Ready for Liftoff-Cape Canaveral Snapper E-mail
Saturday, 09 August 2014 21:00

Cape Canaveral Florida is known world wide as the launch pad for the US Space Program. Nicknamed "The Space Coast," everything from the Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle missions have launched from the Cape for the past half-century. Beneath the high-profile and high-tech reputation of Canaveral lies a rich history of fishing families and industry stretching back for generations.

twins

Scheduled to attend the ICAST fishing trade show in Orlando this summer, I quickly researched nearby kayak angler guides in hopes of some fishing time while in Florida. Good things happen to good people.  I found a local charter skipper Alex Gorichky with Local Line Charters. Captain Alex is third generation Canaveral fisherman and has embraced kayak fishing along with his inshore skiff and offshore deep sea charters. As luck would have it, my timing coincided with one of the few "Snapper Weekends" in the area.  Red Snapper have are more than just excellent table fare.  These are extremely strong and somewhat grumpy reef fish, who are famous for "rocking" anglers. They immediately dive down to their hole in the reef after taking a bait. Gorichky sweetened the deal by inviting Mike Coneen, a fellow Ocean Kayak Pro Team angler for my on the job training.

sunrise coneencloud thrownet

 We launched before sunrise from Merrit Island, and cruised through the Banana River Locks into Port Canaveral. First order of business was finding bait.  It took a while but Captain Alex found a good patch of flipping Menhaden and displayed his cast net skills. One cast and our bait tank was full. We had a 20-mile cruise to the rock piles Gorichky had targeted for the day.  It was difficult to keep cruising, as we saw consistent fish sign on our way, mostly bonita crashing on Menhaden. We stopped on a rock pile about eight miles offshore, and 20 some miles from Port Canaveral. Captain Alex dropped a buoy to mark the rockpile, and we splashed our yaks.

bowrider gantry coneenON

Coneen provided an Old Town Predator 13 courtesy of Zachary Rece, a fellow Ocean Kayak/Johnson Products Pro. Coneen paddled his new Ocean Kayak Big Game II. Both are roomy, stable kayaks with raised seating. Except for the Florida heat, things were quite comfy. That is, until I got my first Snapper hit. These fish strike so hard if the angler isn't immediately 'on it' with a fully buttoned drag, the fish will break the line in the rocks below. Deckand Gerald advised me to "feed a little line" when I felt a nibble, so I was trying to feed, adjust drag and set the hook all at once. I should have known better.  

It took a few missed fish before Coneen gave me a personalized on-the-water seminar. "Keep the drag buttoned. Hold your rod tip higher, When the fish nibbles, lower the tip to provide line. Then REEL and pull with all your might!" OK.  That works. I caught and released a couple smaller Reds, while Coneen hooked up on a brute that towed him around for a while before succumbing. I did get to reel in a big boy myself just as we were ready to head back to barn. Like Coneen's sleigh ride fish, this one went out rather than down, and I was able to play the fish with a loosened drag, and really feel the power.  These fish are STRONG!

confishsmile bushsnapp

Florida is located in the very southeastern corner of the US. I've been to every other region in the country, but never to that corner until this summer. I would put it firmly on the list of contenders for "Fisherman's Paradise." The water is warm, with the huge Gulf Stream current only 30 miles offshore, holding tuna and bilfish. Ten miles offshore, where we were fishing, it's still quite shallow, 40-60 feet deep. Besides Snapper, big King Mackerel cruise this area and Cobia are common. Inshore, huge Tarpon, Kingfish and Cobia can be caught just off the beach, while the inland lagoons provide the opportunity for blistering actin with Redfish, Sea Trout and Snook, to name but a few.

As always, it pays to enlist the support of a guide.  Local knowledge not only ensures a better chance at catching fish, but also provides some depth to understanding a particular ecosystem. Captain Alex is a true Space Coast local and filled me in on the history, geology and ecological concerns of his home area.  Next trip, we'll hit the lagoons, I still haven't caught my first Redfish! 

fishandfishermen

 

 

 

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