Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Snook Fishing In Florida Canals

I’ll admit, I’ve never been much of a snook angler. Most of my saltwater fishing has been done in Northeast Florida, where snook are pretty rare. Over the past few years, however, we’ve been going to Southwest Florida on vacation, and we did a lot of fishing while we were there. We’ve seen some huge snook hanging out under fishing piers, but we couldn’t temp them into biting.

Last month, we vacationed on a canal in Bradenton, FL, and things changed. My grandsons, ages ten and seven, are avid fishermen, and they spent a lot of time casting their lines in the canal behind our vacation rental. I was shocked when they pulled in the first snook. It was small, but it was still a snook! Actually, the boys were after some redfish they saw in the canal, but the reds had lockjaw. The snook, on the other hand, were more than happy to “play” with the kids. The boys caught numerous snook, which were all released.

The canal was lined with mangroves on our side, and I suppose the snook were cruising the roots, looking for dinner. There were plenty of pinfish and small mangrove snapper to be had, so the kids caught some pinfish to use for bait. They used small pinfish and freelined them in order to entice the snook. They got the most bites and landed the most snook near high tide, by the way.

All the snook the boys landed were small, but they were big enough to provide some fun and excitement. Hopefully, it also provided some hands-on experience that the kids can use for larger snook during the snook-fishing season.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saltwater Fishing Tips: Whiting

Photo: My grandson with a whiting (left) and a spotted seatrout.

Searching for saltwater fishing tips? Don’t overlook the southern kingfish or “kingcroaker,” commonly called “whiting.” These saltwater fish are often overlooked by serious anglers, even though they’re easy to catch and are delicious on the table. Sure, it’s true that whiting don’t achieve the size of reds, and they don’t provide a thrilling battle, but they’re great on the table, and on light tackle, their short runs can be exciting. Also, whiting will often be biting like crazy when other saltwater fish species have lockjaw.

Most of the whiting you catch will probably weigh a half-pound or less, but if you’re lucky, you’ll catch some larger individuals, often called “bull whiting.” These fish can weigh more than a pound, so it’s possible to fillet them. Anyway, what whiting lack in size, they often make up for in number. I’ve fished from piers in Georgia and Florida at night when I’ve hauled in whiting as fast as I could reel them in and re-bait. In fact, I often caught them two at a time, using a double-rigged line. Several times when I was fishing from a pier that had lights that reflected in the water, I’ve seen schools of these saltwater fish congregating around the lights.

Whiting are perfect for beginning saltwater anglers and for kids. Any light rod-and-reel combo will serve as appropriate fishing gear. For bait, try fresh dead shrimp, sand fleas, or cut bait. Don’t put too much bait on your hook. I like to use ½ shrimp when saltwater fishing for whiting. Use enough weight to keep the bait near the bottom, where the whiting are searching for food.

I’ve caught whiting at different depths, so I suggest fishing at different levels until you find the fish. You might want to try the surf zone first – the spot where the waves are breaking and churning up the debris and bits of food on the bottom. If you don’t get any bites, gradually move your bait to deeper water.

Florida places no size limit or bag limit on whiting. When they’re biting, it won’t take long to fill a plastic zip-loc bag with whiting fillets – one from each side of the fish. In my opinion, the fish are best cooked by frying. Just dip the fillets in buttermilk or in an egg wash and coat them in flour, pancake mix, or cornmeal.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to cook stone crab claws

We love just about every type of seafood, and stone crab claws are near the top of our list of favorites. What’s not to love? The crabmeat from stone crab claws is almost lobster-like in flavor, but the flesh isn’t as tough as lobster meat usually is. I think catching stone crabs is almost as enjoyable as eating the claws! When we visit the Gulf of Mexico, we always set out a trap or two, and the grandkids absolutely love crabbing for stone crabs and blue crabs. Oftentimes, our crab traps will produce a “mixed bag” of stone crabs and blue crabs, resulting in a crab feast for the family. If you’re interested in learning how to catch stone crabs or how to catch blue crabs, I have posts on this site that address those topics.

Okay, so after you’ve caught some stone crabs and removed the largest claw from each crab, what do you do with the stone crab claws? How to cook stone crab claws? Cooking stone crab claws isn’t difficult, but you want to do it as quickly as you can. This will help keep the crabmeat from adhering to the inside of the hard shell.

For three pounds of stone crab claws, bring about a gallon of water to a boil. Add about 2/3 cup sea salt. You might also want to add a mesh bag of crab or shrimp boil, or you can add your own herbs and spices, instead. For example, you might want to include cayenne, lemon pepper, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard seed, and/or coriander. Actually, many cooks prefer their stone crab claws to be cooked in plain saltwater. The choice is up to you.

Once the water comes to a full boil, add the stone crab claws. Once the pot returns to the boiling pot, place the lid on and reduce the stove burner to medium. The stone crab claws will need to cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the claws. You might want to test the largest claw to make sure the crabmeat is white, flaky, and opaque – signifying that the crabs are done.

Once the crabs are done, remove them from the pot immediately and place them in a colander in your sink. Rinse the stone crab claws with cold water. Actually, I sometimes cover mine in crushed ice, too. This makes the crabmeat somewhat easier to remove from the shell because the cold temperature makes the meat contract some.

If you buy stone crab claws from the market, they’ve already been cooked, so they can be eaten as-is, unless you prefer warm or hot stone crab claws, or unless the claws are frozen. In that case, the claws should be heated in very hot – but not boiling – water, until they reach the desired temperature. Be careful, however, not to overcook your stone crab claws!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Best Naples Fishing Charters

Have you done any Naples fishing yet? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing! Naples has more angling opportunities than you can shake a stick at…or a rod at. Choose among canals, tidal creeks, bays, or the beautiful offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re visiting Naples, Florida, you’ll need to hire one of the Naples fishing charters. I recommend Captain Mike Bailey and his legendary brand of Naples charter fishing aboard the Ms. B. Haven.

Captain Mike makes fishing a pleasure for everyone, from kids to grandpas and grandmas. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a novice or an old salt. Even first-time anglers will have a blast with Captain Bailey. In fact, you don’t even have to like fishing to spend a great few hours on the Ms. B. Haven. Sit back, let the salt breezes caress you, and take in the wonderful views. There’s no telling what you might see along the trip in the way of birds and marine life. Bailey even offers a sampler trip that includes a little bit of everything: fishing, shelling, dolphin and manatee sightings, bird watching, and unforgettable views of the sunset over the Gulf.

Of course, if you’re a dedicated angler, you can stick to fishing. Inshore fishing trips last for four, six, or eight hours, and you’re never far from shore. You’ll have lots of chances to catch redfish, trout, snapper, black drum, sheepshead, snook, ladyfish, pompano, and even tarpon. Inshore Naples fishing charters are a custom fit for beginners, kids, and families. They’re also perfect for those who don’t have all day to invest on a fishing trip.

If you’re interested in offshore Naples fishing charters, Captain Mike can handle those, too. The Ms. B. Haven can get you where you need to go – fast. Mike will take you out to fish around natural and manmade reefs, along with wrecks and other bottom structure that attracts predatory fish species. Common catches include barracuda, sharks, grouper, cobia, little tunny, permit, king mackerel, tarpon, snapper, and reds.

Captain Mike Bailey has been fishing these waters for thirty years, so he knows where the fish are lurking. He’s great with kids, beginners, and all his angling guests. Don’t take my word for it – check out his rave reviews on TripAdvisor! He’s often described as “legendary,” “the king of Naples,” “the fishing guru,” and “the angling wizard.” To learn more about Captain Mike’s Naples fishing charters, click the highlighted link above, in the beginning paragraph.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter Fishing for Convicts

With winter quickly approaching, many anglers have put away their fishing gear and wait for the “spring thaw” to once again put it to good use. If you’re fortunate enough to live in the southeastern U.S., and if you enjoy saltwater fishing, don’t be so quick to stow away your fishing gear! The winter months often provide some great fishing for sheepshead.

Many folks in these parts refer to sheepshead as “convicts” or “convict fish.” This isn’t, of course, just because of the black stripes on the fish that resemble a typical convict’s attire. These fish are bait thieves. They can be extremely difficult to hook, even when you’re angling in water clear enough to see the crafty robbers. Sound like I’m speaking from experience? Sad to say, I am.

The first time I tried to catch sheepshead was on a pier in northern Florida. The water was clear, and I could see the fish moving from piling to piling, feasting on the barnacles that encrusted the wooden posts. Another angler on the pier gave me a fiddler crab to use for bait, and I dropped it right in front of the fish. They gobbled it readily, but I never even felt or saw movement on the line. I repeated the process numerous times, and every time, I got the same results – nada. Zip. Nothing.

I gave up on sheepshead for years and focused on “normal” species like reds, trout, flounder, cobia, and sharks. Then, a few years ago, I found myself back on that same pier, and once again, the convicts were ganging up around the pilings. I was determined to catch some this time. I had some sand fleas that the grandkids had caught, so I used them as bait. I cast my line under the pier and slowly retrieved it. Bingo! I landed my first sheepshead – ever. I continued this technique, with more success. If you’ve been skunked by convicts before, you might want to put these saltwater fishing tips to use.

As for sheepshead bait, I prefer sand fleas. In my opinion, fiddler crabs are too large, and they’re too easily crushed. Sand fleas have less surface area. Barnacles are good, too, but they’re usually harder to get. My ex-father-in-law used to catch sheepshead with bits of shrimp, but I haven’t had any luck with that – probably because other fish, like puppy drum, whiting, and spadefish steal the bait as soon as it hits the water.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Beginning Fly Fishing: Fly Fishing for Stripers

Written by Adam Coholan, an active blogger who writes about the great outdoors and fishing around his home on Fire Island. He also helps run web relations for Elliman Real Estate. On Twitter @Coho22

I’ve been fishing since I was a kid, and from the beginning, I knew my favorite times on the water would be when I was bass fishing. For about 95% of my fishing life, I used a spinning reel. I picked up a bait caster once or twice but was never in thick enough cover to need heavy line, so I rarely even bothered. It is fun, fast, convenient, and little still gets me as excited as a smallmouth crushing a topwater lure, but I never realized how much I was actually missing out on.

After I graduated college, my mentality toward fishing began to change. While always enjoyable, fishing just was losing a bit of its luster. I wanted more of a challenge. I thought back to a trip I took with my family to Yellowstone, where my dad and I had a guide float us down a river with a couple fly rods. I couldn’t get the fly to float to save my life, but I realized the scenery, the quiet, and the focus each cast took was what I was missing in my current outings. Since I had recently moved to the coast for work reasons, I decided to give saltwater fly-fishing a try. I’ve since found it is endlessly adaptable and never boring. It truly elevates fishing from a hobby to an art form. If you’re interested in getting started, here are a few suggestions to help you begin.

Practice Makes Perfect

When I started, I pored over magazines and even watched a couple of instructional videos. After some extensive studying I quickly realized there’s no substitution for experience. Like golf and other instinctive sports, fly-casting relies on muscle memory that improves with practice. If you have a friend who is already an experienced fly fisherman, you’re golden. I found that local fly shops were happy to let me try a few rods while handing out helpful advice. Some shops even offer classes in casting, reel loading, or even tying flies. Look for a group locally or online that accepts beginners. Then, the best way to learn how to fly fish is go out and do it. Also, a day spent with an experienced guide can be worth more than weeks on the water by yourself. You won’t regret it.

Budget Your Gear

Fly-fishing, like most hobbies, can get expensive. Open a catalog and prepare to be stunned by the infinite variety of rods, reels, lines, leaders, tippets, auxiliary equipment and, of course, flies. Fly rods and reels can be several thousand dollars on the high end, but can also be found for less than one hundred. I found that I could adapt much of my bass fishing gear, but for other traditional fly-fishing gear, like waders, boots, vest, etc., I again sought the experience of the local shops. After getting their opinion on what would fit me best, I was often able to hit the seasonal sales and clearance racks and get everything I needed without going over budget.

Patience is a Virtue

Any kind of fishing takes patience and perseverance, fly-fishing even more so. The beauty of fly-fishing is that it merges aspects of both science and art. The satisfaction of one perfect cast, the line looping effortlessly and a fly landing exactly where you sent it is worth five – maybe even ten – bad ones. It makes all those stares I received from my neighbors when I was practicing behind my house worth it. If you’ve been bass fishing and you’re up for an adventure, try hitting the coast with a fly rod. The first run from a striper on a fly rod is an experience you’ll never forget, and there’s a good chance you’ll get hooked.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Keeping Minows Alive Longer

Whenever we’re enjoying some Florida fishing, we almost always use live bait, usually minnows. And by “minnows,” I mean mud minnows and finger mullet. We catch the mullet with a cast net, and we either catch our own mud minnows with a trap or buy them from a local bait shop. In this post, I’m going to provide you with a few saltwater fishing tips for keeping your minnows alive longer.

A lot of fishermen use the flow-through bait buckets for their minnows. We’ve used them, too, but from our experience, the bait doesn’t stay alive as long as it does with an aerator. We use an insulated 5-gallon bait bucket with an aerator clipped to the side. Our bait bucket has a perforated lid that locks shut. We’ve been able to keep mud minnows alive for close to a week. Check out the following saltwater fishing tips to extend the life of your bait:

1. Use an insulated bucket to prevent your minnows’ overheating.
2. Don’t overcrowd the minnows.
3. Use an aerator, and have several extra batteries on hand. Keep an extra aerator handy, too, in case the first one “dies.”
4. Use as much water as possible in the bucket, and use clear water. Add some “new” salt water periodically.
5. Feed the minnows every day. We use dried bread crumbs for this. Just sprinkle a little food in the bucket at the time.
6. Check the bucket several times a day for any dead minnows and remove them.
7. Check your aerator frequently to make sure it’s working and that the bubbler weight remains on the bottom of the bucket.
8. Keep the bait bucket in the shade as much as possible.
9. When you’re removing minnows from the cast net or trap, handle them as little as possible and get them back in water as quickly as you can.
10. Use a small aquarium dip net to retrieve a minnow from the bucket.