beach closed

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While we can hope for better in 2020, chances are we’ll be seeing signs like these on our beaches at some point this year.

It’s too early to make accurate predictions, but I’m optimistic for our new decade. Our waters are improving and showing signs of new life. I’m hearing better reports from other captains and believe it’s OK for now at least. Everything depends upon our perspective. Sure, it’s been tough the last few years, but we are due some breaks.

We have dealt with windy conditions for months. Sandy, stirred-up waters make for challenging fishing, but they settle fast. It’s winter and we can expect more disruptive weather. Learn to seek out calmer, cleaner waters. Rough conditions are temporary and there’s usually a way to work around them.

We have water quality issues, although the recent red tide outbreak seems to have passed. Finally, there are no dead fish reports to hurt water activities. The closure of several species to help to rebuild stocks hurts in the short term but might be beneficial long term — if we can avoid killing them with catch and release.

If we don’t exercise extreme caution in handling fish for release, the closures are wasted. Dead fish don’t grow and reproduce, and abused fish thrown over rarely survive. Please don’t touch release fish. Use de-hookers and keep fish in the water. In extreme hot or cold weather conditions, target more durable species of fish for catch and release. Redfish and jacks are tough; snook and trout are not! It’s our future fishing, so we all need to do something to protect it.

I don’t like all these things, but look for something good — again, it’s all about perspective. It’s happier and healthier to be optimistic. Stress hurts us and should be avoided. Get out and enjoy outdoor activities; they help our spirits.

Even the dirty waters after Christmas showed encouraging signs of hope for future fishing. If you don’t mind a boat ride, the tripletail are still around. With everyone chasing them, expect to put in some effort looking. I’m hearing positive stories about our redfish. Slot fish and smaller rat reds are abundant right now. It’s been years since I’ve heard as many good reports on these smaller fish. They are tomorrow’s breeders. I even heard one captain excited about a great speckled trout bite — nice-sized fish, too. His customers were disappointed they couldn’t keep dinner, but had fun anyway.

I finally found a few (very few) pompano. It’s been too long since we have caught any pompano. Maybe it’s time for more to move in? We also caught a whiting — a fish we used to count in dozens. But bluefish and ladyfish are abundant, keeping poles bent and clients smiling. I’m hoping it continues to improve as waters clear up. That was some serious wind and significant rain last week.

Speaking of rain: What a surprise that Venice beaches were closed again for pollution after last week’s rainfall. Venice says they had no spills. My best guess is the Bee Ridge sewage treatment plant is the source of pollution again! I haven’t heard anything from them, but they are the usual culprit, and nothing but talk has been done to fix their problems. Sarasota County says they are addressing it, then it rains, Venice beaches close and they suffer the consequences again. I’m not looking to pick a fight, but we need Sarasota County to get their problems fixed.

We need to continue the positive discussions about water quality issues. We also need media coverage of our safe, lively waterways and improved fishing. I am seeing some and glad to see the message getting out. Positive coverage will help us all heal. If you want to promote your ideas, please vet them and share facts, not propaganda intended to distract us from the big problems.

Here is a tidbit for us to ponder: When they have a frost event, the Plant City strawberry farmers use more water on that day than Crystal Springs uses for bottled water in a year! It’s easy to be a lemming and follow the herd. Solutions come from studying the problems and getting our facts accurate.

Many are complaining about bottled water but ignoring the phosphate industry’s scary amounts of water used in mining and then stored on site, polluted, until they have a spill and it accidentally disappears. Sink holes dumping huge amounts of contaminated water into our aquifer are scary stuff. There are continuing leaks and spills that slide by because they invest so much in advertising and donations to keep things quiet. Don’t buy into the messages being peddled; discover the real problems and address them, or risk our future.

Despite all the challenges, Happy New Year to you, and 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

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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