first fish

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Robert just caught his first fish (a mangrove snapper) with his grandpa. What can we do to ensure our waters stay healthy enough for him to enjoy a lifetime of local fishing?

We certainly have challenges and problems to tackle, but we have awesome opportunities to enjoy also. As I communicate with active guides recently, I’m consistently hearing reports of the best catching in several decades! They’re reeling in tarpon, snook and redfish until clients are worn out and asking to stop. Seriously, we do have fish.

How do we explain this with recent red tides fish kills? We have no harvest on all these species because stocks are supposed to be whipped out. My best guess is that we’re enjoying the perfect storm in a blessed way.

First, it’s the slowest time of the year. With red tides and recent rainy days, fewer fishermen are out. Thus, fish are not scared into scattering. With the recent full moon and big tides, fish are bunched up. With the autumn equinox behind us and days getting shorter, fish sense the change in seasons and are hungry. Red tides killed so much of our baitfish, so the gamefish are eager to grab anything they can find. Fish aren’t run over 50 times every morning, so they are happy.

All these factors together are resulting in a lot of catching. I can’t say how long it will last, but it’s great to have good fish stories to share.

I suggest you go fishing now, before everything changes. Windy cold fronts are coming soon. Nothing lasts, so make some time right now to poke around and discover this hot action while you can.

Please note I said poke around. If we start blasting every shoreline, our catching will again disappear. The more quietly you can explore, the better because you won’t spook the fish. Scared fish don’t eat; they run away instead.


So how are our fish stocks really doing? My observations were that red tide killed most of our pinfish and tons of minnows. Yes, we lost significant redfish, snook and trout. But because these blooms were spotty and brief, many larger fish seem to have dodged the killing outbreaks.

Fresh water from all our recent rains helped provide shelters for moving fish. Red tide cannot live in fresh water, so we had safe pockets for fish to hide. Stocks got diminished but apparently not whipped out. I’m excited with the numbers of snook I’m observing as I poke around. It looks good!

With Covid, boat traffic has increased. This pushes animals to quieter places and fish to deeper waters. If your approach is forcing the shorebirds to fly, you’re spooking fish in a similar manner. It’s easy to observe the birds’ reactions. Use them to better understand the fish you can’t see.

Consider how our movements and actions impact our natural surroundings. We can improve so much by simply slowing down. Not only will it improve our observations, it will improve our ability to catch fish as well.

Remember that you can’t catch fish if 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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