Myrtle Beach, S.C., vacation fishing

MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Anyone who knows me or follows this blog is aware of how much of a proud Ohioan I am.  There is a lot to love here, and when it comes to fishing freshwater – being near Lake Erie is about as good as it gets.  That being said, the handful of times I have gotten to fish saltwater, always seem to humble me and provide experiences that leave me envious of those that can fish it regularly.  This past week was no exception, as I had the opportunity to venture out in the Atlantic Ocean on a 1/2 day charter with Captain John (Reel Action Fishing Charters).

Don’t worry Bryce, you’ll go next time

I love the above photo, albeit it also breaks my heart.  My son was looking back at me while being lead away, as the weather was just a little too suspect for him to make the trip.  Mom is pretty protective and Bryce simply hasn’t had enough experience on a boat to know how he would handle it if things got choppy or we got a downpour.  With a very unpredictable forecast, it was the right decision at the time.  I must admit I may not forgive myself until we get back and he can go.

“I will love you this much if you put me back”

Along with Captain John’s kid-friendly approach that won me over as a dad, I also appreciated his honest no-nonsense appraisal of fishing this time of year and what to expect.  He let me know it was a bit early for some of the more typical sport fishing that occurs in the area.  He offered me options of more sure likelihood catching or hard fishing that could yield the end result of being empty handed for the effort.  In the end, we agreed to try for a short bit of fishing the Oyster beds for Redfish and then heading out in the ocean for Black Sea Bass and Spiny Dogfish.  Knowing dogfish are in the shark family, and I had never caught one, had me plenty excited.

As it would turn out, the Oyster beds did not yield any fish but I did catch the above Blue Crab on rod & reel.  It was not expected and something kind of cool to see for someone from Ohio.  I had to laugh as it made me think of the Dude Perfect video of Fishing Stereotypes (specifically at 2:24).

A cool bonus sight on the way out to fish the big water

Black Sea Bass

Spiny Dogfish

After a short while of motoring to the reef, we set up to fish again.  I no more than felt my weight hit the bottom and instantly had a bite.  True to his word and expertise, Captain John immediately had me on fish.  Countless Black Sea Bass were caught, varying in size, never more than a minute apart between fish.  As predicted, this action soon triggered the attention of the main targeted species for the day.  It didn’t take long until I felt a much heavier fish that fought well and occasionally could peel some drag.  Sure enough, the Spiny Dogfish.  After some instruction on how to safely handle them, I was enjoying quite a few photo ops with the species.  These ‘mini-sharks’ if you will, were getting caught after about every 5th or 6th bass.

A very happy author adding a new species to the life list

It was pretty cool to see the dogfish occasionally follow a bass that was hooked all the way to the surface.  I also had a few dogfish follow a hooked dogfish to the surface.  I actually have footage of this happening and hope to add a video to this post sometime soon.  The trip was awesome as I love catching something new and the fact that this species was decently sized and ‘shark like’ made for another saltwater experience I will never forget.

I can not wait to get back, and most assuredly will fish with Captain John again!

Florida fishing trip to start the year! (Part 2)

CLEARWATER, FL – The second day of fishing I decided I would do a headboat.  I’m very familiar with this type of fishing as we have a good number of them on Lake Erie that run out of Port Clinton, OH.  I used to live in Port Clinton and would go out a few times a year.  Historically, I have not done well on headboats but I had a host of reasons that made this the correct choice.  One big factor was knowing I wanted to get out on a boat, but with a forecast that was calling for some bad weather, did not want to lose the substantial cost for a private charter if we had to come in early.  A big boat could handle the weather and I knew we would not likely quit because of conditions.  I also liked the idea of a more ‘deep sea’ type experience.

The headboat I selected can be found here

The attendant was very friendly when I arrived and the weather was looking surprisingly good.  I did the typical headboat ritual of selecting a ‘lucky’ position on the boat and examining the loaner rod.  Once the rod checked out, and it actually was quite nice quality, I moved to the secondary things all people on headboats do… look at the other anglers.  While no one admits it, everyone guesses who the ‘pro’ will be catching all the fish and who the unfortunate soul will be that spends the day re-rigging after getting snagged or untying from tangles with other anglers.

A pretty ‘choir row’ of rods ready to go

I enjoyed the ride out into the Gulf, taking in the skyline, and being the typical tourist shooting photos of anything and everything common to the locals.  It was great that there was another person on the boat that was solo, Scott, who happened to locate me.  He would end up providing a lot of great conversation and became a good friend for the day.  When we arrived to the first stop and the Captain announced we could put our lines in, it was a relief to know I had someone willing to snap a photo or two should I catch fish.  Now I just needed to make that happen.

My largest White Grunt

The day started very slow for me, our first stop was dominated by my new friend Scott two feet away from me reeling in fish after fish while I watched.  The bite was fair for the boat in general, with many White Grunt being caught and an occasional Porgy.  If I wasn’t watching Scott bring in a fish, I was watching a few dolphins around the boat, as my rod sat idle.  I finally got my first solid strike, right as the Captain called for the lines to come in for our first move.

After a short motoring of 5-10 minutes, we were anchored and ready to resume fishing again.  With renewed confidence after getting a bite, I suspected my fortune would change.  It didn’t take long and I was fighting my first fish, a nice sized White Grunt.  It seemed that getting the first was the trick because after the initial catch, the fish came easier.  I may have been the last one on the boat to get my first fish, but the third White Grunt I caught was one of the largest, if not the largest, that would be caught by anyone that day.  I could tell the regulars don’t value the White Grunt that much, but I was still happy with the big one and all the subsequent ones I was catching.  The First Mate was also plenty happy to have me giving him all my fish.

CWF01102016redgrouperA non-keeper Red Grouper

I picked a good person to befriend as Scott was the first person to catch a Grouper, a decent Gag but well short of legal size.  He caught several short fish while I continued to catch White Grunt with no other species mixed in.  I may have been outpacing anyone on the boat with the White Grunt, but was hoping to catch some other types of fish.  I saw a few Black Sea Bass and a single Lizardfish and Flounder get caught, while I remained catching a single species.  The boat made a few more moves and everything remained pretty similar.  It was Scott who finally managed a bigger bite, which turned out to be a beautiful Red Grouper that was just shy of 20″.  Still not a keeper, but the biggest fish the boat had seen.  Scott followed up with several more Grouper, all Gag’s that were much smaller than his near keeper.  I finally managed something other than a Grunt, a small Red Grouper.  Not the monster I had hoped for, but something new.

My stringer of White Grunts given to the first mate

The weather did turn for the worse, but we were able to fish for the entire planned duration.  I was pleased with the charter as the Captain moved plenty to try to help the anglers get on better/different fish.  The reality was that we were put on fish and everyone caught, on a headboat that is as much as you can ask.  Of course we all wished and hoped for a big fish or something special, but fishing is fishing and it doesn’t always work out that way.  I also should mention the First Mate worked hard and was very helpful, as was the gentleman manning the galley who was quick to fill orders of snack, food, or beverage.  I would recommend this charter and would go out with them again without hesitation.

Pelicans begging for scraps at the end of the day

After two packed days of fishing I was still going strong.  Michael and I continued our tradition of finding some good food for the evening, this time opting for The Lucky Dill.  I was sad thinking this was my last night in Florida already, but admittedly was missing the wife and kids.

I woke up early the next day and realized there was a small window of time to do some shore fishing before heading to the airport.  No time to scout new water, just an hour or two to fish around the Seminole Street Boat Launch like I had done on the first morning.  This time the Blue Shark Bait Shop was open, and I was given some tips and pointers for Redfish and Sea Trout.  After a colorful conversation and realizing I had much lower expectations then what he wanted me to catch – I left with a newly purchased tandem rig with two jigs that is popular down there.

CWF01112016gypsyanglerLook behind me!, Capt. Ray Van Horn, The Gypsy Angler

Walking across the parking lot I noticed a cool looking wrapped vehicle, which I had to get a closer look at.  The photo above tells the story, too bad I couldn’t have gone out fishing with him!  Not only would that have made for an epic story, imagine the fish that would have been caught!  After snapping out of my daydream of Capt. Ray becoming my new best friend and traveling the country fishing together, I realized I needed to fish with the little precious time I had left.

CWF01112016jackA Jack Crevalle

As I returned to fishing, I had the typical small fish nipping at the little jigs I was throwing, with a few Pinfish being landed.  I lost another fish to an Egret of some type and feared that would be my last fishing memory of the trip.  Fate was kind though, and another small fish was landed.  I took note that it looked different than anything I had caught in the previous two days and fortunately decided to take a couple of photos.  I sent a photo to Ryan who confirmed it was a Jack Crevalle, the 15th new species for the trip!  While this and many of the species I caught can get much larger, just getting them on my life list was enough for me!

I could ramble on and on about how much I loved Florida, the fishing, and the trip, but hopefully the length of the two posts make it obvious.  I can not wait to return and continue the adventure, there are so many more species waiting to be caught!  I also know I will plan to chase some of the popular sportfish that I did not target this time!

To read “Florida fishing trip to start the year! (Part 1), click here.

Florida fishing trip to start the year! (Part 1)

CLEARWATER, FL – I am thrilled to report I was able to start 2016 with a somewhat quick trip from Ohio down to Florida.  While I have fished saltwater a handful of times, it has always been off the coast of New Hampshire or Massachusetts, and a single trip out of Atlantic City, NJ.  Needless to say, I was excited to make the trip as fishing saltwater is always a rare treat and this far south would be an altogether new experience.  Even though the trip would be short (flying out of Akron on Thursday evening & returning Sunday afternoon), I would try to pack as much fishing into the time as I could.  Each day of fishing will be posted on separately as “Part 1” and “Part 2”.

CWF01092016clearwaterSeminole Street Boat Launch, the view from the balcony

The first evening would not provide any time for fishing, but I had a great time catching up with my friend Michael who moved to Clearwater around five years ago.  Although he isn’t into fishing (crazy, right?!), he was gracious to host me.  I guess you could say my accommodations were the most upscale of fishing home bases a fisherman has ever experienced.  After settling in, we hit the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar for food and drinks.

The next morning was day one of what I hoped would be two days of action packed fishing.  The first day’s plan came together via a post I did on the RoughFish Forums.  I had simply requested any information that anyone might be willing to share about the Clearwater, Florida, area.  A person or two was kind enough to respond and one individual (Ryan), who was local, sent a private message offering to take me fishing around the area.  It was a generous offer that I couldn’t refuse.  It turned out that Ryan and I are ‘kindred spirits’ when it comes to fishing.  We both are fishing bloggers (Ryan’s blog here) that enjoy multi species fishing and maintaining a life list of caught species.  We also both appreciate the species that are often overlooked.

Rather than wait for Ryan at the condo, I decided to walk over to the shoreline.  As you can see from the above photo, it was a short walk.  I did bring a 6’6″ travel rod and a very small assortment of lures and figured I might as well see if I could luck into a fish.  On my very first cast, I hooked up with a small fish that came off within a few feet from being landed.  I was disappointed but it would only get worse when my next hookup was stolen by a Pelican as I brought it in.  Welcome to fishing in Florida, I would learn that birds of all types are quite troublesome to anglers.  My disappointment was short lived as I became enthralled with what I was observing just below the water’s surface.  I had no idea what they were, but there were literally hundreds of 18-24″ fish schooling right in front of me.  I tried catching them with everything I had, without even the slightest nudge from a fish.  I would later learn these fish were Mullet, who feed on plants, algae, and plankton.  My next trip I will bring an assortment of flies to try, they would be fun to target.  I’m curious if others are intrigued to do this too.

CWF01092016pinfishMy first fish of 2016, a Pinfish

After all of the mornings miscues- the multiple fish coming off, the bird thief, and targeting fish that don’t eat what I was throwing… I finally caught something.  The timing couldn’t have been better that Ryan had just pulled in to pick me up when the fish hit.  I not only was able to have him get a photo, he was able to tell me what it was, a Pinfish.  To people up north, let’s just consider this species the ‘Bluegill of saltwater’.  Non noteworthy to locals, but a new species for me.

CWF01092016collageAn array of nine new species I caught

After a quick stop at a bait shop, Ryan hustled me to our first destination in Dunedin.  While Ryan contented himself in targeting larger more interesting fish, I was happy catching a host of hand sized fish to add to my life list.  I encountered 9 new species to go with my Pinfish earlier, bringing the total to 10 new species caught in a half day of fishing.  I doubt I will ever be able to duplicate that many new species over such a short amount of time again.  The species in the photo are; (L to R, top to bottom) Lane Snapper, Planehead Filefish, Black Seabass, Mangrove Snapper, Spottail Pinfish, White Grunt, Pigfish, Southern Puffer, and Bandtail Puffer.

CWF01092016cowfishAnother new species, Scrawled Cowfish

Ryan made the mid day decision to head to a new location, which was an excellent idea to get me to see some more fishing venues and an opportunity at more species.  It was pretty safe to say I had successfully caught about anything hanging out on the shoreline at the first stop.  The next fishing would take place in Pass-a-Grille after eating lunch at Sea Horse (no website).  Both of us would catch more fish at the second stop, but nothing extraordinary.  My highlight, was finding another new species under a dock, a Scrawled Cowfish.  The new species total was now up to 11.

CWF01092016flounderOne of two keeper Gulf Flounder I caught

Our third and final stop would be a short distance from where we had been fishing.  Although only a short distance, fishing was significantly different with the species people were catching and the overall bite.  It also was interesting in that as the afternoon went on the crowd of fisherman got smaller and the fishing continued to improve.  Ryan and I watched a Blacktip Shark  get caught, which was exceptionally entertaining for someone from Ohio.  We also witnessed a big heavy hook up which turned out to be a large Atlantic Stingray.  I was front and center for that as I got to net it, which was very fun.  Seeing different things get caught motivated Ryan and I to get busy looking for action of our own, which we were able to do.  Ryan caught a cool looking Lizardfish and followed up with two nice keeper Bluefish.  I landed two keeper Gulf Flounder, which was another species for my life list.

CWF01092016ladyfishMy favorite catch of the trip, last fish of the day

As the afternoon turned to evening, it was closing in on time for the fishing to end.  I was hoping to catch one last fish when I got an odd strike.  Everything about this hit felt different and half the time I was fighting it I thought it was off.  As I looked out at the beautiful Gulf sunset, my hooked fish was jumping and dancing all over the horizon.  Whatever it was, I wanted to land it.  The fish also would swim towards me giving my line slack and with all the jumps I was amazed it stayed on.  Ryan expertly netted it, telling me it was a Ladyfish.  The unique way it looked, the way it fought, the scenery, and even the size of it compared to what I had caught throughout the day – all contributed to making it my favorite fish of my personal catches.  It was a great fish to end the day on, especially memorable on a day that was already perfect.

I had hoped for a fun day of fishing and I owe a huge thank you to Ryan for delivering that big time!  I certainly had no expectation that I would catch 13 new species or that it would be so much fun doing it.  He is a great guy and I highly recommend you follow his blog (click here).  Some might be wondering if I did anything for Ryan in return and you would be right for asking.  I bought the day’s bait, lunch, contributed money towards gas, and gave him a small item of fish themed jewelry.  As someone who promotes ‘trade a trip’ or similar types of experiences, I strongly urge people to be thoughtful when someone is generous to you!

When I returned to the condo, Michael and I had a fantastic dinner at Kelly’s Chic a Boom Room – Blur.  I loved the vibe of Dunedin, FL, and can’t wait to get back.

To read “Florida fishing trip to start the year! (Part 2), click here.