The Fishing Line: Summer Time is Here and the Fishing is Smokin’

Some of the best times my wife and I get to spend with our grandson, Max, are during the summer when our idea of relief from the muggy summertime heat is a cool day out on the water. Our most recent outing included fishing, shelling, exploring and swimming the keys and islands around John’s Pass.

I always start early in the morning, cast netting around the John’s Pass Bridge for pilchards to use as bait for the trout, redfish, flounder and mackerel regularly caught during this time of year. Minutes after picking up Max and my wife, Wilma, from the boat ramp, we were casting our baits into the trout-laden waters just off the channel. Six-year-old Max was the first to get a hit as BAM! a big trout crashed his bait right out of the water. It’s a real hoot how excited he gets! He reeled and reeled and landed a nice 20-inch trout, not bad for the first fish of the day. We fished that spot for about an hour and caught more than two dozen nice-sized trout, as well as several mackerel, ladyfish and a couple of flounder. Ladyfish are not recommended for eating, but they give some real sporting action when caught, which is very exciting for kids and grown-ups alike.

When the trout action died down, we motored just a few minutes northeast to Ernie’s Island. The three of us walked the entire perimeter of this small mangrove island, sometimes on the beach, and where the mangroves have overgrown the beach, sometimes in the knee-high water that surrounds it. Max found a perfect pen shell almost 8 inches long and immediately declared it “valuable treasure.” While exploring the interior of this small speck of real estate, we came upon what appeared to be a memorial marker made of a cross in concrete surrounded by shells. We took turns making up stories of why it was there and what it meant. After a quick swim, we were off to a favorite spot to catch some redfish.

Using cut pinfish on the high tide, we tossed our baits near the oyster beds surrounding the island and waited patiently for the fish to bite. It took about 20 minutes but, with a little help from his Pappa, once again Max was the first to hook up and land a nice 29-inch redfish. He was so thrilled to have his picture taken with a fish more than half his size. Between the three of us, we caught four more good-sized redfish in that spot. Then the dolphins came through and gave us a heck of show, but that was the end of the fishing.

We anchored up on the sandbar just east of the John’s Pass Bridge, a popular spot for weekend boaters. Max likes to jump off the side of the boat and let the outgoing current carry him as far as he dares. After collecting some shells and sand dollars, we called it a day and headed back to the boat ramp.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer day.

For more information inshore fishing you can contact Captain Ted Nesti at 727-393-6129 or online at Floridanativefishingcharters.com

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The Fishing Line: One Fisherman, Many Fish

I always enjoy taking folks out to fish in our beautiful local waterways.

Whether it’s a boatload or just a single angler, each trip is unique and adventurous. There’s always a lot to see, learn and catch! Most charters I do involve a small group or a family, but fishing oneon–one with a single angler can be a very rich and rewarding experience. A recent charter with Frank Brin is an excellent example. Frank wanted the full one-on-one experience and he was not disappointed.

I started the day by cast-netting for our bait at the bridges and grass flats near John’s Pass. After I picked up Frank at the Bay Pines boat ramp, I showed him the live bait we would be using that day – pinfish, mullet and pilchards (scaled sardines). I also had some live shrimp on hand. I explained that for this time of year, because we would be targeting a variety of species (snook, trout, redfish, mackerel, sheepshead, cobia), this selection of live baits would give us the best results.

Within minutes of leaving the boat ramp, we were fishing the mangrove islands and oyster bars around Bay Pines. While free-lining pilchards, we caught several trout, some of which Frank kept for a nice dinner. Part of my service is to clean and fillet any catch my clients want to keep, and I know of several local restaurants available to cook your catch.

Moving from one mangrove island to the next, we continued free-lining pilchards. Suddenly, BAM! Frank hooked a snook. These are great sport fish and Frank battled that snook around the boat for a good 10 to 15 minutes. This is the thrill of the hunt, the test of touch and patience and endurance, and Frank was DEEE-lighted! When he landed that snook, it measured 36 inches and weighed 12 and a half pounds. NICE FISH! Frank got some great pictures and I got a big ol’ bear hug from one happy fisherman!

Frank was pumped and ready for more action, so we moved to a favorite spot for redfish. This time we switched to cut bait – removing the tails of the pinfish and slicing the mullet and a few ladyfish into chunks. I chummed the area with smaller pieces of bait, tossing them for yards in every direction outward from the boat with a bait-bat. We baited the lines with cut pinfish, cast out the lines and waited. After about 10 minutes, Frank was hooked up again, this time with a big redfish. Redfish are another plentiful species of sport fish in our area, often described as having “shoulders” because of the fight they put up when they are a hefty size. This was the first of three Frank caught and released, all over the slot limit of 27 inches.

When the redfish action died down, we moved closer to John’s Pass and, using shrimp and pilchards, started catching mackerel. We must have caught and release a dozen or more when Frank hooked up a 27-inch cobia. Not a keeper but a good fight and nice fish all the same.

Whether you’re a local or a visiter, if you are really into fishing, going out one-on-one with a professional guide is the way to go. I know it gives me the opportunity to really educate my clients about the whole fishing experience: what bait and why, the knots I use, which tackle works best, how the weather and the tides affect where and how we fish, regulations and limits, as well as passing on a few of my own secrets for a great day of fishing.

Capt. Ted Nesti is a U.S.C.G. licensed professional inshore charter captain. Born and raised on St. Pete Beach, he has over 30 years experience fishing the Tampa Bay and Gulf Beaches area. He can be reached at 727-393-6129 or check out his website: www.floridanativefishingcharters.com.

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The Fishing Line: Now is the time to catch dinner

Spring is here and the fishing is outstanding! Just ask Ross Burger. On a recent charter, he and his family caught a real feast.

We left the dock at Bay Pines in the morning and within minutes were fishing a large grass flat in eastern Boca Ciega Bay, targeting spotted sea trout during low tide. Using shrimp under a popping cork and jigging with a 1/8 ounce jig and motor oil colored shad tail, we caught 20-30 trout, some as big as 22 inches.

As the tide got higher, we moved to a spoil island near John’s Pass in search of big redfish. Using cut pinfish and ladyfish as bait, we slowly approached the island, careful not to spook the fish. Within minutes, we hooked a beautiful pair of large redfish, 30 and 32 inches.

Next, we went after mackerel in the same pass area using whole shrimp on a 1/8 jig head. Much fun was had by all as we caught and released dozens of mackerel, some in the 20-22 inch range.

As we boated from one fishing spot to the next, we took in the local wildlife, did some dolphin spotting, and I pointed out some of the area’s landmarks, like the place where the movie “Cocoon” was filmed and Babe Ruth’s former residence.
We ended the day targeting sheepshead around the docks and bridges southeast of John’s Pass using a 1/8 ounce jig head with a piece of cut shrimp. These fish are bait stealers, requiring some skill to set the hook as soon as you feel the bite. Again, we caught and released several good sized fish.

Of course, the perfect ending to a perfect day of fishing is eating your catch. I cleaned and filleted the fish and the Burger family took them to one of the many area restaurants that will cook your catch to order and serve it up with all the trimmings. It was a real feast of fish and fish stories about the ones that didn’t get away.

Call to book a charter with Captain Ted Nesti, 727-393-6129, or visit www.floridanativefishingcharters.com

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