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Menhaden is Great Bait for Kingfish [Video]

Menhaden is Great Bait for Kingfish

Menhaden is Great Bait for Kingfish

The Atlantic menhaden is an oily fish that plays a big role when fishing the waters off Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island for kingfish or king mackerel. Known locally as a “Pogy” these live baits are a delicacy for the larger game fish.

Hooked to troll or chopped up for chum, these smelly little fish are found to be quite tasty to local birds and fish alike.

Pogies swim in schools and can easily be spotted on the ocean by a discoloration and a “boiling” action on top of the water. Pogies panic when larger fish are near so they practically surface at the top of the water trying to escape.

Ease your boat up to the school and toss in a cast net or a Sabiki rig and supply your live well for free with some of the best bait you can find. Passing over the spot of pogy activity just two or three times with your boat should provide plenty of bait.

Please remember to always throw back what you know you won’t use!

Here is a very short video that will show you the basics of a successful catch of pogies with a cast net that was filmed aboard Captain Jim Wormhoudt’s Cleansweep, his charter fishing boat.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xavu9iTvryo

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Designing the Annual Kingfish Artwork

Tournament of Champions

Tournament of Champions, Click to Enlarge

Dave Brown has been designing the Annual Nassau Sport Fishing Association’s Tournament of Champions Kingfish Tournament logo for the past eight years.

He developed a part-time air brushing business while working with at-risk youth in Nassau county, Florida for 20 years. Designing shirts for charter boats, restaurants and boutiques, he always dreamt of making a living with colors and forms. But without any formal art training Brown wasn’t sure how to make his passion a viable business.

With the encouragement and support of his wife Beverly, and the advent of the personal computer and subsequent graphics software, he began to see a way and his vision of Blowfish Artworks became a reality. Dave devoted an entire year building a screen printing studio, equipping it and learning the tools. Since then the shop has grown and now houses a cutting edge automatic press and complete Darkroom. The addition of PC, digital cameras and graphic tablet to his artistic palette means everything is possible and in a timely manner. These tools have enabled the creative part of the process to flourish. He sees himself as an artist and a craftsman, his business has no employees, and he is a terrible salesman!

The name of his company was not inspired by a term of endearment from his wife. No, Dave has been a sailor his entire life and over time he developed successful methods of trolling under sail. His “blow-boats” came home with fish. To Dave it symbolizes the orchestration necessary to produce as “a one man band”.

Also, as a child growing up on the Jersey shore, the Blowfish was one of the few fish he could always catch. Nobody told him they were poisonous, so they ate them all. “Sometimes,” he says, “I think I look like one.”

Dave Brown is synonymous with Art Design for Fishing Tournaments. His relationship with a variety of annual events is an outlet for his creativity. “There is a strong fountain within me constantly bubbling with ideas, forms and processes. I relish the creative challenge and enjoy evolving the theme year by year.”

Red Raid, By: Dave Brown

Red Raid, By: Dave Brown

When I asked about his passion for nature he said, “To me there is nothing more beautiful than nature. The exquisite shapes, colors and textures occurring naturally in our world are far beyond my ability to create, I can only attempt to recreate.”

Dave’s studio is not a brick and mortar storefront, but if you would like him to make your project a reality, he would be delighted to show off his work and tools. “Bring me your vision and I will make it materialize. Through a process of communication and evolution we will get there.”

“It will take a few days to a week to create the artwork. Invariably I spend more time creating the design than printing it. I won’t print until I hear a ‘Wow!’ on the art.”

Amelia Island Bluewater Shootout

Amelia Island Bluewater Shootout

The more shirts you need printed the less expensive custom artwork becomes. There are no set up charges and no art fee if he is doing the printing. “I design for several major screen printing factories on an art fee basis as they do there own printing. The total is the price of the shirt plus the price of the printing. I like things simple.”

Dave considers it his job to help you get your image out there and while he does not print koozie cups and coffee mugs, he will help you facilitate that, whether it be a web image or coffee cup print, at no charge.

This United States Air Force disabled veteran openly admits to the rewards of having a loving family and fantastic friendships and you have likely seen Dave Brown’s art before. He and Harry, of Last Flight Out, have developed a close, creative relationship. Harry’s marketing skills coupled with Dave’s studio talents have created many gorgeous prints. “Take a look at his inventory!” Dave encouraged.

I understood immediately that Blowfish Artworks is more about passion than about a career when I asked him which of his designs were his favorite and he answered, “I’m pleased to realize that my favorite designs always seem to be my last ones.”

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Picking the Perfect Fishing Lure

Picking the Perfect Fishing Lure

Picking the Perfect Fishing Lure

With the 28th Annual Nassau Sport Fishing Association‘s Tournament of Champions Kingfish Tournament right around the corner, everyone will be searching to find the best rods, reels, bait, and lures to catch the biggest fish.

The perfect lure may just provide that competitive edge needed to win the purse, or just catch fish at a favorite fishing hole.

Ancient Chinese and Egyptians fashioned fishing lures from bones or bronze. Today, there are many types of fishing lures made of plastic, rubber, metal, cork, or wood. Many people collect antique fishing lures, especially the ones made of wood.

Handmade Fishing Lure

Handmade Fishing Lure

These handmade lures are designed to look like injured or dying fish and these attract fish that are looking for prey. The purpose is to attract the attention of the fish, using movement or color, and hope that he will bite the hook!

Choosing a color and design for your lure is a matter of preference, but it can be based on the weather, water clarity, and water temperature. You may need to experiment with different colors. It is also helpful to ask your friends and fellow fishermen what has worked best for them.

Florida Sportsman says that white or blue-and-white seem to be the most attractive colors to Kingfish.

Kingfish may prefer blue and white lures.

Kingfish may prefer blue and white lures.

There are many commercially made fishing lures that you can find in any sporting goods store, specialty bait shops or even your local department store, but if you are a collector, an avid fisherman or looking for a unique gift idea for Father’s Day, you may appreciate a custom, affordable, handmade wooden lure.

Granddad’s Lures (www.granddadslures.com) are made right here in Northeast Florida by a local craftsman and avid fisherman. All of the lures made by Randall Dippmann are primed, given two coats of base color lacquer, painted with a color scheme, and then epoxy-dipped for durability.

Granddad's Lures

Granddad's Lures

They create poppers, crank baits, injured minnows, jerk baits, and even big game lures, all designed and proven to catch many types and sizes of fish.

While not everyone enjoys competitive sport fishing, these wooden lures can be used to catch many other types of saltwater and freshwater fish such as bass, pike, musky, redfish, and trout.

They are beautiful as well and make great gifts for any one that enjoys dropping a line in the water.

Free Saltwater Fishing

Free Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater Fishing

Press release – Gov. Charlie Crist has announced two free fishing weekends to help draw visitors to the beautiful Sunshine State. Both residents and nonresidents in Florida can fish for saltwater species around the state without a license during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, May 29 to May 31, and the weekend of June 5 and 6, which is the first weekend after Florida’s popular red snapper season opens in the Gulf on June 1. All other fishing rules apply.

“Florida is the fishing capital of the world,” Crist declared, “and our beaches are clean, the fish are biting, and we invite our friends to enjoy some Florida hospitality.”

Chairman Rodney Barreto of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) applauded the governor’s decision.

“Gov. Crist’s actions to offer free fishing this weekend and next will do wonders for our business communities that have been suffering cancellations since the oil spill started,” Barreto said. “We aren’t experiencing any oil impacts here, and the fact remains that Florida is open for business.”

The FWC will continue to monitor all of the potential impacts of the oil spill on Florida’s fish and wildlife and continue to be involved with many aspects of the oil spill response, Barreto added. In addition, the FWC has consulted with key representatives from several fishing organizations in Florida who are very concerned about inaccurate public perceptions regarding the condition of Florida’s fisheries and the state’s marine environment. There has been strong agreement from these stakeholders that the fishing business in Florida is “as usual” and that fishing remains a safe and viable recreational and commercial activity.

Go to MyFWC.com/Fishing to learn about fishing regulations in Florida.

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Snapper Seabass Shark Shark Shark

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Snapper, Seabass, Shark, Shark, Shark; Snapper, Grouper, Shark, Shark, Shark; etc…, etc…, etc… Last week there were a lot of bent rods aboard the Cleansweep charter boat, but we lost a bunch of tackle and time dispatching Sharks which abounded over the nearshore reefs we were working.

Seabass, Grouper and Snapper were boated but moving further offshore and trying different baits failed to abate the Sharks. The tide changing inshore may have helped us as the day progressed because the Sharks eventually moved on and we were able to catch more of the species we were targeting.

Although critical to inshore fishing, tide changes also effect fishing offshore. I’m going to start keeping log of tide changes related to fishing bluewater. Similarly, yesterday we fished Lofton Creek with live shiners targeting Largemouth Bass. We struggled early, losing what likely were Bass although we never caught a glimpse of them before parted line around an anchor rope and a poorly set hook allowed them to escape.

Catching Bass near Amelia Island

Catching Bass near Amelia Island

Alligator gars then became a problem, stealing our bait and tackle while the seven year old fishing with us delighted in these ferocious looking fish. They were stealing the show from the Bass we were targeting! After moving to several different spots the Gar persisted until we moved way up the creek where we finally lost the gar and boated two nice Bass, one of which attacked a large Shiner on the surface spectacularly, missing it several times before gulping it down in typical exciting Largemouth fashion.

I think that moving farther up the creek where the water salinity was different and some tidal change may have allowed us to catch Bass without the presence of Gar. Patience again paid off.

Father’s day is coming, so forget the tie or socks and give Dad what he really wants… a Cleansweep fishing charter.

Call me, Captain Jim Wormhoudt at (904) 753-0882 with your local fishing questions.

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Cobia Fishing Time

Cobia Fishing Time

Cobia Fishing Time

It is time for some cobia fishing around Amelia Island. Cobia show up annually in large numbers each spring heading north along our beaches and over reefs and structure offshore as well. On 20lb tackle they provide a strenuous workout and require some angler finesse to boat one, and if not deposited directly into a cooler or fishbox they can seriously disassemble numerous items aboard your boat.

Look for schools of Rays as Cobia like to swim in their midst, also check around channel markers and near bait schools. Our offshore reefs will hold good numbers of Cobia for all but the coldest months of the year.

Live or dead baitfish, live eels, squid and large Shrimp are enticing to these fish, but they will certainly chase trolled plugs, spoons or jigs when aggressively feeding. Be prepared to throw them a bait as they show up sometimes in small schools when you least expect them.

Fishing for Cobia

Fishing for Cobia

Last week we headed north aboard the CleanSweep boat to some numbers 14 miles off the Georgia coast and were in the process of boating Seabass, Flounder, Weakfish, and one sizeable Snapper which was released when a trio of Cobia attacked our bottom fishing baits. One was lost boatside, but the other which I estimated to be around 60 lbs. kept pulling out the locked down drag of one of our party members 4/0 reel. After a 15 minute struggle I gaffed the big fish and tried to stuff him into the fishbox. He went fairly quietly after his battle with our heavy boat rod and weighed in at 53 lbs on the Atlantic Seafood scales. By far the largest fish ever landed by our guests that day.

If you wish to tangle with bruisers like this call me!

Captain Jim Wormhoudt
(904) 753-0882
CleanSweep Charters

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Flounder Gigging at Fort Clinch

Flounder Gigging Does Not Require Any Bait

Flounder gigging can be fun and inexpensive to do, you really don’t need a lot of equipment: a single or multi prong spear or flounder gig, a lamp or underwater LED light and a net. A boat is optional.

If you’ve never been flounder gigging then here is how it’s done. You walk along the shore line, at night with a light that shines down into the shallow water and when you see the outline of the flounder, you gig it. A simple enough procedure for catching one of the most tasty fish in the ocean, I think. Pin the flatfish to the seabed with the gig, then reach under the flat-fish and hold in onto the gig from underneath the belly depending on the size of the fish.

Flounder gig tips should be kept sharp and enclosed with cork or plastic tube for safety when not in use.

A good place to do some flounder gigging is off the beach of Tiger Island or along the shoreline of Fort Clinch. One of the treats of gigging off Tiger Island is finding a sweet conch from time to time. The very best time for spearing flounder is on an incoming tide on a calm, dark night when the water is clear. Spring and summer months are best but flounder can be taken year round. Too much rain causes dirty water and a rough sea surface distorts and diffuses the light. Either makes the flounder more difficult to spot, and when both are combined it is best to stay home.

Rarely during daytime will you see one scoot away in the shallow waters as you approach.
One day however in the mid 1970’s, my friend George and I had been fishing. We beached our boat on the shore of the Fort Clinch camp ground to get fresh water. As we were getting ready to push our boat back out into deeper water we noticed the outline of several flounder, just as you would see at night with a light. The entire shore line was covered with flounder. A park ranger came down to the beach and watched the fish with us. He had never seen anything like this before and neither had George or I. What caused these fish to lay in the shallow water in the middle of the day is still puzzling. I have never before seen anything like it nor have I talked to anyone who has seen this many fish in the daylight hours. One of those quirks of nature without an answer.

Oh well, I still enjoy a good night of flounder gigging though. There’s something about catching your own seafood, bringing it home and preparing it for the family. I guess deep down inside we are truly hunter gathers and this is just part of our make up, a feeling of accomplishment comes over you when you succeed. If you have never tried flounder gigging then I suggest you give it a shot.

If you’re not lucky on your first trip, don’t get discouraged, try again. After all it is fishing, and not every trip is going to be productive. A couple of years ago there was a captain, Mac Daniel, who had built a flounder gigging boat that could handle up to six people per trip, and offered two trips a night here on island. I’m not sure if he still operating the tours, but his website is http://www.floundergigging.com

Happy gigging.

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Great Grouper

Great Grouper

Great Grouper

Strong west winds kept us from heading offshore early last Saturday so we looked for menhaden (pogies) around the pier at the south end of Amelia Island in hopes of castnetting enough live bait to troll the beach or fish for Redfish at the jetties. The bid for pogies failed. They were there as evidenced by an occasional flip on the surface, but not schooled up tight enough to throw my net around them. Since the wind had laid down a bit, we elected to try a run offshore with the frozen squid and mullet we had.

As we got under way I was scanning the area for free swimming cobia as I mentioned in last week’s article when out of the corner of my eye there was a monster cobia swimming right on the surface, but at 40 MPH it was hard to relocate the fish when we doubled back.

My heavy spinning rod had a 4 ounce bucktail jig and a large whole squid on the ready, but no cobia could be found. We then headed to a live bottom area about six miles off the beach.

Greenies Caught with Sabiki Rig

Click to enlarge

Luckily we ran into a large pod of Greenies (pictured) and used a Sabiki rig to procure a few for the livewell. Our first drop on a small ledge produced a double header for the first mate (my wife, Debbie) of two huge Black Sea Bass and one slightly undersize Grouper. We boated several more large Bass then headed to another nearby area stored in my GPS but on the way I noted a dome shaped area on the bottom recorder which looked fishy and we quickly dropped down with both live Greenies and squid on double bottom rigs. The first mate began groaning and then shrieking as she wrestled both a sizeable Grouper and a huge Seabass over the gunwale. I wasn`t much help as my deeply bent heavy bottom rod lurched about as a double header of large grouper flared their gills in an effort to slow down the inevitable trip into the boat.

Debbie, My First Mate

Debbie, My First Mate

Chaos broke out as we both tried to unhook fish, measure, throw back and ice down the various Grouper and Bass. Several more drifts over the spot yielded undersize grouper and more large SeaBass. In an hour the fish had lost interest so we headed west with a full cooler and sore arms. Snapper season is still closed but you can now keep one grey grouper per person per day of at least 24 inches. One of these keepers will feed your family and make fish lovers of them all.

Don`t put it off, I have 30 years of local fishing experience, so call me now to get in on this action.

Captain Jim Wormhoudt
CleanSweep Charters
(904) 753-0882

Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish Arrive

Best Lures for Spanish Mackeral and Bluefish

Best Lures for Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish

Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish have arrived on the scene in the St. Marys inlet. Look for birds working an area where these toothy striking fish have slashed through schools of baitfish leaving scraps for the diving seabirds to dine upon. When these speedy fish really get worked up you can follow them easily with your boat as they rocket through the air and thrash around on the surface in a feeding frenzy. If there is no sign of birds, bait, or thrashing fish keep an eye on your depth recorder and you may see large blobs, usually near structure, indicating the presence of fish.

I prefer to troll around 10 knots with medium weight rods with small planers to put the lures, spoons etc… at different levels in the water column. Pictured is a PVC type planer, but the smallest metal ones work equally as well or even a small 2 to 3 ounce trolling sinker in the absence of a planer. Attach the planer directly to your line then tie a length of about ten feet of 40# flourocarbon leader between the planer and the lure.

Fishing Lures

Fishing Lures

A small Clark spoon or similar flashy lure with a single hook is advisable as these fish thrash wildly once boated and single hook lures are easier to remove from a struggling fish and are less likely to wind up stuck to a fisherman. Trolling the planer set up farther back will set the lure deeper as will increasing boat speed, keep adjusting these variables until you find the right combination to produce strikes. A poor man’s Bluefish and Spanish Mack lure can simply be a long shank hook with a length of colorful drinking straw slipped over it (pictured).

Good areas to fish in this manner are around the range marker near Fort Clinch and around the jetty rocks in the inlet. Keep a heavy spinning rod on the ready as Cobia will be lurking in these areas soon if not already. Call me if you wish to fish, the summer action is getting hot!

Captain Jim Wormhoudt
CleanSweep Charters
(904) 753-0882

How to Fish for Whiting

How to Fish for Whiting

How to Fish for Whiting

Springtime offers some of the best whiting fishing of the year. This ubiquitous Drum related species are a great way to pass the time while sitting in the boat or beach chair anticipating a hungry Black Drum attack. Whiting rarely exceed three pounds which make them the perfect size for pan frying and fresh dead shrimp are the bait of choice. I recommend using a medium action outfit spooled with 15 to 20 pound test, sounds a tad heavy but that extra size comes in handy if you should hook a Drum, which will invariably hit the lightest rod you have deployed. You can use 30 pound flourocarbon leader and just enough barrel sinker to reach the bottom and a #1 kahle hook and still be able to finesse a hefty Drum to the boat. Go as light as you like on the tackle if you only wish to catch whiting. The most common error is not reaching the bottom with your offering and not using FRESH shrimp, preferably peeled. You also don’t need a whole shrimp. A small piece works better as it is harder for bottom feeders to pull it off the hook.

As long as the tide is moving the versitile whiting should be biting. The last of the incoming and first of the outgoing tides will provide the best Drum action around the full moon.

This week a fishing and surfing friend of mine reported that as he was floating around on his surfboard awaiting the next set of waves he was overcome with a strange vibrating sound which resonated up through his board. Before having a heart attack, he realized that he was near a school of Black Drum in the process of “Drumming”. These Drum can be caught from the surf and regularly can exceed 70 pounds.

If you are interested in pursuing any of the above mentioned species of fish aboard the “Cleansweep” charterfishing boat, please contact me, Captain Jim Wormhoudt, at (904) 753-0882.

What to do if you get hooked

If a hook like this catches you instead of the fish, do you know what to do?

With the weather turning springlike I see more and more fishing boats being pulled to the 14th street ramp for a day on the water. It also brings back my memories of a time that I took the boat out for a day of fishing with friends in St.Thomas in the Virgin Islands and one friend used cut up hot dogs as bait. In an unguarded moment when he had to go to the head, he laid his rod on the deck not realizing that my live aboard cocker spaniel would sniff out his bait, which led to one of the more horrifying moments in my boat  life. The poor dog got hooked and I had to take him back to shore for an emergency meeting with the vet. If I had known then the content of the following tips, my doggie and I would probably have had a much less trying day.

If you’ve ever been fishing you know the sharpness of hooks, especially the ones used for King fishing.  These guys are super sharp and normally a treble hook (3 hooks in 1) designed to do just one thing hook fish.  The unfortunate part is the hooks don’t know what there hooking and should you get too close they’ll go right through your skin.

Odds are if you fish a lot sooner or later this is bound to happen to you but if you know the correct methods of field removal you can get the hook out and go right back to fishing.  Should this ever happen to you or someone you’re with start with cutting the line that is tied to the hook.  Carefully double loop some line around the shank of the hook (also known as the curve) and make it tight.  Now comes the intense part, have the person who is hooked push down of the eye of the hook till it meets the skin as this will help in keeping the barb clear for removal.

The “friend” or “helper” now has the task of giving the line a firm yank and the hook will pop out, it’s that simple.  This is such an easy assignment that many people will go about their normal day as it nothing ever happened.  Another scenario is if the hook enters and exits the skin.  Although this type of injury is a little more painful it’s still easy to remove without the aid of an emergency room.  Simple cut the hook behind the barb and push the hook back through.  Anytime you get cuts, scrapes or injuries from fish hooks make sure you clean the wound out well with peroxide and antibacterial soap, the last thing you want is a nasty infection.

After the cut is cleaned and dried, coat it well with Neosporin and watch it closely for several days paying close attention for redness or excessive soreness, which usually means infection and may require a trip to the doctor.

Fishing the Atlantic Ocean

Fishing the Atlantic Ocean

Fishing the Atlantic Ocean

Saturday dawned without a breath of wind as we headed east across lake Atlantic armed with fresh local squid and cigar minnows hoping for a cooler full of tasty Seabass, Triggerfish and possibly offshore Flounder which usually run big this time of year.

The flatties tend to gather just off of livebottom areas in the sand but have been known to swim in the middle of the water column I suppose when migrating from reef to reef or from offshore to inshore and vice versa. Our first drop in the popular F.C. area provided instant action in the form of large Seabass caught two at a time. I had rigged our heavy bottomfishing rods with double dropper rigs with 5/0 circle hooks and 10 ounce bank sinkers, a pretty standard setup, however on some rigs I had downsized to 3/0 hooks to better accomodate Triggerfish which have small mouths. No Triggerfish obliged that offering but as fate usually has it my rod doubled over and bounced up and down in large Snapper fashion. The Snap that came to the surface took my breath away, I estimate that this “Mule Snapper” would top 20 lbs. and in classic Snapper form it thrashed it’s tail and before I could take a picture, it was gone. My downsized hook had straightened out while I was hoisting this beast to the boat. A fitting release for an “endangered species”.

Catch and Release

Catch and Release

The fishbox aboard the “Clean Sweep” boat contained about 25 large Seabass and a couple of Ringtailed Porgies, enough for a nice fish fry. I did release a number of 3 to 4 foot sharks and another 20 inch Snapper (pictured in this article) before calling it a day. I sure would have enjoyed cleaning just one or two large Snapper as opposed to the pile of Seabass that took forever to clean.

It was a beautiful and bountiful day fishing off Amelia Island. To book a trip like this or to answer any questions you may have about fishing the local waters, give me a call at (904) 753-0882.

Bass Fishing on Lofton Creek

Bass Fishing on Lofton Creek

Bass Fishing on Lofton Creek

The prospect of 20 mph winds with higher gusts was weighing heavy on my mind as I towed the boat westward toward Loftin Creek last Sunday to do some bass fishing. Even with a fluke anchor and 10 feet of chain plus a 10 lb. creek anchor, the wind coupled with the tide, can keep you blown off of your fishing spot and aggravated at having to re-anchor all day.

I arrived at the creek to find the last quarter of the incoming tide remaining, a perfect scenario for a four hour fishing trip because if the bass aren’t biting on the incoming tide they usually will feed on the outgoing tide.

The previous day was spent baiting up gold shiners in the lake behind my house while tending to some ribs cooking low and slow in the smoker, two of my favorite pastimes. After throwing the castnet all day I was pleased to have 48 large shiners in my holding tank. The ribs were a much deserved treat after all that work.

The Three Anglers

The Three Anglers

My threesome of anglers showed up early, eager to wet a line and as we motored toward our first stop we all remarked that it was an exceptional morning, no wind yet and the creek offering its seasonally changing beauty as the maples lining its banks were bursting with their bright red seedpods ready to helicopter down and perpetuate the species. A small gaggle of large geese honked at us as they flew low overhead while we were anchoring up anticipating the action yet to come. Our first stop was at the “Horseshoe”. This is a spot one turn down from the A1A boatramp where an oxbow forms a deep hole and the banks are hollowed out by the virtue of oak tree roots giving the Bass a great hiding place from which to ambush baitfish as they swim past unaware. Cypress knees and scattered bullrushes also provide cover for foraging Bass. Our six inch shiners were barbed on 1/0 Kahle hooks, near the tail so that the shiner will swim toward the bank. I like the 1/0 Kahle hooks (a larger size hook) because the baits were big enough to swim with this size hook dragging behind. Also, this larger hook rarely is swallowed by the Bass and usually winds up in the fish’s lip, allowing for a healthier release. Arriving at this hot spot on the perfect tide produced nothing and left me playing catchup as there are days when no bites and no fish early are an indication of slow fishing all day.

We motored down the creek to the “Hog hole”, a deep creekmouth known to have produced at least one bonafied 13 pound Bass in recent years.

Bass Fishing with Kids

Bass Fishing with Kids

The 10 year old angler in our boat produced three bass, up to five pounds within the two hours we spent there. His older counterparts attempted several hooksets but the timing was off and the Bass escaped unscathed.

As the tide turned and the wind blew we tried a last resort spot with Bullrushes and cypress knees. The action was almost nonstop with many lost fish and two more fat, four pounders boated.

Spring and fall seem to be the best seasons for Largemouth Bass in Lofton Creek, and in Florida in general. Fall likely due to the abundance of Mullet and Shrimp in the creeks, and spring because the females are bedding and the males are either fertilizing or guarding the bedding area, hard work requiring sustenance. Summer provides good fishing but the Bass seem to slow down a bit and the creek can be a very hot and buggy place for fisherman. Take advantage of this outstanding time of year and give fishing in Loftin Creek a try. In 30 fishing seasons I’ve never been anything but amazed by its natural beauty and abundant wildlife.

As a charter boat captain, I will happily help you prepare or take you myself. Gift certificates for this type of trip are wonderful presents, too!

Give me a call, “Captain Jim” Wormhoudt at (904) 753-0882.

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Black Drum Fishing

Black Drum Fishing

Black Drum Fishing

Black Drum fishing in northeast Florida has a rich history particularly in Nassau county where every spring beginning in February anglers brave colder temperatures and long waiting periods between bites in order to catch the early run of Black Drum which can commonly reach 70 to 80 pounds or larger.

I`m going to date myself a little here and recall the Nassau Drum fishing Club which was headquartered in an old two story building at the foot of the south end of the old bridge at the south end of Amelia Island. The Buchaneer Bait shop was nearby on the banks of Sawpit creek supplying live shrimp, Crabs and clams to fishermen launching boats on both the Nassau County and Duval County sides of the bridge. Although I never set foot inside the clubhouse, it was a legendary gathering place for those participating in the annual Black Drum tournament which ran for several months each spring.

Boats could be seen lined up in the Nassau river from Black Hammock on the west side of the bridge all the way to Bird Island on the east side of the bridge. Many anglers spent an entire week on the water competing in the event. This sight can still be seen these days when word gets around that the bite is on, usually during full moon phases. At night the twinkling of boat lights, and the sounds of voices and music, travel across the water lending a festive atmosphere to the night as anglers fish well into the wee hours of the morning and sometimes all night long. Adult beverages consumed in moderation may also contribute to the friendly competitive air among the armada of fishing boats.

If you have never heard a large school of Black Drum, “drumming” as they swim past you, particularly at night, it is an eerie spectacle that literally vibrates your boat. It is said that Drum rarely bite when you can hear them, but I`ve caught them “drumming” as well as not.

Drum Fishing Amelia Island

Drum Fishing Amelia Island

Other areas such as the north and south Jetties of the St. Mary’s inlet, Main Beach and deep holes in the channel off Fort Clinch also provide good Drum fishing. Whiting can be caught while waiting for Drum to bite and invariably a Drum will strike your whiting rig which is usually smaller and lighter than the 30 to 50 pound tackle deployed for Black Drum. Surf fishermen routinely catch monster Drum while fishing fo whiting. Fresh bait is the key, Clam innards, large shrimp, half a blue crab sans the shell, even conch. Here is one rule of thumb to live by when fishing for Drum, if you wouldn’t eat it don`t expect any self respecting fish to either.

Drum is also excellent tablefare, fried, broiled or baked. Cook it like you would Redfish. They are in the same family and as with Redfish, the smaller ones, for to 20 pounds are generally tastier than the older larger fish. For less “fishy” flavor, try to remove as much of the red parts of the meat as possible. Those areas are bloodlines and can contribute to strong flavor in cooked fish.

Any of the local tackleshops can easily show you how to rig for Drum and sell you the fresh bait required. Don Whitman at Leaders and Sinkers will be hosting the weigh-in for the 2010 Nassau Sportfishing Association`s Annual Drum Tournament slated to begin March 12th continuing through April 18th. A 80 pounder will be needed to compete with local Drum specialists. In recent years, a record 103 pound fish was taken at the St. Mary`s Jetties in early February, but was too early to be weighed in for the Tournament. The women’s world record for black Drum caught on 50 lb tackle is held by Stella Moore. Mrs. Moore caught the fish locally which weighed 96 pounds. Mrs. Moore herself weighed-in at 86 pounds; she also posted a 93 pounder in 1957.

As they say, “When the gnats start biting, so will the Drum”. I can testify that the gnats are hungry, so lets go fishing! Call me for a memorable fishing experience, both fresh and saltwater are fixin to bust loose!

Captain Jim Wormhoudt
Cleansweep Charters
(904) 753-0882

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Back Yard Bass Fishing

Back Yard Bass Fishing

Back Yard Bass Fishing

The wind was howling and the rain was pouring down last Friday with lows in the 30s predicted and 25 knot winds for Saturday. These are typical weather conditions when you have company coming from “up north” who are expecting tropical fishing conditions like the “Spanish Fly” encounters as he guides his fishing party to trophy catches out of Key West.

The boat would remain in the driveway this weekend for sure. Uncle Gary and myself would have to seek another fishing venue for this Superbowl weekend. We decided to fish off my dock for Largemouth Bass hoping the stiff wind blowing into our faces would blow the baitfish toward us and inturn the bass would show up to feast on the bait. Our lake is located in the middle of Amelia Island and is home to Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, and assorted Shiners, Shad, Eels, Crabs ect. All of the things bass love to eat are in that pond, except maybe the Crabs, and I don`t know how the heck they got in there. Anyway, we tossed some catfood out for chum and shortly thereafter launched the castnet against the wind (not easy) and came up with a nice batch of Gold Shiners from two to six inches long – Bass candy? They love `em!

We pinned the live Shiner to a 2/0 Kahle hook suspended below a 4 inch cigar-shaped foam float with a 3 ft. piece of 20 lb. flourocarbon leader. Sounds complicated but its really not – just like fishin with a bobber when you were a kid. The baits were pitched out near the brushy bank adjacent to the dock as well as into the middle of the lake. It didn`t matter, the bass were hungry and we caught two right off the bat, 2 lbs and 4 lbs.

Uncle Gary and his bass

Uncle Gary and his bass

The Idea is to let the Bass have the bait when the float disappears for a few seconds while he positions it in his maw in order to suck it down his throat whole (no teeth required for this). Then set the hook and the fight is on. Let him have the bait too long and he’ll either spit it out when he feels the hook or swallow it and become gut hooked requiring major surgery and likely a trip to the frying pan. The proper wait time sets the hook firmly in the bass’ lip where it is easily removed for a healthy release of the fish.

We had steady action both Saturday and Sunday. Our final tally was eight bass between two and seven pounds and many fond fishing memories for Uncle Gary who is currently back home and shoveling snow in Saint Louis.

Call me for the Bass fishing trip of a lifetime, Captain Jim Wormhoudt (904) 753-0882 .

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