Computer enthusiasts have been "surfing" the World Wide Web for some time. Now anglers have found they can "fish" the Web.
We're not talking about playing games. We're talking about the wealth of valuable fishing information available on the Internet if you know where to look.
To find a specific topic on the Internet, you choose a search engine such as Yahoo, Infoseek or Lycos and type in the keywords.
Keying in "Saltwater Fishing _ Florida" on Wednesday brought up only 20 relevant documents on Yahoo. A search for "Florida Saltwater Fishing" on Infoseek showed 177 documents, but by switching to "Saltwater Fishing _ Florida," 3,390 sites were listed. Using the Lycos search engine the same day brought up 43,491 documents on "Florida Saltwater Fishing," and 47,036 on "Florida Freshwater Fishing."
You can see that the way you ask for information can have a direct bearing on what you receive. Sometimes the search appears overwhelming, but it is worth the trouble, and you'll quickly learn which sites have good information.
Many Web sites list local fishing reports, facilities, guides, local species, destinations and other information. Other sites are just "good old boys" bragging about their catch or professional guides advertising for customers. Some sites are very professionally done, others strictly amateur.
The good sites you'll want to "bookmark." A bookmark provides a one-click, direct path to a previously visited site. I have bookmarked several of the better sites for Florida fishing.
The State of Florida _ Office of Fisheries Management and Assistance Services (www.dep.state. fl.us/marine/html) lists Loran TDs and GPS latitude/longitude for 22 reefs in Citrus County, seven in Hernando, 11 in Pasco, 15 in Levy, three in Dixie and eight in Taylor County. It also has sections on fishing regulations, illustrated species lists, the state's Saltwater Records Program, and lots of other information.
At the Florida Marine Patrol site (www.dep.state. FL.us/law/fmp) you can check the latest fishing regulations and obtain other factual information.
Anglers Online Fishing Reports (www.inetmkt.com/fishpage) offers many great links to Florida fishing sites, including Anglers World, Florida Suncoast Outdoors and Outdoor Sportsman. Other sites include hobby pages and advertisements.
Anglers World (www.anglersworld.com) offers extensive coverage of Florida and is broken into regions. The Suncoast and Nature Coast areas are featured with audio reports and stories about fishing. The site has lists of area facilities, guides and boat ramps, a statewide fishing report and much more.
Anglers World also contains the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida home page, which also is filled with information about fishing, conservation and legislation.
The current Saltwater Fishing home page (http://wmi. cais.com/saltfish/ reports/florida/indexer/htm) offers reader reports of individual fishing trips. The reports are compiled daily and usually are kept for 30 days. They are good references for tracking fish movements. This site also has links to all other U.S. areas.
Florida Suncoast Outdoors (www.flsun.com) does not limit itself to fishing. It includes scuba diving, boating, sailing, wildlife, tides, weather, recipes and more. A recent story on "Fishing the Tampa Bay Shipping Channel" stated there are 45 miles of main channel, a fact most of us probably did not realize.
Another Tampa Bay site (www.tampa-angler.com) offers good links to artificial and natural reef sites.
Fishing Southwest Florida (www.fishing-florida.com/main.htm) and South Florida Saltwater Fishing (www.aksi.net/fishing) contain information about the area from Sarasota to the 10,000 islands of the Everglades.
Welcome to Florida Fishing and About Florida Saltwater Fishing (both at www.fl-fishing.com) specialize in east coast fishing.
The International Gamefish Association (http://22.214.171.124 /igfa) has all of the world-record catches.
For up-to-date and archival information via articles, there is Florida Sportsman Magazine (www.flsportsman.com).
One of the most useful sites for anglers fishing the upper Nature Coast and Big Bend areas is the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club (www.afn.org/ ofc/gofc.html). It has excellent information gained over many years by club members, and includes new and old reefs, Loran and GPS numbers, and types of fishing to expect at various times of the year.
Away from Florida, the Great Outdoors Recreation Page (www.gorp.com) covers all types of recreation around the world.
If you are planning a trip to another part of the country, Internet sites can tell what is biting, what tackle and lures to use, area guides, charters and boat rentals _ even hotel and other information. You'll get instant information with no expensive telephone calls or postage, and e-mail will allow you to make instant reservations.
While talking to the Hernando Boat Club Wednesday night, a guest asked if I had seen any information about recreational shrimping on the St. John's River. By chance, I had just downloaded information on that very subject Monday and had a copy with me. He was amazed as he had spent many hours and dollars seeking the information.
To access the Internet, of course, your computer must have a modem. Ask friends or retailers what you need. You may even gain access through your local library or a friend.
If you find any really great sites on Florida fishing, e-mail them to me at: captwhooatlantic.net.