In Praise of Peacocks
While Florida is blessed with some of the finest fresh and saltwater fishing in the world, only the southern portion of the Sunshine State has a strong and viable fishery for peacocks or peacock bass. This is the only region in the Lower Forty Eight that can lay claim to this powerful colorful gamester, which in reality is a tropical cichlid and not a bass. And while SOFLA does not currently offer the twenty pound monsters of the Amazon, the swath of lands from approximately West Palm Beach to Homestead offer some whoppers that will create life-long memories. I personally believe some peacocks will reach 15 pounds and higher decades from now. This means you do not have to travel outside of the United States to catch and release one of the finest game fish in the world.
Here is a brief collection of (the many) images I’ve taken while fishing for peacocks with guides Butch Moser, Hai Truong, and Alan Zaremba.
Belize River Lodge’s Long Caye Outpost
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.
CONTACT DATA: www.belizeriverlodge.com
SaltyShores Close-up: Mosquito Lagoon
Jan S. Maizler
I’d met Captain Justin Price as the guide who would spearhead the hunt for redfish and seatrout as part of a photo shoot for an article on ultralight spinfishing in Sport Fishing Magazine. From dawn to dusk, Justin and his East Cape 18-foot Lostmen took us through the “bays” and flats of the “Goon” with finesse and stability as we caught and released stud-sized bruisers of both species on line barely testing over four pounds. When our mission was over for that day, we were determined to fish together again.
Our plan was to fish in early summer of the following year, but a tropical storm plus other prior – committed travels on my schedule postponed our two days of fishing until late July. The conditions of our revised time featured flat calm warm water and a slew of vacation-liberated skiffs all over the inside waters of the Space Coast. The water was also slightly more turbid than two months prior and due to the annual growth of algae. This stood in stark contrast to the stronger algae blooms of the past year as well as the present toxic dumps of fresh water through the inlets of Stuart and Jupiter to the south.
I told Justin that I’d be bringing friend and photographer Alan Williams to New Smyrna Beach to join us on our two day adventure. As our target dates arrived, it turned out that we were blessed with fair weather and sunny skies. It appeared there would be few if any thunderstorms or showers to drive us off the flats.
On the day of our drive from Fort Lauderdale, we spoke to Justin for a last minute status report. He told us that although there was a huge push of fish in the shallows two weeks ago, the fish had now predictably settled into the flats drop-offs and potholes. As we discussed the most effective techniques for these conditions, Justin did not hesitate to recommend using live pigfish for the best results if we wanted rod-bending action and ample “photo-ops.” Local knowledge placed a great deal of trust on the gamefish – calling grunts of live piggies.
I had mixed feelings about using live bait- as did Justin. While I prefer to cast a lure to a sighted fish, I also want a backup if any shallow water gamester is unresponsive to lures or flies, especially on a story trip. Live bait would give us some old school action, just like a plate of Mac N’ Cheese. It would get us quick satisfaction, but we’d have to moderate our efforts lest we grow fat and bored with much too much.
And that’s exactly what those two days brought us: seemingly endless action on piggies with a first day tally of over forty trout to five pounds and a few redfish. We started the second day poling the flats. While most of the fish spooked way ahead of us, I did hook one golden-colored stud of a redfish which picked up a raft of grass on the line and then the hook on the soft plastic twitch bait popped out so disappointingly.
The day grew hotter and the skiffs seemed to materialize all around us in the shimmering light of mid-morning. We went back to fishing the drop-offs with live bait and easily caught another twenty trout-including some gators-and a few nice redfish.
Alan, Justin and I had a wonderful time. As we headed in to JB’s for lunch, we were already planning our next trip targeting the cooler waters of fall and bigger bunches of fish.
Captain Justin Price
Web Site: www.rightinsightcharters.com
Off of Maverick’s website:
Second Annual Maverick/Backcountry Slam Tournament. A fly only tournament targeting redfish, snook and trout with a slam format (winning team catches biggest three of all species). Meant more for fun than competition and with a low entry fee, the event will include a post fishing raffle with tackle and items provided by The Backcountry, a leading fly fishing retailer located in Vero Beach. Keep an eye on the forum for more details and entry information.
Saturday, March 06th, 2010 07:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Captains meeting will be held Friday, March 5th at the Backcountry in Vero. For more information go to www.verobackcountry.com.
I was told there will be some pretty sweet prizes this year… See you guys there…
All this talk about death and moping around has caused a big stir in the fishing community. It is fact that both our snook and bonefish population have taken a major hit. But at to what extent? Nature has always had a way of surviving. All is not lost. When all seems grim and we are surrounded by death, nature has a way of surprising us.
There is a light at the end of this short tunnel. Reports are coming in from many different areas that the fishery is indeed improving. Anglers are reporting some of their best days of redfishing from all parts of the state. The black drum and sheepshead have not been this thick for a couple of years and of coarse, there are still snook being caught. Permit and Bonefish are also still being caught in Biscayne Bay and the Keys. Permit come in and out of the shallows off the deep water wrecks. Bonefish migrate back and forth between South Florida and the Bahamas. Those snook that managed to escape the onslaught of the cold are slowly returning to some of their wintery haunts. Some hungry and very willing to eat a well placed fly or plug. You’ll know when a snook is healthy when it charges and clobbers your fly. Those that need more time to recooperate will likely just ignore your offerings until they are entirely back to normal. Catching a snook has become more of a challenge then it has been in the last few years but those who are willing to meet this challenge head on will be greatly rewarded. These fish will not be wiped out of existance due to catch and release tactics. The important thing to remember to ensure a fish’s survival is to handle the fish with care and return it back into the water revived and with as little stress as possible.
To put things into perspective, the last event as such happend in the 70’s. There were no laws to protect a snook back then, even after the population has taken a hit as such. This day, the FWC has placed laws to protect the species for a faster recovery, more anglers are practicing catch and release, and anglers have access to more information then ever about proper handling of a snook for a sucessful release. Don’t let a few negative reports get you down… go out, go fishing, catch some fish, and cherish the time you spend on the water… don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise!
See you guys on the water…
Our outboards endure cold and rough cranking starts, following with the smoke filled air. It’s apparent that winter is here and old man winter has definitely brought his wrath upon South FL with record breaking near freezing temperatures. I sit at the ramp bundled up in layers upon layers of clothes in the AM sometimes wondering whether we are still in south Florida. Anyone who’s been following my bitching and moaning about the cold on Facebook is probably already sick of hearing about it. But for one last time… STOP WITH THIS COLD ALREADY… it’s been an entire month of SUCK!
It has been quite the chilly start to 2010. Lucky for us, the cool weather came progressively this year rather then just over night. I believe that most of the inshore fish had enough time to anticipate the cold, therefore taking whatever measures to acclimate to the cooling water temperatures. I was happy to see that the only cold aquatic death on the water I’ve come accross this year have only been a couple of sharks and a pelican, along with some dying grunts and snappers at the local ramp in the Keys.
With the cold weather, came a change in the type of fishing done to accomodate the conditions. Sight fishing has been far and few closer to Flamingo, with more opportunities further up north deep in the southern portions of the 10,000 Islands. Most of the fishing closer to home has been geared around soaking shrimp on jigheads in deeper water and in the many creek mouths that dot the SW coast. It’s been cold, but nevertheless, winter fishing has been as good as can be. Between all the steady creek fishing this time of year, I live for those moments when conditions allow me to break out the fly rod, make our way through small hidden creeks, plow through thick canopies, get to those hard to reach hidden waters and jump on a mud flat deep in the heart of the ENP backcountry to present flies to cruising reds and laid up snook. It’s good to know though, that if conditions don’t allow for this, I can always buy a couple dozen shrimp and take my anglers to one of the many creeks to catch redfish, black drum, snook, and sheepshead.
Until next time… is it Spring yet?
There are moments in life that we never forget. These moments can be moments of days, hours, minutes, or even seconds. A short day of fishing or even one fish caught that day can sometimes be more memorable then a day filled with catching a boat load of fish. When time has slowed and you begin to break down one of these moments, the short minutes can feel like an eternity. Here is a very recent experience I had that would be a memory to last a lifetime.
It was an afternoon of fishing in Biscayne Bay with my buddy Capt. Frank that I assumed would just be a scouting trip to check water temps on different flats. The first part of the day started off rough with very limited visibility and a few fish blown out due to the lack of light attention.
Our hope came later towards the end when the sun finally broke away the clouds that were looming over our heads. Capt. Frank pushed the skiff along while we both scanned the deeper water waiting for a bonefish to materialize. We finally spotted the sign of a faint mud almost fading away in the strong current. As we looked further, we gazed upon the sight of a familiar shape that our eyes had been trained to distinguish from the rest. It was indeed a bonefish; green back glowing in the sun, an unmistakable shadow underneith, and face burried in the short grass digging up it’s prey. The fish seemed to notice our presence and started to swim off, bringing a partner in crime along with him. Armed with a 9wt canon, I punched out a long back cast giving the fish a lead and letting my fly sink into the grass where I had hoped to be part of this fish’s path. As the silver denizen of the shallows approached my crab fly, I gave it a bump to get the fish’s attention. This would either spook him or turn him into a raging druggy searching out his crack-pipe. The fish caught sight of the tastey morsel that had just hopped into his path and turned towards it with a mission in mind. I gave the fly another bump and the fish sped up deploying it’s pec fins like a stealth bomber swooping in for the kill. A third bump drove the fish nuts and the fish pinned the fly right into the grass. A long strip and I came tight to the result I was hoping for.
The fly line streaked sideways across the bow of my Maverick skiff leaving a roostertail in it’s wake. Capt. Frank and I couldn’t help but watch as this veteran bonefish ran right towards the shoreline and into the thicket of mangroves like a scathed k9. The fish had plowed his way into the forest of mangroves but was still running fast, without any sign of slowing down. I thought, “how deep does that forest go?”. Frank poled the skiff up to the shoreline and thats where I realized that the fish had me wrapped up and tangled on several downed trees, around and under a few mangrove roots, and under big stump, before it had run back out and made a bee line towards Bimini. I did what I could… took off my hat, glasses, and shirt and I jumped into the chilly water to attempt to unravel this mess. I completely backed off on the drag and waded through the forest of mangroves and stumps, threading my fly rod through every entanglement this bonefish had run me through. After 15 minutes of cussing, I had finally threaded my flyrod through all the entanglements and jumped back on the skiff, which Frank had to pole around and through a narrow opening in the mangroves.
We finally landed this bonefish a few minutes later and found a sigh of relief that a shark or cuda hadn’t gotten to it before we did. High fives were due and a few photos were shot before we carefully released this hard fighting bonefish back into the deep where he would someday try again to twart another angler’s attempt at catching a big Biscayne Bay bonefish. This is to be my last bonefish I’d catch in 2009. We had gained another bit of experience and more respect for Abula Vulpes as we enter 2010 with even higher expectations for a good fishing year.
Happy Holidays to all. Wherever we may be tonight when the clock strikes twelve; let us toast to new beginnings, challenges, and triumphs ahead in 2010. From all of us at Saltyshores, we hope you have a great New Year.
-Capt. Honson Lau
I hope every has enjoyed a festive and Happy Holidays with their friends, family, and possibly even some fish. It was the perfect time for me to take a week and a half off from my office job and spend some time with the family in the evenings and fishing during my days. I have less then a month to prepare for the Swamp Guides fishing tournament so I had to get some practice days in fishing for redfish, snook, and bonefish.
With a host of some of my favorite fishing buddies, I took to the last few days with some determination, my 9wt, lots of holiday turkey, and only 2 fly patterns that would do it all. We fished from Biscayne Bay to Islamorada covering lots of ground in a few days and met with good results. Fishing under conditions as such with limited lighting, cold water temperatures, and quite a bit of wind most of the time wouldn’t be a walk in the park. This was expecially true when it came to bonefishing in the cold. Capitalizing on shots at all 3 species would take nothing less then a long boat ride and some experience accumulated from the past few years of fishing. Oh and of coarse, having buddies who know how to feed a clump of symmtrically aligned fur and steel to weary bonefish helps too. Fishing has been good despite the less then favorable conditions given.
I purchased a non-marked prototype Sage 9wt flyrod many months ago from a noted legend in fly fishing. It was supposed to be a prototype TCX and was a wonder to bonefish with. After that prototype Sage had caught it’s share of bonefish with me, I had some “self proclaimed outdoors celebrity” yahoo on my boat this past Spring who has some hunting show come on my boat and wrecklessly kick and break my prototype Sage flyrod while it was still in the gunnels. I purchased a production TCX afterwards and still did not feel it was the same rod… then came the Xi3… and now I think I have found what that prototype actually was. I have been bonefishing with the 9wt Sage Xi3 for the past couple of weeks. This rod does exactly what Sage claims it does. The Xi3 has the backbone to pick up line from 60ft away and enough reserve to punch it right back out into the wind without issues. For all the longer distance shots, this rod is accurate… much more so then the TCX in my opinion. The rod is finished with a sexy deep blue blank, dark blue wraps, and outfitted with tough hardware to combat the rigors of the saltwater environment. Compared to it’s predecessor (Xi2), the Xi3 is lighter, stronger, and faster. This is a whole different rod. It’s got more power then the TCX and a slightly softer tip, which makes it alright if you need to make a short shot. This rod is definitely most accurate 40ft and up. A great rod for all the elements you encounter while bonefishing. The 9wt Xi3 feels very well balanced with either a Tibor Everglades or Nautilus NV 10/11 fly reel. I threw a Monic tropical full floating fly line on the Xi3 and it was a perfect matchup for bonefishing. I am going to try putting a heavier grain line such as the Wulff Bermuda Triangle taper line on there to see if it will help load the rod quicker and increase accuracy at sub-40ft casts. This rod definitely has the reserve to handle a heavier grained line when called for. At a premium price, you truley get what you pay for.
It has been several months since I have started fishing the Xi3. I have been fishing the Airflo Ridge 9wt Flyline on my Sage Xi3 as of late for tailing bonefish and low light situations where a colored fly line is an advantage over the clear line. The Ridge Airflo line matches perfectly with this rod. Recovery on this rod isn’t as easy as with the G Loomis Crosscurrent GLX series rods. There is a smaller window for error with the Xi3. But with an above amatuer casting stroke, this rod is a bomb and can truley pick up lots of line from far and punch it out without the need for another back cast. A fantastic windy day and bonefish rod in my opinon.
Visit www.rajeffsports.com for more info on the Airflo Ridge fly line.
After many years of blowing things up (yes, I was a pyro), setting things on fire, shooting bottle rockets and roman candles at each other… it was time to put away the fireworks and take to the water instead for this year’s 4th of July weekend.
The weekend of fishing started off with a redfish and snook boxing match with Tony, Juanki, and myself as the top contenders. We were able to get my skiff into surprisingly shallow water (even set up ass-end heavy for tarpon fishing) and sight fish a bunch of nice schooling snook and tailing redfish on fly. At one point in the game we were able to double up one after another with 2 fly anglers casting with precision from one casting platform… it could have been a mess, but we managed to pull it off and shoot a few photos in the process. It’s always a great time fishing and sharing many laughs with some of my best buds.
…and this one’s for all the HATERS out there…
I spent the next three days fishing with my buddy Capt. Frank. Saturday, we prefished for the Poor Boys Tarpon Tournament and had a few shots both in the back and ocean. I did manage to hook a big poon on the ocean that day that ended up coming off after 5 jumps. It was a rather sucessful day to help me put together a solid game plan for the next couple of days and for this, we decided not to run far and to stay between Islamorada and Key Largo. The tournament kicked off on Sunday and 28 top notch tarpon anglers and guides in 14 boats took to the upper Keys to compete in the Poor Boys Tarpon Tournament. Day 1 started off great for Frank and I as we had our first poon release by 9:45am. From there, it had got a bit tough but I managed to feed 3 fish in total in the back and 1 fish on the ocean…catching only 1 though. Day 2 was even tougher as we had a very rough start and very few shots through the day. After helping a helpless and clueless boater off a flat (after he cut off my tarpon highway), good Karma caught up to us as we released a last minute poon on the ocean 10 minutes before lines out. I learned a great lesson in good/bad Karma after this. Though we didn’t win, we had a great time and managed 1 release per day, 2 releases and 2000 points in total at the end. Most importantly, it was a real fun tournament and a great way to end another tarpon season. I hadn’t fished another tournament before where I had been put through this much challenge… I will definitely be back next year with more experience under the belt.
I fished my 5th and final straight day on the water today. This time, I was joined by my buddy tarpon fishing legend Tim Mahaffey. It was time to end tarpon season strong so after we did some bonefishing (which turned into redfishing on a bonefish flat) and some actual redfishing, we moved onto bigger and better things and sat at the ocean to tarpon fish for possibly one last time this year. I fed a fish and Tim fed a fish… 2 fed fish, a bunch of leans, and Tim caught his fish. It was definitely an incredible time throwing flies at ocean fish in clear clear water. It truley takes a whole level of skill to catch an ocean poon… no snook fishing, red fishing, or backcountry pooning can compare to the challenge. What a great way to [b][i]possibly[/i][/b] end this poon season…
SOAKED by the poon…
Stay tuned… more good stuff coming soon!!