Hubbard’s Marina photo

While the mackerel are running, get out on the Gulf and get yours. The run won’t last long.

Special days make it all worth the hard work required for successful trips. I had brothers Samuel and Josh out for their “trip of a lifetime” fishing adventure recently. The trip was a graduation gift for Samuel from his mom. Their grandfather Ken reads my columns and decided I was the one to share our waters with them. I am grateful.

On the first cast, Josh hooked and landed a permit, getting our day off to a great start. After that, the action was almost nonstop for more than an hour. Samuel lost a couple big fish that went into the rocks or got eaten by goliath grouper, then finally landed a huge jack crevalle well over 10 pounds on 15-pound spinning gear, then got his own permit. Not to be outdone, Josh brought in a 33-inch cobia, while his brother battled another big jack.

By that time, their arms were literally starting to hurt. The blue runners took over and it was getting crowded on the reef, so we headed farther out to deeper water in search of snapper. They had caught a few lane snapper and assorted other smaller fish when Samuel hooked up with a genuine sea monster.

After a 40-minute tag team battle (again on 15-pound gear), the brothers brought a 130-pound shark boatside for photos. This thing was about 7 feet long and a miracle to bring up on such light gear. The Penn Battle came thru big time again!

That was truly a special day, one that none of us will ever forget. What a blessing to get to do this for a living.

Spanish mackerel are a blessing we enjoy almost daily this time of year. If fish are scattered, we troll with shiny silver Drone spoons and a black planer to locate fish. When we get a double header, we swing around, anchor up and switch to lighter spinning gear — it’s more fun. I like to toss over a block of frozen BaitMasters chum to attract and hold the fish.

The chum also attracts sharks. If you want to make a kid’s day, hook him up to a shark! Even smaller ones create huge smiles, especially with family watching. Multiple mackerel hookups are common, and it is exciting to share the action-packed experience with loved ones.

Because it’s spring break time, most of my trips are with children. These are my favorites anyway. Some of the children are as young as 5 or 6, and they’re creating lifetime memories to share with their family and friends forever. We’ve had so much fun helping youngsters experience our awesome local fishing.

It’s great, as long as the wind lets us get outside into the Gulf. Our ICW has been so crowded that it’s literally scary for me to navigate home safely after charters, especially with so many of the boaters being inexperienced.

The marina next door had 100 rental boats out on Palm Sunday! Plus who knows how many of their storage customers — and that’s just one marina! Growth and marketing have made us extremely popular. We live in paradise, but how many people is too many?

Unfortunately, by mid-day fishing is almost impossible in Lemon Bay now. Weekends are dangerous from an hour after sunup to late afternoon. The wakes from boat traffic stir up the waters and rock my boat (which is 9.5 feed wide) so badly we can’t stand up.

The turbidity from all those wakes has bay waters stirred up like coffee with a lot of cream. The slimy algae is so abundant it clogs baitwell pumps and motor intakes, creating all sorts of problems. It makes castnetting baitfish impossible because the nets are full of seaweed. It also tangles up on our lines and hooks.

When the west winds blow, we have decaying algae on our beaches. The stench of rotting vegetation stirred up by the Gulf surf makes us cough until the winds shift back east. Challenges like this are a big anchor weighing down our fun.

Fortunately, the winds should back off soon and our Gulf fishing is great. Both Spanish and king mackerel are readily available for fun and food. Everything is showing up. I observed tons of baitfish on the surface before the weekend blow. Some tarpon are around if you time it correctly. Deepwater grouper (out past 120 feet) opened back up for the blue-water anglers.

With Easter behind us (traditionally the sign that snowbird season is wrapping up), it’s time to enjoy paradise before we go from comfortably warm to roasting hot. Summer will be here before you know it, so let’s go fishin’ now!

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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