Top snook fishermen will tell you the key to success is timing. While tide and temperature are key, a knack for predicting the weather will serve an angler well this time of year. A successful angler must be smart, skillful and patient. Sometimes that means waiting till after the evening thunderstorm rolls through to go fishing. • Big snook, above and beyond the 34-inch slot limit, are females. They gather in coastal passes during the summer to spawn. The common snook, largest of the four species found in Florida waters (the other three are the sword-spined snook, fat snook and tarpon snook), is a finely tuned eating machine that will shut down when the barometric pressure drops. • A smart snook fisherman understands the factors that influence any species, including moon phase and tide, but the impact of weather, even a small localized thunderstorm, is often overlooked. That's why you should keep your snook outfit handy, right next to your umbrella and rain jacket. • Find a good weather site on your computer so you can watch the storm and wait until it is safe to hit the water. When there is no longer a threat of lightning, head out to your favorite snook spot and start casting. You will be glad you did....
07/02/15 Human Interest
ICHETUCKNEE SPRINGS STATE PARK — In the summer of 1539, the conquistador Hernando de Soto and several hundred men lumbered up the Florida peninsula and stopped by this spring-fed river to rest.
They had to be hot and tired after months on the trail and probably welcomed a respite in the cool, clear water. Given the choice of continuing into the unknown wilderness, or staying put and chilling out by the creek, more than one Spaniard probably chose the latter....
A HISTORY LESSON: DISCOVER THE FORT AT DE SOTO
Fort De Soto Park, once called America's best beach, has a lot going for it: an 800-foot boat ramp with 11 floating docks; a 238-site campground; two great swimming beaches; two fishing piers; 14 group picnic shelters; a 7-mile-long, 12-foot-wide paved recreation trail; a 2-mile canoe trail; and a 1-mile nature trail. There also are places to run, surf, kite surf, windsurf, skim board, mountain bike, skate, bird-watch, surf cast, even fish for tarpon. But this 900-acre natural wonderland, located at the southern tip of Pinellas County on Mullet Key, also has a rich history many visitors never see. In 1849, the island was surveyed by Robert E. Lee, who recommended the government build a fort. The Army got to work during the Spanish American War, but the battery never fired a shot. The park offers regular guided tours (check at the ranger station) or you can explore on your own. You also can catch a ferry and head to Egmont Key, which has its own set of battlements....
new size limit for amberjack is approved
Offshore anglers will have a new size limit for amberjack when the season reopens Aug. 1. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved new rules this week. Amberjack, known for their belly-bruising fighting ability, must now measure 34 inches fork length. State-water regulations in the Gulf will now be consistent with pending federal regulations. Stock assessments show greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico are overfished. Officials hope that the minimum size limit will mean more amberjack will reproduce before being harvested....
Summer is high time for mosquitoes, no-see-ums and ticks. Some people just stay inside to avoid these pesky bugs; however in my line of work I can run but I cannot hide.
Over the years, I've encountered some pretty savage biting bugs — sand flies in New Zealand, black flies in Maine and a variety of mosquitoes in the Amazon — and as a result, have developed a three-tiered battle plan for combating ravenous insects....
When Chris Brown was 17 years old, his mother sent him on an Outward Bound expedition, where he learned to rock climb. It was a life-changing experience.
"I was totally hooked," said Brown, now 36. "Then I came back home to Clearwater where there was nothing to climb."
Luckily, he heard about a new gym in Tampa that featured an indoor rock climbing wall.
"That was it," said Brown, co-owner of the new Vertical Ventures St. Petersburg. "From that point I was there every day."...
gag grouper season set to open on july 1
Stock up on hooks, line and sinkers — gag grouper season opens July 1 in most state and all federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But if you live in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, hang up your grouper sticks. The gag season closes in state waters off your coast. The gag season will remain open in state waters (except in those previously mentioned areas) through Dec. 3....
I am a sucker for hardware stores and tackle shops. I love the mom-and-pop joints, the family-owned independents where the folks behind the cash register know every item in the inventory.
But it is hard to be a small business in this era of big box stores. The little guys have to try harder. They might not be able to buy in bulk, but small companies sometimes have the upper hand, because in the end, nothing beats local knowledge....
There are some things you never grow tired of seeing — osprey diving for fish, dolphin herding mullet and tarpon cruising along the beach on a calm summer morning. You can keep your trout, snook and redfish. Nothing gets my blood pumping like the silver king of sportfish.
It is usually about this time of year, when the fish are thick in Tampa Bay, that I call Kathy Guindon, the state's tarpon guru, to learn something new about what I consider the most interesting fish in the world....
If you head out to Fort De Soto this weekend you might notice something different about the park's North Beach. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is removing the Australian pine trees, an exotic species that interferes with sea turtle nesting.
Some people love Australian pines, but this non-native species has no business on a wild Florida beach. This tropical evergreen, which can grow to 150 feet and is sometimes called an ironwood or horsetail tree, is native to the South Pacific islands and Southeast Asia....
Whenever my wife gets mad at me, which is often, she threatens to "soften up my rough edges." But as a professional adventurer I can't afford to get too accustomed to creature comforts. In a typical day I am usually baked by the sun, bitten by insects and covered in salt, so rough, tough skin is an asset.
When I was approached by a local public relations executive to do a story on a "Gentleman's Spa Treatment," my initial reaction was "no way." ...
FWC saltwater fishing camp offered for kids
St. Petersburg is among locations throughout the state that will have a summer Kids' Saltwater Fishing Camp hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Children can catch a variety of fish, and learn the basics of environmental stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills and safety.
St. Petersburg information: Aug. 3-7, ages 8-15, go to weedonislandpreserve.org. ...
Last summer, on opening day of scallop season, I grabbed my mask and snorkel as I raced out the door at 5 a.m. I'm usually pretty good about checking my gear before a trip, but for some reason, this time I forgot.
A few hours later, I found myself on the grass flats of Homosassa, ready for the hunt. So I hopped over the side and slipped on my mask, only to have the strap break. The mask, of course, sank and disappeared into a thick bed of sea grass. It took two or three tries to find it, and when I finally did, I vowed to be proactive when it came to summer fun....
"I love the smell of fresh snapper fried light." — Jimmy Buffett, singer, songwriter
Twenty-five years ago, you could head offshore to deep water, drop anchor, fish all day and never catch a red snapper. Today you can run 50 miles west, pitch bait over the side and hook 100 or more of these prized sport fish on one spot.
Why, then, will local anglers have just 10 days to fish for the Gulf of Mexico's most fought-over finfish? The answer has more to do with people and politics than fish. ...
The Shorecrest Sailing Team capped off a stellar season on May 22-24 by winning the Baker Championship in Club 420s on Lake Michigan. The event pitted the top 12 high school teams against each other in a team race format. Each team qualified in their respective districts. Schools from as far away as Washington State, California, Florida and Rhode Island were represented at this Illinois Regatta. Shorecrest sailors won all five district championships and four of the five national championships. Sailing for Shorecrest Preparatory School: skippers Nic Baird, Patrick Shanahan, Hannah Steadman and Josh Dochoda; crews were Kathryn Booker, Peninah Benjamin, Kyle Dochoda and Andreea Ranney-Pace. ...