Sightless Fishing for Reds
by Captain Ron Presley
Florida’s Space Coast is famous for its sight fishing opportunities. Some say it originated in the area before spreading too many other parts of the country as a generally accepted and much sought after means of fishing. Anglers of all persuasions travel from miles around to sight fish the clear shallow waters in search of fish tails protruding from a glassy surface or the wake pushed in front of a school of ornery redfish.
Sight fishing. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Sounds simple enough, search for the fish and once you see them cast a lure or natural bait to their location and let skill or lady luck hook you up. Since to “sight fish” you first have to see the fish, but what if you couldn’t see?
If you have ever fished at night in the darkest of conditions, you can imagine what it is like for a visually impaired person to engage in fishing. The only difference is that you can use a flashlight or deck light to gain the ability to see in the otherwise dark environment. Blind people cannot turn on the light that has been absent from their world, often for many years. They must learn to adapt to the many tasks of life including, in this case, fishing without the sight that most of us simply take for granted.
These simple thoughts about sight fishing leads me to my story. It was early summer of 2005; I received a call from a client asking if he could bring a blind person with him on his next charter. The question took me back for a second with worries of what that simple request may entail. Will he always wear a life jacket? Will he be able to cast? Can I really provide him with an enjoyable trip? What will he expect from the outing? Will I need any special equipment?
The simple questions had simple answers and I agreed to give it a go. My client was pleased and indicated that he had not found many guides willing to agree to his request. The date was set, weeks in advance, and the worries of the moment were gone until the day that Robert, my client and Dick, the blind guy, would show up at the dock ready to go fishing. Robert also brought his preacher and a nine-year-old boy from his church. The gang arrived on time with the normal high expectations of a day of fishing.
They walked down a narrow walkway that separated the two boat ramps at the public park where we would launch my boat. Dick’s right arm was trustingly locked in Robert’s to be lead out the dock and alongside the waiting boat. When Dick arrived alongside the Pathfinder, he took out his white walking stick with a red tip on the bottom and began to “see” the configuration of the boat’s cockpit by carefully tapping the walking stick forward, then backward, and side-to-side. This process, according to Dick, gives him a mental picture of his next task, which in this case was to board the fishing vessel.
Without hesitation Dick stepped precisely onto the deck of the boat beside a leaning seat. He then used the walking stick to proceed to the front where he stationed himself on the padded ice chest that sets in front of the center consol. He was ready to go fishin’. The other three anglers boarded the Pathfinder and we motored slowly through the first of several manatee zones in route to a day of fishing.
I also discovered that this was not the first time Dick had been fishing so he had a pretty good expectation of the day’s events. We anchored up in our first fishing hole and baited up with live shrimp. With four anglers on board, we had lines out in every direction. Robert was the first to hook up and he pulled in a nice pole bending jack creavalle. The preacher was next with a nice slot sized redfish. Dick patiently waited for his opportunity at a feisty redfish and his patience paid off. I glanced over his way and his rod was bending under the weight and fight of another slot-sized redfish.
Dick is without sight, but his other senses are developed well beyond yours and mine. Using his God given instincts and physical strength Dick maneuvered the fish to the side of the boat where he was netted and moved to the live well. At every point along the way as he brought the redfish towards the boat he responded instantaneously to shouted commands to turn him right or turn him left or raise the rod tip. I am sure spectators from an on-looking boat would have no idea that Dick was blind. He enjoyed all the thrills of any other angler except the one of visually inspecting the fish. He didn’t know without assistance if the fish was “normal” with one spot on each side of the tail or if it had multiple spots. He didn’t know when the fish was laid along side the law stick it measured 23 inches, well within the legal slot of 18 to 27 inches, until he was told. He soaked up the information that was given to him verbally and could probably repeat it to anyone interested in listening today.
But, did it really matter that he could not see the fish? Not to Dick. He had enjoyed one more of life’s many pleasures that so many of us take for granted and so many like him never get to experience. Dick has long ago accepted his handicap and goes on about his life making the best of every day. Just as many fishing guides approach their chosen profession with a passion that rivals a minister spreading the gospel of the Word to a flock of eager listeners, Dick has a passion of his own.
Every client who comes on board for a day of fishing returns to a life of his own, and Dick is no different. As I discovered on our brief fishing trip, Dick was not short on independence. He is an adventuresome person who in his own words, “had been blessed with the opportunity to travel the world and experience many things not available to many others who share my condition of sightlessness.”
Dick continued to discuss his life, "My training and life experience has been as a motivational speaker to the secular business world; teaching communication skills, goal setting, and other human services issues,” Dick explains. “Because of that the chaplain at Seminole County Jail asked me if I would develop a series of programs to teach life skills from a Biblical perspective in a special Christian 'Nurture Cell Program”. Dick accepted the chaplain’s request and continues to provide that ministry today.
With that first red in the boat, Dick was ready to do it again. Dick was fishing with live shrimp. Of course, he didn’t know what was put on his hook unless he was told or unless he felt it, because he couldn’t see it. All the anglers were reminded that we were using circle hooks and all they needed to do if a fish ran off with their bait was to lift the rod tip and start reeling.
It wasn’t long though until Dick’s pole was bent over again. He had positioned himself on the side of the cooler seat with his rod jutting out over the gunnel pointed in a southerly direction. Just like before, he did not need sight to respond when the beefy redfish pulled on the end of his line and bent the pole in a smooth gentle arc placing pressure on the arms and hands of the blind angler. He calmly replies, “I got one”. Dick skillfully worked that redfish to the side of the Pathfinder and into the landing net just as he had done before.
During the day, Billy had been practicing his sermon for Sunday morning on the rest of us. He was going to talk about joy and happiness and how to distinguish between the two. I can’t remember exactly how he explained it, but to me it related to “fishing” and “catching”. Anyone who fishes knows there is a difference. After some meditation on the notion of joy and happiness, I decided that for me happiness was as simple as having the opportunity to go fishin’. Joy, on the other hand, was the experience of actually catchin’
On this particular day, I think I could safely say that I received happiness just by having the opportunity to fish with a blind guy who sees everything in life as another opportunity. No grumbling or complaining, just looking forward to life’s next experience. I also received joy on this day by seeing this same blind guy catch the fish that he pursued even though I know that down deep he would have been happy and experienced joy even if we had not caught a single fish all day long. To Dick this day was another blessing, a gift from God of another day to enjoy and cherish what so many of us take for granted.
All day long, without saying a word, Dick was teaching us all the rewards of patience and the skill of “feel” in fishing. Just capitalize the word “PATIENCE” and think about it. We could all improve our own fishing and catching skills by duplicating Dick’s patient deliberate actions. Coupled with his uncanny sense of feel, Dick was demonstrating to us all the need for a new phrase in the vocabulary of fishing. Sight-less fishing for reds!
The White Cane or walking stick was introduced in North America by the Lions Club International in 1931. The cane is a symbol of blindness, but more importantly, a symbol of independence. The white cane allows a legally blind person to travel independently. All states and many other counties have White Cane laws, which allow the legally blind person the right of way at street crossings.
International White Cane Day is October 15.
Operation Open Arms - Supporting Our Troops
Operation Open Arms
Captain John “GiddyUp” Bunch is probably the only fishing guide ever to be featured on NBC’s The Today Show. The interview was about fishing, as you would expect, but it was really more than that. The reason for the appearance is best told by this short story.
It was April 19, 2005. SPC, Travis Downes, a U.S. Army forward scout was home for a two-week leave from his duty station in Iraq. Travis was fortunate enough to meet up with Captain “GiddyUp” on Pine Island, Florida. Travis had a wish, and he shared it with the captain.
“I just want to go fishing while I’m home. I would love to go fishing before I return to Iraq on May 1st,” Travis said. I am sure you can guess “GiddyUp’s” response. He quickly agreed to donate a free “GiddyUp” Fishing Charter. “Travis just happened to have touched my heart at the perfect time,” the ex-United States Marine Officer said.
From that small beginning grew and idea that quickly caught on and spread. Captain Bunch decided to contact other professional fishing guides, golf buddies and local restaurants to see if they would be willing to offer benefits to military members on leave and the answers were all positive.
The result of this chance encounter is Operation Open Arms. Their stated mission is to provide every possible benefit through a variety of sponsors before our service men and women have to return to Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, or other foreign duty stations.
Operation Open Arms is open to active duty military on temporary leave from a foreign duty station, returning home to Southwest Florida with orders to return to their foreign duty station after their brief R&R.
You may visit their website at www.operationopenarms.com to learn more.
Soft Plastics for Redfish
Ask ten anglers to name the best way to catch redfish and you will likely get ten different answers. Which one is the best? The one that works for you. Redfish will eat a variety of natural and artificial baits with their preference changing with the seasons. If I could use only one bait for redfish year round, however, I would choose a soft plastic jerk bait rigged on a weedless worm hook. Color is a matter of personal preference. I favor a DOA CAL tail in gold flake or Arkansas Glow. Others prefer chartreuse, rootbeer, avocado, or white. All will catch fish provided you use the proper presentation.
Soft plastic baits come in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes. Plastic shrimp, crabs, mullet, pinfish, and worm style baits are all popular choices for redfish. I prefer to use soft plastics in sight fishing situations. Although you can use many of them for search baits, they are subject to attack from pinfish, puffers, and a myriad of other small baitfish, especially during the warmer months. Blind casting these lures can result in a costly day of fishing. When sight fishing, however, there is nothing more effective.
In the winter months, I prefer to use small baits such as DOA crabs, shrimp, or 3-4” jerkbaits. Mullet are scarce and the reds are feeding on small crustaceans. As the water temperatures increase, larger jerkbaits and mullet imitations will draw strikes. The key to effectively fishing the soft plastics is presentation. Even the lightest of lures landing near a redfish will send it fleeing in the opposite direction. The same is true for a lure that is moving towards the fish. Baits must be presented so that they appear to be escaping from the fish, not attacking them. In nature, prey escapes from a predator fish by either fleeing or hiding in the grass. When using a soft plastic that is imitating the natural prey of a redfish, it must do the same. With shrimp and crab imitations, cast past the fish, reel it quickly across the surface until it is in their path of travel and let in drop to the bottom. The sight of a crab or shrimp fleeing towards the grass will cause a feeding redfish to race over and attack the bait. If you do not see the fish reacting to your bait, give it a slight twitch to get their attention.
Soft plastic jerkbaits can be use effectively year round. While some like to rig them on a lead head jig, I prefer to use a worm hook with a weighted shank. As a Mosquito Lagoon redfish guide, I find most of the redfish in my area in and around thick grass. This setup gives me a totally weedless bait but still has the weight needed to make a long cast even into the wind. The weight also helps get the lure down near the bottom quickly where the redfish are feeding.
Adding a rattle to your soft plastic baits can improve their effectiveness. The rattles can draw the attention of a fish to a lure that may have gone unnoticed due to an errant cast or low visibility. Woodies Rattles can be inserted into any soft plastic bait to increase your success. Tailing redfish can be some of the most difficult to catch. They are so focused on digging their prey out of the bottom that they do not see your lure. The sound of a rattle will often draw their attention towards your bait.
Capt. Chris Myers
Central Florida Sight Fishing Charters
Fishing for Tailing Redfish
Redfish make excellent targets for sight fishing due to their feeding behavior. When they dig in the grass or mud for crabs and shrimp, their tails come out of the water. Some days may see just a tiny tip of a tail breaking the surface. You might see the whole tail sticking out of the water waving at you. Other times, you see half of their body out of the water while the fish stands on its head sometimes flipping itself over. The tail my pop up for just a brief second and disappear. On other occasions, it will stay up for quite some time. Whatever the case may be, seeing tails is always a good thing because there is one thing you know for certain, tailing fish are hungry feeding fish.
While tailing fish are always great to see, they can sometimes be frustrating. These fish are rooting on the bottom in the grass and mud searching for small crabs, shrimp, and other crustaceans. They are willing to eat but the challenge is getting them to see your lure or fly. Some tailing fish are so oblivious to their surroundings you can touch them with your rod tip. Others will bolt off the flat at with the sound of your fly line touching down on the water. In any case, it is best to approach slowly and quietly. Light tackle anglers should cast at least ten feet past the target so the sound of the lure landing does not spook the fish. Drag your lure along the surface until you are 8-10 inches in front of the fish and let it drop to the bottom. Keeping your lure on top allows you to know exactly where it is at all times. Once you bait is in position, a very slight twitch or two should get their attention. If it does not, reel in and try again. Fly anglers have even more of a challenge. Tailing fish have a very small zone of interest. To get a bite, you may sometimes need to put a fly smaller than a dime in a target the size of a coffee can. Add to this a fish which is constantly changing directions and multiple casts can be the norm.
Giving your fly or lure some sound will help tailing fish find your lure. Woodies Rattles can be put into most soft plastics or tied on the hook shank when building flies. I have seen many occasions where casts made behind tailing fish caused them to turn around and charge the bait when they heard the rattle.
At all cost, avoid casting your bait into the middle of a school of tailing fish. While you can occasionally get lucky and have a fish bite, more times than not, the entire school will spook off. Similarly, if a school is generally facing in one direction, take care not to have you bait approach the fish from behind. This is another sure way to spook them off.
Since tailing fish are definitely eating small baits, it is usually best to tie on the smallest lure you can cast effectively. Fly fishermen have the advantage of being able to use things that are much smaller than those using conventional gear. Small crab, shrimp, and bendback patterns will all work well for the fly anglers. For those using spinning gear, ten pound braid will allow you to cast light lures a significant distance. The ¼ ounce DOA shrimp, three inch CAL tail or crab are my go to lures for tailing reds. While many anglers like to use live shrimp, the plastic varieties cast farther, don’t fly off the hook, and can be used multiple times. With the proper presentation, they are every bit as effective as the real thing.
Capt. Chris Myers
Daytona Beach Fishing Charters
Expect Great Fishing for Bones And Tarpon In Miami
Expect Great Bone fishing in March
Fishing Report for Miami’s Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay “Flamingo”
February 22 2010
Driving to Flamingo this week I had time to think about all the cold weather we are having thanks to “Global warming!” and what new strategies to use. Some days the bite has been real slow when the water temps are so cold I can picture Redfish standing around a campfire under the mangroves to keep warm! Well that was the mental image I had driving anyway.
This week we started off a day with a slow bite and I thought this is a good time as any to get away from some of the old ways and try new things….not new places but new tricks. I am a flats fisher man and enjoy hunting the flats looking for predators instead of soaking shrimp on jigs around trees and creeks, but since this is where the fish are so we might as well make the best of it.
I tried using certain jerk baits on a knocker rig believe it or not! The trick was finding the right amount of weight to make the bait stay on the bottom and move real slowly; after 26 Redfish later in 1 spot where I was only catching Catfish on shrimp seemed to work, the reds were only up to 24 inches. I had never tried jerk bait on a knocker rig at Flamingo, It worked for the Reds and in the next spot we caught over 60 Trout with the largest Trout at 24 inches, I think I will stay with this method for a while, (after trying some, one jerk bait worked better than others!).
In Biscayne Bay on Saturday the 20th on a day where the water was low at midday we saw an estimated 300 bones. Some were mudding and feeding and the others were cruising in fairly large groups. Alonso Sotillo caught his first bone on fly in a group of mudding fish.
Sunday the 21st however was a totally different story with not as many bones found around the bay; I had four different boats sending me reports through out the day and all guys saw a minimal amount of Bones that day.
There are big Tarpon in some areas of Biscayne Bay you just have to know where they are, they are eating large hand picked shrimp soaked on the bottom using a #5 circle hook.
So HOPEFULLY with this month coming to a close and again HOPEFULLY warmer weather on its way most of the fish we target on a daily basis will go back to the flats to feed and play. I expect Bone fishing in Biscayne Bay to only get better as we go. Some days the bone will only be around several hours before retreating to deeper water depending on weather and tides. I like falling water until 1pm lately… that has been the best for me.
So the Bones do live!!! Good luck Capt. Jim Hale
Casting for a Cause 2010
Flats are heating up in South Florida
Casting for the Cause Tournament
An over all fishing report for Flamingo and Biscayne Bay
March 18 2010
The action is South Florida continues to heat up on the flats this week, we have been finding a lot of mudding and tailing Redfish moving up on the flats to feed on shrimp and crabs in Florida Bay.
This last week we had the privilege to fish with some very nice people, and getting involved with a charity that helps people with Prader-Willi syndrome. This is a 2 day tournament helped out by some of my friends the Torbert Family of Redlands Fla... One day in Florida Bay and the next spent in Biscayne Bay. I fished with Roury Peaton and Gavin Ayers, both suffer with the syndrome but both are very good fisherman!
We started our day fishing a cold morning in the creeks and landed some smaller Redfish and Black Drum and the fishing was kind of slow. So we decided to move to the flats to see what was happening. One flat was loaded with tailing and mudding Black Drum, we threw a live shrimp in front and watched him suck it up, and then Roury landed a 25 inch Drum on the flats! We probably could have had a lot more but we needed a “nice” Red in the boat. So we moved to another flat and found plenty of mudding fish, and Gavin got a 23 inch Red to eat a Berkley Gulp shrimp. Nice job guys! The next day was breezy and cold (again!) with low visibility, we got skunked with Bones Permit and Tarpon but did manage to catch some nice Snapper and saw some monster Snook in some of the creeks we fished. We had some friends catch some smaller Tarpon around 37 inches in the morning!
There are bones Oceanside but anyone who wants good action I am recommending Florida Bay until more Bonefish show up. Also the Permit of March will be here fining and tailing all over the flats here on the next calm warm days we have so if your in Miami and looking for a quick get away it is something to think about!
Good Luck Capt. Jim Hale
Spring breaking Redfish and Tarpon!
Tarpon, Redfish and
Reports of No Fish? A thing of the Past!
The Flats are heating up in South Florida
An over all fishing report for Flamingo and Biscayne Bay
March 25 2010
Finally, some warm weather! Our prayers were answered! Great fishing is here, and with the amount of fish, we have been finding many positives are surfacing after a bad start to the fishing season.
The action is South Florida continues to heat up on the flats this week; we have been finding schools of mudding and tailing Redfish moving up on the flats to feed in Florida Bay.
This week I had the privilege to fish with new friend and avid fly angler Vince Maggio. He is an excellent long time angler for Reds in Florida Bay a heck of a fly tier!
Like so many days recently, we started out by shivering on the run out! However, by 10 A.M. we were surrounded in warm sunshine and hungry Redfish. Vince connected with a couple of Reds on Fly using one of his patented crab flies. The first fish was a tailing Red that was rooting up crustations on the edge of a flat in skinny water, and the next was a nice 6 lb Red caught trying to hide in a hole. Vince placed both casts perfectly. The tailing Red saw the crab fly a couple of inches away flared his gills opened his mouth and sucked in the fly! On the second fish, Vince made a perfect cast on the backside of the hole and slid the crab fly past a very aggressive Red that came out and away from the hole to hammer the fly what a hit! That was obviously a very hungry fish and one I will keep on file in my in memory for a long time!
On Saturday I fished with Bryan and Kyle Clem from Ohio, we started out with a little warmer air temperatures “finally” and we found plenty of Redfish again. The only problem was the first three or four hundred fish didn’t want to play… so we tried different things and different ways even and changed flies several times but still no takers. But when the sun angle changed a little and the water temps went up a bit the fish turned on like a light switch. They started to chase flies all over the place! The fly was one of mine, a “Jims JB” a Chartreuse Llama hair streamer fly, and Deer hair as the head with some flash mixed in for accent. This fly placed a foot or two in front of a cruising Red will normally generate a strike as it did on Saturday but the strip must be aggressive and short.
Bryan landed three nice Redfish on fly and hook released a couple more at the boat, while greenhorn Kyle landed three on spin using Berkley’s Gulp shrimp as bait on an owner 1/0 wide gap hook. (Red fishing here is an excellent way to learn how to fly fish in saltwater by the way! In addition, I do give lessons.)
. There are Large Tarpon in the backcountry and they are good at eating flies, I have not been back there for 2 weeks because of the cold winds …but with the warm up I will be back there fishing for large Tarpon after this weekend. I have reports of Tarpon averaging 100 lbs and showing in good numbers so I expect Tarpon fishing to take off now that is warm again. Small green and black flies normally do the trick.
I hope that the small Tarpon are in some of the back bays and ponds in White Water Bay, we will be looking hard for these guys.
In Biscayne Permit are the next to fall in line…sometimes its hard to choose between Permit on fly and Tarpon on fly and which one to target because both are fun as hell to fish for! I will let you know!
Keep the Sun at your back!
Capt. Jim Hale
Miamis HOT fishing
Fire in Biscayne Bay
Permit and Bonefish in the Bay
August 16 2010
Jason Burnett hopped out of the cab and on the Hells Bay with a cup of coffee in his hands to watch the Sunrise at Black Point Marina this Saturday. Conditions were perfect, calm bright sun and the first part of the incoming tide. Armed with a dozen handpicked shrimp and 6 crabs we started looking for pushing Permit down in the south part of the bay, normally I idle in certain areas to see if we can move some fish to identify their locations if they are not fining or tailing. This worked great as many Permit came near but not close enough. Finally after an hour or so into the tide we had some fish get close enough for some good shots and had one take a crab, 20 minutes and 28 lbs later Jason landed his first Permit on the flats.
Now with a Permit in the boat we headed to a flat that has been flooded by Bones lately. Within 5 minutes we were in schools of 20 to 30 fish just like the good ole days. Being it is summer time and the hand picked shrimp were not very large I decided to split shot the Mustad hook shank and put on the largest shrimp I could find. After blowing out a few a groups of 20 plus Bones, A school of about 40 Bones pushed a large wake and headed right at us, I instructed him to cast at 12 o’clock and open the bail as I backed us up away from the oncoming school. I saw the flash of a rolling Bone and Jason felt the tap on the braided line and he was off to the races.
This trend should continue and Florida Bay has had plenty of Redfish on high water mornings.
Good Luck Capt. Jim Hale