Outdoors: Xmas present suggestions


Christmas is a time for folks like us to get all sorts of outdoor-oriented goodies for free and without guilt. It’s simply a matter of making a list and letting the gift buyers in your universe know what’s on it. Neat, huh?

For this idea to work, however, you must be somewhat vague about what you want until your significant other, or your children, are in a panic. I’ve found two weeks before Christmas to be about right. That’s still enough time for them to buy exactly what you want, but not quite enough time to search for alternatives or substitutes. A little bit sneaky, but not quite outright criminal. It’s a thin line, but with caution you won’t cross it.

With these thoughts in mind, it can be overwhelming trying to decide just what you want. That’s where I come in. Following is a list of items you can ask for, some of which might jog your memory to ask for something not on the list. I like to think of myself as one of Santa’s helpers. A little more important that the elves, but not quite at the Big Guy’s level. Think of me as Jerry Clause.

Here are some ideas to make shopping easier for you and yours:

•Gift cards or certificates. Don’t dismiss them as being cold and impersonal. They aren’t, provided they are outdoors-oriented. Here’s why. Most people will put their family before themselves. So if you give a gift card to say, WalMart, and expect them to buy some fishing gear, when the kids need shoes, guess what they are going to show up with? But if you give a gift certificate for someplace like Kevin’s, Crum’s in Panacea, Parkway Marine, West Marine, Shield’s Marina, Bass Pro Shops, Sea Hag Marina, or any of the many other outdoors- oriented businesses in the area, there’s only one person who is going to use it. So stay away from the big box general merchandise stores and go with the locals. The phone book and internet are full of local Mom-and-Pops. Google Fishing Bait and Tackle Shops in the Tallahassee area (or wherever you think they fish). Also check out the Fishing Report that follows for specific names and contact information for guides and businesses that offer gift certificates.

•Kayak trips on the many rivers, creeks and bays in this area are a blast. Just go to any of the local outfitters (listed in the Yellow Pages and online) and sign up the target of your affection. After a brief orientation session, it’s off in a rental yak. Cost is very reasonable.

•Fishing Charts are practical and time-saving gifts. Many anglers don’t realize how many “new” places they can find using a chart. Fishing charts are about $15.

•Boat Detailing is truly a luxury item. Detailing usually includes washing, waxing and treating the boat until it looks almost new. Cost is dependent on the size of the boat. Boat detailers are listed online and in the Yellow Pages under ”Boat Cleaning.” Many will come to you.

•Custom shirts and hats with the boat’s name and other personal information make excellent gifts. There are many shirt and hat shops in town. Make your best deal, but hurry. There might be a long turn-around time.

•Knives are an invaluable tool. Seven-inch models are good for most types of fishing. Offshore fishermen prefer 9-inch models. Cost is $20-$50 bucks. Knives are available wherever fishing equipment is sold.

•Line is a never-ending need of fishermen. You can never go wrong giving a fisherman some line. Bulk spools are available from about $5 on up. The better the line, the more it will cost. Stick with well-known brands like Ande, Triline, Stren or Triple Fish. Look for line in tackle shops and sporting goods stores.

•Outboard Motor Oil is not a very glamorous gift, but it’s sure to be appreciated by anyone owning an outboard motor. A gallon of quality two-cycle oil for older motors (Mercury Quicksilver, Yamaha Yamalube, etc.) runs about $25. Four-cycle oil is less expensive but still has special additives not found in ordinary motor oil. Available at boating supply centers, sporting goods stores, and marinas

•Fishing lures make great stocking stuffers. Be specific on your list so you don’t get ones you won’t use.

•Membership in a boat club is a very valuable item in this part of the state. With all the rocks, oyster bars, shoals, sand bars and unmarked (ghost) traps on the flats, it’s not a question of “if” but rather “when” you take out a lower unit or prop. Or worse, you can rip a hole in the bottom. A membership in Sea Tow, Tow Boat U.S., or any other towing service would be greatly appreciated. If you break down and it’s not a life-threatening situation, the Coast Guard will not rescue you. They will refer you to a towing service. If you’re not a member, a tow can be very expensive. And you can’t join when they show up, you must pay for the tow first.

•Fishing Pliers are always appreciated. There are models that squeeze, cut, crimp and bend wire. Choose a stainless steel or rustproof model if used in saltwater. Cost is about $15. Good pliers are available wherever fishing equipment is sold.

•Fishing CDs, magazines, and books are items many fishermen would enjoy. All are entertaining as well as instructional. There are so many good books and tapes on the market now that it’s tough to make a recommendation.

Do an online search for CDs relative to the specific type of fishing your gift target does. Those and many others are available in better tackle shops and sporting goods stores. Excellent fishing books can be found in tackle shops, books stores and sporting goods stores. The books start at about $10; CDs at $20. Also consider subscriptions to fishing and boating magazines. Florida Sportsman, Shallow Water Angler, Saltwater Sportsman, Sport Fishing, Bass Angler, Bassmaster, Florida Game and Fish and Boating are just a few of the many good ones out there.

Gun and Knife Show

Dec. 15-16, North Florida Fair Grounds, 441 Paul Russell Road, Tallahassee. Free parking. Admission $9, Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saltwater

St. George Island

Captain Russ Knapp on St. George Island ([email protected]) said: “Well it looks like another gas up and go looking weekend ahead. Before the area was inundated with rain Capt. Jack Fry was catching nice trout and reds on the oyster bars in East Bay. Live shrimp was the bait of choice, but Gulp! and DOA baits were working also. It remains to be seen if the mass of freshwater coming down the rivers is going to push them out for a bit. If you prefer to fish in the shallow water near the creek mouths Capt. Randy Peart is having good success throwing Rapala Twitchin’ Raps in the warm part of the afternoon. Bad news is Twitchin’ Raps are a discontinued lure, but the good news is Kevin’s Sporting Goods (in Tallahassee) has them squirreled away in the back. Just ask for them. Off the beach you should be able to find enough whiting for a hot meal. Use a small hook and small bait fished just off the beach. Offshore the gag grouper are in close, but the red snapper are here in Biblical numbers. Three well known offshore Captains have all told me they have never seen this many before and its very hard to get a bait down. That said, if you want to think a bit outside the box try jigging for the grouper with a heavy jig tipped with a Gulp! lure. Trolling Stretch 20 and 30 plugs is another plan to avoid the Red Menace. If you own an inflatable PFD wear it, if you don’t have one then get one. Falling into cold water with heavy clothes may not have a happy ending without one.”

Gift certificates are available with Capt. Knapp. Call him at Journeys, (850) 927-3259. Offshore trips with Capt. Clint Taylor are available by calling (850) 370-6631, or by calling Journeys. Journeys also offers gift certificates for everything they offer, including paddleboard, kayak, and powerboat rentals.

Apalachee Bay

Otto Hough at Myhometownfishing.com ([email protected]) said: “Well, got a new moon weekend ahead, but it appears Ma Nature is going to bring more rain Saturday and Sunday, along with elevated winds in the 20-knot plus category. Pay real close attention to the NWS Marine Forecast before doing something that might border on being classified as just plain dumb. With the earlier cold snap on top of already cold water across Apalachee Bay, the reds, trout, flounder and sheepshead have already begun to fill the river and creek holes. The second wave that rolled in Wednesday caused that thermometer to dip even further downward pushing the skinny water temps into the low 50s. As such, the warmth of the river holes and creek holes are the places to hang out if one were a fish. Armed with that tidbit of knowledge, it’d likely be a rewarding thing to hang over those same holes while soaking a live shrimp or two Friday during the pre-new moon tidal swings before fishing conditions go south Saturday morning. The one aggravation in the rivers will be all that dirty water pouring out of the swamp lands making normally brackish waters much fresher. Those fish will probably be biting a tad more finicky with all that freshwater pushing through their wintertime haunts.

“Sadly, with the stout offshore winds in the current NWS Marine Forecast, conditions will be tilted in favor of the gags this weekend. Small craft conditions outside will keep the gags from getting tempted by any angler offerings until things improve next week across Big Bend waters. For now, any chance to get on the gags will best be Friday. An east wind in the 10 to 15 knot range along with seas 2 to 3 feet are in the current NWS forecast, so there’s hope lines can be in the water Friday. All the freshwater pushing out of the rivers has made for some distinct changes in both water clarity and salinity over the shallow water rock piles outside the St. Marks and Aucilla rivers. The water is dang sure dark and definitely far from real salty. Still, as is often stated in the angling world; “fish gotta eat sometime”. With the pre-new moon tidal movement, Friday has a decent chance to be just that time, so drop a line.”

Econfina River

Captain Randy Peart in Tallahassee (850 421-8049 [email protected]) said: “Lots of small trout in the Econfina River, mixed in are some redfish and larger trout. Try shallow running plugs like the Rapala Twitch ‘n Mullet or a 1/8-ounce jighead with a Gulp! shrimp. There are some big trout and reds in the creeks on the same lures. Watch out for the low tides, lots of rocks to hit.”

Captain Randy Peart has Gift Certificates available for half and full day charters.

Keaton Beach

Captain Pat McGriff of One More Cast Guide Service (www.onemorecast.net, [email protected] (850) 584-9145) reported: “Fifty five degrees is tough to fish when it is the first time they have been that cold since last winter. Fifty seven was the turning point, or should I say “turn on” point last Friday when I had the McCulloughs from Tennessee out and we fished 6 hours for three fish then in less than an hour we put 10 in the boat and threw back two dozen more. We couldn’t get a bite for three hours. Tough. We caught our trout on MirrOdines, Catch 2000s, Assassin’s 5-inch un-weighted on a 5/0 Daiichi offset worm hook and some on live shrimp under a Back Bay Thunder (float). The afternoon bite was in 3 – 3.5 feet of water and was triggered by the current of the incoming tide. All morning the wind was opposing the outgoing tide and keeping the necessary oxygen out of the equation, then when the two got together it was on. This midweek’s cold snap will further hamper the bite on the open gulf; but should move trout towards the larger spring–fed creeks. Paul Brown Originals, Devils, and Fat Boys will take trout now, as will the Soft-Dines and MirrOdines. Slow is the key when water temps drop below 55 degrees.”

Captain Pat McGriff has gift certificates available for half-day and full-day trips.

Steinhatchee

Chaeli Norwood at Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee (352-498-3008) sent photos of trout both large and small, slot and over-slot redfish, sheepshead, and a gag grouper (caught inshore). Gift certificates are available at Sea Hag Marina.

Freshwater

Lake Seminole

Paul Tyre on Lake Seminole ([email protected] (850) 264-7534) Said: “The bass fishing has been great on Lake Seminole. As the water temperatures continue to fall, the bass have been feeding up for the winter. Recently, it took 29+ pounds to win a 5- bass limit tournament and took over 25 pounds to get a check! The Bass have been bunching up and when you find them, you get some incredible action. Reaction baits have been very productive to find the schools of bass. The main ones are crank baits, jerk baits and swim jigs.

“The crank baits we have been having the most success with is/are a Strike King Pro Model Series 5XD and 6XD in any Shad color. These lures have a great ability to deflect off of cover, which triggers a reaction strike from the bass. I prefer to fish these crank baits on a 7’3″ Powell glass rod with a parabolic bend that really enables the bass to take the bait, get a good hook set and most importantly, put the bass in the boat.”

“A lipless crank bait is working well over and around the grass beds on the lake. The sound of the rattles and the unique action of the Red Eye Shad drives the big bass crazy. When fishing the Red Eye Shad, I prefer a 7’3” medium heavy rod with an Abu Garcia Revo STX 8.1 reel spooled with Cortland’s 30-pound Master Braid. The Cortland’s Master Braid’s small diameter allows the bait to glide through instead of hanging up when working through and around the grass.

“A swim jig has been working well over and through the grass too. The Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover swim jig has a Gamakatsu Siwash Hook designed exclusively for Strike King, which allows you to get the big bass out of the heaviest cover. When fishing the swim jig, I prefer to use a 7’3” heavy action rod with an Abu Garcia Revo reel with a 6.3.1 gear ratio and spooled with 50- or 67-pound Cortland Master Braid. With the Hook-On Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover swim jig and the quality of the Cortland’s Master Braid, I am confident I can put the big Lake Seminole bass in the boat! The crappie on Lake Seminole have been schooling in 10 to 12 feet of water and have been taken on minnows and jigs.

“Even though Wingate’s Lunker Lodge suffered tremendous damage during Hurricane Michael, Mr. Smokie made sure his campers had docks to put their boats on because those folks love their crappie fishing. The entire campground at Wingate’s, Bass Island, was destroyed. Several of the log cabins and the marina suffered significant damage and there are trees down everywhere. It will take a good long time for it to recover, but the campers who live there have been moved to a safer location on the grounds and can still fish, which is why they love the place. For an Awesome Fishing Adventure on Lake Seminole or up-to-date information on lake conditions, please contact Paul Tyre at (850)264-7534 or [email protected]

Lake Jackson

Otto Hough at Myhometownfishing.com ([email protected]) said: “The news is good on Jackson, Carr and Iamonia. All the rain over the weekend through Monday evening dumped bucket load after bucket load of much needed wet stuff into the Jackson and Iamonia basins. As such, the results can be measured by the smiles now appearing on many a bass angler’s face. With the rains came a dramatic rise in the water level. It’s now possible to launch just about any size fishing boat from Rhoden Cove, 27 North and Sunset landings. Given the rains in the current weekend forecast, things should only continue to improve with regard to the overall quality of Jackson as a prime fishery. Plus, the full aquifer is helping to backfill Lake Jackson as well. All good things when it comes to Lake Jackson’s improving health.”

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