Category Archives: Saltwater

Proceed.

(It’s been quiet around here. This blog tends to roll with the seasons, and looking at the slow rain outside, I realize we’ve only just emerged from a long, cold winter. When the ponds and creeks were frozen over, and the saltwater catch slowed to nothing, I took time to do many things other than fishing, including starting a business and working on some other projects. Now, despite the weather, spring is here and the fishing is good, and only looks to get better. Thanks for sticking around – Neil)

I decided this year to spare you the “Spring has Sprung” post. Although a staple of fishing blogs, being the seminal season for anglers, even I was tired of the concept. Yes, the Osprey’s arrived, the Henbit bloomed and the horseshoe crabs have appeared. It’s all quite wonderful, but time isn’t in abundance as it once was. So down to business, it is…..

Striped bass, bluefish and flounder are all being caught in keeper sizes and numbers along the beaches here in southern DE. The reports from the trout waters up north have all been positive, although the shad have not yet shown in big numbers. I’ve been capitalizing on all the above, but it’s the warm, clear waters of Florida that are calling me now.

Camera 360

I’m 24 hours from boarding a plane bound for the gulf coast, and Boca Grande. I am participating in a catch & release tournament – a charitable benefit in pursuit of redfish, trout, snook, and tarpon. Gear is being prepped as best as can be by an angler stepping into somewhat unfamiliar waters.

The particular brand of jitters I’m experiencing is a combination of several undeniable truths:

Travel – I like traveling, do it as often as I can, enjoy flying (for the most part), and am not the kind to bitch about a 3 hour hop to sunshine and blue water. That said, any time I travel, the 48 hours before departure are always a quiet meditation – running checklists of gear, clothing, identification, flight numbers and departure times.

Fishing with a guide – I’ve never done it. Although I’m expecting to be assigned a helpful, professional guide who understands I’m in town for charity and fun, you never know. I also have no idea if this guide will think I cast like a slob and should probably never be allowed near a fly rod. I think this comes from having never had a formal lesson in fly casting. As a self taught angler, I’m always self conscious that what I’m doing looks like hell to a trained professional. I also don’t want to sink a 1/0 hook into his boat. Or him, for that matter.

Tarpon – Redfish and snook excite the hell out of me. To be truthful, those two species are the ones that I’m most anxious to chase, but let’s face it. I’m the minority. Most of these guys want to hook into a 150lb tarpon. Don’t get me wrong – so do I. But I fear I’m improperly armed. I’m heading down with an 8wt and a 6wt. A 150lb fish sounds like 10wt game to me. Also, it’s tarpon. A legendary, revered target of fly anglers. If I do get a shot at one, I really don’t want to screw it up.

Despite by grumblings, I remain optimistic and excited. Not long now, it;s good fishing, cool drinks and pleasant accommodations. Did I mention I was invited, and therefore expenses are covered? That helps, too.

I’ll be reporting back on these pages every evening. My posts may be short until I can return home and soak in the experience to the degree required to get a decent account on paper.

Good to see you again. Let’s go fishing…..

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Filed under Fishing, Florida, Places, Saltwater, Seasons, Spring

Catching Up.

 

Could it really be three weeks since I last posted here? I frown on other regular writers when they do that. But perhaps I can be forgiven. Things have been hurried, real life has been engaging, and I forgot the amount of work that spring requires.

Beach Trash

After Trout season was in bloom, I’d landed some nice freshwater fish, and was content to do some other things. The Henbit, after all, had arrived. This purple flower shows up on roadsides and turns the local fields purple each spring, and it’s always a solid bet that, with the arrival of the Henbit, the first flounder in the back bays will be caught. And so it was this year, on schedule.  The spring striper run was fair, and the fish are lingering with the warmer temperatures. That’s what I hear, anyway. When I shelved the fly rod and took out my beach rods last week, I caught absolutely nothing. Instead, I used up my time by collecting a stack of Mylar balloons off of the beach, and one large trash bag that had washed ashore that made me cross my fingers and hope I would find trash in it, and not something more gruesome. If the crime shows my girlfriend watches are any indication, one of these is going to be stuffed with a guy with a questionable background and some recognizable tattoos. Any day now….

 

Roadside Henbit

 

 

Praying Mantis Hatch

Yes, spring is all around and in full swing. Along with the appearance of the usual plants, I’ve almost tripped over a couple of turtles, and the other day, I had the rare opportunity to watch a Praying Mantis hatch in my back yard. I was just in the right place at the right time. The new-born mantis are almost tan in color at birth, but are very recognizable by the all the familiar atributes; the “praying” appendages, the large eyes. They emerge from what is called an ootheca, basically a frothy mess that an adult mantis deposits, in this case, in my shrubs. This hardens, and protects the growing young until they emerge.

So, in the mad dash between stringing up salt water rods one morning, and then grabbing my fly rod the next day, and with intervals of playing nature photographer, and the annual dusting off of the lawn mower, rakes and water hoses, there just hasn’t been a lot of time for fishing and writing. I caught a nice bass the other day on a brief local trip. He bit an olive and brown woolly bugger and was cruising shallow water. Carp are appearing in the shallows, too. On an impromptu trip out to Las Vegas last week to visit my girlfriend’s family and celebrate her birthday, the chance to fish did not arise, but I did sneak off to Bass Pro and pick up some flies and tying material for the coming saltwater expeditions. Crab imitations, shrimp and baitfish, and my old favorites, the Clouser. I think I’m ready to go. Time to catch some fish….

 

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Filed under Bass, Carp, Clouser, Fishing, Flounder, Fly, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Saltwater, Scenery, Seasons, Spring, Striped Bass, Sussex County Ponds

Good News for Local Bay Fisherman. (Me.)

Local news reports that, under an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the nearby Indian River power plant will be retiring it’s three most ancient generating units; dinosaurs that drink copious amounts of bay water for the purposes of cooling. They will rely on only the remaining generator, which is equipped with a self contained cooling system, requiring significantly less water top operate.

According DNREC officials, the reduced water intake at the plant should have a significant effect on crab and fish populations.

“The decrease in water intake is expected to save an estimated 300,000 blue crabs and Atlantic croaker, 40,000 winter flounder, 1.6 million bay anchovy and 60,000 Atlantic menhaden, said John R. DeFriece, program manager for DNREC’s Discharge Permits Program.”

I had absolutely no idea that the power plant was a massive fish eating machine, but now we know, and things are clearly improving. If there are 1.6 million bait fish for striped bass and blue fish, and an additional 40,000 winter flounder to chase, the locals will surely approve.

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Filed under Bay Fishing, Bluefish, Conservation, Fishy Water, Flounder, Places, Saltwater, Striped Bass, Surf Fishing, Water Watch

On Salt.

Fishing Fenwick Beach last Friday.

The Beach at Fenwick Island.

Long before I ever picked up a fly rod, I was, and continue to be, a beach fisherman.  I spend most of my time with a fly rod now, in salt and fresh water, but I still like to dust off my old spinning gear and go out in search of bluefish, striped bass, and the smaller fish, spot, croaker and kings. I did just that on Friday, and I struck out without a catch, but that’s probably because I used one lure, didn’t try very hard and only stayed a short time, most of which was spent taking pictures. One can say a lot or a little about fishing the beach, but I imagine that most will agree it’s among the most beautiful places to stand a wave a stick.

A guest post over at The Functioning Fishaholics, written by Josh Mann of Something’s Fishy, attempts to take some of the mystery and intimidation out of surf fishing by correctly pointing out the path of least resistance for the newcomer: Simple bait rigs and smaller fish. Josh writes of catching spot and croaker from piers and beaches, and I’m happy to find a fisherman who enjoys that, because more often than not, I hear fisherman talk about catching these fish as if it wasn’t worth the bother. One guy in a bait shop, upon hearing me recount my morning spent catching croaker and spot so frequently that I never put the rod in it’s sand spike, actually looked at me, shook his head, and said “Well, I guess that’s cool if you like catching bait”.

I feel bad for that guy. He’s missing all the fun, and it’s a pretty safe bet he doesn’t like fishing very much anymore. But he’s not alone. There are many like him, all casting 4oz sinkers and bleeding meat into the deep and then staring at the rod tip for hours. When they catch skates and small sharks, they curse them for not being a trophy bluefish or striper. Josh points out that this should be part of the fun; never knowing whats on the end of the line, but knowing the possibilities are not limited to the two or three species you know are there.  It strikes me as a sort of arrogance; throwing bait into a pond the size of the Atlantic and then being upset that what bit it wasn’t what you wanted to bite it. It would be like sticking your hand into a sack of M&M’s and being pissed off because you came out with a yellow one.

When I purchased my first surf rod, I just assumed I needed a behemoth 11 foot rod like everyone else, and so I have one. It’s in my garage, collecting dust. I hardly ever use it. I think it made three

My 11-foot surf rod.

Homemade Bucktail lures.

trips to the surf this year. These rods work fine further south where there is an outer sand bar and bait casters need to get the bait into it’s vicinity, but on my local beaches, where there is no outer bar and the waves break right onto the beach, it’s simply overkill. This makes complete sense to me, but I still almost never see anyone else using anything less than ten feet of surf rod. Then, most people on the beach wind up and cast so hard and far that you’d think they were told that, in order to catch a fish, you have to get the bait beyond the three mile limit and into international waters. The truth is, the fish are usually hanging out just beyond the breakers, where the food is being kicked up and swirled around and funneled to waiting fish. On my beaches, that means they are very close to the beach. It does not compute, at first, that the fish are actually swimming in the smae places you do when you go swimming.

Time on the water and the catching lots of fish taught me exactly what I’d need to fish my beach. My surf equipment today consists of three rods. Two are identical 7-1/2′ medium/heavy action surf rods, the third an 8′ heavy action surf rod capable of throwing up to 4oz of lure or sinker. On a brief outing like the most recent, I’ll take one of my identical rods, tie on a Hopkins lure, and walk the beach, as Josh describes, looking for breaking bluefish to cast to. If I’m spending considerably more time, I’ll take all three rods. One will be rigged with the Hopkins. It’s twin will be rigged with a top-and-bottom rig with floating hooks. I’ll tip these hooks with an artificial bloodworm called Fishbites, and cast just beyond the breakers. This rod and bait will catch all kinds of fish. using this system I’ve reeled in striped bass, bluefish, kingfish, croaker and spot, just to name a few. It’s a system I’ve tested again and again against many others, and it works very well.

My rig of choice for the surf.

The eight foot rod will hold one of two things, depending on the day, and my mood. I’ll either construct a fish-finder rig tipped with some form of cut bait like bunker, herring or mullet; or I will use it’s strong backbone to cast heavier lures, such as a 3oz bucktail, a simple, yet very effective lure I love so much I learned to paint, and tie them myself, which ultimately led me to the conclusion that I’d like to tie flies, and learn to fly fish.

With this simple setup I have all my bases covered. While bait rods rest in sand spikes, I can watch them from nearby as I cast a lure into the sea. I can catch

My beach rods, and the ever-present Hopkins lure.

little fish and big fish, and it’s actually easier to pack, transport, and fish these three rods than it is to use a lone eleven or twelve foot rod. Most importantly, while the big rod guys are not catching fish because nothing the size of compact car swam by and ate an entire bunker fish bait, I’m catching fish frequently, because I’m willing, and happy, to go after smaller fish. Theres a a lesson to be learned there, I think.

Thanks to Josh and the Fishaholics for a good read and the sound advice to the novice. I’m glad to see a fellow surf fisherman that appreciates the little fish, and knows they helped him land those big stripers he catches today. For more, check out Josh’s blog for the beginning surf fisherman.

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Filed under Bluefish, Fiberglass Rods, Fishing, Fishy Water, Gear, Ocean, Places, Rods, Saltwater, Scenery, Striped Bass, Surf Fishing

In Every Life, Some Leaves Must Fall.

As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, I parted the slats in the blinds above my bed to look up at the sky as I do most mornings, and found myself gazing at a heavy overcast. The sky could have been pink with yellow dots and I still would have decided I’d be going fishing, but the gloomy canopy forced me to the shower a little quicker. By the time I was ready to walk out the door, a light rain was falling. I grabbed my rain gear and a mug of hot tea, threw my gear into the truck, and headed south on the Coastal Highway.

My destination this morning would be a tidal canal I’ve mentioned before. As I crossed Indian River Inlet, I was calculating the tides in order to determine if the water would be flowing right-to-left, or vice versa. I also considered that, being the fall of the year, I’d find a significant amount of leaves on the surface of this tree-lined watershed.

As I climbed up onto the barge and tied on a black and olive Woolly Bugger, I found that I’d been right on both counts. The canal was surging away from the ocean, and pushing towards the bay, and the red, golden and brown leaves were going with it. Then it began to rain a little harder. This was not to be my finest hour.

I’m aware of two schools of thought that exist in relation to fishing water scattered with leaves. The first is that it should simply be avoided. the second is that the falling leaves bring with them a host of terrestrial insects into the drink, and therefore produce good fishing conditions as fish move in to feed on them. I have not enough personal data either way, and suspect that there is no true consistency to leafy conditions, but am sure that what we can all agree upon is that catching leaves in your line or hook after an otherwise satisfactory drift is a royal pain in the neck.

A sinking line helps, as it keeps more of the line submerged and allows you to retrieve without having to plow through clumps of leaves. Streamers are preferred for obvious reasons, and a dead drift is a better choice than an active retrieve, since, with some casting accuracy, you can place the fly in a clear spot of water and let the drift do the rest. This is why I chose the Woolly this morning, as it requires no input from me as it is carried along beneath the surface, to appear life-like enough for an unsuspecting fish to eat.

So, I combined my own advice and knowledge and cast as well as I could and caught a lot of leaves an no fish, and then the skies opened up and a torrential rain fell, and I reminded myself that this is why the good days are the good days. I was on the water less than an hour, but I had given it a shot, and sometimes that’s all you can do.

I was going home; my rod, backpack and rain gear in a soggy mess in the passenger seat.

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Filed under Fall, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Freshwater, Places, Saltwater, Seasons

Bunker.

Richmond Times Dispatch.

MidCurrent.

Contact your ASMFC representative.

Hat tip for the links: Fishing Jones.

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Filed under Bunker, Conservation, Ocean, Saltwater