Wind at 6 mph
Barometric Pressure at 30.2
And Lori caught a nice 20 inch trout for dinner later that night.
Delores, Martha Ann, and her husband, Wayne (taking the picture here), Nan, on her maiden kayak fishing excursion, and Lori have all met at Joe's Fish Camp in Ozello to spend the day fishing in Fish Creek.
By 7:30 a.m., everyone was water bound, including Nan...the newbie.
Wind at 6 mph
Barometric Pressure at 30.2
And Lori caught a nice 20 inch trout for dinner later that night.
By 9:00, Nan had her very first fish on....a beautiful 19 inch slot redfish. THAT's the way you want to initiate your kayak fishing past-time.
Nan's redfish before being released back in the water to swim another day.
A few more reds caught during the morning.
This one with no spots!
Martha Ann and her husband, Wayne, tucked themselves back into a few smaller creeks, and hauled in a few keeper reds themselves.
By 12:00 noon, everyone was off the water and headed back home to spend the afternoon cleaning gear and filleting fish.
Saturday, November 8th, a few ladies from the NCLA and their spouses (Delores & Ty, Marilee, Theresa, and Virginia & Doug) met at Felburn Park at about 9:30 a.m. for a little relaxing and fun day of kayak fishing.
We now know what a -6 low tide looks like at Felburn Park. Even though we knew there would be over three feet of water coming in between 10:00 and 3:00 with endless opportunities to catch fish all day, there would be no launching here this particular morning. Hhhhmmm....let's see what the Barge Canal side, 50 yards away, looked like.
Still very very low tide, to be sure.....but much more manageable. We'd never launched (or fished) in the Barge Canal itself, so this was a first and looked to be an adventure in itself. We would be fishing in an area that we hadn't been before even though it wasn't too far from the surroundings that we were familiar with.
Now that we knew where we would be launching and paddling too, it was time to unload and gear up. RG helps Theresa unload her new fishing kayak off the trailer.
Marilee all ready to go!
Virginia and Theresa patiently waiting for the rest of us to get our butts in our yaks and in the water.
Don't worry about us....we're right behind you all....
By 10:15 a.m.....catchin' a ride with Ty's trolling motor kayak so we can catch up with the rest of the gang.
By 10:30 a.m. it is 63 degrees
Wind at 7 mph
and Low Tide
Marilee & Theresa are about to take a sharp left and head out to explore the area looking for a good spot to start.
Ty and Virginia head in the opposite direction on the hunt for a few promising spots themselves.
And Doug has no intention of sitting in his kayak all day !!
Trout & redfish were caught during the morning.
Marilee finds a nice spot to stretch her legs.
The calm breeze allowed her to do a little fly casting.
And she pulled in this little beauty!
By 1:00 p.m., Doug & Virginia had caught their fill of redfish and headed home. The rest of the group met at a nearby oyster bar and had a nice lunch outside of their kayaks. It was a leisurely paddle back to the ramp after that and time to load up and head home.
We were especially excited to get to the Plantation for November's meeting, not only because Capt. Zach Hoffman was on deck to be our guest speaker for the evening, but also because we were expecting a number of new ladies to join us. Since the feature story was published about the NCLA in the October edition of Ocala Style / Marion Healthy Living Magazine, we've had several inquiries about our fun little club coming in on a daily basis and many of those women were anxious to come and sit in on one of our meetings to see first hand what we're all about....and boy did they come.
Walking into "The Den" meeting room, where our meetings are held at The Plantation, we noticed that the NCLA sign was not posted on the door like it usually is, and the tables and chairs were set up in a different arrangement with audio/visual equipment set up as well. That was a little curious but we weren't overly concerned about it so we shrugged our shoulders and made ourselves comfortable and waited for Capt. Zach and some of the other members to arrive.
By 6:00 we had most of our regular crew there with maybe only one or two of the new ladies that joined us. Hhhmmm.....wonder where the others where. Had they just changed their minds and decided not to come after all? That happens sometimes. Where they lost? Capt. Zach was there, though, all set up and ready to go, so we went ahead and began the presentation, a little disappointed that we were missing so many of the newbies.
About 10 minutes into our meeting, an employee from the Plantation's Banquet Dept. (they're the folks that set up the meeting rooms) came in and apologized to us. He explained that the room we were in, the one we've been in every month for the past year, had been set up for a different group and another meeting room, located upstairs, had been set up for us, in fact, there were women already up there waiting - probably the other newbies we were wondering about earlier. He apologized again when he found out that we hadn't been told about the old room switch-a-roo before now. Well, that explained a lot but we were already set up and ready to go. Didn't matter, We were gently encouraged to gather our things and relocated to the meeting room upstairs which we did. Sure enough, a handful of new faces were sitting quietly in their seats. They had been ushered into that room by the check-in staff and had been waiting up there the entire time wondering where the core NCLA members were!
It took us a good 15-20 minutes to change rooms, get settled, reset the audio/visual equipment and get back underway by starting completely over. But at least we were all together now....all 18 of us, the biggest audience we've had since our very first meeting at the Coastal Region Library back in February of 2013.
Let's get started - Pompano
We got comfortable and gave Capt. Zach our undivided attention. He told us a little bit about himself and his charter business and then began his presentation by making sure we understood that Florida Pompano is in the Jack family. He showed a Power Point slide and pointed out the differences between the Florida Pompano and several other species (Cravalle Jack & Permit) that look similar but are entirely different in a few ways. One of the easier ways to identify a Pompano from a Permit is the length. Pompano are smaller in comparison and will usually be under 17 inches or so, where as the Permit will be an average of 25 inches or larger. Another difference that Capt. Zach pointed out is that Pompano are very tasty and a great fish to harvest, take home and cook.....Jack Cravalle and Permit....not so much!
Pompano are not fish you typically target in the Crystal River area. They are more of a random catch while targeting a different species most of the time, but it's important to be able to identify them if/when you do catch them so that you don't break any laws by harvesting fish outside of the legal slot limit. You can keep as many as 6 Pompano per person per day as long as they are over 11 inches long.
Where to Find Them
Pompano can be found in a variety of water environments. Around the Nature Coast of Crystal River, they'll be found near oyster bars and creeks. Capt. Zach told us about an area located in the Salt River between Homosassa and Crystal River where, when the water gets a bit colder, many of the professional guides will converge with clients and take turns fishing the mouth of several creeks and catch a number of Pompano. He also encouraged us to take note if we happened upon a professional guide with clients on board, Make a mental note of where they are, and at some point in the near future visit the area again and try your luck there. The guide was there for a reason...there's probably fish to be caught. During the winter months here in Crystal River, head over to a couple of the local shallow water rock piles....usually found in 6-12 feet of water. While you're fishing for Sheepshead, you may find an occasional school of Pompano run though the area. You can catch them with something as easy as a piece of shrimp on a jig-head. December and January are two good months where Pompano can be found around the Spoil Banks at the mouth of the Barge Canal.
So what if you don't have a boat or kayak? Try fishing from a bridge or pier. You're odds are just as good, if not better from either of those locations. Or try shore fishing on the East Coast.
If you have a motor boat, you may run right into a school of Pompano and not even realize it until you see them skip across the water in the motor wake behind you. Pompano have a weird habit of "wake skipping." When a boat passes near them they leap out of the water and skitter across the wake on their sides. They love rip currents and turbulent water.
Bait & Lures
Capt. Zach recommends using light tackle when fishing Crystal River inshore waters to experience the best fight a fish has to offer, including Pompano. "Light Tackle" usually means a 6-7 ft medium action rod with 15 lb test braid line and 15-20 lb fluorocarbon leader line. Even small fish with a little 'fight' in them will make for fun fishing with this combination of rod and line. Medium to heavy action rods can really take the fun out of catching a fish and bringing it to the net.
We learned that one of the best baits you can use for catching Pompano while surf fishing, bridge fishing or pier fishing are sand fleas. You can find them by digging an inch or two under the sand as waves receded from the shoreline ever few seconds.
One of Zach's favorite lures is a buck-tail jig, a piece of lead on a hook" (jig-head) with strands of colored horse hair tied on to cover and hide the hook. He uses this type of lure to find schools of Pompano because it is designed to be retrieved very quickly. If you hesitate in the retrieval process, the jig-head is heavy enough to sink to the bottom.
The faster you reel in your lure, the faster it cuts the water and this action attracts lots of fish. You can also use a small piece of shrimp on a 1/16 oz. jig-head and work that at a rapid pace through the water, too. You just don't want to "fish the bottom" if you're looking to hook into a Pompano. Like Spanish Mackerel, they're looking for fast moving bait. In fact, there are jigs made specifically for Pompano called "Pompano Jigs". Another fast retrieval jig to consider is the Silly Willy used to catch both Pompano and Yellow Tail Snapper, too. This one is a little shaped a little differently then a normal jig-head to make it "flutter" in the water.
If you want to retrieve at a slower pace, then you may want to opt for a DOA Shrimp like this. Usually better to use a slow retrieve lure during the hotter months when the water is warmer and fish aren't as energetic as they are in cooler water.
How to Cook Them
There are so many different ways to cook Pompano (and any other fish for that matter) but the first one Zach mentioned, and probably the easiest way is to just fry it.
He also mentioned a more unconventional way of cooking Pompano that he learned from a friend's mother who is Asian. She cuts the head off and guts it and then just boils the fish. Once it's done, all you have to do is pick the meat off of the bones. He said it is surprisingly delicious that way.
After the recipe exchange, we capped off the presentation with a "Question and Answer" session and then he gave each of us a coozie and a business card.
Although Capt. Zach's specialty is to go 30-40 miles off-shore Grouper fishing, we appreciated him coming and teaching us a little bit more than we knew before about Pompano, even if it's not his primary species of charter fishing we sure learned a lot from him and hope we can count on him to come and speak to our group again next year.
Thank You Capt. Zach Hoffman!
A day of kayak "fishing" evolved into a day of kayak "paddling". Delores, Elfie, Judy, Liz and Lori all had their sights set on bringing in a few fish to brag about but things didn't turn out the way they had planned.
Everyone met at 8:00 a.m. at King's Bay Park and started unloading and organizing their gear.
It was a beautiful day
8:15 a.m. and everyone was ready to launch
Weather was Fair
Barometric Pressure was 30
Liz was first in the water....
Judy was next....
The rest of the group followed suite...
Judy's ready to get started so off she went....
Sue paddles off as well...
Lori is hunting for a good spot to settle down
Liz and Elfie head off in an entirely different direction.
The next for hours were disappointing. Although the weather was near perfect, no one was able to catch anything of any significance....catfish mostly with lots of manatee sightings, which was a decent enough trade-off. And since their fishing expectations weren't going as hoped, they decided to paddle on over to Three Sisters Springs for a look-see.
The water is crystal clear!
By noon everyone was back at the launch and pulling out their packed lunch. They sat down at a nearby picnic table and spent the next half hour chatting about the morning. Lori's kayak seemed to be hiding something of value to this curious cat. He was caught red-pawed ransacking an open dry-bag in her kayak. Probably the highlight of the day other than the various manatee sightings. Overall a decent day to be out....just not for catching fish.
Back in October the Nature Coast Lady Anglers club was contacted by Capt. Mark Benson and asked if we'd be interested in setting up a table in the Vendor Hall during Florida's 2014 Fly Fishing Expo being hosted by the Plantation on Crystal River. The goal was to get more women introduced to the sport of fly fishing so promoting the fact that Citrus County has a fishing club (spinning & fly) exclusively for women, was a great way to spread the news. Naturally we were happy to accept the invitation and made plans to work out the details.
Delores and Marilee teamed up. Delores, knowing nothing about fly fishing, would man the table and respond to general questions about the NCLA club and Marilee, who is an accomplished fly fisher, would be Delores's counterpart, tackling questions and comments about flies and such. They put their heads together and made a list of interesting things they could bring to cover a table and attract passers-by.
Business Card Holder
Guest Speaker Schedule
Laptop (fully charged)
Website Photo Slideshow
Think that about covered it!
Over the course of the following days and weeks, Mark continued to give lots of information, guidance, encouragement and advice in order to help the two feel comfortable and at ease behind their little vendor table. Reading over the schedule of workshops being offered that day, they decided to tag-team manning the table so that each could sign up for a seminar. Delores registered for "Beginning Casting and Rigging" with Wanda Taylor and Marilee registered for "Tying the Clouser Minnow" with none other than Bob Clouser himself.
Saturday, October 11th arrived and the girls got up early and met for breakfast and then drove to the Plantation to get the day underway. They found the registration table and collected their name-badges. They confirmed the classes that they were each signed up for and were given a program with all of the pertinent information about the event along with a map indicating where each session would be held, and then hey were escorted to their vendor table where they began to set up.
Many of the other vendors had already arrived and were set up because they were there the previous day, Friday. Both Delores and Marilee work full-time so Saturday was the only day they could monitor a table.
by 9:00 a.m. all of the vendor tables were set up....including the Nature Coast Lady Anglers'.
There was a small window of down-time that Delores and Marilee had before they each went to the workshops they had signed up for that day. They split that time in half and while one was manning the NCLA table, the other was wandering around and visiting some of the more interesting vendors and the wares they had displayed. One booth of particular interest was promoting the non-profit organization Casting for Recovery. Their mission is inspiring and their cause is a worthy one.
A small donation to this great organization is graciously acknowledged by giving the donor a token of appreciation in the form of an adorable white, pink and purple lapel pin. Very classy, indeed!
From there, it was a brisk walk to make Wanda Taylor's mini-meeting on fly fishing basics just for women.
is the 1st Woman Master Certified casting instructor by the International Federation of Fly Fishers. She was the 1st woman Orvis Endorsed guide in the southeastern United States. Her genuine love of sharing the sport of fly fishing with others is apparent when you meet her. She was awarded the 2008 FFF SE Council Award of Excellence for her work with breast cancer survivors and her teaching and testing activities for the FFF certified casting instructors program. By working through personal injuries and with other non profits, like Project Healing Waters, Wanda has developed unique and very effective ways to continue in the sport of fly fishing safely and effectively. Her personal goals are to share with you how to prevent injury in transferring from fresh to salt water and "IF" you have injury, how to make minor adjustments in your casting with huge benefits that will guarantee great results for years to come. When she's not on the fly show circuit, Wanda is an instructional guide on the Hiwassee River in Reliance, TN. She has been with the TFO rod company for ten years and is a pro staff member with Chota Outdoor Gear and Aqua Design. Wanda can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook
She took a few minutes to introduce herself and describe her experience as she went through the process of becoming a certified fly casting instructor. It's not an easy certification to obtain. She then went on to explain each basic part of a fly rod on a very elementary level so that even the most novice of her students would understand. That style of education was greatly appreciated by the group.
She began with reviewing the parts of a fly rod.
Then moved onto the reel.
She gave a thorough demonstration of how the reel fits into the reel seat of the rod.
Ruth Stokes, a director for the Florida council of the IFFF, assisted Wanda in some of the hands-on instruction.
Wanda instructs on how and why to line up the rod eyes and thread the line through them.
After all of the essential information was covered during the "classroom setting" style discussion. Now it was time to get up out of the seats and physically try some simple fly casting. Wanda's suggestion to new lady fly anglers was to learn the bilateral style of casting first and progress to more advanced technique from there. There were several reasons she gave to back up her suggestion:
1...Bilateral casting is visually easier to see.
2...You can monitor your every stroke and identify your shortcomings and then make a plan to improve them.
3...It is an "energy efficient" way to cast, using your body core muscles.
4...You work on casting and angling skills at the same time.
And then she demonstrated the basic mechanics of a cast for a fly rod.
Now it was time for the rest of the women to spread out, allow for a little bit of "elbow" room, and practice their casting style.
After the fly casting practice session was over, all of the ladies gathered back around for a few final words of encouragement from Wanda. She told the women that her mother was a huge influence on her life, encouraging her in all things and that one of the strongest memories she has of her mom is of the pearl necklaces she wore around her neck. For that reason, Wanda gave each lady a small pearl pendant to commemorate the lessons they learned today. Classy Lady !!
She invited everyone to check out a weekend seminar dedicated to fly fishing introduction specifically for women only to be held at Deep Creek Fish Camp and sponsored by SWFT (Saltwater Flytyers)
So all in all a great day for the NCLA at the Plantation On Crystal River. Meeting some great folks and casting a line with Wanda Taylor. What a great way to end the day!
We welcomed Captain Bear Smith as our guest speaker for the October 7th meeting. Topic: Spanish Mackerel
After the ladies settled into their seats for the next hour, Capt. Bear Smith began his presentation by introducing himself and telling us a little bit about his charter services. www.commonhooker.com. He didn't waste any time, though, jumping right into the topic at hand: Spanish Mackerel, immediately following his introduction.
Catching Spanish Mackerel, Capt. Bear said, isn't rocket science, which means there's no stealth style involved, no special technique used, no silly "be very quiet" rules. They're an easy species to lure and catch if they're in the neighborhood, but not so easy to keep on the line once hooked. >We'll get into that a little later<. They are one of the few pelagic species that actually come close enough to shore for inshore anglers to catch during certain times of the year which is early Spring when they're migrating north, and early Fall when they're migrating back south. They are one of the most fight-worthy fish out there.
After this brief overview, he went over several subjects such as identification, rigging, how to prepare them for cooking and then he opened the floor for Q & A.
First things first though: In order to be able to identify a Spanish Mackerel when you catch it, you have to recognize the distinctive features that separate it from similar looking fish, like Cero and King Mackerel. Capt. Smith taught us how to do just that. Because of their shape, they are a very speedy fish that can dart and slash and switch directions in a split second. They are easily excited by the smell of bait in the water and can be worked into a frenzy under the right circumstances within a matter of seconds. This is one of the reasons they are so exciting to catch.
One of the "distinguishing features" that he made an extra effort to emphasize was the set of teeth this species has, strongly encouraging us to keep our fingers as far away from the mouth of this fish as possible - for obvious reasons. We may not get that finger back if we're not careful! Because their teeth are as sharp as razors, they can slice right through a monofilament line or leader while speeding away with your lure or bait without you ever realizing they were there in the first place until it's too late. For this reason the Capt. recommended using a piece of tackle that he refuses to use for most other targeted species because it is a repellant for most fish and that is the dreaded "wire leader". But you'll definitely need this if you really have your heart set on boating a Spanish Mackerel. It's one of the few lines that their teeth can't cut right through. DO NOT waste a good, high-end lure trying to catch a Mackerel, you'll only loose it in the end.
If you are planning on targeting this fish, one of the easiest and fastest way to attract them is to toss out a little nasty to us but delicious to them chum. You can literally attract a school of 100 or more doing this. Be aware that this will also attract other fish as well. Fish you may not be so excited to catch, like catfish, ladyfish and jacks. But you gotta take the bad with the good. It's the chance you take when tossing chum. On the bright side, though, ladyfish and jacks are really sometimes as much fun to catch as Spanish Mackerel. Catfish? - Well...not so much!
These fish are constantly moving and zipping through the water at a high rate of speed attacking unsuspecting bait fish that simply can't outswim them. Unlike a trout or redfish which can chill-out in one spot for hours at a time, Mackerel are never in one place for very long and can't be still for even a second. They have to be constantly on the move. They want their bait moving and they want to chase it down. It's just part of their DNA. A lot of Spanish Mackerel hook-ups happen purely by accident, fishing for trout, retrieving line at double-speed and catching their attention in the process.
Capt. Smith then moved on to a review of tackle. He recommended, and uses himself, light tackle. In fact it's the same set up he uses for catching trout, a 4000 series reel on medium-heavy 7 ft rod. He first starts to search for them by using a lure that will attract them visually, such as a spoon. He won't actively work the spoon by hand, but instead he'll troll with it, just casting it out in the distance, putting the rod in a rod-holder at the back of the boat, and letting the spoon slowly flutter and flash underneath the water as he moves forward at a steady pace. When he notices several consecutive strikes on the lure, then he'll stop and toss out a bit of chum and he doesn't have to wait long for a reaction to that. That's when the fun begins.
Another small piece of advice the Capt. gave us when tying a spoon on is to stay away from using a shiny silver swivel and use a black one instead. The reason is that Spanish Mackerel will attack a shiny silver swivel just as frequently as they'll hit a shiny silver spoon. The problem is that if a Mackerel hits the silver swivel, it's teeth are most likely close enough to your line that it might cut that in the process. A black swivel reduces those odds.
Once he's located the Mackerel and thrown out his chum, he changes tactics. Instead of taking a chance on losing some expensive spoons, he'll cast a lure that his father and grandfather have used for many, many years, It's a ten cent home-made lure called the McDonald Straw Lure. He walked us through the steps to make one ourselves but the picture below is self explanatory. Any color of straw will do. The secret is in the straw. It'll hold tiny bubbles of air inside and once it's under water and moving with your retrieval, those bubbles will flute out of the straw, making an air reed and attracting fish in the process. Very crafty, indeed!! He suggested tying a popping cork up higher on the line just to make it easier for casting. You can actively pop the cork as it's designed to be used or just drag the lure slowly through the water, either way will work just fine.
A few anglers he's run into have actually squeezed a bit of artificial scent, like Pro-Cure, up inside the straw to make it even more attractive to a fish. That's an interesting concept as well. By doing this, they've turned it into a scented bait. But when you're fishing in the midst of a school of Spanish Mackerel, there's really no need for the added scent. They'll attack anything that's moving. It's a simple as that.
Going one step further and making a slight improvement on this rig would be to purchase a clear popping cork. Mackerel can be as visually attracted to a colored popping cork as they are to the straw lure. A clear bobber reduces that distraction significantly. Check them out here and here.
Targeting and fishing for Spanish Mackerel can be done around inshore waters, 8-10 ft. deep, but they can also be caught in deeper water, like 20 ft. Bear switches to a different set-up for that environment using live shrimp instead of an artificial lure. He uses 25# fluorocarbon leader line, threading it through a 1/2 oz egg sinker, tying a loop knot to a long shank #2 hook and then slips the sinker over the loop knot covering it completely.
With a live shrimp on, he'll cast this rig out and reel it back in just the same way he fishes for trout with a jig-head and swim bait. Keeping this moving in the water by a constant retrieve will reward you with a few Spanish Mackerel if you're lucky. Letting this sink to the bottom will produce catfish. Wire leader isn't really necessary here because the length of the hook shank itself is pretty long and so acts as a substitute steel leader. You can use artificial lures here, but nothing imitates a live shrimp better than a live shrimp.
From there he went on to cover some basic regulations for keeping a Spanish Mackerel if you land one. They have to measure at least 12 inches in length from the closed mouth to the fork in their tail and you can keep as many as 12 per person. There's a reason why the bag limit is so generous, there can be as many as 1000 fish in one school.
And if Spanish Mackerel are such high energy predatory fish that feed on smaller fish, what feeds on them? Larger Mackerel, of course....like King Mackerel aka Kingfish.
So the question comes up about cooking and eating Spanish Mackerel. Capt. Smith told us that it's not a very popular fish to fillet and eat compared to other inshore and offshore species because it's an extremely oily, gamy and musky tasting fish. That being said, though, there are parts of the East Coast that embrace this type of fish. It just all comes down to the type of fish your taste buds are accustomed to. The Cero Mackerel, oddly enough, looks very much like its Spanish counterpart but has a reputation for tasting much better as does the Wahoo. His basic rule for filleting fish - any fish - is that ALL saltwater fish will be stripped of all skin, unlike freshwater fish where he wants the skin on. Fish skin from a saltwater fishery gives off a soapy taste when eaten (and I think we've all tasted that in our childhood - not a pleasant experience). He also takes time to remove the blood line of any fish he's filleting and with Mackerel in particular, he won't wait more than a day to cook it, basting it in butter or wrapping it up in cream cheese and grilling it. There are lots of recipes out there on YouTube. Just give a few of them a try and come up with your own favorite.
The Nature Coast Lady Anglers would like to thank Capt. Bear Smith for taking time out of his busy schedule to come and talk to us about Spanish Mackerel. We appreciate the information he shared and learned a great deal. Thanks Again, Capt. Bear Smith for a very informative presentation. Hope we can call on you again sometime!
To watch the video presentation, click here.
We're just a bunch of ladies having fun on the water.