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Nelson, Christopher M.,
Christopher Nelson oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Terry Lee Howard.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (66 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (33 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted July 19, 2010.
Oral history interview with recreational fisherman Christopher Nelson. Nelson, a lifelong fisher, moved to St. Lucie County in 1989. He has a part-time charter fishing boat business and fishes several times per month with a charter, with friends, or on his own. Being allergic to fish and shellfish, he only keeps what fish his wife or neighbor will eat, except for kingfish, which he smokes and uses to make fish dip. Nelson knows where the Oculina Bank is but never fished there much before its closure since his boat does not have a large fuel capacity, and the bank is farther offshore than he likes to go. His fishing has not been affected by any of the regulations to Oculina Bank, and he supports making it a closed area in order to protect the environment. Nelson has a positive opinion of the regulations that are in place, although he would like to see more enforcement and education. In this interview, he also describes some of his fishing techniques and the equipment he uses, and discusses some of the environmental issues that affect the Fort Pierce area.
Nelson, Christopher M.,
Charter boat captains
Charter boat fishing
Fort Pierce (Fla.)
Saint Lucie County (Fla.)
Howard, Terry Lee,
Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Oculina Bank oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Terry Howard: Good morning. Â This is Terry Howard. Â Today is July 19, 2010. Â Im at in St. Lucie Village, and Im talking today with Chris Nelson, conducting an oral history with Chris Nelson for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation project with Fort Pierce fishermen on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern]. Â Welcome, Chris. Â Please state your name, spell your name, your place of birth, and your date of birth.
Christopher Nelson: My name is Christopher Nelson, C-h-r-i-s-t-o-p-h-e-r N-e-l-s-o-n. Â I was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1964.
TH: Your date of birth?
CN: November 12, 1964.
TH: And how exactly do you spellcan you spell your complete name, your full name?
CN: C-h-r-i-s-t-o-p-h-e-r. Â Middle name, Miles, M-i-l-e-s. Â Last name, Nelson, N-e-l-s-o-n.
TH: Okay. Â When did you move to Fort Pierce?
CN: I moved to Fort PiercePort St. Lucie, actuallyin 1989.
TH: Okay. Â Thats a city in St. Lucie County, with Fort Pierce as the county seat.
TH: What brought you to this area?
CN: Well, after I got out of the Marine Corps in 1987, I went to the National Aviation Academy School of Aeronautics in St. Pete-Clearwater Airport. Â I got my airframe and power plant license, and I got a job at Sikorsky Aircraft down in West Palm Beach. Â It was less expensive to buy a house up in Port St. Lucie than it was to rent an apartment in West Palm Beach. Â So, I built a house up in Port St. Lucie and Ive been here ever since.
TH: Okay. Â Now, what year was that?
CN: That was inmy first house that I built was in 1989.
TH: So, thats when you really moved into the area.
TH: And, are you married?
TH: How old were you when you got married?
CN: Thirty-two years old.
TH: Okay. Â And do you have children?
TH: Okay. Â How much schooling do you have?
CN: High school diploma, technical schools that I took through the United States Marine Corps, a thirteen month technical schoolNational Aviation Academy School of Aeronautics, where I received my airframe and power plant designation with the Federal Aviation Administration. Â Ive got a bartending certificate. Â Ive got my captains license.
TH: Now, thats your six-pack license?
CN: Six-pack license.
TH: Could you explain what that entails?
CN: Its called the OUPV/six-pack license. Â Its the Owner of an Uninspected Passenger Vessel, where I can take up to six people per charter on any size boat up to 100 miles offshore.
TH: Okay. Â Could you continue with your schooling? Â Any other?
CN: Thats pretty much it. Â Ive taken some classes at IRSC [Indian River State College], where I got myoh, okay, Ive got my life and health insurance license, and thats basically what I do. Â I sell group health and employee benefits, and I also took my property and casualty license through IRIndian River State College. Â But I mainly specialize in selling group health insurance and employee benefits such as life and dental. Â I sell a little bit of workers comp. Â Thats why I need my property and causality designation.
TH: Very good. Â So, youre basicallyyou work in the insurance business.
TH: Thats what you do for a living now.
TH: Other jobs youve had, I guess?
CN: I worked as helicopter mechanic, where we built the S-76 commercial helicopter for Sikorsky Aircraft. Â I bartended. Â I have worked for Hewes Boats, here in Fort Pierce, where we built the Light Tackle 20 and the Hewes bayfisher.
TH: Thats H-e
CN: w-e-s. Â And I also worked at Pursuit Fishing Boats, here in Fort Pierce.
TH: Oh, yeah?
CN: Uh-huh. Â I worked atand we built the twenty-four and twenty-six foot Denali series while I was there.
TH: Okay. Â Spell Pursuit.
TH: Okay. Â So, youve reallyyou worked with them to help them design a specifictwo specific boats in both corporations.
CN: Actually, four boats. Â Onewe built three models. Â We built an open fisherman boat: it was the Denali series. Â They called it Denali, which meansin Alaska, it means the great one.
TH: Thats the Pursuit.
CN: Thats the Pursuit Fishing Boats.
TH: Its a twenty
CN: Twenty-four foot center console, a walk around, and a cuddy cabin, and then we also built the forty-two foot boat while we were doing those, the Denali series.
TH: Now, what was yourhow were you working with Pursuit? Â What was your
CN: I worked in the engineering department, where we made all the molds for the boats. Â We made a female mold and then would gel coat the mold and lay it up with fiberglass and then pull out the hull for the boats, and then we built them up from the inner liner and then all the molds that went on the boom.
TH: Wow. Â Okay. Â Have you worked in the fishing industry, other than with thosethose are obviously fishing boats, mostly, but have you worked in the fishing industry as commercial or charter?
CN: I received my OUPV/six-pack license in 2008 and started up a small, part-time charter fishing business called All Hooked Up Fishing, and I take people inshore and near shore fishing for speciestrout, grouper, redfish, snook inshore; and then offshore, kingfish, cobia, dolphin. Â Close to shore, which near shore, I consider within six miles within shore. Â The boat that I currently have only has a thirty-gallon gas tank, so Im limited for the amount of miles I can go and the safety for my crew. Â I dont want to venture out too far and not have enough gas to come back in.
TH: I understand. Â So, do you currently own a boat? Â Thats the next question.
TH: Can you describe your boat?
CN: Its a Carolina Skiff, a 23-90. Â Its twenty-three feet, nine inches. Â Its got an extra wide hull. Â Ive got a Twin V Center Console on it. Â I did some custom fiberglass work on it. Â I took it up to Chiefland, Florida, which is up in the Panhandle of Florida, and had a custom front deck and a custom rear deck built on it. Â Ive got a trolling motor, a power pole, and its powered with a 140 horsepower Suzuki 4-Stroke.
TH: Cool. Â Cool. Â Now, Id like to ask some questions about the Oculina Bank. Â How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
CN: Im familiar with it only because its right here off Fort Pierce waters and stuff. Â I know its a restricted fishing area, which a lot of people disregard sometimes and troll very fast over it because its a very good place to catch wahoo during certain times of the year. Â But I havent fished it much. Â Weve run by it a couple of times during fishing tournaments.
TH: Why was the Oculina Bank designated as an area to protect?
CN: Cause theres a certain type of coral that grows really slow, from what I understand, and it was being destroyed by shrimpers or trawlers that were trawling for shrimp on the Oculina Bank in that area, and they wanted to close off that area just so that the coral could form. Â And the rest of the fish in that area also live around that coral. Â So, its a special area.
TH: Is there anything else you can tell me about the Oculina Bank?
CN: Not really.
TH: Okay. Â What do you think about the closure of the Oculina Bank to anchoring and bottom fishing?
CN: I think its a good idea. Â Im always willing to protect the habitat around me. Â Thats whylike on my boat, I have a hydraulic power pole. Â I dont always use an anchor when I dont have to if Im in shallow water. Â Thats just a littleabout a half-inch spike that goes down in the water. Â So, Im not tearing up the ground with an anchor or dragging or anything like that.
TH: And you dont need to.
TH: Interesting. Â What is it called? Â Its a hydraulic
CN: Its called a power pole. Â You see em on the flats boats. Â They used to dig in their push pole and then tie it off to their poling platform, and now they just hit a button and the power pole goes down.
TH: Interesting. Â Okay. Â Has the closure of the Oculina Bank affected your fishing?
CN: No, it hasnt affected my fishing because, like I said, the Oculina Bank isI dont know how many miles offshore it is, but its quite a ways out there. Â Its not something that I would be fishing with in my boat, because of the travel time going out there, then the fishing time out there, and then having enough gas on my boat, you know, to get back in and stuff. Â So, Itheres plenty of artificial reefs in my area that, if I wanted to catch bottom fish, I can just always go to those artificial reefs, cause they hold basically everything thats held out there in the Oculina Bank without having to travel twenty miles to get there.
TH: If anchoring and bottom fishing in the Oculina Bank was not prohibited, in other words, if you could fish there, would you fish there?
CN: I would fish there if I had a boat that had the fuel capacity to get passengers out there. Â You dont always have to anchor at a certain spot. Â You can drift fish, you know, mark yoursee how your boat is drifting with the tide and go up current of where you want to drop and drop down and pass over the area if youre marking fish. Â So, you dont always have to anchor anyways.
TH: Okay. Â And you would fish how and for what, if you were anchoring? Â You said how, but for what?
CN: I would fish for bottom species. Â Mainly, I would target mutton snapper and red snapper and the groupers that are on the Oculina Bank. Â But most of the time when I fish, I like to live bait fish. Â So, Im only covering, probably, the first fifteen feet of the water column. Â I may put a ribbonfish down on a down rigger, cause I like to fish for kingfish. Â But I dont drag the bottom with my down rigger ball, cause thats a good way to lose your down rigger ball and about $40 worth of equipment. Â So, I normally work, like, the top fifteen feet of the water column.
TH: Okay. Â Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in the Fort Pierce area? Â You began fishing
CN: Well, I think its changed a lot for the better, because since Ive been here they did the inshore net ban, which used toyou know, the commercial fishermen that were inshore using gill nets in the river for mullet and some of the other species like pompano. Â They were also getting a lot of byproduct, killing fish such as redfish, snook, and trout.
Since the closure of the net ban, its reallyIve really seen, you know, the trout and the redfish stocks return, and the snook stocks. Â So, I think its actually improved. Â The only thing I would like to see change is Id like to see them stop discharging freshwater into the Indian River Lagoon, because this area has one of the most diverse estuaries in the world, actually. Â And that freshwater goes in and it kills the salinity level and it kills the oysters which clean the estuary, and its not good for our environment at all. Â I think they should just reroute it back through the Everglades, and by the time comes out the other side of the Everglades, its already filtered with all the grasses that grow out there, natural process.
TH: Thank you. Â Have you had any experience with law enforcement within or regarding the Oculina Bank?
CN: No, I have not.
TH: Now, I want to talk about your fishing history, specifically. Â What is your earliest memory of fishing and how old were you?
CN: As a kid, just growing up in Tampa, I used to fish with my dad at some of the lakes, and we used to go bass fishing at Lake Carroll, which is a lake in Carrollwood, in Tampa.
TH: How do you spell Lake Carroll?
TH: Two ls and two rs.
CN: Yeah, and its in Carrollwood, Florida, which is w-o-o-d on the end of Carroll.
TH: So, its two rs and two ls?
CN: Yes. Â And we used to fish also a lake that was right across the way from my house called Lake Lipsey, L-i-p-s-e-y. Â We used to go every day after school. Â I would go bass fishing on the lake. Â I would walk around peoples yards and stuff and go bass fishing.
TH: Did you catch a lot of bass?
CN: Yeah, we caught a lot of bass, a lot of big bass. Â I caught my ten-pounder out of Lake Carroll. Â Ive got that one mounted on the wall of my garage. Â I caught another five-pounder, which isI had it mounted, also, and thats sitting in my dads garage back in Tampa.
TH: So, how did you learn how to fish? Â Who taught you?
CN: I taught myself, basically, then through friends, just got into it. Â My dad wasnt real big into fishing when I wasbut after about two or three years of me doing this, I guess he figured hed pick it up, because it was so interesting to me, and now my dads a diehard fisherman, too. Â (TH laughs) Â He keepswe grew upwhen my father worked for Provident Life and Accident [Insurance Company] in Tampa, we used to take guided fishing trips up in Homosassa Springs, Florida. Â We used to go with the old-time fishing guides up there that had the old Florida skiffs, and we would go out on an area called the Bombing Range, which went out to about eight to ten feet of water off Homosassa Springs, and catch trout all day long. Â I mean, justwe would just catch trout after trout after trout, and they called em grass grouper, which I guess they were just really juvenile grouper. Â But back then, the size limit per grouper was only twelve inches, as I recall, before they changed a lot of the size and bag requirements.
TH: These were trout. Â These werent grouper that you were catching?
CN: No, we caught some grouper, too. Â We used to just use cut mullet for bait. Â Just cast it out and reel in the fish. (laughs)
TH: Now, this was at thenow, describe where this was again, near Homosassa Springs?
CN: Homosassa Springs, which is considered part of the Big Bend, at the start of the Big Bend area of the west coast of Florida. Â You had Homosassa Springs to the south and Crystal River to the north and Steinhatchee and then Apalachicola Bay on upwards and stuff like that.
TH: And you and your father would charter
CN: Fishing guides. Â He would charter em through his company, and hed inviteone of their big accounts was Florida Power and Light, and they would get all the brokers that were involved with Florida Power and Light and take em fishing. Â Sometimes, they would guide up six boats and take, like, twenty-four people, and theyd rent rooms at Riverside Villas Resort, which is still in Homosassa Springs. Â Or we would stay at McRaes, which is an old family inn at Homosassa Springs.
CN: M-c-R-a-e-s. Â McRaes. Â Theyve got a bait and tackle and a motel up there.
TH: In Homosassa?
CN: Yeah, Gator McRae.
TH: Gator McRae. Â M-c-R-a-e.
CN: So, after thatI mean, when my dad got into fishing, he got into it so big that he was one those types of guys that would go into a store and if somebody had a flashy lure, hed buy it. Â And hes probably got moreIve got more fishing equipment than he does now, but hes got quite a bit.
TH: Okay. Â Lets see, I think you covered nowwhat do you fish for? Â Mostly bass, when you were young, with your father, and then
CN: Well, the lakes, freshwater lakes, were more accessible when youre on your ten-speed. Â So, youd take a handful of lures, mostly plastic worms. Â You could throw a bunch of hooks and weights in the same bag and stuff, throw em in your pocket and then go down to the lake with your fishing pole tied to your bike and then walk around and fish all day. Â So, it was very inexpensive to fish that way.
TH: Did you ever run into any alligators?
CN: I have run into alligators, yes, and Ive run into some water moccasins, things like that, a couple of scary moments. Â I was never bitten or anything like that.
TH: Whats the biggest water moccasin you ever ran into?
CN: Probably aboutthey dont get real big, but theyre short and fat. Â I probably ran into one that was about three foot, and that was here in St. Lucie County. Â I was waiting in one of the lakes in thewhich is now called the Tradition area. Â My wife and I were shiner fishing and this guy was laying up, all curled up in a mat of weeds just about eight feet from where we were walking, and I just happened to see him. Â So, he got back out of the water and I got back up onshore.
TH: Big, three foot long. Â He must have been thick in the middle.
CN: He was very thick in the middle, yeah.
TH: Could you describe?
CN: He lookedI thought it was an indigo blue snake, because indigo blue snakes arethey get real thick, too, but theyre a lot longer. Â And this one, when we got up on the bank and stuff like that, I kind of chucked a rock at it and stuff and it landed. Â It didnt hit it, but it landed right next to it and spooked it, and it uncoiled and it was a good three feet long.
TH: Yeah, and fat in the middle.
TH: Indigos are generally longer and leaner.
CN: Yeah. Â I see indigos out on the golf course a lot. Â If you walk into the woods to go look for your golf ball, youll see one of those out over at the PGA Country Club or something like that.
TH: Okay. Â The reason ILake Lipsey, I think, somebody was attacked by an alligator there or something happened there recently or the last couple of years. Â Okay. Â So, you mostly bass fished when you were young, and at some point in time you picked up saltwater fishing.
CN: Yeah, that was theprobably in myabout ten, eleven, twelve years old, and that was when my father was really getting big into fishing. Â We used to go up to Homosassa Springs on those guided trips. Â My dads first boat that he boughthe had a fourteen-foot Flair bass boat that we bought to go bass fishing on, and we used to take it up to Homosassa because the river was freshwater all the way up to the springs. Â It was crystal clear, and it maintained seventy-two degrees. Â But you could take the river all the way out and it would empty out into the Homosassa Bay. Â We only had a thirty-five horsepower Chrysler outboard on it and we used to ride on that thing all day going fishing. Â Then he upgraded a couple years later to a twenty-three foot Sea Ox, and it was similar to the types of boats that the guides were using up there. Â They were using the Aquasports and it was very similar. Â It was an unfinished interior, it didnt an inner liner on it, so you could really just, you know, tear the boat up, basically and not have to worry about damaging anything specific to the boat.
We started fishing some kingfish tournaments when I was young. Â My dad would enter the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament, which way back then was sponsored by one of the beer distributers up there. Â They used to give a case of beer to all the boat captains.
TH: That was the first ASK?
CN: Yeah, I think that was, like, one of the first SKA [Southern Kingfishing Association] tournaments started then.
TH: SKA, Im sorry.
CN: We hardly ever caught fish. Â We didnt know what we were doing, not as much as I know how to catch kingfish now. Â And Im still learning.
TH: Okay. Â So, youve fished all over. Â When did you start fishing in Fort Pierce area, age and year?
CN: The first time is when I moved over here.
TH: That was in eighty-nine ?
CN: Which was eighty-nine , when I was twenty-five years old.
TH: Whatd you fish for?
CN: Mostly, I fished some of the lakes around the area where I built my first house. Â Then I would go down to Jensen Beach Causeway and fish off the causeway for sheepshead and trout and snook, things like that. Â Then I
TH: So, how did you fish for sheephead [sic], trout, and snook on the causeway, first?
CN: Well, because you dont really have the capacity to go any farther than the causeway, I used to go a lot of wade fishing. Â And when I wade fished, I would catch the trout up on the grass flats and then
TH: With trout touts? Â With little
CN: I would useyeah, trout touts, or a popping cork and shrimp and jigs, things like that. Â And then the sheepshead, if you get up around the bridge pilings and stuff, then you just drop a shrimp straight down the edge of the piling. Â You can feel their bite and then you catch em. Â They hang around the pilings. Â And the snook were just all over the causeway, too.
TH: Where did you go fish when you began fishing? Â Can youokay, you already said around the Jensen Beach Causeway. Â Did you mostly go fishing in your own boat or the boats of others when you first started here in the Fort Pierce area?
CN: Shortly after moving up here, I bought a fourteen foot aluminum Jon boat, and I bought a ten horsepower kicker for it and
TH: Itd be 9.9? (laughs)
CN: Right, and then I would take that and launch that out Jensen Causeway and wed go out. Â My wifewhich is my girlfriend at the timewed go fishing up around the Nettles Island area, and we would catch trout up there and things like that, and it was a good little boat. Â We upgraded, probably would be about two years later, and I ended up getting an eighteen foot Polar skiff, which is very similar to what I have now with the Carolina skiff. Â That gave us more access to the river, because we had a bigger gas tank. Â We had a ninety horsepower, two-stroke Yamaha in it.
And then I sold that when we sold our house, and I was boat-less for a fewwithout a boat for a few years. Â So, I fished off and on with some of my friends boats and stuff. Â My neighbor across the street had a thirty-three foot Contender. Â So, I went out fishing with him a couple times offshore, and wed go trolling for dolphin and wed go trolling for kingfish. Â He would usebasically, he just used to drag ballyhoo and stuff. Â So, we were gonna catch whatever would hit.
Then it wasnt until we moved into our house that were in nowin 2002, I bought a seventeen foot Key West and I fished the hell out of that boat. Â I mean, wed take it down to the Keys and I would fish the reef area for snapper and grouper and cero mackerel. Â Wed put out a chum bag and just everything would come up to the back of the boat.
TH: Down in the Keys?
CN: Yeah. Â I used to do it when I worked at Sikorsky. Â Before I moved up here, we used to go down on awed charter em every Memorial Day weekend. Â It was the Audrey fleet by Captain Andy Griffiths out of Stock Island, while is about Mile Marker 7, just north of Key West. Â We would fish Thursday through Sunday and sleep on the boat, and they fished out of the Marquesas and take trips down to the Dry Tortugas. Â We used to do a lot of bottom fishing, nighttime snapper fishing for yellowtail snapper and catch some big mangrove snapper, and did that three times
TH: Now, did you run the boat yourself or did he?
CN: I didnt run the boat; they would have a captain that would run a boat. Â We had six people on the boat. Â We all slept on the boat. Â So, it was great. Â We had really good weekend fishing trips.
TH: Fun. Â Who do you fish with now?
CN: Well, mainly I just
TH: Your wife, I assume.
CN: Well, my wife goes out a little bit. Â She doesnt go out as Id like her to go out. Â We got a dog a few years ago and she babies the dog and doesnt like to leave him alone at home and stuff, which its not really a big problem for me. Â But I fish with guys through the Fort Pierce Sportfishing Club. Â Im a member. Â Im the current vice-president of the club. Â I fish with the president, Roj Gonzalez. Â Hes got a twenty-four foot Pro-Line, so we fish his boat a lot. Â We take turns using each others boats. Â Mike Faurot, he and I are currently fishing in the Southern Kingfish Association tournaments.
TH: Now, when you say these names, I need the spellings.
CN: Okay. Â F-a-u-r-o-t. Â He owns Bingo Madness in Port St. Lucie, along with Vegas Nights Arcade.
TH: Okay, and who is the other fellow you said? Â The president of the
CN: Roj Gonzalez. Â R-o-j-, with a little hyphen on it, and then Gonzalez.
TH: G-o-n-z-a-l-e-z or s?
CN: And John Klimek, I also fished with him. Â You may even know him. Â Hes a good friend of Bud Tillmans.
Murray Bud Tillman, Jr. was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. Â The DOI for his interview is O6-00001.
TH: e-k. Â Klimek. Â Okay.
CN: We fish in the river in my boat, or well go offshore in either my boat or their boat. Â Mike Faurot has a twentyits called a twenty-three Tournament, but its actually a twenty-six and a half feet, overall length. Â Its an Americat catamaran boat, which is built here in Fort Piece, Florida, and weve been fishing his boat a lot. Â We took it down to the Keys the first week of June and fished for six days down there and just came back with, I think, eighty-five dolphin. Â So, thats all we did, though. Â He likes to drag bait, too. Â Hes a bait dragger. Â I like to live bait fish or also do some casting and stuff.
TH: Okay. Â During what months do you fish for what fish? Â I mean, how, you know, if
CN: I should have brought my log book. (laughs) I would say January and February and March, the cold months, primarily because of the windy conditions and the cold fronts that come through, Im mostly fishing inshore. Â So, during those months, Im fishing for trout, redfish, sheepshead, flounder, and pompano. Â Thats mostly what Ill target, as far as food fish in the river. Â But a lot of times, well catch Spanish mackerel, which Ill keep, and I usually smoke that. Â I make fish dip with my smoked kingfish and my smoked mackerel. Â We catch a lot of bluefish, a lot of ladyfish, things like that.
TH: Thats winter months?
CN: Winter months. Â I dont target snook, cause snook seasons generally close in the winter months because they get very lethargic, and with this last year we had that big freeze and a lot of snook died off because of it. Â I would generally say April through November, if I can get off shore, Im going kingfishing, cause I just love the feel, the scream of the fish when it takes off after hitting a bait. Â Theyre just so fun to catch. Â And Ill also target cobia. Â Ill hit adepending on what is really biting, if the black sea are on the patch reefs and stuff offshore, Ill take clients out there and well load the fish box up with black sea bass.
CN: Excuse me?
TH: You said, patch reef?
CN: Yeah, like the artificial reefs, mostly, not right up on the beach; those are the patch reefs, I would say. Â Then, the ones that are like the Fort Pierce Sportfishing Club Reef or some of the other artificial reefs: the St. Lucie County Civic Center Reef, or like the Amazone Reef, or the Twin Barges of the Tug Reef. Â So, those reefs and stuff, well just bottom fish for black sea bass, and youll catch your white grunts and some pogies and other fish that you can eat. Â So, well load up and do that for a little bit. Â Well set up out couple of flat lines and some live baits and hope a kingfish or a barracuda or even a cobia will hit.
Occasionally, in shallow water, especially now, theyve been getting dolphin and sailfish. Â Last month, I was right off the weather buoy just off Fort Pierce, which is about five or six miles off the beach. Â I had just caught two nice kingfish, then I lost a big one, and then my friend Bob Tobias, who is also in the fishing club
TH: How do you spell that?
TH: (laughs) Okay, got it.
CN: And they hooked in and caught a sailfish right in fifty foot of water.
TH: Oh, yeah?
CN: It jumped, too. Â It probably jumped forty times. Â They caught it on light spinning gear with a circle hook and a light pilchard.
TH: Oh, fun.
CN: Ive hooked sailfish out there; I landed one a couple of years ago in as shallow as fifty foot. Â So, you never know what youre gonna catch out there. Â I catch dolphin out there in fifty foot of water. Â So, really, you dont have to venture out to 300 feet of water to fish. Â I would say most of the best fishing is between, you know, 130 foot of water or less.
TH: Thats provided the waters clear and clean?
CN: Right. Â And youre getting a good flow of the Gulf Stream pushing in close, too.
TH: Right. Â So, this is a tough question, and everybody struggles with this. How much do you catch on an average trip? Â Cause you never know what youre going after or targeting.
TH: Its a little difficult, but whats an average trip out fishing and whats your average catch?
CN: Well, if Im going inshore, and Im taking clients out, cause it doesntf or me, if Im going by out myself, Im going early. Â I keep my boat in dry storage at Taylor Creek Marina. Â So, I call them up the night before, tell them to put the boat in the water and gas it up. Â Ill usually come by later that night and put ice on it and stuff like that and put all my drinks and things like that on it and stuff. Â Then, in the morning, Ill get up before four oclock and Ill be on the boat at 4:30 and Ill be out before the sun comes up, and thats the best time to catch trout this time of year. Â So, Ill catch my limit of four trout before the sun rises and then Ill go do something else. Â But if Im with clients, I cant always get them to get up at four oclock in the morning to go fishing at 4:30, even though thats the prime time to go during the summer, and its also the most comfortable of the day cause its not so hot out.
TH; Now, youre talking about insurance clients or
CN: Anybody that books a charter. Â I kind of pick their brain about what type of fishing they want to do. Â I had a client in January thatall he wanted to do was bend rods. Â Their grandfatherwell, the guys father and the two kids grandfather live out in Okeechobee. Â So, they catch all their speckled perch and things like that and they had a freezer full of fish. Â All they wanted to do was bend rods. Â Fortunately, that time of year, the bluefish are running really, really thick in the river and I just put on these white trout tout, curly tail jiggings and we just drifted the inlet and we must have caught over a hundred bluefish. Â We just catch and released all day, just let em all go.
TH: Do you get any big ones?
CN: Yeah, we got a couple around three pounds, but most of em were in the one pound to two pound range. Â Theyre fun to catch, though. Â They had a blast. Â Well, we did catch one eleven-pound gag grouper, trolling a plug in the turning basin. Â The grandfather caught that. Â He really loved that.
TH: Eleven pounds.
CN: And it hurt me to let it go because the grouper season was closed between Januarythe first four months of this year, which is fine. Â You know, thats protecting the species.
TH: Okay. Â So you
CN: But primarily, I try toif Im taking clients out, I kind of pick their brain to what they want to catch. Â So, thatll decide whether Ill go inshore or offshore. Â Ill only go offshore if its one to two feet with about a ten second interval on the wave, cause with my boatI got a flat bottom boat and itll really beat you up if its really choppy out there. Â But if Im by myself and Im going fishing, Ill go out in two to three foot seas, but I still wont venture too far away. Â Ill run down to the power plant, fish down there, Ill run up on the north beach off the twin condominiums and fish for kingfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia
TH: You go to Vero Cove?
CN: I go to Vero Cove quite a bit, too, yeah.
CN: A lot of sharks up there recently. (laughs)
TH: For how many years did you fish for what kind of fish? Â You pretty much covered this. Â When you first started saltwater fishing, you went after a little bit of everything.
TH: Okay. Â I assumed that. Â All right, were gonna go for some specific fishing. So, you still fish for most everythingsaltwater. Â You still go bass fishing?
CN: I bass fish behind my momsmy mother-in-laws house in St. James Country Club. Â Recently, weve been catching five and six pound bass. Â So, the lakes were all built at aroundwhen they built the golf course, probably around 1999, so theyre a good eleven years old now. Â So, the fish are really starting to grow.
TH: Good. Â So, where elseokay, your bass fishing. Â Any other kind of gear and bait and fish that you fish for that you havent mentioned? Â Lets see, weve covered trout: trout touts, mostly.
TH: For grouper, you jig, mostly, or live bait and troll.
CN: Mostlyfor grouper, Ill live bait or troll plugs, and when Im trolling plugs, I do something that a famous guy hereStan Blum, you know him, thats all he used to do. Â He used to start at North Bridge out here and go up to Lake Port, which is the Harbor Branch area, and come back and hed have his limit of grouper just by trolling a plug next to the channel edges in the river.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at Florida Atlantic University conducted scientific research referenced in the Oculina Bank closure. Â It is a non-profit oceanographic institution dedicated to marine and ocean research and education operated by Florida Atlantic University.
He was, like, one of the pioneers of it, I guess, in this area, cause everybody talks about how well he did. Â I started trying it and stuff like that. Â Most people wouldnt think you would catch grouper, keeper size grouper, in the channels and stuff. Â But one year
TH: But you have.
CN: Oh, yeah. Â One year, I took my friend, who just passed away this last year, Tom Ginsel
TH: Spell it.
CN: Okay. Â G-i-n-s-e-l. Â We startedI told him it was one of those days in March, it was a very windy day, there was no boats on the water, it was in the middle of the week. Â So, it was perfect for doing that type of fishing. Â You cant really do it on the weekends when theres a lot of boat traffic, cause you got to maintain a very slow speed and you gotta stay in the channel in order for theyou gotta stay right on the channel edge. Â We trolled from North Bridge up to Harbor Branch, turned around and came back, and we caught eighteen grouper.
CN: Eighteen, and three of them were goliath grouper, which you had towe release anywayand two of em were keepers. Â One of em was about eight pounds and the other one was just over ten pound. Â Gag groupers.
TH: Was it twenty-four inches?
CN: Yep, twenty-four inches. Â It was funny, too, because it was a windy day, but it wasnt too windy that the party boats would go out. Â And this is a really funny thing, because I could see all the people thatI keep my boat at Taylor Creek Marina at Harbortown Marina. Â Right across the canal there is where the Lady Stuart keeps their boat. Â It was just a big party boat and I said, Tom, lets lift up these groupers and hold em to these guys. Â We were coming back by, and so we grabbed the groupers and I said, Good luck out there. Â The grouper are really biting. Â And we held up these groupers and just watched the jaws drop of these people. Â Theyre like, Whered they catch those things at? (TH laughs) So, it was really funny.
But I do that all the time. Â If Im out on the weekdays, especially during the season where theres no wake zone in the turning basin, Ill throw out a Yo-zuri chartreuse and silver model F diving plug. Â It dives from nine to twelve feet deep, and thats right in the channel. Â Legally, its supposed to be dredged out to sixteen feet. Â So, most of the time, youre dragging at about eight. Â I go slow enough that I go about eight feet, so its staying just above the nine or twelve foot depth mark. Â And those grouper hear that thing coming, cause its got a rattle in it and stuff. Â I get hits all the time. Â Ive caught mutton snapper in the river, big ones, big Spanish mackerel. Â Ive caught kingfish on it, bonito on it. Â But mostly, Im targeting grouper, and youd be amazed at the amount of grouper that are in the estuary. Â Thats why I really hate to see that freshwater runoff that they use. Â And Ive caught snook on em, too, and bluefish. Â Gee whiz, Ive just caught everything on those things.
TH: Now, describe the thing one more time, the lure. Â Deep diving
CN: Its about aI would say a seven inch, chartreuse on top color, silver on the sides with spots. Â Its got a deep lip on the front so that it helps dive underneath the surface, and its got a rattle in it so it makes a lot of noise.
TH: The name of it?
CN: And its a Yo-zuriits called a Yo-zuri Crystal Minnow.
TH: Gotta spell it. (laughs)
CN: Yo-zuri. Â Y-o-z-u-r-i.
CN: Crystal Minnow.
CN: Model F, like a series F, is what it is. Â People use other types of diving plugs. Â But myIve experimented with a lot of colors, and that chartreuse and silver seems to be about the best color.
So, sometimes a quota and a closed season can have a negative effect, impact, on an ecosystem too. Â But I think thatoverall, I think that the FWC is doing a fine job. Â I think theyve got certain seasons of the year that are closed for trout when the spawning is going around; the redfish, snook, when the spawning is going around. Â I dont target snook during the closed seasons. Â I know I exactly where I can go throw down a live pinfish or a live fish, a croaker or anything like that, and catch snook all day long. Â But I dont do it because I dont want to molest the species and stuff when its supposed to be a closed season. Â Ill leave em alone.
But I think theyre doing a good job. Â I think they need to probably add more FWC officers throughout the state of Florida toespecially foot patrols. Â And just make sure and educate the public a little bit more, too, because Ill be fishing underneath the North Bridge and Ill see these guys that are fishing up on the bridge and dropping bait down there, pulling up twelve-inch groupers and stuff like that. Â I never see the groupers come back into the water. Â So, I know theyre keeping undersized groupers. Â So, somebodys not patrolling the bridge and policing these people and educating them that they cant keep these fish, or at least giving them a fine that they can afford. Â I dont think people should be slapped with a $500, $1,000 fine unless its the type of misuse that theyve been busted before and been warned before and theyre just habitually doing that and stuff like that.
TH: How bout boat ramps?
CN: One thing I dont like about the FWC patrolling boat ramps is because, like myself, I like to go out and Ill drink some beer when Im out on the boat. Â So, you get some of these FWC officers that are waiting at the boat ramp, inspecting their catch; and then theyre also eyeing em down to see if theyve had too much to drink, and as soon as they get into their vehicle, they give em a DUI. Â I mean, if its blatant, yeah, okay. Â Thats not a problem. Â I dont have any problem with somebody getting a DUI if they are blatantly drunk. Â But its a little harassing from some of the stories Ive heard from friends. Â I dont keep my boat. Â I dont trailer my boat. Â So, Ive never had that affect me and stuff.
Ive been stopped by the FWC out in the water, but I maintain my boat to the upmost in safety. Â I bring my safety bag with me, always have. Â I make sure I have extra life preservers on the boat. Â So, I welcome them, if they want to pull me over and stuff like that. Â Ive even had the Coast Guard say, Well, we can board your boat. Â I said, Board my boat. Â I dont care. Â Oh, I forgot to let you know this: I was in the Coast Guard Reserve from 1990 to 1992 here in Fort Pierce, Florida, also, too.
TH: Oh, yeah?
CN: So, I know a lot of the guys that are still in the reserve units, and typically, on a Saturday or Sunday, thats whos out patrolling are the reservists. Â So, theyre just out, basically want to maintain the peace. Â They dont want to do a lot of boat boardings and things like that anyways. Â They just want to maintain a presence and make sure everybodys boating safely. Â Thats what anybody really wants to do is make sure that everybodys boating safely.
TH: Well, again
CN: But getting back to the question: as far as quotas go, I just think theyre doing a pretty decent job with it.
TH: You do?
CN: Im pretty satisfied with the limitations I have to work with on fishing and stuff, the regulations, the amount of fish that I can keep, the amount of fish my clients can keep, the size limits, the bag limits and stuff. Â Im happy with that because, like I said, when I go fishing, Ill tell my wife, Hey, Im going fishing for trout today, do you want me to keep any? Â No, she doesnt like trout; or if were running low on fish in the freezer, yeah, get some trout and stuff like that. Â So, I dont always keep those types of fish either. Â I wont keep a gator trout, any trout thats over twenty-five inches, cause theres plenty of them to keep. Â They only have to be fifteen inches to keep. Â Theres plenty of eighteen inch trout up here and stuff to catch four of those per day. Â You dont need to catch those big females, the breeders and stuff like that. Â I let em all go.
TH: Smaller ones are tastier, anyway.
CN: Yeah, right.
TH: Thinking ahead to the future, what do what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years? Â You have a vested interested if youre
CN: I have a vested interest, right, because (coughs)
TH: The sport fishing club
CN: Because, yes, if I get my commercial license, I want to see the fishing to be better ten years from now than it is right now. Â Its good. Â But we, as human beings, you know, we justtheres a lot of things that were doing to affect our ecosystem, which we can be better stewards of the sea and take care of our environment a lot better than we do. Â Id love to see the Army Corps of Engineers stop dumping Lake Okeechobee releases into our estuary, cause thats just killing it. Â Every year, they do that. Â We get these polluted algae blooms in the estuary. Â We get thewhat is it? Â The sea chloroform, where they have to not allow anybody to be in the water or harvest anything in the water because of the stuff thats, I guess, running off the manure fields of cows and the fertilizer that comes off the groves and the sugar and all that stuff that theyre protecting. Â We need to stop it. Â Its killing fish. Â You start catchingthe salinity level goes down. Â The freshwater comes up. Â These fish lose their slime coat and they get these lesions on the fish. Â Weve had that in the past.
The biggest thing thats going on in Florida right now is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill up in the Gulf, in the Panhandle. Â It took twenty years for them to clean up the Exxon Valdez incident, which this is ten times worse than that. Â So, were talking probably hundreds of years before were gonna stop seeing any oil, if we dont even have another oil spill after this one. Â So, were doing a lot of things to our environment that we have no control of that Id like to see people have more control over.
TH: You would like to see us become better stewards of our
CN: Yeah, of our environment. Â We need to. Â Everyoneswe are doing a lot of better things with everybody going green in certain instances. Â It tookyou know, they started this stuff back in the sixties [1960s] with the hippies, and here it is fifty years later and its really just starting to happen with our young people now. Â It took five generations before we realized that we need to stop doing all this stuff. Â So, hopefully, ten years from now, everybody will be even better, for what its worth and stuff.
But if we can clean up our estuary, well really see the fishing improve. Â When they dont dump the water into the estuary, the fishing improves drastically in the river. Â And then it only helps offshore, because when youre offshore and you see that tide line running offshore two or three miles with all that brown water, thats all the freshwater thats mixing in with the saltwater and its disgusting. Â We just need to stopif we stop that, thatll be great. Â But I hope its
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