Fishing Where I Belong

February 9, 2015 by Larry Pentel

I have been back in South Walton for a week now and while our 1,700 mile tour of Florida was interesting I'm glad to be fishing off Grayton again. My wife and I towed the camper from here down the West Coast to Everglades City, across to the East Coast, up to St. Augustine and back to Seagrove in 12 days. I got to see and fish a bunch of Florida I have never seen in my almost 60 years of living here and visited a lot places I had great memories of from fishing and surfing back in the early '70's B.K. (before kids).

I chartered a boat in Everglades City to fish the 10,000 Islands and to hopefully catch some Snook, a species I had never fished for. The area was very interesting, it really should be called the 100,000 islands and I have now caught a few Snook.

The fishing was different from what I had expected, more like bass fishing as we ran WAY up a creek for 45 minutes through a lot of tight cover to where the waterway opened up enough for the guide and I to stand up and flip shrimp up under the mangroves that lined the banks.

Exact casting was required and a quick hookset with 40# braid and a tight drag pulled the fish out of the heavy cover and to the boat. I landed about 10 fish in the 1 to 3# range and the guide caught about 15, being on the front of the boat and getting first shot at likely holes in the cover (as well as being more used to casting in the heavy cover).

He did have one fish that probably went 5#. Right before we quit fishing we fished a seawall back by the ramp and I caught a Black Snapper about 11". The guide was excited as we could keep it and that was a "bigger one". I didn't have the heart to tell him we'd never keep one that small on my boat and a big one was something over 10#. A fun day fishing but once again, I'd rather fish here.

The best fish story of the trip was on the pier at Anna Maria Island...(great beach town! 40 years ago it was probably as good as SoWal 40 years ago). My wife and I walked out on the pier, which is just inside the pass at Tampa bay. We had a cold beverage, watched the folks fishing not getting anything and started to walk back to the truck.

In about 8' of water we saw a black ball of what appeared to be row mullet stick their noses out from under the pier. My wife stayed to watch the fish, I walked (ran?) back to the truck and got a bait net out, walked back out and flipped it over some fish that got a little to far away from the pier.

Now, this was just my 7' light weight 1/4" bait net and not a good heavy mullet net but I still managed to flip about 8 nice fat fresh fish up the deck. The rest of the school did what mullet usually do and ran out onto the sand where I had thrown.

I loaded up the net to throw again as my wife is saying we don't need anymore fish, there is no smoker in the camper and they'll just go bad. By now there are 30 or so winter vacationers gathered around and I told her somebody would want fresh fish so I threw again, this time wrapping up a pretty good haul. As I am lifting the net up I yelled out that these were free fish for the taking and anybody that wanted some just speak up.... I have never seen that many folks take 2 steps back any quicker! I picked up the horn on my net and released a great pile of fish dinners back into the Gulf to swim away.....

My First Snook, cross that one off the list.

After spending 3 days getting caught up on chores, mail and bills I got to run a couple trips off Grayton. The first one on Friday was with a family that has fished with me before but not this time of the year. They captured a limit of Vermillion Snappers (40), 3 legal triggers and 6 jacks on a fun 4 hr trip. The Triggers will be the last ones kept on my boat this year I am afraid as the State passed a last minute unadvertised closure on triggers Friday at midnight to go along with Feds closure for the year.

Great family Fishing with lots of excitement for everybody.

Saturday I took a group of guys who had never been off the beach before. We spent about 1/2 an hour getting everybody used to the tackle and then got into a GREAT Jack rally. About the time we had all we needed one of my anglers got a little seasick and the decision was made to run back in. We dropped 2 folks off on the beach and I took the other 2 back out to catch and release Red Snappers for the second half of our 4 hr. They caught a pile including several over 10# while the other 2 went and found a watering hole.

"I don't know what happened, I SWEAR he weighed 50# while I was catchin' 'em". Nothing pulls harder!

They didn't catch all of these but they caught a whole bunch more we released!

On the Red Snapper subject; The State has proposed a season opening May 23rd and running through July 12th. Then re-opening for labor day week end (3 days) and again for all the weekends in September and October (2 day seasons). The feds have not announced any proposals other than they REALLY want private ownership of the public resource ( catch shares). We shall see what actually happens with all the politickin' and political persuasion the Feds put on the state. The State is supposed to announce the final decision on the season in April. Hopefully the current proposal will stand and we have a decent season this year.

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Larry Pentel

Captain Larry Pentel is a native of South Walton, growing up just 300 yards from the beach. Having fished the local waters for over 40 years, he is very familiar with all the different types of local fish, their habits, and most importantly - their habitats. Captain Larry is the owner of Dead Fish Charters

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