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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

South Florida shore fishing February 2024

Back from a few days visiting my daughter and her family in South Florida, namely North Miami beach. Of course, my plan of action is to get in as much Florida fishing as I possibly can. With her and her husband working full time, and their kids in school, I pretty much had an 8am to 4 pm schedule open to fish as I pleased.

As opposed to past trips there, my plan was to work the area around her home on foot, all fishing from shore. Didn't even bother to rent a car during my entire stay.

The first spot I planned to fish, was the snake creek trail which runs along the Royal Galdes (or is it Glades?) canal. I've fished their in the past, and though it has been quite tough fishing, the peacock bass always intrigue me, as we don't get them up here. In addition, I've spotted some grass carp in there, and as we don't get those either, I brought along some very basic gear to help me try to target the grassers as well.

Day 1:

Woke up bright and early, in order to make the first morning prayers at the local synagogue (Bais Menachem) before sunrise. First time I can ever remember needing to wear a sweater in Miami, I think it was a chilly 9C.


Warmed up ever so slightly on my way home at sunrise about 1 hour later...


After the 12 minute walk back to my daughter's home, we had breakfast together. They headed off to their days at work/school, and I grabbed my 2 rods, a backpack of mixed tackle, and enough water to last a while. 

The first segment of the canal that I planned to fish at has a fitness trail and circuit, where most of the locals go for scenic walks, jogs and bike rides.


I proceeded to chum a spot with half a bag of frozen corn, hoping it may attract some grass carp. I then worked my way casting the entire segment of the canal on both sides, using a variety of lures. The only ones that garnered any interest at all, were a #3 and #4 spinner. About 2 dozen follows from juvenile peacock bass, but no hits at all, just chasers. That took about 3 hours.

I then proceeded to stop and fish the spot I chummed for carp, using a variety of frozen corn, popup chilli lime corn, and peanuts. No carp in sight, I went on to do another 3 hours of casting, spotting some more peacock bass. Still no hits, and I ran out of drinking water after around 7 hours, so I headed home, skunked.

Day 2:

Warmer weather had me in a t shirt. Switched plans for the day. After seeing kids off, I decided to start at the spot I had chummed, as I had dumped in the second half of the corn before leaving the previous day. Set up my rods, and while they were fishing, I took advantage and got a good workout in the warming sun amidst the palm trees. Mix of callisthenic, isometric, aerobic, ending with a bit of yoga and stretching. Still no carp in sight, seemed the ducks and other aquatic birds were more interested in the corn, and that segment of the canal is loaded with all sort of these birds.

I decided to try a bit of sight fishing, and spotted the biggest grass carp I have seen there to date, probably pushing 20 lbs or so. It spooked real quickly, but I decided to chum that area with a bag of corn again.

I then proceeded to head out exploring another segment of the Snake Creek trail, on the other side of Miami Gardens. 


The segment of the same canal turns into Sky lake on one side, and there is a small lake across with a few secluded casting spots. I couldn't find it's name on Google maps, but it seems to be called Pickwick lake based on the homes/estate at the road entrance.

After casting Sky lake with a couple more follows from peacock bass, I tried Pickwick lake. Seeing a nice topwater splash from my first spot, I made my way through some pine trees for a better shot at casting to the fish. Sure enough, first cast with my topwater lure (walking mullet) was money, and I landed my first fish of the trip, and decent little largemouth bass. 



I eventually made my way further down past I-95, and started fishing a new segment of the canal, but was getting tired from all the trekking in the heat, and starting to run low on water. Before calling it a day, I headed back to try to fish the area I chummed for carp again. This time, the flock of birds that came when I had chummed, basically ate all the corn I put out, and when I cast, one of them dived and nearly got hooked trying to steal my bait. 

So much for "wasting" any more time with carp. Truth is, that grass carp are put in those types of waterways to eat the overabundant grass, so throwing in some corn does not have the same effect that it would on common carp. With very few grass carp there (I only spotted 1 in 3 days), and insane amounts of ducks, geese, turtles, and other aquatic birds, it's little wonder that I wasn't able to have any success. I headed home and planned to fish Sky lake hard the following day.

Day 3:

The hottest day of my trip. I had a bit less time to fish as it was Friday, I decided to beat up both Sky lake and Pickwick lake with a large variety of lures. Topwater, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits a spinners in various size and colors each. 

I was always wondering how accurate these signs were.


Sure enough, I finally found out, as I spotted a couple manatees, a big 8-10 foot mother and it's calf swimming near the surface.


A bit after noon, I saw a splash on Pickwick lake, tossed a small spinner, and landed my first peacock bass of the trip. 



Nothing big, but very welcome.

Minutes later, I saw another surface splash, this time on Sky lake. Again, the small spinner did the trick, this one a bit better in size.


Tried sight casting a few lures to some cruising largemouth bass, but no takers, and I called it a day about an hour later.


Day 4:

This was to be the big highlight of my trip. An afternoon going into night of shore fishing for giant sharks, namely hammerhead, tiger and bull sharks, near Jensen's Beach Florida, with one of my childhood friends that now lives in South Florida

Without going into too many details at this point, the guide that I booked (No Name charters / Jake Barker) through a web site called fishingbooker.com did not turn out to be what he had hoped for. I will probably detail the entire ordeal in a further post at a later date, as the saga is sort of still ongoing.

For now, I leave it at the results of the outing. No hammerheads, tiger or bull sharks that we were planning on catching, we were lucky to avoid the skunk with this decent blacktip shark.


Day 5:

After getting home a lot earlier than planned from the previous days shark outing, I was originally thinking of saltwater fishing for my last day in Florida. My thoughts were to have my daughter drop me off at the Sunny Isles Pier for the day on her way to work, and then pick me up at days end. Between not wanting to overburden her, and still being a bit groggy from a night of drinking with my friend after the failed shark outing, I decided to stay on foot and do more exploring further down the Snake Creek trail.

I got a later start than usual, got to my first spot at Sky Lake around 10:30 AM or so. After a bit of casting to some inactive bass there, and a bit at Pickwick lake, I made my way further West along the trail, to a new segment of canal I hadn't fished yet.

Made my way down casting spinners, was getting a decent amount of hits from tiny largemouth bass without any hookups. After fishing the entire length of that segment of canal without anything to show for, I tried working my way back up casting another topwater lure, the Berkeley Choppo. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing tons of drifting grass towards the side of the canal I was fishing, so I couldn't get a clean retrieve. I switched to a small spinner, and not long after, I caught my first Florida Bluegill sunfish. Decent size for the species, and it hit at the end of my retrieve, about 1 foot from shore.


Kept working my way East using the spinner, until the point where drifting weeds were no longer an issue. I switched back to using the topwater Choppo, and sure enough, it got crushed by a nice peacock bass. During the entire fight, another peacock bas of identical size kept chasing the one I hooked, and twice, it tried to steal the lure from the first one's mouth. Would have been totally nuts to catch the two peacock bass on the same lure at once, but it didn't happen.

I landed the first one, a nice 15 inch fish that put up a great fight for it's size, and now my biggest of that species. 


As well, it was my first topwater peacock bass, as all the previous ones I have manage to land over my past few trips to the area have all been caught on spinners.

I kept casting the area for a while, hoping for the other one to come back, but it likely took off to an other area. They seem to do that more than largemouth or smallmouth bass once they miss a lure, most often giving you only one shot at catching them.

As the day went on and I kept working my way East towards my starting point, I made my way back to sky lake. I ran into two other guys fishing the same stretch of shore line. They were locals, and it was their first time fishing the area. We got to talking a bit, and they were very excited to hear that I had landed a peacock bass, as they hadn't had any success all day.

I showed them the picture, and then the lure I was using. Just as I was demonstrating how the lure worked, I nice largemouth bass swam right up to us, and stopped about 8 feet from where I was standing on the shore. I tossed my lure next to it, and within 2 to 3 twitches, it nipped at the lure, and I was hooked the nice bass. 

Managed to land in right in front of them, and my demonstration of the lure could not have worked out more perfectly!


I didn't bother weighing it, but I'd guess it was pushing the 4 lbs mark, about 20 inches long or so. While quite small by Florida bass standards, it is my biggest largemouth bass landed in Florida, as most of the fishing I have done there in the past was in saltwater.

Kept seeing more bass cruising the shallows at Sky lake, but unfortunately, none were active enough to hit my lure, and I ended up heading home about an hour or so after that.

As it was my final outing of the trip, after a quick shower, I sat down for a self celebratory drink. One of all time favorites when visiting the USA, pity we don't get these here in Quebec.


For those of you old enough the remember their TV commercials, thought I'd share one of my favorites:


Gotta love them Aussies!

Got back to the warmest temps I have seen here in February, I was even wearing the same clothing in Miami and Montreal on he same day. Hoping to find some safe ice to fish up North next week.



Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Ice fishing report for January 2024

First, I'd like to start by wishing everyone a happy new year, and all the best for 2024. I'm planning to detail my ice fishing outings for January 2024 in this blog post, so I hope you'll bear with me, and enjoy the reading and fishing pics.

Ice has been very slow in forming anywhere in the Montreal and surrounding regions. As such, options have been limited, especially early in the month.

January 3 2024:

My first outing of 2024, I decided to spend a few hours running some of my spots closer to home, instead of heading North for bass, as I had done during the previous week to close 2023. Out of the 5 spots I checked, only 3 of the had safe ice, and 2 of them were quite crowded with others already fishing there.

I had one spot to myself, with mainly 3 inches of ice, though the spud bar was in order, as some spots were slightly thinner.


The ice was thin enough for my Marcum's transducer to shoot through it.


Unfortunately, nothing but small perch, though in very large numbers. Managed to land 27 of them, mostly in the 4-6 inch range, despite upsizing lures. Only fished for 3 hours, drilled about a dozen holes, and found fish mainly suspended over 12 feet of depth.

January 9 2024:

Decided to try a new spot for my first pike fishing outing of the year. I have fished in the area before, but this spot is new to me, at least as a far as ice fishing goes. I originally found the fishing spot while float tubing during the summer, and did OK, catching largemouth bass and pike there over a couple outings.

Got to my spot just before the start of the mid morning major. Found 6 inches of solid ice, with a few inches of fresh snow cover. This area typically has at least double the ice by early January, but this year has been unseasonably warm. 

No signs of anyone else having fished there sine the ice formed, so I was hoping to find more fish where I had last had most of my success there. Went with my my 8 inch manual fin bore auger, as I do enjoy the extra workout every now and then.

I started off by setting u my spread of tip up lines, suspended at depth of 6 to 10 feet over 14-16 feet bottoms. We are allowed to use up to 10 lines during winter in this zone, so I baited p tip ups, with a variety of frozen mackerels in the 7-8 inch range, and some headless gutted smelt in the 5 inch range.


I also rigged a few of the lines with double smelt, one on each treble of my quick strike rig.


Finished setting up my last tip up rigged with double smelt around 9:40 am, just after the start of the major. I drilled my first jigging hole, and started off jigging with small Yozuri Rattle n vibe rattlebait, my go to lure for largemouth bass and big perch.


On my first drop, I saw a big mark hovering near my lure on my Humminbird flasher. It disappeared shortly after, only to come back and leave a gain a coupe more times. Finally, I managed to get it to eat on it's fourth time, suspended 3-4 feet off the bottom depth which was 15 feet. 

The ensuing battle was quite intense. I had to keep my rod submerged under the ice hole to avoid having the thin fluorocarbon line cut on the ice hole's bottom end.

After a few runs, I manage to land my first pike of the year, a chunky fish pushing 6 lbs.


Just as I was releasing it, my last tip up line I had set a few minutes earlier, sprung up.


This pike was not quite as long, and a lot thinner, more typical of the summer pike that I've caught at this spot.


Released it through the ice in good condition, just as the first one.



Starting the day off with a double header, with both pike landed within the first 20 minutes of the outing, had me relaxed for the rest of the day. Just as well, didn't hook any more fish for the next 5 hours or so before I left, nor did I see much activity on the flasher. 

Was also very happy to get my first flag up, as I hope to put some more time into fishing tip ups than I have over the past few seasons. The fact that it hit on the double smelt rig I was experimenting with was gravy.

January 14 2024:

With safe ice in zone 8 still hard to come by, I opted to fish a small farm pond, where I've caught some nice bass and smaller pike under ice in the past. Plan was to fish for pike using most of my allowable lines with tip ups, and save the last line to jig for bass and panfish.

Found a solid 7-8 inches of ice, which was sort of what I had expected. Unfortunately, the bass were super finicky, as were the panfish. Probably slowest I have ever seen at that spot.

Around noon, one of my tip up flags sprung up, the line had been baited with a decent sized mackerel. When I lifted it, the line had somehow got caught up in the spool, so I had very little lie to fight the big pike with, and had to horse it more than I would have wanted to.

Either way, I landed this beauty of a pike!


At 36 inches and weighing 9.8 lbs, it was more than double the size of any other pike I've caught at that spot, as well as being the biggest pike I've landed on ice to date.

I didn't dream of ever catching a pike that big in a pond that small, but this very welcome surprise made my day.

January 29 2024:

Finally got out for the first time in 2 weeks, as I was away for a short trip to NYC during the previous week. For this outing, I brought my youngest son Zev along to fish for stocked brook trout, on a small lake that had its annual ice fishing derby a couple days prior to us going. I had gone their after the derby a couple years ago, and the brook trout they stocked we quite sizeable, and very easy to catch. I planned to fish to worm/jig rods, one tip up baited with live worms, nd jig a small w2 jigging rap.

We got to the lake by mid morning. There were a couple deer waiting for us at the parking area.



Started off fishing in very shallow water, mainly 3-5 feet deep. After close to an hour with no bites on any of the lines. I moved deeper, and within 15 minutes of so, I caught the first trout of the outing. Fish hit a stationary worm line in about 7 feet of water.


Shortly after, Zev caught his first trout of the year. Being a video game junkie, I think he enjoyed using the flasher.


The bite was on, we landed our 10 trout limit within less than 3 hours, with Zev catching the biggest one to end the outing.


While not enough trout in the limit to spell "2024", we came up with the next best idea.


Unfortunately, it seem like the derby organizers decided to stock a smaller class of brook trout this year. Short but fun outing, and we have some tasty fillets in the freezer to enjoy over the next couple weeks. 





Sunday, December 24, 2023

First ice fishing outing of the winter

Finally got out to do some fishing for the first time in 2 months. I'd say this is about the longest spell I've gone without fishing in over 15 years.

Starting this winter, I'm planning to  modify my blogging style a bit. Posts will lean more towards the technical aspects and results of the given outings, instead of the "play by play" style I've been using.

For this outing, my plan was to hit s small lake filled with mainly largemouth bass, along with some perch and smallmouth bass as well, hoping to start off my winter by harvesting a bag limit of smaller largemouth bass. With a lot of trekking to do, and anticipating having to drill many holes to find fish, I opted to use my 6 inch manual Fin Bore auger due to it's ultra light weight making it a breeze to hand drill all day. With the help of my flasher, I planned to stick to jigging 1 lure all day, a small Yo Zuri Rattlenvibe tipped with a live mealworm.

Conditions:

Outer temp above freezing at 2C. Wind 5 KM/H. Cloudy. 7-8 inches of ice, 1 inch snow cover.

Stats:

Fished 54 holes in 6 hours. Tough bite starting at mid morning major until afternoon minor. During that time, I landed 5 largemouth bass, 1 smallmouth bass, and 3 perch. All caught between 29 and 32 feet of depth, suspended 3 feet or so from bottom.




At my 48th hole , during the afternoon minor, with about 90 minutes remaining to the outing, I hit the motherload. 4 of 6 next holes produced additional 14 largemouth bass, 1 smallmouth bass, and 2 more perch. Shallowest bite of the day, these were all caught between 24 and 28 feet of depth, schooling and very aggressive, chasing lure 8-10 feet up from bottom.




Total for the day ended at 19 largemouth bass, 2 smallmouth bass, and 5 perch. With that amount of manual drilling, I didn't need to wear my coat at all, stayed warm just wearing sweater and bibs.

Harvested my 6 largemouth bass limit,  release the rest as well as the smallmouth bass. Perch mostly riddled with white worms and black spots, kept only 1 perch.


Two days later, I headed back for more bass fishing on same lake. Started off fishing my old holes for the first 90 minutes or so, as they were still open due to warm weather. Managed another bag limit of largemouth bass within the first 45 minutes or so, but they were a bit deeper this time, mainly in the 30 to 35 foot range. Still biting suspended.

I then drilled about 40 holes over the next 3.5 hours, most of them in spots I normally don't get to due to heavy snow cover. Deepest spot on the lake I found was 61 feet, and to my surprise, I pulled a couple perch out of that depth. Deepest perch I've ever caught.


 


Caught a pretty deep smallmouth bass as well, at 40 feet.


Final tally for the day was 12 largemouth bass, 3 smallmouth bass, and 9 perch. All on same rattlenvibe rattle bait lure tipped with mealworm.

Harvested a few more fish for my freezer as well.


Found this cool frozen crayfish on my way out.





Tuesday, November 28, 2023

My 2023 carp fishing season

Another season of slower than usual carp fishing as far as hours spent on the bank in 2023. Didn't do any guiding for carp, and when I did get out to fish for carp, it was mainly short outings of 2-3 hours at a time. Still, I did manage some very nice catches, as well as a significant number of by-catches.

Apr 16 2023:

My first outing of the season, to my usual early season spot right after ice out. Mission was to land at least 1 carp in the frigid water not long after ice out, and to harvest, debone and cook it into something palatable. Mission accomplished, carp fell for one of my Fireball boilies. You can read more by clicking here.


Water remained cold through the first part of May, but i still managed to catch a few more carp, during a couple evening outings a a spot I pre-baited. Best baits were Fireball boilies mixed with range cubes fished on bottom, and Fireball popup boilies.



A couple weeks later, with warmer water temperature, I started pre-baiting for carp again. On my first outing, I was surprised by catching my first couple tench during a short outing with my son. The tench seemed to favor my Sweet Dream boilies over any other bait I was fishing with.



Not much of a fight from tench on rods and reels geared for monster carp, but was nice landing a new species for a change. During the next couple days, we landed a few more carp on Sweet Dream boilies mixed with range cubes, and  this nice fatty on the same rig switched up to a Fireball boilie :


Again, a few more tench were mixed in, seemed like they were getting onto my feed and slowly out competing / pushing out the carp from my fishing spot.

After taking a good 5-6 weeks off of prebaiting due to a few fishing vacations out of town, I started again late in July. Unfortunately, the bait drew in more tench and some channel catfish. At that point, I gave up on that spot for the rest of the season, and determined to focus my time mainly on float tube fishing for bass and pike until the end of summer.

I did get out for one more carp outing in August, back to a spot that doesn't need any prebaiting. Goal for that trip was to put Audrey (my son's girlfriend) onto her first carp. We were successful, and she managed to catch a few carp on a mix of Fireball and Sweet Dream boilies. We even started the day with a double header, first time in a while that that has happened.





As September rolled in, I was ready to start pre-baiting another spot for carp. Hoping to avoid schools of annoying invasive tench, I focused my efforts far from where I had fished earlier in the season. First, night fishing outing at the spot, I landed a whopping 5 carp as well as a sucker and channel catfish. Bite was nonstop, and I would have stayed for more fish, had I had more time. Carp were hitting a mix of Fireball and Sweet Dream popups boilies pegged with fake corn. This nice trophy sized carp was the biggest of the outing.


Hoping to replicate the action the following evening, I went back with a friend. Surprisingly, only one channel catfish came to play, no carp at all...

After a 2 week break, I decided to pre-bait another spot where I had some limited success catching carp last fall. Unfortunately, that spot didn't work out either, we ended up getting skunked. 

After taking a good 4 weeks off of carping, and very little fishing in general, I started pre-baiting another spot for mid October. First outing resulted in a decent size sized carp, and another one that cut my line in the rocks. A few days later, I returned after some more pre-baiting. Started by rigging my hookbait with double boilies, mixing one Fireball with one Sweet Dream flavor.  First fish of the day was an absolute beast of a carp, measuring 40 inches and weighing 36.4 lbs! 


By far, my biggest carp of the season up until that point. I then caught a couple more back to back carp in the mid twenties before I was forced off the water due to high wind bringing in huge beds of floating weeds that kept fouling my presentation.

The following week was very busy for me again, but I made the time to do a bit more pre-baiting at the same spot. I finally fished it a few days later, and the bites were instant. Within 5-7 minutes of my first cast, I landed my fist of the day, nice carp over 25.5 lbs that hit a double popup boilie rig. Fireball and black magic pegged with fake corn.

Less than 10 minutes after casting again, my line went off, and I landed this obese 29 lbs carp.


That one fell for a single fireball popup boilie pegged with fake corn. Another 10 minutes later, I got a false run, and then the bite ided down completely, nothing else for two hours. All in all, I fish only 3 times in October, each outing was about 3 hours long. By far the lest amount of time I've spent fishing in October, but those few hours were magical, with all the carp ranging from mid twenties to upper thirties.

I had planned to go out again in November, but that didn't happen. The carp wintering spot I normally fish at before freeze up, will have to wait until next season. Looking forward to hitting first ice as soon as it's safe enough.