Wednesday, February 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.



   
Comments

Captainís Corner: Warming waters, better visibility are good signs

Scuba and freediving spearfishermen and women have enjoyed great underwater visibility over the past week. Some boaters going offshore can make out the bottom structure from the gunnel of the boat. Best depths for visibility have been in 30 to 40 fee...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/19/18

Captainís Corner: Flats coming to life in north Pinellas County

The flats are really coming to life in north Pinellas County. Our main focus this time of year is spotted sea trout, though redfish are cooperating and schooling a bit. Snook are also responding to the warm weather, occasionally eating on the falling...
Published: 02/18/18

Captainís Corner: Bait a challenge, but effort will pay off

Bait has made its way into the bay and is on nearly every marker. The problem: Bait is moving and showing up at different times daily. The time spent to get bait will pay off. Fish have been blasting pilchards. Snook and large trout have been communi...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/17/18

Captainís Corner: Springtime fishing patterns moving in

The first half of February has been hit or miss for inshore fishing. The consistent cold fronts and warmups seem to have the fish confused. The week ahead should be pretty good. The best bite has been midmorning into the afternoon. With temperatures ...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/15/18

Captainís Corner: Get an early start when chasing redfish

Redfish schools have started to invade the flats around Pinellas Point. On low tide in the morning, I look for a school on an outer sandbar. These fish are staged on the edge waiting for the tide to come in. Once the water level rises, the fish will ...
Published: 02/13/18

Captainís Corner: Baitfish in the shallows improves fly fishing

Seeing large groups of pelicans diving and catching baitfish in warmer, shallow water is a sure sign spring conditions are approaching. The appearance of quality baitfish will spark a feeding frenzy that should steadily improve flats fishing for fly ...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/16/18

Captainís Corner: Action picking up as temperature rises

The wind finally stopped blowing so hard that we couldnít go offshore. Water temperatures were still in the low 50s offshore at the beginning of the week, and this affected fish behavior. Because the water was calm, we ventured out to the 80- to 90-f...
Published: 02/11/18
Updated: 02/12/18

Captainís Corner: Topwater plugs a great option as warming trend continues

Warm weather for the past week has led to an increase in feeding activity for inshore fish species. Speckled trout have been venturing out of deep holes and channels and back into shallow water to feed. This has presented a great opportunity to fish ...
Published: 02/10/18
Updated: 02/11/18

Captainís Corner: Sardines make a great bait

Bait has made its way into the bay and the fish have been eating sardines with violent strikes. Look deep for bait, most of it has been in 20-plus feet of water. A little knowledge of how to read a bottom machine will help you secure the prized sardi...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/10/18

Captainís Corner: Fishing conditions have started to improve

The waters are still a bit cooler than the kind a bunch of fish like to aggressively chew in. Fishing conditions, however, have slowly but surely begun to improve. On a recon mission Tuesday, I visited both Sunshine Skyway bridge fishing piers and th...
Published: 02/08/18