My 30th Birthday Trip to Venice LA

The trip started before sunrise on Thursday morning. We picked up our friends Beth and Rj and got on the interstate heading north. It was a fun road trip with our friends, the long drive was broken up between four drivers making it go by fast. We got to our cabin in Venice LA in the early evening. We then ventured down to the Venice Marina for dinner, the Seafood Potato was recommended before we got there and it did not disappoint. We got to bed pretty early because the next morning we were meeting the captain at 6am for a day of fishing. After first going to the wrong marina, we found our captain around 645 and got on the water.

The wind was blowing hard that morning as a cold front was blowing through. We first crossed the Mississippi River and tucked back into a bayou sheltered from the wind. After running through canal after canal just slightly wider then the boat, both sides of the canal had mud banks leading up to fields of sawgrass. After a short run, we came across some clean water in a wider canal with a few narrow feeder canals running into it. We sat there with a popping cork and jig, catching 40 redfish in a few hours of fishing, ranging from 12″ to 25″. We weren’t able to get to the coast and fish for the big ones so we called it a day and headed back to fillet our catch. After relaxing at the cabin, we went back to the Venice Marina and brought a bag of fresh redfish for them to cook. They cooked it three ways and gave us the sides, and we feasted. Unfortunately that was our only day to fish so we never got to chase the big bulls, but we had a blast in this amazing fishery and definitely fueled my desire to come back and try again.

The next morning we woke up and headed to New Orleans, we spent the day in the french quarter eating amazing food and exploring. That night we made it to Biloxi where we stayed at the Beau Rivage and spent a lot of time in the casino. The next day we headed home and couldn’t wait to get back because we were all missing our kids. It was great to be gone but the best part was seeing the excitement on Vance’s face when we got home.

Fall Tarpon

With the coast finally being red tide free, the bait moved into town in full force. Following the bait are large schools of lady fish, mackerel, jacks, and triple tail. There were fish and bait all over the place making fishing a lot of fun this time of year. With the first cold fronts coming through, the Tarpon have began to push out of the rivers and bays in order to migrate south. They spent some time stopped, enjoying the warm water and easy meals off of the coast of Sanibel.

We had some great trips last week, leaving the marina and getting to the coast we would start by looking for and catching triple tail as we worked south along the beach. Then when we came across large schools of lady fish busting bait on top of the water. We would catch those nonstop, with fish flying and everyone laughing hard, until the livewell had a good amount of live lady fish in it. We then continued south for a couple more miles until we got to where the tarpon were rolling thick.

Once we found the tarpon rolling we would set up a drift using the live lady fish as bait. The first trip we had instant success, an estimated 130 lb tarpon was on the line within a few minutes. The fish was landed and released alive after a 45-50 minute battle. We started another drift and within 5 minutes had another tarpon hook up that spit the hook in short order. The guest from that day had so much fun and was so hooked that he booked me for the following day. The second day we had tarpon rolling within 10′ from the boat for a couple of hours and never got a bite. We left and were able to catch snook, jack, and triple tail to finish off the day. The next day, with a new group of clients, we got into the school of tarpon again and waited… we did have fun catching a few sharks while waiting but decided to move on after no tarpon bites. Again, we finished off the day with snook, triple tail, and jacks. Everyone was all smiles and even more determined to come down in the spring and mark tarpon off of their bucket lists.

September 25th-30th

Overall the fishing was good last week. I was able to get out and fish for fun for two days with long time friend Capt RJ Hagewood. We were all over the place doing some tournament pre fishing. We both had different tournaments later in the week. The bait was good every day this week and stayed alive all day long. In our travels, we were able to find fish almost everywhere we went. They weren’t always the target species but we had a lot of action. Both days we were able to catch some really big healthy snook and redfish.

I had a charter Thursday with really low water and a tough tide. We were able to catch some healthy snook and snapper. We spent a lot of time running around trying to find a bite. Friday I was chartered for a corporate fishing tournament, bait was not easy this morning. Pick up was at Tarpon Lodge at 8am with a start time at 9am. At 930 it was determined that my guest were not going to make it, so I called it a day and went home to do some maintenance on the boat.

UPDATE September 24th

Spent a lot of time on the water last week and caught a lot of fish. There are still some signs of red tide around but they can easily be avoided. Great news is the bait stayed alive each day everywhere I went. One day the focus was on snapper and they did not disappoint, we caught plenty of good sized mangrove snapper. My wife and I were able to sneak out one evening around sunset and fished with top water plugs. We caught countless snook and trout, then had two opportunities to catch redfish but couldn’t connect on either. On Sunday we were able to get out as a family and do some fishing. We caught Redfish and snapper on our short trip. The fishing is good right now and the water is looking better with every trip out.

Governor Candidate Ron Desantis Tour

On Friday August 24th, I had the opportunity to team up with Capt. Nick Fischer in order to tour Governor Candidate Ron Desantis around the Caloosahatchee River. The group included, Ron Desantis and a couple of his staff, the mayor of Cape Coral, and scientist from the Conservancy of SWFL. During the tour, the scientist explained the multitude of problems and contributing factors to the blue green algae outbreak. They also discussed solutions both temporary and long term. We were also given the opportunity to explain the impact on our entire industry, and the hardships this has created on most of the industries throughout SWFL. Desantis was very receptive to the conversations and was very knowledgeable on the issues at hand. He also did not hesitate to call out the Big Sugar industry for their contributions to the problem. This was a very cool opportunity and I hope Desantis is elected and able to be an ally to fix the problems.

Weekend at Tarpon Lodge

I surprised Lauren with a staycation at one of our most favorite spots in the world for her birthday. We stayed at Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island, it is a historic Inn and one of the prettiest properties in Florida. While Lauren was at work I went out and got bait then went to the Lodge and checked in for the weekend. At the dock I ran into an old friend, while discussing recent fishing over a cold beer, we decided to go for a boat ride. We jumped in his boat and ran some shorelines, I stood on the bow watching. During the ride I got very excited after seeing all of the redfish and other schools of fish that were in the area.

Once Lauren got to Tarpon Lodge she changed out of her work clothes and we were gone. We went redfish fishing, there were a couple of opportunities but we couldn’t connect. All of the sudden there was an explosion in front of the boat, then a small redfish rod doubled over nearly being ripped from the rod holder. With the drag screaming Lauren was running out of line fast, I chased the fish down using the trolling motor. After a 5 minute fight Lauren had a 4-5′ bull shark boat side. The leader was broken off and the shark swam away in a hurry. We then went to some structure in about 5′ of water just off of a flat. There we used small rods to catch mangrove snapper and small gag groupers. We decided to go try for some snook at this point. On our way we came across a very recently dead manatee, still seeing effects from this unprecedented red tide, which we reported to FWC then tied up to the nearest channel marker so they could come and collect it. After that we decided it was time for dinner, so we went to Barnacles on North Captiva and then back to Tarpon Lodge in time for a sunset swim.

The next morning we slept in a little and after breakfast made our run to get bait. After getting enough bait for the day we focused on snook. We fished for a couple of hours and caught some nice healthy snook. Lauren was ready to stop fishing for the day so we went back to Tarpon Lodge and enjoyed the pool until dinner time. After dinner we met up with friends who were also staying at the lodge and closed down the bar. The next day we passed on fishing all together. It was a great weekend at an amazing location.

Open for Business

The water is slowly clearing up and SWFL is open for business. The beaches are looking beautiful with less fish washing up each day. We are not out of the woods yet and still not keeping inshore fish, but things have gotten much better.

Took a nice family from California last week on a 6 hour charter. The bait stayed alive all day and we caught snook, snapper, and grouper all morning. We then took a little break so the family could walk the beaches of Cayo Costa and collect some shells. While in the area was did some sightseeing and say manatee’s, dolphins, and multiple bird species. After that we went back towards the pick up/ drop off location and found a school of jacks. The entire family was hooked up at the same time on a couple of occasions, leading to some very exciting action and perfect way to end the charter.

Green Algae/Red Tide “No Kill Policy”

Finished off July with a few more charters, snook and redfish were really getting good and fishing was easy… when you could keep the bait alive. Then the red tide moved into the area in full force. The red tide/algae is a naturally occurring algae that we deal with every year. I’ve been here my entire life and seen the red tide come and linger for a few days, kill some bait, and then go away again and allow marine life to get back to normal.

This year is completely unprecedented, the red tide is feeding off of the nutrients (chemicals/pollution) from the Lake O water releases down the Caloosahatchee River. This red tide has been fueled by the releases and has exploded in ways that have never been seen before. All of SWFL beaches are covered in dead fish, and have a stench that has settled in and refuse to leave. The water is filthy, and also covered with floating dead fish for as far as the eye can see. The scariest part is that it is not your normal small fish species. We have seen countless dead tarpon, goliath grouper, snook, redfish, trout, mullet, and sea turtles.

Our politicians and government agencies have allowed this to happen and since have taken almost zero action to correct the problem. Many captains, myself included, who rely on this fishery have taken action into our own hands. We have joined together to create a “no kill policy.” This means that until further notice, Blue Line Fishing Charters will not harvest any inshore species. There is enough pressure on this fishery and I will not contribute to any further stress on the environment by keeping any inshore species for dinner. To be abundantly clear all inshore charters will be catch, photograph, and release with no exceptions.

If you want to take action I beg you to please look into the following organizations:

July 16 – 22nd

This was another busy week, and this week was all about the kids. Took out 7 different kids this week finishing the week with the most important kid, mine! The name of the game this week was keeping the rods bent and keeping the young ones entertained. We caught a lot of trout, lady fish, jack, small shark, and mangrove snapper. We also spent a little time catching snook. I had a heart breaking moment Thursday morning, started the day with snook fishing, and had an 18 year old girl hook and perfectly fight a big snook (35 + inches). She was able to get it right next to the boat and I missed with the landing net… The snook took one last strong run, the line got into the motor and broke off, I felt absolutely awful.The family was very happy and understanding of the entire incident not letting it damper their day at all.

Sunday was my favorite trip of the week, I was finally able to get my wife and son out for a short morning trip. Vance kept himself occupied by moving pitchers of water from one side of the boat to the other, while Lauren and I fished. The redfish were hungry this morning providing us with plenty of opportunities that fell short of landing them. Finally it all came together and we were able to land an 11 pound overslot redfish. After that it was time to call it morning since Vance was getting tired and cranky. It was a great and needed few hours on the water together.

July 9th – 15th

I spent the 4th through the 8th on vacation in Texas, but picked up right where I left off with a charter on the 9th. It was a busy week with 5 charters and a tournament. The week was full of marking off people’s bucket list. Four different people this week had never caught a snook and their goal was to catch one. I did not disappoint, all of them got to mark snook off of their bucket list. We never landed a monster but did catch plenty of decent sized snook throughout the week. Also a few of the charters wanted something to take home for dinner, trout were plentiful throughout the week. While trout fishing we also had fun catching lady fish and shark on the flats.

For the second year in a row, I had the pleasure of chartering a group for the annual FSU Booster Club fishing tournament.We started the morning right on time at 730 and had our trout within a few minutes. From there it was time to focus on snook and redfish. We caught the tail end of the outgoing tide and we caught a small snook as the tide was going slack and the bite stopped. I wanted to snook fish at the end of the day as it was, so it was time to go catch a redfish and then later return and get a bigger snook. Red fishing was slow, at our third spot we finally hooked the one we were looking for. The angler did all he could but the fish proved to be the winner this round, by tangling himself in two other lines creating a huge knot and eventually breaking off the line. We looked for more redfish until the storms moved in and forced us to go hide. We never were able to get back to big snook fishing and had to drive through the storm to make it back to Tween Waters in time for the weigh in. All in all it was a fun day on the water with a fun and positive group who were happy to be out catching fish.