Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Sanibel Adventure.....

Spring Sanibel Adventure


Jan S. Maizler

A Growing Desire-

Too much time had passed since I’d fished the waters of my “second home”, Sanibel Island, Florida. My incessant desire prompted me to contact my friend (and fishing guide extraordinaire) Captain Mike Smith in January- months before the traditional snook and tarpon season commenced in May.

Mike quickly sensed the familiar magic spell and allure that Sanibel fishing had on me as well as his many other clients; but he recognized that even the most pressing angling desires had to be matched with realistic timing in achieving a successful trip. In that light, he felt that the earliest and most decent opportunity would appear in the month of March, which usually marks the emergence of the new year from the most severe and persistent cold fronts. As usual, he wanted our fishing day to be on either the new moon or full moon: two times of the month when the increased current and tidal levels create more optimized game fish activity. I chose late March to fish with him under the double influence of personal desire turbocharged by deadline requirements.

Still, March as a Sanibel snook and tarpon month always carries the risk of cold fronts as well as featuring lower water temperatures than in April or May. Mike’s go-to plan for us was traveling to and fishing the warmest water possible. He explained that this would mean we’d be taking a long run up the Caloosahatchee River and fish “downstream” of the power plant’s heated discharge. In addition, because there were drought conditions in the last year, the salt water extended far upstream which made an inland habitat for snook and tarpon quite “salinity-hospitable.”

Rumble Time-

And what a good strategy that turned out to be! March 21st was a cold day with 25 M.P.H. northeast winds, perfect for the inland planning so well anticipated by Captain Mike. I met him and his gleaming and live-bait filled Lake and Bay boat at 9:00 a.m. at the Punta Rassa boat ramp. I was stoked and ready to go since I’d arrived at the historic Island Inn the day before and charged my batteries by some restful shelling, a macadmia-encrusted grouper dinner at the Inn’s Traditions restaurant, and a good night’s sleep in one of the Inn’s delightful Gulf view rooms.

Mike fired up his 225 H.P. Yamaha engine and off we rocketed into a one-hour travel period that would have lasted half the time but for the restrictions of three no-wake zones. During those periods when we dropped off warp-speed, Mike explained that we’d be “combat fishing” dock, piling, and bridge structure for snook that ran from 8 to 25 pounds. Towards that end, we’d be using tarpon-sized spinning rods that utilized 30-pound PowerPro braided line, 2 feet of 40-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a 1/0 Owner J-hook.

When we arrived at the first spot (and one of the most challenging), which was a maze of pilings along a seawall, Mike told me to use absolute “zero-tolerance” pressure on any hooked fish until it was out of the structure and then immediately go to a more moderate battle tactic as it got closer to the boat and out of harm’s way. This was essential since the light leader and smaller hook, which were so necessary to draw a lot of strikes, could only take a limited amount of extreme strain. I mentioned to Mike that this seemed more like combat fishing with one arm only!

Mike started chumming with live whitebaits and the boils of striking snook, tarpon, and jacks began almost immediately. When the dust settled, I succeeded in jumping 6 tarpon, released 3 jacks to 5 pounds, lost 7 snook to the pilings, and released snook of 8, 12, and 18 pounds. Because of the delicate leader, the last 2 fish sheared the leader before Mike could get a good grip on their lips for posing a picture, although the fish were “on the leader” for quite a while to qualify for releases.

On one of our last and least-daunting spots that featured only mild structure, I released 6 small snook in a row.

Although the trip took five hours and involved chumming and fishing with hundreds of live whitebaits, it seemed like barely an hour had passed! Yet, as usual, this trip was a typical Captain Mike Smith charter that was successful, pleasant, and gratifying in a way that makes fishing with Mike so enjoyable!

The Island Inn-

This venerable lodging on Sanibel Island began in 1895 and continues pleasing visitors over 100 years later. This wonderful resort facility sits in the epicenter of the island with 550 feet of Gulf beachfront.

The Inn’s accommodations feature 3 lodges and several cottages adorned in the Olde Florida manner. The rooms generally have a Gulf view, and all are equipped with kitchens, telephones, cable TV, air conditioning, as well as screened-in porches or balconies.

Activities include world-famous shelling, croquet, shuffleboard, tennis courts, and a heated pool. The aforementioned Traditions Restaurant at the Inn is one of the best eateries in the general Fort Myers area.

I found that my stay at the Island Inn was entirely gratifying and created the kind of unique experience that only a “native” destination with such a fine history of excellence can do.

Contact Data:

Island Inn
3111 West Gulf Drive
Sanibel island, Florida

Captain Mike Smith
1-239-573-FISH (3474)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hot Friday!

Perfect springtime conditons came together today for friend Don Eichin and myself. When the dust settled, we released 28 ladyfish to 4 pounds, 2 pompano to 4 pounds, and the peak of the trip- a 10 pound bonefish caught and released by yours truly. Don used spin tackle, while I used my favorite tackle, which is 12-pound baitcasting. All the fish were caught on white 1/4 ounce Spro bucktails.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

March Adventures on Biscayne Bay with My Friend Don Eichin and My Standby Lure, The Spro Bucktail ...

Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What Drives an Angler?....

Henry David Thoreau said, "many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Perhaps, but perhaps not... This sage observation no doubt is an intimation that anglers crave something deeper than the "fish." Since my hunch is that Thoreau had what's now called a "green" orientation, his conjecture was that the angler perhaps seeks a deeper communion with nature, often yielding a kind of perspectivizing serenity. My view is that Henry's observation was naive and so simplistic about the many motivations of why folks do things like fish.

Can you imagine Thoreau on a tarpon boat at Boca Grande? More psychologically astute theorists recognize that humans have urges to be alone (wilderness junkies), urges to congregate ( party boat and pier jockies) as well as urges to compete (tournament types). This view is far more explanatory about what drives an angler. So, these folks are seeking an emotional experience of some kind by the kind of fish and fishing that they choose. Does that mean that J-hook junkies are more aggressive than circle hook devotees, the former watching mixed martial arts while chomping beef jerky and the latter nibbling bean sprouts and chanting? Hardly!

I embrace the positon that it is EXACTLY the fish that I am after, amongst other things, as distant second-place factors. Through experience, I know what a five-pound bonefish will provide compared to a five-pound redfish. My feelings about bonefish have been so strong that the choice of an urban skyline or a mangrove shoreline has attained almost complete irrelevancy as I pursue a large grey ghost.

The important thing is to figure out what "rings your bell" about an angling experience and then pursue it, because you sincerely know it's what you like and even love to do. Granola bars and backpacks, sleek skiffs, or bamboo poles dangling live mullet into snooky's all up to you!


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Looking Forward to Bonaire....

It's been far too long since I've had the joys of the incredible fishing in Bonaire.

It's good to know that future plans include going back to this great island to fish with Captain Thomas Van Der Bijl for bones, reef fish and even a bit of bluewater, though the first two are my favorites.

Capt. Cornelius Van der Bijl started fishing the Caribbean waters (Aruba) about 50 years ago. He also fished the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. He has been fishing on Bonaire for over 11 years with his son Thomas. They work as a team. Cornelius was captain on the rescue boat of Bonaire for many years .

Thomas is an expert fisherman who has won many trophies in local and international tournaments. Thomas has been guiding bonefishermen for over 11 years, and is one of the best (if not the best) guide on the island. He is mentioned in international sport fishing magazines as "a true guide." Thomas has been tying his own flies for years and has his own fly pattern.

Captain Thomas Van Der Bijl
Jan Maizler