Redfish school

Photo provided

Schooling redfish might not be as common a sight on Charlotte Harbor as they once were, but keep trying — they’re out there.

I’ve been writing weekly outdoors columns for the Sun newspapers since the mid 1980s. Sometimes the columns ran in the main newspaper, sometimes in the sports section, and for the past 20 years they’ve appeared here in WaterLine. I’m not really sure why they’ve continued to allow me to spew out my thoughts for more than three decades, but I suspect it’s due as much to my willingness to work cheap as it is to any particular talent on my part. I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at some of the old columns to see what was happening in Southwest Florida during this same week in years past.

Sept. 12, 1994— What’s With All Those Dead Fish?: If you’ve been out on Charlotte Harbor during the last week or two, you may have noticed large numbers of dead fish floating around. I’ve seen lots of glass minnows and other tiny fish along with many catfish, flounder and stingrays. A few redfish, puffers and other fish have been mixed in, and I’m sure just about any fish in the Harbor could be found by someone who wanted to run around and examine every dead fish in sight. So are we in the midst of some great fish disaster? Naw, nothing quite so dramatic; they probably just did the fish equivalent of suffocating.

Sept. 11, 1995 — Hurricane!: I’m not trained in disaster preparedness but I have a few thoughts on preparing boats for hurricanes. How you prepare your boat depends mostly on the size of the boat involved.

Sept. 15, 1997 — Schooling Redfish: Have you ever heard anglers excitedly talking about fishing for schooling redfish? Ever wonder just what all the excitement is about? Just what is meant by the term “schooling redfish” anyway? It turns out that right now is the peak time to find schooling redfish on the flats.

Sept. 16, 1999 — Best Fishing of the Year: This is it—my favorite time of year to fish in Southwest Florida. September and October bring some of the least crowded conditions of the year, coupled with a big variety of available fish.

Sept. 13, 2001 — Tournament Time: The third and final leg of the immensely popular Red/Snook Tournament Series is to be held this weekend at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda, and early estimates are that well over 100 boats will participate.

Sept. 11, 2003 — “State of the Fishery” Address: My fellow anglers, let me begin this address by stating that the fishing in Southwest Florida is pretty darn good— maybe as good as anywhere else in the world, if you consider that we enjoy year round fishing and that we have access to fishable populations of dozens of species of fish of all shapes, sizes and habitats including freshwater species such as bluegill and bass, inshore saltwater species such as redfish, snook, tarpon, sea trout and sharks, and offshore species including mackerel, kingfish, grouper, snapper and many more. However, things aren’t perfect in our fishing world and there are a few bumps lying ahead of us on our road to long term fishing success.

Sept. 15, 2005 — Calling All Snook Fishermen: We need your carcass. Actually the FWC needs as many snook carcasses as possible for a research project on the age, growth and gender of harvested snook. Now that snook season is open, anglers are asked to save the carcasses of any snook they harvest and drop the remains (after filleting) at one of these designated drop-off locations:

Sept. 13, 2007 — You Can Make A Difference: Are you one of those rare anglers who always catches plenty of fish or, like most of us, are there times when you wish the fishing were a bit better? Have you and your buddies ever sat around having a gripe session about how things could be improved? Did you ever wish there was something you could do to help? This is your lucky day. Here are two simple things which you can do which will help improve our fishing.

Sept. 10, 2009 — Lake George, By George: I suspected that I was going to enjoy fishing with Matt Beck when he told me of his devious plan to win the tournament in which we were competing. My suspicions were reinforced when he told me that we didn’t need to spend the two minutes it was going to take to pick up our prepackaged box lunches since he generally didn’t interrupt his fishing for something as inconsequential as eating. When we idled across the river from the boat ramp, started fishing right there, and tallied a bass for our first fish on the scorecard before some of the other anglers had even gotten aboard their boats, I knew it was going to be a fun day.

Sept. 15, 2011 — Sometimes It’s Catchin’ and Sometimes It’s Just Fishin’: I was impressed with the surprising agility of the deck boat as veteran Capt. Jim Ponder deftly navigated the vessel on a winding course through a mind-numbing labyrinth of mangrove islands. The last of the channel markers leading out of the Faka Union Canal were a distant memory as we zipped along miles of deserted waterways, deserted except for the occasional leaping mullet or surprised birds that we saw in the innumerable side channels that we passed during our travels through at least a few hundred of the famed Ten Thousand Islands just south of Naples.

Sept. 12, 2013 — Lake Okeechobee Getting A Bad Rap?: The statistics on Lake Okeechobee are astounding. The size of the huge lake changes because it tends to grow in surface area during the rainy season and shrink in size during the dry season, but averages approximately 700 square miles of surface area. The lake serves as a reservoir which supplies drinking water and agricultural irrigation water for much of South Florida, and there is a lot of water in the lake. Something like 1.5 million acre-feet of water flows into the lake each year and on average around 1.1 million acre-feet of water flows out of the lake each year. An acre-foot of water is approximately 325,000 gallons of water. I tried to estimate how many gallons of water are contained in the lake, but gave up trying to keep track of all the zeros.

Sept. 10, 2015 — The Sea Is So Great and My Boat Is So Small: Throughout recorded history, countless storm-stricken sailors have found themselves in conditions that threatened to overwhelm their vessels. There’s no way to know for sure, but we might guess that the very first boater to find himself in distress may have been an early human who was trying to paddle across a stream or a lake while straddling a log. It wouldn’t take much in the way of wind or waves to make such a small and unstable craft dump its rider, and this very fact prompted succeeding centuries of ever-more-efficiently designed vessels.

Sept. 14, 2017 — Time Capsule: This is being written on Saturday afternoon, about 24 hours B.I. (Before-Irma), but will be read by most people on Thursday, approximately 48 hours A.I. (After-Irma). I’m already starting to mark time as before and after Irma, like we did with Charley in August of 2004. As I write this, it’s impossible to predict what the conditions will be in Southwest Florida as it is read, so the readers can treat it like a time capsule from a previous age.

Let’s go fishing!

Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village Marina in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Call him at 941-639-2628 or email Captain@KingFisherFleet.com.

Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village Marina in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Call him at 941-639-2628 or email Captain@KingFisherFleet.com.

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