The water is looking better every day. I can’t say our red tide is over, but I can report that as I put this together, we are clear for now. I’m seeing some healthy fish where they should be. The numbers are down — we did lose some fish, for sure — but I’m seeing enough life to give me hope for our fall fishing.
There were a dozen pet snook back in Stump Pass Marina last week, and several were larger fish. They were healthy, hungry and active. I’m observing scattered smaller snook in most spots I’ve checked. However, I wasn’t seeing any redfish before and I’m not seeing any now, either.
If you are interested in snook and redfish management, the FWC is meeting Sept. 26-27 at the Florida Public Safety Institute Conference Center (85 Academy Drive, Havana, Fla.) to consider options about the current closures. You can submit written comments, because it’s a long drive for three minutes of speaking time. The system is not perfect, but we can share our input if we desire. My guess is the closures will probably remain at least a year, but it could go many ways.
Unfortunately, the good news that fishing and water quality has improved is not spreading like the bad news of red tide did. Social media stirred awareness of the devastation. Hopefully it can now let folks know we have opportunities to enjoy good fishing without crowds. I do understand the concerns and still recommend that you call ahead of long-distance travels. But if you want good opportunities and very little competition, go fishing now.
Several Boca Grande captains reported good mango snapper fishing around Charlotte Harbor structures. Many were larger fish, averaging about 14 inches. Capt. Matt Coleman reported catching a few tarpon and snapper around Boca Grande Pass last week before the winds blew through. We are guessing more silver kings will be passing through our area for the next month or so. All of us have openings right now, so it’s a good time to make a reservation and explore our recovery. Everyone in the water industries is hungry and anxious to get back to work.
Most folks overdo gear when they try snapper fishing. I do best with 15-pound fluorocarbon leader. Keep rigs simple and hooks small enough to hide inside your offering. Knocker rigs are simple and productive; just slide a light sinker on then add a 1/0 hook. I recommend a couple bags of chum to attract and hold hungry fish in tight. Be patient and allow fish to start actively feeding on chum before you educate them with hooks.
Close in, Goliath grouper losses did hurt the population, but that will give us a better chance of landing snapper. There are two sides to every coin! I try to find the brighter spots. Live shrimp have grown significantly and are certainly excellent choices for baits now. Minnows are around too, just smaller than I prefer. Use small-mesh cast nets!
With storms stirring up the northern Gulf, I predict earlier mackerel migrations. Water temps are dropping significantly, and mornings already feel so much better than last month. Notice how late sunrise is now? It’s almost time for our fall fishing to begin.
Offshore action should pick up as we continue our cool down. Grouper should begin to migrate shallower soon. Don’t expect miracles but let’s hope for some improvement. Snapper have been a mainstay for us and I’m looking forward to checking out some spots ASAP. This is fun action with great dinner as a bonus.
We all need to stay on top of the Mosaic Horse Creek mine permitting. This is headed to mediation and probably the courthouse eventually. Mosaic is powerful and very savvy about getting the results they require to advance. This is extremely important to both Sarasota and Charlotte counties because our drinking waters will be affected if this mining proceeds. Our survival and health are at risk. Please stay informed and speak up for our future. My understanding is that the Horse Creek water improves Peace River waters up to acceptable quality levels. Horse Creek is clean, but Peace River’s water quality is already damaged by Mosaic mining operations farther north.
Just because our backyards have cleared up for now doesn’t mean we can forget about our local and statewide water quality issues. Red tide, blue-green algae and Everglades water flows require help to achieve resolution. The squeaky wheel gets the attention, and if we back down nothing gets fixed. Please educate yourselves and acquire the understanding required to make smart, fact-based decisions as we proceed — especially at the polls! Nothing happens if we sit back and relax.
Enjoy this rare opportunity to fish and enjoy our areas catching with the least company you will probably ever encounter on Southwest Florida waters. Remember, you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishin’, so let’s go fishin’ soon.
Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.