Friday, August 17, 2018

New Year's resolutions for the outdoors

Let's face it, making New Year's resolutions and actually sticking to them is hard. But there are plenty of outdoors resolutions that can be fun and challenging. Ever caught a really big fish, or hiked a trail and camped under the stars, or learned a water sport? Check some of those adventures off your list in 2017.

Catch (and release) a tarpon: Or a marlin or swordfish. But those fish are in deeper water and need more equipment. Tarpon, some of the best sport fish in the world, are right here in Tampa Bay . They usually show up around late spring and hang out all summer long. The outgoing tide by the Sunshine Skyway bridge is the best place to find them. If you don't have a boat or tarpon expertise, there are several knowledgeable guides in our area. But it doesn't take a boat to catch them. Wade fishing the flats using live crab or shrimp, or fishing off a pier, has produced large tarpon. They average about 80 pounds, but can get up to over 200. They pull hard and leap, so hang on.

Learn how to snorkel/scuba dive: There is a big world to discover under water. In Tampa Bay alone there are several reefs and wrecks to dive. And rivers throughout the state provide great scuba diving. It takes lessons to become scuba certified. Places like Bill Jackson's in Pinellas Park and the Depth Perception Dive Center in Tampa are a couple that offer certification, and there are several others in the area. Snorkeling is much easier. It only takes a mask, snorkel and fins to swim on top of the surface. It's perfect for diving in natural springs or harvesting scallops during the summer.

Find a new campsite: Some of the best campsites in the state are right here in Tampa Bay. Fort De Soto, Hillsborough River State Park, Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, E.G. Simmons Park and Lithia Springs Regional Park are all great tent camping sites that are also close to the water. Some of the parks don't take reservations, so call ahead to see about their policies. It's probably best to hit these sites in the cooler months. Camping in the dead of summer can be brutal.

Take a fishing class: There is a reason some catch more fish than others. It helps to know what is biting and when. What lures to use, what knots to tie. We take golf lessons and tennis lessons, so it only makes sense to take fishing ones, too. Classes are available throughout the area at all times of the year.

Take up a water sport: It could be kite surfing, wind surfing, skim boarding, surfing or water skiing. Anything to make a day at the beach a little more fun or provide good exercise as well. Places like Elite Watersports in St. Petersburg or Watersports West in Largo can get you started with boards, kites or lessons. After a few times on the water, you'll be off and running.

Tackle your fears: Afraid of heights? Then how about trying zip lining? There's Tree Hoppers Aerial Adventure Park in Dade City and TreeUmph Adventure Course in Bradenton. You'll be harnessed to a zip line and glide along the tree tops up to 60 feet. There is also climbing on wobbly bridges and bungee courses.

Run an adventure race: Anyone can resolve to run a 5K, but what about a 5K that includes running through mud or an obstacle course? Perhaps a mountain bike race would be a better fit. This is the time of year where there are all sorts of unusual road races, so keep your eyes open.

Act like a tourist: Which means taking one of those dolphin or manatee cruises on a pontoon boat. Or going parasailing off one of the beaches. Or taking a boat ride to Egmont Key. Or riding that pirate ship on Clearwater Beach. Why should the visitors have all the fun? Several dolphin cruises — some of them at sunset — are available up and down the beaches. Manatees are best seen in Hernando and Citrus counties. The ferry from Fort De Soto to Egmont Key usually runs daily. There is parasailing along St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach. Then there is the super-touristy Pirate Cruise, which is great for kids.


Captainís Corner: Fishing is still hot even as Red Tide looms

As of now, Pinellas and all of Tampa Bay are still being spared of Red Tide. It has been sitting in Manatee County for a while and has yet to push further north. I am on the water almost every day. Bait has been easy to get, and fishing continues to ...
Published: 08/15/18

Captainís Corner: Mangrove snapper on fly

Mangrove (gray) snapper are often encountered while drifting the flats this time of year as they school in preparation for spawning later. When using a typical 8 or 9 weight fly rod with size 1 or 1/0 baitfish type flies while targeting redfish and t...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/14/18

Captainís Corner: Cast net skills come in handy

Threadfin herring and scaled sardines can be found up and down our Suncoast with ease. Most bait is on the smaller side, so have a quarter-inch mess cast net to prevent the smaller baits from getting stuck in the net. Spanish mackerel, kingfish, cobi...
Published: 08/11/18
Updated: 08/13/18

Captainís Corner: Head offshore to target mangrove snapper

Inshore fishing can slow in the late summer as afternoon water temperatures climb near 90. Many shallow-water fish are lethargic and reluctant to bite, so we run all of our trips offshore. Clean, blue water and a wider variety of fishing options are ...
Published: 08/10/18
Updated: 08/11/18
Captainís Corner: Summertime is running out, but tarpon are still strong

Captainís Corner: Summertime is running out, but tarpon are still strong

As we wind down into the last part of summer, most of us get focused on getting the kids back to school. While it can be a bit overwhelming as life just seems to be too busy, keep in mind that downtime on the water is important, and fishing this mont...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/09/18

Captainís Corner: Itís a good time for snook and trout

Snook and trout have been at the top of the list this past week. Early starts have been the key for fooling the better snook, while the trout seem willing to bite for a few hours after sun-up. The pre-dawn snook bite has been solid lately. Target are...
Published: 08/06/18

Captainís Corner: Hot weather make it pompano time

The trend has been pretty easy: Pompano remain a best choice with the weather so hot going on two complete months. Deeper water means more cooperative fish. The pompano have increased in numbers and size as the summer has moved on. Routinely, our pom...
Published: 08/05/18
Updated: 08/07/18

Captainís Corner: Plenty of tarpon fishing remains

The tournaments are over and sight casting to large schools of migrating tarpon along our gulf beaches will likely have to wait until next season. For those still interested, thereís plenty of good tarpon fishing to be done. The return of a normal we...
Published: 08/03/18
Updated: 08/08/18
Captainís Corner: Trout fishing still good on beaches

Captainís Corner: Trout fishing still good on beaches

Fishing duration this time of year is determined by thunderstorms. Usually we see storms building throughout the day and unleashing in the afternoon. Lately theyíve been starting in the morning, moving in from the gulf. This week Iíve been fishing wi...
Published: 08/03/18

Captainís Corner: Mangrove snapper bite picks up after full moon

Hopefully there will be relief in sight from the morning storms. It looks like rain chances go down the rest of the week, so we should be back to a more normal pattern of afternoon storms. Some nice speckled trout have been caught in depths of 5-8 fe...
Published: 08/02/18