Cape Coral, Florida report

I procrastinated for a while whether to post a report on my June trip to Cape Coral in Florida. It wasn’t primarily a fishing expedition. It was more of a get together with my Dad and his Mrs who live in Colombia and my twin boys who live in Colorado. Plus we had bad weather for 4 of the 6 days we were there stopping us getting out in the boat or even fishing from the shore. Nevertheless we still had a nice time.

We stayed in the Wisteria villa rented by Karl and Lynn. With the boat on a boat lift at the bottom of the back garden it couldn’t be more convenient and with the boat included with the rent of the villa, really good value for money too. On the Sunday morning I went through the boat orientation with Captain Bill which was very useful, explaining the speed limits out in the estuary, where to fuel up and general start up and shut down procedures with the boat.

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In the afternoon after a trip to the local Wal-Mart we all went out for a few drifts under the Cape Coral Bridge using artificials. We caught a couple of small snappers, some small Spanish mackerel and what I believe was a pin fish.

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hooked

The next morning the boys and I went further out into the estuary after first stopping at the bait shack for some live shrimp. Then we went round to a mangrove area just to the west of Picnic Island and fished the shrimp under floats. These were immediately attacked by small speckled trout that weren’t very easy to hook but we got a few aboard. I tried a bit of squid which got me a catfish or two with zero effort.

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From then on the weather came in and we faced strong winds and torrential rain daily. We drove round to the nature reserve on Sanibel island that looked a fantastic place to fish with loads of large fish jumping all over the place. But when we were there it was too windy to be enjoyable. On Friday morning we got out again and caught some more speckled trout on the western side of Merwin Key and at lunch time before re-fueling the boat had a couple of drifts again under Cape Coral bridge and caught a couple more small snappers. Capt Bill had shown me a photo of a huge fish recently caught under the bridge but it remained elusive for us.

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We saw quite a few dolphins and at one point we followed two of them out of the canal at quite close quarters which was fun. The owls in the front garden provided constant amusement and the snake that sneaked into the pool area spent some time with us.

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I’d definitely go back though at a different time of year and with a mindset more on fishing than a general holiday. The boys loved it.

Catch Report Bodo, Norway 11-18th December 2016

To be honest, I was about to give up. It was the penultimate day of my solo fishing trip to Bodo in Nordland, Northern Norway and I had yet to catch the hallowed halibut from the shore. Time was running out, I had the 1 hour of daylight left of this session and then one more session of about 3 and half hours tomorrow and that was it. I paced impatiently around my fishing spot, eyes glued to my rod tips and the motionless braid running from them into the deeps. Sure I’d caught plenty of cod, coalfish and some very nice whiting and I had plenty of fillets to take back to the UK, but the ultimate prize and the reason for the trip still eluded me. Catching those fish was little consolation. First cast on the first day down at the pier in Bodo I had a powerful run but as I faffed about making my way closer to the edge then stepping back to avoid the wash of a passing ferry, the monster from the deep escaped.

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Now here in the fjord, I waited and hoped. Two large herring baits were sat somewhere on the sea bed, leaking their oils and tempting the fish in. I left them out there for a long time, up to 45 minutes at a time. My 2-4oz Penn bass rod tip twitched slightly and I suddenly went on full alert. I stood next to it poised. Then nothing. I stood to for a couple of minutes then went back to my bait box where a dead mackerel mocked me with his baleful looking eye, knowing well that my failure was almost complete. Just as I unzipped my bag to get my flask out, the bass rod bent over and the ratchet on the reel started humming. I leapt over to the rod, tightened up the drag and struck into the fish. The battle was on.

The fish swam off powerfully putting an alarming bend in my rod and peeling up line in rapid fashion. I let it run under tension for a minute or so then started reeling it in. Grabbing the gaff, (I have never used one before) I made my way closer to the water’s edge whilst maintaining tension on the line. The fish ran again, and I gained some line again and this went on back and forth for a few minutes until I started gaining more line that he was taking. He had come in at an angle and surfaced to my right near the rocks. I bullied him into a gap near my feet and half beached him. In a panic I swiped at him with the gaff getting him in the side of the head but managing to pull him onto the rocks before the gaff slipped out. Then a proper kerfuffle ensued. My beach caster with its line still out got tangled round my rod tip and as I went back up the slope to free it, I got my foot jammed in the rocks. I was holding onto my rod and a flapping fish in one hand and the other was trying to free my foot. I wiggled it free then re-gaffed the fish, this time properly and launched it up the rocks to safety. Phew! It took a few moments to regain my composure and then I measured and weighed it after quickly dispatching it. 1m long and approx. 26lb. It was the biggest fish I had ever caught and I was elated. Mission accomplished, halibut from the shore. Its size didn’t matter; I know there are much bigger but this one done me fine.

Halibut and Si

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About 30 minutes later, just as the last of the light was fading I had a similar run on my beach caster. Line whizzing off the reel being the halibut’s signature move. I carefully played it in, it wasn’t as big and I had more control with the larger rod. I didn’t bother with the gaff because I didn’t want to keep this one, only get a photo of it. I got it on the rocks and then the hook came free. The fish flipped onto its back and slipped slowly back into the water. I just watched it go, swimming off powerfully. In awe of the sight and thankful for the sport it had just given me. I was relaxed and content.

Bodo surpassed all my expectations as a shore fishing venue. I stayed at the Northern Norway Shore fishing apartment rented by Simon. He gave some very useful advice on where and how to fish. I rented a small estate car from Enterprise which was perfect with the back seats folded down acting as a min van. There are so many different marks to try, mostly all within a 30-minute drive radius. Unfortunately for me at this time of year I only saw the fishing mark I chose each day in daylight. The drive there and back and the rest of the time was spent in darkness. The first couple of days were cold with icy, slippery roads but then it warmed up to about 6c and rained a lot. The cod were easy to catch, bits of mackerel fillet or bluey done the business. I did a night fishing session for them at a neat place 10 minutes’ drive from the apartment and it was a fish every cast, biting as soon as the bait hit the bottom. There were also some nice whiting coming out on mackerel and coalfish seemed to prefer bluey. I can’t wait to go back in the summer, so much to explore and lots more fish to catch.

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Skarnsundet Fjord Centre 11-18th June 2016 – Fishing trip report

The Trondheim Fjord’s cool deep waters generate a magnetism that is impossible to resist. Once you leave them, you yearn to return. I left them last November and since then I have fidgeted impatiently until I could get back and cast a line. This year we planned a summer trip. My 11 year old twins Jack and Owen were visiting from Colorado on their summer holidays and it was the perfect opportunity to give them a fishing experience to remember. Nige flew in straight from work and joined us on the second day in.

Fishing HQ was again the Skarnsundet Fjord Center run by Phill Dale who arranged for a VW transporter van which I hired for the week. Last November was all about shore fishing with a short boat sampler on the last day. This time boat fishing with lures on light tackle was our focus.

fishing HQ

Day 1: After a leisurely breakfast the boys and I met Phil and took over the boat. We then cruised south of the center to the Straumen poles mark and started our first drift. My shad was in the water only few moments before a small ling wolfed it down. Jack was then into a codling and it was game on. We had barely been fishing for five minutes! If this was an indication of things to come, then it would be a special week. It eventually went quiet so we moved south to another mark and continued the drifts. Sporadic codling showed up. We then moved back past the center into the Skarnsundet sound and tried some drifts just south of the lighthouse at the northern end in waters 15 to 25m deep. Jack got into a nice 5lb cod whilst Owen and I caught a few smaller ones. It went quiet again so we moved North West into a bay we named as Julian’s mark from my previous trip and drifted along. We caught some more codling in the 3lb to lb range before deciding to call it a day.

It was a great start to the week. Either sink and retrieve or simply letting the shads bounce along the bottom at the speed of the drift produced fish. We used a mixture of 4 inch Kopyto shads or fiiish minnow bodies with 35 or 50 gram jig heads. I particularly liked the Berkeley Power bait 4 inch ripple shad I found in the US, the cod certainly loved them. Rod wise, Jack and Owen were equipped with 6 foot kayak rods and I used my 9 foot spinning rod, all with fixed spool reels filled with 20lb braid. I also had a boat rod that I used for bait fishing, trolling and feathering later on.

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Day 2: We had a go off the pier in the morning using ragworm as bait and caught a succession of codling, nothing really worth mentioning in detail. Then in the afternoon after a wallet emptying visit to the local supermarket, we drove back to the airport to collect Nige who was itching to get fishing. I decided to try shore fishing a rock mark that we drifted the day before. Jack and Owen were into codling each on the shads with their first casts and Nige caught a haddock on his first cast using ragworm. I also caught a codling on ragworm and then later something big took my line and then swam straight into a snag. I waited a while to see if it would swim free but sadly it didn’t so regretfully I pulled for a break. Damn nuisance, I would be perpetually wondering what took my bait and wistfully thinking what could have been.

Day 3: Back in the boat, this time with Nige on board. We started back at the mark south of the lighthouse now known as the pole. On the second drift, Owen’s rod arched right over with the tip entering the water. He fought gamely and soon brought to the boat a prime 8lb Pollack. It was a lovely fish indeed. The rest of us got into numerous cod in the 3-7lb range, shads were being snaffled left, right and centre though nothing beat the Pollack that day. It went quiet and we headed round to Julian’s mark, caught a few more cod then went back ashore for the evening.

8 pound pollack

Day 4: The weather had been pretty decent so far, partly cloudy, calm breezes and mild temperatures. On this day it was spectacular, very warm, sunny and hardly a breath of wind. Would this obvious bout of high pressure affect the fishing? We would soon find out. Like yesterday we started at the pole mark and drew a blank so headed around to Julian’s. I stopped the drift and looked at the fish finder; it certainly looked busy down there in 12m of water. Our shads were sent down and Jack, Owen and me hooked into fish. A few fish later, Jack was calling for assistance, his rod being dragged under the boat. We helped him regain gain control and brought up a very nice cod of 17lb. Nige and I both got cod around the 10lb mark a bit later before things went quiet again and the drifts no longer produced fish in any quantity.

In the afternoon we went back and tried some drifts along the shore south of the centre, this time using ragworm as well as shads. Cod in the 3-5lb range were caught now and again and Nige also caught a dab. After the morning’s great fishing we weren’t really trying too hard, just drifting along enjoying the weather and the scenery.

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Day 5: I had seen some pictures on face book prior to the trip of some fantastic sized coalfish being caught in the fjord by some of Phil’s guests. I wanted to try and get one myself so we spoke to Phil and borrowed some deep swimming rapalas. He explained that the successful method was to troll at about 2 knots. The area he suggested and where the fish were being taken was a bit of a trek so we had a go in the Skarnsundet sound on our way to the marks that fished well yesterday. Unfortunately no screaming reels but we did nab a couple of coalfish but they were far from decent. Both the pole and Julian’s mark were quiet; we caught fish but only occasionally rather than on every drop. Nige caught another haddock.

It was the last boat day and we were very happy with the way the fishing went. If you have spent hours in the UK either endlessly retrieving a lure to no avail or watching a motionless rod tip for hours on end then you will know what I mean. In the evening we had a go off the pier to see what was about. It was very quiet. I managed one of those odd looking ghost sharks that wolfed down a bluey bait. When a black mouthed dog fish followed it next cast, I decided to call it a night.

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Day 6: We loaded up the van and headed north east to Sandviksgerbet. I had seen this mark feature a lot on others shore fishing trips and it has produced some very decent fish. We were hitting it blind regarding tides etc. When we arrived we found out what the weather was like, overcast, cool and very windy. Nige was straight into codling on ragworm whilst I set up the boy’s rods as well as my own. I hooked a decent-ish cod which surfaced then broke free and swam off laughing at me. Owen kept station on his rod whilst Jack sensibly stayed in the van playing on his Ipad. I baited up and cast then turned around to see Owen struggling with a fish. Nige and I helped him out and we got a nice 3 or 4lb Pollack on deck. I caught another one on bluey an hour later then everything went quiet. Only the wind and weed provided movement to our rod tips.

For me, this visit was all about checking out a mark I had seen on the internet. It is a venue featuring in lots of pictures of grinning anglers cradling big fish. When we returned to the center I consulted Phil who explained that it is the sort of place that can fish extremely well one day and be pretty quiet the next. We did ok and I would love to go back some time and do a long session, preferably in the dark.

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Day 7 Departure: As we drove around the shores of the fjord back to the airport I felt satisfied with how the week went but still deeply wanted more. That is a good end to any trip.

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Skarnsundet Fjordcenter – Norway trip Nov 8-14 2015

Making a fishing trip to Norway has long been a dream of mine. The seed was first planted after reading a magazine article on the subject some years ago. This re-awakened once I read Kennedy’s excellent article on his trip to Skarnsundet Fjordcenter in Trondheim Fjord. It looked and sounded like a place where you are guaranteed to catch some nice fish. It didn’t take much persuasion to get my colleague to join me on such a venture.

So on the second Sunday of November, four of us deployed. There was Nige, his father and their friend Steve from Clanfield and me, the Leighparker. We choose to fly from Heathrow to Trondheim via Oslo on SAS. For the return flight and an extra bag it was about £280. There is a direct flight on Norwegian Airlines from Gatwick but it didn’t suit us this time. When we arrived at Oslo there was a bit of a kerfuffle because our bags took a while to arrive, especially the rods and the unhelpful check-in assistant wanted to see the receipt for the extra fee we paid for the rod tubes even though they had baggage tags through to Trondheim. I had lost the receipt almost immediately after being given it. She wouldn’t budge so we ignored her, gave her the other bags and then took the rods over to the oversized baggage check in and sent them through. Smugly thinking we had beaten her, we minced our way over to the departure gate. I handed the dolly dealer my boarding pass and an alarm sounded with a ‘not allowed to board’ message appearing on her read out. Our nemesis back in check in had done her evil work well. The queue was backing up behind me and our luggage had been loaded so I was let on the plane regardless. Victory was ours, though lesson 1 learned, keep hold of any receipts.

Phill Dale, our host from Nordic Sport fishing, collected us at Trondheim and whisked us to Skarnsundet in his blue VW van, which was perfect as an anglers transport. After dropping our kit in the apartment, we all went out onto the pier surrounding the marina for a quick fishing session. We were soon catching small coalfish on lures and some dogfish on baits. First impressions ‘this place is fantastic’!

Day 1: After an early breakfast we started lure fishing off the pier at sunrise. Soon our lures were being hit by decent coalfish in the 4-7lb range. They put up an excellent scrap on our light gear, even snapping Al’s rod when he heaved one up the side of the pier. I was using a Fiish minnow that was very effective, though savage gear sandeels also done the business for Nige.

fishing the pier

Al with coalie

coalie day one

At 10am Phill collected us and took us to a shore mark at Leksvik. Here we did some bottom fishing using ragworm as bait and caught a collection of small flat fish, coalies with the biggest fish being a Pollack. I’ve seen photos online of some cracking fish caught here before but it didn’t happen for us that day.

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pollack

Day 2: Phill took us to a quayside near Straumen. It rained and was windy most of the day but we again caught a variety of fish. Steve nabbed our first cod, a fine looking fish and I caught our first haddock. It was a bite a cast and you only reeled in with a fish attached. Bluey and ragworm were the baits. We left just as it was getting dark and headed back to the apartment for some dinner and then Phill collected us again for a night fishing session at the landing on the other side of the bridge. It was raining heavily by now but we gave it a go. We had run out of ragworm by then so were using mackerel and bluey baits. We caught dogfish after dogfish, every cast these creatures cursed us with their presence. Add this to the unrelenting rain and we were glad when Phill arrived in his van.

Stev with Cod

Day 3: Time to try a different mark, though unfortunately not in different weather. We trudged across Straumen field and cast our lines hoping for some decent fish. Again it was not to be, just a succession of small flatties, coalies and a small cod. Nige hooked what he claimed was a sea trout not once but twice when reeling in his fish bait but it escaped both times, not allowing him to validate his claims. We soon grew tired of the weather and Phill and his van couldn’t arrive soon enough.

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It was 3pm and the light was starting to fade. Phill suggested we try lure fishing with shads in the ebbing tidal channel that rips past Straumen. I quickly set up my lure rod and attached a 5 inch Kopyto relax shad and a 40g jig head and made my way down the slippery weed strewn boulders to water’s edge. The idea was to cast straight out into the raging channel and then let the shad swim downstream in the current. You have to maintain contact with it and lift it clear of the many snags en-route. Then just before it swings back in to the slack water at the end of the arc, that’s when the cod would grab it. After a few casts the light left us and head lamps were deployed. I moved location a couple of times and the rain kept pouring. But casting that lure out and maintaining contact to prevent getting snagged, I soon lost all sense of my surroundings and the rain, it was all about keeping the shad going and feeling for the fish. This was truly one of the best fishing experiences I have ever had. I felt a couple of pulls on the shad tail and then Phill shouted that he caught one. My shad had just reached the end of the swim and just as I started to reel up, bang a cod hit it and swam away in the current. The reel protested as the line was pulled off by the escaping cod. I carefully played the cod towards me, mindful of the many snags to negotiate. A lovely brown spotted fish appeared in my head lamp, success at last, a nice 61/2 pounder! My chums unfortunately didn’t fare so well and gave up after losing a lot of their lures. Lesson 2, bring a lot of shad tails and jig heads, its worth it trust me.

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cod shadding

Day 4: We elected to stay and fish the pier by the accommodation. It was a decent and convenient session, we caught some more coalies, haddock some small codling etc. I even hooked a sea bird that mistook my lure for a fish whilst it was hunting underwater. Luckily it was foul hooked in the head away from any vital parts and we soon had him on his way none the worse for it. In the evening Steve and Nige went back to the quay at Straumen and Phill and I had another session on the shads in the Straumen tidal rip. This, I felt, was lure fishing at its finest. The cod must have been attracted by the vibrations made by the shad tails because they sure wouldn’t be able to see them. Once again Phill was into the first fish whilst I was losing ground to the snags. I moved location and again at the end of the swim, bang, a cod smashed the lure. This one was in great condition again though slightly smaller than my first one, but honestly the size didn’t matter, it was the whole experience that made it great.

steve with coalie

Day 5: Julian, Phill’s assistant, took us out in one of their boats for some light tackle lure fishing. We caught a few cod, mostly small, a haddock and a whiting. Steve hooked into something massive later on in the session that went off like a steam train almost taking him and his rod with it. Unfortunately he snapped off. Damn disappointing that was, but that’s fishing. We finished off the trip with one last night’s session off the pier, more haddock, small cod and the odd dog fish.

als boat cod

The journey back was made with heavy hearts and vows to return again next year. We didn’t get any doubles this time (probably more to our amateurish tactics than lack of fish) but it was a good first look at a fantastic location, tailor made for the angler who shouldn’t ever leave disappointed. Phill was a great host and the facilities were first rate. Maybe we had a bad week, big fish wise but there is only one way to find out if that was the case. Still 12 different species, 13 if you include the bird, it was great to be catching fish.

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