Category Archives: Saltwater Fishing

Everything saltwater fishing

Mote Snook Shindig

Mote Snook Shindig catches valuable fisheries data
Mote Marine in Sarasota, Florida, has an on-going snook rearing, stocking and tagging program, and each year recreational anglers assist in the research–by fishing!

By Hayley Rutger, Mote Marine
from The Fishing Wire

More than 40 anglers participated in the 2017 William R. Mote Memorial Snook Shindig, a research-based catch, sample and release tournament on Nov. 3-4. This unique tournament involves the public in monitoring for snook released in fisheries enhancement studies.

Jennifer Castilow and Dr. Nate Brennan of Mote Marine Laboratory measure a snook. Credit Cheri Tardif.
Snook are one of the most sought-after catches in Florida’s saltwater recreational fishing industry, which draws more than $7 billion to the economy annually. However, increased fishing pressure, habitat loss, and natural challenges such as cold weather and red tides have contributed to declines in snook populations. Thus, for more than 30 years, Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) scientists have partnered in research designed to evaluate whether hatchery-raising and releasing snook into the wild can be an effective fishery management tool.

“The Snook Shindig is the only scientific tournament in which anglers focus on hatchery-reared and wild common snook,” said Dr. Kenneth Leber, Mote Senior Scientist. “Our goal is to estimate the contribution of previously tagged-and-released snook to the Sarasota Bay snook fishery, and to learn valuable information such as how different habitats affect snook growth, survival and migration patterns. Our research and this important tournament can help us understand how stock enhancement may help this snook population recover from large mortalities in the wild.”

Over decades, Mote scientists have released more than 61,000 snook into Sarasota-area waters. Past Snook Shindig results have revealed that changes in snook-release strategies, based on Mote pilot studies, have improved survival of stocked snook by as much as 200 percent.

Snook born and raised at Mote Aquaculture Research Park (MAP) in eastern Sarasota County are fitted with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags and released for research on responsible restocking practices. PIT tags provide a “barcode” identifying individual fish and containing other specific data, which can be “read” using a special scanner.

During this year’s Snook Shindig, 224 snook were caught and released. Though none of these were recaptured fish with Mote tags, all fish caught, measured and released yielded valuable data.

“From this year’s fish, we’re able to learn about the size distribution of the fishery in our area,” said Dr. Ryan Schloesser, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Mote. “If we don’t see our hatchery snook in the catch, that may mean that there are far more wild snook out there — so they’re likelier to be caught — and it may also mean that our hatchery-raised snook haven’t yet grown to the sizes likeliest to be caught in the area of the tournament. We think it’s a combination of these factors. We released 5,620 PIT-tagged snook in the past two years, and they may just need to mature into the size being caught. We hope to find out at our future Snook Shindigs!”

During the Nov. 4 awards dinner in Mote Marine Laboratory’s WAVE Center on City Island, Sarasota, Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby greeted guests.

“Thank you all for making this a memorable, meaningful Snook Shindig by fulfilling the essential role of citizen scientists,” Crosby said. “For more than 60 years, Mote’s independent researchers have worked with caring and knowledgeable community members like you to bridge our scientific discoveries with local, traditional knowledge and decision making at all levels, to support conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. You are part of a time-honored tradition that aims to preserve this beloved fishery for future generations. We couldn’t succeed without you.”

Crosby recognized presenting sponsors Carol and Barney Barnett, who have donated $3 million to help Mote implement its Fisheries Conservation & Enhancement Initiative — a science-based, community-wide, grassroots partnership initiative aimed at fisheries conservation and sustainable use in Sarasota Bay. The Barnetts’ leadership gift challenges others to match this critical support toward this important initiative.

To support Mote’s Fisheries Conservation & Enhancement Initiative, contact Erin Kabinoff at ekabinoff@mote.org or (941) 388-4441, ext. 309.

Crosby also recognized two pioneering senior scientists at Mote: Dr. Ken Leber, manager of Mote’s Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement Program, and Dr. Kevan Main, manager of Mote’s Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program, for their tireless and visionary efforts to improve snook aquaculture and enhance this critical fishery. Leber and Main were presented with fish art prints by Steve Whitlock.

Mote fisheries scientists thanked and recognized the entire team of dedicated volunteers, sponsors and attendees who helped make this year’s Snook Shindig possible, including Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff in attendance, fisheries conservation advocate Capt. Scotty Moore, this year’s featured artist for the Snook Shindig graphic, Steve Whitlock, and others (full sponsor list below).

“It was exciting to see a real range of ages participate as citizen scientists; many of the youth came up to give us a big hug and said they are going to go fishing next weekend,” said Mote staff scientist Carole Neidig, who coordinated the team effort for this year’s successful event.

Shark Fishing Tips

Shark Fishing Tips from NY DEC
from The Fishing Wire

Sharks are some of the sea’s most well-known but misunderstood inhabitants. They simultaneously provoke fascination and hysteria wherever they appear. Excessive fear of their ferocity and aggression has tainted people’s relationship with sharks, threatening their populations around the globe.

Sharks belong to the class of cartilaginous fishes that also includes rays and skates. They are primitive fishes whose skeletons lack true bones and instead are made of cartilage, the same material our ears and nose are made of.

There are over 500 species of sharks known through the world and are found in all seas, from near shore estuaries to the open ocean beyond the continental shelf. They are found in temperate, tropical and arctic latitudes as well as depths up to 6,000 feet.

New York’s marine waters are home to a variety of native shark species, as well as migratory species during the warmer months. During shark week, we will explore some of the lesser known sharks species found in New York’s marine waters and celebrate this misunderstood ocean predator.

‘Sharking’ in New York

Today, recreational and tournament anglers go shark fishing, also known as ‘sharking.’ Before heading out to try your luck at sharking, you must first register with the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry and apply for a federal Highly Migratory Species (HMS) permit

When fishing for sharks, you should be able to identify what species you are prohibited from taking. For a list of shark species you are prohibited from taking, as well as those you are allowed to take, visit Saltwater Fishing Regulations for Sharks.

If you catch a prohibited shark species while fishing from shore, please do not drag the shark onto the beach. If you hook a prohibited shark species you must return the shark to the water at once, without unnecessary injury to the shark. The easiest way to do this is to cut your leader as closely to the hook (as safely as practicable), while the shark is still in the water. Non-stainless circle hooks will rust free from the shark’s mouth in a short period of time.

For best practices, view NOAA’s Atlantic Recreational Shark Fishing: Handling and Release of Prohibited Species video.

If you’re going shark fishing please be familiar with prohibited shark species, and always follow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) guidance, “If you don’t know, let it go!” For more information on how to identify shark species, visit NOAA’s Atlantic Shark website.

When fishing for sharks with baited hooks, you are required to use non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks.

Non-stainless steel hooks deteriorate over time, reducing harm to a fish if you are unable to retrieve the hook. A circle hook’s point is turned back toward the shank, forming a semi-circle shape. A circle hook is preferred to a J-hook for sharking. A circle hook is more likely to lodge in a shark’s mouth. A J-hook is more likely to be swallowed and damage a shark’s internal organs.

Keep your circle hook’s point in line with the shank. When a hook’s point bends sideways away from the shank, it becomes offset. Offset hooks can potentially injure a shark when you are removing the hook.

Ecological Role

Sharks have been roaming the seas for over 400 million years, predating the dinosaurs! They have survived many mass extinctions, including the event that extinguished the dinosaurs about 6 million years ago. Sharks have survived successfully for so long due to their ability to evolve. As a result, sharks have become the ocean’s top predators, also known as apex predators. Most sharks are aggressive apex predators that consume fish, turtles and marine mammals. The exceptions are the whale sharks, the basking sharks and the megamouth sharks, which are all filter feeders that consume plankton.

Apex predators are at the top of the food chain and generally have no natural predators. They play a vital role in maintaining a healthy population of organisms they prey upon. Ecosystems are extremely complex. Even small changes can have significant consequences in a variety of ways. Removing or reducing the population of an apex predator has the potential to upset the population balance of both prey and predators. This can have far-reaching negative consequences throughout the ecosystem.

Sharks had always been the apex predators of the oceans, until humans began refining our ability to harvest marine resources. Technology has improved many aspects of human life, but it has also given us the capacity to over-harvest finite resources.

Shark Conservation

Historically, sharks have largely been an underutilized resource in North America. Small, limited fisheries have existed for many years in areas along the U.S. coast. Large, well organized fisheries have occurred occasionally, but have been relatively rare and short lived.

The earliest known local commercial shark fisheries on the east coast occurred in the 1930s using long lines, chain nets and gill nets. Most of these fisheries were near shore and localized. Sharks were mainly harvested for their liver oil for the production of vitamin A and their hides for leather. Prior to the 1970s, there was little utilization of shark meat for human consumption in the U.S. Improvements in methods for handling sharks at sea, along with a marketing program promoted by the government, increased demand and consumption of sharks. Today, commercial fishing for sharks uses primarily long lines and gill nets.

Recreational fishing along the U.S. east coast was popularized in the 1970s. Advances in boat construction, efficiency and size of marine engines, fishing tackle and electronics technology, along with the ability of the public to purchase and own boats, made shark fishing much more accessible to recreational fisherman.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finalized a fishery management plan and began managing the U.S. shark fishery in 1993. Measures adopted included commercial quotas, a commercial observer program, regulations regarding the retention of shark fins in proper proportion to carcasses, recreational bag limits, and prohibition of sale of recreationally caught sharks. As sharks continued to be overfished, subsequent addendums in later years included size limits for both recreational and commercial fisheries, permitting and reporting requirements, expansion of the observer program and limited commercial access.

*Special thanks to all our photograph contributors.* Many organizations who helped us with photographs are conducting exceptional work in shark research and conservation. For more information on how DEC administers permits for research and handling of native New York shark species, visit our Special Licenses Page.

Livebaits

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
Livebaits are key to a whole new category of spotted sea trout.

By Joe Balog
from The Fishing Wire

Park Falls, WI – One of the most prolific inshore species available to anglers on any coast, spotted sea trout come in two varieties: eaters and gators. Eater trout – those measuring in the fifteen-inch range – are extremely popular game fish, due to their affinity to gather in big schools and chase down numerous lures. Gator trout, however, are a whole different ballgame.

After moving to Florida a few years ago, I quickly realized that targeting big trout required an entirely different approach than chasing their younger family members. As I continue to fish and learn the ways of the trophies of the species, I’m amazed at how little information is readily available about this aspect of inshore fishing.

A case in point: most resources suggest moderate-sized artificial lures, like imitation shrimp, for sea trout of any size. Yet, on numerous occasions, I’ve had big gators run down and attempt to swallow smaller “keeper” trout while I’ve reeled them in. That, along with an affinity to pursue over-sized specimens of any fish specie, has pushed me in a direction of developing my own theories on inshore trout tactics.

Studies confirm my suspicion: as sea trout grow larger, their diets shift from small crustaceans to almost exclusively fish – the bigger the better. Mullet are a favorite, as are pinfish and croakers, so fishing tactics should follow this transition.

Livebaits have become preferred for targeting big fish, but not without challenges. First off, it’s important have good bait; this often includes many different species of baitfish, and collecting such requires a sizable time investment. Pinfish are readily available just about anywhere in most inshore waters – small ditches and channels are favorite hangouts – and can be caught using cane-pole tactics with small pieces of shrimp. Mullet require the use of a cast net in most circumstances; I’ve found a Fitec Super-Spreader net to be dramatically easier to throw than any other brand. Target mullet on the edges of sand flats, dropping into deeper water.

Once some big bait’s in the livewell, it’s time to find gator water. While it’s common to find schools of smaller trout in deeper channel areas adjacent to shallow flats, trophy trout seem to spend more time around subtle depressions and breaks than textbook areas. Perhaps these big fish are more solitary hunters than their smaller counterparts, which have a tendency to feed with the changing tides. In any case, if you’re catching large numbers of eaters, a change of areas is usually required to find gators.

Most of my fishing is done in super-skinny water along Florida’s east coast – heavily pressured areas with tough fish. Fishing these small, shallow areas requires a great deal of stealth and patience. Here, I’ve found my own freshwater tendencies to need adjustment. Whereas most run-and-gun bass fishing tactics serve a universal purpose in freshwater, inshore species often require a slower approach. For big trout, I move into an area as quietly as possible, put the Talon down, and wait.

As things settle down, it’s important to assess the area and pick out key spots where trout may be on the hunt. Flooded oyster bars or current-swept mangroves are always worth a shot, but don’t overlook inconspicuous areas. If an area or flat is relatively shallow throughout, with one washout or depression that’s just a foot deeper than everything else, that spot can be key, especially at low tide.

Before the first cast is made, it’s important to select proper tackle. Again, comparing to my freshwater roots, line and hook size should be greater than what’s considered routine. With a mainline of 20-pound braid, I attach a long leader of 25-pound test fluorocarbon – it’s my only hope against razor-sharp oyster bars – and tie on a 5/0 to 7/0 VMC circle hook that’s super strong. There’s no need for additional weight, but occasionally a small float helps keep track of a hard-swimming mullet.

Once silently anchored down on a potential hotspot, it’s important to lob the baits delicately toward the target. However, once a fish is hooked, any delicacy is immediately tossed aside, as big inshore fish don’t play nice. Here, the proper rod becomes key to the equation.

St Croix’s Mojo Inshore rods perfectly fit the bill for gator trout hunting. The rods themselves are workhorses, covered in a double layer of finishing cure and backed by a five-year warranty. But durability doesn’t come at the sacrifice of quality. Mojo Inshore models are built from SCII graphite, ensuring sensitivity and lightness in hand, and contain major hardcore components, including nearly indestructible, corrosion-proof guides and Fuji reel seats.

Longer models aid in casting, hooksets and moving big fish away from cover; the 7’6″ medium-heavy Mojo Inshore is perfect. Remember, when using circle hooks, it’s best to simply sweep the rod sideways on the hookset while reeling quickly. Then, the real fun begins.

Once your trophy trout is boat-side, be sure to handle it carefully. Warm summertime water temperatures leave these fish compromised after a fight, and many released trout actually die. For that reason, keep them in the water as long as possible, and rely on a conservation-style Frabill net to reduce removing a trout’s slime coat. Remember, there are two categories of trout; release the gators, and keep the eaters. Giant spotted trout are very rare and always females; to release them in a healthy state ensures a future of pursuits for us all.

#stcroixrod

About St. Croix Rod
St. Croix Rod is a family-owned and managed manufacturer of high-performance fishing rods headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin with a 68-year heritage of USA manufacturing. Utilizing proprietary technologies, St. Croix controls every step of the rod-making process, from conception and design to manufacturing and inspection, in two company-owned facilities. The company offers a complete line of premium, American-made fly, spinning and casting rods under their Legend Elite®, Legend® Xtreme, Legend Tournament®, Avid Series®, Premier®, Wild River®, Tidemaster®, Imperial® and other trademarks through a global distribution network of full-service fishing tackle dealers. The company’s mid-priced Triumph®, Mojo Bass/Musky/Inshore/Surf, Eyecon® and Rio Santo series rods are designed and engineered in Park Falls, Wisconsin and built in a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Fresnillo, Mexico. Founded in 1948 to manufacture jointed bamboo fishing poles for a Minneapolis hardware store chain, St. Croix has grown to become the largest manufacturer of fishing rods in North America.

Short Gulf Snapper Season

Anglers, Communities Upset with Short Gulf Snapper Season
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

The old axiom that the more things change, the more they stay the same is certainly true when it comes to the fiasco that has become the red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries announced last week that the private recreational red snapper season in federal waters would last a whopping 72 HOURS. That’s right three whole days from June 1 through June 3. Because of sector separation, which withstood a court challenge earlier this year, the charter industry will be able to fish 49 days, starting June 1.

One of the most extensive artificial reef systems in the world, about 1,030 square miles, sits just off the Alabama Coast. Those reefs produce unparalleled fishing for species like red snapper. Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. made a particularly salient point in a news release recently about the season.

“Alabama has built a great fishery and has worked diligently to rebuild this once overfished species,” Commissioner Guy said. “Now that the fishery is rebuilding, we are catching larger fish, and they are so plentiful that we are being penalized for our success.”

Orange Beach City Councilman Jeff Boyd has been very active on the red snapper issue, and he considered joining a group of irate anglers in another protest. Some are calling for civil disobedience by catching and keeping red snapper while the federal season is closed.

Boyd said a talk with ADCNR Deputy Commissioner Chris Blankenship changed his mind about the protest.

“Chris and I were in Washington recently to meet with Congressmen and NOAA,” Boyd said. “After talking with Chris about the protest, I decided to take a different path. I’ve already asked the Orange Beach City Council, and I feel sure Gulf Shores will do the same, to send a letter to our members of Congress, a letter to NOAA and a letter to the White House that (NOAA’s red snapper) count is wrong and to give us the benefit of the doubt so that we can fish.”

Boyd said NOAA is not factoring the economic impact on the region in setting the seasons and bag limits.

“They are not considering the people who come down here to buy condos and expensive boats to go catch fish,” he said. “A ton of people are coming to Orange Beach just for that reason. Then you’ve got restaurants, tackle shops, fuel docks, all of that. That’s going to affect people like David Walter (Reefmaker). The days of private fishermen building reefs in federal waters is over.

“I feel like what they are doing now is they are forcing people to not fish and get completely out of it and leave the area. Or, they’re going to force them to fish illegally. I’ve never seen regulations be as unfair as this. We can’t catch triggerfish. We can’t catch amberjack. You just about can’t keep anything.”

Blankenship, who was Alabama Marine Resources Division Director before becoming Deputy Commissioner recently, said he understands Boyd’s frustration.

“It is disappointing with all the work we’ve been doing to try to change red snapper management to end up with three days,” Blankenship said. “That doesn’t mean it’s all been for nothing. It just has not translated into more days of fishing for this year. As we’ve been saying for the last several years, changes need to be made in Congress to give us the flexibility to make this fishery better.”

Blankenship said the hard quotas that dictate fisheries closures in the Magnuson-Stevens Act have been the largest obstacles. He has been working with Alabama’s congressional delegation to get that section of the law amended during the reauthorization process.

There was a bit of good news coming from Washington recently. The recently passed budget included language that would permanently extend Alabama’s state waters to 9 nautical miles.

“The 9-mile state boundary will be for reef fish, not just for red snapper,” Blankenship said. “And Senator (Richard) Shelby added a provision in the appropriations bill that would require NOAA to implement a pilot program for management in designated artificial reef areas. That’s something we’ll be negotiating with NOAA over the next 60 days to find a pilot program for 2018 that will give us the ability to manage the reef zones farther than 9 miles from shore.

“That would be a significant change. That’s something we’ve needed to show that we’re able to manage those fish out there.”

That, however, still leaves anglers stuck with a three-day season for 2017, and Blankenship has been getting plenty of feedback from the public.

“People are obviously outraged,” he said. “They know the resource we have out there. They think it’s totally ridiculous that we only have three days to access that resource, as do we at Conservation.

“NOAA uses a very conservative and subtractive system to determine the seasons. Then they add in a 20-percent buffer. And, they’re also still using the MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) numbers to set the seasons. Alabama Snapper Check will be certified this year so that our landings numbers, which we believe are much more accurate, will be used instead of MRIP for 2018 and beyond. It’s more important than ever for people to participate in Snapper Check.”

Of course, Snapper Check is already online for 2017 because some Alabama anglers are taking advantage of state seasons in Florida and Louisiana.

Plus, Alabama’s state red snapper season is set to open on May 26 and run through July 31.

“We’re excited that we’re opening state waters for Memorial Day Weekend,” Blankenship said. “I think that will make for some good fishing opportunities for families. There are a lot of red snapper of legal size (16 inches total length) on the close rigs and other reefs within 9 miles.”

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier is certainly glad to have a state snapper season for the fishing-centric barrier island south of Mobile, but he is obviously disappointed with the federal season.

“This will have a very negative impact on our local fishermen but also our local economy and tourism,” Collier said. “Our island offers easy access to the Gulf, so there’s no doubt we have a high volume of recreational fishermen. And the fishermen don’t mince words. They’re seeing it as rather ridiculous.

“We all know there are loads of fish out there. We know that NOAA’s methodology of calculating the fish population is not in sync with reality. We keep hoping that common sense will prevail. If not, we’re going to get to the point of why have a boat or a fishing rod.”

Renowned angler Marcus Kennedy of Mobile hopes the three-day season will finally motivate recreational anglers to get involved in the process. He is so frustrated with the regulations in the Gulf that he has turned to freshwater to have something for the dinner table.

Anglers who regularly fish the Gulf of Mexico off the Alabama coast know there is an abundant population of red snapper as shown by this big snapper caught by Chandra Wright on a trip with Capt. Randy Boggs.
“We’ve been crappie fishing on Big Creek Lake because there’s nothing we can keep from the Gulf to eat,” Kennedy said. “I never thought I’d see the day when the federal government would come in and tell us we couldn’t keep snapper, grouper, triggerfish and amberjack right when the fishing season traditionally starts. It’s very aggravating.”

Because of his equipment, Kennedy and his crew can fish in places where others rarely dare to go, and he is finding red snapper in places where they haven’t been before.

“There is an overabundance of red snapper from 3 miles to 100 miles,” he said. “We were doing some deep drops on the bottom in 400 feet of water, and we were reeling up big red snapper. We’ve never done that before. They’ve overpopulated everything that’s hard bottom or structure. They’re crowding out the other fish and having a negative impact on the other reef species.”

Kennedy has been named to a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s advisory panel that deals with red snapper. That panel meets this week in New Orleans, but Kennedy is not optimistic.

“NOAA Fisheries is overestimating the recreational catch and underestimating overall population of red snapper in the Gulf,” he said. “They believe there are only three red snapper left in the Gulf. It’s so fouled up I don’t know how we’re going to undo it.

“I know the recreational fishermen are getting the short end of the stick.”

What Is the Bonefish Conservation and Restoration Program?

Bonefish Conservation and Restoration Program
This feature came to us from the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, www.bonefishtarpontrust.org.

Jon Shenker, Ph.D., Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology

Paul Wills, Ph.D., Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Florida Atlantic University
from The Fishing Wire

Though the Florida Keys are still a world-class fishing destination, the decline of the region’s bonefish population over the past decades is a tremendous concern to anglers, fishing guides, scientists and resource managers, and a threat to the Keys economy. Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is leading the way to answering the vital questions of what might be causing the problem and how the population can be restored to healthy levels.

An important part of BTT’s efforts are focused on evaluating potential sources of the problem by funding multiple studies, including the sources of larval bonefish that may be coming from locations in the Caribbean; changes in prey abundance in the Keys; chronic long-term responses to toxicity and environmental stressors in the changing Keys environment; changes to habitats.

These critical studies will help identify the causes of bonefish population decline in the Florida Keys. As the causes are discovered and plans formulated to fix them, helping the bonefish population recover will be equally important. In recent years, our understanding of bonefish reproduction in wild populations, primarily through field research in the Bahamas, has grown significantly. We are using that knowledge to drive a major new project to spawn bonefish in aquaculture systems, rear their larvae, and produce juvenile bonefish. This five-year program, funded by a partnership between BTT and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), seeks ultimately to provide partner organizations with a new restoration tool in the form of stock enhancement—a tool that will be available in the event that the Florida Keys population needs a boost to sustainably return to its once abundant levels. The project is being conducted at the Aquaculture Research Park at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI) in Fort Pierce, Florida. HBOI has one of the preeminent aquaculture programs in the southeast US, with facilities, experienced research scientists and technical support all ideally suited to this ambitious undertaking.

The goals of the program include learning what controls production and survival of larval and juvenile bonefish in culture systems and in natural habitats. Juveniles produced in culture can be used to identify optimal juvenile habitat in the Keys, and to help target habitat restoration efforts in the natural ecosystem. While we don’t anticipate releasing large numbers of juveniles into the wild, having the ability to produce those juveniles is a very handy tool to have if needed in the future.

Pioneering studies by Dr. Andy Danylchuk (University of Massachusetts) and Dr. Aaron Adams have given us a great start on understanding when and how bonefish spawn. Their efforts have led to discovery of half a dozen sites in the Bahamas where bonefish gather in huge schools just prior to spawning. Building on their initial studies, we’ve caught fish from those schools, implanted them with sonic tags, released them back into the schools, and followed them offshore on their nighttime spawning run. Other fish have been established in temporary tanks on land, where we’ve attempted to get them to spawn so we can start to learn how to incubate their eggs and grow their larvae. The research team is close to obtaining viable embryos, which will be a focus of upcoming trips to bonefish spawning sites in the Bahamas.

The program at HBOI started in March 2016 with the reconfiguration of existing tank facilities to hold adult bonefish for broodstock. Procedures were developed to capture fish and transport them to HBOI, to maintain them in captivity, and to induce them to spawn in our culture tanks. With the assistance of Captain Bob Branham, we caught two fish from Biscayne Bay in late spring. The fish readily handled the transport to the lab, and quickly began feeding on shrimp in a large aquaculture tanks. That success led to a larger broodstock collection effort in July. BTT’s Brooke Black coordinated a five-day effort in the Middle and Lower Keys that enlisted the efforts of Captains Richard Black, David Denkert, Bo Sellers and angler/BTT friend Rob to catch 20 fish, hold them in tanks at the Keys Marine Lab on Long Key before bringing them to HBOI, where they readily adapted to captivity.

With spawning season upon us (bonefish spawn between late October and April), we examined the reproductive condition of the fish at HBOI in early November 2016 by extracting gonad samples from the bonefish. Several of them were indeed producing eggs. Our team will monitor their development carefully in upcoming months, and perhaps use injections of reproductive hormones to help them get ready to spawn. While waiting for spawning, new larval rearing protocols will be developed, so we’ll be ready to tackle the next major challenge.

2017 promises to be an exciting year in our growing knowledge of bonefish reproduction and our capacity to spawn and rear fish in a laboratory setting.

Step Up For Sailfish Tactics with Raymarine

Step Up For Sailfish Tactics
By David A. Brown
from The Fishing Wire

The speed of a sprinter, the grace of a ballerina and amazing aerial pageantry befitting a Cirque du Soleil performance — that’s Istiophorus platypterus. They go by “sailfish,” in Florida’s southeastern waters, where massive fall-winter migrations deliver banner day potential.

Ranging from the Gulf of Maine to Brazil, sails migrate northward during the spring-summer months and return southward along the warm Gulfstream when autumn’s cooling hints of winter’s approach. Unlike marlin and swordfish, which favor deep water, sails are commonly caught within eyesight of the coast.

Raymarine pro Capt. Quinton Dieterle, who runs the 45-foot Hatteras “Cutting Edge” out of Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Marina, said fluctuating conditions typically chops the southern run into incremental pushes. Sails like that 75- to 80-degree water temperature with light current and moving bait schools, but the sea remains a dynamic canvas.

“The funny thing about sailfish is you can sit out there one day and not catch a single thing; but you can go the next day and catch 18, 19 fish,” Dierterle said. “It’s not that the fish disappear; they go into a lock-down mode.

“They only move when conditions are right for them to move. Otherwise, they burn up too much energy. Instinct tells them they have to get south by a certain time, so when the current is light, they’ll move. Otherwise, they’ll lock down and stay.”

Based out of Hillsboro Inlet, Capt. Art Sapp runs the “Liquid”, a 39-foot Sea Vee with quad Mercury 350 Verados. For him, water clarity factors greatly in sailfish pursuits.

“We like to see good clean water — preferably blue water — a northbound current and a show of ballyhoo, bonitos or whatever bait they’re feeding on,” Sapp said. “I think the clean water gets them excited. Generally, if you’re catching fish in dirty water it’s a very lethargic bite; they’re not really in a feeding pattern, but it’s just an opportunity.

“But when they’re feeding in the clean water, it’s generally an aggressive bite. You see them coming from a long ways off, because they can see the bait that much better. And our visibility is better too and that allows me to hunt them better in that cleaner water.”

As Dieterle notes, the sails’ southern migration takes them to warm tropical spawning waters. So, while biology plots the course, daily sea conditions set the pace.

Traditionally, fall-winter cold fronts delight sailfish anglers, as winds opposing the Gulfstream’s northward flow offers sails strategic benefit. It’s called “tailing” — riding wave tops like they’re surfing.

“As a cold front comes through and that wind goes around to the north, the wind goes against the current and creates a big swell,” Dieterle said. “Any of the fish that were hanging deep to get out of the current realize that they can flip to the surface and get on top of the waves.

“They look like they’re swimming, but they’re really just treading water. On top of the swell there’s less current than there is down in the water column.”

For anglers, this creates a target-rich opportunity. Spot a group of sails tailing on the swells and you can pick off several with well-placed presentations.

WHERE TO FIND ‘EM

For his day-to-day searching, Sapp relies primarily on his Raymarine gS Series unit, but he runs a compact eS Series HybridTouch in the tower. With either unit, Sapp said superior clarity and adjustability proves invaluable in locating sailfish.

“The reason I go with Raymarine 100 percent and always have is the maximum control over the bottom machine’s power output,” he said. “You can change the gain on any unit, but you can back that thing down and you won’t hear the transducer clicking or chirping if you actually get in the water and swim underneath the boat. With the majority of units, if you can’t back them down at all, they’re just thumping away.

“We’re fishing in less than 200 feet of water 90 percent of the time and I don’t want it banging hard as if we were in 1,000 feet of water trying to mark bottom. I want a very gentle, quiet ping and Raymarine gives that to you with very few button pushes so you don’t have to go back deep in the menus.”

For him, eyeballing fish is always preferred, but a good show of bait on his Raymarine units or at the surface also sparks hope.

“It’s frequently physically seeing fish, but it can also be a good push of bait — anything that says the sailfish might be there,” Sapp said. “I don’t believe they feed on flying fish very frequently, but the flyers certainly get out of their way when the sailfish are coming.

“So, if I see a push of bait, or little needlefish or ballyhoo skipping, I’ll try to get in line with that because it often turns into sailfish bites.”

Dieterle uses a Raymarine eS125 for his chart plotter and the CP570 for his sonar. The latter proves particularly helpful in dialing in sailfish location. His experience marking marlin on fish attracting devices (FADs) in the Dominican Republic helped him learn to identify fish on his recorder — a skill he now leverages off the Florida coast.

“Now, when I’m looking for sailfish off the Juno Ledge — a drop from 100 to 130 feet of water — I’ll go up and down that edge and look for the bait,” Dieterle said. “Occasionally, we’ll see what looks like sailfish and when we set up there we’ll get bites.

“It’s crucial when you’re fishing with 30-50 boats in a tournament and you’re going up and down the edge with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line; some guys are just plopping out baits anywhere, but we’re going up and down the line looking for these pods of bait that sailfish have balled up, or any sailfish that are in the area.”

Complementing his sonar views, Dieterle keeps himself in the right neighborhood with ultra high-resolution chartplotter views of the contour lines. Spotting the drops, the pinnacles and any other fish-friendly variances prevents burning time in dead water.

“If you’re not sure where they are, at least pinpoint a spot that looks good, instead of just blind fishing,” Dieterle said.

THE NEW STUFF

New Raymarine Axiom family.
Ever eager to advance his game, Dieterle said he has great expectations for Raymarine’s new Axiom touch-screen multifunction navigation units. For him, the quad-core performance will be game-changing.

“It’s a major breakthrough when you can have everything launching from one transducer, as far as all your sonar stuff, the new Lighthouse 3 operating system, the availability of Navionics, super-fast quad-core processor… it’s amazing technology,” Dieterle said.

“That’s huge because if I get a bite, I want to turn around, mark the spot and keep fishing. I don’t want to sit there and wait for the unit to take forever to acknowledge everything. With the Axiom unit, you hit it, you save it, you go. The speed of this unit is one thing that will be a major help.”
Complementing the tactical advantages, Dieterle also sees Axiom units also enhancing comfort and security.

“When you’re out there and it’s rough and rainy, you’re opening up the console to plug in numbers and when a unit takes forever to load, you’re sitting there soaking things,” he said. “Also it’s a safety thing. When you’re reaching into the box to set up your course, you’re not in stance; it’s kind of awkward. So, when it all goes quickly, that’s great.”


SPREAD OUT

Sailfish fall for a diversity of tactics from trolled plugs and rigged ballyhoo, to bait-and-switch fly fishing techniques. For most, it’s hard to beat a spread of kite baits.

Summarily, a sturdy kite rod deploys a kite clipped to braided line. Snapping a release clip around the fishing line, anglers feed out line from the kite reel and fishing reel simultaneously until the kite’s height suspends a live bait barely below the surface. The bait’s frantic effort to dive deeper creates a constant commotion that sails recognize as vulnerable prey. When a fish grabs a bait, the line pops free from the clip and you’re clear to fight the fish right off the fishing rod.

Experienced crews often run two kites, each with three lines spaced at set distances by stoppers on the kite line. Sapp likes hardy goggle eyes (bigeye scad) on his longest kite lines, with threadfin herring or scaled sardines on the middle and short lines. If the sails show preference for the big baits, he’ll switch them into all positions.

Sapp’s rigging tip: “If the fish are up tailing or free jumping, we’ll switch from bridling them in the back to bridling them through the nose so we can pull them through the water quickly and get in front of sighted fish. You’re less likely to pull them out of the clips when they’re bridled through the nose.”

Complementing his kite baits, Sapp keeps a live herring or sardine rigged on a heavy spinning outfit for casting off the stern. Sight casting or simply throwing to a likely scenario (i.e. bait pushes) often yields the bonus bite.

Dieterle also keeps a live bait on a flat line, but his is more of a steady deployment. He may add a rubber core sinker to probe the water column for deeper sails.

“On full moon, the fish feed will feed more at night and in the daytime, they may not be in their feeding mode up on the surface,” he said. “They’ll sink down, so we’ll keep a bait in the lower two thirds.

“We’ll have one guy that fishes that one line by letting it out or bringing it up. We’ll use a smaller bait; something that can be reeled in a cast quickly if we need to,” Dieterle said.

Tip: Dieterle uses a system of permanent marker dashes on his line to quickly identify the bait’s depth and identify where bites occur. Replicating successful presentations often yields additional bites.

A hooked sailfish will unleash an unforgettable fury of fanciful feats. Hold on tight, Sapp says, and let the fish run its tank dry.

“Don’t horse them, take your time and be gentle, he said. “If you’re using circle hooks, which you should be, they won’t come unhooked.

“Back way off, let them do their thing and when they settle down, reengage.”

Now, sailfishing can be a rapid-fire adrenaline rush with the liquid playing field rapidly shifting moment by moment. That’s why legendary South Florida sailfish captain, Ray Rosher lauds the Raymarine screen clarity – and essential element for timely decisions like those that led him and his Miss Britt / Contender Boats victory in the Bluewater Movements, Inc. 2017 Sailfish Challenge with a total of 16 releases.

“When I’m in the tuna tower in full sun, at a glance, I can determine the depth that I’m fishing or see marks of baitfish or target species on the screen,” he said. “I can gain that information quickly.

“Also, my Raymarine units have a pretty simple operation, so I’m able to (effortlessly) change screens or get the data I need.”

Red Snapper Fishing

Alabama State Waters Open for Red Snapper Fishing Memorial Day Weekend through July
By Major Scott Bannon
from The Fishing Wire

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) has announced that Alabama’s waters will open for the recreational harvest of red snapper from 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 26, through 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 31, 2017. Alabama state waters extend 9 nautical miles from shore. The daily bag limit will be two red snapper per person, and the minimum size will be 16 inches in total length.

The federal red snapper season has not been set by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. For information concerning the federal red snapper season, call (727) 824-5305. NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office also indicated that they will send out a fishery bulletin once the federal season is established.

Fishermen are reminded that they are still required to report their red snapper harvest through Snapper Check to the MRD during this period as well as any other time red snapper are landed in Alabama. Only one report is required per vessel trip, and anglers can provide details via a smartphone app available under “Outdoor Alabama” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores; online at www.outdooralabama.com; or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches. The telephone reporting method is no longer available.

“We received positive feedback last year from the fishing public for the extension of state waters to 9 miles and the state red snapper season in 2016. The public felt that having the fishery open for Memorial Day weekend as well as the prime months of June and July allowed them to spread out their effort and have great family fishing days when the weather was most favorable,” said Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy, Jr. “We feel that setting a similar season for 2017 will give people ample opportunities to access the red snapper fishery in Alabama waters.

“We will continue to work with the federal government and the other Gulf States to responsibly manage this great fishery in federal waters while also allowing proper management in Alabama waters. However, the incredibly short federal red snapper seasons are uncalled for. We have support from our Congressional delegation to make changes in federal fisheries management legislation and we hope to make progress on that front this year,” Guy said.

“The federal red snapper season this year has not been announced but it is anticipated to be very short,” said Deputy Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship “Alabama will use the landings from the Snapper Check program as well as other fisheries information before making any decision on a possible additional red snapper season later in the year.”

A list of public artificial and natural reefs located in Alabama state waters as well as recent reef-building activity by MRD can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/artificial-reefs.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Going with the Flow

Going with the Flow: Power and Passage
By Bill McDavitt, Habitat Conservation Division, NOAA
from The Fishing Wire

If you’re a fish returning from the ocean to lay your eggs in fresh water, you face some daunting challenges. You have to escape hungry predators in the ocean and in the river. You have to avoid fishing lines and nets. In the many rivers, you have to find your way past dams, up fish ladders, and through culverts. And you have to find just the right kind of river bottom for laying your eggs.

One of the many obstacles you might run into is a hydropower dam. These dams are built across rivers to harness the power of the moving water. Part of my job as a habitat biologist is to make sure that fish are able to get where they need to go to lay their eggs so that there will be more fish for the future. That often means making sure there’s enough water in the rivers. To do that, I work with hydropower companies on something called “minimum flows.”

Hydropower 101

All hydropower projects have a choice to make about the water that arrives at the dam. Do they put all the water through a powerhouse to generate electricity? Or, do they let some of that water spill over the dam? Some facilities also have a power canal—it diverts the river into a canal that goes into the powerhouse. These can increase the amount of electricity the facility generates because the difference in water levels above the powerhouse and below the powerhouse are higher than if the powerhouse was located right at the dam. All hydropower dams have a bypass reach. Bypass reaches allow water that isn’t going through the powerhouse to go around it. Bypass reaches provide safe passage around the dam for migrating fish.

Flows High and Low

The two pictures to the right are the same location on the Merrimack River, but taken at different times. You can see the power canal that feeds water to the powerhouse on the left sides. The bypass reach is to the right of the narrower power canal. Water is flowing from the top of the photo to the bottom.

When flows are high, everyone is happy!

The top photo was taken in the spring, when flows were very high. There is plenty of water going down the power canal. The powerhouse is receiving as much water as it can, and is near its maximum generation ability. The whitewater at the top of the photo is spilling over the dam and isn’t used to generate electricity. The spilled water is flowing down the bypass reach. There is good habitat for migratory fish, such as alewife and American shad, in this bypass reach. When there is plenty of water in the bypass reach, there is plenty of room for fish such as alewife, blueback herring and American to move upstream to reach their spawning habitat that is upstream of the hydropower project.

When flows are low, fish habitat shrinks.

The lower photo was taken during the late summer when flows can be very low. Water is still in the power canal, but very little is spilling over the dam—not much room for fish in the bypass reach.

Working Collaboratively

By working with the hydropower companies and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, we figure out what the minimum flow should be for the fish that live in these rivers. That minimum flow is then required as a permit condition to operate the dam. Even when water is low, the facility has to keep a minimum amount of water flowing through the bypass reach.

Why Does It Matter?

In the state of Maine alone, sea-run fish—those that go back and forth from river to sea—have lost access to a staggering 90 percent of their historic habitat. Populations have declined dramatically, and some species, like Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon, and shortnose sturgeon, are endangered.

Access to river habitat for these fish, as well as American shad, alewife, sea lamprey, striped bass, rainbow smelt, blueback herring, and brook trout, is an important part of healthy freshwater and nearshore marine ecosystems. These fish have supported recreational and commercial fisheries in the past. They also are favorite prey of fish like cod, haddock, and striped bass.

Making sure that fish have enough water to swim, feed, and reproduce in will help restore some of these populations to their former healthy sizes. This will, in turn, help bring back other fish populations and feed marine and land mammals, too. For those that enjoy recreational fishing for these fish, it can also increase the chances of catching one.

Tracking Movements of Permit and Tarpon

Focusing the lens: tracking movements of permit and tarpon in the Keys and beyond
From www.moldychum.com
from The Fishing Wire

This tarpon and permit tagging project overview is the kickoff of a collaboration between Dr. Andy Danylchuk, Fish Mission, and Moldy Chum.

The research on this ambitious project includes Dr. Danylchuk, along with Lucas Griffin and Dr. Jack Finn (UMass Amherst), Dr. Jake Brownscombe and Dr. Steven Cooke (Carleton University), and Dr. Aaron Adams (BTT).

The Big Three

The ‘Big Three’ flats fish – bonefish, permit, and tarpon – support exciting and productive recreational fisheries throughout the Western Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, these fish are not immune to, as Sandy Moret once put it, the “weight of humanity”. Although predominately catch-and-release species, all of the ‘Big Three’ have suffered from overexploitation and disturbances related to coastal development. To manage and conserve these fish, it is critical that we understand how they make a living, what constitutes their essential habitats, and when and how they move – something scientists call their ‘spatial ecology’.

For bonefish, numerous scientific studies are completed or ongoing focusing on their movements and habitat use in The Bahamas. For example, a study published in 2011 identified an offshore spawning location for bonefish in Eleuthera. This type of information is essential for protecting key habitats for bonefish, for example, from the development of shipping channels or ports. In Florida, however, we still have much to learn about the spatial ecology of the Big Three – ironically, the putative birthplace of flats fishing. Although we have our own observations and anecdotes, information on the essential fish habitat for permit and tarpon is especially scarce.

Permit

While often targeting by anglers on the flats, conventional wisdom suggests permit spend the majority of their time in deeper water around natural and artificial reefs and shipwrecks, which are also essential spawning habitats. It is here, in deeper waters, where anglers and spear-fishers more commonly target them for harvest, often around their spawning aggregations when they are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, recent reports from guides and anglers suggest their numbers are declining. A Special Permit Zone was recently established around the Florida Keys including nearshore reefs and shipwrecks, which places greater restrictions on permit harvest, yet it does not prohibit it. Because we know so little about permit movements and population dynamics, it is uncertain whether the current regulations will conserve permit populations and support productive fisheries. In particular, it is unclear what proportion of the population migrates into shallow water flats to feed which in turn supports the flats fishery, and how frequent permit move between flats habitats and nearshore structures.

Tarpon

Although tarpon, like permit, are targeted between the flats and deeper waters, their complex movements between the two have left many guides and anglers ruminating at night: Just how much do fish move between various regions of the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic? What proportion of tarpon are ‘residents’? Is there a certain size when tarpon begin to migrate, or is it some other trigger? Do tarpon use the same spawning sites each year? Do changes in freshwater flows into coastal areas, including the Florida Everglades, Apalachicola, St. Lucie River, Caloosahatchee River, and Indian River Lagoon, influence tarpon movements and determine the movement patterns and habitat use of tarpon? A few of these questions tried to be answered with satellite tags, but there are considerable limitations to this technology that limited insights into the spatial ecology of the silver king.

The Research

To answer some of these pressing questions, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, in collaboration with Carleton University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Florida International University, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, are conducting acoustic telemetry studies to track permit and tarpon movements throughout the flats, nearshore reefs, shipwrecks, and coastal waters across the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic. These projects involve surgically implanting ultrasonic transmitters into fish and tracking their positions using receivers (listening stations) throughout the Florida Keys and beyond. Along with BTT sponsored receivers, other scientists and research institutions have invested in identical receivers along the continental US coast, and this larger network of receivers greatly increases the ability to detect tagged permit and tarpon as they cruise coastal waters well beyond the Florida Keys.

These studies will enable us to understand the extent of permit and tarpon home ranges, the frequency with which they visit the flats and deeper waters, and the timing and locations of their spawning activity. With the collaborative help from anglers, guides, and scientists, the information gathered from these studies will be critical for the proper conservation of these two important members of the Florida Grand Slam.

Support

Photo: Fish Mission/Andy Danylchuk
These integrated projects would not be possible without the generosity and expertise of local guides. Many thanks to all the great Captains including Will Benson, Brandon and Jared Cyr, Danny Flynn, Travis and Bear Holeman, Sandy Horn, Rob Kramarz, Jordan Pate, Zach Stells, Jason Sullivan, J.R. Waits, and Newman Weaver, to name just a few. Additional support for these projects comes from Costa Del Mar, The March Merkin Permit Fishing Tournament, Hell’s Bay Boatworks, Mavericks Boats, Cabin Bluff as well as from private donations. Donors may sponsor individual tags or receivers, and in return receive information on their tagged permit or tarpon, as well as updates on its movements over time.

If you are interested in supporting these projects, please click on the following links.

For Permit

For Tarpon
You can also contact Mark Rehbein, BTT Director of Development and Communications at 703-350-9195 or mark@bonefishtarpontrust.org

Written by Dr. Jake Brownscombe (Carleton University), Lucas Griffin (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Dr. Andy Danylchuk (University of Massachusetts Amherst).

See more like this at www.moldychum.com.

How To Catch Redfish

Redfish Bonanza
By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
from The Fishing Wire

Venice Louisiana has to be one of the best if not the very best location in America for both inshore and off shore fishing! Factor in the ability to pursue inshore species all year long such as Redfish, Sheepshead or Tripletail and these three alone are enough to entice most anglers. However, inshore angling in Venice has many more species to offer within its shallow grassy contours, such as Speckled Trout, Flounder, Black Drum and even largemouth bass.

October can be primetime to target both larger Bull Reds as well as smaller more palatable Juvenile Redfish within the Mississippi Rivers backwater estuaries. Better know as the ‘Marsh’ these shallow water areas are filled with wildlife activity and spawning Redfish. (The Redfish spawn occurs from August into November.)

Cruising through the narrow channels framed by tall walls of canes sends flocks of various bird species to flight. Then without warning these narrow channels open up to backwater ponds ranging in size with varying depths of crystal clear water. Scanning the pond areas reveals thick clumps of vegetation scattered throughout the opening. Pockets and coves filled with matted grass intertwined with lily pad fields and stalks of cane beckoning anglers to cast in every direction.

The Venice tidal water environments comprise of twisting and turning salt marsh channel networks offering forage and predatory species an abundant assortment of mixed vegetation for shelter and ambush points alike. Schools of Mullet’s are endlessly on the move, leaping out of the water, while swimming full speed through the channels and around the backwater ponds.

If you have experienced the heart throbbing thrill of hard pulling striped bass making long never-ending runs, then you will surely enjoy battling Bull Redfish. Just when you think these Bull Reds are ready to come aboard they suddenly peel drag from your reel making long head thrashing runs over and over again. Patience is the key to success with Bull Reds!

Bull Redfish are normally 30 inches or longer and may range anywhere between 15 to 40 plus-pounds. While Bull Redfish normally are attracted to rocky jetties, outcroppings, manmade structures and oilrigs, during the winter months it is not uncommon for bulls to move near-shore or inshore. Juvenile Redfish (Under 30″.) mostly occupy inshore estuaries all within the ‘Marsh’, cruising sand bottoms and grassy areas feeding on oysters, crabs, shrimp, mullets, pinfish and mud minnows. However, these energetic bottom feeders have been known to inhale topwater baits.

I utilize the same tackle arsenal for either bull reds or juvenile redfish. Long rods are imperative for keeping pressure on redfish and your hooks pegged. Reels with larger spools holding more line eliminate being spooled, while the parabolic action of your rod absorbs the hard thrashing runs of a big bull red.

I prefer St. Croix IPC Avid Inshore 7’6″ medium heavy power fast action BC III graphite spinning rods, saddled with a Diawa 3000 Laguna spinning reel, spooled with Seaguar 40 lb. Smack Down Braided line. The vegetation within the marsh can be unforgiving to most lines braided line on the other hand has the ability to cut through most vegetation eliminating break-offs. (www.StCroixrods.com, www.seaguar.com)

When it comes to preferred redfish baits, most seasoned anglers keep it simple. Plastic 3″- 4″- 5″ MinnowZ and DieZel MinnowZ impelled unto pointed jigheads such as the TroutEye and RedfishEye jigheads are most common. The pointed jighead allows your bait to come through vegetation and canes easily when pitched or flipped into pockets. Retrieve speed varies depending upon the activity level, at times a slow crawl with a sudden hop in your cadence triggers strikes.

The advantage of ZMan’s ElaZtech buoyant material to float up off the bottom when impelled unto ZMan’s Redfish Eye Jigheads, TT Lures HeadlockZ HD, Jig HeadZ, or Top Brass’s ‘Super Spike’ Jighead (www.TopBrass.com), all make for the perfect natural presentation when chasing bottom-feeding Redfish.

A few other baits that produce well include; ChatterBait’s, Z-Man’s DieZel ChatterBait, DieZel Spins and one of my ‘now’ favorite hard baits Rat-L-Traps. More often than not all of these baits favor long cast to trigger reaction strikes, especially when sight fishing or when redfish blowup on schools of baitfish.

When it comes to eating redfish they are delicious! And, as with most edible fish there is a slot size that offers the best taste. Louisiana limits an angler to five-redfish per day, with a minimum length of 16 inches and only one of these five redfish may exceed 27 inches. Anglers anticipating a redfish dinner prefer redfish within the twenty to twenty-five inch lengths.

Anglers looking for an exciting excellent winter fishing trip would be wise to contact any of the following outstanding Professional Guide Services:

Captain Mike Frenette at www.RedfishLodgeofLouisiana.com or call Captain Mike @ 1.504.78.0924.
Captain Scott MacCalla at www.RedFishonFly.com or call Captain Scott @ 1.321.795.9259

Best Bassin’

Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau