Saturday, December 16, 2017


 An offshore fishing trip can be exciting, exhilarating and grueling - especially if the trip is with Capt. Ryan Kane with Southern Instinct Charters out of Port Sanibel Marina (www. His boat, powered by three 250 horsepower outboards will get you where you are going fast. Unless your destination is well over 60 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. Then, even when cruising at 50 miles per hour, it’s a long boat ride.

 When you get there, the fish on your hook pull hard. You can barely move them and once you get them coming, often as not, something far larger, something with teeth grabs them and all you can do is play tug of war with something you’ll never stop. Rods stowed, it’s over and there’s well over 60 miles to travel on the boat ride back.

 It could have been better - or worse - depending on your point of view. At dawn I told Capt. Ryan we needed to be back at the dock by 3PM because I had reservations for another boat trip with wives and kids, just across the bridge on Sanibel Island. “I’ll try,” was all he said. “I guess we won’t be heading for the Dry Tortugas. They are 110 miles out. The fishing is fantastic out there.”

 It was tempting! The Dry Tortugas are a few small islands and coral reefs about halfway from Ft. Myers to the western tip of Cuba. A military fort (Fort Jefferson) was built on the largest island to combat the rampant piracy in the early 1800s, the area is now a National Park. It’s on my bucket list of places to go, so I was tempted. But the non-fishermen others in our group were eager for their own adventure afloat.

 Rushed, but not late, by the time the Sunset Cruise at Tarpon Bay Explorers (www. left the dock, our contingent was aboard, cameras ready and in the front seats of the oversized pontoon boat on another adventure, decidedly ungrueling; decidedly welcome.

 The tour guide explained what we’d likely see on our cruise through, in and out of the backwaters at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge then he delivered. He mentioned, manatees, dolphins, eagles and egrets. We saw plenty of peregrines, a plethora of pelicans, sea turtles and sea life – all in the span of time the other boat would have taken to get to the Tortugas.

Then sunset happened, right on schedule and just as advertized. A fitting end to a long day on the boats. Fun, fast, fantastic and finally over. Not completely over, I had more adventures planned for morning.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


  The two or three nightcrawlers and three or four dead rainbow shiners I pinned to a large, circle hook was the most unbelievable gob of bait I’ve ever used. After my Lake Michigan season was finished for 2017 I was off to the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers annual conference at Lake of the Woods, near Baudette, Minnesota.  The bait was used on a Lake Sturgeon fishing trip while at the conference.

  I used the almost tennis-ball-sized gobs of bait to score two angling career “firsts.”
The first “first” was hooking and boating a 48-inch lake sturgeon in the Rainy River, just across from the conference’s host facility, Sportsman’s Lodge. I’d caught a small lake sturgeon a few years ago at the AGLOW conference at Niagara Falls but that one was an accidental catch while we were fishing for salmon in the Devil’s Hole below the falls. It was small and only weighed five or six pounds.

  I signed up for the sturgeon outing to see if I could hook one on purpose and get one with some girth to it. Sturgeon up to 100 pounds are reported to swim in those waters.

  It worked. I stuck the first sturgeon (of three sturgeon caught on this four -hour trip) and at 48 inches (measured) and an estimated weight well over 30 pounds it was my largest ever freshwater fish.
The second “first” I accomplished that day was because of the large bait we were using, as well. 
  Our group was pestered by small fish nibbling on our bait and stealing the shiners all afternoon. I eventually caught one of the bait stealers, a small sauger. I’ve fished in places with saugers in the past, but I never specifically tried to catch one and hadn’t ever hooked into one. I still haven’t fished specifically for them, so that little guy was my first. My sauger was only about a foot long. That’s not all that large, but about average for that area. The guide said the largest he’d ever measured from Lake of the Woods was just over 19 inches.
  The rest of the story is better. I owe the catch to the large bait. Somehow, the sauger managed to inhale the entire bait gob and with a mouth rimmed with somewhat inward facing sharp teeth, it couldn’t spit it out as I reeled it up to the boat. The hook wasn’t even stuck in the fish! 

I caught a sturgeon by accident, so I had to go catch one on purpose. Now, I’ve accidentally caught a sauger so I guess I’ll have to take a trip specifically to catch one of those.  I know how to do it. Get a big circle hook and gob on two or three nightcrawlers....”

Monday, March 13, 2017


I don’t know who invented a clock, but it was probably a good idea. Without them we’d be stuck with only night and day. Some days, mostly sunny days, there would be a fairly distinct dawn, dusk and high noon, but arranging a meeting at mid-morning wouldn’t really nail down participants to a specific start time. I’ll concede clocks as a modern marvel worth having.

But I cuss the fellow who invented daylight savings time making us adjust our clocks twice each year - once when we spring ahead; once when we force our clocks to fall back. It gives me circadian arrhythmia. I’m not hungry at dinner time, not sleepy at bedtime, still sleepy when it’s time to get up and the dog doesn’t abide by clocks and spring-aheads.

All of this is made worse here in Indiana with ample portions of people and real estate taking sides in conflicting time zones. Kudos to the wise leaders in Arizona and Hawaii with the sense to allow citizens to set their clocks once and leave them alone all year long.

For the rest of us we have until the first Sunday in November to get back on track. Then we are forced to screw it all up again.

Monday, February 6, 2017


In my mind, if the ice an ice fisherman is planning to traverse is such that wearing a PFD seems sensible, it seems more sensible to find some other activity to pursue. How about waiting for ice conditions to improve? How about waiting for the ice to melt away so it's possible to fish from a boat? How about traveling to a place where winter is sufficiently absent to allow fishing from a boat all year long?

   Last summer the Frabill company unveiled a new product in their line-up of cold weather wear called the I-Float Jacket (and matching bib overalls) as an "ice fishing" garment. It won national awards in the fishing industry.

   The parka’s name, “I-Float” alludes to its multi-tasking purpose. Much of the insulation material in the jacket is made from a closed cell, buoyant material - the same stuff used to make life jackets. There's enough of the flotation material used and incorporated in the right places inside the jacket to allow the U.S. Coast Guard to put its "seal of approval" on the garment as a certified, wearable, personal flotation device.

   I start my Lake Michigan fishing season in late winter (usually mid-March) and since the cold water in Lake Michigan delays spring-like conditions often well into May, I'm no stranger to winter parkas. I’m also well aware of the increased danger associated with boating in extremely cold water. So Frabill’s "I" parka didn’t appeal to me as an ice fishing necessity, but it did peak my interest as a multi-tasking coat, actively able to keep me comfortably warm on my boat in extreme conditions and passively providing me a comforting level of safety I hope to never need.

   I had the chance to try out my new I-Float Jacket and bibs on an early February crappie jaunt to Lake of the Ozarks. LOZ is just far enough south to preventing it ever freezing; far enough north to warrant warm clothes needed, most February days. It’s available in stores and on-line at a variety of prices. Shop before you buy.