Saturday, March 24, 2018

Take It Outside Planner: Spot manatees and bobcats, indoor rock climbing at Vertical Ventures


The 6-mile long Homosassa River begins in a spring at the state park and is home to one of the largest herds of West Indian manatee in Florida. Paddlers often see these gentle animals moving slowly upstream, especially in the winter months. The Halls River, which joins the Homosassa from the north, offers additional backwater paddling. As you near the gulf, freshwater mixes with salt, making for good fishing, so bring a rod and reel. After you are done on the river, spend the afternoon at the state wildlife park, one of Florida's original roadside attractions. You can see manatees every day of the year from the park's underwater observatory in the main spring. The park showcases native Florida wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles and river otters. Don't miss the kid-friendly wildlife encounter programs.


Want to wear out your kids while they're off from school? Take them rock climbing. While Florida may be a little short on boulders, it does have Vertical Ventures, one of the best climbing gyms in the Southeast United States. The new location in St. Petersburg now features the Vanguards Youth Climbing Club, which is open to climbers ages 6 through 17. Aimed at youngsters just getting into the sport, Vanguards meets once a week on Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. or Saturdays from 8 to 10 a.m. A decade ago, climbing was a fringe sport. But as more Americans are looking for new ways to get fit, many are turning to indoor climbing gyms for a chance to build muscle and blow off a little steam. All you have to do is take a look at a hard-core climber to realize the benefits of this total-body workout. Hit the wall and you'll use your hands, arms, shoulders, back, legs, feet, abdominal muscles and, of course, your mind.


While fishing near Rocky Creek recently, I was thrilled to see a large bobcat saunter out on to a sand flat. The crazy cat must have been looking for an easy meal. These efficient predators usually hunt at night, but they sometimes venture out in the light because they only sleep for two or three hours at a time. They prey mostly on small mammals — squirrels, rabbits, rats, opossums and small raccoons — but occasionally they will take a feral cat. During the winter months, bobcats also hunt migrating birds, such as towhees, robins, catbirds and thrashers. Found throughout North America, bobcats are equally at home in forests and swamps. In rural areas, bobcats usually hunt in a 5- or 6-mile radius, but in urban areas, territories are much smaller, usually 1 or 2 miles.


Forget somebody this Christmas? Look for after-holiday sales in electronics. I wish somebody had bought me a solar charger so I can keep my playlist cranking, even on the river or out in the woods. Powertraveller products are great for any outdoor activity. Keep those electronics fully charged with a portable "powermonkey." Prices started around $89.99 and go to $199.99.


Captainís Corner: Erratic weather making offshore fishing unpredictable

Continued heavy winds have kept offshore fisheries from settling in to predictable patterns. When things have calmed, nearshore baitfish have bunched up and kingfish and Spanish mackerel settled in around them. Unfortunately, each cold front has chur...
Published: 03/23/18

Captainís Corner: Snook bite is best now in afternoon

So what happened to our spring weather in February? The weather has the fish moving back and forth between their winter and summer spots, and with April just a few weeks away, the air temperature is warming up and should be in the upper 70s and low 8...
Published: 03/21/18
Updated: 03/22/18

Captainís Corner: Windy conditions limit fishing options

The weather and water temperature roller coaster continues. Finding consistent action has been difficult with windy conditions keeping us from fishing many open parts of the bay or out into the gulf. Hiding in secluded backwater areas or on leeward s...
Published: 03/20/18
Updated: 03/21/18

Captainís Corner: Grouper moving in as water temperatures rise

Red grouper have made their move inshore this past week as waters closer to shore have warmed up a bit. Concentrate your efforts on hard bottom areas in depths of 100-120 feet for the rest of the month, and remember that all shallow water grouper are...
Published: 03/18/18
Updated: 03/20/18

Captainís Corner: Cold causes spiny lobsters to go into hiding

The cold front that ended Wednesday drove the offshore bottom temperatures back down into the low 60s. On dives Friday, my dive computer read 62 degrees at the bottom in 54 feet of water. On the next dive it read 60 in 62 feet. We were looking for ho...
Published: 03/18/18

Captainís Corner: Snook are the hot bite

Surface water temperatures have dipped into the low 60s, but the fish donít seem to mind. The longer days get the temperature up and helps keep it from getting into the danger zone at night. Snook have been the hot bite this past week and, believe it...
Published: 03/16/18
Updated: 03/17/18

It has been a crazy month regarding all the drastic weather changes. We experienced a record-breaking warming trend in February, followed by an endless amount of cold weather this month. The arrival times for many spring migrations of fish has been i...
Published: 03/16/18

Captainís Corner: Big trout moving out of the shallows

February seemed like March with record-breaking heat, but now March seems like February with below-average temperatures. This is a good thing. Spring fishing has started way too early in the past few years. The cold-water temperature we have now will...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/15/18

Captainís Corner: Temperature changes affect fly fishing

Having a fantastic river trip one day where we caught a lot of snook in shallow water on a fly and going back to the same location three days later and not finding any cooperative fish can be very puzzling. What happened? Recent warm weather was repl...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/14/18

Captainís Corner: Warming trend increasing activity over grass flats

Water temperatures have finally started to climb into the low 70s on the flats. The temperatures have been fluctuating with the past few cold fronts moving through. Large schools of reds should start showing up on the flats in the Pinellas Point area...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/13/18