Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Outdoors

Take it Outside Planner: Solitude in the Green Swamp, plus amberjack and saltwater fly fishing

SWEET SOLITUDE: THE GREEN SWAMP

They call it a "swamp," but much of the land is high and dry, a mixture of hardwood hammock, pine flatwoods and sandhill scrub. Covering some 870 square miles in Pasco, Hernando, Polk, Lake and Sumter counties, the Green Swamp serves as the headwaters to four major rivers: the Hillsborough, the Withlacoochee, the Ocklawaha and the Peace. With its highest point 130 feet above sea level, this region is a major recharge area for the Floridan Aquifer, the state's water supply.

American Indians lived here long before the Egyptians built their first pyramid. The Swamp's inhospitable terrain set the tone for Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto's ill-fated attempt to conquer the Florida peninsula. Later, during the Seminole Wars, U.S. troops discovered that the Green Swamp provided the ideal backdrop for a protracted guerrilla war. Then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, homesteaders eked out a living here through the timber and turpentine trades.

But nature has a way of healing all wounds, and the scars of that exploitation are barely visible. True, you can't wander far without seeing some sign of past human activity, but today, the Green Swamp is mostly deserted. You can hike, ride or paddle for hours (perhaps even days) and never encounter another human being. If solitude is what you seek, the Green Swamp is a good place to start looking. With more than 70 miles of the Florida Trail within its boundaries, the Green Swamp is a great place for an overnight backpacking trip.

AMBERJACK: A.K.A. REEF DONKEYS

The season for greater amberjack, the largest member of the jack family, opened Jan. 1. Inshore anglers are familiar with its cousin, the Jack Crevalle, another voracious predator commonly found in Tampa Bay. Pound for pound, you won't find a tougher fighting fish in the Gulf of Mexico, which is why some fishermen call amberjack "reef donkeys." But greater amberjack are also undergoing overfishing, which means anglers are catching too many fish for the species to survive. As a result, the season had to close early last year. So in an effort to help this valuable recreational species, fishery managers have raised the size limit from 30 to 34 inches.

ON THE FLY: FLORIDA FAVORITE

When the world's top anglers talk about the best places in the world to fly fish, Florida always ranks at the top of the list. Saltwater fly fishing, the fastest growing segment of the recreational fishing market, was once considered an elitist sport. Legend has it that the ancient Macedonians caught trout on artificial flies while the apostles were throwing their nets into the Sea of Galilee. Yet despite its rich history, fly rodding, especially in saltwater, was long considered an oddity. But in recent years, everyday anglers looking for a challenge have embraced this fishing technique that can trace its origins back to Biblical times. Today, serious fly fishermen will pay top dollar to catch exotic species such as peacock bass in the Amazon or tiger fish in the Zambezi River. But no self-respecting fly fisherman's life list is complete without a trip to Florida to catch the big three: tarpon, bonefish and permit. You don't necessarily need a guide to catch fish on a fly in Florida. A simple 8-weight rod with a basic saltwater reel and sinking line is all that's required to get started. Fly fishermen who wade along the grass flats stand as good a chance as their boating brethren of catching a fish.

NEED IT: RINSE KIT BY OUTSOL

After a long day on the water, nobody wants to put a paddleboard covered in seaweed and sand back on top of a nice clean SUV. No worries! Now you can rinse your board wherever you go. Rinse Kit is a portable, pressurized shower kit capable of spraying 2 gallons of water without pumping or batteries. Just fill the Rinse Kit with a standard hose spigot and later you will have pressurized spray for 4 minutes. It holds the pressure for up to one month. $89. rinsekit.com.

   
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Captainís Corner: Warming weather brings permit to wrecks, ledges

Captainís Corner: Warming weather brings permit to wrecks, ledges

As water temperatures continue to climb, more and more permit are showing up on wrecks and ledges off the Suncoast area. These highly prized members of the jack family appear every spring and gather into large aggregations for spawning. Most of this ...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18

Captainís Corner: Time nears for snook, tarpon out at the beaches

With summerlike air temperatures coming in the next couple of weeks, snook will be moving out to the beaches and tarpon will start cruising there. Itís my favorite time of year to fish. With snook on the beaches and passes, you would think their biol...
Published: 04/21/18
Updated: 04/22/18

Captainís Corner: Variables are all that is constant when it comes to art of fishing

The unique variables and ever-changing conditions of fishing are what set it apart from most other sports. Basketball goals donít move, baseball diamonds are basically the same and tennis courts never change. Fishing, on the other hand, is constantly...
Published: 04/21/18

Captainís Corner: King mackerel the hot topic as gulf waters warm

King mackerel is always the hot topic this time of year, with tournaments every weekend for two months. Some believe that massive schools in the gulf migrate from their fall haunts in south Florida and the Keys to the north, with the larger females (...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Captainís Corner: Trout moving toward the beaches

Captainís Corner: Trout moving toward the beaches

After significant winds from a front last week, things are calming down and fish are turning on again. Bait has gotten predictable and easier to chum on the flats after moving to deeper water during the front. Iíve been targeting trout at first light...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/19/18

Captainís Corner: Rush of warmer water in gulf heats up fishing on offshore reefs, wrecks

The rush of warmer water on our offshore reefs and wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico has brought with it a cadre of pelagic fish. Divers and anglers have enjoyed the influx of cobia, kingfish and more. The benthic (bottom) fish are splurging on the balls ...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Captainís Corner: Spring bite is solid despite wacky weather

Bipolar weather continues to confuse both fish and anglers. Fortunately the water temperature has gotten high enough that the effects donít last long and the spring bite continues to be solid. Snook are still the hot bite in many areas around the bay...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Captainís Corner: Kingfish, sharks provide aerial displays

Fishing was good this past Saturday, ahead of the cold front. We fished close to shore about 2 miles. Our approach was simple. We anchored the boat, fished with live baits and chummed heavily. Kingfish action was nonstop for the entire morning. We ca...
Published: 04/16/18

Captainís Corner: Trolling or anchoring up, kingfish bite is hot

Are you looking for line-screaming action? Head offshore. The kingfish bite has been good, though high winds may require a wait for the water to clear. The best numbers have been about 5 miles out on the hard bottom. Trolling for kingfish works well;...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/15/18

Captainís Corner: Spring run is the most wonderful time of the year

The full spring run of all species in our area is in full swing. Whatever species you would like to target, inshore or offshore, is as good as it gets this time of year. Redfish schools have shown up in the flats around Pinellas Point, but they are i...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18