Thursday, November 29, 2018

New Species and Florida Bass on the Fly

Some of the most easy fishing in Florida exists in the many hundreds, if not thousands of neighborhood ponds, lakes, and canals. Aside from the very numerous bass and bream these water bodies also hold copious amounts of other native and non-native fish. Though the fishing is easy access is basically impossible for the vast majority of these water bodies. Luckily though my grandparents live on one, and though it doesn't have a huge number of species I haven't caught it has a few. The most abundant are the ubiquitous eastern mosquitofish, and I do intend to catch one of those little buggers eventually the ones here seem to be, on the whole, too small for hook and line and indeed too small for all but very fine mesh nets. Other than that I had no idea. Noah and I caught Florida black bass and coppernose bluegill. In my first few casts here this time I caught a run of the mill Florida 'gill, which we hadn't caught in December. They do look very different from the bluegills we northeasterners are used to though. I call them peacock bluegills now because their three dark bars and  green, orange and yellow coloration kinda remind me of peacock bass.

Coppernose bluegill were very much in the minority this time, but they were around. Florida bass though, were not. The were at times blitzing on the mosquitofish yesterday. I didn't see that today, but I suspect the water temperature was cooler even though the air was warmer than the day before. Water takes longer to cool and warm. Always, always keep that in mind and fish accordingly. Yesterday I got a bunch of bass on and Empie Shiner tied by Geoff Klane, and also on a black and purple gurgler. They weren't huge, or even average for this area. But I was fishing 6'6" 3wt, so it was an absolute riot. 

My first new species of the trip was a sunfish. I'm slowly chipping away at the sunfishes and will hopefully have all of them within the next few years. My 15th sunfish species ended up being Lepomis microlophus, called redear or shellcracker. Their appearance is not dissimilar from pumpkinseeds, but they are less round bodied and have a much bigger more up-turned mouth. They specialize in eating snails, hence the name 'shellcracker'. Not only was this my first new species of this Florida trip and my first new sunfish species since my last trip down here

Life list fish #97: redear sunfish

Later that evening, in a mix of bluegills and possible hybrids (maybe more on that later) I hooked something that I initially thought was a small turtle. After a few pulls the thing just came up to the surface, poked its nose up, and slowly slid in. As soon as I saw it in the water I saw that not only was it a fish but it was a new species. It was a tilapia. And there arose an unforeseen challenge. I new very little about identifying tilapia species. There are something like 5 or 6 of them in Florida. A few were ruled out easily enough, but I got stuck between three species and couldn't fully ascertain which of the three this was: blue tilapia, Nile tilapia, or Mozambique tilapia. I spent much of the rest of the night obsessively comparing photos, texting friends, and sending photos to a few of best multi-species anglers and fish identification experts I know of. I put a post up here with just a title and two photos that I never intended to keep up so I could more easily share those photos, so some of you already saw this fish. After all that, I am still not 100% sure, but I'm going with the ID Roy Leyva and Martini Arostegui suggested: Mozambique. 

Life list fish #98: Mozambique tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus

So, two new species on the first day was a pretty good start. Today I didn't catch anything new but then again I didn't really do anything that would make that likely. We spent most of the day at Kennedy Space Center, which was awesome. We saw some dolphins in the Indian River, which was awesome. And I saw a big old redfish and a big old gar in different parts of the canals around the space center. Also awesome. So no complaints whatsoever there. But tomorrow will be do or die for breaking 100. I don't expect it to be too difficult though.

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Thanks for joining the adventure, and tight lines.


  1. Glad to hear you are having a good time. Good luck again!

  2. Keep up the good work. Tilapia must be very abundant in some areas. I've seen young men come to the fish cleaning station, at Phil Foster state park with coolers full of Tilapia for filleting and then selling.

    1. Thanks,
      Yes, tilapia are very abundant in places. Blue tilapia seem to be the most numerous.