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.

LADY ANGLER: Summertime Snook

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Who says girls can’t fish

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Fallon Rogerson caught this Snook in Fort Lauderdale.


Fall Pier Snook Strategies

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

By John Montagnino

Capt. John Montagnino shows off the snook he just caught on the pier.

Every fall on Florida fishing piers is different. Some years there’s plenty of bait around the pier, sometimes just a little, and sometimes no bait at all. So what’s the best thing to do? Take a walk up and down the pier and see if you can find the bait. Start from the surf and see if there are any mullet or pilchards around. Walk up to the end of the pier and check out what’s happening around the end. Look at fisherman and see who’s catching bait.

Dropping live baits on bottom is great for snook lurking under the pier. Hook small mullet and pilchards up through the nose and drop it next to a piling or right under the pier. Remember to leave your drag loose. Look around the edges of the pier and under the pier to see if the baits are condensed. If they are, the snook are under them on the bottom.

Free lining baits: Hook the bait up through the nose or a little above the anal fin. Hooking bait just right above the anal fin the bait will swim down and stay down.

On clear calm days look for pods at the end of the pier and a few pilings down from the end. On days when the water is murky the best thing to do is to fish the surf. Live shrimp with a split shot under the pier and leave it there. If there’s still bait around and no bites on live pilchards or mullet give live shrimp a shot.

John Montagnino is a fishing guide and author of “A Fisherman’s Secrets to Successfully Catching Snook On Florida Fishing Piers.” It is available for $2.99 at

Beach Snook Fishing – Part I

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

By Ken Taylor
Summertime is definitely the right time to fish the beach for catch and release snook action! If you’ve never caught a snook, surf fishing at the beach is an excellent place to try it and now is the time to go. Snook will readily take artificial lures, flies, live or cut bait as they prowl the surf in preparation for their summer spawning sessions on the outgoing tides at the varied southwest Florida passes.

My favorite style of fishing is sight fishing with artificial lures as I can carry a backpack filled with them along with a chilled water bottle as I walk the beaches in the morning starting around 8:30 a.m. The sun has to rise high enough in the eastern sky for it to sufficiently illuminate the water so that snook can easily be spotted. Once I spot a snook, I will make a perpendicular or angular cast and move my lure away from them as they swim north or south along the beach. This presentation is the most effective, as a baitfish doesn’t attack a predator fish. Snook will attack a lure by reaction once it moves away from them, as they like to chase bait down or simply come up from behind it and suck it in.

In order to see fish, a quality pair of polarized sunglasses with amber based lenses is essential; amber provides the best contrast for shallow water and easily helps distinguish between an active fish and the sandy bottom. Most actively feeding snook are found in the first trough, which is generally from where the waves meet the sand out to about six feet. For this reason, stay on the sand in ankle deep water because if you wade out into deeper water, the snook will be behind you!

I also like to wear a wide brimmed hat or cap as this will help shade your eyes and keep your head cool from the hot sun. I also like to wear high performance breathable clothing that has a high sun protection factor (SPF) in tans or blues which help camouflage me from the fish as I make casts at them. I also make sure to put on sunscreen— an SPF 30 or higher— first thing in the morning before I go to the beach. Clothing and sunscreen are essential to help protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun.

For a fishing rod, I prefer a seven-foot spinning rod with a medium action with an extra fast tip. This combination allows for gentle presentations of my lures and still has plenty of backbone to land a fish or 20 pounds or more. I’ve fished our local beaches for over 20 years and have caught or released many snook over 10 pounds and a few over 20 pounds as well. Most of the fish you will catch will be the smaller aggressive males that are usually in the 20–25 inch range, but they are still a lot of fun and pull hard for their size.

In a future article, I’ll discuss the lures and colors which I’ve found are the most effective for beach snook!

Ken Taylor is the Fishing Department Manager at the Venice West Marine located at 1860 Tamiami Trail South in Venice. To contact Ken, stop in or call the store at (941) 408-8288 or by e-mail at

Kayak Fishing Adventure in the Natural Wonderland of Biloxi Marsh

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012


The throaty sound of Captain Gary Taylors 31-foot Lafitte skiff roaring to life signals the start of our kayak fishing adventure. With six kayaks loaded on the roof of Gary’s boat, we ease out of the Rigolets near Slidell, Louisiana as the light is just beginning to crack the horizon out to the east. We are headed for a day of kayak fishing in the remote Louisiana Biloxi Marsh.

This unique piece of coastal marsh contains 650 miles of pristine bayous, back bays and tidal flats. For a kayak fisherman, this is heaven on earth. The lack of oilfield location canals and other human intrusion creates not only an ideal habitat for the fish that live there, but also an amazingly beautiful backdrop for a day of kayak fishing. As you wind further and further back into the marsh, it’s easy to imagine that you’re the first person to ever cast a lure along these grass lines.

Our crew of kayak fishermen came together as a trip through Pack & Paddle in Lafayette, Louisiana. Besides me, our crew consists of my wife Becky and friends Greg and Sylvia Sonnier, and Wes and Chris Franciol. As we settle in for the hour-long ride aboard the Mr. Champ, our discussion centers on asking Gary about lures and techniques to best fish this marsh.

“You can fish these outer banks and probably pick up some trout as well as reds,” said Gary. If you head back inside, you’ll probably mostly be targeting redfish.” He went on to say, “On the interior, you’ll want to target drains and trenasses where you see moving water. Also keep an eye out for the shallow ponds in behind these drains as you can sometimes find tailing reds.”

Once the Mr. Champ was anchored, we all pitched in to get the kayaks in the water. We were dropped off in pairs to give each couple ample undisturbed territory to fish. Becky and I launched last and headed back into the marsh. Every fisherman knows the feeling of seeing “fishy” looking water. The beautifully clean tide oozing through the marsh created so much fishy looking water that it was hard to decide where to cast first!

I started off working a Super Spook Jr. up the grass lines while Becky was throwing a glow and chartreuse cocahoe on a quarter ounce jighead. It didn’t take long for the excitement to begin. On my third cast the quiet morning was shattered by the awesome sound of a redfish sucking a lure off the top of the water. There may be no better sound in the world to a fisherman than a big fish hitting a topwater lure with abandon. Not to be outdone, Becky was quickly onto another red that had her on a “Cajun Sleigh Ride,” making runs in all directions.

As the sun climbed higher, we came upon a shallow pond. We cautiously entered the pond—making sure not to send any ripples of warning out to the fish that may be in the pond. We both stood in our kayaks and spread out searching for V wakes, tails and backs of redfish. After a 20-minute search the reds were located in the southeastern corner of the pond. We quickly re-rigged our rods, putting on lightweight weedless jigheads with natural looking cocahoes. The water was crystal clear because of the abundant grass growing in the pond. I watched as Becky timed a cast perfectly out 10 feet in front of a tailing red. She waited until it was within a couple of feet of the lure, and then carefully twitched it. The red turned slightly and stopped. She twitched it again and it was all over the lure like white on rice. A quick hook set and the fight was on! After landing and releasing the fish, we repeated this pattern for then next two hours. If you’ve never tried it, sight fishing tailing reds in a kayak is a truly unique experience.

On our way back to the Mr. Champ, we crossed paths with Wes and Chris. Before reaching the boat, we decided to give the shoreline a try. Wes was probing the bank with a full-size Super Spook. He cast the big lure all the way to the shore and started working it back. I watched as the lure slowed while Wes tried to figure out how to work the topwater around a grass bed. As soon as the lure stopped, a huge red hammered it. The fight lasted about 10 minutes, with Wes being pulled 150 yards down the shoreline before he was able to contain the fish. What a thrill!

As the storm clouds built and the lightning started to pop in the distance we knew it was time to head back to the Mr. Champ. We loaded up for the long boat ride back to Slidell. We all shared stories of the things we had experience in the Biloxi marsh. From the excitement of the fishing action to the beauty of this natural wonderland to the peaceful feeling of fishing all day without hearing or seeing another human, we could all agree that we’ll be back soon!

By John Williams

New Horizons

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

As kayak anglers, we are somewhat limited to the amount of water we can cover in a single trip. This in no way restricts the countless miles of waters teeming with fish that we have access to within an hour drive of our homes. No matter how great your home waters produce fish, you are cheating yourself of even greater fishing opportunities if you don’t venture out from your honey holes and take advantage of the almost endless other fisheries your area of the country has to offer. (more…)

Cienfeugos, City of a Hundred Fires

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

“I hooked a tarpon there,” Native guide Chino brags. “It was bigger than me.”

We’re driving south, through reforested teak groves. Workmen thin the trees, hacking, making charcoal—a dirty back-breaking process. After a few days in the wilderness of the Zapata Swamp, then isolated Lake Hanabanilla, Chino is for a return to civilization.  For me, the transition needs to be gradual. (more…)