Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fish Scouting With Captain Denny Voyles

Thursday, my ruggedly handsome new cell phone announced a message from my friend, Denny.

The text message read:

"Scouting tomorrow for trout and reds. Wanna go?"

Oh yeah.

Denny teaches school, but he is also a professional fishing guide on the side. Before he went pro, we fished together quite a bit. These days, he's in such demand by his customers, that we don't get to fish together much.

So, when he offered to let me "help" him scout fish for an upcoming charter, I jumped like a tarpon who had just felt the hook.

This is Captain Voyle's current boat, the "Reel Therapy". She is an Old Pro boat made locally in Chiefland, Florida by a tiny boat company.

She is a classically beautiful center console fishing boat that combines a sweet appearance with fantastic functionality. If she were a woman ...

On the way out.

Here's Denny looking all Captainy.
It's a good shot of the boat's functionality too.

There are lots of rod holders, tons of moving around room, a bazillion compartments, and ultra wide gunnels for walking all round the boat as you cast or fight a fish.

We were on a mission to scout reds (red drum) and trout (spotted seatrout) for the family who would be chartering with Denny the next day. The tide was pretty low as we headed out, almost too low for some of Denny's redfishing spots.

Reds especially love oyster bars, so a place like the scene above has high red potential.

Here's Denny putting the mind mojo on the fish.

He did a good job with the mojo, because even on a mid-summer day with ultra high water temps, Denny put us on fish after fish.

I was not surprised of course.

He is just the fishiest guy I know.

It's uncanny.

Years ago, I gave him cast net lessons on the shore of North Key ... back when he drove a rugged, barely floating used Birddog boat.

He throws pretty well these days, so I'm taking credit for that.

Undeserved or not.

Denny multi-tasking.

He doesn't get to fish when he's actually guiding, so I think ... I know ... he was having as much fun as me yesterday.

We found a long school of baitfish that stretched in a zig-zag line as far as you could see off of Snake Key. It was only a dozen yards wide, but very long and the predators were nailing the small fish up and down the school.

We had great action here and caught trout after trout. These were quickly released and somehow I never stopped fishing long enough to take a trout pic.

The whole day was catch and release by the way. None of the fish you see here suffered anything more than a sore mouth before being released.

Here's a Spanish Mackeral held in the typical fishing pose to make it look bigger than it really is.

Only, when you hold it out in front, you are supposed to get your fingers out of the way. Otherwise they look cartoonishly large.

Since I teach Marine Science and you guys love cool new words to toss around or use in Scrabble, here's a few things about this mackeral ...

First, notice how streamlined he is? Good.

That's called "Fusiform". Any fish that is built for speed with a sleek, hydrodymanic body is fusiform.

Check out the pointy end.

Mackeral are rocket-shaped predators that run down their prey.

The spots are something called "Disruptive Coloration". It's not an attempt to match your background, but rather a way of losing your fishy shape in the mix of dark and light that is the mackeral's world.
Any fish with stripes, spots, or bars is using DC.

Here's a shark pup. We caught a bunch of these!

Yay! Go shark mommas!

This was a little boy pup. I didn't photo his private parts, but he had tiny claspers at his pelvic fin.

He's fusiform too, as are almost all sharks.

I think this little shark pup is an Atlantic Sharpnose, but I'm not 100% sure of that.

If I were betting money, that would be my answer.

Like most sharks, he's using "Counter Shading" as a passive defense. See the dark dorsal side and the light colored ventral side?

We fished that line of bait until the action finally slowed around noonish.

The trout, mackeral, sharks, and ladyfish had cooperated wonderfully all morning, so we gave them a break and took one ourselves.

"Reel Therapy" is a fast boat and in no time we were tied up at the Cedar Key dock and eating lunch in an open air restaurant with misty fans blowing cool refreshing air upon us.

The restaurant was called "The Big Deck Raw Bar".
(pronounce that carefully)

I got a Cuban and Denny ordered a shrimp wrap. Both were excellent and reasonably priced for a place like Cedar Key. Total lunch bill was about twenty dollars.

Most of the restuarants in Cedar Key are fancier and more picturesque than this little spot.(although, from where we sat, we could look out over the boat basin and watch boats coming and going.)

And now the hard truth ...

You can get some really poor seafood at a few of those pretty restaurants that line the waterfront.
From past experience, I think one or two of them operate under the "tourists won't notice poor seafood as they gaze out of our big windows at the Gulf" philosophy.
To which I say, "You can't eat the view."
So the food at the Big Deck Raw Bar was much appreciated.

After our break, we headed back out to sea.

It turned out to be "Species Day" as we proceeded to pull in a neat variety of fish.

Shortly after a huge seaturtle surfaced nearby, Denny caught this young remora. It came to the boat followed by a larger mature remora.

So ... if this were a quiz ... Is the remora fusiform? ... and ... what is it's passive defense?

Up close and personal with the remora.

This is the suction pad that the remora uses to cling to sharks, rays, seaturtles, ... even me! My kids and I once had a young one go from one of us to the other as we stood in waist deep water on a North Key flat.

... and of course, somewhere deep in my past Pure Florida posts, there is THAT old picture of Denny with one stuck to his arm.

We really picked up a neat sampling of the local fish populations. This Sea Robin came aboard for a quick photo and chance to prick Denny with it's fins.

Sometimes, it's good to be the photographer and not the holder.

Sea Robin smile.

That's because we released him just like every fish that we caught.

Plus ... he did get to jab a sharp fin into Denny a few times.

Turn about is fair play.

If you are reading this from locations above the redfish line. The fish above is a red drum, aka: redfish, redbass, channel bass, and most commonly ... a red.

I grew up surf fishing for them on Anastasia Island and we called them red bass. In those days, Sports Afield magazine mostly called them "Channel Bass".

After the "blackend redfish" restaurant craze almost drove them to extinction, everyone seemed to switch to "redfish".

Lucky for all of us, they have gamefish status these days, so the harvest is managed and reds have come back in great numbers.

I caught the one above on the final spot of the day with a sparkly thunderhead looming nearby.

All told, probably thirty fish came aboard the Reel Therapy Friday. Total species count was about ten.

It was an excellent day with lots of fishy action.

That's not unusual when you go fishing with Denny, in fact most of his charters see lots more action ... everything from inshore fish to giant tarpon or sharks.

What made yesterday such a testament to his fishing skills is this little fact ... it was HOT.

He put us on all those fish in the summer doldrums with ...

... water temperatures that almost defy belief.

Yes, that is 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and yes, that is the WATER temperature. It actually rose to 92.5 after that shot was taken.

Now, a lot of people fuss when the air temp gets that high.

Imagine being a fish.

The warmer the water the less oxygen it can hold.

Which means, if you are a fish, it's not the most pleasant time for you and typically, they are not going to expend a bunch of energy feeding under those conditions.

Yet, Captain Voyles put us on fish after fish all day long.

I tell ya, he's got the fish mojo thing DOWN!

It was a great day and right before that thunderstorm chased us off the water, we zipped over to Atsenia Otie Key to check out the seabirds roosting on an old pier.
It was the perfect ending to an excellent day on the Gulf of Florida.

I'm going to save the seabirds for another post, but I think you birders will enjoy it.


threecollie said...

Wow, what a great trip. Thanks for the fish photos. It is one thing to read about these but so much better to actually see what they look like.

robin andrea said...

What an excellent journey, fc. Great to see all those fish, and of course glad they were all released.

Crazy warm water you have there.

Florida Beach Basics said...

love the sea robin smile :)

sounds like a perfect day for both you guys and the fish

Deb said...

You have such cool fish there. I spent my WORK day yesterday on a beautiful river attempting to sample lake sturgeon with rod & reel. My only catch was a rock bass, but it was fun!

Caroline said...

Thanks for another word for my science Word of the Week! Please see my blog post for this morning, we must have been channeling or something, I wrote it last night!

Looks like a perfect day to me.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Teachers got the good life (come summer time!) Hard work thought too I understand for those other three seasons.

edifice rex said...

WOW! great post! glad ya'll had such a good day. I cannot imagine water temps in the 90's. That's unreal.
I would really have trouble pronouncing the name of that restaurant. heh. ;)

Floridacracker said...

Hey 3Collie!
Yeah, you know I'm gonna show when I tell. :)
Glad you liked the fish pics!

Crazy is right! If a hurricane forms in the Gulf now, it's gonna be on steroids.

It was pretty much perfect, but he just let me know he did even better today with his paying customers!

LOL! I have to go see what you wrote!

Summers off are an archaic tradition, but they do help our mental health.

Your Alabama beach water is probably not much different right now.
As for that restaurant, you have to enunciate your vowels carefully on that one.

Floridacracker said...

OOPS! I clicked before I responded to you.
We do have a lot of fish variety, but we have A LOT of water and niches to fill.
Cool job you have there.

Ericka said...

looks like a great day. glad y'all had such a good time!

cndymkr / jean said...

I had never seen a remora from the top! I've only seen them attached to other fish. That is just an amazing looking photo. Thanks!

Dani said...

Those Remora's are just the cutest!

Miz S said...

Looks like a really fun day. Man, I can't believe that water temperature!
I think the Remoras are fusiform. And I think it's using countershading as its passive defense. But don't mock me if I'm wrong. I'm very sensitive, y'know.

intuitive eggplant said...

What a fine day! Thanks so much for the photos and lessons, vocab and otherwise :)

Thunder Dave said...

Looks like a great time! I think I ate at that place either the last time I was down there or the time before that. I miss the Depot, right next to the pier, they had great shrimp and grits for breakfast!

Sayre said...

Wow... that is quite a collection of fish species. My husband went out a couple of days ago and brought home a lovely red. Fried the first bit, and terriyaki'd the second. Both were excellent!!!

Did you get to keep at least ONE to eat?

ImagineMel said...

do fish really get worms?????????

Sayre said...

Yeah, ImagineMel - they do. That's one reason you ought to cook them and why raw seafood is sometimes not a good idea.

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