Monday, March 19, 2018

Take It Outside Planner: License-free fishing, Lionfish Safari, night excursions

GO FISH: License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day

There's no excuse not to dig out that rod and reel. Saturday is License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day in Florida. A saltwater fishing license normally costs $17 a year for Florida residents and $47 for nonresidents. Children younger than 16 and Florida residents 65 or older are not required to have a fishing license. Some fishing piers, such as the Skyway Pier, have blanket licenses for all fishermen. If you end up having a great day on the water, you can obtain a license at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website at, or you can buy one at most tackle shops.

MOON RUNNER: Things to do at night

By now we are all pretty much over the oppressive heat and humidity, not to mention the violent thunderstorms that can spoil an afternoon outside. You can leave the sunscreen at home by venturing out at night when it still might be humid, but not nearly as hot. Just don't forget the bug spray.

Preplanned night excursions include the Family Night Hike this Saturday at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. For ages 4 and older, the ranger-led hike includes a lesson in how animals transition from daytime to nighttime. It's $5 for the 7:30 p.m. hike. Also at Boyd Hill, on Sept. 10 there's a Paddle at Twilight, where you can paddle out at sunset and watch twilight settle over the water. It's $16 for ages 8 and older. Call (727) 893-7326 to reserve a spot. The preserve is at 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg.

Hillsborough County is hosting a Full Moon Hike on Sept. 17 at Lake Frances Preserve in Odessa. A Lettuce Lake After Dark hike on Sept. 28 is also planned. Each is $5 a person. Call (813) 672-7876 to sign up.

Now is also the peak time to check out nighttime bioluminescent kayak tours elsewhere in the state, where billions of plankton — dinoflagellates — emit a blueish-white glow in the water. There are tours in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville ( and also off Marco Island in southwest Florida ( Tours run $35-$50 and take at least two hours. The plankton emit the eerie light when they are disturbed, so paddling leaves a glowing trail. Late August is considered the peak season, but tours continue through October. Just be mindful of the phases of the moon.

ROLLING ALONG: Bike the Upper Tampa Bay Trail

Get out your bike and go explore the Upper Tampa Bay Trail's new trailhead and extension in a group bicycle ride this Sunday. More than 17 years in the making, the trail follows Lutz Lake Fern Road, connecting to more than 50 miles of regional trails at the Suncoast Trail. The trail is, for the most part, a 12-foot-wide asphalt lane at grade level, but there are portions in which the trail is an elevated boardwalk through wetlands. The Sunday Bicycle Rides organization will meet at the new trailhead at 7020 Lutz Lake Fern Road, Odessa, at 7:30 a.m. Sunday for a 34-mile ride to Pasco County's Starkey Park and back. Helmets are required and riders must maintain a speed of 12-16 mph. (813) 613-6047.

GET YOUR SPEAR: Lionfish Safari

Guy Harvey Outpost just opened registration for a spear and fishing tournament called Lionfish Safari to help rid the Tampa Bay area of as many of the invasive fish species as possible. The fish will be used for research, but this event, organized with Reef Monitoring Inc. and the Fishing Rights Alliance, also aims to educate the public on the threat the species poses to reef environments. The all-day fishing tournament is Sept. 10, and Sept. 11 features a family fun day along with the tournament weigh-in. There will be cash prizes of up to $1,000 and giveaways. Go to to register by Sept. 9. $35 per person. All fish will be weighed and measured by Reef Monitoring, passed along to students for dissection and then given to the chef station to be cooked and prepared for tasting at the beachside cookout.


Captainís Corner: Cold causes spiny lobsters to go into hiding

The cold front that ended Wednesday drove the offshore bottom temperatures back down into the low 60s. On dives Friday, my dive computer read 62 degrees at the bottom in 54 feet of water. On the next dive it read 60 in 62 feet. We were looking for ho...
Published: 03/18/18

Captainís Corner: Snook are the hot bite

Surface water temperatures have dipped into the low 60s, but the fish donít seem to mind. The longer days get the temperature up and helps keep it from getting into the danger zone at night. Snook have been the hot bite this past week and, believe it...
Published: 03/16/18
Updated: 03/17/18

It has been a crazy month regarding all the drastic weather changes. We experienced a record-breaking warming trend in February, followed by an endless amount of cold weather this month. The arrival times for many spring migrations of fish has been i...
Published: 03/16/18

Captainís Corner: Big trout moving out of the shallows

February seemed like March with record-breaking heat, but now March seems like February with below-average temperatures. This is a good thing. Spring fishing has started way too early in the past few years. The cold-water temperature we have now will...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/15/18

Captainís Corner: Temperature changes affect fly fishing

Having a fantastic river trip one day where we caught a lot of snook in shallow water on a fly and going back to the same location three days later and not finding any cooperative fish can be very puzzling. What happened? Recent warm weather was repl...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/14/18

Captainís Corner: Warming trend increasing activity over grass flats

Water temperatures have finally started to climb into the low 70s on the flats. The temperatures have been fluctuating with the past few cold fronts moving through. Large schools of reds should start showing up on the flats in the Pinellas Point area...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/13/18
Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

We traditionally look at two holidays to signal the start of trolling season for kingfish and Spanish mackerel along with their attendant migratory companions, blackfin tuna, cobia and barracuda. These are St. Patrickís Day (March 17) and Columbus Da...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/12/18

Captainís Corner: Spring fishing is getting close

When the weather settles down in the bay area, spring fishing should shift quickly into high gear. Just before the recent heavy winds arrived and churned the nearshore gulf into a muddy mess, seasonal migratory fish were showing up all over town. For...
Published: 03/10/18
Updated: 03/11/18

Captainís Corner: Trout return to their early spring areas

Cool air has filtered down, giving us hopefully the last cold blow for awhile. Recent fronts have shaken things up. But fishing has been good considering the weather. Trout have pushed into their early spring areas, basically where they were five wee...
Published: 03/10/18
Captainís Corner: Snook, trout out in abundance as spring approaches

Captainís Corner: Snook, trout out in abundance as spring approaches

March is here, and the weather is great. This month is when we make that change toward spring fishing. Snook really ramps up, and trophy trout mixed with good redfish are not far behind. Snook has to be the most targeted fish for March. Just about ev...
Published: 03/09/18