Scraps From the Fish Table
In the Chesapeake Bay and her watershed, the water has chilled enough that most fish are much tougher to find and catch. The trophy Striped Bass season won’t be open till mid-April. The Yellow Perch run generally happens around the first week of March. If you can find fresh bait and are willing to brave the cold out on the Potomac River, big Blue Catfish are ready to pounce on your offering as long as you are offering a big slice of fresh shad, alewife, or mullet.
Believe it or not, the water in the Gulfstream in Florida is actually too warm for really good blue water catching during this winter season. In the Florida Keys, the deep water is nearly 80 degrees. The Sailfish, Wahoo, King Mackerel, and Blackfin Tuna bite has not kicked in due to the warm water hanging around.
After getting pounded pretty well by close 4-5 foot seas in my twenty foot boat, I have taken to fishing the patch reef areas behind the main reef line. This week, my old fishing buddy, Peg Leg Dan, and I put over a hundred monster grunts, Hogfish, small Yellowtail Snapper, and Gray Triggerfish into a hundred quart cooler.
This is super fun fishing with many meals for many days. In addition to feeding our families, I cooked pan fried fillets and fish chowder for 25 people in a morning exercise class in downtown Key Largo. Losing a hundred calories during an exercise session and consuming a thousand afterward may not make much sense but fresh fish and new friends in a Caribbean climate makes for a fine winter despite the warm water out in the deep.
My fish cleaning table is getting a real workout with the large numbers of panfish that are being prepped for bone free consumption. The table is a super solid bathroom door that must be made of Kevlar. The legs are galvanized pipe that hold the table top just under chest level. A #32 ChopRite meat grinder connected to a gear reduction motor makes easy work of grinding the carcasses for chum to be used on future fishing expeditions.
A pirate flag flutters on a mast overhead thus completing the native ambiance.
In addition to the schools of Pilchards (live bait) that live under my boat, there is a pod of pelicans who beg for food when I approach the fish table with my cooler. I have taken to keeping the trash fish like Bermuda Chubs and Blue Runners. The pelicans are happy with the fillets and the grinder consumes the carcasses equally well. Large Mangrove Snappers prowl our canal as well but those fish went to a higher school of learning and graduated with a PhD. in Hook Evasion.
The bowfishing rig has been mostly used to shoot and retrieve trash floating in the canal. Though I have yet to shoot any invasive species of trash fish, I have become the top killer of trash in the Upper Keys.
Plastic bags and floating coconuts have been my main quarry. But, I am looking forward to hunting Tilapia in the freshwater canals of the agricultural Everglades flood districts.
I hope this most southern based fishing report will warm all readers of the CHESAPEAKE TODAY and help get you through the last month and a half of the Mid-Atlantic winter.
My e-mail address is always listed at the end of every column. If you’re headed south, drop me a line from your address. I’ll be happy to show you where to drop a line in the Florida sunshine.