Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fishing with Tim Matchett - Florida

You know how old friends or their acquaintances pop into your life.  Well, this just happened to me at Flint Creek the other day, about a friend who was my best new fishing buddy 31 years ago.

It’s 1987 and I’m working full-time for Mr. Duncan at MacRae’s Bait House in Homosassa, Fl.  Plus I was guiding part-time.  One day a man comes in to rent a boat slip.  He just bought a new 31’ Baha Cruiser Sportfisherman and wanted to begin chartering it.   

His name is Tim and he was from Indiana.  He knew nothing about saltwater fishing.  He ask me if I knew of a guide who would help him out.  I’m sitting on a stool behind the classic glass showcase counter and he’s standing across from me.  I momentarily looked behind me where rows of tackle hung on the walls to think of what I was going to say.  Then turned to face him and answered his question.  Yes, me, with a smile.

So a friendship began.  We were partners and with both of us avid admirers of fishing it was the perfect match.  Tim was a big hit among Gator, Kevin and those of us who worked or hung around the bait house.  You know how it is when you have a new friend when everything is perfect.

Tim named his new boat “My Hat”, short for My Hatteras.  In case you don’t know, Hatteras Boats/Yachts are one of the best sport fisherman made similar to Bertram.  The Baha was a real beauty and stood out among the smaller size boats on the river at 31-feet long.

Tim owned a bait and tackle shop outside Indianapolis.  He worked long hours, 7 days a week and saved enough to buy a mobile home on a small lake near the Ocala National Forest.  His plans were to spend the winters here.  In a 38’ Holiday Rambler with a Jeep and bass boat in tow here he came.  I have never that configuration even to this day.

Tim was a passionate fisherman.  He did his homework and began largemouth bass fishing in the lakes spread through the huge forest.  10-12” long Wild Shiners.  One day he invited me over to his retreat to fish.  Upon walking up I saw an oversized concrete live well tank maybe 12’ x 4’.  In the center was a commercial aerator, wild shiners and 1 bass easily over 10-pounds.

Tim came out the door and signaled me to come in.  Once inside, I looked across the entrance hanging from a ceiling were 5 bass over 10# mounted all way around on a stringer.  I never will forget that.  Of course, back then a camera was not part of my gear unfortunately.  But, back then, fishing was way more important than messing with a camera.

So, we headed out and went to one of the lakes he knew well and tried our luck.  We chucked the huge baits maybe 20 feet.  A 5/0 Khale hook below a 2” round natural cork.  Had to be a natural cork with no paint on it.  And Tim trolled us around the edge of the lily pads.  

That day the weather may have been a little too pretty for the 10+ bass to be hungry.  However a 5-pounder ate my shiner and kept us from drawing a goose egg.  

I have a lot of stories about Tim and his “My Hat” and plan to write about the good ones in the future.  I still find the odds slim to none for Tim’s partner who I never met walk into Flint Creek.  While his wife shopped, we talked.  

Tim’s partner and his wife came here because of a magazine article that touted Dade City as a lovely and quaint sleepy little town full of history.     Tim passed on at the age of 42.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Iowa Duck Hunting - Thanksgiving Week 2016



The mighty Mississippi River near the Quad Cities in Iowa and thereabouts is in the path of the Mississippi Flyway for ducks and geese migration.  Specifically for my son, John and I, our quarry during our visit for the Thanksgiving Holidays.  

In the prior months John had purchased a boat and motor.  He converted it for the upcoming duck season and both of us were excited about shooting some ducks.  Upon my arrival, we went to a nearby sporting goods store for my hunting license and duck stamps.  John had already showed me his boat, the attached blind and the engine.  A 25-horse mercury outboard 2-stroke provided plenty of power.  

The next morning we both had our alarms set for 3:00 A.M. but woke up 30 minutes before due to the excitement.  John said later, I knew you were up when I heard your spoon clinking against your coffee cup, how could I sleep:-)  

Some 35 miles to the ramp by his no muffler pick-up(ha ha) A short ride by boat, we had placed the decoys and set up, it was still an hour before shooting time.  I must admit in my youth, I never paid much attention to the rule, so it was very hard to restrain myself from blasting some mallards passing within range before shooting time.

I mocked a lineup with a flock in range, and my son exclaimed, "no Dad!".  I told him, I was just practicing without pulling the trigger.  The ducks continued to pour by before shooting time.  This reminded me of my football days when game time on the scoreboard ticked away to zero for the flipping of the 50 cent piece.  John said any minute now we will hear someone fire signifying  the time has come.

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We were not by ourselves.  As I came to learn, there were a half dozen boats or so with 4 shooters in some hunting nearby, some sounded as though they were blasting with 10-gauges.  It sounded like a battle as the sounds rang out.  We sat eagerly with plenty of ducks flying over us just out of range.  

It was 17 degrees when we left the house and 22 on the water.  Even though I had layers and insulation from head to toe, it was still freezing.  Fortunately the wind was calm and that helped immensely.  

John, having been cold on previous trips bought a new propane heater that had two 10-inch dish shaped burners.  30,000 BTU attached to a full-size propane tank.  We were not going to run out of gas.  The night before John tested the heater lite by a fireplace lighter and this awful sound like a conch shell bellowed.  Hurriedly, he twisted the shut off valve.  I said let's go outside and after it is lit, run.  Good idea Dad, no need to blow up the shop.

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Back in the blind, when he lit those two heaters, one pointed towards him and one angled at me, it wasn't long we felt the warmth.  Later on it was getting hot on my knee and I tried angling the source dish away from me.  But not before smelling and melting part of my outerwear.  We got a good laugh about that.  

We discussed our tactics and we were not visible to the ducks as the blind was totally covered as we sat in the comfortable cushioned seats that swiveled.  We brought dry snacks.  Oatmeal cakes and crackers.  Coffee and Coke Zeros.  They would get us by until a hot meal later.
Some of the hunters leave at midnight for position and have all the comforts of an RV, well almost. For us, I was very comfortable and excited as both John and I pulled the trigger the first time.  I can't recall the sequence, but we both laughed as I missed as I unloaded my gun.  A little rusty.  We both missed a few more as they were, maybe out of range, even though we both were using full-chokes.

I'm sure I was shooting behind the birds.  But, John dropped the first duck, and it landed just outside the decoys.  He was still upright and swimming off.  A few more blast and still upright.  Dang steel shot I said, that would not happen with lead.  

Finally, a pair of mallards flew overhead and John downed the drake.  Dead on arrival on the water. Platt was the sound when he hit.  About 8:00 A.M.  Another duck was downed by John.  Both of those were ringnecks.  We saw teal and others, like I said many were out of range.  There was a lot of shooting going on behind us less than a mile, some closer.

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You always learn a little more about where to set up each trip.  We had a spread of about 50 decoys and 2 mo-joes that are battery operated to mimic a flying duck with both wings spinning on stakes above the decoys.  John had magnum, regular, teal and other types of decoys, some feeding ones, too.  

So on day two, my daughter, Courtney, joined us and she has been hunting with me maybe 15 years ago, so she chimed in she wanted to come.  Both in their mid 20’s and me 60 years old, it’s like you are a kid again.  It was about 10 degrees warmer but the wind was cutting it about 15 mph, so that makes you feel colder.  Plus it was overcast.  Great weather for the ducks.

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We got blanked out, just one flock came into range.  John unloaded his gun while Courtney did not shoot.  I asked what happened and her safety was still on.  We all have done that.  But within a few minutes, she got to shoot at some and scared them away, they were now flying faster.  I thought, that was good being able to fire off a few rounds.  Both were shooting 870 pumps with #4 shot.  Something, I use to do is shoot at spent shells etc.  We let Courtney shoot at a floating vienna sausage can, sinking it 90% on the first shot.  One more round and it was gone:-)  

Again it was about time to head in and John let me drive.  Oh my, lol.  And oh, even though arriving to the hunting area before 5:00 A.M, all the good spots were taken.  On the way in on our first day John pointed out dozens of duck boats lined along the shoreline of the old river channel.  This was truly the Mississippi Flyway.  The second day there were far less ducks boats moored.   

Quality time spent the kids last week was golden.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Fishing Report & Fly Fishing

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Now that Fall is almost here, I am hoping for a mild and pleasant one.  Pasco County, where I live is almost borderline sub-tropical.  In fact, my hometown, 60 miles north in Citrus County has a climate difference of 5+ degrees cooler this time of year.  That’s good for me, to go there and fish.

I’ll tell you, my life on the water this past week was another blockbuster.  Almost so great, that the story, if I tell it, you will question my honesty,  You see, I have over 40 years of experiences.  The last 20 of it, I was good as I was going to get in Homosassa.  I covered it all a thousand times or more.  But every dog has its day.

So, being blessed with such a beautiful body of fishing grounds; knowledge and experience is golden.  That’s why rich people hire fishing guides.  They don’t have time to do the footwork.  They are good at making money.  Their time is valuable and they want to catch fish mostly.  Some just enjoy being out there for the experience.  Fishing is an excuse to be there.

To see what I have seen on the water in the pursuit of my finned friends over the years you have to be a guide or retired, no ifs ands and buts. Being rich is better, but I would not know:-)  I have at my disposal a few of the best fishing guides who are my friends as well.  I know how they fish, where they go and their temperament.  They don’t really need me to survive.  They are very good at what they do.  They are basically just helping me out, an old man.

What I want my new friends of Dade City and Wesley Chapel to experience what I have done for decades and those of my guide buddies.   You know, if you are a good caster and have your own equipment, that’s 99% of it.  1% is having your rod bent.  I like it all, no matter the skill level.  In my life now, I am here to teach how to cast a fly rod for the first time or hone your skills some.  You might hone mine.(I would love to have a super pro like Lefty or Flip come to Flint Creek Outfitters of Dade City, FL.)  But, I am always open to better and easier ways to cast the bug and their are plenty of local talents in the Tampa Bay Area.  So many resources, it is unbelievable.  I just need help in tapping it.

You know, catching 60 redfish is great and Walt and I did that this past week in 2.5 hours.  I would rather see a new fly angler catch their first redfish, trout, bluefish, ladyfish, tarpon and so on, than catch 5 dozen.  Fly fishing is entertainment, watching and managing your flyline and bug to the strike zone of a solitary fish in 3 feet of gin clear water.  Learning to fly cast is fun and rewarding.  It is a new hobby and costly at first.  It is worth the time and money.  It is a good way to keep a kid out of trouble, too.

When I fly fish myself, I am hunting for the fish, which way his head is pointed and how I will present the bug.  I’m not out there constantly casting like with a spin rod.  I am looking around on the flat, on the bottom for contrasting colors and shapes of fish.  I am reading the water’s surface for a change in the normal pattern such as a tailing redfish on a slick calm day.

Some of the most exciting strikes from a redfish, is from a topwater MirrOlure.  Is that a fly?  No.  I chuck fly poppers to get the redfish to slam it on the surface.  Now that is fun watching the surface explode especially when other redfish are chasing the one that’s hooked.  But poppers are not a lot of fun to cast with a fly rod.  Their heavy and catch too much air.  Determination goes a long way.

My quiet time is almost over this morning, so in closing, I’d like you to know I exist to fish and teach others to fish.  Fly fishing is the game and I have the rods and place to show you the ins and outs of the sport.  Give me a call.  1 on 1 is fine. Up to 4 persons.  Let’s learn to Fly Cast!  Spin fishermen welcome in the store.  

To arrange a fly casting lesson or book a guide, call me. I am there every day except Tuesday and Wednesday.  The phone line is live from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.,  Monday through Saturday and on Sunday 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.  

Capt. Mike Locklear
Flint Creek Outfitters
14129 7th St.
Dade City, FL.  
PH:  813-681-1888
captmikelocklear@gmail.com

Sunday, August 28, 2016

1973 - At Florida Power

It was the summer of '73 and I just graduated from high school.  Not even a week later, I was asked by my neighbor, Jake, if I wanted help paint Power Plant III, the Nuke!   Paint?  I hate painting.  He must have been eye balling me all along saying, just wait boy and I'll make a man out of you.  But you will get paid well for it.  $5.64 and hour.   Minimum wage was 1.75.  That pretty much wrapped it up.  I could stay plastered all weekend and still have money left to last the week.

Before, I was not sure about my future.  Maybe joining the Navy as my Dad did.  After all, I could easily become a quartermaster and drive a PT boat or something small.  Free rent, boat, gas, clothes and food.  I loved being on the water.

Dad was in WW II as a 50 cal. gunner's mate.  They saw a lot of action in the Pacific theater.  Fighter planes on suicide missions.  If the big guns missed, he and his buddies were the last resort to blow them out of the sky before crashing into the aircraft carrier.

It was decades later that I learned those experiences had haunted him. He could still function, but the bad thoughts would come back at times. And when he met up with a friend who was there, a few tears would roll down their face.

One thing for sure is, I was damn sure the Army was not for me.  I could have been drafted for the Army until 1975, at least for registration.  The draft process began in 1940 and ended in 1973.  I had a choice so I heard, that I could join any other Service besides the Army when drafted. If I did not choose one, they would choose for you; you're going into the Army, boy.

My first day was not an eye opener.  It was because Jake wanted me standing in front of my house at 5am. to pick me up.  I thought, didn't you say we started at 7:30?  Well, Jake liked to make double sure he was on time.  He would sit there inside these gang shacks with these hard on the rump wooden benches.

I had seen the first two plants hundreds of times from the gulf as they were landmarks by which to dead reckon off of.  But seeing them in the dark up close with all the light and tall smoke stacks, I thought this might be all right.

Jake was the number 2 boss in our trade.  Painting.  I never painted before and I already knew, I would hate it.  Great attitude to take, I know. Jake had power or seniority and could sit down on the job and bird dog you while he smoked his cigarettes.

I was a natural at tearing shit up.  So Jake put me on this heavy duty bullet-proof sand blaster.  It had so much power, I could just lean my body forward against the hose and it would hold me up.  I had to wear an enclosed helmet and chest protection. Fresh air was pumped in.  The little plastic eye shield was replaceable in case you sprayed yourself with the sand.  Man, this thing would burn your hide off you.  I mean this sandblaster would flake off rust from metal  I- beams at a pretty good rate.  The good thing was, I did not have to paint them.  How did Jake know, I hated painting.

There was this one guy who liked to play around with sand blasters. There were smaller ones that were shaped liked pistols. They were for smaller parts.  I working away and I instantly knew he opened fire on me. Of course, I returned fire with the sand piercing our face and shirts.  It stung.  Both of us thought it was funny.  Beat's working.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hurricane David 1979

The eye of this storm passed directly overhead.

Yesterday, while working at Flint Creek Outfitters Dade City, I met a fella who works for Yachting Magazine.  I put on my sales face and we discussed Orvis fly rods and gear, backpacks, apparel and Cannondale bikes.  We went over the many bike trails of Florida. Then the conversations turned to hurricanes and yachts which sparked this story.  


In 1979, I  was living aboard a late model 46’ Bertram Sportfisherman at Bahia Mar Marina in Ft. Lauderdale.  Hurricane David was forecasted to bust the east coast wide open, thus the DockMaster ordered everyone and their boats out.


At the last minute, I hired a first mate.  He was 17. I was 24.  I have experienced a few hurricanes before,  but this would be the first I would get caught in.  Not knowing about the New River or anywhere else around Bahia Mar except the ICW, I decided to run to Lake Okeechobee to ride David out.  


Heck, the Dockmaster run us out just before he was sure David was going to hit.  I did not even think about that St. Lucie Inlet was 93 miles north.  No outrunning it, I thought.  By the time, I arrived to the first lock to Lake Okeechobee, it was closed.  Oh boy.


So they say, here comes a Category 4 and I am stuck near the ICW in Coffee Pot Basin.  When I studied for my Captains license there was no schools to make it easy to pass the test.  So, three of us studied together in the home of Russell Atkins, J.P. Garner and myself.  From the 2” thick Chapman’s of Seamanship book, I put what I learned to work.


The illustration in the book showed an anchor pattern and a picture of a boat with 2 anchor lines out at 45 degree off the stem of the boat.  So, my mate and I let out almost all of the chain on one anchor and ¾” rope on the other.  Maybe 50 yards MOL. The entire scope of the lines were clover leafed and shackled inside the hatch.

The boat(yacht in my case) had a big tool box and in it was a roll of duct tape.  I wrapped the outriggers to the cleats 5 or 6 wraps.  That should hold them.  Then I found a 50’ section of ½ inch rope for the Zodiac Raft(boat).  I secured the rope to the wood chocks under the raft.


We are ready now and here comes David.  The big boat had 3 steering stations.  Top to bottom, one helm on the tuna tower.  One can see fish afar from this position(not today).  The tower is about 35 feet above waterline.  Then another helm on the bridge, where most of the time are used by the captains. They operate it from the bridge and catch plenty of marlin, sails, wahoo and dolphin.(not today)  Lastly, I would be on inside the salon.  The helm had complete protection from the windows against the winds and pelting rain.(I hoped)  There were windshield wipers that were not needed, again I thought.   And all the gauges except a GPS neatly by the steering wheel.  There was a nifty knot meter that would register 100 knots.  Kinda like an old Ford Mustang that registered 160. Why is this gauge on here, I wondered.


The rain began to pelt with vigor. The rain caused a complete whiteout.  The  anchors felt as though they were holding. The Detroit 892’s were faintly purring in neutral.   Instrumental panel was lit in red for prevention of night blindness.  I was thinking, hope I’m on my way back to Ft. Liquordale before nightfall.  It was daylight now and there were a few hours left.  I didn’t look at the gauges very much, because I was ready to duck a coconut.  


We were holding at 50 knots.  60 knots still good.  70 knots and my duct tape became  unraveled on both outriggers almost simultaneously.  They were shaking like they were alive with buck fever. Surprisingly the outriggers did not break or anything else at that time.


80 knots and my rope knots stayed tied to the raft and wooden chocks.  What I did not expect was that the chocks pulled out from the lag bolts fastening them to the deck.  This added to increase our adrenaline as the rope wrapped around the bow and side rails next to the salon windows where we were.  The raft was flinging to and fro.  I wasn’t too worried about the raft as it was made from rubber. But the chocks were of wood.  That concerned me.  With the raft and wood chalks swinging violently, they broke loose.  It look as though the raft would not hit ground until Mexico.  It was gone for good.


Now the wind gauge is gusting up to far as it would register - 100 knots. It was not sustained but still consistently 80 knots or better.  We were too young to be scared and this was exciting stuff.  Until, here comes a 50-foot sailboat dead on to collide amidship with us and it was less than 300 feet away.


I told my mate, Scotty, “we are going to break anchor”.  All I can do is hope our boat comes loose from the anchor in time.  I reversed the engines and the sailboat missed us and our anchor lines.  I yelled at Scottie to pull in the anchor.  He was getting blasted by the wind and rain  I saw a few coconuts that looked like a line drive from Ted Williams and was hoping none would hit Scotty  He would have been injured or dead.  And I would be up on shore and in the trees.


Finally, he got the rope anchor up.  I had a windless for the chain anchor of course.   Scotty came back inside shaking the water off like a wet dog.  He was the real hero in this crazy attempt to save a 300K boat(1M-today).


The shoreline appeared 50 yards away and closing.  Fortunately, we whizzed by a channel marker.  I dead-racked the 892’s and was able to stay by the Marker using ¾ to full power to maintain my distance closer to the Marker than the shore.  This seem like an eternity, but maybe 90 minutes.


The eye of David was approaching and an irre calm came over us.  There were around 20 boats up on shore near where we rode out the storm.  Some of them over 50’ long.   The back side of the storm was peaches and cream compared to the front side.

So we made it back to Ft. Lauderdale in good shape.  I have been in a lot of storms, but that was the worst one I have been in.  Fortunately, it weakened to a Category 2.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tales and Truths of Homosassa

When I began working first-full time job, I also began guiding a group of Tennessee fishermen who belonged to a fishing club here in Homosassa.  The title of this little story below, should be "I hate Painting".

It was the summer of '73 and I just graduated from high school.  Not even a week later, I was asked by my neighbor, Jake, if I wanted help paint Power Plant III, the Nuke!   Paint?  I hate painting.  He must have been eye balling me all along saying, just wait boy and I'll make a man out of you.  But you will get paid well for it.  $5.64 and hour.   Minimum wage was 1.75.  That pretty much wrapped it up.  I could stay plastered all weekend and still have money left to last the week.

Before, I was not sure about my future.  Maybe joining the Navy as my Dad did.  After all, I could easily become a quartermaster and drive a PT boat or something small.  Free rent, boat, gas, clothes and food.  I loved being on the water.

Dad was in WW II as a 50 cal. gunner's mate.  They saw a lot of action in the Pacific theater.  Fighter planes on suicide missions.  If the big guns missed, he and his buddies were the last resort to blow them out of the sky before crashing into the aircraft carrier. 

It was decades later that I learned those experiences had haunted him. He could still function, but the bad thoughts would come back at times. And when he met up with a friend who was there, a few tears would roll down their face.

One thing for sure is, I was damn sure the Army was not for me.  I could have been drafted for the Army until 1975, at least for registration.  The draft process began in 1940 and ended in 1973.  I had a choice so I heard, that I could join any other Service besides the Army when drafted. If I did not choose one, they would choose for you; you're going into the Army, boy.

My first day was not an eye opener.  It was because Jake wanted me standing in front of my house at 5am. to pick me up.  I thought, didn't you say we started at 7:30?  Well, Jake liked to make double sure he was on time.  He would sit there inside these gang shacks with these hard on the rump wooden benches.

I had seen the first two plants hundreds of times from the gulf as they were landmarks by which to dead reckon off of.  But seeing them in the dark up close with all the light and tall smoke stacks, I thought this might be all right.

Jake was the number 2 boss in our trade.  Painting.  I never painted before and I already knew, I would hate it.  Great attitude to take, I know. Jake had power or seniority and could sit down on the job and bird dog you while he smoked his cigarettes.

I was a natural at tearing shit up.  So Jake put me on this heavy duty bullet-proof sand blaster.  It had so much power, I could just lean my body forward against the hose and it would hold me up.  I had to wear an enclosed helmet and chest protection. Fresh air was pumped in.  The little plastic eye shield was replaceable in case you sprayed yourself with the sand.  Man, this thing would burn your hide off you.  I mean this sandblaster would flake off rust from metal  I- beams at a pretty good rate.  The good thing was, I did not have to paint them.  How did Jake know, I hated painting.

There was this one guy who liked to play around with sand blasters. There were smaller ones that were shaped liked pistols. They were for smaller parts.  I working away and I instantly knew he opened fire on me. Of course, I returned fire with the sand piercing our face and shirts.  It stung.  Both of us thought it was funny.  Beat's working.

Meanwhile, the weekend job with the Coquina Island Club on the Homosassa River,  turned out to be a fantastic fun thing to do.  I spent many days with the MacRae brothers hunting and fishing.  

MacRae's Bait House
I’d like to tell you a couple of stories about the adventures of the Homosassa River I had and a couple of men who had similar adventures of the 70’s discussed recently at the FCO store in Dade City.  When you have been a fisherman all your life and lived in one spot most of it, I learned that 50 miles away is not too far for folks to also know the people I knew of Old Homosassa.  This was one of those days at Flint Creek Outfitters for going back in time.

One such couple came into the store and the mere mention of Homosassa was the beginning of an one hour conversation.  Steve Honson owned a cabin directly on the river with a dock attached to it that was located below Hells Gate. He and his wife would come up from Tampa every weekend.  Maybe 75 cabins dotted the river banks that were only accessible by boat.  His was one of the last cabin’s down the river on the north bank 3 miles or so.  Marsh surrounded it with an area of hard ground with cedar and palm trees.  His view from the porch was surreal.    

Steve started the storytelling and said he could make a cast off his dock and catch a trout.  The second cast a largemouth bass.  Why bass in brackish water?  The springs in the headwaters pumped around 6 million gallons of water per hour, so the salinity was very low.    For the entire scope of the river, the spring water made for a lush environment with a combination of marsh flags, native grass beds, sandy and rocky bottoms for fresh and saltwater fish to happily exist. Over 40 species of fish have been identified in the headwaters of the Category 1 Spring of 55 feet deep.   The bream and bass made hundreds of spawning beds along the edges of the river banks.  Bream were thick, a hundred in a school in places such as by the Yardarm.

The bass would drop down the river for saltier water to rid the embedded worms from the roof of their mouth, there would be a cluster, perhaps 6 or 8 of them. That’s why the bass were found everywhere up and down the river and because the worms could not survive the salt water.  Also, bream, namely bluegill larger than your hand were very abundant.

In the winter it was not unusual to catch redfish or trout plus bass in the same hole from the headwaters to Hells Gate, all the way down to the mouth at Shell Island.  People would come every year from Georgia to spend a month in one of the older duplexes or cabins at MacRae’s.  And many fishermen in their boats would be anchored out on both sides of the river at Hells Gate for trout.  Redfish holes were made of rocky bottom.  One would lose a dozen hooks and blame Duncan MacRae for throwing debris or bed springs so he could sell more hooks.  Of course this was not true.

There were thousands of largemouth bass up and down the river.  Not just along the shoreline, but out in the middle of St. Catherine's Bay by Harmen’s Cottages up the river from MacRae’s.  More than once, Dad would take me up there.  It was easy peasy.  A Hildebrandt Snagless Sally with a Uncle Josh’ pork rind was the choice bait.  This lure has a No.4 gold spinner for vibration and the green and black spotted pork rind gave the back end action.  It looked like a frog chasing a minnow.  And it is still available today.  Anyways, we would catch anywhere from 30 to 60 bass each trip in the 1-3 pound range.  And once in awhile a 6-7 pounder.  It was hot action and the  pre-arrival of a cold front would turn them on.  

My Dad gradually instilled my love of the river by taking me fishing many times.    While Duncan was a Father figure, Dad was the best and always there for me.  Early one morning, Dad called me out of bed.  I did not want to get up.  It was cold in the house but I felt warm under the blankets.  Redfish were one of my Dad’s favorites.   It was freezing outside and that was the signal that reds would be in the holes.  He wanted to be the first one at the hole  “Let’s go redfishing - get up!” he quipped.  With live shrimp we landed 123 redfish. They were cob size, 2-4 pounds.  Cold weather made the gulf water temps drop and in came the reds and trout by the droves to the river.  The springs stayed a constant 72 degrees and the fish knew when it was time to swim up the river.  They were eluding the 50ish degree gulf waters.  

Another great day with Dad was in the summer on a sultry morning.  Sultry mornings are when the tarpon are here.  The whippoorwill’s call is another good sign tarpon are near. This time getting up at 4:30 was great.  I hardly slept that night because of excitement.

He stopped the engine near a hundred tarpon in the first school.  He commanded, “you boys grab an oar and start paddling hard, we got to get in front of that school.” No one could paddle harder than my Dad.  The two of us had a hard time keeping the boat straight against Dad’s strokes.  It was sheer terror with eyes bulging.

Katy barred the door when all three of us hooked up at the same time, lines crossing with 3 big tarpon jumping at once.   I landed a 184-pound tarpon.  3 more tarpon were kept, all monster fish.  Plus a 63-pound Cobia.  My best friend, Buzz MacRae fought and caught a couple of those huge tarpon as well.  Buzz and I hunted and fished a lot of days together.  But Dad made it happen and so special.  He was one of the pioneers of the tarpon fishery off the coast starting back in the late 50’s.  He made it popular here.

My new friend, Steve said he made friends with Duncan MacRae.  Oh my God!  Now we are talking.  Mr. MacRae was my hero and I ran with his sons and daughter over the years.  The first story Steve said was about the time Duncan saw a 12-foot Hammerhead swim by the bait house.  I did not hear that one until now.  I don’t doubt it, it just makes me laugh.  Steve mentioned about Duncan’s youngest son Gator, maybe 10 years old then, running around in a small boat with a 10 H.P. kicker on it. Gator had his own little shelter up the river him and Robert Head would go play in.  Steve knew all three sons.  My how the memories of the MacRae family arise.

Steve left FCO and in a few minutes in walks a fellow who mentioned he worked for General Telephone.  After a few minutes of listening to him, I could not help but to tell him I use to fish the COO, 2nd in rank of GTE.  Rocky Johnson stepped in my boat for the first time after losing to us by one fish the day before.

Rocky was a man who was very competitive.  He liked mainly to trout fish.    It was nothing for us to catch 50 trout before noon.  We used Love Lures, a tandem rig made popular out in Louisiana.  And Rocky loved his cigars.  Don Tomas.  One day he left his cigar box in the room.  He asked me if I had any.  Would you believe I had a couple of stogies. I gave him one and he savored it all day long.  About a week after that trip, a package arrived with a box of those Don Tomas cigars.  At the time I was not a big cigar smoker.  But I did have the stogies onboard for him if he needed one.

Also, there was a huge GTE corporate office in Tampa. A dozen or so old officers would amble up and scrunch onto to the guide boats that were booked far in advance.  They had a lot of fun enjoying everything about the river. The flora, fauna and the ripples the wind made on the water.  This one tall fellow was good with the guitar and he made up a song about fishing the Homosassa, the Crow’s Nest and the shore dinners with hushpuppies.  He performed at the Crow’s Nest and it was filmed.  

While I was telling my story, I finally mentioned Rocky’s name and the old guy said he knew who he was.  Said he became #1 man and CEO.  I am thinking, Wow!  I can’t believe this. He knew my old friend. So, to the old man,

I said before you go, I got one more for you.  I said, I get a call and it was GTE.  The man said we are going to roast Rocky in Palm Springs.  Would I be interested in joking about Rocky.  They left it to me. So as a film crew were on their way, I went out and caught a nice 25-inch redfish.  I put it in my livewell.

The camera was set up on the dock of MacRae’s where my boat was tied off.  Hold on until I am ready please.  I’ll tell you when to roll. I lit a replica sized of Rocky’s cigar, then,  I hooked the redfish to my rod and tossed him overboard letting a fair amount of line out.  I said ok roll it.
Rocky Johnson passed in 1994.  The native Texan considered working with his GTE family his greatest honor. He loved the competition of golf, hunting and fishing, and he loved his ranch and hunting dogs.

Just a couple of adventures from the river.  And some repeated.  Hope to write many more.


Capt. Mike Locklear

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fishing and Lying





It does not matter where, but fishing lies are being told this second. In Homosassa, the biggest liar in the world would tell me he caught a 32-pound Largemouth bass with a straight face. He was amusing because he believed himself that he also caught a 400-pound tarpon and so on. That's extreme but true.

The problem with some anglers, is telling just one friend or more where they caught the fish.  As selfish as it may seem, if you want the hole to yourself, keep quiet.  They figure, I’ll just tell my best friend and swear him to secrecy.  And that buddy will do the same and so on.  My Dad told me long ago to keep quiet.  Even with me, there is a flip side and if you know me, you will know that I have shared my knowledge for those who want to know. Not so much with tarpon or grouper rocks.  Just the pelagics and spotted seatrout etc. Sharing is a good thing. But I am still selfish at times.

There is a lot I can say about where I caught the fish without giving away the location.  I have said this about "the where question", when asked; in the mouth, in the water, on the bottom, on the surface etc. Fishing guides Intel is shared on the Homosassa flats, were sometimes simply north or south.  That could mean the opposite direction because we knew they were constantly lying.  Why?, because their lips were moving!

There is so much more to say about white lies. You will have to wait for the book to come out. I hope this does not turn out to be a lie.