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Fish That Are Fun To Catch

The fish that I have in mind, will eat just about anything, can be caught on surface lures, diving lures, spoons, flies and maybe a shoelace tied to a hook, hits the bait with the force of a jet in flight, runs all around the boat when hooked, travels in schools, can be seen crashing baits on the surface, can sometimes be found by watching schools of birds diving on the water, sky rockets several times when hooked, is one of the most exciting fish to catch in this area.  Have you guessed which fish I am describing?
Lady fish, yes lady fish. This is by far one of the most exciting fish that our inshore waters have to offer.  Now I can just imagine what some of you are thinking right about now. What the heck is he writing about lady fish for?  Think back to the first time that you encountered lady fish. Were you about 6 or maybe 26 when you had your first taste of lady fish. Can you remember the first one that you hooked. Can you remember that you did not know that they were not much as far as table fare. How many did you hook before you actually got one to the boat. Was this fun, did you have a grin from ear to ear, was the anticipation of landing the first one about to kill you, did the fish stretch the string, give you a great fish once hooked, jump and run from one side of the boat to the other and was this the most exciting inshore fish that you had ever caught? 
Have I not just described the almost perfect fish. A fish that will eat anything, jumps, screams line from the reel, runs all around the boat once hooked and schools up in big numbers, so you can catch more than one of them. Other than really not being edible is this not the perfect fish.
Today the lady fish is starting to get the reputation the she deserves, "One of the best fighting inshore fish that swims."
Here are a few do's and don'ts and places to look for the almost perfect fish, (if they were just good table fare).


Family Elopidae, TARPONS
Elops saurus

terminal mouth, slender body, small scales; last dorsal ray not elongated; head small and pointed.

Similar Fish: juvenile tarpon, Megalops atlanticus.

Where found: INSHORE fish, in bays and estuaries; occasionally enters freshwater, occurring in tidal pools and canals; often forms large schools and harasses bait at the surface.

Size: 2 to 3 pounds.

*Florida Record: 4 lbs., 10 ozs.

Remarks: known to spawn OFFSHORE, ribbon-like larvae very similar to Albula and Megalops, peaking in fall; adult feeds predominantly on fish and crustaceans; leaps when hooked.

* The Florida records quoted are from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's printed publication, Fishing Lines and are not necessarily the most current ones. The records are provided as only as a benchmark.
Look for the birds:
This time of the year, when you see a school of birds diving on the surface of the water and fish striking under the birds, you can almost bet there are some lady fish there. Sometimes the birds will be so thick that you can see them from 1/2 mile away.
Baits that work:
These fish are chasing, schools of glass minnows and small mullet, so a bait looking like one of them works best but all of the ones mentioned below will work and work pretty darn good.
A lead head jig with a shrimp, mud minnow, small paddle tail minnow, a trout curly tail grub, a Clark Spoon, a Gotcha Lure, just about any MirrOlure that floats or sinks, any fly that resembles any kind of small shiny fish. and maybe a shoelace tied to a hook. They are not picky.
You will need a leader:
If you want to get more than one cast with what ever you have tied on as bait, you are going to need a leader. You can either use a small 6 or 7 inch piece of monofilament, about 30 to 50 pound test or a 4 or 5 inch long piece of the smallest wire leader that you can find.
Where to look for Lady Fish:
The lady fish can be found from the tip of the jetties to the Shands bridge.  They start off near the ocean and as the bait fish works their way south in the river the lady fish follow the baits. 
Catching some lady fish:
If you are interested in catching some of these great fighting fish, stay out of the middle of the action. Ease up as far away from the action as you can cast and throw your bait into the commotion. Do not drive your boat into the school. they will sound and might not come back up. Stay as far away from them as you can cast.
Surprises in the school of lady fish:
Sometimes there are other fish mixed in with the lady fish, such as jack crevalle, blue fish, trout and tarpon. Be ready for a nice trout or a jack that wants all of your line or better yet a 40 to 50 pound tarpon that will light up your day.
The rig that I like to use:
Remember, I said stay as far away from the school as possible. To do this and still be able to cast a long distance, I like a 7 foot long fast action rod and a spinning reel that will hold about 250 yards of 10 pound test Power Pro. I generally use a Shakespeare Graphite rod and a Shakespeare Tidewater SS Reel. This combination of fast action rod, a reel that can hold a lot of line and the suppleness of Power Pro line, you can cast a small Clark Spoon a long distance.
Fly Fishing rig and a new trick:
Two weeks ago I set out on a quest to find the perfect combination to get longer cast from fly rods. See, I commonly have fly fishing customers that have the idea that a long cast is 30 to 40 feet and this makes for a long day, when there are few species that will allow you to get that close.
I tried about 15 different fly lines, heads and backing. I tried several fly rods, long and short, vary expensive and not so expensive.
Here is what several hundred dollars and many hours have come up with.
A Pflueger Trion PT 90-89, 8 weight rod, a Pflueger Supreme 1878 or 1890 reel. I spool the reel with 100 pound test Power Pro as the backing. Then using a nail knot I attach the 100 pound test Power Pro to 10 weight Scientific Anglers freshwater Ultra 4 shooting taper fly line. This is a 30 foot long section that once off of the rod, flies out there like it was being pulled by some other power. This is by far the best combination for long cast that I have ever used. This set up has increased my casting distance by 50 feet.
Now that you have your new rig ready, tie on a fly that looks like a minnow and cast it into the action. Strip the fly back as fast as you can and get ready.
Other things to bring with you:
You will need a good pair of long nose pliers to remove the hooks from the fish and one of your wife's nice towels to grab the fish while you are unhooking it.
I promise, if you give these fish a try, you will be pleasantly surprised with just how much fun they are to catch.

How would you like to go fishing with Capt. Jim?

For charter information please call me at 904 757 7550 or email me at Don't forget to watch my TV show, every Tuesday at 7pm and Sundays at 8:30am on cable channel 7 in Jacksonville, Clay County and the Beaches and Thursdays at 7:30, Saturdays at 1:30 p.m., Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m pm on channel 22 and 2 in St. Augustine and St. Johns County

Remember mom and dad, spend some time with your sons and daughters taking them fishing and you will not be looking for them come Friday and Saturday nights, as they will be home in bed waiting to go the next day.

Good Fishing

Capt. Jim Hammond

(904) 757-7550

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