Saturday, May 31, 2008

Snookish Serendipities.....

While awaiting the arrival of the open bay summer tarpon, I've been grinding away at the snook.
My last outing by boat verified that the linesiders were hitting live shrimp 10 to 1 compared to artificials.

So I'd contacted a local tackle shop as to availability. When I was told there were lots of the camarones, I arranged for a pickup later. While I historically should have been mindful that the operator was subject to inaccuracy, I ignored my usual OCD approach and arrived to a "we've run out" situation.

Rather than miss my tide by driving to South Miami for shrimp, I endeavored to use my most effective artificials on the fish, but the sad reality is that compared to Charlotte Harbor, our snook population and habitat is tiny and the fish are pounded to death. In short, artificials for snook in Miami does not produce decent numbers of fish.

Somewhere between that moment and arriving at my boat, I discovered about 100 live pilchards for sale strictly on the basis of having done things differently than had I obtained the shrimp. Getting underway on a snook trip with this kind of bait in my livewell left me with a buoyant optimism- which proved well-founded three hours later with the release for four big snook, two barracuda, and loads of big jacks.


Monday, May 26, 2008

New Field Tests Underway....

FlatsFishingOnline is happy to field test tackle and accessories related to shallow water angling, time permitting. When the products are deemed to have a reasonable and/or representative amount of exposure or if they go to failure before a reasonable amount of time, the results will be posted as soon as possible.

Here are the current products being field tested-
1. SmartShield SPF30 Sunscreen Protection Lotion-
2. Offshore Angler Ocean Master- OM 50-
3. Offshore Angler Gold Cup Inshore Spinning Rod- 7 Feet-
4. The Yeti Cooler- 60 Quart Fiberglass Series-
Jan Maizler

Looking Foward to Tarpon Town Anglers....

It's a great thought to look forward to fishing with new friend Raul Castaneda and his operation, Tarpon Town. It lies on the west side of the Yucatan Peninsula in what I call the Campeche biosphere. There is a possibility in my mind of a linkage between all Gulf of Mexico tarpon.
Tarpon Town Anglers
Raul CastaƱeda
011 521 (981) 133 2135------ RAUL'S Cell/Mobile
Jan Maizler

Monday, May 19, 2008

Back From Bonaire!....

Who could think that 48 hours could bring such a cornucopia of exotic fishing opportunities?

There'll be much to tell about bone batallions prowling the salinas on the falling tide under the setting sun, huge tailing rainbow-colored parrotfish working the shorelines under water-worn granite overhangs, and blackfin tuna within easy reach of spincasters stationed on the city dock. But let's savor the intro. and drink deeply as the story unfolds in all the four corners of my writer's world of recent happy reflections.


Captain Thomas Van Der Bijl

Bonaire Seaside Apartments

Jan Maizler

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Explorations in the Unfolding Heat of Summer....

As I write this, the heat of the afternoon sun is an outdoor microwave basting from our boldly molten lemon-colored bully in the sky- El Sol.

But yesterday, the dawn skies were cloudy and accompanied by strong southerly winds that gusted to 20 m.p.h. It seemed a very poor choice to me to go bonefishing in South Bay, but the low tide and wind direction made the North Bay options limited.

Since my fishing muse had reached a kick-in-my-pants level of insistence, I headed out for new areas. This is a practice I'm ambivalent about, since there's a good deal I could learn-especially on a low tide-but I might also go fishless.

Bu the time I'd scouted and fished about two miles of mangrove and urban shoreline of flats, holes, and artificial reefs, I'd released a moderate-sized mutton snapper, three dog or cubera snapper (not mangroves or schoolmasters), two barracuda, a huge lookdown, and a small snook.
I also discovered a massive concentration of glass minnows that were probably gobbled on the midnight high tide that would mark the transition from yesterday to today.

I'm pleased at the prospect of dining on sauteed snook a la putanesca with rice tonight, but I'll be dreaming of distant shores where living under the same sun and moon may feel different- Bonaire, Belize, Roatan, The Carib Coast of Mexico, and Trinidad would all seem very fine to me.

Jan Maizler

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Peacocks a la Moser-

Peacocks a la Moser-
The Live Bait Way


Jan S. Maizler

As Captain Jon Cooper and I pulled into Lake Ida Park, the eastern sky was lighting up in a classic “Japanese” sunrise that sent a 360-degree panorama of lemon-colored sunbeams seemingly everywhere. Some of those rays lit up the flat-calm lake, revealing multiple schools of shad dimpling the surface. We both looked at each other and acknowledged that these were indeed auspicious signs.

In the distance, we saw Captain Butch Moser throw his cast net into the placid water. By his silhouette of strenuous effort, we could tell he was hauling aboard a load of live bait…and that was a good thing!

As he motored over to the shoreline to meet us, we unloaded fishing gear and photography equipment from our vehicle. He eased the bow of his skiff into a nearby mud bank and in the hurried moments of heady dreams for dawn peacock action, we rushed towards his vessel and hopped onto his bow. Echoing our impressions, he said, “looks like a great day.”

We were soon underway. The coolness of the early morning made me don my rain jacket as we whizzed across canals, bridges, intersections and more canals. Our direction was basically westward and each surge of his skiff over the tannin-colored waters brought us closer and closer to a realistic anticipation of peacock action. Our trip over these waters yielded sightings of multi-hued iguanas, turtles, alligators, egrets, ibis, limpits, as well as many species of ducks. Since I was a flats fisherman in a new wonderland, it was necessary to ask Captain Butch the names of the bird species that adorned these fine waters.

The whipped cream on the excitement cake was our knowledge that western Palm Beach County was home to some of the largest peacocks in Florida. Our appetites were whetted weeks before when our initial call to charter Captain Butch revealed a likely plan that we’d probably be fishing the area where he’d caught and released his biggest peacock, a monster of over 7 pounds.

Butch rounded another 90-degree bend and slowly began throttling down. His Carolina Skiff relaxed into an idling mode and the sound of whooshing water replaced the high-pitched whine of a full-out running engine I’d been hearing for a half hour. Our excitement began to build. Butch eased his vessel towards a bridge not far from the mouth of another canal. In another minute, he cut the engine and lowered his anchor- we were no more than twenty feet from the bridge and its enveloping shadows.

Butch netted about six shad out of the mouth of his livewell and squeezed them en masse with his hands. He said, “ Let’s try these hors d’ oeuvres.” He tossed each bait in an arc that covered the adjacent shoreline all the way into the middle of the bridge’s shadow. In moments, we started hearing pops and swirls. The first one came from under the bridge as one of the more spirited chum baits disappeared into a foamy strike hole. The second pop was right next to a rock protruding from the shoreline. We could see the helpless silvery flashes of the struggling chum bait as it surged down the bank…but seconds later, the bulge of its’ flight was stopped short by a large splashing strike. Moments later, a third pop grabbed our attention as another large strike engulfed a shad only ten feet down the shore.

Butch smiled at us and handed us his aquarium-sized bait net. I quickly grabbed an ultralight spinner that was rigged straight to number 2 Aberdeen hook. Butch said, “run the hook into its’ mouth and out the little plate in front of its’ nostril”. This was a fine-fingered task not easily accomplished with excited hands more used to handling live pinfish, crabs, and mullet. I managed to hook my bait in a facsimile of efficiency. After taking aim at one of the strike areas, I flipped open the bail of the tiny spinning reel, cocked my rod into a backcast position and fired off a cast that sent the bait near the bridge pilings. It landed with a tiny splat. The only sound I was aware of was my breathing.

I watched my bait carefully and was about to open the bail give it some additional slack, but a large strike put an end to all that. I waited until my rod was pulled down and I struck back smartly. The rod was pulled down sharply by my adversary, which indicated a good initial connection that was helped along with the thin-wired, sharp-pointed little hook. I struck the fish again for good measure. My drag shrieked as the fish surged into the bridge’s shadows. Butch said, “looks like a good one.”

Jon quickly removed his camera from its’ case to record some boatside action and if luck held out, a release. I kept as much of a good arc in the rod as I thought the 4-pound line would allow. The drag shrieked again, and I let the rod surge downward. As soon as the drag stopped, I pulled back on the rod. This time, I felt the weight of the fish let up a bit as my rod pressure on the line began to take its’ toll. I pulled on the fish and it slowly slid my way. I went into a short-stroke pump and retrieve tactic. By the angle of the line, it was clear the fish was away from the bridge and near the boat. In ten more seconds the fish came up and thrashed on the surface, revealing itself as a golden-hued warrior of about 3 to 4 pounds. I eased the fish alongside the boat and turned to Butch for advice as how to land the fish with such light line. This was when I realized that both he and Jon were hooked up to fish as well. Butch looked at me and pointed to a net alongside his console. I quickly scooped up the battler and left it in the water until Jon could release his fish and begin the photos.

I’m glad to report that this action-filled scenario –which was a “first” for me- was to be repeated under Butch’s guidance many times that morning. More importantly, I learned these results were often the norm when live-baiting for peacocks.

The Moser Method-

Captain Butch has been fishing the inland lakes and canals of western Palm Beach County since the early 1980’s. Prior to that he fished saltwater off the same coast for twenty years. The basis for his shift from “salt to fresh” was the decline in numbers and frequency of marine game fish; this was in stark contrast to the rapidly expanding peacock biomass inland, which was powered by a state stocking program.

Butch certainly got in on the ground floor of a now explosively popular fishery and has been “at it” for a long time. Therefore, he has evolved into one of Florida’s top peacock guides.

Butch feels that there is simply no more effective system for peacocks than the live bait method. Though he uses artificial lures frequently, the productivity of his live bait trips is inevitably far better. He mentioned to me that, “ it would be obvious if your dinner plate was topped off with a rubber steak instead of the real thing. Peacocks and fish in general often sense the difference between real and fake food as well.”

He also relates the humorous tale of some tournament patch-covered angler confronting him that live baiting peacocks was “cheating”. Butch looked over into the angler’s vessel at his tackle, which was a stout baitcasting outfit that sported obviously heavy line and a multi-hooked plug. Butch held up his standard four-pound spinning outfit topped off with a number 2 hook and compared both their outfits and methodology. He succeeded in getting a fishing snob to rethink his thoughtless remarks.

The basic tools for peacocks a la Moser is a beamy stable 25-foot Carolina Skiff, 90-horsepower Yamaha engine, and a huge 35 gallon livewell with a commercial grade aerator. His basic second tier tools are a cast net, depth recorder, temperature gauge, and six ultralight spinning outfits.

Yet his one daily necessity that must be caught and not bought are his live baitfish. Butch used to rely on shiners (golden hickory shad). The size of these baits often averaged 5 to 6 inches: these made wonderful baits for trophy peacocks. But shiners slowly but surely diminished in the habitat where he fished. Butch theorized that spraying as well as pesticide and urban chemical runoff might have caused the decline in the numbers of shiners.

Now Butch relies on the more numerous and stable stocks of threadfin shad. These shiny baits -almost looking like tarpon “mini-me’s”- generally run in length from 2 to 3 inches with 4 inches considered a trophy peacock-sized bait.

Butch’s first step of every trip is to cast-net live bait for the day, a process that ideally begins around daybreak. He first scans the water for dimpling on the surface that reveals the presence of the surfacing shad schools. If the water surface is chopped up by the wind, Butch relies on his depth recorder to spot the baitfish in water sometimes as deep as 16 feet.

Butch’s cast-netting guidelines for threadfin shad involves a heavy, wide-bagged net that sinks quickly so that the bait schools can’t swim out from under the net plume as it sinks through the water column. Since his livewell holds about 800 shad effectively, Butch ideally shoots for about 4 “strikes” of 200 baitfish, since 1 or 2 large strikes of 400 shad would crush the individual baits under the deadweight impact of lifting the full net from water to livewell.

Tackling Up-

In all his years as a peacock guide, Butch has come to rely on ultralight spinning as his tackle of choice. He feels that it’s a great match for tiny live baits that can swim so naturally in a tackle setup where the line and hook are barely visible to peacocks or any other freshwater gamesters. He finds also that his customers can achieve long casts with little effort all day long- the secret to this is using a rod and reel that is light enough to be briefly held aloft by thumb and forefinger. While ultralight allows the peacocks to give their best fight, its also has enough tiny “beef” to eventually vanquish gamefish that rarely top 5 pounds.

Butch fishes his spinners three ways. The first is to fish his baits “free” and tied straight to the hook. This first method works well when the fish are alongside structure, when they are striking bait on the top, and when they are bedding alongside their nests in the spring and fall. The second method is using a tiny float three feet above the bait and a tiny split shot above the hook to keep the bait from looping the line. He likes this tactic for anglers that can detect a strike more effectively by sight instead of line handling- all they do is wait for the float to be pulled under. He also uses the float-rigged spinner as a “self-managing” system. He feels he can put the rod in the holder and let the float bait roam around the canal under his watchful eye as he fishes a “free” bait outfit in hand. The third method involves using two split shots on top of his hooks to get the bait deep during very hot or cold weather and also in those spots that feature deep water, such as canal intersections. Butch also advises belly- hooking his live baits to get them down to the peacocks when the aforementioned weather conditions prevail or when the depth demands it.

Live Bait Changes the Game-

I quickly learned that live bait vastly increases the latitude of opportunities for peacocks compared to artificial lures. Through his anchor, live-chumming, and casting methods, Butch can create 360-degree action around the boat all the way from the shoreline out to the middle of the canals where his customers are literally hooked up in all directions. These action-filled scenes cannot be duplicated when fishing artificial lures alone.

Butch is responsive to those anglers that want to use lures or flies instead of live bait after he gets the peacocks fired up and striking seemingly everywhere. He’s found that this makes a great time to take out a light fly rod rigged with a white Clouser-type fly. He instructs his angler to cast the fly directly into a bust-up, and depending on the water depth, begin stripping it in.

In addition, Butch fishes specific conditions when his anglers desire it. This is particularly the case in the spring and fall when the fish are in spawning mode. He enjoys taking out anglers who are looking to vanquish a large male peacock crested by an aggressive-looking humped head. These kinds of charters feature Butch searching out likely looking areas for bedding peacocks- and this means structure. Areas and spots often focus on dock pilings, PVC pipe, submerged logs, and shoreline rocks near floodgates and canal intersections. Butch feels that live-chumming aggregating and bedding peacocks can be less harassing than casting lures and flies repeatedly at the same fish. With live bait, there’s generally a quick response, hookup, and release.

Butch also feels secure in knowing that he’s chasing after a gamefish that is far more democratic in its feeding habits than largemouth bass. Peacocks often feed all day long as opposed to the narrower low light preferences of largemouths. Butch feels that peacocks are the kind of hearty breed of fish he can catch in calm, windy, sunny or even rainy weather. He’s glad to mention that he has no experience with peacocks in lightning and thunder, as he is well underway to the boat ramp if these conditions occur. Butch’s motto is that “the customer’s safety comes first and the fish come second.”

Despite the obvious luxury of results that he enjoys, Butch advises his customers that even peacocks have their limits. He feels that the most challenging times of the year are conditions of extreme cold; this comes as no surprise since the original gene pool of peacocks come from warm moist South American rainforest habitat. As mentioned before, this is when Butch “goes deep” to the bottom where peacocks are searching out the warmer thermoclines along the bottom.

During the extreme heat of summertime, Butch is less concerned about peacocks going “deep” to survive. Rather, he finds the fish are more concerned with comfort in midday times. This is a good time to fish in the enveloping shadows of docks and bridges. Butch’s favorite times of year for peacocks are the spring and fall where the moderate conditions yield spawning and schooling fish that are sure to keep his customers busy ideally all day long.


Captain Butch Moser
Cell phone: 1-561-254-2790
Home phone: 1-561-732-5996

A Strange Bumpy Stretch and a Silver Lining...

By mid-April, the fishing scene began to change. There were far less cold water-concentrated gamefish- so simply, fishing spots that were hot when it was cold became cold since the weather was growing hot.

I starting prowling and scouting the areas that 30 years of angling records revealed matched not just the time of year, but the changed conditions as well.

Things started slow: some barracuda, and the modest pleasures of big numbers of grey snapper, both of which are ho-hum for me at this juncture. I switched tactics and prowled seawalls with sardine baits on 12-pound spin gear for big jacks or snook. On a windy morning, I spotted a huge snook and cast the bait 5 feet in front of the linesider. It sped up and woofed the bait down with a huge flair of its gills that accompanied its' impressive suction strike. Despite my using maximum pressure, the fish made the most of the high tide as it won the see-saw battle with me by surging into the maze of a pine tree that was grown over into the water. My line popped with that sickeningly familiar cracking sound.

The gloominess of that event hung over me like a bad spirit and I hoped my next outing would be better. In a few days, I found a few tarpon rolling in the lee of an island in North Bay. My feelings started rising as I hooked a medium-sized fish, but on its' second jump, it landed in my skiff. While it certainly became a caught and released fish, the event still left me with feelings that were no longer gloomy, but rather, well, "purgatorial". Since the tarpon action was brief, I headed for more half-hearted consolations with snappers and sea trout.

Then came this current weekend which featured a new moon in May with water temperatures over 76 degrees- times and conditions that were decidedly snookish to me. I ran my skiff deep into the South Bay and headed southwest until I found the mainland mangrove shorelines that begin south of Miami. My choice turned out to be a good one, but the snook were so big that 12-pound spinning and 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders resulted in 3 cutoffs. Fortunately, the last fish yielded to a shockingly "deep" tightened-down drag and I released a fine 15-pound
specimen. The rediscovery of an area that might produce for the next month or so gave me that "silver lining" feeling not just of re-inspired hope, but also adventurous anticipations.