Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Outdoors

Take It Outside Planner: Croom offroad trails, shorebirds and hidden creek adventure

RIDIN' DIRTY: DIRT BIKE TRAILS

If you have an off-highway or all-terrain vehicle, you probably already know about the Croom Motorcycle Area in Withlacoochee State Forest. With more than 2,600 acres of trails, this a true playground for motorsport enthusiasts. Open seven days a week, the Croom Motorcycle Area has something for riders of all levels, including a training area for those new to the sport and another section for younger riders. The state forest acquired two bulldozers in 2012 so some of the trails are now groomed and graded, but there are still miles of natural rough throughout the park for those who like a challenge. While you are there, keep an eye out for Croom's population of white piebald deer (sometimes called the ghost deer). Call (352) 797-5759 for information. Helmets are required for all riders.

CREATURE FEATURE: NESTING SHOREBIRDS

April is one of the best months for the beach, especially the wild shores with no crowds. But those hard-to-get-to beaches are also the favorite nesting places for shorebirds. A variety of species build shallow nests out of sand and shells on beaches in spring and summer. The nests, eggs and chicks are so well camouflaged that they are often hard to see and easily stepped on. The species that nest on local beaches include the snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson's plover. So if you see nesting shorebirds, keep your distance, whether you are walking along the beach or paddling watercraft along the shore. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, then you are too close. A good general guideline is stay at least 300 feet from a nest. You can also help spread the word. For more information, go to myfwc.com/shorebirds.

SEEK THEM OUT: HIDDEN CREEKS

Florida has its share of great rivers, but nearly every major waterway has a few feeder streams, and this is often where the true adventure lies. Don't be afraid to explore.

One of my favorite places is the Chassahowitzka River in Citrus County, which has more than one hidden side creek worth the trip. When it comes to rivers, the spring-fed Chassahowitzka isn't much to talk about. Just 7 miles downstream, the cool, clear waters empty into the Gulf of Mexico.

If you put in at the campground and paddle about 20 minutes downstream, you will see a tiny island with palm trees off to your left. This is the entrance to Baird Creek. As you paddle deep into the woods, the creek will narrow and you will be tempted to turn back. Remain steadfast. Paddle on. Eventually you will hit Blue Springs, which is usually full of large schools of mullet. There is a rope swing here, so it's a good place to stop and take a dip.

But the adventure is not over.

Keep paddling until you cannot paddle any more. Then leave the canoe behind, get out and walk along the creek bed. A 200-foot trek through ankle-deep water will bring you to "The Crack," a 30-foot-long crevice for swimming. Bring a mask or some goggles and take your time and explore. You will be glad you did.

PACK IT: GRANITE GEAR

The outdoors market is crowded with manufacturers of high-quality backpacks. But if you are looking for a good, durable rucksack that will give you a good bang for your buck, check out Granite Gear. The Minnesota company has great daypacks like the one pictured for under $50, but the Lutsen Series is ideal for a summer trip on the Appalachian Trail. granitegear.com.



   
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Captainís Corner: New moon has better grouper fishing farther offshore

Grouper fishing inside 160 feet continues to be a challenge due to the proximity of the new moon. This moon phase has the currents offshore moving at a pace that would rival a small river. Look for the bite to improve as we move away from this phase....
Published: 08/20/18

Captainís Corner: Snook numbers dwindling as spawn season nears its end

Luckily, we havenít had any signs of Red Tide in North Pinellas, so fishing last week was full of action, as long as we were in an area with moving water. Snook are still staging along the points near the passes, however, the numbers are dwindling as...
Published: 08/18/18
Updated: 08/19/18

Captainís Corner: With Red Tide, a big decline in fish

This past mid-week we were scouting for the St. Pete Open spearing tournament, which was held Saturday (more at stpeteopen.com/). We ran directly west of Venice to see if the Red Tide had made its way from the shoreline to 50 miles or more from shore...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/18/18

Captainís Corner: Variety of baits gives you options

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Published: 08/17/18

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