If poison-spined basketball sized lionfish invading Florida's waters and ultra mean monitor lizards patrolling backyard lanais for favorite porch pooches isn't bad enough, folks from South Florida to Miami also have to worry about children being snatched by 25-foot pythons or being eaten by alligators.
Now, we're being invaded by plecostomus! Avid Breeze reader Capt. Rich reports catching two large plecos in his crab pots in the SW Cape. Armored catfish, plecos, (algae eaters to aquarium keepers) grow old, tough, and large and are now part of life in SW Florida.
Plecos burrow deeply into pond and river edges sometimes as much as four feet causing erosion issues. As with lionfish, (carefully) remove them from the water. Florida's waters are now home to many South American cichlid species that flourish in our canals and rivers.
Capt. George Tunison
The freshwater tilapia is a common SA cichlid (think aquarium Oscars) that's seen on many menus worded as if it's a fancy hi-grade saltwater fish. Most don't realize that this common cichlid is most often grown in less than pristine pits for the aquarium trade.
Even though the traditional go-to lure, the plain white bucktail and some white plastic/jig combos rule the beach for snook fans, don't ever rule out topwater or minnow style plugs on the beach as well as in the Pass and on the Sound side. We've had some incredible early mornings fishing Yo-Zuri's, X-Rap's, and MirrOlure plugs, along the edges of the pass.
If you are lucky enough to be there when the fish are stacked in these areas it's not uncommon to hook 20-30 or more snook on these plugs. A recent trip in the pass resulted in 26 near back to back fish on a Yozuri diver. Every time a hooked snook was reeled to the boat there would be two to four other fish swimming right with it. It was quite a sight.
Tie on a fairly shallow diver like an X-Rap on one rod and a deep diving plug on the other. Position your boat along the edge of the Pass facing into the current and start making repeated casts, casting parallel along the edge out to six feet. If no response, go to the deep diver and work from the six foot mark out to the limits of the bait's design. Schooled snook in the Pass will adjust their depth and location according to the strength of the tidal flow to conserve energy while feeding.
Anglers will sometimes make lots of casts with a single old faithful lure with no results and move on not realizing that if they had only switched to a deeper diving model before leaving they may well have tapped into a snook bonanza. Many times as little as two to three feet can make a huge difference.
If you're still convinced that snook are there pick up that third rod and cast your one-ounce white bucktail deeper, let it drop to the bottom and try two retrieves; straight back to you along the bottom with no action at all, then try a more traditional bottom hop retrieve back to the boat.
Now you've covered every inch out to 15 feet or more. If there's no snook on your hook you can relocate knowing you did a proper search.
If you're lucky enough to get in on this fast paced action take a moment and bend down the barbs on your plugs. Many two-hook lures can easily blind and gill damage these beautiful summer spawners due to hook placement. Bent barbs minimize damage resulting in healthy releases and allowing you to get in another cast quickly.
With this hot weather always try to get any big fish to the boat as soon as possible and please take your time reviving them. The bigger, the longer revival.