Tag Archives: florida

2017 Fall Field Campaign Start

50-LB Grouper

The 2017 Fall Field Campaign kicked off with an intense four days of fishing in Daytona FL for a variety of species. After 10 months of mediocre fishing at best, I was seriously motivated to get back on the water.  I mentioned to some of you that 2017 could be considered the worst angling season I’ve had since I was 4.  I’ve just had bad timing, harsh weather, health issues and uncooperative fish.

40-LB Redfish

Apparently, the single best Rehab to recover from hip replacement surgery (at six weeks post OP) is bobbing in a boat for 4 days and battling monster fish on light tackle. There were… great stress angles, constant balance adjustments, abrupt boat wake waves to anticipate and the challenge of maintaining a death grip on your fishing rod as the fish make unpredictable head-shaking/surging/screaming runs under the boat and against the ripping tide current.  :-0

The weather was unstable with high heat/humidity, swirling winds, intermittent rain, thunderstorms, storm surge tides and the drainage of dirty freshwater runoff left over from the recent hurricanes.  In other words… Just the way we like it because all the Rasta fair weather fisherman stayed home.


The best fish of the trip included a 12-pound Tripletail, 40-pound Redfish, a 50 pound Goliath Grouper and a 60-pound Tarpon.  All totaled, we managed to land 12 migratory Reds mostly in the 30+ pound range.  Many thanks to Austin Campbell and Billy Rotne for their efforts to find the fish under adverse conditions.


A note about Tarpon:

For those of you that have never done so, catching a Tarpon anytime is a special event especially on light tackle. To begin with, their entire head-mouth and gill plate is as hard as bone so achieving a secure hook-set is rare.  When hooked, they immediately go airborne leaping, somersaulting and tail-walking across the water. If at that point they have not managed to throw the hook with their violent head shakes, they make screaming runs both towards and away from the boat so maintaining constant line pressure can be extremely difficult.

In the second phase of the battle, Tarpon typically go deep and try to use their “broom sized” tail to propel them with maximum leverage against the tidal current.  The hardest thing to do at this point is to avoid breaking the rod on the boat gunnel as the fish dives back and forth under the boat and tries to wrap the line around the motor, hydraulic power poles and/or the anchor rope. 

In the third phase (once under control – NOT), the angler is trying to break the fish’s will by wearing it out. The only problem is that Tarpon are anatomically equipped with a prehistoric air bladder (lung) that actually allows them to take a gulp of fresh air when on the surface and rid their muscles of the accumulated lactic acid build up (thus reviving them to keep fighting).

Eventually (if all goes as planned – NEVER), you can maneuver the fish alongside the boat (after about 6 attempts) to have your guide grab the beast with both hands by the lower jaw and hold on for dear life as the fish makes one more attempt to violently shake it’s head to get free.  Now the fun starts because getting quality pictures of a Tarpon is next to impossible.  Not only are they notoriously uncooperative but their huge armor-like scales reflect light similar to a mirror which wreaks havoc on the camera’s aperture settings. You have to take dozens of shots quickly to get just the right angle, focus and clear water film covering the length of the body.

This time, however, it all went perfectly for Billy and I as we managed to get great photos reviving the fish in the water before releasing it unharmed (discounting a sore lip and a lasting memory).  In fact, the close-up photos we captured were the best I’ve ever managed to get from a perfect sized fish that was approximately 60 pounds.


Enjoy the photos and be sure to plan your trips.  The Fall Field Campaign continues next week hunting the migratory Brown and Rainbow trout in Yellowstone National Park.


Making Lemonade

You’ve heard the saying… What do you do when life hands you a pile of lemons? Make lemonade.

Making Lemonade

That’s exactly what Billy Rotne, Rod Mergardt and I did when fishing in FL last week. In 4 days of fishing (hard), in perfect weather, we managed just three Redfish, two small Tarpon (in the 20 Lb range) and a handful of other “non-targeted” fish (shark, sea trout, catfish etc.). The lone highlight of the trip was a double hook-up by Rod and I with a 17.5 Lb. and 33 Lb. Redfish across from T.O.’s bar on Mosquito Lagoon. Rod also had a close encounter of the 4th kind with a baby manatee that was approximately 60 pounds.

Rod’s 17 lb Redfish also had an attached tag that revealed it’s growth and migration over the past several years. A very interesting report is attached. Continue reading »

The Official 2016 Fall Field Campaign Begins


The official 2016 Fall Field Campaign launched today with a first class outing in the Ponce Inlet hunting for Redzilla.

20160908-2016-fall-field-campaign-10Captain Billy Rotne, James Jiloty and I endured intense tropical storms, wind and “washing machine” chop as we fished deep for spawn – staging Redfish. We owned the water all day because no one else (in the State of Florida) was brave enough to go out in these conditions. In fact, the local Coast Guard Fleet conducted rescue tests (man overboard) all day long in the stormy conditions.

Billy relented to “giving it a go” at 8:00 AM after I informed him that if I didn’t catch a big fish TODAY, I was probably going to kill someone before I returned home to MT. For the record, I haven’t caught a big fish in over 90 Days! Yes, I’ve been fishing but mostly for trout and none of the many we put in the net were really very BIG.

20160908-2016-fall-field-campaign-1The Score: We landed 4 monster Redfish today between 30 and 36 pounds, some smaller juveniles and a Bonner head shark. The fish of the day for me was a real stud of a Redfish that taped out at 43.5” x 25.0” and weighed around 36 pounds. James hooked and landed another huge fish that immediately peeled off 200 yards of line as it sprinted towards Jacksonville. He was barely able to turn the fish back toward the boat as the line came dangerously close to the last remaining reel wraps at the end of the spool.

The campaign rolls on to the “inner banks” of NC (Bath September 9-11), to fish with Captain Richard Andrews, Rob and Hunter Brinkerhoff. Once again, we will hunt for the elusive Redzilla.

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More pictures to follow over the next 120 days AND make sure to book your trips.


Great Snook Day – 04/29/2015

For your entertainment.

20150429 - Great Snook Day (1)

Billy Rotne and I fishing with Captain George Gozdz today in Stuart, FL.  We hooked over 20 but landed 10 that were all great specimens (the two largest were about 15 Lbs.).


The interesting thing about hunting Snook here is that it is truly “Combat Fishing.”  Immediately after they ambush your bait, you pretty much have to pull back as hard as you can to keep them away from the structure.  The drag is completely tightened down and we are using 50 Lb. test line.

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Once clear of the structure, you have to keep the Snook from running, jumping, cartwheeling and tail walking.  When you get them under control, the challenge shifts to trying to grab them by the mouth, lift them into the boat and removing the hook (all while avoiding their gill-plate that is razor sharp and could slice your hand open).

We have one more day to fish tomorrow as we continue our quest for the 30+ pounder.

More to follow.


A Few From Yesterday

It was a great 58th birthday today with Captain Billy and Ron Burnside. Ron and I each landed a 34 LB Redfish (Ron’s within the first 15 minutes of the day and mine on the last cast of the day). My fish was likely a migratory fish that has been out to the ocean and Ron’s a resident fish that has never left the lagoon. Interesting how the only difference between the two fish was a 1/4 inch in length.

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Also, we sight cast to feeding Black drum and some very cautious mid-sized Redfish throughout the day.

More to follow as the Spring Field Campaign moves to Puerto Rico for Tarpon.


A Few Of The Best Fish Photos – 2015 Spring Campaign

Report from the Chokoloskee, FL (aka The Everglades).

We had a very productive day with Captain John Stark catching many quality back-country Snook deep in the Everglades.  We missed on several really big Tarpon (150 Lbs.+) but we know where they live and will have another go tomorrow.  We are determined to get even and get Katie her first Tarpon on the incoming tide.

Attached are several outstanding pictures from multiple fishing sites over the past week.

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More to follow.


Snook Anyone?

A great day fishing in Stuart with Captain George Gozdz (host of the Florida Sportsman Fishing Show “Reel Time”).

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Katie and I landed around 20 Snook and at least as many Jacks.  The largest Snook was around 20 Lbs and had a massive head that could easily swallow a softball.  Hooking and landing these ambush predators around the harbor obstructions is a real challenge.  Our hook to land ratio was only around 20% using 40 Lb. braided line and 40 Lb. fluorocarbon leader.  We believe that we had a few fish that could have tipped the scales at over 30 Lbs but we were unable to land them (nor did we even see some of them).

More to follow as we now shift the Spring Field Campaign to Boca Raton.


Operation Code Red – Update Three

For your entertainment.

Captain Billy and I have been very busy over the last 15 days focusing on catching several Class 4, 5 and 6 Redfish for our research study.  In fact, we now have 43 fish that have been included in the data analysis.  It is very interesting to observe the incredibly small amount of variance in the length/girth/weight distribution across the different Classes of fish.  In other words…  Redfish are much more similar in size, shape and weight than different.

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The chart below illustrates a scatter diagram of the data where 43 fish representing approximately 1,015 Lbs of fish trends almost perfectly with a Length x Girth Formula Denominator trend line of 756.  In English, this means that a Redfish that is 40 inches in length, 22.75 inches in girth, weighting 27.15 lbs will have a denominator formula factor of 762.5.  Based upon the average of all the fish in the study with a denominator formula factor of 756.77 … there would be a variance of only 3.2 ounces between the calculated weight and the actual weight of the fish (an amount of less than 1% for a 27 pound fish).

With the addition of another 50+ fish, we will surely see a few anomalies where there will be a few more “skinny” fish and a few “fat” fish that will be considered outliers (see chart below).  However, the quality of the data thus far has exceeded our expectations and we are confident that we can create an accurate on-line calculator for the fishing community.

Keep in mind that Class 5 and 6 fish are the most difficult to catch and are considered a rare trophy for an angler.  We never considered that we would catch and measure so many large fish so early in the study.

All the credit goes to Captain Billy – with his incredible knowledge of Mosquito lagoon and it’s local inhabitants.

More to follow every few weeks,


Operation Code Red – Update Two

For your entertainment.

Another spectacular day on Mosquito Lagoon in Titusville, FL.  Perfect weather with temps in the 70”s and not a breath of wind.  We also experienced a simultaneous sunrise and full moon set.

We have collected data on 22 fish thus far.  A surprising number of class 5 and 6 fish which are very difficult to catch..

Here is a chart that illustrates the data and Length x girth formula trend line.

We are observing a slightly different formula denominator for each of the 6 fish classifications.

Additional fish for a larger sample size should reduce the variance.




The combined data for actual weight compared to the weight calculated using the formula (Girth2 x Length)/759 is within 1%.


Best fish today was a 42.75” x 24.75” 33.0 Lb. monster.  My fourth largest Redfish to date.

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More to follow.


Operation Code Red – Update One

For your entertainment.

Captain Billy has been busy over the last few days focusing on catching several Class 5 Redfish for our research study.  Keep in mind that Class 5 and 6 fish are the most difficult to catch and are considered a rare trophy for an angler.  The attached summary represents our progress to date.  Each week over the next four months, we will get closer to having very accurate data for creating a reliable on line calculator to determine overall Redfish weight based upon length and girth measurements.

Operation Code Red February 12 update

More to follow every few weeks,