Saturday, June 23, 2018
Outdoors

Take it Outside Planner: Shipwreck diving, firewood, grouper fishing and a Swiss Army knife gift

SHIPWRECKED: GO DEEP

Fall may mean football in most of the country, but here on the west coast of Florida, gulf waters are cool and clear, making for ideal scuba diving. The Sheridan, a 180-foot tugboat that rests in 80 feet of water about 20 miles off Indian Rocks Beach, is considered one of Central Florida's best wreck dives. The 383-ton tugboat rises 35 feet off the sea floor and attracts a variety of fish. Nearby rests the Blackthorn, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter that was en route to Galveston, Texas, on Jan. 28, 1980, when it collided with another ship at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Twenty-three men died. The ship was raised and sunk in 80 feet, 20 miles off Clearwater. Another popular spot with divers is the Gunsmoke. The Coast Guard found 11 bales of marijuana aboard the 70-foot trawler as it sank on Jan. 27, 1977. The Gunsmoke later would be linked to four murders and the disappearance of a $1 million yacht, the Pirates Lady.

KNIFE CUTS: THE CLASSIC GIFT

It is never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Every outdoors enthusiast needs a Swiss Army knife, but don't be fooled by cheap imitations. Look for a name on the largest blade. If it says Victorinox or Wenger, you've found the real McCoy. The original was manufactured in Switzerland in 1891 for use by the army. The soldier's knife was heavy and came equipped with a blade, punch, can opener and screwdriver. But officers wanted a more elegant knife, so they made a lighter version, adding a small second blade and corkscrew, and called it the "officer's knife." My knife, given to me as a graduation present more than 30 years ago, has repaired broken backpacks in Switzerland, cleaned brook trout in the Catskills, opened wine in Italy, peeled apples in New Zealand and picked bits of wild boar out of my teeth in the Amazon. Prices start at around $15.

FIREWOOD: BUY IT CUT

No camping trip is complete without a fire. But conservation-minded campers don't scrounge for fallen branches that provide a home for many forest dwellers. Burn firewood that is already cut. Most supermarkets and hardware stores sell firewood, dried and aged, for about $5 per 10-piece bundle. If you don't want to buy your wood, pick through your local brush dump. Look for hardwood, but chances are you will still have to split what you find. If you have a place to store it, stock up. You might just camp more often. But remember, the secret to a fantastic fire is not fuel, but oxygen. Sometimes all it takes to get a fire going is a few strokes of a wide-brimmed hat. Every Boy Scout learns that one should never leave a fire unattended. Be watchful of your sparks. Keep a bucket of water handy to put out the fire when you are done. Dirt works even better.

FALL'S FAVORITE FISH: GAG GROUPER

Most anglers, this writer included, think of grouper as a deepwater species. You usually find them lurking around wrecks, artificial reefs and rock ledges, but when water temperatures drop, these fish can be caught within sight of land. One particular species of grouper, Mycteroperca microlepis, can even be caught in the bay. Gag grouper, common to 25 pounds and a favorite of anglers and spearfishermen, is often confused with a true denizen of the deep, the black grouper, common to 40 pounds but sometimes exceeding 100. Grouper, like many of the state's commercial and recreational saltwater species, spend at least some portion of their lives in near-shore waters. Undeveloped coastal areas, such as those found on the North Suncoast, are important to the future of the state's fisheries.

   
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Captainís Corner: Cool off, bring home a tasty dinner with scalloping

Whatís the best way to cool off in July and August? Go scalloping. Itís like going on an underwater Easter egg hunt that results in a bag of tasty scallops to cook up. The most popular places to scallop are in Homosassa and Steinhatchee in 2 feet of ...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

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