I can’t catch any fish to eat because the seasons are all closed! Why do I have to drive so far to find good fishing? I want to catch a tarpon but I can’t find any where I want to fish! Why does everything always happen to me?
When did we get so spoiled? Sure, things aren’t perfect, but there’s a lot of opportunity out there on Southwest Florida waters. To snub them because we can’t have them served to us on a silver platter by a well-bred English butler is petty and ultimately self-defeating.
So, what’s closed? Snook, redfish and trout over 20 inches long. That’s it. Let’s take a look at how that really affects us.
The bag limit on redfish is only one anyway. How much food does one 25-inch redfish really provide? With snook, most anglers are lucky to catch one legal slot fish during a season. What’s the difference in the fillet you get from a 20-inch trout versus an 18-inch trout? You can keep four of those 18-inchers. And yet, people are staying off the water entirely because they have a mental block that it’s not worth fishing if they can’t keep a redfish.
Most anglers release most of their fish anyway. I get it that some folks don’t like having the choice taken away from them. But if it’s a fish dinner you want, there are alternatives.
Mangrove snapper are plentiful inshore. So are Spanish mackerel, at least for the time being. A short trip into the Gulf to catch grunts and porgies from the nearshore reefs is a realistic proposition. Bonnethead and blacktip sharks are abundant and tasty. Black drum are around also.
Here’s a thing: Most of us refuse to eat saltwater catfish because we’ve been told they’re no good. Can you imagine what this place was like a thousand years ago? The huge schools of redfish, snook under every bush – all the fish you could possibly want. And yet, in the waste piles left behind by Native Americans living here at the time, one of the common items is catfish spines. They could have had any shallow-water species they wanted. They chose the catfish. That’s gotta say something.
Sometimes you may have to travel to get to where a specific species of fish is. Yes, maybe it’s easier to fish close to home. But it’s not like you have to hitch up a horse and take a wagon 25 miles or walk there. You have a vehicle that can take you there.
The internal combustion engine has made life so much simpler. Turn the key, apply pressure to the throttle, and off you go. Think about how much you take that for granted, and how much harder it used to be to get around, and it doesn’t seem like you have things so tough any more.
Some fish are harder to find than others. Tarpon are often near the top of that list. They’re very powerful swimmers, and they range widely. It’s not unusual for an individual fish to move from the river mouth to the open Gulf over the course of a few hours. When you’re dealing with a fish that moves as far and as quickly as that, then of course you have to expect to spend a bit of time looking for them.
We have always sought to make our lives easier and more simplified. In many ways, we have succeeded. But the more we do that, the more we seem to expect all of life to be that way.
Fishing is not. It’s never going to be — at least, not for longer than brief moments. It’s the challenge that makes it such an appealing activity anyway. Stop complaining. Embrace that it can be difficult, and that is one of the top reasons to go do it anyway.
Snook and redfish will eventually be back on the menu. But you’ll never be able to get this time back. Get out there and fish anyway. Ignore the small annoyances, which is really what they work out to be in the overall scheme of things.
We are blessed to live in a land of plenty, and we should be thankful for it. But since we’re all toddlers at heart, we instead focus on the things we want but can’t have. Well, it’s time to grow up. If you count your blessings instead of your hardships, you’ll be much happier.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle, located at 4425-D Tamiami Trail in Charlotte Harbor and at 14531 N. Cleveland Ave. in North Fort Myers. Call 941-625-3888 for more information about the shop or for local fishing info, or visit them online at FishinFranks.com.