Tales of a Fisherman
I began writing Fish Tales about six
years ago. There have been so many memorable adventures over the
years and I will share some of them with you from time to time.
Let me know if you enjoy them.....
Click on a title to go to that Fish Tale.
Catfishin' On the New River....
2. Everglades Fever....
3. Are Bass
Really That Dumb???
4. D-Day Hero
5. Remember When....
6. Spring for another
on the High keys.....
8. Clear the Bridge.....
9. Tall Shrimp Tales.....
10. Top Water rules.....
11. The Christmas Gift....
12. Add One spoonful of
13. Summertime Flats
I’ve caught trout in the mountains of
California, bass in the lakes of Oklahoma, catfish in the rivers of West
Virginia and many places in between. Fishing is not an art, but a getaway from
all the stress and turmoil out in the world. I cherish each time I can get out
on the open water. It’s the best way to relax, contemplate and solve the riddles
of the sand. I intend to keep on fishing as long as I can grasp a pole and turn
the crank of a reel.
It’s part of my life and it’s been a wonderful life.
I’ve been fishing since I was a small boy growing up on the Elk River in West
Virginia. Lots of memories from those times have kept me fishing to this day.
Having an old flat bottomed, wooden boat, that usually always had some kind of
leak, was an exciting Saturday morning on the river there. I spent a lot of time
exploring that river. Caught a lot of fish and had many days of exploring
islands and swimming in the water. I think that is where I developed my love for
the water and appreciation for all it has to offer. Those fun filled days will
always remain with me each time I get out on the water.
I remember my dad showing me how to set up a trot line with Ivory soap for bait.
People still to this day laugh at me about that, but it sure as hell works. I
remember lots of catfish filling up a stringer off that trot line. Maybe I can
do that again some day back up in those hills. There is a mystery to the water,
no matter where you are. You watch it and see how it rolls and winds on its way
to a destination unknown. You try to understand its movements and what each wave
or ripple might mean underneath the surface.
Think I can always remember having that love of the water. Nothing is so
relaxing as being there. Go back in those islands and get lost for a few hours
from the rest of the world. Watch the birds feeding on the flats and mullet
feeding in that shallow water making ripples to break the still water, suddenly
startled by an eruption from a school of jacks exploding a school of baitfish.
It’s a wonderful life here.
Don’t know why I never decided to keep a written log before now. All the trips
and mishaps throughout the years would surely keep one laughing for days. But
here I am now trying to look back, put some of it into words and lay down a path
for the future. I do hope to keep this log up to date with all the fun I expect
to continue to have……fish or no fish.
I don’t expect everyone to feel the same excitement or humor from these tales.
They are tales of myself and my friends. They are special memories to all of us
and hopefully they will bring a smile to those who might choose to read some of
them. Here are some of the Fish Tales of my life……
Top Water Rules….
Watching that first hint of light coming up from the eastern shoreline is a
spectacular experience. It doesn’t matter how many times you are out there on
the water at first light, it’s a thrill that overtakes you with the beauty of
the sky and water. I live it as often as I can.
There’s something about fishing that early in the morning. Maybe it’s the
scenery or just the quietness around you, but you become part of that moment.
Watching the calmness of the water out on the flats as the sun creeps up ever so
slightly. You find yourself taking in every movement or sound around you at that
time of the morning. Every ripple or splash on the water commands your keen eye
and ear to see what might be the underlying cause of it.
This is the perfect time of the day for top water lures. Nothing can draw the
attention of a redfish, snook or trout on the flats like it. There are many
brands, types and colors of top water lures. Most of us have tried most of them
at one time or another. They make different types of sounds and motions when in
use and we all have our favorites. That feeling that there is gonna be an
eruption on that lure at any second is excitement enough. Sometimes you can see
it coming and other times it comes when you least expect it to happen. Keeps
that ol’ heart pumping for sure.
A trusty Chug Bug.....
My favorite top water lure is the Storm Chug Bug. It’s been a faithful lure for
many years with me. I recently sent a photo of one of my favorite ones to Storm
with all the scars and bent hooks on it. Unfortunately the next day, a nice
snook snapped it off and took it to places unknown that morning. I faithfully
always start with a red and white color. It has been the old reliable for most
fishermen for as many years as anyone can remember.
That color works on most fish, especially on the flats. Jacks, Bluefish and
Tarpon are also fond of that color. Never be afraid to try something
different….color or kind of lure. If something isn’t working, they try another
The way you work a top water lure is important. It’s what gets the attention of
the fish and ultimately determines if it is gonna hit or not. Again, try
different ways of retrieving it. Sometimes a slow, teasing retrieve will work
fantastic, while the next time you may have to jerk the paint off the lure to
get some action. Vary your retrieves until you find what is working for you.
Most of the time, I find that the erratic, noisy method on the flats works well
more often than not.
I love the popping sound that the Chug Bug makes. Some lures, like the Zara
Spook and others, are more effective “Walking the dog”. They zigzag along the
water with each twitch of the rod and make both a great sound and motion to
resemble a wounded baitfish.
Everyone finds one that suits their purpose and relies on it for success. If you
haven’t given top water lures a chance, try some and I’m sure you become
addicted like a lot of us.
I’ve had much success over the years using top water lures. There is little that
rivals that feeling you experience when that shallow water explodes with a gator
trout slamming your lure. And even when one gets off and gives you the fin, you
still feel like you’ve conquered it. The next time you are out there and see
just a hint of light along the horizon…….tie on a top water lure…they rule!
Tall Shrimp Tales…
Once upon a time, long, long ago on a bridge now forgotten, I remember
dipping my first shrimp. I had lived here in Florida for nearly a year and by
that time I had been exploring fishing holes and the attraction of the waters.
I had met my buddy, Pat, who was a born and raised Florida cracker. I guess he
had tried most everything once and a few things twice by the time I had met him.
He had been telling me about catching shrimp in the Banana River while he was
growing up and sure enough, I bit on it. It was time to try another Florida
We didn’t have a boat back in those days, so we purchased a Coleman lantern and
two 18’ shrimp nets from our local Wal-Mart and headed down one of the bridges
crossing the Banana River in Cocoa Beach. I was a virgin to shrimping and had to
let the master instruct me in that fine art. Tying off the lantern just above
the water line from the bridge, we awaited the running of the shrimp. (Sounds
like a similar occurrence with the bulls in Spain…huh?) I realized after a while
that we weren’t the only ones that knew of this ancient art. The bridge was
lined with people waiting to get their share of the booty.
So it appeared that we had a six or eight swath that we could call our territory
to catch those little boogers. Bring it on!
We had bought along a six pack of beer and a huge bag of Wise hot pork
rinds……just the thing for a health conscious individual. The pork rinds became a
tradition on those trips.
Soon the sun had set and the light dimmed slowly along the skyline. It was time
for some heavy duty shrimping! I no longer remember how many we caught that
first night. The memory recalls some nights catching plenty to other nights of
seeing the bottom of that five gallon bucket at two a.m. But it was fun and a
great way to plan fishing trips and solving all the worlds problems in a few
One such evening, Pat was telling tales of earlier days when the kids would
throw things out of their cars at the people shrimping. We were just in the
middle of that conversation, when all of a sudden I heard a tremendous crash on
the chain link fence. Looking over at Pat, I suddenly realized that he was
covered head to toe in a dozen exploded raw eggs. I had luckily been standing
next to him so the his body blocked the blast from hitting me. Naturally, I
laughed at him till I had tears in my eyes. Steam was coming out of his ears,
but he could do nothing. So I continued to laugh….
Pat with a nights catch.....
Pat and I cleaning our nights work....
Sometime later, we began shrimping in my first boat down here. It was just an
11’ john boat from the Sears & Roebuck catalog, but it was the new shrimp mobile
for sure. We began heading off most every Saturday evening to Haulover Canal up
in Merritt Island.
It became one of those weekly adventures that you look forward to the challenge
of competing for those tasty treats. Many haps and mishaps came out of those
We would take a hundred hotter-n-hell wings up there and enjoy breathing fire
while waiting for the sun to drift off in the west. Of course the raccoons
reeked the benefit of spicy wing bones for dinner, too. Soon darkness would
arrive and it was time to set up for the night. Imagine an 11’ john boat loaded
down with equipment and two grown men……little left of a waterline to work with.
We would have to give each other ample notice of any movement to prepare
yourself to prevent the ever present danger of sinking. Heck, it was dark so we
didn’t worry so much about it most of the time.
I can still hear Pat yelling at me to dip up a whole wad of seaweed that he could
see a number of shrimp clinging on to it. He would just scream, “Dip it….just dip
it!” It was always interesting to see how much seaweed ended up in the cooler.
Laughing and re-living every line of “Caddyshack” and “Animal House”, we would
scan the water for any movement. In the hot summer, you could see the trout
swimming under the boat when the phosphorescence would get high. It was an eerie
Some nights we would fill a five gallon bucket and others come home with not
much more than the scent of seaweed. But it was the opportunity of being in the
outdoors that kept us coming back each week. I think our friendship became
stronger through the trials and triumphs of each trip.
I am sure Pat remembers the night we took my father-in-law up there to show him
how we catch shrimp. One of those nights from hell was about to begin…. Bill and
Lillian had come down to visit and, as it was our custom, we took him out on our
excursions. Arriving at Haulover Canal just after dark, Pat and I started wading
around the edge of the canal and dipping shrimp in our nine foot shrimp nets.
Bill was standing on the bank watching us in awe and wondering if there were any
shrimp in the trap we had placed in the water.
I kept hearing a strange sound off in the distance. Sort of a
putt….putt…putt….putt…putt. It seemed to be getting nearer. I just figured it
was another boat coming down the canal search out a place to anchor and gave it
no other thoughts. We kept on shrimping and had what looked like fifty shrimp in
the bucket by then. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves as always. Showing
off to Bill on how we could catch so many shrimp.
Suddenly, that putt….putt….putt turned into a shadow that gave me one horrifying
thought. “Marine Patrol”, yelled Pat and I in unity. We almost walked across the
water to get to the bank and my mind was trying to think of how the hell to get
out of this mess. You see, at night in Haulover Canal you must be in a boat. I
told poor Bill to get in the car, making no explanation. Pat had no time to get
in as he had both nine foot nets. I just said, “I’ll come back and get you”, as
I sped off with Bill. While we sat a half mile from Pat, I explained to Bill
what had just about happened. I left him with the car and slowly…and I mean
s-l-o-w-l-y…..walked back to where Pat was. I met him halfway and could see the
paleness in his face as we met. He had hidden among the bushes with the two
nets, while being eaten alive by mosquitoes. The officers had found our bucket
of shrimp and the trap also. They kept saying something some old man with white
hair on the bank.
On the way home, we could finally laugh over the experience. We were afraid to
tell the wives about the near disaster. That would come another day when
everyone might think it was funny. Never was sure how Bill felt about nearly
being arrested, but we still talk of that trip today. Bill passed away a few
years ago and I will always miss his company on some of those trips. Lives
change and you move on, but memories of these experiences stay with you a
Every trip became another adventure that bought some event to bring a smile to
your face. I could go on for many pages on our experiences in shrimping. It’s
remembrances that I can always look back at and manage to bring out another
laugh at another Fish Tale…..
Clear The Bridge…
I’ve met a lot of people in these 50 plus years of
mine. Have never figured out how most come and go, but a few select people
remain forever. Pat and I are that way, and now came Gary. Another one of those
people who remain attached to your life as a friend, brother and buddy that will
outlast most other friendships. We are the three Stooges….the Marx Brothers…and
“Animal House” all rolled up into three individuals who have a camaraderie like
no others. We are all different ages, different backgrounds and different lives,
but when it’s time for another adventure….look out!
Gary and I got to know each other at work (another tale for another day) and decided one day to go out fishing
That’s all it took was one day. Gary lived here in Port St. Lucie then and we
would get out once a week or so. Started catching snook and redfish like a
professional in no time. We got to know where the redfish and snook moved and
never had a bad day fishing. Gary caught his biggest snook in Ft. Pierce one
cool, sunny spring morning. Up by one of our favorite mangrove islands, Gary
cast his trusty Cotee shad. The water erupted in a loud splash of salty water.
Gary’s rod bent over almost double as the big fish fought to free itself from
the little white jig. After a short battle, Gary got the fish next to the boat.
As we bought it into the Islander, you could see every tooth in Gary’s mouth
from the grin he was showing and believe me that wasn‘t a pretty sight! What a
day fishing. We continued to catch fish that day, but nothing could top that big
ol’ snook. We caught five or six slot sized redfish along with a smorgasbord of
other fish. Nothing topped that snook on that day!
We spent one entire day of fishing on planning a joke on Pat. Pat had gotten his
captain’s license about that time and was all proud of getting sponsors and
doing charters. He had made the mistake of telling me about going to meet some
reps from G Loomis about sponsorship. It was too high priced for his needs.
Hell, who needs that to catch catfish! So we planned the whole scheme that
day. I would send Pat a letter to inform him that he had been one of the 100
guides from across America to test out the latest innovations in fly fishing. He
would be sent one of the new G Loomis Millennium 2000 fly rods to test out for
the summer and give his monthly feedback reports on its performance. It had the
latest technology in graphite and monosodium glutamates to enhance its action. I
think I typed up a three page letter about that make believe fishing rod. I have
never laughed so hard as we planned and tried to see his excitement and swelled
head over this letter. I copied their logo onto the letter and envelop to send
it off to the ever gullible Pat. We would let it brew in him for a week or two
and then the big finale……. I would mail him a nice, new cane pole with a bow
attached to it! Great plan, huh? This couldn’t fail…. Only one thing came in
between the plan and it’s success. I forgot to change the font on my computer
and the rat figured it out. We still laugh to this day about what could have
Gary and I continued to fish regularly while he and Shelli lived here. When he
was transferred, it was a part of my life gone from this town. Between the three
amigos, we would have to rely on road trips to get together and find time to
fish and laugh. A few miles would not keep us from our need to enjoy the water.
Their couch bears many nights of my crashing there for one of those fishing
I’ve never figured out what Shelli thinks of the three of us. She usually just
shakes her head and laughs. Guess she knows it keeps us out of trouble…………
Gary and Pat on another adventure...
The newest Submariner Captain in Florida....
He traded his Trophy off for a flats boat. An Eagle flats boat of about 15’ so
he could get out there and get into some reds and snook. Went out with him
several times while he owned that boat. Pat always teased him about his “Beagle”
flats boat. We had plans to make him a T-Top out of 2x4's and a plastic
garbage bag as a joke. He was proud of that boat and so were both Pat and
myself. But we would sure never show it to Gary. It would take away
from the constant bashings we always shared with each other. Everyone
would get their turn in time.....
Gary came down one day to visit and we took his boat out on the St.
Lucie River. Didn’t catch anything, but a good time that day. Had fun exploring
the river and planning more fishing trips in the future. The next day, Gary went
out in Cocoa Beach and got into some redfish action….or so he says.
Unfortunately, on his way back to the ramp, the Eagle landed and became a
submarine that day. All you could see was his new conning tower and periscope.
Gary would die rather than call Pat or me for help. He called everyone else
except us. He knew we both would have rushed to help him in his hour of
need……well, after we spent three hours of laughing, taking pictures, mapping and
calling CNN about his plight! That was the last of the Eagle. Pat and I finally
gave Gary his Submariner’s License at a fishing tournament this past year. I’m
not sure if he was embarrassed or proud?? “White Beagle Down!”
Gary, Pat and I remain the best of friends. Still getting together often to fish
and relive the past memories, while planning those future trips. We trash each
other whenever the chance might arise and showing no mercy. We
are three brothers who enjoy sharing the adventures and mis-adventures of our
trips. Every new trip is an exciting part of our lives. I couldn’t ask for two
better friends to share these trips with. Those fishing trips wouldn’t have been
the same without them. And I sure wouldn’t be here writing these tales if I had
gone with anyone but them. I guess when you think of it…..we are living the
Spring For Another Pitcher
Well, it was time for another
fishing tournament. We had been planning for another local, friends tournament
since last October’s Hunt for Beer and Wings. That's what Pat had named
our first tournament. Pat, Steve, Gary and I had been working on the
details for several months and getting some of our friends to plan on coming to
it. Again, $25.00 entry fees which the winner kept the remainder after the
celebration at the Redfish Inn in Port St John. We had been pretty excited as
this day approached and had even got up there to fish a couple of times to get
We had about 20 or so people show up at the ramp that morning around 6 am to get
going. Pat and I both got there a little after five am to get our boats in the
water and enjoy the moment. One by one, the boats rolled in and everyone was
more than excited to get out on the water. The guys that fished last fall had
been hoping for this day, since everyone had such a great time in October. We
were all ready to go.... full of anticipation and smiles!
Across the water, we went with the other boats starting to disperse in different
directions of the river. Pat and I both had decided to fish within sight of each
other’s boat that day. We headed across the river to the Rinker Canal to get
some bait and begin the day. It wasn’t long before we both had enough live
mullet in the live wells to get us through the day. Gary, Bert and I began along
the shorelines casting everything we could think of, in hopes of catching a nice
redfish. We had seen a few up on the flats but didn’t manage anything in that
early morning. We were just about to leave the Rinker area, when Pat got on the
radio and let us know he had just boated a 30” red on a live mullet along the
shoreline. Darn him…..of all people to catch the first fish! Now his head would
swell and really show off that bald spot! Oh well, we kept on fishing in hopes
to eventually top that fish.
We had just started motoring off the shore, when we heard another call on the
VHF that another boat had landed a 31” redfish and that took Pat out of the
picture for now. I think you get the picture with three anglers smiling and
laughing about that! We didn’t care who won….as long as it wasn’t Pat!
Yes....there were some high fives going on in my boat!
I took Fish Tales down to Pine Island a short run south of us. We slowly pulled
up onto the flats and began moving along the shallow water and casting spoons,
soft baits and jigs. We were in less than a foot of water by now. We were near
bottoming out several times as we kept moving across the clean water. Gary and I
were trying to show Bert how to watch for different movements on the water to
find redfish or bait. He is new to river fishing and we were trying to give him
a few lessons on reading the water. All of us were just having fun being on the
water, whether we caught any fish or not.
I spotted some movement ahead of the boat that looked like a submarine cruising
just below the surface. I pointed it out to Gary and Bert told them that wasn’t
no Hank William’s song, but a school of reds moving across the flats. Not
waiting for anyone, I cast my Captain Mike’s spoon in front of the school and
after a couple of bumps, my line began to move with the school. I reared back on
my Okuma outfit and set the hook on a nice redfish that realized that the thing
he had just picked up was biting back! Seconds later, Gary set the hook on
another redfish on a Cotee Jig….a double! Bert tried to make it a triple,
but the school had moved just past casting distance by now.
I had to loosen my drag on this horse, as it wasn’t the normal slot fish. It
swam out from the boat where I could just see it and another redfish swimming
next to it. A beautiful sight to witness in such shallow water. Of course, it
swam away from the boat and I kept working it to tire it out and get it turned
back to us. Meanwhile, Gary was fighting his red also and had gotten it turned
towards us by then. He said it felt smaller then mine but was still a nice fish.
Soon, he got it boated and proudly held up a 24 inch redfish he had caught on a
Cotee jig. The reds there in that clean environment are such a gorgeous shade of
pink in the sunlight.
I was still fighting my fish for a while longer. By now, I had it turned and was
working it back towards the boat with a net and camera awaiting it. As we got it
in the boat, we all smiled and high-fived ourselves on our accomplishment. What
a morning so far! We took some pictures and measured the fish three times to
make sure of it, but we had landed a 32 inch redfish and were now in first place
so far! I was exhausted and happy!
32” Redfish caught on the flats….
First place trophy….
We moved up to the clam leases and fished some live bait there and let Bert fly
fish for some trout. We were just waiting for the end of the tournament and see
if we had won. The weather and fish had all been more than cooperative and
we kicked back for a while and enjoyed the moment. It had been a great
morning so far. Nothing like just relaxing and waiting on the water.
We decided about 11:30 am to
head back to the dock and pick up the stuff for the celebration and head on over
to the Redfish Inn. Now, if you have heard of Gary’s boat handling, then you can
understand what happened next. Just to give you a quick note, Gary is the
first flats boat owner that has earned his submariners license.....enough said!
I was just stepping out on the dock, when Gary put it in reverse to keep from
hitting the dock and unfortunately, I couldn’t keep my balance and SPLASH into
the water I went. Don’t ever do something dumb around a boat ramp, since there
are always people there to laugh their asses off at you!
All wet and soggy, we headed downriver to the Inn and started celebrating the
day. Gradually, all the fishermen arrived their and we ordered up beer and wings
for all. This year, we had prized and raffles to make it fun for everyone
and I think just about everyone went home with something. Me……I went home with
the gaudy trophy and a couple hundred bucks for my first place redfish. Pat….he
came in fourth and went home holding his fishing rod. I don’t think we could
have had a better time. All the guys were asking when we could do another
tournament and why did we have to wait till October.
Now it’s time to plan for our Keys trip in June…..another adventure yet to come!
I grew up knowing he
was a hero, while it took the rest of world fifty years to realize that. I had
always had an un-ending interest in D-Day since I first found out that he had
landed on those beaches sixty years ago. He seldom talked about it. I remember
asking him questions for so many school projects. He would always break out in
tears for his friends that are still there. It took fifty years before he could
begin to tell his story and what he had been though.
He was among the first waves of troops that landed on Omaha Beach on June 6,
1944. Most of his friends didn’t make it that day. When I look at the footage of
that landing, it makes you wonder how anyone could have survived. He was one of
the lucky ones that day. A few days later, on June 13th, he would be wounded and
his involvement in the war would end. He had been part of history on that
morning. They had changed the world that day.
He found some of his old buddies over the years and that helped him to begin to
talk about it. There were annual meetings for them all to renew friendships and
help each other cope with their feelings. I was happy to hear about their
gatherings. When they finished the D-Day Memorial, I don’t think anyone was
prouder than him.
I tried to get him to go back to Normandy for the fiftieth anniversary some ten
years ago. I think emotionally more than physically, he could not bear to go.
The world had finally realized how important that day had been in history. I had
known it all along. I got to see some of the tribute that the State of West
Virginia did for D-Day and recognized him for his heroism. I wish they had done
it long before fifty years had passed by.
Over the years, I see America remember D-Day for a few days a year in their
honor. I see him remember it every day of his life. Everyone has someone
in their life that they look up to. I just wanted to tell my dad that he has
always been my hero. I’m proud of you!
Happy Father's Day!
I would have to say that this tale
more about what a fisherman is willing to endure for that special moment on the
water, rather than fishing. I have been on some very interesting trips in these
fifty-some years, but this trip topped even my level of toleration for fishing.
Most fishermen experience one of these trips, sooner or later…
Our second big adventure was to Flamingo, the southernmost point of Florida
before the Keys, right smack in the middle of the Everglades. As usual, we
packed and were ready for the trip weeks ahead of it. There’s something about a
fishing excursion that brings out both the beast and little boy in us.
Excitement kept building up to the night we left for there. Another big
adventure was about to begin!
Jason and his old tri-hull was going this time. We needed a boat and he was the
ride we wanted. Jason was a young, pimple-headed sixteen year old that we had
included in many of our fishing trips back then. It didn’t bother us that we
would bash, trash and smash him the whole trip. He had become used to our antics
by now. Off to another adventure! Leaving just after work on a Thursday evening,
we drove straight to Flamingo. It seems that we always want to watch the sun
come up on these trips and end up leaving sometime in the middle of the night,
when we can’t take the anticipation anymore. We finally arrived at the park with
our minds in a whirl of plans and thoughts of the approaching mornings fishing.
Didn’t think too much about only a few RV’s and no tents in the campground as we
drove around the sites. There wasn’t even a ranger to check in with. Camping
spots were our choice all over the huge park. This was great! We would have most
of the park to ourselves to enjoy. What on earth could go wrong this time?
We selected a campsite that we liked and started unpacking to set up. As soon as
we opened the doors, we suddenly realized why the campground was so empty.
Clouds of mosquitoes swarmed all over us while we scrambled to set up camp. We
quickly ate something that I no longer remember since we choked it down so fast.
A team of raccoons invaded camp while we were trying to enjoy a hasty dinner.
Hell, I think Pat used to eat those things before he found out they were high in
cholesterol. We made a mad dash for tents to turn in and get ready for some much
needed fishing time the next day. After spending ten minutes killing them damn
skeeters inside the tent….we drifted off actually hearing them hitting the sides
of the tent, trying to get in. Surely, tomorrow will be better than tonight.
There were sounds of those raccoons out there getting into something that we no
longer cared what it was……
The following day, I was sure that the mosquito armada would be gone. Hell
no….they were right there waiting for us and had invited all their friends and
neighbors. Pat went to make some coffee and found out what the raccoons had
gotten into! They had bitten holes in the water jugs and it had all drained off.
So much for an enjoyable breakfast! We somehow managed to get something in our
bellies before we were eaten and then headed down to the ramp. You can fish out
in Florida Bay or fish the back country. It’s a wild place to see and experience
The mosquitoes did finally disappear, just as the no-see-ums came out. Those
boogers have teeth the size of a pit bull. I’ve never seen anything so small
that could bite so hard. We did manage to get the boat in the water and head up
to Whitewater Bay. It was a long run up a canal and across the bays. Great
scenery and several gators later, we were fishing along the banks there. It was
brackish water, and looked like fish. Caught myself a nice 30“ snook to start
the day. It put up a great fight and I thought we would never get it in the
boat. After a couple of high-fives, we were back fishing again. We managed
several smaller snook that day. There were huge tarpon around the ramp, but they
had no intention of biting a line. I’m sure I saw one of them give me the fin!
We fished into the afternoon and realized that the no-see-ums had been switched
out to the horsefly brigade. I’m not sure which was worse. No one ever told me
that the everglades were full of all these flesh eating machines. The fishing
there is fantastic once your body becomes numb from all the bites. We caught
plenty of snook on the trip. Just don’t make the mistake of trying to camp in a
tent in May!
Beginning of another adventure….
Jason’s boat died on us on one of our fishing excursions to White Water Bay.
While he was fumbling with the spark plugs, the game warden happened by and
stopped to see if we needed any help. Well, Jason had by that time figured out
that he was just out of gas and had switched tanks. Before we could answer the
game warden, Jason started up and hauled butt out of there leaving Pat and I
with our jaws dropped open and the game warden scratching his head in wonder.
Why he didn’t come after Jason, I’ll never figure out.
Later that afternoon, we fought off mosquitoes while trying to take a shower.
Can you imagine standing under a shower and having the Southern Florida air
force doing bomb testing all over your body? We had found out the true horror
story of Flamingo…..bug spray only makes them madder! It makes them attack you
with the tenacity of a great white. We ran from the shower as fast as we could
back to the tents and went to bed early that night due to the dark clouds of
them pointy-faced varmints swarming us. It was barely 5:00 in the evening. Whose
idea what this anyhow???
Ended up leaving a day early because of them. Your body can only take so much of
fangs being sunk into your skin all day! It was a great trip and we all donated
our pint of blood and bought the “I gave blood in the everglades” decals for the
boat. Like I said at the beginning…..this is nor ordinary fishing tale. The
Everglades is a fantastic place to fish or just enjoy the wildlife and scenery,
just don‘t go there in the summer! And should you decide to take a tent there in
May, I’m sure that I’m gonna be busy that weekend!
Are Bass Really That
This tale goes back a few years when
I was visiting my little bro, Jack, up in West Virginia one summer. It was not
unlike most other vacations up there, except Jack had just bought a small vee-hull
boat with a motor. He had decided that we would go fishing while I was up there.
Now if you have been reading any of my Fish Tales, then you know that no one has
to ask me twice to go fishing. I was all ready for the challenge. Bring it on!
We left one morning to head off to Steven’s Lake up there near Charleston. I had
never been there, but it sounded like a great place to fish. Basically a no
motor lake except for the very small motors or trolling motors. Now Jack had a
motor so small that a gallon of gas would most likely last two or three years to
run it. It was the perfect fishing machine for Steven’s Lake. Off we went on
another adventure. Jack’s son, Eric, joined us and we left the dock to find a
narrow, natural channel that followed the contours of the mountains there.
Submerged trees all over the lake. Now we realized the restrictions on motors.
You would tear any other motor up trying to get around there. Talk about fishy!
Seems like it took an hour to get down the lake to a place that we decided to
fish. Jack had bought some minnows along to fish for bass. We rigged up our
lines and set out some minnows on floats to see what might be biting among the
many trees around us. Now I am originally from West Virginia, so I can tell this
part! About that time a couple of guys came by in their boat and upon seeing our
lines out with the floats attached, the proceeded to ask the obvious dumb
question….. “Are you boys ‘bobber’ fishin’?” Well, let’s see…….lines out and
floats attached….darnit we sure are!
A short time later, Jack’s ‘bobber’ went under and thus began the fishin’. He
reeled in a nice bass of about a pound. It’s always good to see that first fish
in the boat….then you are never skunked! Eric took a picture of Jack and then we
returned it to the water. Alright….let’s catch some more. Soon Eric’s rod bent
over with another bass of the same size. Oh, well, this is fun so we’ll just
enjoy this for a while. Who need a big fish if the smaller ones are so
cooperative. We released that bass too. Soon all of us had caught several bass
of that size and we were sure having a great time of fishing and being together.
Jack had just caught another bass when we both looked at it with the same
puzzled look. We suddenly realized that we had all been catching the same bass
all that time! It had a place on one side of it’s head that looked all to
familiar. Either that bass was dumb as a rotten stump or it was pretty smart in
realizing that we were feeding it and releasing it each time. We laughed until
tears were streaming down our faces at that escapade! No matter where we threw
our lines around those trees, that bass would manage to find one and get caught
again and again……..
It finally was getting late in the day and we had to leave our little buddy to
fend for himself again. Jack dumped the few minnows in the water to fatten him
up some more. Maybe one day we can go back to that fishin’ hole and have another
go at our buddy. It was one of those days that you always think back on and it
brings a smile back to your face.
Thanks to Jack and Eric for a wonderful vacation….
Catfishin’ on the New
I think my first memories of being down on the New River in West Virginia was a
duck hunting trip many years ago. I wasn’t very old then, maybe six or seven
years of age. We drove up there in two-ton truck that I couldn’t even tell you
what make it was now. I certainly wasn’t old enough to hunt yet and I remember
exploring the woods and creeks with my grandpa Bossie during the day, while the
men went out in search of ducks. There are a few things about that trip for
another day and another story, but that’s my first experience up on the New
I guess it was about the time I became a teenager in the early 1960’s that I
remember preparing for the family vacation of a week camping down on the New
River. Packing up those rugged old canvas tents and all the necessities that go
along on such an adventure. I remember one particular day that I found my dad
sitting on the back porch with five or six large bars of Ivory soap. Inquisitive
minds do want to know, so I asked what he was doing. To my surprise, he told me
that he was cutting up bait for the camping trip. I’m sure that I laughed and
made fun of the whole idea! But he told me that it would work and just to wait
and see. Sure! I knew I’d be digging up worms or something sooner or later…
We had a small ol’ v-hull aluminum boat that was just perfect for there and on
the Elk River behind our house. Packed full of essentials, we left for our much
The countryside along that part of West Virginia was always breath-taking to
see. You could go most of the week and never see another person along the river.
What happened to those days? It never took long to get unpacked and set up camp.
I don’t know how anyone managed to set up one of those old canvas tents. You
sure could never wear one of them out. Soon we were all set up and ready to
enjoy the week ahead.
My dad had also had the kids rigging up trot line hooks in preparation for the
trip. I don’t know how many hooks I had rigged up. I just remember boxes full of
hooks and rolls of string. We would tie them off about a foot long with double
line and carefully bundle them up to keep out those messy tangles. Now all was
about to be put into use. We also had a number of heavy cord lines about 100’ in
length. It looked like more work than I wanted to do for sure!
But being the fisherman that I was, my brother and I headed off in the boat with
one end tied to the bank and the other end tied off to a large rock when it was
taut at that end.
Back to the bank and we began stringing the hooks about a foot apart all along
the trot line with an anchor tied off every ten or fifteen feet to keep it all
underwater. To each hook, we carefully put the hook into a piece of the half
inch squares of the Ivory soap as we stringed them to the trotline. What a lot
of work for something that I sure didn’t think would pan out! After much labor,
we had three trot lines strung out and set for the evening. Geez, I sure was
hungry by the time that was all done!
After a nice evening beside a huge fire, it was time to run the lines and see
what the results were for our sufferings. Still not believing, we set out in the
boat. As I grabbed the first line, I could feel something tugging as we began
running the length of it. Several hooks into the line was our first catfish.
Darnit…that stuff just might work… Soon we had several catfish in the boat and
still a couple more trotlines to run. This could get to be fun! Before long, we
had six or eight nice cats in the boat and were all baited up for the night.
That was my first experience with using Ivory soap for bait and dang if I wasn’t
a believer in it now….
The great cat
fishermen with their catch…
Cats in front of Grandpa Bossie’s ol’ coal shed…
We kept running those trotlines all during that first week and kept on bringing
in more catfish. Staying up most of the night and walking around in a daze
during the day. We sure didn’t go hungry either. We would run them just after
dark and again a couple times during the night till the sun came up over the
river. It was a swift current along that part of the river and my dad explained
to me why Ivory soap always worked there. He told me that in the swift, dark
waters at night, the soap would put off a milky stream as the water flowed over
it that would draw the attention of the catfish. And on top of that, Ivory soap
floats, so it would stay up off the bottom and could be seen in the moonlight by
the cats. Now everything made sense to me. To this day, people still laugh at me
when I tell them about that way of fishing. But I just smile, because I know it
Uncle Glenn, Jack and Jerry on the New River…
Daddy, Uncle Marshall, Grandpa Bossie and Uncle Glenn
Many camping trips came and went. We spent many summers along the New River for
our vacations. After that first time, I found myself helping cut up the soap and
looking forward to the next fishing trip. We had lots of fun there. Many things
to keep us laughing and many places to explore. And too many pictures to be
somehow return to haunt you again and again. Such were the days of camping along
the New River.
Several years later, I began my life on my own and never fished those trotlines
again. Time changes a lot of things, but not memories. Catfishing on the New
River will always be one of the things that helped me become an avid fisherman
over the years. I wonder if anyone fishes that way anymore or has even heard of
it. It’s one of my memories… I hope you have some of your own to enjoy.
Funny how some things get you to thinking…. Alan
Jackson’s song “Remember When” keeps playing on the radio lately and each time I
can only think of fishing, many years ago here in Florida. I’m not sure why but
it does, but my mind keeps wandering back to the 1950’s on the Indian River with
all my family down in Sebastian.
Recently, Pat and I went down to Outdoor World in Fort Lauderdale and while we
were sitting in the bar there enjoying the coldest beer in the world, I kept
looking at all the old pictures all over the walls. Ernest Hemmingway and Zane
Grey in old faded pictures on fishing adventures long, long ago. I could not
help but think back to the days of my fishing in Sebastian on the Indian River
as a young kid. Geez….is this nostalgic or what?
Shortly after that day, I asked my mother to send me some of the old pictures
they have of those times. I would hang them in my home the same way that Outdoor
World or IGFA does. I couldn’t wait to get them! I was already planning on where
I would hang them and how proud I would be to show them off. Most I haven’t seen
in years and some I am sure I’ve never seen.
This week, I received a huge envelope full of pictures from my childhood and
even before I began my life. Sure enough there were pictures of fishing down in
Sebastian! I rushed through them to bring back those old faded memories for a
few minutes. Most of the people in the pictures have passed on to heaven now,
but the smiles on their faces bring back the excitement and joy of the day.
Photos of aunts and uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers and brothers and
sisters having the time of their lives out there on the Indian River. It took me
back to my childhood days of fishing and reminded me of why I still love getting
out there on the water.
I was only six or seven back then. We would drive from Melbourne down to
Sebastian along US-1 with little along the way except the beautiful Indian River
and a few scattered homes and businesses. I remember somewhere an orange grove
stand that had a huge sign for all the orange juice you could drink for ten
cents. We usually stopped by there on the way. I’ll never forget that bridge
down in Wabasso to get over to the inlet. It was just an old wooden bridge that
spanned the river. It seemed just a few feet above the water and I don’t recall
any of the boards being nailed down. The rattle and clapping of those boards
kept a young boy on his best watch to make sure none were missing. You can
imagine what a young boy might be thinking. Being only six or so, I was certain
that one day one of those boards would break and we would sink to depths
unknown. That river had to be millions of feet deep! If I had only known back
then that it was just a few feet deep, maybe I wouldn’t have worried….but that
would take away the memories.
We would manage to get across that rickety old bridge and get up to the inlet.
We would have to find a place off the side of the road to get through the
mangroves to the river.
It was a pretty wild and untamed place back then. We would cross over to the
beach sometime during the day and walk what seemed like forever and never see
another person. Fish all day and not see anyone there at all. Boy, are those
days rare and cherished now! We would spend the day there fishing and picnicking
with all the family. My dad was the king of cutting up a cabbage palm with his
pocket knife for dinner that week.
Us kids would fish from the bank all day with shrimp and never get tired of
catching something. My dad and a couple of my uncles would take out their old
john boat and fish the river with Mirrolures most of the day. They would return
sometime in the afternoon with a boatload of trout. I remember them with 15 - 20
or more huge trout. They would through back the small ones, so who knows how
many they actually caught. We would have enough fish to feed all the families
and sometimes sell some to the fish markets, too. And to top off the day, they
would go back out and bring back a huge washtub full of oysters. I remember
watching three or four of them shucking oysters into the night and filling a
number of quart jars with them. I learned to appreciate raw oysters when I was
only six. That meant a huge oyster fry was coming that week and everyone would
be there to enjoy the spoils!
I found a picture of my uncle and grandmother standing in front of a local bait
shop back then. They had 19 gator trout hanging in front of the shop. This was
around 1954 or so. Does anyone remember Crowl’s Bait Shop? I am curious about
that place and what happened to it now.
Uncle Lawrence Bossie and Granny
Granny Bossie & Sebastian Inlet trout...
All things change and so did Sebastian. We moved away several years later and
when I came back, it wasn’t the same place I remembered. Most of the family have
passed on or gone their own directions now. Gone were the wooden bridges and
huge concrete and steel ones had taken their place. No one can eat the oysters
out of the river anymore. Gone were those days of fishing, too. I hope that if
people continue to work to save the river, we can again see some of those days
again in the future.
I can still find a few places here to get away from the world for a few hours.
That part is harder to find now. Fishing will never be quite as good as those
days, but I see it getting better every year now. I am thankful to have been
around here to be part of the yesterdays of the Indian River. Every time I get
out on the water, I can still picture a young boy standing on the bank with a
fishing pole in his hand…..Remember when???....
Adventures on the High Keys....
The three amigos, Gary, Pat and myself, made their first Keys trip together
somewhere amid the 90’s on yet another adventure into
the great outdoors. I had met Gary by then at work (another tale for another
day) and we had all three developed a
lasting camaraderie. As usual, we spent a lot of time planning and packing for
this trip. It takes many lists and phone calls to prepare for one of our
excursions. I still had the old Islander and we had made the decision that Pat
would use his old Ford to get us down there. We had these fantastic dreams of
tarpon fishing with fly rods and even catching a bonefish or two. Amazing how
dreams never quite seem to be what reality permits, but there's always that hope
I came home from work that evening. We were going to meet at my house and I
found Pat and Gary enjoying themselves to my beer. We sat around that evening
checking all our equipment and talking of getting there the next morning. Now we
normally plan our trips to leave in the mornings, but we always seem
to talk ourselves into leaving at midnight because we just can’t take the
excitement anymore. Once again we were loaded up and ready to go by eleven
o’clock that evening. Oh hell yes…..let’s get on the road.
Gary on the point for 'poons
The much dreaded pushpole incident!!!
Pat always had such luck with vehicles. From Bready Freddy to the ol’ Camel and
now the huge four-wheel drive Ford. We could always expect the unexpected with
Pat. It had rained off and on that day and it still wanted to rain while we were
packing to leave.
Pat kept telling us that his windshield wipers didn’t work all that well, but
Gary and I were determined that he would be driving this trip. So off we went
into the night, heading south on I-95 towards that little paradise called the
Florida Keys. With Islamorada ahead of us, we began our journey. The three
Amigos were on the road to another adventure.
I guess it was less than an hour before we stopped in Jupiter. This was going to
be a long drive….. Somewhere down towards Ft. Lauderdale, it started to rain and
we realized first hand what Pat had said about with his wipers. I remembered when I was a
kid and the wipers just inched themselves across the glass in those old vacuum
operated cars….slowly, so slowly! This was ridiculous. They would move and inch
and stop…..two inches and stop….. We could barely see in front of us and it was
about to get worse. Right when the rain was the heaviest, they quit altogether
and we had to stop under a bridge to wait for the rains to end. All Pat could
mutter was, “I told you so, I told you so”. Pulling over to the side of the
road, we could only bash Pat and his beloved Ford. Oh well…the Keys weren‘t
going anywhere. We would be there in a few hours. Sooner or later, we would get
there…. I don't think Pat ever did fix those wipers.
I’m no longer sure what time we actually arrived in Islamorada. But I remember
swimming in the pool at three o’clock in the morning. We somehow managed to get
the excitement out of our systems long enough to get to bed. I had never seen so
much equipment piled all over the place. We have developed our obsessions for
fun to a point that we
can’t make any adventure easy. If you don’t fill up the truck with stuff, then
you aren’t fishing. It didn’t take long to realize that the girls, who came
around to clean the room wanted nothing to do with all that equipment and just
ended up cleaning around our mess. We would at least look great out there
fishing if nothing else. Off to bed and soon I was serenading the gang with sweet snoring
sounds filling the room.
Early-thirty comes way too soon. We come stumbling out of bed with cobwebs in
our eyes, ears and throats. It didn’t take long to get dressed and get down to
the ramp to launch the Islander for our first trip on the water there. This was
all new to us so we would have to explore the waters to find where we wanted to
fish. It’s a wonderful place to watch the sun come up over the horizon. We
explored the flats in front of the Tropical Reef to look for bonefish or maybe
just anything. Every movement in the water got out attention and kept us on edge
that morning. We managed to catch nothing at all, but sure did enjoy trying.
Back to the room to relax and see the sights of Islamorada.
Tarpon kept swimming around in our brains. We were going to do some fly fishing
this trip and the itch just kept us twitching to get out there. We went shopping
that afternoon and found another heaven……H. T. Chittums. Last nights fun was still
spinning in our heads and we had no intention to do anything…until the girl at
the counter said, “Can I get you anything, maybe a beer”? She didn’t have to ask twice on that
question! We would be back here again… We soon stopped at Florida Outfitters to
check out the fly fishing equipment. Nice place if you own a couple Mercedes or
Porsches. Pat decided to buy a leader for his fly rod. I guess he paid about
nine dollars for a six foot piece of monofilament. If you know Pat, he about
crapped his pants! We had just pulled out of the parking lot, when Gary looked
over at Pat and told him, “I can’t believe that you stood there and let that
clerk say that to you”. Pat, getting spiced up as always, wanted to know what
the guy had said. Gary proceeded to tell him that the clerk standing there in his
nice, shiny hundred dollar hat, looked at Pat’s five dollar Wal-Mart Trilene hat
and just smiled and said, “Nice hat”! I laughed till I cried at that, knowing
that I now had to get involved in this joke and carry it all the way. Pat was
boiling mad by now and there was steam coming from other places than his ears.
Next thing I knew, he was in the turning lane about to turn the truck around to
kick someone’s ass. We convinced him to let it go and just enjoy the trip. This
one we knew we could egg him on forever! Every time we looked at him, we would
laugh and say, “Nice hat!” Gary and I gave him so much hell about it, that Pat finally
just threw the hat away. (It was several years later before we told Pat that the
man hadn‘t said anything to him……) Back to fishing.
We found a nice flat out not far from our motel and began exploring the fishing
there. We poled up through the mangroves and jumped one huge redfish from there.
We spotted some juvenile tarpon along the mangroves and decided to come back for
them the next day.
The water was so fantastic to enjoy. So clear and clean all around you. I was
finally realizing how wonderful the Keys are. There’s something magic about the
Keys. Living there would take away that charm. I always have that thought in the
back of my mind for another trip.
We were up early the next morning for what another day on the water. Pat, Gary
and I headed off for the gulf side towards our first stop of the morning. No, not
that fishing hole yet, but to motor down to Lorelei’s for breakfast. Nothing
like your morning dose of biscuits, gravy, Tabasco and a beer to get you in the
mood for a days fishing! We sat there along the dock at Lorelei’s like the kings
of everything. We could tell it was gonna be a great day and couldn’t wait for
that last bite of grease on a bun to get started.
A couple of pictures and a few phone calls later, we were off to fish.
Heading back to that small key for some tarpon, we discussed our plans for the
day. Fishing for tarpon in the morning and heading off to the head pin that
night to fish for large sharks and tarpon. Maybe a little nap thrown in between
somewhere, too. We poled up onto the flats along the mangroves till we could see
the tarpon swimming along under the roots. Oh, this was gonna be easy! I told
Gary to tie off the boat to the push pole so we could start fishing. He
commented on how soft the bottom was there and how easy the pole went in. So
here we were in paradise throwing out some live shrimp to those tarpon with your
best buddies and lazily solving all the problems of the world.……..hell, we only needed the dancing ladies and we were set!
Settling back to see what would happen, we continued to razz Pat about that hat
After several hours of fishing and enjoying the fantastic morning, we only
managed to catch a few bonnet head sharks and got a few stares from the tarpon.
I told Gary to pull up the pole and we’d head back to the room and relax the
rest of the morning. I got the motor ready as he began to pull and groan with
the pole. No!! You didn’t do that did you?!?? I realized that he had pushed the
pole straight into the bottom instead of an angle and had it down at least four
feet in the shallow bottom. What the hell!! Were you expecting a hurricane???
Sand under water is just the same as concrete and we were in it up to our push
pole! All three of us got hold of the push pole and pulled with all our might and
could only manage to pull the boat down instead of the pole up….. Now what to
We tried everything from standing on the boat seat on the bottom to just about
anything that you might think of to free that pole for over an hour. It would
have been easier to get it out of cement! That pole had no intention of coming
loose. We all three sat there cursing, scowling and growling at that pole……and
Gary. Something had to work. There was a slight bulge where the two poles are
spliced together and I tied a rope around the pole and found it would just
barely grab for a second…..nothing wrong with trying that. I started the motor
and when it pulled tight, the rope held for a second. Well……it’s a one or two
piece push pole now. We were pulling it out one way or the other! I gave the
motor the gas in the shallow water, fully expecting to break the pole. But
somehow it came free and we finally got off that flat. We were ecstatic with our
luck now…..it sure couldn’t get any worse! But then again….who knows??? We
headed back to the room with a sense of accomplishment…if you could call it
We started getting ready for the evening trip late that afternoon. A few days
earlier, we had been talking to some guys down by the docks about where to fish
for tarpon. One of them volunteered his services to take us out to the head pin
to fish that evening…for a small fee of $75.00. Figuring that it wouldn’t hurt,
we told him we would be back later that afternoon to see him. But sometime later
that day, while we were getting bait, beef jerky and beer, we realized why do we
need him now….he had told us where to go, what to fish with and how to fish it.
Let’s take that $75.00 and buy some more beer for that night. I guess that guy
is still standing there waiting on us…
Late that evening, we headed out the narrow channel of the Tropical Reef beyond
the flats to the ocean and headed south a short run to Holiday Isle and the
infamous head pin! You can’t imagine the excitement building in our veins. This
was gonna be the big one for sure.
We couldn’t get the hook to set and ended up tying off around one of the markers.
Cutting up some bait, we hurled out some big chunks of mullet to the ocean
as an offering to whatever wanted to take it. Kicking back, we waited on what
would happen with a tense apprehension. Gary had brought his rods this trip.
Now, Pat and I always change line and make sure the equipment is working before
every trip, but Gary is a little different about those things. If it’s only
dusty, then it’s still alright. Who knows how old the line was and when the last
time he had used it….
Without warning, Gary’s rod bent over and the line began stripping off with
sounds like a knife cutting the water. Suddenly, a huge 100# plus tarpon
exploded from the water just out from the boat. The poon had pulled out the line
so fast that he realized the there was a knot in the line and it kept pulling it
out. With a look of total disgust, all Gary could mutter was, “Help me! Help
me!. All we could do was watch that monster come up one more time to snap Gary’s
line and give him the fin. It was all over so fast and had our hearts pumping
like steam engines up a mountain. Instead of high fiving Gary, we could only
give him hell about his well renowned equipment. But we had hooked a poon now so
we were thrilled with that part of the trip.
Cutting up some more bait, we loggered out some to the depths below. After a
couple of bites, my rod began to sizzle with line being stripped off. Hell yeah!
Now it was my turn. With both Gary and Pat trying to give me instructions, we
untied the anchor line and headed off after the beast. A medium rod with 20#
test line on an old Mitchell 300.…such luck, huh? It was probably pulling us
more than we were chasing it, but we had a huge fish on and wasn’t gonna give
this one up now. One of the party boats had pulled up to fish a group of people
by then. They kept yelling at us while we were chasing all over the ocean after
the thing at the end of my line. After over thirty minutes of fighting the fish,
we finally got it up from the depths to see a six foot shark at the end. Ok, who
is gonna take that hook out of that??? We took pictures of it along side the
Islander and cut the line. Nothing wrong with being exhausted by a huge shark.
We gathered up the anchor line and tied off again to fish some more.
I was cutting up some more bait and it came to me all of a sudden that the push
pole was missing. I realized that all the while we were there, I had been
cutting bait and the pole was gone. It was beyond dusk by then, so we pulled the
hook to retrace our path back to the motel and see if we could find that pole.
No way after all we had been through with that push pole! Alas it was gone and
we never did find it. Darkness took over and we had to give up our search.
Several weeks later I received a letter from someone who said they had found a
push pole in the Keys and wanted to return it………..another joke from my little
Brother!!!! But he knows I always get even.
It didn’t take long to figure out how to find your way around the Keys there in
Islamorada. We started following the guide boats around in the mornings and
found the necessary channels and short cuts to get us safely around the area.
Soon we were buzzing all over the place to check out fishing spots and watering
holes. I’m sure we looked great out there on the water. Just like in “Vacation”,
we needed a plastic surgeon to remove the smiles from our faces! We expressed
our utter disappointment of Robbie’s and how they had all those tarpon around
the docks and we couldn’t fish there…… Just made your mouth water for ‘poon on a
stick or a tarpon-colada!
One evening as we got ready to head out to some local joint to eat and relax
with a few beers. We all three came out on the porch and looking stupidly at
each other realized that we all were wearing our H. T. Chittum hats. Hell, no,
we are not gonna head off like this and look as touristy as these three idiots
look! Two of us had to go back and change hats. We still laugh to this day and
talk about those hats. There’s been enough about hats on this trip already. All
I can remember is shooting glow-in-the-dark pool at Hog Heaven in Islamorada and
with that….enough said!
The morning finally arrived that we had to come back to reality. We regretfully
loaded all our equipment and gear and prepared to head back to civilization. But
not without enough memories and laughter to keep us talking about this trip for
a long, long time. We had thoroughly enjoyed the fishing and local atmosphere
and were already discussing what we would do next trip. It would keep us going
till the next trip on another adventure, yet unplanned.
The Christmas Gift
No matter what your age, there is always a feeling of excitement and
anticipation of tearing open a Christmas gift. Some of us will always be
children, while others might grow up and lose that spirit. I am one who will
always be a child at heart. Who wants to grow up anyway?
This particular Christmas Tale started sometime in the summer of some year in
the past. It was another sunny, warm summer in Florida. Not much different from
past seasons. I had already moved to Port St Lucie and enjoyed fishing here
along with frequent trips back to Cocoa Beach. My best friend, Pat, came down
just as often to visit me and enjoy the fishing down here. Another adventure
that started out as normal….
This one certain weekend that Pat was coming down to visit, started out just
like all the others. Pat would drive down on a Saturday afternoon and I would
meet him at the house right after work. We would have wings and beer for dinner
along with some crazy, classic comedy movie to entertain us…. Just as Pat turned
down the boulevard to my house that day, his tailpipe on the old Camel broke
from all the rust and age. It drug behind the old car all the way to my house. I
arrived home shortly after he had gotten there to find an old rusty tailpipe
laying in my yard, accompanied by the loud laughter from Pat that it now
belonged to me. I warned him that day that there would come a day he would see
that tail pipe again, when he least expected it! Enough said…
By now, you have already gotten the idea of when he would see it again. As
Christmas was nearing, I began to think of how I could get back at Pat with the
old rusty tail pipe…..still laying beside the house since the day he had left it
there. We were always trying to get the best of each other. Any kind of
practical joke was always around the next corner and just waiting on you. This
one was fixing to slap him up beside the head, just when he had forgotten all
I found the perfect box at work one day and began my preparations. Some leftover
foam rubber sitting around in the garage was the perfect packing for the pipe. I
carefully cut the foam to fit the pipe to keep it from moving or shaking in the
box. When I was finished, it looked like a shotgun box and weighted about the
same. My work was almost done…. I picked out some very nice wrapping paper and
all was in readiness for my surprise.
I didn’t have time to get up to Cocoa Beach during the Christmas season and
wasn’t sure if I could make it up before the Holiday. An after Christmas gift
wouldn’t be the same. It would have to be Christmas eve! Besides…..most of the
fun would be watching him open it in person. Oh boy, this was going to be great!
As soon as I arrived home from work that Christmas Eve, we loaded up in the car
and began the venture to Cocoa Beach. Pat had no idea that we were coming, so
this would be a double whammy. After a much delayed trip through the holiday
traffic, we arrived and the Well’s residence. I-95 is not the place you want to
spend your Christmas Eve, but it was worth the effort for this occasion.
Lots of hugging and kissing later, we all sat down with his whole family to
enjoy the opening of Christmas gifts. Pat is a true-blue child at Christmas. His
eyes were aglow and his smile was from ear to ear while ripping off ribbons and
wrap to see what treasures awaited him inside. I was enjoying all this hoopla
that was leading up to my gift. You know….the icing on the cake.
It was finally my turn to give Pat my Christmas gift of love. He was overwhelmed
at the box he saw. I knew in my mind that he was certain that I had bought him a
shotgun as a gift. I could barely hold back the snickers and laughter that was
overtaking my self-being. He began tearing off the paper in anticipation of the
great gift he was about to receive. You could count every tooth in his little
pointed head as he reached out to take the gift from my hands.
Just as he anxiously ripped the paper off the box and tore the top open, a look
of embarrassed astonishment flashed on his face and he was suddenly speechless.
I could hold back no longer and began laughing as his family was asking him what
it was. He slowly took the old rusty tailpipe out of the box and said, “I…er….think
I have seen this somewhere before!”. The whole family burst into an uproar of
laughter, while Pat sat there with his GIFT explaining the history of the tail
pipe. Oh, I had a real gift for him, but that was one of the best Christmas Eves
I had enjoyed in many years. I was a child again……and also got even that night.
Merry Christmas to all!
Add One Spoonful of Lures....
It’s hard to picture myself fishing
anywhere, but out on the saltwater flats watching that first glimpse of the sun
coming up over the eastern shore. I guess I consider myself a little bit spoiled
living here near the Indian River in Florida.
There is one sure fire lesson I have learned over the years of fishing the
flats. A long time ago, I decided that my best luck always came from using
spoons on the flats. I have used and still use most every kind of lure possible
out there fishing, but when the fish are giving me the “fin”…..I break out the
ol’ spoons. That will usually make them wish they hadn’t opened their big mouth!
There are advantages to using spoons in the shallow water of the saltwater
flats. Being lighter in weight that some other lures, spoons have that tendency
to bounce off the bottom and jump around erratically like a wounded baitfish. I
generally like the single hook spoon to be less apt to take on seaweed during
the retrieve. The hook stays upright and give it less chance of snagging the
bottom. All of these reasons work great when you are fishing in a foot of water
Color is always important when fishing spoons. Gold is always the color of
choice, but silver and combinations are also good options. Johnson has always
been the standard in spoons for as long as I can remember. Not many anglers are
without a few spoons in their tackle box. My personal favorite comes from
Captain Mike Hakala out of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. His Willow Spoons are
equipped with reflective decals in many different colors. The pink and
chartreuse have been steady producers in my tackle box.
Mike's Guide Proven Lures
Fishing spoons in a couple feet of water provides a unique opportunity of sight
casting to your quarry. Redfish are well known “tailers” on the flats, along
with marauding snook, trout, and jacks. There are many different species
out there in the shallow water. Just about every fish there is looking for
something to eat.....while something is looking to eat it!
Try varying your retrieve from the jerky, sporadic approach to the very slow,
cautious method. Jacks and Ladyfish love the fast moving retrieve. They are very
fast fish and love to pounce on anything flashy in the water. Snook and trout
are more aggressive and likely to take a short, jerking retrieve. The wary
redfish takes better to a slower motion of the lure. Redfish are the lazier of
the flats fish. When casting to a likely prospect, always cast beyond the fish
and bring it back to it. I find that just as it nears where I think the fish
might be laying, I slow it down and let it drop just in front of the fish before
moving it again.. This works wonders on redfish that seem to think it might be a
crab or something just as tasty. You must make yourself vary the retrieve to see
what is working best that day. There are many different kinds of fish out there
and they all have different likes and levels of aggression.
Spoons are an easy lure for the beginner angler. They have a natural motion when
retrieving and it’s easy to experiment with twitches and jerks while using them.
There are many spoons on the market and everyone has their own favorites. No
matter what your favorite spoon is, make sure you have several in your tackle
box at all times. Spoons are a great way to break the ice with a wily fish!
Fishing is not just another hobby……It’s an ADVENTURE!
Summertime Flats Fishing.....
Summer is almost here on the Indian River in
Southeast Florida. The water is warming up and so are the fish. It’s time to
fish the flats for redfish, snook, trout and a lot of other saltwater species. I
love this time of year out there on the water. It a wonderful place to watch the
sun peek over the mangroves at first light. There isn’t a better place to enjoy
the quiet and solitude of the morning.
Flats fishing comes alive in late spring and into the summer months. Early
morning fishing is at its best out there in a couple feet of water. The bait
pods have come full strength into the river by now and so have all the bigger
fish chasing them. There is action all over the river by now. This is the
perfect time of year to target redfish on the flats.
First thing to remember when fishing the shallow waters is QUIET. These fish are
in less than a foot of water in a lot of cases and will run at the least noise
out of the ordinary. Keeping in stealth mode is number one of things to keep in
mind at all times. I have had many redfish swim right under the boat when they
are not scared by sudden noises or movements. Get all your preparations ready
well before you start up on the flats. By all means, don’t motor up onto the
flats. I only use trolling motors when necessary and use a push pole most of the
time. It makes less noise in the water and you can get into places that a
trolling motor can’t take you. Use the current and winds to your advantage
Work the flats slowly. There might be reds laying in less than a foot of water
and you lose all your chances by working up too fast as you watch that redfish
torpedo away from your boat. No matter what the conditions are, you learn to
read the water as you go. Baitfish moving or redfish tailing can tell you where
to cast or keep the boat away from. I cast around any movement in the water. I
have been known to pole the boat backwards to keep well away from movement and
maximize the chances of a hookup. Reds are known to swim along with mullet and
other baitfish. Always cast past any movement and work your bait to it. Many
redfish have bolted off the flats just after a lure slaps them on the head.
Top water is fantastic in the first light of the day. Just about every fish that
haunts the flats will bash a top water. I tend to work them a little slower in
shallow water. A redfish’s mouth faces the bottom and they sometimes have
trouble trying to slap a top water and miss it a lot of times. I slow the lure
down when I get a miss and twitch it slower to get another hit. I’ve had reds
follow it all the way to the boat hitting it over and over again. Vary your
retrieves if you aren’t getting any action. Sometimes an erratic, thrashing
retrieve works better, so don’t be afraid to try something different. For my
success, I have always had the best luck with red/white combinations of top
water colors. Zara Spooks, Chug Bugs or Mirrolures all work great out there. Use
a loop knot for tying on your artificials to get the best action out of them. I
love top water fishing!
My go-to-lure has always been a gold spoon. Something about them that a redfish,
and many others, can’t resist. That splash of gold moving across the flats is
hard to beat. I work them as slowly as possible and really slow it down if it
comes near any movement around it. Redfish usually are working the bottom for
dinner and might miss your lure altogether if you are reeling it in too fast
above their head. Vary your retrievals to see what works for you. When I find
them tailing, I normally will switch to a spoon to get it down and dirty along
the bottom for them to see. It’s a redfish favorite!
Soft baits are great as the morning wears on. DOA shrimp or CAL lures are great
choices on the flats for a variety of fish. Again, work them slow and easy. Root
beer, white and gold are good colors to start with. If one color isn’t working,
change it out. There are a rainbow of color choices so ask your neighborhood
tackle store what is working in your area. Never be afraid to try something
different. Cotee makes a root beer grub with a gold tail that has been very
productive on reds. A light jig head - 1/16th ounce- will keep it from sinking
too fast into the grass. Use these under the mangroves as the day gets hotter
for snook and redfish.
So now that summer has arrived. Check all your gear and get ready for some great
fishing on the flats. Get out there……keep the noise down……read the water…..and
above all….HAVE FUN!