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Sport Fishing USA - May June 2018

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THE CHALLENGE OF RUNNING INLETS ? ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES
HIGH-TECH
DREAM HELMS
WHERE
FA N TA S Y
MEETS
REALITY
DISCOVER
F L O R I D A? S
EMERALD
COAST
BOAT TRIAL:
GRADY-WHITE
325 DC
THE GIANT
STRIPERS
OF BLOCK
ISLAND
P36
May 2018
CAROLINA SIGHT-CASTING SECRETS
gradywhite.com
Freedom 325
MAY
2018
VOL 33
ISSUE 5
78
FEATURES
10
DREAM HELMS 52
Fantastic Electronic Features for Midsize and Large Center Consoles
By Chris Woodward
SIGHT-FISHING FEVER 62
Don?t Miss North Carolina?s Exciting Spring Run of Cobia off the Beaches
By Rob Wittman
EMERALD COAST HOT SPOT, INSIDE & OUT 70
BLOCK PARTY 78
Anglers Hunt Giant Stripers and Chase Bluefin off This Iconic Northeast Island
By Dave Morel
OVER THE BAR 86
Running Rough Ocean Inlets
By Jim Hendricks
ON THE COVER
This cobia ? bold
and curious as cobia,
by nature, generally
are ? swam right up to
DEPARTMENTS
8
10
16
24
EDITORIAL
GAME PLAN
FISH FACTS
GEAR GUIDE
NEW PRODUCTS
PENDING WORLD RECORDS
LAST CAST
SF BOATS
FISH TRIALS
TEST RUNS
BOAT TIPS
NEW BOATS & GEAR
BETTER BOATING
Bonnier Corporation, 460 N. Orlando Ave., Suite 200, Winter Park, FL 32789-3195. Entire contents copyright 2018 by Bonnier Corporation. May not be reproduced in any form without the
express written permission of Bonnier Corporation. Periodicals postage paid at Winter Park, FL, and at additional mailing offices. SUBSCRIPTIONS: $19.97 for one year. Canadian subscribers, add
$14 for postage. All other international subscribers, add $28 for postage. U.S. funds only. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sport Fishing, P.O. Box 6364, Harlan, IA 51593-1864. Printed in
the USA. Canada Return Mail: IMEX Global Solutions, P.O. Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2 Canada. DISCLAIMER: Bonnier Corporation is not responsible for injuries sustained by readers while
pursuing activities described and illustrated herein, nor failure of equipment depicted or illustrated herein.
4
MAY 2018
ETHAN GORDON (TOP), JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM (ABOVE)
Sprawling Bays and the Clear Waters of the Gulf of Mexico Offer Wide-Open Fishing
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EDITORIAL
DOUG OLANDER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
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JIM HENDRICKS PACIFIC COAST EDITOR
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ART
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2018
LOS SUE袿S,
COSTA RICA
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MAY 2018
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N E W s u n r i s e s i lv e r m i r r o r S
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MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
EDITORIAL
CROSSING OVER
BY DOUG OLANDER
YOU CAN?T
FIX STUPID.
INLETS AND
IGNORANCE
DON?T MIX.
8
MAY 2018
F
or a great many readers of
this magazine, traversing
inlets is simply a fact of
life. Inshore anglers, who
fish inside bays and estuaries, have no worries about
?crossing the bar.? Offshore
anglers in some areas, such
as the Florida Keys, can head offshore without
negotiating an inlet.
But more often, fishing off the coast means first
traveling through an inlet ? and of course, later in
the day, heading back through it again.
On calm days, particularly with a flooding tide,
that crossing should be a non-event. I?ve made
many such crossings in inlets with shallow bars
(the area where the ocean shallows up at the
mouth of the inlet) where it was impossible to
tell from water conditions at what point we had
crossed the bar.
But of course there?s the flip side, when that
very same, smooth accommodating surface has
become a chaotic maelstrom of big, close-set
breaking waves that loom between the ocean and
home, when the tide is flowing out against building
afternoon seas.
Welcome to the world of ocean inlets.
That world is the subject of Sport Fishing Pacific
Coast editor Jim Hendricks? article in this issue,
?Over the Bar.?
Of course not all inlets have shallow bars, and
some are easier to cross than others, but at the
least, most can become tricky in certain conditions. And many have reputations that have earned
them great respect among savvy mariners.
The thrust of Hendricks? feature ? as we
approach the annual National Safe Boating Week,
May 19-25 ? is not to scare readers into avoiding
inlets, but to remind them of the dangers and how
to be safe when making those essential crossings.
The list of inlet do?s and don?ts is pretty
straightforward. Much of the advice ? and isn?t
it always the way? ? comes down to exercising
common sense and caution.
If you Google ?inlet boating accident? or the
like, you?ll find page after page of reports from
inlets around the country. But the fact is that most
of these mishaps (or disasters) were avoidable,
starting with the boat. The smaller the boat, the
more difficulty it?s going to have getting through
steep waves in an inlet. Yeah, that seems like a
?duh!? yet no doubt U.S. Coast Guard records
would confirm how many of the boats capsized in
inlets were simply too small to be where they were.
(With those aboard in many cases, unbelievably,
failing to wear life vests.)
Common sense and caution should ? but don?t
always ? dictate that a helmsman be patient and
observant, stopping well away from the inlet at a
sea buoy, to get a sense of wave patterns across
the inlet, and where if need be he can sit out a low
ebbing tide until the flood is underway. And when
the time is as right as it will be, he can adopt a slow
and careful approach. Reports suggest too many
boaters fail to take their time, coming in faster
than the waves; coming over the face of a large,
steep wave can mean broaching or, worse, pitchpoling down it.
The bottom line here is simple: The advice
boaters need to prudently and safely cross inlets
is readily available, in our feature on page 86, but
also on many websites, such as boatsafe.com, from
print and in videos, and of course via the Coast
Guard Auxiliary?s boating-safety courses.
If you don?t really know this stuff, learn it. If you
do know it, learn it again.
As comedian Ron White said it: ?You can?t fix
stupid.? Inlets and ignorance don?t mix.
-VYHSPTP[LK[PTLNL[:\a\RP,_[LUKLK7YV[LJ[PVU0UZ[HU[:H]PUNZHUKH[[YHJ[P]L腢HUJPUNVUZLSLJ[:\a\RPV\[IVHYKZ
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GAME PLAN
FISH FACTS
GEAR GUIDE
NEW PRODUCTS
BY LENNY RUDOW /
Sometimes creating noise
with topwater baits can act
like a dinner bell for hungry
game fish. Other times, it
PROS? TOPWATER
TACTICS
Whether they bloop, swish, chug, rattle or plop, all topwater plugs make noise as they move through the water. And all
anglers agree that the explosive smash of a game ?sh on topwater is an adrenaline-charged strike that?s tough to beat.
But when does the pop of a popper or the chug of a chugger draw in game ?sh, and when does it turn them of ?
When does walking the dog top the pop? How does an angler know which to choose, when and why? To ?nd out,
I talked to a number of pros from a wide geographical range of topwater ?sheries. Shockingly, they all agreed on
which choice to make, and when. Almost.
10
MAY 2018
JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM
WHEN TO RAISE CAIN AND WHEN TO REFRAIN
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MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
+ F I S H FA C T S
+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS
across the surface is a good move,? he
says. ?I ?nd that the Heddon Torpedo
can be efective when other lures aren?t
working as well for no apparent reason.?
PLUGGING IN
PANAMA CITY
Capt. ?J.P.? James Pic, of JP2Fish charters, has been casting the waters in and
around Panama City, Florida, for more
than 50 years. And on countless casts,
he has had topwater plugs tied to the
end of his line. When asked about pops
and chugs versus the classic walk-thedog style of topwater ?shing, he has a
straightforward and simple answer.
?Most of the time, I prefer to walk
the dog,? he says. ?Usually I like a slow
walk with a bone-colored Zara Spook or
similar lure. I?m usually targeting trout
and red?sh, and a loud chugger is probably my last choice for these species.?
However, Pic explains that he uses a
chugger for trout when the sun is high
and ?sh are still interested in topwater
but don?t want to come to the surface ?
though he uses it in a diferent way. He
removes the rear hook and replaces it
with a few feet of 20-pound ?uorocarbon. Then he ties on a D.O.A. shrimp
at the end of the line. ?Nineteen
Pro captains agree on several general theories
DERXWWRSZDWHUQRLVH)RU?VKOLNHVWULSHUVDERYH
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VKDOORZZDWHUDQGPDWFKWKHSOXJ?VDFWLRQWRWKH
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TEXAS TOPWATER
times out of 20, a trout will hit the
shrimp before the plug,? he explains.
?I don?t think the popper resembles
anything in nature, but the noise does
get the ?sh?s attention.?
When Pic ?nds blue?sh or big
Spanish mackerel in open water, he
wants more commotion. ?These ?sh
like a lot of noise on top of the water,
and sometimes the popper will get an
absolutely ferocious hit.?
He also notes that an angler?s
topwater options aren?t just limited to
these two types of lures. ?Sometimes
when you aren?t catching ?sh and you
need to experiment, ripping a prop-bait
Many miles west along the Gulf coast,
Capt. Allen Siford of Fish On Guide
Service is pushing his third decade of
full-time inshore guiding on the waters
of Corpus Christi, Texas. Siford starts
of with amazingly similar advice.
?Walking the dog normally works
best for speckled trout and red?sh,?
he says. ?The bigger question is really
how you work the bait. Speed is the
key. Usually in warmer water, the ?sh
want� it faster, and in cooler water,
they� want it� slower. But some days
they just want爄t moving at a diferent
speed entirely.?
As I dug deeper into the question,
however, exceptions popped up. ?When
I?m ?shing for tarpon, I might reach for
a chugger,? he says. ?Especially when
schooled ?sh are rolling. When they?re
competing to eat, that?s the time� those
types of lures work best.?
Siford also notes that at times you
do have to be careful. ?In shallow water,
I do think a loud chugger or popper
can spook some ?sh, some of the time,?
he says. ?And sometimes, a small pop
and then a pause is better than steady
motion. But generally speaking, I have
to say again, I usually walk the dog
when ?shing topwater for the specks
and reds, so it?s not common for me to
be using them in quiet, shallow waters.?
I DON?T THINK THE
POPPER RESEMBLES
ANYTHING IN
NATURE, BUT THE
NOISE DOES GET THE
FISH?S ATTENTION.
1 2 21 M A Y 2 0 1 8
CAPT. PETE DAHLBERG (TOP), ADRIAN E. GRAY
GAME PLAN
THE THRILL
OF THE
CHASE
From reeling in world-class striped bass on the
Chesapeake, to chasing white marlin in the Atlantic,
H[SHULHQFHSUHPLHU?VKLQJORFDWLRQVLQ0DU\ODQG
To help plan your trip, visit
www.FishandHuntMaryland.com
MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
+ F I S H FA C T S
+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS
CHESAPEAKE
CHUGGER
Along the central U.S. East Coast,
Capt. ?Walleye? Pete Dahlberg of Four
Seasons Guide Service ?shes a mix
of shallow water, deep structure and
open water during more than 250 days
each year. He too ?nds walk-the-dog
presentations best in the shallows, when
speckled trout and red?sh are the target.
?When I ?sh in gin-clear water
over weed beds near the islands (of
the Tangier Sound, where speckled
trout and red?sh are common targets),
I like the subtle look,? he explains.
?Particularly when it?s ?at calm, that?s
usually the way to go.?
When it comes to a wider variety of
species, particularly more-aggressive
ones feeding in open water, he agrees
that more-violent tactics take over.
?When rock?sh are aggressively feeding, when they?re competing, that?s
when I like the popper,? he says. ?I do
think it might pull them in from a distance, and poppers seem to get them
more excited at times. When there?s
an entire school of ?sh feeding on� the
surface, often a popper will catch
the燽iggest ?sh in the mix.?
Dahlberg also points to size as
an important consideration. ?I like
smaller lures for the specks, for sure,
maybe 3- or 4-inchers, but I like 5- or
6-inch plugs for the stripers.?
Dahlberg says Stillwater Smack-Its
and Chug Bugs are a couple of his
favorites. He does keep an open mind,
though, because in some areas of
the Chesapeake, he might encounter multiple species, along with other
aggressive ?sh such as blues and
Spanish mackerel. ?A lot of the time,
I?ll start with two of my guys casting
walk-the-dogs and two of them casting
poppers. You really don?t know which
the ?sh will prefer on any one day until
you try diferent things.?
Anglers should note the potential
danger of using the wrong bait at the
wrong time. ?You have to be careful,?
he says. ?I do think poppers can spook
?sh when you misuse them. Some people move the rod tip too long a distance,
and make the lure thrash or jump out of
the water, which de?nitely doesn?t look
right to the ?sh.?
1 4 41 M A Y 2 0 1 8
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RIIVKRUH?VK?ZKLFKDUHRIWHQYHU\FRPSHWLWLYH?
ZLWKLWV?DVKQRLVHDQGDFWLRQ
CONSENSUS OF
THE CAPTAINS
It?s truly rare to speak with three
inshore captains from such diferent
locations and hear them all agree. So
I think it?s pretty safe to take their
commonalities to the bank:
?When ?shing for specks and reds in
calm, shallow water, walking the dog is
probably your best strategy.
?It?s possible, particularly in very
calm or shallow waters, to spook ?sh
with chuggers.
?When ?shing for aggressive or
competitive ?sh, especially schooled in
open water, poppers and chuggers win.
:KHQ?VKVXFKDVWXQDMDFNVDQGUHG?VKIHHG
DJJUHVVLYHO\RUFRPSHWHDJDLQVWHDFKRWKHU
ZKHQKXQWLQJLQVFKRROVSRSSHUVFDQFUHDWH
XQIRUJHWWDEOHKRRNXSV
The concept of matching a plug?s
volume level with a ?sh?s aggression
level generally guides ofshore tactics
as well. For bluewater anglers, lures
that make a big surface disturbance are
also the most efective.
?Ofshore ?sh are very competitive,?
notes Tommy Theus of Frenzy Big Game
Tackle, maker of the Angry Popper,
which is speci?cally designed for ofshore topwater action. ?Plus the water
usually isn?t ?at calm. You might be
trying to call ?sh from deeper water or
farther away, and on top of all that, the
gear you?re using is heavier and might
not be ideal for walking the dog in the ?rst
place. So making as much noise as possible with a big heavy popper is usually
the best choice for ofshore ?sh.?
The one other thing all of these
experts agree on? Whether that lure is
making a bloop, swish, chug, rattle or
plop, few things in ?shing or life beat
the thrill and excitement of a topwater
explosion.
COURTESY FRENZY BIG GAME TACKLE (TOP), ADRIAN E. GRAY
GAME PLAN
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FISH FACTS
GEAR GUIDE
NEW PRODUCTS
FISH FACTS
BY DOUG OLANDER / MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
FISH FACTS ARCHIVES
ALBACORE
(Thunnus alalunga)
Not to be confused with the little tunny, aka false albacore, this albacore is the real thing,
distinguished from other tunas by its amazingly long pectoral fins. An important commercial species
worldwide, labeled ?white-meat tuna,? albacore are targeted by recreational anglers in temperate
waters of the Pacific Ocean (including off California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii). The IGFA
all-tackle world record albacore of 88 pounds, 2 ounces came from the Canary Islands in 1977.
16
PEACOCK FLOUNDER
DWARF WHIPRAY
BLUE RUNNER
18
20
22
MAY 2018
� RICHARD HERRMANN / SEAPICS.COM
INSIDE:
Our offshore banks
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From Looe Key to American Shoals, Big Pine Key offers
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MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
G A M E P L A N + F I S H FA C T S
+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS
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CHALLENGE
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FLAMBOYANT FLATTIE
I photographed this flatfish in Bonaire where
I saw dozens of them, around the island, picking
off glass minnows. None of them looked to be
larger than a couple of pounds. What is it?
Jason Arnold
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
That?s a beautiful photograph of a peacock
flounder (sometimes called a plate fish), Bothus
lunatus. The peacock flounder reaches a maximum length of around 18 inches and is excellent
table fare. Common in many clear-water
habitats at depths from a few inches to over
300 feet, the peacock is usually found in shallower rather than deeper water. In the Western
Atlantic, it ranges from Florida to Brazil, including Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean
Sea; it?s also found off Ascension Island and in
the Gulf of Guinea in the Eastern Atlantic. This
is the commonest flounder species around coral
reefs, though so far no angler has claimed an
IGFA all-tackle record for it. When I snorkeled a
series of shallow-water artificial reefs off southwestern Puerto Rico, good-size peacock flounder
occasionally swam within a few of feet of me.
I always carry a knife when I?m snorkeling or
scuba diving and ? let?s just say that I ate well on
those evenings! Like many other flounders, the
peacock has the ability to undergo rapid changes
in the distribution of pigment granules in its
chromatophores (pigment-containing cells) and
is adept at blending in with its surroundings. You
happened to photograph a particularly vividly
colored individual. ?Ray Waldner
18
MAY 2018
NO STUMPER:
IT?S A BUMPER
I caught this fish on the north coast of Puerto
Rico while fishing in warm, dirty water. It measured 12 inches and weighed no more than a
pound because it was really skinny. I guess it?s
from the jack family because its pectoral fin
looks a lot like that of a jack. I really want to
know more about the fish because no one at the
tournament could identify it.
Sergio Martinez
Gurabo, Puerto Rico
You caught an Atlantic bumper,
Chloroscombrus chrysurus, a member of the jack
family (Carangidae). In the western Atlantic
region, the Atlantic bumper ranges from
Massachusetts to Uruguay, including Bermuda,
the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, and the
Caribbean Sea. It occurs also in the eastern
Atlantic. Chloroscombrus orqueta, the Pacific
bumper, inhabits the west coast of Central
and any relevant photos of your
mysterious catch or observation for our experts? ID and
feedback. If we publish your
question and you have a shipping address within the United
States or Canada, you?ll win a
3-pound spool of Berkley Pro
Spec ocean-blue or fluorescentyellow monofilament (1,000 to
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Send questions and images
via email to fishfacts@sport
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Fishing Fish Facts, 460 N.
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Park, FL 32789.
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EXPERTS
NORTHEAST
Mike Fahay,
Sandy Hook Marine Lab,
New Jersey
SOUTHEAST
Ray Waldner, Ph.D.,
Palm Beach Atlantic
University, Florida
GULF OF MEXICO
Bob Shipp, Ph.D.,
University of South
Alabama, bobshipp.com
WEST COAST
Atlantic bumper
Milton Love, Ph.D.,
UCSB, California,
lovelab.id.ucsb.edu
FAR PACIFIC
Ben Diggles, Ph.D.,
Queensland, Australia,
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America and actually might be the same
species. The Atlantic bumper frequents
shallow marine areas, often entering
bays, lagoons and other coastal sites
with high salinities. Although this
species has been reported to reach
a maximum length of around 2 feet,
individuals commonly measure no
more than a foot. The bumper often
forms schools and is sometimes commercially harvested, although it is not
highly regarded as a food fish and is
said to have dry flesh. ?Ray Waldner
WHIP IT
I caught this tiny ray on a small
baited hook in the Gulf of Thailand
near Koh Chang Island. I believe it to
be a dwarf whipray. Can you confirm
that ID, and tell me more about this
interesting catch?
Johnny Jensen
Denmark
+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS
Dwarf whipray
Johnny, it?s a tough call. Even
though your little Thai friend looks
very much like a dwarf whipray
(Himantura walga), and was caught
right in the middle of the AsianPacific distribution for that species, at
least one other member of the family
Dasyatidae (whiptail stingrays) in
that part of the world could fit the
bill. In the dwarf whipray, the width
of its disc roughly equals its body
length; its tail is shorter than the
To
20
MAY 2018
body爈ength; and its snout is projecting
(pointed), which certainly describes
what you have in your hand. But the
scaly whipray (Himantura imbricata)
has the same features just described.
The scaly whipray occurs mainly in
the Indian Ocean, but has also been
recorded from the Gulf of Thailand.
The dwarf whipray reportedly grows
to about 8� inches across the disc,
which places it among the smallest of
stingrays. However, rays in the family
Dasyatidae give birth to live young,
which makes it difficult to rule out
juveniles of several other species in
the family. So unfortunately I can?t say
with any certainty which species of
whiptail stingray it is without having
the specimen in hand. ?Ben Diggles
DARK SECRET
During a recent visit to the Atlantic
coast of Panama, this jack was brought
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aboard. It looks a lot like a blue runner,
but it seems far too dark to be that
species. Can you enlighten?
GRUNT WORK
Dave Lewis
Dave Lewis Worldwide Fishing
Wales, United Kingdom
Although it bears little resemblance
to younger, lighter-hued individuals,
your catch is a blue runner, Caranx
crysos. Blue runners change color
as they age. The sides of juveniles
are banded, while mature individuals have silvery to grayish sides and
darker dorsal surfaces. Older males,
such as the fish you caught, turn blackish when it comes time for them to
spawn. Blue runners are popular as live
baits in many areas, and while many
individuals consider them to be too
strong-flavored to be good table fare,
runners are commercially harvested
for food in some areas. The species
ranges from Nova Scotia to Brazil,
Blue runner
including the Gulf of Mexico and
Caribbean in the Western Atlantic as
well as in the Eastern Atlantic. Caranx
caballus, the green jack of the Eastern
Pacific Ocean, might be the same species. Blue runners grow to a maximum
length of around 2 feet and inhabit
depths to about 350 feet. Spirited fighters on light tackle, blue runners can
exceed 10 pounds: The IGFA all-tackle
world record is an 11-pound, 2-ounce
behemoth taken off Alabama in 1997.
?Ray Waldner
An afternoon fishing trip for some
guys off the cliff in Barbados turned
up this catch that we can?t identify. We
caught the fish ? just over a foot in
length ? in 15 feet of water over a mixed
sand-and-rock bottom, using live bait
similar in size to a pilchard. Can you
please help us identify what species it is?
Thomas Atwell
Barbados
While it?s a bit atypical as grunts go,
your catch is a member of the grunt
family Haemulidae. Specifically, it?s a
barred grunt, Conodon nobilis. The species ranges from southern Florida to
Brazil, including portions of the Gulf
of Mexico as well as Jamaica, Puerto
Rico and the Lesser Antilles, with a
report from Argentina. Interestingly,
unlike most grunts, the barred grunt
isn?t a reef dweller but lives in bays
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22
MAY 2018
MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
the bandtail puffer?s caudal fin is similar
to that of the marbled puffer, S.燿orsalis,
but the distinctive black spots on a
bandtail puffer?s sides and belly can be
used to quickly differentiate between
these two species. Like other puffers,
the bandtail can be dangerous to consume; its viscera contain tetrodotoxin,
Barred grunt
and other areas with sandy or muddy
bottoms. It?s found at depths from the
shallows to over 300 feet and reaches a
maximum length of slightly more than
12 inches. Barred grunts are reported to
be edible but quite bony. ?Ray Waldner
a very powerful neurotoxin that
is named after the puffer?s family:
Tetraodontidae. Interestingly, tetrodotoxin ? which is爐hought to be produced
by bacteria ?爄s found in a wide variety
of invertebrates and vertebrates, which
often use it to deter predators and/or to
immobilize prey. ?Ray Waldner
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I have fished the Indian River area
at Jensen Beach, Florida, several times
a week for 66 years and thought I had
caught about every species in the river.
This puffer is one I?ve never seen.
The puffers we catch on almost every
trip have a checkered pattern. I think
they?re southern puffers. Can your
experts identify this species, and give
a description of where it is commonly
encountered and other details?
Capt. Bob Pelosi
Palm City, Florida
You caught an aptly named bandtail
puffer, Sphoeroides spengleri, Bob. This
little guy reaches a maximum length of
about a foot but is usually less than half
that size. It ranges from Massachusetts
through Brazil, commonly inhabiting
inshore areas with abundant cover, such
as sea-grass beds. The pigmentation of
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23
GAME PLAN
FISH FACTS
GEAR GUIDE
NEW PRODUCTS
MAY 2018
BACK IN THE DAY:
Anglers looked for
shirts that didn?t
hold in heat; new
tech now has them
wearing shirts
that actually make
anglers cooler.
COOL CLOTHING
The first evidence of leather garments can be dated back about 40,000 years; cotton clothing appeared in India at
around 5,000 B.C.; and the earliest proof of silk clothing dates back to about the same millennium in Japan. In all of
these times, and every day since, sweaty anglers have wished for cooler clothing.
There?s not a person reading this who hasn?t felt a trickle of sweat running down his or her brow as the sun rose
high in the sky and the morning?s comfortable clothing suddenly became overly hot. There?s not one angler among
us who hasn?t stripped down to the bare necessities in a quest for cooler casting. And there?s not one set of eyes
passing across these pages that hasn?t been stung by sweat while sending lures aloft.
24
MAY 2018
JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM
NEW FABRIC TECHNOLOGIES CAN KEEP HOT ANGLERS COOL.
WHO CARES ABOUT PUTTING YOUR
LURE RIGHT ON TOP OF FISH?
YOU SHOULD.
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MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
GAME PLAN
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+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS
Today, however, we have clothes
that can essentially act as personal
air-conditioning.
CHILL FACTOR
Above: Columbia Solar Shade Zero � Zip uses tiny
ZKLWHWLWDQLXPGRWVWRGH?HFWWKHVXQ?VUD\V7KH
Solar Shade Zero (right) offers cooling technology
in a collared shirt with zippered pockets.
What exactly is this ?Drirelease Geo
Cool? fabric? It includes a blend of 85
to 95 percent synthetic hydrophobic
?bers, mixed with hydrophilic ?bers.
The hydrophobic ?bers repel water,
while the hydrophilic ?bers absorb it.
Woven together, they pull moisture
away from your body and then push it
out through the exterior of the fabric.
In this way, they aid and enhance the
evaporative cooling efect. Fabrics that
are engineered to improve your own
body?s cooling eiciency in this way are
commonly called ?moisture-wicking.?
Many of the manufacturers I spoke
with consider wicking an important
piece of the performance-clothing
FABRICS OF THE FUTURE
Just a little over a year ago, researchers at Stanford University announced that they had
developed a fabric that might be able to provide even more relief from the heat. Nanoporous
polyethylene has pores between 50 and 1,000 nanometers in diameter, which scatter visible
light yet allow infrared energy to pass through. In other words, the sun can?t get in, but your body
heat can escape out without being blocked (as happens with other fabrics).
The researchers believe that they can coat the fabric with polydopamine (a material designed
for the biomedical industry, used to coat nanoscale surfaces to change their physical properties)
to give it wicking properties. Tests prior to coating show a temperature drop of almost 5 degrees
Fahrenheit, so when combined with wicking, this fabric might one day bring a whole new level of
cool to clothing.
26
MAY 2018
puzzle.
Simms
?shing-products
community specialist John Frazier
says that the company?s shirts utilize
Coolcore fabrics, which ?manage heat
and moisture through regulated evaporation.? Blue?n?s Eros Cattaneo says
the Second Skin Solar tee is the ideal
technical tee for a long day under the
sun because it has both moisturewicking properties and a vented armpit
mesh that keeps the air ?owing.
GO WITH THE FLOW
Cattaneo?s mention of vented mesh as
well as wicking material is important to
note because the use of venting, while
CAM MCLEOD (TOP)
You?ve probably heard of evaporative
cooling, which is why sweating or
soaking yourself down with water has
a cooling efect. As the water evaporates and� turns into gas, it releases
latent heat,燼nd when the gas leaves the
surface of your skin, it takes that heat
with it. An easy way of understanding
the process is to think of what happens
when you boil water on the stove. Even
if you turn up the heat to 500 degrees,
the boiling water?s temperature will
remain 212燿egrees because as the water
boils and evaporates, latent heat in
that water gets released into the atmosphere. Similarly, the water evaporating
from your skin takes heat away with it.
The diference between clothing
produced just a couple of decades ago
and clothing made today is that textile
manufacturers have learned how to
turbo-boost the evaporative cooling
efect. True, for many years manufacturers have been producing vented
clothing that assisted in the process
by increasing air?ow. And they?re still
doing so today. But some modern hightech ?shing shirts can actually increase
the efectiveness of evaporative cooling
via the ?bers and weaves from which
they?re crafted.
According to AFTCO creative
marketing manager Matt Florentino,
the Drirelease Geo Cool fabric used in
shirts such as AFTCO?s Barracuda are
designed speci?cally to help absorb燼nd
dissipate heat to keep you cool, dry,
and燾omfortable as you ?sh.
The road to paradise Isn?t
Actually a Road.
Where you?re going there are no roads.
No stop lights. No traffic jams. Because paradise doesn?t have a street address.
It?s the water kissing the sky along the horizon. The sun on your face.
Paradise is out there for you to find.
You just have to pick a Cobia and go.
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GAME PLAN
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+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS
%OXH?Q?V6HFRQG6NLQ6RODUVKLUWZLFNV
moisture through the fabric while enhancing
DLU?RZWKURXJKYHQWHGDUPSLWPHVK
not quite as high-tech, is still one of the
main ways manufacturers try to create
cooler clothing. But the newer fabrics
aren?t always best for weaving moreformal-looking collared shirts. So if
you prefer a shirt that you can wear
when going directly from the cockpit
to the club, a more traditional weave is
probably in your future.
?The look of an AFTCO woven shirt
can be the deciding factor if you want
it to do double-duty, of the water
for a night out or any other scenario
that might require a collared shirt,?
Florentino points out. And although
they might not be quite as advanced
in the technical cooling department,
these slightly more-formal styles can
still utilize improved air?ow to keep
the temperature down.
There are exceptions, such as
Columbia Sportswear?s Solar Shade
Zero � zip, which has cooling fabrics
(Columbia calls its version OmniFreeze Zero) but also retains a
performance-knit-shirt appearance.
At� $75, it?s a competitive option
compared with many of the other shirts
with cooling features; however, this
shirt also has some additional tech to
ofer. ?Our Omni-Shade Sun De?ector
technology applies thousands of tiny
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MAY 2018
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MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
white titanium-dioxide dots to the
fabric to de?ect the sun?s rays� and
to protect against harmful UVA
and燯VB rays,? explains Columbia PFG
marketing manager Brent Brauner.
This might be important not just
for comfort, but also for safety. In fact,
according to the experts, wearing a
shirt that?s sun-protective is incredibly
important because it?s shielding parts
of your body that don?t normally get
covered by suntan lotion.
?It?s important to choose UPF-rated
clothing,? says Lisa Quale, senior health
educator of the Skin Cancer Institute
at the University of Arizona Cancer
Center. The UPF rating system, which
is relatively new, describes the amount
of UV radiation a fabric blocks, and is
standardized by the FTC.
?Anything 30 or above is great,?
Quale explains. ?It means the fabric
gives about 97 percent UV protection.
A UPF of 50 increases that to a bit more
Fish Hippie?s Beaufort offers mesh vents and
boasts a 40 to 50 UPF rating.
than 98 percent, so if you?ll be outside
all day, it?s a good choice.? She also notes
that a fabric?s UPF rating can be afected
by some common ?shing and boating
activities. ?Water can pull the fabrics
apart, creating bigger holes for the UV
radiation to get through,? she says.
?UPF clothing is generally made of a
very tight weave and lightweight fabric,
and is sometimes water-resistant, so
it?s more resilient. But getting a fabric
wet is almost always going to increase
the amount of UV radiation that can
pass through the garment.?
In other words, the decidedly lowtech method of staying cool by dumping
a bucket of water over your head while
wearing a cotton tee might not only be
less efective than choosing high-tech
cool clothing in the ?rst place, it could
also be downright hazardous to your
health. In fact, the reasons for arming
yourself with today?s cool clothing
are so simple, even a 40,000-year-old
caveman would get it.
@halcotackle
IT?S AUSTRALIAN
IT?S TOUGH
IT WORKS
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
29
GAME PLAN
FISH FACTS
GEAR GUIDE
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BEACH BULLET
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30
MAY 2018
EVERY BLACKFIN HAS A
FISHFINDER ONBOARD.
WE CALL HIM CAPTAIN.
B L AC K F I N B OAT S.C O M
212 CC
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272CC
332 CC
GAME PLAN
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+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS
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32
MAY 2018
HOT SPOT
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IGFA PENDING WORLD RECORDS
A
Pending as the all-tackle record, this 13-pound, 3-ounce snubnose pompano [A]
FDXJKWE\5XVVLDQDQJOHU,O\D6KHUERYLFKZHQWIRUDZHOOSODFHGFUDE?\LQWKH
6H\FKHOOHVWKLVSDVW)HEUXDU\$IWHUDPLQXWH?JKWWKHSRPSDQRLQWKHVDPH
genus as permits) was quickly weighed, documented, photographed, and released
alive and healthy. The current record is 11 pounds, 3 ounces.
B
C
D
$PRQJQHDUO\VSHFLHVRI?VKFDXJKWE\&DOLIRUQLDQ6WHYH:R]QLDNQRQHLV
more surreal in appearance than this 7-pound, 8-ounce gorgeous swallowtail [B]
WKDWKHFDXJKWRII.HQ\DWKLVSDVW-DQXDU\,IDSSURYHG:R]QLDN?VZLOOEHWKH?UVWRI
the species ever to hold the title of IGFA world record.
)O\URGGHU'RWW\%DOODQW\QHRI%R]HPDQ0RQWDQDMRLQHGJXLGH'RXJ.LOSDWULFN
to catch this 10-pound, 4-ounce bonnethead shark [C] near Sugarloaf Key,
Florida, in January. If approved as the new 12-pound-tippet record, it will defeat an
8�-pounder from Biscayne Bay, Florida, in 2004.
INTERNATIONAL GAME FISH ASSOCIATION
300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, FL 33004
954-927-2628; fax: 954-924-4299; igfa.org
The
is
A new season of Florida Insider Fishing Report powered by Harbor Trucks and presented by Yamaha is underway.
Capt. Rick Murphy, Brie Gabrielle and Dave Ferrell take viewers across Florida reporting on real-time ?shing
conditions in each of nine regions around the state. Our regional captains tell weekend warriors where the action is in
their area so they spend less time chasing ?sh and more time catching them. So whether you ?sh
inshore or o?, you?ll want to catch these weekly hot spot reports.
Florida Insider Fishing Report runs for 26 weeks, starting in April on Fox Sports Sun.
Catch the show twice on Thursday evening, Friday at 11:30 a.m. (encore Friday evening) and Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
Want to be part of our live audience? Visit our website for details on how to sign up!
FloridaInsiderFishingRepor t.com
34
MAY 2018
COURTESY IGFA / IGFA.ORG
The 27-pound, 9-ounce snake mackerel [D]WKDW0DVDDNL%DQGRKFDXJKWZKLOH
?VKLQJQHDU7RNXQRVKLPD-DSDQWKLVSDVW'HFHPEHULVSRLVHGWRVPDVKWKH
existing record of 9 pounds, 14 ounces, also caught in Japanese waters, in 2008.
B A R R A C U DA G E O C O O L
PERFORMANCE SHIRT
UPF 50 BLOCKS 98% OF THE SUN?S
H A R M F U L U V R AYS .
3 M ? S TA I N R E L E A S E
MOISTURE WICKING
DRIRELEASE� GEO COOL
TECHNOLOGY
LOCATE A DEALER AT AFTCO.COM
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
BY RANDY VANCE
GRADY-WHITE
FREEDOM 325 DC
A
A Kenny Chesney song describes boats as ?vessels of freedom.? Grady-White took that to heart and
continues to expand its Freedom series of dual console fish boats, offering a ton of family fun as well.
The latest, the 325 DC, is another example of why the company has won the National Marine
Manufacturers Association Customer Satisfaction Index Award every year since it was instituted
in 2001. That track record had me jonesing to turn a critical eye on my test boat in late January, as
I燽lended some freedom on the water with a very
serious period of fishing and product evaluation
on Florida?s Gulf Coast.
Could a boat this beautiful fish?
Grady-White?s new 325
marks the 10th Freedom
model in the company?s
popular dual console
lineup, which is capped
by the 375.
3 6 63 M A Y 2 0 1 8
LOVELY LINES
The Freedom 325 is definitely beautiful, with
its upturned bow designed to ease it through
the treacherous passes of the Carolinas. The
bow lines sweep back and down in a graceful
curve to the secure cockpit, without interrupting the boat?s fishability. The 325?s slender
profile is lengthened by the transom platform
surrounding the deep motor well.
The platform is deep enough to give owners
easy access to both motors, so the cowl can be
lifted to check the oil and filters beneath. A
RANDY VANCE / SPORT FISHING (OPPOSITE TOP), COURTESY GRADY-WHITE (2)
Luxury and Durability Meet Fishability
MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
ladder on the starboard side nests there
and can be deployed from the water, a
saving grace for a man overboard.
The vessel?s hardtop boasts integrated supports that keep it sleek, and
a grab rail runs from the dash to the top,
providing a secure grip for extra stability in rough waters. An overhead hatch
makes raising or lowering the masthead
light simpler. Polished, chrome-plated
stainless and powder-coated aluminum
supports give it flash and elegance.
Grady boats are known for their
safety, as well as for other reasons such
as solid, all-composite structural component construction. But construction
and flotation keep a boat afloat in
unlikely emergencies; there?s more
to a hull?s safety than that. A smooth,
predictable ride counts too.
Grady never forgets fishermen: The 325
comes with a portside transom 32-gallon
livewell (above), and loads of storage for
rods. By its dual console design, it also
features a wide-open cockpit.
CONFIDENT
STABILITY
On my Fish Trial day, with temperatures in the 40s, the seas had climbed
to about 5 feet. For owners of smaller
boats, seas that size automatically
mean alternate plans like golf. But the
325?s 33-foot length and 10-foot-9-inch
beam promised not only safety in rough
water but comfort, just one more chalk
mark in support of boating freedom.
Our crew of four boarded the 325
in Clearwater Beach, on Florida?s Gulf
Coast. As we powered up to leave the
inlet, I was pleasantly surprised by
the smooth ride that diminished the
wind-driven surf and made rigging
lines and baits on the way out practical.
Grady-White never misses an opportunity to promote its SeaV2 hull, and I?ve
actually never felt that the company
has overstated its benefits. On test day,
that confident ride proved that point.
The variable-deadrise hull progresses from 20 degrees at the transom
to about 30 degrees amidships, and
on to a sharp, wave-cleaving stem at the
bow. The 325 DC remained steady in
these seas at 30 mph and reassuringly
stable at rest.
In calmer water, the vessel powered
up to 30 mph in just 7 seconds with
aggressive throttling. Leaning against
the helm seat, I never lost sight of the
PERFORMANCE
HULL
POWER .................................... Twin Yamaha F300s
LOAD .......... Four crew, 140 gal. fuel, 20 gal. water
TOP SPEED ..........................48.8 mph @ 5,900 rpm
TIME TO 30 MPH ........................................... 7 sec.
BEST MPG ........... 1.8 mpg @ 36.2 mph (4,000 rpm)
LOA .......................................................... 33 ft. 1 in.
BEAM ....................................................... 10 ft. 9 in.
DEADRISE .................................................... 20 deg.
DRY WEIGHT ...................... 9,300 lb. (w/o engines)
DRAFT .................................................................2 ft.
FUEL .............................................................288 gal.
MAX POWER ................................................ 700 hp
GRADY-WHITE BOATS
Greenville, NC
252-752-2111
gradywhite.com
horizon. At 30, the 325 offers a cruising
range of 400 miles.
FISHING SETUP
MSRP..................$335,200 (w/ twin Yamaha F300s)
To fulfill the fishing portion of my trial,
our crew had set out pinfish traps in the
bay the night before. We approached
the traps to port so we could pull them
easily through the side door. A stowable
ladder can be deployed at deck level,
but without it, we had a clean surface to
kneel on and draw aboard the traps.
The captain snapped the livewell
switch, and swirling water quickly rose
to the top of the 32-gallon tank. Even
better, Grady-White?s proprietary waterinflow manifold enveloped our bait top
to bottom with fresh, aerated seawater.
We planned to bottomfish a shallow
reef just a few miles offshore. While
the 325 easily could have carried us 40
more miles to deeper seas, the day?s
cold temperatures weren?t that inviting. We used the standard windlass
to anchor us bow to wind and stayed
tucked behind the dual console?s
wraparound windscreen.
Despite the rough seas, we had
no trouble keeping our footing while
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
37
MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
MULTIUSE
AMENITIES
For cruising to the grounds, the 325
features two seats that slide out of the
mezzanine at the touch of an electric
button. Pop out the transom seat for
two more cushy riding spots.
3 8 83 M A Y 2 0 1 8
The 325 DC provides plenty of room forward
for relaxing or for rigging tackle. Lower the
table and add a center cushion to create a
sun deck.
If we?d needed to gaff a fish, sturdy
toe rails offered secure footing.
A� tackle-storage bin in the transom
kept a couple of utility boxes handy,
and more could stow in compartments
under the helm seats.
Freedom comes from the dual
console?s bow seating area, accessible via the walkway between the helm
and passenger side consoles. A wind
dam meets the windshield to enclose
the cockpit from cold breezes, but for
warm days, spacious seating lies ahead
of the windshield. Arm rests, deep
cushions and comfortable bolsters
make bow riding pleasant at speed. Fill
the area with a center cushion for a sun
deck or raise the center support for a
cocktail table.
Below: The cockpit is rimmed with coaming
pads that cushion an angler?s legs. Below
right: A roomy head compartment lies
beneath the port passenger console. The
starboard console offers a double berth.
For all-day comfort and privacy, a
large head compartment resides to port,
under the passenger console. A cleverly designed cabin under the starboard
console can convert from a settee to a
double berth large enough for 6-footplus lounge lizards ? another hashmark
on the plus side of freedom.
I found it hard to ignore the smoothoperating Yamaha propulsion on
board, complete with Yamaha?s LCD
digital boat display. I certainly appreciated the twin 300 hp outboards for
cruising, but the engines also provide
a powerful punch to launch a tuber or
wakeboarder. In fact, the 325 has an
optional retractable tow pylon.
Grady-White adds extension
handles to seacocks so anglers can
open them without lying down on their
bellies. The handles reach to just below
the spacious hatch over the bilge access
to pumps, plumbing and fuel filters. To
make it even easier, Grady?s Captain
Grady iPad app explains everything on
board, often with videos.
Grady factory-rigs the Fusion stereo
system but leaves the enormous dashboard a blank canvas for your choice of
dual navigation screens and VHF radio.
I loved the double helm seat with split
bolsters, leaving captain and passenger
the choice to stand or sit.
Grady?s track record for awardwinning customer service, easy
operation, and durable design and
construction enable the 325 to deliver
a laid-back boating experience and
the freedom to choose whether to
fish, cruise, dive or raise a zillion
giggles from tubing kids.
RANDY VANCE / SPORT FISHING (BOTTOM LEFT), COURTESY GRADY-WHITE (2)
bracing against the coaming pads.
When the vessel swung on the hook
abeam of the seas, we rocked a little
more ? as expected ? but the SeaV2
hull and the boat?s wide beam kept us
from losing our balance.
When a cold front passes through,
practically nothing bites. We caught
small porgies, squirrelfish, some small
seabass and lizardfish ? all released.
The 325 provided plenty of rod
holders for this particular project, with
a pair in each gunwale and a rocket
launcher on the hardtop. However, for
other types of fishing, anglers might
benefit from shotgun rod holders at the
transom and another gunwale holder
on each side. For offshore trolling,
outriggers easily mount to the hardtop.
Horizontal rod hangers under the
gunwales helped stow some rods in
standby, and the bulkhead in the head
compartment opened to a storage
area beneath the portside bow lounge.
The extended compartment included
butt and tip hangers to keep more
rods爏ecure.
See Weather On Your Chartplotter/MFD
Before You See It On The Horizon.
SiriusXM � Marine delivers the weather & fishing info you need, directly to your
more time on the water and fish with confidence even beyond cell phone range.
DStorm Cell Info, Lightning and Weather Radar
DGraphical Sea Surface Temperature to Help Locate Fish
DAnticipate Bite activity with Isobar/Pressure Forecasts
compatible hardware
DWind Speed & Direction and Wave Height
DMarine Zone Forecast, Alerts, Storm Tracking
DAdd Over 150 Channels of SiriusXM Satellite Radio
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/1/.%,0%+*?,'#!?".+)?%.%1/??/!!??!(+3???
)%*0%*???? 5/?+"?+*0%*1+1/?,% ?/!.2%!?* ?.!!%2!???????
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BOATS
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
BY JIM HENDRICKS
SEA CHASER 27 HFC
Feature-Packed, Powerful and Ready, This
Center Console Cuts Seas Down to Size
T
FEATURES GALORE
The single-step
running surface of the
Sea Chaser 27 HFC
jumps on plane quickly
and rides smoothly
through choppy seas.
40
MAY 2018
A throng of demo boats idled in and out of the
show?s temporary marina on Virginia Key as we
departed ? the heavy traffic indicative of the
Southeast?s booming saltwater-boat market. As
Lanius manned the wheel during the long putt
through the no-wake zone, I took the opportunity to check out key features, starting with爐he
40-gallon livewell in the leaning post abaft
the爃elm seating. There?s also a 30-gallon livewell
in the port quarter for separating bait species.
A sink and freshwater faucet in the middle of
the full transom lets you clean up after rigging
baits, chopping up chunks or filleting the day?s
catch. You can spritz off a dirty deck with the
undergunwale retractable washdown hose.
Twin bench seats fold out from the transom,
but then quickly fold away when you need to clear
the aft cockpit. A lift-up transom hatch offers
access to rigging. An insulated 52-gallon fish box
under the aft deck lets you ice down table fare.
COURTESY SUZUKI MARINE (2)
Testing boats during the Miami International Boat Show poses more challenges than usual. When
I attempted to sea-trial Sea Chaser?s new 27 HFC demo model at this year?s show in February, I had to
plan around potential buyers.
Luckily, I was able to steal away one afternoon with Pat Lanius, application engineer for Suzuki
Marine. Built by Carolina Skiff, this boat sported a single, new Suzuki DF350A outboard, which has
twin contra-rotating propellers, among other advanced features.
MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
PERFORMANCE
POWER ........................................... Suzuki DF350A
LOAD ..................................145 gal. fuel, two crew
TOP SPEED .........................47.2 mph @ 6,200 rpm
TIME TO 30 MPH ....................................... 8.1 sec.
BEST MPG ................... 2.46 @ 27 mph (4,000 rpm)
HULL
LOA ..................................................................27 ft.
BEAM .........................................................9 ft. 6 in.
DEADRISE ................................................... 20 deg.
DRY WEIGHT ........................5,288 lb. (w/o power)
DRAFT ........................................................1 ft. 3 in.
FUEL ............................................................181 gal.
MAX POWER ............................................... 500 hp
MSRP............................. $95,269 (base w/o power)
of snap-on pads. A removable pedestal
table in the middle lets the crew enjoy
snacks and drinks on pleasure cruises.
Sea Chaser packed 100 gallons of stowage space under the pods, and you can
step atop them to fight a big fish around
the bow or man the anchor.
The roomy anchor locker of my tester
concealed a windlass. A starboard-side
entry to the step-down center console
interior leads to more than 5 feet of
headroom and more stowage space, as
well as an electric-flushing marine toilet.
OUTSTANDING OPTIONS
? Taco Marine Grand Slam 280 Outriggers
($3,000)
? Nine colors in different configurations
(full hull, full side, small stripe)
CAROLINA SKIFF
Waycross, Georgia
912-287-0547
carolinaskiff.com
A transom door in the starboard
quarter leads to a swim platform
and foldout boarding ladder. A beefy
inward-opening door on the port side
eases boarding or sliding a big tuna or
swordfish into the cockpit.
ROOM TO ROAM
The 9�-foot beam grants stability
while fishing. Twenty-five-inch-wide
walkways aside the console help when
you?re racing to keep up with a hooked
fish, and coaming pads encircling the
interior cushion your legs during a
fight. A level deck throughout should
also prove easy for anglers to traverse.
The stanchions for the hardtop attach
to the top of the console, not the deck,
eliminating trip points.
I found versatile cabinets for tackle
stowage in both backrest modules for
the bow seating, plus more stowage in
a foldout compartment along the starboard inwale. Four rod holders behind
the helm seating, four more in the
hardtop, and 12 gunwale rod holders
offer plenty of vertical rod stowage.
A unique seating system forward of
the console folds up and out of the way to
create extra foredeck space. Perhaps less
practical from an angler?s point of view
is the elevated U-shaped bow pod that
converts to loungers with the addition
SMOOTH
PERFORMANCE
The boat show?s no-wake zone finally
ended, and we emerged on the other
side of the Rickenbacker Causeway into
the expanse of Biscayne Bay. I took the
wheel to put the 27 HFC through its
paces. The helm seats, which feature
flip-up bolsters and fold-down armrests, felt supportive and comfortable.
There?s a fold-down footrest on the
seating module and an angled footrest
at the base of the console.
The helm panel measures 37 inches
wide ? plenty of room to flush-mount
a pair 15-inch electronics displays.
A Suzuki C-10 4-inch color display
The elevated U-shaped pod in the bow
converts to loungers with the addition of
snap-on seating upholstery. More than 100
gallons of stowage space reside underneath.
provided all necessary engine data for
testing. The Suzuki electronic throttle
control made shifting and accelerating fingertip easy. I could feel the props
instantly hook up as the 27 HFC burst
out of the hole, planing in just 4 seconds
and reaching 30 mph in 8.1 seconds.
I wrung out a top speed of 47.2 mph
at 6,200 rpm, where the 350 burned
30.2 gph for 1.56 mpg. Throttling back,
I found that the best mileage occurred
at 4,000 rpm and 27 mph, where the
Suzuki burned 14.1 gph for 2.46 mpg.
That equates to a cruising range of
well over 400 miles based on the
181-gallon fuel capacity.
Despite mild winds, finding choppy
water was no problem, as the steady
parade of boat-show vessels churned
the surface water into a lumpy field
of confused seas. The Sea Chaser took
it in stride, its single-step hull knifing
through the washing-machine waves.
The 100 percent composite construction felt solid, free of creaks and
rattles, no matter how hard I pushed it
into the chop. Cornering at speed was
predictable and confident, the props
refusing to relinquish their bite, no
matter how tightly I turned.
This Sea Chaser shows just how
many features you can integrate into
a 27-foot center console. The 27 HFC
presents boat buyers who are serious
about bluewater angling with a highly
functional fishing machine, yet one
that can also shine on the occasional
fun cruise with family and friends.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
41
BOATS
MAY 2018 / VOL 33 ? ISSUE 5
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
BY JIM HE NDRIC KS
MAKESHIFT LIVEWELL LIGHT
LIVE BAIT IS THE LIFE BLOOD RIPDQ\?VKLQJWULSVDQGDQXPEHURIWKRVHWULSVVWDUWEHIRUH
GD\OLJKW7KDW?VZK\PRVWOLYHZHOOVQRZIHDWXUHLOOXPLQDWLRQVR\RXFDQVHHKRZ\RXUOLYH\V
DUHIDULQJ$OLJKWDOVRKHOSVNHHSWKHEDLWIURPEXPSLQJLQWRWKHZDOOVRIWKHZHOO%XWZKDW
happens when the light malfunctions? First thing, turn it off, because a corroded connection or
loose terminal can lead to an overheated wire and a
SRVVLEOH?UH7RLOOXPLQDWHWKHOLYHZHOOLQWKHPHDQ
time, carry a handful of Cyalume 6-inch chemical light
VWLFNVDERXWSHUVWLFNLQEXON6KDUSO\EHQG
the stick until it makes a snapping sound to activate the
FKHPLFDOLQVLGH6KDNHWKH&\DOXPHDQGGURSLWLQ
WKHZHOO,W?RDWVDQGFDVWVDVRIWJORZLQWRWKHZDWHU
Blue is the preferred color for livewell lights, but any
FRORU\RXKDYHRQERDUGZLOOZRUNLQDSLQFK
COMBO DECK BRUSH
EMERGENCY HAND PUMP
BOATING SAFETY DICTATES that you have a means of
GHZDWHULQJ\RXUYHVVHO7KDWXVXDOO\PHDQVDPRWRUL]HG
ELOJHSXPS+RZHYHULIWKHELOJHSXPSIDLOVRUGUDLQVWKH
EDWWHU\\RXPLJKWQHHGWRPDQXDOO\GHZDWHUWKHERDW<RX
can turn to an ordinary bucket to bail water, but buckets
GRQ?W?WZHOOLQWRVPDOOORFNHUVRUFURZGHGELOJHFRPSDUW
PHQWV7KDW?VZKHUHDPDQXDOSXPSFRPHVLQKDQG\7KH
West Marine 36-inch manual bilge pump (about $55) has a
weight pump and 72-inch hose are easy to stow; you can also
XVHLWWRSXPSUDLQZDWHUIURPERDWFRYHUVDQGFRPSDUWPHQWV
ANTENNA TIE-DOWN
IF YOU?VE EVER FOLLOWED a trailer boat down the highway, you might notice its 8-foot-long
9+)DQWHQQD?DLOLQJDERXWZLWKHYHU\EXPSLQWKHURDGHYHQWKRXJKWKHDQWHQQDLVIROGHG
GRZQIRUWRZLQJ&OLSVDUHDYDLODEOHWRKHOSVHFXUHWKHVHDQWHQQDHEXWP\IULHQG6WHYH
Bowcott showed me a
UHODWLYHO\VLPSOHVROXWLRQ
+HIDVKLRQHGDu??-inchdiameter cord with a loop
RQWKHHQG+HFLQFKHV
the loop around the tip
of the antenna, then
belays the bitter end to a
VWHUQFOHDW$VOLJKWEHQG
LQWKH?EHUJODVVDQWHQQD
maintains enough tension
to keep it from whipping
DERXWZLOGO\XQGHUWRZ
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tilts the antenna up when
KH?VUHDG\WRODXQFK
42
MAY 2018
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: COURTESY CYALUME LIGHT TECHNOLOGY, JIM HENDRICKS / SPORT FISHING (2), COURTESY SHURHOLD (3)
IN THE PAST, I used two deck brushes
when scrubbing the boat with soap and
ZDWHUDIWHUDGD\RI?VKLQJ$EUXVK
with soft bristles covered 95 percent
of the boat, but I had a stiff-bristle
brush standing by for stubborn spots of
dried blood and tracked-in dirt on the
GHFN7RGD\,XVHRQO\RQHEUXVK?
the Combo Deck Brush from Shurhold
DERXW$ULQJRIORQJVRIWEULVWOHV
cleans most of the deck and the
VPRRWK?EHUJODVVVXUIDFHVZKLOHDFRUH
RIVKRUWWRXJK?EHUVUHVWVLQWKHFHQWHU
I deploy these stiffer bristles simply
by pressing down on the brush when
,QHHGWKHH[WUDVFUXEELQJSRZHU
Combine this brush with a Shurhold
9-foot telescoping aluminum handle
(about $38), and you can wash just
about every spot on your boat with
RQHWRRO
BOATS
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
SEA VEE 290B
SEA VEE ANNOUNCED a redesign of its
popular 29-foot V-hull with the introduction of the 290B. The 290B uses
the company?s proprietary vacuumassisted resin-transfer molding
technology, which infuses the fully
cored hull, stringers and bulkheads
simultaneously. The stiffer build
allows Sea Vee to reduce the number
of stringers from four to two.
Standard features include an
integrated engine platform with a
transom door, dry storage below deck
level, trim tabs, hydraulic steering
BY CHRIS WOODWARD
and dual bilge pumps. Options
include hardtops, second stations,
fixed or removable seating, and
many electronics choices. Captain?s
Edition and Coastal leaning-post and
tackle-station units are available.
New, larger, epoxy-coated aluminum
fuel tanks increase fuel capacity (now
251 gallons, up from 232).
Anglers will appreciate the fully
insulated fish box, high-performance
50-gallon livewell system and the
dedicated pad, which allows for flush
mounting large commercially rated
transducers. The 290B is available in a
twin-outboard configuration with max
horsepower of 700.
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA .............................................................29 ft. 6 in.
Beam .....................................................................9 ft.
Dry Weight ........................... 5,900 lb. (w/o engines)
Draft ..............................................................1 ft. 8 in.
Transom Deadrise ......................................... 25 deg.
MSRP ......... $148,700 (w/ twin Mercury Verado 250s)
WORLD CAT 280DC-X
FOLLOWING ON THE HEELS of its
stylishly designed 280 center console
catamaran, World Cat has introduced
a new dual console model. ?The dual
console market needed a new and
improved design, so we have integrated some unique features aboard
our proven catamaran design,? says
Andrew Brown, World Cat CEO.
The X series delivers a unique
tumblehome transom and a lower
shear line than traditional cat designs.
The DC also adds a frameless glass
windshield into the new-look equation.
The DC features a fiberglass top
with hand-finished surfboard edge
and a powder-coated frame, spreader
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA .............................................................27 ft. 6 in.
Beam .............................................................9 ft. 2 in.
Dry Weight ..............................7,250 lb. (w/ engines)
Draft ..............................................................1 ft. 2 in.
Transom Deadrise ..............................N/A catamaran
MSRP .................... $200,895 (w/ twin Yamaha F200s)
44
MAY 2018
lights and LED underside lights. The
fiberglass-lined head compartment
offers standing headroom for most,
and is fitted with a Corian counter,
mirror, toiletry-storage area, freshwater system, and marine head with a
10-gallon holding tank.
BY CHRIS WOODWARD
Additional standard equipment
includes bow seating for six and a
through-hull windlass system. The
wide-open cockpit features bolsters,
four gunwale rod holders and a
transom tuna door. World Cat also
offers an optional 20-gallon livewell.
SIMPLICITY.
CLARITY. CONTROL.
NSS EVO3 NAVIGATION SYSTEMS
Discover exceptional clarity, wide viewing angles, and enhanced
controls for easier display operation in all conditions. Cruise, fish,
and experience an unprecedented level of built-in functionality on
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AVAILABLE IN 7, 9, 12 AND 16 INCH DISPLAYS.
SIMRAD-YACHTING.COM/NSSEVO3
BOATS
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
BY CHRIS WOODWARD
MERCURY 3.4 L V-6
FOURSTROKES
HONDA REDESIGNED
V-6 OUTBOARDS
Mercury?s new 3.4-liter V-6
FourStrokes include 175, 200 and
225 hp models that showcase innovative design changes as well as
convenience features. The three
new engines extend the company?s
current FourStroke lineup, and replace
the four-cylinder Verados and the
six-cylinder 225 hp Verado. At 475
pounds for the 20-inch versions, these
outboards are light and compact,
thanks to refinements such as nesting
the alternator in the notch of the
V-shaped cylinder banks. Mercury
also designed a small hatch in the
cowling that pops open to reveal an
engine-oil dip stick and fill port. All
three outboards are available with 20or 25-inch shaft lengths; the 225 also
comes in a 30-inch model. Prices start
at $16,225 for the 175; $17,175 for the
200; and $18,620 for the 225.
Honda has revamped its flagship
BF200, BF225 and BF250 outboards
with a new Progressive V Form design,
improved corrosion resistance, streamlined maintenance, and expanded
rigging options. The 200 and 225 hp
models also now come with the same
3.6-liter V-6 engine that powers the
250. Among the many updates,
the new cowling incorporates a dualchannel, indirect-air-circuit induction
system for improved performance.
The undercase now comes with a
heavy protective rubber edge. Honda
also reduced routine maintenance
time with a larger-diameter dipstick
tube, the integration of a water separator and fuel strainer, and relocation
of the high-pressure fuel filter.
YAMAHA V MAX SHO 90
Yamaha has added a 90 hp engine
to its V MAX SHO lineup, which
previously comprised six models from
115 hp up to 250 hp. SHO engines
have been popular with fishermen
who need a quick hole shot and
hyperacceleration. Yamaha says the
1.8-liter 90 SHO (super-high output)
delivers class-leading torque and top
speed. A single overhead camshaft
drives four valves per cylinder to
deliver more power from less weight.
The mechanical 90 is compatible with
Yamaha?s Command Link gauges and
can be rigged for tiller control. Its quiet
performance is enhanced by Yamaha?s
Talon SS4 prop, featuring the company?s Shift Dampener System. The new
outboard costs $10,715.
BRUNSWICK NAUTIC-ON
Brunswick Corporation, which owns brands such as Boston Whaler and Mercury, has launched the
Nautic-ON smart-boating platform. A hub and wireless sensors communicate with a smart-device app
that advises boat owners of their vessel?s location and the status of its vital systems, such as battery levels,
bilge-pump activation, oil life and engine hours. Boaters can easily share that status with their service
provider. The system is designed for any boat equipped with a battery, and is NMEA 2000 compatible.
Hardware prices range from $600 to $1,470; subscriptions cost $99 per season or $149 per year.
46
MAY 2018
BOATS
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
BY JIM HENDRICKS
Carrying paddle craft such
as kayaks aboard your main
fishing boat is easier and more
convenient than ever thanks
to versatile racks that fit in
gunwale rod holders.
CONVENIENT WAYS TO CARRY
PADDLE CRAFT ABOARD YOUR BOAT
There are places your center
console fishing boat can?t
take you, like up a narrow
meandering mangrove creek
to cast for tarpon, into the
middle of a dense kelp bed
to target calico bass, over a
barrier reef to reach rampaging trevally in a protected
lagoon, across a remote flat
in pursuit of bonefish, or into
a wilderness no-motor zone
where redfish abound.
However, your main boat
might be able to get within
paddling distance where
you can anchor out, then
launch a kayak or stand-up
paddleboard (SUP). Such
craft traverse the shallowest of waters, negotiate
tight quarters and portage
48
MAY 2018
easily across bars to get you
to the hot spots. These vessels are human-powered, so
no-motor zones are, well, no
problem.
But let?s face it: Paddle
craft can be unwieldy when
out of the water, and take
up precious deck and seating space aboard your main
ride. How do you carry and
secure these on a fishing
boat? Thankfully, quite a few
systems let you easily stow
and deploy ?yaks and SUPs.
RAIL RACKS
Magma Products is perhaps
best known for its line of
marine grills, but it also
offers the Removable
Kayak/SUP rack (about
$230), which includes two
arms that clamp to vertical or diagonal bow-rail
supports ranging from 7?8 to
1� inches in diameter.
The system is made from
polished stainless steel with
UV-resistant padding to
protect paddle craft while
cradled in the 1-inch arms.
Each rack holds two SUPs
or one kayak, with tie-down
points on each arm to secure
the craft with straps.
An exclusive quickrelease-knob system allows
each arm to be quickly
removed or rotated inward
when not in use, or swung in
tighter to the bow rail to fit
narrower kayaks or燽oards.
Magma
Kayak/
SUP rack
COURTESY MANTA RACKS (TOP)
YAK PACK
SurfStow?s Suprax (about
$250) also clamps to a bow
rail. The lightweight aluminum arms hold one SUP.
EVA foam linings protect the
board, and a built-in bungee
cord secures it.
The Suprax universal
clamp system swivels to
attach to virtually any vertical or horizontal rails
ranging from 7?8 to 1�
inches in diameter. An addon accessory arm (about
$100) increases the capacity
to a pair of SUPs.
In addition, SurfStow
sells the Yakrax (about $300)
rail-mount system for kayaks. It uses the same clamp
system as Suprax, but the
padded aluminum arms are
wider to accommodate the
greater hull depth of a ?yak.
You could get a discount when you combine your auto and boat policies.
geico.com | 1-800-865-4846 | Local Office
Some discounts, coverages, payment plans and features are not available in all states or all GEICO companies. Boat and PWC coverages are underwritten by GEICO Marine Insurance Company. Multi-Policy Discount available to auto insureds that have
purchased a boat policy through the GEICO Marine Insurance Company. GEICO is a registered service mark of Government Employees Insurance Company, Washington, D.C. 20076; a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary. � 2018 GEICO
BOATS
F I S H T RI A LS + T E S T RU NS + B OAT T I PS + N E W B OAT S & GE A R + BE T T E R B OAT I N G
ROD-HOLDER
RACKS
For boats that don?t have high-profile
rails, there are racks that cleverly fit
in gunwale rod holders. Manta Racks?
stowage systems, for example, use
gimbaled posts that fit inside the rod
holders. A patented 360-degree locking
swivel base allows boaters to angle each
arm of the rack on a horizontal plane to
suit the boat and board. Bases are available for both 15- and 30-degree gunwale
rod holder tubes.
Manta Racks are constructed from
quarter-inch aluminum, then powdercoated to resist corrosion. All hardware
is stainless steel. SeaDek EVA foam on
the inside of the arms offers cushioning.
Built-in cords secure the board or ?yak.
Manta?s S1 rack (about $500) holds
one board, while the S2 rack (about
$800) holds up to two SUPs. The LTK
(about $600) stows one kayak or one
of the bigger new SUPs, such as the
Dragonfly 13'6" or Live Watersports
L2 board.
StoreYourBoard.com?s Outracker
system (about $420) fits in gunwale
rod holders, as well, but this rack is
restricted to tubes with 30-degree
angles. On the other hand, the two padded aluminum arms pivot and lock in a
horizontal plane to fit different SUPs of
varying depths. It accommodates up to
two boards.
LAUNCH SEQUENCE
Depending on your boat?s gunwale or stern configurations, launching
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BOW OR STERN FIRST
BOARD THEN LOAD
GET ORGANIZED
You might be tempted, particularly with two people, to pick
up a kayak from each end,
hold it away from the gunwale,
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from even moderately highfreeboard boats, it?s easiest
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or stern first (at 90 degrees to
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secure a dock line to the ?yak
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Don?t try to put all your tackle
and gear into a kayak before
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roll over as you are trying to
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Another benefit of this system is
that the post that drops in the rod tube
extends upward to serve as a rod holder,
so you can still stow rods or troll while
also carrying paddle craft.
Remember that some boats also
have gunwale rod holders across the
transom bulkhead. That means these
systems might also be used to carry
paddle craft across the stern, as well as
along each side.
ROOF RACKS
A hardtop offers a great horizontal
surface for attaching accessories,
including racks for kayaks and SUPs.
Automobiles carry such gear, so why
not boats?
Intrepid Powerboats specializes
in creating custom features for its
new-boat buyers, and models such
as its 400 Cuddy are often built with
custom-ordered hardtop racks for
Manta Racks fit in gunwale rod holders and
feature bases that swivel horizontally to
accommodate the curvature of the boat?s
sides. SeaDek foam liners prevent scratches.
5 0 05 M A Y 2 0 1 8
3
MORE BETTER BOATING
For more helpful boating tips and expert
advice on equipment and more, visit
VSRUW?VKLQJPDJFRP
SUPs, says Joe Brenna, vice president of
customer service. ?Racks are installed
as part of the build, as per the buyer?s
specifications,? Brenna says.
INFLATABLE
SOLUTION
Not all SUPS are solid. A growing
number of models are inflatable,� and
that translates to easier stowage
and� portability aboard your boat. It
also means you might be able to carry
a much larger board than your boat
would otherwise accept.
For instance, the Zeppelin (about
$1,600) is a 12-foot-4-inch inflatable
SUP from Bote that?s more than 3 feet
wide, can carry two adults, and makes for
a stable fishing platform. When deflated,
however, it folds into a 45-pound backpack that can stow in a console or fish
locker. The Zeppelin comes with a pump
and a removable skeg.
Thanks to inflatable boards and
yaks, clever rack systems and innovative boatbuilders, it?s easier than ever
to carry paddle craft on your fishing
boat, then use it as a floating base from
which to launch ?yaks or SUPs to reach
otherwise unreachable hot spots.
NEW
SPECIES.
NEW
CHECK IT OUT ON
SPOTS.
NEW
SEASON.
PRESENTED BY
Fantastic Electronic Features for Midsize and Large Center Consoles
By Chris Woodward
52
MAY 2018
JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM
D R E A M
H E L M S
Three Garmin
displays decorate
the helm of
Grady-White?s new
Canyon 456. Sleek
flush-mounted
screens can now
give larger center
consoles the
glass-bridge feel of
traditional inboard
sport-fishing boats.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
53
D R E A M
H E L M S
s technology leaps and bounds past our
expectations, our what-ifs suddenly seem realistic. What if I could gesture-control my autopilot?
What if I could look at the water column in 3D? What if I could monitor all of my boat?s systems
on one display screen? ? Believe it or not, those dreams have become factual in the marineelectronics world. To find out what kinds of amazing gear might be possible for today?s offshore
fishing boats, I asked manufacturers to suggest dream helms for two sizes of vessels: 25- to
28-footers and 38- to 42-footers. ? In some cases, my query went to boatbuilders who install this
gear at the factory; in others, to electronics manufacturers (those who don?t work directly with
boatbuilders). Because MSRP per item can vary greatly from package pricing, and because all of
these helms require ancillary antennae, networking hardware, charts and wiring, I am not listing
the dollars and cents. Suffice it to say that some of these helms reach the mid-five-figure range.
FURUNO
Furuno chooses not to work directly with boatbuilders,
instead supplying its dealers with product. For a 26-foot
fishing boat, Furuno described this package as a dream helm:
? Two TZtouch2 (TZTL12F) 12-inch displays
? DRS6ANXT radar with 3.5-foot open array
? DFF3D (3D) multibeam sonar black box
? 165T-50/200-SS260 ? combo transducer for DFF3D
and 50/200 kHz internal fish finder
? NavPilot 300/PG autopilot with heading sensor
? GP330B external GPS sensor
? BBWX3 Sirius/XM satellite weather antenna
?This package offers the ultimate flexibility for this size
boat with limited dash space,? says Jeff Kauzlaric, Furuno
advertising and communications manager. ?It features the
12-inch TZtouch2 multifunction display with a chart plotter,
RezBoost 50/200 kHz fish finder, DFF3D multibeam sonar
and a solid-state Doppler open-array radar. We added in the
new NavPilot 300 autopilot, which features rich fish-hunting
steering modes and the new gesture-control capabilities.?
Gesture control means a captain can simply press a button on
54
MAY 2018
Furuno?s TZtouch
displays coupled with
the company?s DFF3D
3D multibeam sonar
black box (belowdecks)
provide today?s offshore
fishermen with a superior
view of the water column
all around their boats.
the handheld Bluetooth remote and point it in the direction
he wants to go, and the autopilot follows.
Furuno listed additional sensors that add to navigational
safety and assist with other crucial fishing data, including
a Sirius/XM weather receiver and an external GPS sensor
for redundancy. ?Whether you?re fishing for kingfish, tuna,
stripers or bottomfish, this package will put you on the fish,?
Kauzlaric says. ?Though the DFF3D is a deepwater sidescanning sonar that paints a 3D history, it?s right at home in
the bays and inland waterways, helping to see fish schools and
predators with its 120-degree port-to-starboard view.?
TZtouch2 black
box (TZT2BB) with
dual MU190T
touch displays
For a 40-footer, Furuno listed this package:
? TZtouch2 black box (TZT2BB) with dual
MU190T touch displays
? DRS25AX X-Class radar with 6-foot antenna
? DFF1-UHD TruEcho CHIRP fish finder
? DFF3D (3D) multibeam sonar
? 165T/265LH-PM488 combo transducer DFF3D
and CHIRP
? NavPilot 300 AutoPilot
? GP330B external GPS sensor
? FA50 Class B AIS transponder
? BBWX3 Sirius/XM satellite-weather receiver
? FI70 instrument/data repeater
? SC30 satellite compass
? FI5002 NMEA2000 junction box
? HUB101 Ethernet hub
? MCU004 remote control
?This is the ultimate fishing package that
offers everything, starting with the basics of a
chart plotter, high-powered bird-finding radar
and TruEcho CHIRP fish finder,? Kauzlaric
says. ?From there, we add in the DFF3D multibeam sonar, which gives you 120 degrees port
to starboard of 3D sounding images. We added
in the new NavPilot 300 autopilot (described
for the smaller-boat package), and we combined
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
55
D R E A M
H E L M S
GARMIN
systems that interface with the
Garmin displays. A final factory
option is the GXM 53 Sirius/XM
weather module.
Regulator does not currently
install digital-switching systems.
However,
because
Garmin
recently bought the parent
company for the EmpirBus
systems, Maxwell predicts digital
switching will soon proliferate.
A bigger center console such as
the Scout 420LXF obviously offers
anglers more room to spread out
the high-tech gear. ?The 420LXF
features a centerline helm, which
allows for excellent electronicscreen visibility directly in front
of the captain, but also peripheral screens just off to port and
starboard that are easily viewed
and used without shifting position,? says Josh Slayton, Scout
product specialist. Three Garmin
8617 17-inch displays span this
helm, offering a glass-bridge-like
feel. ?By utilizing CZONE digital
switching, the rest of the helm is
left available for more-functional
use,? Slayton says.
For transducers, Slayton
chose the Airmar B175H (high-frequency) and B175L (lowfrequency) chirp transducers for offshore fishing. ?Adding a
Garmin CV51M-TH transducer would give you offshore and
coastal down-view and side-view capabilities, painting structure as clearly as possible,? he says.
For radar, he chose the GMR 1226 xHD2. ?I prefer the
COURTESY: REGULATOR (3), SCOUT BOATS (OPPOSITE, 2)
Garmin works with a large number of boatbuilding partners.
For this article, I chose to ask the folks at Regulator Marine
to detail a dream package for their 28-foot center console and
Scout Boats to tell me how they?d rig their 42-foot LXF.
?The 28, for us, is one of our absolute best-selling boats,?
says Regulator co-owner Owen Maxwell. ?We started off the
year including the same [electronics] packages on the 28 as
we do on the 25. But our customers forced us to offer biggerboat packages on the 28 ? in this case, going from two 12-inch
to two 16-inch Garmin 7616 displays.?
Anglers wanted the larger units so they could most easily
see information at a glance. Maxwell says Regulator crafts the
helm so the black touchscreens mount flush with the dash,
creating a clean look.
The 7616s pair with an Airmar B265 LH (low-high chirp)
through-hull transducer. ?We like the LH for our customers
who are deep-dropping. That low side will really get down
deep (3,000 feet is the depth capability),? Maxwell says.
?The chirp image is just a better, more-defined image than
the爊onchirp.?
If customers want a shallow-water transducer, they can
add an Airmar B60 tilted through-hull. ?On all of our boats 25
and up, we have the transducer pocket molded into the hull
on the keel,? he says.
The 28s also feature a Garmin GMR 424 xHD2 4 kW 4-foot
open-array radar or an optional 6 kW 4-foot version, and a
GHP Reactor autopilot that enables drive-by-wire control.
?We?re installing the Optimus EPS power-steering system on
all of our models. It?s plug-and-play
with the autopilot,? he says.
Below left: Twin Garmins
Additionally, Regulator installs set into a black panel to
a Garmin 210 VHF radio, which reduce glare offer lots
comes with an AIS receive function. of visual real estate.
?So on your display, you can see Below right: In many
cases, electronics are now
the boats around you on-screen,? installed as a new boat is
he says. For musical entertain- being built. These were
ment, Regulator offers Polk Marine rigged at Regulator.
56
MAY 2018
6-foot open array for more-precise Top: For all models
targeting over the 4-foot version, from the 25 (pictured)
but I can?t really justify the benefit up, Regulator molds
a transducer pocket
on a center console hardtop from into the hull. Right: The
the larger 25 kW model, so the expansive dream helm of
a Scout 420 LXF. Below
12 kW is great.?
He would install a Garmin right: A radar array, TV
VHF300 with an AIS 600 module antenna and FLIR camera
line up above this 420?s
for two-way AIS transmission. He?d robust hardtop.
add a second VHF300 and leave
it unattached to AIS so he could
monitor local fish talk.
If the boat came with Mercury outboards, ?then I would
use their autopilot system built into the joystick. If it was
a Yamaha package, then I would use the Garmin Reactor
autopilot system.?
The perfect helm would also utilize a FLIR thermal camera
? an M625S (high-resolution, gyro-stabilized), which would
be controlled from the joystick or from the Garmin touchscreen, he explains. Slayton also says he would integrate
several Garmin VIRB XE video cameras, linking them via local
Wi-Fi. ?This allows me to position two cameras facing aft and
at the deck while trolling offshore. Once a fish is spotted in the
spread, I can instantly tap ?record? on the Garmin helm screen
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
57
D R E A M
H E L M S
and begin saving the action.?
Slayton would also mount a KVH satellite TV3 system on
the 420?s hardtop. The data would feed through HDMI to the
Garmin screens. The sound would feed to the Fusion stereo
head unit on its own aux input, ?so I could be watching March
Madness basketball and listening to Dick Vitale make his
play-by-play call.?
For additional entertainment, Slayton would place a
Garmin GXM 53 antenna on the hardtop for XM radio and
satellite weather.
?Just above me to port and starboard, there is room for
Garmin 942xs displays on each side. These two screens would
be used for a variety of additional cameras and electronics.
I would put one Garmin GC 10 [camera] in the cabin so I could
keep an eye on the kids napping or playing. I would put another
Garmin GC 10 facing aft so I could see behind me when docking.
?As crazy as it sounds, I would also integrate a Garmin
gWind transducer. This mounts on the hardtop, and it?s nice
to know what the wind speed is sitting at the dock.
?Depending on the location of the vessel, I would also add
an underwater camera in the transom. I have used this to spot
active reefs as well as just for the fun of looking under the
boat while at anchor as an onboard entertainment screen. I?ve
used the Lumi-Cam TIX 402 from Lumishore.?
HUMMINBIRD
Humminbird generally targets smaller boats in the
offshore-fishing market, so that company?s package focuses
on a typical 26-foot vessel. Here?s what the company would
install aboard:
Assuming the boat?s dash allows, the two Solix units would
mount flush in the helm and connect using an Ethernet
hub. The radar and a Minn Kota trolling motor, such
Because Humminbird
and Minn Kota are both
owned by Johnson
Outdoors, a Solix
multifunction display
and an Ulterra trolling
motor pair seamlessly for
ultimate control offshore
and inshore.
58
MAY 2018
as the Ulterra with i-Pilot Link, would also network through
the hub.
The GPS receiver would connect to one unit, providing
heading data to the network. Humminbird recommended
a through-hull XP 14 20 dual-frequency transducer, or an
Airmar B175HW chirp transducer, depending on fishing爊eeds.
?We chose this package because it provides boaters and
anglers with total boat control, making their job easier and at
the same time giving them more time to fish due to less time
required to drive the boat or deploy the anchor,? says Bill
Carson, Humminbird field marketing manager. ?This setup is
what our staffers at Humminbird choose for their own boats,
no questions asked.?
This ?do-it-all? package provides radar that aids navigation,
especially during spring when coastal waters can experience
heavy fog, Carson says. ?The Solix SI unit has Mega imaging,
which is great for 40 feet and less for the nearshore channel
opportunities, and offers 800 kHz and 455 kHz for [imaging
in] deeper water.?
The system also provides AutoChart Live for real-time
onboard mapping. With NMEA 2000 capability, the engines
can connect to the Solix.
COURTESY: HUMMINBIRD (2), BLACKFIN BOATS (OPPOSITE TOP), RAYMARINE (OPPOSITE)
? Solix 15 CHIRP Mega SI GPS
? Solix 15 CHIRP GPS
? XP 14 20 200/83 kHz transducer
? AS GPS HS GPS/WAAS receiver with heading sensor
? HB 2124 CHIRP radar (21-inch dome)
RAYMARINE
Blackfin says a Raymarine dream helm for its 272 center
console would include:
? Two Axiom 12-inch multifunction displays
? Ray260 VHF
? Quantum 2 radar
? CP370 digital sonar module
? B164 1 kW through-hull transducer
? RV-220 RealVision 3D through-hull transducer
? T300 thermal camera
? EV-1 autopilot
?This package will make any 25- to 28-foot boat usable
for any type of fishing the customer might want to do,? says
Mason Cummings, Blackfin engineering manager. ?This will
satisfy everyone, from the tournament fisherman to the
customer who might fish only a few times a year.?
The Axioms offer RealVision 3D views, with the
accompanying transducer, which makes finding and fishing
structure simple, Cummings says. The CP370 sonar module
and Airmar B164 transducer (50/200 kHz) add clear
target detection to 5,000 feet, and ?are a must for anyone
bottomfishing or trying to look at the bottom in more than
600 feet of water depth,? he says.
Raymarine?s brand-new Quantum 2 radome features
Doppler and wireless technology. The former enhances
collision avoidance by showing approaching targets
in red,� and the latter eliminates a lot of cabling through
hardtops and燾onsoles.
The Ray260 modular VHF keeps the dash clean because
only the handset and loudspeaker mount at the helm; the base
unit mounts belowdecks. ?This is easily integrated into the
system by a Raymarine SeaTalk hub,? Cummings says. ?This
can also be upgraded to have more than one handset should
the customer require it.?
Cummings also recommends a thermal camera for
navigating at night and in early-morning fog. The T300
features pan, tilt and zoom, and is stabilized.
And finally, an autopilot system really assists captains
during long runs and when they need to direct traffic aboard
while maintaining watch.
Boston Whaler takes a custom-build approach to outfitting
Top: A Blackfin 272
dream helm comes with
twin Axiom displays that
network with a multitude
of peripherals. Right:
The Raymarine Axiom
12 multifunction display
comes with built-in
RealVision 3D sonar.
D R E A M
H E L M S
its 420 Outrage for potential clients, says Wil燫ogers, director
of large-boat sales. But in many situations, the first priority
is plenty of screen real estate. The 420?s broad helm face
accommodates triple 16-inch, multitouchscreen Raymarine
gS165 glass-bridge displays.
Whaler then offers a CP470 chirp sonar module in the
package, but some buyers choose to upgrade to a top-of-theline CP570, which features superior target separation and a
wide spectrum of frequencies with greater sensitivity.
The CP570, capable of reading depths to 10,000 feet, is
compatible with a variety of Airmar transducers that offer low/
high, low/medium or medium/high frequency bands. Whaler
creates fiberglass pockets for flush-mounting these units.
Interfacing with the gS units, a Raymarine HD color 12 kW
open-array radar ? available in 4- or 6-foot sizes ? provides
anglers with plenty of bird-finding power.
Thermal and IP cameras also play a key role aboard the
420. Whaler generally integrates a FLIR M625S or M324S
gyro-stabilized pan/tilt thermal camera facing toward the
bow. Belowdecks, Whaler installs thermal cameras to monitor
the bilge and mounts IP cameras on deck level so the captain
can watch the cockpit and other locations.
For communication and safety, Whaler will begin installing
the new Ray90 VHF radio, which debuts this spring, to
replace the Ray260. The 90 is a modular system that offers
a wireless handset. Most owners also request an AIS system
that sends and receives, such as the Raymarine AIS650.
Because Whaler is owned by the Brunswick Corporation,
which also enfolds Mercury Marine, Whaler generally installs
a Mercury joystick-piloting system, which comes with its
own autopilot capabilities. Whaler also began its own boatmonitoring system called Whaler Watch, which interfaces
the networked boat systems through external devices such as
iPads and iPhones.
Using either CZone or EmpirBus, Whaler employs
digital switching so everything electrical, including the
highly popular Seakeeper gyro-stabilization systems, can be
controlled through the helm displays.
SIMRAD
? Two NSS evo3 12-inch displays (GPS, sounder, Wi-Fi, HDMI out,
Insight charts), space permitting
? S5100 chirp sonar module
? StructureScan 3D module with through-hull low/high chirp
transducer
? Airmar B275LH-W (low/high wide) through-hull transducer
? TXL-10S-4 10 kW 4-foot open-array HD digital radar
? AP44 VRF autopilot
? NAIS-500
? RS35 VHF radio with AIS
? Track Wi-Fi kit (security and tracking system)
? SonicHub2 marine audio
? WM-3 Sirius/XM module
? GS25 antenna with built-in rate compass
60
MAY 2018
Simrad
NSS12
evo3
SeaVee ? like many of the boatbuilders included here ?
accommodates several major electronics brands, including
Simrad. ?By the time they get to us, well into 90 percent of
customers have a pretty good knowledge base,? says John
Caballero, SeaVee marketing director, ?which translates into
what they want in their boats.?
To build a Simrad dream helm for the SeaVee 390Z, the
company talks through the customer?s needs for fishing and
navigation, and gauges how much redundancy he or she might
want. The most popular systems begin with twin 16-inch NSS
evo3 displays. That setup leaves room at the helm for other
devices and controls, Caballero says.
The NSS evo3 units offer multitouch touchscreen and
keypad controls, and they network with Simrad?s s5100 chirp
sonar module, which offers three fully independent sonar
channels to run three chirp frequency ranges. SeaVee generally installs a 1 kW Airmar B275LH-W, although it will glass in
transducers up to 3 kW, based on customer desires.
COURTESY: SIMRAD (2), SEAVEE (OPPOSITE BOTTOM)
While Simrad works with a variety of boatbuilders, most
I� talked to about 25- to 28-foot builds suggested they offer
a limited package, allowing dealers to provide extra peripherals. So Simrad tournament captain Mark Maus suggested
an optimal helm.
?This is for the hardcore fisherman who likes to find birds
at a distance in search of bait pods,? he says. ?The s5100 will
allow the B275LH transducer to show fish in the water column
to great depths, and never lose bottom lock at 2,000� feet
while running in good conditions. Highlights include the
NSS evo3 in the 12-inch size, which should fit 25- to 28-foot
boats, 10� kW radar for bird spotting, 3D StructureScan with
side-scan sonar to locate the bait and structure, and an AIS
transmitter for safety. This would be my dream setup on a
boat of that size.?
?The vast majority of our boats have a radar system. I like
the Halo-4 for overall performance. It uses very low power,?
says Caballero.
The most popular VHF radio installed at the factory is the
ICOM M506 with an external speaker. Simrad electronics
also display Mercury engine information using the Mercury
VesselView Link digital interface.
Caballero is a believer in the SeaStar Optimus electronic
power-steering systems. Add in a joystick with heading
control for electronic anchoring and autopilot functions.
One other ease-of-use piece of equipment SeaVee often
recommends is the remote keypad (OP50) for the Simrad
units. With the keypad mounted near the wheel, the captain
can merely drop one hand to adjust plotter gain or range
while running.
Other popular peripherals include a JL Media Master
control head for audio that interfaces with the evo3s, a Sirius/
XM weather module, a Globalstar Sat-Fi unit, and FLIR
cameras such as the M200.
?In the early days, you had gaps in functionality or clunky
operation; those days are over,? Caballero says. ?These
machines are adaptable. They have advanced software.
You can optimize this equipment, and set up for whatever
scenarios you?re in, such as trolling or bottomfishing. You get
great performance throughout the entire water column.?
Above: A Simrad RS35 fixed-mount VHF with AIS for a 25- to 28-foot
build. Below: SeaVee customizes its electronics installations, often
setting them into a black panel recessed behind a clear, protective
screen that can be closed during rough or stormy conditions and locked
for extra security.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
61
62
MAY 2018
MICHAEL PATRICK O?NEILL / MPOSTOCK.COM
G
N
I
H
S
I
F
IS GHT
EF VER
DON?T MISS NORTH
CAROLINA?S EXCITING
SPRING RUN OF COBIA
OFF THE BEACHES
BY ROB WITTMAN
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
63
For me,
a true sign of spring making the
transition to summer follows on the heels of the first
reports of cobia being caught off the North Carolina coast.
Sight-fishing for cobia had its genesis, at least in terms
of boat design, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where
many boats bear towers and elevated casting platforms.
Similarly, as the cobia sight-fishery off North Carolina
has exploded in recent years, these days you?ll see many
boats sporting towers and elevated platforms.
Cobia sight-fishing has become a major sport in
the saltwater recreational-fishing scene along the
coast of North Carolina, a sport to which many ?
like me ? are totally addicted.
During the first half of May, North Carolina
anglers normally encounter the season?s first cobia
around nearshore open-Atlantic shoals. As water
temperatures warm, cobia move from offshore
to inshore areas. This availability makes North
Carolina one of the top bets on the Atlantic Coast
for spring cobia action. (Though mid-May through
mid-June is a peak period, cobia continue to be
targeted and caught through the summer.)
Major hot spots for spring cobia include Cape
Lookout Shoals and Diamond Shoals, as well as
Oregon Inlet.
as a mate on an offshore charter boat 30-some
years ago ? we were uncomfortably late. However,
Capt.� Aaron Kelly reminded me that ?there?s no
use in our getting out there before the sun?s up high
enough for us to see clearly enough into the water?
since we were all about spotting cobia.
Kelly was no random or casual choice of a charter.
I knew that Kelly runs one of the most accomplished
cobia boats on the East Coast. At the same time, his
first mate, Bob Feldhaus, is a cobia expert who has
developed a line of Meat Hog jigs, extraordinarily
effective bucktails for cobia.
As we cruised out the inlet, Kelly told us that
yesterday they?d spotted 24 cobes but hooked only
eight. ?The fish weren?t turned on,? he said, as they
had been earlier in the week.
ADAPT AND HOOK UP
Rock Solid headed toward the fourth set of inlet
buoys. The sun hadn?t really materialized; we faced
a 15-knot southwest wind under mostly cloudy skies
? not great conditions for sight-casting.
We strained to see any cobia that might be on
these navigation markers. Kelly believes these to be
the best cobia attractors in the area, commenting,
?I?ve made my entire day on many occasions by
fishing these markers.?
However, on that morning, we found no fish on
any of the markers, including the last of the markers
that locals call the sea buoy.
After clearing the sea buoy, we ran south of the
inlet, all three anglers in the tower trying to cover
every angle of water, gazing through our polarized sunglasses and hoping to spot a cobia through
the glare and chop. Kelly zigzagged from within
400� yards of the beach to a half-mile out, but we
spotted no brown-backed surface swimmers.
After three fruitless hours, as we arrived off the
beaches of Rodanthe, we spotted our first cobia.
Unfortunately, after we made several unsuccessful
casts, the fish disappeared. Not much later, we saw
a pair of cobia. I managed a good cast just to their
Early in the season last year, I joined sight-fishing
enthusiasts Carl Perry and J.T. Frazier on the charter
Rock Solid (a 36 Ricky Scarborough), departing the
Oregon Inlet Fishing Center at 7:30 a.m. For me ?
still recalling our 4:30 a.m. departures when I worked
64
MAY 2018
JASON STEMPLE (2)
S I G H T- F I S H I N G H O T S H O T S
Cobia range from
Mexico around the Gulf
and up the Atlantic
Seaboard to the
Carolinas and Virginia,
providing anglers with
popular sight-fishing
targets thanks to the
species?s inclination
to patrol the surface
individually or in packs.
THE COBIA CONUNDRUM
M
anaging species that
routinely cross geopolitical boundaries is one of
the greatest challenges in fisheries
management. In the Southeast,
cobia are found in bays, estuaries
and near offshore ocean waters
during their annual migrations,
making them subject to both state
and federal regulations.
Federal fishery managers
base management in the
Exclusive Economic Zone (federal
waters) on genetic studies that
describe two distinct populations of cobia. Fish caught north
of the Georgia-Florida line along
the Atlantic Coast are considered
Atlantic Migratory Group Cobia,
while those caught off the east
coast of Florida and throughout
the Gulf are part of the Gulf of
Mexico Migratory Group Cobia
(see map, page 67).
In 2017, the South Atlantic
Fishery Management Council
closed federal waters of the Atlantic
Ocean northward of the GeorgiaFlorida line to the harvest of cobia.
This unprecedented precautionary
action was taken after the 620,000pound recreational Annual Catch
Limit for AMG Cobia was exceeded
by a wide margin during the two
preceding years.
Recognizing that much of the
harvest of AMG Cobia occurs in
state waters, the SAFMC encouraged states to take measures
to reduce cobia harvest. The
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission stepped in to
coordinate state efforts through
development and implementation of the Interstate Fishery
Management Plan for AMG Cobia.
States from Georgia to New
Jersey now have measures in place
to regulate recreational harvest so
as not to exceed 620,000 pounds
annually, obviating the need to
close federal waters during 2018.
Meanwhile, the SAFMC is deliberating whether to transfer AMG
Cobia management to the ASMFC.
If this happens, AMG Cobia
management will be the sole
responsibility of the states through
ASMFC, pursuant to the Atlantic
Coastal Fisheries Cooperative
Management Act. No longer
would AMG Cobia be managed
through the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and
Management Act.
A stock-identification workshop
is scheduled for 2018, during
which the genetic basis for cobia
management will be re-evaluated
with new data. A stock assessment
for AMG Cobia will begin in 2018,
with final results available for
managers in 2019.
The results of both will have
far-reaching impacts on cobia
fishing, so it is important that
anglers and guides stay engaged
by participating in catch-and-effort
surveys, providing tissue samples
for genetic analysis, serving on
advisory panels, and attending
public meetings.
?Capt. Spud Woodward,
ASMFC commissioner ? Georgia
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
65
left, and the larger of the two darted out to eat the
bucktail. After a brief battle, we had the 32-inch
cobia unhooked and released.
Over the next three hours, we saw another dozen
cobia, in singles and pairs, and we hooked and released
six, the largest of these fish at 36 inches, which is the
minimum size limit for cobia in North Carolina.
By 2:30 that afternoon, a line of storms made
sight-fishing impossible. We adapted quickly,
changing techniques to slow-troll live menhaden
that we had cast-netted earlier, rigged behind
2-ounce egg sinkers. The baits weren?t in the water
for 15 minutes when both rods went down.
After the first fish came unbuttoned five
minutes into the fight, we saw that the hook had
broken. I continued to wrestle the other cobia.
But after another 15 minutes, with the fish finally
boatside, the unmistakable copper orange of a red
drum appeared.
Setting the rod in the holder (as years of being a
first mate had me acting instinctively), I grabbed the
line, led the redfish to the boat, and lifted it carefully
onto the deck. Quickly unhooking the hefty catch
once we had measured the fish at 46 inches, we
released it.
S U C C E S S F U L F I R S T D AY
By then, the storms had passed and we resumed
sight-fishing. We ended up spotting three more
cobia, releasing two of those, for a day?s total 17 fish
sighted and nine caught and released (none quite
went the legal size).
Bottom line: We had
The author with a keeper
seen a good number of
cobia, one of hundreds
fish under very chalhe has caught and largely
lenging
conditions
released thanks to many
and managed a decent
years of honing tackle and
success rate. We were,
techniques for one of his
favorite game fish.
however,
puzzled
66
MAY 2018
ROB WITTMAN, JASON STEMPLE (OPPOSITE); MAP COURTESY NOAA SOUTHEAST REGIONAL OFFICE
Over the next three
hours, we saw
another dozen cobia,
in singles and pairs,
and we hooked and
released six, the
largest of these fish
at 36 inches.
as to why we saw no legal-size fish that day, and
speculated that we?d caught smaller cobia that had
recently made their way to waters near the beach.
Clear, sunny days with winds remaining less
than 12 knots offer best conditions. On such days,
I?ve seen totals as high as 70 fish spotted and up to
30 hooked and released.
Heavy-overcast windy days take sight-fishing
pretty well out of the equation, but skippers still
catch cobia by fishing live croakers or eels near
a chum bucket on the bottom. No live bait? You
can sure catch cobia on cut bait, but also expect a
higher percentage of hookups from fish you don?t
really want.
COBIA MIGRATORY
GROUPS/ZONES
ATLANTIC
GROUP
B E ST TA C K L E A N D J I G S
Kelly and Feldhaus have collaborated to make great
advances in sight-fishing for cobia, including the
development of best colors and optimal bucktail
jigs, presentation techniques, and best rod-and-reel
combinations for casting to and landing cobia, they
have truly advanced the fishery.
From time spent with them, it seems that the best
outfits for sight-fishing cobia are 8-foot spinning
rods with soft-action tips for casting, and stiff butts
for putting on the pressure, such as the Shimano
popping-rod series. While I favor Shimano reels,
in general, spinners from 8000 to 14000 size filled
with 40- to 50-pound braid work well. Feldhaus adds
to each rig a 4-foot section of 40- to 50-pound-test
Seaguar fluorocarbon leader attached to the braid
FLORIDA EAST
COAST ZONE
N
GULF
GROUP/ZONE
0
100
200
300
400
MILES
Above: NOAA fishery managers have divided the Atlantic cobia population into
two stocks: the Gulf group, which includes the east coast of Florida, and the
Atlantic group, which includes all cobia north of the Florida-Georgia border.
Below: A swing and a miss ... this time, but betting on the hapless pilchard to
survive the encounter wouldn?t be a good idea.
500
with an FG knot.
I?ve had great success with Feldhaus? Meat Hog
jigs, especially lighter-colored heads dressed with
brightly colored feathers. My personal favorite is
a bright-green squid-head Meat Hog jig called the
Green Goblin, with bright-and-dark-green feathers
and a translucent-green twister tail.
To minimize the twister tail interfering with
the hook, I snip off some of the plastic body to
shorten� the lure so the hook comes out just ahead
of where the� round body flattens to the tail. While
fishing with Kelly a few years ago on Diamond
Shoals, I caught 98- and 96-pound cobia the same
day using a Green Goblin jig. Kelly likes a Meat
Hog flathead bucktail in a brownish-copper color
dressed with emu feathers, which he calls the Emu
Flash. He fishes this lure without a tail because ?on
that jig, the feathers provide the lure action.?
O N E L E AT H E R B A C K , A Z I L L I O N
POGIES AND DOZENS OF COBIA
That first day on Rock Solid had been successful
given the somewhat-challenging conditions, but we
were ready for a bang-up second session.
Unfortunately, the weather for the Oregon Inlet
area the next morning was unsettled. Radar showed
a line of slow-moving storms west of the strand of
beaches from Rodanthe to Buxton to Hatteras Inlet.
But the captain confidently asked us, ?Are you
guys ready to go??
?What about the weather?? I returned.
?You can?t catch ?em at the
dock! Let?s go.? And with that,
Some of the author?s favorite cobia
Kelly fired up the diesel engine on
lures are these Meat Hog Jigs
developed by Bob Feldhaus and
Rock Solid and we headed out.
Aaron Kelly. At top is an Emu Flash
Sure enough, at the can buoy
(which uses real emu feathers and
on
the way, a cobia that looked to
is meant to be fished without a tail).
be in the 60-pound range nailed
Below are various other jigs in the
Meat Hog lineup.
my bright-green Gremlin model
of Meat Hog bucktail with a white plastic tail, but it
came unbuttoned.
A half-hour later, heading south off the coast, we
spotted a giant leatherback turtle and aimed toward
it in hopes that a retinue of cobia would be in tow.
Sure enough, just as the leatherback raised its
mammoth head out of the water, we saw four nicesize cobia. From the tower, we struggled to get the
right angle to cast jigs in front of the fish. Perry
and I both hooked up; the cobia promptly had our
In recent years, whole new lines
of lures designed to target cobia
have cropped up, primarily jigs,
including lead-heads dressed
with various types of bucktail
and feathers in bright color
combinations, suspending jigs
and jig heads rigged with eels or
swimming bodies.
Bob Feldhaus hand-makes his
line of Meat Hog jigs, which he
co-owns with Aaron Kelly, and
they enjoy a devout following
in the mid-Atlantic area. Bowed
Up lures made in Kitty Hawk,
North Carolina, also have a very
dedicated following. Magic
68
MAY 2018
Tail bucktails, from New Jersey,
are well-made and reliable
cobia catchers. Wahoo! lures
suspending bucktail jigs with a
rattle chamber sink very slowly,
staying in front of cobia longer
than a lead-head jig. Hogy lures?
9-inch HUDV Jigging Eel has
a great action and is a proven
cobia catcher. Similarly, RonZ
Performance Soft Baits in the
6- and 8-inch original series do
a great job of fooling cobia by
imitating eels. The Elaztech Z-Man
10-inch HeroZs are nearly indestructible and so light that they
fall slowly, making them great for
cobia. Berkley?s Gulp! comes in a
6-inch grub that works beautifully on a bucktail jig, and its
scent technology helps persuade
finicky cobia.
It never hurts to have some live
eels or bunker if you can get them.
Many days I have found success
on my second, third and fourth
presentations of various offerings,
as I figured out what will turn them
on at that time. Always have a
variety of lures and baits for cobia
because their feeding moods can
be different, and options simply
increase your odds of success.
COURTESY Z-MAN (BOTTOM), ROB WITTMAN (3)
POPULAR COBIA LURES
We came upon a school of menhaden that
stretched as far as the eye could see,
with bait showering here and there.
lines crossed and we scrambled to keep lines clear,
eventually getting a pair of 40-pounders to the boat.
We released both.
The weather improved, and we continued to see
cobia, catching and releasing nine.
Then we came upon a school of menhaden that
stretched as far as the eye could see, with bait
showering here and there. We noticed areas within
the acres of bait where the surface was smooth. We
quickly discovered that within these calm areas,
the baitfish had cleared out to make room for cobia
looking for a meal.
I wondered if in those circumstances, with
unlimited bait all around, the cobia would eat a
bucktail jig. ?Well, we?re fixin? to find out!? Kelly said
with a laugh.
I cast a pink-and-white bucktail in front a big
cobia sitting in the middle of tens of thousands of
pogies. The fish didn?t even hesitate, eating the jig
right away. Some 20 minutes later, I landed that
healthy 60-pounder.
By day?s end, we had seen more than 50 cobia,
catching and releasing 12 fish more than 40 pounds.
During the peak of North Carolina?s cobia season,
days like this aren?t uncommon. The excitement and
visual impact of sight-fishing for cobia is as good
as fishing gets. Up and down the nearshore coastal
waters of the state, from the Crystal Coast to the
Outer Banks, sight-fishing for cobia reigns supreme
in late spring and early summer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Wittman grew up working on charter boats in
North Carolina and Virginia. He now represents the
First Congressional District in Virginia in the United
States Congress. He is chairman of the Congressional
Sportsmen?s Caucus, which works on issues and
legislation important to recreational fishermen.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
69
Blue Gulf of Mexico water
pours into jetties at the
mouth of St. Andrew Bay
on the flood tide. Often, the
Gulf is a transparent emerald
green color off Florida?s
Panhandle beaches.
70
MAY 2018
JR HOTT / PANHANDLE HELICOPTER
Panama City
Emerald Coast
Hot Spot,
Inside & Out
Sprawling Bays and the Clear Waters of the
Gulf of Mexico Offer Wide-Open Fishing Around
Florida?s Panama City B Y D O U G O L A N D E R
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
71
boat near the bridge channel and dropped
anchor, I noted that we had the whole area
to ourselves.
B U L L R E D S A N D F-1 6 S
L I G H T-TA C K L E T O M F O O L E R Y
Fortunately, we began seeing splashes and
swirls as something drove small white bait to
the surface. I picked up a little Shimano Stradic
3000 and slid a Rapala Shadow Rap Shad in an
CHECK THOSE REGS!
When it comes to fishing laws governing seasons, limits and lengths, life used to be pretty simple for anglers and captains. But these days, there are
strict regulations governing fisheries for a great many species popular around and off Panama City ? including (but not limited to) red snapper, red
grouper, gag grouper, amberjack, gray triggerfish, cobia and kingfish.
Bottom line, if you hope to keep some fish for the table or freezer, know the latest regulations. If fishing with a professional captain, ask him before
you go so you?ll know what?s in season and what?s not ? and to avoid any unpleasant surprises when you land that big one.
Or look up the regs yourself; they?re easily found by visiting myfwc.com.
72
MAY 2018
DOUG OLANDER / SPORT FISHING (2)
As we skimmed over the mirror-calm surface
of Saint Andrew Bay, en route from Sun Harbor
Marina to the DuPont (Highway 98) bridge
that separates Saint Andrew from East Bay,
I爉arveled at how large an area of inshore waters
sprawled northwest, northeast and southeast of
Panama City. I had no idea.
?Our entire system includes four bays,?
explained Capt. Matt Smith, our guide for
the day: ?West Bay, North Bay, Saint Andrew
Bay and East Bay.? These total up to nearly
170,000燼cres of water, Smith pointed out. And a
glance at a map shows an astonishing amount of
fishable爏horeline.
Given the ideal weather on that early-summer
morning, I kept looking for other boats with
anglers also intent on hooking some bull redfish.
But as Smith positioned his 21-foot Cobia bay
We intended to fish some of the Storm soft
plastics that my fishing partner, Dan Quinn
with Rapala, had brought down with him from
Minnesota. Smith had plenty of small, live
menhaden ? cast-netted that morning ? filling
his baitwell, and he explained that plastics
could be dynamite in shallower areas of the
bays, but here in nearly 20 feet of water, they
were a much tougher sell.
Nevertheless, the intrepid Quinn did hook a
good fish on a 360 GT Largo Shad from Storm?s
Coastal series, his first bull red drum ever. But
bowing to the power of live baits, we put some
of Smith?s pogies to good use, landing several
more reds to at least 30 pounds, giving our light
spinning outfits quite a workout.
Then the air show started.
It takes a considerable distraction to make
die-hard anglers redirect their attention from a
live bait in imminent likelihood of being eaten by
a rapacious trophy-size redfish, but when F-16s,
F-22s and other fighter jets began sneaking up
on us ? moving so fast that unless watching, we
were aware of them only when they thundered
by overhead in the blink of an eye ? it became
hard to concentrate on other things.
There?s nothing to bring out the 8-year-old
in a lot of guys like fighter jets, and it turned out
we were fishing in their flight path ? lots and
lots of them ? practicing takeoffs and landings
at Tyndall Air Force Base, a stone?s throw south
of the bridge.
I think Smith was amused at our awe, having
long since gotten used to this phenomenon.
Gradually, I managed to focus on the reason
we were here. It helped that the frequency of
overflights slowed. About the same time, the tide
slowed as well, as then did the redfish bite.
Bowing to the power of
live baits, we put some
of燬mith?s pogies to good
use, landing several more
reds to at least 30 pounds,
giving our light spinning
outfits quite a workout.
albino shiner color (think white pearl) onto
my snap, tossed it out, and began erratically
working the lure jerkbait-style, in sharp, quick
snaps. Almost at once, in a silver flash, I had
hooked up. The bushwhacker turned out to be
a small bluefish.
Quinn joined me, throwing a small 360 GT
Largo Shad on a light lead-head, and both of
us stayed busy with slashing strikes of small
but always aggressive blues, with ladyfish and
Spanish mackerel mixed in.
Soon, Smith weighed anchor and we headed
farther up into East Bay.
Above: A serious bull
redfish let Dan Quinn,
visiting from Minnesota,
scratch one goal off
his bucket list. Below:
Quinn?s bucket list was
further reduced when
he boated this huge
smoker king, assisted
by Capt. Matt Parramore
(left), after it struck
Quinn?s Rapala: a
Magnum Divebait-40
Saltwater X-Rap.
Flounder are highly
sought and widely
available in the bay
system around Panama
City. Capt. Matt Smith
can usually find the
tasty flatfish.
Somewhere in the vicinity of midbay, the
sounder displayed the bottom abruptly rising
from about 8 feet to 3 feet or so ? a large
sandy爏hoal.
Though usually fishier (and apparently at
times troutier) than it proved today, we did hook
some jacks, and I landed another, considerably
larger, Spanish mackerel while fishing the same
Shadow Rap Shad, and missed what might have
been a small tarpon.
By this time ? midmorning ? we had caught
sight of maybe two or three other boats with
anglers, and appreciated the tranquility of the
East Bay. That, however, was about to change.
FLOUNDER IN
THE FREE-FOR-ALL
Flounder fishing in these waters can be
74
MAY 2018
productive this time of year if you fish the right
place. On this day, Smith said, the right place
would be Saint Andrew Bay Pass, where the Gulf
funnels into and out of the extensive bay system
surrounding Panama City.
The pass and waters around it proved to
be pretty antithetical to our experience back
in the bays, with all manner and sizes of boats
heading in and out. Despite the traffic, Smith
dropped anchor and, bouncing in the washboard
of wakes, we dropped live pogies to the bottom,
about 30 feet down.
Once again, Smith proved true to his word:
Shortly after, we boated our first southern
flounder and, just after another, a small
gag爂rouper.
Intent on adding to the day?s already notable
variety, Smith moved us to the end of the east
jetty, a favorite spot to catch mangrove (gray)
snapper. Bingo: We caught several gray snapper,
on little liveys just off the rocks (keeping our
lines away from the personal watercraft dashing
around jetty?s end).
By then it was about midday. Smith, like most
inshore guides here fishing the long days of
summer, generally runs two half-day trips ?
roughly 7 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., or
thereabouts. So we headed back to the marina,
plenty satisfied after a busy, fishy outing.
June?s a great time to connect with the
variety these bays offer, but then, it?s hard to
go wrong anytime. ?We truly have a year-round
inshore fishery here,? Smith says. That includes
trout and reds on the flats, spring through fall
(the morning we fished, the tide wasn?t right
for that fishery).
October and November are Smith?s favorite
months to focus on fishing the inlet for bull
reds. (Smith customarily releases redfish to help
ensure the future of this outstanding fishery.)
March and April find him there targeting
sheepshead. Summer baitfish migrations offer
the best action for flounder, mangrove snapper
JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM (2)
Summer baitfish migrations
offer the best action for
flounder, mangrove snapper
and Spanish mackerel, as
well as species drawn in by
the bait, including jacks,
bluefish, blacktip sharks
and sometimes tarpon.
SPECIES AVAILABILITY: PANAMA CITY
JAN.
SPECIES
FEB.
MAR.
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUG.
SEPT.
OCT.
NOV.
DEC.
Amberjack
Blackfin tuna
Black drum
Blacktip shark
Bluefish
Cobia
Dolphin (mahi)
Flounder
Gag grouper
King mackerel
Mangrove (gray) snapper
Marlin *
Red drum
Red grouper
Red snapper
Sailfish
Sheepshead
Spotted seatrout
Tarpon
Wahoo
Yellowfin tuna *
= excellent
= good
= fair (blank) = poor or not available
* Marlin and yellowfin typically require a run of 100 miles or more offshore
and Spanish mackerel, as well as species drawn
in by the bait, including jacks, bluefish, blacktip
sharks and sometimes tarpon.
Near the Dupont
(Highway 98) Bridge,
separating St. Andrew
and East bays, Dan Quinn
hooks up on a soft plastic.
GAME ON OFFSHORE
A change-up was in store for our second and third
days fishing out of Panama City. Armed with
slightly heavier gear, we met up with Capt. Matt
Parramore and our third angler, who happened
to be Matt?s spouse, Jennifer, in his Cape Horn 27
at Panama City Marina to fish offshore.
The sunny, calm weather of the day before
had given way to gray skies and the sound of
rolling thunder here and there, so we opted to
target nearshore waters with bait and lures ?
again, with variety in mind. Fishing anywhere
from a couple of miles or so off the beach up
to 10 or 12 miles out, we spent a good bit of our
time drift-jigging in 60 to 130 feet of water on
a variety of spots from Parramore?s little book
of numbers.
Typical of the northern Gulf, large structural
relief from the generally flat bottom wasn?t
required to find fish; even small areas of modest
rubble could hold predators.
Casting a mix of Williamson Koika metal
slow-pitch jigs and Arrow Head lead-head
bucktail jigs, we did particularly well with king
mackerel of respectable size (and some a good
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
75
Slow-pitch metal jigs,
like Williamson?s Koika,
proved effective for kings
up in the water column
and red snapper below
them. As is true for the
entire Gulf, red snapper
have become abundant
(to the point, during
most of the year when
retention is not allowed,
of being a nuisance).
bit larger), as well as ? inevitably ? red
snapper (though we released all of them
by law) and other species.
Had red snapper season been open
and had we wanted to target them,
Parramore could have put us on some
larger wrecks typically covered with
snapper. Beyond red snapper, a dozen
or more species will very possibly be
pulled over the gunwales on any given
day fishing offshore of Panama City
(see the chart ?Species Availability:
Panama City?).
With the jigs performing well, we
ended up using few of the live cigar
minnows that Parramore had bought
at a bait receiver after leaving the
marina. We added a couple of big kings to the
total by trolling Rapala?s deep-diving X-Rap
Magnum 40s.
While drifting the northern Gulf, it can pay to
try whatever artificials you think could work. I
had fun with some smaller kings and tunny while
casting and retrieving with hard jerks a 5-inch
X-Rap Saltwater crankbait on one of the light
(inshore) spinning outfits I?d brought. Although
we didn?t break out the kites that day, Parramore
is a fan of dangling live runners from kites for big
kings and other surface-oriented game fish.
FISHING PANAMA CITY
Panama City is part of what is widely
termed Florida?s Emerald Coast, after
the color of nearshore waters, at times
having a distinct clear-green hue. Many
of the activities that attract visitors are
water oriented, not surprising given the
inside waters of several sprawling bays
and, outside, the Gulf beyond the sandy
beaches. To get more information on
all that Panama City has to offer, visit
destinationpanamacity.com.
TO BOOK FISHING TRIPS
I N SH O R E
Capt. Matt Smith ? panamacityinshore.com
O F F SH O R E
Capt. Matt Parramore ? facebook.com/
parramoreoffshore
ACCOMMODATIONS
There are plenty of options of many types
at many prices in and around Panama City.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, which
offers an excellent central location.
DINING
If you visit Panama City, arrive hungry.
The place is loaded with eateries of
all sorts and, as you might suppose,
seafood figures heavily in that list. We
sampled four:
? Bayou Joe?s ? In the seafood-to-die-for
department, look for the jumbo lump crab
cakes. (bayoujoes.com)
76
MAY 2018
? The Captain?s Table Fish House
Restaurant ? Don?t miss the
baked oysters. (facebook.com/
captainstablefishhouse)
? Just the Cook ? This unique spot is on
a little houseboat in St. Andrews Marina,
where you?d be nuts to miss the chipotle
slaw burger or cilantro slaw burger (you?ve
never had burgers like these). (facebook
.com/justthecookflorida)
? The Shipyard Grill ? Bring some of your
fillets for their ?hook and cook? option,
and come hungry. (sunharbormarina.net)
TOURNAMENTS
Check out the Grand Lagoon Grand
Slam (grandlagoongrandslam.com),
a billfish-release offshore tournament
held in August, sponsored by Legendary
Marine and Scout Boats, based at
Lighthouse Marina.
While the action can be good anytime of the
year, weather permitting, late spring/early
summer is Parramore?s favorite period. ?The
water?s starting to warm up, and baitfish are
migrating in close,? attracting coastal pelagics
such as cobia and kings, as well as amberjack
and snapper. About that time, larger bluewater pelagic game fish turn on as well. While
Parramore typically focuses on the variety of
coastal pelagics within an hour or so of the
beach, the skipper is all about bluewater big
game. Given the shallow slope of the Gulf, he
points out that a run of 60 to 120 miles is
required to fish where blue marlin roam.
On the other hand, offshore game fish (other
than blue marlin) can be found at times within
a few miles of the coast. ?I?ve seen people catch
dolphin and sailfish off the pier!? he points out.
Whether near or far, dolphin (mahi) rate
as a favorite for Parramore. ?I love fishing for
dolphin. We run-and-gun a lot, looking for weeds
and floating debris. Dolphin are usually under
whatever we find.?
Parramore is a member of the Dolphinfish
Research Tagging Program; he notes that a
dolphin he tagged 20 miles off Panama City
was recaptured 45 days later off Freeport in
the Bahamas.
My take-away from this visit to Panama City
is that there?s no shortage of activities and events
going on in a destination that is succeeding as a
Gulf tourist mecca. But anytime I should happen
to be back here, I?ll be focusing on the fishing,
since there?s always something going down,
inshore or offshore.
JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM (TOP), DOUG OLANDER / SPORT FISHING (BOTTOM)
PEAK TIME FOR PEL AGICS
RHODE
ISLAND
BLOCK
ISLAND
ETHAN GORDON
MONTAUK
78
MAY 2018
Anglers Hunt Giant
Stripers and Chase
Bluefin off This Iconic
Northeast Island
BY DAVE MOREL
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
79
?This one felt different,? my friend Chris Duva
told me. Duva and his buddies had already
caught several good-size striped bass that
summer evening off Rhode Island, but then he
hooked into something a little different: ?This
one peeled line off the reel much more easily
than the others.?
The captain tried to position the boat directly
over the fish, Duva related. But the fish had
other ideas. The drag sang as the relatively light
braid disappeared into dark waters.
?I didn?t want to lose this fish because I just
knew I had my personal-best striper on the
other end,? he continued. ?I tried to stay focused
as I fought the fish but worried about the jagged
rocks and sharp ledges below.?
Finally, after a stressful 15 minutes, Duva saw
a flash below, illuminated by the boat?s T-top
lights. ?I inched the fish closer to the surface,
and the captain finally lunged and netted my
biggest striper ever. The fish hit the deck, and
we all stared at this beautiful mid-40-pounder.
That?s why we come to Block Island!?
Right: Old Harbor lies
on the eastern side of
the island and is more of
a ferry port with some
mooring options and
facilities. New Harbor lies
on the western side. Both
ports put you close to the
fishing action.
80
MAY 2018
Popular with tourists, and accessible only by
boat, 10-square-mile Block Island sits 12 miles
south of the Rhode Island port of Point Judith.
It?s also very accessible from Montauk, New
York, requiring only a 14-mile run north and
west to reach the island. Summer is usually the
time most anglers head to Block Island, but fall
can be just as productive. In fact, we?ve caught
fish as late as October.
Block has always been a great striped bass
destination, but over the past seven or eight
years, fishing for huge trophy bass has exploded.
Science-based theories suggest that multiple
robust year classes have contributed to this
success; several fish over 60 pounds are caught in
Block?s waters each year.
When I was a kid growing up and fishing the
waters of New England with my dad, I read about
many legendary striped bass locations in the
pages of fishing magazines and dreamed about
visiting those spots one day. They included:
Plum Island and Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts;
Race Point at Cape Cod; Montauk; the Hudson
River; and the Chesapeake Bay.
Block Island recently joined that list of elite
destinations. Block is one of the few places
on the planet where an angler not only can
potentially surpass the revered 50-pound mark,
but also have a legitimate shot at landing a
world record. However, catching a fish of this
JOHN MCMURRAY (ABOVE), COURTESY BLOCK ISLAND TOURISM COUNCIL (2)
STRIPED BASS MECCA
enormous stature is never easy, no matter where
and how you fish for them.
Block holds two favored hot spots for anglers.
On the north side, the well-known North Reef
extends from the island toward Rhode Island?s
mainland. This sandy shoal produces great rips
at the peak of the incoming and outgoing tides
where fish can ambush bait. The surrounding
depth changes from 70 feet to 30 feet, and then
up to 13 feet. Good numbers of fish can be caught
Block Island has always
been a top-notch striped
bass destination, with
plenty of respectable fish
like this one. But recent
successful year classes
have increased the odds
of catching a true giant in
the 40-plus-pound range.
by drifting eels or squid-imitating artificials, and
sometimes even by vertical-jigging big irons.
Slammer bluefish also move into these rips
in July, and jump-start some fantastic topwater
action and bottomfishing. Also, North Reef ?
and all of Block Island ? lies a mere 40 miles
from the location in Long Island Sound where
Greg Myerson caught the current all-tackle
world-record striper of 81-plus pounds in 2011.
On the other end of the island sits the
A NEW SPIN
Block Island offers a new opportunity for fishermen, thanks to the island?s eco-minded officials. On the southeastern
side of the island sits a wind farm only 4 miles from the coast, with five windmills producing enough energy for
the entire island. Completed in 2016, these turbines are expected to attract increasing numbers of fish. The huge
supportive bases of these windmills offer bait convenient places to hide, which attracts larger fish such as stripers, sea
bass, flounder, scup, false albacore and other hungry piscine swimmers.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
81
renowned Southwest Ledge. A first glance at
your chart plotter simply shows the Southwest
Ledge as an area somewhat shallower than its
surrounding waters. However, depths outside
the ledge drop to about 70 feet, jumping up
to about 35 feet on the ledge. When anglers
fish there for the first time, they?re shocked to
find fast-moving currents, confused waves and
often-giant swells. This is not an area for small
boats or the weak of heart.
On the bottom lie jagged ledges, rocky
areas and big boulders ? all perfect habitat
for ambush-feeding stripers, and all prime for
wreaking havoc upon fishermen and their tackle.
If the stripers cooperate and feed at the surface
during daylight hours, fishing can be fast, furious
and amazing. Unfortunately, that?s rarely the
case. Most of the time, the bigger fish hang out
in their rocky living rooms and lazily wait for
dinner to flow to them in the swift currents.
METHOD TO MADNESS
The captains who consistently catch fish over
30 or 40 pounds at the Southwest Ledge try to
position their boats directly over productive
ledges and boulder fields so the lines work
straight up and down. When a fish hits, the
angler can fight the fish vertically and not be
handicapped by a lot of scope that can drag over
the barnacle-encrusted rocks.
82
MAY 2018
A typical tackle setup would include a
5000- to 8000-size spinning reel, medium or
medium-heavy 7-foot rod, 30-pound braid, and a
40-pound fluorocarbon leader with 1 to 3爋unces
of weight and a 5/0 circle hook. But some
successful anglers choose lighter 20-pound
main line and 30-pound fluorocarbon leaders
? much lighter than ever traditionally imagined
for this type of fishing. I know one captain who
uses only very light 15-pound braided line with
no leader at all.
?There are a number of techniques used to
target and land these large fish, ranging from
trolling extra-large artificials [such as parachute
jigs, umbrella rigs, tube lures and bunker spoons]
on wire line to light-tackle drifting live or natural
baits over specific structure,? says well-known
Block Island charter captain Jack Sprengel. ?The
most successful captains and crews understand
how to adapt their presentations to the specific
and subtle influence that different phases of the
tide can have on fish, forage and structure alike.
They get very specific with details.?
Some captains even switch from braid to
mono to avoid higher-pitch harmonics in
strong currents, Sprengel says. In some cases,
anglers trim down to the lightest leaders, hooks
and weights when large bass feed higher in
the water column on smaller baits during the
less-intense moon phases.
ABOVETHEFRAYAERIALS.COM (ABOVE), CAPT. JACK SPRENGEL (OPPOSITE)
Accessible only by boat,
Block Island encompasses
10 square miles. Its
original residents were
the Narragansett Indians,
but it was named after a
Dutch explorer.
?The key factor in all methods, when
targeting subsurface-holding stripers, is
maintaining both a constant physical connection to your presentation and a mental
understanding of where your bait is as it
relates to the contour� of the structure below,?
Sprengel continues. ?Being constantly aware of
your presentation allows the angler to adjust to
changes in the bottom like snags or drop-offs
and to be prepared for the mixed bag of ?takes? a
striped bass can offer.?
Sometimes, 50-plus-pound bass do little
more than open their large bucket mouths,
creating a vacuum that easily inhales the bait.
Trophy bass, like the
beast above, can be
readily found off Block.
The all-tackle-record ? an
81-plus-pounder ? was
caught in nearby Long
Island Sound.
SPECIES AVAILABILITY: BLOCK ISLAND
JAN.
SPECIES
FEB.
MAR.
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUG.
SEPT.
OCT.
NOV.
DEC.
INSHORE
Black sea bass
Bluefish
Flounder
Fluke
Scup/Porgy
Striped bass
Tautog
*
*
OFFSHORE**
Blue marlin
Bluefin tuna
Mahimahi
Sharks
Swordfish
Wahoo
White marlin
Yellowfin tuna
* Closed season; ** Can fluctuate based on water temps and currents
= excellent
= good
= fair (blank) = not available
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
83
me, this will fully test your tackle and your
angling ability,? he says.
Proper boat handling, aggressive angling
techniques and a fast-acting crew are key when
one of these freight trains decides to head for
the horizon.
Despite his 30 years of striped bass fishing
experience, Sprengel says the species never
ceases to amaze him. ?Their ability to adapt to
different sources of prey, water conditions and
completely different bodies of water is second to
no other species on the planet,? he says. ?Just by
traveling a hundred-or-so-mile stretch of shoreline in New England alone, you can target these
fish using dozens of regionally specific techniques, each allowing for an entirely different
perspective of this majestic game fish.?
Block?s two primary hot
spots for stripers include
North Reef, a sandy shoal
that extends off the north
side of the island, and the
Southwest Ledge, where
the bottom is jagged and
boulder-strewn, and the
depth drops to 70 feet.
The angler feels only a tap or light thump on
the rod tip. ?Other times we?ve seen a few deadsticked rods in rod holders, fishing an eel from
a properly positioned boat on the drift get
smashed downward by fish in the mid-30- to low
40-pound class so hard that even some of the
highest-quality rods explode.?
Regardless of the type of take, at some point
during the fight, a striped bass engages in a
blistering power run before settling in, hopefully straight below the boat. That run makes
or breaks a catch, Sprengel says. Using its huge
tail, large head and all of its shear body mass,
?it makes a nerve-racking long run, often downcurrent, swimming up and over or down into
any rocky snags or structure it can find. Trust
WHILE YOU?RE THERE
Although not nearly as exciting to catch as
big stripers, delicious black sea bass and scup
(porgies) have shown up around Block Island
in huge numbers and in huge dimensions.
One morning when the striper bite shut down,
I爏witched to medium-size conventional outfits
spooled with 20-pound braid, and dropped
down small vertical jigs and fluke squid rigs.
We caught sea bass after sea bass and limited on
fish in the 20-inch range.
Another advantage of Block Island?s location
is its proximity to productive offshore fishing.
Popular shark fishing locations lie about 20 to
30 miles from the island. The deeper waters of
Narragansett Indians first settled Block Island, calling it Manisses, which translates to ?island of the little god,? according to island tourism officials. Dutch
explorer Adrian Block sailed to the island in the early 1600s and gave the place its current name.
Today, visitors can access Block Island by high-speed ferry. Passenger-only vessels leave from Point Judith and Newport, Rhode Island, and from Fall
River, Massachusetts. If you want to cross with your car, you must leave out of Point Judith.
The island features two bait shops as well as two marinas that can accommodate boats: New Harbor, accessible on the western side of the island,
and Old Harbor on the eastern side. New Harbor offers dockage and moorings, while Old Harbor is more of a ferry port with some mooring options and
limited facilities. Both put you closer to the fishing action than leaving from the mainland.
Remember, when fishing Block Island, you must stay within a 3-mile zone of the island (in state waters) to legally fish for striped bass. The fishery for
striped bass in federal waters has been closed since 1990. Law-enforcement boats patrol those waters on a regular basis.
Also, when the fishing heats up midsummer, boat traffic increases, particularly at the Southwest Ledge. On one particular September morning, I could
have counted probably 300 boats fishing the ledge, but at night, traffic drops off significantly.
For more general information on Block, visit the Block Island Tourism website at blockislandinfo.com.
B LO C K I S L A ND CA PTA INS
84
M ARIN AS
Big Game Sportfishing
(Point Judith)
401-243-7046
biggamefishingri.com
Jack Sprengel
East Coast Charters
401-338-1752
eastcoastchartersri.com
Newport Sport Fishing Charters
978-877-0997
nsfcharters.com
Christopher Willi
Block Island Fishworks
401-742-3992
sandypointco.com
MAY 2018
Block Island Old Harbor and New Harbor
blockislandinfo.com/harbors-and-boating
Point Judith Marina, Snug Harbor
pjmarina.com
CAPT. JACK SPRENGEL (ABOVE, OPPOSITE BOTTOM), TOM MIGDALSKI (OPPOSITE TOP)
ISLAND TIME
the offshore canyons ? such as Block Canyon,
Atlantis Canyon and others ? lie about 95 miles
offshore. These 1,600-plus-foot-deep canyons
can produce epic catches of yellowfin tuna,
mahimahi, white marlin and even swordfish
during summer.
In addition to those pelagic species, bluefin
tuna from 50 to 350 pounds migrate off Block
Island in early summer. Popular spots include
the Dump, the Gully, the Inside Fingers, Coxes
and Gordon?s Gully ? the closest of these lies
about 20 miles off Block.
Depending on the time of year and presence
of bait, bluefin can be caught on anything
from trolled spreader bars to trolled ballyhoo.
My all-time-favorite method is running-andgunning to breaking fish using heavy spinning
gear and poppers or soft plastics like Hogy baits
and Ron Z baits. This type of fishing can be
spectacular as fish explode from the depths to
blow up on your offerings.
In my opinion, casting to big tuna, especially
when they?re hitting topwater baits, trumps
every other type of saltwater fishing. It tests
your tackle, endurance and fishing skill, and can
be the most rewarding way to fish.
Whether you target big stripers, giant tuna
or tasty bottomfish, do yourself a favor and plan
a bucket-list trip to Block Island this year. You
might just make the catch of your lifetime.
The typical tackle class
for stripers at Block is
30-pound-test, though
some captains go lighter
? as light as 15-pound.
Left: During summer,
bluefin tuna migrate past
Block, coming as close as
20 miles. Anglers catch
50- to 350-pounders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave Morel is the publisher of Sport Fishing and
Salt Water Sportsman, and an avid saltwater fisherman and enthusiast. He lives in Massachusetts
and has been fishing since he took the training
wheels off his bike.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
85
86
MAY 2018
ALIDA THORPE
Pausing to assess the
situation can help you
decide where, when and
if you should attempt to
cross the bar. On days
like this at Florida?s
Jupiter Inlet, turning back
would seem the most
prudent decision.
Over
Bar
the
RUNNING ROUGH OCEAN INLETS
BY JIM HENDRICKS
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
87
I still remember that unsettling advice delivered
35� years ago from our skipper Ed Pitts as he pointed
his 25-foot single-outboard HydraSports center
console toward the wave-swept inlet to California?s
Oceanside Harbor.
It was my first such experience. A big storm raged
hundreds of miles away. We had enjoyed pleasant
weather while fishing, but the distant tempest generated an onslaught of combers that began pounding the
coast at the same time as our afternoon return.
Lack of recent channel dredging resulted in a bar
that thrust the big, long-period swells into steep, mountainous waves. They curled, broke and boomed like
thunder at the narrow entrance.
We weren?t alone. A fleet of boats hovered outside the
harbor mouth, assessing the situation. But for us, it was
worse. A propeller with a worn hub had started to slip
on the way home but seemed to regain its precarious
grip. For now.
Despite the complication ? and after a bit of
deliberation ? Pitts decided to head in. We donned
life jackets, and with his advice still ringing in my ears,
I爏ecured a white-knuckle grip on the console grab rail.
He eased the throttle ahead and accelerated toward the
harbor mouth.
Our timing was bad. Almost immediately, a racing wall
of water rose up from astern. It would surely overtake
us. Pitts reacted swiftly, bringing the 25-footer about
to ascend the face of the swell before it broke. Once on
the backside, he quickly spun around and followed the
big wave home.
Inside the harbor, bobbing in the froth left by the
crashing seas, we heaved a collective sigh of relief. We
would live to fish another day.
88
MAY 2018
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: � AERIALS BY DREW WRIGHT, JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM, � SCOTT KERRIGAN / WWW.AQUAPAPARAZZI.COM
?Hang on
tight, but
be ready to
jump.?
PRECAUTIONARY STEPS
When challenging a nasty inlet, make
sure everyone dons a life jacket and
knows to secure themselves for a
run fraught with lumps, bumps and
spray, Strum says. Brief everyone
on what to do should catastrophe
strike. Batten down any loose gear
before making your run. Get all crewmembers on deck and, if possible,
have them seated. They need to stay
out of the cabin or other enclosure.
If you must remain in an enclosed
space such as a pilothouse, wear an
inflatable life jacket with a pull tab
only ? not one with an auto-inflation
feature. This helps ensure your
escape in the event of a capsizing. It
is the same reason passenger-airline
crews instruct you not to inflate
your life jacket inside the plane. If
water rushes into the cabin (be it
airplane or boat), it will pin to the
ceiling anyone wearing an inflated
life jacket.
Ideally, all crewmembers should
have a PLB (personal location
beacon) attached to their life jackets.
Also, be ready to deploy the EPIRB
(Emergency Position Indicating
Radio Beacon) quickly, especially if it
requires manual activation.
Radio the U.S. Coast Guard or
harbor patrol ahead of time if you
are experiencing engine problems or other issues that might
impair your ability to safely return.
Authorities might choose to stand
by to lend assistance in the event of
an emergency.
Far left: Though often docile, Jupiter Inlet also holds
a reputation as one of Florida?s most dangerous,
especially when waves pound the coast and the tide
pours out through the inlet. Left: These boaters chose
the wrong day, tide and boat with which to run Jupiter
Inlet; it capsized soon after this photo was taken. Below:
Picking the right path through an inlet is often a matter
of reading the waves and aiming for calm water.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
89
An ironic truth of saltwater fishing holds that
some of the roughest water often erupts just as
you?re departing from or returning to port. From
inlets along the south shore of New York?s Long
Island to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and
cuts along Florida?s east coast to the harbors
of爐he Pacific Coast, boating anglers face some爋f
the world?s most challenging sea conditions.
It?s not just waves. A combination of factors
turns inlets nasty. A powerful outgoing tide
streaming through a narrow channel and a
strong onshore wind can pile up seas. Combine
these two factors with shoaling and shifting
channels, and you have waves that are not only
steep, but also packed tightly and breaking. In
places such as North Carolina?s Oregon Inlet,
treacherous water can stretch for a mile or
more. Not fun.
SEEK ADVICE
Before you tackle a dicey inlet, research the
conditions, says boating angler Brendan Strum
of Manteo, North Carolina, who?s run in and
out of Hatteras and Oregon inlets for more than
30� years, chasing bluefin tuna, mahi, marlin,
wahoo and other species. While Strum now runs
90
MAY 2018
a Regulator 31 with twin Yamaha 300 outboards,
much of his experience running inlets came
aboard a Regulator 25 with twin Yamaha 200s.
?Talk to other people, especially if you
have not been out for a week or more,? Strum
implores. ?Our inlets change from day to day,
so I always call guys I know to get the latest
information.?
Expanding your base of fishing friends and
sharing information ranks as one of the most
important facets of inlet safety. ?Never assume
you?re an expert, no matter how much experience you have,? advises Strum, who confesses
to being nervous every time he crosses the bar
at Oregon Inlet. ?You need to listen to others
who?ve run the inlets in the past day or two.?
If you are unfamiliar with an inlet, consider
hiring a guide with strong knowledge of the inlet
to show you the way. Use your chart plotter to
record the track. Keep in mind, however, that
the safest course can change quickly.
Stay posted on the latest weather conditions
and tides, using online resources such as Buoy
Weather and NOAA marine weather, checking
not only for your departure time, but also for
your anticipated return time.
NEIL RABINOWITZ (ABOVE), JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM (OPPOSITE)
Inlets along the West
Coast of the U.S. are often
subjected to large, longperiod ground swells
generated far out at sea.
These swells build into
enormous waves that
break violently as they
roll into the relatively
shallow water of
harbor entrances.
STUDY THE CONDITIONS
?A strong outgoing tide is always cause for
concern,? says Capt. Eric Davis of Vero Beach,
Florida. Davis guides anglers aboard his
Pathfinder 2500 powered by a Yamaha 350.
He regularly runs in and out of Fort Pierce,
Sebastian and St. Lucie (aka Stuart) inlets.
?When the wind pushes waves against an outflowing current, it can make things dangerous,
especially when coming in,? Davis points out.
Take some time to assess the inlet before
making your run. Study the cycle of waves; there
is often a rhythm to them. Long-period swells,
for instance, often roll through in sets, with a
slight lull in between.
Obviously, you want to cross where the
waves are smaller. For this reason, Davis often
avoids the deepest water in the middle of the
channel when there is a strong outgoing tide.
?The middle of the channel is usually where the
current is strongest,? he says. ?Hang to the side,
where the waves are often smaller and tend not
to break as much, but also avoid any potentially
dangerous shoals.?
This advice applies to smaller boats, such
as Davis? Pathfinder 2500 bay boat, which
don?t draw a lot of water. Larger, deep-draft
sport-fishers, by necessity, need to stay in the
middle of the channel to avoid grounding. Bigger
boats are also better at handling larger waves.
Search-and-rescue
authorities such as
the U.S. Coast Guard
and boater assistance
organizations including
BoatUS (pictured here)
sometimes stand by
when inlets are raging,
allowing them to respond
quickly to lend a hand in
case of an emergency.
RUNNING A ROUGH INLET
Look for the safest line through the waves.
Gaps in the froth indicate areas of relatively
calm water. When heading out, maintain
enough speed to keep the bow high. If you go
too slow, the bow will drop and you will nose
into the oncoming waves. If you go too fast,
you?ll get beat up.
Head into the waves and do not slow
down, even if you take water over the bow.
Maintaining your speed forces any shipped
water astern and out the scuppers. If you
slow down, the water will surge forward and
push the bow down, possibly resulting in a
catastrophic swamping and rollover.
When returning, retract the trim tabs and
maintain sufficient throttle to keep the boat
running straight and in a position on the
backside of a wave. Match the wave?s speed
so the boat stays about midway between the
face of the wave behind you and the crest of
the one ahead.
By all means, avoid overtaking the wave
ahead and surfing down its face. This can
lead to catastrophic pitch-poling (flipping
stern over bow). Also, don?t let a wave overtake you from astern because this can swamp
your boat or cause it to broach (rolling over
as the breaking wave catches the boat from
behind and shoves it sideways) ? or both.
Stay in the trough.
Keep your eyes peeled and your head on
a swivel in these situations to monitor waves
behind and in front of you, as well as anything
on either side. Some inlets are plagued by
confused seas ? so-called potato patches ? that
can buffet a boat from side to side, as well as
fore and aft. If you see a wave suddenly break
contrary to the pattern, try to dodge it or adjust
your running angle to mitigate its impact.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
91
seamanship prevail. ?If it?s questionable, don?t
go out,? Strum says. Your crew might be disappointed, but as the captain, it?s your job to make
sure everyone stays safe.
SIZE AND POWER
Big boats can also
encounter trouble when
running inlets. This
image of the sport-fisher
Waterdog shows the boat
sideways to the seas at
Jupiter Inlet, listing to
port before it snap-rolled
to starboard, ejecting
the captain, resulting in a
tragic fatality.
To find the smoothest line, Davis
recommends running on the downwind side
of the main channel when you?re outside the
protection of the jetties, using the south side
when the wind is out of north/northeast and
the north side when the wind is from the
south/southeast.
WAIT IT OUT
Waiting a few hours for a slack tide can make
the difference between a calm crossing and
a calamitous one. ?An incoming or slack tide
tends to flatten out the waves in inlets such as
Jupiter and Stuart,? Davis has discovered. This
can mean cooling your heels for as long as five
hours. If you?re coming back in the afternoon,
that?s a long wait.
Another option is to run to another, moreuser-friendly inlet. Though it will take time and
you?ll burn more fuel, increased safety and peace
of mind can make the extra miles worthwhile.
On days when the inlet is raging, let prudent
The size of your boat counts. The last thing you
want is a boat that?s too small to handle steep
seas, Davis says. ?You need to know the limitations of your boat ahead of time,? he adds. ?You
don?t want to be challenging steep 6- to 8-foot
waves in a 20-footer.?
Having a high horsepower-to-weight ratio
can also help keep you safe, Davis says. Power
becomes especially important when trying to
stay ahead of a breaking wave while returning.
(See sidebar for tips on how to handle the boat
in a rough inlet.)
Negotiating a rough inlet turns far more
difficult when you can?t see clearly. Strum?s
advice is to wait until daylight before you head
out, and return before nightfall. If there?s heavy
fog or torrential rain, wait until it clears before
crossing the bar.
Low visibility also heightens the risk of
collision with a jetty, breakwall, buoy or other
vessels. More than one boat has run into a rock
jetty while negotiating an inlet at night or in fog.
If you must run an inlet in these conditions, use
your radar and chart plotter to avoid collisions.
Inlets serve as gateways to many great fishing
adventures. With these tips, a seaworthy vessel,
sufficient power and a good measure of prudent
seamanship, you will be able to meet the challenge of rough inlets, and cross over the bar to
find fish and return safely time and again.
TREACHEROUS INLETS
Here is a sample of U.S. inlets that often become decidedly dicey.
SEBASTIAN, FLORIDA
OREGON INLET, NORTH CAROLINA
?Sebastian is one of the worst ? not the one
where you want to test your boating skills.?
?Capt. Eric Davis, Vero Backcountry Fishing
?I?m nervous every single time I run the inlet.?
?Brendan Strum, Manteo, North Carolina
ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA
?Indian River Inlet is extremely dangerous.?
?U.S. Coast Guard Station
Indian River Facebook post
INDIAN RIVER, DELAWARE
?The St. Lucie Inlet has a reputation for being
one of the most treacherous in Florida.?
?Florida Oceanographic Institute
MORICHES BAY, NEW YORK
?The most dangerous inlet in
Palm Beach County.? ?Palm Beach Post
?Strong currents can mix with brisk winds
to create a melee of waves, eddies and
exposed shoals.? ?marinas.com
BOYNTON BEACH, FLORIDA
CHATHAM, MASSACHUSETTS
?You?d better have the right boat
and know what you?re doing.?
?Capt. Chip Sheehan, Chips Ahoy Charters
?? the channel is narrow, and there are
shifting sandbars that make it plenty hairy in
an east wind.? ?Bob McNally, fishing writer
JUPITER, FLORIDA
COLUMBIA RIVER BAR,
OREGON/WASHINGTON BORDER
This one is a doozy, ?recognized as
one of the most dangerous and challenging navigated stretches of water in
the world.? ?columbiariverpilots.com
NEHALEM BAY BAR, OREGON
All of Oregon?s inlets are dicey, but Nehalem
is among the worst. ?The entrance to
Nehalem Bay at times becomes very rough and
dangerous to cross.? ?oregonfishinginfo.com
92
MAY 2018
STUART BROWNING
GOLDEN GATE, CALIFORNIA
?The Golden Gate [at the entrance to
San Francisco Bay] can be a very dangerous
place for small boats due to the strong
tides and large swells.? ?BoatUS
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61
62
MAY 2018
MICHAEL PATRICK O?NEILL / MPOSTOCK.COM
G
N
I
H
S
I
F
IS GHT
EF VER
DON?T MISS NORTH
CAROLINA?S EXCITING
SPRING RUN OF COBIA
OFF THE BEACHES
BY ROB WITTMAN
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
63
For me,
a true sign of spring making the
transition to summer follows on the heels of the first
reports of cobia being caught off the North Carolina coast.
Sight-fishing for cobia had its genesis, at least in terms
of boat design, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where
many boats bear towers and elevated casting platforms.
Similarly, as the cobia sight-fishery off North Carolina
has exploded in recent years, these days you?ll see many
boats sporting towers and elevated platforms.
Cobia sight-fishing has become a major sport in
the saltwater recreational-fishing scene along the
coast of North Carolina, a sport to which many ?
like me ? are totally addicted.
During the first half of May, North Carolina
anglers normally encounter the season?s first cobia
around nearshore open-Atlantic shoals. As water
temperatures warm, cobia move from offshore
to inshore areas. This availability makes North
Carolina one of the top bets on the Atlantic Coast
for spring cobia action. (Though mid-May through
mid-June is a peak period, cobia continue to be
targeted and caught through the summer.)
Major hot spots for spring cobia include Cape
Lookout Shoals and Diamond Shoals, as well as
Oregon Inlet.
as a mate on an offshore charter boat 30-some
years ago ? we were uncomfortably late. However,
Capt.� Aaron Kelly reminded me that ?there?s no
use in our getting out there before the sun?s up high
enough for us to see clearly enough into the water?
since we were all about spotting cobia.
Kelly was no random or casual choice of a charter.
I knew that Kelly runs one of the most accomplished
cobia boats on the East Coast. At the same time, his
first mate, Bob Feldhaus, is a cobia expert who has
developed a line of Meat Hog jigs, extraordinarily
effective bucktails for cobia.
As we cruised out the inlet, Kelly told us that
yesterday they?d spotted 24 cobes but hooked only
eight. ?The fish weren?t turned on,? he said, as they
had been earlier in the week.
ADAPT AND HOOK UP
Rock Solid headed toward the fourth set of inlet
buoys. The sun hadn?t really materialized; we faced
a 15-knot southwest wind under mostly cloudy skies
? not great conditions for sight-casting.
We strained to see any cobia that might be on
these navigation markers. Kelly believes these to be
the best cobia attractors in the area, commenting,
?I?ve made my entire day on many occasions by
fishing these markers.?
However, on that morning, we found no fish on
any of the markers, including the last of the markers
that locals call the sea buoy.
After clearing the sea buoy, we ran south of the
inlet, all three anglers in the tower trying to cover
every angle of water, gazing through our polarized sunglasses and hoping to spot a cobia through
the glare and chop. Kelly zigzagged from within
400� yards of the beach to a half-mile out, but we
spotted no brown-backed surface swimmers.
After three fruitless hours, as we arrived off the
beaches of Rodanthe, we spotted our first cobia.
Unfortunately, after we made several unsuccessful
casts, the fish disappeared. Not much later, we saw
a pair of cobia. I managed a good cast just to their
Early in the season last year, I joined sight-fishing
enthusiasts Carl Perry and J.T. Frazier on the charter
Rock Solid (a 36 Ricky Scarborough), departing the
Oregon Inlet Fishing Center at 7:30 a.m. For me ?
still recalling our 4:30 a.m. departures when I worked
64
MAY 2018
JASON STEMPLE (2)
S I G H T- F I S H I N G H O T S H O T S
Cobia range from
Mexico around the Gulf
and up the Atlantic
Seaboard to the
Carolinas and Virginia,
providing anglers with
popular sight-fishing
targets thanks to the
species?s inclination
to patrol the surface
individually or in packs.
THE COBIA CONUNDRUM
M
anaging species that
routinely cross geopolitical boundaries is one of
the greatest challenges in fisheries
management. In the Southeast,
cobia are found in bays, estuaries
and near offshore ocean waters
during their annual migrations,
making them subject to both state
and federal regulations.
Federal fishery managers
base management in the
Exclusive Economic Zone (federal
waters) on genetic studies that
describe two distinct populations of cobia. Fish caught north
of the Georgia-Florida line along
the Atlantic Coast are considered
Atlantic Migratory Group Cobia,
while those caught off the east
coast of Florida and throughout
the Gulf are part of the Gulf of
Mexico Migratory Group Cobia
(see map, page 67).
In 2017, the South Atlantic
Fishery Management Council
closed federal waters of the Atlantic
Ocean northward of the GeorgiaFlorida line to the harvest of cobia.
This unprecedented precautionary
action was taken after the 620,000pound recreational Annual Catch
Limit for AMG Cobia was exceeded
by a wide margin during the two
preceding years.
Recognizing that much of the
harvest of AMG Cobia occurs in
state waters, the SAFMC encouraged states to take measures
to reduce cobia harvest. The
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission stepped in to
coordinate state efforts through
development and implementation of the Interstate Fishery
Management Plan for AMG Cobia.
States from Georgia to New
Jersey now have measures in place
to regulate recreational harvest so
as not to exceed 620,000 pounds
annually, obviating the need to
close federal waters during 2018.
Meanwhile, the SAFMC is deliberating whether to transfer AMG
Cobia management to the ASMFC.
If this happens, AMG Cobia
management will be the sole
responsibility of the states through
ASMFC, pursuant to the Atlantic
Coastal Fisheries Cooperative
Management Act. No longer
would AMG Cobia be managed
through the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and
Management Act.
A stock-identification workshop
is scheduled for 2018, during
which the genetic basis for cobia
management will be re-evaluated
with new data. A stock assessment
for AMG Cobia will begin in 2018,
with final results available for
managers in 2019.
The results of both will have
far-reaching impacts on cobia
fishing, so it is important that
anglers and guides stay engaged
by participating in catch-and-effort
surveys, providing tissue samples
for genetic analysis, serving on
advisory panels, and attending
public meetings.
?Capt. Spud Woodward,
ASMFC commissioner ? Georgia
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
65
left, and the larger of the two darted out to eat the
bucktail. After a brief battle, we had the 32-inch
cobia unhooked and released.
Over the next three hours, we saw another dozen
cobia, in singles and pairs, and we hooked and released
six, the largest of these fish at 36 inches, which is the
minimum size limit for cobia in North Carolina.
By 2:30 that afternoon, a line of storms made
sight-fishing impossible. We adapted quickly,
changing techniques to slow-troll live menhaden
that we had cast-netted earlier, rigged behind
2-ounce egg sinkers. The baits weren?t in the water
for 15 minutes when both rods went down.
After the first fish came unbuttoned five
minutes into the fight, we saw that the hook had
broken. I continued to wrestle the other cobia.
But after another 15 minutes, with the fish finally
boatside, the unmistakable copper orange of a red
drum appeared.
Setting the rod in the holder (as years of being a
first mate had me acting instinctively), I grabbed the
line, led the redfish to the boat, and lifted it carefully
onto the deck. Quickly unhooking the hefty catch
once we had measured the fish at 46 inches, we
released it.
S U C C E S S F U L F I R S T D AY
By then, the storms had passed and we resumed
sight-fishing. We ended up spotting three more
cobia, releasing two of those, for a day?s total 17 fish
sighted and nine caught and released (none quite
went the legal size).
Bottom line: We had
The author with a keeper
seen a good number of
cobia, one of hundreds
fish under very chalhe has caught and largely
lenging
conditions
released thanks to many
and managed a decent
years of honing tackle and
success rate. We were,
techniques for one of his
favorite game fish.
however,
puzzled
66
MAY 2018
ROB WITTMAN, JASON STEMPLE (OPPOSITE); MAP COURTESY NOAA SOUTHEAST REGIONAL OFFICE
Over the next three
hours, we saw
another dozen cobia,
in singles and pairs,
and we hooked and
released six, the
largest of these fish
at 36 inches.
as to why we saw no legal-size fish that day, and
speculated that we?d caught smaller cobia that had
recently made their way to waters near the beach.
Clear, sunny days with winds remaining less
than 12 knots offer best conditions. On such days,
I?ve seen totals as high as 70 fish spotted and up to
30 hooked and released.
Heavy-overcast windy days take sight-fishing
pretty well out of the equation, but skippers still
catch cobia by fishing live croakers or eels near
a chum bucket on the bottom. No live bait? You
can sure catch cobia on cut bait, but also expect a
higher percentage of hookups from fish you don?t
really want.
COBIA MIGRATORY
GROUPS/ZONES
ATLANTIC
GROUP
B E ST TA C K L E A N D J I G S
Kelly and Feldhaus have collaborated to make great
advances in sight-fishing for cobia, including the
development of best colors and optimal bucktail
jigs, presentation techniques, and best rod-and-reel
combinations for casting to and landing cobia, they
have truly advanced the fishery.
From time spent with them, it seems that the best
outfits for sight-fishing cobia are 8-foot spinning
rods with soft-action tips for casting, and stiff butts
for putting on the pressure, such as the Shimano
popping-rod series. While I favor Shimano reels,
in general, spinners from 8000 to 14000 size filled
with 40- to 50-pound braid work well. Feldhaus adds
to each rig a 4-foot section of 40- to 50-pound-test
Seaguar fluorocarbon leader attached to the braid
FLORIDA EAST
COAST ZONE
N
GULF
GROUP/ZONE
0
100
200
300
400
MILES
Above: NOAA fishery managers have divided the Atlantic cobia population into
two stocks: the Gulf group, which includes the east coast of Florida, and the
Atlantic group, which includes all cobia north of the Florida-Georgia border.
Below: A swing and a miss ... this time, but betting on the hapless pilchard to
survive the encounter wouldn?t be a good idea.
500
with an FG knot.
I?ve had great success with Feldhaus? Meat Hog
jigs, especially lighter-colored heads dressed with
brightly colored feathers. My personal favorite is
a bright-green squid-head Meat Hog jig called the
Green Goblin, with bright-and-dark-green feathers
and a translucent-green twister tail.
To minimize the twister tail interfering with
the hook, I snip off some of the plastic body to
shorten� the lure so the hook comes out just ahead
of where the� round body flattens to the tail. While
fishing with Kelly a few years ago on Diamond
Shoals, I caught 98- and 96-pound cobia the same
day using a Green Goblin jig. Kelly likes a Meat
Hog flathead bucktail in a brownish-copper color
dressed with emu feathers, which he calls the Emu
Flash. He fishes this lure without a tail because ?on
that jig, the feathers provide the lure action.?
O N E L E AT H E R B A C K , A Z I L L I O N
POGIES AND DOZENS OF COBIA
That first day on Rock Solid had been successful
given the somewhat-challenging conditions, but we
were ready for a bang-up second session.
Unfortunately, the weather for the Oregon Inlet
area the next morning was unsettled. Radar showed
a line of slow-moving storms west of the strand of
beaches from Rodanthe to Buxton to Hatteras Inlet.
But the captain confidently asked us, ?Are you
guys ready to go??
?What about the weather?? I returned.
?You can?t catch ?em at the
dock! Let?s go.? And with that,
Some of the author?s favorite cobia
Kelly fired up the diesel engine on
lures are these Meat Hog Jigs
developed by Bob Feldhaus and
Rock Solid and we headed out.
Aaron Kelly. At top is an Emu Flash
Sure enough, at the can buoy
(which uses real emu feathers and
on
the way, a cobia that looked to
is meant to be fished without a tail).
be in the 60-pound range nailed
Below are various other jigs in the
Meat Hog lineup.
my bright-green Gremlin model
of Meat Hog bucktail with a white plastic tail, but it
came unbuttoned.
A half-hour later, heading south off the coast, we
spotted a giant leatherback turtle and aimed toward
it in hopes that a retinue of cobia would be in tow.
Sure enough, just as the leatherback raised its
mammoth head out of the water, we saw four nicesize cobia. From the tower, we struggled to get the
right angle to cast jigs in front of the fish. Perry
and I both hooked up; the cobia promptly had our
In recent years, whole new lines
of lures designed to target cobia
have cropped up, primarily jigs,
including lead-heads dressed
with various types of bucktail
and feathers in bright color
combinations, suspending jigs
and jig heads rigged with eels or
swimming bodies.
Bob Feldhaus hand-makes his
line of Meat Hog jigs, which he
co-owns with Aaron Kelly, and
they enjoy a devout following
in the mid-Atlantic area. Bowed
Up lures made in Kitty Hawk,
North Carolina, also have a very
dedicated following. Magic
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MAY 2018
Tail bucktails, from New Jersey,
are well-made and reliable
cobia catchers. Wahoo! lures
suspending bucktail jigs with a
rattle chamber sink very slowly,
staying in front of cobia longer
than a lead-head jig. Hogy lures?
9-inch HUDV Jigging Eel has
a great action and is a proven
cobia catcher. Similarly, RonZ
Performance Soft Baits in the
6- and 8-inch original series do
a great job of fooling cobia by
imitating eels. The Elaztech Z-Man
10-inch HeroZs are nearly indestructible and so light that they
fall slowly, making them great for
cobia. Berkley?s Gulp! comes in a
6-inch grub that works beautifully on a bucktail jig, and its
scent technology helps persuade
finicky cobia.
It never hurts to have some live
eels or bunker if you can get them.
Many days I have found success
on my second, third and fourth
presentations of various offerings,
as I figured out what will turn them
on at that time. Always have a
variety of lures and baits for cobia
because their feeding moods can
be different, and options simply
increase your odds of success.
COURTESY Z-MAN (BOTTOM), ROB WITTMAN (3)
POPULAR COBIA LURES
We came upon a school of menhaden that
stretched as far as the eye could see,
with bait showering here and there.
lines crossed and we scrambled to keep lines clear,
eventually getting a pair of 40-pounders to the boat.
We released both.
The weather improved, and we continued to see
cobia, catching and releasing nine.
Then we came upon a school of menhaden that
stretched as far as the eye could see, with bait
showering here and there. We noticed areas within
the acres of bait where the surface was smooth. We
quickly discovered that within these calm areas,
the baitfish had cleared out to make room for cobia
looking for a meal.
I wondered if in those circumstances, with
unlimited bait all around, the cobia would eat a
bucktail jig. ?Well, we?re fixin? to find out!? Kelly said
with a laugh.
I cast a pink-and-white bucktail in front a big
cobia sitting in the middle of tens of thousands of
pogies. The fish didn?t even hesitate, eating the jig
right away. Some 20 minutes later, I landed that
healthy 60-pounder.
By day?s end, we had seen more than 50 cobia,
catching and releasing 12 fish more than 40 pounds.
During the peak of North Carolina?s cobia season,
days like this aren?t uncommon. The excitement and
visual impact of sight-fishing for cobia is as good
as fishing gets. Up and down the nearshore coastal
waters of the state, from the Crystal Coast to the
Outer Banks, sight-fishing for cobia reigns supreme
in late spring and early summer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Wittman grew up working on charter boats in
North Carolina and Virginia. He now represents the
First Congressional District in Virginia in the United
States Congress. He is chairman of the Congressional
Sportsmen?s Caucus, which works on issues and
legislation important to recreational fishermen.
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
69
Blue Gulf of Mexico water
pours into jetties at the
mouth of St. Andrew Bay
on the flood tide. Often, the
Gulf is a transparent emerald
green color off Florida?s
Panhandle beaches.
70
MAY 2018
JR HOTT / PANHANDLE HELICOPTER
Panama City
Emerald Coast
Hot Spot,
Inside & Out
Sprawling Bays and the Clear Waters of the
Gulf of Mexico Offer Wide-Open Fishing Around
Florida?s Panama City B Y D O U G O L A N D E R
SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM
71
boat near the bridge channel and dropped
anchor, I noted that we had the whole area
to ourselves.
B U L L R E D S A N D F-1 6 S
L I G H T-TA C K L E T O M F O O L E R Y
Fortunately, we began seeing splashes and
swirls as something drove small white bait to
the surface. I picked up a little Shimano Stradic
3000 and slid a Rapala Shadow Rap Shad in an
CHECK THOSE REGS!
When it comes to fishing laws governing seasons, limits and lengths, life used to be pretty simple for anglers and captains. But these days, there are
strict regulations governing fisheries for a great many species popular around and off Panama City ? including (but not limited to) red snapper, red
grouper, gag grouper, amberjack, gray triggerfish, cobia and kingfish.
Bottom line, if you hope to keep some fish for the table or freezer, know the latest regulations. If fishing with a professional captain, ask him before
you go so you?ll know what?s in season and what?s not ? and to avoid any unpleasant surprises when you land that big one.
Or look up the regs yourself; they?re easily found by visiting myfwc.com.
72
MAY 2018
DOUG OLANDER / SPORT FISHING (2)
As we skimmed over the mirror-calm surface
of Saint Andrew Bay, en route from Sun Harbor
Marina to the DuPont (Highway 98) bridge
that separates Saint Andrew from East Bay,
I爉arveled at how large an area of inshore waters
sprawled northwest, northeast and southeast of
Panama City. I had no idea.
?Our entire system includes four bays,?
explained Capt. Matt Smith, our guide for
the day: ?West Bay, North Bay, Saint Andrew
Bay and East Bay.? These total up to nearly
170,000燼cres of water, Smith pointed out. And a
glance at a map shows an astonishing amount of
fishable爏horeline.
Given the ideal weather on that early-summer
morning, I kept looking for other boats with
anglers also intent on hooking some bull redfish.
But as Smith positioned his 21-foot Cobia bay
We intended to fish some of the Storm soft
plastics that my fishing partner, Dan Quinn
with Rapala, had brought down with him from
Minnesota. Smith had plenty of small, live
menhaden ? cast-netted that morning ? filling
his baitwell, and he explained that plastics
could be dynamite in shallower areas of the
bays, but here in nearly 20 feet of water, they
were a much tougher sell.
Nevertheless, the intrepid Quinn did hook a
good fish on a 360 GT Largo Shad from Storm?s
Coastal series, his first bull red drum ever. But
bowing to the power of live baits, we put some
of Smith?s pogies to good use, landing several
more reds to at least 30 pounds, giving our light
spinning outfits quite a workout.
Then the air show started.
It takes a considerable distraction to make
die-hard anglers redirect their attention from a
live bait in imminent likelihood of being eaten by
a rapacious trophy-size redfish, but when F-16s,
F-22s and other fighter jets began sneaking up
on us ? moving so fast that unless watching, we
were aware of them only when they thundered
by overhead in the blink of an eye ? it became
hard to concentrate on other things.
There?s nothing to bring out the 8-year-old
in a lot of guys like fighter jets, and it turned out
we were fishing in their flight path ? lots and
lots of them ? practicing takeoffs and landings
at Tyndall Air Force Base, a stone?s throw south
of the bridge.
I think Smith was amused at our awe, having
long since gotten used to this phenomenon.
Gradually, I managed to focus on the reason
we were here. It helped that the frequency of
overflights slowed. About the same time, the tide
slowed as well, as then did the redfish bite.
Bowing to the power of
live baits, we put some
of燬mith?s pogies to good
use, landing several more
reds to at least 30 pounds,
giving our light spinning
outfits quite a workout.
albino shiner color (think white pearl) onto
my snap, tossed it out, and began erratically
working the lure jerkbait-style, in sharp, quick
snaps. Almost at once, in a silver flash, I had
hooked up. The bushwhacker turned out to be
a small bluefish.
Quinn joined me, throwing a small 360 GT
Largo Shad on a light lead-head, and both of
us stayed busy with slashing strikes of small
but always aggressive blues, with ladyfish and
Spanish mackerel mixed in.
Soon, Smith weighed anchor and we headed
farther up into East Bay.
Above: A serious bull
redfish let Dan Quinn,
visiting from Minnesota,
scratch one goal off
his bucket list. Below:
Quinn?s bucket list was
further reduced when
he boated this huge
smoker king, assisted
by Capt. Matt Parramore
(left), after it struck
Quinn?s Rapala: a
Magnum Divebait-40
Saltwater X-Rap.
Flounder are highly
sought and widely
available in the bay
system around Panama
City. Capt. Matt Smith
can usually find the
tasty flatfish.
Somewhere in the vicinity of midbay, the
sounder displayed the bottom abruptly rising
from about 8 feet to 3 feet or so ? a large
sandy爏hoal.
Though usually fishier (and apparently at
times troutier) than it proved today, we did hook
some jacks, and I landed another, considerably
larger, Spanish mackerel while fishing the same
Shadow Rap Shad, and missed what might have
been a small tarpon.
By this time ? midmorning ? we had caught
sight of maybe two or three other boats with
anglers, and appreciated the tranquility of the
East Bay. That, however, was about to change.
FLOUNDER IN
THE FREE-FOR-ALL
Flounder fishing in these waters can be
74
MAY 2018
productive this time of year if you fish the right
place. On this day, Smith said, the right place
would be Saint Andrew Bay Pass, where the Gulf
funnels into and out of the extensive bay system
surrounding Panama City.
The pass and waters around it proved to
be pretty antithetical to our experience back
in t
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