Just about every week I get a phone call or an email from an angler looking for secret fishing spots. Some are locals, others are from out of state, but most are new to the sport and don't know where to start.
I usually respond with a short email, offering a generic response, that inevitably includes the phrase, "It would take a book …"
After all, the west coast of Florida is a big place, with hundreds, make that thousands, of great places to wet a line. Several times over the years I've thought about taking my 25 or so years of accumulated knowledge and publishing it in a book.
Somebody beat me to it.
Tommy L. Thompson, a fishing guide and outdoors writer, grew up on Tampa Bay, but he left to pursue a photography career in Atlanta. The 64-year-old Gainesville resident has been fishing from the Alabama border to the Ten Thousand Islands for more than 50 years.
Thompson's first effort, The Saltwater Angler's Guide to Florida's Big Bend and Emerald Coast ($22.50, University Press of Florida) hit the stores in 2009 and set a standard for books of this genre.
His latest effort, The Saltwater Angler's Guide to Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida ($22.50, University Press of Florida), would have been more aptly named Chassahowitzka to Chokoloskee, but that title surely would have fouled up most Internet search engines.
Nonetheless, the 354-page book has everything an angler needs, from charts and boat ramps to species accounts and global positioning system numbers for artificial reefs, a veritable one-stop shop for resident and visiting anglers.
"Anglers have special needs," Thompson writes in the book's introduction. "We eat, we sleep, and we fish. If you are like me, fishing comes first, but after a 'hard' day on the water, it's nice to come back to a good meal and a nice bed."
Living here in one of the most productive estuaries in Florida, it is easy to forget just how big Tampa Bay really is. An angler from Apollo Beach might not know where to refuel in Tierra Verde, just as that Tarpon Springs fisherman may not know where to dock in Safety Harbor.
"I wanted to write something useful," said Thompson, who grew up on Pinellas Point. "I wanted a book that you would want to bring along on the boat."
Thompson did the bulk of the research, fishing from downtown Tampa to Indian Rocks Beach.
"It is a tough job, but somebody has to do it," he said.
He also relied heavily on the region's top guides, including Tampa's Mark Gore and Sarasota's Rick Grassett, as well as veteran outdoor professionals such as St. Petersburg's Bill AuCoin.
"I made sure that every bit of information checked out," Thompson said. "We were very thorough in our research."
Seasons change, marinas close and sandbars shift with each passing storm, which is why Thompson designed his Saltwater Guide series to be truly interactive. His website, salt wateranglersguide.com, is updated regularly, and he encourages fans of his book to email with updates.
Who knows, you might just make it into the next great fishing book.