Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ryan's First Peacock Bass

I have to applaud kayak guides. They are a patient breed. I have tried it and didn’t like it. I would much rather just take people fishing without having to “perform”. That being said, I LOVE taking people fishing, whether they are from out of town fishing southwest Florida for the first time, or newer kayak anglers looking for their first catch of a certain species. I really get satisfaction if I have lead an angler to their first snook or first redfish.

A friend who recently bought a kayak has been trying to catch his first peacock bass. I took Ryan DeKeyser to some Naples canals a few months back, but it was a little too cold then. He has been back several times on his own without results. We finally had time some down time to meet and fish on a Sunday morning, so we made plans including fishing buddies Joe Jones and Jim VanPelt.
We arrived at the launch at 7am. Noticeably absent was Jim. Since no one really knows if Jim will show up anywhere, Ryan, Joe and I launched and, all in Hobies, began peddling to our target area. We were all using topwater lures and began hooking up with largemouth bass right away. Sometime around 8am, I received a text from Jim asking where we were. A hilarious round of texting followed, degrading into funny personal attacks launched at each other. Eventually he joined us, an hour and a half late.
Bob's fish

I was pointing out some great spots to Ryan, areas that should be holding peacock. Suddenly his lure was inhaled and his drag started to scream. I was closeby and could see the flash of orange that indicated he had a nice peacock bass. He worked the fish as I snapped pictures. Ryan landed the fish and the excitement was obvious. This was his first peacock and it was a nice one. I snapped a few photos and the fish was released.
Ryan's fish
We kept moving up the canal. Joe was catching nice largemouth and a few small peacocks, Ryan and I were catching largemouth, and Jim was catching nothing. The fish were virtually hooking themselves, it was so easy. I actually had to take a break as my arm was getting tired from reeling in so many fish. Around noon I was surprised to see John Donahue, Sarah Sasinator and Adam Walker making their way up the canal. They stopped and we chatted for a while. They went on to catch a bunch of fish as well.
Joe's fish
Around the same time, we switched to live shiners. We usually fish with shiners on the way back to the launch to entice any big peacocks that may have ignored our lures earlier. Many more fish were caught by three anglers in our group. I offered to help Jim catch a fish and he muttered something like “luck too”. I thanked him for wishing me luck as well and carried on.
Jim's fish
We ended our day around 1pm. We absolutely slayed the fish with many peacock and largemouth bass caught. I was as excited as Ryan about his first peacock bass. Great fun was has by all, mainly at Jim’s expense, and I look forward to my next fishing adventure.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sharks On!

A cool breeze was coming in off the Gulf as the sun was slowly setting toward the west. It was a beautiful Southwest Florida evening, the kind that reminds residents why they came here in the first place. The stunning sunset drew many residents and visitors to the beach to watch the flaming ball retire for the day. It was the kind of evening that’s great for shark fishing on the beach.

Jeff Gabrick and Brandon Nagle of Sharks On Charters were setting up the gear which included 8 heavy action Penn Reels and heavy duty terminal tackle. The rigs are baited up with whole mullet or large chunks of cut fish, then placed by paddling the bait via kayak 100 to 200 yards out. Then the waiting game begins.

The anglers for the evening were Aaron Massey and Jim VanPelt. Only a few of the baits had been set when the first reel began singing. Aaron was up first and he quickly got into position. He clicked the drag off and set the hook. Moving up and down the beach, Aaron worked the reel furiously. Eventually there was an unmistakable shark fin just off the beach. Jeff and Brandon closed in and safely drew the fight to a close.

It was a beautiful 3 ½ foot long lemon shark. Jeff went to work removing the hook, which had sunk deep in the lower jaw. Working very quickly, yet safely, het cut the end of the hook off to allow removal instead of leaving it in. There was a brief round of picture taking and Jeff had the shark back in the water. He installed a research tag and released it within 3 minutes of landing the shark. It was a very impressive and professional catch and release of a top predator.

Jeff and Brandon finished setting out the remainder of the baited rigs. They were commenting on what a good sign it was to have action that early in the evening, when another reel went off. This time it was Jim VanPelt who grabbed the rod and quickly set the hook. This rig had been set further out which meant that much more line retrieval. Jim began to reel, working the rod up the beach and away from the other lines. For what seemed a long time, Jim worked the reel, feeling only nominal resistance as the shark ran parallel to the beach. As the fish was reeled in closer to the beach, he began to fight more heavily. Finally there was a big splash just off the beach. Another juvenile lemon shark, although bigger than the last.

The flurry of activity was just like the first one. The hook was quickly removed and a tag installed. A quick round of pictures was next and the shark was released. It was a very efficient process. It was not quite two hours into the evening with two sharks caught. “It’s a really good sign to have activity this early” Jeff Gabrick said.

The night ended for me and I headed home. The crew caught another shark after I had left. It had been a good night indeed as they had great luck and I witnessed another stellar Southwest Florida sunset. If you are interested in shark fishing with the guys from Sharks On Charters, contact Jeff or Brandon on their Facebook page under “Sharks On Charters”.