Friday, November 17, 2017
Outdoors

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

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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: Calm seas closer to beaches rewards with kingfish

Strong east winds have made it challenging for offshore anglers. The first few miles are quite tolerable since the land buffers the shoreline. After that, sea conditions have been tougher. Anglers searching for kingfish have been rewarded with calm s...
Published: 11/16/17

Captainís Corner: A little wind doesnít stop hot fishing in November

Despite many windy days, November fishing has been amazing. The water is cooling off, and the fish are becoming more aggressive. Itís getting to be the time of year when the cold fronts start to make their way out of the north. When this happens, win...
Published: 11/15/17

Captainís Corner: Fly fishing success possible, even in wind

When your day to fly fish arrives, do you hope for a day without wind? Knowledgeable fly fishers know there are many ways to deal with different wind situations. Avoid open water, and select an area that offers protection. Stay close to shore and use...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/14/17

Captainís Corner: Low tides and cold fronts make for rewarding fishing

Fall and winter low tides combined with cold fronts passing through can lead to highly rewarding fishing. It takes winds blowing 20-plus miles an hour out of the northeast combined with an astronomical low tide around the new moon and full moon phase...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17

Captainís Corner: Reef fish abundant offshore; mackerel, kings better near shore

Before this recent cold front, we were able to travel where we wanted, and the calm seas allowed us to make the mistake of running past the best depths for our type of fishing. The 40- to 50-foot depths produced almost nonstop action from reef fish, ...
Published: 11/12/17
Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

The fall king mackerel run is still going strong. The fish have seemed to come in waves; one week there are numerous fish more than 30 pounds, and a week or two later no one can find any more than 20. It also seems the fish are not moving south all t...
Published: 11/11/17

Captainís Corner: Cold front should push fish into backcountry waters

The approaching front is forecast to drop temperatures for a couple of days. This should push more fish into the backcountry rivers and creeks that feed the bay. Once the front passes and the weather stabilizes, fishing should return to normal. This ...
Published: 11/10/17

Captainís Corner: Kingfish domination

With calm seas and water temperature just the way they like it, kingfish will dominate much of the nearshore and offshore activity. Light wind and strong tides from the weekendís full moon have allowed nearshore waters to cleanse, so baits are being ...
Published: 11/08/17
Captainís Corner: November means strong snook fishing

Captainís Corner: November means strong snook fishing

November is the month that moves most inshore fish from the flats to the backcountry creeks, docks and rivers. Itís a month when you can enjoy great weather and great fishing without waking up at the crack of dawn. The South Shore in particular has s...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/09/17

Captainís Corner: Better late than never as flounder invade area waters

It took all year, but it has finally happened. Flounder have invaded Tampa Bay waters. They usually arrive in late spring or early summer. This year, they just hadnít come in. They are now here. The big trick is finding the larger fish. Baby flounder...
Published: 11/07/17