January 29, 2019

Florida Fishing Road Trip - The Keys

This next part of the road trip all happened in one area: the Florida Keys. As I have less of a connection to saltwater species, this will mainly be a sort of "photo essay" rather than a full report. Most of the fish were caught at the renown Channel 5 bridge, but we did hit a few other spots as well. The following photos are just some of the more interesting or colourful fish we caught, not necessarily every lifer obtained (there were way too many lol).

We arrived at night and started fishing for sharks right away. Gerry showed up out of the darkness and introduced himself to us, he was ready for the fishing to begin! No sharks were caught that night, but I did catch this super cool Green Moray on a handline; it would make great bait for later on.

Waking up on the beach was a pretty cool experience, a little groggy and salty, but I still felt very lucky to be in such a beautiful area :)

The first spot of the day was the aforementioned Channel 5 bridge, where the lifers really started rolling in. I don't remember how many fish were caught, but the bites were constant and everything I pulled up seemed to be something new. Here are a few of the cool ones:

Slippery Dick
Yellowtail Snapper
French Grunt
Yes, I finally caught the infamous Slippery Dick! Please visit "www.slipperydickpics.com" should you feel the need to see more pics haha.

After we seemed to have exhausted many of the more easily obtained lifers, we switched up spots and tried another bridge over shallower and weedier. Here we caught a different variety of fish, more pics below:

Horse-eye Jack
Sand Perch
Bandtail Puffer
Planehead Filefish
That was it for the day, over 20 new species in the books and the night hadn't begun yet. The rest of the group went in to sleep, but Ken and I decided to brave the windy weather and put another few hours in for sharks. The conditions were rough and the action wasn't hot, but I did manage my first shark ever! A Nurse Shark:

The following day was more of the same; trying a few new spots and trying to catch any new species we could find. A few of my highlights, including my first-ever Pupfish, are pictured below:

Buffalo Trunkfish
Scrawled Cowfish
Goldspotted Killifish
Hardhead Silverside
That pretty much sums up the Keys portion of the adventure. I learned a lot more about saltwater fishing from Ken and started seeing why some anglers like these tropical areas so much. I won't say I'm converted from freshwater, but I can appreciate the variety and colours of these fish.

January 28, 2019

Florida Fishing Road Trip - Florida/Georgia Line to Miami

The 2018-2019 Christmas break would mark my first ever "long" distance trip with the main purpose of species fishing. I was heading to Florida with fellow lifelister Ken from Toronto, and we would be meeting up with 3 others: Tim and Casey from North Carolina, and Gerry from Illinois. Together we would be fishing our way around the state, and attempting to catch as many species as possible.

Ken and I had a total of 10 days to complete the trip, the first day and a half consisted of uneventful driving and a relatively noisy night at a rest stop on I-75. Thankfully, I made great time driving and we managed to arrive a day before we had planned. We used this extra time in the evening to try for Spotted Bullhead at a spot where Tim had caught several on a previous trip. Unfortunately, the water was very high in the area and the rivers were essentially unfishable. In fact, the water was so high that it completely submerged fences. We found a beautiful free campground at a boat ramp and attempted to catch some Golden Silverside we saw in the shallows, but they would not bite in the dark.

The next day, we were still a good few hours ahead of schedule. While we waited for the tide to go out at our first planned stop, we fished for one of our top targets of the trip: the Suwanee Bass! The water at the spot was beautifully clear; it flowed directly out of one of the springs in northern Florida. It took a few casts, but I was lucky enough to catch my Suwanee pretty quickly on a spinner tipped with a worm. With this fish, I was already very happy with the trip!

Despite seeing many of the desired Bass swimming around in the clear water, Ken was not able to convince one to hit :( That being said, the extra time was not wasted because it allowed me to catch an unexpected lifer: the Redear Sunfish. I did not think I would have time to catch one on this trip, so it was a welcome surprise (little did I know I would catch several in the coming days lol).

We were finally back on schedule, so we headed out to Cedar Key where we planned to catch a number of Killifish species. Two of the four targets never showed up, but we both managed to catch Gulf Killifish and Diamond Killifish. I have to thank Ken for showing me the perseverance required to catch the tiny Diamonds.

The next stop on our way south was in Tampa, where we were meeting up with one of Ken's friends, Ryan, to fish for an exotic Cichlid that he had discovered in the community pond behind his house. It didn't take too much time before I caught it: the Dimerus Cichlid. This was a pretty cool catch because it is only known to be in this location in all of North America! Ken took a little while longer to catch his, but I didn't mind because I was catching massive Coppernose Bluegill and Redear Sunfish in the deeper water off the end of the dock. A big thanks to Ryan for his hospitality and for the opportunity at another lifer!

With the Dimerus checked off the list, we said our goodbyes and continued south into the Everglades. We drove all the way to Monroe Station where we were supposed to meet up with Tim and Casey. They were sleeping by the time we arrived, but I couldn't keep myself away from the nearby canals. I knew they held a good number of Walking Catfish, another exotic species I had yet to catch. It took a bit of searching, but I eventually landed one and got to see them "walk" for the first time. They really do walk quite efficiently on land! I also caught a Florida Gar on 4lb mono for the hell of it.

This next capture was pretty special. While fishing for the Walking Cats, I saw tons of Plecos all around the canal. As many species fishermen know, these fish are notoriously difficult to catch because they will ignore any and all presentations offered to them. After being disappointed by them many times, I noticed a dead Walking Catfish on the bottom. Investigating closer, I saw about 8 Plecos feeding on its slime coating. I knew this would be my chance! It took about 20 minutes of placing a small chunk of worm on the dead fish, but eventually I lifted up a fair-hooked Amazon Sailfin Catfish! What a crazy-looking fish.

After my Pleco, I headed to bed while Ken stayed up to catch his. I believe he caught it about an hour later at 1 in the morning, but I was asleep by then. The following morning we rose with the sun and introduced ourselves to Tim and Casey, who had also woken. We quickly packed up camp and headed east to Miami for some more exotic goodness.

The first (successful) stop of the day was under a bridge in a very urban area of Miami for Hornet Tilapia. The homeless camps set up under the bridge were a little unnerving, but I did catch my first Hornet Tilapia as well as a Spotted Tilapia. Unfortunately, I was the only one in the group to catch these species.

Next, we headed to a peaceful suburban park to try for Midas Cichlids and whatever other exotics would show up. I had no luck with the Midas, but Tim did manage to catch his! Very jealous of that one haha. I did get my lifer Mayan Cichlid and Jewel Cichlid at this spot though.

Mayan Cichlid
African Jewel Cichlid
The final spot of the day was literally a ditch on the side of the road. Tim, Casey, and I quickly caught lifer Pike Killifish :) After that had been accomplished, we began catching tons of Tilapia. As it turns out, they were Mozambiques, another lifer for everyone in the group. Casey also caught a Jaguar Guapote, and consequently made everyone very jealous!

We then continued heading south into the Florida Keys, where the next part of this report will begin ;)

January 16, 2019

Dominican Republic Tarpon!

Christmas break 2018-2019 was definitely one to remember! It started with the regular early ice fishing for a variety of panfish; I actually got on the ice in November for the first time in my life. Then, after celebrating Christmas with family, I left on a pretty intense road trip to Florida with fellow lifelisters Ken, Gerry, Tim, and Casey. That report is going to take me a while to write up, so I'm going to start with the final trip of the break: a 1-week vacation to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic with Alex.
Early-ice Crappie
We stayed at an all-inclusive resort named "BlueBay Villas Doradas". I would it recommend it to anyone looking for a relatively affordable resort. It's small but had good, fresh food, plentiful drinks, and a nice beach. Staff were very friendly and security even allowed me to fish in the ponds on the resort, which saved the fishing portion of the trip.

Because of the smaller nature of the resort, it didn't take long before it seemed like everyone, both guests and staff, knew me as the "fishing man", and would constantly ask how the fishing was lol. Before leaving, I read reviews warning about annoying timeshare and beach vendors, but they all seemed more interested in the fish I was catching rather than trying to sell me something. I was actually more annoyed by the "did you catch anything?", than the "do you want to buy something?".

On to the fishing portion of this report. Like I said earlier, fishing in the resort's ponds really saved me fishing-wise. Unfortunately, the ocean in the area seemed to be rather fished out and I had very poor luck fishing from the beach and kayaking out to the reef. We did see some smaller reef fish while snorkeling, but nothing I managed to hook.

On the other hand, the ponds had some surprisingly great fishing! I started in a shallow, swampier area for some micros I saw swimming about. To my delight, they turned out to be Fat Sleepers! I was super happy to add a Sleeper Goby to my list, and Alex got some as well.

Next I moved to the main pond and tried using a small jig for some Tilapia I had spotted. They did not react to the lure but suddenly I saw a big flash of silver, a strong hit, and next thing I knew, my hook was bent out! There were Tarpon!! I rushed back to our room to switch to a jerkbait and it was game-on. The Tarpon seemed to react most on the pause. As expected, they would jump all over the place and were quite difficult to keep pinned. Eventually I caught a few and added a pretty special fish to the list :)

Next was Alex's turn, she took two casts in the bigger pond and suddenly got a huge hit. I saw the fish jump, it was a 40-50lb Tarpon! About two head shakes later it broke the 50lb braid, and that was the end of that story. In any case, I knew it was going to be nearly impossible to land the fish in such a small body of water filled with snags such as fallen trees and fountains. Luckily, she eventually managed to hook a smaller one that was much easier to land.

After having plenty of fun with the Tarpon, I switched to a simple hook covered with bread to catch some of the Tilapia. They were actually pretty big and we caught some that must have been pushing 5lbs. My ID work thus far is leaning towards them being Niles, Mozambiques, and hybrids of those two, but other opinions are much-appreciated.
Mozambique Tilapia
Mozambique x Nile?
Nile Tilapia
That about sums up the fishing portion of the trip, it was mainly a relaxation vacation to spend time with one-another. I still felt lucky to catch a few really cool lifers despite the lack of good fishing in the ocean.

January 04, 2019

Last-Minute Cutlips!

This is just a quick blog post featuring one single species: the Cutlip Minnow. It had been high on my list of cyprinids for a while at that point and I had been seeing some pictures of them posted on Instagram. The best part: they were only about an hour away from home! I eventually worked up the energy to make the short trip, but only left home at 11PM :o So I crossed the border into New York and arrived at the creek just after midnight. I worked a few spots but could not seem to find them :(

Then, between spots, I was pulled over by a cop who was very curious about why I would drive across the border to look for minnows in the middle of the night, before heading straight home. He eventually did believe me, because he couldn't think of any other reason I would be sitting in my car in waders lol.

Finally, I moved to a slightly wider creek at a spot below a dam. It took a bit of wading, but I started seeing the target species! After that, it didn't long before I was holding my prize fish in my hands :)

At that point it was pushing 2AM, so I was glad it was a relatively short drive home.