Take a Chill Pill - Come to Sanibel! April 25 2020, 0 Comments
Whew! Yeah, these certainly are interesting times and we’re all going through a lot right now. Heck, the entire world is. Regardless of where you stand on what the next moves ought to be on the national, state and local fronts, here’s an optimistic outlook shared by many – We will emerge from this whole situation and be stronger than ever. I’m in this camp and am already planning on getting the barnacles sheared off with the onslaught of visitors who will begin escaping to Sanibel. Already, plans are being made to open up many of the resorts on Sanibel and Captiva on May 1. Most restaurants and other services are sure to be in like step. And, I’m confident that everyone is going to be “safety savvy” when it comes to welcoming returning guests. I know we are. (More on this later)
For the purpose of keeping all of you amusingly and factually informed about HeyMonSanibel, I thought I would provide a little Pre, During, Post recap as it relates to observations and activities surrounding this naughty pandemic.
Until everything came to a complete halt starting the last week of March, it was our typical spring game-on time, like years past. In fact, bookings and outings of all types were reaching an all-time high. It was good crazy. Complimenting this was the return of outstanding fishing of all species. And, while we never want sustained weather droughts, the decrease in rainfall was helping to ensure that our waters (both fresh and salt) were crystal clear and less threatened by algae build-ups. In addition to fishing, this was allowing for outstanding cruising and gunk-holing throughout Pine Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.
April, May and June? What can I say? It was going to be, hop a ride on the race boat and hang-on. And then it was, “Holy crap, Vern!” Like the onslaught of a major storm, she suddenly submarined with the onset of the big CO ’19. Now what?
Okay, having been through some pretty rocky periods during my lifetime, if I learned anything, it’s DON’T PANIC. Instead, accept what is. If you can’t personally solve it, “Chill out. Have a Salad, Eat a Peach.” This too, shall pass. For a little amusement, check out my interview as CO ’19 was beginning to peak and while I was doing some shopping at Costco for salmon and octopus. So many others were cleaning the shelves of toilet paper and bottled water. I guess that’s what comes with any panic. I didn’t get the memo to hoard-up. Press on.
As we got into full shutdown mode and cancellations rolled in, the Have-a-Salad-Eat-a-Peach mindset got me off on a new tack. Like many, this downtime could translate to getting after a myriad of items lingering on the eternal projects “to do” list. House stuff, yard stuff and better yet, boat and related guide stuff. I figured I’d hit the first two quickly in partnership with Barb and get those out of the way first. Then, the projects I had in mind for the boat, HeyMonSanibel and gear, would ultimately be of benefit and bring increased pleasure for our guests. However, these initiatives would require more time, patience and craftsmanship. But what hey, there was time to be had, salad and peaches have become regular fare and I was committed to doing each job right and fitting for a floating damsel approaching thirty years old. Besides, there is nothing more fulfilling than working on boats. I recall my days as a partner owner of Northland Yachts in Minnesota. Our very first marketing brochure started with this premise. It’s been with me ever since.
“There is nothing----Absolutely nothing----Half so much worth doing
As simply messing about in boats……
Wind in the Willows (River Rat)
With the above in mind, I decided the first major boat project to tackle would be to strip and refinish all the teak on the center console which was looking old and tired. Most of this woodwork is trim for a number of plexiglass sliding and compartment doors. These were also in need of replacing which is no easy task. In addition to careful removal of the frames, there are very few outlets who will do custom cutting of specialized smoked plexiglass, much less even have a supply of it. We got it all done though after 2 ½ weeks. There was endless sanding, applying four coats of Siken’s (a specialized coating that’s better than varnish) and finding and replacing six precision cut and drilled smoke plexiglass doors. The results are below. Ain’t it beautiful? You’ll relax in all the surrounding warmth the next time you come on board the HeyMonSanibel.
Another side project or initiative that we like to do anytime we can is for Barb and me to take to the water and scout out new areas to explore for fishing and cruising. In the past, the challenge has been finding the time in between charters to do so. Now, by having the calendar open, we’ve been able to venture out to test some spots we’ve had our eyes on. Some have turned out to be marginal. A few others have been gold mines literally in our back yard. In one particular area, it was really picturesque – great for cruising, and potentially fishing. As it relates to the latter, we soon found out we were onto a special place when a few big reds, a nice Snook and a myriad of mangrove snapper popped our lines. Now, while this may not happen everyday, we’ve had decent action on repeat visits. Finding these places is fun for us and provides a greater variety of options, especially for many of our repeat guests who come on board with us every year.
Our time on the water also provides us the opportunity to experiment with new equipment and fishing rigs/lures. While we always can count on tried-and-true techniques and equipment to carry us through, it’s fun to change it up once in awhile. Plus, it helps us hone our skills on how to adapt to different habits of fish species.
The next boat project that is being tackled is to replace all of the pitted aluminum moulding on the center console and gunnels running fore and aft. Not only will this look better on the boat when done, it will ensure clothing and/or human parts will always glide smooth while hunkered down catching a big fish. We’ll flash a picture or two when we’re done.
An inventory of all safety equipment has been made and everything is updated and conforms to US Coast Guard rules and regulations. For example, it is now required that all Adult life jackets have reflective tape on them in specified areas. Additionally, a waterproof safety light must now be affixed to each jacket. Note: It should be noted, that in addition to having seven adult life jackets on board the HeyMon, we also have three pairs of different sized youth life jackets that are USCG approved. This is very handy for families with kids so they don’t have to worry or be concerned with supplying their own. Lastly, all life jackets have been completely sanitized and are washed down thoroughly after usage which thankfully never really occurs. Nevertheless, we still do a complete rinsing of these items on a regularly scheduled basis.
We’re rarin’ to go at HeyMonSanibel. The scuttlebutt on the islands is when things do open up soon, it’s gonna be like the floodgates are sprung open. Folks are going to pour into the area to step out and be close with Mother Nature.
This being said, there is likely going to be some trepidation. Further, we want to be contributors to helping ensure we’re complying with recommendations made and to put your minds at ease. Let’s recap some of those.
- Social Distancing The great thing about our boat, the HeyMonSanibel, is she’s long enough to allow guests to keep safe recommended distances from each should they desire to do so. This includes me. From where I’m usually positioned at the helm, I’m a good six feet away from where most of you would be sitting or fishing. We’ve even got a plexiglass windshield to provide an additional barrier. How cool is that. It’s like the boat was made for this gunky stuff we’re dealing with. One more thing, and it bears repeating from what we’ve stated before, anyone on board the HeyMonSanibel on a given outing are members of your group only. We never mix guest groups together which sometimes are referred to as “split charters.”
- Gloves and Wipes We have a supply of rubber gloves and sterile wipes on board for all guests. They are available should anyone request them.
- Masks For any guests choosing to wear one, feel free to bring your own so you have the most confidence in them.
- Gear You will supplied with rods and reels that have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized prior to using them. Any additional apparatus such as fish holders, etc. are cleaned after each outing.
- The Boat Even prior to this CO 19 stuff, we always thoroughly clean the boat after each outing. You can be assured that you always will be riding in safe and comfortable conditions.
- Fresh, Unencumbered Air That’s right folks. With each outing on the HeyMonSanibel, you will receive an ample supply of fresh air to relax in. Won’t that feel special? Your Captain, Mr. Rogers thinks so.
You’re cramped up right now, wherever you are. Soon, that’s going to change. Along with significant others, there is going to be a big-time urge to escape, spread your wings and chill out. What a better place to do it in, the islands, and aboard the HeyMonSanibel - just dropping some lines in the water or sipping a cold one while watching your cares fly away. Come visit soon. We’ll be here to enthusiastically greet you. And, maybe with some peaches.
We're Seeing A Lot of Red This Holiday Season ... December 18 2019, 0 Comments
...And Thank Goodness it Ain't Red Tide
'Tis the season! Obviously, it’s a time for reflection, and also looking forward to ever changing tides and a new year. Down here in Southwest Florida, the outlook couldn't be better for great boating, fishing and beachcombing.
On the reflection front, the infamous Red Tide (RT) that so many of us are aware of, has been front and center for a long time now, with Fake News leading the charge. These pundits have publicly expoused words to make themselves look like wise scientific sages. What bunk. Instead, what they’ve done is hurt many Floridians through ignorant reporting and disseminating lots of fish dung.
Like I’ve been telling my guests for many months, I’d like to step back and try and provide a truer skinny on Red Tide. First, let’s start with what occurred in late Summer of 2018.
Yes, the RT came in hard. This isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, through log books, there are reports of the stuff being around when Spanish galleons roamed the high seas off of our shores. We know it is born off-shore and occurs erratically from one period of time to the next. Sometimes, it’s more pronounced, other times, not so much.
The good news is there is a new Sheriff in town to help mitigate the effects of RT in the future. That Sheriff is our new Governor of Florida and he and his team have already taken many aggressive steps to get a handle on RT now and in the future. I could provide a comprehensive list of everything that’s being done but would probably bore you to eternity. So, take it at face value, there is a full scale assault going on by many to tackle RT and we’re going to kick its butt to the nautical curb.
On a sidebar note, we’ve also been exposed in SW Florida to a blue algae which is the result of mismanagement of waters being released from Lake Okeechobee and elsewhere with much of it running down the Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf of Mexico. Because of reasons mentioned in the aforementioned paragraph, this algae’s days are numbered, as tough regulations are finally being put in place that should have occurred years ago. In a short period of time, we have already seen dramatic improvements in water quality and appearance. It’s a beautiful sight to see.
So, here’s a factual report: Come to Florida. The weather, of course, is beautiful, the waters surrounding our islands are as clear as ever. Nature is abounding with birds diving for bait everywhere and shelling is bountiful.
And the boating and particularly fishing? Hot Damn, it’s been good! Here are a few particulars on why the angling has been so solid.
Like many states that monitor and manage wildlife, we have the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). They are outstanding. A big part of the reason why is that they work hand-in-hand with commercial and recreational entities to carefully and effectively manage our natural resources. Since fishing is so vital to the State of Florida, FWC is constantly monitoring all of our desirable (and even undesirable) species to ensure we have sustainable populations in the future. This is why it’s the responsibility of all individuals and groups to know what species of fish can be taken, when they can be taken, what size they are and what the bag limit is (how many can be kept to consume.)
Many of our inshore and offshore fish are currently being regulated which is good. If we exercise good conservation today, we obviously set the plate for a better tomorrow. Incidences of Red Tide and overly ambitious commercial fishing are two main reasons why FWC has been even more active in setting down regs to preserve our fisheries both in-shore and off-shore. Let me provide a few examples:
Grouper and Snapper, are two highly sought after fish for catching and consumption. As a result, most of the types of fish within these two species are regulated to avoid overfishing. For example, Red Grouper can be caught and taken year ‘round, but they must be a minimum of 20” in length. And, there is a maximum of 2 per person. The monster shown to the right is a 31" Red Grouper caught on a recent off-shore outing. Black Grouper can also be taken year ‘round in the Gulf of Mexico but must be 24” in length. Because one has to go out so far to generally get blacks, the bag limit is 4 per person. And, Gag Grouper also have to be 24” in length and can only be taken at certain times of the year with a limit of 2 per person.
There are a variety of Snapper that are highly sought after and watched over by the FWC. The Red Snapper historically has been the go-to fish for commercial and recreational fisherman. As a result of too much pressure in harvesting, they are now closed to keeping except for just a few weekends a year in the Gulf of Mexico. They are absolutely beautiful fish that make for great eating. The Red Snapper shown was caught by yours truly. It was kissed for luck and safely released. We’re looking forward to being able to keep a few in the ensuing years. In the meantime, they are a voracious fighter and will leave you almost awestruck by their beauty.
Fortunately, there are a variety of Snapper that are great to catch and consume.Two of my favorites are Yellowtail Snapper and Mangrove Snapper. They just don’t get any better to eat and are a blast to catch. They can be found offshore and in-shore and the size restrictions for keeping are a little more lenient than others.
Mangrove (Manny) Snapper for dinner!
Among the many species of fish in-shore, three of the most popular are Snook, Redfish and Spotted Sea Trout. All three are closed for harvesting. They are catch and release only. That’s not a problem for many, because catch and release is all they do anyway. And, even when harvesting is allowed the numbers of these fish that can be kept are limited and dictated by seasons and size. Snook and Redfish are probably the most coveted and highly regarded of sport fish in-shore and in the backcountry mangroves of Florida. They are voracious fighters and make delicious table fare. However, even when they are allowed to be caught and kept, the Redfish “slot” for keeping is no less than 18” and no more than 27”. The Snook slot is no less than 28” and no more than 33”. At the present time, it hasn’t been announced when these two magnificent fish will be allowed to be harvested. But, for most of us, because it’s such a thrill to catch them, catch-and-release is just fine. The Redfish beauty shown here was recently caught and released by guest, Clive, from the UK.
Spotted Sea Trout are also catch-and-release for now until the Spring of 2020. Like the Redfish and Snook, they are a blast to catch on a popping cork or far-flung jig. The primary reason restrictions have been put on these three fish is because they were stressed and some even left the area when the Red Tide hit in 2018. Since then however, by giving them time to procreate their species and through restocking, they have come back strong. In short, fishing for Snook, Redfish and Trout has been some of,the best I’ve seen in years. Yeah!
If you still want great fights and be able to put some food on the table, the likelihood of this happening is very good. Just tell your guide that this is what you’d like to try and do. There are plenty of species to target including Spanish Mackerel, Mangrove Snapper and Sheepshead, to name a few. And who knows, you could pick up a Black Drum, Pompano and/or Flounder which are prize catches as well.
Like most of my fellow guides, bait shops, restaurants, hotels, and other retail outlets, I’m sure we will continue to receive calls from folks asking about how the Red Tide is affecting us in Southwest Florida. This has and likely will be brought on because of all the fake news being disseminated to the public. A quick side-story. There was awhile there when on local TV news channels and in the papers, I think I saw the same poor dead fish on a beach over, and over and over again. Having been in the marketing and business for many years, I think I saw that same dead fish for sale in photo libraries across the country. If these outlets only knew how popular this dude fish would be, they could have charged double or triple rates.
For centuries, Red Tide has been in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. It will probably continue to be around for years to come. Much effort is being placed forth to minimize its effects. And, we’re on the right track. Before making Florida my permanent home, I’d been coming here since the 70’s. I can honestly state (with no Fake News) that all of Southwest Florida is beautiful right now and the boating is a delight. The fishing continues to be some of the best on the planet. I know, because I’ve fished many corners of it.
About the only red of significance we’re experiencing down here are beautiful sunsets and fish like Red Grouper, Snapper and Redfish. Oh, and I’m sure in a little under a week we’ll catch a glimpse of a jolly old elf all dressed in red cruising our skies.
Have a wonderful Holiday Season everyone. I hope to see you on the water in 2020. Ho! Ho! Ho! Fish On!
Fresh Fish with Almonds May 30 2019, 0 Comments
While there are many versions of fish with almonds, this one has a little something special. The addition of the cornstarch adds a light extra crispiness. We think you'll agree this meal is simple and simply delicious when served with boiled potatoes and a crisp salad. Wine optional!
1/3 C chopped almonds
6 white fleshed fish fillets, about 2 lbs
2 T olive oil
½ C white flour
2 t cornstarch
2 T minced shallots
2 T fresh lemon juice
3 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Toast almonds on low heat in small frying pan until golden. Be careful as they can go from golden to black VERY quickly. Set aside.
Thoroughly mix flour, cornstarch and seasonings in 1 gallon plastic bag.
Place fillets two by to into bag and shake to get evenly coated with mixture.
Heat half of the oil on medium heat in a large frying pan. Place three of the fillets in the pan and sauté on both sides until golden brown (about two minutes a side depending on thickness of the fillets.) Remove and repeat with last three fillets.
Place fillets on platter and cover.
Melt butter in pan, sauté shallots until fragrant. Add the lemon juice and toasted almonds. Spoon over fish fillets and serve immediately.
Red Tide September 17 2018, 0 Comments
C'mon In. Really, The Water Is Fine.
Or Debunking the Red Tide Media Coverage
Regardless of your impressions of media coverage on just about any topic, there is one truism that continues to occur. Sizzle sells, and oftentimes, negative and unfortunate happenings seem to bring out an abundance of coverage that is incorrect and flat out distorted. I can attest to this firsthand. As a publisher of a regional business publication awhile back, I was constantly going at it with my editorial staff to objectively cover stories and at least try and sprinkle in a few positives among the deluge of sensationalized negative events. It rarely happened. And in some cases, people got hurt unnecessarily which was obviously frustrating. This is what’s going down in Sanibel/Captiva, Pine Island Sound and a lot of south Florida right now. Shame on you, Media. I have been regularly contacted since July about the impact of Red Tide and other algae problems going on around Sanibel/Captiva and Pine Island Sound. Here’s the good news. The fishing and boating right now is darn good and will continue to improve as we move into the fall and winter months. The only real bummer is how many people continue to hurt economically because of all the negative press coverage out there.
In contrast to the above, let me offer up some facts about Red Tide and other happenings which are impacting South Florida. If you would like further in-depth information, I highly encourage you to visit Mote Marine Laboratory’s website: www.Mote.org. Then, search “Florida Red Tide FAQ’s”. Mote is one of the most highly respected marine labs in the world. You will learn much.
Okay, on to Red Tide and other Algae. Here are a few relevant facts.
- Red Tide is an algal bloom (plant-like organism). The species that causes it is called Karenia brevis (often abbreviated to simply K. brevis.) To distinguish K. brevis blooms from other blooms, it is associated with the term “Florida Red Tide.”
- Red Tide has been in the Gulf of Mexico and other oceanic areas for hundreds of years. There are even records of Spanish explorers in the 1500s confronting and referring to it.
- Red Tides develop 10-40 miles offshore, away from human-contributed nutrients. Then, like making a soup from scratch, there are a variety of forces (ingredients) that come together to make the coastal red tide concoction which affects us and marine life. Finally, when winds are such that drive the Red Tide to coastal shores, we the see the first-hand affects of it.
- There is not enough data to reach any real consensus about whether releases of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and then flow down the Caloosahatchee River contribute to making Red Tide worse. However, those releases contribute to a different algae forming. It’s called Cyanobacteria and creates a blue-green conglomerate that has inundated canals and inlets along the river when too much water is released.
- When winds increase in velocity and more wave action is created, K. brevis cells get broken open and are released into the air. This can create eye irritation and coughing for some humans especially along the coastal areas.
- Fish are fine for consumption if they are filleted properly. One shouldn’t eat any of the heads and entrails which we generally don’t do anyway.
I could go on and on about what K. brevis (Red Tide) and Cyanobacteria have been up to and all of the ramifications associated with these two nemeses. However, we’re going to move on to what’s gone on in the last 45 days and is happening right now. This is via my own observations and those from fellow guides. Scientifically speaking, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) reports are corroborating this. (Again, if you want to do a deep dive into these two phenomena, go to Mote Marine Lab’s website.)
There have been several weather developments which have pretty much eradicated the effects of Red Tide in the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas and Cyanobacteria in our river systems. First, during high concentrations of Red Tide in late July and early August, our winds often came from the Southeast and Southwest. They literally drove the Red Tide onto the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. This wind pattern has switched in the last 30 days to our prevailing breezes of Fall and Winter which are from the Northeast and Northwest. These winds, coupled with some tropical depressions a few weeks ago, have all but driven heavy concentrations further offshore and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Secondly, water temperature also plays a role in the intensity of Red Tide and Cyanobacteria. As we move further into the Fall, our water temperatures are cooling. This is one less of those soup ingredients I alluded to earlier that don’t add to the mix. And finally, especially as it relates to Cyanobacteria, our rainfall levels over the last 30 days have been far less than what we usually have during this time of year which is the rainy season. Less rain means less water filling up Lake Okeechobee. When there is too much rain, water has to be released from the lake and sent down the Caloosahatchee River. This is one of the prime contributors to the creation of Cyanobacteria and its resultant blue-green algae. Again, because of less rainfall, there have been highly curtailed to no releases from Lake Okeechobee. As we move further into Fall and Winter, we enter our dry season down here. Therefore the prognosis for the future continues to dramatically improve because of favorable winds, cooler water temps and less rain.
As mentioned earlier, what I’m seeing firsthand down here on the islands is a significant improvement in the water quality. And, while the fishing has continued to be good regardless of these algae outbreaks, it gets even better as each day passes. Hallelujah!
Because of all the negative media attention, we have experienced a pretty significant decrease in visitors from years past. The good news is Florida’s slowest season is in August and early September anyway. So while many are being financially impacted by having less business, right now it’s not as catastrophic because of decreased visitation. As we move on into the Fall, visitor traffic will pick up. What remains to be seen is how much the negative publicity from the media will impact the amount of traffic versus previous years.
What I’m here to tell you, is get on down to Sanibel and Captiva. The water and weather are great and there’s a lot less fishing pressure because of fewer boats out there. Whether it’s fishing, dolphin watching and/or boating in general, this is a perfect time to plan and make a fall trip happen. And, of course, we all know the weather will turn brisk as we head towards the winter. Make sure you set your sights on a Southwest Florida escape. You will find the islands and sea as inviting as ever.
In closing, many of my guests, past and present, have contacted me about the conditions down here with Red Tide and Cyanobacteria. Hopefully, this communication will provide some clarity. Feel free to contact me anytime if you would like any further information and updates.
I look forward to getting out onto the water with you during the balance of 2018 and into 2019. Get ‘er done Vern!
Bringing Some Clarity to Inshore and Offshore Fishing October 07 2017, 0 Comments
As it relates to angling, I'm often asked what kinds of fish are biting at certain times of the year. The easy answer is all of them are. However, there are factors which determine how prevalent the bite will be from one species of fish to another. Success in catching them first comes from literally getting into the mindset of a fish and then pushing the right buttons to prompt some action. Some days are obviously better than others in getting on “a bite.” Hopefully, if the action is slow or erratic, your Captain is making moves to make something happen.
Rather than focus right now on scientific approaches to get fish to bite, I’d first like to tackle the types of fishing we do in this area. Understandably, there are people who don’t realize there are differences. While one could drill down even further on types of angling, let’s start with two classifications -- Inshore/Backwater and Offshore Fishing. (I’m not going to cover Surf/Shore fishing because that’s something folks pretty much do on their own without a guide).
In our area around Sanibel and Captiva, inshore fishing pertains to the bulk of Pine Island Sound, the Caloosahatche River and also waters moving up towards Matlacha. Another way of viewing the area is to think of the barrier islands that start with Sanibel and then run all the way almost up to Tampa, Florida. The waters to the outside or west of these islands constitute the Gulf of Mexico. The waters behind or to the East are generally those between the barrier islands and the mainland.
In Pine Island Sound (the “Sound”) we generally fish grass flats and/or oyster bars looking for a variety of species in 4-6 feet of water. Sometimes, we’re also targeting potholes, channels and passes for everything from Spotted Sea Trout, Spanish Mackerel, Pompano to Snook, Redfish and Shark. And in the late spring, summer and fall let’s not forget the infamous Tarpon. Lastly, during the winter months, the Sheepshead bite just gets stronger and stronger as the water temps drop below 70 degrees.
Unless it’s Shark or Tarpon, the approaches to luring (no pun intended) the other aforementioned species, can be jigging with artificial baits, free lining shrimp or white bait or using a popping cork with about 2 feet of line underneath it with a small sinker and baited hook. All of these techniques can be a lot of fun and are easily learned. Best of all, they usually result in producing table fare. Fishing the edges of sandbars, island shorelines and piers (docks) can also yield great results.
This term usually relates to going into areas where there are creeks and flats surrounded by mangrove trees. Water levels can vary greatly depending on what the tides are doing. Two techniques that work great to get action are fishing off the bottom in an incoming or outgoing tide with baited hooks/jigs. Or, pitching slightly weighted hooks with white bait (preferable) or shrimp into indentations of mangrove tree limbs. The latter requires more skill and the closer one can cast and lay the bait into the roots and limbs in these areas, the better the opportunity to prompt a strike. This can be the preferred type of fishing for more experienced anglers. Conversely, it can be frustrating for folks not used to pinpoint casting and can result in line hang-ups in the trees. Usually though, if desired, your friendly guide can do the pitching for you, and help to potentially get a biggun to hit.
On my mostly half day day trips, I split our time between flats and backwater fishing so folks can be exposed to both. Plus, it’s fun to see the area and have a broader experience. In the end though, I’m happy to do whatever folks would like.
By the by, the cost for 4-6 people for a half day of fishing will $375 -$450 plus any gratuity you may wish to extend. I offer these prices up for comparison sake when we address offshore fishing which follows.
I could go on for quite some time about inshore and backwater fishing techniques. However, for now I’m going to stick to writing about types of angling.
Let’s move onto offshore fishing.
I’m not going to address “Near Offshore” fishing. This usually involves fishing within say, 5-10 miles from shore. At times this can be fun and productive for Tarpon, Shark, Spanish Mackerel and Cobia, to name a few. Techniques for fishing them include trolling, sight casting and/or anchoring up among fishing lanes or shallower reefs. The latter are usually man made, because under 35 feet of water, the Gulf of Mexico is mostly just sand. The offshore fishing that most folks focus on in this area, requires getting out about 15+ miles off shore and in depths of 40+ feet of water. Think of the Gulf of Mexico around here very gradually declining until one hits that 40 foot level. At that point, there are shelves where the bottom drops off rapidly. Within very short distances water levels can vary up and down between 40 and 60 feet. It’s in these areas that reefs form, some man-made, others natural. Certainly, the further one ventures out into greater depths, there are more reefs. It just takes that much longer to get to them. This translates to more time running and less time fishing. And, of course, more dollars are spent on fuel.
The two fish that most people target offshore are Snapper and Grouper. There are a variety of types of these within their species. For Snapper, the most prevalent are Mangroves (Manny’s), Lanes, Vermilions and Yellow Tails. And the further out one goes, usually into 80+ feet of water, you get into Red Snapper. For Grouper, there are three primary types that are sought – Reds, Blacks and Gags.
All of the aforementioned fish are excellent eating, but there are very tight restrictions on what constitutes a “Keeper.” For example, from the tip of the tail to the forward portion of the mouth, a Red Grouper has to be 22” or more. Also, there are tight restrictions on how many each angler can keep and what months of the year the fish can be harvested. And, these restrictions vary, at least in Florida by which region of the state one is in. Since you don’t want to be caught with illegal fish (big fines, even jail, etc), it’s wise to know the rules. Plus it’s the ethical and sportsman-like thing to do. All of this being said, while fewer keeper fish can be legally kept, it oftentimes is a heck of a lot of fun catching and releasing frisky undersized fighting ones.
In addition to Grouper and Snapper, there is a plethora of other fish offshore that can be caught and are excellent eating. Just one example of this are good ‘ol Grunts. They’re named this because they do, in fact, grunt. There are no restrictions on this fish, and yet they are real fighters and make great table fare. There is one recipe that is famous in Florida called Grunts ‘N Grits which is outstanding especially if there is also homemade tomato gravy ladled over the top. We’ll be providing a recipe very soon. This would even be a great recipe for freshwater fish like walleye or crappie.
Okay, back to basics. Once out in the deeper waters, it behooves you to have “numbers” on where to fish. Otherwise, you can drop lines till the cows come home and not get a bite. “Numbers” refer to Latitude/Longitude coordinates to pinpoint optimal fishing areas. People guard those Numbers like the Holy Grail. They are rarely shared. And oftentimes, just like coveted season tickets for an athletic event, these numbers are even willed to certain family members or friends.
While there are several techniques for fishing offshore, the most popular is anchoring up and then dropping a weighted leader with a good sized baited circle hook down to the bottom and jigging it slowly up and down. My favorite baits include: Live shrimp, pinfish, whitebait, frozen squid and cut-up ladyfish and even small Grunts and squirrel fish. Oftentimes as well, dropping a chum bag (mashed up fish parts) off the back of the boat, will help get the bite going.
Going Offshore usually requires using heavier tackle (rod, reels, lines, hooks, etc), having good numbers, the right bait and a boat that’s able to handle varied sea conditions. It’s quite a bit different than inshore fishing and is expensive and time consuming. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a really great experience and fun time, but you really need to know what you’re venturing out to do. Let me paint a picture. Most of the charter boats in this area that run offshore 15+ miles do so out of Ft. Myers Beach. These boats are generally 40+ feet in length and have a Captain and a Mate (the person who helps with the basic fishing.) You generally book your trip a month or two in advance of your outing and the average group size is six anglers. (There are what we call Head Boats that take our large groups of people, but we won’t address them here.) Leaving the dock usually around 6:00 AM, it will take about an hour and a half to get to the preferred depths and fishing grounds. Oftentimes, this can be in seas that aren’t very pleasant. As a result, some people in your group will get seasick. This can also occur on calmer wind days if the swells and/or seas are unsettled. There potentially are some things that can be employed to cut down on seasickness. Unfortunately though, I tell most people, that if they go offshore, there is a strong likelihood that one or two people are gonna get sick. And, that ain’t a lot of fun for anyone.
“Lines-up!” offshore and the return to port usually occurs around 2:00 – 2:30 PM. Once back, your fish is cleaned by the Mate and divvied out to everyone in your party however you want. Now, it’s time to pay up. The Captain and his boat usually are going to be asking in the $1,100 - $1,300 range. They’ll also recommend that each member in your party tip the Mate $50, so called it another $300 for a total cost for the day about $1500.00.
Going offshore to fish can be a marvelous adventure and possibly generate the catch of a lifetime in terms of a big lunker. You just need to have your eyes wide open in terms of time you’re going to expend, the cost, heightened weather issues/concerns and just plain comfort for all in your group.
Personally, I greatly enjoy both inshore and offshore fishing about equally. I believe though that inshore fishing provides a great experience for so many groups of people at a very reasonable price. Furthermore, unless crazy weather forces a cancellation, an experienced guide can get you to protected waters and usually on fish even if the weather is dicey. There is just more flexibility with inshore versus offshore fishing.
I specialize in inshore fishing. However, I also Captain offshore for a great guy and we do frequent trips from October through April each year. Therefore, I feel I’m qualified to address and talk about both types of fishing. If you would like further info about all the types of angling you can do in our area, give me a shout. It’s always fun to just plain talk fishing and where to toss lines in the water.
Hurricane Irma is gone. Like Storm Charlie fourteen years before her, there are stories that will be told for years to come. The good news is the waters around us in Sanibel and Captiva are as inviting as ever. Whether it’s inshore/offshore fishing, beachcombing on remote islands, dolphin watching or just enjoying nature in general, the Hey Mon is fueled up and ready to take you on a unique adventure.
See you soon on Sanibel!
Post Irma Report October 01 2017, 0 Comments
It's hard to believe that so much of 2017 is already under our flip flops and we’re cruisin’ along with what should be a great Fall and 2018. First and foremost, thanks to so many of you who extended your best wishes for a positive outcome from Hurricane Irma. A few random thoughts on her.
Irma could have been a lot worse and fortunately took a favorable slight turn to the East just prior to slamming into Ft. Myers and Sanibel/Captiva. While many trees and signs were felled, we came through everything quite well. The loss of power for a week and Internet for a bit longer were more nuisances than anything else. It will take several months to clear all the debris from the sides of the road. Once that’s done most folks probably wouldn’t even know there was a hurricane that rolled through.
I often wonder how wildlife, including fish, must react to a big event such as a hurricane. As my wife Barb says, “They sense things pretty well, hunker down and wait for nature to get back to normal.” I know the several fishing trips I’ve had since Irma, the bite has been as good, if not better than most times of the year. This is probably due to the Fall in general being a good time to fish plus very little if any boat/fishing pressure. It’s amazing how few boats are out on the water. In some ways it’s pretty cool realizing you have Pine Island Sound and/or the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge almost all to yourself. We’re enjoying every minute of it.
Closing out on the Irma communique, let me suggest the following: Because Key West, Marco Island and parts of the Florida East Coast took it so hard on the chin, I think we’re going to see more folks visiting our islands this coming season. Therefore, whether it’s getting a place to stay and/or potentially lining up activities, you might want to start your planning sooner than later. We’re still a great alternative to temps below 35 degrees and snow on the ground up North.
Be on the lookout for our next Blog, "Bringing Some Clarity to Inshore and Offshore Fishing" coming later this week.
Hey Mon Sanibel...Thoughts As 2016 Comes To A Close December 31 2016, 0 Comments
Wow, another year has come to a close. It always amazes me how fast the time flies. And it's no wonder that despite the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season, taking a pause in the action to just reflect is good. I like to do a mental inventory of what I'm thankful for. Sure, like all of us, I've had a downer or two this year. However, the positives have far outweighed the negatives. So, by focusing right now on what I'm thankful for, it sets up 2017 to be a positive one. There are great adventures ahead!
Here’s a list of my “Thankfuls” for 2016. And, since so much of my time revolves around being on the water, I'll be sprinkling in a variety of thoughts pertaining to this – some straightforward, some philosophical.
I'm thankful for……..
- Being happy and healthy enough to wanna get out of bed each day and see what it brings. (Don't get me wrong though, there are some days that sleeping in is very cool.)
- Even though many mornings are pitch black as I prepare the boat for an outing, tasting that hot, robust coffee my wife, Barb, brews up for me makes it seem like all’s right with the world.
- The feeling of oneness with the Hey Mon, my 25 foot Parker boat. As I drop the hoist and ease her out into the water, there's a comaraderie there that can't be explained. It's pretty satisfying.
- Oftentimes, I meet up with some other guides like Matt, Darrin and Jason to throw cast nets for bait before our gigs. Lots of laughing, joking and smack talk goes on as we try to fill our nets with snow (a big time load of whitebait). It's also neat to know these guys stand ready to lend a hand on the water if it's ever needed.
- Greeting my customers for the day and watching their excitement of getting out on the water with friends and/or family members. As the day progresses, I realize that in some respects, I'm like an Ambassador of Joy. For me, it reinforces one of my key reasons for being on this planet.
- Helping kids learn how to fish and watching their excitement when they get a hook-up. I realize that I may be introducing them to an activity that they will enjoy for a lifetime.
- To all the dolphins this year that paid the Hey Mon a visit to just hang out or ballistically go airborne in our motor wake. Thankful too, for the manatee visits as they curiously wallow up to the boat with a look of, “Howdy, What's Shakin'”. How can you not smile back at a goofy, whiskered sea cow. I, mean, come on!
- To be able to participate in on the water celebrations including honeymoons, birthdays, anniversaries and even a celebratory wake or two. Perhaps best of all, hanging with families that just like doing stuff together. It's contagious. I feel like I'm part of the group.
- Watching my customers’ families grow older together. And, seeing just how much smack friends can dole out to each other is pretty funny. And darn if it isn't just plain fun to be able to look forward to seeing many of my same guests year after year.
- To revel in the fishing and shelling grounds surrounding Sanibel, Captiva and the plethora of other islands in the area. The many different species of fish we can catch on any given day is unparalleled to anywhere I've ever been in world. And whether it's for straight catch ‘n release or saving a few for table fare, we can usually get a pretty consistent bite and rods bending.
- It's a real pleasure to take some customers to a number of unique out-of-the-way, and oftentimes funky restaurants located up and down Pine Island Sound. Barb and I like to visit these with friends and families as well. There’s Black Beans ‘N Rice at Cabbage Key, great burgers and music at the Ragged Ass. And one of my all-time favorites, Fried Pickles and to die for cole slaw, among other good eats at the Waterfront in St. James City.
- Oh my, I'm so thankful for fresh Stone Crab and Shrimp from the Jug Creek Fish Market on Pine Island. Bring those bad boys and girls home and serve ‘em up hot and cold with icy brews. Can you say, “l’m thankful for Seafood Heaven on Earth.”
- As each day comes to a close in this paradise called Sanibel, it's jump-on-the-bike-and-ride time. Regardless of how tuckered out I may be, it's so pleasurable to pedal along while smelling the foliage, giving an occasional wave to someone or just getting lost in the freedom of the day. Oh, and I get kidded a lot because the only things I usually wear when riding is a pair of shorts and flops. Yep, I love Brian Piccolo and Mother Nature.
I can close by stating the very obvious that I know many of you can relate to. I am so very thankful for my relationships with neat guests and good friends. And most of all, I'm thankful for my family – my wife Barb, kids, Matt, Kate, Stef, Jeff, Sam, Jenny and grandkids, Sam, Ike, Jack, Brady, Lily and Sally. They make life pretty damn special.
Yep, I'm thankful to be spry and healthy doin' what I do. And, God be willing and the creek don't rise, I'm really looking forward to getting out on the water with you in 2017.
Have a wonderful Holiday Season! Thanks to all. And to all a good night. We'll see you in 2017!
Tips for a Perfect Water Outing August 28 2015, 0 Comments
This past year has been outstanding on the waters surrounding Sanibel/Captiva and Pine Island Sound. On the Hey Mon we’ve boated with a lot of great people from all around the globe. While I’d have to say there will always be a few challenging guests and situations, most of my outings have been jam-packed with fun, laughter, good people and good times.
The above being stated, there are things we all can do to make outings on any guided boat consistently enjoyable and picture perfect on the water. Let’s dive into this a little deeper to see how we get there. Also, by hopefully providing a little education, you can be that much more savvy and informed when setting up your next guided trip.
Any successful outing starts with me, your Captain/Guide. For clarification purposes, it may be helpful to understand what the requirements are to be a Captain and Guide, at least in the state of Florida. Almost all states in our country have “rules and regs”, some similar to Florida, some different. However, let’s focus on the area around Sanibel and Captiva, where you may be fishing, shelling, dolphin and wildlife watching and restaurant and tavern touring.
My Captain, My Captain!
Anyone who takes people out on the waters surrounding or within the state of Florida and is paid for it, must have a Captain’s license. This license is obtained through the United States Coast Guard and requires: 1) Passing a series of written tests covering the full swath of nautical knowledge, 2) A minimum amount of documented time operating a vessel on fresh/salt water over a period of years, 3) Passing a thorough physical exam and 4) Clearing a complete background check. It is interesting to note, that once a person becomes a Captain, he or she is sworn in and also agrees to provide service (and their boat) to the United States in any crisis if called upon.The most common and frequently sought after Captain’s license is sometimes referred to as an OUPV
I'M HAPPY TO REPORT THAT YOUR CAPTAIN OF HEY MON SANIBEL, ME, CAPTAIN PETER ROGERS, HAS A MASTER CAPTAIN LICENSE WITH THE USCG. THEREFORE, I HAVE MORE ON-THE-WATER EXPERIENCE THAN MOST CAPTAINS IN THE AREA.
While I won’t go into any more detail, there are other licenses that one has to acquire through the state of Florida. One is for the boat and others are for becoming a certified and legal Fishing Guide. In the case of qualifying as a Florida Guide of any kind (Charter Captain), a person must have a US Coast Guard license to start with.
My Guide, My Guide!
As we just mentioned, in addition to having a US Coast Guard license, a person has to obtain a Florida Charter Captain’s license. Additionally, one can get add-ons such as a Snook permit. These are all annual licenses and permits that must renewed and paid for each year.
Incidentally, many people ask if they have to get a fishing license when headed out with a guide. In Florida, the answer is “no” if your guide is properly licensed.
An additional permit is required for a guide to take people into the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge to fish or even view wildlife. This can be obtained through the US Department of the Interior / US Fish and Wildlife Services.
YOUR CAPTAIN, ME AGAIN, CAPTAIN PETER, POSSESSES ALL OF THE LICENSES AND PERMITS FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA AND THE UNITED STATES TO PROVIDE AN UNPARALLELED EXPERIENCE FOR YOU AND YOUR GROUP ON THE WATER.
Here are a few other things you ought to keep in mind when seeking a qualified Captain and/or Guide.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, if you inquire about going into the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, ask if he/she is allowed to do so.
- Ask about the vessel and how many people it comfortably holds. Many of the guide boats operating in this area of Florida are designed to take four or fewer people. Also, most of them do not provide cover in the event of rain or excessive sunshine. If this is the case, you will want to plan and cover-up accordingly.
The shape of the hull is also important. If it’s a straight up “flats” style boat, it will be uncomfortable and oftentimes tough sledding (riding) if the waves start acting up in Pine Island Sound. If you and/or your guests get a little squeamish in rough weather, have a conversation with your Guide especially if there is marginal weather in the forecast. Armed with this information, there are things he can do to still make your outing enjoyable.
YOU’LL SEE FROM PICTURES OF THE BOAT HERE AND ON THE HEY MON SANIBEL WEBSITE, THERE IS A CENTER CONSOLE COVER AND ALSO A “DODGER” UP FRONT TO DUCK UNDER. BOTH ARE GREAT FOR HUNKERING DOWN IF THE WEATHER TURNS SOUR OR IF SIMPLY TRYING TO ESCAPE FROM TOO MUCH SUN.
- In addition to discussing with your Captain how many will be in your party, he should ask if there will be any kids and what their ages are. In Florida, a child under the age of six years old must wear a life jacket. Oftentimes as well, there are parents who require jackets beyond this age. Hopefully, your Captain has special life jackets to fit various kids’ age groups and body sizes. Otherwise, they may be forced to wear uncomfortable round-the-neck jackets which no kid in a hundred likes. Special Note: Some people bring their own kids’ life jackets from home which can be advantageous because they feel comfortable wearing them.
ON THE HEY MON, WE HAVE A FULL SELECTION OF US COAST GUARD APPROVED LIFE JACKETS FOR KIDS RANGING FROM 1 TO 10 YEARS OLD. IT SHOULD ALSO BE NOTED THAT THE BOAT IS VERY ACCOMMODATING TO YOUNG PEOPLE BECAUSE IT HAS HIGH INTERNAL SIDES. THERE’S FAR LESS CHANCE OF ANYONE ACCIDENTALLY FALLING OFF THE BOAT.
Importantly, before departing on your outing, your Captain should point out the safety equipment on the boat, especially, where the life jackets are located.
- If your charter is for fishing, most Captains/Guides will bait your hook (if live bait is used) and remove any fish that are caught. If they don’t, consider hiring someone else for your next trip.
The same applies to any fish that are caught and kept. Many of you want to take some fish home for great meal. Any Captain worth his salt will clean your catch and put the fillets on ice to keep ‘em nice and fresh.
CAPTAIN PETER HAPPILY PUTS ON ALL YOUR BAIT, REMOVES CAUGHT FISH FROM HOOKS AND CLEANS TO PRECISION ANY FILLETS YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE WITH YOU. PLEASE NOTE, THERE ARE LIMITS TO THE MINIMUM/MAXIMUM SIZE(S) AND NUMBER OF FISH THAT CAN BE KEPT ACCORDING TO THE SPECIES. YOUR GUIDE IS REQUIRED TO KNOW WHAT THE REGULATIONS ARE SO YOU ARE FISHING LEGALLY.
- Last, but certainly not least, let’s address cancelled or delayed outings. Usually this occurs due to inclement weather. Prior to your scheduled departure (usually the day before) your Captain should be eyeing the weather. If there is a chance for it being dicey, a conversation should be held to gauge your comfort level and any safety concerns. Weather in Florida can change fast, but usually patterns have formed that can provide future indications about what may occur over the next twelve to twenty-four hours.
The primary basis for any cancellation or delay in your trip generally occurs if 1) There is lightning in the area or moving towards where you’ll be boating and/or 2) There are excessive high sustained winds that are forecasted to remain strong throughout a given period of time.
Perhaps a third reason to cancel or delay is if there is an onslaught of rain and radar shows it not letting up anytime soon.
Part of being a reputable Captain is to understand how weather works, and especially in conjunction with being on the water. Anyone who wants to rush you out in marginal weather is not acting in your best interests. If common sense suggests questioning something, then do it. Also, you shouldn’t be charged if indeed the weather is sucking swamp water and you don’t go out.
YOUR SAFETY AND COMFORT ARE THE TOP PRIORITIES ON THE HEY MON. CAPTAIN PETER IS A LIFELONG FISHERMAN, SAILOR AND BOATER AND HAS EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE IN ALL ASPECTS OF THE WEATHER. AS I ALWAYS SAY TO MY GUESTS, “HEY, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT HAVING FUN. IF IT ISN’T LET’S BAG IT AND TRY LATER.” ALSO, I WILL NEVER ASK FOR ANY PAYMENT BECAUSE OF WHAT MOTHER NATURE MAY BRING DOWN CAUSING A TRIP CANCELLATION. FINALLY THERE MAY BE INSTANCES WHERE WE NEED TO CUT YOUR CHARTER SHORT DUE TO THREATENING WEATHER MOVING IN. SHOULD THIS BE THE CASE, YOUR FEE WILL BE ADJUSTED TO COINCIDE WITH THE TIME WE SPENT ON THE WATER.
There are other valuable nuggets of information regarding your outing on the water that can be found in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on our website. www.heymonsanibel.com. (Just hit the FAQ tab and you’re there.) Give it a look sometime.
The Guest! The Guest!
That be you. Now, there are definitely some things you and your group can do when you hire someone to take you out on the water. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have a reality check conversation with your Captain about what your expectations are prior to going out on the trip.
Here are a few simple pieces of information that you can do to ensure a great time for all. Note: I am only going to highlight a few things here so you’re not sent off into Boredom Land.
- Let your Captain know in advance if there is anything relating to you or your guests which we may have to deal with. For example, on a recent trip, I was told of one of the guests who was very wary of boating and got particularly uncomfortable in wavy conditions. As a result, we took it slow on the water and chose to boat under a lee shore where the wave action would be minimal. Everyone ended up having a great time.
- Whether it’s Dolphin/Manatee watching and/or fishing, please remember that we’re dealing with Nature here. Some days the wildlife is abundant. Other days, it’s like, ”Where did they all go?” There are those who have wanted guarantees that I will deliver on what they want to see or catch. Any Captain who would guarantee that is smoking briny cigarettes.
CAPTAIN PETER WILL GIVE A 110% TO DELIVER WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO EXPERIENCE ON YOUR OUTING. AND USUALLY THIS HAPPENS UNLESS MOTHER NATURE HAS ANOTHER SAY IN THE MATTER.
- If you are bringing young children on board, prior to boarding please have a conversation with them about how they should behave and to respectfully listen to you and your Captain. Also, don’t expect your Captain to be your designated babysitter while you fish away or mindlessly gaze out on the water. Finally, if you have inquisitive little monsters, remind them to tend to your family’s stuff and not to be delving into hatches, consoles and bait wells without permission. There are things in those areas that can hurt them. And, too many little hands in the bait well will kill the bait. If the kids want to see and touch a white bait and/or shrimp, just ask and, speaking for me, I’d be happy to show them one up close and personal.
THE ABOVE BEING SAID, CAPTAIN PETER LOVES KIDS! ONE OF MY GREATEST JOYS COMES FROM HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE (AND THOSE OF ALL AGES) ENJOY ANGLING AND JUST BEING OUTDOORS. HOPEFULLY, THESE EXPERIENCES MIGHT EVEN TRANSLATE INTO LIFELONG PASSIONS.
- Lots of folks have asked about compensation and tipping policies. Most guides publish rates on their websites. Regardless, it’s a good idea to discuss what the cost will be because it usually relates to the amount of time you want to be on the water. Also, if you are angling with a larger group of people you may be asked to pay an additional amount for each extra angler because of the need for more equipment and bait.
Most Captains request that payment be in cash or a personal check. A few will take credit cards. Make sure to discuss how you are going to pay preferably before you depart on your trip. The fee is generally collected after you’ve docked at the end of the charter.
What about a tip? Conducting charters is a service business. It requires a high degree of skill, providing top notch equipment and delivering a great time on the water. If you feel your group has had an extraordinary outing and your Captain has delivered in a highly professional and courteous manner, then extending a gratuity (tip) is always appreciated. A 20% tip is not uncommon. Some offer less, others more. It probably best falls in the range of what you might extend if you were dining in a high class establishment with a first class wait staff.
At The End of the Day…..
I’d have to emphatically and proudly say, I’ve had more than a few guests tell me that their outing on the Hey Mon was the highlight of their trip to the Sanibel/Captiva area. Gosh, that’s a good feeling and keeps me wanting to give even more.
The perfect outings are really about everyone --- you, your group and your Captain. If everyone is committed to just plain having a great time, then you shall indeed.
Also, check out EDIAdmin for supply chain integration.
Bobby B's Big Catch Fish Recipe January 19 2015, 2 Comments
This recipe was given to Captain Peter by another Florida captain, Captain Bobby Birch. It is recommended for Grouper, Snapper and Sea Trout. Captain Peter has used it for Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie and other white flesh fish as well. If you want rave reviews every time - get ready when you serve this dish!
Prep Time: 25 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Ingredients and Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Julienne 8 - 12 mushrooms, one each red and yellow bell peppers, 1/2 Vidalia or purple onion.
3. Saute vegetables in butter along with lemon pepper and a dash of sea and garlic salt. Set aside.
4. Rub 1# fish fillets with olive oil and, if desired, fresh minced garlic to taste. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt.
5. Lay fillets in a 13" x 9" baking dish and put the dish in the oven for 7 minutes. Vary slightly according to thickness of fillets. (Test with a fork for flakiness.) Turn fillets halfway through cooking. Caution: Do not overcook.
6. Pull from oven and put dish onto a trivet. Turn off oven.
7. Spread sauteed vegetables over the fish.
8. On top of the vegetables, spread 1/2 to 3/4 pint of sour cream (feel free to use lite sour cream.)
9. Generously sprinkle with your favorite fresh shredded cheese (Romano, Parmesan, etc.)
10. Return the dish to the turned off oven and let it sit there for 5 minutes until the cheese is semi-melted into the sour cream.
11. Remove from oven and serve with brown rice and a fresh greens salad.
12. Get ready for compliments!.
MERRY SANIBEL FISHING! December 24 2014, 0 Comments
Merry Sanibel Fishing and Happy Dolphin and Bird Watching
What a year it’s been! And the Hey Mon is very, very happy. With the Holiday Season upon us and another year coming to a close, I, like many, find myself pausing to reflect on the many things I’m thankful for. Also, I guess because I’ve been branded as a creative type, I tend to keep images vividly stored in my brain basket and then combine them with corresponding thoughts. What I end up with is pretty much being able to go to a multitude of Happy Places at the drop of a hook. In case you never saw the movie Happy Gilmore, he was a whacky guy played by Adam Sandler who eventually discovered success and happiness by going to his Happy Place. That’s the spot I’m referring to.
What I’d like to do is share some of my Happy Places from 2014 and which allows the Hey Mon to be feelin’ good and very thankful for what we’ve got!
Happy Place 1 -- First and foremost, I’ve met a number of incredibly neat people while fishing and cruising this year. It seems like everybody has their own unique lives, but they all share a common bond of having fun on the water. Here are just a few experiences that maybe you can visualize right now.
- Taking Joy, her 92-year-old Mom and two kids out fishing in the backwaters of the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. Son, Adam and his lady friend, had constant tight lines catching Snook, Mangrove Snapper, Redfish and Trout. Mom and Joy were content just to watch all the action on a picture perfect day around Sanibel. When we returned from our outing, ‘ol Mom (young in every respect but her age) said she just had one of the best days of her life. Whoa. That joyously choked me up.
- The umpteen number of kids I was able to fish and/or watch dolphin and manatees with. Since I’m a kid at heart, I feel a special connection with all of them. I see them right now Intense as all get out, while making that first perfect cast or reeling in a nice size fish. Or, their laughter, when Mom catches a slinky squirrel fish or the puffer fish who blows itself up to bigger than a softball only to deflate like a balloon when it’s released back in the water.
- Watching sunsets on Pine Island Sound or the Gulf of Mexico with couples who are just plain digging each other. Or, being with the family who are sharing a dream trip together with Dad who’s battling a nasty illness and may be heading off to the eternal fishing grounds.
- Smiling big time and shaking my head as various groups of young Turks (and Turkettes) lugged their coolers full of brewskies and snacks on board the Hey Mon for early AM fishing sessions. They’d invariably shout out something like “Hey we’re on vacay and let’s catch some fish, Bro!” And they did, while rarely spilling a drop of liquid gold or smashing any sour cream ‘n onion chips or Frito’s. It’s an art that seems to survive the test of time.
- I’ll finish here with Peter from England and his wife Tracey and her 84-year-old full-fledged Chinese Mom who was visiting the U.S. and Florida for the first time. She didn’t speak a stitch of English but smiled a lot. I was told to simply call her Mommy and our trip was to get her on fish. And boy, did we. As a sidebar, Mommy is from the northern-most province of China, right up by Siberia where is gets really cold. On a pretty windy and cool day hovering in the high 60’s in Pine Island Sound, all Mommy had on was a tank top and shorts! So, here she is hauling in fish and wants to keep everything we caught to clean. Daughter Tracey had to explain to her that there were restrictions on the size of fish we could keep. Mommy was not happy. The best part though was when we returned to the dock and I commenced to clean our keepers. I went to discard the entrails (the fish heads and guts) and Mommy started yelling at me in Chinese to stop! From there on I kept everything and put the entrails into a big bag for her. She was a very happy camper. Can you say Fish Stew the next day? This was a first, and a pretty fun and gratifying one on the Hey Mon.
Happy Place 2 – Getting married to Lady Barb on the Hey Mon off the Sanibel Lighthouse in April. On a semi-hazy morning and calm seas, we tied the knot while two of our close friends stood with us as an officiate performed the unique service. The rest of our audience was a pod of playful dolphins that must have appreciated us and all of the beautiful flowers sprouting from the rod holders and rocket launchers on the boat.
Happy Place 3 – Going offshore with friend and client, Buzz, to catch Grouper and Snapper with his son, Chris. Now Chris is no small guy and I will never forget watching him battle one big a=# Goliath Grouper or Shark for quite some time. It was truly Mano vs. Mano Fish. I don’t think Chris would have lost the fight, but ultimately we had to trek 20+ miles back on the Gulf to Sanibel. Otherwise, we would have been out in the briny all day and night. Eventually, we convinced Chris to tighten the drag on the reel and the line snapped – happily very close to the bitter end. Yep, it was a fight that left Chris sweat-filled but with a story to tell for years to come.
Happy Place 4 – In May of this year, I earned a US Coast Guard Master Captain’s designation. This means I have gotten more nautical education and proved I have added time on the water. Hopefully, this will translate to an enhanced experience for all of our customers.
Happy Place 5 – I am really fortunate to have such a great group of friends (including new ones) who have gone out of their way to recommend so many of their friends to come enjoy either fishing or cruising on the Hey Mon. For example, there’s Dave and Dianne from a suburb of the Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dave, who works at Wells Fargo, recommended us to a business associate of his. Ultimately, I got to introduce Kim, her husband and two other great family members to the Sanibel/Captiva area since it was their first-ever visit here. And best of all, we pounded the fish. The highlight though was having about a half dozen dolphins do an aerial acrobatic show in our boat wake as we returned to shore. Priceless!
There are just so many great friends we’ve made this past year and I thank all of them for the opportunity to create visual memories that will last forever.
Happy Place 6 – I could probably go with this blog forever, but I’ll come to a close with this.
My best happy place is reveling in all the wonderful memories with families. And that includes mine. I’m already looking forward to the next time Barb and I can just hang with the kids and an amazing gaggle of energetic grandkids.
After a phenomenal 2014 of fishing, shelling and wildlife watching, 2015 is already shaping up to be even better. Barb and I, along with friends, continue to try new and exciting recipes that are great for salt and fresh water fish. We can’t wait to share them with you. We’re also looking forward to providing you with a bounty of information so you can look forward even more to your next visit to Sanibel. Get on board soon!
Merry Fishing and Happy Dolphin and Bird Watching, Everyone!
Authentic Shore Lunch July 29 2014, 0 Comments
Have a Shore Lunch or Dinner anywhere! All you need is some heat, frying pan(s) and utensils, easy ingredients, and of course, an appetite. Here’s a fun and simple list of how to pull it off.
Apparatus and Tools
• Grill - Use a standard charcoal grill or put a grate over a fire pit. If you’re not up for this, just heat up your range top.
• A large frying pan. (Wrought iron is authentic and great for maintaining constant heat)
• Regular medium size frying pan
• Couple of Gallon plastic baggies
• Tongs or Pliers
• Oven Mitt or thick rag
• Paper Towels
• Roll of aluminum foil (Heavy Duty or double wrap regular foil)
• Can Opener (hand or electric)
• A couple of medium size bowls. (Paper or otherwise)
• Spatula, a knife, some larger spoons, plastic utensils and paper plates. (If you want to go woodsy, use metal camp plates and forks and spoons, Or, use some ceramic plates.)
The amounts of ingredients you need are in direct relationship to the number of folks you are serving and just how hungry they are. Hey, refrigerate the leftovers – they’re great!
• Fish – Nice size pieces or strips, but not too big or thick. (Example: 2 1/2” X 3” X 1”)
• Potatoes – Idaho or Reds, (skin on)
• Onions – White or Vidalia
• Baked Beans in cans
• Creamed Corn in cans
• Fish Breading or Batter (Purchase at a store, look-up on-line, or concoct your own)
• Plenty of olive oil and/or vegetable oil
• Salt and Pepper
• Mustard (Yellow)
• Tartar Sauce
• Spices of your choosing
• Hot Sauce
Do in the following order:
• Build your fire to get hot coals.
• Put grill on fire.
• Dice or slice raw potatoes and onions. Add green peppers if you want. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other spices you may like. Heat frying pan on grill with oil in it. Put the potatoes with other ingredients into hot oil. Stir until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and cover with aluminum foil until ready to serve. An alternative method: Put all into an aluminum foil-made boat and then cover with more foil. Place on the grill. Cook for at least 30-45 minutes. Remove and let sit without opening until ready to serve.
Bad Ass Beans
•Saute’ onions in a frying pan. Add can(s) of baked beans. Squirt in a bunch of yellow mustard and hot sauce to taste. Mix all together and cook until hot. Cover.
Note: if you just want regular baked beans then cut open tops 3/4 of the way around cans with a can opener. Bend up lids partially and set on grill until hot. Using tongs or pliers, grab lid and insert a spoon and occasionally stir. Remove when bubbling and close lid to keep hot. Reopen lid all the way with tongs or pliers and serve with a big spoon.
• Like canned baked beans, cut open tops 3/4 of the way around cans with a can opener. Bend up lids partially and set on grill until hot. Using tongs or pliers, grab lid and insert a spoon and occasionally stir. Remove when bubbling and close lid to keep hot. Reopen lids all the way with tongs or pliers and serve with a big spoon.
• Make sure fish pieces are not too damp. Dab each with a paper towel.
• Put a bunch (about 1” deep) of oil into the frying pan, place on grill, and get nice and hot.
• Place fish breading into a gallon plastic bag.
• Put a 1/2 dozen or so fillets into a plastic bag making sure to shake it really well. (You want the fish fillets fully coated with the breading).
• Place one fillet (as a test) into the hot oil. The oil should bubble vigorously around the fillet but not overly spatter. Depending on the thickness of the fillet, turn with a spatula after only a minute or two. After another minute or two, remove from the frying pan and place on a paper plate that is covered with a sheet of paper towel.
• Pat the top of the fillet with another paper towel (this removes excess grease) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Now that you have the timing just right, put remaining breaded fillets into the hot oil and repeat all of the steps described above.
• Once these fillets are cooked, cover loosely with aluminum foil. For more fish, follow all of the steps above.
Note: If average-sized fish fillets, we find men will eat 3-4 and women 2-3 pieces each.
(Either prepare each plate for folks or have them do their own.)
• Set out fish, uncover potatoes, put out bowl of baked beans (or cans) and creamed corn cans.
• Place all items liberally onto plates. Have tartar sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper handy for those to add if they wish.
• Have paper towels and utensils handy to provide with plates of food.
• Sit down, talk, laugh and enjoy one of the best meals you could ever have!
Shore lunches or dinners usually require a good frosty-cold beer. However, feel free to grab some red or white wine or other beverage of choice.
Want dessert? Serve ice cream bars, make some S’mores or roast marshmallows on the grill.
Trophy Muskie Caught Off the Beaches of Sanibel July 23 2014, 0 Comments
I cannot tell a lie. There was no Muskie caught in Gulf off of Sanibel, but hopefully the headline and photo got your attention. Actually, I landed and released this 43” beauty during a dynamite fishing trip we take to Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada each year. Like maybe having “Sanibel Fishing” annually jotted down on the calendar, we never miss this trip with two other couples that are fellow fish heads like ourselves. In addition to Muskies, we seek and usually catch our fill of lunker Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Walleye. And, of course no trip would be complete without having a shore lunch or two consisting of fresh caught Walleye and Northern fried over an open fire, steamed potatoes, Bad Ass Beans and piping hot cream corn served right out of the can.
Whether fishing in fresh or salt waters, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, knowledge is power. Yes, it helps to be able to proficiently work a rod and reel with various offerings. That comes with repetitiveness and time. However, unless one figures out what species of fish is being targeted, weather and water conditions, what they’re eating and finally, where they are inclined to be, your catch rate is likely to be subpar. Now, this being said, just about the time you think you have it all figured out, the angling can be like sucking swamp water with little if anything caught. Most of us have experienced this. And that’s my friends, why they call it fishing.
I have been very fortunate over my lifetime to do extensive fishing in both fresh and salt water. This, I believe, has translated to having increased success with guiding and/or personally tossing lines with Barb and friends. Let me offer a few examples of how these types of waters complement each other.
When fishing around Sanibel/Captiva and Pine Island Sound, some obvious key factors in locating fish is to have sound knowledge of tides (moving water) and what the birds and bait of choice are up to. While this can also be the case in fresh water, I don’t see as many anglers utilizing these markers. They should be; the next lunker could be capitalizing on them.
As it relates to the above, here’s what happened in Canada. Barb and I set-up our boat in an area just in front of and to the side of a 1/4 mile long narrow channel that split two uninhabited islands. Invariably, in areas like this, there usually will be movement of water (current) in and around the entry and exit points of the channel. Like many other fish species, big Muskies usually don’t like to expend a great deal of energy. Instead, they will usually lie in wait in some type of structure just off the main current and wait for their meal to come floating by. Then, it’s POUNCE, eat, return to their hide-out and wait for the next tasty morsel to come by.
Now, Muskies can be found in a variety of habitats. Because of our experience with utilizing tides and currents in Florida waters, we’ve added areas where there is water movement to the mix in finding and landing one of these elusive fish. In fact, it was in this exact area described above that one cast on the edge of the channel near some pencil reeds, produced the heavy strike from the 43” Muskie in the picture.
On another occasion, our friends Joe and Rita, who are damn good anglers, commented on how many big walleyes they caught one day were up tight in the shallow waters spawning and eating their fill of crawfish. Okay, with this knowledge in hand, we matched our spinner baits’ color to crawfish and proceeded to cast our own lines in about 1 1/2 feet of water. In short order we were landing some beauties similar to what Joe and Rita had done the day before. Or, there was the day Barb and I saw a flock of seagulls going crazy in the middle of a bay and small bait fish jumping everywhere to avoid them. We edged over to them and began casting into the bait pod. Barb got one big strike (probably a big Muskie or Northern) and then gone. But man, did that get the adrenaline flowing.
Switching gears, our sensitivity to identifying structure while in fresh water over many years has also blended well with salt water. We’re just that much more cognizant of its importance. For example, when fishing the flats with a salt and pepper bottom (mixture of sand and grass), a cast into the sand area and a slow retrieve into the adjoining grass patch (or vice-versa) can produce a gator trout. Or, casting down a pier, and reeling in live or artificial bait by the vertical posts, can produce a whomper hit from a big ol’ Sheepshead, Snook, or Redfish. (Check out guest Mitch's gator trout as testament to this during a recent outing in June.)
As a Guide, I do my level best to get clients on fish. That’s why, even on days I’m not booked, I spend a lot time on and off the water studying what will create a greater opportunity for catch success. Again, there will always be those “bummer” days where the fish just aren’t biting. However, it’s my continuing passion, both professionally and personally, to better understand and deliver the next great day of fishing on the water.
Many of our guests are avid fisher people. Others are rookies who are “catching the bug.” Hopefully, by imparting knowledge we’ve learned of both fresh and salt water fishing, this will translate to greater success whether angling with a guide or on your own.
Feel free to contact us any time about fishing in salt and/or fresh water. Better still, come aboard the Hey Mon Sanibel for an outing to remember. Or, give us a shout about assisting with a special trip to Canada. We’ve got North America covered for you and we’re just a phone call or e-mail away.
I am honing my fishing knowledge on Minnesota lakes right now. In early September, Barb and I will return to Sanibel for the upcoming season. Should you need a Guide or just want to get out on the water down there between now and then, contact me right away. We will set you up with several outstanding partner guides of ours who are anxious to assist.
Muskies being caught around Sanibel? Nahhhh. But jump on board the Hey Mon Sanibel this coming season, and there could be the next monster Snook, Red, Cobia or Tarpon just waiting to give you the ride of your life.
Mango Ceviche Recipe June 09 2014, 0 Comments
This recipe is from our good friend, Greg. It's delicious made with just about any fresh white fish you catch. May even be good with every white fish - we just haven't tried them all! Let us know how you like it.
1.5 lbs skinless, boneless white fish cut into .25" cubes
1/3 C fresh lime juice
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/4 C tequila
3 jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and minced
1 mango - peeled, seeded and diced in .25" cubes
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 C finely chopped Vidalia or other SWEET onion
1/2 cup finely chopped RED onion
1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
salt to taste
Combine cubed raw white fish, jalapeno peppers and diced mango in a NON-METALLIC bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.
Add the green pepper, sweet onion and red onion. Mix well the recover and refrigerate another 30 min.
Fold in remaining mango, cilantro and parsley; season to taste before serving.
Fold into the chilled mixture the lemon and lime juice and the tequila, mix well and let sit 15 - 20 minutes.
Serve with chips.
Fish with Veggie - Bacon Salsa May 26 2014, 0 Comments
3 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed (can also substitute 1 12-oz can of corn)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 fish fillets (1/4 lb each)
4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
1 medium tomato, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon chives, coarsely chopped (optional)
- Remove corn husks and silks; slice kernels off cobs (2–3 cups) into medium bowl. Scrape cobs with back of knife to release remaining juices.
Preheat large sauté pan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Add oil. Season fillets with salt and pepper, then add fish to pan; cook 1–2 minutes on each side or until opaque, and firm. Remove pan from heat; transfer to plate and cover to keep warm.
Cut bacon into small pieces (using kitchen shears) while adding to same pan (wash hands); cook 3–4 minutes or until crisp. Drain bacon fat, reserving one tablespoon in pan. Stir in diced onion and pepper; cook 2–3 minutes or until soft. Combine tomato, half-and-half and corn; add to pan.
Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 3–4 more minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place warm fish on platter and spoon mixture on top of the fish; sprinkle with chives.
adapted from Publix Apron Recipes
Tis The Season To Remember on Sanibel May 21 2014, 0 Comments
What a memorable season of fishing and boating around Sanibel/Captiva, all of Pine Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. The winter and spring months’ activity has been very brisk, just like the winds most days. For those who make a living on the water, they say it’s been one of the goofiest seasons ever. Here are several examples:
With few exceptions most days have featured winds in the 15+ mph range with gusts up to 25 and coming from all directions. One day, it’s cranking out of the Northeast, the next it’s coming big time from the West and then it’s southerly. There were some days we’ve had three major wind shifts in a ten-hour period. I’m sure it’s all related to the weird weather that the rest of the country has experienced especially during the winter months.
The crabbers are crabby. It was one of the toughest seasons on record for those in the crab industry. I’ve watched some crabbers raising pot after pot only to find them empty. For those I asked how their day (or week, or year) was going, most of the responses would make a potty mouther sound tame. The season ended May 15, which I’m sure left many crabbers happy to take a break and start anew on October 15.
What’s with the baitfish? Normally, as the water temps rise, the smaller baitfish (white bait and/or pilchards) is prevalent just about everywhere, especially on the beaches in shallow water. Well, here it is the middle of May and they’re harder than Hades to find. Part of it relates to the big winds, the other part(s) no one knows for sure.
It’s been tough finding clear water. A lot of areas are what fishing guides call cement – a murky, milky mix of sediment and water. This usually is caused by wave action. When the clearer water can be found, the chances for hooking up more often have occurred.
I could keep going on the wacko stuff but won’t. Here’s what I do know. There are fish to be caught and other tours like shelling to be done. However, as a guide, having a game plan for the day is crucial and you've got to be ready to shift gears quickly. There are guides who will camp out in one or two areas over a prolonged period. That also saves on fuel. Me? If there is little or no bite happening within 15 minutes or so, we’re moving. And, if I’m doing a tour of the area, I’ve got my protected waters haunts so my guests can be comfortable while downing a favorite libation.
Of all the types of fish being caught, it has really been awesome to experience the rebound of Snook. These are one of the most sought after fish down here – one, for the magnificent fight they provide and two, for the delicious table fare they render. It has only been in the past year that Snook can be kept, and in a tight slot between 28” to 33”. (Because Snook are susceptible to cool water temps, many were lost during an abnormally cold winter about five years ago. As a result, a moratorium on keeping any was mandated for all of southwest Florida.) For those wondering what “a slot” actually means, one person can keep only one Snook caught per day that is not less than 28” in length and no more than 33”. Everything else that is caught must be released. That’s a tight slot, but it’s resulted in having a lot more them in the area, which is great. Also, the Snook season is only open from February 1 – April 30 and September 1 – November 30 each year.
Beyond Snook, and to coin an old phrase about lost relationships, there are still plenty of other fish in the sea. This winter and early spring we had some great flats and backwater days catching Spanish Mackerel, Sheepshead, Black Drum and Mangrove Snapper. The Redfish and trout bites were a little more sporadic and there seemed to be fewer keepers. As the winds die off and white bait becomes more prevalent, the action on these guys should increase heavily. And then, of course, there’s the Tarpon this time of year. In short, while some have been caught in Pine Island Sound, the A spots off the Gulf Beaches of Sanibel and Captiva have been basically inaccessible because of the big winds. Wave heights have made it tough to effectively maneuver and also, to spot these beauties. Even the birds feeding on baitfish (a good sign that Tarpon are in the area) are hard to find, because they too, are probably not interested in battling the elements for food. Again, as the breezes get back closer to normal, the tarpon action should increase dramatically.
On the days we have been able to get on the Gulf, or back in Sound for Tarpon fishing, one thing that has been off the charts and consistent is the shark bite. There seem to be an abundance of them in the area, especially Black Tips and Hammerheads. These guys are really fun to catch and some people also like to take a Black Tip for eating. Most of the sharks caught have been in the 3’ – 4’ range.
Even though there have been head-scratching weather conditions, it’s been a terrific year on the Hey Mon. We’ve met a number of great people from the U.S. and Europe and shared lots of laughs. Here are a few memorable snippets from the many trips taken this winter and spring:
• Tommy, visiting from Minnesota, taking out his 90 year old dad who caught enough Spanish Mackerel so the Head Chef at the Life Care Center where he lives could prepare a fresh catch dinner for him and his five buddies.
• Wayne and life-long friends Terry, Ron and their better halves from South Dakota having about as much fun on the water as can be imagined. From what I understand, these three couples have partied hearty together on trips all over the globe. I laughed a lot with these guys – they need to learn to have more fun.
• Cruising with one of the Minnesota Twins’ pitchers and his lady friend and her mother during a late afternoon/early evening cruise. Not only did we get to gaze at a pod of dolphin at play, they had a scrumptious dinner at Grandma Dot’s and then watched a spectacular sunset over Pine Island Sound that was out of the park. By they way, one great thing we do for guests is rather than having to wait for over an hour for a table when eating at Grandma Dots during high season, we arrange to send someone over to put our name in. Then, when it’s close to our table being ready, we drop our guests at the dock; they walk in and are seated right away. That translates to being able to spend more time on the water rather than waiting in line.
• Steve and JD, great fly fisherman working their fly rods like magic into the mangroves. Also, switching Steve over to an open-faced spinning rod with a float, line and hook loaded up with a threadfin baitfish and watching a monster Snook slam his rig under a pier. Smash! Dash! Splash! And Gone! Whoa! It was so dramatic, we didn’t even care about losing the fish.
• Watching the intensity of Maximiilian and Julius, two young guys from Germany fishing along with their parents, Joerg and Katja. It’s always a hoot to see future lifetime anglers being born and hooked on the Hey Mon.
•In advance of Dad Bruce’s birthday, doing “just the guys” outing with sons Jeff, Greg and Brad. The light-blue and yellow toenail polish big, burly Brad was toting particularly dazzled me (that's him on the right in the group photo.) Apparently, one of his kids painted them up while Dad was sleeping the night before. He was stylin!
Yep, almost all of the outings on the Hey Mon this season were all about spending family and/or friends’ time together. What a lucky Captain I was to be a part of all this and maybe add some sea spice to each experience.
It’s never too early to start planning to do some fun stuff on the water. Make Sanibel and Captiva a priority in the future. And then give me a shout. I can assure you, we’ll have a great time on the Hey Mon and we’re sure to laugh a lot. And isn’t that what it’s all about.
Yo, be good.
Sally Rogers' Fabulous Fish Recipe January 12 2014, 4 Comments
This recipe is a Rogers' family favorite. Made by Sally Rogers, Captain Peter's mom, when Bob Rogers, Peter's dad, would come in with his catch off the Gulf. Made with any firm fleshed white fish, it is a meal in a dish. Just be careful on spinach quantities - too little and it wilts to nothing, too much and the sauce will be soupy. Half a large bag is probably a good starting point.
Hope you enjoy it as much as the Rogers' boys and all our friends have enjoyed it!
Fish over Fresh Spinach with White Wine, Capers and Mustard Sauce
• Prep Time: 15 minutes
• Cooking Time: 15 minutes
• Servings: 4 Generous
4 - 5 medium Fish Fillets. Enough to cover the bottom of a traditional 9” X 12” baking dish
1 bag of fresh spinach leaves.
1 smidgen of olive oil
1/3 cup of mayonnaise. (Substitute low cal mayo for reduced calorie dish)
3 tablespoons of dry white wine
3 teaspoons of dry or wet mustard
4 tablespoons of melted butter (Substitute low fat butter for reduced calorie dish)
1/2 jar (3.5 – 4 oz.) of Capers (Non pareil)
• Heat Oven to 350 degrees F.
• Prepare sauce in a mixing bowl. (Make sure it’s not too runny)
• Rub the inside of a 9” X 12” (2 quart) baking dish with olive oil
• Lay down multiple layers of fresh spinach leaves. (Be generous because we know they wilt down!)
• Completely cover the spinach with one layer of fish fillets
• With a spatula, generously layer sauce over all of the fish fillets.
• Put into the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flaky white.
Serve with the rest of the white wine you have left from the recipe. Also, serve with a nice fresh salad and garlic butter sliced French bread. Use the bread for dipping in oh-so-good sauce.
Reflections – Be a Kid -- On and Off the Water January 10 2014, 0 Comments
What’s that old saying, “Out with the old and in with the new”? 2013 is obviously behind us and we’re cruising into what should be an exciting 2014.
Stepping back for a moment, I’ve always liked the Holiday Season and December for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the 25th is my birthday so I feel like I’m in pretty good company for being blessed. And I am, with a great family and a large network of friends and customers. I’m also able to be out on the water, most days that makes me one of the luckiest guys around. There are times when I’m cruising along that I feel like a kid opening gifts during the Holidays. I feel downright giddy and excited to see how the day will unwrap.
Speaking of being a kid, this Holiday Season I had the chance to be on the boat with some dynamite young people ranging in age from 7 to 17. Whether it was fishing, looking for dolphin, gazing at manatee, or chomping a burger at the Waterfront restaurant, these kids were non-stop entertaining and fun to be with.
One particular early morning, as I was cruising out to cast net for bait, I reflected on the charter I had the day before. A partner guide, Clarence Reed of Sea Reed Charters, had lined up a half day of fishing with a family of ten people. There were grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads and several kids. Since my boat is a bit larger than Clarence’s, I took six people; he took four.
Right away, I struck up a conversation with one of my crew, Max, a 9 year-old whiz kid. He hadn’t really ever fished before, but he was full of anticipation, questions and comments that forced this Captain to be constantly at the ready. My gosh, the energy this dude had was contagious. Best of all, when we got him on some fish, whether he caught a little or big one, his excitement brought back memories of how fun it was to just be a kid. As one would suspect, he even got amped up watching the shrimp and pilchards in the live well.
By the end of the trip, my new buddy Max had pretty much mastered the art of casting an open-faced spinning reel. When we hit the docks, his dad, who was on Clarence’s boat, was waiting to greet us. The first words out of Max’s mouth were, “Dad! Dad! I can cast really good now and we caught a bunch of fish!” Seeing that kid’s excitement about learning something new is a highlight for the brain bank. It was worth more than its weight in gold and a vision I’ll cherish for a long time.
I also got a chance to fish with Patrick and Dylan from Minnesota. These 9 and 11 year-old guys were veteran casters and fisherkids from angling on northern lakes. I was able to provide a few observations about the fish they caught. Whether it was the human-like teeth of a Sheepshead or the fangs on a Mangrove Snapper, they had fun seeing them for the first time. Even Mom, Dad and Grandma got a kick out of gandering at the fishy pearly whites.
Finally, there was 10-year-old Emily from a quaint little town just outside of Frankfurt, Germany. Her dad, Helmut, lined up an outing on the Hey Mon during his family’s biannual vacation trip to Sanibel. Because of high winds and cool temps we altered our planned trip to Cabbage Key and instead cruised the canals of Pine Island and grabbed a bite at the Waterfront Restaurant in St. James City. That was just fine for the family, especially Emily who indulged in some Gator Bites while the whole crew created masterful artwork with crayons drawn on the giant coloring table sheets.
Emily also took the helm of the Hey Mon while cruising the canals. I especially enjoyed watching her focus intensely on steering the boat with a smile on her face while getting plaudits from her dad and the Captain.
For all those families and friends who were on the water in December it was all about being together and having just plain fun. For those who fished, it was also about the anticipation of having a fresh fish dinner at the condo or letting the Lazy Flamingo on Sanibel prepare it for them.
Yep, even though the Holidays are behind us, I can’t help but reflect on the great groups of people who enjoyed being on the Hey Mon. I also got a youthful injection of kidditude that will carry me throughout 2014.
In a few short weeks, the fishing, shelling, nature treks and beachcombing will begin to build and continue right through the spring and early summer. The water temps will rise, the sun will get brighter and Nature will unleash all its wonder down here.
Out with the old, in with the new. Make it your resolution to get down here on the Hey Mon with friends, family and your favorite customers. We guarantee, no matter what we do, it will bring out the kid in you and create a youthful smile from ear to ear.
Happy New Year!
P.S. We have been promising to provide some tasty recipes for fish. Here's one my mom, Sal, provided to us many years ago. It's easy to make and one of our favorites. Try it with any of your favorite salt or freshwater fish fillets including snapper, trout, sheepshead, walleye, northern pike or crappie.
Planet Now! Boating on Sanibel November 20 2013, 0 Comments
Our newsletter title is a nice pun this time, but it also has some relevance.
First of all, we need to congratulate one of our site visitors, Dan Horner for coming the closest to describing the strange supposed planet pictured in our last newsletter. We got some pretty good - and creative - guesses on what was going on there. One of the best was Ralph Stillman’s who wrote, “The lady who took the picture with the phone in one hand had a bottle of wine in the other hand and popped the cork just as she took the picture. What you see is the cork!!!!!!” WRONG. But Ralph, you certainly get points for being highly creative.
The real answer to the supposed new planet came from Dr. Juergen Schmoll, a highly regarded Astronomer and Instrument Specialist at the Centre of Advance Instrumentation in the United Kingdom. (You think we’re fibbing here? We’re not – this is serious stuff – there was 20 bucks on the line!)
Now, here is Dr. Schmoll’s abbreviated answer so we can get on to fish stories: (C’MON, YOU NEED TO READ THIS) “The object on the right of the sun in your photograph is definitely not Venus. It looks to me like a reflection of the sun in a parallel surface, as it is in focus but dim enough that the extend of the solar disk becomes visible without overexposure as in the direct sun image in the centre of the photograph.” (Say what? The Hey Mon needs an aspirin.)
Dr. Schmoll finishes by saying, “In optics design languages, such images are called ghosts. These are very commonly created by parallel surfaces. As glass reflects about 4% of the passing light, and there are two reflections involved, the intensity is about 0.04^2=0.0016 or 0.16% of the original intensity. To reduce this further, antireflective coatings are being used to bring 4% reflectivity down to 1-2%.”
Oh, now I understand! Let’s leave it at a cell phone made the appearance of a new planet through weird reflections when the photo was taken. That’s kind of what Dan inferred with his explanation so, close enough, he gets the 20 bucks. Congrats. And finally, here’s a big tip of the solar system thanks to Dr. Schmoll for providing the true answer.
Based on some of the boat trips we’ve had over the past few weeks, you need make it down here over the next 4 – 5 months. PLANET SOON. There’s just too much nice weather and great boating not to. Here are some goings-on and highlights from the past few weeks.
With the water temps slowly falling, the action on the frenetic Redfish pace has slowed a bit.
It hasn’t stopped the hot Snook bite though. What’s most exciting is they are now legal to be taken again for the first time in years. That gets the anticipation running high even though the months they can be taken is abbreviated. Also, there is a tight “keeper” slot in the Gulf of Mexico zone of 28” – 33” and one allowed per person with a Snook Stamp. That makes this scrumptious eating fish even more rare and sought after. Add to all of this, to catch a Snook of any size is pretty uncommon for most anglers and the fight they put up is magnificent.
The trout action on the flats has been solid with a few “Gators” (over 22 inches) being caught.
Also, there are Pompano in the area that is our favorite fish to eat. I told guest, Bill from Columbus, Ohio, who caught one of these beauties, that he should give the fillets to his crack guide. He happily declined which I don’t blame him. We’ve had much success using 4” tails on various colored jigs when targeting fish on the flats. Our favorite brand is Love’s Lures. Their quality is unsurpassed and they have a wide range of colors to choose from. We particularly like Silver Glitter, Root Beer and White. For a little extra incentive for the fish, we’ll even “tip” the jig and tail with a small piece of shrimp. This can get anything riled up.
Speaking of Bill, I recently had a chance to fish with him and his son, Nick and son-in-law, Chip from Ohio. These three guys were collectively as good at pitching bait into the mangroves as I’ve been with. When fishing the mangroves, the greatest success for hooking-up nice fish starts with having good bait and then making a pinpoint cast. This allows the bait to move under the mangrove roots with the tide movement. That’s often where the big boy or girl fish are hanging out and they’ll smack that bait with everything they’ve got. These Buckeye guys hammered some nice fish that way.
You know, Guides down here will usually talk about “regulated” fish species like trout, snook, reds, gags, snapper, tarpon and pompano, to name just a few. What rarely is discussed are some of the “unregulated” species. I guess the reason is because they generally don’t make great table fare. (You don’t eat tarpon either but they are a whole different story. See one of our previous articles.) However, some of these unregulators can be fierce fighters and acrobatic performers. For example, talk to most experienced anglers down here and they’ll tell you that a Crevalle Jack of size will burn your shoulders off. Lady Barb learned this first hand when she got chomped on by close to a 10 pounder that darn near ripped the rod right out of her hands. These fish never give up the fight even though they are going get released. Barb fought that fish, away from the boat, near it, under it and all around it before the prolonged fight ended.
And then there are Ladyfish. When they’re in the area, they are a riot to catch. Once hooked up, they usually go airborne multiple times and will also make great “runs” particularly if they are of size. We also keep some of them to use as cut bait for tarpon and reds.
By the way, here is a little fish-catching education to impart when you’ve got one that’s diving under your boat. I watch top anglers do this with precision-like ease. One way to lose a big fish is when your line comes in contact with your boat bottom, engine, swimming ladder, or whatever. Nine times out of ten the line will get frayed or your drag will be eliminated because of a wrap-around. To counteract this, when you see that line heading under the boat, stick for rod down in the water as far as it can go while you still have control of the fish. Oftentimes, and I can’t explain why, this will also cause the fish to reverse direction and come back out from under the boat. Try this technique the next time you have a big one doing this. You’ll increase your odds of keeping the fish on. And equally important, you’ll look cool and impress your friends!
As we all know, Thanksgiving is almost here and the Holiday Season is nipping at Jack Frost’s nose. Here’s one great gift idea. Book an on-the-water outing on the Hey Mon with or for your loved ones, business associates or close friends. You’re bound to score points that will leave diamond, mattress and fruit basket purveyors green with envy.
PLANET 2DAY – A TRIP TO FLORIDA AND HANGIN' ON THE HEY MON SANIBEL
A New Planet Discovered In Our Galaxy? A Great Beginning To A Fun Week on the Hey Mon Sanibel October 22 2013, 0 Comments
Take a close look at the picture below. It was taken two weeks ago off of Sanibel Island as we were nearing sunset. See the sun? See the sailboat? And, off the bow of the boat is an orb – a golden one in its entire splendor. Additional research confirmed it wasn’t Venus or Jupiter, two planets visible in our solar system. To add to the mystery, it was not observable by the naked eye; instead only through an iphone camera. So what was it? There’s a $20 bill for the first correct answer. Just send us what this thing is and we’ll send the winner the cash. And, in our next article, we’ll reveal the answer.
The aforementioned photo and a number of other cool shots were taken by Debra and four of her friends during a great outing on the Hey Mon a little over a week ago. These ladies hail from the east side of Florida in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. They decided to do a getaway weekend on Sanibel/Captiva and made the Hey Mon boat cruise one of their activities.
It was particularly fun to have them aboard because even though they were from Florida, they had never spent any time on the Gulf side of the state. I got a chance to show them the islands up front and personal which was pretty cool.
After what we dub “The Jungle Cruise” our entourage cruised over to Pine Island. Next stop was the Ragged Ass Saloon at the end of Monroe Channel in St. James City. The band there was rockin’ to some pretty outstanding rhythm ‘n blues. Even though this was a relatively short one beverage stint, we got half the patrons at the bar, standing up and urging us to stay. Of course, it had to be the charisma of the Captain and had nothing to do with the great group of ladies who were dance queening on the dock.
After a few more stops on Pine Island, we headed back to Sanibel. A number of dolphins joined us for the journey. Our five-hour trip was coming to a close but not before one of the world famous sunsets that south Florida has to offer. And of course, our potential new planet, right?
After bidding Debra and friends adieu, lady Barb and I settled in for a great salad and some fresh Redfish we had caught a few days before. Speaking of Redfish, they continue to bite hard and many are in the hog category. I’ve battled a lot of different fish throughout the globe – these guys are right at the top in terms of being fierce fighters right up until being landed.
Get down here to try it!
Our week finished off with having Al and Kathy and their two grandkids, Sam and Maggie join us on the Hey Mon with one key mission in mind. Find dolphins at play. Fortunately, we hit pay dirt several times during our excursion. At the end of our trip and just off the Sanibel Lighthouse, we didn’t get just one dolphin but the whole fam damily! And for identification purposes, Sam named the baby of the pod Lizzy. This would make it easier to communicate the next time we head out to see them.
There were lots of other unique nature happenings on this trip beyond dolphin. As usual, but always fun to see, there were birds galore – Egrets, Osprey, Pelicans and Sea Gulls, to name a few.
We had one show stopper while entering an area of Pine Island Sound. We marveled at a number of large jellyfish drifting along in the tide. (Glad we weren’t swimming with ‘em.)
There were other oohs and aahhs as we spotted a hammerhead shark cruising along. And then there were the large Mullet going airborne along a stretch of mangroves in an area called The Horseshoe. This happening, by the way, usually suggests there are big Redfish in the vicinity. Barb and I were silently hankering to toss a few lines, but the agenda with our guests dictated otherwise. And certainly, we were fine with that since we could return over the next day or two.
Yep, it was a great week down here on Sanibel. As the temps continue to drop up North, we know it won’t be long before Sanibel will be bustling with those seeking some warm sun and hot fun.
Plan your trip now. And if you need any assistance, give us a shout. Now that we are getting engrained into the island culture, we can steer you in the right direction.
Now get to work on what that new Planet is all about. We’d love to send you the $20. Again, the answer will be revealed in our next article.
Think about being on the water. Come visit soon!
Sanibel Fishing and Cruising Update October 10 2013, 0 Comments
It just can’t get any better down here in Sanibel right now. The islands and backwaters are eerily void of people. October’s that way though because most of the snowbirds from up North have not arrived in full force yet. The weather has been wonderful and fishing is fitting for the Halloween month by producing some monster catches of Redfish, Snook and Trout.
This past week, with Mike and Greg from Kansas City and Parry from Memphis, we really got on the fish during their five-day back bay outings on the Hey Mon. Lady Barb also joined us for one of the days and kept up her end with some big time rod bending hook-ups.
Throughout the week, our targeted species were primarily Redfish, Snook and Trout. However we weren’t shy about adding to the cooler some beautiful mangrove snapper, flounder and Spanish mackerel. They all made great table fare at home (which I’ll expand on later) or taken to the Lazy Flamingo restaurant where they prepared a feast for us. (We’ll come back to that as well.)
On the fishing front, the bait of choice right now is primarily white bait. These little guys are swimming in large schools just off the beaches and they are the caviar of choice for fish and birds foraging for food. Several stealth casts of a net will usually fill the bait well on the boat pretty fast with a lot of these two-inch beauties.
Ready for action, we headed into the bays of Pine Island Sound. Morning tides were running pretty low so we fished the fringes of bars. Using medium action rods and reels and 2 ought hooks, one puts on a white bait and casts a line into about a foot and a half of water. Sometimes, using a bobber can help in getting extra distance and facilitates seeing a fish taking the bait. Either way, when there is a predator nearby, the white bait starts darting around. Once that line starts going straight -- it’s likely Kapow! The fish is on and the fun begins.
The above technique and timing produced some incredibly nice Redfish (Reds or Red Drum) in the 20”+ range. The keeper slot for these massive fighters and great eaters is 18” – 27”. Each person is allowed one per day. Our average size was in the 25” inch range. Several were right at the 27” limit. We also caught some hogs that were in the 28” – 31” inch range which of course, we released.
To switch it up, and wait for the incoming tide to raise the water level even more, we headed for some grass flats right off the inter coastal waterway. Here, we threw more white bait and the trout, snapper and Spanish mackerel were pounding them the second the bait hit the water. What was also a gas, was to toss an artificial Zara Spook surface bait into the water, work it back to boat in a zigzag pattern, and watch the fish explode to take it. All of these techniques yielded nice sized trout, some of which were in the 25”+ range.
I haven’t mentioned the crème’ de la crème’ of fish down here – the Snook. Because of a big temperature freeze 4-5 years ago, the Snook population was decimated. It has only been this year that they were allowed to be taken again, only in a tight slot, 28” – 33”, and during certain months. These incredibly beautiful fish and acrobatic fighters are prized for being excellent eating as well. We caught many Snook and released them. Happily, Parry and Barb each landed one within the slot (30” and 31” respectively) so we had Nectar of the Gods eating on several days.
Back to the actual fishing. Once the incoming tide was high enough each day, this allowed us to scoot over the sand and oyster bars and begin pitching directly into mangrove areas. It wasn’t uncommon to stealth along looking for a good spot, and see some boiling in the water just under the mangrove roots. Through positioning the boat correctly, dropping the power pole (an automatic anchor) and chumming with some white bait, we were ready for action. (For chumming, it’s good to use a sawed-off plastic Wiffle ball bat, load it with white bait, and fling them towards the edge of the mangroves.)
When casting bait to the mangroves, the closer one gets to them, the better. The big fish like to hang out under the roots and then dart out to consume bait being moved along by the tide. A pinpoint cast and a slow drift under the mangroves with your bait, will oftentimes create an explosion of water to remember. When a big Snook or Redfish grabs on, it’s giddy-up time to get that bad boy or girl out from under the mangroves so it won’t snag and break the line. Once clear of them, it’s still game on to boat it, but much more manageable if your technique is good. Of course, crack guides like me can help ensure you land the fish!
Seems like I could write forever about this trip. Great fishing, comradery and fine eating for sure. And, just being on the water, watching all of nature unfolding, was also a big treat and no trick.
Oh, almost forgot the eating references I made earlier. If you’d like some kick-tail recipes for fresh fish, let me know. Next time in my blog, I may provide one or two. Also, the Lazy Flamingo restaurant does it up right in allowing you to bring in your catch. Wash it down with a few icy-cold brews, some fresh Caesar salad, krinkly fries and key lime pie. Well, it doesn’t get much better.
Think about Sanibel and fishing or cruising next October or anytime for that matter. The Hey Mon is ready to go and we’re ready for some eerily good times.
Let's get on the water. Come visit us soon!
Sanibel Boat Repair – The Hey Mon Gets a New Sole July 26 2013, 0 Comments
Think getting a boat repaired on Sanibel is a piece of caviar to get done? Well, it’s a lot more challenging than one would think. And this extends to the Ft. Myers area and most of South Florida for that matter.
When I purchased the 25’ Hey Mon from a former Guide out of the Sanibel Marina a couple of years back, I knew the boat (a center console Parker) would serve me well for the future. At the same time, there were a few things I figured had to be done to bring her back to pristine condition. A new sole (floor) was at the top of the list. And the biggest reason this had to be done was because the repair guy, who supposedly put in a top-flight new floor about 5 years ago when the guide had it, really botched the job up badly. The dude had no business doing the floor since it was way out of his capability league.
Like so many other tasks for boats and otherwise, there are obviously a mess of people doing work that is subpar and they could give two hoots about the job they do. And, they take the money and run. I was vowed and determined not to let that happen putting in a new floor on the Hey Mon.
Here's a lesson I’ve learned on the big water highway of life. Family members, friends and trusted business associates can be the best source for providing recommendations of pros that can do the job right for any task at hand.
To find out who could do the floor on the Hey Mon at the most reasonable price, I talked to a lot of people. There were those who just wanted to throw some flooring over the flooring. Others threw out exorbitant prices without even looking at the boat. (Amazing). I finally talked to one of my friends on Sanibel, Christy, who was the answer to my boat prayers. We’ll get back to him in a minute.
I figured if the floor in the Hey Mon had major soft spots, it was likely there were stringers that were questionable as well. And those stringers are critical; not only for supporting the floor, but also for ensuring the entire structural integrity of the hull. They pretty much hold the entire boat together. Because of all of this, I needed a person who I trusted to give it to me straight about what was really up and the extent of repairs that would be needed.
Back to Christy. I met this 78 years young gent on Sanibel about five years ago. Having worked and managed two of the premiere bait and tackle shops on the island for years, he’s well connected. Further, one of his passions is restoring older boats. So, when I approached Christy for some input, he was Johnny-on-the-spot to provide recommendations on who could do the floor on the Parker and also the critical rigging after it was put in. Turns out, the guy who’s doing the project is Christy himself with assistance from a few of his marine repair buddies. And he respects my pocket book. I know he’s not going to take me down the river on inflated prices.
Trust and mutual respect for one another are two cornerstones for forming true and lasting friendships. In addition to having great relationships in the North Country and beyond, I have been lucky to meet some truly outstanding people in the Sanibel/Captiva area who I’m proud to call my friends.
If you are a boat owner, there are options galore as to where you can get your boat repaired. Unfortunately, unless you know who you’re dealing with, there’s the unfortunate chance that the repair won’t get done right and you’ll also be looking down the bore of the proverbial money pit.
When facing a pesky boat repair or anything else for that matter, talk to those you know and trust. Nine times out of ten they’ll steer you in the right direction. In the end you’ll have the comfort of knowing the job will get done right and at a fair price. That’s peace of mind we all can live with.
And if you still end up in a quandary about a boat issue, give us a shout. Regardless of where your ark is located, there's a good chance we can put our heads together to get you on the right course.
In a few short weeks the Hey Mon will have a new "sole" and be ready for relaunch in mid-September. She’ll be beautiful and strong and will probably outlast me. I can’t wait to see her --- and look forward to all of you enjoying her as well.
Tarpon Are on The Move -- So Are the Sharks April 18 2013, 0 Comments
It's prime time to fish for Tarpon in South Florida. These "Silver Kings" are one of the most sought after catches by anglers throughout the world. The first trick is finding them. The second is getting one on your line. And lastly, getting one of these unmatched fierce fighters to the boat for a leader touch is a life catch for sure. I know, because I've boated a few in my day. Each time I've hooked up, I marvel at the pure strength, fight and acrobatic display of these incredible fish. And the bigger they are the harder they fall. Even with the latest high stealth gear, plan on an hour plus fight when a 135+ pounder is on the line. These bad boys and girls deliver a work-out that even your aerobics instructor would like to duplicate. Then after a post fight soothe down they are released to fight another day. You gotta try it!
To keep you on your toes, where there are Tarpon, sharks are generally in the vicinity. And, when hooked, while they usually don't go airborne with head shakes like the Silver Kings and Queens, they will give you a fight to remember. Just last week in a couple of outings, we hooked up with two decent sized Hammerheads and three Blacks Tips. The latter is considered a delicacy to eat by some. However, we released them to live another day. While sharks can be a pain in the rear when trying to get a Tarpon, they nonetheless are magnificent creatures. Come on down and we'll likely get one on so you can see first hand what I'm talking about.
Late April and early May is when Tarpon generally make their first appearance in the Sanibel area. By mid to late May, the action is at its height but continues throughout the summer and even into September.
On the Hey Mon, we continue to study the habits of Tarpon and just get out on the water with them. At times, we have been teaming up with Captain Clarence Reed of Sea Reed Charters. Working with fellow guides is invaluable for increasing opportunities to get on fish for our clients. And that's what it's all about. Working various water depths and watching for surface bait pods and birds can be paramount in finding good Tarpon lanes on any given day. (Tarpon usually travel in packs so when one is spotted, there's a good chance there are more in the area and they are moving along the coast in lanes from one area to the next after some serious eating and spawning.) Several Professional Guides can cover more water area and appraise each other of where tarpon are congregating on any given day. Now that being said, like all fishing, just about the time you think you have a certain species figured out, they'll fool you. Tarpon can be prolific one day and nonexistent the next for reasons no one fully knows.
Just one example of a memorable Tarpon day was recently with Dennis from Detroit, Michigan. While Dennis had caught a few Tarpon in his days on the water, he never had one over 100 pounds. That all changed in one hook-up. Using live thread fins (also know as Greenbacks), these bait fish, along with crabs, are nectar of the fish god's fare for Tarpon. If you're fortunate enough to be able to toss a line baited with a thread fin or sister pilchard into pool of surface baits, get ready for action. Tarpon instinctively wait for one of these little guys to get separated from the school and then pounce for a meal. So when the bait pod moves along that leaves bait on a hook a welcome and enticing appetizer. And on the Hey Mon, that's precisely what happened. A bait pod sighted near the boat, we casted into it and within one minute the drag on the Penn Conqueror 7000 with 65 braid and 80 lb. fluorocarbon line started to scream. A flurry of reels got the 6 ought circle hook properly hooked into the Tarpon's armor plated mouth. The fight was on! A quick note about circle hooks. Instead of conventional "j" hooks and you haul back to set the hook, with circle hooks (looks like a closed "c"), you reel like there is no tomorrow. This allows for the hook to exit the internals of a fish without potentially damaging it, and still get a hook-up.
Quite often, right after a Tarpon is hooked up, they'll go airborne with head shakes so massive they'll boggle your mind. When this happens, it is crucial to "Bow to the Tarpon" (drop your rod tip towards the fish to slacken line) or it's likely game over and the Tarpon is gone. If you are lucky to stay hooked-up, then you have to hope the line and leader hold and the Tarpon's knife sharp gill plate doesn't cut the line. By the way, I use a what's called a Slim Beauty knot to effectively join my 65# braid line and 85# fluorocarbon leader together. It's one of the most highly recommended knots to avoid separation. (Which can be pretty embarrassing if it happens, not to mention having a client who likely wants to have you for lunch sans a tip.)
Back to Dennis from Detroit. He's got that Tarpon on and it goes airborne. We see it is a very large fish and he does the perfect bow to keep it on the line after a massive first jump from the water. I figure it's a legit 150 lb fish. (Any Tarpon over 125 lbs. is considered to be big one. Complete hogs are 150-170 lbs. and once in a blue moon they can exceed 200 lbs.) Anyway, so far, so good. I fire up the 225 HP Yamaha on the Hey Mon and the chase is on before all the braided line is spooled that's screaming off the reel even with a nice drag set. Another sign this is a big fish. For the next hour I watch Dennis, who's no small dude at about 6'3', 210 lbs., battle this bad girl while I'm constantly maneuvering the boat to ensure there is no contact with the fish, rod or line with the hull. When the fight is over, Dennis has won the battle and the beautiful Silver Queen, after a rest lumbers off into the depths. Perspiring and expended, Dennis happily agrees to end the day with a celebratory pitcher of beer at the Waterfront Bar in St. James City. It was a refreshing finish to a memorable day.
Since my wife, Barb, and I head back to Minnesota for three months starting in June each year, Captain Clarence will take my client referrals for Tarpon and backwater fishing. Having used many many guides over the years, Clarence is one of the best, bar none. And he's a great guy to hang out with to boot. Just give me a call and I'll get you in touch with each other.
As much as I enjoy going back to Minnesota, I'm already looking forward to being back in Florida around the middle of September. The Tarpon will likely be around and the backwater fishing will be fantastic right through the end of the year. And because there are fewer people around and boats out, it's beautiful cruising weather to hang with some dolphins or watch a spectacular sunset on the Gulf. So, get a trip set-up with business associates, family members or friends and get on down here. The Hey Mon is ready for good times, no worries and just a lot of fun.