Saturday, February 23, 2008

Advent of The Magic Bus.....

I have been a Spro ( ) bucktail devotee for years now. As I've said before, the life-like pulse of the skirt dressing, realistic head and huge eye, hookeye placement, and razor-sharp Gamakatsu hook make this lure the "leader of the pack."

My lure color choice is generally white, but in silted water situations and environs that feature sandy shallows with shrimp and crabs, I move to a Spro bucktail that really shows up and matches the hatch- which in this case, is The Magic Bus model.

This lure proved to be a winner in Biscayne Bay for me yesterday. The conditions offered chilly water, high winds, and overcast skies. It became clear that in the vicinity I was poling around in that the fish were off the flats. The next step was to fish the flats edges and contours with a plug rod, while bumping the sandy dropoff with my shrimp-tipped Magic Bus.

My second retrieve was pounded on and my drag whizzed out for over 100 yards. After a 10-minute battle, I carefully eased a bonefish around 10 pounds alongside my skiff. I continued casting as I poled along the channel edges and picked up some jacks up to 3 pounds every other cast.

After an hour of casting with far too many jacks, I ran 2 miles and staked up my skiff uptide of a sunken boat on a sandy bottom. Before I started casting, I liberally eased bits of crushed crab and cut squid downtide over that structure for 10 minutes. My next step was to free-spool the Magic Bus almost to the wreck, then jig upwards. On my first retrieve, my rod doubled over and I reeled in a 3-pound mangrove snapper. The action over the next hour was basically non-stop and when the dust settled, I'd released about 30 snapper to 3 pounds and 3 permit to 12 pounds.

As I ran my skiff to port, that "life is good" feeling washed over me.

Jan Maizler

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Curacao !.....

Make it Curacao !


Jan Stephen Maizler

As was my custom, I did a great deal of research prior to traveling to Curacao for an exploration of its inshore and offshore fisheries. Yet whatever facts and images I’d assembled in my mind did little justice to the striking features and experiences this novel island would offer me.

My first three days on this island were especially memorable. After a flawless two and one half-hour flight, the jet I was on made its approach to Hato Airport along a vista of wind-tossed sapphire seas on its port side and cactus-covered rocky bluffs towards the starboard. As we began touchdown on the runway, the brisk easterly winds jiggled the fuselage in a way that was reminiscent of running a skiff over a stiff chop.

Gathering up my baggage and rod tube and getting through customs went quickly and without incident. What was especially delightful was entering a Caribbean island where the first languages that met my ears were Dutch and Papiamento.

After picking me up, my hosts Anthony and Jose pressed me for a tour of the island that afternoon. I opted to postpone that adventure in favor of an early dinner and bedtime, since I had a dawn rendezvous with some hoped-for schools of snook and tarpon in Willemstad Harbor.

As we awaited a traditional rijst tafel (Rice-TA’-fel) dinner of rice served with various bowls of meats, seafood, and vegetables, I lounged on the spacious open-air porch of the home that was, in effect, my Dutch Caribbean fishing lodge. The afternoon was windy and hot, yet the air was dry and quite tolerable. Amidst the melodious sounds of doves and tropials, the sun slowly set and gave way to a nighttime sky with a countless firmament of stars you’d only expect in the wilderness. The dinner was delicious and sent this angler to sleep in a state of gratitude for his first hours in Curacao and excitement for the morning that lay ahead.

My first night before fishing in a new destination runs the gamut between mere moments and an eternity: this evening was somewhere between those extremes. As the alarm rang, I popped up and began preparations.

Anthony was already waiting by the small Fiat parked outside. I filled the vehicle with a spinning rod, plug rod, fly rod, and tackle box and off we sped into the darkness. Since we had an hour before dawn, he took us on a route that included the colorful storefronts of harbor side Punda, the famous floating bridge, and Fort Amsterdam. Even in the inky hours of the night, they made wonderful sights.

I told Anthony to head for a road that was bounded on two sides by saltwater lakes about two miles from an industrialized area. My research had turned up prior reports of great catches of tarpon and snook at this juncture- particularly at the openings of the underground culverts under this road that joined the two bodies of water.

As a few lemon-colored rays of sunshine appeared in the east, Anthony parked the small car along the roadside. I got out and quickly found one of the culverts not so much by sight, but by the popping sounds of feeding fish! I pulled the tackle out of the vehicle and ran towards the melee.

I flicked a root beer-colored Cotee jig into one particularly foamy pop. I barely had a chance to sweep the rod before it doubled over with a powerful strike. I struck back hard and a snook of about six pounds thrashed through the surface of the tea-colored water. In sixty seconds, the powerful twelve-pound plug outfit had done its work and the snook came alongside me to be released. I quickly followed up with four more snook of the same size. After that, the action on this uptide side of the culvert seemed to die down.

After looking out for vehicular traffic, I crossed the thirty foot-wide road for a look at the “downstream” opening of the huge pipe. I was pleased to see plenty more linesiders- but this time, the snook were finning out on the surface and picking off the minnows, rather than exploding on them from below. Since these predators were higher in the water column, I quickly stepped back from them to keep a semblance of the stealth mode. In that mindset, I opted for an eight-weight fly rod with a very long fluorocarbon leader of twelve feet. I attached a bite tippet of thirty-pound fluorocarbon and loop-knotted a white Clouser to the business end. This tackle and strategy did the trick, as my results for this spot was another six snook to ten pounds released.

By now, the sun was fully risen. Its radiant glow echoed my feelings about the superb action I’d experienced. However, there were still more culverts to explore. Anthony and I loaded the car, and we headed for another spot about two hundred yards down the road.

When I started on the uptide side of this new pipe, I encountered a sight I’d never seen before. The opening of the culvert was absolutely glutted with black mullet, some of which had to weigh six pounds. Suddenly, a huge silver flash dispersed the mass of huge baitfish and a tarpon of over one hundred pounds came into view. As the silver king turned before slipping into the culvert, it veered sharply back into the darkness of the open lake. A minute later, a smaller tarpon half the size of its predecessor swam into view, but the giant mullet seemed less frantic as they packed into a blackish silver ball in front of the pipe’s opening. Anthony mentioned that these big tarpon gathered at the floating bridge every night: if the weather was right they could be taken on mullet chunks. I decided to leave that method to other anglers since the heaviest line I fish is twelve-pound test and I prefer lures if possible. Still, the prospect of fishing the waters between colorful Punda and offbeat Otrabanda was intriguing.

I watched this spectacle occur every five minutes, but my fishing time was evaporating like the dawn’s coolness and besides, my tackle or lures were no match for these predators. It seemed like a better idea to cross the road again and hope for more humble possibilities. The other side did reward me with some smaller tarpon rolling on the edge of a mud flat just before the drop-off of the hole caused by the culvert’s current. These fish seemed to be no bigger than fifteen pounds and a perfect match for my fly tackle. I retied the bite tippet with fifty-pound fluorocarbon material and loop-knotted a silver-black Deceiver-type fly. By the time an hour had elapsed, I’d jumped seven fish and released three, which was about the usual jump-to-catch ratio for tarpon. By then, I was exhausted. I asked Anthony to return me to the guesthouse where a shower and lots of cold drinks awaited.

My second day was caught up in the pleasures of snorkeling the clear waters off Seaquarium Beach, but my angler’s muse tugged at me for today to end and tomorrow
to begin, as day three was to be my first exposure to Curacao’s adventurous high seas blue water fishing.

I knew this island had excellent offshore action- so much so, that there’s an annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament that’s held on the full moon every March. One of the major reasons that the action could be superb is Curacao’s proximity to the very same La Guaira Bank that Venezuela’s sport fishermen target. Getting to the grounds is easy enough. Many boats leave the main harbor and head to the island’s east end and begin trolling about four miles offshore.

Since my trip to the island was during mid-May, I was open to catching any pelagic fish. I was fortunate in that Anthony knew an amateur offshore angler known as “Oom” (uncle) Hans. I gave him a call to inquire about his vessel and tackle. He had a thirty-five foot cabin-style cruiser that featured a large aft cockpit, long able outriggers, and a brand-new rocket launcher. His tackle included four fifty-pound Penn International outfits, as well as two eighty-pound outfits. Hans said –in good English, I might add- that he fishes with large ballyhoo topped with blue tuna skirts and that these rigs seemed to catch all the island’s pelagic gamesters.

When the dawn of day three finally came, Anthony drove me down to a seawall in Willemstad Harbor. Han’s vessel was neatly tied off and I got aboard. It wasn’t long before we had cleared the harbor entrance and headed east. Hans remarked that the seas were perfect today with the cobalt-colored waves running around three feet. Hans asked me to take the helm as he put out three outfits into the wake at approximately fifty, seventy, and one hundred feet.

As soon as the rods were placed, he grabbed the helm and pointed about one hundred yards to the east, where the sea seemed alive with loads of airborne “flyers.” As we approached the area, two rods went off. As the rods doubled over, two large dorado went aloft. I said, “slammers!”, and pulled out a rod and struck hard. Hans grabbed the other rod and struck hard as well. In ten minutes, we had two large dolphin flopping in the box. As I reeled in the third rod, I had a hard strike, which I missed. As we headed into more schools of flying fish, we only put out the two outfits. Within a minute, we were hooked up again with large dolphin. The action went on like this for two more hours and our fish box was bloated with the rainbow-colored battlers. I was astonished to be so exhausted from fishy action only hours into the trip. Hans smiled at me and said, “Had enough?”. As I nodded, he turned the vessel around for port.

As we tied off to the seawall, we each enjoyed an ice-cold Amstel beer. After a deep swig, he asked me what I’d be doing next. I told him that the next day involved a dawn date with some snook and tarpon I was getting to know…then in the afternoon, my friend was taking me to climb Mount Christoffel one hour to the west of us. As Hans smiled back at me, I looked up into the sunny blue skies over Curacao and thought, “who could ask for more?”


Important Facts About Curacao:

Population: Over 175,000.

Capital: Willemstad.

Language: Dutch and Papiamento, but English and Spanish are spoken by Curacaons.

Size: 37 miles long and 7 miles across at its widest point.

Currency: The guilder, but dollars are widely accepted.

Geography: Located 35 miles north of the coast of Venezuela, Curacao is the largest of the Netherlands Antilles. It is also the “C” of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao).

Airport: Hato Airport is served by American Airlines, KLM, and other major carriers.

Documents: Going to and from the U.S.A. to Curacao requires a valid U.S. passport.

Weather: Average daily temperature of 81 degrees with dry climate and brisk trade winds.

Activities: Curacao has some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean- check out the Curacao Underwater Park. Shoppers will love the elegant colorful stores of Punda for great duty-free bargains. The sightseeing is first rate either downtown or in the countryside.

Outstanding Lodgings on the island:

Marriott is a great location not far from Willemstad.

Hotel Kura Hulanda is located downtown, but is wrapped in an ambience of private elegance. (

Lodge Kura Hulanda is located on the scenic west end of the island about 45 minutes from the airport. (

Lions Dive Resort caters to travelers that come to dive Curacao’s striking sea. (

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Abaco Bones....

Abaco Bones


Jan Maizler

As I was wading in crystal-clear water about six inches deep, my guide Ricardo Burrows, suddenly whispered, “stop” and pointed to a disturbance on the flat about a hundred yards down tide. “Be still and quiet, they’re coming our way.” By the time “they” got within a hundred feet of us, I beheld something I’d never seen before: a school of tailing bonefish so immense they could have covered an entire tennis court. The multitude of flashing tails simply mesmerized me. I could literally feel my heart pounding out of my chest with excitement. Ricardo coached me. “Make your presentation well in front of the pack and when they close in start your retrieve with gentle bumps”. I did just that — and the hookup was instantaneous. The silvery tennis court exploded into a white froth as hundreds of bonefish spooked in all directions. After a crisp, yet exciting battle, we released a healthy five lb. bone back into the shallow water to resume his cautious, grazing life.This was typical Abacos bonefishing.

From Key Biscayne to Key West, south Florida flats anglers are accustomed to pursuing Florida’s gray ghost by poling after them in specially designed shallow draft skiffs. Florida bonefish are often seen mudding, cruising and tailing and usually run in size from 4 to 14 lbs. Targeting bones in the Bahamas is slightly different in a number of ways and Florida anglers should be aware of what to expect when heading over. I happen to have been fishing off Sandy Point in Abaco Island, which is fairly typical of Bahamas bonefishing on the “outside flats”.

Here are a few pointers that will hopefully help you in your pursuit of Bahamas bonefish. Generally, Bahamian bones range in size from 2 - 5 lbs., although there are larger fish present on the islands that front oceanic depths. As a rule, plan to scale down your tackle, and go a bit lighter here: 6 lb. spinning outfits, and six-weight fly rods will provide excellent battles and more enjoyment with these abundant smaller fish.

The size of bonefish schools here can range into the hundreds of fish, something south Florida anglers don’t commonly see. These huge schools are often encountered tailing or mudding during lower tidal stages. If you catch the right season, you might find bonefish spawning on the surface in the thousands! In Abaco, the guides call this “dancing”. In Eleuthera, they call it “bibbling.” Whatever name it’s called, these massive groups of bonefish provide new meaning to the word “action”.

Bahamas bonefish will head deep into any available mangrove “forests” to feed during the rising tide. Therefore, a falling tide is often better in these kinds of areas, as the fish will be coming heading back out of the roots to continue their search for crustaceans. It’s common to see mudding schools of bonefish working the deeper drop-offs adjacent to the flats and inevitably, these fish will be accompanied by marauding blacktip sharks. What makes Bahamian bonefish muds so different than typical keys muds is their size, which can often cover an entire acre. Although you may not see individual fish to cast to, fish these muds for a while and you will probably be surprised with some quick, delightful action.Any kind of light tackle setup will work quite well here.

The ultra shallow flats in the Bahamas can run for immense distances, unlike the typical sloping flats of the Keys. This means you can often leave your boat anchored on the edge and wade the sandy shallows for miles. Wading the flats for bonefish is extremely common in the Bahamas. Although, if you do plan on leaving your boat for long periods of time, remember to take your water bottle.

There is an abundance of bonus fish on the Bahamian flats as well. If you like, you can rig up a short wire trace and cast to countless barracuda and sharks as the tide rises on the outside flats. You may also get a shot at a permit during the higher tidal phases or along the channel edges.The day before my charter with Ricardo Burrows, I waded out to the channel in front of Rickmon’s Lodge to play for a while. With my 12 lb. plug rod and a 1/2 oz. white Spro bucktail, my second presentation was smashed in the channel depths. After a fifteen-minute seesaw fight, I bested a 12 lb. mutton snapper. This gave the lodge cook, Mari, great delight!

Planning a trip to the Bahamas Flats- Generally, it’s better to use an outfitter or travel agent to book your trip. Remember, they obligate themselves to your trip, and are extremely concerned about your having a great experience. Firms like Angling Destinations (Scott or Brad at 1-800-211-8530) specialize in representing your interests with the myriad numbers of Bahama bonefish clubs. They choose to deal with only the lodges that show the best performance, like Rickmons Lodge in Sandy Point.

Plan on bringing ALL the possible tackle you’ll need (rods, reels, line, lures, etc.).Bahamas bonefish lodges and/or individual guides generally carry little, if any tackle. If flying, back up your tackle with your carry-on luggage, in case your rod tubes or other luggage is lost or damaged in transit. Better safe than sorry should be your watchwords. Bring everything you can imagine you might need. Photo documented ID’s like drivers license and passport are the optimal rule. Think about taking all your necessary medications, including first aid items. Be sure to include these in your carry-on if flying. Be flexible. Life in the Bahamas moves at a more relaxed pace, and Bahamians live their life this way. Sometimes your flight inquiry might be met with a smiling shrug, surely not the American way! However, you are encountering a way of life where things do get done satisfactorily, maybe not at your accustomed pace, but perhaps at a healthier, wiser one.

As the sun set on an excellent day of bonefishing, Ricardo and I waded back to his skiff. As I turned backwards to sit up on his gunnel, I noticed a bonefish tail pop up fifty feet away. It slowly waved back and forth, beckoning, as if to say, “try to get me tomorrow — I’ll be waiting.

Hot Locations around Sandy Point, Abaco-
The flats around Sandy Point abound with bonefish. If you follow the road to Rickmons Lodge, you can see a large sandbar exposed to your right as you gaze northward. On either side of the low tide, the bonefish that gather here only a hundred yards from the lodge, can number in the hundreds. As the tide gets higher, focus on the island 100 yards northeast of the sandbar, as the bonefish feed right into the black mangroves, along with loads of blacktip sharks. An excellent foul-weather hotspot is the mangroves past the boatyard to the right of the lodge. Here the bonefish spill out of the mangroves as the tide drops.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cold Water Strategies on Florida’s Inshore Waters...

Cold Water Strategies on Florida’s Inshore Waters


Jan Maizler

The key to good results when shallow waters turn chilly is to remember that fish are cold-blooded and need external help to keep their body temperature warm enough for survival. You can expect that as water temperature drops, flats and inshore fish slow down their overall activity as well as seek out the warmest possible water. Generally, the deeper contours and channels around the flats will have chilled the least because the water column is at its’ thickest for the cold air mass (of a cold front) to penetrate.

Another way that flats and inshore gamefish stay warm is by aggregating around warmer water outfalls. Examples of this are the discharge pipes and channels of power plants.
Gamefish seek out these waters, since it raises their own body temperatures as well attracting smaller baitfish.

Today was the first day of February and the waters in Biscayne Bay were in the very low seventies- I recorded 69 degrees early this morning. Though many anglers make the wiser choice of starting in the afternoon when the water is warmer, my thirst to greet the rising sun is irresistible.

I found out in short order that there were no bonefish in the shallows and moved towards the channel drop-offs. I changed my tackle to a 12-pound plug rod rigged with a ½ ounce Spro white jig. I sweetened the jig with a fresh shrimp tail and cast up tide. I let the jig bounce bottom (as the tide took it) by periodically free-spooling it back to the bottom “on the sweep.” Experience has taught me that if I want a bonefish in these conditions – or even a permit- that jig has to be bouncing off the sand. Generally, the mid-surface species like jacks and blue runners will hit in midway in the water column. This method netted me 1 bonefish of 6 pounds as well as about 40 nice-sized jacks and blue runners in an hour.

As the tide fell, I ran my skiff to a sunken boat in the middle of a channel a few miles away. I lightened the jig to 1/8 ounce to avoid snagging the superstructure of the wreck. I also increased the shrimp to a full size sweetener -minus the head- to give the possible larger gamefish a really decent meal. The next hour of casting and jigging netted me 3 permit to 12 pounds and 20 mangrove snapper to 3 pounds.

All this action occurred on a three-hour trip and life was good!

Jan Maizler