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every bit of 40 pounds. I’ve also caught tarpon up to 100 pounds back here. “Snook have five times the light


refection in their eyes than humans,” Miller explained. “So on bright, sunny days, use dark-colored lures. My favorite plug combo is black/orange belly with bone sides. On overcast days, I use a lot of bone/chartreuse patterns. And since most of these back- country creeks are so shallow, you can fish right down the middle.” Miller doesn’t have a GPS or depth sounder installed on his skiff. “It’s all up here,” he told me, pointing to his head. He learned the intricate back- country maze by studying aerial pho- tographs and topographic maps. After fishing one grid extensively, he’d move on to the next.


CHOKOLOSKEE CONNECTIONS


He has witnessed many environ- mental challenges over the years. Hurricane Andrew in 1992, with sus- pected winds of 150 miles per hour off the eye, stirred dead vegetation off the bottom of Ferguson Bay, depleting oxy- gen and causing a massive fish kill. The storm also destroyed vast tracts of ancient black mangroves in the back- country. Black mangroves can live 1,000 years and grow 100 feet tall. Miller started consistently catching snook again in Ferguson Bay in 2000. “I personally feel snook is the smartest fish that swims,” Miller said


without hesitation. “They’re smart enough to do anything to beat you. If tarpon had half the sense of a snook, nobody would ever catch one.”


Award-winning outdoors writer Dave Lear has returned to the pages of TIDE after a stint as senior editor of Salt Water Sportsman. In 2006, he was recognized by the International Game Fish Association as the 51st angler to join the Billfish Royal Slam club. Capt. Lear can be found guiding clients to tarpon, trout and redfish along Florida’s Big Bend coast.


C


CAlife members Fred and Dave Hall have been fishing the


Chokoloskee area for decades, often guided by Capt. Bill Miller. When they began handcrafting wooden lures a few years ago, the Choko tie- in was only logical. Using Spanish cedar, the plugs are turned by hand before several coats of primer and top coats are added. Heavy-duty hardware and two coats of epoxy finish ensure durability. The Miller Marauder is an update of the Lucky 13 plug, a snook and tarpon favorite. Miller’s wife, Dorothy Ann, is the inspiration for the D.A. Darter (similar to the Creek Chub). The Chokoloskee Chomp, Bustin’ Bob and Ripper are more Hall ‘em In lures named after memories or family friends with backcountry connections. For more information you can call: Hall ’em In Lures, 407-254-5207; halleminlures.com; Capt. Bill Miller, 239-695-4488; Capt. Bruce Hitch- cock, 239- 695-2172, backcountry- fishing.net.


TIDE www.joincca.org 39


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