January 7, 2013
January 6, 2013
January 5, 2013
January 4, 2013
Buffalo Trunkfish (Lactophrys trigonus) – new species #14
While checking bait and casting out again, I was just setting the baitrunner on my reel and putting the rod down when line was ripped out of the reel! There was a strong fish on the other end and it was pulling decent drag off my Shimano Baitrunner 4500 with 50lb braid and a 30lb dropper loop. The #6 hook was holding fine and I added a little more pressure on the fish. We finally saw the fish and I was super excited. It was a nice Yellow Jack! There were stunning electric blue marking on a golden body…the picture can’t do the fish justice!
Yellow Jack (Carangoides bartholomaei) – new species #15
I sent out my rig again. Another 15 minute passed before there was a good strong run on the baitrunner! I told Michael to grab the rod since I was fishing a sabiki away from the rod. When I got there, the fish had already ran out 1/4 of my spool. I put a little more pressure trying to stop it, but the fish put on a second stronger run. At this point, I was calling either a shark or a ray. Finally, the fish slowed and I was slowly pumping the rod to gain line. The fish came in fairly easily until it saw us. It was a stingray, and it now decided to sit on the bottom. I start strumming the line to annoy the ray and it worked. The ray swam off on a little run again but we managed to hold it close to shore. A few moments of trying to fit it into the pier net…and we lifted it up over the seawall!
Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana) – new species #16
It has a nasty stinger that I was trying to stay away from getting stung.
We didn’t have any more excitement when the tide came in. It was quite hard to fish the dropper loop since the current was full of seagrass. We only had 3 small grunts and two porgy for bait, but we decided to grab lunch and try one of the bridges for the afternoon bite. When we arrived at our bridge spot at 2pm, the tide was still coming in at this spot. We were fishing from the old car bridge. People were casting toward the new car bridge. Michael and I decided to fish in the eddy of the bridge support of our bridge using a dropper loop rig with 3 hooks and a 3oz sinker. We were immediately into a mess of grunts!
January 3, 2013
We decided to check out a shore spot right by one of the decommissioned bridges. This area has a rubble bottom with some sand patches, a few boulders and beds of seagrass. I was hoping to find a couple new species of porgy here, plus some new grunt species. Everything would be new species for Michael.
It took a while to set up my gear. In the meanwhile, Michael had already landed a Littlehead Porgy. I’ve caught that species before so at least I’m not missing out.
I set up a #14 sabiki rig and started searching for smaller grunt species. My first catch was a Bluestriped Grunt. This was a picture I took of a larger one caught the next day. The smaller ones were just a little darker in colour and less colourful. Bluestriped Grunt (Haemulon sciurus) – new species #10
A few more White Grunt later, I had a nice little surprise. I’ve caught Lane Snapper before but had a poor picture of it. It was my target to catch some to photograph…and I didn’t expect to catch one so soon.
A couple of casts later, I caught a Yellowtail Snapper. Just like the Lane Snapper, it was a species I needed a photograph for my record…and now there is a stunning picture!
Although the sabiki was doing fairly well, I want to catch my porgy species. I started fishing a dropper loop with squid, and found a Littlehead Porgy…not a new species. Porgy are very strong for their size and they are a lot of fun!
Not too long later, I had another stronger fish on line again, and it was a Southern Puffer!
Southern Puffer (Sphoeroides nephelus) – new species #11
At around 11pm, the current started to build on the incoming tide. The water was littered with seagrass and it was difficult to fish the dropper loop. I returned to fishing the sabiki and found a Hairy Blenny. I’ve caught a female of this species before. Now I have a picture of the male of the species.
I was fishing the sabiki tight against the ledge along the sea wall. Many little Sergeant Majors and other damselfish were hiding under the ledge. Occasionally, something else were hiding there, including a juvenile Black Grouper! I saw a Black Grouper in 2010, but since they were out of season at the time I did not target it. Although Black Grouper was out of season even now, this was an incidental catch. This is a picture of another larger juvenile Black Grouper I caught the next day.
Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) – new species #12
While fishing the dropper loop, I had a couple of cowfish follow the larger chunk of squid. When I was fishing along the sea wall, a cowfish came out of nowhere and bit the sabiki! On the first bite, it striped the squid tentacle off the bottom sabiki hook. I dropped the sabiki down fully and the fish started nibbling on the second sabiki hook on the slack line…and when I was confident the fish took the entire hook in the mouth, I set the hook and the cowfish gave a spirited fight!
Scrawled cowfish (Acanthostracion quadricornis) – new species #13<
With increasing current, small grunts were found holding around a large rock. We started catching the small grunts to keep as bait. When the tide finally reach slack high, we had about 10 small grunts. Since the slack tide shut down the bite, we decided to grab lunch and headed to another spot near a bridge to try our hands at some big game shore fishing.
This bridge spot was suggested by a friend. He told me that the first and second bridge support often hold Goliath Grouper, and the water in the area is very sharky. We set up a 6/0 reel loaded with 260 yards of 60lb mono, topped with 30 yards of 100lb mono, and tied on a Carolina rig using an 8oz egg sinker to a 310lb barrel swivel that was part of a 180lb single strand steel leader. At the end of the steel leader was a 10/0 circle hook. This was our “big game rig”.
I could cast this rig about 40-50 yards, but accuracy was pretty poor. So before we deploy this rig out, we cast out small grunts using 3/0 and 4/0 size gear. We put a 14” hound fish on the big game rig and dropped it from the bridge to the first bridge support.
We were fishing an outgoing tide. Our bait were dropped in the eddy behind the bridge support on the down current side. We were hopeful that a shark or a Goliath Grouper would come knocking. However, throughout the tide change and the evening, the rig sat silent. When Michael caught a Schoolmaster Snapper, we dropped it as a livebait and even that was not bit.
Meanwhile, both Michael and I had a couple of rips on the small grunts. In both cases, the fish ripped the grunt off the 5/0 circle hook. We could only guess what it may be. When it was dark, Michael found a couple of Schoolmaster Snappers just under legal size around the bridge support.
I was looking our livebait well to see how many grunts were left when saw a moray eel nosing around. By the time I got a rig ready the eel had left. However, an hour later, I saw an eel hiding right amongst the rocks close to shore. I managed to get it to bite with the head of a squid. I was successful in pulling the eel out of the rock, but while waiting for Michael to clear his line and step back so I can swing the eel onto shore, the eel cut my 30lb mono with its sharp teeth. That eel could have made some wonderful shark bait!
We fished until 10pm with very little action. At the end, we decided to call it a day and return to the hotel for the night.
January 2, 2013
We arrived to the canal at 2pm and immediately saw many Midas Cichlids! These fish would not bite worms. When the fish approached us while we stood by the shore, an idea clicked! Ever since we saw the Grass Carp at the other location, we bought a couple loafs of bread just in case we needed it. I suggested that we should toss in some bread to see if the Midas would eat it. Bingo! We’re fishing with bread! These fish were used to eating the bread that people feed to the ducks!
The fish were very picky though. They must have been heavily pressured since they could tell a piece of bread was attached to the hook. In the end, we had to fish the bread on a small #14 octopus hook with a tiny split shot under a float with a very long fluorocarbon leader to allow the bread to sink naturally and into deep water. The fish were a little less wary if the bread sank into deeper water. After about 5 minutes of refining the presentation, I finally had a Midas made a mistake!
Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) – new species #8
It took Michael considerably longer to catch his first Midas Cichlid. Catching just one member from the school spooked the other fish and they became even more wary. Waiting for Michael to catch his fish, I played with some Mayan Cichlids that were guarding their nests. They would nudge, bump or gently remove any offensive or intruding objects in their nests, but they would not pick it up enough to be hooked.
While Michael was casting his bread bait, he got picked up twice while on the drop. These were big fish that immediately snapped his line. I knew they were Grass Carp and suggested that maybe we should try a hair rig for them. After he caught his first Midas Cichlid, he was crazy enough to listen to me and tied on a large hair rig and put on a large chunk of bread. He was once again picked up on the drop about 30 minutes later and landed a 15lb Grass Carp.
Seeing the opportunity, I tied on a hair rig too and used a good chunk of bread by wrapping the bread onto the hair rig loop. Michael had 3 rods now fishing the hair rig with bread on bottom for Grass Carp, but they were not getting bit. So I started casting the bread bait and letting it sink naturally, and once the bread hit bottom, I would reel up halfway up the water column and allow the bread to fall again. I was always holding rod and fishing on a tight line. After about 10 casts, I got picked up.
At first, it didn’t feel like a very big fish. The fish was coming up quite easily and I was guessing it was a small Grass Carp. When the fish surfaced and saw me, it put on the after burner! It took about 4 minutes of gentle pressure with the 8lb mono and a couple of tense moments with the net. I told Michael to get a good footing and stay low on the ground. When Michael finally had the fish in the net, it kicked and knocked Michael off balance. He took a tumble, bruised his leg and wet his feet, but he did keep his hands on the net and kept the fish in the bag!
Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) – new species #9
I just had to take a few more pictures…
And the weight on Michael’s digital scale…30.5lbs!!!
A new species, big or small, is magnificent on its own…but this just puts it over the top!!!
After catching the Grass Carp, I had to take a nap before the 2 hours drive to the Keys. Michael fished another 20 minutes without any bites. When I woke up, I walked to the washroom and saw a Butterfly Peacock on the walk back! I ran to grab my rod since I wanted to catch one for a good picture on my list (I’ve caught them in Hawaii previously). We had some pretty gross nightcrawler left, but that was all the bait we had with us. I tossed my worm at the Peacock, and out of nowhere came this Oscar! It swam quickly at my worm, but stopped short when it sniffed the funky smelly worm then turned away.
Man, it’s a tough lesson to swallow…ALWAYS HAVE FRESH FRISKY WORMS!!!
Following the failure, I called it a day and we drove in the dark to the Florida Keys. My sister and her boyfriend were already at the hotel room and we arrived just as they were getting ready to head to bed.
January 1, 2013
We woke up earlier this day to reach our fishing location by 7am. Our first spot was a canal in Hammock area following a tip from our friend that we could find numerous willing Midas Cichlid and Mayan Cichlid. There could also be a small number of Jaguar Guapote and Butterfly Peacock. Unfortunately, we arrived to a creek devoid of any cichlids in sight.
After 30 minutes, I finally saw one unwilling Butterfly Peacock and a school of large mullet. Having fished the area thoroughly both shallow and deep without so much as a tap, we decided to head to the Tamiami Canal for the rest of the day.
We really didn’t know how to proceed. The continued slow fishing really dampened our spirit. Despite fishing hard, we just can’t find many of our targets. We debated whether we should head deep into the Tamiami Canal or fish closer to civilization. In the end, we decided to go as deep as possible. I had a number of areas marked on the GPS to try.
Along the way to our final destination, we decided to check out one of my spots for a quick look. Right beside the roadside ditch, we were greeted by wildlife…
Despite the danger of a 7-8 foot alligator, we fished this spot within 15-20 feet of this reptile…since the ditch was literally boiling with Florida Gar!!!
We first tried some small lures to see if they would hit artificial. However, we soon changed to pieces of cut sunfish to fish under a float. Once we started fishing cut sunfish, we were being picked up by gar almost every cast! We had to let the fish take the bait for a while before setting the treble hook, or else we often pull the bait out and the hook would not set. It took a few times to figure out how long we should wait, but we finally caught some Florida Gar!
Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus) – new species #6
Michael and I both caught our lifer Florida Gar. We were hoping to find other native Florida species such as Warmouth Sunfish and Dollar Sunfish, as well as exotic species like Oscar and African Jewelfish. We were instead pestered by Bluegill Sunfish, Spotted Sunfish and Largemouth Bass. I even had a Bowfin on the line briefly before the hook came out. I tried to horse the fish quickly to shore since our gator friend was now taking notice of our fish on the line. It slowly approached us by creeping closer, then entered the water to sit about 2 feet from our PREVIOUS fishing spot. We both jumped back when we saw the gator enter into the water and swam toward us. Scary moment indeed!
I’ve caught a Spotted Sunfish on my previous trip but didn’t have a great photo. This one was just a little better…
When we found no other interesting species, and having the gator chased us off, we decided to fishing another spot.
As soon as we arrived in the new spot, Michael said he spooked an Oscar. That was quite optimistic…but we only and one other glimpse of the Oscar in the next 3 hours. This spot was filled with Largemouth Bass, some around the 3-4lb range, a very large number of Florida Gar, and a school of tilapia that did not want to bite. We fished the area well trying to find more Oscars or the other target fish mentioned above…but found none. I’m really not sure if it was the cold weather that turned off the bite, or if we were just not fishing the right area. African Jewelfish should be very prevalent in the Tamiami, but we had yet to even see one!
With very little action, I decided to play with the gar. At one point, I caught a bluegill sunfish that was deeply hooked. I tried to keep it in the water to keep it alive while I dig for my hemostat. While the sunfish was in the water, it attracted the notice of the Florida Gar and they started to chase the sunfish. They were following it intensely and I could “walk” the gar like you walk a puppy, haha! Finally, they started to hit the sunfish and grabbed on. The sunfish was a little too big to fit their mouths, so after grabbing on for a while, they would simply drop it. I retrieved the sunfish and cut it up for bait…and that was the beginning of a full hour action with the gar! I could almost get every gar in the area to grab the bait as long as I drift the chunk of sunfish on a free line in the current to the gar. They would grab the chunk and drift back in the current.
Most of the time, I just let them pull around a little and then yank hard to pull the bait out. A few times, I set the hook to fight the gar for a bit before the hook comes out. There was a bigger gar that I had wanted to land for a picture, but as I was lifting the gar out of the water and hand line it up the bridge, the line snapped.
When we had enough of the gar, we decided to fish another spot we passed by. Although the area looks very weedy and every bit the habitat for Oscars, we found no Oscar. Instead, we saw a large bass, caught a couple of bluegills, and hooked a 3-4lb Bowfin that snapped the line when we tried to hand line it over the fence.
We were parked at this place that sells gator tail sandwiches…I just had to try one. It was pretty darn good…MMM!
With about an hour left of daylight, we tried one last effort. We fished closed to the civilized end of the Tamiami before we had to return to my uncle’s house for dinner. We finally found something new with determination! Michael caught his first Butterfly Peacock and I caught my first Banded Cichlid!
Banded Cichlid (Heros severus) – new species #7
I also caught my third Redear Sunfish.