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"The solution to any problem -- work, love, money, whatever -- is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be."
John Gierach

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" If we concentrated on the really important stuff in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles!"


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Capt. Butch Rickey

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florida fishing reports

I had a full week on tap for the Thanksgiving week, but weather and schedule changes reduced it to two trips. A dismal forecast with lots of wind forced Alan McDonald and his buddy Steve, of Jupiter, Florida, to reschedule to sometime in February 2015. My long time close friend and customer Russ Hubbard had to cancel Friday the 28th at the last minute because his father is fighting cancer.

My good friend Don Marano and I had been blown off the water on Thursday, the 20th, after launching at the south marina at South Seas Plantation. It was a slip and fall contest on the slick, exposed ramp going and coming, and the wind was a steady 25 over a strong incoming tide. It was butt ugly. After a mile we turned around and made our way back. There, we were lectured by the Harbor Master. Not what we were in the mood for.

We decided to forget trying to launch at South Seas, and opted to fish off the A Span of the Sanibel Causeway, around the Fishermans Key area. It can be great trout fishing in the winter, and the red fishing can also be good. Don was up for it. We met at 6:30, and were soon on our way. Problem was, it had fogged in solid, and we didn't know on our way to where!

I told Don that I though I could feel my way along the edge of a drop and find my way to the first spot I wanted to fish for trout. But, in the white soup and breeze and strong tide had other ideas. When I saw a manatee sign pop out of nowhere, I knew we needed to anchor and hold our positions until the fog broke.

It took about three hours for the first break in the fog. We couldn't see any distance, but I could see enough that I though I knew where I was, and where I wanted to go. We headed in the direction I thought would get us there, and about the time I saw my spot appear from the fog, a flats boat also appeared coming right at me. I wasn't too worried about him running over me, as I was gliding along in barely six inches of water. I knew it was a matter of time that the suicidal operator of the flats skiff ran aground. It only took a few seconds, and he was trimmed up with his prop mostly out of the water trying to get across the flat.

Don and I got to my first spot sooner than I anticipated we would with the fog conditions. The trout weren't on like they normally would be. We caught mostly trout shorts, lizard fish, puffers, etc. Then Don tied on a topwater Walk-the-dog plug and immediately began getting popped on nearly every cast. Soon he had a very large female snook on his plug, and had his hands full. He fought the fish for some time, and as it looked like he was going to win the battle, the fish did a move on him, and escaped. Bummer. He did get to get a good look at the big snook, though.

Eventually, the fog lifted to the point that I thought it safe to go exploring, and hunting for fish. Don wasn't done trying to catch more of those trout and snook on his topwater plug.

Never really finding a good trout bite, I moved on to redfish grounds. I had some hits and did catch a pretty 16 inch redfish. The fog was still in and out, which made it hard for Don to join me, but he eventually made it to join me. We couldn't get any more redfish to play, but did get a 22 plus inch trout on a white Mirrolure Top Pup. Nice.

Shortly after catching that big trout a kayaking friend, Brian Kelly, approached me in his new skiff. Of course, I didn't know he had a new skiff, and didn't realize it was him until he shouted over to me. Brian has had to give up kayak fishing because of back injuries he sustained in an auto accident, and had just bought this new skiff, a Salt Marsh. It's pretty slick. Has a 5 ft. beam, powered by a 20 hp Tohotsu, and I believe he said it was 14 ft. long. It's kevlar, and looks like a great way to get on the skinny water without breaking the bank. Check out the pics. I was glad Brian had spotted me out there, and came over to visit.

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This Salt Marsh is a great looking little skinny water skiff!

florida fishing reports
Pretty roomy cockpit, too!

We made another move to an area that has been good to me with outsized redfish. It's deeper water that's not too far away. We found quite a few trout there while trying to round up a redfish, and I also hung a big snook on my jig. I wasn't anchored, so I threw my trolling motor into reverse for the first part of the fight. The fish was acting for all the world like a big redfish, and never made that explosive first run toward the hang-downs. I turned the motor off, and then all hell broke loose. But, she was probably cheek hooked in the membrane, which tears and leaves a hole, and from there it's easy for the fish to shake the hook free. I also got a look at that snook, and it appeared to be a top of the slot fish.

We caught some more trout, and put several on the stringer, but the coup de gras was a big redfish that ate Don't trolled jig just as I was telling him that I often catch big reds in this spot. It gave him a great fish, and eventually came to Don't boat, but it was over 28 inches long, and had to go back. We trout fished our way home a caught more as we went along.

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Doug's Miss November decoy!

Once we had the boats trailered, we used my cutting board between the two boats to fillet the trout. We split them up between us, and headed home. It had been a very nice day on the water, and I was glad we finally caught a break with the weather.

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Here's Don with our keepers!

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Don and I were back at it again on Saturday, but this time we decided to launch at Pineland Marina on Pine Island, and run south to Josslyn Island, Cat and Rat Keys to see if we could scare up some tailing reds or pothole reds. I was up at 4:30 to get there to Bokeelia by 7 AM. We loaded Don's Ultimate 14.5 Tandem on my trailer and headed to Pineland. We had an outgoing tide until early afternoon, and weren't sure how much the wind would affect the tide. Don was concerned about running out of enough water to paddle our yaks.

Pineland is a great place to launch. It's a good ramp with plenty of parking, and they have seniors who run golf carts shuttling customers from their vehicles and back again when you launch and return. They work for tips only, and are very friendly and helpful. It's a great service. The rest of the operation, like the Ship's Store, is also very good.

We were soon launched and on our way. Although tannin stained the water was crystal clear. We had an average of about 2.5 feet beneath the boats. I didn't think we would loose enough water to make our boats impossible to paddle. Those beautiful flats south looked so redfishy, but there were none to be found as we fished our way south. I did push a few, but never got one to eat, and never got eyeball to eyeball with one. It was late morning by the time we got down near Josslyn, and we didn't have a fish in our boats. We decided to see if we could find a good trout bite.

We found a few in Rocky Channel, but it was more lizzardfish and puffers than anything else. We went pothole hunting. We both got on good looking holes, and I put the first keeper on the stringer. Don was catching plenty of trout, but curiously, no keepers. I found a nearby hole that gave me a couple of quick keepers, and called Don over. But, that bite tapered off.

I again went hunting, and soon found a very productive hole perhaps a hundred yards away. After getting on a good bite, I again called Don in to join the fun. The bite continued through the change of the tide and into the afternoon incoming tide. Before it was over we limited out on keepers (10), and Don got the best trout of the day, at over 17 inches. I had lost a hog of a flounder earlier, and near the end of the day I stuck another one that was the twin brother of the first one. That one made it into the boat, and was a fat 3 pounder nearly 20 long. By now it was 3 PM. We had our limit of trout and a nice flounder kicker, and knew we had a long run home against the wind, so we decided to head home.

The ramp was busy, but all the boat owners were on their game and there was no ramp clogging going on. Don and I quickly got the boats on the trailer, and pulled out and parked out of the way to finish putting things away and getting ready for the ride home.

It had been a great day on the water even before we got on a good bite, but that made it even better. I love fishing with Don. We pulled out around 4 PM. Back at Don's condo we cleaned the boats and gear, and filleted our fish. Later we went to the nearby Lazy Flamingo, where we had some of our fillets Mesquite grilled. They were awesome. Probably the best trout I've even eaten.

That was the week. I'll be off the water for a while taking care of personal things. Anyone who would like to share a trip you had recently is welcome to do so, and I will put it up on barhoppr.com. If you share a report, please add some pictures.

Best Fishes!

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