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Dick Ellis Blog:
10/9/2019
Fall brings with it something for everyone in the field from the angler to the hunter.  Just a few recent sessions of shooting the bull tell me that autumn is for the youngest of outdoorsman just learning the games to those of us more seasoned with our eyes focused dead ahead on for example, the whitetail rut. James Wallace captured this great buck on trail camera during summer scouting. James Wallace, my nephew-in-law (is there such a ...
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On Wisconsin Outdoors Increases Distribution Statewide, Florida Shore Fishing Kind to Hart & Ellis

First things first; Congratulations to Marlis Kremer of Appleton for winning a $100 gift card from Kwik Trip Outdoors. Watch for all kinds of winning opportunities from KT Outdoors in the near future, and don’t forget to send them your photos and stories from the field for posting.

The May-June issue of On Wisconsin Outdoors hit the streets of Wisconsin this week, and will be available no matter where you live in the state within a few days. Find the paper at any of 252 Kwik Trip stores and with this issue, find OWO in any of Wisconsin’s 44 Menards stores. For years, more than 5,000 of our suburban Milwaukee readers each issue have also looked for the paper at Elliott’s Ace Hardware stores located in West Allis, Pewaukee, Elm grove and Muskego. 

All Kwik Trip and Elliott’s Ace store locations are already posted for your convenience on this website homepage at www.onwisconsinoutdoors.com. Very soon we will also have all Menards locations posted.  If you prefer online reading, each issue of On Wisconsin Outdoors is also posted prominently on the homepage several days before our paper is distributed.

We also increased our press run from 50,000 copies to more than 82,000 and increased the page count to 32. Because it is our advertisers who bring this paper to you at no cost, please consider our advertisers’ products and services as you take in each issue.  This issue, our field experts also bring you 12 fishing features, cartoons, bear, deer and turkey hunting, three firearms columns, Explore Wisconsin, Product 6-Pack, Recipes by Suzette and more.

If you want effective advertising with wide coverage, our rates are the best in Wisconsin. 

Mike and Kerry Hart joined Lori and me in Perdido Key last week between Pensacola and Orange Beach specifically to shore fish for Pompano.  Well, Lori and Kerry didn’t actually take the trip for that purpose, but they also don’t believe the primary reason God made “April” and “May” is for turkey hunting and to usher in open water fishing.  They’re a little behind in grasping the “why we are here” concept.

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Mike Hart of West Allis prepares to grab another Pompano as Ellis works the fish toward the beach.

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The Gulf Pompano is hard fighting, beautiful and great tasting.

The ladies are great at finding bargains.  We flew to New Orleans and took the rental car, three hour drive to Florida with considerable savings as compared to flying straight in. After checking in our Sandy Key condo, I purchased a Florida 7-day non-resident fishing license for $30.00 Mike the hunter decided he would rather talk turkey, and spent the days mostly kicking back and relaxing after daily work-outs but whenever needed also used a special rake to find sand fleas that served as our best bait for Pompano, and unhooking fish. Mike’s Wisconsin turkey tag is for zone 3 the week of our return (as you read this). He’s got that gobbler on his mind and has got the hunting addiction so bad I’m a little surprised he wasn’t dressed in camo and a mask on the beach. We’ll just say he’s ready for the great winter break-out.

At Gray’s Tackle in Perdido Key several years ago I had purchased a pair of medium-duty Diawa two-piece rods that came with fully-spooled reels for $30.  Now, annually we break down the rods, tape them together as carry-on baggage during our flight, stow the reels in suitcases, and our shore fishing assault on the Gulf is dirt cheap.  The rods also are great row-trolling musky rods back home. We also buy leader rigs with two circle hooks each and a 2 or 3 ounce pyramid sinker. For bait, we use dead shrimp shelled and cut-up or Sand Fleas, often tipped with a half-inch piece of artificial Fishbites (Google it). For a $6.00 roll, the flat, orange Fishbites lasts forever and as a stand-alone bait will take whiting and pompano.  We also saw large, striped sheephead working the clear shallow surf but never caught one on any bait.  The circle hooks allow you to not worry about setting the hooks. Simply reel steady with the strike.  With rare exception the fish hooks itself in the corner of the mouth. We lost only one of nine fish.

We have hoped for Pompano action, a silvery football shaped hard fighter known as excellent table fare, for years.  We have never caught any, instead getting into whiting and sheephead depending on structure and water temperature, also good eaters.  Sheephead, for example like to feed on the barnacles found on rocky structure or pilings. To shore fish, simply throw the bait rig out in our case about 100 feet to where deeper water met sand reef, reel in the slack, set the rod in a PVC rod-holder purchased for $5.00, and wait.  Probably because our trip was comparatively late and the water temperature hit 70, this year we caught nothing but the powerful Pompano, which must be a minimum of 11-inches from fork (tail) to head. Our smallest fish was 11-1/2 and our largest was 18 inches.  You can take 6 legal Pompano each day.

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Florida Pompano to 18 inches cooperated in great weather all last week. The week prior to this trip rain dominated.  During the days following the trip, 18 inches of rain meant emergency evacuations for the people in the Pensacola area.

When the rod bows to the beach, buddy, hang on and enjoy. The pompano’s oblong shape allows it to use the surf back and forth as it works to throw the hook.  My reel drag was tested on average with the bigger fish about three or four times before surrender. But I proved time and again that a Wisconsin outdoor writer is tougher than a Florida fish.  I also held a knife in my teeth while fighting fish in case I had to swim out and take care of any great white sharks.

The fun was not nearly over.  Lori and Kerry are excellent chefs.  And I can tell you from hunting camp experience, Mike is too.  While I sat with a fork in my hand and bib on my neck drooling and waiting, this is what they did; two of the biggest fish were gutted, washed and patted dry. The fish was rubbed with dill and fresh garden cloves were placed in the gut cavity. The pompano was completely encrusted with kosher salt and baked for about an hour until the salt browned and formed a crust.  The crust was cracked and removed easily with the skin and the meat flaked from the bones.  All that remains is the head, tail and skeleton.  It was so good….so good….that we are planning to see if it works on Wisconsin’s bony northern pike.

The other pomps were grilled or pan-fried during the week with combinations of lemon pepper seasoning, garlic and lemon zest, dill, season salt, pepper, olive oil, butter and magic chef seasoning.  They tried everything, and everything was unbelievably good. Mike was the grill master and the girls controlled the kitchen.  I helped with dishes. Does that count?

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Pictured: The pompano is among the Gulf’s finest tasting fish.

When we weren’t eating what we caught, we caught a load of other great sea food at Joe Patti’s Fish Market in Pensacola. It was big, clean, with great service and held more seafood than you could imagine for extremely reasonable prices. One of their sales gimmicks is to offer samples as you walk by. We walked out with grouper, amber jack, red snapper, mahi-mahi, scallops, royal red shrimp, sea-food gumbo and New England clam chowder.  I also flew out with about 10 extra pounds; can’t figure that one out. It must be the climate.

Thanks for connecting with On Wisconsin Outdoors. We like you here, and we appreciate I your visits immensely.

Shoot Straight.

Dick Ellis