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The picture represents a shoreline where you might find a fat redfish easing along or a snook on the point. The point is, fishing is about to change here on the Gulf Coast.
We may have a couple more cool fronts, but most likely only a sweater will be needed. Fishing is about to change drastically. Mackerel, which are not everywhere these days, will soon be and they will be larger. After which, comes the blackfin tuna and little tunny chasing the glass minnows. We could get a small kingfish run when the water reaches near 68 degrees, or perhaps not. The great kingfish schools 1970’s were ruined by the then National Marine Fisheries and cat food cannery purse seine net boats. Now we only have a small run if any at all. However, fly fishing a school of either blackfin tuna or little tunny is a hoot with a glass minnow look alike fly. Redfish will be mixed in with the mullet schools, so don’t blow that opportunity.
Snook will come back out of the creeks and rivers and haunt the shallows both behind and in front of the barrier islands as well as other places. One great expedition is to get on a beach before daylight and walk the beach with a fly or light spinner. The snook will be in 4 to 6 inches of water looking for chubs.
Then the tarpon will be upon us. Tarpon will move up the coast infecting first Boca Grande. Boca Grand tarpon fishing is a life changing experience where you fish that narrow pass with 200 other hungry anglers, all trying to stay right on top of the largest mass of schooled tarpon. Then there are the bull and hammerhead sharks much larger than the 150 pound tarpon you are fishing for. A couple years ago, an 8 foot bull shark actually landed on the deck of a flats boat while chasing a tarpon. That crew of 3, asked the captain to quit for the day. However, most of the tarpon hookups are along the beaches while laying in ambush for the schools to come leisurely swimming by. Live or dead bait lying on the bottom or a fly strategically placed can both do the trick. But then be sure to hang on to your equipment, or loose it. Until you have felt a tarpon’s power, which can leave you with a near helpless feeling, you haven’t fished.
What about grouper and red snapper you ask? Well NOAA, (the government) has nationalized these fisheries for what purpose we aren’t quite sure. When a supposedly bump or dip in the numbers of a fishery appears, it takes up to 2 and 3 years to get the word out. By then often the problem has solved itself. However the powers that be don’t seem to be smart enough to solve this little problem. Or is there another answer? Is the American angler being sold out by the Administration all under the guise of ‘rebuilding’ the grouper/snapper fisheries? Actually off the West Coast of Florida, both gag grouper and red snapper are extremely healthy according to boats that return 50 and 60 gag and red grouper, with a third of the gags keeper size. Snapper anglers fishing in 100 to 150 feet are returning 30 to 40 red snapper from 9 to 17 pounds to the water because they are outlawed.
There are 2 great salt water fishing experiences to be had inshore fishing in Florida in the spring and one fresh water experience. The first is tarpon fishing in Boca Grande as described above. The second is fishing the 10,000 islands for snook, redfish and Goliath grouper. To spend a couple nights camped on a tiny spit of land deep in the Everglades National Park, catching snook (the king of light tackle fish) redfish and tarpon is indescribable. By experiencing this, you will have lived as close to nature, and enjoyed its fishing bounty like not many get to experience. The third is a trip back in time to the largest freshwater lake in the state, Lake Okeechobee. Here you can experience the finest in bluegill and shellcracker catches and be reasonably sure you will find a bass of a size you can be proud of. The mass of wildlife in this lake is unparalleled, including not only the fish, but alligators, and birds of many feathers. Sunrise on the big ‘O’ as it is often called, is fishing magic. So get set for the spring fling of 2013, saving your pennies for the politics of gas at 4 bucks a gallon. Go anyway, even though you may have to cancel the family vacation due to the high price of national incompetence.