Follow the Yellow Brick Road

January 5, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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P1010298By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

I can’t think of too many outings more fun in winter than going patch fishing off Islamorada.

While you are almost certain to catch big numbers of yellowtail snapper, plenty of other species either hang out or pass through these miniature ecosystems at the same time.

On a late December outing with captain Greg Eklund and mate Cory Nelson on the charterboat Cloud Nine out of Bud n’ Mary’s Marina, our group of four anglers boated nearly 40 yellowtail and gray snapper, a handful of cero mackerel, and the broad head of a big red grouper that got cut in half by a suspected shark.  We also released about dozen and half undersized mutton snapper.  We couldn’t lower our baits into the current without getting a hit.

“Yellowtail is one of the most important species we have,” said Eklund, a 21-year veteran captain.  “They’re delicious. abundant, and fun to catch.”

Check, check and check.

The fishing grounds Eklund chose was a sandy plain in the ocean off Islamorada about 20 feet deep with scattered patches of coral reefs to the north and south.  He dropped the Cloud Nine’s anchor in the sand up-current of the live bottom.

“You don’t want to damage the reef by anchoring on it,” Eklund explained.  “You don’t want to damage your tackle on the bottom and lose fish on the reef.  You bring the fish to you.”

Nelson deployed a chum bag on the transom and prepared a bucket full of raw oats mixed with the oily fish parts.  For bait, Cloud Nine had brought live shrimp threaded on 1/4-ounce knock-off Hook Up jigs.

“Live shrimp is a very effective bait in wintertime because a lot of shrimp are going under the bridges,” Eklund said, referring to the spans dotting U.S. 1 that separate the ocean from shallow Florida Bay waters.

The captain said fishing for yellowtail with live shrimp on the main reef tract further offshore doesn’t work as well as it does on the patches because the fish aren’t used to seeing them in wintertime.  Most of those migrating crustaceans get picked off by predators long before they make it to the open ocean.  Live pilchards, he said, are the preferred bait in deeper waters.

The captain tossed out a cloud of oats and chum from the stern of the boat, waited a few beats, then sent out another one.  Within a few minutes, he pronounced, ” I can see them; they’re swarming.”

Flashes of dingy yellow appeared in the green chum slick as Eklund baited my jig with a live shrimp.  I lowered it into the water, watching for the line to start zipping through the rod guides.  It didn’t take long.

“You’re on,” Eklund said.

I slammed the bail of the reel closed, and came up tight on a feisty fish.  It even made the drag sing a little.  Within a minute or two, I swung a 14-inch yellowtail over the transom.

My fishing companions–Bud n’ Mary’s owner captain Richard Stanczyk, tackle shop manager Stephen Byrd, and North Carolina charterboat captain Dave Peck–all joined the action, which was constant and frenzied for several hours.  Mixed in with the tails was a handful of mangrove snapper; quite a few muttons too small to keep; and several ceros.  A heavy bottom outfit yielded the partial grouper.

The weather was bumpy the day we fished, so we pretty much had the area to ourselves.  No commercial boats plied the area for yellowtail because NOAA Fisheries had closed that fishery Oct. 31, projecting that the total annual catch limit of  about 1.6 million pounds would be reached.  Commercial fishing re-opened on Jan. 1.

Yellowtail is considered a success story by both fishers and fisheries managers.  Unlike some grouper/snapper species, the stock is not in trouble from overfishing.

Eklund said part of the reason is all the chumming that goes on in the area.

“It’s like a small farm,” he said.  “[Yellowtail] will gorge themselves on chum, then go to the rocks and regurgitate and it feeds other fish.”

We scored a cooler full before noon, and I went home with plenty of five-star entree fare to serve at holiday feasts.

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

Rolling Snakeheads in Fort Lauderdale

December 31, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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P1010264By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

 scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

A beautiful fish with a very ugly face.  Slippery and slimy but tasty to eat. A feisty sport fish but a nuisance exotic.  This is the paradox of the snakehead– an invader native to Asia introduced about 15 years ago and now firmly established in Fort Lauderdale-area canals.

“We sure wish they weren’t here,” says Kelly Gestring, a non-native fish and wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  “We are definitely encouraging people to practice catch, keep and eat.”

Like the 33 other non-native fish reproducing in South Florida waterways, the snakehead competes with the locals such as black bass and bream and the deliberately-stocked peacock bass for food and space.  Generalist feeders, they will eat “anything that comes across their mouths”, according to Gestring– including a wide variety of fish; crayfish; bufo toads; Muscovy duck eggs, or whatever.

With “crazy Martian eyes”– (as one angler put it) –and orange eye spots on a dark body,  snakeheads are both beautiful and ugly.  When hooked, they splash and jump better than a largemouth, inspiring a group of Broward County anglers to form a small tournament series targeting them.  They make excellent butterflied baits for daytime swordfishing, and their flavor when cooked is mild and likened by many to tilapia– a ubiquitous, farm-raised staple in grocery stores and restaurants.  The largest one caught so far weighed 15 pounds– taken by angler Corey Nowakowski last May in Deerfield Beach.

Fort Lauderdale five-star chef Anthony Hunt– fresh from being “Chopped” on the Food Network–decided to whack a few snakeheads with his son Marlei, 9, earlier this month in the canals of North Broward.  Hunt, 39, is embarking on a career as a professional bass tournament competitor; his son has won two local fishing contests.  Armed with their favorite Live Target hollow-bodied frog lures, father and son aimed to catch enough for a meal before heading out on their weekend round of chores.

“People are very curious about them.  Their popularity is increasing,” Hunt said as he cast his frog into a shallow, grass-lined drainage canal. “I’ve never eaten one before, so it’s the first time for me.”

Hunt caught a small snakehead right away and lost three more–plus one of his Live Targets– in the same canal before deciding to relocate to an apartment complex pond a few blocks to the north.  Marlei got a few hits but didn’t land any.

“It’s fun.  You never know what you’re gonna catch,” Marlei said, undeterred.

“Get it on that bank, okay?  And bring it off,” Hunt directed his son as the boy cast his frog.

In a shady, stagnant section of the pond, Hunt caught a second snakehead  estimated at a couple of pounds.  Not long afterward, he got a third one about five pounds.  The haul would be enough for the chef to make fish tacos for his family (see recipe below).  He also caught and released a two-pound bass in the same spot.

Gestring is very supportive of the snakehead angling efforts of Hunt, Marlei and others.

“The fishing part is a great way  for the public to assist us in controlling their numbers,” the biologist said.  “We just can’t get them all.”

Snakehead Tacos

Ingredients:  2 lbs. snakehead fillets cut into 5″ x 1″ pieces; 1 cup buttermilk; 2 cups flour; 1 cup fine cornmeal; 6 flour tortillas (either homemade or top-shelf store-bought); salt and pepper to taste.

Salad slaw mixture:

1 red bell pepper thinly sliced; Napa cabbage thinly sliced; 2 oz. fresh corn; 2 oz. black beans; 1/2 oz. cilantro; 1/2 oz. parsley; 1/4 red pickled onion; 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper; 3 tbsp. olive oil; sriracha sauce as garnish to top tacos.

Directions:  Preheat 16 oz. vegetable oil in small sauce pot on medium heat.  Toss the salad ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside.  Pour buttermilk on top of fish fillets and mix well.  Remove fish and add to a bowl containing flour, corn meal and salt/pepper.  Toss thoroughly; shake off excess flour and set aside.  Make sure not to stack the fish fillets on top of each other.

Deep-fry fillets  in oil until golden-brown, then place on sheets of paper towels to drain off excess oil.

Place tortillas in a skillet on medium heat and sear lightly for 30 seconds on each side.  Remove from heat.  Assemble tacos and EAT!

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

Lady Luck to Take A Dive

December 29, 2015 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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New_Town_CreekBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

A 324-foot ship that once carried sewage sludge for New York City is likely to become the largest artificial reef deliberately sunk in Broward County waters.

The non-profit Shipwreck Park Foundation– a group of public officials, tourism boosters and local businesses including the Isle Casino–plans to sink the Newtown Creek next spring in about 125 feet of water about a half-mile east of the Pompano Beach Fishing Pier.  Pending final approval by New York City officials, the huge steel, multi-deck vessel covered with metal piping built in 1968 will be transferred to the Pompano Beach non-profit to become a haven for fish and scuba divers.

“We’re taking a ship that used to be a polluter and turning it into an artificial reef,” said Jeff Torode, operator of South Florida Diving Headquarters, a Guy Harvey Outpost outfitter.  “All the piping and intricate stuff on it creates so much more habitat than a flat deck. I think it’ll be awesome.”

But the Newtown Creek won’t be deployed as is.  It will be stripped of most of its equipment, cleaned of  pollutants, drained of fuel and oil –then turned into a mock underwater gambling casino renamed the Lady Luck.

Prominent Pompano Beach artist Dennis MacDonald, who sculpted the Easter Island statues for the Rapa Nui artificial reef put down last summer off Deerfield Beach, is expected to create poker tables, slot machines and fish costumed like croupiers to decorate the main deck.  Torode envisions underwater poker tournaments and other unique events staged aboard the Lady Luck.

The ship will join several others already deployed in the area, creating opportunities for multi-wreck drift dives, Torode said.

The Foundation paid about $100,000 for the retired ship and has raised another $525,000 to tow it from New York to a shipyard in Green Cove Springs, FL. to be prepared for sinking. The organization is trying to raise more money to ensure all costs are covered.  Torode said the necessary permits have been secured from Broward County.

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

Low Key Christmas Boat Parade in Paradise

December 24, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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boatBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

The parade’s Grand Marshal was a mentalist who performs card tricks in Vegas.  The winning floats featured a western saloon and the Grinch who stole Christmas.  One year, a rescue boat had to be deployed to shore in the middle of the event to fetch a corkscrew for wine guzzling party goers on the lead boat.

Welcome to the Key Largo Holiday Boat Parade– the antithesis of its glitzy counterpart to the north, the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Parade held the same night in Fort Lauderdale.  I was at the Key Largo event, and I bet it was a lot more fun.

For one thing, nobody had to close any bridges or re-route traffic to accommodate the parade route.  There was a lone security guard helping park cars in the Sundowners restaurant lot near the docks where many of the boats staged, and the parade itself just made a big circle through Blackwater Sound.  With only 22 vessels participating, it didn’t take all night.

I got to ride on the lead boat, a 52-foot motoryacht called Kenny’s Kork skippered by Captain Spencer Slate, owner/operator of the Guy Harvey Outpost dive outfitter in Tavernier.  Slate has served as either grand marshal or captain of the lead boat for all 30 years of the event. This year’s grand marshal was Henry Rosenthal– a prominent Keys businessman and self-styled mentalist with the stage name of “Bastille”. (Why he chose the name of a French prison, I never found out.)  The boat was packed with lots of revelers drinking beer and wine and chowing down on a delicious catered buffet prepared by Sundowners.

As the procession chugged slowly along the shoreline, gaggles of spectators cheered from docks, back porches and waterfront restaurants.  Kenny’s Kork was followed by an assortment of lit-up motorboats and a flotilla of kayaks from Florida Bay Outfitters.

One colorfully-lighted kayak carried a paddler with a blow-up penguin standing in the bow.

“Isn’t he festive?” the kayaker called to us.

Another kayak carried Santa Claus; others bore fake palm trees lined with white lights and one double kayak sported a manger scene in the rear seat.

“For me, this parade transforms December into Christmas time,” said Key Largo businesswoman Laurie Scanlon.

The parade ended back at Sundowners where the judges convened to decide which floats should win prizes.  While they deliberated, “Bastille” performed his signature show on the restaurant’s patio stage.  It involved lots of audience participation and shuffling of decks of playing cards.  Kenny’s Kork’s owner was so enthralled that he tipped the performer a C-note.

Finally, it was time for the announcement of the winners by emcee captain Skip Bradeen, a popular veteran charterboat captain and local radio personality.

The award for best overall float went to the Grinch who stole Christmas– one of Slate’s dive boats lovingly decorated over two days by his daughter Sky and ex-wife Annette and  their friends.  The Grinch’s light display was stunning and creative and Sky was compellingly costumed as the Grinch while Annette looked fetching as Cindy Lou Who in her blonde top-knot wig.  Admirers quickly moved in to take selfies with the winning team.

What a hoot.  Hope I get invited back next year!

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

The Edible Sinking Christmas Tree

December 22, 2015 at 6:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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XmastreeBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

Back in the mid 1980s–nobody really remembers exactly when–members of the South Florida Dive Club were gathered around the Christmas Tree at their annual Yuletide party when someone wondered aloud what to do with the tree afterward.

“We were imbibing,” admits past president Joe Smariga of Fort Lauderdale.

But the question persisted after everyone had sobered up and “a bunch of us got together the next Saturday and sank it,” Smariga said.

The inaugural sinking didn’t go too well; the dive boat they used had to pull the tree down to the bottom.  But thus began an annual holiday tradition that was repeated again last Saturday when the club deployed a live spruce to the deck of the Merci Jesus– a shipwreck that sits 70 feet deep off Fort Lauderdale.

“We look forward to it.  Fish love it,” Smariga said.

Fourteen club members chartered the Fort Lauderdale dive boat Sea Experience to transport tree and divers to the artificial reef site.  Christmas music played over the boat’s sound system as the group donned scuba gear accented with Santa caps and Christmas-themed boxer shorts .

Smariga and club member Eric Rohde had placed the tree in a 120-pound concrete base rigged with two lift bags to control its descent.  First off the boat, they took  about five minutes to get the tree to the bottom.  Then the rest of the group followed carrying bags of edible decorations– frozen pilchards; radishes; carrots; sliced sweet potatoes; and a head of lettuce to crown the tree.

Club members shot stills and video of their friends who were decorating; a few curious fish hovered in the background watching the process. When all the garnishes were in place, the divers moved back to watch how the local residents would receive their gifts.

It didn’t take long.  A gang of grunts quickly swarmed the tree, snapping at a shiny garland of pilchards and fighting each other for the fishy tinsel.  A couple of small grouper drifted in, scaring off some of the smaller grunts and making off with the bait fish bits.  They were joined by a couple of small hogfish and mangrove snapper.

When the pilchards were gone, tussles erupted over the vegetable ornaments with fish chasing each other around in a rugby-like scrum.

In the midst of the commotion, a three-foot spotted moray eel appeared on deck flexing its jaws and looking confused.  It slithered between a diver’s feet and circled the base of the tree.  It made a circular ascent through the branches almost to the top, then descended and swam away without eating anything.

Divers looked at each other and shrugged.

As the divers’ air supply dwindled, they made a slow ascent back to the dive boat, leaving the tree at the disposal of the fish.

The needles would be gone in a few weeks, and after a year or so, only the concrete base would remain– sitting next to the remnant of a long-gone tree of a Christmas past.

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

 

The Florida Keys: A Tropical Atmosphere

December 21, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pool MorningBY FAY SPLETT – Active Living Magazine

The Florida Keys: a tropical atmosphere that’s sure to appeal to fishing and diving enthusiasts, sun worshipers, seafood lovers, and eco-minded travelers.

Stretching 125 miles along the southernmost tip of Florida, the Keys are only 90 miles off the coast of  Cuba; hence the appealing tropical climate. Considered a safe travel destination, it’s easy to reach from mainland USA by car, and offers a wide variety of activities and sights to see for travelers of all ages and lifestyles. Divided roughly into three main areas, each has its own character and appeal. The Upper Keys are peppered with dive shops, fishing charters, country clubs, and condos. Islamorada Key is touted as being the “sports fishing capital of the world.”

 

The Middle Keys features some of the loveliest stretches of the Keys and is home to Marathon, a small

laid-back, quaint area with its own turtle hospital. The Lower Keys are green and quiet until you reach the colorful town of Key West with its glorious sunsets, culture, history, and nightlife. When making your way through the upper, middle and lower islands, it’s a good idea to break up the trip with an overnight or two in each area. In the Upper Keys, try the Islander Resort of Islamorada, a Guy Harvey eco-friendly outpost resort, featuring beaches, boating, fishing and diving amenities, and programs. The resort is also pet-friendly and offers in-room kitchenettes. Also on the property is the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center curated by local Keys historian and author Brad Bertelli. He can entertain you for hours with his stories of the Keys and its history.

 

For dining, experience local seafood and cuisine right on a beautiful sand beach at sunset at the Morada Bay Beach Café & Bar. For lunch try The Hungry Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina. You can grab a bucket of baitfish and feed giant tarpons from the dock. The Keys boasts the third-largest barrier coral reef in the world. There are hundreds of charter boats and backcountry guides available to take you into the warm Gulf Stream waters that host marlin and other big game fish. Go fishing with one of their top charter boat skippers, Captain Skip Bradeen. He  has guided anglers in Keys waters for over 50 years. Fishing charters come fully equipped with crew that help newbies bait hooks and take fish off lines. On shore, the crew will clean and fillet the catches, which several local restaurants like the Lazy Days

Restaurant will cook for you.

 

Try a leisurely kayaking excursion into the mangrove tunnels with naturalist guide Bill Keogh of Big Pine Kayak Adventures or any of the many on and off water activities available in the Keys. Throughout the Keys, you will find an abundance of fresh seafood restaurants and unique local cuisine. Check out a local favorite, the Hogfish Bar & Grill, which serves up fresh local seafood right off the docks, including the Keys delicacy hogfish, a diver-caught fish with a light flavorful taste. And let’s not forget dessert! Key Lime pie, a sweet and tangy pie made from local limes, is not to be missed and can be found on almost every menu.

 

Restaurants compete heatedly for the “best” version. One of the contenders for that title is the pie at Blue Heaven, home to the most “heavenly” breakfast in Key West, housed in a colorful blue building in the historic Bahama Village neighborhood. The funky beach town of Key West is unlike any town you’ve seen. Chickens roam freely among the streets of sherbet-colored buildings, sunsets are a daily celebration, and the local residents called “Conches” playfully host festivals and events highlighting their local history and laissez-faire attitude.

A great way to get acquainted with Key West’s colorful characters, history and unique attractions is aboard the Old Town Trolley Tours. You can hop on and off at various stops across Key West, including the home of the literary legend Ernest Hemingway. Surrounded by his unique six-toed cats, Hemingway wrote many of his greatest works from Key West.

 

Where to stay in Key West? Try out the new boutique lifestyle hotel, The Gates Hotel Key West, located at the entry point of the island. The Gates boasts one of the best hotel pool scenes, featuring great cocktails and live local music. Sunset is a ritual observed by anyone travelling to Key West. There

is something soul-touching about watching the daily color show of nature when sun meets sea. Join

the masses congregating in Mallory Square to soak up the colors of the setting sun, and mingle with the street performers, fortune tellers and eclectic food carts. Restaurants and bars all vie for real estate to position themselves with a view west for the magnificent sunsets.

 

Stop in for dinner at the old cigar warehouse, which houses the El Meson de Pepe, a family owned and operated Cuban restaurant, or enjoy some of Key West’s best seafood at the Half Shell Raw Bar, located at Key West’s famous historic seaport. On the water is another great way to experience Key West. Recline on the bow of a graceful 34-foot sloop owned by Sunset Sails for a sunset cruise, or join in the mock sea battle, armed with a water gun, during Key West’s famous Annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration held each April.

 

Remember, there’s more to the Florida Keys than the spectacular scuba diving and fishing. You’ll want

to immerse yourself in the area’s arts and culture, walk the wild outdoors, and get acquainted with the green travel initiatives here in America’s Caribbean.

Guy Harvey Outpost Newsletter: December 2015

December 18, 2015 at 12:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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December 2015 has been the warmest and wettest December in recent memory, but the unseasonable rainfall hasn’t dampened either the inshore or offshore fishing. With water temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s, gaffer-sized mahi are plentiful within an easy boat ride offshore. Sailfish also are showing up along mainland Southeast Florida and the Keys, with numbers expected to increase as the weather cools off to the north. Reef fishing for grouper and snapper continues to be excellent in the Keys and anglers and guides are still finding plenty of blackfin tuna on the offshore humps. The mackerel bite also is on, with kings beginning to school in the Atlantic and Gulf and Spanish mackerel plentiful on back country wrecks, ledges and rock piles. Inshore anglers are still catching and releasing snook, tarpon, and redfish, and having no problem locating sea trout to take home for dinner.

Captain Cliff Jensen, Guy Harvey Outpost’s director of sportfishing, is happy to arrange an inshore or offshore fishing package for you at the Islander, a Guy Harvey Outpost Resort in Islamorada, as he did for Daniel Escobar of Corpus Christi, Texas recently. Escobar and a friend caught and released five sailfish– their first ever– with captain Aaron Brower on the charterboat, Buzz On. They also caught 18 yellowtail snapper, barbecued some of them that night and packed the rest for home. Then they explored the back country with captain Michael Venezia of Boned Up Charters and brought home a couple of redfish and numerous mangrove snapper to eat.

“Very, very fun,” Escobar said of his stay. “The rooms were first-class, very nice.”

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The Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost is the headquarters for the upcoming Blazing Mako Tournament & Festival June 16-19th , celebrating inshore and offshore fishing. The festival will also feature Conchservation Village, food, music, paddleboard competition and much more! Book the ultimate father’s day vacation or find out more at the www.BlazingMako.com. Proceeds for the event will be donated to Nova Southeastern University Scholarship Fund through the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

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If you are ready to embark on the fishing expedition of a lifetime, check out Guy Harvey Outpost’s Black Marlin Special aboard the three-vessel mother ship operation in Panama run by captain Hennie Marais. Through the end of February, guests have a choice among a variety of fishing packages ranging from $2,600 to $4,900 — depending on the number of guests and length of stay.

Van Williams recently returned from catching and releasing black marlin with Guy Harvey Outpost’s Panama Trifecta Safari.

“I have fished all over the world on my own boat and on charters, and this was the best experience I have ever had on a fishing trip,” Williams said. “This has got to be the best mother ship sportfish combination in the world, and I congratulate Hennie for putting together a great group 100 percent.”

For information and reservations about Guy Harvey Outpost Fishing Expeditions call 800-513-5257 or visit www.GHOFish.com

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Josh Loescher of Edgewater, FL. is the latest winner of Guy Harvey Outpost’s iGHO Fish app contest.  Loescher, 35, rode his bike to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and caught, photographed, logged and released three sea trout from shore using a Junior Spook topwater plug  Loescher won a Garmin VIRB Elite camera, which he plans to use to record future catches.

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Isla Mujeres, Mexico is one of the few places in the world where you can catch and release as many as 50 sailfish in a day, then jump in the water and photograph these lit-up pelagics while they harass huge schools of sardines. And you can pile on the thrills by climbing down into a strong, safe, shallow underwater cage, breathing from a hookah rig, and watching fierce-looking mako sharks up close.

January through early April is prime time for these adventures with the Yucatan region’s top outfitter, captain Anthony Mendillo of Keen M Blue Water Charters. Your shore-based headquarters is the Hotel Playa Media Luna, a Guy Harvey Outpost Expedition Lodge in Isla Mujeres. For reservations, go here www.guyharveyoutpost.com or call 1-800-513-5257

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Winter is the most wonderful season of the year– not just for the holidays, but for largemouth bass anglers in south-central Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. From December through early spring, big hawgs are readily accessible as they spawn or prepare to spawn in this vast, shallow, freshwater fish factory.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy Larry Davis of Lakeland, FL and fellow deputy Jeremy Goff recently found out first-hand just how bountiful the bass fishing can be on a guided trip with captain Scott Kerslake. Davis and Goff released 30 bass on a morning outing that Davis won in an online sweepstakes contest conducted by Guy Harvey Outpost.

“Now I know why they call it the best bass fishing experience in America,” Davis said.

He also won a pack of freshwater fishing lures and plenty of Guy Harvey swag.

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Big-bass catching isn’t the only sport for which Lake Okeechobee is famous. From now through Jan. 31, hunters from throughout Florida and the southeastern U.S. are taking to the cattail-lined lily pad marshes aiming to shoot a limit of six ducks per person per day.

One of those eager duck hunters is 34-year-old Kimberly McCue of St. Petersburg, FL. McCue has never gone hunting before, but that didn’t stop her from entering and winning Guy Harvey Outpost’s Gamefish, Hunting, and Outdoor Sweepstakes. She will go on a guided duck hunting trip with captain John Miller and receive an assortment of Guy Harvey gear.

“I’m very excited,” McCue said. “I’ve never actually been duck hunting. I thought it would be really fun.”

McCue plans to get ready for her January duck hunt by practicing shooting sporting clays near her home with a friend.

For more on duck hunting in the Big O– including recipes– and on hog hunting in the region, check out my blog here: www.guyharveyoutpostnews.com

Guy Harvey Outpost is teaming with Elite Resorts to redevelop the popular Okee-Tantie Campground and Marina on Lake Okeechobee into a world-class outdoors adventure destination. Anticipated reopening is spring 2017.

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Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts are celebrating the winter holiday season with creative delicious menus, so even if you don’t fish or dive, you should book a stay to just GHO Chill for the Holidays. Here are some of our Holiday Menu Specials at the Resorts.

-Slow-roasted prime rib or king crab legs on Christmas Day, December 25, at Rumfish Grill at the Guy Harvey Outpost, a Tradewinds Beach Resort in St Pete Beach, FL

-A sumptuous Christmas buffet table at Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbor, a Guy Harvey Expedition Collection Property

-Four-course Christmas lunch featuring traditional roast turkey and ham, Angus Beef Eye Round, Seafood Curry, or Blackened Mahi at the Southern Cross Club, a Guy Harvey Outpost Expedition Collection Property.

Our resorts are planning special New Year’s Eve dinners and parties as well. To GHO Chill with us during the holidays call 800-513-5257.

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Our favorite marine scientist/artist/conservationist has been keeping very busy over the holiday season painting, cruising and making special appearances. After christening the new Norwegian Cruise liner decorated with his artwork at PortMiami, Guy Harvey cruised to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau before returning to Miami. Later, at home in Grand Cayman Island, he began work on new paintings and was presented with a signed life ring by the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. Afterward, he returned to Florida where he appeared at stores in Jacksonville, Stuart, Boynton Beach and his Davie headquarters to sign his limited-edition, 30th anniversary shirts.

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Members of the Guy Harvey Outpost crew will be very busy spreading the #OutpostAttitude message at outdoors sports shows at the Dallas Safari Club Jan. 7-10; Garden State Outdoor Expo Jan 7-10; the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa Jan. 12-17; the Stuart Boat Show Jan. 15-17; and the Chicago Outdoor Sports Expo Jan 20-24. Stop by and see us! In the meantime, happy holidays!

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We would like to know what you think of our newsletter. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, email scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com.

South Florida’s 2016 Python Challenge: Snakes Alive, but Hopefully Not For Long

December 15, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Posted in Guy Harvey, Guy Harvey Outpost Ltd., Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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snakeBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

Catching a python in the wild is no easy feat:  sort of like trying to solve a large, difficult jigsaw puzzle and then having the puzzle board itself fight back –hard.

That’s what the more than 300 participants who’ve signed up for the 2016 Python Challenge Jan. 16 through Feb. 14 are about to find out for themselves.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Wildlife Foundation of Florida will repeat the South Florida event first held in 2013 when nearly 1,600 participants took out only 68 snakes.  But the low harvest came as no surprise to the wildlife agency and other snake experts. That’s because Burmese pythons– despite reaching sizes of more than 18 feet and numbering in the thousands in the South Florida woods–don’t just jump out at you like an alligator might.

“The detection rate is very low,” said environmental scientist Joe Wasilewski of Homestead, who’s been tracking pythons and other reptiles in South Florida since the 1980s.  “They’re going to walk past them more than not.  They could be right next to you and they just blend right in.”

Wasilewski has some tips and advice for new and inexperienced python hunters hoping for a shot at winning $5,000 for top team or $3,500 for top individual in the 2016 Challenge:

o Pay careful attention during mandatory online and optional in-person training sessions being conducted by the FWC.

Wasilewski says it’s especially important to learn to distinguish exotics like Burmese, rock and reticulated pythons from indigenous snakes.

“Don’t be jumping on everything you see,” he said.  “Be careful and make sure you are grabbing the right snake.”

Even experts, he said, sometimes have difficulty discerning a large rat snake (a harmless native species) from a small Burmese python.  So study lots of pictures before your hunt so you can make a positive ID.

o Plan your hunt for areas bordering Everglades National Park.

The national park will be off-limits to all but a handful of state- and federally-permitted hunters.  So try to hunt in the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area located between Homestead and the Keys, or in the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area adjacent to Tamiami Trail, Wasilewski suggested.  The Rotenberger and Holey Land Wildlife Management Areas straddling western Broward and Palm Beach counties also should be productive, he said.

o Best hunting will be walking canal levees on sunny mornings following cool nights.

That’s where the cold-blooded reptiles are likely to be out in the open, warming themselves, Wasilewski said.  But if you don’t spot them, poke the bushes with your snake hook; look for “sheds” ( the snake’s sloughed skin); and check around rock piles and human debris such as old carpet or aluminum siding.

o If you are wrestling with a python and it bites your hand, do NOT try to pull  away.

The python’s teeth curve inward, causing severe injury if you try to yank your hand out of its jaws, Wasilewki said.  The solution:  rubbing alcohol.

“Pour it into their mouth and they let go,” he said, citing personal experience.

The scientist doesn’t expect a huge bounty of snakes to be taken in the Challenge, but says it’s still a worthwhile endeavor because it raises awareness of a major environmental problem.

“They’re literally eating their way through the Everglades,” Wasilewski said.  “They eat rats, mice, rabbits, raccoons, bobcats, birds and even full-grown gators.  Definitely not a good thing to have in the Everglades.”

For more information on the 2016 Python Challenge, go to pythonchallenge.org.

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

 

Wild Hog Heaven Near Lake Okeechobee

December 10, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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485221_359562297425307_134387977_nBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

[Okeechobee, FL.–]    Todd Dupuis–a lifelong hunter from Ontario, Canada–has killed bear, deer, moose and other game animals for sport and food.  But he had never before taken a wild hog, and it was on his bucket list.

Facing a health scare, the safety management consultant decided to take a break a few weeks ago and drive with his wife and four-year-old son Nate to South Florida for a long weekend.

When he got to West Palm Beach, Dupuis learned about a small hunting operation just north of Okeechobee that specializes in wild hogs called Little Lake Lodge and decided to book a trip.

“We see it on the TV shows in Ontario,” Dupuis said of hog hunting.

Wild hogs– also known as wild pigs, wild boars or feral pigs– are not Florida natives.  They are believed to have been introduced to the state by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto as early as 1539.  Since they are not designated as a game animal in Florida, they can be hunted year round with no bag or size limits.  Wild hogs will eat just about anything, and they are notorious among farmers and ranchers for rooting up pastures and crops to sniff out food. Many landowners pay trappers and hunters to get rid of them.

Dupuis was excited.  Gesturing toward his son, he said, “A chance to come somewhere like this…..it’s about making memories for him.”

Dupuis and Nate boarded a towering, lumbering swamp buggy designed to navigate the 1,100 acres of flooded, muddy pasture that make up the hunting grounds with their guide Troy Salisbury.

Departing the lodge, Salisbury deployed a pig-pointing secret weapon– a small brown, black and white dog named Pepper.  Splashing through puddles, sniffing the air and darting to and fro, Pepper got way ahead of the buggy in her search for swine.  But the hunting party heard her excited barking in the distance, and Salisbury sped up.

As they drew closer, Pepper began to howl.

“Hear her howling?” Salisbury said to Dupuis.  “She’s got him stopped and she’s looking right at him.  We’ll pull up there and I’ll holler at her and then say, ‘shoot!'”

Sure enough, the buggy rounded a bend in the pasture where Pepper had zeroed in on a stand of thick cabbage palms, wagging her tail and baying.

Suddenly, a black boar about 90 pounds dashed out of the bushes and headed across the field with Pepper in close pursuit.  The hog paused when it reached a barbed wire fence and Salisbury called Pepper away.  She edged away reluctantly.

“Okay,” the guide told Dupuis.

The hunter aimed his rifle and fired, but the shot was high and only grazed the coarse hair on the hog’s back. It barreled down the fence line out of range.

Salisbury accelerated the buggy and caught up with the hog, and Dupuis got an easy shot, downing his quarry.

“Yay, daddy!” Nate cheered.

The party headed back to the lodge where Salisbury hoisted the hog up on pulleys and dressed it.  Dupuis said he would take the meat to a processor in West Palm Beach to be turned into ham steaks and bacon for the Christmas holidays.  The memories, however, would be around long after the meals were gone.

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

 

The Most Wonderful Season of All to Visit St. Augustine

December 8, 2015 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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StAXmasBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

Help a dolphin paint a picture; get a stair-climbing workout like no other; eat great seafood; take a walk in the woods; light up the night; and tour one of the oldest standing structures in North America.

These are just some of the experiences awaiting you in St. Augustine — one of America’s oldest cities– located on the northeast Florida coast.  Beach, history, natural wonders, art, and lots of opportunities to eat and drink distinguish the First Coast from the rest of the Sunshine State.

Here’s just a small sampling of what you can see and do in a couple of days:

            MARINELAND DOLPHIN ADVENTURE

            I stumbled into this venerated attraction without reservations on an afternoon when the staff was setting up for a wedding.  Wandering around, I came upon a large open tank where several dolphins were making jaw-clapping noises on the surface. I stopped to snap a photo and one of them came right up to me and grinned into the camera.  Then I got yelled at by a volunteer who said I was in a restricted area.

Whatever.  If you make advance reservations, you can touch and feed the animals; swim with them; and hold a canvas over the water while the dolphin paints a picture– among other adventures.  You can also check out the sea turtle and shark tanks holding clients from the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience headquartered right across the street.

I bet that wedding was a doozy.

            BLACKFLY, THE RESTAURANT

            Hungry after my impromptu dolphin encounter, I visited Blackfly, the Restaurant on St. Augustine Beach, operated by Vaughn Cochran and partners and renowned for delicious sushi and other seafood.

Cochran– an artist, former flats fishing guide, lodge operator and now owner of the top fly shop in nearby Jacksonville– has helped create the region’s only saltwater fly-fishing-themed eatery.  Incorporating elements of prized recipes from the various lodges Cochran ran in the Caribbean and Central America, Blackfly specializes in local fish with creative touches.

I dined on local sheepshead in a tasty tomato-bacon beurre rouge sauce accompanied by mashed potatoes and bok choy.  Yum.  And even better, I got to go fly -fishing with Cochran and guide captain James Dumas the next day and we all caught and released redfish on the flats.

AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM

            If you think your Stairmaster workout at the gym is tough, check out what the 19th century lighthouse keepers had to do to keep this beacon going and prevent ships from running aground:  climbing 219 stairs carrying a 30-pound can of lard oil four times a day every day.  Heck, I was winded walking to the top toting nothing heavier than my purse. But once there, you will be treated to panoramic views of the ocean and Old City.

If you don’t feel like making the climb, you can tour the lighthouse keeper’s home and boatbuilding shed, walk a nature trail, or take your kids to the shipyard-styled playground.

    CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS NATIONAL MONUMENT

            One of the oldest standing structures in North America, this Spanish fortress took 84 years to build, completed in 1756.  It’s spectacular to see from both St. Augustine Inlet and the Old City, and equally breathtaking to tour.

The fort is built of more than 400,000 blocks of coquina stone– all cut and set entirely by hand– and it still looks a lot like it did in the 18th century.  You get to explore cannons and watch towers, and visit the ancient rooms where soldiers slept, ate and stored their ammo.

Though the fort changed hands many times over several centuries, it never fell in battle.  Rather its transfer from country to country was accomplished through treaties and peace agreements.

Now it’s a hugely popular historic site managed by the National Park Service.

            GUANA RIVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA 

            Located on A-1-A about halfway between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, this 9,800-acre region of forest, fresh- and saltwater ponds, and marshes is a haven for the outdoors enthusiast.

Visitors can fish from shore or wade in the redfish- and flounder-rich waters of Lake Ponte Vedra, hunt ducks from November through January, and go paddling, hiking, biking and horseback riding.

I took a short hike on one of the miles of trails that loop through the area, enjoying the quiet and shade of an oak hammock.

This hunting/recreation area abuts the 2,400-acre Guana Tolomato Matanzas Estuarine Research Reserve, designated in 1999.  Take time to visit the reserve’s Environmental Education Center located just before the entrance gate.

            NIGHTS OF LIGHTS

            This truly is THE most wonderful time of the year to visit St. Augustine, especially after dark when the entire city– buildings, homes, parks, monuments, street lamps and vehicles– are strung with millions of tiny white lights to observe the holiday season. Named one of the top ten holiday lighting displays in the world by National Geographic, it stems from an old Spanish tradition of placing a single white candle in the window of each home.  The light fest runs through Jan. 31.

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

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