Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Outdoors

Take it Outside Planner: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, red snapper season

EXPLORE MORE: JONATHAN DICKINSON STATE PARK

Next time you head to Florida's east coast, make sure you swing by Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Located just south of Stuart, this state park has pine flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps. Bring your canoe, kayak or paddleboard, or rent one there and explore the Loxahatchee, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River. For a more structured adventure, take one of the ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson, the "Wildman of the Loxahatchee." The 25-passenger Loxahatchee Queen II offers a two-hour tour of the river. Nelson eventually opened up one of the area's first tourist attractions, "Trapper's Zoo and Jungle Gardens." Nelson died in 1968 from a gunshot wound. Officials ruled it a suicide, but speculation swirled. Many a Trapper Nelson story has been told around a campfire. You can camp in an organized camp or head into the backcountry, where some say the old trapper's ghost wanders on moonlit nights. If you go, don't forget your fishing pole. The Loxahatchee has freshwater species such as largemouth bass upriver and snook and snapper as you approach the picnic area and boat ramp. floridastateparks.org.

SWEET SPLENDOR: GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE

This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the U.S. Postal Service has issued a series of collector stamps to celebrate. But why not see the real thing? Head north to Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola. The protected barrier islands, which stretch into Mississippi, have miles of deserted, undeveloped beaches as well as historic fortifications and nature trails. nps.gov.

WHEN TO CATCH: RED SNAPPER

Red snapper season in the state waters of the Gulf of Mexico opened for Saturdays and Sundays as of last week. That is great news for anglers in northwest Florida, but if you live here in Tampa Bay, you're out of luck. Red snapper are usually found far offshore in federal waters. The season opens to include weekdays May 28 through July 10. Then the season will goes to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October, also including Labor Day. All together, that's a 78-day season in gulf state waters. Red snapper season in federal waters, which begins 9 miles offshore, will run June 1 to 9. The federally permitted charter boat and headboat season for federal waters will run June 1 through July 16, closing July 17.

GREAT GIFT: ULTIMATE WATER SHOES

OluKai's new Eleu Trainers are the official footwear of the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association. Great for standup paddleboarding, sea kayaking or busting out a 3-mile run on the beach, these are not your average water shoes. $110. OluKai.com.

   
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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