Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hog Fishing in Florida, 2016

It wasn’t a very long run to the gps coordinates. Bait fish showed up on the Garmin and Mike quickly dropped the marker buoy. Next was to test the bite before anchoring and then after determining the drift direction setting the anchor. It was impressive to watch Mike run his boat and his systems, a pure pleasure to see such expertise.
Jen and I baited up with live shrimp and Mike hooked up a live pin fish. He was going after grouper and we were fishing for anything, perhaps even a hog fish. Now I have never caught a hog fish, even seen one for that matter, but I knew the hog fish bite was on.
Almost as quickly as we dropped down Mike had a fifteen-inch red grouper. The size limit is a twenty inch minimum so he released the fish and it swam safely to its coral home. Jen was next to catch a smaller fish and not sure what it was she released it. After catching several more, we looked the fish up and discovered it was a white grunt. They are usually not kept but do have an excellent rating so we started to keep the larger ones.
Jens turn for a larger fish was next and she landed a beautiful eighteen inch trigger fish. They are good eating but the season was closed to January first. I soon had my own trigger fish and and even though we released the triggers it  was a new species for me.
My turn came again and I fought in a large fish. As it neared the surface we could see the bright orange color and the mohawk styled dorsal fin, a hogfish! It was a really nice one and measured eighteen inches.
We caught a few more large grunt and before Jen fought in her own beautiful twenty inch hog fish. I tried something a little differ and had a huge fish grab my shrimp. I fought it for a little while when suddenly Jens pole doubled over, we had a double!
However my sixty pound leader parted while Jen kept her fish on and finally landed a twenty one inch red grouper. The ice chest was filling with good eating fish and Mike was feeling a little frustrated as he kept catching undersize grouper and white grunt.

I could go on but before we left I had caught my limit of hog fish! Later, I cleaned the fish and Jen sautéed the fish in olive oil, lemon juice, and capers.
 I must say that fresh hog fish are one of the best eating ocean fish I have ever tasted! Thank you Mike, for the great day on the water! Clear skies

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

We celebrated Chistmas Eve at Jen and Eric’s house. Friends and family gathered and we opened presents because Jen had to work Christmas Day. As to the activities order, well of course we went fishing, followed by an excellent Christmas feast, and then the openings of the gifts.
It was a pretty good bite but we released everything as red tide has moved in and many dead mullet floated by. The pelicans and great blue herons preferred our live fish and we almost had to beat them off.
Jen caught a nice mangrove snapper and several grouper, as well as the usual black tail and grunts. I had a nice lady fish on for a while, (it’s very similar to a small tarpon), but it threw the hook and released itself.
So, we had Eric’s huskova with meat balls, and my barbecued ribs. The change to my ribs recipe was  that I used some sugar free barbecue sauce. It was a type of a Carolina sauce with several types of vinegar. I prefer it to the heavily sugared sauces commonly found in the grocery stores.

Jen gave us the best gift of all, a jump drive filled with all the wedding images. Look out if you come over and visit us as I am sure Renita will want to share them all! They also gave us a nice portable cooler. It’s perfect for our fishing expeditions both here and when we go fly fishing.
Christmas day we celebrated Mass at the local church before we went to visit friends in Largo. Ed and Pat have bought a house in the same park where our friends Bill and Sharon and Ed had made a barbecued prime rib. Ed is an excellent chef and the meal was as good as it sounded!
We hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas and pray that you will have a Happy New Year!

Clear skies

One other thing, If you are ever in St Petersburg you have to have breakfast at Munch's! Its not often you see eggs grits and mullet on the menu! We were the first customers from Thayne, Wyoming and so we got to put a pin on the map!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Madeira Beach's Christmas Boat Parade 2016

We always try to see a Christmas Boat Parade and this year was no exception. 
Last year’s parade was put on by Treasure Island but this year Maderia Beach and Treasure Island’s boat parades were on the same weekend.
Deciding to only see one we opted for the Madeira Beach boat parade. It started in John’s Pass and
Eric invited us for dinner, (Jen was working). It also gave us another chance to visit with his Mom who was visiting from Pennsylvania.
After a hearty dish of cabbage, onion, and pasta, (a traditional meal from Eric’s family) we headed down to the sea wall to view the boats.
Brightly lit boats milled in circles as they waited for the start signal. A police boat flashed its light as  it tried to herd them into some semblance of order. 
In spite of the confusion the boats avoided collisions and the parade was off!
Boats passed by decorated with crabs and fish. One showed Santa fighting a fish while a shark pursued them both. 

I tried something different and used the sport setting on my camera instead of the night time view.
It seemed to work better as the boats were moving and there was enough light when I zoomed in.
I really didn’t have a favorite as there were so many beautiful displays. 
I guess the best thing I could do is just share them with you. Oh and a hearty well done to all the participants! 
Clear skies and of course Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Computer Problems, Mangrove Snappers, Bluefish, and Parakeets

Just as I was getting ready to update the blog, our computer crashed 3*!^ARGH#! After four hours of looking up fixes on my smartphone and trying all the suggestions, still no computer. Now we have been on the road for nine years and the other computers crashed after three years each so we were due for a new one.

After a quick trip to the computer store we now have a new computer loaded with all the necessary software and security programs. I did have to spend additional time locating my saved programs and file and moving them but finally I am ready to write.
After the last successful fishing trip, Jen called us and invited us for another day of fishing by their condo. The greenies were plentiful and my new cast net worked great in quickly filling up the bait bucket.
Going back to the spot where Jen had caught the groupers I cast out and had one on. The fish was again undersized so it was safely released. More time and then Eric caught a mangrove snapper. They are a small fish but are excellent table flavor and so we kept it.
Soon Eric had another and then another and Jen followed suit. Not to be outdone I fished hard and caught eight undersize gag groupers. I even tried to get as close to Eric as I could get but he easily blocked my casts and I eased off. After all they are newlyweds.
Eric cast out again and had a fish take off on a run that threatened to spool his reel. Racing along the seawall he turned the fish and I was barley to grab the line and lift the bluefish over the seawall. Now blue fish are one of my least favorite fish to eat but several people told me that I was cooking them wrong.
Following other’s suggestions, we grilled the blue fish and it was ok. However, we also sautéed the mangrove snapper fillets with lemon and capers and most fish would come off second best when you also serve fresh snapper.
The next day Renita and I were returning to the computer store and as we stopped at a red light. Looking out the window, Renita said, “Look at the parrots”.  Sure enough bright green birds were feeding next to the busy highway and she tried to take an image of them as they flew away.
Racing home we got out the bird book and it was a new bird, a rose ringed parakeet! Furthermore Renita had taken an image of a nearby tree and there near the top was a monk parakeet, another new bird for our life list!

Two days later we went to Sam’s Club and in the parking lot Renita spotted a flock of black capped parakeets, also called a Nanday parakeet. Three new birds in two days! Its really funny as we have been coming here for four years, and while we have seen parrots and parakeets we haven’t been able to identify them. Now we had three great views of three new birds! Clear skies

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving Fishing, Getting Our Etsy Store Ready for Christmas, Birding at Sawgrass Lake 2016

We really did put the turkey in the oven and then went fishing. It was easy as we just hoped on the elevator and walked to the fishing dock at Jen and Eric’s Condo. I had left my old cast net back in Wyoming and so I had to purchase a new one. Not sure of the size I bought a seven footer, oops!
It took me a few casts before I actually made a good one. The first six caught a few unlucky fish, only because there were so many greenbacks down there that a few had to get tangled in the net. Jen took one of the first ones, cast out, and caught a puffer on her first try. It blew itself up like a football and just as fast deflated.
My turn came next and of course I caught a lizard fish. It’s an ugly skinny fish that has the head of a barracuda and the body that is long and narrow. We kept getting bites from little fish and so we decided to head back along the sea wall. I made one last cast and threw the net right, filling it with enough green backs to last till the turkey was done.
I never caught another fish but Jen caught two undersize gag groupers and several ocean bream. Three hours later we went upstairs and the turkey was done to perfection, talk about being lucky. Eric came home from work and we celebrated being eating as much as we possibly could.
After dinner, we flopped down on the sofa and Renita checked our email. She told me that we had sold some jewelry on our Etsy store! The next day, we shipped the item and then spent the next three days posting new items on our online store.
Finally, we were caught up and so we decided to go birding at Sawgrass Lake Park. It’s right next to our rv park and after a ten-minute drive, we reached the park and headed down the boardwalk. It was immediately obvious that the drought has hit the area hard. The water level was down and the vegetation choked most of the canals. We only saw one fish and there seemed to be a dearth of wading birds.
Turtles were in abundance and we did see a few alligators. Walking the boardwalk, it took us about two hours as we stop and bird, provided us with the chance to spot the usual wading birds. I did get an image of an adult palm warbler in non-breeding plumage, and that’s about the only way we can id such a little bird, from an image!
There were quite a few American white ibis, a little blue heron, quite a few marsh hens and coots so we did see birds. The gopher tortoises did not make an appearance from their dens, you may recall their scandalous behavior from last year’s visit.

Still it was a nice day in the park, even with the roar of the traffic. There are about three million people in this area and another million and a half after the holidays. As we live near a town of 300 people, well I don’t do crowded cities well. Clear skies

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day Three, Big Cypress Preserve: Kirby Storter Park

It was our last day at Big Cypress Preserve and we decided to go birding along the Kirby Storter Roadside Park. Its right alongside Highway 41 and has a raised boardwalk that is about a mile long, roundtrip. We arrived early and were the first ones that day so we were excited about the birding possibilities.

The first section of the boardwalk passed through short cypress and tall sawgrass. The Cypress are about one hundred years old but are stunted due to the lack of nutrients. A ranger told us that the limestone was very near the surface. We did see a palm warbler flitting through the underbrush, but it’s the dry season and so the ground was dry and barren. A large spider appeared to be motionless on its huge web and I played with the focus trying to take a decent image.
A little further we entered a cypress strand. This is an area were more nutrients are available and water is in the deeper holes. Alligators, fish, turtles, and birds. Lots of birds, are concentrated. It’s like walking into an aviary. The walk turned into a crawl as we were treated to so many birds.
A crow landed below me and deftly caught a live bow fish in its beak. It then devoured the fish in little fillet size bites while watching me like a, well ravenous crow. There were so many large cypress trees and brush that the autofocus didn’t work and so switching to manual I tried to image individual birds. Renita meanwhile was using the little camera and concentrated on landscape photos.
I especially concentrated on getting a good image of a wood stork. They are plentiful here and feed on the same way as ibis, swinging their beaks back and forth through the water. The motion contacts fish, crustaceans, and worms, all tasty tidbits for a wood stork.
Great egrets dominated the flooded woodland, waiting patiently for a fish to appear. Occasionally one would thrust its beak into the water, often grabbing a fish which was quickly swallowed. A vulture spotted some food and landed before hiding the food from other vultures with its outstretched wings.
From Storter Park we drove to Everglades City. We needed to fuel up for the drive back to St Petersburg and as we passed thought the town found a great seafood place, called City Seafood. We had grouper with fries and a plate of conch fritters. I hadn’t had any conch in forty-five years, and it was till as tough aa I remembered.
A cow and calf dolphin provide the tourist draw and fourteen guided airboats took turns showing them to their clients. Finally, the dolphins left the area harassed by steady parade of boats. It was a classic example of unscrupulous guides caring more about their profits then the welfare of the dolphins, (at one time three airboats surrounded the two dolphins).
Renita wanted to find a souvenir so we stopped at a couple of gift stores but their selection was limited to t-shirts and small cheap items. She didn’t find anything to buy, an unusual occurrence for a master shopper!
Returning to camp, we arrived just as rangers were capturing an alligator. It had been fed by people and no was chasing fishermen on the bank, hoping for a handout. A fed gator is a dead gator, the same as bears in Wyoming, (this last summer two black bears were put down near in the town of Alpine after they became aggressive while searching for food.
It was obvious that people had been feeding alligators in lots of places we had visited. Signs were up stating it’s against Florida law but as usual many ignore signs. I wish they could have seen the alligator being carried away hog tied and duct taped. Clear skies.