FLORIDA

Stuart, Florida and Hope Town, Abaco Now “Sister Cities”

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Hope Town is the home of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse, probably the most recognizable land mark in Abaco.

Hope Town is the home of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse, probably the most recognizable land mark in Abaco.

On the weekend of July 25th, City of Stuart Mayor Troy MacDonald, along with his wife Portia Scott and Ricardo Treco, Consul General of the Bahamas Consulate in Miami, Florida paid a formal courtesy call to Hope Town District, Elbow Cay, Abaco. During this visit the group signed a formal resolution declaring Hope Town, Abaco and Stuart, Florida “Sister Cities”. Greeting the Mayor and his group at the new Marsh Harbour Airport terminal were Edison Key, Member of Parliament for Central and South Abaco, Senator Gary Sawyer, members of the Hope Town District Council led by Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting, Island Administrator Preston Cunningham, Abaco Director of Tourism Wynsome Ferguson and Abaco Superintendent of Police Noel Curry.

Stuart, Florida has long been considered the Gateway to the Bahamas. Countless fishing and boating enthusiast from around the U.S. have utilized Stuart as a waypoint in their travels to and from the Northern Bahamas for decades. This is particularly true for boaters from the Gulf of Mexico that utilize the Cross Florida Canal/Okeechobee Waterway to reach Florida’s east coast, as well as boaters traveling the Intracoastal Waterway from points north. In addition, there are many Stuart residents that are second homeowners in the Abacos.  The formalization of this relationship will allow for increased tourism promotion between the two destinations as well as provide enhanced cultural and economic opportunities.

Targeting Gator Trout

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Catching a cooler full of seatrout can sometimes be downright easy. Catching just one gator trout heavier than 5 pounds is a different story. If you want to catch gator trout consistently, you’ve got to target them.

The size at which a trout becomes a “gator” is a source of debate. Most anglers get excited about an individual heavier than 5 or 6 pounds. On the other hand, anglers who have learned to target truly large seatrout are looking for that lifetime fish that stretches a tape 28 to 30 inches or longer. Just to put it all in perspective, the IGFA All-Tackle World Record weighed a whopping 17-pounds, 7-ounces. It was caught on Florida’s Atlantic coast at Fort Pierce, Fla. in 1995.

Florida’s Atlantic coast appears to be the national hotbed for giant trout. But regardless of where you fish in the spotted seatrout’s range throughout the Gulf and all the way up the East Coast to Massachusetts, larger individuals of the species show the same tendencies.

Once trout get big enough that their diet shifts from mostly shrimp to mostly finfish, they become more solitary. That’s not to say there won’t be a few large trout hanging out together. They are ambush predators and lazy by nature. They like current, where tides bring a continual buffet to them, and seek out structure or cover to hide and nearby deep water for escape from predators. During the summer months, the edges of sandy potholes on grass flats are prime habitat. Drop-offs, cuts, docks, bridges and jetties will also hold big trout. A key is these areas also attract bait.

Shrimp is the most widely used bait for seatrout, and it’ll catch the big ones when presented right in front of their noses. But when shrimp aren’t running, an angler is better off fishing with a larger protein package. Finger mullet or pinfish in the 5-inch range are big bait that will tempt a gator out of inertia. However, taking a big trout’s skittish nature into account, artificials might be an even better idea.

In the shallow waters they inhabit, boat wake, vibrations through the hull or even water movement caused by a rocking vessel are enough to spook an old trout into lockjaw. For this reason, sight fishing for them is not as effective as blind casting. Artificials like 5- to 6-inch jerkbaits and big soft plastics can be cast long distances repeatedly with little fuss. Large gurgling or popping topwater plugs are another good option, and the added commotion draws attention. By making long casts, you lower the risk a gator trout will sense you before you can put a bait in front of it. By the same token, wading or fishing from an inconspicuous vessel like a kayak are good ways to sneak into the shallows where big trout live.

Some final pieces of advice for targeting gator trout: Fish during low light or at night when they feed the most. A lighted dock should not be passed up. Find areas that are tough to access, where fishing pressure is limited, and slow down your presentation to keep the bait in the strike zone longer.

Dick Walters caught this 32-inch trout from Mosquito Lagoon, Fla.

Dick Walters caught this 32-inch trout from Mosquito Lagoon, Fla.

Have you ever caught a Gator Trout? What are some methods you deploy when targeting Gator Trout?

Coastal Conservation Association Inter-Chapter Challenge Sets Records

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

The Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA) held its annual Inter-chapter Challenge (ICC) June 20-21 at Jensen Beach. A record 197 anglers representing 19 local chapters statewide made the trip to fish the tournament at Jensen Beach, near Port St. Lucie.

The Martin County Chapter of CCA Florida won grand champion at this year’s ICC tournament.

The Martin County Chapter of CCA Florida won grand champion at this year’s ICC tournament.

The ICC is a photo all-release tournament and the grand champion is based on the team’s total inches of snook, redfish and trout. All anglers are required to fish with artificial lures only. Anglers compete both as team members and individuals. The divisions included team snook, redfish, and trout, which were based on the team’s three largest fish of each species. Individual divisions included open angler, fly, ladies, youth and mystery fish.

The Martin County Chapter won the Alex Jernigan Grand Championship with a 35.25-inch snook, a 20.5-inch redfish and a 28-inch trout. For the fourth time, their chapter name will join the past Grand Champions, which include Manatee County, Orlando and Naples. The Martin County Chapter just edged out the Orlando Chapter by only 2.25 inches.
The Alex Jernigan Grand Championship trophy will be proudly displayed at River Palm Cottages & Fish Camp in Jensen Beach until next year. The 2015 ICC will be held June 26-27. Next year’s tournament will feature an all-new offshore division.

Melt the butter! Spiny Lobster season has started!

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

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The 2014 spiny lobster season opened with the two-day recreational sport season July 30 and 31, followed by the regular commercial and recreational lobster season, which starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31.

Planning on catching some of these tasty crustaceans? Here is what you need to know before you go.
No one wants a small lobster for dinner. Make sure you check the size. Measuring devices are required, and lobsters must be measured while they are in the water. If the carapace length is not larger than 3 inches, it must be left in the water (see image on how to measure spiny lobster).

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To protect the next generation and your future chances to have lobster for dinner, harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Lobsters have hundreds of thousands of eggs that are easily visible and attached under the tail. While most lobsters have completed reproduction by the start of the fishing season, finding lobsters with eggs is common in July and August.

Bring a cooler big enough to hold the entire lobster. Spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Also, do not take spiny lobster with any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush its shell.

Stick to the bag and possession limits so there will be enough lobsters for all your friends and family. During the two-day spiny lobster sport season, recreational divers and snorkelers can take up to six lobsters per person daily in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park waters and 12 lobsters per person daily in other Florida waters. You may possess no more than the daily bag limit of lobsters when you are on the water. When you are off the water, you may possess no more than the daily bag limit on the first day of the sport season and no more than double the daily bag limit on the second day. See the chart for an easy-to- read guide on the two-day sport season bag limits. During the Aug. 6-to-March 31 regular season, the daily recreational bag and on-the-water possession limit is six spiny lobsters per person.

While the waters may be less crowded at night, diving for spiny lobsters after the sun goes down is not allowed in Monroe County during the two-day sport season. Know where you can go. Lobster harvest is always prohibited in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas of John Pennekamp State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. During the two-day season, all harvest of lobster is prohibited throughout John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Have the proper paperwork. A recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit are required to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at MyFWC.com/License.

Do double-duty while you are in the water and remove invasive lionfish. These nonnative species are often found in the same areas as spiny lobster, and they negatively impact Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. Help keep the lionfish population under control by removing them from Florida waters. If you plan to take lionfish with a spear, be aware of no-spearing zones and always check with your local law enforcement agency before planning your spearfishing trips. Safety first. Divers, even those who wade in, should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down symbol (red with a white diagonal stripe) on a flag or buoy when in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators must slow to idle speed if they need to travel within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel.

Remember to have fun and be safe during Spiny tail lobster season!

Remember to have fun and be safe during Spiny tail lobster season!


Divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. The flag must be displayed from the highest point of the vessel, must be visible from all directions and must be displayed only when divers are in the water. So when the divers are out of the water, don’t forget to take it down. Divers-down symbols towed by divers must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. More information on divers-down flag requirements is available online at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Boating Regulations.”

Additional information on recreational spiny lobster fishing, including how to measure spiny lobster, is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”

Share your Lobster adventure pictures and stories with us by commenting below or posting in the Brag Board!

On Florida’s Waters – The Mighty Catfish

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

You may have missed it, but on June 25 anglers around the country were encouraged to celebrate National Catfish Day. Honest! That day honors one of the favorite fish of anglers here in Florida and elsewhere.

It was on June 25, 1987, that President Ronald Reagan issued a presidential decree with these words: “More and more Americans are discovering a uniquely American food delicacy—farm-raised catfish.” He went on to declare that, “The catfish that are available today, fresh or frozen in markets nationwide, are products of state-of-the-art methods of aquaculture. They thrive in clean freshwater ponds on many American farms, where they are surface-fed soybean meal, corn, fish meal, vitamins and minerals. Farm-raised catfish not only furnish American consumers with a tasty delicacy but also provide a nutritious, low-calorie source of protein that is also low in cholesterol.”

Southern oven fried Catfish is delicious!

Southern oven fried Catfish is delicious!

The President and Congress encouraged Americans to observe National Catfish Day in appropriate fashion then and in the future. Having had my children catch catfish in stocked ponds and seeing how much they enjoyed the “easiness” of such fishing, I have come to appreciate that species of fish.

Catfish of all species take their name from their barbels or whiskers, which look like a cat’s whiskers. They can have up to four pairs of barbels, which help the fish avoid enemies that lurk in the murky waters where the catfish live and also help them find food. Catfish actually use their skin to taste any tempting morsels around them. One scientist described the fish as having skin that is full of taste buds. Catfish are important commercially, and those that are raised in carefully monitored stocked ponds make up a very large percentage of American catfish in our markets today.
Catfish (Bagre marinus) have no scales and can be hard to clean without the proper tools. Some catfish have spines that can inflict a powerful injury to the unwary. Not all catfish are beneficial for Florida, however. Among the undesirable catfish are an invasive species of so-called walking catfish (Clarias batrachus), which get their name from their ability to use their pectoral fins to wiggle across land to find food or a new place to live. Supposedly imported to Florida in the 1960s for the aquarium trade before officials banned them, they have managed to invade aquaculture farms to prey on the fish there. Fish farmers have built fences to keep out the walking catfish, but only time will tell how successful the banning of such an invasive species is.

Catfish of all species take their name from their barbels or whiskers, which look like a cat’s whiskers.

Catfish of all species take their name from their barbels or whiskers, which look like a cat’s whiskers.

Anyway, I hope you were able to raise a cold one on June 25 in honor of the catfish, and maybe even fry up some catfish to go with it and enjoy one of our tastiest Florida fish.

Kevin McCarthy, the author of “South Florida Waterways” (2013 – available at amazon.com for $7), can be reached at ceyhankevin@gmail.com.

Commercial Turtle Poachers Busted

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Four men have been charged in the alleged illegal capture and exchange of 2,100 pounds of live, wild-caught turtles.
A Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation was launched in March after the arrest of My Van Vo, 31, of Lakeland, who was caught on Lake Apopka near Orlando with 87 softshell turtles weighing in excess of 500 pounds. The subsequent investigation throughout Polk and Seminole counties netted two other men and an Okeechobee freshwater turtle farmer.

FWC investigators said the men were poaching freshwater turtles on Lake Marion, Lake Haines, Crooked Lake and Lake Walk-In-Water as well as from the St. Johns River. The two men were said to be transporting and selling their illegal catch to Harden and Son’s Turtle Farm in Okeechobee.

Commercial harvest of freshwater turtles, like this alligator snapping turtle, is illegal. FWC photo by Tim Donovan.

Commercial harvest of freshwater turtles, like this alligator snapping turtle, is illegal. FWC photo by Tim Donovan.

Canh Van Nguyen, 48, of Lakeland, and Lieng Su Pham, 69, of Winter Haven, have been charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors. The owner of the turtle farm, Franklin Gene Harden, 55, of Okeechobee, was charged with three felonies and four misdemeanors.

“Turtles are a popular, commercially available food item throughout much of the world and, as a result, overharvest has occurred in many countries,” said Lt. George Wilson, who led the effort. “To prevent overharvest here, the FWC proactively banned commercial harvest of all native wild turtles in 2009.”

FLORIDA BAY SCALLOP

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

36″ Black Drum

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Michael A Love caught this 36″ Black Drum in Yankeetown/ Port Inglis.

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Gobbled up a Berkley Gulp shrimp!!

My First Sailfish

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

morgan maynard caught this roughly 70 inches, 50 lbs. Sailfish in Ramrod Key.

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I reeled in my first Sailfish Sunday December 15th off of Ramrod Key. It was a very exciting day for me to reel in my first sail fish after having just reeled in a Mackerel and a 25 lb. Black Fin Tuna!

Bull Redfish

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Kobe Ebarle caught this 51″ Redfish in banana river.

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I threw out a pinfish head and in about 10 minutes I got slammed. It started to spool me so I hopped in the kayak and fought it from there. After about thirty minutes I finally landed it and released it after I got a quick picture.

Cool Weather Reds

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Landyn Scudder caught this 27″ Red Fish in Mosquito Lagoon.

Mosquito-Red

“Spot On” sight casting can be an exciting adventure, especially when the weather and water are right… Landyn Scudder caught this nice red while sight casting with Chris Freeman, renowned fishing fanatic from California. She was fishing her favorite stretch of water in Mosquito Lagoon.

Stuart Mahi Madness!

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Thomas Hallberg caught this 8/9 were over 40″ Mahi Mahi in Stuart Florida 160ft.

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Awesome day out of St. Lucie Inlet. Did not run into any schoolies. All the Dolphin were caught trolling west and they all were studs! Caught 9 Dolphin with all of them except one being over 40″, must were well over!

Ryan and the Red

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Ryan McKay caught this Red in Dragon Point.

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Ryan caught this fish on a pin fish head. It started to spool his line so he jumped in his kayak and it pulled him around the river just south of Mathers Bridge for 30 minutes.

Rosmery’s Redfish

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Rosmery Quintero caught this N/A Redfish in Flaming / Florida Bay.

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Attached is a nice redfish that Rosmery Quintero caught last Sunday, October 19th. I believe it was during a tide change and she was using a live pilchard….We were fishing with guide Raul Montoro in the Flamingo area. It was a great day!

Mahi off Key Biscayne

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Shannon Mau caught this 52 inches & 40 inches Mahi in United States.

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Caught 11/3/2013 at 10am. 450 FT depth a few miles off Key Biscayne.

Blacktip from the beach

Monday, October 21st, 2013

John Fauerbach caught this 74 inches Blacktip Shark in Ponce Inlet, Florida.

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74 inch blacktip shark caught from the shore with a large mullet.