Road Trips

  • 02/01/2015 12:14 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Whether choosing a weekend getaway, a longer vacation, or a group function you can’t go wrong choosing Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. It was a fishing tournament that drew me to the area, but I discovered a lot more than fishing.

    Crappie USA, a national crappie tournament trail chose the area because of the well know crappie fishing on Crescent and Dead Lake. The crappie are big and abundant, every crappie anglers dream. The organization completed a very successful two-day fishing event on the lakes. Darrell Van Vactor, President and CEO of Crappie USA praised the facilities and the support of the area businesses. “We are very pleased with the facilities and excellent support of the tourism folks. We are proud to be here with them as our hosts.”

    Happy Crappie Angler

    The tournament weigh-in was held at Bull Creek Camp Ground, which offers the perfect facilities for anglers. When you consider the winning weight, based on 14 crappies, was 29.77 pounds you realize immediately that calculates to an average weight of over 2 pounds per fish. That is a measure of a superb crappie resource, and one of the many reasons to put the area on your bucket list as place to visit.   

    The Palm Coast and Flagler Beaches area offers plenty of lodging possibilities in all price ranges. If you want luxury accommodations you will find them. If you want beach access you will find it. If you want kitchenette type facilities you will find them too.

    I stayed at the Hampton Inn at 150 Flagler Plaza Drive in Palm Coast (386-439-8999). I was greeted with a friendly smile when I walked in to register and again by every staff member I came in contact with during my stay. This is a friendly place, extremely clean and well kept. They offer a morning breakfast that got me off to a good start every morning of my stay. This is just one example but there are plenty more similar places to stay. A quick trip to the Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches website will reveal plenty more choices, some of which will fill your personal needs for lodging.

    If you like the outdoors and prefer a campground type of atmosphere you will find that too. The area is blessed with miles and miles of Florida’s natural beauty in places far away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life. The Bull Creek campground mention before is a case in point. RV parks, a boat ramp, boat slips, and a great little restaurant are all located on the banks of Dead Lake, which is only a canal away from the larger Crescent Lake.

    Bull Creek Camp

    You can bring your own boat and investigate the waters of Dead and Crescent Lake or simply take it easy and fish from the banks around the campground. A few miles from Bull Creek is Russell Landing, a part of Haw Creek Preserve. This rustic little park sets in a cypress and hardwood swamp that borders Haw Creek. It is old Florida beauty at its best. It features a boat ramp for easy access to the creek, a pavilion for group outings, and a hiking trail that wanders into the hardwood canopy. Water access along the bank allows easy shoreline fishing.

    Russell Landing Creek

    If you prefer to be back in the city you will find plenty of parks, walking trails, and bicycling opportunities. Visitors can also enjoy the Intracoastal Waterway and miles and miles of fresh and saltwater canals just begging for a kayak to launch. 

    Continue your travels east and you will find Flagler Beach. The beach is natural, unspoiled and beautiful. Visitors are served up with 19 miles of cinnamon colored sand in a laid-back and low-key atmosphere. According to their website, “You are more likely to see dolphins and turtles than rowdy spring breakers, and entertainment comes in the form of the colorful characters who populate the town.” Flagler is a real getaway from the crowd kind of beach.

    How about a day trip to Princess Place Preserve for birding or take a look at the old lodge that stands as Flagler County’s oldest intact structure. History buffs can take the three-hour Flagler County Historic Bus Tour out of Bunnell, FL. If you want to reach out a little further just head for St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S. It is less than an hour away.

    Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches is not just for families. The Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA) chose Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches as their destination for their annual conference in 2016. 

    "FOWA's choice of Flagler County for our 2016 Writers Conference was based on several things,” explained Tommy Thompson, Executive Director of FOWA. “One, Hammock Beach Resort, our Conference host hotel, is without a doubt one of the nicest establishments on Florida's east coast, offering a wide variety of lodging, dining and meeting choices.  Second, the fact that the Palm Coast and The Flagler Beaches Chamber of Commerce has arranged for unprecedented access to Marineland will give FOWA members fodder for multiple stories dealing with marine science and the environment.”

    The FOWA conferences are not all work, so recreational opportunities were important in their site selection too. “Opportunities to fish, paddle and explore the backwaters and Atlantic waters of Flagler County are numerous,” continued Thompson. “I expect those to be the highlight of many of our attendees' trip to the area."

    I won’t even try to name the many great places to eat. Regardless of your favorite cuisine you will find it. I do recommend you click here for a sampling of what’s available. If you are in the vicinity on Friday or Saturday morning, don’t miss The Flagler Beach Farmers Market. You will find some of freshest produce, seafood, plants, honey, baked goods and handcrafted items that Florida has to offer. We brought back what my sister used to call “bee butt honey.” It has the comb in it, but gratefully there are no bee butts. Mm! Mm! Good! 

    I haven’t even mentioned surfing, paddleboards, or golfing. How about Marine Land or the Flagler Beach Pier? Yep, its probably gonna’ take more than one visit to do it up right.

    When it comes right down to it there is no place to stop when listing or describing all the opportunities available to visitors of Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. You are just gonna’ have to hitch up your wagon and “Escape to the quiet side of Florida.” You will be glad you did.


  • 09/02/2014 12:11 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    "It is just kind of a fishing paradise if you like river fishing"

    Since there is a famous one in Italy and another in New York, the folks in northwest Georgia like to call their city ‘Georgia’s Rome’ to distinguish it from the others. Distinguishable it is.

    Rome is a friendly city nestled in among seven prominent hills that create magnificent vistas in every direction. Running between those hills are three rivers that form what is described as North America's most biologically diverse river basin. That Coosa River Basin draws the attention of anglers and water lovers of all sorts.

    Rome is located at the head of the Coosa River. The Oostanaula River comes flowing from the north and the Etowah River from the east to form the headwaters of the Coosa River Basin. It continues south through Alabama and, then to Mobile Bay.

    One local angler that knows about the fishing in and around Rome holds an IGFA World Record for a fish caught on the Etowah River. Todd West developed a passion and a goal to use a fly rod to catch a record spotted bass on 2-pound tippet. After weeks and months passed without success his goal was finally reached. In April of 2013 Todd paddled his feelfree Kayak on the Etowah River and caught a 3 pound 14 ounce spotted bass that topped the old record by over a pound. alt

    Photo: The Coosa River Basin is filled with all kinds of wildlife and scenic beauty. 

    Todd describes the Coosa River Basin as one of the top bass fisheries in the Southeast, with many other species to target. “Big largemouths and big spots are all around,” states Todd. “There are also hybrid bass, stripers, monster bluegill and catfish. It is just kind of a fisherman’s paradise if you love river fishing.”   

    If you are downtown Rome you are in walking distance of the boat ramp. “You can enjoy a morning on the water and meet friends downtown at one of many restaurants to enjoy your favorite food while you tell tales of the morning excursion.” 

    There are 30 different restaurants in the downtown area. Todd jokingly says, “You always run into someone you know, even when you don’t want to.” Visitors will experience the friendliest people around. They might not run into someone they know, but they will likely leave having made a new friend or two. 

    Todd describes Rome as a very special town, a very eclectic town. “There is a mix of people. You have the good ol’ boy southern types, you have the hippie types and you have the laid back outdoorsy types. It’s from big money to no money and everybody kinda’ gets along.” 

    Rome is one of those places where visitors feel relaxed. “Visitors always tell me they feel at home here in Rome. It feels comfortable, they say. People don’t feel out of place here,” says Todd. 

    Todd’s kayak fishing buddy Cody Black totally agrees with his assessment of Rome. “Rome is a beautiful place,” says Cody. “You can always bet on running into other kayak anglers who are friendly people and enjoy the pursuit just like me and so many others.”  

    alt

    Photo: Cody Black (L) and Todd West (R) heading to the Etowah River with their feel free kayaks.

    Cody has been fishing the Rome area more than normal this year, partly because of the Reel Krazy Kayak tournament series. “Rome has access to beautiful river fishing, especially the Etowah. A little further north you have the Rocky Mountain Recreation Area that has two lakes with more than 550 acres of water. It holds some absolute monster largemouth bass along with good crappie and bluegill fishing.” 

    Brushy Branch, in the western part of the county, is only 30 minutes away and another good local fishing spot, according to Cody. “There’s always a good chance of catching a really good bass on Brushy Branch.”   

    It doesn’t seem to matter where you go around Rome to fish, you can always expect to see beautiful scenery and meet some friendly people. “You could be floating down the river and see nothing but farmland as far as you can see. Then all of a sudden you see gorgeous mountains and forestland. Rome has it all as far as scenery, and to top off all that beauty you might just land a trophy bass.”  

    A national catfish tournament trail chose Rome as the site for its August 2014 tournament because of good catfishing in the Coosa River. Ken Freeman, event organizer for Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest described the Rome event as a grassroots series and part of the national tournament trail. “The thing about this tournament,” explained Freeman, “is that we provide a small town atmosphere where local anglers are able to participate in a national event and possibly qualify for a national championship. It also helps to get the towns involved in the bigger picture of promoting catfishing.” 

    Just to give an idea of what the catfishing can be like, the tournament winning father/son team of George and David Harrison approached the 100-pound mark with their 5 fish bag of 94.73 pounds. Their biggest catfish weighed in at 40.49 pounds. “No secret to the fishing today,” said David. “We had some good fresh bait and got into some good holes.” alt

    Photo: Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest chose Rome as the location for its August tournament

    Underlining what others say about Rome, Freeman commented, “There is no better people to work with in the USA. From the largest city we visit to the smallest place we go, Rome is a first class act. It is a great place for anyone to stop in for a visit while travelling, or better yet make it a destination.” 

    Rome even has local advice available for anglers. Retired game warden, Ben Winkelman is the director of the Rome - Floyd Eco Center. “Anglers in particular enjoy coming here,” said Winkleman. “We have a wide variety of warmwater fish species that are found here in this river system. They can come in and get a closer look at largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue gill, shell crackers and different sunfish that are prevalent to this region.” 

    Obviously, the more anglers know about the fish they target the more successful they are. “We have staff on duty during the day that can answer angler questions about things that affect fishing,” stated Winkleman. “Things like dissolved oxygen, thermoclines and where fish generally hang out at different times of the year. Most of the folks that work here have a good knowledge of where fish would be and why they hold at different depths in different seasons, based on dissolved oxygen, food source, and how all those things come in to play with fishing.” alt

    Photo: The Eco Center is a must see for anyone visiting Rome, especially anglers.

    Anglers will also enjoy a visit to the center just for the history of the fishery. One very interesting aspect of that fishing history is the fate of the sturgeon. The center even has a live one on display in one of its many aquariums. Winkleman can explain to you how the desire for caviar nearly devastated the stock. 

    Rome is more than just for fishing, so this road trip should be a family affair. First of all the friendliness of the town will be welcomed and enjoyed by the non-anglers. Secondly, there are scores of things to do in and around the area. 

    In addition to the Eco Center, which should be high on the list, there are numerous things to do in Rome. There is camping, geocaching, swimming, horseback riding, golf, hiking, kayaking and more. 

    Plenty of lodging facilities, like the Quality Inn where I stayed, provide a clean, comfortable room with attentive staff at the end of the day’s activities. 

    Georgia’s Rome is a destination to put on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed. 

  • 04/27/2014 12:09 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Angler’s Paradise – In Search of Smallmouth Bass 

    Some places are preordained to be visited by anglers and their families. Edgar Evins State Park is one of those places. This beautiful state park is located on the shores of Center Hill Lake. The steep hilly highlands create an angling and sightseeing paradise just waiting to be explored. Day trips to other highland reservoirs in the area can be easily accomplished from this one central location. 

    Full kitchens and two level accommodations characterize the cabins. They are clean, roomy, efficient and economical. A large window opens up to a great view of the lake with a patio just outside. The park has a large onsite marina with restaurant and gift shop as well as seasonal campgrounds.

    Smallmouthalt

    Many anglers like to visit the park to fish for smallmouth bass in Center Hill Lake. A long time resident of the area and smallmouth angler Ken Reece describes smallmouth bass as much more aggressive than the largemouth. He recommends fishing for them on the lower end of the lake. “I find more smallies on the lower end,” says Reece. “They like the clearer water. You will also find some Kentucky bass, but not as many largemouth.” 

    For anglers new to Center Hill Reece recommends choosing one of the many small creeks that feeds the lake and fishing it thoroughly. “Set your trolling motor down, start on one point and fish all the way to the back and out the next side. Try different baits all the way through. 

    “This technique will speed up the process of figuring out what is going on that day as far as whether they are on rocks, on mud, on gravel.” Once a pattern is developed, move on to other feeder creeks and fish the conditions that were found to be productive. 

    Photo: Ken Reece with a spinner bait smallmouth

    His prospecting includes throwing lurs like Bandit crank baits on light line. “You just get more bites on lighter line. The action is better. You put a crankbait, like a Bandit, on 6-pound test line and it will dive 2- or 3-feet deeper than the same bait on 8- or 10-pound line. Given the water clarity, that extra depth may be the difference in a fish seeing it and coming up to get it.” 

    He adds, “You gotta’ be a patient fisherman and skilled fisherman to land fish on light line. You have to play them easy when you hook up, but you will get more bites on light line.” alt

    His prospecting arsenal will includes a Buckeye Shad. “I like several rods rigged and laid out with different baits in different colors when trying to pattern the fish. The Buckeye Shad is a traditional favorite here on the highland lakes. It has a presentation that gives the appearance of an easy meal. You definitely want them in your tackle box. ” 

    As a third favorite option Reece will have a couple Zorro Aggravators rigged and ready. He has a tendency to start with spinner baits simply because he has caught so many bass on them. “I really like spinner baits, but don’t get stuck on one bait or color. Be willing to experiment with others and you will catch more in the end.” 

    Photo: Jim Duckworth with a smallmouth on Buckeye Shad 

    The Aggravator has double willow blades that produce a lot of flash and it comes in a variety of bass catching colors. Reece recommends a steady retrieve at various speeds to determine what the bass are looking for on any given day. Reece adds a 3/0 trailer hook to the existing hook to increase his hookup rate. 

    Other Fishing and Outdoor Opportunities 

    The fishing is great, but it is not the only thing the area has to offer. In addition to great smallmouth fishing, anglers will find many more species to fish for. Largemouth and Kentucky bass are among the favorites. The area also offers crappie and white bass fishing. A short drive to the Cumberland River provides the opportunity to catch record stripers. alt

    Trout fishermen can enjoy the opportunities provided near the park too. Brown, rainbow and brook trout can all be taken in the area. 

    Non-anglers in the party will enjoy the abundant wildlife the area has to offer. The park itself boasts of three different owl species, numerous hawks and wintering bald eagles as well as the rare Cerulean Warbler, a summer resident of the park’s mixed hardwood forests. 

    Kayak and canoe enthusiasts can enjoy all of the above and more with an adventuresome paddle down the river below the dam. Deer and turkey are often spotted watering along the shore. 

    Walking trails wind through stands of Tulip Poplar, Oak, Hickory, Buckeye and Wild Cherry. Adventuresome visitors can climb the spiral staircase at the observation tower to gain a spectacular view of Center Hill Lake and the surrounding hillsides. Truth is, however, you don’t even need to climb the tower to view some stunning vistas. 

    Photo: Trout Fishing Opportunities

    For more information, contact the park directly at Toll Free1-800-250-8619 or visit the park website at http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/edgar-evins.

  • 11/26/2013 12:06 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Red Hot Bass Fishing on the Red River

    This is the second of a two part series about fishing opportunities near Shreveport-Bossier, LA. The first part can be read here. Bass, are a popular target in area waters and the Red River is nothing less than fabulous for chasing burly bass. Add the outstanding accommodations, plenty of good grub, the casinos, and Shreveport-Bossier makes an attractive destination for anglers, friends and their families.

    The fishing is so good that the Red River attracts all kinds of fishing tournaments, from local, state and regional bass clubs to national pro championships. The river has always been good bass fishing, but recent developments are going to make it better and even more attractive to anglers.

    This new development is a stocking program that guarantees bass fishing is going to get better in the river. The program recently supplied 28,000 Florida strain largemouth bass to the Red River. The stocking was a joint effort or the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and the Red River Waterway Commissionalt

    This placement is part of a five-year plan to introduce $50,000 worth of bass fingerlings annually into the five pools of the Red River. The fingerlings, ranging from 4- to 7-inches, were distribute evenly into the pools created by the locks on the river. Anglers can access any of the pools depending on where they launch and can travel from pool to pool by using the locks that separate them.

    Recreational anglers will be impacted greatly by these stockings. "These fish should have a huge impact on recreational fishing," explained LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. "A few years from now, some of these fish will grow to be 10 pounds or more."

    Photo: Corps of Engineers Locks createfive pools on the Red River. 

    The geography of the river offers about every type of cover and structure a bass angler could wish for. There is plenty of standing timber both shallow and deep, fallen logs, brush piles, rocks, grasses and lillypads. Many anglers like to get off the river and fish the many oxbow lakes, sloughs and creeks that can be found connecting to the river. The river itself can be challenging with tugboats and barges occupying their share of the water but the abundance of fish makes the challenge of a little commercial traffic worthwhile.

    Favorite times to fish the river depend on who you ask, it really does become a personal preference, because there are fish all year long. One pro angler chooses summer as his favorite time.

    “My favorite time to fish the Red River,” says pro angler Homer Humphreys, “is when it is so hot you have to cover your line clippers and lead weights up with a wet towel to keep them cool. Everyone else is crying about how hot it is, but I'm filling the boat with bass.”alt

    Homer credits his success to a long history of bass fishing and the experience that came with it. “In the summer when it's really hot, no fronts are coming through, the weather is stable and those fish are predictable. I know that if I throw right there by that stump they are gonna' be there.”

    Photo: Standing timber in oxbow lakes off the river hold plenty of big bass. 

    That predictability makes summer fishing easy according to Homer. “You don't have to think about it that much in the summer. You just throw a Caroling rig in that standing timber in an oxbow and you are gonna' be hooked up. You can also throw a crank bait and do real good.” As far as color, he likes chartreuse so he recommends starting with a chartreuse/white, or a chartreuse/blue in your favorite plastic.

    The quality of today's rods and reels are much improved over Homer's early days of fishing. He advises anglers to take advantage of the action in the rods, keep the drag adjusted on the reel and pay attention to the hook set. “The rods are so good now you can feel the fish immediately when they strike. You want to make a sweeping hook set with the rod bending to apply pressure and the drag set so the hook penetrates. You got em' before you set the hook.”

    Homer also described one of his favorite techniques for catching bass when they are in the heavy grass. He calls it punching. The reel needs to be spooled with 50- to 60-pound braid, rigged with a heavy bullet weight, a heavy hook and a plastic bait. This rig will punch right through a hydrilla bed or other matted grass to get down to the fish. The heavy braid is needed to pull big bass out through the mats and back to the boat.alt

    “A punch bait is designed to go places other baits ain't going. I usually start with a one ounce weight. To select the size weight to use , make it the lightest you can to penetrate the grass. You might have to go to 1 ¾ or 2 ounce weights to penetrate the grass if it is thick and heavy. It seems unreal to have a little piece of plastic on the hook with a great big weight, but if you wanna have your arm pulled off by a big bass give it a try.”

    Photo: A few simple components make up the punch bait.  

    Homer suggests using the punching technique when you have a high sky and a high pressure system. If you find mats with two different kinds of grass punch in at the edges. “The fish station themselves at the edge of the different grasses. Take for instant a hydrilla and a water hyacinth mat. Punch in on the intersection of the two and you are likely to hook up.”

    Regardless of the type of bass fishing you like to do, you will find it on the Red River near Shreveport-Bossier. It is not only the fishing that's good, non-angling members of your party will find plenty of attractions to keep them busy and entertained too. It is a beautiful area of Louisiana and deserving of a visit regardless of the purpose.

    For more information on the Shreveport-Bossier area visit the following websites:

    http://www.shreveport-bossier.org

    http://www.explorelouisiananorth.org

    http://shreveportbossiersports.com

    http://www.redrivercruise.com

    http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/shvsb-courtyard-shreveport-bossier-city-louisiana-boardwalk

  • 10/23/2013 12:03 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Caddo Lake, A Bassin' Paradisealt

    This is the first of a two part series about fishing opportunities near Shreveport-Bossier, Lousiana. Bass, are a popular target in area waters, but species like crappie, brim and catfish can also be fair game. Add in outstanding accommodations, plenty of good grub, the casinos, and Shreveport-Bossier makes an attractive destination for anglers and their families.

    One popular angling destination in the area is Caddo Lake. The impoundment has a surface capacity of up to 26,800 acres behind a dam on Cypress Creek. Nine boat ramps around the lake give anglers easy access. The geography of the lake includes beautiful cypress trees, Spanish moss, lily pads, other vegetation and oil wells. 

    Caddo is full of oil rigs. Near by Oil City had a big oil boom and people got rich from selling mineral rights. Historically, the lake was the site of the first over-water oil well. According to one website, sightseeing trains ran from Shreveport to Oil City to see the rare development of an oil well in the water. Today Oil City is the home of the Louisiana State Gas and Oil Museum. The lake that was the location of an oil boom in the early 1900s has become a bass boom today.

    Numbers and numbers of double digit fish come out of Caddo ever year according to local fishing legend and pro bass angler Homer Humphreys.

    He advises anglers to go to Caddo and start pitching worms around the cypress trees. “You need to thump that cypress stump,” says Homer. “That's what they want. Other lakes are not necessarily that way, you may just want to pitch beside it.” Wildlife officials have set a 14 to 17 inch slot limit on Caddo. “These fish are heavy,” says Homer, “you can catch a 9 pounder that wont make the slot!”

    Fish stories like that are among the reasons that bass anglers like to visit Shreveport-Bossier and fish Caddo Lake where the fishing is year-round.alt

    Summertime anglers should know that Caddo bass stage in the deepest water around scattered cypress trees. Anglers will find an average of 70 trees per acre in Caddo. In the shallow water the cypress will be thick and close together, in the deeper water they are more in scattered clumps.

    The bass respond to temperature changes and when the temp goes up the bass go deep. “They don't just swim in and out,” reports Homer. “They are gonna' follow a highway, just like we do.” Those bass highways are sloughs, creek beds and ditches. “If you can find a 7- to 8- foot slough that's were they will go in the summer. When it gets hot they get deep. You're gonna' catch a 8- or 10- pounder if you can follow their migration.” Once bass locate in a stand of scattered cypress in deep water they migrate from tree to tree making it necessary to fish each tree thoroughly.alt

    To target big fish on Caddo, Homer likes to pattern-fish duck blinds. The uninitiated should understand that duck blinds on Caddo are big, set in among the cypress trees. Hunters build them to cover their entire boat so they provide a lot of structure. Homer explains that the non-aggressive fish will be on the outside trees or on the corner of the duck blind. The aggressive fish, the ones you don't have to make bite, will be right in the center of the blind, where the hunting boat would set. “Remember one thing. The easy fish are setting there with their nose facing the center of that duck blind because no grass grows in the shade. They are just setting there waiting for something to come through the clearing.”

    “I fish the aggressive spots first and then come back and fish the non-aggressive spots.” Homer advises anglers to not change baits too often. “There is nothing wrong with switching baits,” says Homer, “but if it is a tough day, a hard day, just pick a color that is traditionally good on this lake and stay with it.”

    Homer gives an example of picking a watermelon colored lure because the crawfish are greenish, or pick an orange lure because the crawfish are orange. It depends on what the natural bait looks like. He warns, however, that a lot of people make a mistake by pulling a crawfish out of the livewell that a big ole bass has coughed up to match the color. “You are not matching the natural crawfish color,” says Homer, “because the amino acid has already changed the color. You should take a bait that you have confidence in, one that your know worked day in and day out on the lake you are fishing. Start with it and stay with it. Just fish it and you will end up having as good a day as you can.”alt

    In the spring the fish are thinking about spawning and move in from the scattered trees in deep water to shallow water where the trees are closer together. Homer says you have to be observant to be successful. “The more pressure they get in shallow water the deeper they are gonna spawn next year. Take notes and keep track. Okeechobee, anywhere, the same thing is true. The thing is, you gotta know how to read the bottom.”alt

    Big fish will be in the grass in certain conditions, but not in others and weather affects everything. “You get a big wind, 15- to 20- mph and they won't normally be in the grass. They will be right in front of it. When you pull up to a grass flat you start in the middle and work your way out.”

    With cloud cover fish usually scatter, but not always. “I have seen em' suck into the grass with clouds that made everyone fish scattered. Throw a frog up there, if the water temp is right, and boom you're hooked up. You gotta' be willing to take chances.”

    Homer says his experience goes against the popular theory that early and late is the best fishing time. He catches more big bass between 10 am and 2 pm than any other time. “ You can always watch weather changes come around noon. The period before and after the change is the time to be fishing.”

    He especially likes Caddo during bad weather. “If you go down to Florida and get a big temperature change, like 20 or 30 degrees, those fish just lock down. It don't matter if you are fishing for a half-million bucks or a cup of coffee. Here at Caddo it is just bass-ackwards.” He explains, “When a big bad front comes through or super cold weather, the bite is good. The fish want to eat. In January we have caught em' when it was snowing.”

    alt

    In a final tip to anglers Homer says he likes to give any bait a fair chance to catch a bass. Recognizing that the lure has been chosen carefully to meet existing conditions and past success, he advises anglers to be patient. “I give a bait 45 minutes. In that amount of time, as much as I am casting, I should raise a fish. Most people don't have the patience to give the full 45 minutes to what they think should be a good spot. You gotta make a commitment if you want to catch fish.”

    Travelers should be aware there is much more to Shreveport-Bossier than just the fishing. It is a beautiful area of Louisiana and deserving of a visit regardless of the purpose.

    For more information on the Shreveport-Bossier area visit the following websites:

    http://www.shreveport-bossier.org

    http://www.explorelouisiananorth.org

    http://shreveportbossiersports.com

    http://www.redrivercruise.com

    http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/shvsb-courtyard-shreveport-bossier-city-louisiana-boardwalk

  • 05/01/2013 11:59 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    How is the fishing in Titusville?title

    With a nickname like Space City USA, fishing might seem a secondary component of this Florida community. Titusville is in close proximity to NASA and a great place to watch rocket launches, but it is also a premium fishing destination. The city is located on the banks of the north Indian River, part of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) that runs south all the way to Stuart. The lagoon itself is considered the most diverse estuary in all of North America. Titusville is also preciously close to the world famous Mosquito Lagoon, also a part of the IRL.

    The area is home to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore. The refuge alone is worth a trip to Titusville. Visitors will find 140,000 acres of land made up of brackish estuaries and marshes, coastal dunes, scrub oaks, pine forests and flatwoods, and palm and oak hammocks. Add the Canaveral National Seashore to the package and it’s easy to see that Titusville has something to offer everyone, not just anglers.

    Nevertheless, Titusville does attract folks just for the fishing opportunities, and the fishing is usually good. To answer the question posed in the title, there is no one better to ask than a local fishing guide. These individuals live their passion daily on the waters near Titusville and are experts when it comes to the fishing resource.title

    One of those local guides is Capt. Mark Wright. He operates Florida East Coast Fishing Adventures. Capt. Mark describes Titusville area waters as a unique fishery. “First and foremost our local waters are non-tidal; we have no inlet, pass or direct link to the Atlantic Ocean. Our water fluctuations are governed by seasonal ocean levels, wind direction and in the short term by rainfall.” He explains that the water level will seldom exhibit more than an inch or two of vertical movement on any given day. Normally movement is much less and not measurable. “In effect,” says Capt. Mark, “this region of the Indian River Lagoon more closely resembles a saltwater lake than a tidal lagoon.”

    The area is one of seclusion too. “There is no building along the river’s banks north of Titusville’s railroad bridge,” says Capt. Mark. “The west bank is home to the Florida East Coast Railway where the positioning of the RR tracks prevents the urban sprawl witnessed on most of the Indian River shorelines.” The east shoreline is managed by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge so no homes will be built from the NASA Causeway to the IRL’s north end. “This simply means our waters are cleaner than many areas of the lagoon because the human pollution in most of its many forms does not easily reach the waterway.”

    Capt. Mark takes advantage of the local geography and the clean water to guide anglers on sightfishing trips in the lagoon. He has great enthusiasm for the fishing possibilities provided in the northern range of the IRL. “We have expansive shallow flats which provide a perfect habitat for red drum (redfish) and our clean/clear waters allow good visibility, making sightfishing our preferred method of chasing reds and other species.”

    Another local captain with plenty of time on the water in the Titusville area is Capt. Chris Myers. His charter operation is appropriately named Central Florida Sightfishing Charters. Just as the name implies, anglers actually see their fish before they catch it. Sightfishing is quite popular in Mosquito Lagoon where Capt. Myers conducts most of his trips.

    Having your office on one of the few uninhabited stretches of coast in Florida has certain magnificent advantages. Capt. Chris and his anglers enjoy fishing and viewing wildlife without looking at condos, hotels, and houses. The solitude, the beauty, and the abundance of fish create a fisherman’s paradise.

    Mosquito Lagoon is characterized by some of the best grass flats in the state. “The water is clear most of the year,” says Capt. Chris. “Anglers can see the fish they are targeting and cast to them.” He recommends soft plastic baits such as the DOA shrimp or CAL Jerkbaits for the ever present trout and redfish. Natural baits such as shrimp, mullet, pinfish, and crabs are also effective in the lagoon.

    Capt. Chris points out that Mosquito Lagoon and the upper Indian River are home to the only population of full grown redfish that live their entire lives inshore. These schools of big redfish often reach sizes of more than 100 fish. Seeing one of these large schools will start the adrenalin pumping in any angler or observer. This phenomenon provides anglers a chance to catch a redfish over 30 pounds on any given day they fish.

    Fishing the “goon,” as it is affectionately referred to by locals, is excellent year round, with the exception of rare adverse weather conditions. Capt. Chris points out, “There are opportunities for anglers using either fly or conventional gear.”title

    Titusville is famous for its redfish, but both Capt. Mark and Capt. Chris note the availability of other species too. In fact, a great variety of fish await anglers in Mosquito Lagoon and the north Indian River. In the winter and spring, redfish, seatrout, and black drum are the main species. During the remainder of the year, anglers can expect to encounter migratory species such as tarpon, ladyfish, jack crevalle, and more. 

    Both captains agree that fly fishers should have some skill at making long accurate casts to fool the wily redfish. Less experience anglers should come equipped with light to medium weight spinning tackle.

    There is no doubt that visitors to Titusville can enjoy some fabulous fishing, but the bonus is that there are plenty of other activities to keep non-anglers in the group happy and entertained.

  • 04/02/2013 11:56 AM | Anonymous

    Thar’s Fun in Them Thar Hills

    My school boy recollection of Tennessee conjures up memories of Daniel Boone, coonskin caps and an unexplored wilderness. It seemed to me a wild country with many opportunities to explore. For anyone with a sense of adventure and a love for the outdoors it is still a place of awe and opportunity. 

    Any visitor will praise the altwonder of its beauty; any hunter or fisher will praise the opportunity of its outdoor resources.

    Autumn produces unbelievably stunning color changes in the hills near Johnson City. The foliage season alone makes a trip to the area worthwhile. The leaves change from green to golden hues of yellow and orange interspersed with vibrant shades of red. Nowhere does Mother Nature do a better job of transforming simple leaves into brilliant and dazzling centerpieces of color.

    When the autumn colors line the banks of a lazy trout steam it produces a trout angler’s wonderland. To idly wade in the midst of the color, casting a fly to unsuspecting trout relocates anglers from the busy world they left behind to a peaceful time on the bountiful waters. 

    The South Holston River is such a place to leave the worries of work behind. It offers wade fishing or float fishing, depending on the generation schedule of the hydroelectric dam. A weir altdam below South Holston Dam provides oxygenated water to contribute to the success of the trout population. Add the cold water coming from deep below the dam and one of the best naturally reproducing trout streams on the east coast is created. The consistently cold water temperatures create by the release makes the waters productive for anglers all year long.

    When the generators are running it’s time to float fish. There are plenty of outfitters ready to accommodate anglers on a float down the South Holston. Rod Champion, Owner of the South Holston River Fly Shop names May through November as a superior time to float the river. “The Sulphur Mayfly will hatch everyday during that period of time,” says Champion. Scientists report that when the hatch is good it is an indication of clean water, another plus for the fish. Anglers tells us when the hatch is good its time to be fishing. Those little nymphs and flies attract most of the fish in the river and most of the anglers for miles around. 

    Champion names both soft titlehackle flyfishing and straight out dry fly fishing as a fun way to spend an afternoon on the river. There’s no better time to fool a few fish than during the hatch. He names the afternoon for a reason. “During the Summer TVA normally runs an afternoon generation schedule,” says Champion. “During that time period the Sulphurs are coming off and that is a mid-day to afternoon event. That is why we do afternoon floats.”

    If that sounds too good to be true, wait for the bonus. “I personally like to end the day by throwing streamers to the wild brown trout population. This is like icing on the cake after a good day of dry fly fishing.” Champion describes the takes and battles on the high water as nothing short of spectacular. The interesting part about the browns is that they are wild fish. Tennessee has not stocked brown trout for about 10 years. Those trophy trout that anglers are catching and photographing are from a self-sustaining population, thanks again to the health of this magnificent river. Plenty of fish over 20 inches are caught annually.

    Once the generators cease and altthe water returns to normal the wade fishers get their chance. The cold water requires anglers to use waders, so don’t think about entering the water without them. There are plenty of good guides on the river for the wade fishing too, but you can simply meander into the stream and catch rainbows and browns in the trailwater between the weir dam and the highway below the dam. There is more angling access along the next 14 miles of river before it runs into Boone Lake. 

    Caution is always advised, but the stream is characterized by a hard rock bottom for fairly easy wading. One thing to be careful of is your entry into the river. Remember, only hours before, the TVA was generating and the shoreline you will use was under water. It can be slippery.

    The trout are often spotted feeding on the surface. Dry flies work well for most anglers, but later in the day many switch to streamers. Either will likely give you some action from both rainbows and browns on this magnificent river.

    Plenty of trout are also caught from titleshore, or the footbridge just below the weir. A simple spinning outfit, small hooks, weights and a jar of salmon eggs will do the trick. It is simple fishing at its best. The result can be trout for dinner.

    Tennessee regulations require both fresh water fishing license and trout stamp. They are easily obtainable at local sporting goods stores, outfitters, Wal-Mart, or simply go online and purchase it directly from the state wildlife website.

    There are numerous other rivers in the area that deserve attention, but one in particular caught my eye. The Nolichucky River is a fast moving body of water, draining the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and east Tennessee. It is characterized by beautiful whitewater rapids and a name that is said to mean “Rushing Water(s) or Dangerous Water(s). Local guides refer to the more ominous title of “River of Death.”

    Anglers should interpret those names to mean caution. A fishing trip down the powerful river will yield plenty of excitement in the rapids and produce some outstanding smallmouth bass fishing in the process. Anglers up to the challenge should plan with the notion in mind that they could end up in the water, so dress appropriately and secure things accordingly. It can be a real adventure.

    A light spinning outfit will do just fine for floating the Nolichucky. Anglers armed with worm hooks and plastic bodies work the calm waters below the rapids, the eddy pools and the shoals along the drift to catch trophy smallmouth bass, some exceeding 4 pounds. The Nolichucky provides wild river fishing at its best. 

    One seasoned Nolichucky angler, Bob Parton, floats the river regularly in a two-man rubber raft. He prefers the raft over other vessels because of its stability in rushing water and the ease with which it goes over the shoals.

    Parton’s favorite bait for old bronzeback is a black, 5 inch Senko. He advises anglers to pinch off about an inch and rig it weedless. The healthy profile of the salt impregnated bait allows anglers to cast it further without additional weight. Given the rocky nature of the river the use of weight is likely to result in too many snags, so take Parton’s advice and fish weightless.

    Parton uses light line in the 4 to 6 pound test range, which adds casting distance and is virtually invisible to the bass. Make upstream casts with the bulky Senko and let the worm ride naturally in the current until a strike occurs. Slight wrist flicks can add additional action to the lure.alt

    If Parton had his way all his floats would be in August and September. “The river is low, the water warm, and the bass are in the shoals.” He has a distinct love for the river, both for the bass and for its inherent solitude. “Fishing the active water instead of the more popular areas has a certain attraction to me,” says Parton. “First, there is no feeling like having a 2 1/2 pound smallmouth on light tackle using 4 pound line in swift water. Secondly, you are there by yourself, no 42 dozen bass boats and pleasure boats going by you all day long.”

    For any traveler tuned in to nature a visit to Johnson City and the surrounding area should be on their bucket list. Go for the foliage, rainbows, brownies or smallies, but go. You won’t be disappointed. An added bonus is the people; they are some of the most friendly, down to earth folks you will find anywhere. If you are fixin’ to hit the highway, this attractive destination is “just down the road a piece.”

  • 03/27/2013 11:53 AM | Anonymous

    Fishing, beaches, wildlife, golf and the great outdoors: Destination Naplesalt

    Family getaways are often focused around an individual activity, maybe one that a single family member prefers. So, why not choose a destination for your next adventure that will please everyone in your party.

    Fishing is always number one in our family retreats and traveling to Florida's west coast is always an enjoyable event. A favorite destination is Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades.

    The fishing is great year-round and there are plenty of experienced fishing guides for newcomers to the area. Capt. Rob Modys charter fishes out of Fish-Tale Marina making trips both out in the Gulf of Mexico and in the backwater areas of the region. What a great opportunity to schedule a trip and know that if the weather keeps you off the Gulf you can always hit the backwater.

    Capt. Rob identifies one of the unique things abut fishing in his area as the diversity of species. “I've traveled and fished in many areas of the United States, along with Scotland and the Bahamas, and when fishing there you tend to go after only one or two species. On a stream in Kentucky it was smallmouth bass and not much else. In the Bahamas it was bonefish with the occasional shark. Here it's everything! You can hit a reef looking for grouper and get snapper, flounder, pompano, sheepshead, snook, trout and a mix of small fish. That's what I love about fishing in my home waters. You never know what you're going to hook up with.”

    altAnother easy option from Naples is just a little ways south to the Everglades. One example of great tropical hospitality is the Port of the Islands Resort. From this single location adventurous folks can fish, hike, paddle, go bird watching, photograph wildlife or just relax. Day trips with fabulous eateries can be made deeper into the glades to places like Everglades City and Chokoloskee. 

    Don't forget the beaches. The beaches in this area of Florida are fantastic, just don't forget the suntan lotion. If anyone in your party is a golfer their biggest decision will be where to go. One suggestion is to check out Greenlinks Golf Resort. Patrons can stay in a beautiful condo style apartment, swim or sunbath at the well kept pool, or just have a cool drink on the private patio. In fact, the family can stay here in complete comfort as the anglers in the group head for the Gulf, the backwaters, or the Everglades.

     There is an old adage that says “variety is the spice of life.” Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades fits that saying to a tee!

  • 03/22/2013 11:50 AM | Anonymous

    Crappie fishing and lodging at Lake Crescent, Florida

    Having been hooked by the crappie bug I have been venturing to places far and wide in chase of the spotted creatures. A recent trip came at the advice of some crappie pros. Several anglers from the Bass Pro Crappie Masters tournament trail suggested I try Crescent Lake in Putnam and Flagler counties of North Central Florida.title

    The allure to giving Lake Crescent a try was its reputation for having big crappie.

    The lake is about 13 miles long and 2 miles wide. Its crescent shape accounts for its name. At the north end it connects to the St. Johns River by way of Dunn’s Creek. On the other end a deep canal connects it to Dead Lake. That canal proved to be a great hiding spot from the wind and also produced some nice crappie.

    Although there were plenty of anglers having success while anchored up and fishing minnows under bobbers, the most popular strategy was long-lining jigs tipped with minnows.

    We fished six rods rigged with 1/16 ounce Road Runners. Colorful plastic tails in pink, orange, and yellowtitle were added for action. The hook was tipped with small lively minnows. A trolling speed of about .5 MPH produced the crappie in 8 to 10 feet of water. The largest measured 14.75 inches, a decent crappie by anyone’s standard. 

    First timers should just look for the boats. Those boats will have already found the fish. Move into the area and use your favorite crappie techniques and you are sure to catch a mess for dinner, and maybe one of bragging size.

    For lodging we were fortunate to find the Sprague House. A great little bed and breakfast located within minutes of the boat dock. Proprietors Amy and Jeff Haston are the ultimate hosts. Jeff even pulled out an extension cord so I could charge my trolling batteries for the next days fishing. They know how to accommodate fishermen and everyone else.  alt

    The Sprague House has served as a lodging establishment since 1902 when the wife of Dr. Guilford Sprague a physician and the town’s first mayor purchased the home for his wife Catherine. History reports that the home was opened as a rooming house to the sea captains and sailors from the steam ships. Guests are known to include Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Booker T. Washington and William Jennings Bryan.alt

    Crappie anglers like to get an early start, but don’t go so early you miss a home cooked breakfast from Amy. That first morning’s offering of grits, sausage, eggs and pancakes (or toast if desired) was complemented with coffee and juice. What a great start to our fishing day.

    Don’t wait too long to give this friendly area of Florida your undivided attention for a day or two. You won’t be disappointed.

  • 04/30/2012 11:45 AM | Anonymous

    An outdoor writer’s convention in Huntsville Alabama led this old salt to think more about the freshwater fishing of his youth. I have to admit to being a die hard saltwater angler since moving to Florida, but visiting the beautiful area surrounding Huntsville brought back memories of crappie, bream and bass from my Kansas upbringing.

    Having left the seasonal color change of fall long behind since moving to Florida the hillsides outside Huntsville were a welcome site. The leaves were just beginning to turn showing that the promise of fall and the beauty of nature were close at hand.

    I was interested in the fishing around Huntsville and found there were many possibilities. Visiting with other attendees at the conference and a few locals led me to identify Lake Guntersville as a prime fishing location for visitors and locals alike. 

    Highway 431 that took us to Huntsville meandered through the mountains of the Appalachian range and the town of Guntersville about 40 miles south of Huntsville. I later learned that the town is described as a peninsula city. The charming town sits on the banks of Lake Guntersville. It seems that when the Tennessee Valley Authority created the Guntersville Dam it almost surrounded the town with water.

    When the lake filled with Tennessee River water there were 950 miles of beautiful meandering shoreline and 69,000 acres of water. Today, accolades for the Alabama town include "The Best Lake in Alabama" from Southern Living, "100 Best Places to Live in America" from Relocate America and the "Top 10 Fishing Towns in America" from Field & Stream.  

    The people of the area are unbelievably courteous, accommodating and friendly. The geography and outdoor environment of the area is nothing less then stunning. The more I found out about the area the more I wanted to find out about the fishing. Thoughts or returning, when I had time to fish, filled my head. One thing for sure, when you want to find out about the fishing in an area the best place to go is a local fishing guide.

    title

    Captain Mike Gerry operates Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service and is a recognized expert on the lake. He describes the impoundment as, “The best of all the lakes in north Alabama for bass fishing and the number three lake in the country according to Bass Times.”

    He identifies bass, crappie, catfish and bream as the major species anglers seek. Captain Mike reports that the lake is covered in milfoil and hydrilla making it outstanding for fishing bass in the grass. Other prime characteristics of the lake are old roadbeds with stump lined edges, boathouses and underwater ledges.

    Milfoil is a feathery looking foliage that forms dense mats of vegetation on the surface of the lake. Hydrilla is a thicker looking plant with whorls of 4 to 8 leaves along the stem, giving it an almost rope-like appearance. Hydrilla also forms dense mats of vegetation on the surface, characterized by sporadic wholes in the mat. The challenge of fishing either of these grasses is getting the bait to the fish.

    The edges of these grass mats are the easiest to fish, but not just any edge. Captain Mike gives some great tips for fishing the grass in Guntersville that will work in other lakes too. “First thing I look for is bait activity,” says Captain Mike. If you pull up to a grass line and after fishing a few minutes you don’t see bait moving about, it’s time to move on.”

    The next thing to look for in the grass edge is structure. Use your sonar unit to watch for stumps or debris. “If there are stumps or debris on the break lines there is a good chance you will find bass.” Finally, look for grass lines that have definition in the form of points, indentations, or thickness. These characteristics give the bass an ambush point and increase the angler’s chances of success. “A straight edge on the grass eliminates the ambush areas and generally the bass aren’t there.”  

    Another favorite of Captain Mike are the stump lined roadbeds of Lake Guntersville. He groups the roadbeds in with other subtle structure that requires using scanning technology to locate. It can include deeper creeks, rock ledges, or deeper grass edges that bass use to migrate from one area to another. “I believe that as the number of fisherman increase the bass get smarter and relocate to the not-so-obvious locations to escape the fishing pressure!” He says the grass always looks good causing anglers to disregard the migration paths used by the bigger and smarter fish.title

    Boathouses provide an often overlooked source of some quality bass as anglers leave the ramp on plane running for their favorite grass beds. Captain Mike says all boathouses are not created equally, but a little research can identify the good ones. “The first thing I look for is water at the end of the boat house to be somewhere close to 8 feet deep. This means that there is sufficient depth for the bass to move deep if spooked in some way.” The next element of success is related to the age of the boathouse. Newly built boathouses have not had the opportunity to establish habitat for natural bait. The bait doesn’t stay around the cleaner, newer wood. No bait, no bass. 


    The final factor and maybe the most important is where the boathouse sets in relation to natural migration pathways. “A boat house that has close proximity to a creek and or an old road bed always holds bass. The proximity to these natural elements allows the bass to migrate from the creek or roadbed to the shade of the boat house.” Boathouses, according to Captain Mike, create cover where the bass can hide from the sun,especially if they have bait around them. Anglers should need no more convincing than that to make boathouses part of their fishing patterns. 

    Ledge fishing at Guntersville Lake is among the best in the country. The secret in Captain Mikes words, is to separate the “community holes” from the “difference makers.” Captain Mike studies maps and charts to determine the ledges he wants to fish. The difference makers can be subtle drops of one or two feet, a turn or titlegap in the ledge, or an old underwater pond near the ledge. Once the preferred ledges are found Captain Mike offers this advice. “Many times the key is boat position where things like wind, current and approach all enter into the equation. Anglers could very well be moving past the fish because they are fishing from the wrong angle.”

    So what is the right angle? “There is no clear cut way of knowing, but working structure from different angles by turning your boat and approaching from different sides does work. The next important thing is not to make just one cast and change angles, if the structure looks fishy make repeated casts to each side to prove that a fish is there or not.”

    On the topic of lure selection, Captain Mike recommends starting with baits you can cover some ground with. “Search baits like spinner baits or crank baits allow you to fish quickly and cover enough territory to find a key spot holding big fish and could very well be the sack you’re looking for.”

    Of course if you are fishing the matted areas of surface grass choose weedless lures that will allow you to move in close and pitch to the holes in the mat or use heavier rigs that will get you down below the grass mats.

    All this new information leaves my brain racing, my mouth watering and my feet itching to return to the Huntsville area and particularly to fish Lake Guntersville. My wife, on the other hand, is anxious to return for the beauty of the area, the relaxation it offers, and a reintroduction to the changing colors of fall.

    Photo Credits: Captain Mike Gerry
    Top: Capt. Mike with a nice Guntersville bass
    Middle: The grass line in the background produced this healthy Guntersville bass
    Bottom: Boathouses like the one shown in the photo line the lake shore and produce monster bass

    Editor’s Note: Captain Mike can be reached by phone at 256 759 2270 or emailed at bassguide@comcast.net.


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