I’m very thankful for the times I fished Strawberry in the fall. The fishing was great even though the temperatures were well below my pain threshold. The large trout go on a feeding binge right before the lake ices over so many mornings I was slipping and sliding down the ramp with temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees. It took me a few times before I put together a Strawberry clothing set that kept me alive. What brings this to mind is that like the Strawberry trout, the Florida Speckled perch (spec’s) also congregate and feed heavily when the temperature plummets. When I used to fish for spec’s back in the 60’s, I was always miserable and just unable to really enjoy the fishing because of the cold. That’s all in the past, largely because of my experience at Strawberry where it was reallllllllyyyyyyy cold.
I now calibrate fishing for spec’s with fishing for trout at Strawberry. I am nominally comfortable between 75 and 80. So when I fished Strawberry it was usually 60 degrees below my comfort zone. When I fish for spec’s I am usually 30 degrees below my comfort zone, or 0.5 Strawberry Pain Units (SPU’s). The practical use of this scoring is that I know how to dress for the cold. At 1.0 SPU’s, I used 4 layers of base clothing, a down vest, 2 pairs of wool socks, and a wool skull cap under my had with ear flaps. So, at 0.5 SPU’s, I wear 2 base layers, one pair of socks, and kill the wool skull cap under my hat with ear flaps. Instead of liner gloves under the ski gloves, I just use the liner gloves; Instead of a down vest, I wear a poli vest. I can put all this on in full confidence without stepping outside because I’m fully calibrated.
I’m mentally wrestling with exactly how this could be translated into beach garb so I can surf fish. Do I need to wear waders and exactly how do they calibrate into Strawberry pain units? The waders are one thing but what do I wear under them? Lined or unlined jeans? Full chest waders or hip waders? Molded feet or old sneakers over stocking foot waders? Maybe what I have to do is carry over a wide array of options and then trek back and forth to the truck until I can work out some equivalence. I’ll nail it but …………………..
On Saturday afternoon a week or so ago, Nancy called my attention to the fact that our water pressure was low. I didn’t pay that much attention since the pressure normally cycles as in any well – pump system. Later when I needed water, it became obvious that there was almost no pressure at all. I took an electrical device out to the pump to determine whether or not there was power at the pump. There was. Joey and Mark joined me as we removed the covers from the electrical connections looking for any fault. Apparently either critters or dirt had worked between a relay contact and kept power from the pump which had bled down to zero. We cleaned off the contacts and away it went, back to full pressure in a minute or so. Problem solved.
Fast forward to the next Monday. We went surf fishing and as we normally do, emptied the ice bin from the refrigerator into a cooler for preserving any fish caught. When we got home later in the afternoon we noticed that no new ice had been made. We cycled it a couple of times manually – added water and waited to see that it cubed and dumped properly. That worked but it wouldn’t fill itself. I have the ability to turn even the simplest plumbing task into a nightmare so after having my idea to forget the icemaker and return to totally reliable, tried and true trays rejected, I screwed up my courage and attacked the problem which I figured was probably crap in the lines or worse, a bad water valve in the ice maker. I eliminated the water lines as a source and decided that digging any deeper into the guts of the thing was not something I wanted to start. Call a service guy and get an appointment for next Monday at the soonest. I decided to try shutting off the freezer section, removing all the stuff and taking a hair dryer to the icemaker to maybe thaw out any frozen lines. I was thinking that maybe when the pressure was at zero, the very low flow caused an ice buildup which finally froze the lines. It worked!!!!!!!!!!! It had occurred to us that we had to use a hair dryer more than once on the icemaker at the castle to restore operation. Bet we don’t forget that again.
So if I told you that a dead bug at the well caused the ice maker to die, you can believe it! who’d a thunk it. I’m on a repair streak now, the well and the icemaker not too long after replacing a switch on the washing machine. The downside is getting it into my head that I can do these kind of repairs without paying the ultimate price, eventually. Worse, it makes Nancy think that if she just keeps needling me, I can actually fix things. I probably need to blow a job just to restore my bumbling amateur status so I should pick a cheap one.
Another great day surf fishing at Flagler so why write about it. Well a couple of differences this time. The weather was great and for the first time in quite a while I hit a west breeze – which means casting with the wind at my back and an ultra calm, clear surf. What could go wrong. It became instantly clear that the sand flea situation had changed. Instead of jilliions of them, I saw none. uh oh, that’s not good. I spent about 15 minutes and did manage to get enough to start anyway. Not sure if this is a seasonal problem, something to do with the cooler weather, or exactly what. I have to remember next November to catch a jillion and freeze them for the dry spell.
Turned out not to be that great a problem since not much was biting sand fleas anyway. So early on with the favorable wind and surf, I decided to really plug it hard using my new shorter, light weight rod and all my new bass pro shop lures. I just switch the reel from the 11′ surf monster rod to a 2 handed, 7′ beauty. One thing for sure, I could cast most of the stuff on the order of 100 yds – way more than adequate. After about a half dozen casts with a small, heavy jig spoon, nailed a nice blue. Interesting thing was that he hit about 20′ from the beach, just at the drop-off. Changed to a mirrorlure. Caught 2 more blues and a surprise – a nice flounder. I never would have anticipated catching a flounder on such a large lure and in the surf. And like the first blue, all the fish nailed the lure within a few feet of the beach so my 100 yd casts were mostly for exercise. Did get one whiting on the sand flea. So all in all had a ball casting the surf. And once again I learned – don’t use soft lures in the surf! chomp, gone; chomp, gone. This time I also learned that fishing top water has it’s problems with diving seagulls. They came out of nowhere and only fast, fast reeling and jerking kept them from picking up my zara.
Our freezer is starting to fill with fish even with me giving away more than half the catch. The blues fillet just beautifully and are the easiest to deal with of any kind I’ve cleaned. They have an extremely small stomach cavity which means they are almost all meat and easy to trim around the bones. The flounder was also quite interesting since I had never filleted one before. As you know they are extremely flat and have a definite top and bottom as opposed to most fish which have â€œsidesâ€. This was a nice size flounder but still was only about 2â€ thick. Turns out that you fillet the top side since the bone structure runs horizontally and close to the underside (bottom). You really do need a sharp knife, which I have, but the end result is a very nice looking fillet – a one piece fillet, not the two side fillets you are used to.
And one last thing that for some reason didn’t make the news last night. We had a Tsunami at Flagler Beach. I had the rod with the sand fleas in my sand spike about 25′ up from the surf while I was casting for blues. I look up every minute or so to check for action on that rod. I look up and no rod! Instead I spot it heading down in the clutches of a major wave, no doubt a Tsunami. I ran over and just managed to get there before it went over the edge into the surf dropoff. Had that happened it would have been history. The sand spike had stopped rolling so I got to that just in the nick of time too. I watched local news last night to see if it had been reported but apparently I was the only one who experienced it. Now I know exactly how those people in Indonesia felt.
This is the time of year the speckled perch (spec’s) should start biting. I went out on a spotting trip on Wednesday and saw enough to wet my appetite and decide to get serious about it. Went out yesterday afternoon and managed to scrounge up one small spec after two hours of trolling and drifing through fish. Decided to try a bit earlier today – not colddddddd early but about 10AM. Saw plenty of fish but again, nada. Changed lures several times and then got the tiniest of bites. I set the hook lightly and was surprised when it felt fairly solid; then a bit more solid; then a drag pulling bit more. I had my lightest outfit with marginal 6 pound test line and a wee tiny jig. Imagine my surprise when I got it close enough to spot a nice 4 pound bass. Somehow I managed to land it. Who would have thunk it! Caught one more little tiny bass and called it a day. I hate to think about it but history tells me that the best time to get spec’s is early AM. I guess I shouldn’t be so wimpy about 48 degrees considering my 5AM starts at Strawberry with the temp in the teens.
On the hunting scene – Joe 1- cats 0.
On the trapping side – Joe/George 2 – possums 0.
Misc critter events – Joe 0 – spider 1