Sunday, November 19, 2017
Outdoors

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

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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.

   
Comments

Captainís Corner: As visibility improves, so does spearfishing

Spearing in the Gulf of Mexico is improving day by day. First, the underwater visibility is getting much better. For more than a month, after Hurricane Irma, the offshore water clarity was so poor that most divers stayed home. The water is now much c...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17

Captainís Corner: Snook bite remains aggressive

We are in the midst of prefrontal conditions, so there should be good fishing today. Bait seems to have moved on the last full moon and judging by the amount of bait fry that has filtered onto the flats, it spawned also. Load up the wells with the sm...
Published: 11/17/17

Captainís Corner: Calm seas closer to beaches rewards with kingfish

Strong east winds have made it challenging for offshore anglers. The first few miles are quite tolerable since the land buffers the shoreline. After that, sea conditions have been tougher. Anglers searching for kingfish have been rewarded with calm s...
Published: 11/16/17

Captainís Corner: A little wind doesnít stop hot fishing in November

Despite many windy days, November fishing has been amazing. The water is cooling off, and the fish are becoming more aggressive. Itís getting to be the time of year when the cold fronts start to make their way out of the north. When this happens, win...
Published: 11/15/17

Captainís Corner: Fly fishing success possible, even in wind

When your day to fly fish arrives, do you hope for a day without wind? Knowledgeable fly fishers know there are many ways to deal with different wind situations. Avoid open water, and select an area that offers protection. Stay close to shore and use...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/14/17

Captainís Corner: Low tides and cold fronts make for rewarding fishing

Fall and winter low tides combined with cold fronts passing through can lead to highly rewarding fishing. It takes winds blowing 20-plus miles an hour out of the northeast combined with an astronomical low tide around the new moon and full moon phase...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17

Captainís Corner: Reef fish abundant offshore; mackerel, kings better near shore

Before this recent cold front, we were able to travel where we wanted, and the calm seas allowed us to make the mistake of running past the best depths for our type of fishing. The 40- to 50-foot depths produced almost nonstop action from reef fish, ...
Published: 11/12/17
Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

The fall king mackerel run is still going strong. The fish have seemed to come in waves; one week there are numerous fish more than 30 pounds, and a week or two later no one can find any more than 20. It also seems the fish are not moving south all t...
Published: 11/11/17

Captainís Corner: Cold front should push fish into backcountry waters

The approaching front is forecast to drop temperatures for a couple of days. This should push more fish into the backcountry rivers and creeks that feed the bay. Once the front passes and the weather stabilizes, fishing should return to normal. This ...
Published: 11/10/17

Captainís Corner: Kingfish domination

With calm seas and water temperature just the way they like it, kingfish will dominate much of the nearshore and offshore activity. Light wind and strong tides from the weekendís full moon have allowed nearshore waters to cleanse, so baits are being ...
Published: 11/08/17