Thanksgiving Florida Keys Fishing Report

Thanksgiving Florida Keys Fishing Report

This is a Thanksgiving Florida Keys Fishing Report, 11/23/16. I wish all of my readers the happiest of Thanksgivings.

Friday last week son Alex and I hitched up the Mitzi to the Sienna and pointed that baby south. Our destination? Little Torch Key. Son Maxx has temporary duty there.

Friday evening we hooked up with Capt. Mike Gorton  (owner of Alaska’s Goodnews River Lodge) at the Tiki Bar on Sugarloaf Key. Some reminiscing went on over a couple of malted beverages, as well as some discussion of water quality problems throughout the state of Florida. He may have given us some advice on where to fish, too. Mike, it was great seeing you!!

Saturday we went riding in the Mitzi, searching for denizens of the shallows. Due to my impeccable sense of timing, not one but two cold fronts had come in back-to-back, dropping the water temperature over 12 degrees and chasing most fish off the flats. We found a variety of little fishies, and some juvenile tarpon (five bites on DOA CAL shad and not a single fish boated), as well as some sharks and barracudas (could not get any big ‘cudas to bite).

The weather, although breezy and a little chilly, was outstanding. We did not get stuck or break anything and did not need the first aid kit. So from a fishing standpoint it may not have been wildly successful, but it was a beautiful day out on the water.

Florida Keys fishing report

Heading out to the reefs, Key West behind us.

Sunday at 11 AM found us at Hurricane Hole Marina, where we met Capt. Jack Walker. We ended up fishing over some patch reefs off of Key West, for snapper, grouper, and a variety of other fish. Action was pretty steady, although all the biggest fish just put us into the rocks. Again, it was cool, windy, and wavey, but we had an outstanding day. Thank you Capt. Jack! Great seeing you, too!

Florida Keys fishing report

Maxx with one of several bar jacks we got.


Florida Keys fishing report

I got this outstanding grouper! Poor little fish!


Florida Keys fishing report

Jack, having done this before, outfished us.

Monday we decided not to take Mike’s advice and instead went oceanside along Big Pine Key. First we fished a few patch reefs. Alex hooked a couple fish, lost one in the rocks, and caught a just-short grouper. Then I poled the boat for miles.

Florida Keys fishing report

Alex got this beauty from a patch reef.

We saw exactly two bonefish but did not get a shot at either. We got numerous barracuditas and some needlefish, hooked a shark, and that was about it. Still windy, still cool, still a gorgeous day on the water, but not terribly fishy.

Early Tuesday we loaded the boat onto the trailer and negotiated the wilds of the south Florida highway system back to beautiful Chuluota.
Still trying to find a good home for my old EZ Loader Trailer-

And that is the Thanksgiving Florida Keys Fishing Report! And again, happy Thanksgiving!

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short- Go Fishing!

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2016. All rights are reserved.

Shark Fishing for Dummies

Shark Fishing for Dummies: or the secrets of easy fishing

A Guest Blog by Capt. Craig Eubank

shark fishing

Part One

Just the title of “Shark Fishing” conjures great expectations of money-shot photos of big toothy creatures laid out on the back deck of macho fishing vessels or on the concrete docks of any-coast USA covered in blood and license plates. Obviously, we have seen way too many movies and made for TV dramas. It has become a part of our urban folklore. Most of us can quote the key lines from the movie “Jaws” and have seen “Shark Week” every year for, well as long as we can remember. Between choosing to watch “Air Jaws” or “Swamp People” it has become a tossup.

Sadly, it really is that easy. Not that I am saying that you can visit your local tackle shop, hit the fuel dock with your 21 foot Aqua Squirt, and head out with high expectation of catching a Great or even Medium White Shark; that scenario isn’t exactly realistic. But, for most of us that live on a coast with saltwater, shark fishing is pretty easy.

Now, I am speaking from fishing experience here in the fabulous Florida Keys. That’s all I have done for a living over the last three decades. I am not trying to over simplify things, but if you follow the few steps outlined here, you will find success and maybe establish yourself as a “Shark Guide” among your friends in short order.

First, you don’t need to run great distances and fish deep water. No need to tempt fate, dance with danger, or burn a lot of $6-a-gallon fuel! Start off staying closer to shore. Pick an area where the tide runs into a closed body of water. A channel or “choked off” area of water where at high tide bait, shrimp, fish will congregate until the next falling tide. Sharks are opportunists and can be lured into shallows as well as deep water. They feed constantly and have no fear. They don’t anticipate geographical constrictions or “choke points.”

Bring plenty of bait. Whether it’s blocks of commercial chum, homemade ground up fish by product (guts!) whole baitfish, or fish oil, if it smells, it’s what you want. The one thing movies portray that is accurate, is the need for smelly bait to attract predators. As far as technique, don’t over think it. Typical bottom fishing rigs will work well. Remember, sharks are generally opportunists. It could be dead bait lying on the bottom like a bottom feeder might pick up, or live bait floundering on the surface that attracts them. Sharks take advantage of the weak and easy. They are eating machines with no fear. Take advantage of this trait!

Once anchored, start spreading the news. In other words, put some stink in the water. Ladle in some fish goo, hang a chum block or three, cut up a bloody carcass (here in the Florida Keys we use Barracuda or Bonita) and hang it over the side. This is where you want to have a roll of green line or fairly heavy string in order to hang various baits. You just want the scent; you don’t want to feed them anything without a hook in it. Bluefish, cod, snapper, menhaden oil, even oats and vegetable oil will work. You just want to give them a taste of something, not actually feed them. It is the same as walking into a pizza shop and smelling the garlic. Your mouth waters, but they don’t actually give you something to satisfy your hunger until you pay J

Next, patience. It takes time to attract the right predator. Remember all the time you have put into the plan and implementation now is not the time to rush things. Let the stink do its work. Too many anglers and guides and so excited that the first thing they do is put a bait with a hook in it out in the slick before there has been ample time to build up an interest. Sort of like buying drinks for a lady and waiting all of 5 minutes before making a proposition. Not good form. Relax. Get a drink, tell a story, and tune in the radio. WAIT. They aren’t going away. Did you leave the pizza parlor without your order?

As your chum does its job, plan how you are going to cover the water column. You will need at least two lines, one on the bottom and one on the top. If the water is particularly deep, you may need up to 5 lines at various depths. Certain sharks feed at certain depths. There is quite a bit of overlap, but you want to maximize your spread. Bottom baits are easy using lead weights to hold them down. An old guide’s trick is to use your downrigger, put the bait back a hundred feet, wind it up in the clip and put it down just as you would off-shore. Right on the bottom. It will break away when struck and you won’t have the lead weight to deal with while fighting the fish.

Surface baits can be supported by balloons, bobbers, chunks of Styrofoam, or one of my favorites; a fishing kite! Yep, just like you would use off-shore for Sailfish. In a current, the kite will keep the bait, dead or alive, right on the surface and you will have the control to wind it up or let it out without messing with the kite. Try it, you will be tickled.

Mid-water baits require more attention. They are just free-floating and will need to be monitored, let out steadily or wound in and re-started on a regular basis. Without good action, you will tire of these baits and usually they just sit at a pre-determined interval and hope for the best. Not a waste of time since we never know what a shark will want from day to day.

So, you have you chum working for you, your lines are in place covering the entire water column, and all there is to do now is wait. Unfortunately, that is the one virtue of shark fishing that is the hardest to teach. Patience. There is always the feeling that you could be doing more. And having an enthusiastic angler will only increase this feeling. But, at some point you need to decide that you are doing enough but not too much. And then entertaining the client is your priority. Of course most anglers can be distracted by doing a bit of bottom fishing for other species. Smaller fish. Get out a spinner, put on some cut bait and entertain the angler with some basic bottom fishing. This is not only distracting until you get the big strike but you are also catching bait that can be used for shark fishing. Keep your live well running if you have one. If you catch a small bait size fish, put him in the well and use him for the kite bait or butterfly him and put him on a down line.

shark fishing

Relax and realize that if you wait long enough, tend your lines, you will more than likely get a shot at what you came for. There are still a lot of sharks out there, they aren’t smart, and you only need one to move you from zero to hero. Have confidence.   There are no guarantees, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Next time we will discuss what you should do when you finally get that shark on your line!

This is part one in a series on shark fishing by Captain Craig Eubank, Owner/Operator of the charterboat “Absolut” in Key West, Florida

  • Aug., Sept. prime months for shark attacks in FL

Florida Keys Fishing Report, Mosquito Lagoon Fishing Report

Florida Keys Fishing Report, Mosquito Lagoon Fishing Report

Upcoming EventsSpace Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, January 23-28, 2013

Last week I  asked readers if they had anything good to say about Keys inshore fishing. With one exception, no one did.  Here’s the rest of the report from the second half of my week long Keys trip.

Sunday morning Dalen Mills and I launched our kayaks at Sombrero Beach on Marathon. It’s a lovely spot although not designed with kayakers in mind. There were some fine mermaids there! We paddled west to the end of the island, spotting only a few sharks but being rewarded with a pretty sweet view of the seven mile bridge.

After pulling the boats we motored over to Long Key. Using some investigative work and charm Dalen finagled a launch for us from some private property adjacent to Long Key Bight. In splendid weather we paddled across the bight to the eastern end of the island.

There were quite a few sharks, including some bruisers. I decided that since I clearly wasn’t going to see a bonefish I should put on a shark fly. I did, a big orange one, complete with wire leader. Almost immediately a school of juvie tarpon appeared. I cast the shark fly at them. It was all I had ready. Of course it spooked them.

Hoping some more would come I sat down and changed to a small grizzly seaducer with a 30 pound bite leader, hoping to get a tarpon bite. When I stood up there was a permit 25 feet in front of me with his nose on a sponge. Damn! Where’s the crab I’ve been toting all trip?

I tossed the seaducer but no response from the fish. It was just sitting there, apparently waiting for a critter to pop his head from the top of the sponge. I sat down and changed flies, back to the crab. When I stood up again the fish bolted.

I stood there for at least an hour hoping for a shot at something. It didn’t happen. The fish were done with that place.

On the way back, heading right into the setting sun, I ran over three redfish. Neither of us had had a bite all day.

Monday we launched again at Hawk’s Key ramp and paddled out to Tom’s Harbor Key on an almost dead low tide. I came around the corner of the island and ran over two redfish. A few feet later one was cruising right along the edge of the mangroves. The kayak almost floated over him while I tried to toss a fly in front of him. Needless to say he bolted.

I took the opportunity to anchor the craft and abandon it while I searched on foot. Didn’t need to move hardly at all, here comes two more reds right down the root line. Bam! One eats the merkin. A solid fish, too, five or six pounds.

Florida Keys Fishing Report

The first redfish I ever caught in the Keys, oceanside at Tom’s Harbor Key.

No sooner had I released that one than four more come cruising. The cast wasn’t great but it did put the crab in front of them and another eat, a smaller fish this time, maybe three pounds.
They stopped swimming up to me so I went hunting. There was high overcast so it was hard to see and I spooked a few. Then I went a ways without seeing any more.

On the way back I spotted a single way up under a mangrove. It took several tries but I managed to skip the crab fly under there. The fish saw it land and came right over and ate it for my third fish in thirty minutes. I hadn’t caught a fish in five tough days and suddenly I’m releasing one after another… They’re not bonefish but they are fish, so suddenly everything is good.

Dalen came around the corner. I ceded the place to him hoping he would find some more reds, and paddled across to the shoreline of Grassy Key. There were scattered redfish there. I kept running them over. The clouds made it hard to see.

I saw a little clump of them and tossed the crab. As soon as it hit the water I was on. While playing this fish there was a big swirl and mud and a big ‘cuda took off.

As the redfish neared the kayak it was obvious it was bleeding badly. When I pulled it into the boat it was also obvious that the ‘cuda had nailed it, tearing the gill cover and severing several gill arches. Before I could unhook it the fish had already bled out. I have caught thousands of redfish. That was the first time one had been hit by a ‘cuda.

Florida Keys Fishing Report

This poor fish, hit by a barracuda, was dead when I boated it.

Near sunset I spotted a couple baby tarpon cruising a shoreline. After changing to a size 4 Electric Sushi I dropped it in front of them. I was almost too surprised to strike when one of them nailed it. It jumped four times before I removed the hook and released it. Finally, one of the speicies of fish we had hoped to catch had been caught.

Tuesday was our last fishing day. Oh Lord, please let it be good! We drove to Key West to fish with Capt. Jack Walker, in a boat with a real outboard motor. Two of them, actually! Jack’s mate Jason accompanied us.

We spent quite a bit of time exploring most of the islands between Key West and the Marquesas as Jack looked for bait. Throw after throw with the net yielded a few pilchards here, a few more pilchards there, and yet a few more away over there. Finally Jack pronounced the livewell full enough and he headed to the fishing grounds.

He hoped to get some blackfin tuna. They weren’t there.  Just before we left a spin rod went off and after several hot runs a skipjack tuna was brought alongside. A big ‘cuda appeared from nowhere and relieved us of the back third of the fish.

Jack headed for another spot. When we got there he tossed a handful of pilchards out. Blam! Wham! Immediate explosions, exactly what this reporter wanted to see. Thinking they were bonito Dalen and I cast our flies. We both lost them immediately. The fish were toothy, our fluorocarbon leaders no match.

I rigged us with Tyger Leader (great stuff!) bite tippets and the flies were again offered. We both hooked up immediately to hot fish that quickly took us deep into the backing.

We stayed until nearly sunset, catching big cero mackerel and some bonito.

Florida Keys Fishing Report

Dalen had never caught any fish like this cero mackerel.

Some of our fish were eaten by other, much larger fish. It was fast, exciting, exhausting fishing, mackerel and bonito blowing up and skyrocketing off the transom, drags and men screaming, the boat rocking back and forth, just an awesome afternoon. Contrasted with the lack of activity from earlier in the week it was almost overwhelming.

Florida Keys Fishing Report

Capt. Jack Walker with a little tunny, commonly known to Florida anglers as bonito.

Capt. Jack, you done good. Thank you.

Dalen had a celebratory bottle of Samuel Adams New World ale, which we finally had a reason to uncork and drink. It was good. A little sweet perhaps, but good. The bottle’s label reads “A Golden Tripel with Notes of Spice and Tropical Fruit,” and “Aged in oak barrels.” Call me old-fashioned but that seems way too pretentious for a bottle of beer. Labels like that seem fairly stupid on a bottle of wine! I noticed that coffee has somehow developed “notes” too. Pretentious marketing sure has come a long way in the past 20 years or so, much to the detriment of all of us.

I sure hope my mackerel doesn’t have notes of methyl mercury or PCBs.

Back home, Shawn Healy accompanied me on a scouting trip to Mosquito Lagoon on Friday. While breezy there was not a cloud in the sky. It wasn’t great anyplace but we saw at least some fish in most places we looked. Shawn sight fished five reds into the boat using a chartreuse DOA Shrimp. The biggest was out of the slot. A nice day by any standard…

Mosquito Lagoon Fishing Report

Shawn’s first red was the biggest of the day.

Saturday fly fisher JB Walker joined me for a frustrating day on the Mosquito Lagoon. The water was a little high, and clouds covered the sun most of the day. JB only had a handful of shots, and none got converted. There seemed to be fewer fish than the previous day but we couldn’t see so who knows? Anyway, it was a solid skunking. 🙁

And that is this week’s Florida Keys Fishing Report, Mosquito Lagoon fishing report.

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short. Go Fishing!

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2012. All rights are reserved.

Florida Keys Fishing Report

Florida Keys Fishing Report from Spotted Tail

Last week I promised to fish this week. So be it.

Sunday two brave souls took the Mosquito Lagoon On-The-Water Show and Tell Seminar in spite of the nearly 20 mph winds. We went the entire way around the south basin of the Mosquito Lagoon, starting at Haulover Canal, heading north up the ICW, and then going east along Georges Bar. From there we headed south, through the north entrance to the Poll/Troll zone and out the south end. We ran all the way down into Eddy and Max Hoeck Creeks, then back north up to the Haulover Canal, where we ended the tour. We didn’t see a single redfish.

Monday we postponed our charter due to the wind and temperatures. Didn’t fish.

Tuesday I voted. It was very cold, waiting in line. Wasn’t expecting those 50 degree temperatures along with the wind. I love participating in democracy! Didn’t fish.

Wednesday I went wading along Long Key with Dalen Mills, a fly fisher from Maine. We looked for bonefish for three hours. Neither of us saw one.

Thursday Dalen and I went kayaking. First we paddled to No Name Key. The weather could not have been any nicer. The water, however, was quite chilly.

We searched for bonefish there for almost five hours, did not see any. We pulled the boats and went to Hawks Key. We circumnavigated it and checked the oceanside flats of the small unnamed key to the west of Hawks Key. The flats were spectacular but devoid of fish. We were utterly skunked.

Florida Keys Fishing Report

Dalen Mills poles an oceanside flat in the Florida Keys.

Friday Dalen and I launched our kayaks at Big Pine Key. We paddled at least 10 miles, hoping again to find bonefish, permit or tarpon. We did find some juvenile tarpon, and I had some shots at them, trying four different flies. They refused all of them.

Dalen saw one permit. Neither of us saw a bonefish. The weather again was perfect, the water temperatures rising nicely.

If we wanted to fish for sharks we perhaps could have gotten a few. There were enough around. As it was we were both skunked again.

Saturday we paddled along the Atlantic side of Sugarloaf Key. In accordance with the trend, we did not see a fish. The amount of trash in the shoreline mangroves was appalling- crab buoys, miles of rope, nets, sunken boats, torn up tarps, etc.etc.etc. ad nauseum. So very sad.

Florida Keys Fishing Report

This type of trash was all along the shoreline of Sugarloaf Key. In some places it was worse than this.

We pulled the boats and went to Spanish Harbor where we launched them again. We paddled out to No Name Key. I actually saw three juvie tarpon out there and made a few casts with a small grizzly seaducer. They actively avoided it. We did not see any other fish and recorded yet another skunk.

In my opinion (humble, of course) the Florida Keys is the most over-rated fishing destination on the planet. It’s living off a 30 year (or more) old reputation. There is trash everywhere, abandoned fishing gear (crab traps, lines, floats, etc.), sunken boats, a wrecked airplane, your garden variety of litter, on and on. Worse, there are very few fish. I understand a greenhorn from out of town may not catch any. But to paddle over 30 miles of prime bonefish habitat and not see a single fish? That’s ridiculous.

I don’t see myself ever taking another inshore trip there again. Going fishing for bonefish in the Keys is an expensive waste of time.

If anyone has any good things to say about inshore Keys fishing I would certainly appreciate hearing about it.

And that is this week’s Florida Keys fishing report.

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short. Go Fishing!

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2012. All rights are reserved.