Friday, June 22, 2018
Outdoors

Take It Outside Planner: Look out for manatees, hit Ocala National Forest, catch bass

 

TIS THE SEASON: MANATEES ON THE MOVE

 

You know we have had our last cold spell of the season when manatees leave their winter refuges and head out across Tampa Bay in search of food. Large numbers of these protected marine mammals are now on the move, so boaters need to slow down in posted areas and obey speed limits. State law enforcement officers have increased patrols in these critical feeding areas and are strictly enforcing seasonal regulations, which took effect April 1 and run through Nov. 15 in manatee protection zones. Manatee zones and maps are available at myfwc.com/manatee, where you can select "Protection Zones" for links to county maps. Boaters can help by wearing polarized sunglasses, which make it easier to spot manatees. Another way to spot a feeding manatee is to watch for the circular slicks on the surface of the water. To learn more about Florida's manatees, visit myfwc.com/manatee. To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC's wildlife alert hotline toll-free at 1-888-404-3922.

 

DESTINATION: Ocala ATV

 

Ocala National Forest is known for its backpacking trails, great campgrounds and world-class freshwater springs, but it is also a haven for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts (dirt bike, ATV and four-wheel drive). With more than 200 miles of off-road motorcycle and ATV trails, as well as another 81 miles for off-road Jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles, Ocala is a dirt lover's dream. Many of the trials run through one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet: the Big Scrub. Comprised of the largest contiguous area of sand pine in the world, this trail has a speed limit so riders can check out the wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey and the occasional black bear. Go to fs.usda.gov/ocala or pick up brochures at the Ocala National Forest visitors center. Learn the do's and don'ts of the area you are going to ride. Rules and regulations may vary from trail to trail. Remember, the trails are two-way and primitive. Be ready for blind turns, downed trees, overhanging branches, mud, sand and loose soil. Some trees bear bark scars from those who went too fast. More tips at atvsafety.org.

 

CREATURE FEATURE: LARGEMOUTH BASS

 

Spring is the best time to fish for the legendary "Florida bucketmouth:" the largemouth bass. The live bait of choice for most anglers is the golden shiner, fished under a cork. When it comes to artificial lures, the weedless, or Texas-rigged, plastic worm is the most popular. Jerk worms, spinner baits, crank baits and topwater plugs will also work under a variety of conditions. A simple spinning outfit rigged with 12- to 15-pound test will work in most Florida lakes. Bass typically hang around structures such as grass beds or submerged logs, so you will need a sturdy outfit to keep from losing fish. But keep in mind, bass regulations will change this summer: As of July 1, new rules will eliminate the three zones that currently regulate bass along with 42 site-specific regulations. Anglers have lobbied for years for simplified regulations, and in a nutshell, here they are: You will still be able to keep up to five bass of any size, but only one bass 16 inches or longer per day. For more information, go to myfwc.com.

 

PACK IT: HYDROFLASK

 

This HydroFlask container will keep your water ice-cold on a hot day at the beach or your coffee out-of-the-pot hot after it's been sitting in the hull of your kayak all day in the middle of winter. Cool colors, decent price ($33.95 as pictured); it's a good buy for the buck.

   
Comments

Captainís Corner: Size of sea trout a welcome surprise in Pinellas grass beds

A nice surprise has been the quality size of the spotted sea trout on deeper grass beds in southern Pinellas. Typically, summertime trout tend to run smaller than the 16- to 20-inch trout weíve been finding. Fishing the deep grass with scattered sand...
Published: 06/21/18

Captainís Corner: Offshore fishing will be strong for awhile

June and July offer some of the yearís best offshore fishing. Targets such as red snapper, blackfin tuna, mahi≠mahi, wahoo and sailfish make their way through our area and make appearances on many trips to depths of 120 feet or more. Red snapper are ...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18

Captainís Corner: Itís a good time to focus on snook

Snook have been a main focus on my most recent trips. This time of year, snook inhabit the beaches, gathering in the ditches and swashes along shore. Jetties or rock structures are also a favorite habitat for snook to lurk, looking to ambush bait fis...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Captainís Corner: Tips on targeting American Red Snapper

American Red Snapper (ARS) season opened a few days ago and some types of bottom are holding bigger schools of ARS then other bottom types. The hard bottom areas that most fishermen prefer are holding large schools of ARS, but the fish have yet to m...
Published: 06/18/18

Captainís Corner: Trout bite at its best

The trout bite has been the best Iíve seen all year. Fish up to 26 inches have been common recently. Fish are sitting on the flatsí deeper edges, where the water is deeper and cooler, and moves a little more swiftly. Live sardines and hard plastic ba...
Published: 06/16/18
Updated: 06/17/18

Captainís Corner: Fishing this month is all about diversity

This is the month of diverse opportunity. The choice of species is unlimited, as long as you have the bait. You can target snook and tarpon in the morning, then fish for Spanish mackerel, bluefish, snapper, sharks and cobia in the afternoon. The tarp...
Published: 06/15/18

Captainís Corner: When itís tarpon time, itís also shark time

Tarpon get most of the attention when talking about exciting fly action for large fish in our area. Baitfish are more prolific, and large tarpon follow their forage and populate most of our local waters. Following them are fish that consider tarpon t...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/14/18

Captainís Corner: This is your best time for tarpon fishing

Now is the best time to target tarpon. Silver kings are cruising the beaches on their yearly migration up and down the stateís west coast. This weekís strong new moon tides and the strong full moon tides in two weeks provide some of the best action f...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18

Captainís Corner: Turn attention to gag grouper and red snapper

Attention has turned to gag grouper and red snapper for many offshore fishermen. Red snapper can be best targeted in waters 105 feet and deeper, with some available in water as shallow as 60 feet. Although the snapper will be found on high profile st...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18

Captainís Corner: Pompano popping up at passes, along beach

Over the past few weeks, pompano have started to appear around the passes and along the beach. These tasty members of the jack family are one of the most difficult fish to find and keep track of. Just when you think youíve figured out a reliable time...
Published: 06/10/18
Updated: 06/11/18