I don’t know if everyone else has noticed how much life is in the Harbor this year. There’s a lot of bait of all sizes — everything from tiny fry to good-size whitebait to big threadfins. Having that much bait swimming around is great news for our fishery.
When an area has a lot of baitfish and other forage species such as shrimp, that means a lot of food for all types of fish. If there’s no food in an area, the fish have to leave and go find food or they will die — that’s the way of life. Where I’m fishing in Charlotte harbor, this year’s local fishing has been the best in years, despite water quality concerns, because of the amount of food there is for our gamefish to eat.
We could have it better all the time. Look at Louisiana and other states that regulate their shrimp season. They close their commercial shrimpers down if the shrimp are too small, which allows the shrimp to grow more and reproduce a lot more. That means more baby shrimp and more food for the fish to eat.
I have fished in Louisiana, and there are places where I had to quit throwing a hard bait with treble hooks because I was snagging shrimp on every cast. That’s why they have the huge numbers of gamefish they do — because they have the food sources to feed all those fish. Anywhere you go in the world, the places that have the most forage will have the most fish.
Now, Florida does not shut shrimp season down at all. Because there’s no closed season, when all those other states halt shrimping, the shrimpers come here. If Florida would regulate that a little better, it would be a huge boost for our shrimp and fish populations.
Having lots of bait leads to amazing things. When was the last time you saw a bunch of Spanish mackerel at the U.S. 41 bridges? With the enormous amount of fresh water coming from our rivers, there shouldn’t be mackerel that far up. But they are, and it’s because of how much bait is in the river mouths for them to eat. That’s a great thing for all of our fish.
Next time you’re out on a nice flat day, go to the middle of the Harbor and just idle around and look. You will be amazed how much life is around in our water. The Harbor is clean and full of life, and it’s a beautiful thing. Hopefully everyone can continue to try and work together to help to keep it this way, because there are bunches of fish of all sizes all over the place.
Capt. Karl Butigian lives, breathes and eats Florida fishing. He owns and operates KB Back Country Charters (KBBackCountryChartersFishing.com) on the waters of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. To book a trip or for info, call him at 941-565-7325.