Spring has Sprung
It is that special time of year in Englewood and Southwest Florida that we wait for all winter. It’s not the weather that promotes our anticipation but rather the exit of the crowds. Anglers enjoy this time of year when cooler temps give way to the pure heat of summer mid-days. Gamefish are moving from the warming backwaters to the cooler water near the beaches and passes that enjoy a fresh dose of gulf water twice a day. The relatively cooler gulf water, tidal flows, abundant baitfish and deep channels draw and hold gamefish in the spring. The warming water near the beaches makes it a great time to put your rod down on the sand, resting it on the reel handle so that the reel itself doesn’t touch the sand, then jump in the water for a refreshing cool-down.
For those of us that enjoy fishing the beaches while shelling or collecting sharks teeth, the exodus of the spring break crowd makes fishing easier. All those two-piece swimsuits can distract an angler and pose a risk to casting unless you check the immediate area. Some swimmers have no concept of the problem an angler faces if they hook a big fish near swimmers. We always get about 100 yards away from people frolicking in the surf before casting. And even then, you must be ready for someone near you who suddenly decides to run into the water to cool down. Hooking anyone will ruin their day and yours too.
That said, the cool mornings are our favorite time to sight fish for snook in the spring. The surf is usually minimal, the swimmers are not there yet, the sun is behind you and the water is clear. Often you will see the shadow of a fish before you can make out the fish itself. Polarized lenses are really helpful. Snook will usually be within 10 feet of dry sand in that first trough and facing into the shore current looking for baitfish, shrimp or sand fleas washing along. For this reason, try to work into the shore flow to approach from behind snook. Cast ahead and outside of the fish and retrieve it across its field of vision. Your presentation must not come at the fish “head-on” as even a big snook will flee when faced with an attacking baitfish in their face. On a spinning rig we like to use a white shad tail lure on a light jig or a white Clouser or shrimp pattern on a flyrod. Be prepared to walk a while in search of cooperating fish.
Later in the day, it is fun to scoop some sand fleas (mole crabs) and catch a few whiting or whatever comes along. You may find a few pompano, flounder, trout, sheepshead, snook and ladyfish that like sand fleas too. Get a “Florida Snow Shovel” and scoop the sand and shells where the shore drops off into that first trough. Shake out the sand in the water and dump the shells (and maybe some shark teeth) out at the edge of the wet sand. Dumping your “shovel” on dry sand kills everything in the pile. Speed counts as the sand fleas scurry away and dig into the damp sand. Just use the bigger ones, about ¾" and up, while letting the little ones grow up for next time. Put them on a small hook with a split shot to hold it down and slowly reel the bait in. Better yet, once you find a few whiting, hand the rod to a youngster and enjoy their excitement when a fish bites. Whiting will usually hook themselves so ignore the tap-tap-tap and wait for a steady pressure to set the hook. Most whiting are caught next to shore in the trough or just inside the outer bar on a rising tide. If you keep any fish be sure and ice them immediately for the
Whiting average 12" long and pull like a little redfish. They are excellent table fare with mild, flaky filets that make a great sandwich or meal if you filet a bunch of them. We guess there are other ways folks fix them but a quick shake in some flour and a few minutes in hot oil suit us just fine.