond to use 5wt!
Sat, 7pm… Pho @ Wabi Sabi!
Sun, Noon… get a late start!
Sun, Afternoon… sight fish mega-trout over clear sand!
Sun, evening… back to the barn to make the 3 hour drive back to Miami!
Video + Report via Capt. Willy to come shortly… Stay tuned…
Our first major cold front swept across South Florida, sending days of rain and overcast skies, followed by lots of wind and some unwelcomed clouds into my home waters. What a perfect opportunity to drive up north and chase the blue bird skies. I left the office last Friday and rushed over to Kissimmee, FL in order to catch the last couple hours of the FFF Expo. Following this day, my buddies Capt. Willy Le (www.NativeFlyCharters.com) and Dominic A. invited me to spend a day in the Lagoon chasing some redfish. A change in scenery is always welcomed… especially when hometown weather becomes unfavorable. I always have a good time hanging with my buddies from the North.
We arrived to a dirt ramp the next day. There was a slight chill in the air this morning but it was quite comfortable. The winds hadn’t really laid down as it was still blowing at 15kts out of the North. With all the wind and rain from past weeks, the water had been high and dirty in the Lagoon prior to this day. We rode through some marshy looking mazes and across some shallow sand bars in the Maverick HPX-Tunnel as Willy scanned the waters for the right sign. Willy backed off on the throttle as we approached our destination. Everything there seemed right… we found that the water receeded to just about the perfect level, had a brownish tinge to it but was shallow enough to spot fish waking and tailing. The ever-present shrimp that would jump out of our path as we poled down the shorelines looking for signs of life. As I watched a redfish crawl around with it’s back out of the water, occasionally exploding on a pod of shrimp, I knew at that moment that we were exactly where we should be.
I armed myself with Shimano’s latest Brain-child… the Sustain FG (Full write-up review coming soon) on the trusty G Loomis Greenwater. The floating grass was thick in certain parts but still wanting to see some head out of the water eats, I tied on a DOA CAL with a Chug-Head on it. This was as weedless as any topwater lure can be. Needless to say, after 3 head out of water eats and a few misses… I got what I had come for…
We swapped off shots the next couple of hours between the 3 of us, catching redfish on both flies and DOAs, filming both follies and successes, and making a not-so-serious fun time out of catching slot redfish after slot redfish. We claimed a dozen fish by the end of the day on the fly rod alone.
The great time on the water was only bettered by our stop at Ms. Apples Crab Shack, on our way back to the barn. Forget about fish camps, burgers, hostile uppity elitists, and sandwiches… the laid back atmosphere and great eats at Ms. Apples is one tradition within a fishing trip I could definitely dig. There is nothing better then Maryland style blue crabs…
The last 3 photos were shot with a new iPhone 4S 8MP camera. Not too bad if I say so myself.
There was still a bit of time to kill after we got back and washed up the boat. We decided to walk to a nearby pond and throw some hoppers/gurglers at some bass and bluegill to kill off the last hour of light. Now I am inspired to go out and purchase a 5wt.
Here is a short video Capt. Willy snipped together…
Back at home now and waiting for the next opportunity for the weather to allow me to get out and chase some bonefish. Stay tuned…
I will not enter into the fray of NY vs. Chi-town pizza war. Suffice to say, if it is pizza – I will eat it.
On the way back from the conclave the other day I decided I would “take one for the team” ( real sacrifice right? : ) ) and stop by the Chicago Hub (http://www.chicagohubrestaurant.com/) in Winter Haven for some pizza. We had been there previously and were pleased.
Well, it was going on near 2:00 and I was “hawn-gry”. I started off with an order of 10 wings ($6.95). I couldn’t make my mind up as to which version I wanted so after speaking with Danny (he loves and runs the place) I was steeled on 4 versions. A Parmesan Garlic was my favorite that day (tomorrow my taste buds may want the Cajun more : ) ) they were unbreaded and fried with a bit of the sweetness or the garlic and a hint of saltiness of the parmesan.The Cajun was a medium butter sauce base with Cajun spices that was very good also. Wrapping it up was the Hot garlic and the hot traditional wings. both were quite good with the taste we are used to with hot wings. The exception being the sauce was a mite bit thicker, clinging to the meaty wings better.
As Matt was cooking my pizza (taking about 20 mins. ) Danny came out to visit with me. I was able to find out of his love for fishing and also his love of food. One of the ways he relayed this was saying, “I love feeding people” . I have come to believe that those loving what they do tend to be better at it than someone that just does stuff for a check.
Then comes the main event…pizza. It was a small supreme ($16) which is large enough to stuff two or to feed three.The crust had just a bit of a light crunch to it. There was ample cheese to it (as witnessed by the string of cheese in the pic) and all the vegetables were fresh. The sweet Italian sausage is home-made and all the other meats (pepperoni, bacon, ham) were piled high. I can not say when the last time was when I enjoyed a pizza so much…wait!…yes I can… the last time I ate here about one month ago.
I had no room to finish off the meal with desert (as we did the last time there) but I can tell you the Lemoncello Mascarpone cake is fabulous as well as the Italian Rum (who knew they distilled rum? : ) ) cake. I am told the brownie is quite the treat also.
Italian sausage sandwich and Italian beef sandwich is on the menu as well and even though I know I will have to try them one day, I will be hard pressed to omit ordering pizza too.
Not the easiest to find as it is stuck in the corner of the center, but well worth the drive
I do have one minor complaint. Amidst the standard music related to “The City With Big Shoulders” such as Blues Brothers “Soul Man” and various renditions of “Chicago”, I did hear Jay Z/Alicia Keys ”Empire state of Mind”, that’s just not right!…I believe they have that corrected now.
I was in town and decided I’d follow up with an Italian beef sandwich. It is difficult for me to go there and not get pizza but I showed restraint. I did however order some of the garlic parmesan garlic wings and they were just as good as before.
When the sandwiches arrived I was pleased to see that two had been made. Since I had said “make it like you like your sandwich” one had grilled onions and bell peppers (enough such that they were soft and sweet) and the other also added mozzarella cheese. The 1/3 pound, or so, of thinly sliced Sirloin tip steak was piled high in a 6 inch roll. Upon the first bite the predominate flavor was the beef (as it should be), the nice, lean, juicy,tender beef. Not a bit of gristle or fat to be found. There was a hint of italian spices but nothing at all overpowering. This was all about the beef. There were sufficient onions and bell peppers but just enough to compliment the beef which is the main attraction. The side The one with cheese was placed in the oven to melt the cheese which dried the bread just a bit but it allowed it to pick up more of the juice. Again, not disappointed but rather very pleased. And the cost of this taste of Chicago?… only $5.50
Well….It has been a long time coming on this one! BBQ is and has been a great topic here on Salty Shores. Many of us have tried a ton of different sauces through the years and believe the ones we use on our Ribs, Chicken and Pork to be the best you have ever tried. This may be so in our own opinions, but is your sauce really better than the next guy’s sauce? I have to believe NO! Until you have been to some of these local BBQ challenges and competitions or even a respectful BBQ joint, you probably have not really had even a glimpse of GREAT BBQ!
Barbeque can be defined in many different ways. The way I see it is in the cooking process and not the just the sauce. We can all lather up our meats with our favorite sauces and mask a poorly cooked piece of with a great sauce, but can we cook a perfect piece of meat? I am not great nor am I bad. I have strengths in different ways on the grill or smoker. So, what I am getting at is you can take an average sauce and still have great BBQ if the meat is cooked the proper way. This is only an opinion folks, so don’t get angry if you think your store bought buy one get one free is the best sauce out there!
FlatsJunkie.com is a flats apparel/equipment/forum company run by a couple of down to earth Florida boys. These two guys are trying to offer up industry products for a lesser price than your traditional cookie cutter store does. The product they offer ranges from custom casting platforms to flats wraps all the way to a homemade BBQ sauce. These guys have a great passion for what they do.
One day Ryan Eaton of Flats Junkie called me to see if I would be willing to sample and review his homemade BBQ sauce. I was skeptical because I am very lazy about getting around to writing reviews. He talked me into it knowing that I would be very critical and honest about the outcome. Well, he gave me his sauce six months ago and I am just now wrapping this up. I have not avoided this because of his product. Life happens and I have been swamped. Ryan has even asked me if I am avoiding the review due to a crappy sauce. Not the case at all! Is the sauce great? Does it burn easy? Does it taste like store bought? Is it to sweet or spicy?
The sauce really does stink! I will go on record saying it was no different than my 5 year old daughter’s bedroom creations. O.k. I am just kidding folks! The sauce has a lot of good qualities.
I went to Ryan’s house for my samples and he walked me through the making of his sauce. I was able to pick out most of the ingredients by taste and common sense. He would not give me the lowdown completely. The whole deal from beginning to end is rather neat. These boys are rather comical in the kitchen. Back to the sauce! At first it tasted similar to others I had tried. I was convinced it would be no different than any other good sauce I could purchase over the counter. Onto the grill I would go. My meat of choice would be a boneless chicken thigh. Thighs are pretty easy to cook with a ton of flavor even if overcooked.
The final minutes came when it was time to apply the sauce. Evenly coating and turning when necessary, this sauce was appearing to adhere very nicely. Burn potential is always there if you’re not paying attention. I was ready to taste the finished product. My chicken was cooked just right this day and the sauce on it tasted……..Great! Just right! Why would I buy this over a store bought sauce you ask? I will continue to purchase Flats Junkies BBQ sauce because they have a great work ethic and passion to provide all of us Flats Junkies a great product. Oh and because the sauce is HOMEMADE and tastes excellent.
A group of us all had the same weekend off and free from family responsibilities. The water temperature had been rising steadily for the last couple of weeks here in South Carolina, so we decided to get out and look for a cobia. Sure enough, they were at every can/buoy we checked. Only problem was we couldn’t get them to eat anything we threw at them. We got a late start and blamed it on the time of day. We saw some PIGS – they denied live eel, menhaden, herring, various flies, the list goes on. Fortunately, some of our friends on other boats were able to connect with one or two.
On the way to the ocean, we stopped in Winyah Bay to catch bait and jumped up a pile of wood storks. To my knowledge, they are still considered endangered in NC, SC, GA, & Fl. We jumped around 400 of them in a flooded field. They definitely aren’t endangered in that spot.
Amidst our frustration with the cobia, I finally talked Douglas in to casting to an amberjack. He said that he hadn’t bothered with a “reef donkey” in over a decade, but he obliged. This fish charged the bait and left Douglas on the bow of the boat for what seemed like a half-hour…hahaha. He loved every minute of it. In the box or not – we were enthusiastic that the cobia had officially arrived.
After our semi-failure at sea, we headed inshore to enjoy some of the usual suspects. The great thing about this time of year is that there’s always something willing to eat.
The bonnethead sharks put up a great fight on redfish tackle and you can catch as many as you want in the Ge0rgetown, SC marsh.
Top wrap up the weekend, our buddy Craig raided his dad’s crawfish pots and put on a serious crawfish boil. The rising water temps have the “mud-bugs” nice and grown.
The end to a good weekend – a bunch of salty bastards sharing a nice pile crawfish. Our water is warming and the anticipation is building – hopefully this tarpon season will rival the action that we were blessed with last year.
As we commute down the Florida Keys, we look towards the Atlantic and see the sight of many poling skiffs lined up along the flats edges and bay boats floating bobbers down the many channels that run perpendicular to them. Those lucky enough can catch the spectacle of a tarpon jumping at the end of an angler’s line. It is no secret, tarpon season is in full swing. I’ve spent time in both the Upper and Lower Keys and had a chance to see some really cool stuff chucking flies at Tarpon. We fly fished for tarpon as we do each year in every different way or form. We’ve already had some big days on the water this year with a seemingly unlimited amount of shots some days and even a double digit number of hook-ups a day. Heck, we even filmed a major fishing show that will air in it’s next season. Wait until you see some of the epic shots.
Watching a bait under a cork being pulled under by a freight train, ticking a small fly in front of a string of tarpon on the clear ocean side and pulling a fish away from the school to eat your fly, dropping a fly in front of a big laid up backcountry fish… there is certainly something special about tarpon fishing in all it’s different froms.
We had a few big number days throwing flies at big laid up Tarpon in Florida Bay…
It seemed we have thrown at an unimaginable number of fish stringing along on the ocean side of the Keys…
…and we met with great success on days when the fish decided to chew…
Sometimes staying home is not an option. When you get the hall pass to go fishing, the seas seem to know and decide to kick up a notch to try to scare people away. This is why I decided to buy a bigger boat this year, but one that can still pole with stealthiness and ease, while being able to tackle the demands of running through rough weather and fighting big fish that pull you offshore when winds kick up to 20kts+. My new Maverick Mirage HPX-V 18 has proven to be an AMAZING boat for ocean fishing.
No matter where you are feeding poons, once the steel makes contact with flesh, the majestic gentle giants revert to rage-driven silver missles, leaving traces of fury and anger in a frothing sea…
The infamous palolo worm hatch should happen any day now and it has caused a change in mood for both fish and fisherman. Many tarpon fisherman are trying to rally up their buddies and arrange to call in sick days at the office to drive down to the lower Keys to catch this worm hatch, where fields of tarpon will be sipping these small worms off the surface with the tide sweeping them out from under rock and coral. Many tarpon themselves are reluctant to swim during the day, and hunker down by the bridge to await the meal of worms. What is it about these little worms that turn out Tarpon into crack heads? This still boggles my mind but I’m not complaning as long as I can still tie a red rubber band to a hook and feed it to tarpon thats feinding a worm fix. We found another type of hatch before the worm though and I got to drift around and watch a couple buddies pull on some bridge tarpon.
This is definitely the heart of tarpon season. I beleive the best has yet to come as fish are gearing up for pre and post worm mode as we speak. I think it’s time I got off my laptop now and resume my duties on the water to catch the remainder of my favorite time of year. So until next time….
For those travelling down to the Keys to fish during tarpon season, here are a few restaurants you should consider:
- Key Largo Conch House (Breakfast and Tea or Coffee)
- Lazy Dayz, Islamorada (Dinner)
- El Sibonay, Key West
- Square Grouper, Sugarloaf Key (Must try the seafood stew)
- Ms. Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo
- Village Gourmet, Islamorada (Wraps and Croissants)
- Ziggy Mad Dogs, Islamorada (Top Shelf dining)
- Green Turtle Inn, Islamorada
So today I was in a bind. I had fresh cobia in the fridge that Capt. Scott Lum hooked me up with the other day. I do not cook very well so I put the word out that I need a quick and easy recipe. I had some suggestions pretty quick but many required stuff I do not have like a grill for one.
When I was in Destin Fl a couple years ago I remember my friend Phil cooking up our fresh cobia that was pretty darn good. Not only was it good but it was ridiculously easy to make. Yep right down my ally.
I gave Phil a call and he stepped me right through it. Thanks Phil, it turned out great!
All I needed was:
- Cobia sliced into 1/2 inch slices
- Olive Oil
- garlic power
- non stick pan.
- drizzle olive oil on cobia slices, seasoned.
- Put heat on high
- cook fish spice side down
- when you turn it over cook with a little butter on it and you’re done.
So easy even I can do it!
While I was over in Miami fishing with Chris last week we ate at a couple places. The most impressive place however was this chain called Chipotle Mexican Grill. I have heard of the place a few times but with a somewhat of a generic name like that I wasn’t very motivated to give it a try.
After a tough day of fishing and Chris raving about how great it was, we stopped by one on the way home. The place was crowded for a weekend, and it definitely smelled good. The lay out was much like any other fast food place, seats, a counter and cashier located in a strip mall. Very ordinary I have to say.
The one thing I did noticed that was different was the lack of options when I looked up to order. The only thing on the menu was:
Then I read the slogan “food with integrity” . Now I’m thinking something like.. “Oh great, some tasteless, one love type hippie food. Or a pretentious, yuppie hang out..”
I ordered the Burrito bowl and at about $7.00, which I thought it was pretty reasonable. The ingredients looked fresh. I have to say many dishes I have eaten looks great but usually don’t taste so hot. To my surprise however the food was fantastic. It is tough for me to get excited about a burrito, but I gotta say this was the freshest, tastiest burrito I have ever had at any price. Plus It was actually affordable to most people’s standards. I could eat there a couple times a week if there was one near me that is for sure.
If there’s Chipotle near you give it a go. It’s definitely worth a try. I hear they are also coming out with an asian version of this. I’m actually thinking about investing in the CMG stock.
Here is their full spiel. So far they are true to their words, at least from the taste of their food that is.
“It means serving the very best sustainably raised food possible with an eye to great taste, great nutrition and great value.
It means that we support and sustain family farmers who respect the land and the animals in their care.
It means that whenever possible we use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones.And it means that we source organic and local produce when practical. And that we use dairy from cows raised without the use of synthetic hormones.
Food With Integrity is a journey that started more than a decade ago and one that will never end.”
Here’s a map of all the ones available in Florida…zoom out for more locations.