Tag Archive | southwest florida

A test of strength

Tom’s friend Andrew was in town on a fishing vacation.  His first stop was Miami area for peacock bass and snake heads.  His last stop was our Gulf coast for a little pull of a Goliath grouper.  Guys day out on the boat, both Andrew’s and Tom headed out in search of a local moster grouper, the conditions were perfect.  They brought along some frozen mullet for bait but soon learned these grouper were going to be picky today.  A few tries with the mullet on the knocker rig and no luck.  Not a nibble.  Then they started to notice some large jacks schooling around the area and caught a couple on swim bait’s.   These are fun to catch and drag screamers at this size!  They make nice goliath and shark bait as well.  Since the mullet werent working the guys gave the jacks a try!

boca grande jack

That sure did the trick!  Andrew hooked one on the line and sent it down next to the piling where the grouper like to hang out.  It wasnt down on the bottom for 3 mins before he was hooked up!  Andrew was in for the workout of a life time, these fish are pretty strong and know how to take you into structure to cut your line.  After a fight on the 80w reel Andrew landed his first goliath grouper!  Check out the video below of his adventure, watch in HD for best quality.

Tom’s Goliath!

Tom has been wanting to get a big fish every since he purchased his boat!  We took him out to a spot where we knew he would feel some serious pull on his Penn 80w!   It was a beautiful day and conditions and currents were in our favor.  Andrew carefully maneuvered us next to the structure where these massive goliath grouper like to hang out!  As Tom held on to his reel I tossed his bait against the side of the pilings.   It took a few passes, getting adjusted to the current flow and weight of the bait.

We started to get bites right away, one of them stealing our bait before tom was hooked up!  Its a fun feeling on the boat to feel the grab your bait the first initial bump is the best!  After a short fight Tom and the 80w whooped this fish’s butt!  A few snapshots and she was de-hooked,  back on her way down to be caught another day!  So much fun catching these from the boat, I cant decide which is more fun, boat or beach?!  Great catch Tom and fun day on the water!

Tom Rod bend

Tom Goliath

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!).

headcrusher

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.

bajatacos

Sheepzilla tacos.

Spanish mackerel, sheepshead strong at Placida

placidaspanish

This nice Spanish mackerel was caught on a jig at Placida this morning. Fish this size put up a great fight, and are good eating as well.

By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

Ah, yes. You can almost taste that first hint of spring in the air in Southwest Florida. But while springtime fishing hasn’t come full circle yet, it’s time to capitalize on a mixed bag of fish at some of the best transition fishin’ holes in our little corner of paradise.

This morning was a perfect example of a transition day at the Placida fishing pier. The late-season sheepshead bite was strong, but the Spanish mackerel stole the show. There were even some jacks, ladyfish and pompano in the mix.

The macks were consistent, but mostly tore through the area in waves when anglers would catch them left and right for 5 or 10 minutes before the action slowed down. The Spanish came in all shapes and sizes, but there were some real line-burners landed after screaming-drag battles. The biggest fish I saw was around 28 inches, a quality Spanish by any standards. Spanish mackerel must be a minimum of 12 inches to the fork of the tail to keep, and an angler may keep 15 per day.

The most effective technique for the mackerel this morning was live shrimp under a popping cork. Successful anglers were letting the incoming tide carry their baits away from the pier and anchoring them about 20 yards out, waiting on the mack attack. To rig for mackerel under a cork, attach a 3-foot length of 30-pound monofilament and use a long-shank live bait hook, No. 3/0. To anchor the bait in the water, use a splitshot sinker about the size of a pea about 8 inches above the hook.

If live bait is not your thing, don’t worry. Mackerel will hit plenty of artificial options. Silly Willy jigs, Gotcha! lures, spoons and soft plastic shrimp imitations on a jig head can also produce plenty of fish. As an added bonus, you can catch pompano on many of the same artificials that mackerel will eat.

Enough on the mackerel; how about the sheepshead?

Having not fished for sheepies at Placida since late January, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This is usually the time of year it slows down with the spawn taking place and the majority of fish moving to the nearshore reefs, but the action was good all through the incoming tide.

Most of the fish being caught were the smaller males, and this didn’t come as a surprise as a lot of the bigger, breeding-size females have moved on. But there were still plenty of keeper-sized fish and they were eating just about anything. Fish were caught on mud crabs, fiddlers, sand fleas and shrimp.

So if you haven’t gotten your fill of sheepshead yet, you better get after ’em before it’s too late!

The other area spots that are producing good mixed-bag action are the Venice jetties, L.A. Ainger Pier in Englewood and Boca Grande. The jetties are your best bet for big sheepshead. And when the pompano show up the jetties can produce an impressive number of fish.

Ainger is a classic pompano and mackerel destination, with the bulk of anglers jig fishing. But this pier is also a solid sheepshead hole, and some nice black drum can be caught from the end of the pier casting into the channel.

Boca boasts all of the above and abundance of small sharks. If you’re looking for a bonnethead, look no further.

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

My first black drum

blackdrum

While not as prestigious as Mallory’s first redfish, I was still pretty excited for my first black drum, caught on a live sand flea at Stump Pass beach last weekend.

By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

There are certain species of fish that mean a great deal to you when you catch your first one. Some fish, such as cobia for me personally, seem to loom larger than life, consuming your thoughts and fishing trips until you finally land one. Other species just seem to sneak up on you.

I can vividly remember my first shark, a 4-foot bull caught at the Gilchrist Park pier in Punta Gorda.

Then there was the moment I broke the cobia curse, lucking into a 22-pounder while fishing for trout at the old Bayshore pier in Charlotte Harbor.

When I lived on a canal off Edgewater Drive in Port Charlotte, the first redfish I reeled in fell for a MirrOdine 17MR one winter night while I was casting off my dock.

While I could go on with tales about goliath grouper, pompano and a host of other species, you get the picture. The anticipation of catching these fish for the first time made the moment when it happened that much more special.

But when I caught my first black drum recently, I didn’t even realize it was the first of that species for me until I was holding the fish up for a picture. I had caught it on a live sand flea just moments after my first cast of the day hit the surf.

It’s a bit hard to believe, but for all my seven years of saltwater fishing in Southwest Florida I hadn’t caught a black drum until this past Sunday at Stump Pass beach.

While black drum aren’t exactly a highly sought-after species, they are a pretty regular catch around here. And while I’m pretty sure I’ve hooked and lost a couple big ones fishing the U.S. 41 bridges in Punta Gorda, I had never landed one.

This one was just a pup, and at 12 inches was still shy of the minimum length of 14 inches for a keeper. But as I released it back into the surf I was still happy that I could cross black drum off the list of saltwater fish I’ve caught.

What species are you hoping to cross off your list this spring?

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

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