Monday, June 28, 2010

Sharks and more Sharks

Rachel Russel was in town with her husband Brent, their son Pat, and his girlfriend Jennifer, visiting Amelia Island from Alabama. We had arranged to do a backwater fishing trip this morning so we met at Atlantic Seafood at 7AM and headed up to Jolley River with the tide coming in. We began pitching the jig and shrimp combo up to the half exposed oyster beds and it wasn't long before the anglers were catching some pesky, but fun to catch Croakers. We trolled the oyster bank, eventually switching to live shrimp under a float and Jennifer hooked up with a nice, keeper sized Trout. Seconds later Rachel did the same, bringing hers to the boat and a waiting net. We moved on down the river to a large creek runout, anchored, and began to cast the float/shrimp rig and the jig and shrimp. Pat started the catching off by hooking up to a drag-ripping Bonnethead Shark. Pat fought the fish to the bow of the boat, under the anchor rope and then back to the stern. We netted this brute and got some pictures. Rachel took her turn with the Bonnetheads, then Brent hooked up one, too. We ran to Tiger Island and anchored up against the shore, taking advantage of the last of the shade, with Rosette Spoonbills roosting overhead. Rachel wrapped up the day with a nice Puppy Drum that fought like a bull. With that, we called it a day, another great one to be out on the water!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kids and Big Catches

Britt Caple and his wife, April were in town with their two sons Conner and Carter, visiting from Alabama. I met them at the Atlantic Seafood dock yesterday afternoon, in hopes that the afternoon heat would wind down and we could put the young guys on some fish. After suiting up in their life vests and a brief safety orientation, we made a run up to Jolley River as the tide hit its dead low. We anchored at a small creek run out with the intention of letting the young men get warmed up with the spinning outfits and then possibly moving on to some better spots. No need for that! My first instructional cast picked up a bite and then after turning the rods over to Conner and Carter, the bite was non-stop for 2+ hours!
I tried to guestimate how many Redfish they caught but it had to have been more than 20, most all of them "rat" reds, but Carter did hookup, and with the help of his father, hauled in a nice keeper sized, 23" 4lb Redfish! Both boys were catching fish: Redfish, Croakers, and Blues when Conner hooked up with something big that made a drag-ripping run! Conner fought the fish to the back of the boat, across the stern and back up to the bow with dad helping out along the way and mom snapping picturs. Eventually they subdued the fish and brought to the net a 3' Bonnethead Shark. We inspected the fish, photographed it, then tossed it back. The boys added a couple more Trout - keeper sized, more small Redfish, a few Flounder, and a small Black Tip Shark. A storm was brewing west of us and Carter, an aspiring weatherman, advised us that we may want to pull up and run, so we did! We made a stop at Tiger Island then came on in, counting it as another great day to be out on the water!

From Manatee's to Drum Fish

Saturday we wanted to beat the heat so I met up early with Dwight Payne and his son, Travis who were in town from Arkansas. We left the Atlantic Seafood dock at 6:30am before the bait shops opened and headed up to the Tiger Island area with top water's rigged and a tide still coming in. We started our troll with some oysters still showing and within minutes we realized we had company, a herd of sea cows lolling in the shallows! Both Dwight and Travis were making pin-point casts to the bank while the manatee's were just feet away on other side of he boat. At one time we had a couple of juveniles following the boat within a few feet. We had no strikes on the top waters so we eased out of the area, cranked the big engine, and ran to Jolley River. It wasn't long before the guys were picking up bites on some Gulp baits, catching Blues, Ladyfish, Croakers, Trout and some small Red's. As the tide reached it's high, we made a run back to Knute and Rose's Bait House on Eagans Creek and picked up 5 dozen live shrimp then we headed up Lanceford Creek to some docks.
Sure enough, when the tide turned the anglers started getting bites. Travis stayed in school of small Reds, feisty fighters all the way to the boat. Dwight picked up a couple and then something big took his jig/shrimp combo and the fight was on! Dwight exclaimed that the fish was wrapped on one of the pilings, then he worked him loose. Dwight fought the fish expertly to the boat and within sight - a nice 22" Black Drum...and then it broke off! OUCH! We continued to fish the dock for a while, picking up more reds, croaker, Puppy Drum and a nice whiting. But the sun was climbing and it was getting hot so we headed in, making one more stop at the Rayonier warehouse. I held the boat in place while Dwight and Travis pitched their baits (shrimp and Gulps)up to the pilings and soon they were hauling Puppy Drum and Flounder to the boat. The bite was excellent and Travis added a nice 18" Drum and a couple of keeper sized Flounder to the catch. What a way to end a fishing trip and a great day to be out on the water!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Boat Rides with 3 Beauties!

My daughter and granddaughter were in town so my wife and I launched the boat and went for a boat ride up to St. Marys, Georgia for a dinner at Trolley's. We got the granddaughter, Burgandy, outfitted in her life vest then we slowly headed up river. The cruise only takes about 15-20 minutes and the City of St. Mary's lets you dock for free at their public dock. There's just a short walk to the restaurant and you can eat in or outdoors. It was already about 7pm and there was a slight breeze and it had begun to cool so we went up the spiral staircase and ordered our meal outside. After dinner we cruised back but cut up in behind Tiger Island in search of Manatee's. The tide was peaking at it's highest and we puttered around Tiger to see some cranes and egrets roosting in the oak trees. On the way back I cut the engine and dropped the trolling motor to ease along the marsh grass. Just as the sun set we were treated to the sighting of some huge wakes and then some large hairy snouts poking out of the water. After visiting with the manatees we eased out to deeper water, flipped on the navigation lights and headed in, counting it as another great evening to be out on the water!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oooohs and Aaaahs at the Boat Ramp

You know you've had a successful fishing trip when you're back at the boat ramp cleaning fish and the other anglers at the ramp are ooohing and aaahing about your catch! Brandi Manuel surprised her husband Todd with a fishing trip for his 40th birthday, bringing him to the Sawpit Creek boat ramp this morning for a 7:30am departure. We headed up river with the tide still going out, and not expected to hit bottom until 9:18. Like yesterday, the oyster lined banks of Nassau River were looking good, but today we had some good bites...and catches. Todd couldn't have started it off any better as he slowly bounced his jig/shrimp combo across the bottom because he soon hooked up and battled a big, fat 22" Flounder to the boat. After a nibble here and there Brandi got in on the action with a nice Puppy Drum and then she matched Todds big catch by hooking up to whopper of a Sheepshead, fighting it to the boat and a waiting net. As the tide hit bottom we cranked the big engine and ran to the mouth of Jackstaff and started our troll along the bank. Todd picked up a feisty Redfish, Brandi hooked a jumping Ladyfish, then Todd had his drag peeling with a Bonnethead Shark. We made a few passes of the first 100 yards of bank and both anglers hooked up with the Bonnetheads. Brandi had another go at a Ladyfish then she picked up another nice keeper flounder. Todd and I both were putting ice water-soaked towels on our necks by this time so we called it a day, another great one to be out on the water!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You Name It, We Caught It.

David Hull, his father Dennis, and his brother Oliver were in town for the week from Ohio and took in some backcountry fishing. We left the Sawpit Creek dock at about 7:15am, about an hour before low tide, and headed up Nassau River. I'd been noticing a nice bank of oysters along the river so we pulled up to give 'em a try as the tide bottomed out. The guys warmed up their casting, getting used to strange rods, and had a number of good bites, but no takers. We pulled up and ran to the mouth of Jackstaff just as the tide started back in and began easing along the bank, tossing the 1/4oz Sure Catch jigs baited with live shrimp up near the exposed oysters. The guys were making pin-point casts and it wasn't long before the action started with Dennis hooking up with a feisty Redfish then David caught something that we thought sure would be a bigger Red, but it turned out to be a hard fighting Jack. Then David caught another bigger Jack and then another Jack, even bigger than the first two! Oliver hooked up with a jumping, fighting Ladyfish then David had his drag ripping out and a battle on his hands. He soon landed a 2 1/2' Bonnethead Shark. Oliver brought in another Ladyfish and Dennis added a keeper sized Flounder to the fish variety. The bite ebbed so we headed for Broward Island to catch the incoming tide there. Even though the sun was now beating down, we had a quick bite - David hooked up on about his 2nd cast and worked to the boat a nice Sheepshead. David must have had the hot rod for the day because he added another large Sheepshead and a Redfish. We all commented on how the heat was coming on so we headed in, counting it as another great day to be out on the water.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sandbars and Double Hookups

Today was an eventful day - my first ever "grounding" on a sandbar! I had picked up my guests, Ricky Williams and his sons Riley and Cooper, at the Sawpit boat ramp with a low tide bottoming out when we began our trip at 7:00am this morning. I had first headed up Nassau River but I changed my mind and decided to go up the Amelia so I did a u-turn and thought I had went out far enough to skirt the sand bar's between the two rivers. Anyway, we ran out of water. OUCH. Luckily, the tide was coming in and after about 15 minutes of pushing and rocking and some more pushing, we were on our way to our first stop at the mouth of Jackstaff Creek. We made an initial pass, tossing jig's tipped with live shrimp and Ricky was the first to hook up with a hard fighting feisty Redfish. We made a second swipe and Riley got in on the action with a tough battle with a 3' Bonnethead Shark. At the same time we had a "double" hookup when Cooper tangled with a nice Seatrout which he eventually boated. We snapped a picture then turned back to Riley's muscle burning engagement with the shark. Although we were using light 10lb spinning gear, Riley played the beast beautifully and brought it to the net for a great picture with dad and brother.

We caught a couple more Redfish, another Trout and Ricky got his turn with a Bonnethead which we boated and got pictures of. Later, we were treated to another first of the year - a sighting of a large Tarpon rolling in Nassau River.The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, but not even a breeze so by 11:30 it was super hot and we headed in, counting it as another great day to be on the water.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gator's, Osprey's and Sea Turtles.

I took Bill Stahler and his family for a scenic tour yesterday afternoon. Although it was still in the high 80's, once we got on the water the sea breeze and bimini top helped keep us cool. We cruised Old Town and Fort Clinch then crossed over to Cumberland Island's southern tip to cruise it's shoreline and were treated to a sighting of wild horses with a colt. I had hoped for some manatees in Beach Creek but although we didn't see any we did come across an alligator - a first in the salt for me. He was about 4' and laying on the beach when we eased by. We crossed the channel back to Florida and trolled up into a creek to see striking fish feeding on the mullet schools. As we came around Tiger Island we saw two different Sea Turtle's rise to the surface and then had a large Osprey give us a fly over after leaving her roost in the Tiger Island trees. We headed back to the dock with the sun working it's way down, counting it as another great day to be out on the water!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Was it the Hat or the Tide Change?

I fished with Mark Laurint, his son Brent, and their friend Joe this morning, all from Jacksonville, out for a morning of fishing before the two recent High School graduates head off to further their education - Brent to Columbia University and Joe to the Merchant Marine Academy. We launched at about 7:15am and with the tide just at it's highest peak, ran straight to the docks on Lanceford Creek, easing up to position just a few minutes before the tide turned and started out. Joe got the action started by hooking up with a Trout that thrashed it's way to the boat and then the others joined in, catching a couple of hard fighting Redfish. The guys had swapped hats and then Brent hooked up with a fish that pulled a little harder and eventually fought to the boat a nice slot-sized Red.
Joe caught another keeper sized Trout and Mark added a flounder and another Redfish then Joe added a Redfish to the catch total and then a nice Whiting. The guys stayed busy catching fish for about two hours and totaled 5-6 Redfish, 4-5 Trout, 3 Black Drum, the flounder and a whiting. When the bite slowed we pulled up and ran to Jolley River, trolling the oyster banks and then anchoring at "Snook Creek" to try our luck with Bonnethead Shark. We had two hookups with Mark's fight being the longest, but the Shark must have found an oyster bed to cut himself off. After a brief stop at Tiger Island we called it a day, another great one to be out on the water!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Early Morning Fly Fishing

I had a noon appointment and Joe Di Toro had stuff going on this afternoon, so the only window we had to fish was early this morning. Joe was in town with his wife, visiting from New York and was eager to notch a Redfish on a Flyrod so we met at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp at 6am with the sun not yet up. We prepped the flyrods then headed up Nassau River, stopping at a creek runout in the Spanish Drop area. Joe unlimbered the fly rods, offering a larger popping fly at first on the top water, then switching to a weighted shrimp fly to bump the bottom. We had no strikes so we headed further up river, passing through Jackstaff to fish it's mouth and western shoreline. Joe was working hard, casting the shrimp fly then switching to a black rabbit fur-ish fly that we thought resembled a fiddler crab. The wind was 10mph with gusts to 12 and we had an outgoing current that swept the fly line and fly out of the target zone rather quickly, but Joe persevered and eventually was rewarded with a strong bite and after setting the hook with a good strip, the fight was on with a feisty Redfish! Joe worked the fish beautifully, letting the rod wear the fish out and we soon netted an 18" Redfish, snapped some pictures, and released the fish back to the river. We fished the bank further, switching to a 1/40z Sure Catch jig with a natural Gulp shrimp and Joe hooked up with another hard fighting Redfish, battling it to the boat, the net and after a picture, back to the river to be caught another day. After a brief stop at "Gnat" Island, we called it a day, another great one to be out on the water!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Slam" Fishing and Crashing Porpoise

David Langford was in town visiting from the Atlanta area and decided to take in a backcountry fishing trip with his young adult son, DK and his friend Thomas. We left the Atlantic Seafood at 7:30am sharp with only a slight breeze blowing and clear skies. The tide had hit bottom at around 7am so we had the first of an incoming to fish. Live shrimp are scarce on the Island this week so we baited up with Gulp mullet and some dead shrimp on the Sure Catch 1/4oz jig. We headed straight for Jolley River and began a slow troll of a long oyster bank, pitching our baits to the base of the oysters and slowly bouncing them back. The guys seemed to be having some bites so we made a 2nd run, but this time when DK felt the bump-bump bumping he set the hook to a feisty, hard fighting Redfish - the fight was one. DK played the fish perfectly and we soon netted the Red for a photograph and released it to be caught another day. We hit "Snook" Creek, had some bites, then tossed out some cut-up crab to sit on the bottom and it wasn't long before drag was ripping and DK had another fight on his hands. What was surely a Bonnethead Shark soon cut the line and made it to freedom. We were treated to some porpoise crashing the bank, chasing baitfish up on to the mudflats. We had a few Bonnethead breakoffs before David hooked up with one and successfully fought the sandpaper-skinned shark to the boat. The guys also caught a couple of "Puppy Drum" and another small Redfish at that location. We cranked up and ran to Tiger Island, fishing in the last of the day's shade where Thomas got in on the action, first catching another Drum and then hooking up with another hard fighting Redfish, playing it to the net like a pro. David closed out the day with a keeper sized Seatrout and with the sun clearing the trees, we called it another great day to be out on the water!