2011 News Magazine 

This is Sanibel Island, Florida. I work here... I carry a rod, I'm a fly fishermen."  The stories you are about to read are true. The names have not been changed so the guilty can be identified.  (This will probably be lost on younger readers who don't remember Jack Webb's, Dragnet which played on TV in the 1950's through the 1970's).  Anyway, here are a few stories from my five weeks in Florida.
Time Out

Joe Mauler of Fort Meyers, Florida had a casting/fishing lesson scheduled for Bowman's Beach.  After a couple of hours of flogging the water Joe noticed a group of stingrays cruising 60-feet off shore.  Knowing the large fish will follow behind and pickup whatever meals they dislodge Joe told his student to throw some casts behind the rays.  The student couldn't hit the distance.

Joe, yelled "I need to take a short time-out" while shooting a 70 cast 10 feet in-front of the Rays.  As they passed by a large Jack took his fly and was off to the races.  After landing his fish he had the student take his picture.

For some reason he didn't get a tip!
Saltwater Virgin

A guide from West Yellowstone Montana, Brian Sienkowski, decided to try his hand at Snook fishing

On his first day his fishiung partner spots a large female in a few feet of water.  He proceeds to make a series of 20 presentations using several different flies and retrieves.  No dice!  He turns to the guide and says "You give it a go"

Brian made one cast (his first ever in saltwater); takes one strip (an original pattern he tied the night before); the fish turns and takes.  He lands the Snook and his fishing buddy snaps a picture.  It's very first saltwater fish - 37-inches.

He stops in at Norm Zeigler's Fly Shop get some Scnminnows (Norm's creation and his primary fly for beach fishing where I see the pictures.  We all want to see the fly.  Its a minnow immitation made entirely out of krystal flash pulled back like a Thunder Creek Minnow with an epoxy head and eyes.

I'm betting every guy in the fly shop went home and tied up several of these...I did!
The Beach Bunny

I encounter a "old friend" on the beach and he tells me there is a gal down at the Lighthouse who is sunbathing every day in a very skimpy bikini.  "You ought to go down for a look...the fishing hasn't been all that good and this will give you something constructive to do. "

I hop on my beach cruiser bike and peddle down to the Lighthouse.  I gear up and start walking down the beach looking for fish and watching for this gal.  Pretty soon I find her in the sand.  I think I hear the laughing 3 miles away!

Almost every day I see Sharks close in - mostly lemon and Bull Sharks.  There is a guy living down the beach aways that fishs for them every evening using cut bait.  I've seen him take them over 7 feet.   While I was there, one of his sharks turned out to be a 130 to 150 tarpon

It never bothers the bathers including me, but I know the sharks are there and can get agressive with a hooked fish.  Last year an angler came close to loosing his hand while trying to land a large snook in the surf.

In the middle of the day we come across 1/2 a Snook on a laying on a sandbar a few feet from shore.  You could tell it was taken minutes earlier because it was still bleeding.  The fish had to be close to 50 inches and it was killed in 2 feet of water.

A friend, Pete Squibb, from Michigan told be about an incident on the same sand bar a few days earlier.

A young fly fisherman crossed the 20 foot trough that was 3-feet deep s several and gets up on the sandbar to cast to a large feeding Redfish.  The fish has absolutely no interest in his offerings.  Pete sees a 6 foot lemon shark swim across a submerged portion of the bar.  The shark spots the redfish and the chase is on.  He manages to take a pretty good sized bite out of the fish and it flops up on a shallow segment of the bar.  The shark immediately returns to where he crossed over swims back to where the redfish is and consumes him as the receding current pulls him off the bar. All of this happens within 25 yards or so of   a large group of oblivious swimmers.
A Big Snook

For the last 5 years I've been trying to catch a Snook 40-inches or better and this year I got it done.

I saw three large females about 25 feet away at a 45 degree angle.  I simply made a  short roll cast dropping my fly in front of the lead fish.  I expecting it to be ignored which is the norm for large females.  The fish on the ouside turned to the fly and sucked it in.  We were both surprised.  Upon feeling the tension she took off like a shot.  In seconds she was 75 to 100 yards into the backing.  She made four more runs and used the surf to her advantage.  I kept as much pressure on her as I could with the 7-weight Sage but I keept thinking I was going to loose her.  It had happened before and the longer the fight the better her chances of escape  I was only using a 20-pound bite tippet which could be easily severed by a gill plate.  This time my luck held.

I was so excited I forgot to pull my Buff down so you could see my face!  Naturally, my "friends" claimed it wasn't me behind the buff.

FrankinCuda vs. Mark & Paul

I was in Belize in early May fishing with friends.  We ended up semi-deserted island with our outfitter and several guides.  I say semi deserted because Pete and his brother (I could never ascertain the name) had been living on the island for 40 years.  They made a ends meet by collecting coconuts  for palm oil and salting down Barracuda.  Then transporting them to the mainland (about 30 miles to the east) across the ocean in a 40-foot dugout canoe made from an log and powered by a nondescript outboard of questionable origin.

I asked the obvious "what happens when a storm comes up".  They told me that the boat turns generally turns over, the cargo is lost, they have to release the motor into the sea, and they climb up on top to ride out the storm.  Hopefully they float to shore in three or four days.  I ask "how often has this happened."  Pete replies "Maybe three or four times"  See below for a perspective.

There was a solar powered a few minutes walk from camp.  lt replaced the old lighthouse where Pete worked.  Frankly, I not sure he was ever informed that his job was over.  The old lighthouse is a few minutes walk on the 40 acre island.  After it was destroyed in a 1970's hurricane a reef of sorts formed around it.the foundation.

At the end of most days I'd walk out to the structure and to fish for whatever might swim by.  On one such evening Mark Moller joined me with a spinning rod and a selection of huge topwater plugs.

After a while he asked, "Want to give this thing a try" "Sure" I said  and I made a cast as far as I could throw the 8-inch plug.  I started reeling it in jerking the rod tip to get the lure to swim back and forth while making noise.  The sound was amplified by BB's inside the core.

A V-wake suddenly appeared behind the plug and then there was an explosion of spray as as the plug disappeared. I can't remember a more vicious hit  The fish ripped off 150 yards of the 20-pound test spider wire as I mentally sorted out what had just happened.  At first I thought it was a shark because the shadow behind the plug looked to be well over 5 feet.

After the second run we both see the fish roll some 100 yards out.  It was far and away the largest Barracuda I'd ever seen.  He was over 5-feet and his head was as big as a basketball.  It was FrankinCuda!

After series of long runs I worked him into a small on the lee side of the structure.  "Mark go on down there and unhook him" I yelled.  He started to oblige and then turned to me saying "you're crazy that fish could take my hand off."  One look at his massive head and the canine teeth and I wasn't going down there.  My Boga Grip was back in my boatbag on the dock.  Even if we could get him on the grip he'd probably pull you into the water. As I was reaching for my knife to cut the line, he rolled over and spit out the plug.  In a few seconds he sank out of sight

Mark got one quick photo of the fish but it was pretty blurry.  Never-the-less you can get some perspective given the 8-inch plug.

After examining the plug on the way back to camp, you could see that Frankincuda crunched all the way through it!