So how’s the winter treating you (almost over)? Were you one of the lucky ones to afford the gas prices and make it down to sunny downtown Matlacha and Pine Island? We have had a great season at Gulf Coast kayak; we have done more tours than we have in the past for this part of the year in many years. We had a lot of repeat customers and many who have never kayaked before. One thing that is nice to see is many families getting in to the sport. Think about it, it’s cheaper than Disney, and Universal. and the kids will remember it for the rest of there lives. (And maybe you, too.)
This month I would like to talk about another aspect of the kayak experience - kayak fishing. Now I have been known to catch a few fish now and then from a kayak, but I don’t want to tell you about me. Let me just tell you about a few of my clients that have done pretty well with kayak fishing. One day I was sitting in front of Tom’s bait shop at the end of the driveway and three gentlemen came up and said hi and they wanted three kayaks to rent to go fishing. I thought that I recognized one of the men, and then it hit me who it was. It was Rich Brennan from the PGI Fishing Club in Punta Gorda. The PGI Fishing Club is the most active club in the Punta Gorda Civic Association. Now it just so happens Rich is a Master Angler and his wife Donnie has caught many fish also. They have caught every species of fish in Charlotte Harbor that there is. Rich did not bring Donnie this time but did have two fellows from the club with him. We talked a while catching up on old times and remembering all the fun my wife and I had at the PGI Fishing Club picnic, and I remember Rich trying his best to show me how to through a cast net. Rich is the man to learn from when it comes to cast nets. We went to the dock and set the guys up in some fishing kayaks, and tried to get all the gear they brought in to the yak, One of the fellows never was in a kayak before but was willing to give it a try. We set them out and I got ready for a tour we had going out that day. When we were returning from the Back Bay I spotted Rich and his friends fishing in the distance. They were spread out and fishing in different spots. When they returned to the base camp I was there and helped them get out of the kayaks. They all had a great day, and caught many good size trout. The bait of choice was shrimp and Rich likes his Bomer-Badonl-A-Donk. They said they would be back.
So do you think you would like to try your hand at kayak fishing?
You may want to try what I call extreme kayak fishing. Let me explain. My wife and I had a day when I had no tours on the books and we had one of the guys working the shack at the base camp. So it’s off to the beach, but which one? There are so many great ones to choose from. This time we said let’s try the Boca lighthouse beach and stop and have lunch at the South Beach restaurant. This is a nice little restaurant on the beach and a great place to watch some of the best sunsets in Florida. We got to the beach at the lighthouse and started to unload the car. I say started because you should see us go to the beach, it is a major project. We have a cart with large wheels and we load it up with our chairs, towels, mats, umbrella, radio, cooler, and picnic basket, that has plates, knives, spoons, forks, napkins, salt and pepper shaker, cutting board for cheese, glass tumblers, and a thermos of wine. If I could figure how to put a motor on it I would have one. It’s not easy dragging it way down to the water’s edge. However, I guess that’s the price you pay when you want to travel on the beach and have it all.
Therefore, we finely get on the sand and have set up camp. I like to sit and read my Kindle and my wife Adele reads her newspaper and cuts coupons. So back to the extreme fishing. I saw a large crowd forming on the water’s edge, and folks were like a flock of fleas on a dog’s back, running and pointing. At first I thought it was just some dolphin, I see them about every day. So there was nothing to get excited about. Then I saw a blue tent all set up with coolers and cutting boards, and some heavy fishing equipment. There were three young fellows fishing off the beach, and one had something really big on his pole. I watched as he fought what ever it was on the line. He had a good time trying to pull it in. I had a chance to talk to the two other guys and asked what they were doing. One fellow said they were shark fishing and this was their first hit. I could not help but notice there was a kayak on the beach all set up for fishing. As we talked (and the other fellow still fighting the thing on the pole) I asked the guy, What’s the kayak doing on the beach? He told me they fish from it for shark, and last week up in Venice they hooked in to a large bull shark and it pulled the kayaker about a mile out before they cut it loose. This time they tried something a little different. They started with a small kitchen towel and laid it on the sand and made a sack of sand, and duct-taped the edges as to make it a sinker. He said some times they fill tube socks with sand and use them. Then they had a 2 ft leader and a 0/8 hook or a 13. Then they paddle out with some light gear and try to hook up with a Spanish mackerel, using a gotcha plug or a Clark’s spoon, any size or color. Once they catch a Spanish on the light gear they take it and hook it to the 0/8 and sand sinker and go out were its 40 feet or so and drop it overboard in the pass. Then he paddles back in to the beach and sets the heavy pole up on a sand spike. They had three lines out and set up that way, then sat and weighted. When I was there I saw them catch what I think was some of the most extreme fish I have seen. One was 71 inches, the next was 74 inches, and the last monster was 77 inches from tail to mouth. So now I guess you what me to tell you what it was? No, it was not a shark It was an Atlantic goliath grouper, , also known as a jewfish or itajara.
It’s a large salt-water fish in the grouper family, once called a jewfish but in 2001 the name was changed to goliath grouper. You can find them in depths of 15 to 165 ft. they range from the Florida keys, the Bahamas and most of the Caribbean, and are also found off the coast of Brazil. The young ones can be caught in the mangroves and brackish water like we have in Malacha and pine Island.
They can grow to lengths of eight feet and can weigh as much as 800 pounds - that’s about two and a half of me. The last world record was 680 pounds caught off Fernandina beach Florida in 1961. It may have changed since then. The average adult is around 400 pounds.
At one time they were almost wiped out because they would hang out in the same spots and were easy to harvest. However, since 1990 they have been critically endangered spices, and must be set free if caught. They like to eat crustaceans, other fish, octopi, small sea turtles and an overboard kayakers now and then. (Only kidding about the kayakers.) Now the small grouper are preyed upon buy barracudas, moray eels, and large sharks.
Well, do we have you ready to come rent a fishing kayak and give it a try? Hope so it’s a blast. Hope to see you on the water and remember it’s always a great day in Mat-La-Sha. And thanks for paddling with Mel the Guide. Mel the guide 941 661 8229 for tours or rentals.