Good News During Tough Times - Written by Capt. Rich Smith | 08 June 2010
The year 2010 has so far proved to be the toughest year for fishing for me as a guide here is South Florida. We started the year off with a terrible cold snap that left thousands of Snook, Tarpon, Bonefish, Grouper and numerous other species floating dead throughout the state. The hardest hit seemed to be the Snook population and the proof was in the pictures coming in from around the state from other fellow fisherman.
Before the freeze certain backcountry creeks could always be counted on to produce.I can still remember getting on the water down in Flamingo the morning after the freeze and traveling up to one of my favorite fishing holes deep in the backcountry to find all of my Snook buddies had perished from the harsh days before. For months, we traveled to Flamingo, not knowing if I would even being able to catch a fish. It was a situation that I had never before had to face. Flamingo has always been this magical place that even on the worst day I would be able to catch a few Snook, Grouper, and as many Jacks, Ladyfish, and Snapper that I wanted. It was a time of uncertainty that I will surely never forget.
The month of March proved to be a positive sign from old Mother Nature. After a conversation with fellow fisherman and friend Flip Pallot I received some information on some juvenile Snook that he found in one of our holes deep in the backcountry.
A strong class of 3-6 inch snook in Flamingo backwaters are a cause for hope. photo: Capt Rich SmithI decided to take a trip back to the Glades to investigate and to my amazement little Snooklings galore. It was one of the wildest days I can remember. We fished a clump of branches that usually holds schools of 10-20 Snook that are between 15”-“30.” But on this day there must have been nearly 100 Snook that were only 3”-6.” They were so uneducated we were able to take the trolling motor right up to them and stare at them with amazement for several minutes. It was like staring at a bunch of juvenile snapper but these were no snapper, these were the future line-siders of the Everglades. But how could this be? How could these juvenile fish survive the frigid temperatures that their bigger brothers and sisters did not? These are all questions that I really don’t think anyone knows or as Flip says, “I don’t think we are even supposed to know.” But the fact is they are there and they are coming back.
Then, even more positive news for the months of April and May. The Tarpon showed up from their long winter offshore and boy did they ever. Whitewater Bay, Florida Bay and the Coast has been a playground littered with Poons sometimes so thick you could walk on them. My buddy Graham Morton from the ECC crew came down to Islamorada in early April to film my customers and captured some footage nothing short of epic. On the first day my client from Alabama landed his first Tarpon that we estimate to be between 150-180 pounds. Even though the fish was a once in a lifetime fish the more valuable lesson he learned was not to swallow his dip during the fight. I thought he was going to loose his lunch after the release. But either way the Tarpon are here and the freeze didn’t appear to affect them from their normal visit to South Florida for their yearly spawn.
And now with all of our eyes glued to the news fearing the worst from the ongoing Gulf oil spill once again I find it hard to stay positive. The amount of greed and political turmoil is enough to keep my anxiety level at an all-time high.
Adult sized Snook are being found up in the GladesSo if figured it was time to get away and take another trip with one of my regular clients up to the Glades for some much needed therapy. And to my surprise we experienced something that I haven’t seen since before the freeze. It was that little smile on my customers’ faces and a forgotten feeling of “did that really just happen?” We found Snook in great numbers on the creek mouth points and beaches. In one day we landed over 50 Snook all in adult sizes. These fish have returned from the deep to spawn in the upcoming month, which proves many adult fish made it out to the deeper warmer water before the freeze.
Later that day, I received an interesting phone call from a friend of mine who informed me of Kevin Costner’s oil extracting machine. I was very skeptical. In disbelief, I assumed a movie star never actually makes a positive contribution to the world. So immediately I began to research. After verifying the story through several reputable websites, ABC News, NY Daily News, and so on, it is safe to say the story seems quite legitimate.
About 15 years ago, Kevin Costner invested $26 million dollars into a team of scientist to develop a machine that would clean up massive oil spills. The team created a centrifuge machine that can separate oil from water at rates up to 210,000 gallons per day. BP has agreed to test the machines and has employed 6 of them as a trial run. Is this a solution to our Gulf crisis? Who knows, but the one thing I do know is Mother Nature is strong and can adapt. As for right now, the fishing is great in my area and I will keep a watchful eye on the situation. But if the unthinkable happens and we do get impacted with oil, I will painstakingly contribute to the clean up efforts in hopes to experience Mother Nature at her finest, once again.
The Five South Florida National Parks Remain Open
Everglades, Biscayne & Dry Tortugas National Parks, Big Cypress National Preserve, DeSoto National Memorial
News Release June 3, 2010
Monitoring of Resource Protection and Visitor Safety Issues Continues
South Florida: As of 6 PM EDT, June 2, 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) expanded the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico. The expansion includes an area off southwest Florida that covers waters approximately 20 miles west of Dry Tortugas National Park. Given this information, the National Park Service (NPS) is consulting with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to consider fisheries management strategies for Dry Tortugas National Park in keeping with this new information and any future changes to this information from the NMFS or NOAA.
The park will consider a range of options from wildlife protection, public health and safety, and fisheries management in and around the park. The NPS will continue to monitor this situation closely and notify the public of any change to visitor uses or access to resources in Dry Tortugas National Park.
It is important to note that the five units of the National Park System in the south Florida area remain open for visitation, and all park activities will proceed as scheduled. These include Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Big Cypress National Preserve, and DeSoto National Memorial. These exceptional areas protect a diverse collection of natural and cultural resources of national significance -- attracting millions of visitors from around the world annually.
Travelers intending to visit the south Florida area are advised to monitor the situation carefully and visit the park's websites in advance of your visit for the latest information.
More information on fisheries closures in the Gulf of Mexico is available here: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/deepwater_horizon_oil_spill.htm .
Questions regarding the parks' ongoing oil spill response should be directed to the incident public information line at 305-224-4215.
General Visitorinformation for each of the 5 National Parks is as follows:
Everglades National Park: 305-242-7700, or online at www.nps.gov/ever
Biscayne National Park: 305-230-7275, or online at www.nps.gov/bisc
Dry Tortugas National Park: 305-242-7700, or online at www.nps.gov/drto
Big Cypress National Preserve: 239-695-1201, or online at www.nps.gov/bicy
DeSoto National Memorial: 941-792-0458 x 105, or online at www.nps.gov/deso
Exceptional weather conditions lead to record high manatee count
After nearly two weeks of record cold weather in Florida, biologists counted an all-time-high number of manatees during the annual synoptic survey the week of Jan. 11.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute reported a preliminary count of 5,067 manatees statewide. A team of 21 observers from 10 organizations counted 2,779 manatees on Florida’s East Coast and 2,288 on the West Coast. The final numbers will be available at the end of February, following verification of the survey data.
This year’s count exceeded the previous high count from 2009 by more than 1,200 animals. The survey conditions were favorable for aerial observations in both years, but were especially favorable this year as a result of the extended period of cold weather.
“This year’s high count reflects the influence that weather has on aerial survey results,” said FWC biologist Holly Edwards. “The record-breaking cold temperatures helped to bring many more manatees to the warm-water sites than in previous years. In addition, the calm, clear weather conditions on the days of the survey helped us to see and count record numbers.”
The goal of the synoptic survey is to count as many manatees as possible. The survey results provide researchers with a minimum number of manatees in Florida waters at the time of the survey. Synoptic results are not population estimates and should not be used to assess trends.
While this year’s results do not mean the manatee population grew by more than 1,200 animals in a single year, they do tell researchers there are at least 5,000 manatees in Florida waters. The FWC is encouraged to have counted so many manatees. The high count is consistent with models that show the manatee population is growing or stable in most areas of the state.
“Counting this many manatees is wonderful news,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “The high count this year shows that our long-term conservation efforts are working.”
The cold weather that helped researchers obtain the record high count also highlighted the importance of warm-water habitat for the species. During the recent cold snap, biologists noted unusually large numbers of manatees gathered in the warm-water sites for extended periods of time. FWC researchers, managers and law enforcement officers closely monitored the large numbers of manatees dependent on these sites. To maintain the species into the future, the FWC will continue to monitor threats such as loss of warm-water habitat which, models indicate, can profoundly affect the manatee population.
For more information about manatees and synoptic surveys, visit http://research.MyFWC.com.
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Cold temperatures impact Florida fish and wildlife - January 7, 2010
The current cold snap is having an effect on some of Florida's fish and wildlife as temperatures dip below normal. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues to monitor the species affected most by the cold and is prepared to rescue animals when necessary.
The Florida manatee is one species impacted by extremely cold weather. Exposure to water temperatures below 68 degrees for long periods can cause a condition called manatee cold-stress syndrome, which can result in death.
When water temperatures drop, manatees gather in warm-water habitats, such as discharge canals at power plants, canal systems or springs. The FWC asks boaters to be extra vigilant in watching for manatees in shallow waters near the coast, both inland and coastal, and obey all posted manatee speed zone signs. Enhanced law enforcement patrols will focus on areas experiencing large congregations of manatees and in manatee regulatory zones.
All boaters, including kayakers and canoers, and the public in general should avoid areas where large numbers of manatees are gathered. The aggregated animals should be left alone because a disturbance could scare them away from the warm-water sites, which they need to survive during the cold temperatures.
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Cold weather also can affect sea turtles. When the water temperature drops, stunned sea turtles may float listlessly in the water or wash onto shore. Although these turtles may appear to be dead, they are often still alive. It is important to report these turtles to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline as soon as possible.
The FWC, working with the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, recovered more than 250 cold-stunned sea turtles in Mosquito Lagoon in Brevard County this past week. Sea turtle rehabilitation facilities throughout the state will house these animals until they can be released when temperatures warm.
The FWC Fish Kill Hotline has received several reports of cold-related fish kills over the past few days. Extended periods of unusually cold weather can kill fish outright by cold stress or make fish more susceptible to disease. Warm-water species, including the popular game fish snook, are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures. Fish affected by the cold may appear lethargic and may be seen at the surface where the water may be warmer from the sun. Recreational regulations still apply with these fish.
The FWC monitors fish disease and mortality events around the state. The FWC asks the public to report dead and dying fish to the Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511.
All other distressed wildlife may be reported to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Fishing Report - From the Skiff - Capt. Ron Wagner - 01/06/10
Last week there was some exciting fishing and I was chartered round the clock during the holiday season. Some days I would be off early in the morning, get in and clean the catch and be back out again after just enough time to gobble down lunch. Most of the trips were out back in the bay and provided a mixed bag of nice fish including big Mangrove and Lane Snappers, Spanish Mackerel, and Sea Trout. And then, bang, a cold front would blow in and put a halt to gulf activities. I definitely didn’t mind because I needed a little break to take care of some maintenance that was needed on my tackle and boat. I’m hoping by the time your reading this, we will be back to normal conditions and once again pursuing our passion!
The gulf has been giving us some fantastic fishing. We are at the time of year when we come to expect good days out back and it seems it just keeps getting better. There have been a lot of bait fish out there and that brings a flow of marauding game fish ready to satisfy their appetites. Ballyhoo, pilchards, pinfish, and shrimp seem thicker than in years past, and that can only mean one thing- excellent opportunities for those wanting constant rod bending action.
Tackle and rigging should never be complicated and I use a lot of spinning outfits at this time of year. I keep them spooled with 8,10, and 12 lb. line, rigged for different situations that will be popping up as I am hitting a variety of areas to find good fishing. Chum is king out here and the time spent to mix the right concoction will draw instant success in most areas that I’m fishing in. I have been chumming for many years and there has been nothing that, at some time or other, I have not mixed in. Some of the stuff I would rather not discuss. I will always be experimenting because that keeps it interesting and hitting the right combo can fill a cooler quickly. I use hooks that are generally in size from 1/0 to 3/0 and of course, light wire circle hooks are mandatory in these waters for those who are Snapper fishing. It’s a good rule and in my opinion, it’s about time. Leader material can range from 20-50 lb. mono to light copper wire for those toothy Mackerels. A slight weight is sometimes added to get your bait to the right level. I use 1/8 or ¼ oz. egg sinkers that slide right down to the hook and bait. No swivels for me, I like to keep it simple. Give me a call if you’re ready to try fishing out back. I promise you a great time you won’t soon forget!
Tight lines and screaming drags . . .
By Capt. Ron Wagner -Islamorada,Florida Keys - Posted 12/16/09
There was a lot of excellent fishing during the week with Cobia,Mackerel,Snappers and big goliath grouper out there for the catching. And if that wasn’t enough, the giant Bull Sharks ate the rest. I know sharks got to eat to but tell that to my angler who watched his nice size Cobia, snatched from him in one big gulp. He managed to catch several more that day without the help of Mr. Shark. Thank you. Gilbert Ruiz of Miami lakes who owns several great restaurants up there , spends a lot of time on my boat. I would say he books me at least 75 days a year bringing family and friends and bringing back a lot of great memories and a cooler full of fish. Mr. Ruiz started fishing me about 20 years ago where I first met him at a fish fry at the Kon Tiki Resort in Islamorada. I was fishing a nephew of his and during that evening he asked for a business card saying he would like to fish with me in the future. Handing him my card, I never realized He would become my number 1 customer that still goes on years later. And where have we fished during that time. Like everywhere there’s water. Tarpon,Snook,Permit,Cobia,Bonefish,Redfish,Trout and most other species, Gilbert has caught them all. His biggest Tarpon was around 185 lbs. He also has logged over 500 Snook in my records and his family have 100 or more permit to their credit, catching 11 in one day. The biggest one around 35 lbs. And I have to show for it a bigger belly with all the food he brings me and my wife. He’s always asking me the night before, Captain: Are you going to be a hero or a zero tomorrow. But the longer you fish, those zero days do come for whatever the reason and you better be ready for comments from him. Like: Captain, perhaps you should be reading more magazines and learn something. I’m always busting out laughing when he say’s this to me. We really have a wonderful time out fishing, and do I appreciate all that he has done for me and my family. I’d rather be known as a good friend to my anglers. It is not just fishing out there . it’s the friendship, the fun and those brief moments of sheer excitement. Here’s hoping for a great ending to this year. The boat is glistening, the tackle is new. Yes, I start every year with new rods, new reels and whatever else I need. Boy does my wife love me. I have been fishing Shakespeare-Pflueger tackle since I first started and that company has been great to me and I’m most loyal to them. They now own Penn, Fenwick,Berkeley, All Star and a few others. I’ll be with them to the very last cast. See you on the water,Friend WWW.CAPTAINRONWAGNER.COM
By Capt. Ron Wagner -Islamorada,Florida Keys - Posted 12/16/09
A number of years ago around this time , I was fishing our church minister and the Bishop . We headed out in the gulf, dropped over the chum and proceeded to fish. Bang, the Bishop had a fish on. He soon had it to the boat where I lifted it up and said , That’s a nice mackerel. He said: Is that a HOLY MACKEREL.I laughed and said I’m not sure if this ones holy but they taste fantastic. Spanish Mackerel are excellent eating and many have been missing out on them. Besides the great action they provide through the winter months, I find eating them can be something special. The Mackerel in Florida bay and the gulf side are the best as they spend much time eating shrimp. Ice them quickly, taking just enough for meals for that night and the next, let the rest go and try this recipe my wife Carol prepares for me. Fillet the fish as soon as you hit the dock, remove the skin, rinse well and keep on ice until your ready to cook them. Take a large piece of tin foil, smear on some quality olive oil, put the fillets on that, baste them with a little mayonnaise, sprinkle on some fennel seed , wrap it up and put it on the grill for 15 minutes at 350. Next make your favorite yellow rice, steam some veggies , and cut up some avocado pieces. When the fish are done, I place the yellow rice in the center on each plate I’m serving, spread some veggies evenly around the rice, place some avocado chunks around the perimeter and then place a fillet of the fish right on top. Garnish with some lime wedges and enjoy. This is as good as it gets. Sure , you can use snapper, grouper, cobia etc. But I will say its best with Spanish Mackerel.
The fishing out back just gets better each day and the variety is what makes the Keys so special. If your looking for fast action, lots of pulls and some good eating fish, the next few months will be just phenomenal. Lets go catching, anyone can go fishing. See you out back. Oh, yeah, Carol, Is dinner ready. IM HUMGRY WWW.CAPTAINRONWAGNER.COM