Archive | March 2014

Tag and Release Recapture!

Last week a friend messaged me in excitement that he happened to catch a tagged sandbar shark.  I sent him the online link to report a NOAA tag via cell phone.  I love when this happens.  The entire cooperative shark tagging depends on anglers to report tagged fish whenever possible. This is how they gain the most information about their migration & breeding pattern.

Later in the week I heard back from Matt. NOAA had contacted him him information on his catch. He noticed it was caught in Boca Grande in December. Andrew & myself tagged over 10 sharks over the winter. I couldn’t help but check my tag numbers and noticed it was in my sequence! This was probably a shark I tagged. Kicking myself because I haven’t been recording every tag number as I used to, I wait for the mail to arrive!

Today I was greeted with a package from NOAA. It included recapture sheet and a hat. The sandbar shark I tagged on December 27th 2013 grew four inches and traveled 28 nautical miles before being recaptured by Matt on March 21st

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Not every day a friend catches a shark that you tagged a few months earlier.  Reporting your tagged catches is crucial to scientific data. You can choose to remove the tag or leave it in the shark and simply write down the numbers. Collect as much data as you can such as length, species and sex of the shark.  If you need to report a tagged shark here is their simple online form REPORT TAGS HERE Pictures below of her when I caught her in December and when Matt re caught her in March! I look forward to more recaptures in the future!  He choose to leave the tag in place to see if she gets recaptured at a later date.

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The story of Sheepzilla: A proper sheepshead send-off

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Sheepzilla weighed 6 pounds and was over 19 inches long.

By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

Well, I can finally stop fishing for sheepshead this season, I caught Sheepzilla.

Since mid-February I kept telling myself “This will be my last trip after sheepshead this year,” except for my addiction to targeting them was too great. But now I’m free to pursue other species after yesterday’s catch at Placida.

Sheepzilla weighed 6 pounds and was 19¼ inches long, by far the biggest sheepshead I’ve ever caught.

The way the day started, though, I never thought I’d have a chance at a monster like that. The morning hours were spent wading through undersized and barely-legal fish, and after about the 20th 11½ inch fish I was quickly losing interest. Around noon I was running low on mud crabs and patience, and was just hoping for one more keeper for the cooler.

That’s when Sheepzilla struck.

Not long before that I had put on a big mud crab for bait and dropped it down near a piling. It didn’t take long for Sheepzilla to find it. As soon as I set the hook and the fish stayed down, I knew it was big. When I fought it up to the surface I could hardly believe my eyes.

“Anybody got a net!!??” I yelled down the pier. As I looked around in horror, I realized that none of the net-wielding sheepshead regulars that are usually on the pier were anywhere to be seen. My net was at least 20 feet away, leaning up against the opposite railing. A lot of good it was doing me there.

I repeated my plea, and it went something like this:

“Can somebody please grab that circle net and help me out!!?? Anyone!? Bueller!?”

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, another angler grabbed my net and came to the rescue.

“Whatcha got, a big sheepshead?” he asked. “Whoa! That’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”

After a few tense moments – I was sure the hook was going to pop out – we got the fish in the net and up on the pier.

I had slayed Sheepzilla.

But now I had a new problem. No one on the pier seemed to know how to use the camera on my iPhone, and this fish was way too big to take a selfie with. The first guy I asked was clueless, God bless him. And although neither I, nor he, could actually tell if he was taking pictures, it turns out he was. But they were black and white  and most of them looked like something out of the Kids in the Hall’s “Head Crusher” skit (I’m crushing your head!).

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After finding a guy who was able to snap a couple of good photos for me, I had one more dilemma: finding someone with a scale.

I happened to run into my buddy Ralph from church, and he had a hand scale that we weighed the fish on. My guess was between 6-7 pounds, and the fish was 6 pounds right on the nose.

What a way to end the sheepshead season.

By the way, I used Sheepzilla to make blackened, baja fish tacos drizzled with sriracha sauce.

Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.

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Sheepzilla tacos.

Penn Conflict

When I first saw this reel I had to pick one up for myself! I love my battle and I heard a rumor that this reel was it’s new competitor! I picked up one for myself and filled it with 20lb Invisabraid, my favorite! Since I started using this line I rarely see wind knots! I took my new conflict and star rod combo to the beach but had no luck. Yesterday we headed out to the el jobean pier for a test run.

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This reel feels lighter than my penn battle and I started throwing out a few lures. Casting was great and I was able to really get that lure out there! A few bites from some lady fish but I couldn’t seem to hook anything! As we were setting up to fish some live bait, Andrew saw a school of fish blowing up bait behind us within casting distance. He threw an xrap into the school and within seconds he was hooked up on a feisty mackerel! The reel performed great and has smooth drag.

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If your on the fence about trying a new reel I would give this one a try! I can’t wait to see how it performs along the beach with some big snook! I also plan to use it in an upcoming tournament I’ll be competing in at the end of the month! More reviews to come as I break her in more! Of course these are in stock at Fishin Franks if you want to check them out! Have a great weekend & tight lines!

Sunset Blacktip Shark

Spring time is quickly approaching and its pretty evident here in south west Florida!  The weather is already warming up and the beaches are beginning to be alive with all different species of fish including sharks!  Sunday evening we decided to venture out despite 30mph winds.  Ive been hoping to fish a favorite natural beach in the Englewood area but with our windy conditions the water has been up way too high.  Off to search for a back up plan.  This happens a lot in land based shark fishing.  Sometimes finding a good location is difficult.   We always look for a beach that is not too crowded, with waves perfect for kayaking.

After driving around Englewood area we finally found a great beach and the waves have begun to lessen as the wind slightly changed direction.  Tonight we were using our two 80w.  Bait is fresh stingray and barracuda.  Conditions were still pretty rough with the wind blowing guts if 30mph Andrew had a difficult time paddling back in due to the heavy current and wavy conditions pushing him back out into the gulf.   Always remember to wear a life jacket while kayaking, especially if your kayak is filled with bait and hooks!  Thankfully he made it safely.

As the sun was setting and we were just getting comfortable on the beach Andrew’s 80w started screaming.   This was the second run of the evening on his rod.  The first time was short but sweet and the shark dropped the bait before we were able to get to the rod!  This time Andrew had him hooked.  Almost the entire fight this shark decided to swim at the beach instead of away.  Making Andrew reel extra fast to ensure the line wouldn’t go slack causing us to loose this fish!   By this time we had a good crowed of people around us that got a little more than they bargained for when they decided on a nice sunset walk along the shore!

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Andrew is reeling in a fish this means I get to leader!  One of my favorite sharking duties.  The leader man/women is the person who runs into the surf and grabs the shark while the angler is putting his reel back in a safe place and removing their harness!   As I saw the shark come up in the surf I quickly grabbed the tail rope and ran in after her.  I quickly noticed this black tip was hooked in the mouth and my second hook was in its tail fin, so I had to be especially careful tail roping so I wouldn’t get hooked.  I also received my first tail slap in the face.  That will wake anyone up!  After 3 attempts the shark was tail roped and we worked on de-hooking and tagging for NOAA.  This black tip was female in GREAT condition measuring 6 feet in length from nose to tail.  I’m working on a go-pro video of this catch that will be up soon!   A great evening an a wonderful end to the weekend.

 

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Gordon’s Goliath

You might remember Gordon from a previous blog when we helped him to catch his very first sandbar shark!  He is back in the USA and was happy to get back on to the sand with us!  The first trip out was a day time trip that didn’t produce anything!  The waters along the coast are pretty chilly right now so sharks are few and far between.  Some sharks can go weeks without eating in the cooler months.

We decided to make a night trip to see if we could change our luck a bit!  We set out early about 4pm due to the fact that I had to renew my overnight park pass.  There has been some controversy over this the last few weeks.   To fish at stump or boca pass you must obtain an annual pass from the parks main office if you want to fish after hours!  Many people were sighted 80$ ticket each for violating and parking outside the gate and simply walking in.

We had lines in the water as Gordon arrived.  Sting ray and mullet were bait of choice this evening.  We had a run about sunset and missed the fish.  When we reeled up to check the bait and noticed no teeth marks, we knew we were going to be playin with Goliath Grouper tonight.

Andrew switched out to a fresh bait and then it was a waiting game.  It was a sloooooow night!  We had a few more runs but this fish wouldn’t commit. A lot of grouper will play with your bait like a dog plays with a chew toy!  The key is to let them eat and really get a nice strong run going before setting hook!  This is exactly what we did the last run of the evening Gordon was finally hooked up on a fish! This grouper wasn’t happy to be on our line!  Long fast runs trying to shake those hooks free!  Gordon got a work out fighting with fish with no harness! After about a 20 min fight on the 80w he finally landed this dinosaur from the deep!  Another great fish story to bring back to the UK!

Check out the video of Gordon’s awesome catch!

 

 

Time Flies

Well as the title says, time flies. 5 days have come and gone since I managed to get back on here and I haven’t posted a thing. It has been busy though. My twin brother(yes there are 2 of us) arrived Friday morning from the great white north (Pennsylvania), he and I fished Saturday, I was in the shop Sunday and Monday, and today we wired up Franks’s elevator. English John is returning to England tomorrow evening after a 12 week visit that started Dec. 11th and we’ve been wondering where that time flew off to, and last but not least starting tomorrow we’re getting ready for and going to the Bonita Beach boat show through Sunday. This will be our last boat show for the season and takes us right up to the annual tent sale at Fishin Franks which is March 15th. I think we actually get a break after that and I intend to spend as much time as possible on the water after that. The only thing I can offer in the way of fishing stories and advice is hit the river and break out the shrimp and jig-heads. My brother and I had a great day Saturday out there on the Peace River and although we didn’t bring any in we caught plenty of red fish and snook. They’re there for the taking for those of you that don’t do catch and release. Lots of really big ladyfish too for some poor man’s tarpon fishing and stocking up on some chunk bait. Anyway, if any of you are down Bonita Beach way over the next 4 or 5 days, swing into the boat show and pay us a visit.

Afternoon Snooking

I hope everyone is having a great week so far!   We are having some very beautiful weather here in South West Florida this week.   This morning I was working in the shop.  Robert and Barb working hard to train me on registers and fishing licenses for the day of the tent sale.  If you haven’t heard already its March 15th!  Doors open at 7am and its Frank’s BIGGEST sale of the year!  All your favorite reps will be on hand to answer questions and show you their best new products & deals.

Captain Larry Smith of Bucket List Charters took us out this afternoon.  Targeting some keeper snook,  this was a great goal especially since Andrew and I have yet to catch a keeper in 2014!  We launched out of PC beach complex and headed to the 41 bridge.  Im used to fishing from on top of this bridge instead of under it!  Ive only have ever fished it from the boat a few times.   We set up with some live bait.  Jumbo shrimp and some lively pin fish were choice today.    Larry is a great teacher, always positive & very patient with the fact that I dont know how to fish out of a boat!   As we set up on our first set of bridge pilings I only had my shrimp in the water 5 mins before Larry had a MONSTER snook next to the boat. That mouth was HUGE!   Sadly he escaped us, but it was a great sign of life and I knew we were in for a fun afternoon!

Andrew was casting further under the bridge than me, letting his bait drift along with the current.  Right in the shadow line.  I was reeling up due to a snapper robbing me of my shrimp when Andrew got hooked up!  This fish gave us quite the show and took some serious drag.  He was using a live pin fish on a 7/0 circle hook and 40lb fluoro leader to pull this fish out and away from the bridge pilings!  After a fun fight and this snook tangling itself in my line, finally our first keeper of the season!  Andrew’s snook measured 30 inches.  We tried a few other pilings on our way out with a few bites but none to the boat!

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A fun afternoon on the water with family & great friends!  Not to mention dinner tomorrow. Its so rewarding & healthy to eat what you catch! Snook is a very small season for those of us here on the gulf coast.  I always look forward to keeping one or two through the season!  Delicious I might add!  My favorite way to cook snook its by using a butter, milk, egg wash and then ritz cracker breading.  I bake about 350 degrees  until golden brown!  Yum!  Larry tells me he grills his so I look forward to trying his recipe as well!

Some upcoming events on Thursday at 1130am & Saturday at 12:30pm we will be speaking at the Bonita boat show in the Fishin Franks booth discussing catching big game fish from the beach! Sharks, Tarpon & Goliath grouper!   Hope to see some of you there!

Spanish mackerel Taco Tuesday

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Hey, it’s Taco Tuesday, so why not enjoy some Spanish mackerel tacos?

By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

Since everyone and their brother is catching Spanish mackerel right now, I figured this would be a good time to share one of my favorite ways to prepare them: fish tacos.

This is an easy recipe, and can also be easily modified to adapt to your personal tastes. For all practical purposes, a nice-sized Spanish around 20 inches or bigger will feed two people.

Cut your mackerel fillets (see below for preparation) into bite-size pieces suitable for tacos. Season them on both sides with cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and red pepper. Place some flour in a bowl, and toss the pieces until they are lightly coated. Shake off any excess flour before frying.

The secret to pan-frying mackerel, or any fish, is to make sure the oil is as hot as can be before you drop the fish in. Using vegetable oil, I wait until it starts to smoke just a little on high heat before putting the pieces in. Fry the pieces until they are crispy on the outside and golden brown. Remove and pat dry with a paper towel.

THE FIXINS’

Everyone’s taco preferences are different, but here’s how I make mine:

Small flour tortillas, warmed in a frying pan

Diced fresh jalapeno

Diced onions

Diced avocado

Shredded lettuce

Shredded cheddar cheese

***Publix Deli Salsa, Medium or Hot (this is the best salsa!)

Frank’s Red Hot to taste

Fresh limes to squeeze on top

Optional, but recommended: An ice-cold Corona or two with a lime to enjoy with your tacos

HANDLE WITH CARE

From landing to the table, mackerel are great eating if you handle them right. These fish need to be iced almost immediately after being caught. Make a cut through the gills and bleed the fish, gut it and pack it in ice. This will ensure that the flesh stays firm until you’re ready to fillet it. This not only helps with the filleting process, but also helps preserve the meat. Mackerel are best enjoyed the same day they are caught.

To fillet mackerel, make a cut at a 45-degree angle inward behind the head and work the blade down the length of the fish using steady pressure and a back-and-forth motion — visualize playing a violin. Flip the fish over and repeat, then do the same to remove the skin.

There are a line of tiny bones that sit in the middle of the fillet starting at the side closest to the head, but those can be taken care of easily. Just make a cut with your fillet knife on one side of the line of bones, then come back and make another cut on the other side and remove the strip that contains the bones. That cut will also take care of most of the bloodline, but also remove any red meat that remains.

Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.

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