Monday, September 27, 2010

Catching Live Bait

As the water temperatures cool lots of things are going to start happening here in the Keys.  The first thing is that lots of different kinds of bait fish will move down here to get out of the cold water.  Scaled sardines (we call them pilchards), thread fin herring, and ballyhoo will come down to the Keys in large numbers for their winter vacation.  The schools of bait are so large that artificial lures have a tough time competing with the natural baits that are so abundant.  So to really have a kick butt fishing trip you need the livies.

Every year I have a post were I try to beat it into the tourista's heads the need for and how to catch live bait.  This year I am going to hammer home the need for and how to throw a real castnet.

First thing, what is a real castnet?  A real castnet is an 8 foot or larger radius net.  In case y'all don't know what a radius is, it is the distance from the lead line of the net to the center or horn of the net.  So an eight foot net has a diameter of 16 feet.  I personally throw a ten foot net and most charter captains throw a 12 foot net.  The reason I throw a smaller ten foot net is because I fish all kinds of boats, most of which are smaller and generally overloaded with crap limiting the room I have to throw.  Most charter captains throw a 12 foot net because they are fishing their own boat and they are real anal about telling you to keep your crap out of their way so they have plenty of room to throw the larger net.

I also throw a cheap net because many of the boats I fish have net rippers like backing out rub rail screws, cracked fiberglass and other stuff that will rip a hole in my net.  Most charter captains throw high dollar nets because they have made sure their boat does not have net rippers.

The biggest difference between the cheap net and the high dollar net is the mesh of the net.  The cheap net's mesh is stiffer and has a lot of memory.  The high dollar net mesh is silky smooth and has very little memory.  Just look at the price difference between the top of the line monofilament and the bottom of the barrel Walmart brand.

Learning to throw a net is a lot like learning to ride a bike.  The first time or two you try you will freak out and do something stupid and everybody watching will get a nice chuckle at your expense.  Well man up!  Did you quit trying to ride a bike because Jennifer across the street laughed and called you a spaz when you crashed into the rose bushes?  No you took a Mercurochrome bath and practiced in the backyard until you could proudly ride down the street and flip Jenny, the ninny off. ( deja vu all over again. Maybe I should have picked another comparison.)

Anyway, there are several ways to load and throw a net.  I use the dry load method because I hate getting wet the first thing in the morning and freezing my butt off running to the fishing spot.  Since I am too cheap to by a video camera I am sticking a video link to another captain showing how to throw a cast net with the dry load method.  Pay attention to how he coils the line and the net in the outside to inside roll.  Also note that he uses the net's momentum to make the throw not only easy but look easy.  You not only want to catch bait you also want to look cool doing it just in case Jenny shows up in her boat with her new race car driver boy friend.

Here is the link to the video.

Now go into the backyard and practice.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Monday, September 20, 2010

Count Down to Bay Side Catching

The biggest reason I settled on Marathon for my home port is the easy access to a large variety of fishing areas.  The fishing in Florida Bay totally blew my mind when I first got down here.  Catching over a hundred fish per trip is pretty phenomenal especially when you can land ten or more species in a single trip.  The last two years the Bay Side bite has been pretty good but nothing like it was three and more years ago due to algae blooms.  Thanks to the wickedly cold winter we had last year it appears that our algae problems are over for a while.  So this year you can experience the magic of Bay fishing without having to run 25 plus miles to find quality water.

As the fall progresses into winter cooling waters north of us will drive Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel and Cobia into the Bay to join the fat Mangrove snapper, Lane Snapper and Gag Grouper that hang out back there.  Lady Fish, Blue Fish and a variety of sharks that may or may not be your cup will add to the variety.  While not common on every trip, gator sized Sea Trout, Sheeps Head, Hogfish, Permit and Redfish often pay the slick a visit.  It is a great time of the year for light tackle anglers looking for a workout.

The Bay Side action heats up as the water temperature cools.  A good rule of thumb is that when the water temperature off Tampa hits 70 degrees the Bay action peaks.  Thanksgiving is the average time things get going, but mid November normally provides plenty of action.  The action continues until water temperatures in the Bay drop below 70 degrees.  So you can count on hot Bay fishing until the middle of January and often the action will continue through March in a mild winter.

The past two years the size of the Spanish Mackerel has been about four pounds average after culling.  Before the algae situation the past couple of years seven pounds was a good culling size with fish pushing ten pounds not that uncommon.  A ten pound Spanish Mackerel is a bragging size fish that is a challenge on light spinning gear or a fly rod.  By light I mean 10 to 20 pound test because less than ten pound test is pretty frustrating when a 30 plus pound King or Cobia crashes the Spanish party.

If you have never experienced a red hot Bay bite you might want to make plans to play hooky a few days this year to get that off your bucket list.  Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Monday, September 13, 2010

September and October Fishing

September and October is the summer/fall transition time for fishing in the Keys.  By September, the reef snapper spawn is over and the big Mangroves and Muttons move back towards their winter haunts.  Back in the Bay the big Mangroves will be hanging out in the taller bottom grass, around structure and near many of the banks.  The Muttons will move to their favorite deeper wrecks and many of the rock piles in Hawks Channel.  Bridge fishing this time of year can be exceptional as the various species move around deciding on where they plan to spend their winter. 

Offshore, tuna is a good bet about anywhere with plenty of triple tails for those that find a few floaters.  Dolphin or Mahi Mahi can be found off the Florida Keys year around but as air and water temperatures drop Sailfish and Mackerel are easier targets just off the reef. 

Flag Yellowtail snapper on the reef are a bit harder to target after the spawn but, good size fish in the 15 to 18 inch range are on most of the reef's live coral fields from around 35 feet to 100 feet.  Remember the deeper you fish the more chum you need to burn. With the grouper season scheduled to close in December, September through November will be your best bet to target these tasty critters on the wrecks, patches and rock piles.

As the water temperatures drop, Bay Side Spanish Mackerel fishing will build up and if water conditions are favorable, Cobia will start hanging out on the Bay structure.  The past two years the near shore (10 to 20 miles out) Cobia fishing has been below normal.  This has been due to algae blooms in that range which don't appear to be a problem this year.  So expect to see some nice fish coming to the dock in the next couple of months.

Fishing reports have been in short supply with the off season upon us.  Yellow Tail on the reef are biting well.  The Mangrove bite with some keeper Gag grouper is getting better in the Bay.  Tuna on the humps have been pretty consistent with decent catches of Dolphin most days and quite a few nice triple tails coming home for dinner.

Tarpon are biting better than normal for this time of year off the flats and bridges due to the weird weather this past season.  While the water is still warm the bonefish and permit bite should remain good though it is considerably better to the West from the Contents past Key Weird.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Catch 22

The past two seasons have been really tough for me and plenty of my friends down here.  Going from around 300 trips a year to less than 100 has impacted my finances considerably.  Oddly enough, I have had more than enough trips booked to survive the poor economy, it is just those darn catches that have messed everything up.  The weather permitting catch followed by the being healthy enough to fish catch were the cause of most of my misfortunes.

This winter's weather cost me over 20 trips.  Very few people wanted to vacation in the Keys with temperatures dipping below 40 degrees.  Then having windier than normal conditions in late spring cost me a few more.  Weather is always a cause for lay days, this year the lay days were a bit more inopportune than normal for me.

Health wise, side effects from my blood pressure meds and some crud that was going around cost me several more trips.  A couple of trips I spent nearly as much time puking as I did talking.  I was chasing a good size shark one trip all the while puking over the rail.  So after changing my diet, losing 20 pounds, eating vitamins and finally quitting drinking I managed to reduce the side effects and get rid of the crud.  Things were looking up when bam, a blood clot takes me out of the game for a while and I lose a few more trips.

The fear of oil didn't help much either.  While we never had any impact from the BP oil spill, fear of the oil cause a number of trips to be canceled.  I only know of seven trips I lost due to the spill but I suspect a few more were lost. 

All things considered I would have had a respectable season even with the bad economy, had it not been for poor health, weird weather and the largest oil spill in the history of the United States.

Now the health issue due to my newly acquired deep vein thrombosis (that's the fancy way of saying a friggin' blood clot) has my future up for grabs.  The text book treatment for a clot is to use anti-coagulants to prevent the clot from getting bigger and hopefully stabilizing the clot so it doesn't go on a road trip to the lungs, heart or brain.  Warfarin, the anti-coagulant or blood thinner I take which initially was and is used as a rat poison, doesn't dissolve the clot but can provide blood conditions that "may" allow the clot to gradually dissolve via your body's natural processes.  There are drugs that will dissolve the clot but are only approved in life threatening situations since the they have the potential side effects of causing stroke or just plain killing you.  So the only answer I can find for when I will be able to guide again is FIIK (F*** If I Know).

With adequate amounts of opiate based pain medications, I could be fishing in a couple of weeks.  Though I doubt fishing with overly drugged guide really ranks very high on most people's "to do" list.  Especially, one with a cane and the personality of Greg House. 

So that's it for now, I will keep y'all posted on any changes.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Friday, September 03, 2010

A New Path for a While

Last weekend my right leg started hurting a bit.  Monday morning a buddy of mine decided I was in so much pain he pretty much forced me to go to the emergency room.  The crew in the ER was pretty nice other than they wanted to dress me funny.  Backless gowns are still the rage in hospitals.  I have never spent a night in a hospital in my life, now I can't say that anymore.

The first two days I was ordered to stay in bed with a lovely porta potty very close just in case.  Since I perceive myself as a tough guy, I avoided pain meds as much as possible.  That proved to be a mistake.  My stay was much more enjoyable with regular percasets, however you spell that.  Now that I am out, oxycodone will be my med of choice for the next month or so while the rat poison does its job.  Rat poison, aka coumadin, is prescribed for the next six months. 

My clot is approximately 18 inches long in my Femoral vein just below the branch with the Saphenous vein.  That is a pretty large clot but not quite Gueiness worthy.  Still it is a personal best.  How long it will take the rat poison tunnel its way through this obstruction is debatable.  I am thinking two months, hoping two week and praying it ain't two years.  In any case, trips I have booked over the next six months are questionable.  In the mean time I am looking for jobs that require me to sit on my butt for extended periods of time.

Since I have been out of the loop with detox and my hospital mini-vacation, I don't have any fishing report.  With my dapper new cane, support hose and pain meds I will be visiting my buds at various marinas to get the low down on the action.  So keep stopping by.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas