Monday, November 28, 2011

100th Post and 2 New Species

So here it is. My 100th post. Looking back and when I started this thing, I questioned whether or not I'd even get past 10 posts. But here I am, and I have my friends and regular readers to thank for helping me get this far. If it wasn't for ya'll, I would have never gotten here. So THANK YOU! my fishing trips.

While home for Thanksgiving, I got five chances to go fish. And like usual, none of them were what I had planned to do. Originally, I had planned to sit on the beach, relax, and try to catch some bull reds. Sadly...This never happened. I didn't even look at the beach during my 10 day stay. Instead, I got some much needed time in the kayak.

My first trip was on Sunday afternoon and my Dad, Mr. Locher, and I took the kayaks to an area that usually produces quite a few trout. As usual, the fishing was great, and I had over 20 fish in the boat in a little over an hour. What was strange this time, however, was that I couldn't get a fish to hit on conventional tackle. Every trout I landed was on the fly...A white clouser to be exact.

Not only did I manage to catch more Speckled Trout on a fly than ever before, but I also caught my biggest on the fly...Just shy of 20 inches.

A few days later and I found myself with my Dad kayak fishing the headwaters of Escambia bay. The brackish water has hundreds of little bayous and creeks that look terribly fishy. I've never spent much time around this area, but I really wanted to get out and explore. We soon found a creek and began working our way up it in search of Redfish or Trout.

After just a few casts, I had a strike, and the biggest surprise of my trip.

A Chain Pickerel!

Now I'm not really a freshwater fisherman. I knew these things existed. But I'd never seen one in real life, much less ever caught one. But here it was, hanging out in a 10 foot wide creek. That fish alone made my trip, but there was more to be caught.

Not long after this I caught a little Largemouth (that shook the hook at the side of the boat). I then turned around and caught a Redfish and a Trout.

All of these fish were caught in the same general area and I'm always surprised when I can catch true freshwater fish and saltwater fish in the same area. The wind had decided to whip itself into a gale by this point, so we called it a day.

My last kayak trip came Friday after thanksgiving. I went with my Dad and brother-in-law close to the same area we'd hit on Sunday. Unfortunately the bit wasn't quite what it had been 6 days earlier. I decided to take this as a sign to go look for new honey-holes and ventured off into a different area in hopes of finding more fish.

I wasn't too disappointed because shortly after moving, I found the fish. They weren't anything huge...the biggest was just around 17 inches, and the smallest was barely the length of my hand. But it was nice to find a new hole. It certainly helps expand my knowledge of the area. You can't really learn too many new things if you do the same thing over and over...right?

This area is where I had yet another surprise. This time, it was on the fly.

A Ribbonfish. Again, I'd never caught one before and was really interested in the way they moved and fought. They pull backwards and use that eel shaped body to their advantage. I caught two of these things, and had to carefully remove my mangled fly from their nasty set of choppers.

And that was it for my kayak fishing over the break. My other trips consisted of venturing off in a power-boat, but that report will have to wait for later in the week. Stay tuned...There's a third new species to cross off my list coming up!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Upcoming Fishing Trips

I've slacked a bit on my writing the past week. I've been fairly busy and to be honest, I haven't been out to hunt or fish since I shot my buck.

Luckily this will all change come this weekend. The beach is calling my name.

I (miraculously) worked out my school schedule and rather than leave to head home for Thanksgiving next Tuesday, I'll be leaving tomorrow afternoon (Friday). This gives me 10 days off, and plenty of chances to go fish. From what I've heard, and from personal experience, the big Bull Reds are starting to move into Pensacola, and I'll have a few shots at them this year.

Last Thanksgiving I was able to get my girlfriend her first over-slot red pretty easily, and this year I'd like to catch quite a few myself.

Weather permitting, I'll get the kayak wet as well and maybe catch a few trout and flounder. Expect some reports to roll in sometime next week! Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Everglades Exotic Fish Tournament

So I meant to post about this back in July, but got...side tracked.

I realize posting about it in November is a bit late, but bear with me. I found it interesting.

Back in July, the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area hosted a non-native fish roundup. Simply put, a tournament to catch exotic fish in South Florida. The results, along with pictures can be found here:

I found this whole thing interesting because of recent events here in Florida. Two winters back, Florida had near record breaking cold snaps and freezes. There were widespread snook kills and a massive die off of exotic fish, in particular, the Oscar.

The ecologist in me was happy about the exotics dying off, but the fisherman in me worried. Even for their small size, Oscars are one of my favorite fish to catch. There's just something about tossing a fly near a fallen log, and having a fish a little larger than a bluegill, engulf it and fight 10 times as hard. So was having a large population of these exotic fish die off a good thing?

It's hard to tell really. I've read papers about both Oscar's and Mayan Cichlid's effects on native species such as Largemouth Bass. From what I've read, having the exotics around hasn't really caused much damage. Yes there is a large amount of predation on small bass by the exotics, but at the same time, big bass have an almost unlimited supply of tasty cichlids.

To add, there's actually an exotic species that may suffer from a die off of Oscars. That species is the Butterfly Peacock Bass. Native to the Amazon in South America, the Butterfly Peacock Bass was purposefully introduced into the Florida Everglades by the state to help control Oscar and Mayan Cichlid populations. Since then, the Peacock Bass have become a major sport fish. So there's the possibility that having a large amounts of Oscars dye off could be detrimental to the Peacock Bass.

I've seen a change in the amount of exotics first hand. My first encounter with these fish was in May of 2008. My dad and I stopped along the Tamiami Trail and noticed that there were -hundreds- of fish teeming around the rocks and bushes in the near by canal. At the time, we weren't sure what they were, but we knew they weren't native. Using worms and gold hooks, we proceeded to have a hay-day.

My next trip occurred in early August of 2008. -Something- changed in between that time. Perhaps the heat forced some of the fish into deeper water...Who knows. But they weren't as thick as they had been in May. That's not to say, however, that they weren't there. We still found them, and filled the cooler.

In May of 2009 I found myself down in the Glade's again and just like the previous year, the fish were thick. I caught close to 10 Oscars off of one sunken log at one point and this time we laid into the Peacocks as well.

Winter of 2009 was when the freezes hit.

I made it back down to the Glade's in June of 2010. Immediately, I went to see if the exotics were still there. It took quite a bit of poking around, but I finally found them. They weren't -nearly- as thick as they had been the year before. They were definitely few and far between. I made another trip later in the summer since I was working within 3 hours of the Glades. Once again I found the fish, but they were still lacking a bit.

Realizing that the fish were still alive, I desperately wanted to get back down there. And from everything I'd read, the BEST time to fish for them was around December or January. I made a trip down there again this past February to get in on some of the -awesome- fishing...We went just in time for a cold front.

The cichlids were all but gone. The cold had driven them into holes and deep spots, and we only saw 2 or 3 Peacock Bass the whole trip.

It, of course, was in the 70's the following week, and I'm sure the fish were teeming once again.

I haven't been back down there since. So reading about the exotic fish tournament was interesting. The total weight of fish they pulled in was almost 226 lbs. That may not sound like a lot, but remember, Oscars and Mayans usually weigh about 1-2 lbs. They pulled in -alot- of fish. However, I searched and couldn't find if they'd had previous tournaments. It would be interesting to see if there was a change in the amount of fish pulled in before and after the kills.

I'm really not too worried about the exotic populations after the freezes though. From keeping Oscars in an aquarium, I know that under the right conditions, they can grow up to an inch per month. They usually max out at about 12-13 inches, so you do the math.

I've no doubt that the exotic fish species are there to stay. It would take more than just some cold snaps to get rid of them. I certainly look forward to the next time I can make a trip down there. Until then, I'll just tie up flies for cichlids, and look through old pictures in anticipation.