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Punta Gorda, Florida Winter Fishery

 

 

 

Punta Gorda, Florida Winter Fishery

By

Jan Maizler

Though our first angling day was besotted by frontal winds and rain this past Friday, Saturday dawned calm, clear, and with a bit of fog. Thanks to Captain Ralph Allen of King Fisher Fleet for some great guiding. As always, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, Florida came through for our efforts with superb support. Here’s a few images of our adventure.

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Boca Paila Lodge, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

 

 

 

Boca Paila Lodge, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

By

Jan Maizler

 

Boca Lodge remains one of the flagship flats fishing and shallow water destinations of the Yucatan. All it takes is one quick flight from any American hub to Cancun and you’ll be picked up by their personal van. The drive -which lasts a couple hours- will take you through the historic ruins of Tulum and along the trendy posadas to the south of the city. About a half hour’s drive down the road to Punta Allen and the lodge appears out of the palm tree and beach vista with the vast Caribbean on your left and the endless lagunas on your right. This destination has been under the ownership of the Gonzalez family from the start and continues to please anglers and non-anglers alike after decades of operation. And the best news is that the highly-publicized crime to the north is basically a non-issue in the Yucatan. Here’s a collection of images from this wonderful place.

Boca paila Lodge #4- Caribbean grouping - skiffs

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Boca paila Lodge #3- caribbean grouping -Eduardo bonefish

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Boca paila Lodge Image #2- Caribbean groupiing

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CONTACT DATA:   www.bocapaila.com

 

Belize River Lodge’s Long Caye Outpost

 

 

 

 

 

Belize River Lodge’s Long Caye Outpost

By

Jan Maizler

 

Belize River Lodge has long been a mainstay of flats and inshore fly and light tackle fishing in this marvelous country. One can almost call it a venerable institution with a history of having served some of the world’s best anglers. A couple of years ago, the lodge (BRL) acquired an excellent offshore property on Long Caye, which lies offshore smack dab in the heart of incredible flats fishing.  While I was there with friend Captain Ken Collette, we caught bonefish only steps away from our breeze-swept second story room. But let me not get ahead of myself. When Long Caye opened, Barry and Cathy Beck covered the new operation from a fly fishing perspective. Very soon thereafter, I was on my way to the very same venue on behalf of the light tackle and lure community. The pictures that follow suggest- as they should- this tropic island and surrounding flats is the stuff of angling dreams.

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CONTACT DATA: www.belizeriverlodge.com

Yesterday in the Everglades National Park

 

 

 

Yesterday in the Everglades National Park

By

Jan Maizler

 

My friend Paul Raffety and I fished with Captain Steven Tejera on Friday, December 20.  We launched in Flamingo and fished as far north as the Shark River. Though the winds were honking, Steven kept us on the fish. Here’s few images of our trip.

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A Review of Three Outstanding Destinations Visited in 2013

 

A Review of Three Outstanding Destinations Visited in 2013

 

By

 

Jan Maizler

 

Many of the joys of the outdoor life are reflections back over great moments and realizations of dreams. And that’s often done by using photography not just a means of expression but also an homage to recollections of things past.

I’ve traveled to many fishy places far and wide over the years. For 2013, three stand out.

 

El Pescador Lodge, Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Pescadorpoolside

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Cajun Fishing Adventures, Buras, Louisiana

 

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Cabbage Key, Pine Island Sound, Florida

 

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SaltyShores Close-Up: Naples, Florida with Captain Will Geraghty by Jan Maizler

 

SaltyShores Close-Up: Naples, Florida with Captain Will Geraghty

by

Jan Maizler

 

Background-

Naples could be called an ideal Florida destination and residential city. For outdoors and fishing enthusiasts, Naples proper and the huge Everglades National Park to the south offers a superb biomass of birds and wildlife plus astonishing angling around the clock. Yet it is a special city that can claim such wonderful snook fishing right in the midst of downtown year-round and alongside its’ beaches in the summer. The Gulf of Mexico sends fresh breezes across the city and offers postcard sunsets that are memory-making.

Naples beaches are blessed with sugary sands and graced by a landmark pier. Downtown Naples has superb shopping, art galleries, and excellent restaurants. And golfers will find all the courses they need in the area.

I asked friend and colleague Captain Ken Collette to join me on a long overdue sojourn for a day of inshore fishing with Captain Will Geraghty (www.naplessportfishing.com). Ken readily accepted and we made plans to meet Will the following friday at the Port-of-Call Marina just minutes from downtown historic Olde Naples. The time of the meeting was set at mid-day so Will could be ready with live bait already onboard in his spacious livewell.

 

The Day Arrives-

Ken and I left Miami early in the morning and took a leisurely drive across the Tamiami Trail (US 41) which lead us directly into the heart of our target zone of Will’ s dock and the Naples shopping district. We were right on time for breakfast at The Café on Fifth Avenue and we dined on sumptuous egg croissant sandwiches, rainbow granola parfaits, and strong Colombian coffee.

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The end of our meal and a little exploring coincided nicely with meeting Will at the marina. As we came aboard and shook hands, Will tossed a couple live pilchards overboard into the Gordon River. Their landing into the water was greeted by the huge predatory splashes of big jacks awaiting them. I told Will if he was intending to get us stoked, he was succeeding ! Will’s vessel was a gleaming spacious 25-foot Privateer Renegade center console model. It was seaworthy-looking, crisp, and best-yet, outfitted with lots of light tackle rods.

On our way towards the pass, Will told us that we’d have to wait about an hour before the tide really would start out and the action would take off.  That being the case, I asked Will to take Ken and I sightseeing around Naples Bay to see all the beautiful homes and vessels. Will complied and Ken and I were treated to some fine sights of excellent waterfront living neither of us would forget.

When the tide started out we began our fishing at the pass and slowly worked our way into the bay and fished both the dock pilings and mangrove edges. The method of fishing was chumming with the whitebait and casting to explosions and/or to likely-looking spots. Our spinning tackle was spooled with braided line that was so necessary fighting fish so close to line-cutting obstructions. When the “smoke cleared”, we released over twenty snook, countless big jacks, and a nice redfish. As with all wonderful times, it passed too quickly and it was time to say goodbye.

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Like I’ve said before, it’s a very good sign when you’re planning a return trip before it’s even over !

 

CONTACT DATA:

Captain Will Geraghty

Grand Slam Sport Fishing

Phone: 239-793-0969

Web Site: www.naplessportfishing.com

 

Naples, Marco Island, Paradise Coast

Web Site: www.paradisecoast.com

 

 

Curacao, Netherland Antilles Retrospective by Jan Maizler

 

Curacao, Netherland Antilles Retrospective

by

Jan Maizler

 

Curacao is part of the Netherland Antilles. Specifically, it is part of a three-island group (Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire) off the coast of Venezuela. I have traveled there many times and experienced some very good snook and tarpon fishing, but this fishery is at the mercy of industrial pressures. The three major languages spoken are Dutch, Papiemento (the local “creole”), and English. The diving in Curacao can be quite good, at times rivaling Bonaire. The climate is dry and the island is full of melodious birds. Curacao is perhaps best known for the colorful Punda section and the floating bridge in Willemstad, the island’s capital.

Here are some images of a recent trip I made to Curacao.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM-

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Tranquility Bay Resort, Ambergris Caye, Belize Photo Retrospective by Jan Maizler

Tranquility Bay Resort is located far to the north of San Pedro, tucked away on a beach all by itself.  During my stay I caught bonefish right in front of my cabana. At night under the restaurant dock lights I caught tarpon, horse-eye jack and big mangrove snappers- all of them on BackBone jigs. Playing around on the patch reefs on one of the lodge boats we caught and released loads of snappers on pilchards. I also lost some huge barracudas because the wire leaders were simply not heavy enough. Their website is www.tranquilitybayresort.com .

PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

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Fishing Jupiter to Miami in Eight Hours By Jan Maizler

 

Fishing Jupiter to Miami in Eight Hours

By

Jan S. Maizler

 

 

These days it’s almost indispensible for a journalist to submerge themselves in the social media to make contacts, keep them alive, and have a ready live audience for their craft. On Facebook alone, I’ve made countless angling and travel friends. And that’s where I met Captain Jason Sullivan. He’s a rising star in South Florida’s shallow water fishery. His charters cover some very diverse habitats.  This includes paddle fishing for largemouth and peacock bass in Florida’s SawgrassRecreationPark. He also provides night fishing charters in his Maverick HPX for tarpon and snook along the Gold Coast, plus angling in every nook and cranny in the EvergladesNational Park.

 

Our new friendship proceeded and when the fall arrived, each of us made the time to fish together. Jason offered his skills and skiff to make a night trip to encounter the unfolding fall mullet run in Jupiter, Florida.  When we discussed the trip features, Jason mentioned that he was a fly and lure specialist- which meant there’d be no messy or time-consuming live bait runs: he’d have all the necessary tackle on the boat at the ready. In addition, the plan of meeting at the Bass Pro Shop at Dania Beach and then riding up together made the trip seem quite simple- and I was all for it.

 

Jupiter-

The appointed time arrived and as we drove up I-95 the remnants of the setting sun fractured into the horizon as the inky blue night occupied all of the sky.  The major topic of conversation was the recent massive rainfall(s) caused by tropical weather systems and cyclones. South Florida was flooded with rain- particularly in the interior. The SFWMD had opened all the canals to relieve this massive glut of liquid; which in turn left Jupiter and St. Lucie Inlets corrupted by dirty volumes of storm water. The outgoing tides especially would send out plumes of filth that went well into the ocean. There were even reports of dead grass carp floating a few miles offshore of this entire two-city area.

 

Our brisk conversation made the trip go quickly and soon- a relative term- Jason was launching his skiff at BurtReynoldsPark. As we eased towards Jupiter Inlet, a silvery moon was ascending into the firmament to the east. We soon carefully idled by an SUP regatta with about 20 paddlers. In the moonlight and the darkness, they looked surreal. Despite the “slow zones”, it did not take long for Jason to arrive at his first well-lit dock. He cut his outboard and put his electric motor to the task of closing in for the last hundred feet.

jasongameface

 

As we got within casting range of the yellowish orb cast on the water, we saw about a dozen snook finning into the incoming tide. Jason gave me a spinner rigged with a plastic jerkbait and I made a perfect upcurrent cast. Two of the fish peeled away from the pod of linesiders and followed my lure without striking it. A few more casts proved these fish to be sluggish and unresponsive. This was also the case with the next two lighted docks.

 

When we eased over to the fourth dock, we saw and heard some snook popping- a clear sign that these fish were in a more active feeding mode. Jason carefully positioned his skiff with his electric trolling motor to give me the perfect presentation. As I readied myself on the bow, Jason handed me a new spinning outfit rigged with a fresh weightless Gulp shrimp. Both of us saw an especially nice fish under the dock shadow. He told me to make my presentation upcurrent and reel the offering on the surface. My cast was good and my retrieve was even better. The snook struck immediately. I sunk the hook hard and began to fast-stroke it away from the dock. I told Jason to plane the fish away as well by electric-motoring his skiff away from the dock. The strategy worked and a few minutes later we were posing a nice eight–pound fish for photos.

jasonsullivan

 

We had a few more strikes-albeit half-hearted-at the next few docks. But when the tide died and started to ebb, the water grew filthy and the fish turned off. Yet we felt successful for the few hours’ fellowship and agreed to fish my home waters of (north) Biscayne Bay for the same amount of time the following week.

 

Biscayne Bay-

 

A few days before we’d meet, I phoned Jason to ask him if he was open to cut-baiting some of the indigenous fish in my home waters of North Bay. I was relieved to hear he was open to that technique. Towards that end, I picked up some fresh frozen pilchards and majua at a local tackle shop. In addition, I planned on bringing a few of my own spinners that were rigged “old school” with monofilament line. Those that know me may also know my position that soft-mouthed sea trout and jumping tarpon stay hooked better with “forgiving” mono.

 

We met at PelicanHarbor boat ramp about two hours before dawn so that we could try some tarpon fishing along some of the area bridges and docks. That effort yielded a couple sea trout, but the multi-barred sunrise lifting in the east told us it was time to run to some nearby grassflats for an early morning bite. As we got within a hundred yards of the flat, we could see diving pelicans, and large schools of migrating mullet dimpling, sizzling, and jumping at the surface. This was exactly where we wanted to be. Jason idled within about a hundred feet of an especially large school of mullet and then turned off his engine. As he poled in to close the distance, I cut up some of the baits that were soaking in a small bucket.

 

I handed him one of my rods, which was rigged with eight-pound mono, a length of forty-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a 2/0 Tru-Turn hook. I baited him up with a pilchard slice and he cast smack dab in the middle of a mullet school- indeed a very nervous school!  His line came tight within moments and he struck hard. In the distance, a big trout came to the surface thrashing up a storm- clearly unhappy that he was hooked. As Jason played the fish lightly, I cast out with the same kind of rig and was rewarded with similar results within a minute. In short time, we both released good fish of a few pounds each. Jason remarked at the size of the fish- a comment I’ve heard many times. I told him to be ready for fish that were even bigger.

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We continued catching trout with regularity, and we periodically hooked a few pinfish as well. Rather than release them, I cut them up into chunk baits and told Jason to start fishing with these baits instead: this was when we began to catch even bigger trout pushing five pounds. Although we did not match the hatch, we were feeding some gators just the bait they wanted and we released a half dozen North   Bay giant “spotsides”.

 

Jason had an especially hard “take” and struck back. We were delighted to see a medium tarpon of around forty pounds go airborne. I really wanted some photos of this fish, so Jason played the fish lightly against a leader of only forty pounds. It took about thirty minutes- as well as a chase of about a half-mile- before we were able to leader the fish for photos.

jasonreleasetarpon

 

We returned to the flat and though the rising sun was suppressing the action, we caught more trout, as well as some small ‘cuda and large mangrove snappers. As we idled back to the boat ramp, we had a pleasant chat about what a well-planned span of fishing could yield- and one lasting only eight hours!

 

CONTACT DATA-

Captain Jason Sullivan- Rising Tide Charters

Phone- 954-864-0592

Web Site- www.tarponfishing-miami.com

E-Mail risingtidecharters@gmail.com

E-Mail- Jsul09@aol.com

 

 

SaltyShores Close-Up: Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas by Jan Maizler

 

 

SaltyShores Close-Up: Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

By

Jan S. Maizler

 

Seasoned bonefish anglers know all too well that certain flats seem to hold large bonefish while other nearby shallows simply do not. This is also true within a local string of island habitats, such as Islamorada’s likelihood of big gray ghosts compared to Marathon’s smaller fish, not far to the south. The same phenomenon is also found in the Bahamas, an island nation that features not only huge numbers of bonefish but certain locales that produce some trophy specimens.

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I’ve traveled and flats fished most of the Bahamas and have found Green Turtle Cay to have very large numbers of bonefish that range from four to twelve pounds…and even higher. Happily for anglers, Green Turtle produces the kind of large-sized bones more associated with Florida-but without the Sunshine State’s angling pressure. For those unfamiliar with this gem of a Bahamian island, Green Turtle lies well offshore of  northeastern Great Abaco Island. Green Turtle is only reachable by boat, since this island has neither any causeway (like Miami’s Key Biscayne) nor a landing strip for planes. The good news is that there is regular ferry service from the “mainland”, not far from the Treasure Cay airport.

 

One factor that predicts many big bonefish is the proximity to very deep and “large”  water. Towards this end, a sizeable contingent of Abaconian flats fishing guides readily acknowledge the shallow water-small bone and deep water-big bone theory. This is perfectly exemplified by the ultra shallow Marls on the island’s west side, which serves as a vast nursery area to hordes of small bones. However, the barrier islands on Abaco’s ocean side offer the deep beach drop-offs into the Atlantic where the bones get huge. Captain Danny Sawyer of Marsh Harbor actually refers to these large gray ghosts as “ocean bonefish.”

 

Taking Aim at Green Turtle-

 

In planning for the trip, I was sure to book my fishing days on a quarter moon, a time when the tides would not be extreme as well as avoiding the potential nighttime feeding “problem” during the full moon. I chose the month of April to fish Green Turtle, since mid-spring generally provided features of warming shallows in the Bahamas amidst a weather scenario of diminished cold fronts. Though the spring could be windy, it has always been my experience that breezy, gusty days would offer less spooky giants than would the flat days of summer. In fact, it would turn out that the winds blew out at 15-20 M.P.H. generally out of the northeast during my five days of fishing.

 

I chose Captain Rick Sawyer for the big bone expedition. “Ricky” is a legend on Green Turtle and a native guide residing right on the cay. I fished with him before and quickly found that I liked the man-and his vessel. In contrast to the “super- shoal” skiffs needed for the skinny water Marls, fishing the ocean side flats and Atlantic expanses required a sturdier, larger flats boat- and Rick’s 17-foot Maverick fitted the bill perfectly.

 

The rule for Bahamian flats fishing is that anglers bring their own tackle. My choice for these brutes was nothing short of ruthless- 9-foot long Daiwa steelhead spinning rods matched with large line capacity Cabela’s Salt Striker spinning reels. My standard practice when traveling for a species like bonefish- especially the wise old giants- is to be sure to bring the offerings that would ensure releases and pictures, not “shots.” This meant backing up my 1/8 ounce BackBone lures with some fresh-frozen shrimp from Miami. My fly tackle would be reserved for another trip to the Marls, a place where parachuting a fly gently amongst small tailing bones was an appropriately pleasing necessity. But this was a story trip for the Old School, Big Guns, No Crap approach since some of these fish routinely run 150 yards and longer- even with 8-pound line!

I also reserved a room at the New Plymouth Inn since I wanted to be in the middle of the island’s historic “downtown” district. The Inn is named after Green Turtle’s main city, and this whole area is more like a British Loyalist village than an island settlement.   Interestingly, the Inn lies only a block from the ferry and charter boat pickup dock and is also is within walking distance of one of Green Turtle’s biggest flats.

After I arrived on-island, Rick came over to the Inn to say hello as well as to take my bait for daily storage and use from his house and skiff. We decided that 7 a.m. would be our regular meeting time at the dock. Rick said that since this time of year could have daily wind direction and velocity changes, our first order of business would be to determine which big bonefish flats would fit the conditions. I was especially excited when he also mentioned that the “Downtown” flat near the Inn recently had some big schools of “surface-swimming” bonefish on it. Florida flats anglers are far less familiar with any surface signs of bonefish besides tailing and waking. In the Bahamas, it’s another story. Whether the locals call it “heading”, “dancing”, or “bibbling”, it’s not uncommon for bonefish to swim along the surface while breaking the water. While some theorize that the fish are spawning, others feel the fish are simply traveling. In either case, it’s simply academic when your knees are knocking like castanets when you make a presentation to over a hundred large bonefish breaking the water.

 

Ready, Steady, Go! –

 

Day number #1 featured brisk north-northeasterly winds, which put the “Downtown” flat right in the lee of the cay and our first stop of the day. It took Rick and I all of five minutes to reach the edge of the flat. Parenthetically, short runs are typical of this bonefish paradise- the longest runs to the mainland flats are thirty minutes at most.

Within minutes of poling westward, a déjà vu moment opened as Rick said, “ eleven o’ clock…one hundred yards…bonefish on top.” Even in the low light and vigorous breeze, it was easy to see the surface commotion of surging shapes and swimming tails overlaying a green aggregate mass. Rick let the incoming tide and quartering breeze move us along while he kept the skiff’s track spot-on with gentle pushpoling.

Rumble time came very soon as I cast my jig close to the edge of the pulsating school. Within seconds of my retrieve, my line tightened and I jab struck the fish two or three times. The drag on my reel let out a long though precise watchmaker’s howl as my fish dumped well over a hundred yards of line on its’ first run. Rick chuckled as we both knew this was a large fish. After three more runs, ten minutes, and a billion heartbeats, I had a beautiful bonefish of at least eight pounds alongside the boat. After hefting the fish for photos, Rick felt the fish was closer to nine pounds. In the next hour we were able to take three more fish from that big school by judiciously poling around after the fish. We both felt that the leeside breeze helped riffle the surface and made the fish less spooky.

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As the flood tide reached its’ zenith, Rick suggested we try a big flat that was formed in a protected cove a few miles to the north of us. Rick fired up his Yamaha Four-Stroke and off we went. As we headed north, his skiff cut through the wind-churned waves like they were Jell-O. Big waters and big fish need big boats!

 

Rick made a sharp right turn, eased off on the throttle, and came off plane. After cutting his engine, he poled around a point into a C-shaped flat that was rimmed with a huge sandy beach dotted with some large ‘luxe homes. After poling about two hundred yards, Rick spotted a large ocean tally tailing over white sand off the point of our bow. I think he was surprised when I cast at the fish at all…but I certainly did! In Florida, that kind of fish is a rarity on the flats.

 

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My cast landed about five feet in front of the fish. As the shrimp settled into the water column, the fish swam over and tipped on my presentation. As my line tightened, I pointed my rod at the fish to give it a bit more line. When the line got taut with the weight of the fish, I struck it with my characteristic two or three times. The ensuing fight was worthy of any bonefisherman’s attentions and was satisfying. When I got the fish alongside, we both hefted the fish with a unanimous pronouncement of twelve pounds. After we released that platter-shaped battler, we spent the next few hours releasing another three bonefish ranging from seven to ten pounds.

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The pattern over the next four days would have us switching flats based on wind direction and tidal stage. We fished a huge cove on the mainland, multiple cays north of Green Turtle, and many flats on the cay proper. Yet all our s big bonefish spots had one thing in common- close access to large expanses of very deep oceanic water.

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One of the highlights of the trip was during the last moments of my charter when I cast to a pair of huge fish easily looking fifteen pounds close to the Green Turtle shoreline. Though I made a good cast, one of those wise old piggies gently picked up my small shrimp and blew it out during a cruel and short window of just a few seconds. I thought the fish smiled at us as it eased off the flat amongst a light forest of mangrove roots. Yet the consolation that we’d managed to release twenty-five fish with a top size of twelve pounds eased the frustration of those last moments.

 

 

How to Get Here-

 

Numerous direct flights are available from Miami and Fort Lauderdale on Gulfstream/Continental and other airlines to Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbor (about 20 miles south). The ferry to Green Turtle Cay runs every hour from the Treasure Cay dock, mere minutes from the airport.

 

 

CONTACT DATA-

 

Abaco Flyfish Connection- Captain Rick Sawyer

Phone- 242-365-4261

Web Site- www.abacoflyfish.com

E-Mail- info@abacoflyfish.com