Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hey! Take a kid fishing!

Doing the fishing 101 guide trips is a lot of fun for me. Yesterday I had a crew from Indiana. Three generations, Grandpa, the sons and the grandkids. The grandkids were 4 to almost 5 years old. Nobody was really sure how the kids would take to fishing so we stayed pretty close to the house just in case.

We started with a little bayside mackerel fishing. When I am doing the guide trips I don’t give out any of my honey holes, I show the crew how to find their own. So we shot back in the bay and I describe to the crew what to look for when hunting for a productive spot. While we are running I told the crew about how the water color changes with the type of bottom and which type of bottom you look for depending on the fish you want.

We hit a nice a nice grass area about 7 miles from the dock and I stop the boat, a 26 foot Triton they rented. I explain once again what I’m looking for in a mackerel area, (vacationers are always excited the first time out so you need to repeat a few times). We put the chum bag over and they put a few lines out with dead shrimp on for bait. After mentioning that they didn’t need any weight, just a short wire leader, the crew takes off their heavy sinkers.

After waiting for what seemed an eternity, (6 minutes) we finally had a fish on. I watched the fish, a decent Spanish mackerel run around for a few seconds before I announced “fish on.” Dad helped Colin, reel in the first fish of their Keys fishing vacation on the rental boat.

I took all of an hour to catch all the mackerel they wanted then we headed in for an early lunch and potty break. After reloading the bait tank with live shrimp and a few pinfish we hit the Seven Mile Bridge. The keeper snapper fishing was a bit slow, but there was plenty of just short mutton snapper, black and red grouper and jacks to stretch the lines.

The crew was kind of surprised when I said it was about time to head back to the dock but the kids where ready for a break. For me it was a slow trip. About a dozen keepers and maybe forty releases. One big mystery fish, probably a shark, was the only hoss of the trip. The crew was more than happy with the results and with the intro to Keys fishing are sure to do well on their own for the few days.

So if you are coming to the Keys, bring the kids and hire a guide for the first day out. Don’t wait for the last day like so many vacationers tend to do. There are plenty of places where kids of all ages can have fun catching.

Until next time,
Tight lines.

Capt. Dallas

Monday, February 05, 2007

Iguana the Other White Meat

South Florida’s stock of iguanas has grown rapidly over the last decade. These tropical lizards were introduced to South Florida as pets. The iguanas escaped or released from captivity have managed to propagate with amazing effectiveness. There are several varieties a feral iguana, but the green iguana is most common and the tastiest.

Some areas of Florida have sufficient stocks of iguanas to allow avid sportsmen the opportunity to bag a new species. The iguanas called “pollo del arbor” by local Hispanic groups, or chicken of the tree in English, do have a remarkable similarity in flavor to poultry.

With the newness of iguana recreational harvesting, the Florida Wildlife Commission has yet to set bag limits and methods of legally taking the reptilian delicacy. While hunting methods have been approved by a few municipalities fishing methods of harvest are recommended for highly populated areas.

Iguanas are by and large vegetarian in nature and have exceptional color vision. The most effective color patterns for iguanas are bright red to hot pink. Hibiscus flowers are popular as natural bait. Tomato wedges and red bell pepper slices are also popular.

Fly fishermen are having good success with Mylar rose petal patterns with red buckskin streamers also being productive. When fly-fishing for iguana in dense brush a tippet over 15 pounds is recommended. Dry flies are most effect.

Iguana trapping is employed legally in many areas of South Florida. Live traps are recommend and have to be checked once in a 24 hour period. Snares and metal leg traps are legal but not recommended to avoid catching neighborhood cats and raccoons. Traps should only be set during daylight hours when the iguanas feed.

Concerns by various animal rights groups have led to strict standards for dispatching your catch in some counties. Freezing as a method of euthanasia is generally accepted as humane. In the field, a large cooler of heavily brined ice is sufficient. Be sure to have a solid locking mechanism for the cooler lid.

Iguana meat is considered a delicacy with meat prices as high $15.00 per pound. With iguanas being feral game in South Florida, sale of iguana meat is lawful. Once you have had a taste of fresh fried iguana it is doubtful that you will wish to sell any surplus meat. Iguana freeze well and keeps for up to six months.

Iguana sport fishing is great fun way to reduce iguana over-population in urban or rural areas. If you would like more information on iguanas please visit the University of Florida’s website Photo by Thomas Wright, University of Florida.