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One of the changes: Bait showing up again.

It’s great to be healthy again and enjoying such beautiful warm weather. It’s hard to believe it’s still February. I had the opportunity to share my fishing knowledge with the Boca Grande Historical Society group last week; great turnout and lots of good questions. I joined the Radio WaterLine team for a broadcast on Saturday and we shared info about the upcoming mackerel invasion. Lots of people are here now visiting and the guide business is finally picking up. It’s great to be healthy and back on the waters.

Like many, my age-related health issues have managed to slow me down. But thanks to great doctors and staff in our Boca Grande Health Clinic and Moffit, I’m all fixed up and back at fishing again. Between the water issues and my operation, this is the longest I’ve been down in forever. The time off was nice at first, but I missed the waterman’s lifestyle. Fishing is work, but it’s wonderful to get my groove back.

I was honored to be invited to speak at the Boca Grande Library last Friday. The weather was awesome, and my producer of the Let’s Go Fishin’ TV show even came down and videoed the event. It’s available at https://youtu.be/4Mu3PCD7iRO if you want to view it. The turnout was great, and everyone had plenty of questions to eat up my hour presentation. It’s a great facility and wonderful people.

I enjoyed stirring up the old Boca Grande days memories. I miss the exciting times fishing all the tournaments and unbelievable tarpon action. It’s good to revisit old — I mean longtime — friends. Boca Grande made my fishing career blossom and take off. The fish and the people challenged me and allowed me to achieve my guiding dreams. I am thankful and blessed to have had their help and support. It’s always a eye-opener to see yourself on video. Wow, I’m getting old!

This was my first time joining a Radio WaterLine broadcast. I was excited to share my extensive Spanish and king mackerel knowledge and get ribbed by the boys. They put me in the middle so they could bounce me back and forth. You can listen to the show at RadioWaterLine.com/shows/022319.mp3. I’ve wanted to explore new opportunities and the timing is right on.

I expect the mack attack to commence any day! I had a text that Spanish were showing up as we did the show. I didn’t realize the Radio WaterLine show has been going for five years. Time is passing me, but I’m happy to get to share bits and pieces. I’ve captured some awesome memories shared by good friends.

We did enjoy some beautiful weather last week, but the catching was a bit off. Fortunately, I had regular customers, and they knew I did my best. We managed to catch a few fish and enjoyed the dolphins and birds.

It’s nice to have so many great watering holes accessible by boat. We had a great lunch at the Pink Elephant on Boca Grande. The wind backed down and it got hot, so we slipped into the Pink and enjoyed the food and A/C. The old Miller’s Marina, now the Eagle Grille, is the other Boca waterview hot spot. Be early or you might end up waiting awhile. Good food and atmosphere draw crowds fast this time of year.

Our waters are looking good, but there’s not a lot of consistent fishing just yet. I’m not expecting great resident fish action but I’m excited about our mackerel migrations due any time. I’ve talked with several guides from Naples and Fort Myers Beach. Based on their reports, Spanish mackerel are going to be here as you read this, and some kingfish will be here shortly after.

The biggest fish are the leaders of this wolf pack. If you wait too long the big ones will be gone. We will have kings for at least a month — maybe two, if it doesn’t get too hot too fast. Baitfish will be the big factor in how long our migrations hold near our beaches. Several captains have reported baitfish schools showing up already.

I have gotten reports of minnows down off Jug Creek but have not personally run that far yet. If you find minnows, snook are already hungry. I’m also hearing reliable reports of groups of redfish. I don’t expect great action this year, but there are some hot bites if you are there first.

Leaders enjoy the glory because they take the chances and understand when to look. Followers get the scraps. Yes, our stocks got hurt, but I’m betting we have more snook than many believe. The ones left are the smart ones, so it will be tough after those first mistakes. Food is absent at the moment, so enjoy the bite while fish are hungry.

It’s critical to our future fishery that you exercise care when handling your catch-and-release fish. Please do not take release fish out of the water at all if you want them to have their best opportunity to survive. If you must take photos, lean over and keep them in the water. Use circle hooks, and remember that every fish that lives grows and reproduces.

I’m looking forward to a great spring filled with hungry mackerel. Beyond that, who knows? The future is never guaranteed, so let’s make the best of today. And remember, you can’t catch fish inf 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.

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.


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