Invasive Species

IguanaOne of the wonderful things about living in Florida is the variety of critters running all over the place, whether on land, in the water, on in the skies.  It would take quite a while for anyone to view each and every type of fauna we have to offer.  Our flora is quite spectacular as well, with some species of plant or another always in bloom, causing the color of our landscape to constantly change with the seasons

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your viewpoint) we have a lot of species that were never intended to be here and it looks like they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future.  These non-native, and in some cases, invasive species have set up camp in the subtropical environment similar to their homeland or have learned to adapt to the environment and the presence of humans.  Sadly, it has been to the detriment of the native animals since many original Florida inhabitants have been negatively affected by seemingly innocent critters, plants, and fish visitors.  Kind of like a houseguest that won’t leave.

Brazilian PeppertreeSouth Florida is the epicenter for invasives, just turn on the television and you’ll get a look at a few of them.  Iguanas, Tegu, Burmese Pythons, Northern Snakeheads, Myan Cichlid, Spotted Tilapia, Lionfish, Wild Hogs, Nutria, Brazilian Peppertree, Kudzu and many, many more have staked a claim somewhere in the Sunshine State.  And although it's illegal to release non-native species into the wild, it happens every day here and across the country.  Whether it’s a gardener innocently planting a ground-covering vine, or someone disposing of a too-large to care for family pet, it happens and it can snowball from there if not kept in check.

Regardless of whether it’s accidental or on purpose, there are a lot of relatively innocent invaders out there, side by side with some not so innocent (if not truly destructive) ones.  We all need to do our part to control them and thus protect our native species and their place in the circle of life.

For more information on what to watch for, visit:

Florida Invasive Species Partnership

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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We're Having Bugs For Dinner?

Crawfish FeastIf anyone had told me twenty two years ago that I would truly enjoy eating bugs, I’d have called them fools and reminded them that I grew up on meatloaf, chicken wings, and spaghetti.  We ate a lot of wild game like venison, squirrel, grouse, dove, and the like, but mud bugs?  Not on your life.

Well, things change and moving south 17 years ago caused me to broaden my culinary horizons.  It doesn’t hurt that the sister I never knew I had (inside joke amongst the family) is originally from Louisiana.  Those Rajin Cajuns really know how to eat.  Now Crawfish are on the menu each time we have a family event like milestone birthdays, anniversaries, or as it was this past weekend, high school graduations.

Crawfish might not look terribly appetizing, and it takes a little touch of cruelty to put them into the boiling water right after using one as a living earring, but they sure are tasty when you learn to peal and devour efficiently.  Besides eating them right out of the pot with corn on the cob, potatoes, andouille sausage, and loads of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, my favorite is Crawfish Etouffee (once again with lots of creole seasoning). Absolute heaven on a plate!!!  Sometimes I wonder about the first brave person to grab one of these things out from the swamp, look at it and say, “I wonder if these here creepy crawlys is edible.”  It was probably some sort of childhood dare gone wrong.  Either way, I’m glad someone took that first chance.

Etouffee Although I’m no expert on preparing or eating crawfish (I still can’t pinch the tail and suck the head properly) I know good food when I taste it.  Just spicy enough to make your nose run and your lips to tingle is the optimal seasoning level in my humble opinion, but some folks may want to back it off a touch.  They do need to be cooked well and served hot to get the most out of their unique taste and texture.  They're kind of a cross between lobster tails and shrimp.  Either way.....MMMMmmmmm!

So next time you have a family event and are looking for something different, pick up some crawfish, set up a table, and feast till you can’t stand up, but don’t forget to invite me!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!
 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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History, Food, and Shopping in Annapolis, Maryland

United States Naval Academy GoatAnnapolis, Maryland is home to one of America’s prized and most treasured institutions of higher learning and I just had a chance to visit it after many, many years away.  I can’t claim to have attended college at the United States Naval Academy, but I have three generations of sailors and Marines in my family that did, and the colors Navy blue and gold run deep in our veins.  One visit to the grounds is sure to stir any patriotic feelings a visitor might have and my wife and I were no different.

We trod the same path that midshipmen from ages past had walked and it was impossible not to imagine what it must have been like as a student in the academy during times of national emergency and war.  Those young men and now women must have been wondering what they got themselves into, and standing in the chapel I thought I could hear the uncountable ghosts praying for their safety and that of their shipmates.

Established in 1845, the Naval academy has produced many great leaders including one president, numerous members of congress and distinguished members of the military, 73 Medal of Honor Awardees, and 52 astronauts.  The sense of tradition, academic excellence, and honor is overpowering when you look up at the buildings and tour the grounds.  I wish we had had enough time to properly visit the buildings that were open to the public.  Everyone should take the time to visit the Naval Academy and learn a little about honor, patriotism, and loyalty.

The city of Annapolis is the state capitol of Maryland and a port town that looks like it should have great sailing ships in the harbor rather than boats with internal combustion engines.  The town has embraced its nautical history while still being able to stay with the times.  Trendy shops abound along the main street and the food is out ofCream of Crab at Chick and Ruths Delly this world.  Chick and Ruths Delly has a cream of crab soup that’s to die for right next to a pastrami sandwich that would rival any in New York City.  Gourmet spices, vinegar, oils, teas, and almost anything your heart can’t handle will be found within walking distance of the waterfront.  Just park the car and take a walk.

I hope everyone has found a new place to add to their list of future destinations whether it’s food, drink, shopping, or a sense of history you are looking for.  Stop by Annapolis, Maryland and you won’t be disappointed.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Seasickess Prevention

Seasickness PreventionSummer is coming and with it comes more picnics, family vacations, and hopefully time on the water chasing fish or just cruising around.  Unfortunately for some though, time on the water can be quite uncomfortable especially if the conditions aren’t quite favorable, and depending on the size of the watershed and the weather, “uncomfortable” can be quite “miserable.”  Just ask some friends I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with on the Chesapeake Bay chasing stripers.  It was pretty nasty to say the least and judging from the sounds coming from the cabin, I was glad I was out in the fresh air minding the rods.

Seasickness can strike anyone from the greenhorn land lubber through the most seasoned scourge of the high seas, but there are a few things you can do to lessen the chances of being a victim.

  • Get a good night’s rest.  Being well rested will improve your mood and level of alertness, making it a bit easier to deal with rocky conditions onboard.  Your body uses a lot of energy coping with the constant rocking motion, so it stands to reason that hitting the hay on time will help you enjoy the next day of fishing.
  • Watch what you eat.  Everyone knows they have certain foods that will trigger an upset stomach on dry land so do yourself a favor and avoid those foods before stepping aboard.  Overly greasy and heavy foods that sit like a brick in your stomach won’t do you any favors later in the day when you get sick.  Eat light and eat right.  Crackers and other relatively neutral foods are good when you start feeling queasy.
  • Don’t go to sea with a hangover.  Enough said!
  • Stay up on deck and in the fresh air.  Going down below and hiding your head under the covers is what you really want to do but staying engaged and in the fresh air is what’s best.  Avoid breathing in diesel exhaust if possible.  Concentrate on the horizon or another stationary object to take your mind off the rocking motion.  Find something to do that will keep you busy and productive.
  • Seasickness is essentially a type of motion sickness, so folks that are predisposed to car sickness, air sickness, vertigo, and any other nausea brought on by rocking motions should plan ahead and purchase some kind of preventive aide.

There are a bunch of commercially available products that will help prevent seasickness, many of which I was able to pick up in the marine and fishing departments at the store, while there are some others available at local pharmacies.  Patches, pills (Motion Eaze, Bonine), inhalers (Quease Ease), wrist bands (Queaz-Away), all have their loyal fans but it only works if you have them on hand and use them even if you feel perfect.  Don’t try to prove how much of an expert seaman you are.  Seasickness can strike anyone at any time regardless of experience level.

Plan ahead and all your crewmembers will have a wonderful time enjoying every minute on the water free of seasickness.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Boating Safety Tips

Idle Speed - No WakeSpring is here and that means summer isn’t all that far away….And that leads to more boats on the water with drivers that have very little experience and possibly little understanding about the "rules of the road" so to speak.

My recent trip to Crystal River reminded me that some people just don’t pay attention or just don’t care about the navigational signs, what they mean, or why they’re there in the first place.  Regardless of the reason, I’ll give them a pass once, but repeated bad behavior deserves a stern talk with the friendly FWC officers, and potentially a ticket.  Let’s look at a few of the more common signs around Florida.

Idle Speed-No Wake:  By definition this means that any vessel must operate at the minimum speed that allows the vessel to maintain headway and steerageway.  That’s pretty slow in most cases but the actual speed is somewhat dependent on the size of the vessel.  These speed limits are in place many times to protect manatees that frequent the region.  I know from personal experience that it can be frustrating when all you want to do is get from point A to B without wasting a lot of time, but you have to abide by the signs or be prepared to pay a hefty fine, or possibly run into a lounging manatee.  Neither of which is pleasant and are ultmately avoidable if we would just take our time and relax a bit.

Slow Speed-Minimum Wake:  Any vessel operating in this type of zone must operate fully off plane and completely settled in the water.  These limits are in place where an increased speed might create a hazard for others people or property.  Congested waterways, canals, park areas, narrow channels, marinas, and the like are places where this sign might be present.

Resume Safe Normal Operation:  This means exactly what it implies but one of the issues that most people fail to consider is the safety of the people on the water around them.  Everyone is responsible for their own wake and if your speed and resultant wake cause someone to capsize, or your wake damages someone else’s property, you are directly responsible and liable.  It isn’t enough to only think about YOUR safety, you must consider others around you.

“In order to operate a motorboat of ten (10) horsepower or greater, Florida law requires anyone who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the FWC.”  These courses are run all over the state by various organizations including the USCG AUX (United States Coast Guard Auxiliary), and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Now is the time to get out on the water and enjoy yourselves.  Ok, maybe I’m a little early for you folks up north who are still trying to dig your way out of winter, but down here it’s always boating season.  Let’s have fun and be safe out there.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Crystal River: A Mixed Bag Where Fresh And Salt Meet.

Crystal RiverPart of the joy of living in the fishing paradise that Florida has to offer is the wealth of locations and the variety of species that can be found within a short to moderate drive of home.  I was recently introduced to another of those gems, and wanted to share some thoughts on what is sure to become another of my favorite haunts.

Crystal River is on the Gulf coast of Florida 30 to 45 minutes north of Tampa but you might forget the nearby metropolis and imagine you’re in a sleepy seaside fishing village while driving though town or paddling through the myriad of islands and sloughs.  Actually, you aren’t imagining things.  Life on the waterfront revolves around fishing; both fresh and salt, tourism, and manatees.  And just like the manatees themselves, folks on the water move about in an unhurried and peaceful manner.  “Idle Speed/No Wake” signs aren’t just a guidepost on the water; they’re a way of life.

Kayaking at a leisurely pace is one of the best ways to explore the canals and it puts the angler right at the optimal level for probing the multitude of docks and piers where snook, redfish, bass, and bream seek shelter from human, aquatic, and avian predators.  You never quite know what’s going to hit a well presented lure or fly, making tackle setups a bit of a challenge, which I quickly found out when a larger-than-anticipated snook made short work of a 12 pound fluorocarbon leader.  You’re just as likely to hook into a largemouth as a snook or baby tarpon at the right time of year.  Snapper and bream share the same hiding places so you have to wonder whether to throw small minnows, crickets, or shrimp.  My favorite way to fish docks though is to toss unweighted jerk baits (D.O.A. C.A.L. Jerkbait) way up into the cover and wait for something to whack it on retrieve.  Casting a fly into the same area is sometimes rewarded with a strike but the challenge level goes up quite a bit with fly tackle.  The biggest secret to success is not being afraid to lose a few lures or flies.  “Be” the lure and don’t be afraid of the structure.

The open flats further west are prime spots for a few of the most sought after species including those you might not think of as flats inhabitants.  Redfish, black drum, seatrout, and sheepshead are what everyone comes to expect, but grouper are normal catches for those that know where to look.  Rock piles provide perfect cover for these structure-loving ocean inhabitants, just go slow until you know the area well because more than one lower unit has been replaced by careless or unobservant anglers.

Mangrove Snapper on FlyScalloping is another of the highlights you can enjoy without spending a fortune on high-tech equipment, and it’s a great way to introduce children to the outdoors.  Slap on a mask, snorkel, and some fins then hit the water.  Kids will have a blast chasing bay scallops around in the shallows.  Cleaning them for the table can become just as much a family affair as the initial catching since there’s a bit of work to do before enjoying the fruits of your labors.

So you see, there’s a lot to enjoy in Crystal River and the surrounding waters, be they fresh or salt.  You’ll get some great pictures, have wonderful experiences, and maybe gather a little seafood for the table.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Puttin Meat in the Freezer

Swamp Buggy, Tracy, and II recently got the opportunity to go on a wild boar hunt in south central Florida close to Lake Okeechobee.  After a bit of shooting, and a little frustration over my inability to hit the broad side of an enormous brown hog, we had three wild pigs skinned, quartered, and we were on the way home!  It wasn’t exactly hunting in the traditional sense that I remember from my youth in Pennsylvania, which generally entailed freezing my butt off while sitting on a cold rock beneath a glacial rain in December.  What fun we used to have!  Regardless of my shooting issues, I enjoyed not having to wear five layers of clothing.

Outwest Farms offers many options for taking your game including spot and stalk; tree stands, using dogs, etc.  Riding the swamp buggy and shooting from an elevated position was a new and enjoyable experience for me.  It gives you great mobility and a high vantage point from which to travel in comfort and harvest your animal.  We got great looks at pigs of every conceivable size and color which enabled us to choose the one we wanted to take.  There were more than enough to choose from on the section of property we hunted, and since this was a “meat run” we weren’t overly selective.  Needless to say, we have quite a bit of pork in the freezer now.  We just have to figure out a tasty way to cook it.

Hunting is a way of life for many people regardless of their reason for participating.  It might be the shooting aspect, the camaraderie, being in the outdoors, liking to eat wild game, or wanting to harvest a trophy…  Whatever the reason, eating what we take is (or should be) part of the equation.Successful Hunters

Feral swine have turned into an unfortunate success story for the state of Florida and U.S. in general.  I'm sure many folks have seen the TV shows documenting the establishment of breeding populations of wild pigs across the country.  Just drive down the road just about anywhere in the state and you'll see the detrimental affects they can have on the landscape.  What you can't see though is the negative influence they have on the native plant and animal life.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers wild hogs to be livestock on private property (to be manged by the landowner) but they are a game animal on public property, subject to seasons and limits just like deer and other wild game.  Although it's unlikely that we could ever rid the area of these invasive pests, we can work to control their spread by hunting and trapping. 

Folks that are looking for something different to do on their family vacation should consider a hog hunt in Florida.  The prices are competitive, equipment might be provided, the weather is perfect, and you may actually put some meat in the freezer.  Your outfitter might even offer hunts for other types of animals including alligators, turkey, and any number of exotics.

 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Ceviche... Another Way To Enjoy Seafood!

Not all that many years ago I wasn't the biggest fan of seafood and it's hard for me to believe that I went though such a drastic change over such a short period of time.  Squid was the farthest thing from my idea of good food and even shrimp weren't too high on the list of palatable vittles.  Thanks to my wife and moving to Florida, I have come to love all sorts of unusual types of dishes provided from the sea's bounty

Ceviche de la CasaCeviche is a wonderful fish/seafood dish that was given to me for the first time by a coworker approximately ten years ago and I can tell you that I would have been a much greater fan of scallops and squid if I'd been introduced to it a lot earlier.  My favorite aspect of this particular way to prepare fish is that it's not cooked in the traditional sense, but rather through the use of lemon and lime juices and some other spices, that ultimately "cook" the seafood while making it firm and tasty.  The liberal use of fresh vegetables makes it a healthy choice as well, sort of a fresh seafood salad.  Peppers, onions, and lettuce are but a few of the ingrediants creating this unique combination.     

The origins of ceviche can be traced back almost 2000 years ago but the ultimate source cannot be firmly established since many cultures including the Polynesians, and the Spanish have their own versions.  Either way, ceviche established its place as an integral part of daily menus in Central and South America. Peru, Equador, and Chili have the greatest variety of ceviche dishes but many other countries have their own versions including the United States, Mexico, Panama, and others.  I've got to try some other recipies....

Locally, we're lucky to have a restruant on Church Street in downtown Orlando that specializes in these types of dishes.  The Ceviche, Tapas Bar and Restruant has an extensive menu that's sure to tempt your taste buds and expand your pallate without stretching your waistline or your budget.  Portions are just enough to make you want to explore more selections and maybe be a little adventurous.  Everything is prepared and presented in a first -class fashion and the tastes are out of this world, even those you wouldn't normally think to combine.  The rest of the menu is equally as adventurous and satisfying so be sure to visit them with a raging appetite.

So, if you or someone you know is just starting to discover seafood and the wonderful variety of tastes the sea has to offer, you owe it to yourself to give ceviche a try.  I'm sure it will become a favorite.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

Tosohatchee Wildlife Management AreaThis month my tip is to get out there and explore some new fishing hole even if it isn’t a real secret to anyone else.  I discovered a new fishing spot a few years ago that has proven to be a wonderful place to cast a line, go for a walk, hunt, or just sit along the river bank and read a book. 

Tosohatchee Wildlife management Area is located in east Orange County between Rt 50 and SR 520 along the west bank of the St. Johns River and is well within reach of anyone in central Florida.  You don’t even need a boat to enjoy some of the best fishing our area has to offer although it is helpful to either have a canoe or a kayak.  Just being on the other side of the river can mean the difference between success and failure.  I’ve seen it firsthand. 

I've really come to enjoy throwing a fly or jig along a shore line without knowing what’s going to bite since the list of species is quite impressive and the variety of water types provides something for everyone.  There's access to the St. Johns River, or roadside canals with bluegill and warmouth, and land-locked ponds containing enough variety of cover to keep any fish happy.  Cattails, lily pads, and cypress trees surround the ponds, ensuring that every fish can find a hiding spot.  Every nook and cranny deserves an exploratory cast.  You just have to take the time to be thorough and patient.

 

 

Redbellied SunfishBirders will have a field day if they venture to Tosohatchee since the varied terrain and habitat provide for a huge assortment of species.  Black vultures, bald eagles, osprey, turkey, ducks of every imaginable species, woodpeckers, herons, ibis, and egrets only provide a glimpse of the huge number of feathered friends available for viewing.  The vultures can be a bit spooky as they stand watch above the access roads waiting for something to become dinner.  They roost on every power line and cypress tree along the route.

Wildlife of all manner abound in each and every section of the property.  Scrub forests, plains, swamp, and river bottom attract large and small creatures alike.  Everything from squirrels, to American alligators roam through the trees and the waterways.  You never know what you're going to see next.

Grab your favorite pair of binoculars, fishing rod, or walking staff and take a trip into old Florida. 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

 

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Expanding Your Fly Tying Horizons

Big and SmallRecently I rediscovered the joy of fly fishing for bluegill, sunfish, and warmouth; or what we would call “bream” here in Florida.  As a result, I’ve had to learn how to tie some of the smaller flies in my collection.  Being a hard-headed individual prevented me from just buying a handful of flies for the limited times I might need them, so I justified the material expenses by telling myself that someday I might just be able to get up north where having a Prince Nymph might come in handy for trout.  I think most of us have figured out that many flies tied for a particular species work pretty darn well for other fish as well.

Learning to tie smaller flies has proven to be quite a challenge since most everything else I’ve tied is in sizes 2 though 3/0.  Figuring out proportions and how much material to add during each step is quite tricky when most of your flies include feather bundles as large as half chickens.  I’ve always wondered why most of my flies end up being the same size….BIG!  Tying even medium sized nymphs means adding material in small amounts and using limited thread wraps.

Another thing that this tying experience has taught me is that it isn’t always necessary to follow the recipes to the letter.  I’m sure many fly tiers have loads of material they rarely use because their favorite flies don’t call for it, but what do you do with all that fur, feathers, and the like?  Try mixing things up a little bit.  Make a substitution here and there to see what the result is.  You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a “new” way to tie an old favorite.  Just keep in mind how the different material is going to react in the water, meaning will it sink slower, faster, float higher, will the color be lost at depth or will it be too gaudy.

I’m quite satisfied with the results of my newest foray into fly tying, especially since most of what I’ve tied actually turned out to look something like my initial vision.  Pick up some new material or use some of the stuff you have collecting dust on your tying bench, then try making some flies that will test your abilities and maybe make you a more well rounded fly tyer.  Try something different then throw it at some fish.  You might have just created the next “must have” fly.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Portable Gun Storage

Gun SafeCarrying a handgun for personal protection on a regular basis requires a bit of a lifestyle change, especially for those of us who didn’t carry as part of our jobs, or folks that do a lot of traveling across state lines.  Besides the actual carrying of a gun on your person, you have to consider where to keep the firearm in your vehicle when you are forced to disarm because a location you are visiting does not permit concealed carry.

My wife and I are encountering this problem here in Florida when we go to sporting events, and she has the dual problem of traveling to Texas and then carrying throughout the week.  There’s only one viable solution to this issue, and that’s purchasing and using a portable gun safe.

We just bought our second one for her to use on the road or while she’s in town and we both need to lock up our firearms prior to entering certain establishments.  These safes are very sturdy and have a cable which will allow it to be semi-permanently attached to the car’s frame, making it much more difficult for a common thief to remove.  The gun is secured and impossible to access without a moderate amount of effort or the proper key.  Some models have combination locks or even biometric locks to fit your needs.

Gun Safe 2The idea is to properly secure the gun so it cannot be taken and potentially fall into the wrong hands as sometimes occurs as a result of vehicles being broken into.  Losing a pair of sunglasses or GPS is one thing, but losing a dangerous weapon is something else entirely.  You’ll rest easier once you employ a portable safe for valuables and personal protection equipment you leave in the vehicle from time to time.

 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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2013 Daytona 500

2013 Daytona 500 LogoJust another week or so and the first race of the 2013 NASCAR season will be underway and I'll be sitting in front of the big screen with the surround sound pumping so loud the neighbors will think the track has been relocated to their neighborhood.  Since it doesn’t look like I’ll be there in person, I may as well bring the experience home as much as possible.  Does anyone know where I can find burnt-rubber scented incense?

Residents of central Florida are lucky enough to be within a stone’s throw of one of the premier tracks on the circuit and we get two chances a year to experience high-bank, superspeedway racing as it was meant to be.  Earsplitting noise (both from the cars and the crowds), the overwhelming smell of exhaust blended with rubber, funnel cakes, hamburgers ( and don’t forget the turkey legs), and vivid colors screaming past in a three second kaleidoscopic blur; all create a sensory overload everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.  Nothing can compare and watching it on TV can’t even begin to give a true sense of things.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience half a dozen races as either a fan in the stands or as a vendor dispensing hamburgers and hotdogs to the hungry masses, and regardless of how I got there, watching the race in person has been some of the best experiences of my life.  I really didn't follow NASCAR until after that first visit to the race all those years ago but after that trip to the track, I realized it isn't just for gearheads and wannabe drivers.  It's about the drama, the speed, the pageantry of the event itself.  There's nothing like being there for the invocation, the National Anthem, the flyover, and the command to start engines.  The next few hours will be like no other experince you've ever had if you're lucky enough to make it to a race.

I sure hope some of you folks get over to Daytona for the race where you can cheer on your favorite driver or just take in the experience.  Either way, I'm sure you'll have the time of your life. 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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Where Do You Fly Fish In Florida?

LargemouthI would venture to guess that one of the most common questions we get in the fly shop (besides “Do you know where the bathroom is?”) is “Where do you fly fish in Florida?”  Both are fairly easy questions to answer but sometimes it’s hard not to act a little surprised at the second one.  My standard answer to the fishing question may seem overly simplistic to some but there really is a very straight forward answer.  “Everywhere you find water.”

I’ve found after living in this state for close to 17 years that almost every body of water, whether fresh or salt, has some kind of fish in it worth pursuing.  Every drainage ditch, retention pond, canal, lake, spring, bay, and bayou is fishable in some way or form.  It’s almost harder to figure out where to go because of the variety and huge number of choices, than it is to figure out what to chase.  You really can’t go wrong regardless of your choice.

But how do you get to know about what's available?  I'd start out with a book that was one of the best gifts I've ever received.  “Fishing Florida” has more information in it that any one person will ever learn on their own with a lifetime of fishing experiences.  There are maps with references to what fish are available, boat ramps, state parks, etc…  Just about everything a budding angler might need to find his/her way to productive fishing.  I highly suggest it and yes we sell it if you can't find a copy.

Fishing FloridaOnce you get a feel for what’s available and what type of patterns the fish follow from year to year, it will become a fairly simple matter to transfer that knowledge from one spot to the next.  I’m sure you’ll find, like I have, that every pond that holds water for more than a few months out of the year has the potential to produce some serious fish.  Even that roadside canal you pass on the way to work might hold the key to a peaceful afternoon spent catching fish.

 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Keeping Track

JournalScott and I got into a discussion a few days ago about whether or not the moon phases, weather patterns, barometric pressure, sunlight quality, and any number of other factors really affect the fishing.  Eventually we came to the agreement that these factors must affect the fishing somehow but since we only get to fish every once in a while it doesn't really figure into things much....We're still going going fishing even if the barometric pressure is dropping and the sky is crystal clear.  I have a fishing buddy with an IGFA World Record who swears that moon location in the sky has a great influence on his fishing success and his journals and records are all the proof he needs.

Our converations reminded me of the journal I used to keep when I was younger and had way more time to hit the field in search of rabbits, grouse, pheasant, woodcock, deer.....  You get the picture?  I made it a point to write a little bit after each trip to the woods or stream.  None of my notes were too specific about the weather or the conditions but rather who I went with, where, and whether or not we had any success.  I also tried to stash any little artifacts that might help me to remember what happend on that day.  The grouse feather shown in the picture is from the first one I ever killed.  The date?  October 20th, 1984.  Seems like such a long time ago, but when I read my notes it seems like just yesterday.

That may very well be the purpose of a journal.  To remind us of a moment in time when something happened, or didn't happen for that matter.  There should be plenty of pages filled with musings about nothing much but when taken into context with the rest of the entries, they build a story of our time doing something we love.

Fishpond Journal

Fishpond makes a very nice jounal for keeping track of your time afield and if your children would start early enough, they would have something to give their children.  Hunting and fishing are more than just hobbies....  They are ways of life that we need to memorialize so that younger generations don't forget how things used to be, and how they could be again if people care.

I hope to pass along my writings to my children and their children so they can understand how I came to love the outdoors so much, and why I can't imagine not being able to step into the wood in search of rabbits, grouse, deer, squirrels, and all the rest.

Keep a journal and maybe it will help keep your memories fresh and quite possibly help with your success rate.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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Shad Season 2013

American ShadShad season has started with a bang here in central Florida and from the sound of the reports coming in right now, we could be looking forward to one of the best years in recent memory.  I can't believe it might possibly top last year but you never know what's going to happen when dealing with unpredictable fish migrations, water levels, and strange weather patterns.  All of these factors have produced an earlier than normal run with goof numbers, acceptable river conditions, and pleasant temperatures.

American Shad are a migratory fish that returns to their birthplace to spawn, then die just like salmon do in northern regions.  The Saint Johns River starts its life in south central Florida, somewhere around Lake Hell N Blazes and continues on to the point where it enters the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville.  This is how the shad enter the river for the last time in preperation for the spawning.  We fishermen get the priviledge of pursuing this historic species once they have traveled upstream past Lake Monroe in Seminole county.

So far his year has been pretty good for myself and my fellow shad chasers, with quality fish available in numbers that rival the past couple seasons.  You just have to know where to look and what tactics to employ.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission survey takers (shocking surveys) have found fish throughout "Shad Alley" and all the way south to Rt 50 in Midway.  I have only fished at Mullet Lake and the entrance to the Little Econ, and both of these locations have produced well, but what has suprised me is the size differential between fish at either place.  The southern spot seemed to produce larger fish.  Either way though, we're having fun.

Rat-L-TrapFish are hitting the typical flies and lures but a small silver Rat-L-Trap is one I had never tried that has been working really well for me.  I found this year that trolling one of these superb lipless diving baits will catch just about anything that chases minnows.  Shad, bass, catfish, crappie,  and bluegill have all taken some of the finish off my new favorite hard bait.  What started out chrome colored is now a nicely scratched and beated bone color.  Chuck it and reel it!

I hope you all get the point and head for the water some time over the next month or so.  You just don't know what your next obsession might be.

Good Luck!

Sincerely,

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

Whte River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

 

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Effective Hearing Protection

Over the past couple of years, my family and I have spent a lot of time at a local shooting range to sharpen our skills and increase our familiarity with the pistols we carry for personal protection.  As a result, we've used  variety of hearing protection methods with widely ranging success levels.  Some worked pretty darn well and othes provided marginal protection even for my already damaged ears.  My hearing has gotten worse after spending eight years in the Navy working on aircraft even though I wore hearing protection as part of my daily routine.  I now live with a constant ringing and I have to endure my wife telling me that I never listen to her when in reality I just didn't hear or understand what she was saying.  "What did you say?"   

Caldwell G3Today there are more choices in hearing protection that ever before, beginning with the simple foam earplugs, to the molded inserts, on up to the electronic ear muffs like the Caldwell Platinum G3 shown to the left.  I just got a pair of these for Christmas and I've found them to be one of the coolest pieces of protective gear I've ever owned.

The idea is that they amplify normal sounds like a conversation but block out higher decible noises like gunshots.  It's very strange to be standing in a range amid a cacophony of gunfire while carrying on a normal coversation.  The sound of spent brass tinkling on the concrete floor is strangely amplified compared to the explosions happening around you. 

Regardless of the method you choose, it only works if you make it part of your normal routine.  Hearing loss is a preventable condition if we would just take responsibility and think in the long term.

 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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2013 Tournament Season Kicks Off With Crappie Masters!

crappie masters

 

Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters kicks off the 2013 tournament season with the Florida State Championship.  The tournament will consist of a two -day national qualifier on Harris Chain of Lakes in Tavares, Fl., and a one day national qualifier on Lake Monroe-Jesup-St Johns River in Sanford, Fl.   Sponsored by the City of Tavares, Lake County Tourism and Bass Pro Shops Orlando, the Tavares tournament will be on Jan 25 & 26, 2012. Sponsored by the City of Sanford, Seminole County Tourism and Bass Pro Shops Orlando, the Lake Monroe tournament will be on February 2, 2013.  Anglers may fish one of both tournaments.  The combined points accumulated from both tournaments will determine the 2013 Florida State Champion.

Harris Chain of Lakes will kick off with a media fish off on Jan 24th from 7 AM to 11 AM followed by the late registration and rules seminar.   Voucher pick up and late registration is at 5 PM with the seminar beginning at 6:30 PM at the Tavares Civic Center, 100 E. Caroline Street.  Anglers will receive a food voucher for local restaurants compliments of the Tavares Tourism.  Fishing hours on Jan 25 & 26 will be from 7 AM to 3:30 PM.  Anglers must be in the weigh in line by 4:30 PM on both days.  The weigh location is Wooton Park in downtown Tavares.   A free kids fishing rodeo will be held on Jan. 26 at Wooton Park.  Registration will be from 8-9 AM with fishing from 9-11 AM.  Sponsored by Bass Pro Shops Orlando and the City of Tavares all kids will receive a prize from sponsors.

Lake Monroe-St Johns River will be a one day national qualifier, as well as the final leg of the Florida State Championship on Feb. 2, 2013.  Late registration and the rules seminar will be held on Feb. 1 at the Sanford Civic Center, 401 East Seminole Boulevard  Sanford, FL.   Anglers will fish from 7 AM to 3:30 PM on Feb. 2 and must be in line by 4:30 PM.  A free kids rodeo will be held on Feb. 2, 2013 at Ft. Melon Park.  Registration is from 8-9 AM with fishing from 9-11 AM.  Sponsored by Bass Pro Shops Orlando and the Sanford Chamber of Commerce.  Kids should bring their poles and bait.

Pictured Below is our very own Pro Staffers Don and Toni Collins who were recipients of the 2010 Crappie Masters Sportsman of the Year. They were also announced as 2010 Crappie Masters Angler Team of the Year.

 

 don and toni

 

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We Salute You.

A Great American and Military Hero has passed away. It’s hard to believe how many lives Gen H Norman Schwarzkopf has touched in his time spent here on earth. He is a legend who loved his country, our freedoms and his family & friends. For a very short moment in time, I and a few of our Managers & Associates were able to meet and converse with this wonderful man.

Our adventure began as we had decided to support and attended a sporting clay fundraiser in Lakeland. The event was being held to raise money for the Children’s Home Foundation located in Tampa, for which General Schwarzkopf was The Honorary Chairman. When I explained that the General would be attending, I had no problem securing shooters for our teams.


pic 2

Upon arriving at the event, we suddenly became engulfed by a large mass of participants, spectators, vendors and volunteers, embracing our great shooting sports heritage. As we completed our registration, received all our goody bags and shooting instructions, there was still one goal we had not yet accomplished. Find The General. We ventured around the grounds passing several tents, vendors, concessions and buildings, when suddenly, we were stopped in our tracks by one uniquely decorated and patriotic looking golf cart. Fully decked out in red, white and blue banners & accessories, we had hit the jack pot. Now, we wait. As time seemed to stand still and our conversation ceased, the General suddenly appeared. He was dressed from head to toe in his green colored coordinated shooting apparel & gear. It was quite obvious that he was here to have fun, raise some money, shoot some clays, and be competitive. He was ready!pic 1

It was remarkable. Humbled, awed and inspired, we gazed upon this gentle giant as we tried to imagine what this man has seen and experienced in his lifetime. A mutual friend and the Event Director Bill Arthur, stepped forward and graciously introduced us to him. Upon completing our handshakes and exchanging some small talk, the General mounted his patriotic golf chariot and headed out to seize the day. The General methodically maneuvered the shooting course stopping numerous times to bust some clays. And along the way, he took time in his travels to mingle amongst the masses, taking hundred’s of photos and signing autographs for all.

Once the event was completed, the crowd methodically assembled for the food distribution and awards ceremony. We were treated to a sensational picnic style luncheon with all the fixins’. As some final announcements were made from the stage area, it was now time for our host Bill Arthur to introduce The Honorary Event Chairman, Gen H Norman Schwarzkopf. The crowd exploded with a long and resounding ovation. Everyone in attendance was standing tall and applauding this Great American. Incredible, Joyous, Amazing!! He spoke to all us and thanked everyone for supporting the Children’s Home event. Little did we know, as we embraced this moment with him, that his health was failing and that this would be his final speech to all of us.

As the event came to a close, General Schwarzkopf was extremely gracious to take some group pictures and sign some autographs with our Bass Pro Shops Orlando Shooting Team. We laughed and joked with him for just a few brief moments in time, that all of us will never forget. Earlier, we had presented the General with a Limited Edition Browning Knife. A small token for his support & achievements. He thanked us with a smile of appreciation that was so warm & genuine. The following year the General did attend Children’s Home event, but was heavily escorted by his wife and daughter Cindy. The patriotic golf cart was not to be found. What became apparent to all of us was, as the seasons of the year change, something else had now changed. We knew that the health of this great man was slowly fading with time.

gen norman

Many of our younger generations will never know, understand or appreciate the accomplishments, or the precious moments that we spent with this great man. As the sun will rise and set again each day, let us be proud to acknowledge that we live in a country that is free because of our Military and Great Americans like Gen H Norman Schwarzkopf. Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of this Military Leader & Hero, Husband, Father & Friend. God bless his soul and may he rest in peace. Amen.

 

By Greg Finenco

Bass Pro Shops Orlando

 

 

 

 

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Cold Water Bass Tactics

 

Should we fish Fall or Winter patterns next?todd pic 1

Most Florida Anglers would agree our bass fishing is not conventional like the rest of the Country. Florida doesn’t have color change or much of a fall turnover of the lakes. With the ever changing weather patterns our fishing seamlessly transitions from summer to winter for most Anglers. One noticeable change in Central Florida lakes is the movement of bait. The cooler water temperatures will move the shad and shiners to the shallower water, when this happen it could be considered our short Fall season which seamlessly shifted entirely to a winter fishing pattern.

Winter fishing can be certainly the most challenging, but at the same time by far the most rewarding fishing of the year. Bass feed more during the cooler months, the cold weather slows down their metabolism and their active feeding levels lead to them to adding on weight. In Florida we do not see the consistent day after day cold weather like the rest of the United States; it is the warm days that make winter fishing in Florida so, so good.pic 2

Understandings of the transitions of fishing seasons are critical. As water temperatures drop to the low 50's head for the deeper lakes for great success. In the Central Florida area the Butler Chain, Conway Chain, John's lake are some of the best, but any lake with depths of 20 feet will work. The bass will drop off into the deep water, not only for warmer water but mainly to follow the food. The bait are more sensitive to the weather change then bass,  the shad and other bait will move into the deeper water to seek the correct water temperatures and in doing so they will school into large pods (groups). This defensive move is to protect the masses, knowing that these baitfish  will sacrifice many as they will be ambushed in the open water. The way to catch these bass are to concentrate on the schools of bait and this is done best with Jiggin spoons, lipless crankbaits or swimbaits worked along the drops in 15 to 20 feet of water. A couple of main ingredients to this style of fishing are locating the bait, matching the lure size and choosing the correct color. The most important component is your speed and death control of your lure retrieve…this will yield you the best quality and quantity of bass.

During the warmer days following a cool front; the first and second day after the weather passes are the most difficult. The offshore bass we discussed above will transition shallower with the schools of bait; this is when you may notice the bass chasing bait to the surface or what most refer to as “bass schooling the surface.” Again, locate the bait first or this could end up as only a nice boat ride.pic 3

When fishing for bass in the shallower lakes of Central Florida, like retention ponds, community lakes, City parks and even on bigger lakes like East & West Lake Toho with an average depth of less than 10 feet the pattern changes. The cooling and warming cycles of more than 15 degrees in water temperatures will cause the bass to transition to shallow water looking for spawning grounds. The magic water temperature is generally in the low 60's, once bass move shallow to spawning grounds they seldom move all the way back to the deep water. But, as cold fronts come and go they will move back to the first break in depth change.

What’s critical to know when fishing for these bass and picking baits?The biggest difference is that they change their diet. During these early months what some may call Fall fishing the bass are focused on shad. The cooler water brings the Florida wild shiner in shallow, making it the new food of choice. With this major change it is important for the angler to change as well. Shiners are faster than shad, so a faster retrieve will work. Shiners are bigger and shaped different then shad so use bigger and longer baits to imitate them. Lastly the colors are different; use more natural colors with a tint of gold, brown, green or tan versus chrome and shiny colors like a shad.

Swimbaits, Spinnerbaits and Swim Jigs are some of the most productive for big fish, anything that looks like a shiner works well. The bass that are in real shallow will look for thick mats of grass and cover that will collect heat from the bright sun. Flipping, pitching or casting around these grass mats with a big baits, like Craws & Creature baits or heavy jigs will be your best bet for a great day of cold water bassn'.

Another thing to remember that is different from the rest of the United States, Florida bass DO NOT all spawn at the same time. Bass will spawn as early as December and will continue spawning every month that the water temperature is in the mid 60's thru as late as June. Take this in to consideration as you venture out.

After your plan comes together and you execute be sure to get rewarded by entering in the new “Trophy Catch” program for a reward and recognition of your catch!

See you on the water!

For more information on Capt. John Leech & Capt. Todd Kersey check out www.bassonline.com!

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Christmas Gift Tradition

Knife CollectionChristmas is almost here and I already know one of the gifts that will be under my tree this year and it’s one that I’ve looked forward to since my first year with my wife.  Every Christmas since the very beginning I’ve found a small box from my father in-law wrapped carefully and buried under the rest of the kid’s gifts so that I don’t get the chance to grab it first and then play with it for the rest of the evening.  No it’s not a new Matchbox car or Tonka Toy (although I might enjoy one of them as well)….  It’s a new knife.  Just what every guy has wished for since they were old enough to stand and watch the older men whittling a stick, cutting up cardboard boxes, of field dressing game for the table.  I remember my very first knife even though I don’t have it any more since it’s probably stuck in a stump somewhere in Pennsylvania.  Each one after that has been special, much loved, and well used.

Benchmade Osborne 943SBKI picked the one I wanted this year after handling a few different ones, ensuring it will do the job I have in mind.  I wanted one for Every-Day-Carry, meaning it’s a bit more aggressive than a typical pocket knife yet easier to conceal than a fixed-blade tactical.  I wanted a knife I could rely on to do just about anything, from opening the mail to cutting a seatbelt in an emergency or being used as a weapon in self defense.

Giving knives as gifts has become somewhat of a tradition in our family and I believe it’s a good one to start with relatively young kids provided that they learn how to safely use them responsibly.  Sharpening and routine maintenance will teach children take care of their possessions so that they provide years of service. There are many types of blades designed for just about every possible use, and part of the fun of getting one as a gift is discovering what each configuration is for, and then expanding the collection year after year. 

 

Merry Christmas

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando 

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