Monday, February 23, 2009

Shad Fishing the St. Johns

For years I have wanted to fly fish the shad run on the St. Johns river. Every winter shad migrate back to their spawning grounds and fly fishermen line the banks to greet them.

The past few years the shad run has been very slow and we never had a chance to give it a try. Last year I met a new falconer, John Reed, that lives on the St. Johns and he emailed last week to say "The Shad are running".

Walt and I spent all week tying up tiny flies and jigs and headed out for our first shad fishing adventure on Sunday. The water in the St. Johns was very low and "Puzzle Lake" earned it's name, I ran the boat a ground a few times.

We first stopped a few hundred yards down stream. Walt got distracted by large bass swirling near shore and he played with those while I tried my hand at shad fishing.

It's much more like fishing for trout in a stream. You cast upstream and bring the fly down at a natural speed, twitching slightly as it floats. It didn't take long for me to land my first shad. We ended up landing 12 shad by noon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Merlin Release

The end of the season is drawing near. Black Mamba, the suspected black merlin, had a great season catching nearly 65 sparrows this season, caching all but 4 or 5.

She cached the first sparrow she caught and continued that trend the whole season usually not even eating the head off of her victim.

I left her in the field on Saturday and Diana went back out Sunday while I was off fishing. While Diana was putting on her vest and gathering up some food Mamba came flying overhead.

She gave her a quail breast and took a few photos with her phone through her binoculars.

(Caching is a behavior in merlins. When they catch a bird they will take it to a stump, bush or thick grass and hide the bird without eating it. They will usually eat the head and hide, "cache" the rest and then return to hunt for more birds.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Offshore 2009

February is not supposed to be a time for trolling the Gulf Stream for big Dolphin (Mahi Mahi) but I don't think you'll be able to convice me and Spence of that any longer.

Spence let his merlin go in Jan so I think he's been sitting around the house getting the fishing flu a bit early this year. He talked me into an early season offshore trip this past Sunday. We left the port at 5:30am and ran an hour and a half through the dark to get to a spot we hoped would produce a Wahoo.

We got there as the sun had cleared the horizon and started to fast troll over some bottom structure. The Wahoo did not show so we continued out to the gulf stream. For over an hour we didn't see any signs of life, no flying fish, no weeds, no bait, just deep blue water as far as you could see.

We decided to troll for another hour and then head closer to shore to fish for king fish. Ten minutes later a 30lb bull dolphin slammed one of our ballyhoo and burst out of the water. I finally landed the fish 20min later.

In the next three hours we landed three more nice dolphin and a skipjack tuna and we lost three other dolphin.

The 2009 Offshore fishing season is off to a great start!!!!!