Brian's kayak fishing blog

Mostly true, semi photo documented episodic narratives of kayak (and other) fishing experiences.

Friday, March 5, 2010

catching up 2009 - 11/10/09 through 12/21/09

I am four months behind posting to my fishing blog. Sometimes real life gets in the way of fishing and blogging I suppose!

So what I'm going do is post some slideshows I've put together of various fishing expeditions. Don't expect a lot of narrative - just the bare bones for now And I havent weeded out or cropped any photos to make the slide shows more presentable either. Hey! It's not an artistic masterpiece! I'm playing catch up here, right?

The first slideshow is from November 10, 2009 at Bonita Bill's and the Sanibel causeway. My son, Ben, (a blimp pilot) was visiting a few weeks before leaving for his new job in the San Francisco area. Ben will be working with the zeppelin blimp out of Moffet Field in Sunnyvale. Ben got skunked this particular day, but ole dad managed snook and grouper!

Ben and I were back at Bonita Bill's on 11/12/09. We fished with live pinfish off the docks there. This day we both managed some gag groupers! Our little buddy, Splash - the Bonita Bill's bar cat kept us company!

Ben wasn't feeling well on 11/13/09, so I went back to Bonita Bill's again and dock fished for grouper - with some success.

Though we caught a lot of grouper at Bonita Bill's, they were all too short to keep That changed on 11/16/09 however! We stopped by Mel, the kayak guy's place in Matlacha and rented a second kayak for Ben to use, then we headed out to fish Bunche Beach. We actually launched from the beach just east of the Sanibel causeway, then paddled back towards Bunche. We really spanked the ladyfish that day. We got a nice spanish mackerel, and decent bluefish for the grill too. We caught a bunch of short red grouper and gag grouper, then Ben hit the jackpot with a legal 22 1/8" gag! We ate well that night. Here's some slides and video of Ben working a grouper from his kayak.

Here's some video of Ben working a grouper from his kayak.

November 17th was my birthday. Ben decided to take a day off from fishing, so I headed back to Bonita Bill's for some more grouper fishing. I always make it a point to try and fish on my birthday. Bonita Bill's was a good place for it too since I knew if I didn't catch fish, I could catch a beer buzz there! I actually did wind up with a couple of nice gag grouper that day. One of them was just a hair shy of keeper size too!

November 19th we headed back to the Sanibel causeway. Having returned the rental, we just had my kayak. Ben took the Kayak out from the gulf side of the restroom island there while I fished the west end of the B-span under the bridge. I was fishing a chunk of cut ladyfish on the bottom at the last of the incoming tide and hooked what I suspect was a decent sized shark. Whatever it was, it bit through my 50 lb flurocarbon leader after a furious run of 50 or 60 yards. I re-rigged, rebaited with 1/2 a ladyfish and promptly hooked into what I suspect was a decent sized Goliath Grouper. The GG took a short run then found a crevice on the bottom to wedge himself into. I might just as well have tried to dislodge a volkswagon filled with concrete from the bottom! No pictures of either situation though.

Meanwhile Ben was tearing up the bluefish, spanish mackerel, and spotted trout while trolling X-raps and Yo-Zuri's just several hundred feet off the beach.

Ben finally had to head off for his new home and job in California, so I fished alone at Bonita Bill's on 11/23/09. You can tell I was alone because nobody was there to hold my camera so I had to shoot picks of the fish myself! Got a couple of short grouper there that day.

I took a week off from fishing and lo and behold, it was suddenly November 30th! The last day of snook season for 2009! I knew where some big ole fat boys we laid up under the docks and along the pilings at Bonita Bill's so I headed out to catch me a snook on the last day of the season! It's hard to catch a legal snook! They have to be 28 inches minimum length and they can't be more than 33 inches maximum length. I've caught one snook way too big to keep and a lot of them too small to keep and a few of them just the right size, but during the time of year when the season is closed so no - I had never got myself a legal keeper snook! The other fish I had yet to catch was a Tarpon. By my estimate, I've hooked eighteen tarpon in my 10 years in Florida but have never landed one. It seems I usually lose the tarpon and almost always my lure or hook when I have hooked one. So to make a long story short, I headed back to Bonita Bill's with a live bucket of pinfish for bait and I commenced to snook fishin'! For 2 1/2 hours I soaked those live pinfish in every single spot I had ever seen a snook hiding at Bonita Bill's and zip! Zero! Nada! Not even a bump on my bait! I'd worked myself up a powerful thirst too! A kind gent who often comes to see our band, the Yard Dogs, perform walked out on the dock and handed me a cold brewski! I thanked him profusely and just as he turned to walk back to the bar, ZZZZZzzzzzZZZZZ - burning drag and fish on! I worked the fish and saw a silver flash just below the surface. I thought to myself, "Damn! That snook is gonna be too darned big to keep!" Then it jumped and I about pee'd my britches! I had a tarpon on and that bad boy was hooked good! It was just a little tarpon, but it was damn sure the first one I ever managed to land! he jumped at least a half dozen times and put on quite a show for the folks sitting at the bar! He tried to wrap me up in the pilings too, but I managed to head him off each time he tried to wrap me up! This was the result!

My beer benefactor immediately returned and volunteered to snap pics while I unhooked the tarpon. He was merrily snapping away with my camera as I was posing with the tarpon when I noticed he had the camera turned around backwards! When I pointed that out, he turned it back around and did manage a few shots of me with the fish!

But I thought I would include some of his original "tarpon photos" too!

Between December 7th and December 18th, I fished a lot at Bonita Bill's. Truth be told, i kinda got into a rut fishing there. But it was just so much easier than hauling that kayak around and I was getting lots of fishing action there too. I had several big snook (of course AFTER the season was closed and I couldn't keep them!) I also got a few grouper - some of them almost keepers too. But the bite that seemed to really turn on in December was the Crevalle Jacks! I started catching jacks in the 10-12 pound range and had many in the 3-8 pound range too. Here's more pics...

My last fishing trip of 2009 was also to be the last fishing trip for a couple of months! It was on December 21st. I seldom wear long pants, but you can see I was wearing them on 12/21/09! In fact, I think I've worn them just about every day since! Here are the photos from that day. I caught more fish, but was bored with taking photos of jacks and grouper. Here's what I did snap...

2009 was a good fishing year. 2010 has been a horrible fishing year thus far. We lost untold numbers of snook, jacks, ladyfish, spadefish and tarpon in the massive cold weather induced die offs that happened in January and February this year. It was too cold and too windy to bother with fishing for two months. It's STILL running about 15 degrees below normal for southwest Florida for this time of year! It's supposed to srtart a warming trend this weekend. I hope the warming trend continues!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A windy day at Bonita Bill's - 11/06/09

Today was a low morning tide and 15-25mph winds out of the northeast kept the tide ebbing longer and further than was anticipated. I had to head to Ft Myers Beach to see Erika, the lady who does hats and T-shirts for the Yard Dogs, as she had called me the night before to tell me our recent order of hats was ready to be picked up.

I had the kayak loaded up along with all my gear, and I stopped at Bonita Bill's for coffee, juice, scrambled eggs, sausage patties and an english muffin. My plan was to see Erika, get our hats, then head for Bunche Beach to fish the rising tide.

It turned out that Erika had T-shirts ready for my band mate, Charlie, so I picked them up too and decided to head to Charlie's house to drop off his shirts and collect the gig money he had for me from our last show. With cash in pocket, I headed back to Bunche Beach. By this time, the place was crawling with tourists and the closest I could park was a good 1/4 mile from the water. I opted for searching out an alternate launch spot. I headed towards Sanibel, hung a u-turn at Punta Rassa, and pulled off the road just east of the causeway. Though mostly sheltered from the growing winds, the tide was still so low I was going to have to drag the kayak 250 yards through muddy flats to get it to water deep enough to float it. Frankly, I wasn't up for that. It was time for plan B!

I headed back towards Ft Myers Beach and stopped at the Bait'n Wait on San Carlos Blvd for five live pinfish for my Flow-n-troll. I headed back to Bonita Bill's, grabbed my pliers, law stick, and my heavy pier pole, stopped at the bar to load a cold beer into my shirt pocket, and headed out onto the docks. I hooked a live pinfish just ahead of the dorsal fin on a 6/0 unweighted bait hook and commenced to fishin' the pilin's for snook. It was close to noon and, though still low, the tide had finally started to flood. But the snook didn't want to cooperate.

I changed tactics and cast the freelined pinfish down tide and let him drift underneath a large sailboat docked at the next dock. It wasn't long and POW! The pinfish got hammered! I pulled up a nice 15 inch gag grouper!

He went back into the water unharmed...

I reloaded my shirt pocket with beer, rebaited with a fresh pinfish, and cast the pin back under the sailboat again. I was lolly-gaggin around watching boats and bikini topped tourist babes when POW! A HUGE hit, doubled up rod and PING! Broken off fish! My 50# leader was broken/bitten off at the hook!

I retied a new hook, reloaded the shirt pocket, rebaited the freshly retied hook with a fresh wiggly pinfish and cast it back to the same spot. After maybe five minutes, the bait was acting strange so I reeled it in to check only to discover it bitten in half right behind the hook!

After re-baiting yet again, I cast it back to the same spot beneath the sailboat. Nothing doing for a good 20 minutes or so. My friend, "Boat Lizard" Pete walked over to chat and while we were shooting the breeze, WHAM! Another hit and doubled over rod! It was another gag grouper and I thought for a while this was gonna be a legal keeper!

Alas! It proved to be an inch and a half too short at 20 1/2 inches...

I had a huge jack hit my last pinfish and take off on a nice run, but I missed the hookset. The jack killed the bait and since it was my last bait, I fished it dead for maybe 20 more minutes before calling it a day.

I let the lovely Bonita Bill's bartendress, Shelly, serve me a final brewski, then headed home. (I kick myself for not getting a picture of the lovely Shelly to insert here!)

Even though neither gag grouper was a keeper, at least I didn't have to clean fish blood and scales out of the kayak when I got home!

Life is good!

Finger on the trigger at Bunche Beach - 11/04/09

I guess I'm in a rut! I probably fish Bunche Beach WAY too often, but geeze - it's such a great fishery and I keep thinking I'll get me a legal sized grouper there soon! So Wednesday, 11/04/09, I was back at Bunche Beach.

It was somewhat breezy, but the wind was generally easterly so the wind shadow of the mainland kept the waves manageable. In fact, it was nearly dead calm close to the shoreline when I launched the kayak.

I paddled off to my secret grouper hole. If you look closely at this next picture, there's a clue to get you close to my secret spot...

I was, again, fishing a rising tide. But the moon had been full the night before so the bite was perhaps slower than it might otherwise have been. I collected a nice mix of gags and red grouper.

The wind blew me towards the Sanibel Causeway and it was hard to hold my position over my secret grouper hole. I got heavy into BIG ladyfish every time I would try to paddle upwind back to the grouper hole. I should have just reeled in my lure and paddled back, but playing with those lady's was just too much fun. I must have hooked two dozen and probably caught 8 or so. I was blown WAY towards the west and had a long, upwind paddle back towards my grouper spot. I kept a few ladyfish and fished with cut bait on the big pole, but the wind had freshened and I kept dragging my little 10# barbell plate anchor. I had a few good runs fishing cut ladyfish, but the only hookup proved to be a large hardhead catfish. Finally, I upped anchor, tossed out the small Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow and pointed the kayak back towards Bunche Beach. Just on the Bunche side of my grouper hole, the Yo-Zuri got hit! I was quite surprised to pull up a triggerfish with the Yo-Zuri in his jaw!

He was only eleven inches to the fork, and thus too small to keep, but it was my first ever Triggerfish on a lure and my first one ever off Bunche Beach in seven feet of water!

I finished up the day with a cold brewski at Bonita Bill's, then headed home.

Life is good! :)

Back at Bunche Beach - 11/02/09

Monday, 11/02/09, I headed back to Bunche Beach. You know, it's hard to keep these fishing stories straight in my head if I don't post them soon after fishing because the trips and the fish caught seem to run together!

I don't remember the details of times etc., but I do recall I was fishing a rising tide and I more than likely got there late, so it was probably close to noon when I launched the kayak off Bunche Beach. I set off trolling a Yo-Zuri towards my special grouper hole. First fish of the day was a gag grouper...

It proved to be one of many gag grouper I caught that day.

I also scored a couple of red grouper on the Yo-Zuri...

All the grouper were shorts, so they were all released. I got a bunch of ladyfish, jacks, blue runners too, and when paddling back, I scored another nice bluefish...

Many enquiring minds want to know exactly WHERE my grouper hole is. I won't tell ya exactly, but I'll show you a picture! It's right HERE!

For those of you trigonometrically inclined, you can line up exactly where Bowditch Point looks like this...

and where the Sanibel Lighthouse looks like this...

That'll getcha close! :)

Back at Bunche Beach, I mounted the kayak on the kayak dolly and carted it up the road to where I parked. Two department of fish and game vehicles drove past and while I was loading the kayak, both game wardens came up to check me out. They checked my cooler and my license and (of course) all was in order. We chatted pleasantly a few minutes and I congratulated them for checking me out. Glad to see law enforcement out checking the fishermen! They said they bust a lot of tourists at Bunche who do not know the legalities of the fish they catch plus they get a lot of locals who DO know, but think they can get away with keeping illegal fish! Personally, I'm glad to see them out doing their jobs!

Life is good!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bunche of fun - 10/29/09

Thursday, 10/29/09, I headed out to Bunche Beach with the kayak. I threw a Rappala X-rap out one side of the kayak and a blue-backed Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow out the other side and commenced paddling around the sand spit towards the Sanibel Causeway. I hadn't even rounded the sand spit yet when the rod with the Yo-Zuri went off. First fish of the day was this nice bluefish.

I picked up three lizardfish and three ladyfish too. The majority seemed to prefer the Yo-Zuri over the X-rap for some reason. Somewhere between half and 3/4ths of the way to the Sanibel Causeway is my special grouper spot (hey, I can't tell you EXACTLY where it is or word would spread and the spot would be ruined!). I picked up four gag grouper trolling those lures. I think three hit the Yo-Zuri and one the X-rap. All four were shorts, but fun to catch! The bigges might have been 14" overall.

I decided to take a rest from paddling so I anchored up with my 10# barbell plate anchor and set one of the cut lizardfish out on my heavy spinning rod with a 6/0 hook on 50# mono leader. Within just moments, the pole went off and I sank the hook into a nice 16 inch red grouper! Well - let me clarify that! I didn't exactly "sink the hook". The grouper had the lizardfish bait in his throat and somehow the leader looped around his head and the hook caught the leader effectively lasso'ing the fish as you can see in these pics!

I think red grouper are one of the prettiest fish. This one measured 16 inches - too short to keep, but sure fun to catch!

The lizardfish bait was still good to go after I unhooked - I mean un-lasso'ed - the red grouper, so I threw it back out on that big eight foot Shimano Terramar heavy rod with the big Penn 750SSM reel on it loaded with 30# braid. That's my tarpon rod, so I knew it was up to the challenge of handling a decent sized shark should I happen to hook one while in the kayak. I was slurping up some Gatoraid while bobbing around on the kayak - just sort of admiring the scenery when the Penn 750 started singing! I grabbed the rod out of the holder and gave the drag a couple of turns to tighten it while the fish was pulling line out and felt the circle hook set into something BIG!

So there I am, rod bent double, reel singing, holding the rod right handed while I use my left to work that barbell plate anchor and maybe 10 feet of line back into the kayak! As soon as the barbell plate came off the bottom, the kayak was moving! The fish, whatever it was, was dragging me along at a healthy clip! My first thought was that I had a bull shark or perhaps Goliath Grouper on the line, but I didn't know WHAT it was!

Maybe 10 minutes into the fight, it occurred to me to try to film part of the battle. With one hand, I fished my camera out of my shirt pocked then managed to select movie-mode and power up the camera. I held the camera in my right (rod-hand) while I held the reel handle in my left and occasionally using my left on the rod as well! I was aiming the camera by guess and by golly so the video quality isn't good here, but you can get an idea of how this fish was pulling! I finally decided to stop filming and put the camera away for fear I was going to get dumped out and didn't want to lose it!

After a 45 minute struggle, I finally got the fish up to the kayak! It was a HUGE sting ray - maybe the size of the one that killed Steve Irwin! It was easily six feet from nose to tip of tail with maybe a 4 to 5 foot wing spread! The body looked to be about 9 to 10 inches thick! This photo doesn't do it justice becasue there's nothing to give it perspective as to the size, but hey! I was kinda busy right then and a quick, one-handed snapshot was all I could manage!

I very carefully, cut the leader about 6 inches from the mouth of the ray, then paddled back and played with a few ladyfish and blue runners on my way in. I finished the day with a beer and order of hot wings at Bonita Bill's.

Life is good! :)

Playing blog catchup - September and October 2009

I know, I know...

I've been really bad about keeping the fishing blog updated since returning home from the band's tour in late August. While I was gone, the central airconditioner went out and we had to replace that. We also had to replace the well pump and well head. We had several palm trees removed and stumps ground, and the starter in the kayakmobile went out so I had to have that towed to the shop for a new starter. September was a slow month for the Yard Dogs - we only had 9 shows all month - so I had massive cash outflow with very little income. I also spent a lot of time getting the yard in shape. We had a lawn service keep it mowed while I was gone on tour, but I spent a good month weeding, thinning bananas, repotting pineapple plants, planting six new mango trees and four new carambola trees, and hauling and spreading over 100 bags of mulch over the planted areas. I was busy. And broke. So most of my September fishing consisted of playing with some big sunfish with a cane pole, #10 aberdeen hooks, and doughballs from bread slices out on my dock out back on the freshwater canal. I think I got a mayan cichlid or two also, and a few large golden shiners. Here's a slideshow with representative pics...

I did a bit of wade fishing and pier fishing too. My friend, Terry Brousseau, had been hammering the snook off the Fort Myers Beach pier while bait fishing with live ladyfish, so I spend several mornings out on the pier before daybreak jigging up ladyfish to use as live bait. I did have one snook (roughly the size of my leg!) take the bait, but though he ran and jumped, he never had the hook in him. I did see a number of keeper-sized and larger snook taken off that pier though!

Many mornings I fished for snook until about 9:00am, then switched to Gotcha lures to catch spanish mackerel off the pier. Ladyfish and Blue Runners also provided a lot of pier fishing action.

I also fished my spot at the B-span of the Sanibel causeway and took a few spanish macs there too. Wade fishing at Blind Pass and on the Sanibel Beaches produced a few jacks and ladyfish as well. I managed one kayak trip in mid-October and fished the B-span flat for spanish macs and bluefish. I also hooked two sharks there as well fishing with small cut jacks. One shark bit me off, and the other I fought a good while before he frayed my line with his tail and broke me off. Here's a few pics of the Blind Pass area on Sanibel/Captiva and some of the other forays I made during October...

One day in mid/late October, while fishing on the Ft Myers Beach Pier, I set out a chunk of cut ladyfish on my old, stubby pier pole. I was rigged with a 6/0 circle hook and a one ounce rubber-cored sinker on four feet of 50 pound mono leader tied to 50 pound braided line. I thought I might have a little fun with a small blacktip or bonnethead shark (something to excite the tourists and pier sightseers donchaknow!) I left the old star-drag baitcasting reel set with a loose drag with the clicker on, stuck the pole in the rod holder hole on the top-rail of the pier, and was in the process of retrieving a cast of a Gotcha lure on my light spinning rod when the old baitcaster drag started screaming! I had to crank down the star drag pretty tight to work the fish to the surface, but imagine my surprise when, instead of a shark, a HUGE redfish came up wallowing on the surface! I had to walk him down the length of the pier, then hop the rail of the pier onto the beach to land him! By this time, I had quite a crowd! The redfish had the circle hook deep in his mouth so I cut the leader rather than try to dig out the hook and injure the fish. I waded out to revive him and it took nearly 30 minutes of swishing him around in the water before he revived enough to swim away. The fish was a good five inches longer than my 36" law stick when I measured him while reviving him. I figure with tail pinched, he would have gone 42 inches overall length. He was at least 15 inches over the maximum allowable length to keep. As you can see in this pic, I was a happy camper having caught him!

I knew there was no way I was going to top THAT fish that day, so after catching just one ladyfish and the one big redfish, I adjourned to Boniita Bill's where I could celebrate with a beer and exercize bragging rights!

Life is good!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First fish since getting back in town - 08/28/09
I got home Tuesday, 08/25/09, after a LONG 5 weeks on the road touring with the Yard Dogs. I've been taking it easy catching up with stuff around the house since then and don't plan any salt water kayak fishing until next week.

Friday I cleaned my little outdoor aquarium that I use as a "guest fish hotel" for small freshwater fish that I collect out in the canal out back. After refilling the aquarium with canal water, I went out to the canal with the pool skimmer and a slice of bread to catch some small gambusia to use in cycling the tank. When I chummed the water with bread crumbs to attract the gambusia, I noticed a REALLY BIG sunfish looking fish popping floating breadcrumbs on the surface. I grabbed a spinning rod with a 1/0 hook and popping cork attached, baited up with a corner of a slice of bread and tossed it out maybe 10 feet from the dock edge. Big sunfish immediately started popping the bread crust, then POW! This slab of fish came up from below, inhaled the bread and took off diving deep! The circle hook did it's job snagging the fish in the upper lip. The fish fought like the dickens too! Imagine my surprise when i pulled in the line to discover a two pound, ten ounce blue tilapia on the hook!

I continued to fish off the dock with bread crusts and caught a number of hand sized sunfish, but no more tilapia.
I put a small sunfish on a spinning rod and snagged a gar which bit the baitfish in half and escaped.

Afternoon thunderstorms finally drove me indoors. It was fun. Catching a tilapia was a totally new species for me!