Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wanderings of Mer-Leprechaun

Looking at the year of Fish: 

Out on the NewPort Jetty at the end of December. Been wanting to get out there for years and figure out what Newport, OR is- but it is a 2 1/2 hour drive from our condo. This is one of those photos that suggest we never fight and that there are no dirty dishes in the sink. 

Bri's photo from our rental cabin on the coast for New Years.  That is a massive Redwood stump stuck in the sand on the beach.  So where the hell is the mer-leprechaun. Sure as shit not guarding his gold. 

I added a few new fish species to my life list this year.  This is one of them - the Cabezon.  A really good eating fish that you do not keep along this particular jetty. At the sweet spot in the outgoing tide it required a full one ounce jig to get the lure down in front of the fish. Feel free to chime in my one cocky friend who thinks he is going to get these on fly. 

New posted regulations along the NewPort Jetty.  No keep on Cabezon and all species of Rockfish.  Lingcod can be kept of spearfished.  This is a good thing. This jetty is real close to a parking lot so it likely gets fished a lot in summer. Late December is not known for good fishing here. 

A bigger Rockfish off the Newport Jetty. This one hit a 3" chartreuse rubber shad on a full ounce jig head.
At between 4 and 5 pounds - this individual may have benefited from the closed season to grow to this size. 

Not my work.  A nice slice of a long mural at Cannon Beach, OR 

Back in Iowa for Thanksgiving.  Due to Bri's enthusiasm for my family and the slow season with the home inspection industry this has become an annual tradition - to get back home to Muscatine.  High snob pie crust is made with either leaf lard or duck fat.  

Iowa farm pond.  Secret Iowa farm pond about a mile from the pie making. The Largemouth were hitting topwater "hula poppers" in late November. They did not hit on the 17 degree day --- but they ate on the 50 degree day.  The most fun you can have. 

My fascination with invasive species. I bet I fished the Willamette River 8 times before connecting with my first Smallmouth. A few times this summer I landed 20 in quick morning sessions before work.  Sometimes connecting on 3 or 4 casts in a row.  This fish is native to only the Ohio River drainage. Its diaspora began with the creation of the Erie Canal and other man made transports. There are no regulations on the Smallmouth here and you will see desperados keeping every single one they catch regardless of size.  

I make it a point to get out an fish the American Shad run at least once while they are in the Willamette in May and June every year the past 4 years. A true godsend - as this fish is another saltwater fish that swims well up into freshwater. Though unlike the East Coast of the USA where they are native - the tributary rivers here are too cold. They appear to spawn in the big main stems - as near as I can tell. 

A makeshift salmon fishing shack along the Cowlitz River up in Washington. 

Releasing a one foot long baby steelhead or "smolt" in Eagle Creek, OR.  This fish would be gradually working its way downstream to the ocean where it can grow big.  These freshwater rivers in Oregon are too cold, too clear and too infertile to support big fish. 

Rehashing the glory of this September Coho. The third cast of the morning at first light - in the lower river. 

Another sweet fishing shack along the banks of the Cowlitz River. You know where to find me. 

Getting the gear ready for Costa Rica this month - the Pacific side.  Last Year - In 3 weeks in Belize all of our soft lures got shredded by the end of the trip. So packing a few durable lures this time. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm sure 2018 will be mostly home inspecting ...  but I shall try and get out fishing a few times. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Belize Honeymoon : Rise of the 'Cuda

 We went to Belize for 18 days in February -

With stays in Caye Caulker, Cayo Frances, San Pedro, San Ignacio and Hopkins.  We stayed in no resorts, used no guides or boats - and fished all artificial lures.  This shot taken near Cayo Frances. 
We explored the dirt back roads roads on foot.... and met lots of big proud sunning iguanas.

.....and by rented bikes.

On my first morning there - I wandered out early - to find snook and tarpon near a dilapidated old dock and a broken sea wall.  The onshore wind blows hard on the regular at Caulker - so the water was murky. I jumped and lost about 7 tarpon and managed to land 5 snook at this spot during our 4 day stay on Caye Caulker. You do need to get up early and have already consulted a map so that you are on your spot by first light ... by 8 am the bite is off. And then by all means - fish again at dusk - if you are not already into the rum by then.

These guys were stationed at a large construction site near the south end of the island - a really big new house being built on the canal. They cheered me on while I lost 3 barracuda in the canal. I rode back to their shack the following day and  gave them a snook I had just caught.  I gave away 2 snook and 2 big barracuda to people I met on the trip.

Barracuda dominate the shallow water during the day - as the area seemed to be not very sharky.  In fact - we only saw one nurse shark the whole time. And there were times when the barracuda were even hitting poppers on a couple of sessions at dawn and dusk as well. I ended up giving this fish away as well - to a construction worker on the south side of Hopkins.  Photo credit: Bri 
I found a school of these really large (24"+) ladyfish while wading off San Pedro. A local at the Dive Shop - Dennis - gave me a tip about a long sandbar that I could wade. A close relative of the tarpon they pull even harder than their larger relative - pound for pound.  I landed and released about 10 and then had the last one of them get eaten off the end of my line in a huge violent boil and splash.  Terns swooped in for any pieces - but I think a huge barracuda ate the lady fish in one bite - as I saw no big dorsal fin from a shark or dolphin. 

Bri casting to a large Barracuda. We did lose some tackle to Barracuda. By the time you put on steel leader to deal with them - to try and catch a truly big one you have spotted -  they were often gone. 

We caught 3 kinds of jacks and 3 types of snapper. This is an unusual coloration on a Yellow Jack.

Dusk often made for pretty good fishing as well. This was a first for me and very unexpected on artificial lure - A Lookdown. I've seen them before in Florida around big bridge pilings - but had never caught one. It is in the jack family so it pulled hard.  They are impossibly thin - in fact they are one of those creatures like say a Manta Ray that you cannot reconcile - you cannot believe they exist. 

A typical Belize Air BnB.  I realize that staying on back streets is not for everyone.  There are plenty of resorts here in Belize. But the local pot dealer at this end of the island pointed me toward a great fishing spot - even though I did not by any weed from him. 
There are no tackle stores in Belize - save one in downtown San Pedro - Captain Sharks marine store.  So bring everything you need. We travel with 4 piece "pack" rods, extra reel spools, extra line etc.  I met a few very sad fishing dudes who showed up in Belize without proper gear. Though the Tres Pescados Fly shop near the San Pedro ferry dock has great flies. 
Our second leg of the trip was 3 nights at Cayo Frances Farm & Fly.  This is a very special remote tiny wilderness "lodge"  run by Jeff Spiegel that can only accommodate 4 anglers.  He has kayaks and paddleboards for you to use. He is a chef and prepares all of your meals - so the food is the best you will ever eat. The other two guests were Blake and Allison of the Gig Harbor fly shop in Washington.
Small world !
Jeff's place is a really remarkable place in the Belize wilderness. I encourage anyone who fishes to stay here - though it is very fly and bone-centric.  In fact you are kind of a moron if you don't book a few days here.  Photo credit: Bri 
Our stay in Hopkins. More to the south in Belize - and not known for fishing - but the fishing was really good here as well. 
I gave this guy a fish as well. He was a local policeman who knew a lot about the medicinal plants of the area. He seemed pretty surprised I caught this snook right from the sea wall near his house. 
There was some day drinking. If the local 10oz Belikin beers actually count as drinking.
This is at the "Sip n Dip" bar directly ON the water on Caye Caulker.  Also a must do.  Also a must on Caye Caulker is the french breakfast place one store north of the Lazy Lizard. 
Bri could actually fish for quite a while - and when the fishing slowed - there were books. This was a spot we found north of Hopkins. Very fishy and looked "Crocodiley" as well.  2 people a year still get eaten here by crocs. And at least one sunken log gave me the heebie jeebies when wading. I never wade near the mangroves in deeper than knee deep or in murky water at all. 
If you got up early - you need not even have the perfect lure - the small jacks were ferocious.  The perfect set up for these guys is a small popping plug with the hooks removed and you attach a bonefish fly on the back eyelet of the plug w 24" of leader. 
The buses of San Ignacio.

...... yes there are some tame tarpon at a feeding dock.....  which I am against.  But we stumbled upon it wandering the edges of Caye Caulker - and could not resist buying a few sardines to throw at them. 
All this hic needs is some Nascar and beverage sponsors on his shirt....
Casting under the mangroves north of San Pedro. At times it was necessary to actually cast under the overhanging mangroves. 
Too many awesome hand painted signs to include them all.  
NO CAMERAS ALLOWED inside these sacred Mayan caves - as a tourist cracked a skull with a dropped camera.  BUT you have to go into these caves if you go to Belize.  You swim in to look at Mayan skeletons and artifacts still in place.  Probably the most amazing thing I've ever done was go into these caves.  Our guide Luis that we booked out of the Rain Forrest Haven Inn really gets you inside the head of the ancient Mayan rituals.  You HAVE to go into these caves if you visit Belize.  There is a show by Dr. Brady Barr on the coldwater crocs of the river here - Morletti's Crocodile. 
Bri at the tarpon feeding dock. 
Most fish were released without removing them from the water. "Keep 'Em Wet". 
Looks like they have Lionfish in Belize as well.... 
Hopefully a happy Bri.  
They let you swim with the tarpon as well. 
Our Air BnB in San Ignacio. 
Latched onto a Cuda off Caulker.  
The Mayan ruins and the inland jungle areas around San Ignacio are a great break from the water. Easy to imagine thousands of ancient Mayans using these structures. It felt strange to be there if you imagined the ruins filled with people. 
A person could totally blind cast with a fly rod into this wind all day.... I chose to use a spinning rod for most of my windy side fishing in Belize. 
Of all the locales in Belize - Hopkins was truly the most relaxing. Not nearly the day drunk hussle and bussle of Caye Caulker or San Pedro. Eat at Ella's Cool spot if you visit Hopkins. 

The very swift and venomous - Zapateros - known as Leatherjack in Florida.  We encountered these a few times - often mixed in with schools of horse eye jacks. Beginners should not handle this fish - I've been stung years ago in Miami.  It hurts and can cause some peoples whole arm to swell up.

West side - calm side - of Caye Caulker.  The east shoreline has a steady hard wind.

The wedding cake like whimsy of the architecture in San Ignacio. We took a cooking class in San Ignacio and learned the local Stewed Chicken with rice and beans and bread pudding for desert.

Belize is a great place. We caught Snook, a Tarpon, tons of Barracuda, Bonefish, 3 kinds of Jacks, Zapateros, 3 kinds of Snappers, Ladyfish, Needlefish and a Lookdown.  The people were great. The food was awesome.  In Caye Caulker, San Pedro and San Ignacio you can get around easily by bike. We had some new bird sightings - including a Lessens Mut Mut and a really strange mammal called and Agouti. ATM Caves is one of the craziest things I've ever seen.