Red Tide Means Bass Fishing
Our idea of a great day of fishing on the beach or bay doesn’t include red tide. Unfortunately, this year it has hung around for too long and folks need to consider alternative places to fish. If you are totally fixated on salt water fishing, go further up the Peace or Myakka Rivers where the continuous flow of fresh water pushes the red tide out. Because the dry weather we’re having reduces water flows, allowing salinity and red tide to push further inland, species normally found only in salt water may be found further up river.
Another option is to explore our local fresh water fishery. Lakes, ponds, canals and most waterways are populated by bluegill, shell crackers, tilapia, black crappie [specks] as well as gar, bowfin, catfish and of course bass. Black bass are the most popular freshwater gamefish in North America and can be caught using live shiners, lures and soft plastics such as worms and frogs.
The FWC recently overhauled the limits and size requirements to keep a bass in Florida. Gone are the regulations that varied from north to south. Now, anyone can legally keep 5 bass per day but only one may exceed 16" in length. These new regulations are designed to harvest the smaller bass and allow more food and habitat for larger fish.
While most of us regard bass as catch and release, if you decide to keep one, bass filets from good water are sweet and tasty. However, the waters we often find them in are compromised by stagnation and pollutants. Golf course bass are a prime example. The use of reclaimed water grows big bass but we always release these fish. If we were to harvest a bass, Shell Creek, Prairie Creek, Webb/Babcock WMA, Myakka State Park and most flowing rivers have clean water and would be at the top of our list. Accessible water increases with the use of a kayak or other paddle craft.
For spin anglers, the usual lures work well. Plastic worms rigged weedless on a 3/0 VMC wide gap hook with a small bullet weight is our favorite mid-day lure. Hopped along the bottom, it’s a proven winner. Zoom™ horney toads rigged weedless on a 5/0 wide gap hook and fished off the emergent shoreline vegetation will produce later in the day. Due to the proximity of big bass and shoreline vegetation, we like weedless lures better than treble hook lures. Fly anglers will enjoy strikes on popping bugs around sunset. Look for feeding fish and cast directly to them.
So, you went bass fishing and planned on catch and release, but one took the hook too deep as you delayed your strike. If the hook can be extracted [using barbless hooks helps] or cut off, the fish may survive. If the fish is gill hooked and is actively bleeding, it is a good candidate for a bass dinner. Put the fish on ice quickly [the beverage cooler might work] and filet it at home in the usual manner to yield two skinless boneless filets.
We soak the filets in milk then shake them in a flour and corn meal mix. In a skillet, heat some olive oil with a little minced garlic. When the garlic browns, add the breaded filets, season with Everglades Seasoning™ and cook until the edge turns white, then flip them over. We sometimes combine this with some cheese grits and coleslaw for an easy and regional treat. These recipes purposely avoid a long list of gourmet spices in favor of something simple, easy and good. If you
fish hard, at the end of the day you won’t want to work at making dinner.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Shore and KAYAK Fishing Southwest Florida, contribute this excerpts from both Waterproof books to promote the excellent fishing available in the Englewood area. These books are available locally at Old Florida Gallery on West Dearborn St. & www.anglerpocketguides.com & www.amazon.com as a download or hard copy