Friday, October 20, 2017

2017 DOA Outdoor Writers Festival - Day Two

Mark and Jenny Nichols fushin' at the tarpon hole
Casting and trying to catch fish out of the mangroves
At daybreak on Day Two of the annual outdoors writers festival we could tell immediately that the wind has switched around, causing the surface of the water to be rough and not conducive for a topwater bite. Several boats sat tight looking for a tarpon at Big Mud Creek by the power plant, and while the tarpon were present and rolling, they were not biting. A school of jacks pushed up the edge of the nearby mangroves and we caught a couple of these eager beavers on our DOA Lures, and then everyone pushed on searching for some new water to look at.

After an hour or so with no luck at all while casting towards the mangroves, we decided to make a run back to where we found some fish the day before where the pelicans were diving on bait. Boy were we glad we switched locations because before long we caught some decent trout and I caught my only snook of the trip. All of the bites came when the CAL jerk baits were falling or either on the bottom, since the opportunistic fish were feasting on injured baitfish, and the pelicans continued to pound the water right next to the boat. How we didn't catch a flounder in this set up I don't know!

To view past blog entries from the DOA Writers Event click 2017 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 -2010 - 2009 

Day Two jack crevalle 

 Capt. Andy Cotton with a rat redfish

Thursday, October 19, 2017

2017 DOA Outdoor Writers Festival - Day One

Doubling Down on Jacks with DOA Lures 
Fellowship at meal time is always grand
The 18th annual DOA outdoor writers festival on the East Coast of South Florida did not miss a beat in 2017, with a Can Do attitude from saltwater guides that came to fish the mangroves up and down the Indian River. The fishing conditions on Day One were flat calm and our group of anglers put in at Little Mud boat ramp and fished the nearby inlet at dawn, and while a decent topwater dust up was going on, we did not get any strikes. The forecast was for tough fishing and I was very fortunate to be paired with Captain Andy Cotton, a determined redfish tournament angler from Sarasota. He simply would not take NO for an answer from the fish, and we went on to record eight species of fish including snook, redfish, trout, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, barracuda, ladyfish and a catfish. All our fish were caught on CAL jerk baits by DOA Lures.

A cool Speckled Trout in 90-degree weather
It was especially gratifying for this blogger to return to DOA camp after missing the 2016 event due to Hurricane Matthew hitting the Lowcountry. I can report that the Port St. Lucie area looks to me like it suffered very little ill effects from both Matthew and then from Irma in 2017. But the locals told me that they have grave concerns about the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma, regarding the degree of damage found there. The increased precipitation from these tropical systems over the past few years has kept Lake Okeechobee full, and runoff from that Lake continues to pollute and degrade the fishing at the St. Lucie Inlet. I am sorry to report that the fishery here remains under duress, and it is not clear when relief will be coming. Until then, we can rely on Mother Nature to stay the course and bring the marine life back to previous levels. One positive sign is that baitfish were thick this year, and whatever fish are present should be growing stronger with each day with this ample food supply.

Mangrove Snapper with a nice deep coloration
Captain Mark Nichols is always keen to thank his longtime sponsors for sponsoring the event including Costa sunglasses, Danco pliers, Eagle Claw Hooks, Shimano reels, Hummingbird / Minn Kota, Engle Coolers, Tailin' Toads, Hoo Rags, and the DOA staffers like Capt. Ed Zyak that hustle to complete all the final details. An attitude of teamwork permeates this crowd of outdoor industry veterans (and a few newbies) so that when we deploy onto the water to chase some fish with the artificial lures dubbed Deadly On Anything, everyone knows to share information so that the storytellers and photographers can have the best chance to get on some fish. For example, the fishing was tough and when Capt. Cotton spied diving birds we made a run toward that position to probe it for fish. After a productive drift that yielded a mixed bag, we called Capt. Rick Grassett and writer Ron Pressley to come on over and supplied the exact lure and color that we were having success with. This buddy system takes place over and over at DOA camp, and I am very heartened to share that this is event is catch and release only, always allowing for the fish to get bigger and to teach others to cherish this precious ecosystem that needs our stewardship now.

To view past blog entries from the DOA Writers Event click 20152014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 -2010 - 2009 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Shorebird Symposium held by Kiawah Conservancy

The 2017 Symposium features shorebirds
Kiawah Conservancy Leadership
When Kiawah Island was purchased by the Kuwait Investment Company for the purpose of development and growth, an extensive environmental inventory of the island was recorded in 1975. Eventually Kiawah became locally owned again, and with the barrier island’s ecosystem already identified as extraordinary, the local residents embraced a long-term vision regarding habitat protection. Today the Kiawah Conservancy conducts outreach programs about wildlife found on the island from alligators to bobcats, and their recent shorebird symposium salutes the little brown birds that briefly stopover on their beach to rest and recover during migration.
Such a wide variety to view
Attending the Oct. 12 Shorebird Symposium at the Sandcastle Community Center on Kiawah Island did not involve going outside and looking for shorebirds. Rather it featured a full house of birding enthusiasts who are keen on sharing the good news that even though shorebird habitat is declining globally, the beach at Kiawah is in very good shape and is being utilized by a wide array of coastal birds. The ambitious three-hour program included lectures, a question and answer session with a panel of experts, and even the premiere of a new film titled ‘Taking Wing.’

Other facts about the Kiawah Conservancy include that 2017 marks the 20th anniversary since their founding in 1997. And their land procurement goals are getting more serious, achieving national accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance in 2017. During its 20-year history, the Kiawah Conservancy has preserved 36 properties that total over 348-acres of pristine barrier island habitat. A map of their protected properties on the Internet at shows that some properties are literally single home lots, and others are swaths of marsh and coastal zones that are precious to wildlife.
Congrats on 20 years of conservation!

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about shorebirds click on S.C. Spring Shorebird Synergy - Manomet visits Yawkey Preserve - The Narrow Edge book - Red Knot Rendezvous

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2017 Tall Timbers Field Day / Little Hobcaw Plantation

Theron Terhune and Reggie Thackston 
address landowners in the field
Hot and sunny conditions!
Right now the primary focus for quail recovery is on large acreage habitats like found at the 3,680-acre Little Hobcaw Plantation. Field Day attendees were able to learn about the rich hunting heritage of the property that was once owned by Bernard Baruch. This turn key quail hunting property is currently for sale by Southern Pine Plantations company out of Georgia. Tall Timbers Research Station out of Florida is bringing its expertise to bear in the Carolinas, and the Oct. 6 trip gave attendees a chance to see the blueprint for a large-scale quail landscape.

The battle to bring back the whistle of bobwhite quail to woodlands isn’t all about money though, and Tall Timber’s Bill Palmer spoke about new emphasis on the practice of prescribed fire. “We are planning to add 100,000-acres of quail habitat in the Southeast over the next ten years, and will rely on the commitment of private landowners to do so,” said Palmer. “So Tall Timbers is recommitting to the culture of prescribed fire, because it’s a practice that we don’t need to let go, and in fact it is a part of our Southern culture.” Tall Timbers just signed a Memorandum Of Agreement with SCDNR to bolster bobwhite funding.

Hayride transportation for all
The Big House at Little Hobcaw
A large property like Little Hobcaw allows adjacent properties to better manage for quail, in what is called the hub and spoke model. If a smaller property is too isolated from large scale quail woods then quail management is less realistic. But with enough hubs across the S.C. landscape, then meaningful quail recovery becomes more possible. Tall Timber’s Theron Terhune spoke about the importance of creating multiple hub and spoke habitat projects just to keep up with threats from predation or even something as unpredictable as a harsh winter. When it comes to quail populations, the more the better, and that ties directly to habitat acreage.

To read the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from the Tall Timbers Field Day click  2013 2011 - 2010 or Independent Quail Workshop 2014

To view past blog entries from the Savannah River Turkey Invitational click 2013 - 2012 - 2011 

To view past blog entries from my New Year's Eve Toast click 2016 20152014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009