Sunday, January 26, 2020

Frisky Redfish

We had a beautiful clear cold morning today when I met Bob Blalock out at the Goffinsville Park boat ramp. We made a quick run over to Broward Island and got out the jig rods; the bait shop had no live shrimp today so we went with mud minnows, something I haven't used in months, and it had me concerned just a bit. But on Bob's first cast he felt a "bump" but thought surely it was the bottom and when he reeled it in his minnow was gone. He made second cast, let it settle and BOOM! Big Fish On! However, at first we both thought it was small but then it began to dig deep and go long! The tide was
coming in moving fairly strong and the fish got back in the current and it was a struggle. Neither of us could believe how long and hard this fish fought. But Bob was up to the task and after a long battle, brought it to the net - a big oversized 30.25" Redfish. After a quick photo we released it and it swam off strongly with an attitude! 

But that was the only fish we got there! We moved down the island and picked up one small Seatrout then ran around to Pumkin Hill and switched to float rigs and minnows and fished some shallows, to no avail. Our next stop was down the Middle River, fishing some flooding
pockets in the marsh but again, no fish. Had we used up all of our mojo?

We ran back to Nassau River and slipped into a small creek and went back to jigs. After fishing a curve in the river with not a single bite I was beginning to think that one big Red was going to be the highlight of the day. But then Bob made a cast up into a shallow "cove" and BAM! Hooked up. This Redfish was putting up another ferocious fight. He played it patiently to the boat and landed a nice 22" Slot Red. Bob worked that area thoroughly and BAM! Another Slot Red. He went back and BAM! ANOTHER Slot Red. BAM!  Another Slot Red - this one at 26".  BAM, another Slot Red.  We kept count and in addition to the oversized fish early that morning, Bob boated 8 Slot Reds, two that were undersized, and that early small Trout.  The sun was up, the temps had warmed, and it had turned out to be another great day of fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Learn To Build Your Own Custom Rod

By Don Hughes
During the weekend of 9/5/2019, I traveled down to Orlando with my wife to custom build a basic fishing rod at a class run by master rod builders employed by Mud Hole Custom Tackle.  It had been more than 10 years since Capt. Piper, Foy Maloy and myself drove to Oviedo, FL to take the same class at the Mud Hole store and warehouse.  I decided to retake the class because I forgot most of what I learned and I plan to build some additional rods at my home.

The 2009 class was held in one day and enrolled 18 students with three instructors.  This year, there were 38 students and six instructors for the one and a half day class that was held at a Holiday Inn.  Mud Hole has since opened a new facility and will be holding their Orlando classes at their new modern site.  The cost was $199 (include $100 worth of materials) instead of $99 in 2009, but the extra half day was worth it.  We finished our rods on day one. Instruction during the second day consisted of special customization demonstrations. 

Learning how to build a rod is a fun experience.  It is more expensive than buying a manufactured rod from a tackle or big box store, but it gives you the opportunity to customize.  Once you learn the basics, you can then try marbling, decorative wrapping, creating unique cork handles, and incorporate basic weaving and custom inlays.  As my instructor stated, “you don’t always catch fish, but you can always look good with a custom rod!”

If you are disciplined, crafty, and a self-starter you can teach yourself how to build a rod by watching instructional videos, etc.  I have included a couple of links to rod building videos.  One is from 1939 (Click Here) and the other is a recent one (Click Here).  It is amazing how far the technology has advanced.  Experienced rod builders can build a rod very quickly as one of our instructors built 5 rods during the morning of our first day while we were 1/2 way through building our single rod.  

There are several rod building supply companies across the country.  Mud Hole is the closest and I have found their videos to be top notch and their customer service to be great.  My rod (photo attached) resides in Tarpon Springs as I gifted it to my oldest brother.  I am looking forward to incorporate marbling in my next project.

Don Hughes is a recreational fisherman and a non-guide member of the Amelia Island Guides Association.  After 30 years of service, he retired, in 2014, from Florida State College at Jacksonville.  During his last 20 years at the college, he served as the Executive Director of the Betty P. Cook Nassau Center in Yulee.  One of his first fishing memories is ice fishing with his father in upstate New York.  He has volunteered extensively in Nassau County and currently coordinates adult recreational ping pong for the City of Fernandina Beach and serves on the Community Advisory Committee for the Nassau Pride ABA basketball team which plays home games at Yulee High School.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Hard Start Leads to Big Finish

After a good blow yesterday we were back at it today, fishing with Ron and Jan Oblen and their son Ed. We me met up at the Dee Dee Bartels Park boat ramp for a mid morning start to catch the first of an outgoing tide and after making  a run over to Lanceford Creek, the trio began tossing live shrimp under a Cajun Thunder float to a marsh grass line. They were making excellent casts but the fish just didn't cooperate!  We moved out a ways and fished a grassy island, and again, had the same results.
Darn it!  We buzzed back to Soap Creek and fished a large runout that usually produces Trout on the outgoing tide, but again, nothing!

Although the tide was still fairly high, we decided to try our luck at some dock pilings. I was setting Ron and Jan up with some jig rods, but Ed decided to stay with his float rig and tossed it up near the shore and BOOM! Fish on! Ed worked it patiently to the boat and landed our first fish to "knock the skunk" off, and the icing on the
cake was that it was of keeper size!  Ed stayed with the float and continued to catch Seatrout shallow, one after the other. Some were of keeper size and some were just a tad short and went back.

Meanwhile, the two "jiggers' finally began to hookup. Jan caught a nice 16" Black "puppy" Drum then both here and Ed reeled in some "feisty" Redfish. Jan added another keeper sized Drum, then Ed decided to try the jig. On the first cast he had a strong bite, a hookup, and fought and landed a Slot Sized 20" Redfish. He
followed that up with a 18" Black Drum.  After he went back to the float rig, Ed landed the biggest Trout of the day - one that measured 19".  A couple of occasions we had "double hookups" which always make for an exciting time.!

We eventually made the long run over and up the Bell River and with all three anglers tossing jigs now, they all found some hungry Seatrout down on the bottom in about 12' of water.

Our final stop was back at Tiger Island logs and I think it was Ed's first cast and, BOOM! biggest fish of the day on!  He worked it to the boat and landed the final Slot Red - one that measured at 22".  We also spotted a neat Salt Marsh Mink fishing the same waters, which made for a great way to wrap up a fun fishing trip here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Can't Beat it For January

The Angler's Mark rides again! After a month in the shop getting a new gas tank installed, I did my first trip this morning, meeting Dennis Brizzi and Hal O'dell out at the Goffinsville Park early. The tide was going out- had been for a few hours - so we made our first run down the Nassau River to the Spanish Drop area.  The two anglers were pitching jigs and live shrimp to some exposed oysters and it was Hal who "knocked the skunk off" when he hooked up and landed a feisty Redfish.

But after fishing 2-3 spots along that bank we had no more real bites so we made the short hop
up to some docks at Seymore's Pointe.  The tide was getting down and the dock pilings were looking good and sure enough, the move paid off. Dennis hooked up with a big enough fish that ripped his drag and didn't want to come to the boat. He kept the pressure on, kept it from breaking off on the pilings and boat hull, and brought to the net a big 20" Black "puppy" Drum.  We had a few nibbles but no more fish so we moved down a couple of docks, set up and caught another small Drum, a small Seatrout, and a couple of feisty Redfish. We then moved back to the original dock! Yep, it paid off!

It was Hal this time who had the big hookup. He patiently fought it to the boat and landed another big 22" Black Drum. He followed that up with another keeper sized Drum.

Our next stop was down towards Pumpkin Hill where we had some strong bites and put another Trout and Red in the boat.  We finished up at Broward Island with a few Redfish caught, a few Trout caught, and one keeper Trout added by Dennis to wrap up a really pleasant day to be out on the water here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Comparing Notes

I've talked to a couple of other Captains at the bait shop and at the dock and we all agreed that fish catch'n has been kinda tough the last couple of days. I think with the full moon, higher morning tides and a quirky weather pattern, the fish have hunkered down!  But nevertheless, when you've got a day off, you go fishing!

I met Chris Elmore and his fishing partner Billy over at the Amelia Island Marina yesterday morning early and after we puttered out the trench we headed north, all the way up to the outside of Tiger Island. We were fishing float
rigs shallow with live shrimp on a 3' leader and had zero bites - not even a nibble. We moved over and fished a marsh run out and got the same results. After running thru Tiger and over to the Bell River we set up on a pointe of grass where the conditions were just ideal, but again, not a nibble!

So we decided to make the long run up Bell to Pirates Woods and fish some docks and this paid off when we switched to jigs and shrimp and got down on the bottom. Working thru the "baitstealing" perch, these anglers were able to pick up a couple of Seatrout and a couple of Black "puppy" Drum. We worked those docks pretty good, then headed back to Lanceford Creek.

We went back to the float rig and Billy had a bite almost immediately, then shortly after that Chris hooked up with a keeper sized Seatrout (all fish caught today were released).  But that was it! After fishing a grass patch to no avail, we moved around by Oyster Bay and fished a runout, again, not a nibble. We made one last stop back towards the marina and going back to the jig was the trick . Chris and Billy teamed up to put 4 feisty Redfish in the boat which helped top off another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Working Thru to Catch Some Fish

I fished with three "new to the area" but local guys yesterday and I could tell they brought their fishing skills with them!  Paul Tenarvitz had set up the trip and brought along his fishing buddies Jerry and Jon and we all met over at the Amelia Island Marina to take the SeaBorn  FX24 out for a morning of fishing. We headed down the intercoastal, eased into Jackstaff, and puttered further up into a small creek to lower the Power Pole and begin to fish. There was a bit of a breeze blowing but not enough to hamper these guys casting.  I think it was Paul who "knocked the skunk off" with a
hungry Seatrout catch on his float and live shrimp rig.  But there wasn't a whole lot of action going on there so we moved on.

After running thru Horsehead we made stop at some docks at Seymore's Pointe, with the tide just beginning to run out, and tossed the floats again, to no avail. After moving down a dock or two,  Gerry and Jon switched up to jigs and this did the trick. Jon hooked up and expertly played a nice keeper sized Black "puppy" Drum  to the boat. Then he added another one. Paul had stayed with the float
and drifted over an old rock boat ramp and BOOM! Fish ON.  Paul patiently worked it to the boat and landed a nice feisty Redfish.

We ran down to the Pumpkin Hill area, had a good hookup - it was off - then Jerry hooked up and brought to the boat another nice Redfish. I think we had one  more small Black Drum along there somewhere!  We fished Broward Island but I think the current was still running a bit to fast. After making one final stop we called it a day, another great one to be out on the water here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Boat Review: SeaBorn FX24 Bay

I've been fishing out of a SeaBorn FX24 Bay boat the last few trips and thought I'd produce a review for those of you who are looking at purchasing a new boat and getting out on Amelia Island waters
this spring.

You can visit the website, scroll to the bottom and see all the specifications and you'll see that this boat's is 23'9" and 102" wide (that's over 8 feet!) which gives you a huge front deck for you and your buddies to fish from.  Although the maximum horse power rated is 300HP, the boat I used had a 250 Yamaha 4-stroke and it easily cruised down the intercoastal-very smooth- and it jumped up on a plan quickly. I never pushed it over 40mph but it felt like it could go a lot faster! The FX24 has a 68 gallon fuel tank which means you could probably fish a whole week without needing to refill.

This boat was equipped with a 80lb Minnkota I-Pilot trolling motor (I'd go with a 112lb-the 80 did fine in low current but struggled with the faster stuff) and it also had one Power Pole on the stern. I've never used a Power Pole but found that it was a good tool to anchor in shallower water, and very quite!  The trolling motor batteries were mounted in the console which is accessed by an easy-to-remove panel under the steering wheel. There was a convenient plug mounted on the side of the console for charging.

In addition to the six rod holders incorporated into the console - three on each side), there were two
holders at the stern, one on the starboard ad one on the port for spare rods that you would have at hand. I take 8 rods with me when I have 4 guests so it was great to have storage for them. Then there were two rod holders under each gunwale, and the icing on the cake were lockable rod holders on each side of the bow. I can't tell you how many times I've pulled up to a restaurant on the river or trailering and wish I could lock up my rods. If I'm trailering I take them off the boat and cram them in the front seat of my truck(and risk snagging the headliner or leather seat). If I'm on the water, I'm just hoping there are no thieves around. My rod/reel combo's average $280 each and the loss of 6 of them would really hurt! So having a place to lock your rods would be great!

As mentioned, the front deck has plenty of space for 2 or even three anglers to fish from. The rear
seats fold down to make a nice platform on the stern to fish. This boat can easily fish 4 anglers plus the Captain. There's plenty of storage hatches with stainless steel hardware that shut flush. There's an anchor locker that stows the rope, chain, and anchor then next is a large locker that holds all of the life vests, throw cushion, first aid kit, foldable fish net, and trolling motor power cord. The second locker is actually a built in, insulated two-compartment cooler. One side holds the drinks and food while the other side holds the fish! No slimy fish stuff on your drinks!

Having two live wells is great! The first is located in front of the console; you can keep bait in there or you can shut the cock off and use it for storage or as another cooler. The console is sleek and waterproof. I noticed that there are no open holes on top of the console for water to drip down onto your batteries. This boat was outfitted with a state-of-the-art Simrad fish finder/chart plotter (I didn't delve too much into that but switched from depth to chart easily using a touch screen menu). The console also has a nice little glove box to store your keys, wallet, trolling motor remote. For the helm seat, the owner had a big cooler, matching cushion,  with swing back rest. I used it as a "dry box" storage to keep my Captain's bag, Captain's book, ditch box, etc.  so it was easily accessible.

The battery switch was located under the starboard side rear seat and in the center of the stern deck was a live well with a clear lid and a light inside the well. We ran the well constantly while fishing which kept our live shrimp alive but was quite enough that it didn't scare the fish. There were more storage behind the seats where dock lines, bait net, bumpers, and a small bucket were kept.

Have you noticed I keep mentioning the storage? When you go to look at a boat you need to be thinking, "where in the heck am I going to put everything?"  You don't want anything on the deck while fishing.  When you hookup with that fish of a life time, you don't want to be tripping over tackle box's, bait nets, loose coolers as  you battle that fish from the bow to the stern, port to starboard, and back to the bow again!  This SeaBorn FX24 has enough storage for your rods, your tackle, your life saving gear, your bait, your drinks and food - it's all stored away - it's a fishing machine!   Find a Dealer HERE and get out on the water this spring for some great Amelia Island fishing.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Recipe of the Month: Collard Greens

Collard Greens

Purchase 2 big bunches of collards from Yulee Fruit Market (if the collards have gone thru a freeze, they’ll be less bitter)
Rinse collards 2-3 times thoroughly or they will have “grit”. Lay a leaf on a large cutting board and slice down each side of the stem, then pull the stem free. Fold the leaf, roll it up and use a pair of scissors to cut into 1” pieces.

10-12 pieces of Bacon Ends from Houston’s Meat Market in Oceanway; cook these until the bacon begins to get hard and the fat is rendered. Remove and save the bacon.

1 ½ sweet onion, chopped
1 T  ground garlic
1 t heaping, Red Pepper flakes
  -          Cook these until onions began to get soft

1 Qt  unsalted Chicken Stock
¼  Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt and black pepper
     -Add these bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes. This is the “pot liquor”.

 Add handfuls of collards, one at a time, stirring them until they wilt, then add another handful until all are in and wilted. Chop the bacon ends into smaller pieces and add. Stir and cook for at least 1 ½ hours. Have another quart of Chicken Stock and add as needed to have some liquid.

Add salt as needed.

You can cook this the day before, add liquid and collards to a crock pot, and the next day heat up, beginning about 1 ½ hours ahead of time. Add Chicken stock as needed.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Biggest Fish of 2020!

I hope everyone had a great holiday and 2020 is a great fish catching year for everyone. I kicked it off with a fishing trip with Ike Pohle, meeting him over at the Amelia Island Marina early this morning for a quick run up the intercoastal. We had clear skies, the sun was out, there was only a slight breeze and the temperature was just a tad bit cool. We made our first stop at the logs of Tiger Island and the tide had just started in. Ike was making excellent casts to the bank with a jig and live shrimp and it paid off -he started catching Redfish steadily.  The first few were just undersized but then he had one hit and rip the drag and he knew right off that it was a
bigger fish. Ike fought it expertly to the boat and landed a nice 21" Slot sized Redfish. All fish caught today were released.  We continued to fish and caught a good handful of Reds with a couple of them being of keeper size.

When that slowed we moved down the island, pitching between the logs and picked up a small Black "puppy" Drum then when Ike had another hookup he thought it was another small Redfish but when it came to the surface we saw that it was a nice 18" Seatrout!

Our next stop was up at the Jolley River fishing the oyster beds that were flooding. Although we gave it a good effort, the fish just weren't cooperating. We came back to the outside of Tiger, switched to float rigs with live shrimp, and did pick up a couple of Seatrout. The final stop was over in Bell River and Ike added another Trout and a barely legal Redfish to his catch. And with that, we called it a day, another great one to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Cool Day for Last Trip of 2019

After that front came thru we had a cool down in temperatures for yesterday morning's trip with Jim Barron, his son David and his grandsons Wyatt and Walker. We met at the Amelia Island Marina and made a good run down the intercoastal with all of us wrapped up tight with extra jackets! But as soon as we pulled in to some docks at Seymore's Pointe, the sun heated us right up and it made for some nice fishing weather.

Wyatt kicked things off when he found some keeper size Black "puppy" Drum on his jig and live shrimp and he pulled in a couple of those. We then ran even further south to Broward Island and fished the logs where we picked up a few Redfish with two of them being just a smidge short of legal size.  Walker got on the board with a  Black Drum catch and that's all it took to get him going.

We fished Spanish Drop, switching to float rigs, but the wind had picked up and it made for some tough casting, so we buzzed back to the docks at Seymore's and found three boats had the same idea! We tried a spot or two to no avail, then we ran back thru Horsehead and begin drifting our floats across some flooding oysters and this did the trick. These anglers had good action catching Seatrout after Seatrout - one or two were almost at keeper size, but most were small and we tossed them back.
The sun had warmed us up and that last spot the fishing heated up, so we counted it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida.