Fishing Southwest Florida with TRCP

Nearshore and inshore action during the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership's second annual Saltwater Media Summit

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Talk about a couple of serious dudes! That's Capt. Jeffri Durrance manning the helm of his classic, 23-foot Sea Craft, while Bob Hayes rests up for a big day on the water. I had the great pleasure to fish with Bob, the Coastal Conservation Association's **lead counsel and one of the most informed men in fisheries management, and Jeffri during the **Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership's second annual Saltwater Media Summit in Sarasota, Florida. The summit spanned two days and covered much ground, bringing together many leading voices in the recreational fishing community, who discussed a wide swath of issues related to our nation's fisheries and our access to them. The meetings were serious – but the fishing provided a nice respite. But what was it that Jeffri was pointing at?Mike Mazur
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Why, the Ringling Museum of Art, of course. One of Sarasota's great attractions, the museum dates to 1927 and is a beautiful piece of Florida architecture. But that's not the only thing, as Bob soon found out…Mike Mazur
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….there were a boatload of fish holding in the area!Mike Mazur
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The day started off with this scrappy ladyfish and only got better, as Bob and I experienced firsthand what a well-managed fishery is supposed to do: produce lots of fish of many different types of species.Mike Mazur
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Bang! He’s hooked up again, this time to a slightly larger fish. The mullet were thick around the museum, drawing a potpourri of predators that were all too happy to pounce on Bob’s offerings. So what was it this time?Mike Mazur
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A nice bluefish!Mike Mazur
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And here’s a close-up of the blue. It’s hard to see from this photo, but these gamesters have some serious choppers in that mouth, and Capt. Jeffri handled the fish with care before releasing it back into the water. But Bob was just getting warmed up, and he would go on to catch…Mike Mazur
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….several small gag grouper,…Mike Mazur
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….a ton of jack crevalles…Mike Mazur
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…and even this beautiful little snook – all caught in just our first spot. No, the fish weren’t monsters, but they were a blast on the light gear we were using.Mike Mazur
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Add another species to Bob’s day, a fine speckled seatrout. And before long, he latched into a hard-pulling…Mike Mazur
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…redfish. As most Floridians know, it wasn’t long ago that these fish were all but gone throughout the Sunshine State, but the famed Florida net ban of the early 1990s has seen these fish come back to terrific levels. Bob and Jeffri enjoy the fruits of sound conservation. Soon, however, after several reds and lots of trout, it was time to try something different.Mike Mazur
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We headed to the docks to toss live shrimp around the structures for bigger fish.Mike Mazur
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The payoff was immediate. We found a couple docks that were absolutely loaded with fish, and Bob muscled a nice one away from the pilings. Guess what it was?Mike Mazur
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Yep, another redfish! The action was hot and heavy, and we even got a few surprises around the docks, including a huge porgy, a nice black drum and one really strange-looking critter…Mike Mazur
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Recognize this thing? It’s a toadfish. No, not exactly a highly desired species, but a cool fish nonetheless. I’d heard about these things, but had never seen one until today. They’ve got a face only a Mother Toadfish could love! But soon, Bob hooked into something much better….Mike Mazur
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…it turned out to be the fish of the day, a very respectable snook. Jeffri and Bob took a minute to celebrate over their catch, while I snapped a couple pictures. Then we let her go back to the docks. It was a fine day – but not far off, others were having a good day of their own in other boats….Mike Mazur
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…check out the head of that goliath grouper that TRCP’s Catherine Brady caught! It was by far the fish of the day (and, yes, she was bragging a bit later around the dock!) They released the fish just outside the southern pass at Sarasota on a rock pile. Meanwhile, back inshore…Doug Olander
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….Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association, landed this big trout while fishing with Sport Fishing editor-in-chief Doug Olander. Doug also fished with…Doug Olander
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…TRCP’s Geoff Mullins, senior director for policy initiatives and communication, who scored this very respectable Spanish mackerel.Doug Olander
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And that's Whit Fosburgh, president and chief executive officer of TRCP, getting ready to land a nice trout aboard Capt. Mark Liberman's Yellowfin 24 Bay.Doug Olander
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Speaking of Whit, I managed to sneak out on the boat with him and Capt. Ed Hurst during our second day of fishing around Sarasota. I knew Whit was an avid fly-fisher, but I didn't realize…Mike Mazur
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…just what an excellent caster and angler he was. As morning broke over a misty bay, I soon found out that this guy could really fish.Mike Mazur
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It didn't take Whit long to hook up with his new Orvis Helios II outfit.Mike Mazur
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Not a big jack crevalle, but a scrappy fighter, just the same. It was beautiful in the early morning light.Mike Mazur
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After fishing inshore a bit, we motored out the south pass into the Gulf of Mexico, looking for activity. And we found it! Something was busting the surface, scattering small glass minnows and drawing in plenty of birds. We motored up to the melee and…Mike Mazur
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….Whit broke into a nice rhythm with the 8-weight, firing a tight loop into the activity.Mike Mazur
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Bingo! He’s hooked up!Mike Mazur
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Another Spanish mackerel. This was a smallish fish, but even the little guys are gorgeous animals. And there were plenty of them around. So after a quick release, it was back to….Mike Mazur
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…casting. I’m telling you, this guy can throw a fly line.Mike Mazur
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And another feisty mackerel comes aboard for a quick snapshot.Mike Mazur
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And that was that – an excellent couple of days on the water to complement a very comprehensive summit of fisheries issues designed, as my hat says, to keep America fishing. Now get out there and do a little fishing of your own!Mike Mazur