Mention varmint hunting to the seasoned outdoors person and the talk will turn to prairie dogs, coyotes in the snow, and other critters of the mountains and prairies. Even many seasoned varmint hunters don’t realize that Florida, too, can be a good place for this style of hunting.
The first time I live chummed offshore I had my angler standing beside me with a fly in the water waiting for a fish to cast at, only to have a 15-pound bonito make an arrival that just about ripped the rod out of his hand. There was no need to set the hook, as all his concentration and strength went into retaining possession of the rod as the fish dumped the 8-weight well into the backing.
Any way you slice it, golf course ponds can be prime sites for hooking largemouths. I learned to enjoy the best of both worlds long ago as a caddy at the Doral Open in Miami. After lugging around the bag for Julius Boros during a practice round, we small-talked a bit until the conversation swung to our mutual fondness for fishing.
Spoil the reed and spare the fish. Let’s face it. Dropping even the smallest anchor in a tidal creek or wilderness canal can turn off the fish. Whether it’s the splash, or simply because fish sense your presence, they can be frightened by anchors, particularly in tight quarters.
Feel the urge to hunt? Now’s the time to give standup redfishing a shot. When kayakers ask about sight-fishing for giant Indian River Lagoon spotted seatrout, most recommend they stay seated and content themselves with casting. Redfish may be another story.
The June 2012 issue of Florida Sportsman Magazine, has a feature article by writer Tom Levine on Florida’s “vegetarian” fish, such as mullet, grass carp, and the infamous tilapia. For a little more background on these unusual fish, check out the article by Vic Dunaway published in the April 1997 edition.
If your fishing machine has to pull double duty as a family cruiser, look for features such as built-in forward seating, aft flip-up jump seats and a step down console with a head. The Contender 24 Sport is a pure fishing machine with all the amenities your family needs for a day on the water.
Lose yourself (and maybe a few flies) in the tangly wilderness of Cedar Key. Cedar Key is flyfishing central for Big Bend waters. The island offers access to a sprawling salt marsh complex of tidal creeks and channels, Spartina grass, oyster bars, and islands covered with pine, cedar, and cabbage palm.
Besides their willingness to bite when other fish won’t, catfish are crowd favorites at fish fries. The farm-raised channel cats, in fact, are among the few seafood offerings I find consistently satisfying at restaurants. Shrimp, salmon, lobster, and saltwater catches of the day such as mahi and grouper seem to arrive at my table in varying and unpredictable degrees of freshness and doneness—usually over-doneness.
Sketchy low tides and a minefield of oyster shell? No problem for these Northeast Florida kayakers. Edward Abbey once said if you want to see the desert, get down on your knees and start crawling. Kayaking is the boating equivalent, with fish and other wildlife only inches away.
Proper technique allows kayak and canoe fishermen to land large fish without getting dumped overboard. Offshore kayak fishing is a relatively new technique, and many anglers are learning on the fly. Safety must always be the first priority.
I knew I was in trouble when I opened my eyes and felt well-rested. No one goes on a serious duck hunt well-rested, do they? As a fabulous sunrise unfolded I felt foolish for nearly calling off the hunt just because there had not been time enough to deploy decoys.