Trailmix: Scallop season, snook tricks, diver-down flags

Diver down

With the scallop season in full swing, boaters should keep an eye out for snorkelers. State law requires that a vessel with divers or snorkelers in the water display a diver-down flag (red with a white diagonal stripe).

The flag must be at least 20 by 24 inches if displayed on a boat or at least 12 by 12 inches if towed on a float by the diver or snorkeler.

In open water, vessels must make an effort to stay 300 feet from a divers-down flag. In a river, channel or inlet, the distance is 100 feet. Vessels may operate within those distances, but at idle speed.

Stay cool on the flats

Surfing, fishing, paddling — these are the pursuits of summer. Chase Heard and Andy Stepanian, a.k.a., the Howler Brothers, grew up chasing fish and waves in Florida and Virginia, but now both live in Texas, where they started a clothing company to fit their lifestyle. They came upon the name in Costa Rica, where they were entertained by the call of the loudest animal in the Americas, the howler monkey. The Loggerhead long-sleeve shirt will keep you cool, dry and comfortable on the flats. Price: $65. Go to howlerbros.com.

Tip from a pro

During the summer spawn you can catch snook using the same type of baits used the rest of the year — live whitebait, pinfish, threadfins, and shad. You can also catch snook on all types of artificial lures, such as jigs, topwater plugs and crankbaits.

One trick for catching those monster linesiders: Catch fresh mullet, cut the head off and fish it on the bottom.

Mike Manning runs Action Fishing Adventures out of Tarpon Springs. Call him toll-free at 1-800-644-5940.

Catch and release

Snook season may be closed through the end of the year, but that doesn't mean these prized game fish will stop biting. So anglers should bone up on the finer points of catch and release.

If you hook a snook, land the fish as quickly as possible. Leave the fish in the water and unhook it using pliers or a dehooking tool. The quicker you release the fish, the better its chances of survival.

If the hook is too difficult to remove in one, clean motion without ripping flesh, wet a rag and use it to lift the fish out of the water. This helps keep the fish's protective slime intact. Be careful not to tear additional tissue while removing the hook. Back it out through the hole. If this fails, cut off the tip of the hook and try again.

If the hook has been swallowed or is deeply embedded, cut the leader as close to the shank as possible and leave it in the fish. Most nonstainless steel hooks dissolve in a few days.

Biologists estimate that only 2 percent of the snook that are caught and released do not survive, as compared to 5 percent of the redfish and 8 percent of the trout.

trailmix

{outdoors-related bits and bites}



Scallop season

N ormally, July 1 marks the start of the scallop season. But this year the season opened a week early, on June 25. You will find Argopecten irradians scattered throughout the Gulf of Mexico, but it's the places where freshwater rivers flow into the ocean where the scallops are the thickest. These tasty mollusks need the right mix of saltwater and freshwater to survive. If rains are heavy, too much freshwater can flood the bay and wipe out a crop. If the water is too salty, they won't survive, either. The state's prime scallop grounds — Homosassa, Crystal River and Steinhatchee — have the perfect combination of both fresh and saltwater.

If you are looking to get in on "the hunt," then you will need a boat, diving mask, snorkel, saltwater fishing license and dive flag. The best time to go is on a slack tide, when the grass blades stand straight up.

There are advantages to waiting later in the scallop season to search for these tasty shellfish. First, they are bigger, which means more meat for the table. Second, most people think the grass beds have been picked clean. So on a weekday in July, you pretty much have the place to yourself.

The season runs through Sept. 25, and it is legal to gather scallops north of the Pasco-Hernando (near Aripeka) county line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

You can land up to 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell, or 1 pint of scallop meat each day during the open season. Recreational scallopers may not possess more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or a half gallon of meat aboard any boat. Visit myfwc.com for complete regulations.

Trailmix: Scallop season, snook tricks, diver-down flags 06/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2011 10:08pm]

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