We took a quick trip to one of my favorite fishing spots along north beach road in Englewood! The west winds haven’t been favorable to the natural beaches in this area, causing most of them to still be under water. Since it was calm and such a beautiful day we decided to wade out and try to catch some fish we saw jumping around over the reef! We tied on every lure in the box with no luck! Whenever this happens its time to break out the net! Some days they only want live bait. We saw a few green backs swimming along the shoreline. Still smaller than usual but Andrew was skilled enough to grab a few in the net! The best tip about live bait on the beach has come from Captain Cayle’s wife Barb. She told me to put a frozen water bottle along with my bubbler in my bait bucket during really hot months. It helps to keep the bait active and alive!
We quickly tied on some hooks for live bait. I like a simple loop knot for fishing along the beach, it helps the fish swim naturally. It wasn’t long until we started catching some smaller jacks & spanish mackerel! These are fun to catch on light tackle and make great bait for larger fish in the area. We were only staying about an hour so all the fish went back today to swim another day! Today I was testing out my new purple Fishin Franks pole paired with my Penn Conflict! As we were relaxing in the surf my son caught his first sea bass & I caught my very first gag grouper! Just a baby but its a wonderful sign that the reef in this area is healthy and coming alive this spring! Have a wonderful weekend fishermen!
This week on my calendar is marked with a hammerhead. I never for a second thought this would actually become a reality. Friday evening we set out with one thing in mind. Searching for a spring time hammerhead. In the 4 years we have been shark fishing we had yet to catch our own. The tides seemed just right and Andrew hurried to get baits in the water. No more than 45 mins later Andrew was hooked up and the drag was screaming! The fight was short lived though. 10 mins in this fish swam in between a few boats and was broken off. We all suspected what kind of shark this was but didn’t say anything. Awhile later I walked to the truck to gather new supplies to set back out and came across some guys who were watching us when we hooked up. ” Its a shame you lost that big hammer” I explained that we never actually got to see the fish but before I could finish my sentence he interrupted with ” oh I saw him, we’ve been watching with binoculars, he surfaced between two boats I could see your yellow line clearly” We put baits back out and stayed until around 11pm with zero bites the rest of the evening.
Saturday we knew that we had to try again. They are here and we knew what they were eating so why not head out for a few hours and attempt this one more time. Sting ray and barracuda from the freezer and we were on the way. Same scene different day when we arrived. With in the first 25 mins of having baits in the water we lost a sizable fish who spit our bait out without being hooked. Andrew quickly redeployed this worn out once bitten bait and hoped for the best. I walked over and was sitting near the black 80w when I noticed it moving very slowly, not even enough to pull drag. Something was down there playing with the bait, all of a sudden, very slowly this fish took drag. We were going to let this one eat a bit! Letting her run while the rod was still in the pipe while Andrew harnessed in.
This was fast we knew right away it was a shark. This fish ran straight out 5-600 yards of line on the first run. Then all of a sudden nothing but slack line. At one point Andrew actually unharnessed and put his rod in the pipe, assuming that once again the fish was off. I knew something was still there, even though the line wasn’t tight it was raised up out of the water. I’ve never seen this before so I just kept reeling in the pipe until all of a sudden there she was! Weight back on the line. I yelled down the beach and Andrew quickly got back into his harness to fight this fish. By this time its dark, my head lamp is in the car so I grab the spot light to run down the beach as this fish is headed for other peoples fishing lines. Over, under and side to side we guided Andrew around the tangled mess of gear this hammer made. Cutting my 80w off completely and loosing a hook section out of the leader on another line.
The next thing I know there was the knot at the leader! The next image I saw will be burned into my memory forever. I focused into the dark water and tried to locate this fish, 30 yards out in the top of the water colum but not yet breaking the surface. It honestly looked like a HUGE lemon shark due to its dorsal being cut by a boat propeller. I saw her tail and realized that finally, this was a hammerhead! We’ve caught countless sharks but have never landed a hammer. This fish wasn’t done yet and ran another 200 yards. A total fight time of 45 mins until she was out a few yards off the beach where she stayed. I tried my best to pull on the leader and assist Andrew in getting her close enough to de-hook but I was not strong enough. Tug of war with a 800-1000lb fish. Luckily by this time we gathered a crowed. I asked two guys if they would assist us in pulling this shark the rest of the way in so I could tail rope.
As I entered the water and began to tail rope this shark, out of the darkness comes our old team mate from Big Hammer Challenges Nino! Ive never been so happy to see him in my life. He has extensive experience handling sharks especially hammers. He was fishing on another local beach tonight. I had text messaged him at the very beginning of this fight telling him that we were hooked up! I didn’t realize the massive size of this shark until my 5’5 self was standing next to it. I think I threw the tail rope at him and replied with “help with anything” He got it around the top of her tail and it took all my strength to lift the bottom of her tail up to secure the rope.
Andrew grabbed the tape measure as we tagged her for NOAA Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. Nino yelled the measurement total length at at 13’7. WOW. I assumed this fish was over 10 feet, but I never expected it to be over 13 feet. Andrew de-hooked her as pictured above. We don’t promote doing this with your hands but the de-hooker was not working in this particular hook position. The rest is really a blur as I tried my best to get Andrew a few quick pics before her release while still recording on the go pro! Andrew and Nino began to walk her out into deeper water. Brandon held her hammer off the sand so it wouldn’t drag along the bottom and tear up her face. It was obvious pretty quickly, as this shark came back towards our feet that she was ready to go. We walked along with her down the beach and gave her dorsal a strong push. She kicked her tail and swam off into the depths of the gulf.
Thank you to EVERYONE who was down at the beach that assisted with our catch. We had people taking pics , holding tail ropes & de-hookers. Especially the other anglers who had to reel up as she charged down the beach like a freight train destroying any and all tackle in her path. I couldn’t of asked for a better group of people to be fishing with. Every one was kind and helpful. This was a fish of a lifetime. The chain of events that lead up to this was crazy. I learned so much assisting Andrew with catching this fish. I hope for a recapture on her one day, I would love to see where she travels from here.
As the water warms up the bigger fish start to move in. This is great news for fishermen who wait all year for the great spring fishing season across south west Florida. Larry & Beulah Grindle visit every year and were staying locally in Englewood. We’ve caught the grand-kids sharks almost every trip they’ve been down visiting so this time it was all about them! We planned an evening of night fishing and arrived a few hours before sunset to set up and take baits out in the kayak.
Larry & Beulah joined us a short while later. We were excited for a great evening of fishing and the water really seemed alive. Large schools of jacks were riding in with the incoming tide, and lots of dolphins. This is always a great sign to me, dolphins that are chasing bait and staying in the area lets you know there is a great food source and a reason for the sharks to stick around as well. By the time Andrew was on shore from dropping baits we had already had a small run on the 80w. It was going to be one of those nights!
About 20 mins after our first run the fish came back again only on the other rod! As soon as I picked up the rod to help Larry with his belt the shark swam at me. Sandbar sharks have been doing this regularly all year and can easily shake the hook out by putting slack in your line, try your best to always keep your line tight and keep up with the fish. Larry gained on her and after a short battle of the black 80w he landed a healthy 6’1 sandbar shark! She was feisty and we were able to de hook her and tag her before her release! This is the 13th sandbar shark I’ve tagged this year its great to see their numbers so strong.
We set baits back out and missed about 3 other fish. One which completely stole my stingray from two 16/0 owner circle hooks. Sneaky! All we had left was stingray wings to replace what was stolen off the hooks. If theres sharks in the area they will eat almost any tasty fresh bait you put in front of them. Two years ago i used a piece of sting ray no larger than a hotdog and landed an sizable bullshark. Larry also threw out a bait from shore on the Penn Spinfisher 10,000. This bait was no more than five feet off the shore line when it got slammed at sunset. We right away got Beulah set up on the reel. This shark was hooked and not happy about it. Taking about 2-300 yards before rubbing on some pilings and breaking the line. We hoped he would be back for our other baits still soaking! This has also prompted me to buy one to play with in the future!
Darkness fell and the conditions REALLY changed. I guess anyone can be a weather man now a days! forecast for tonight was ESE winds at 9mph. Winds picked up to about 20-30 mph changing direction before eventually settling in an east direction. We stuck it out through the gusty winds and cool weather and before 9pm Beulah was hooked up on the avet 80w! This was a good fish, it was really pulling drag and putting on a show with some really long runs! She really got to feel her power as she approached the beach and her belly touched the shallows she would take off again with a burst of energy. Andrew finally leadered her fish and discovered it was the first bull shark of the season! We measured her at 6’8 inches and Beulah tagged her for NOAA before her release. This was her FIRST shark ever and an awesome one at that.
We have some great video footage of their catches that I tagged for the Fishin Franks Facebook page! I said in my previous blog that I would eventually help all of members of the Grindle family catch their own ocean giant, I think were making great progress! Who’s next? I hope someone is planning a summer vacation! If your headed out this weekend and do not plan on harvesting your catch please take extra care to release quickly, there are a lot of pregnant sharks this time of year who are larger and more delicate than your average shark. Show them a little extra love
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!
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.
Snook season officially opens on the gulf coast on Saturday! The season officially reopens on March 1 in Florida’s Gulf of Mexico state and adjacent federal waters, including Everglades National Park and Monroe County. The season ends April 30th! Thats a nice window of time to catch some great snook! Last fall was my first experience ever catching a snook. I love spending weekends on the local beaches its even better when the fishing is great! We started out in the early morning near stump pass park, just as the fog was disappearing and it was finally warming up. Andrew cast net some live green backs that were swimming around near the shore.
The snook around here really seem to love live bait. We go though so many greenbacks here that we usually turn our cooler into a live well using a bait blubber and some frozen water bottles if its a very hot day! Barb gave me this idea when I complained to her we were having trouble keeping the bait alive. Works like a charm and makes them very lively! As you walk down the shore line on an ideal day you will see schools of fish swimming down the beach. I love this type of fishing. Its so exciting to see the fish your trying to catch. The snook here along the beaches range in size from juvenile’s to keeper’s but they are so much fun to catch especially on light tackle! My first keeper was caught on my Fishin Franks rod! Keeper slot is 28- 33 inches. Everyone else must swim away!
We freeline bait and use 3/0 circle hooks and 30lb fluoro. I try to cast my bait ahead of the fish im trying to get the attention of. I cast my bait ahead of a swimming snook school and wait, trying to pay attention to where my bait is swimming with out getting too close to the shore line. On a clear day the fish can see you pretty well. Here comes the exciting part! When your snook is checking out your bait and deciding if hes going to eat it or not. It a split second you can watch him eat your bait and create some serious splashing action as hes trying to throw your hook! Im curious this season to try some live shrimp along with the bait we net while were at the beach.
I have caught snook on a more blustery wavy day in the surf on a lure. Some days its just difficult to find live bait! I was simply casting down the surf line and using strong action. Lures that resemble green backs or small mullet seem to work the best in this location. The bite for me along the Englewood beaches have been best in early morning to afternoon and right at sunset. This type of fishing is great because its inexpensive and almost anyone can be successful fishing this way even the beginner! Good luck to all the snook fishermen heading out this weekend! Check out our video below of our fun fall snook fishing along the area beaches!
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.