December 31, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 4)

While my sister and her boyfriend spent the day at Sawgrass Outlet Mall, Michael and I woke up at 6am to start our fishing day. Our first stop was the canal next to the Port Everglades Expressway. A friend of ours suggested this location to catch Spotted Tilapia, Mayan Cichlid and Yellow Belly Cichlid.

As soon as we started fishing, we found some Spotted Tilapia hiding under the dock.

Spotted Tilapia (Tilapia mariae) – new species #3

While I was catching more Spotted Tilapia to be used as bait, a Butterfly Peacock appeared out of nowhere to scattered the school. Unfortunately, the Butterfly Peacock, nor the Cobra Snakehead, came around to take our live bait.

We were having trouble finding Yellow Belly Cichlid. I stepped back for a second to analyze the situation, then decided to search the rock crevices lining the shore. My worm was immediately grabbed by a Yellow Belly Cichlid!

Yellow Belly Cichlid (Cichlasoma salvini) – new species #4

My thought was that with predators like Largemouth Bass, Peacock Bass and Cobra Snakehead swimming around, these small cichlids would not be caught hanging out in the open. It was great to figure out their hiding places and we caught many of them very quickly. Michael and I also caught some Mayan Cichlids, new to Michael, but I’ve caught them before.

After checking off our target species at this spot, we headed to a set of urban ponds connected by canals. Our major target here was the Jaguar Guapote. On arrival, we caught a few small Yellow Belly Cichlid to use as bait. It wasn’t long when Michael saw a dark fish refused his live cichlid. I tried the spot again with another live cichlid. As the cichlid swam under a culvert out of sight, my line went tight and I set the hook on a decent size fish. There was a flash of violet and I knew it was the Jaguar Guapote! We were not sure why it had refused Michael’s cichlid but taken mine. I thought that perhaps the fish had seen Michael and refused the bait, while I freelined the cichlid so it would swim under the culvert so it would be out of sight.

Jaguar Guapote (Parachromis managuensis) – new species #5

That was all the Jaguar Guapote we caught this day. Michael said he saw a couple more, and I might have seen another one, but the cold weather we experienced for the last couple of days must have turned these tropical exotic species into inactive mode. They simply didn’t want to play. We knew fishing was hard when Largemouth Bass were refusing to bite a lively cichlid!

We had to constantly watch where we step since any shoreline grass could hide a Water Moccasin. We got a little scare when this snake crept up on us, but luckily it was just a non-poisonous Brown Water Snake.

Aside from the cichlid and Largemouth Bass, there were a large number of Grass Carp in the ponds, as well as a small school of mullet plus a wayward Common Snook! It was quite the sight to see a 5-6lb snook swimming in this pond. There were a large number of plecos that ignored all our offerings, but we found a Brown Bullhead while deadsticking a worm. This southern population of the Brown Bullhead has very cool mottled marking that almost look like a camo pattern.

After fishing at this location for another few hours, we decided to return to Coral Springs to try fishing the canals in the area for Cobra Snakehead. Since the water was cold, late afternoon gave us the best possible chance to find active fish. The water must have been too cold. We did not see any snakeheads nor received any hits. I had one hit that might just had been a Largemouth Bass. We were fishing soft plastic frogs trying for a topwater bite. After searching 2 canals for nada, we ran out of daylight.

We had to return to my uncle’s house by 5pm anyways since we were meeting with my mom’s older sister for dinner that night.

Here’s my family and my sister’s boyfriend.

December 30, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 3)

I spent the day with my sister and her boyfriend at Kennedy Space Center. We had a great time and it was a non-fishing day for me. It was a little cold and wet but we still had a good time. We dropped Michael off at Port Canaveral and he caught a couple of Bluefish, a Spot Croaker and a Gaffsailtop Catfish. At the end of the day, we drove to Coral Springs to spend the next few days at my uncle’s house.

December 29, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 2)

We woke up early only to find a very cold and rainy morning. Behind the winter storm that delayed our trip, a cold front followed and the temperature plummeted to about 5C in Orlando that evening. My sister had planned to visit Universal Studio and Michael and I had planned to fish in Tampa again, however, the rain didn’t let up until 10am. While my sister and her boyfriend got ready, Michael and I checked out a little pond behind my cousin’s neighbourhood. We found a number of sailfin catfish that were unwilling to bite worms. After I dropped my sister and her boyfriend at the theme park, it was a little too late to fish Tampa. I joined Michael at the pond trying to find a way to catch the sailfin catfish. We did catch a few small Bluegill Sunfish and Michael caught his first Golden Shiner.

After lunch at my cousin’s house, my cousin suggested that we should try the lake close to their house. Among the common freshwater species was the potential of finding Florida Gar, a species new to both Michael and I.

My cousin and his daughter Ava came to fish with us. Ava was the superstar that day when she found a 13” Black Crappie. These crappies were schooled under the dock and we caught 3 more between 12-14” that day!

My own jumbo crappie!

A nice Black Crappie photograph for my lifelist

There were also some very massive (by Ontario standard) Bluegill Sunfish.

Michael cut up a small sunfish to use as gar bait to be fished on bottom and got a fish to take the bait. However, the hook didn’t set and left us wondering if it was a gar.

While we didn’t find any gar that day, I caught a pair of Redear Sunfish. I caught a suspected juvenile Redear Sunfish in Virginia but didn’t count it since the identity could not be 100% verified. The Redear Sunfish was one of my top target to catch so it was nice to check it off so early.

Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) – new species #2

Later, I caught a 6” Golden Shiner and suggested to Michael to use as live bait. A while later, the Golden Shiner got picked up and it was a Largemouth Bass. Michael said it was at least 3.5lbs…but I said it was between 2.5-3lbs.

That was it for the day of fishing. We took the 4 crappies and one big bluegill back to my cousin’s house and had a Florida shore lunch…it was so good!!!

December 28, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 1)

Back in the fall, my sister and I considered the idea to spend Christmas break with our family in Florida. Soon, we roped in my sister’s boyfriend and my fishing friend Michael to join us on the trip. Since we were all on limited budget, we decided to do a road trip to Florida instead of flying.

We had planned to depart Toronto at 5am for a long day of driving ahead. However, when a winter storm blew across much of the US and part of southern Ontario to create treacherous driving conditions, we had no choice but to sit at home to wait for the highways to be cleared of snow. Finally, the roads were plowed by 12pm and we headed on our way to Orlando. We alternated drivers every 3 hours and drove straight for 24 hours. We were hoping to arrive in Orlando around noon on Dec 28h so my sister and her boyfriend can spend most of the day and evening at Magic Kingdom. However, a traffic jam slowed our progress and an afternoon storm also interrupted the day. In the end, my sister gave me the OK to head to Tampa to do a little fishing with what was left of our day.

As we were headed to Tampa at 3pm, the sky darkened and looked to threaten our chance to fish. Indeed, about 30 minutes from our fishing location, it started pouring! Oh boy…what a way to start this trip.

Luckily, the rain let up a bit on our arrival. It allowed Michael and I about 30 minutes to find our target species. Jack Dempsey was established in a little creek and we quickly found them hiding among vegetation. They were willing biters and often rush out of the dense vegetation to grab our worms.

Jack Dempsey (Cichlasoma octofasciata) – new species #1

Rio Grande Cichlid should also be established in the system. We didn’t find them this day. Before long, we lost daylight and had to continue our way to Orlando. It started raining again and we had never seen so many accidents! There were collisions and cars spun out. Even a transport truck drove into the ditch! Being Canadians who driven on snowy roads or blizzard conditions, we laughed about how poorly Floridian handled the little bit of rain and the slightly wet road conditions.

We arrived at my cousins at 8pm and went out for some Korean food. Since we had a long day of driving, everyone went to bed pretty quickly after dinner.