Category Archives: Conservation

A Bow to the Florida Largemouth Bass

I have never caught a largemouth bass. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve caught a few yearling-sized largemouth, but nothing worth bragging about. Hell, these fish weren’t even big enough to warrant lying about to my buddies over a beer.

Not that I’m a bad fisherman. I’ve caught a tarpon, three or species of freshwater trout, bluegill, seatrout, redfish, jacks, snook and even a peacock bass or two. All on fly.

The closest I came to catching a respectable largemouth was 40-something years ago when I was youngster summering in the mountains of Western North Carolina. On friend’s farm pond, I landed a nice, fat largemouth, probably in the neighborhood of 4 pounds. Using a small spinning reel, a bobber and a mealworm, I pulled the big green fish up to the edge of the sand and heaved him over toward the grassy bank. As far as smooth landings go, it was not pretty. Turns out, the bass got the last laugh.

I had also caught two bluegill. I had them on a stringer, which was loosely staked to the muddy bank. I unhooked my quarry, put him on the stringer and mashed the stake of the stringer into the sand.

I thought the fight was over, but it wasn’t. Moments later, the big bass pulled the stringer — stake and all — out of the soft ground and swam off with two bluegill.

Technically you could say I caught that bass, because I unhooked him and had the fish under my control, but since the fish left under its own power on its own terms — and not mine and evaded the frying pan — I consider it a draw. That’s the last decent bass I’ve caught and I’ve spent brief stretches of each fishing season trying to attain some measure of poetic justice, but I’ve never caught a largemouth that bent the rod quite like that fish.

Given that bit of unfinished business, I’ve decided to spend part of this summer trying to catch a bigger-than-average largemouth. My quest is largely personal, but there are some darned good reasons to spar with the largemouth.

You can find them in just every piece of freshwater in Florida. And if you don’t catch a largemouth, you’ll catch some sort of species of bass. Florida, after all, is home to seven different species of native bass — the spotted bass, shoal bass, striped bass, sunshine bass, Suwanee bass, white bass and the venerable largemouth. For see the link below.

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Spring Snook Strategies

My story on spring snook for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation.

Spring has arrived, which means longer days, warmer water, less wind, and with a little luck, more snook.

The key is to be flexible. Typically, snook move from the backcountry, to the flats and then to the beaches from season to season. Perhaps that pattern is an oversimplification — inlets and passes and offshore wrecks come into play — but for the recreational fisherman, those three spots are the ones to focus on.

Since spring is a transitional season between winter’s chill and summer’s swelter, the challenge is to find which of those three locations — the backcountry, the flats or the beach — produces. And it’s not an exact science. A few years ago, I tried a formulaic approach, but found myself exasperated after consecutive fishless trips, so I called a guide friend of mine for moral support. His explanation: “Fish move.”

And so they do. Here’s a few tips to help you figure out where spring snook should be in the state of Florida, depending on where you live and the conditions, and how to catch them.

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Anglers In Action: How You Can Help Conservation

My story for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation on the Joe Bay Fisheries Project. Enjoy.

It’s now 2017, and the Snook & Gamefish Foundation Angler Action Program continues to grow. The electronic-logging program for fishermen has been used in state-wide stock assessments for snook, trout and redfish since its inception six years ago. But Angler Action is more than just a tool to assess the population for a particular species of fish. It’s now a big part of a study in the Everglades.

Joe Bay, a chunk of water on the northeastern shore of Florida Bay, which has been recently re-opened to fishing after nearly 40 years of closure, is the focal point of a comprehensive study to evaluate the impact of the no-fishing edict.

Since 1980 until late 2016, Joe Bay was off limits to fishing due to declining American Crocodile populations in the area. However, the American Croc, once endangered, has since rebounded and the no-motor area was re-opened to fishing in November of last year, which led to the Joe Bay Fisheries Project, headed by Florida International University Associate Professor Jennifer Rehage.


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Another Day, Another Job, Another Dollar

I’ve got a second job. I now work at Genung’s Fish Camp and Marina in Crescent Beach.  Genung’s is a local classic. It’s been around since 1948. For nearly seven decades, Genung’s has been a home for locals to get beer, bait and a little angling advice. The place was started by Jack Genung, a local legend, in 1948. Genung passed away 10 years ago or so, but his legacy lives on through the tackle shop, which is a roll cast away from the 206 bridge.

Hurricane Matthew sucker punched Genung’s in early October, but the owner/manager, Walter Coker, has done a nice job of rebuilding. We’re now open 7 a.m. til 5 Thursday-Sunday during the winter.  We sell frozen shrimp, clams and mullet along with basic tackle, beer and soft drinks. Kayak/boat rental and storage are also available.

The pace is, even by beach standards, laid back. You can’t beat the view and the setting is pristine. The water of south of 206 to Flagler County is safe to harvest oysters and shellfish, one of the few places in this neck of the woods you can do that. The reason: Much of the land on the west side of the ICW is state owned, which means there’s little runoff from development, a rarity in Florida, a state that’s been punished by overpopulation.

There’s a few slivers of Old Florida still left. This is one of them, a big reason I’m proud to work here.

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A Meeting of the Minds About Snook


The Snook Symposium is set for Jan. 16 in Orlando. Registration is free, but space is  limited for the event, which will be hosted by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Among the topics to be discussed are the effects of the 2010 freeze, the 2016 stock assessment and snook management, past, present and future. Bonefish Tarpon & Trust and the Snook & Gamefish Foundation are among the handful of sponsors in what should be an informative event.

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The IRL Paddle Adventure: A Lesson in Getting Things Done

My story for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation on the IRL Paddle Adventure, which is a worthwhile cause. Many thanks to those who helped with the story, including Rodney Smith, John Kumiski and Nick Colantonio.

About 10 years ago, two guys fished the Indian River Lagoon, probably chatting away while looking for schools of redfish. They had discussed paddling the whole Lagoon, but never did so. At one point, neither is sure of exactly when, John Kumiski and Rodney Smith committed to the 160-mile trip over a two-and-a-half week span.

 “What John and I do best is communicate,” Smith said. “We’re water folks. It’s all about the water. It’s a precious resource. You dream and you dream big. One day we’re going to paddle the Indian River Lagoon, from one end to the other. It’s time, let’s do it, let’s paddle. From New Smyrna to Jupiter Inlet. And we start planning it.”
There was one catch: Smith wanted to invite anyone willing to grab a paddle. Kumiski, the realist of the pair, wanted to restrict the trip to just the two of them, but agreed, if Smith would handle the logistics of a group effort.
Thus the Indian River Paddle Adventure was born, an affair that started in 2013 and recently completed its third event last month.
Its primary purpose is to raise awareness for a struggling IRL. One of the world’s most diverse estuaries has been under duress from an array of water-quality and management issues. The trip was designed to draw attention to the Lagoon and hopefully raise a few dollars along the way. “And have a good time,” Smith said.

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Trout in the Winter

My story for the Snook and Gamefish Foundation on strategies for catching winter trout. Enjoy.

It’s almost November. A hint of fall is in the air as a tinge of cool air has replaced summer’s suffocating heat. Of course, we’ll miss those flat calm days, but with winter on the way, conditions to catch big seatrout are not far behind. Given that timetable, here’s a look at a handful of the top places in Florida to find your quarry.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission plans a stock assessment for trout in the fall of 2016, so make sure to log your catches in the SGF Angler Action Program. The FWC uses SGF AA data to manage recreational gamefish. More info means better management. Try to do your part.

Back to the best state-wide spots for trout:


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No, Not That Ted Williams

Nice work from Monte Burke on Ted Williams, a passionate conservation writer. A good read.

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Bass Pro Update

Bass Pro plans to expand to several Florida locations over the next year or so.

Bass Pro plans to expand to several Florida locations over the next year or so.

Bass Pro is on its way to several Florida locations. It’s just a matter of when.  Sarasota, Jacksonville, Gainesville and North Palm Beach all have plans to build a store; however, Gainesville and NPB are expected to arrive first in the Sunshine State.

According to the Bass Pro communications department, the store in North Palm Beach is in the “development/planning phase.” Although initial projections forecast a 2016 opening, it’s hard to say whether that timeline will be followed. The Gainesville store is due to start construction soon and should be finished by late 2016.

My guess is we’ll have an August/September completion for Gainesville, given a nine-month construction timeline. Again, this is just a guess, but it would fit the “late 2016” schedule.

Bass Pro already has Florida stores in Destin, Fort Myers, Tampa, Tallahasee, Port St. Lucie, Palm Bay, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The company has more than 70 stores nationwide, employing approximately 20,000 while generating more than $4 million in revenue.

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A Friend from the Past

About 15 years ago, I fished the northern Mosquito Lagoon with John Kumiski. We’ve lost touch over the years, but I reconnected with him for a story I’m writing on the Indian River Lagoon.  It was a fun, informative conversation. John tells the truth, a refreshing perspective in the age of political correctness.

Take John’s blog, for instance. If he catches fish, he says so; if he doesn’t, he owns up to it, even if, as a professional guide, it would pay to post only positive fishing reports. I like it. You know where you stand. Not every is a carnival on the water, particularly with a fly rod. People need to know that guides have tough days as well.

Here’s his blog and a link to the website.

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