Saturday, March 1, 2014

Florida Family Fun Fishing

To celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary I met up with the rest of my family for a vacation on Sanibel Island, Florida.  Of course, I had to bring along some fishing gear and I was able to get some fishing in just about every day I was down there.  The weather was great for the most part and plenty of fish were caught between myself, my brother-in-law Russell, my brother Tim, and my Dad Bill.

Day 1: Beach Fishing 2/23/2014
After stopping by The Bait Box in Sanibel to purchase licenses and some bait we went back to the condo and decided to walk down to the beach and see if we could catch anything out in the Gulf.  The employees at the the bait shop recommended that we walk out to the second sand bar and fish from there.  The depth between the sand bars was about chest deep so it wasn't too hard to get off the beach a ways. We started off trying frozen shrimp and fiddler crabs but weren't getting much more than a few nibbles.  Russell was the first one to try some cut bait(greenbacks) and eventually he hooked up with something.  As he got it in closer we realized it was a small hammerhead shark!
Russell  aka "Macho Man" 

The joy of catching our first fish was short lived however as in my excitement I had forgotten I still had the cut bait in my shirt pocket.  Upon release, the maneater went straight for me in a vicious attack.  My brother thought it was hilarious of course.

We all switched to cut bait after Russell's catch and eventually I hooked up.  It ended up being a small gafftopsail catfish.  We later learned the venom in the spines of this catfish can cause extreme pain if you happen to get stung and you should avoid handling them.  Oops.

These would be the only two fish we caught this afternoon but it was good to know that fish could be caught right in front of the condo we were staying at.   Tim also hooked up with something larger right before we headed in but unfortunately it broke the line.

Day 2: Under The Bridge 2/24/2014
We headed out for some evening fishing under the Sanibel Causeway.  We brought some frozen shrimp, crabs, and cut greenbacks for bait.
Dad and I doing some birding while waiting for a bite
It wasn't long before Dad had a bite and his drag started peeling.  After a good fight we finally got a look at the fish and I was able to grab the hammerhead shark by the tail.  This would be one of two decent sized hammerheads that Dad caught that evening.

Surely a shark wouldn't attack me twice
Dad didn't want to lip it for some reason
Tim and Russell with a gafftopsail catfish
Russell with a blacktip shark
Tim with a blacktip shark
This guy would of looked good in an aquarium
In addition to the two hammerheads Dad caught, Tim and Russell also landed a couple small sharks and catfish.  I barely avoided the skunk with a small lane snapper right before we left. It was a beautiful evening to be out fishing.

A couple fisherman admiring the sunset under the Sanibel Causeway
Day 3: Pontoon Fishing 2/25/2014
My Dad scheduled a pontoon rental for a half day out of Tarpon Bay on Sanibel Island for the morning. The whole family headed out on this trip and the women quickly figured out they had been hoodwinked into more than a simple cruise around the bay.  Although everything we caught was small we had a nice variety of species bite our live shrimp including spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, spanish mackeral, pinfish, ladyfish, and even a stingray.
The captain
Some nice pointing by my niece Claire here with Grandpa and Grandma

We got the net out for the stingray

My Dad had the hot hand early in the morning
Claire helps calm the fish so her Dad can get the hook out
Double shot of Jack? Yes please!

I believe this was the only Spanish Mackerel caught
A lady(my sister Sarah) and a ladyfish
My brother with a ladyfish
No love for the pinfish
A great day

Day 3: Guided Captiva Fishing 2/26/2014
We had a guided trip scheduled for the morning out of Captiva Island with Captain Jim Burnsed Sr.  We arrived at the dock bright and early and we were off to go fishing right away.  
Ready to Fish!
We first stopped at Redfish Pass as the tide was coming into the bay to try for some sheepshead.  We had pretty simple setups for this type of fishing, a splitshot pinched right above a swivel with a few feet of leader and a J hook.  For bait we used fiddler crabs and shrimp.   Fishing was slow starting out while we missed a few bites but Tim was able to get the skunk off with a small sheepshead.
Good way to start the day
Russell and Dad soon followed suit.

Captain Jim admires Russell's nice sheepshead

Dad lands his first of many fish on the day
Tim then hooked up with what might have been the biggest fish of the morning.

Nice one!
We moved to another spot on the pass where the incoming tide was swirling around a small rock jetty.  This was definitely an area where experience was needed as the current was strong.  Captain Jim did a great job of putting us in the spot we needed to be and it didn't take long before I was hooked up!

The sheepshead were a good fight, especially against the current
This was a hot spot and if you cast your bait in the right area and let it drift with the current it was almost a guaranteed bite.

My biggest sheepshead of the day
It didn't take long before we had a decent number of sheepshead in the box.

They made for a delicious dinner later
With a lot of missed bites, we had gone through a lot of bait in a short amount of time.  Captain Jim asked if we wanted to cast lures and we said that we did so we moved to the other side of the island.  Fishing was great at this location as well as we drifted with the wind across a shallow flat while throwing rootbeer colored gotcha grubs on jigheads.  We caught a mix of jack crevalle, ladyfish, and spotted seatrout.  

Jack crevalle put up a great fight, even if not very big
A nice spotted seatrout for Russell
The ladyfish provides some nice aerial acrobatics when hooked
Tim with a nice spotted seatrout
Time flew by as we continued to have fast action through the rest of morning during our drifts.  I'm not sure of the total number of fish we caught but I would guess it was somewhere close to 100 between the four of us by the end of our morning trip.  We returned to the dock and Captain Jim and his son Captain Jimmy cleaned the fish we had kept during our trip.  Captain Jim was a great guide who had us on fish all day and I would highly recommend him if you are looking for a guide in the Sanibel/Captiva Island area.

The pelicans know where to hang out for an easy meal of fish scraps
Some of the bigger keepers.  Thanks for the trip Dad!

Day 4: Tarpon Bay Kayak Fishing 2/28/2014
While the rest of family went out to visit the Naples Zoo, I decided to rent a kayak from Tarpon Bay and do some more fishing.  I paddled out to an inlet where some current was coming into the bay, anchored on the edge of some mangroves, and tried some frozen shrimp beneath a splitshot weight.  While I didn't catch anything near the size of the fish we caught on our guided trip, I still managed to bring several small sheepshead into the kayak.
The sun can be brutal even during the winter in Florida
Sheepshead have to be 12" to keep, this one didn't  quite make it
I also caught a spotted seatrout, a few ladyfish, and a puffer fish that made some cool grunting noises.

I didn't dare touch it and was happy I could shake the hook out
Day 5: Sanibel Fishing Pier 3/1/2014
For the final day of fishing Tim and I headed down to the Sanibel Fishing Pier for a little more than an hour in the morning. It is a popular spot on Sanibel Island and fishermen were shoulder to shoulder at the end of the pier. Eventually a good spot opened up. I let my piece of shrimp fall down along one of the support pillars and I was able to land a mangrove snapper and a sheepshead right before we were about to leave. We brought them back to the condo, filleted them, and grilled them up before we had to leave for a spring training game between the Red Sox and the Twins.  A nice end to a very memorable week of fishing and time with the family.

The mangrove snapper was the envy of at least a couple fishermen on the pier

Filleting with a nice cutco knife Sarah and Russell got me for my birthday last year

The whole family

1 comment:

  1. Well, that is something we can certainly call a win. I mean, it's not everyday that anyone stumbles across those white hammerheads, much less get one's hands on them. Plus, it looks and reads like it was quite a trip getting there. May all of those go on, I guess. Kudos!

    Kent Garner @ White's Marine Center