Fishing is all about opportunities, and nothing is a sure bet in this sport, but certain times of the year at locations can help stack the deck in your favor. Heading down south of Georgia and back to my favorite fishing place, the forgotten coast of Saint Marks, Florida, you will find a fishing oasis as spotted seatrout migrate from the rivers to the saltwater flats to fatten up bait from their cold long winter.
After loading your skiff in the water in the early morning, head South down the river to channel marker 8 and hang a right. To find seatrout on the flats, look for a water depth of 2-5 feet with a spotty bottom with channels nearby. Also, the seatrout bite is always happening on moving water preferably rising, and a dead tide means trash fish and sharks will be biting. A new moon is your friend too. Predatory fish hunt at night and the lack of light can be hindering them. This turns the day bite on more in my experience.
Locate your ideal location and pull up several under yards against the tide from that location. The drift will take you over the sweet spot. Cast your rig and begin popping the cork to imitate bait fish being attacked or jumping. If you do half of this right, you should be in the fish.
One last thing to remember is to get your Florida saltwater fishing license and follow the state regulations for spotted seatrout. At this time of April 2018, the limit in Northwest Florida is 5 with a slot of 15”-20”. One seatrout can be over the slot as well. Good Luck and Tight Lines!
I was 27 years old when I took my first deep sea fishing trip on the open ocean. Being born and raised in the rolling foothills of the Appalachians, I was accustomed to only fishing in lakes, ponds and rivers around Georgia and Alabama. I traveled to Panama City Beach with a group of friends for what would become an unforgettable adventure.
We booked a trip with Captain Scott Fitzgerald of Madfish Charters and set out on a beautiful sunny September morning. I did not know what to expect to catch in the emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and asked Capt. Scott about our chances to gain some sense of reassurance.
“You think we’ll catch a fish or two?” I joked.
“Oh, we’ll catch plenty,” he laughed. “Your arms might get tired from reeling them in.”
We boarded the boat and held on and he ramped the motor up to what felt like 100 miles per hour. We seamlessly glided across the water to our destination nearly 10 miles offshore. As I stared at the endless blue horizon, my friend, Paul, slapped my shoulder and pointed to a massive sea turtle making its way toward the surface as we zoomed past. I quickly realized that today was going to be vastly different than fishing any Georgia freshwater reservoir.
We arrived at our first stop where a shipwreck lay roughly 100 feet below us. I fished a scrap of blackfin tuna that Capt. Scott had caught just minutes earlier for our day’s bait. The bait and sinker plunked into the water as the tuna left an oily trail on the surface.
“Got one!” Paul yelled as we turned to watch him fight the day’s first catch, a small red snapper.
Capt. Scott grabbed the line and raised the fish into the boat to give us a closer look.
“Check out the teeth on that thing,” he said, showing me the fish’s needle-sharp fangs.
Before he could release the snapper, our friend, Jason, piped up.
I focused on my own rod to ensure I hadn’t missed a bite. I slowly cranked the reel just one turn before I felt a sharp tug on the end of the line. I quickly wound the line and felt the unmistakable sensation of a fish dancing on the hook. This did not feel like the old run-of-the-mill largemouth bass or bream I was used to catching. The fish tugged and darted with much more power than I anticipated, sharply jerking the pole downward as the reel whined against the catch.
My heart was pumping as I brought the fish to the surface. Another red snapper. I was amazed at how the brilliant red color seemed to brighten to a different hue as I brought it out of the water.
We continued to reel in fish after fish. Our group caught mackerel, beeliner, triggerfish, grouper, and the occasional shark. All the worries I originally brought with me on the boat about returning with an empty cooler vanished. It was every bit of fun I had hoped for—and more.
As the heat began to wear on our boat in the open sun, we began to maneuver around the vessel for the small sliver of shade offered by the covered steering column in the center. Soon, Jason had reached his limit for standing in the hot sun.
“Captain, can I jump in and take a dip for a minute? It’s hot as all get out,” he said.
“Absolutely not,” said Capt. Scott replied. “These are shark infested waters and we have been chummin’ up the water all day.”
In light of Capt. Scott’s warning, Jason persisted.
“Come on, man,” he said. “It’ll be alright if I just jump in for a little bit. I don’t see any sharks around here anyway.”
Capt. Scott firmly declined once more, to which Jason continued to plead for just one minute of relief from the boiling sun.
“Look, you’re a grown man, so you can do what you want to, but the second you step off this boat, you are not covered by any kind of insurance I can offer,” said Capt. Scott. “Do not jump into—”
Capt. Scott was interrupted by a large splash as Jason jumped into the cool water. The Captain shook his head and muttered a few choice words regarding Jason’s decision.
“Wooo! Come on, fellas! This feels great!” said Jason as he smiled with relief from the sweltering sun.
“Dude, get out,” said Paul. “I don’t want to be pulling you up out of a shark’s mouth.”
After our group reasoned with him, Jason relented and climbed into the boat.
“SHARK!” Paul yelled as Jason picked up a towel to dry himself with.
Jason smiled at what he likely thought was a joke from his friend, but his grin quickly sank into a shocked expression as two full-grown bull sharks cruised past the boat directly under where Jason had just exited the water.
We stood in silence as the pair of large sharks swam away from our vessel.
“See what I mean?” Capt. Scott said in a matter-of-fact-tone.
Jason and our group tried to dismiss what we had just witnessed with nervous laughter, realizing that we narrowly avoided a nightmare scenario. We soon relocated to avoid any further incidents with the sharks. Our group arrived at what Capt. Scott said was a fairly large reef below. Within minutes, we were all back to hooking and reeling in fish.
“Whoa! I got something big,” said Paul.
Moments later, Paul’s line went limp as he continued to reel in what he hoped would be a monster fish. As his hook neared the surface, it became evident that Paul had initially hooked into a medium sized snapper that had been bitten clean in two.
“Looks like the sharks are back, let’s get out of here,” said Capt. Scott.
We all protested, hoping that one of us would catch one of the giant creatures.
I caught another decent red snapper, which floundered atop the surface after being released. The fish floated away nearly 20 feet from the bow of our boat. I flinched as one of the sharks crashed the surface, snatching the fish away before returning to the depths.
“Did you see that?!” I shouted to our group.
Reaching into my pocket for my phone, I realized that the camera on my Samsung flip-phone had recently been damaged. My stomach sank as I realized I had not taken one single photo of any fish we had landed that day. I quickly asked Paul and Jason to get their phones ready to capture footage of the sharks.
Jason replied that he had left his phone in the hotel, while Paul began readying his brand-new smartphone to capture any glimpse of the sharks.
“No!” he groaned. “My phone is dead! I can’t believe this!”
Capt. Scott laughed as we agonized over what we knew would be a fishing story nobody would believe.
“You guys didn’t bring a camera?” he said. “I usually keep one in the boat, but my wife has it today.”
We laughed at our misfortune and continued to enjoy our time on the water. Our group began catching large red snapper around the reef, two of which were likely more than 20 pounds. Once again, I felt a distinct tug on my line and began reeling in what I knew to be another red snapper. After fighting the fish for a few seconds, my line seemed to lock into place and refused to budge. I pulled on the rod, but it had snagged something that felt to be unmovable.
“Captain, I think I’m hung on that shipwreck down below,” I reported.
Captain Scott stepped out from behind the steering console to investigate.
“No, you’ve got one of those sharks,” he grumbled.
“It’s not moving. I’m pretty sure I’m hung up,” I said.
As I pulled once more and attempted to turn the reel, something on the other end nearly pulled me off the boat. The rod tip bent down just inches away from the water’s surface as I quickly realized that I had indeed managed to hook one of the large bull sharks circling our boat.
The reel screeched as the beast fought against my efforts to hold on for dear life. I can only describe the experience of fighting a full-grown shark on medium-tackle as similar to fighting any other catch, but instead of having a fish on the end of your line, imagine it being hooked to the bumper of a pickup truck that’s driving wildly around a parking lot.
When the shark would let up, I would pull the rod closer to my body, wind down any slack he had given and brace for the next round of thrashing and pulling. Captain Scott, entertained by my struggle, was grinning widely as a I fought to keep my feet planted on the boat.
“Want the belt?” Captain Scott asked. “It will keep that rod from hurting your stomach.”
“No, I’m fine,” I said, ignorantly trying to preserve my masculinity by assuming that I was fighting the fish “the old fashioned way.” After a few more minutes, the rod began to make it’s presence known at my waistline, piercing down while I continued to battle the beast. I soon realized that I would need the belt in order to have a chance at hanging on to the rod much longer.
“Alright, give me that belt,” I said.
I fought the shark for what seemed like an hour. The fish darted and ran back and forth with so much force that it seemed to tug the boat around with ease. Occasionally, the shark would relent and allow me a few moments to reposition my grip and catch my breath. Beads of water clung to the line and dripped off into the ocean while I wound the reel to reclaim some of the line that the fish had taken. Just when it seemed that I was making progress, the rod would bow down again and the reel screamed as the shark went on another run.
Twenty minutes passed as I struggled with the fish before our crew was able to get a decent look at the animal roughly 25 feet below the surface.
“Yeah, that’s a nice one,” said Captain Scott. “Looks like he’s a good 8-feet and probably 200 pounds or more.”
I was both exhilarated and exhausted from the fight, but unwilling to concede to the fish who seemed to be weakening significantly. Before we could begin to decide what to do if I managed to get the fish to the boat, the line suddenly went limp—dangling in the breeze. My reel, which had been whining and screaming for the past half-hour was now silent.
Our group peered over the side of the boat into the depths below to investigate, but it was evident that the fight was over and the shark was gone. I reeled back my empty hook and leaned the rod against the steering column behind me. My feelings of disappointment were dampened by the sense of relief from the end of such an intense fight.
Our day on the water was an unforgettable adventure. We returned to the boat dock with a cooler-full of fish and more than our share of memories. My arms still ached and trembled from fighting the shark.
My first deep sea fishing trip offered more excitement than I could have ever imagined. While I was able to cross off one bucket list item, I added another one to my list: Catching and photographing another big bull shark.
Spring brings with it one of the most exciting events of the year for bass fishing enthusiasts: the spawn. Bass will begin to move from the cold depths of their winter habitat into the shallow sections of lakes in preparation to lay their eggs. Anglers will search the shallow areas around shorelines in pursuit of bedding bass, but many are unaware of some key secrets that pros and old-timers say make all the difference in catching bass during those warmer months.
Fishermen hold the spawn in high regard as it is the time of year that an angler is most likely to catch a monster bass. Here are four “secrets” that might help you land those double-digit lunkers that take to the shallows every spring.
“When bass start to spawn, you will almost always find them beginning to spawn on the southerly-facing shoreline in just about any lake,” says Jason Mullinax, Costa FLW Series pro angler and bass fishing guide.
Jason explains that the southern shorelines are exposed to more sunlight, which causes the temperature in these areas to rise more quickly than northern shorelines. Southerly-facing shorelines also offer protection against north winds that typically bring cooler air. Bass will seek out areas in which current and winds will not sweep their eggs away from the bedding area.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Cast, Cast Again
Many anglers make the mistake of giving up too early on a bedded bass. After a few casts, they may simply assume that the bass will not bite the lure, and move on. Jason says one of the keys to catching bedded bass is repetition.
“Boat position and repeated casts are paramount,” says Jason. “If the buck bites first, box him until the female is caught. Don’t be afraid to try every plastic in the boat, One will trigger the fish to bite.”
Many anglers have reported throwing lures to a particular bedded bass for more than 45 minutes before finally getting a bite. If you don’t get a bit after a few minutes of casting to the fish, try a different lure or color presentation.
Aim Small, Miss Small Catch Big
Jason is adamant that there is a specific spot within a bass’ bed that will trigger a strike. It is important to throw to the bed from different angles to find this trigger spot.
“There is a spot within the spot when you’re fishing for bedded bass,” says Jason. “Pay close attention to where that spot is. Ninety-five percent of her bed will not yield a reaction, but the spot within the spot will cause her to turn, flare her gills, or give other indications that she’s not happy with it.”
Seek Out Hidden Spots
Unlike the largemouth bass, spotted bass will often find bedding areas well beneath the surface in locations that many anglers will never be able to spot them. It is not uncommon to find spotted bass on bed at depths of more than 10 or even 15 feet.
“Spotted bass look for a good, hard bottom to spawn on,” says Jason. “Areas that have pea gravel, boulders, or red clay bottoms will be prime locations for spawning spots. Most of the time, you’ll find these spots by casting in the same location. Once you catch the male, keep throwing to the spot and you will eventually get a bite from a spawning female.”
Take these secrets and pass them along to other anglers. They may provide an edge during the spawn that can help an angler catch the bass of a lifetime.
Fishing is not just a hobby of mine; it is a passion. Since I could remember, I have been fishing with my friends and family, but I didn’t just fall in love with it overnight. My youthful impatience caused boredom to strike me during every fishing trip as a child. Over time, I grew more patient and fishing began to interest me more. Now that I am an avid angling adult, I love to share my passion with everyone, especially those that matter most. This brings me to this post about fishing with your significant other.
All women, like men, are different as some have patience while others have none. Some are outdoorsy and some are completely happy with life in the big city. If your significant other wants to fish with you, be careful not to mess up the opportunity because she cares enough to take an interest in what makes you happy. This brings me to the first weekend in March and how it was this couple’s fun first fishing experience.
After a long Saturday full of festival fun and a family gatherings, my girlfriend, Abby, and I drove a long trek home from Rockmart, Georgia. At 10 PM, I arrived home and walked through the darkness of the yard to my red front door. A Facebook message hit me from fellow Man Can Blogger, Donny. He wrote me that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had stocked one of my favorite rainbow trout streams early. Like a kid on Christmas, my face lit up with the news of this. My curious girlfriend interested in my recent excitement asked, “What’s up?” I told her and she was enthused with my joy. I asked her if she wanted to go and she said yes.
I spent the next hour rigging and prepping items for the fishing trip. Her passively chatting with me as I packed lures and gathered rods. By the time we were done, it was midnight. We were exhausted but excited about our first fishing trip together.
The next morning, we loaded up our items and headed to the Johns Mountain WMA in northern Floyd County, Georgia. The trip was long but full of questions and answers on the trip. One was about regulations. Following a small chat about limits and required license/stamp, she bought her first fishing license and downloaded the Outdoors GA app. With our gear laying in the back of the truck, we drove through the hills along Highway 27, passed Rome and turned toward the WMA. The road to the WMA and stocking area of John’s Creek were curvy and “buttermilky” or rough and bumpy. After we drove several minutes from cell service, we reached our destination a parking area near a blue PVC stocking tube.
We arrived at the first spot a short hike from our parking, casted out our line and waited for the first bite. With several casts and no bites, I was concerned that the stocking report was an error. 25 minutes and a few lures later, I decided to move to the next
section. Walking pass a bridge, I used my polarized sunglasses to look into the cold mountain creek. To my joy, I saw several stocker-size rainbows swim back and forth like over-caffeinated children. I backtracked and waded in the water with a perfect cast past the hole where the trout were swimming. As I reeled in, my rod curved with a hit. The Joe’s
Fly short strike had hooked a rainbow trout. The next few moments were euphoric as the colorful fish danced on the water. The fish was landed and fish fever had set in, but something was not right. In my excitement, I had left my girlfriend on the bank casting in area with no known fish and no support and advice to where to cast.
Immediately, I got out of the water and walked down to the next hole hoping to find an area for both of us to fish, together. The hole around the bend was deep, clean and looked fishy. It was clear of trees due to a local beaver and it was ideal for bank casting. Because her fishing experience was limited to catfish and bass, I coached her and gave her trout fishing pointers on casting my lighter setup before I left her to fish. I began to walked to a spot that I could wade close to the hole, and the next thing I knew she hooked one, then another, then another and finally a big one that I netted for her.
Her eyes lit up in joy and I felt proud for her too. She had just not caught her first trout today but several more including the biggest one of the day.
This may have been her first fishing trip with me, but it won’t be her last. We enjoyed the rest of the day surrounded by green leafy trees in the warm sun catching our limits of trout.
The lesson of this blog is not to get wrapped up in selfishly catching fish for yourself, but focus on spending time with each other. Be patient, talk to each other and help each other. If you don’t catch any fish, you will still catch memories of your time together in nature and that is more important in the long run.
In the tranquil wilderness of northern Arkansas lies a honey pot of river fishing. A mecca to all anglers, this portion of the White River is located by the Bull Shoals Dam and is home to several monster brown trout that feast upon the baitfish that get churned up from the hydro generation. This trout haven was my next fishcation and bucket list adventure.
A long weary 10 hour drive from West Central Georgia through multiple states and 2 hours of sleep couldn’t stop me from dropping my line in this cold wet fishtopia of trout. Within 10 minutes, my simple Berkley lighting light rod setup with 7 pound test line and nightcrawler on number 8 hook began to twitch. I had my first but far from my last trout bite on this week long White River Adventure. FYI, I caught that stocker size Rainbow.
The bulk of the trip was chartered with Cranor’s guide service out of Gassville, Arkansas. Captain Cranor is a master brown trout fisherman that has fished the White River all his life since a teenage boy, and he can put you on some big fish. Our group was averaging 17 quality browns a day and by-catching tons of rainbow trout with a cutthroat or two mixed in the rest.
The first day was a dreary winter forecast as we pulled up to the Cotter boat ramp. We were fishing with minnows for the trout and the key was to feed the fish to the trout if the bite was happening. As the minnow casted from our boat swam, my rod tip began to dance so slightly with a curl. The grey skies and cool temperature were all background noise as I let my open face reel feed line to the greedy fish. Cranor instructed me to close the bail after 20 seconds of line feeding, an eternity in my mind. With the tip in the air, I slowly lowered my rod to relieve the tension. The clever browns will let go if they feel any line tension. As the rod tip was level with the horizon, I waited for the line to tense up one more time. The tip bent slightly, and I set the hook!
The fish swam hard to get away from me, but I let the drag handle the work. As the fish stopped, I took each foot of line he stole from me. Bringing the fish closer to the boat, it began to run again making the drag whine like a spoiled brat. I continue the dance with my stubborn partner and took more line into the boat. The fish broke surface and it was a brown. A beautiful brown with colors and spots that decorated the fish’s boats like exotic prints. As the battle continued
, Cranor readied the net and dipped it in the ice cold water. The Brown sprinted at the sight of the net but was cut short by it’s own exhaustion. I took the line back that the brown stole and Cranor dipped the fish in the net.
Each day of fishing was filled with moments like these. With variety of setups from jigging, bait fishing and walking jerk baits, the fish were caught with ease. The White River was truly an angler’s paradise.
After fishing three days with a guide, our group ventured on our own. I waded in the ice cold river with my light rod setup and shot this video to show the ease of hooking up with a rainbow on the White River.
Do not throw that old Christmas tree out or even burn it! The following video shows you how to make a Christmas tree habitat that will stay in place and create a prime fishing spot by aligning the tree vertically. This method creates an optimal habitat compare to just throwing the tree in the lake with a rock tied to it. See the video below on Man Can’s best practices on making a Christmas Tree Fish Habitat.
As the year comes to an end, we enter the season of giving with Christmas and Hanukah. During this time, I reflect on the important things in my life, family and the outdoors. The tranquility of the hunt or the quiet reflection on the lake brings my senses to a calm. Warming my heart, the thoughts of my little cousins first season hunting and his successful first kill. This is what truly what is important in life to an outdoorsman, legacy and sustainability.
Sustainability is very important to me because I love to get lost in the untouched playground of the wilderness and reap nature’s bounty in ways that God blessed me to do so. I volunteer and join several organizations to help sustain our waters, forests and wildlife for future generations.
One way that we all can help during this time of giving is with a monetary donation to an organization that supports sustaining your outdoor passion. Just like tithing, the donation can be tax deductible. I support Trout Unlimited, Chattahoochee River Keeper and the CCA because my passion of fishing. Here is a list of organizations that you could donate to as well.
It is so hard to buy for the Outdoors person in your life. The Man Can Outdoors writers brainstormed what an outdoors enthusiast would want for Christmas. After a few conversations, we came up with a top Here is a quick rundown.
Gift Card to Cabela’s, Bass Pro or any outdoor store is always a safe bet but is not as a personal as actual gear.
Fishing Line, lures or Hooks are essential for every angler and make a great stocking stuffer. Take a sneak peek into his tackle bag for size or style.
Ammo can be another great stocking stuffer. Go to your local gun shop if you know what he carries in the woods.
Filet knifes or skinning knifes are great mid-grade gift ideas. A quality knife can help any outdoor adventure.
Guided Hunting or Fishing Trip is a higher end gift but several outfitters offer black Friday or holidays deals to get people introduced to their service.
Boots/Boat shoes/Wading shoes are another mid-grade gift that outdoors folks will be very grateful to receive.
Sunglasses are essential for any outdoor activity and could be a stocking stuffer to premium gift depending on brand.
Headlamp/Flashlights are always needed for fishing and hunting, and your outdoorsman could never have too many.
Binoculars are used in sight fishing and hunting. They will be a great midrange gift for your outdoorsman.
Raingear is a great gift idea for your outdoorsman. A lot of times, we do not think about the elements and where a simple poncho.
Broad heads for the archer in your life make another great stocking stuffer.
Camo helps the hunter blend with outdoors during his adventure. Check out his closet for his preferred style.
Hats/Beanies/facemask are great idea for a stocking stuffer. The elements are the outdoorsman’s greatest foe at times.
Fishing Shirts with UV protection are essential for your angler. The sun can damage their skin and cause skin cancer and uv-rated fishing shirts are a great solution.
Cover Scents to help your hunter stalk their trophies is another great idea.
Calls for any wildlife that your hunter stalks make a wonderful smaller gift idea.
Tumblers are very popular with outdoorsmen. From keeping their coffee hot or adult beverage cold, they are an awesome gift.
Licenses and Preferences Points help outdoorsmen do what they love legally. If you are bold enough, get them a lifetime license.
Books on fishing, survival and hunting make great gifts for your avid outdoors reader.
Cast Iron Cooking Ware for those camping adventures will make a great gift that will be used for years as the cast iron ages well with time.
As a bonus, I also listed what the Man Can Outdoor writers wanted for Christmas. May our wish lists be a guide to help you shop for your outdoorsman.
Lew’s Lazer Carbon RZ Casting Combo – All fishermen are always looking to add another rod and reel to their arsenal. This baitcasting rig can be purchased for around $100 at most big outdoor retailers. the Lazer Carbon RZ comes with the latest magnetic casting brake system to prevent backlash and birds nests. This rod and reel combo is perfect for any angler.
Pair of Waders – After trout fishing on a few rivers in the Chattahoochee National Forest this summer, I quickly learned the value of a good pair of waders. While the cool mountain water is refreshing in the month of July, it can put a damper on all-day fishing trips. You can actually find a decent pair of waders online at Cabela’s or Bass Pro for fairly cheap. Some are even as low as $15.
Case Lightweight Hunter Fixed-Blade Knife – This hunting knife if perfect for any big game hunter. The blade is 4-inch stainless steel, and fixed with a gut hook for field-dressing animals. This quality knife is one that would last a lifetime, and can be purchased for under $50.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp – This headlamp is one that can be used in all outdoor scenarios, from finding your stand before daylight on a cool autumn morning to night fishing, or even camping. This light is equipped with 3 LEDs for 350 lumens, which is bright enough to light up any nighttime activity. The headlamp is also waterproof, and features 3-color RGB mode. This headlamp is usually priced at around $45.
Lowrance Hook-4x Mid/High Sonar – This is a quality sonar fish-finder that can be found for just over $100. The Lowrance Hook-4x has brilliant, high-resolution color display on a 4-inch screen. This model combines CHIRP Sonar with Downscan Imaging technology to help anglers distinguish between structure, baitfish, and those lunkers that hangout deep below the surface.
Dexter Outdoors UC133-8-WS-1 PCP Dexter-Russell Flexible Fillet Knife with Moldable Handle & Sheath, 8″ – This fishing filet knife is ideal for the angler in your life. I prefer items that custom fit and the moldable handle makes each knife a perfect fit for their owner.
Columbia Men’s Bahama Vent PFG Slip-On Boat Shoes – A pair of non-slip boat are essential for your angler to keep them on his feet without marking their boat. The Omni-Grip: non-marking rubber outsole is specifically designed for wet surfaces with razor siping.
Rebel Wee Crawfish – I use this lure for trout, bass and panfish. It can work as topwater or diving crankbait. This lure in red is deadly in my small lake, and I have gotten stringers upon strings of shellcracker off one.
SF Fly Fishing Landing Soft Rubber Mesh Trout Catch and Release Net – A rubber net works great to catch and release trout without harm and rubber also does not catch those pesky thrown hooks.
Outdoor Gourmet Deluxe Fryer Stand – For low country boils, chili cook-offs, turkey frying and fish fries, you will need a good propane fryer. I have used outdoor gourmet for years and I need a spare one now.
I hope all the suggestions help you out this holiday season while shopping for your love ones.
Have you ever wished you could go back in time? To a simpler way of life. A place where the frills of the dot com world were considered science fiction. A place where the basic necessities of coffee, beer, bait and fishing, are all that you need. In the hustle and bustle of the workplace and family, I needed an escape, and I bet you do too.
Late October, I continued my fall fishing adventures in the salt flats off the Forgotten Coast in the sleepy town of Saint Marks, Florida. This trip was with my Dad, and we targeted red drum, black drum, flounder, seatrout and Spanish mackerels. Our home base was the rustic Shell Island Fish Camp, a pocket of nostalgia with clean, but simple rooms that were close to the marine garage, bait shop and dock. The bait shop, managed by Bucky, could get you a hot cup of joe, boat equipment, snacks, fishing gear and bait. They also book rental boats and charters at the shop. A piece of advice to the novice, always book a guide to learn the area from honey holes to pesky oyster bars that hide in the tide.
After we drove down rural 27 south and passed a round Tallahassee, we pulled Dad’s center console skiff into the camp. This pocket of Floridian history has not changed much with the times looking like a page out of a 1960s history book. Bucky was waiting with our key at the rustic baitshop with some friendly banter. After the pleasantries, we gotthe boat in the water and docked in front of the Tarpon infested fish cleaning area.
The majestic silver kings impatiently waiting on the next scrap of cleaned fish. Within a few minutes after a short walk from the wooden dock, we arrived in our quaint room and prepared to rest up for the night.
At first dawn, we loaded up in our skiff with the gear and headed south down the river toward the first oyster bar in the hazy fall morning. Our first stop on the way out is an oyster bar by the channel marker. With the tide at the right height and direction, we positioned in front of a hole at the edge of the bar and dropped two anchors. A few casts with a live shrimp rigged for the bottom turned up small bites and empty hooks. Eventually, on the third cast and my third shrimp, I hooked into something with a little fight. As I reeled it in, my heart raced for the first hook up of the day. The dark fish broke the surface with a feisty splash, and it was clearly a keeper black drum. I flipped it in the boat and open the cooler to ice my prize.
Dad on the other hand has casted several times and lost numerous shrimp to opportunist smaller fish. He grumbled to me to hand him a shrimp after one cast and fruitless reel-in. And in my facetious ways, I handed a shrimp the size of large mouse to my dad thinking that it would keep the fish from taking his bait and at the same time not catch anything with monstrous prawn.
He hooked the jumbo shrimp onto 1/16 oz. jighead and casted just over the hole. As he reeled in slowly, I was chattering up a storm with him. I was midsentence when interrupted me in angry outburst.
“I hooked bottom!” Dad said. He started to pull the line free and to our surprise the line began to squeal. He had a fish on.
The fish bent Dad’s rod over as it fought hard to get away from the boat. Dad kept his tip up to keep the line tight and ensure a colossal catch. Dad’s heart sunk as the rod went straight and line begin to show slack.
“Did you lose it?” I asked. Reeling in the line, Dad’s silence was my answer. “I would love to see that monster caught,” I thought to myself.
Just then, the line grew taut again. The fish must have swum directly to the boat because the fight was still on.
Dad, much like Hemingway’s Santiago, struggled with the mighty fish. He took some of the line and the fish took more. The reel screeched in agony as the drag pulled against the stubborn fish. The clever fish tried to maneuver around the motor, but Dad swiftly raised the rod high to keep the line from tangling and breaking in the outboard. Eventually, the fish breached the top of the water. It looked like a big red but faded. It was a monster Black Drum, and he ran as soon as we saw it.
Dad’s final moments of the fight were harsh, but brief. His shoulder began to throb in pain as the last few yards of line were reeled to the skiff. The fish beside the boat broke the surface.
Our guide yelped, “it won’t fit in the net!”
Dad retorted back, “it better!”
As the guide dipped the net into the water, the fish hung out from it like a grown man in a kid’s hammock. He swung the net over into the boat and the 34-inch black drum was caught.
For video of some of the fight see below.
After the photos and release of the fish, Dad took a well-deserved 10-minute break from fishing. We continued the day with a flounder, Spanish mackerel and several seatrout in the flats of the gulf. Later, back at the dock, the chatter was about the big black drum as the old men drank cold domestic beer and shared fish tales from their own adventures of the day.
For more information about Shell Island Fish Camp, click here.
A seven-hour drive from Georgia is an oasis of food, culture and nightlife known as New Orleans, and just 45 minutes south of the Hurricanes and Hand Grenades of Bourbon Street is a quiet area of Lafitte. This area offers ideal conditions for saltwater fishing being surrounded by the Barataria Basin, and with great conditions come talented fishing guides and charter companies. One of which, Big Dog Fishing Charters, is a favorite of mine. I been fishing with Big Dog for years and even got a favorite captain, Michael Steib Jr., who always put me on the fish every time.
This mid-October, I loaded up the truck and invited my friend slash fishing novice Jeremy to tag along the Louisiana fishing adventure. We started off the adventure with our girlfriends at New Orleans’s Frenchman street with some awesome spirits, food and jazz music at local jazz joint, Maison. Ordering the Cajun cuisine was a delight as my friends never had the real deal. So, I order jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, poboys and gator bites for the table. To the say the least etouffee was the most concerning to the newbies but their favorite in the end. After dinner, we made our way to a jazz performance at the Spotted Cat Music Club enjoyed a local concoction with the music. Continuing the night, we walked down to Bourbon street for Fish Bowls and Hand Grenades. As midnight was fast approaching, the realization of the next day, first-light fishing excursion popped in my head. The night was called, and we made our way back to the condo.
At 5:30 AM, we made our way to Lafitte and Big Dog charters for a 6:15 meetup. The morning was overly warm and humid but the excitement of the trip overcame the discomfort. Michael was waiting for us the dock in front of the rental property that Big Dog uses for lodging packages. In his heavy accent, he asks me, “Ready to go?” We nod and jump in his center console boat. The short boat trip out of 10 minutes is relaxing as the sun peaks over the waterway painting the sky with vibrant colors.
Rigging for the reds, we use spinning rods with braided line connected to a popping cork and leader. A jighead with gulp shrimp and piece of frozen shrimp completes the setup. The first cast and a few pops produce nothing. Then Michael belts, “you all need to pop quicker.” With his advice, I increase the action and bam, a small rat Red Drum hits the bait. From then on, I kept up that pace and the fish turned on.
The first fish of slot size hit like a sledge hammer and ran with the line. Pulling it in to the boat, the fight was rewarded with the sight of gorgeous golden scales adorned with a black spot. The fight or a red is like a smallmouth bass, hard and fast, but the color of the scales is a sight to behold in person.
With the wind picking up midmorning and half way to our limits, my friend Jeremy had not landed his first keeper red. He started watching my actions and taking pointers from Michael. The next thing we knew, he surpassed my catch in the boat. He smiled after reeling one of the nice slot reds and said, “this is a lot better than fishing for bream in your small lake.”
For more information on Big Dog Charters, check out their website.