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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saltwater Fishing Tips

Whether you’re a newbie to fishing or an experienced angler, you can always benefit from saltwater fishing tips. This is especially true if you’re new to saltwater fishing. In other words, you might have thousands of notches on your freshwater fishing belt, but saltwater fishing is a different ballgame, so to speak. Of course, you’ll use many of the same skills and techniques, but you’ll need some different ones, too.

Why you need saltwater fishing tips

I’ve been fishing for close to fifty years, but I’m always looking for new saltwater fishing tips. This is especially true when I’m fishing a new area. For example, I fished northern Florida for decades, but when I first began fishing in Southwest Florida, I had to learn some new saltwater fishing tips. For one thing, I had to learn about snook, and for another, I had to learn about fishing around mangroves.

The same held true when I first began fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Because the water there is much clearer than it was in my previous fishing spots, I needed to acquire a few new saltwater fishing tips. It’s a lot tougher to “sneak up” on fish in really clear water! I had always heard this, and it makes perfect sense, but it really hit home the first time I tried to catch bait in the Gulf with a cast net. I’m a fair hand at netting fish, but I became very frustrated. I’d toss the net right over a big school of finger mullet and come up empty. I had to re-learn cast netting for the Gulf.

Where to get saltwater fishing tips

Some older, experienced fishermen are often too “proud” to ask for help. If that’s the case with you, you can always read about saltwater fishing tips online or in print magazines. I’ve learned a lot that way, but I usually prefer getting advice from locals. Strategies can vary even within the same areas, and the locals usually offer the best saltwater fishing tips for the exact location you’re fishing.
I really enjoy pier fishing, and I’ve landed some huge fish from piers. When I fish a new pier for the first time, I quickly make friends with the local fishermen on the pier, and I don’t hesitate to ask them for a couple of saltwater fishing tips. When you’re friendly and honest, most anglers are more than willing to share some advice with you. Be upfront with them. Tell them you’ve done a lot of freshwater fishing, but saltwater fishing is new to you. Or tell them that you’ve done a lot of saltwater fishing in other areas, but that this spot is completely new for you.
Another good place to get a few fishing tips is at local bait shops and at stores that sell fishing equipment. These folks are usually in touch constantly with local anglers, so they know what’s biting, where they’re biting, and which baits the fish are hitting.

My husband is older than I am, and he had been successfully fishing the Outer Banks of North Carolina for many years. When he moved south, however, he had to employ some different saltwater fishing tips. You wouldn’t think that fishing Florida and Georgia are any different than saltwater fishing in North Carolina, but they are. Even the baits used are often different.

Fishing is rarely a one-size-fits-all activity. Strategies, baits, fishing gear, and other saltwater fishing tips vary from place to place and from season to season. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. This doesn’t diminish you as a fisherman! If you fish a lot of different locations, your catalog of what works best where might get a little confusing and difficult to remember correctly. To avoid this, I like to keep a saltwater fishing tips journal.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Drum Run

We like to go to Amelia Island every September to take advantage of the great saltwater fishing. Florida fishing is hard to beat! Several species are actively biting along the beaches of Northeast Florida, including black drum. Most of the black drum we've caught near the shoreline in September weighed four to five pounds each, which is the perfect size for eating!

I've never understood why so many anglers turn their noses up at perfectly good puppy drum. I know the big brutes aren't good to eat, but drum five or six pounds and under are delicious! Check out some of my fish recipes to learn how I cook black drum.

As for black drum baits, we've had the most success with mole crabs, or as they're commonly called in Florida, sand fleas. The fish don't much seem to care if the sand fleas are alive or frozen. We put a sand flea on a hook and then bump it along the bottom, under or near a pier or other structure. Also, most of the September drum we've caught were hanging in about three feet of water.

From my experience, the best time to catch black drum near the beach is just before and just after high tide. And the action can get pretty intense! At numerous times, we've landed one puppy drum after the other.

Florida Fishing: Anna Maria Island

Florida fishing is awesome – especially saltwater fishing. We had a nice family vacation this summer on Anna Maria Island, and the entire family got in on the angling action. Everyone caught fish, from the little kids to the more experienced adults. This wasn’t our first time fishing Anna Maria Island, however, so I'll share a few fishing tips with you.

Anna Maria Island is in the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Tampa. It’s connected to the mainland by two bridges, and it’s connected to Long Boat Key via another bridge. Anna Maria has three fishing piers, canals, bay frontage, inlets, and beautiful beaches. Fish can be caught at all these places.

Anna Maria City Pier and Rod and Reel Pier

Both these piers are located near the northern tip of the island, and both have bait shops and restaurants. There’s no shade on either pier, and if you’re fishing with little kids, you might want to avoid these fishing venues. Neither has any guard rails. Otherwise, they’re great places to fish for sheepshead, snapper, grouper, jacks, flounder, snook, blackdrum, Spanish mackerel, trout, and very large sharks.

Bridge Street Pier

This pier provides for some comfortable saltwater fishing. Sections of it are shaded, and there are benches for sitting. The pier has sturdy railings, so it’s a good place to take kids. At the land end, there’s a small bait shop and a restaurant. Around the pilings and rocks, you can often see scores of trout and sheepshead, along with a large snook or two. Getting these fish to bite is another story, however.

Long Boat Key Bridge – Longboat Pass

You can fish from the bank or the beach on the Anna Maria side of the bridge, but be careful of the current if you’re wade fishing. Some big fish are frequently landed here, including sharks, tarpon, cobia, snook, permit, and redfish.

Bimini Bay

Bimini Bay is located on the east side of the island, in the Holmes Beach area. When the tide goes out, you can spot sandbars in the bay. If you have a small boat or kayak, fish around the sandbars for speckled trout, silver trout, flounder, reds, snook, and sharks.

Sarasota Bay

Sarasota Bay has several places where fish are likely to be lurking: oyster beds, mangroves, sandbars, artificial reefs, and grass flats. You’ll have the chance to catch snook, reds, trout, snapper, pompano, flounder, tripletail, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, sharks, jacks, blues, cobia, and small grouper.

Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay is wide open when it comes to saltwater fishing! It has just about every type of fishing environment there is, including beaches, flats, deep grass beds, channels, river mouths, and bottom structure like rocks and rubble. Many anglers have great success around the pilings of the Skyway Bridge and on the Sunshine Skyway piers. In Tampa Bay, you’ll have a world of chances for snook, tarpon, mangrove snapper, red snapper, hog snapper, permit, amberjack, gag grouper, red grouper, scamp, huge goliath grouper, sea bass, king macks, Spanish mackerel, cobia, false albacore, pompano, sheepshead, blackdrum, and a variety of sharks – some of them pretty monstrous in size.


Most of the canals on the island are lined with oyster beds, which attract fish. In the canals, we’ve caught trout, mangrove snapper, croaker, whiting, sheepshead, and some very large redfish. If you want to load up on live bait, pinfish are everywhere in the canals!


Along the beaches, you can expect to catch just about anything, depending on the season. This might include tarpon, cobia, ladyfish, flounder, sheepshead, trout, snook, whiting, jacks, blues, pompano, and more.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Stone Crabs: Catch Your Own!

I’ve always enjoyed eating Florida stone crabs – well, the claws, at least. If you’ve ever priced stone crab claws, you know they don’t come cheap. The solution? Catch your own stone crabs and harvest your own stone crab claws! When we’re in Florida during stone crab season – October 15 through May 15, we like to set out a trap for stone crabs, and we always catch blue crabs in the trap, too.

Stone crabs, Menippe mercenaria, can be found in the Atlantic from Connecticut southward, including much of the Caribbean. The stone crab is brownish-gray with grey spots, and most specimens have black claw tips. From my experience with crabbing, stone crabs are more prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve caught stone crabs on the Atlantic coasts of Florida and Georgia, but never as many as we’ve caught in the Gulf.

I’ve experimented with several crab baits with which to load my trap, including fresh fish, smelly fish, lean fish, oily fish, cooked chicken, and raw chicken. This could be entirely coincidental, but it seems to me that the stone crabs are pickier about what they eat than the blue crabs are. We’ve caught tons of blue crabs on just about everything imaginable. Believe it or not, we once made a big haul of blue crabs with an empty cigarette pack that was knocked out of the boat by an angry shark.

The last time we went crabbing in Florida, we racked up on blue crabs, using dead pinfish as bait. We didn’t catch a single stone crab, however, until we switched to chicken necks. I thought this was just a coincidence, so I repeated the experiment several times. I always got the same results: the blue crabs would be attracted to any type of flesh we put in the trap, but the stone crabs would enter the trap only for the chicken necks. Maybe we were just in a community of finicky stone crabs! Of course, I gave them what they wanted.

The bodies of stone crabs have little meat on them, but the claws can get big and meaty. Stone crabs grow two claws: a larger one and a smaller one. The large claw is called the “crusher,” while the smaller claw is called the “pincher” or the “pincer.” The legal size is 2 ¾ inches, measured from the tip of the claw half that doesn’t move to the first joint of the claw arm. In Florida, both claws can be harvested as long as they’re of legal size, but I don’t think this is a good practice. When you remove both claws and return the live stone crab to the water, it doesn’t have any way to defend itself. We prefer removing the largest claw and return the crabs to the water. These one-armed crabs will have almost a 75% chance of surviving. If both claws are removed, the stone crab will have about a 50% chance of surviving.

Catching stone crabs isn’t difficult if you use a wire mesh trap loaded with chicken necks. Slow moving water is best. Stone crabs love oysters, so if you can place the trap near oyster beds, you’ll most likely have good luck. Stone crabs also like rocks, manmade structures, and grass beds. Find a likely area and drop the baited trap in the water, letting it sink to the bottom. Tie off the rope, and wait. We usually check our traps ever couple of hours, except when we leave them out overnight. Handle the stone crabs carefully! Their claws are powerful and can inflict some real damage. To see how to properly remove stone crab claws, watch the accompanying video.

Florida Fishing: Canals

We just returned home from a Florida fishing trip/vacation. The house we were staying in was right on a small canal on Anna Maria Island, which is typical of southwest Florida. In all honesty, I hadn’t done much saltwater fishing in canals prior to this trip, and we hadn’t really planned on doing much on this trip. Our original plans were to spend our time fishing Tampa Bay. As it turned out, however, the canal fishing was perfect for the kids, and it also held a few surprises for the adult anglers.

Most of the canals are lined with concrete sea walls, and oysters and barnacles are thick on the rough surface. Also, small docks line the canals, and their support posts are also encrusted in bivalves. The structure underneath the docks provides great cover for baitfish, and larger fish enjoy dining on the baitfish, the oysters, and the barnacles. I figured sheepshead would be frequent visitors, but what surprised me were the other large fish that patrolled the canals.

The mangrove snapper and pinfish were so numerous that fishing with shrimp was next to impossible. You couldn’t toss out a shrimp without it immediately being taken by a pinfish, snapper, croaker, or whiting. This was perfect for keeping the kids entertained, but we were hoping for something bigger, and we got it.

Redfish. Red drum. Reds. At night and in the early morning, big reds were swimming our canal in search of prey. We discovered this sort of by accident. We used a couple of live pinfish on two rods and tossed them into the center of the canal. We left the lines out overnight. The next morning, there was a big red on one, and the other line had been stripped. We had similar experiences for several days in a row. We forgot all about fishing the bay on this fishing trip!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Spanish at Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay provides great Florida fishing year round, but for some species, the action can get especially hot in the summer months. If you’re observant – and lucky – you might just rack up on Spanish mackerel. Spanish macks migrate, and the warmer months often find them lurking along the beaches and even in deeper areas of Tampa Bay. A clue to their location is the seagulls. Spanish mackerel are notorious for herding schools of baitfish. The bait often rises to the surface in an effort to escape, and the mackerel ensue in a feeding frenzy. The injured baitfish ring the dinner bell for hungry birds, so if you see gulls or other birds hovering and hunting over an area, there’s a good chance that Spanish mackerel or other predatory fish are nearby – perhaps directly underneath the excited birds.

Another way to find Spanish mackerel is to create your own feeding frenzy with chum. Distribute the chum over grass beds or rocky bottoms. Once the macks arrive, toss them a live bait like finger mullet, a spoon, or a metal jig. A fast retrieve will result in the most hits. If you’re into flyfishing, use a sinking line and flies that mimic glass minnows.

Spanish mackerel prefer clear water, so keep this in mind. Also, you’ll probably have better luck early and late in the day, when it’s a little cooler.

Need a good Spanish mackerel recipe? Just click!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saltwater Fishing with Mole Crabs

Some people who enjoy saltwater fishing, especially surf fishing and pier fishing, never realize that some great free bait is right there on the beach. I’m talking about mole crabs, also called “sand fleas,” “sand bugs,” and “sand crabs.” You’ve probably seen these critters. They’re kinda oval shaped, and the larger ones are about an inch long. Check out the following fishing tips for free bait.

How to catch sand fleas

Sand fleas burrow in the sand, usually at the tide line. You can dig them up with a shovel, and this is a great job for kids. Another way to catch mole crabs is to use a piece of hardware cloth or wire mesh with ¼-inch openings. As a wave washes in, stick the mesh into the sand at an angle. The sand and water will flow out of the screen, and the sand fleas will be trapped. Don’t worry – sand fleas don’t pinch.

If you can’t catch your own sand bugs, many coastal bait shops sell them frozen. From my experience, the frozen sand fleas are just about as good as the live ones.

How to keep sand fleas for bait

Keep your sand fleas in a bucket with damp sand. Also, try to keep them out of the sun, in a cool spot.

What can you catch with sand fleas?

Several saltwater species eat sand crabs. They’re like candy for pompano and black drum. You can also catch sheepshead, reds, large whiting, and the occasional flounder on sand fleas.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Florida Fishing: Fort Clinch Pier

Fort Clinch State Park is located on Amelia Island, and it’s a great place to do some saltwater fishing! The main pier is concrete, and it’s about a half-mile long. There are restrooms at the land-end of the pier, and I suggest you take advantage of them before you head out to do some angling. You’ll find plenty of parking in the paved lot. You’ll have to pay to get in the park, but the fee is nominal. There are benches and fish-cleaning stations on the pier for your comfort and convenience, but there’s no shade.

Running past the length of the pier are rocks and a cement jetty that separate the Atlantic from the Cumberland Sound. The rocks and pier pilings attract bait, so predatory fish species show up to dine. Where you want to fish depends largely on what you want to catch. From my numerous experiences fishing on this pier, I’ve found that the best place to catch trout is between the pier and the rocks. For sheepshead and puppy drum, angle around the pier pilings or cast as near the rocks as possible. For tarpon, sharks, and big reds, we’ve had the best luck with casting into deep water off the end of the pier or off the side, into the Sound.

Unless you’re targeting just one specific fish species, take an assortment of baits with you: live finger mullet, fiddler crabs, cut bait, sand fleas, mud minnows, dead shrimp, live shrimp, and/or shrimp mammies. Go prepared! Take plenty of extra line, hooks, and rigs, as you’re very likely to lose several. There are some really big fish prowling these waters! To take everything you’ll need, a pull cart works best. If you’re fishing near the end of the pier, or even from the center section, you won’t want to be running back to your vehicle for fishing supplies.

Check List:

Rods and reels
Extra fishing supplies
Pier drop net
Hat, cap, or visor
Cooler and lots of ice
Bottled water or soft drinks
Fish cleaning supplies

Don’t forget your camera!

You’ll have a stunning panoramic view of the water from the pier, and there’s no telling what you might see. Sometimes huge submarines and ships can be seen from the pier, along with dolphins, sea turtles, and the occasional manatee. You can also see Cumberland Island from the pier, and with a good pair of binoculars, you might even be able to view wild horses on the beaches of Cumberland.

Get a night pass

The pier and park close at sundown, but night fishing is allowed. Just ask for a fishing pass, and you’ll get the code for the gate. The pier has lights for night fishing, but they’re turned off from May through October because of the sea turtles.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sea Bass

Sea bass are among the best-tasting fish in the ocean if you use a good sea bass recipe. I caught my first sea bass while deep sea bottom fishing off the coast of Savannah. That was years ago, and since then, I’ve caught numerous sea bass in Georgia and in Florida waters. The species of sea bass that inhabit the southern Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico is the black sea bass, Centropristis striata.

These fish don’t get very big. The largest ones I’ve landed were offshore and weighed around three pounds. The Florida state record fish weighed just over five pounds, and the Georgia record sea bass weighed in at five pounds, 12 ounces. Black sea bass are mostly bottom dwellers, hanging around rocks, reefs, and wrecks. A member of the grouper family, sea bass have large mouths and relatively large scales. Although they don’t technically school, they’re often found in groups. If you find a good spot, you might catch numerous fish, one right after another.

I’ve also caught sea bass inshore, around oyster beds, pier pilings, jetties, and bridge pilings. Generally speaking, inshore individuals are smaller than their offshore counterparts, but you can still catch some legal-size sea bass in sounds, bays, and tidal creeks. The legal size in Georgia is 12” total length, and the daily bag limit is 15. In the Florida Atlantic, the legal size is also 12”, with a bag limit of 15 fish. In the Gulf of Mexico, the legal size is 10 inches, and there’s no daily limit. Black sea bass can be fished for all year in Georgia and Florida waters, as there’s no closed season.

I’ve caught sea bass on live shrimp, dead shrimp, and cut bait. A lot of folks use squid for bait. I’ve known anglers who caught the fish on curly tail jigs, too. They made short bounces across the bottom with the jigs. My problem with using jigs for sea bass is that you get a lot of hang-ups. Remember – these guys are usually around bottom structure.

It amazes me that more fishermen don’t target these tasty fish! With a good sea bass recipe, they make some exceptionally fine eating.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cleaning and Cooking Sheepshead Fish

Catching convict fish is a challenge, but cooking sheepshead fish isn’t quite as difficult. The toughest part of getting a sheepshead to the table is cleaning your catch. Sheepshead have large bones for their size, making dressing them a little more challenging than filleting your average fish. The best way to fillet a sheepshead is to scale it first, then lie it on its side and insert your knife next to the spine, just past the gills. Be sure to use a very sharp knife , or even better, use an electric knife. A wet knife blade wil work better because it will cut the flesh instead of tearing it. Cut down at an angle, avoiding the rib bones. Once the knife has exited at the bottom of the fish, slide it steadily along, parallel to the cutting surface. Cut through when you reach the tail. Remove any of the red meat. Repeat the process for the other side. Rinse the fillets and cool them as soon as possible.

The sheepshead is now ready to cook with sheepshead recipes. This fish has a wonderful flavor, much like crab or lobster. Good methods for cooking sheepshead fish include frying, sautéing, pan broiling, grilling, and baking. Sheepshead can also be used in soups and chowders, and they can even be used to make imitation crab meat. Because sheepies are very lean, you’ll need to cook them with fat of some sort. This might be butter, margarine, bacon drippings, olive oil, or vegetable oil. The fillets don’t have to be marinated, but marinating will add some extra flavor. If you choose to place the fish fillets in a marinade, you don’t have to leave them long. An hour is usually sufficient.

Like most lean fishes, sheepshead cook quickly, so it’s easy to overcook them. When the flesh is cooked for too long, it can get dry and somewhat tough. How can you tell when whole sheepies are done? Watch the backbone – the meat will draw away from the backbone. The flesh on whole dressed fish and in fillets will turn from almost clear to white when completely done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sheepshead Fish Recipe: Chowder

Looking for a good sheepshead fish recipe? Maybe something a little different? Okay, I’ll admit that I’m not usually a big fan of fish chowder, but sheepshead chowder is different. I think that’s because sheepshead taste a lot like lobster, so it fits perfectly well with the other chowder ingredients. Give this at least one try before turning up your nose at it! It’s really good – I promise! If you want another sheepshead fish recipe, click the link above.

Sheepshead Fish Chowder recipe


6 slices bacon
¼ cup diced celery
½ cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 pound sheepshead fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cans Campbell’s potato soup
2 soup cans water
1 cup heavy cream
½ stick butter
1 small bag frozen corn, thawed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

Directions: Fry bacon until crisp, in a Dutch oven. Drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons drippings.

Sauté celery, onions, and fish in bacon grease until veggies are tender. Reduce heat and add soup and water. Stir until smooth.

Add cream, butter, corn, garlic, black pepper, and red pepper. Crumble bacon and toss it in the pot. Taste the chowder to see if it needs salt.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you prefer a thinner chowder, add milk or water. For a thicker chowder, simmer uncovered.

Serve chowder in soup bowls and top with parmesan cheese. Yum!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cobia Fish Recipes: Pineapple-Grilled Cobia

Cobia, or “ling,” as it’s often called in the Gulf, is so delicious that I’m surprised there aren’t more good cobia fish recipes available. In desperation, I finally had to create some of my own! Actually, this wasn’t a big problem, as I love experimenting with new recipes and flavor combinations. I seem to have a special knack for this, and most of my original recipes are successes. That’s not to say that I’ve never had a flop – I have. For the most part, however, my food ideas have been well received, and the following cobia recipe is no exception. Whenever I enjoy this dish, it always reminds me of being on a tropical vacation! My pineapple-grilled cobia is especially good with my sofrito rice, by the way.

Pineapple grilled cobia


4 serving-size cobia fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup pineapple juice
4 tablespoons melted butter
4 pineapple slices
4 teaspoons brown sugar

Directions: Rinse cobia fillets and pat dry. Salt fillets and rub each with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Sear both sides of fillets on a hot grill.

Remove from grill and place each fillet on a sheet of foil, making a shallow bowl with the foil.

To each cobia fillet, add ¼ cup pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and one pineapple slice. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon brown sugar onto each pineapple slice.

Close foil packets tightly and return to grill. Cook for about 12 more minutes. Exact cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillets.

Largemouth Bass Recipe

Yeah, I realize this blog is about saltwater fishing, but I thought some of you readers might be interested in a largemouth bass recipe. After all, this site is devoted to fishing in the South, and what Southern angler doesn’t fish for largemouth bass? Even if your passion is saltwater fishing, you might not be able to make it to the coast all the time, so you might satisfy your fishing appetite by angling for some largemouth bass in local ponds and lakes.

Largemouth bass are delicious! The flesh is firm and white, and it has a mild flavor. Most folks fillet largemouth bass, but there’s something to be said for cooking them whole. The whole fish makes a dramatic, attractive presentation! Try this largemouth bass recipe on the grill!

Grilled Largemouth Bass recipe

What you’ll need:

1 largemouth bass (dressing instructions below)
Sesame oil
Melted butter
Lime juice
Worcestershire sauce
Fresh parsley
Garlic salt
Black pepper

Directions: Gut and scale fish, leaving the head on. Cut out the gills. Rinse the fish well.

Using a sharp knife, slash both sides of the bucketmouth vertically. Slashes should be 2-3 inches apart.

Rub the fish all over with salt, including inside the cavity.

Rub the fish with sesame oil.

Cook the largemouth bass on a clean, oiled grill, over medium coals. The thickest part of the fish should be over the hottest part of the grill, and the thinnest part should be as far away from the heat as possible. If you want more smoky flavor, close the grill lid during part of the cooking time. The fish will need to cook about ten minutes per inch of thickness, per side. You can tell when the fish is done by looking at the flesh and the backbone. The flesh will turn white and opaque, and it will begin to pull away from the spine.

While the largemouth bass is cooking, make your sauce. I can’t provide you with exact amounts because it depends on the size of your fish as to how much sauce you’ll need. To ½ cup of butter, I add ¼ cup lime juice, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Heat all this together in the microwave. Increase or decrease the recipe if you need to.

Carefully remove the cooked bass from the grill and drizzle with the sauce. I like to make extra sauce for dipping! Need more fish recipes? They’re just a click away!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cobia Fishing

Cobia is a popular fish here in the South, as it is in other places around the world. Along the Atlantic, the fish is called cobia, but in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s usually referred to as ling. Cobia are very aggressive feeders and will strike most anything when they’re in the feeding mode. This includes mullet and other small fish, shrimp, crabs, and a variety of artificial baits. Cobia will even hit small hardhead catfish – and you thought those hardheads weren’t good for anything! See? You just never know what kind of fishing tips you'll get here for Florida fishing.

In clear water, like in the Gulf, cobia can often be seen, so sight casting is possible. Sometimes cobia can be viewed swimming with stingrays, and oftentimes cobia will hang out in pairs. Cobia also like staying close to buoys and any type of floating debris, so remember this when cobia fishing.

From my experience, the best way to catch cobia or ling is to freeline a live pinfish or mullet. If you see a cobia, toss the live bait in front of it. If cobia are hanging deep, toss your bait out and let it sink to the bottom, then retrieve it with a series of jerks. Some old salts say they can “call cobia up” by making noise. They do this by slapping the water, imitating the sound of a wounded, struggling fish.

Cobia is excellent on the table and performs well in a variety of fish recipes. I especially like baked cobia recipes. The flesh is white, mild tasting, and firm. Below is an easy baked cobia recipe:

Easy Baked Cobia recipe

4 serving-size cobia fillets, about ¾-inch thick
Heavy aluminum foil 4 squares
4 teaspoons melted butter
4 tablespoons white wine
4 small sprigs fresh dill
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Rinse cobia fillets and pat dry. Place each fillet in center of foil squares.

Drizzle melted butter over fish. Add white wine and dill.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Close foil packs tightly and place them on a cookie sheet or baking pan.

Bake cobia packets at 450 degrees for about 13 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before opening pouches.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Southern Food - Fish Fries

Have you enjoyed the experience known as the “fish fry”? If you’re unfamiliar with the term, allow me to explain. A fish fry – here in the South, at least – is an outdoor gathering where lots of fish are fried in a big pot over a gas cooker. Along with the fish, other food items are often cooked in the grease, too. Of course, here, it’s always Southern food: homemade hushpuppies, fried Idaho taters, and/or fried sweet taters. On a separate burner, there’s usually a big pot of grits or cheese grits to go with the fried fish.

Southern fish fries range in size, but they’re usually attended by a good number of guests. Most people save up enough fish in their freezer until they get enough for a big party. Of course, some folks luck up and catch enough fish on one fishing trip to host a large fish fry. Most people who are invited to the fish fry bring a dish. There has to be a lot of coleslaw and sweet iced tea. Other than that, any Southern food is apropos. These might include potato salad, pasta salad, tossed salad, vegetable casseroles, or fruit salads. If the fish fry takes place when fresh vegetables are coming in, some squash, zucchini, eggplant, or green tomatoes might be cooked in the hot oil. There are usually lots of desserts involved, too.

So…what kinds of fish are appropriate for a fish fry? Well, what kind do you have? Oftentimes, more than one species of fish is cooked at a Southern fish fry. The exception might be crappie. When you have a successful crappie fishing trip, it’s usually very successful! The same usually hold true for saltwater fishing for whiting. Otherwise, the fish fry might consist of a mixture of bream, bass, catfish, grouper, mullet, speckled trout, redfish, shark, croaker, and/or snapper. The fish might be dressed or filleted.

The weather is getting just about right for outdoor events like fish fries! Why not host your own? Just call up all your friends and family members and invite them over. Ask everyone to bring a side dish and some lounge chairs or camp chairs. Go out and buy a bunch of peanut oil, thaw out your fish, and get crackin’!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crab Recipes: Cheesy Crab Souffle

Everyone in my family loves crabmeat. As a result, I’ve created quite a few crab recipes. If you’ve read the rest of this blog, you know that we also enjoy catching our own blue crabs. In fact, some of the grandkids spend more time crabbing while we’re at the beach than do anything else. Crabbing is a lot of fun, and the results are especially rewarding when you enjoy the sweet, succulent crab meat in some great crab dishes.

Here’s one I think you’ll like!

Cheesy Crab Souffle

1 pound crabmeat
3 tablespoons real butter
¼ cup plain flour
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
3 beaten egg yolks
½ onion, chopped fine
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 beaten egg whites
Grated cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 1 ½-quart baking dish. The baking dish needs to be placed in a larger pan, with about 1 ½ - 2 inches of water.

Pick through crabmeat, removing any bits of cartilage and shell.
Melt butter and stir in flour. Add milk and cream slowly, creating a smooth mixture.

While stirring, add egg yolks. When the mixture is smooth again, add the onion, lemon juice, garlic salt, and red pepper. Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Pour mixture in the baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and continue baking for about 20-25 more minutes. Make sure the center is firm before removing soufflé from oven.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Red Fish Fishing - Best Fishing Lures

I really enjoy red fish fishing, and I'll gladly learn and share fishing tips! One of my most memorable angling battles ever took place on a breezy autumn night at the end of a very long fishing pier while doing some Florida fishing. I was fishing with a finger mullet about six inches in length, near some rocks. I was using pretty light tackle, and I thought I’d never land whatever was on the other end of my line. When I finally got it close to the pier, a pal directed his flashlight beam on the water, and I saw the tell-tale goldish-red reflection of the red’s scales. With the help of a gaff, we finally got the big brute on the pier. It weighed in at almost 36 pounds.

Advantages of Redfish fishing with lures

I’ll be honest with you – I usually prefer fishing for redfish with live bait – especially mullet. Unfortunately, live mullet aren’t always available. And when they are, you need some bulky paraphernalia to keep them alive. This isn’t always convenient or even feasible.

With red fish lures, however, you can keep a big selection in your tackle box, so they’re always ready to go. They stay fresh, too, and you don’t have a problem with crabs mauling your bait. Another advantage of red fish lures is that you control the action. You can speed it up or slow it down, and you can maneuver it around rocks, pilings, and oyster beds. That’s pretty hard to do with live bait.

YUM redfish lures

Many serious anglers are familiar with YUM plastic baits. The secret to YUM lures is that they’re impregnated with something called “Live Prey Technology,” or LPT, for short. The LPT is an enzyme that attracts predators, signaling them to feed. When redfish sense the enzyme, along with being attracted to the erratic swimming action that means injured prey, the reds can hardly resist attacking the YUM baits.

YUM baits are designed for several different types of fish, but for redfish fishing, try the Sweet Shrimp, the YUM Houdini Crab, the YUM Samurai Curltail, or the YUM G-Shad.

D.O.A. fishing lures

We’ve had good luck fishing for redfish with D.O.A. plastic lures, too. I like the six-inch jumbo shrimp, the four-inch standard shrimp, and the curl tail grubs with the red jig heads. The softshell crab will work for redfish fishing, too.

The D.O.A. red fish lures mentioned above come in a wide range of colors. We’ve found that the best fishing lures for reds are the pink, near clear, red and white, and gold. I suggest keeping several colors in your tackle box and trying them all.

Bayou Buck red fish lures

The ZZ Spot Spinners are neat plastic lures with fish-attracting curly tails, glass and brass beads, and saltwater-proof brass spinning blades. These red fish lures won’t twist because they swim straight, so you won’t even need a swivel. They also feature wide gap mouths specially designed for red fish fishing.
For fishing for redfish around grass or oyster beds, like in marshes, try the Twistless Sister, the In-Line Reef Glider, or the Oyster Proof. For colors, I like the strawberry, the lemon meringue, and the red for red fish fishing.

Once you land a redfish...

If you catch a redfish that's a keeper, you're in for a tasty treat! Blacken it, fry it, grill it, broil it, or stuff it. I have some great fish recipes! Of course, you'll want some awesome sides and yummy hushpuppies to go with your redfish, so check out my beer- buttermilk hushpuppy recipe in Southern food. I'll bet they're just about the best you've ever eaten!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ready for crabbing?

We love crabbing! It's a great way to keep the kids occupied when we spend time at the beach in the summer. It's amazing howmuch effort the little urchins will exert chasing a blue crab around with a cheap net we bought at the Dollar Store for a buck each! What amazes me even more is that they actually luck up and catch some of their prey!

Of course, they usually have better luck when we give them a chicken back on a string to toss out for the crabs. But some of my eight grandkids don't have the patience for that kind o9f crabbing. They think it's a lot more fun to actively chase the critters through the water. Well, at least it wears the kids out.

There's just nothing like the taste of fresh steamed crabs - right out of the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. I like 'em fixed any old way - dipped in butter, dowsed with cocktail sauce, made into crab cakes, cooked into stew, or made into party food like dips. Need more crab recipes and fish recipes? Just click!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fish Recipes

For some great fish recipes, visit my new cooking website. You'll find all kinds of fish recipes here, with easy-to-follow instructions. Some included are fish recipes for baked fish, stuffed fish, fried fish, grilled fish, and blackened fish, and I'm constantly adding new recipes. I've also included some tips on cleaning your catch and how to improve the flavor of certain fish species.

Although fish recipes and seafood recipes are a big part of the site, you'll also find Southern cooking, Cajun recipes, Creole recipes, Gullah-Geechee recipes, New England recipes, Southwestern recipes, and lots more! This website is going to end up being very large, with lots of useful content. Give us a visit!

Here's a quick recipe for the fried catfish above: The fish was just rinsed in water, salted and peppered, and rolled in cornmeal. Then it was fried in peanut oil at 350 degrees.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Easy fishing - Fishing with kids for whiting

Looking for some easy fishing, perfect for fishing with kids, along with some saltwater fishing tips? Don't overlook the Southern kingfish, commonly called "whiting" with saltwater fishing in the South. This is the perfect way to introduce your little ones to saltwater fishing. Why? Because it's super easy fishing that's available practically any time you feel the urge to wet a hook!

Whiting are plentiful on the coasts of Florida and Georgia - just about any time. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, the fish are usually around in good numbers. The tides or the time of day or night don't seem to matter a lot to these fish, either. As with most types of saltwater fishing, you'll likely have better luck around high tide, but we've hauled in numerous whiting at low tide, too. Whiting often bite when most other saltwater fishing species are suffering from lockjaw.

This is easy fishing, perfect for fishing with kids. You won't need complicated or expensive fishing gear to successfully land whiting, either. Light fishing gear, light line without a leader, and a sliding weight just heavy enough to keep your bait on the bottom is what you'll need. Whiting have relatively small mouths, so use a hook that matches - about a size six.

For bait, use fresh shrimp. A piece of shrimp around 3/4 of an inch usually works well. Fish it right on the bottom. If you find that you're missing a lot of fish and they're stealing your bait, try peeling the shrimp first.

Where to cast when saltwater fishing for whiting? They'll bite im=n different spots and at different depths. One of the best places to try is just where the waves are beginning to break. If you don't have any luck there, try fishing in a little deeper water.

Saltwater fishing for whiting is great when fishing with kids, and it's the perfect way to introduce your little ones to saltwater fishing. Fish from shore, from a fishing pier, or wade into the water for some surf fishing. After you cast your line, relax and wait for the tell-tale tap-tap-tap that indicates that a whiting is nibbling on your bait.

Kids won't need a lot of patience for this easy fishing. They can learn quickly that saltwater fishing can be rewarding, too, especially when you clean your catch and serve it up for dinner.

Whiting, a member of the drum family, has a very mild taste. And of all the drums, its flesh is probably the firmest. If you're handy with a fillet knife, you can quickly make two fillets from each whiting.

Don't let the cold weather keep you from saltwater fishing or fishing with kids. Wait for a sunny day and toss your fishing gear in the car. Stop at the bait shop for some shrimp, and enjoy some great saltwater fishing whenever you feel the call!