Friday, September 21, 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: Finding live bait has been biggest fishing issue in our area so far from Red Tide

Captainís Corner: Finding live bait has been biggest fishing issue in our area so far from Red Tide

i thoWith Red Tide in the area, fishing close to shore has been a challenge. Waters from the beach out to about 40 feet have been affected this week. Concentrate your efforts starting about 80 feet and work west. Since our primary spots are well offs...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18

Captainís Corner: Look north toward Tarpon Springs for fishing to avoid Red Tide, for now

Red Tide has been creeping toward North Pinellas. Although bait is flourishing along the beaches and predator fish are feeding on them, hordes of dead fish are washing up on shore, most likely from Red Tide blooms well offshore. Lately, Iíve focused ...
Published: 09/19/18
Letís Take it Outside: A trip to the historic Florida Middle Grounds

Letís Take it Outside: A trip to the historic Florida Middle Grounds

The historic Florida Middle Grounds offer some of the Gulf Coastís most premier fishing. The reefs start about 85 miles northwest off the coast of Clearwater and extend another 30 miles beyond. The Middle Grounds have miles and miles of underwater mo...
Published: 09/19/18

Captainís Corner: Dealing with Red Tide from spearfishing standpoint

Finding fish to spear offshore is tricky. Unlike hook-and-line anglers, spearfishermen need reasonable underwater visibility to see their prey, judge itís the correct type of fish, determine if itís legal size, then before the fish flees, take the sh...
Published: 09/18/18

Captainís Corner: When Red Tide bloom breaks, fish can arrive quickly

Here is some good news attributed to Red Tide. Things do rebound quickly, once the bloom breaks. New populations of fish can arrive quickly in its aftermath. Anglers who have been successful lately are looking for untainted areas to fish. At least a ...
Published: 09/16/18
Updated: 09/17/18

Captainís Corner: Bite can turn on and off quickly this time of year

Typical deep-summer conditions continue across the bay. During this time of year the bite can be erratic and maybe even a little bi≠polar. The bite can turn on and off in an instant. Several species in one spot can be normal. On recent trips clients ...
Published: 09/16/18

Captainís Corner: Fishing strong in Fort De Soto area

Red Tide started showing up substantially on Saturday in Pinellas with the strong west wind we had. I lost some bait but was still able to fish. Snook are taking their time transitioning back into the bay from the beaches. Every shoreline and pass ar...
Published: 09/14/18
Updated: 09/15/18

Captainís Corner: Massive baitfish schools present plenty of opportunities

The shipping channel and most area passes are filled with massive schools of baitfish. Little tunny (bonito or false albacore) follow these smaller fish and present great opportunities for fly fisherís. A moving tide, either incoming or outgoing, get...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18

Captainís Corner: Fishing in the bay with Red Tide in the gulf

Red Tide has started to affect our beaches, so Iíve stayed away from fishing the gulf. Threadfin herring and scaled sardines can be found in the bay, which is free of Red Tide. Spanish mackerel, cobia, sharks, mangrove snapper and jack crevalle can e...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/13/18

Captainís Corner: Offshore redfish are a great find

Fall brings many changes to our coastal fisheries. Many inshore species like snook, trout, and redfish make moves from one preferred habitat to others. One of the most notable, but least understood changes is the arrival of giant redfish to the water...
Published: 09/11/18