If you fish, you probably have favorite spots. And, human nature being what it is, you probably feel some degree of territoriality about those favorite fishing spots. Maybe you even think of them as your secret fishing spots. It’s totally understandable and absolutely normal.
Also, you’re completely wrong.
There’s no such thing as a secret spot in the Charlotte Harbor area. A generation ago, there were a few. Not anymore. There are just too many people here on the water and fishing. Those people take photos and share them. Even if the location isn’t specified, there are only so many places out there — sometimes you can tell by the trees or docks where the pic was taken. Those people have fishing or drinking buddies they talk to and share with. Keeping secrets is a lost cause.
Why do we get so upset when we find someone fishing “our” spots? I don’t think it’s a serious concern that they’ll take all the fish. It’s more a matter of personal space. When I’m in line at the grocery store, I don’t want the guy in line behind me breathing down my neck. It’s the same out on the water — I don’t want to be fishing a short cast away from the next guy over. I think 100 yards is about right. That’s about four good casts for most of us. If you can visualize that distance, try to keep that far away.
Another thing about secret spots: They’re still there when you’re not. You may have a location where you catch the heck out of redfish on the outgoing tide. Maybe you’ve tried it on the incoming tide and come up empty a couple times, so you’re only there when the tide’s going out.
But there might be another guy — a guy who fishes just a bit differently — who catches the heck out of big trout in the exact same spot, but only when the tide is flooding in. You might drive past on your way to someplace else, see that guy anchored at your spot, and laugh under your breath about him wasting his casts. Shows what you know.
Mother Nature has a clock. If you’ve spent any amount of time on Charlotte Harbor, you’ve probably started to figure out her time frames. For example, every fall a school of redfish shows up around Whorehouse Point. Sometimes they’re in 2 feet of water, sometimes in 5 feet. Sometimes it’s 200 fish, sometimes it’s 1,000. If you’re the first one who stumbles upon them in a particular year, you might think of them as “your” fish. The guys who used to gillnet them 50 years ago also thought of them as “their” fish. Hopefully, 50 years from now, they’ll still be there for someone to think of them as “their” fish.
For offshore fishing, it’s a whole other game. In the open Gulf of Mexico, there actually are some secret spots. Most of the sea is basically a desert. Like a desert, there are oases. The oases are reefs, rockpiles, ledges and other structure. Some are natural; some are manmade.
Most of the bigger oases are pretty easy to find — the locations are published and not hard to look up online. They also appear on many charts. When you’re fishing one of these larger reefs, you expect to share the area with other anglers. Unless they drive across your anchor line or troll right in front of you, it’s not worth getting irritated about.
The secret spots are the little ones: A limestone ledge that only runs for 50 feet, an “unofficial” artificial reef where someone dumped a couple old refrigerators, a pile of rock the size of your living room. Those locations are hard to come by. You can troll for gag grouper and then mark the spot where you get a hit. You can look for small anomalies on your bottom machine. You can get numbers from a (really, really) good friend.
Or you can do what too many people already do and poach the numbers: Just wait until you see an anchored boat and then buzz by, marking the spot to check out later. Of course, poaching numbers puts you at risk of being used for target practice, because it’s pretty much a dirtbag thing to do, but it’s an unfortunately common practice.
It’s easy to think we have spots that are all ours, but the fact is that even the most remote creeks or backwaters are targeted by other anglers. It’s a hard fact of life, but we all just have to get used to the idea of other people fishing where we fish. Fishing spots are not girlfriends or wives — learn to share.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t be the best at fishing a particular honeyhole. Take the time to learn your area. Be observant of the little things: Bird activity, water temperature, baitfish schools. If you pay attention, you’ll come to learn what’s normal and what’s out of character or different. Once you get in tune with things, you’ll find yourself being more successful — and worrying less when somebody else is in your secret spot.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle, located at 4425-D Tamiami Trail, Charlotte Harbor. Call 941-625-3888 for more information about the shop or for local fishing info, or visit them online at FishinFranks.com.