NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- The water temperatures are in the low 70s and the fishing is hot everywhere. Tournaments are in full swing and anglers are having a ball -- well, most of them, that is.
Offshore most boats are encountering dolphin - several approximating sixty pounds. Several boats have reported that they had blue marlin in their spreads. At least one had a marlin hooked up that rapidly over-powered the tackle in use and bid the angler "adieu."
Reports from St. Augustine and Jacksonville have also reported blue marlin also as well as dolphin. Sailfish are also being reported, but I have not heard of any white marlin being caught. King mackerel are still hitting further inshore of the dolphin. On the bottom, catches of grouper and a variety of snappers are still good; but more anglers are after the trolling fish this time of the year.
Sheepshead, black drum, bluefish, lady fish, pompano, whiting and occasional flounder are pleasing the surf anglers. In the inlet several big reds have been caught using crabs. In the river and creeks several very large trout have been taken along with some legal snook.
Speaking of snook, the season on the Gulf side is closed through August in Monroe County, the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades National Park. In the river, night fishing under the dock lights continues to be good for trout, snook and lady fish.
Speaking of lady fish, our old friend, Dennis -- yes, the same one who lost his kayak paddle and almost got swept out to sea with the falling tide, the same one who lost his cell phone and flashlight in the water, and the same one who hooked somebody's cat while fishing under their dock lights -- finally landed a lady fish. His friend, Mark, reported that Dennis initially thought he had hooked a small tarpon and was amazed after Mark told him his catch was a lady fish.
In the lagoon, Capt. Tarr is reporting that on the south end of George's bar there was good redfish fishing - some quite large. Top water plugs in the early morning seem to be the ticket.
In the Tomoka Area, Capt. Kent Gibbens has been finding a few redfish and trout. he also spotted some tarpon rolling in the river.
A Putnam County man and two Brevard County men found out recently that robbing commercial blue crab traps is serious business in Florida and could land them in prison. In the Putnam County case, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Jeff Hickman and Lt. George Pottorf arrested George Edward Ayer Jr., 34, of Interlachen, on April 27 and charged him with molestation/theft of blue crab traps – a third degree felony, if convicted. He was booked into the Putnam County jail.
Commercial crabbers in the area complained to the FWC that someone was robbing their traps and officers spent weeks watching for the culprit. Their vigilance paid off when they apprehended a suspect on April 27 in the Crystal Cove area of the St. Johns River . “I guess you could say he had his hand in the cookie jar,” Pottorf said. “He pulled the traps up and took the blue crabs out while we watched. We caught him red-handed.”
The second case was April 23 in the Barge Canal and Sykes Creek in Brevard County . The complaints were similar -- commercial crabbers told FWC officers their traps were being tampered with. The FWC set up surveillance in the complaint area and waited. In this incident, officers watched two commercial fishermen cut buoys off other crabbers’ traps and then move a buoyed trap to another location. One of the men pulled the crabs out of the trap. Willam C. Korecky, 44, and his brother, Robert C. Korecky, 24, both of Cocoa , were arrested on charges of molesting crab traps. William is also facing theft charges for allegedly taking crabs from one of the traps. Both were booked into the Brevard County jail.
Robbing from blue crab traps is a statewide problem. If convicted, violators face penalties of up to five years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine. Blue crab is a restricted species which means the number of people that can harvest them commercially is limited. In fact, to get a restricted species endorsement (permit) to harvest blue crabs on a saltwater products license, commercial fishermen have to prove that a certain percentage of their income is derived from the sale of blue crabs.
“When someone robs a blue crab trap, it is the same thing as robbing someone of their livelihood. It’s a serious problem,” Pottorf said.
The placement of traps is critical to a commercial crabber’s success and when someone pulls one up and throws it back into the water haphazardly, there is a good chance it won’t end up in a good position to trap crabs.
However, people who want crabs for supper don’t have to steal someone else’s. Anyone with a valid recreational saltwater fishing license may harvest crabs in traps as long as the traps meet certain criteria.
Recreational crabbers are limited to using five traps which must be marked with a buoy with the letter “R” painted on it. The letter “V” designates a commercial crab trap. The name and address of the crabber must also be permanently attached to the trap.
And, each trap must have three escape rings so smaller crabs can escape, as well as a biodegradable panel or device that will deteriorate so crabs will not be forever trapped, if the trap line is cut or the trap is abandoned. To report crab trap robbers and other violations please call the 24-hour toll-free Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward if their information leads to an arrest.
Five Florida youths will be representing their state at the National Youth Hunter Education Challenge in Mansfield , Penn. in late July.
Seventeen-year-old James Barton and 16-year-old Robert Hickman from Jupiter, 14-year-old Colter Brown and 18-year-old Isaac Amicarelle from Jacksonville and 13-year-old Jesse Bodden from Okeechobee won the right to attend the annual prestigious event by beating out 32 other youths during the state challenge at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Ocala Conservation Center on May 3.
The national challenge will be at Mansfield University ’s Mill Cove Environmental Center from July 28 through Aug. 1. Competition in these challenges is based on the eight disciplines of archery, muzzle-loading, shotgun and small-bore/light rifle shooting skills, firearm responsibility, safety trail (obstacle course on hunting safely), orienteering and wildlife identification. Participants compete in two age divisions. The junior division is made up of kids 14 and younger. Youths 15 to 18 years of age must compete in the senior division.
Every participant in the state challenge won his or her regional event to earn the right to compete in Ocala . The top five finishers in both divisions of the state competition were:
Junior Division (14 and younger)
1. Colter Brown
2. Jesse Bodden
3. Nate Richards (Lithia)
4. Cory LaRoe (Valrico)
5. Mike Sharp (Royal Palm Beach )
Senior Division (15-18 years old)
1. James Barton
2. Robert Hickman
3. Isaac Amicarelle
4. Shawnee Epps ( Tamarac )
5. Brian Richens ( Jacksonville )
Anyone wanting to help send the Florida team to the national competition in Pennsylvania can do so by making a check out to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and writing in the Memo blank: For YHEC and mailing it to P.O. Box 11010, Tallahassee, FL 32302, or if you would like to charge your credit card, you can do so online at WildlifeFoundationofFlorida.com and include the words "for YHEC" in the special instructions page, or you may call 1-800-989-4889 and mention the donation is for the YHEC fund. All contributions are tax deductible. Local sportsman clubs wishing to sponsor a youth to participate in next year’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge can do so by contacting Greg Workman at (386) 352-625-caught or e-mail him at Gregory.Workman@MyFWC.com.
Capt. Budd's PostScript:
Fishing is not a matter of life or death, it is so much more. It has been written – “I feel that I am more at peace about my hunting and fishing because of my strict observance of conservation measures.” So whether you charter, ride a head boat, run your own vessel, stay in the river, surf fish, or fish from shore or a bridge - there are fish to be more important than that...