I’m looking forward to good fishing and more time to do it.
Trout fishing opens again for harvest Saturday morning to help us welcome in the New Year. I keep hearing that this will be the last closure but only if we keep talking about it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, from our politically motivated government officials! Redfish are looking good with lots of small ones for the future. Snook are closed but so far the cold has not hurt them locally. Sheepshead are improving and should continue to for the next few months. Grouper are abundant but closed! At least federal waters; please let your elected officials know how “OUR” National Marine Fisheries is killing America’s coastal communities. I am optimistic about our fishing/catching in 2011 but have serious concerns as to how our industry is going to survive between the hard times and politically manipulated management regulations.
We have been catching plenty of trout recently. They are actually better eating now with the cold water. The flesh is much firmer and very tasty. Specks are stronger and will pull some drag. If you give lures a fair try most of us can do well with artificials now. I find we usually catch much larger fish on lures. Big trout can even tease us into thinking we have a feisty snook until it slides into our landing net. We usually do best fishing the warmer afternoons because fish are more active then. Five pound plus trout are not unusual any more.
Redfish are usually cooperative in colder weather. Cold, windy weather actually seems to motivate em into feeding. Remember these fish thrive as far north as Virginia and Maryland. Redfish have varied in sizes recently from about fifteen inches to over thirty. Live or dead baits and artificial lures all work. Colder days require us to slow it down and be patient. Soak those frozen minnows be patient and sit awhile on good holes. You can even attract and hold fish with small minnow chunks for chum. As the days warm up we can use the lures to cover larger areas to lock in on hungry fish. Just don’t expect fish to attack your lures as aggressively as spring fish. Remember you are imitating a crippled baitfish not one on steroids!
Snook are doing better than I expected coping with this very cold water. I have not seen any cold water snook problems, so far this year. While we did lose fish last winter but our local stocks looked very good to me last summer. I personally observed plenty of quality snook. We will not be able to harvest snook this spring but should have good catch and release fishing with some trophy fish for photos.
Sheepshead may not be a glamour fish but they are abundant, enjoy liberal bag limits, taste great and pull hard. I started out catching sheepshead from the bridges of Coquina Key fifty years ago and am not too proud to enjoy this productive fishery now. It’s hard to catch fish if they are steeling your bait without you knowing it! Awareness really helps here; maintaining contact with your bait helps you catch fish. Don’t laugh too hard but this is how I learned about closing my eyes to enhance my awareness and feel these nibbles. We naturally close our eyes when kissing to feel more! Colder weather is fine here. Super braids help you catch more fish here!
I’m not going to spoil our wonderful New Year talking more about the “economic terrorist group” know as our National Marine Fisheries Service. Even I know we have more grouper than I’ve seen in decades, yet their politically manipulated “science” and “expertise” require more closures. Six months is economic terrorism to our Federal waters fisherman. The state is caught between a rock and a hard place as to what to do. As I understand it January is open in states waters if you do not hold a federal permit for reef fish. At some point we the people are going to have to address the political manipulation of fisheries management by OUR government agencies!
Again I am very optimistic about our fishing locally. I expect to enjoy another productive Spring migration of both Spanish and king mackerel. Tarpon catching could even be better because our struggling economy might translate to less other boats. Life is challenging but we have fish. We have a beautiful area to enjoy and share with family and friends. Make the best of what we have and find the time to see for yourselves!
Captain Van Hubbard. <www.captvan.com>