Photo by Capt. Van Hubbard

A fish box full of mackerel — the beginnings of a tasty supper to come.

I’ll let you in on a secret — just don’t tell anybody. Seriously, secrets are almost history as far as spots go. Boats are everywhere and many are looking for bent rods so they can “borrow” your knowledge. Some guides are the worst at moving in and taking over your hot spots — not very professional.

Since we can’t depend upon spots anymore, a trustworthy network can save your day. Building this network requires trust and respect, which are earned over time and can be lost by abuse. Bridges burned are not available to cross again!

Many folks believe the answer to any success is secret spots or tricks. But there is no successful easy path. You may get by occasionally, but it will catch up with you. The real secrets are preparation, hard work, persistence, and remembering important clues. Sharing knowledge with other local sources can make your game plan productive.

We lost a lot of resident fish over the summer due to red tide. Migratory fish are our backup option. Migratory means they are always moving. Right now, I’m depending upon the mackerel migration to put fish in the box. They should be in the Harbor by now.

Never give up. Edison said the first 2,000 ways he tried to invent the light bulb were just ways not to built it. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. A bad plan is not likely to succeed. To make a good plan, you need better judgment. Better judgment comes from making bad plans and seeing them fail. If you think success is simple, think again. You have to fail multiple ways so you know what to avoid doing.

Knowing some other fishermen you can trust helps a lot. You can compare notes with your network and enhance your odds of catching. An expanded network can help all of us track fish movements. Reliable info is great, but be sure you’re sharing good intel. Everybody wants to tell a good story, but deception hurts your credibility and endangers your relationships.

These days my only hope is to team up with reliable friends — mostly guides — and share information. One had a funny story recently. We were discussing where to fish, and I told him an area not to fish. He said he tried it anyway, and I was accurate. He laughed when he shared that it was as dead as I had told him. Some of us need to trust but verify. Building trust and respect requires us to stick our necks out. This is uncomfortable, but we must take chances to build relationships. You can’t win if you don’t gamble.

If you betray a trust, you lose the respect. This makes it harder for us to trust someone else. It’s difficult to build trust, but if you’re successful it will make life and fishing easier. Burning bridges is not productive for anyone.

So how is this helping your fishing? My desire is to educate you about how to become a better angler. Since there are thousands of us out there now, it makes sense to me to create and use a network. This allows us to cover a larger area with a lot less gas. It helps us know where to not go. Exploring the other areas enhances our odds of locating elusive fish congregations. It saves time — a precious commodity on short trips.

As our weather straightens out, we will need our networks to track migratory fish movements. Our resident fish got hammered by recent red tides. If we leave them alone as much as possible, they will bounce back faster. Consider the impacts catch-and-release have on stressed fish. Trout are breeding now and snook will begin soon. They are both delicate fish, easily damaged or killed by suboptimal handling. Offshore, the red snapper we catch and release often die because we don’t take the time to send them back to the bottom. It’s our future — handle with care.

The migratory fish are abundant and passing by now. Take advantage or miss your chance. Why work for a few bites when you can enjoy abundant mackerel action? Get out of the rut and learn a new fishery. This is an amazing opportunity, and it’s not going to stay long.

Fish are traveling south to north along our Gulf coast, following baitfish that follow warming water temperatures. Getting a heads up from your network down south can make you look much better during your trip. Reciprocating next fall — giving them the heads up as the fish head their way — will strengthen your network. It’s easy to be too busy to hold up your end, but be sure to follow up. Lasting reliable networks help in all aspects of our lives.

We have so much knowledge on internet social media. Use it but don’t abuse it. I laugh when I see photos that give away the farm. Bragging about your big catch in your secret hole frequently leads others to “share” the spot. Inside fishing is hard right now. Give yourselves a break and enjoy your success without giving up your opportunities to go back again.

Fishing has been challenging recently, but I’m confident the mack attack is going to make my season successful! Let’s go fishin’ soon while we have the migratory population explosion.

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

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


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