Archive for the Fishing Reports Category

Bass 2017

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Targeting Spanish Mackerel In The Central West Region with Capt. Geoff Page

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From late August through October, the baitfish are really schooled up off the beaches, and that’s got the Spanish mackerel holding in those areas in big numbers. The bait schools are everything from full-sized threadfin herring to three inch minnows or the juvenile pilchards that have just hatched. When you have that much bait in one area, you can bet the mackerel won’t be far behind.

Along with the mackerel will be bonito, kingfish, sharks and all kinds of other gamefish looking to capitalize on the abundance of food in one area. These baitfish schools can be anywhere from 50 yards off the beach to a couple of miles out, but generally hold in 15 to 30 feet of water.

The easiest way to find the baitfish is to look for large flocks of birds diving on the water. Spanish mackerel are slashing-type feeders that have sharp teeth and bite baits into half, leaving pieces in the water for the birds to pick up. You’ll also see Spanish mackerel jumping out of the water as they chase baitfish.

Mackerel are a schooling fish, so where you find one, you’ll usually find more. Just get up-current of the school and either anchor and bring the fish to you by chumming, or drift down on the school casting as you go along. You don’t want to drive right up to the school, as that will usually put them down, and sometimes move the school from the area.

If you’re going to anchor and chum, you can put out a chum bag with they typical frozen ground chum, and that will draw fish, but most anglers like to supplement the ground chum with whole glass minnows or juvenile pilchards. Just toss them over a handful at a time, and then when the mackerel come into the chum line to feed you can throw jigs or spoons and do very well.

Spanish mackerel are super fast swimmers, so you want to work your lures fairly quickly to get the bite. They’ll also eat small swimming plugs and topwater plugs as long as your work them fast.

I like to fish mackerel on 10- to 15 pound 7 foot spinning rods with 3000 size reels. They’re fast and put up a good fight, so you want to make sure you have a reel with enough line to keep a larger fish from spooling the reel. I like to use 40 pound fluorocarbon leader with lures and #3 wire and a #2 long shank hook with live bait.

If you’re looking for larger fish, one of the best ways to catch them is to anchor up and chum and then toss over a live 4 to 5 inch pilchard on a wire rig. Hook the bait through the nose or back, and wait for the line to come tight. A lot of times the mackerel will bite the tail off the bait to keep it from escaping, then come back around and eat the rest of the bait, so don’t set the hook just because you see a fish charge the bait.

The average Spanish mackerel is one to three pounds, but there are fish to six or seven pounds in the schools. If you targeting the larger fish with live bait or larger lures, you won’t get as much action, but the fish you catch will be a better quality.

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Snook 2017

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Targeting Snook In The Southwest Region With Capt. Ron Hueston

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Late August and all of September are still summertime in Florida, although the majority of fish have already spawned and are starting to move inshore or out to the wrecks. The largest concentrations of fish will still be along the beaches, around the passes and on the nearshore wrecks.

Since the freeze of 2012 when a lot of our snook died during a 10-day cold snap, the fish have been coming back strong. The largest fish are going to come from the wrecks, passes and bridge—deeper water areas, but there will still be some nice ones coming from the beaches.

There’s still a lot of small pilchards and glass minnows on the beach that time of the year, so the fish won’t move far from the steady supply of food. One of the keys to having success on the beach is to go where there’s not a lot of foot traffic or fishing pressure. Look for sections of beach that aren’t populated, and that’s where the snook will be cruising in tight to shore.

The best time for beach fishing is during the high tide. That’s when the snook move up into the trough right against the shore to feed. If you have a high tide in the early morning, you’ll have low light so the fish can’t see your lure as well, and a good population of snook right up against the shore.

Since the fish are feeding on small baitfish, you want to throw lures that represent what they’re eating in size, shape and color. Lipless crankbaits, shad-tail grubs, bucktails and swimming plugs in chartreuse, white or green and white all work well. You want them to be 3 to 4 inches in length, since most of the baits are small. One of my favorite lures for targeting snook in the surf is a ¼-ounce chrome or silver spoon, which mimics all of the different baitfish species.

On the nearshore reefs you can target them with swimming and diving plugs, or with live baits like a threadfin herring, Spanish sardine or pilchard. And if you’re looking for a trophy fish, put out a mullet head or chunk of ladyfish around the marinas or the mouth of a pass and it’ll get picked up by those big lazy female snook.

For tackle, I like 3000 to 4000 size spinning reels with 10 to 20 pound braided line and a seven foot fast action rod. Snook have great vision, so you want to make the longest cast possible, but still have the power to set the hook and move a fish that is trying to get into structure. On the beach, or anywhere the water is clear, you want to go with a light leader—say 25 to 30 pound fluorocarbon, so the fish don’t see it and shy away from your offering. The same applies to hook size—you want to use the smallest hook possible so that it doesn’t weigh down the bait and make it look unnatural. Because it’s still very warm, the best snook fishing is going to take place at dawn and dusk, the coolest periods of the day, and also when the light levels are low. On rainy or overcast days, the bite will go on all day.

Keep in mind that snook season is still closed in August, and pay attention to the differences in slot sizes between each coast. If you catch an undersized or oversized fish, handle it with care, and if at all possible don’t even take it out of the water when removing the hook. The less stress you put on a fish, the better its chance for survival, and the better the odds that someone else will have the chance to catch it again.

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Targeting Wahoo In The Panhandle Region With Capt. Pat Dineen

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If you’re going to find wahoo on a regular basis during the summer months, you’re going to have to cover a lot of water. That’s how you find the floating objects that are holding fish when there’s not a lot of defined rips or current edges to work.

Every now and then a wahoo is caught on the reefs and wrecks, but anyone who is catching more than one fish is finding them of something floating like a weedline that has a lot of bait on it, a floating pallet or board. Even better is a large tree or log that is waterlogged and floating deep into the water column. Wherever you find weedlines, you’re going to find these floating objects, and it’s a good idea to bring along some binoculars to help you scan the horizon for them.

Whenever we’re wahoo fishing, we know the run is going to be 30-plus miles. That’s how far from land you need to be to find the water that will hold wahoo, and everything depends on location. A few guys get them while bottom fishing along the edge where it goes from 180 to 220 feet of water where there’s a natural bottom break, and some people catch them when running from one spot to the other and chugging along at eight or nine knots while pulling jet heads, but the majority of wahoo caught in my area come off something floating.

We’ll typically target wahoo by putting a flatline out behind a cigar lead with either a Trembler or a Bonito lure—the larger fish-shaped baits designed for high speed trolling. If we’re pulling rigged baits, it’s usually a double-hooked ballyhoo on #8 wire, and we’ll back that up with a large swimming plug. The key is to get the lure or bait below the surface.

Most of the wahoo are in that 30 to 40 pound range, so we fish them with 30- to 50-pound outfits with #8 wire to keep the fish from biting through the leader. You can use a wire line which will get the bait down deep, or a downrigger or planer, but most anglers use a 15 to 30 ounce trolling lead, and will put that about 15 feet in front of the lure or bait. Just getting the bait three or four feet below the surface makes a big difference.

If you find a large floating object, you want to make several passes around it to present the lures or baits at different angles and speeds. If you get a bite, keep the boat in gear. A lot of times wahoo on floating objects are schooled up, so continuing to pull the spread can result in multiple hook-ups. If you catch a single fish off anything floating, you want to make multiple passes on that same object before moving on. It’s pretty common to pick up more than one and up to ten fish on a single object.

When hooked, wahoo make a long run, and then charge right back at the boat hoping to get some slack in the line and have the hook fall out. They also tend to shake their heads in an attempt to dislodge the hook. Keep a tight line on the fish and you’ll be fine. Lead them to the side of the boat and have the gaff ready so you can take your shot the first time you get one.

Wahoo see well, and when gaffed will try to bite you. Control the fish before pulling it into the boat by grabbing its tail. With one hand holding the gaff and the other the tail, you can point the toothy end of the wahoo away from any people and directly into the fish box.

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Wahoo 2017

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Fishing Opportunities For Females In The Southeast Region With Capt. Jimbo Thomas

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August is a great month for fishing in the Southeast Region, so it’s no surprise that a lot of females are getting more involved in the sport this month. The summer months are when the seas are calm and the water is clear, making for comfortable fishing conditions, and at the same time, the state’s lobster season is open for anyone wanting to cool off in the water and catch some lobster to go with their fish.

Most anglers learn to fish either from their parents who were fishermen or with friends, and it’s no different for females, although going out on the water for the first time with an overly aggressive angler or group and be intimidating. Like any sport, you don’t get better without practice, so you can cut the learning curve by practicing your casting before you head to the water.

There’s also a bunch of fishing clubs in my region, and every one of them has a good number of female members, so you can join or visit one of these clubs and get some of those members to help you with your skills and fishing knowledge. For those that are intimidated by the sport, there’s Ladies Let’s Go fishing, which offers classes in fishing skills for females around the state. You can find out more information about the group and where the next school will take place at

Just about every fishing tournament in my region has a female angler division, and these are great opportunities to put some time in on the water with friends while at the same time getting a feel for the competitive side of fishing. Tournament fishing tends to appeal to the hardcore anglers who put a lot of time and preparation into their day, so be prepared to stick out a full day on the water even if the fish aren’t biting. The one event I know about is the Pompano Beach Saltwater Showdown, August 4-7. For more information on that tournament, you can contact Cassandra Kusmich (954) 725-4010.

Fishing in my region can be as simple as going to the beach and taking a rod along and casting small shad-body jigs or lipless plugs, or putting a sandflea on a hook and casting it out and sitting in a chair while waiting for a bite. There’s also a bunch of fishing piers in my region where you can use a Sabiki rig to catch live bait for snook (catch and release only) or snapper.

If you fish from a boat, one of the best things you can do is find a bait school less than a mile off the beach, use a Sabiki rig to catch a bait from the school, and then put a hook in the bait and cast it back into the school. Everything from bonito and barracuda to blackfin tuna, dolphin and cobia come in close to shore to feed during the summer months, so you never really know what you’re going to catch.

How serious you take your fishing is up to you. A lot of my friends fish with their wives or girlfriends and get an early start to the day, fish hard until 11 or 12, then head for the sandbar for a swim in the middle of the day to beat the summer heat. Fishing is supposed to be fun and relaxing, so don’t make the mistake of putting a lot of pressure on yourself to catch fish. Get out on the water, have fun, and even if you don’t catch fish, you’ll get a nice tan and have the opportunity to see a lot of the great marine life Florida has to offer!



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Ladies 2017

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Tuna 2017

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Targeting Tuna In The East Region With Capt. Mike Holliday

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For the most part, there are two species of tuna we target in my region on a fairly regular basis: yellowfin and blackfin tuna, with the blackfins the more commonly caught species. We do catch some yellowfins in my region, and even a few bigeye and the occasional Bluefin tuna, and that usually happens after a week or so of windy weather and rough seas. We’ll also catch skipjack tuna mixed in with the blackfins.

The anglers that specifically target yellowfins in my region usually do so by running to the eastern side of the Gulf Stream and fish either the western Bahamas or just north of the Bahama Bank in an area known as “The Corner” or “The Pocket.” Yellowfin tuna fishing is good starting in May, and runs through October, with the fish pushing north late in the season. Right now, those fish are probably 10 to 20 miles north of the Bahama Bank.

Most of the boats making the 65 to 80 mile run will be trolling, although you can chunk or chum the fish and live bait them. As they boats get 60 or so miles out, they start using their radar screens to help them mark the big flocks of birds that travel with the tuna schools. On some days, there may be a half-dozen flocks showing on the screen.

Once you find the birds, the trick is to keep them at a distance and plot their course of travel, then run ahead of them, put out lures or baits and wait for the tuna to swim up to the moving boat. Tuna swim very fast, a lot faster than the normal 7 or 8 knot trolling speed, so they catch the boat quickly.

The average yellowfin can be anywhere from 30 to 80 pounds, with fish topping 100 pounds, so most boats fish them using 50 or 80 pound tackle, a 100 pound fluorocarbon leader and either lures like a cedar plug, a big-lipped swimming plug, a Japanese feather or small bonito-style lures or rigged ballyhoo. All these baits are effective, and it seems like the darker colors work best with the lures.

When a fish is hooked, the boat continues at the same speed in hopes of getting more bites from the school. Some anglers like to make a turn when the get a bite, hoping the change in direction of the lures or baits will entice the rest of the school to feed.

Blackfin tuna are the most commonly caught tuna species in my region and range anywhere from a few pounds to up to 40 pounds. August and September are great months to target blackfin tuna in my region, either looking for them along the edge in 200 to 400 feet of water from Palm Beach up to Jupiter, or on offshore atolls like Push Button Hill, 12 miles southeast of St. Lucie Inlet.

The blackfins are usually traveling in schools, with a lot of small fish in the mix, but also so huge ones. The big blackfins sometimes like to mix in with the bonito schools, and are very boat shy, so they’re targeted with lines placed way behind a boat. You can troll up blackfin tuna with small feathers in pink, silver or black.

The most consistent way to catch blackfins in my region is by live chumming with juvenile pilchards or Spanish sardines. Blacken your livewells with these baits and then run out to 200 feet of water or more, and start the chum line going. The blackfins will eventually find them, often showing up after the bonito. At times, you’ll see them jumping out of the water chasing your baitfish.

Blackfin tuna are leader shy, and don’t have teeth, so you can target them with 30 pound fluorocarbon leader and a 2/0 to 3/0 circle hook—something small that can be hidden in the bait. They tend to be boat shy, so you want to put the baits as far from the boat as possible.

You’ll know when you hook a blackfin tuna, as they make long, powerful runs, more so than a big bonito, and take longer to get to the boat. They’re outstanding to eat, but you want to bleed them immediately and put them directly on ice to improve the flavor.

Catch just one blackfin or yellowfin tuna, and you’re hooked for life. These fish not only taste great, but are incredible fighters on any tackle.

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