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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
August 16, 2007
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report


Having just returned from my annual family reunion, my recent thoughts have been about children, particularly grandchildren of which I am blessed with six. This year we (19 of us) decided to change the venue for the soiree, to a freshwater mountain lake in Virginia. Normally we congregate at a beach, like Myrtle, the Outer Banks of NC, Ocean City or Virginia Beach. Most of the family resides in Virginia and North Carolina. So I got outvoted which I guess means my powers of persuasion have diminished. So we ended up at Lake Anna, Virginia, an absolutely gorgeous mountain lake north of Richmond and near Fredricksburg. My daughter and her husband have a beautiful lake house there that served as an operations base for the boating, swimming, fishing and eating activities.

Our fishing tackle was as basic as possible considering many of our anglers were very young (6 down to three(3). Quality cane poles strung up with 10 pound test mono and number 8 trout hooks with a split shot lead sinker crimped on the leader. The bait of choice for the kids were Canadian night crawlers, cut up in small pieces to fit the tiny hair hooks. The target species was a large school of blue gills we found at the swimming hole next to the boat ramp. When I first saw those little blue gills swimming in about a foot of water, I could not resist throwing some chum to them (several crushed pretzels). More than anything, I had a strong urge to get my cast net and capture the whole school in one cast. Although that would have been great bass baits, what about the kids and the cane poles?

After getting harassed by my kids, I knew I needed to forget the bass fishing idea and go with the worms and cane poles. After all, we really were not fishing, this was a social event, a family reunion and I needed to do some socializing especially with the grandchildren. So my son and I assembled some chairs and a large blanket on the lake front where we saw the fish. We tied the terminal tackle and started baiting hooks. Our efforts were pretty much ignored, as the kids were focused on swimming. That was until the first fish hit the shore. And all at once, every kid that was swimming was now standing beside us shivering, dripping and begging for a cane pole of their own. So we taught them how to cut bait, bait their hooks and cast the cane pole lines into the middle of the school of fish. In an instant bluegills started skyrocketing from the water until we were all surrounded by flopping fish. We couldínt get fish unhooked and returned to the lake fast enough.

They all wanted a night crawler on their hooks. Everyone wanted to join in the fun of catching a pretty little bluegill. The kids didínt care how big or small the fish were. All they knew for sure was that they could catch a fish on every cast. They would see the fish and watch ďtheirĒ fish eat the bait. The pull was immediate on their tiny cane pole. What else could a fisherman ask for?

We realized that we needed more bait quickly. So we returned to the bait store and got more worms and lunch for the whole fishing group. When we returned, we were happy to see that there were no injuries from dorsal spines or hooks in body parts.

This new fish catching activity became the choice of almost every child for the remainder of the reunion. We all fished for two more days releasing all fish back into the lake. This short story proves again that it is not always about the fish, but the opportunity to get together and enjoy the companionship of friends and relatives.

I also learned a new idea relating to outdoor family activities. My sisterís youngest son told me that he purchased a lifetime hunting and fishing license for his son on his first birthday. My dad passed down his shotguns and fly rods to me and I passed down some of that stuff to my sisterís son. He plans to continue the family tradition. Needless to say, I am very proud of him. Never have seen a young boy or girl that is into fishing or hunting get involved in destructive activities like drugs and/or alcohol.

On another note, one of the most proactive groups of dedicated folks in Florida when it comes to fisheries conservation is the Florida Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). Chapters of the CCA Florida sponsor kids fishing tournaments. CCA chapters continue to be involved in boating safety initiatives, habitat restoration projects, as well as many other worthy fish conservation projects. CCA serves the interests of the average fisherman through advocacy for recreational fishing issues at the state and federal levels.

If you have an interest in conserving fish for your children or grandchildren, join your local CCA chapter. (www.joincca.org).

Till next tide,

Tight lines and solid hookups

Captain Alex Crawford ---- website: www.topknots.com Proud member Florida Outdoor Writers Association

Proud member Florida Guides Association

Proud member Florida CCA

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Captain Alex Crawford is a full time guide who has fished the Florida Panhandle offshore for 26 years. He specializes in grouper and snapper trips with light tackle on live bait. Custom trips for companies with multiple boats will be arranged. Inshore trips targeting specific species and custom eco trips are available for birding, gator watching, shelling, picnics and barrier islands. Contact Captain Alex for a fun and productive trip on Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Contact Info:

Topknots Charters
P. O. Box 1029
Carrabelle, FL 32322
Phone: 850-697-8946
Alt. Phone: same
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