bottlenose dolphin

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Bottlenose dolphins can be a scourge to fishermen, but they sure are popular with the tourists.

Spring break is a perfect time to create new family memories. I’ve survived a wonderful week shared with families and friends, catching fish as well as sharing special time together. Most days have been wonderful with lots of fish action, plus bonus encounters with dolphins and manatees.

The winds have hampered a few trips and kept us inside, but Gulf fishing is happening right now. Spanish mackerel are abundant and king mackerel are migrating thru our local waters as you read this. The water color off the beaches is beautiful: Blue-green and clear. West winds churn it up briefly, but it clears fast. Spring has arrived.

We need occasional silty water if we want any stone crabs before their season closes next month. When the water is clear, cabs stay in their holes for safety. The crab traps are handy indicators helping us locate natural live bottom. They can be a challenge to troll around when fishing though.

Be careful to avoid tangling up your fishing lines on trap rope. You’ll lose expensive tackle and it’s extremely dangerous for the crabber handling the gear. Sharp hooks penetrate even hardy crabbers’ hands and can send them to emergency rooms for removal! Enjoy some tasty stone crabs while you can. For some reason, blue crabs are hard to catch right now.

Recent charter guests have come from all over our country. I had several from Texas recently as a nice surprise, along with lots from the Midwest and northern states as usual. Some are even from Colorado and other western states. There’s a great mix of families enjoying our Florida sunshine and fishing. Our outdoors is the reason many come to visit their relatives here now, which is just one more reminder of the need to protect our waters.

We have enjoyed some great fishing when winds allowed us outside into the Gulf. We encountered many different species — Spanish, kings, sheepshead, smaller grouper and snapper, permit and even a few pompano. Every day is unique with new surprises and exciting encounters.

The dolphins are everywhere and always a blessing to observe. But unfortunately, they’re also a curse when they stick around eating all the released fish we toss back. This is a problem that requires attention because our inshore slam closures are useless with dolphins eating everything we return to the water. I wish I had a clue about to how we solve this one, but this is a big problem for us.


Manatees don’t want your fish, and there are lots of them cruising around for additional entertainment. They are curious and come check out the boat sometimes. Please remember that we can’t chase them around; it’s illegal. Law enforcement takes this seriously, so be warned. Just let them do their thing. If you stay quiet, they might just stop by for a visit. Manatees are hungry and getting ready to breed, so groups are common.

I had several young children on the boat last week, from age 6 on up. They discovered new experiences and encounter lots of fish and wildlife. One minute a huge jack is stealing our snapper, the next a bald eagle flies by. It’s great to share the smiles as kids catch fish and enjoy our wild environment; their joy keeps me going.

We still have many birds migrating thru now; a tiny one even landed on the boat one trip. The eagles are active looking for food to fatten up their chicks before they fly off soon. Ospreys are everywhere and always fun to observe. Spoonbills should return soon, now that most of the white pelicans have left and headed north. Soon many of our neighbors will follow. I’ll miss them but not the traffic.

This is prime mackerel time. If you want action and fish to eat, this is your opportunity to accomplish your goals. Larger kings are moving in now. They are passing thru as they migrate north, so don’t procrastinate. This is the hot action ticket. Inside action is picking up but still catch and release. If you want fish to eat, the Gulf is ready to oblige.

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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