Monday, August 30, 2021

Flounder and Mangroves Go Together!


I was back to work today, fishing with Suzanna Braun and her son Michael after meeting them down at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp early this morning. The wind was so still the sand gnats were back so we hurriedly left the dock and headed up the intercoastal to make our first stop at the mouth of Jackstaff where we deployed jigs and live shrimp to the exposed shell bank. There was plenty of bait moving along the edges and both anglers were getting excellent casts and it was Suzanna who "knocked the skunk off" with a strange hookup. She eased it to the net and landed a nice keeper sized 17" Flounder.  She picked uip one more undersized Flounder then it was Michaels turn - he had made a good cast and the minute it hit bottom, BAM! He had a bite. Michael worked it patiently to the boat and landed another keeper sized Flounder.

We then ran thru Horsehead and around to Spanish Drop to a large marsh runout and boy was there a ton of bait! But maybe too much! We eased along the bank, pitching our baits up to the

shell and slowly working them back. Both anglers caught a feisty Redfish or two along that stretch. We dropped back and cast net for some finger mullet, then moved on up to the next drainage. The duo tangled with Ladyfish, Michael picked up another small Flounder and a Jack Crevalle, then we decided to try our hand with the Mangroves. 

After switching to float rigs and getting their  baits up near the rocks it wasn't long before we had action. Suzanna was in the groove and caught some nice fish, the biggest coming in at 13". Michael was playing cat and mouse with the small ones but he hung in there and finally got one of keeper size. We blew thru the rest of our bait, but added a good handful of the 11-13" Snapper to the box, then headed back to the ramp, counting it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida.  

Friday, August 27, 2021

Where Did The Drum Come From?

 I fished with Hugh and Jan Hunter today. who were visiting the island and celebrating their much deserved retirement. Although the weather forecast called for about a 60% chance of rain, we planned to go anyway! I met them up at the Dee Dee Bartels Park boat ramp and we headed north and west, over to the Jolley River and set up alongside some exposed oyster beds on the first of an incoming tide. We eased along the bank, pitching jigs and live shrimp with Jan on the bow and Hugh taking up the stern. At first I thought we were in "Croakerville" because that's all we caught the first few fish that came to the boat. Then Jan had a strong hookup and after playing the fish patiently, she brought to the net a nice keeper sized Black "puppy" Drum. Then her and Hugh traded catches and landing a handful of Black Drum. Then the both put a couple of feisty Redfish in the boat then Jan added a keeper sized Seatrout to the catch.

We ran further up the Jolley, switched to float rigs and now we were in "Baitstealerville" - perch and more perch and small Mangrove Snapper.  With no big fish biting, we ran back, around the Tyger Island and up in behind them to fish the logs. Jan pulled out another Black Drum and we had numerous bites. As we drifted along, pitching to the bank, and now around at the marsh grass, Jan had a strong bite and her drag ripped, Fish On! But within secondsd, Fish Off! Ouch. But only a cast or two later she had a another big hookup and this one she worked to the net to land a nice 17" Seatrout.  After running thru and over to the Bell River we set up alongside some flooded shell beds. Hugh found a hot spot off the stern and put a couple hungry Seatrout in the boat, then Jan, who had put a nice cast up behind a grassy island, had her float "bob", then sit there. After a while she reeled it in and seemed like she might have an oyster shell. But the "shell" started pulling back and she realized she had a fish on. Jan worked it slowly to the boat and we netted a Flounder to give the couple an Amelia Island Grande Slam of Redfish, Seatrout, Black Drum and Flounder. 

We wrapped up fishing over at Lanceford Creek, fishing the last of the incoming tide and finished things off with a couple of small Jack Crevalle bites then we headed in, counting it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

It Was A First For Me

I've heard of anglers fighting fish and having a Shark attack the fish. I've had an angler hookup with anice Redfish on my boat, reel it in, and only half the fish be there. I've seen Dolphin "busting" bait up near the shore and even coming out of the water. But today was the first time I saw a Shark attacking Redfish up along the shoreline. I always thought it was the Dolphin that were the main predators.

I was fishing with Darryl and Tanya Gainsford, having met them down at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp early this morning. We had made short run up the Nassau River and stopped at Spanish Drop, turned into the tide that had just started in, and began tossing jigs and live shrimp to the bank. Darryl go things started off by hooking up and landing a hungry Flounder, then Tanya followed that up with a feisty Redfish catch. Both anglers then put a handful of those

smaller Reds in the boat before Darryl had the strong bite, a hookup, and his drag began to rip. Darryl fought the fish patiently and soon landed a nice 23" Slot Redfish. (All fish caught today were released). Tanya also tangled with a couple of  Ladfish. We had done so well on the first pass we decided to do it again. This time we didn't have near the bites but we were seeing a lot of Sharks cruising the shore line. Then, behind us there was a commotion and we turned to look  you could see a 4-5' shark "bust" a Slot sized Redfish and it came out of the water and landed up on the bank of oysters! It then flopped back in, there was a commotion and then...the water was still.  We continued to fish and then Darryl commented, "here comes that Shark", and you could see it rapidly cruising the bank, then BAM! Another huge commotion, a Shark with a Redfish in its mouth, then a bobbing Redfish tail, then the Shark circled back and the tail slowly disappeared! It was really neat to see the wild in action! I'm going to assume that the Shark was not a Bonnethead-I've never seen them do that. 

We ran further up the river, fished a marsh runout, then continued on up to a dock to fish some pilings. Here the duo caught a couple of Mangrove Snapper and a Pinfish. We then headed down to Broward Island and set up out deep, pitching to the shore with a stump as our target. Darryl got hot and put a couple of Sheepshead in the boat, a Mangrove Snapper and a Redfish or two.

The wind had picked up but not so bad that we couldn't try Pumpkin Hill and boy am I glad!  We had switched to float rigs and were tossing them up to the bank with live shrimp and getting some decent drifts. We had a few bites then Darryl's float slowly went under and started heading south. Darryl caught up the slack, lifted his rod and set the circle hook and, Big Fish On!  We knew it

was big. It didn't act like it thought it was caught and just bulled down. Darryl kept the pressure on, walked it around the boat to deep water, then back again, then up to the bow, then back to the stern, around the engine, and wore it out.  After a long and patient battle, Darryl brought to the net a big Oversized 30.5" Redfish for pictures and release. Boy what a fish! They picked up a couple of more smaller Reds, a hard fighting Jack Crevalle, and a Catfish. Tanya put a 9-spot Redfish in the boat and then followed that up with the only Seatrout catch of the day, one that measured right at 17".  Although the skies were dreary and  overcast, as we headed in  we counted it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

FWC Redfish Summit News You Should Know About

Carol and I attended the first annual Redfish Summit hosted by the Florida Wildlife and Fish Commission (FWC) down in Ocala yesterday. It was a very informative event  and well organized Summit. The FWC, along with their sponsors (Coastal Conservation Association, American Sport Fish Association, Sea & Shoreline Aquatic Restoration and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation) did an outstanding job in welcoming attendees, their presentations, and facilitations of information and discussions. It was truly an eye opening event in more ways than one! I was surprised to receive a nice "bucket" of material - goodies to take home and handouts to read later. The entire Summit was well organized, well run and the agenda ran smoothly. Even a slight hiccup from trying to share a room with another breakout group was quickly remedied with a 3-minute move to a quieter area of our group-NE Florida.

There had to have been well over 100 people attending from all over the state of Florida. Of that large group, there were only 10-12 people representing the NE Florida Region. Of those 10-12 people, I think Carol and I were the only ones from the Jacksonville, Amelia Island area(I could be wrong on this-I didn't pole the others, but from their comments, they seemed south of us). If you are an angler in Fernandina Beach or the Jacksonville area, you really need to be aware of the following comments. If you are a Guide or Charter boat captain, You REALLY need to be aware of  them. 

There were a number of presenters who went over data that they have accumulated over the years, discussing Redfish biology, sustainability, stock assessments and Redfish management, past, present and the future. . (Click on image at right to enlarge) Amazing, eye opening stuff. For me, I have already begun to sense the dire issues down in south west Florida with issues with Red Tide, evidently a natural occurring event but compounded by human/manufacturing waste run off, and all over  south Florida with algae blooms and fish die-offs and fishing pressure. Before the trip I had had a conversation with my Ft. Myers cousin where he described miles and miles of dead lobsters during his last visit to the Florida Keys

But here in NE Florida, specifically at Amelia Island, we've had a relatively great fishery. But are the issues heading our way? According to the sentiment of the other 8 NE Florida attendees who reside just south of us in St. Johns County and Flagler County, yes, our fishery is declining. I was somewhat surprised that they were struggling to find Redfish. I know I track each trip that I do and most of them I rate as "average". Once in a rare while we will have a bad trip, and a few times in the month we will have an outstanding trip, but I haven't noticed a downward trend in our catch rates.

After the main presentations and after lunch we broke out into smaller groups and of course, we were in the NE Region. I have no idea what the much larger, south Florida and west Florida regions talked about. BUT, I was actively engaged in our NE Florida break out session. After all discussion we 11 attendees were asked take some Red Dots and rate what of the issues, comments, suggestions were most important to us. We could put one dot on each item, or 3 dots or all 10 dots on each item if that was really important to us. I took some pictures of the comment/issue boards and you can see for yourself what issues garnered the most "dots".  The top issues NE Florida attendees "voted" on were Declining Numbers, Increasing Fishing Pressure, and Water Quality. Again, most of these NE Florida attendees were south of us. I spoke personally to a few of them and they attested to the difficulty of finding Redfish to catch. I haven't experienced that here at Amelia Island, BUT I can surely see the increased pressure. I told Carol one day recently that "if I fish 6 trips a week, 4 of them have either just moved here or they're looking to buy". The boat ramps have gotten so crazy on weekends that I quit booking trips on Saturday and Sunday (I probably will pick up weekends this Fall and Winter). Sooner or later the fishing pressure will surely begin to affect our fish stock. I really hope we never see the poor water quality and fish die offs that our south neighbors are experiencing.  Again, you can "click" on the image to enlarge it.

Now for the really good stuff! As you see on the image the left (click on to enlarge), the overwhelming sentiment of the 11-12 people representing the NE Florida group "voted" to change the limits on Redfish to (1) per angler. Don't like that? You should have been there. FYI, I actually voted for that, too. If I have 4 people on my boat, I really don't like killing 8 Slot Redfish, but that's just my opinion. I take a fish home once in a while and don't begrudge others, but taking home fish to feed the neighborhood with a fish fry is a time gone by. Maybe I'm just getting old. But there were some suggestions proposed that I thought  were "off the wall", fringe, restrictive regulations, see the below, right image. This is where those of you that have interested in our fishery need to step up and participate. As you can see most did not garner any real support: Closed Season, Reduce Vessel Limit to 1 (can you imagine the march on Tallahassee?) Artificial Lures Only, Catch and Release Only(a 2nd march on Tallahassee?). But I don't laugh as much about that when I know there is a Catch and Release order right now for Redfish down in the South West area of Florida. Still, I've had a long sinking suspicion that there is a growing demographic of folks that are "anti-angler" who would rather we don't fish at all. I've seen internet videos of altercations between anglers and anti fishers and I've experienced first hand 

conversations with those that I sense would rather we not be taking fish from the sea. You need to be aware of this. Read that again. You need to be aware of it. 

And then there were comments related to Guides and Charter Boat Captains. Readers need to know that there are over 60 guides and Charter boat captains working out of Amelia Island. A third of those are strictly "off shore". Many do the jetties and rivers only. Many like myself, stay inshore/backwater. Some try to stay on the flats and a good number do tours and sightseeing trips. There's a good number that are "full time" with fishing as their main income, then there are others that have other jobs and use charter fishing as a way to fill in.  There are Guides that have retired from previous careers and now use fishing as supplement income- and because they love to fish! Each year there's a few new Guides added to the list, and then there are a handful that don't make it businesswise, or retire, or move. That  said, with over 60 it's a competitive small business we are running and with  over 60 of us, that's a substantial economic impact. As I commented at the Summit, the market will determine whether these Guides make it as a business here at Amelia Island. The State doesn't need to limit it. If the Guide can't run a small business, doesn't brand or market his service correctly, or doesn't produce a good product, he/she will eventually be out of business. BUT, as with the growing "anti-angler" sentiment, there is (and probably always have been) an anti-Guide sentiment. This was very evident at the Summit.

As a side, it's amazing to me sometimes how the every day angler will blame we Guides for their issues. I see it at the boat ramp daily. I'll be tied up at the dock, with plenty of space for another boat to come in, and they will get angry because I'm in THEIR spot. I've figured out that THEIR spot is the only place that they feel comfortable bringing their boat to. If they need to dock in any other location, they're not experienced enough to maneuver their boat to that location so they get angry at we Guides rather than learning to operate their boat. 

I see on my boat every day that experienced anglers tend to catch more fish. Even with that, there's always a chance of having a bad day. And there's always a chance that an inexperienced angler will have a good day and catch the fish of a lifetime. Either way I try to do the best job I can to ensure that all guests have a good time. THAT SAID,  just because some anglers aren't catching Redfish doesn't mean they aren't there! Don't blame it on the Guides if you're not caching fish, especially here in our area.  The way I understood one of the presenters data, the stocks in NE Florida are looking really good. My last few trips we have had handfuls of small "rat reds" caught, once in a while a Slot or two, and each week a few oversized Redfish. All in all, a good average bit of fishing.  I guestimate that half of my customers release all their fish. Many of my guests will keep  few to take home and throw others back that they could have legally kept. And then I will have a few that want to catch and keep and take as many as they can. Like I told the scientist at the Summit, "I rely on you folks to set the rules as to what is sustainable and healthy for the fish population", so if the rule is 2 Reds per person, 18-27", then that's what I'm going to go by and allow on my boat.

In the above image you can see some of the suggestions that were brought up. I was the first to speak and gave my opinion on the first three. I didn't have an issue with 1) Reducing Bag Limit for Anglers On For Hire Trips. As I already mentioned, keeping and killing 8 Redfish on 4 person trip is an overkill in my opinion. It's rare that happens on my boat, but it has happened. Our Florida fishery is under severe pressure and sustaining our Redfish stock and keeping our fishery healthy is important. We Guides have to balance providing a good product to our customers, keeping in mind that we can't place the stock in dire straits. The days of "filling the cooler" are slipping by (there were days when the old timers put EVERY fish in the cooler, and kept all the huge Bull Redfish they could keep). Truth be told, most of the Guides I know would rather throw most fish back. 

2) Limited-Entry License. This is where I opined that the market would limit the number of  Guides and Captains. There will always be Captains that get in on a shoe-string, and some will make it-it's their dream, but many will fall by the way side. That particular item evolved into Item#4 - Increase requirements for Captains/Guide license. I mentioned to the group that our Amelia Island Guides Association requires all of its Guide Members to provide proof of Liability Insurance, their US Coast Guard License, and their FWC License. I joked with Carol on the way home that it might be kinda nice for the State to take over the responsibility of gathering that information-as the Secretary/Treasurer of the AIGA it's like pulling teeth to get all the paperwork in! My biggest concern, spoken at the breakout session, was that established Guides and Captains would use the State to limit their competition with more and expensive regulations. I've seen it done, here at Amelia Island (see the $1500 fee that the City of Fernandina charges Guides to launch at the Marina). I understand the need for Liability Insurance and can't imagine a Guide business not having it. Again, if they don't, and something happens, they'll be out of business soon. In my opinion this idea came from some Guide(s) that  wanted to limit competition. Are they wanting to limit licenses? I can still remember here in Fernandina growing up there was one man that held all the Liquor Licenses and thus owned all the bars. What a limit on competition that was! Can you imagine the back room dealings as to who get's a Captain's License?

3) No Bag Limit For Captain and Crew. As I mentioned at the Summit, I already do this. I don't count in the "take" on my boat. It's only been the last few years but I quit counting my self so I wouldn't have a problem with this becoming an established law. 

Solving Issues was another topic. This image is hard to see as it was stuck on window. But as you can see down at the bottom, #6 is Improved Access to Law Enforcement and was a popular, and voted on suggestion. That was basically a suggestion of a better "hot line" or Text Line to alert FWC officers of illegal harvesting.  This was not necessarily to be used to bust an uneducated (that was a topic) angler who happens to have a 17.5" Redfish, but those that have 13 undersized, Slot and Oversized fish in their bucket. You can read the other suggestions that came up but didn't garner much support. 

Items that did have a lot of support (I suggested #9) was to have an FWC "Ambassador" program where anglers could get certified by the FWC on some of these conservation, management, stock assessment issues - basically talking points, then be available to speak at fishing clubs, association, etc. in order to educate the public on where we are with the stocks, go over the rules and regulations, etc.

Note that item #10 had some support. This idea would create some Public Service Assistants, kina like a Public Service Officer in a police department. These PSA's wouldn't have arrest or citing capability, but they would be the eyes and ears (and possibility as Ambassador's?) for the FWC at boat ramps, etc. 

That's a long read! Thank you for hanging in there. IF you got down to this paragraph note that there will be Public Workshops thru-out the State of Florida on these very topics in October. Our area is scheduled for  6pm Tuesday October 12th, at the Southeast Regional Library 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville. 
As we get closer and they put links up I will post them.

If you think you would like to have some input or don't like what you've just read, then it behooves you to attend and let you opinion known. It was my observation that these FWC staff members are trying to take in as much observations, information and opinions as they can from the public, and then take into account all the scientific data that they have collected then make recommendations to the Commission and ultimately the law makers who set the rules. I mean, that's all they can do, right?  You might have an entirely different outlook or opinion than I do and that's fine. But don't be bitch'n if you haven't at least spoken up and let the FWC know how you feel!  You can also make public comments to the FWC HERE.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Shark Fights and Nice Redfish

 We kicked the week off fishing down at Sawpit Creek boat ramp today when I met Doug Mackle and new residents Scott and Sandy Winstead for a half day of fishing. It was slightly overcast and we had a breeze of 8mph blowing which made for a good day of fishing. We headed up the intercoastal and dipped in to Jackstaff, turned into the current and began tossing float rigs with live shrimp on a mid-tide and incoming. I was a slight bit worried when I saw the "fullish" moon early this morning but the worry was all for naught - within minutes the trio of anglers were getting bites. Sandy kicked it off with a nice Mangrove Snapper catch then Scott and Doug joined in on the action catching a Ladyfish, feisty Redfish, Catfish, Jack Crevalle and Mangrove Snapper. 

Doug had made an excellent cast, up into a drainage, right beside a grassy point and when his float disappeared and the drag began to rip we speculated Shark or Big Redfish. This fish hung close, dug deep and when it boiled up we knew the answer - Big Redfish!  Doug played it patiently, worked it to the boat and brought to the net a nice 27.75" oversized Redfish, boy what a fish! Shortly after that he tangled with a big 4' Bonnethead Shark, won the battle, and we netted, photographed and released it.

We then ran thru Horsehead and down to Pumpkin Hill and set up at a marsh point. Sandy and Doug were drifting long down one side and Scott was drifting down the other. Sure enough, after passing a jut out of grass, BAM, Scott had a hookup. He expertly worked it to the boat and landed  a keeper sized Seatrout (photographed and released). He went back to the same spot, getting a good drift and BAM! Big Fish On!  I thought for sure it was going to be a Redfish but as it ripped drag off we both concluded, Shark. But it was a fun catch and after a good battle, Scott brought him to the net. 

The tide was at its peak so we ran over to Christopher Creek and fished the bend with jigs. We had been talking about some Snook catches we had in the past and there is a particular spot where we've caught 3-4 of them. Sandy had a shot it, then Doug had a shot at it, then Scott went in and BAM! A strong hookup.  This fish was pulling drag and as Scott applied the pressure I was thinking, "could it be a Snook?" Nope. Scott worked it to the boat and landed a beautiful copper colored 21" Slot Redfish.

Our last stop was down at Sawpit Creek. The wind had picked up, the sun had come out and the heat was coming on. Scott tangled with another Shark but this one wound itself around a crab pot and eventually broke off. But we had had a great day out on the water so we counted it as another good one to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Bar Set Kinda High


We wrapped the week up with a beautiful August morning-sunshine and just a slight breeze.  The tide was still coming in when Bob and Kathy Miller and I had made the run from Sawpit Creek up to Pumpkin Hill. After the GPS caught and I set the anchor the two anglers began drifting live shrimp under floats, going long down the flooded grass bank. Each of them had a "nibble" or two, with floats disappearing but no hookup. But on about the third or fourth drift Kathy's float went down and stayed down. She "caught up to it" by cranking in the slack, lifted her rod and set the circle hook and, Fish On! The fish made a couple of short runs so I knew it was a nice fish but I didn't know how nice! Then it took off down the bank, ripping drag and running out the line. We started backing down as Kathy reeled in the line to build up some insurance, then the fish would dig deep and the drag would begin to rip. It was a great battle and Kathy played it perfectly, despite the unwarranted "coaching" Bob and I were giving, and she finally brought to the net a big Oversized 29.5" Redfish, boy what a fish! After pictures we released it to swim off, back to the deep.

We fished another bank and here we had a "double hookup". Bob had drifted his float down the grass line and when it went under he set the hook and patiently played to the boat a nice 18"  keeper sized Seatrout. While he was reeling that in, Kathy got on to another big fish, this one a Shark. I knew right off what it was as it took off, heading to Georgia. But Kathy knew what to do now and kept the pressure on, working it slowly to the boat and landed a nice 3' Bonnethead Shark.

Our next stop was around at Seymore's Pointe where the Bob put a nice keeper sized Mangrove Snapper in the boat. We had nibblers aplenty but no takers so we came back around towards Goffinsville and fished between docks, switching to jigs and shrimp. Here the duo teamed up to put a good handful of Mangrove's in the box. After moving down the way we switched back to floats and here they finished out their limit (10) on the Mangrove Snapper.

The final stop was down at Twin Creeks, fishing jigs. It was getting hot and the bite had slowed but Bob had one more fish left in him. He hooked up with something nice - a fish big enough to make his drag rip. Bob worked it in slowly, let it run when it wanted to, then brought it to the boat - a 2' long Black Tip Shark. Where we were at the breeze was blocked and we had the weekend calling so we headed in and counted it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Recipe of the Month: Crab Imperial

 By Julie Rothman with the Baltimore Sun: "A classic Maryland-style crab imperial should have very few ingredients and requires minimum seasoning. It is the crab meat that is the focus of the dish.  When working with crab meat, take care not to pull apart the lumps of meat and always use a fork when combining your ingredients. Never break apart or mash the crabmeat." 

Robert Shoffner writes:  "the accepted wisdom of the region(Maryland) : Crab cakes were to crab imperial what meatloaf was to prime rib. Considering crab imperial a superior dish to crab cakes reflects an understanding that the sweetness of jumbo lump crab is best appreciated in the simplest preparations. "

When my mother-in-law, Jean Hanna passed away, my wife found in her cupboards a set of milk white Glass Bake crab dishes, made by McKee Glass Company. They came in the white, clear, and red. Here's an article about the crab dishes and there is also a Deviled Crab recipe! Maybe we'll make that another month!  We stored them away for years but decided to break them out to re-create the classic Crab Imperial!  I "googled" Imperial Crab and picked the Phillips Company recipe:


1 lb Jumbo Lump Crab Meat

1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 egg

1 tsp Seafood Seasoning

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

3 oz Hellmann's mayonnaise (I read somewhere that Hellmann's is good for baking)

1 tsp melted butter

Combine all Crab Imperial ingredients (EXCEPT THE CRAB MEAT) in a medium mixing bowl and whip until smooth.

In a seperate mixing bowl, add the crab meat and pour Imperial mixture over crab meat.

Blend all ingredients together by tossing very gently in order to avoid breaking delicate crab lump meat.

This recipe filled eight (8) of the Glass Bake crab dishes perfectly! Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.

Imperial Topping:

3 oz Hellman's mayonnaise

1 oz half and half

1/2 tsp seafood seasoning

1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

Pinch of paparika

1/4 cup shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese

Combine all the topping ingredients (EXCEPT THE PAPRIKA AND SHREDDED CHEESE) in a medium mixing bowl and whip until smooth.

After the Imperials are finished baking, remove from oven and switch oven to broil.

Top each dish of crab with the imperial topping. Sprinkly some paprika on each, then add some of the shredded cheese. 

Place in broiler to finish off until cheese has melted and Imperials start to brown. DON'T  WALK AWAY FROM IT! KEEP AN EYE ON IT!

Serve with toasted baguettes or crackers.


Flounder Queen


Luckily today we had just a bit of breeze so it wasn't quite as hot as it was yesterday. When we came in from fishing around 11am today there were a couple of anglers launching to start there day and with it being so hot I  thought "crazy", but I guess if that's when you can go, more power to them!

I had met Frank Wytiaz and his wife Joanne down at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp early and we headed up the intercoastal and got just north of Jackstaff and fished some marsh runouts that looked really good. It was a high and outgoing tide, but it It was very shallow, over some shell banks, and I thought for sure we'd catch some fish, but no, only a small Ladyfish. We then came back around and into Jackstaff and fished a stretch of bank and here we had some good, steady action. Both Joanne and Frank hooked up and landed  a handful of feisty, fun to catch Redfish. They also had a couple of small Jacks, then Frank put a fairly big (12" Mangrove Snapper in the boat. We switched from float rigs to jigs and it wasn't long before Joanne had a "bump", set the hook, and expertly landed a keeper sized Flounder. We worked that bank pretty good and picked up a few more fish, one being a small Flounder that Joanna caught.

After running thru Horsehead and over into the Nassau we set up between two docks and stuck with the jigs and shrimp. Sure enough, we were in to the Mangrove Snapper. We'd lose 5-6 shrimp, then catch a fish. Lose 5-6 shrimp, and catch a fish.  A few of them were very nice size and went in the box! We did have a good thump on one bite and with Joanne on the reel, she worked in another keeper sized Flounder!

Our final stop was down at Spanish Drop, fishing jigs as the oysters were exposed on a falling tide. There was a ton of bait moving and I thought for sure we'd have some action but we theorized that it was just too hot. As  Frank said, "the bait is there, the fish are there, but it's just too hot and they're not eating!".  I packed a towel with ice on my neck and we headed back to the ramp, counting it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island,  Florida. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I Called It A Shark

 Boy was it a hot one today! By the time we got back to the dock I was drenched with sweat, but for mostof the day it was fairly nice and a great one for fishing. I had met Mark Dennis and his friend Greg and Greg's teenagers Jacob and Carter out at the Goffinsville Park boat ramp early. The tide was high but almost at a standstill so we ran over to Pumkpin Hill and began working a grassy bank with float rigs and live shrimp. They were getting a bite or two but it was Carter who "knocked the skunk off" with a feisty Redfish catch. We fished that stretch, then down one more bank before we moved on.

Our next stop was over at Nassauville where we switched to jigs and shrimp and this got the action going. We began to get Mangrove Snapper bites and everyone joined in on the catching. They also caught a couple of small Sea Bass. A number of the Snapper were small but we did get a good handful of legal ones to throw in the box. We broke one of the basic rules of fishing, "don't leave fish to find fish" but we wanted some bigger fish, so we moved on. 

After a short run down to Spanish Drop we set up off a large marsh run out and man was there a lot of bait moving. We picked up a couple of Stingray's then Jacob had a good "bump". He set the hook and worked it expertly to the boat and landed a nice 17" Flounder. Greg battled a Bonnethead Shark for a

few minutes then Jacob picked up another feisty Redfish. When Greg had another strong hookup the big fish dug deep and I mistakenly called it "another Shark". But Greg didn't care and battled it from bow to stern, keeping the pressure on as it went deep behind the boat. I still thought it was a shark until it boiled up between the boat and the bank and we saw that beautiful copper color- Big Redfish On! Greg worked it patiently and soon brought it to the net - a bulky 25.5" Slot Redfish. Boy what a fish.

We had burned through a lot of bait at the Mangrove spot and we eventually ran out, but the bait fish were still at the run out so we dropped back and

tossed a net and got a couple dozen nice finger mullet, then we move up to another drainage and fished it to wrap things up. I had commented that we hadn't seen a Trout earlier so it was nice to see Mark hookup off the stern in deeper water. He played it patiently and brought to the boat a nice keeper sized Seatrout to round out the team's Amelia Island Back Country Slam of Redfish, Flounder and Seatrout and with that, we called it a day, another great one to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Bait Me Up


I wrapped up my week today fishing with Garland Clark and Suzanna Braun, meeting them down at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp. We actually had few clouds as we left the dock which bode well for a forecasted hot day! After a short run up the Nassau River we eased up to a large run out and boy was it loaded with bait. And boy was it getting "popped" by game fish! The two anglers began tossing jigs and live shrimp and minnows into the fray and it wasn't long before they were catching fish. A lot of fish! We could see big Redfish backs as they busted the bait and Suzanna, exclaimed, "Bait me up!"  They caught a handful of feisty Redfish, some Seatrout, Jack Crevalle, Catfish and Ladyfish. 

There were a couple of highlights - Suzanna battled a hard fighting Jack Crevalle to the net, Garland wore out a four foot Bonnethead, then they teamed up, almost at the same time, hooking up with some big  Redfish. They even had to "do the dance", passing each other as they traded stern and port on the boat, but they both kept the pressure on. Suzanna put her fish in the boat, a Slot Redfish then shortly after Garland put another Slot in the boat. That was crazy!

We fished that stretch for almost two hours! There was no need to leave because we were catching fish, but when it slowed, we move on up to try some docks at Seymore's Pointe. The first stop didn't produce anything, but the second one produced a good handful of Mangrove Snapper, a number of which were of keeper size. Suzanna also had a hard fighting fish on which we thought might be a huge Snapper, but it turned out to be a 14" Grouper!

Our final stop was down at Pumpkin Hill and we down to a handful of finger mullet that I had caught earlier. They were both getting nice drifts but we had no takers so we called it a day, another great one to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Camp'n Out


It was a hot one today - the temperatures and the fishing! I had met Bob Hagerman and his sons Bob and Brandon down at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp early this morning. All morning long, from sunrise to the bait shop to the boat ramp I was debating on whether to run up the intercoastal and fish Jackstaff or give the Nassau River and Spanish Drop one more try (yesterday we caught squat there). But I like that stretch of deep water coming up to shell beds so we picked Spanish Drop and made the short run, pulling up as the outgoing tide began to hit bottom.  The trio of anglers began to pitch jigs and live shrimp to the exposed oysters and it wasn't long before all were catching fish.

I don't normally stay at a spot more than 30 minutes, and most of the time it's less than that. When we were all done we had been there for an hour and a half!  Brandon knocked the skunk off with a nice Seatrout catch, then Bob put a Flounder in the boat.  Brandon followed that up with a nice Jack Cravelle. Bob Jr was laying back.  Then Bob Sr hooked up and when his drag began to rip we knew it was a nice fish. He played it to the boat and brought to the net a nice Slot sized 18.5" Redfish and as we were netting it Bob Jr hooked up and battled to the net another Slot Red, this one measuring in at 21".

The trio caught about everything you could think of - Reds, Trout, Flounder, Brandon added a tough-to-catch Sheepshead, Stingray, bait stealers, Catfish - we  camped out and worked up and down the bank a couple of times catching fish. When it finally slowed we made a short run up the river and worked another bank. This one only produced a Catfish.

The tide was up and beginning to flood the oysters so we ran down to fish Pumpkin Hill. We switched to float rigs and drifted long. The tide wasn't up as high as it was yesterday when we were at this spot, but it still payed off.  Brandon had a good drift going and when his float disappeared he slapped the bail shut, "caught up to it" and hooked up with a keeper sized Seatrout. Bob Jr. came in right behind him, drifting long, and had another good hookup. He reeled in another nice keeper sized Seatrout. We fished down another grass line, had a bite or two, picked up one Trout, then came back to the original side.

With only minutes to go and the "GPK" on the line, Brandon hooked up and landed a feisty Redfish and was minutes away from the win when......Bob Jr's float.....drifting thru a small bay....disappeared....and after Bob cranked it tight.....BAM! Big Fish On!  Boy what a battle. You could feel the tension in the air! But Bob was up to the task, played it patiently, worked it to the boat, let it run, worked it back, let it run, then brought to the net a big Oversized 28.25" Redfish! Boy what a fish! And with that, we called it a day, another great one fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Perseverance or Was it the Red Hooks?

 We're having some really nice August mornings although it does get heated up as we get closer to noon, and today was no exception. I had met Bob Miller down at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp and we made the long run up and around to Broward Island to fish the first of an incoming tide. However, when we got there, the tide was still going out so we eased down to the other end and fished a large outflow with jigs and live shrimp. Bob did pick up one nice feisty Redfish before we moved on.  We made a stop up on the north end and fished it with jigs as the tide came in - the perfect time to be there, but to no avail.

We came back to the Spanish Drop area, fished a flooding oyster bed with float rigs and mud minnows then switched to jigs and worked a large runout, but again, to no avail. After hitting one more spot we moved up to Seymore's Pointe and fished some dock pilings and here we did pick up a Croaker and small Mangrove Snapper.

The tide was up pretty high now so we followed it back down

to Pumpkin Hill and set up to drift floats down a long grass line. I had just got in an order of Eagle Claw 3/0 circle hooks in Red color - hooks I used to use but haven't been able to find in a long while.  Bob drifted long and picked up a couple of small but feisty Redfish then he had s strong bite and fish on!  The way it was fighting and ripping drag I guessed, "Slot Redfish"!  Bob played it patiently and slowly worked it to the boat and when it came to the net we saw that it was a huge Seatrout!  We netted it and it measured right at 23" - big enough to move Bob into 3rd place in the Angler's Mark 2021 Bragging Rights Tournament-Seatrout category (scroll down the right side of this report for a link to standings). Boy what a fish!

We continued to "do the drift" and BAM, another fish on. Bob expertly brought it to the net and landed a 20" Trout. With the new rules, this one had to go back! We fished that edge for a while and caught another couple of feisty Reds and a small Trout. After easing around the corner and drifting by a pointe, BAM! Fish On!  Bob brought it in and it just came in under the 19" mark so in the box it went. The sun was up and the heat was on and time was out so we headed in, counting it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Gator Country


Another perfect day for fishing this morning greeted us when I met Derek Poon and his sons Zach and Tyler down at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp. We had clear skies and only a slight breeze as we left the dock and headed up the Nassau River to make our first stop at Spanish Drop with plans to fish float rigs and live shrimp on a tide that had been coming in a couple of hours. As we got the baits out in the water and I started easing along the bank, Tyler had his float in a nice drift and as it slowly went under he raised the rod to set the hook and First Fish On! Tyler cranked it in and landed a nice hungry Flounder to "knock the skunk off".

Only minutes later Derek's float disappeared and the drag started screaming then there was a big boil up near the bank. the fish ran east for a bit then came back and wrapped up all the lines and boy did we have a mess! But Derek kept his cool while I got the other two and cut and cleared away then the battle was on. Derek kept the pressure on, let the big fish run, but slowly worked it in and finally we lifted in a big 4' long Bonnethead Shark, boy what a fight! After that commotion, the fish were scarce, so we moved on. 

We made a run down to Broward and on the way saw a big Gator slither off a shell bank. We fished some jigs for a bit but the fish were having none of it so we eased back to Pumpkin Hill and went back to the float rigs and this did the trick. I think it was Zach's first drift when his float disappeared and after he caught up the slack by reeling extra fast the fight ensued! This fish was big!  Zach's drag was ripping and the fish took him from the stern of the boat around to port and up to the bow then back to the stern. The big fish dove under the boat, headed for the engine, headed for the trolling motor, but all the while Zach was working it!  I was helping for a bit but turned it completely over to him and he did outstanding and finally brought the big fish to the net - a 30" Oversized Redfish!

Derek picked up a hard fighting Jack Crevalle, then Zach added another feisty Redfish then Derek added a Catfish to the fish count. We moved around the corner and the trio added a couple of keeper sized Seatrout. Derek battled a couple of smaller Shark to the net and then a bigger Jack Crevalle. 

Our last stop was back at Seymore's Pointe at the "Mangrove Snapper Hole" and here all thee anglers put Snapper in the boat. Tyler was taking up the stern and making excellent casts and he landed a couple of the Snapper. Zach was on the bow and he put a keeper sized fish in the boat. The sun had gotten up, we had some fish in the boat, we had some good memories, so as we headed in we counted it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia  Island, Florida. 

Monday, August 9, 2021


I was back to "work" today, fishing with Tim Ayers and his son Andrew, meeting them up at the Dee Dee Bartels Park early. It was a beautiful day, and for August, that's saying a lot. Running to our first stop up at the Jolley River, we all felt a coolness to the air and as we turned into the "bank", the sun was coming up over the marsh and ocean. We worked along that stretch of bank, tossing float rigs and live shrimp and getting excellent casts but we mostly got "nibbles" from bait stealers. Andrew did "knock the skunk off" when he hooked up and caught a copper-colored feisty Redfish.

We ran further up the river and fished around Snook Creek and again found the bait stealers, in addition to some small Ladyfish and Mangrove Snapper. Andrew added another feisty Redfish to his catch total. After fishing one more spot in the Jolly we came back around to Tyger, ran through and over to the Bell River and set up alongside a flooded oyster bar. Here, things did pick up a bit.  Andrew hit a hot streak catching some small Seatrout then Tim went in with a good cast. got a good drift and BAM! A strong hookup. Tim played it patiently to the boat and landed a beautiful golden 17" Seatrout. 

We worked the other side, battled with the baitstealers, then it was Andrews turn to get the nice fish. We had seen something bust bait up by an island and when Andrew made the cast it wasn't long before he had a good fish on. He worked it expertly to the boat and landed another beautiful 17" Seatrout, almost a Twin of Tim's fish. 

Our last stop was back around on the outside of Tyger as the tide started back out. There was a lot of movement going on but all we could seem to snag were the bait stealers. Andrew was fishing one of the last shrimp, a popcorn sized one, and had a Shark take it and run, heading to Georgia -it kept going, ran out of line and, BAP! Fish off. But it provided a short bit of excitement and a great way to wrap up a good day of fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Last 20 MInutes

 We gambled to day, fishing early in hopes that we wouldn't stay wet the whole day! The forecast wascalling for chances of rain in the 70% range all morning and when I left the bait shop it was already raining. But after I launched it had quit and all we had were sullen skies. I met Derek Kessler and his son Eli up at the Dee Dee Bartels Park boat ramp. We had a high tide right at launch so we bounced over to the outside of Tiger and eased up to the grass and began tossing float rigs with live shrimp. The current wasn't hardly moving yet but we had some good action early, caching a couple of feisty Redfish, a small Trout and then Eli put the first keeper in the boat, a fat Mangrove Snapper. 

After buzzing thru Horsehead, over to the Bell, and up Lanceford we ran to a small grass patch an dfished it with the float rigs. Not a bite. We eased over to Dave's dock, fished it for a bit and again, not a bite. We then motored out and back around to Soap Creek and set up fishing a large marsh run out. Derek put a hungry Trout in the boat right off. As we eased along the shore line to an oyster/grassy island things began to pick up The duo of anglers caught one feisty Redfish after the other, and a couple of fat Seatrout.

Our next stop was around at some docks, fishing the pilings after switching to jigs and shrimp. After Derek had made an excellent cast to the pilings, he had a strong bite and, BAM! Big fish on. Derek played it patiently, worked it out from the pilings, then applied the pressure and brought to the net a nice 4-spot Slot 21" Redfish. 

We were running out of time so we made one more stop back towards town, fishing some expose oysters with the jigs. We had a couple of Catfish caught then Derek, who had switched back to a float, saw his float go slowly under and he lifted, set the circle hook, and Fish On! Derek reeled in a nice 16" keeper sized Flounder. We eased on along the bank, tossing jigs to a nice run out and BOOM! Another big fish on. Derek played it to the boat and expertly landed a big 23" Seatrout, big enough to put him in the 3rd place in the Anglers Mark 2021 Bragging Rights Tournament-Seatrout Category. Boy what a fish. Those last two fish were caught within 20 minutes of wrapping up so as we headed in, we counted it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Relationship Building


After fishing today, my guests and I came up with a new "service" that I could add, "Relationship Building"!  I had met Russ and Denise Kesel early this morning up at the Dee Dee Bartels Park boat ramp and they had along with them their son Noah and his girlfriend Alysa. The tide had been going out for about an hour so we skipped across the river to the outside of Tyger Island and began fishing  an edge of grass as the current flowed around it. It was the new girl, Alysa, who "knocked the skunk off" with a nice Redfish catch. Then Denise, who was casting out of the stern, caught and landed a hungry Flounder. We were getting bites and I would have liked to have fished it more, but the tide was already down enough that the engine was bumping bottom so we moved on. 

Our next stop was around at the Jolley River where the two couples began tossing their float rigs up current, baited with live shrimp. We had good action along that stretch, catching a good handful of feisty Redfish. Russ expertly battled a big Bonnethead Shark and Noah and Alysa had a "double hookup" where each landed a nice Redfish. Noah had something big on for a bit but it got tangled in Alysa's line - eventually it made a strong move and broke off. 

I've seen on multiple trips where friends and couples are fishing and "things" happen - folks get in the way of each other, they get their lines crossed, they get tangled, they hook each other and when out on the boat, you just gotta work through it and have a good time. Noah handled it well and kept on fishing!

We moved up the Jolley to Snook Creek and again drifted the float rigs. and again we had good action. All four anglers were catching fish - feisty Redfish, hungry Seatrout, and the ever present baitstealer. We eased along, crossed the creek, worked the cut and had good action along the way. Then, while Noah and Alysa were baiting up, Russ went long and up near the bank, up ahead of the boat and, BAM! He had a hookup. The fish didn't pull hard at first, heading south ahead of the bow, but then it turned and headed north towards the stern and this time it was ripping drag. Russ played it patiently, going from starboard over to port then worked it in slowly to the net. We measured this nice golden Slot Redfish right at 23", boy what a fish. All fish caught today were released.

I had planned to fish the MOA but the oysters were still covered so we kept going around to Bell River and fished some docks. Again, we caught a couple of Reds, a Trout or two, and a couple of Mangrove Snapper.  We finished up fishing Jolley Bank again, this time with jigs and here the two ladies battled for the GPK. Denise had set the standard with an earlier Redfish catch, Alysa boated a 9" Redfish, then Denise followed that up with a 15.5" keeper sized Flounder. We were right down to the wire when Alysa hooked up again but her fish came in just under the 10" mark so Denise took home the coveted award. As we headed in the sun had peaked thru the clouds and knowing that we had some good action fishing, we counted it as another great day to be fishing here at Amelia Island, Florida.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Recipe of The Month: Etta's Classic Dungeness Crab Cakes

 My wife got me this book, I Love Crab Cakes by Tom Douglas, with Shelley Lance and it has dozens of Crab Cake recipe's in it, along with some sauce recipe's. We decided that we would try to make a few of them and so I picked the very first one in the book!, Etta's Classic Dungeness Crab Cakes, a top seller at his restaurant for more than seventeen years.

1 large egg yolk                                                                       1/2 teaspoon Paprika

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice                                                 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried Thyme

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce                                            1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco                                                           1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard                         5 Tablespoons olive oil

In a food processor or a blender, combine the egg yolk, lemon juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco, mustard, Paprika, Thyme, celery seeds and black pepper. Pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until the mixture emulsifies and forms a mayonnaise. Set aside.

3/4 cup chopped Parsley                                                         1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped onion                                                            1 pound Dungeness crabmeat, drained,                                                                                                            lightly squeezed

1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper                                         5 Tablespoons unsalted butter

5 Cups fresh bread crumbs      Garnish with lemon wedges, bed of spinach, tomatoes

Put the bread crumbs in a shallow container and mix 1/2 cup of the chopped parsley(reserving  the remaining 1/4 cup for the crab cake mixture, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the onion and bell peppers with the remaining 1/4 cup parsley.  Add the reserved mayonnaise and the crabmeat and mix lightly to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1 cup of the bread crumb-parsley mixture. Do not overwork the mixture or the crab cakes may get gummy. Gently form 8 patties and dredge the patties lightly n the remaining bread crumb-parsley mixture. If you have time, cover the crab cakes with plastic wrap and chill for an hour or longer.

Place two large nonstick skillets over medium heat and add about 2 1/2 tablespoons butter to each pan. As soon as the butter is melted, add 4 cakes to each pan. Gently fry the crab cakes until they ar hot through and golden brown on both sides, turning once with a spatula, about 4 minutes per side. The internal temperature of crab cake should be 155 degrees  on an instant read thermometer. Transfer the cakes to a bed of spinach and garnish with a wedge of lemon or fresh cut tomato's. Serve with remoulade sauce.