I’m over the doom and gloom we are bombarded with by many media gossips. We have many water quality issues that need our attention, but we also have good fishing opportunities to enjoy while we deal with these challenges. Look for solutions that improve our situation. The blame game is dividing us but not resolving the problems. Every one of us has earned our share of blame — now take personal responsibility and help fix it.
Fishing is not consistent or predictable yet, but it’s not all dead either. My recent exploratory visits to local beaches found no dead fish or irritation. However, the water doesn’t look right yet. It’s unusually black and not healthy. I’m observing only a few live fish, but it changes every day.
So, what should you do? That’s a personal decision. If you are an optimist, check things out and take a chance. You have great fishing opportunities if you are willing to gamble. To realize adventure, you need to take chances. There are very few boaters out right now. This may be the opportunity of your lifetime to learn about fish with minimum interruptions.
My biggest challenge in recent years has been to figure out how fish are reacting to boating pressures. Right now, the fish are able to return to their natural patterns. This is the time to learn how fish behave without disruptions (except for being pushed around by red tide). While we don’t want the blooms, they can help us by pushing fish together.
Many anglers are reporting schools of fish out of season and in unexpected areas. Our publisher recently reported sheepshead schools and noted this is not winter! We can make the best of unique opportunities if we take the chance and try. Maybe you can sight-fish sheepshead schools? We need to expect the unexpected and try to be ready to take advantage of these rare moments.
Several captains enjoyed their best tarpon fishing and catching experiences ever in recent weeks. Many others sat home and whined. Why the disconnect in experiences? Simple: The ones at home listened to the naysayers. Social media has allowed them to gain traction, and now all it takes to destroy the fishing is the idea of red tide. I hate red tide, but if you have lemons, try a lemonade recipe instead of complaining about how your lips keep puckering.
Seriously, this is a rare chance to sit and learn about how fish move. This is the minimum boating traffic you will likely ever encounter! Fish are holding up in concentrations we don’t normally come across. We certainly lost a lot of fish, but you will be surprised just how good things are now if you poke around the clean areas. Of course, avoid any areas with dead fish or lung irritation.
I have reliable reports of bait and fish offshore and north of our area. This is time for Spanish and king mackerel migrations to start marching south along our Gulf Coast waters. Water quality could be an issue, but offshore waters have been cleaner. We have enjoyed good consistent action beyond 60 feet.
Please take time to shop at local bait and tackle shops for rigging and up to date information. Recent water conditions have badly hurt local water-related businesses. These folks support our local economy, and everyone suffers when they suffer.
Many blame this or that for these red tide and other algae blooms. Here’s the plain truth: Our problems are cumulative, and everything has come together in a perfect storm. It took decades of abuse on everyone’s part for nutrients to concentrate enough to feed these killer blooms.
While we are suffering, please find time to learn what each of us can do to prevent more nutrients from entering our waterways. Watersheds were destroyed, and runoffs are contributing to our problems. This will not just resolve itself! Find common goals we can do something about and start at the bottom to address problems. Insist on science-based documentation and common-sense approaches.
Jumping on agenda-driven bandwagons will not fix problems. Do not buy in to any politicians claim that he or she will fix these algae disasters. There is no silver bullet. When the problems stop interrupting our lifestyles — and they will — we still need to stay on top of them. Please work to understand what you are pushing and believing. Your lifestyle and our economy depend on us getting this right. Our very lives could be at risk also.
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.