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Fun in the outdoors is one of the few things that easily crosses generational boundaries. Enjoy it while you can.

Take time out from your hectic life to consider this: What are your best memories of Christmas? Presents are nice, but they don’t hold a candle to time shared with your family and friends. Times are tough for many of us. Recent events have damaged our local economy. We all want to give the best gifts possible to our family and friends. What to do on a tight budget? Money and the things it can buy are not our most precious possession; our time is! Life is fleeting. If you really care, give your time.

Make time to create special memories and maintain traditions. Remember the reason we celebrate Christmas (just a hint — it’s not for the stuff). Of course it’s a busy time, but find the time to show others they are important to you. Hold their hands, hug each other, tell them you love them while we can.

Make the time to share your outdoor passions with your loved ones. One-on-one time is certainly preferred, but group time is better than symbolic gifts. Carefully consider your audience, then create a unique experience outdoors to share with them. Camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing, birding — whatever. Rediscover our natural environments. The more wild, the better.

Many of us love fishing and boating. When you’re out with friends or family, it’s not just about catching something. It’s also about showing your guests they are loved and special. You’re creating new memories. Most physical gifts don’t last very long, but memories last a whole lifetime. If these moments are with children, that’s a long time!

Think about your special childhood memories: Time with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles — the people we are connected too. The places they shared with us, the traditions they passed down to us (many forgotten and overlooked these days), family meals and gatherings, kids playing and all of us getting to know each other better. Wisdom shared by our elders.

There are several piers and free places to fish or play at waterside. We have both freshwater and saltwater experiences to enjoy. Don’t overlook that tiny pond you drive by every day. Both ends of the Placida railroad trestle have public piers to enjoy. Even if you lack the gear, just walk out there and explore. Many anglers are glad to share the experience, with kids especially. Take a chance and see what happens.

We also have numerous spots to explore our outdoors. Look at all the county, state and national parks and preserves close by. Just slowly walking around allows us to experience natural surroundings many kids never see today. Most of our youth are lost in computers and phones. That computer does have a use: You can find all the nearby opportunities online. It’s amazing how many places are available, and diversified settings too. Get out to see the wildlife, birds, animals, plants and our natural surroundings.

Besides the unique memories created, there’s another benefit. I’ve learned that we all like to protect the things we enjoy. If we learn to love something, we will fight to protect it. By teaching others to appreciate and understand our natural surroundings, they will learn its importance. See how these simple acts of love, sharing our time in the outdoors, build into lifelong habits and long-term benefits.

Consider planning your adventure in the early morning. Evenings are OK too. It’s quietest then and there will be fewer other people. As a bonus, that’s when the lighting is best to take some photos to capture your moments (photographers call it the golden hour). This allows us to re-experience these times. The animals are active then, especially birds. You might consider joining a group so you can learn faster. Having a guide helps us see, learn, and understand faster.

We have so many shorebirds to observe. The huge white pelicans are everywhere now. They are so graceful flying and so awkward walking. Birds of prey have migrated into our area and are impressive to watch. Eagles, osprey, falcons and many more are out there. Songbirds share their music and colors.

Buy a bag of bird seed and put some outside a window for several mornings. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many new friends you acquire in just a few days. Try putting it out just before daybreak for best action. The coconut telegraph gets the word out rapidly. It’s amazing the variety and colors of birds that come visiting. I have doves in abundance, plus red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, iridescent grackles, cardinals, and more than a few squirrels. Sometimes rabbits and ducks stop by. It’s very peaceful and entertaining to observe them every morning.

Merry Christmas to you all and thank you for your support. Share smiles and be polite to our lost visitors, many are someone’s family visiting for the holidays. Family fishing adventures are a great way to create some of those new memories. Area guides all appreciate the opportunity to catch back up. Shop local and take care of your neighbors. Blessings to all of you, and thanks for saying hi when we bump into each other. And 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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