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If your lucky Venice fishing is great now!

2011 October 22. Venice and Englewood fishing is confused like our weather; some good but not all.

 This is prime time for inside and near shore fishing. We have had some challenges with Red Tide but there is also some red hot catching when we can dodge the problem areas. So far there has not been a major fish kill inside. Some patches off shore have had dead fish. The winds are variable and fluctuating like the so far minor blooms. So here’s the deal; we can enjoy some great fishing but I can not make an educated guess as to weather and red tide blooms very far in advance.  You need to make your plans to fish and then see if Mother Nature let’s us  go or maybe we can try a day or so earlier or later?

I am not out to burn bridges by wasting time if conditions are not right. Just remember that some our very best catches ever are around red tide outbreaks. When we have these limited blooms it affects smaller areas; then most fish can sense the problem areas so they concentrate near by. This is not something I like but if all you have is lemons it’s great if you like lemonade!  Gamefish frequently bunch up and feed aggressively on fish stunned by mild red tide blooms. The most awesome tarpon and redfish bites we have encountered were created buy minor blooms chumming up gamefish into a feeding frenzy like whitebait eating my Magic Chum.  Every cast until we all cried “uncle”!

Redfish and trout are both open now and hungry. Snook are hungry and here but closed for harvest. Both Spanish and king mackerel are here if winds and conditions allow us to get at em. Several friends from the St Pete area reported great mackerel action just before this last blow so plenty of migratory fish are due to be off Venice now! The problems have been south so far and usually don’t move against the natural water flow. Again all we can do is try; if conditions are wrong we don’t waste our time and money. If we get lucky it can be the trip of your life!

It’s best to check with me about making your plans down here right now if you can. I can only make educated guesses but local knowledge really helps in times like these. Are you feeling lucky? Let’s Go Fishin’ soon. Thank you,

Captain Van Hubbard.  www.captvan.com


Captain Van’s mackerel fishing tips. I hope they help you!


Here are some helpful tips if you want to catch more Spanish and king mackerel. This is a huge subject and I can only point you in a better direction here. Utilize local tackle shops like Cook’s Sportland to get set up.

First we need to decide to fish natural bait, live baitfish or hardware; before we start out. Each method has different requirements; gear, riggings, etc…  Examples are; shore based or boat, live well or not, trolling or casting or anchored? You get the idea you need to consider your options, select one and then match the gear to the method. No matter how you decide to go after the big ones your best bet is to hire an experienced, local, expert guide this will minimize your learning curve. Yes, we are expensive, unless you compare our fees to boat ownership costs, your time and effort? The next step is to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with your local baitshop staff! They can help you select gear for the task, rig it and share their hot up to date tips.  Friends can be helpful if they actually know what they’re doing and want to share with you?

My first choice is usually live minnows; if I can acquire enough without killing too much of our time?  If you don’t have built in serious bait well and expensive cast net you can throw, skip to the next section now. This is basic but frequently overlooked; match the hatch type and size!  Fish fed on what is available. They are used to a specific size and may not want to vary. If fish are eating glass minnows, big threadfins may not work. Glass minnows are like tenderloins so don’t expect to decoy fish away with hot dog! As you put in time you can learn to identify different minnows and fish patterns. An easy way to begin is to examine minnows at surface or any minnows your fish cough up when you boat em. Simple good old common sense always helps.

How to set up gear. If you have a live well that will transport minnows we usually cast net or Sabiki our baits. Catching minnows requires knowledge, skill, proper gear and luck! Start out with the Sabikis and look for bird activity. Carry extras because macks will cut bait rigs off! Extra sinkers too!

Then rig up, for starters try light to medium spinning gear. I use braids ten to twenty pound test and thirty pound fluorocarbon leaders. Add long shank shinny hooks and baits of choice. Slow troll or drift and cast, keep your presentation moving.

 Where to go? Look for bird or baitfish activity as soon as you get to open waters. Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay both offer excellent opportunities. Work out the nearest Pass and start fishing. Both mackerel can be active near shore if waters are clean and baitfish/food abundant.

How catch the fish. Spot fish or active areas and troll around; exercise care to fish around the fish, not scaring schools away by riding over top of fish schools. Set up from up wind and up current of activity to drift and cast to fish. Chum helps.

Dead natural baits can work well. Ballyhoo and cigar minnows, etc… can be fished effectively if you are not set up with a live well.  Sometimes they are mixed with a “sea witch” type of skirt to add color and extent the trolling time. Ballyhoo can be rigged with a circle hook and small lead to look alive and troll better than live!

Hardware, spoons, lures; plugs, jigs, combos. I can only share the basics here for exact details create a working relationship with your local tackle shop staff. Cook’s in Venice is an example of a good place to start. Invest the time to get acquainted and stay with your salesman.  They can help you understand how you match up your boat to gear and then to your style of fishing exactly to your needs! They have everything to rig your poles to matching rigs. Remember that spinning gear and trolling gear are very different. Light spinners are not intended for trolling and thirty pound conventional gear will not cast a ¼ oz jig!    

Spoons, jigs, and plugs can all be cast or trolled. They can be added to weights, planers or down riggers to vary depths fished in the water column. Mackerel suspend in the water column. They must always be on the move because they don’t have a bladder and small gill area. Macks and sharks require forward movement to maintain Oxygen levels.

Speeds to properly produce bites for each style is different so do not mix spoons and plugs. This also goes for live baits but you can mix some rigged natural baits with lures if they work at similar speeds. Live baits must be treated carefully and you only need enough movement to keep the lines tight. Live minnows are a way to catch fish, not locate them.            

Wire or not?  With larger kings, coffee colored wire is recommended almost always. With Spanish I prefer 30 -40 # fluorocarbon leaders but mono can work if waters are not crystal clear. Keep it short for wire and long for fluoro. Black swivels are a must because the toothy critters bite at anything shiny. They can even grab lines as they steak by.

You need to be on fish to catch fish. But you do not want to mess up others! Use birds and boats to find fish but don’t abuse the boater that helped you! Artificial reefs are usually great spots for both macks and more. Unfortunately more includes hungry sharks, cudas and jewfish which eat macks. So I usually work the edges and lead hooked fish away from structures to increase our odds.

Chumming helps. Frozen blocks are perfect and carry several. Don’t be cheap here; or spend more on gas chasing the fish. Crippled live minnows help. Cut up big baits into smaller treats so you don’t fill up the fish.

Note you need lots of ice and a place to keep your catch fresh to eat!

Notes on gaffing kings! Let speedy fish run or pull hooks and break lines. Expect them to take off when they first see your boat and mug. Anticipate them wrapping you around motors, anchor lines, etc…  Clear extra lines for big fish but remember that these are school fish. You could get multiple hook ups if you can handle them without tangles. Anticipate…

Try eating fish ASAP! You can freeze some but only for a short time, shrink wrap or vacuum pack helps.  My favorite recipe is simple and fast. Lay one inch thick mackerel filets on aluminum foil and season with Everglades Seasoning and Old Bay to taste. Place under a red hot broiler until half done, only a few minutes, depending upon exact thickness. Remove and add Dukes Mayo liberally to filets. Put back into broiler and DO NOT LEAVE. Observe until the Dukes begins to boil and brown. Shut off heat and let sit while you pour a glass of wine and then serve hot. They are beautiful, tasty and good for us because macks are high in omega 3s. Very large kings can be high in mercury so don’t over do the big smokers. In fact I smoke smokers and mix meat into fish dip to share and enjoy. Use Dukes, Old Bay, add sweet pickle relish if you like then season to taste. Some key lime juice and hot sauce helps spice it up.

I hope this helps and feel free to email questions to <charternow@captvan.com>

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