I just wanted to take a little time to touch base on something that has been bothering me for this entire 2007 fishing season.
Things have been certainly different in regard to fish migrations, water temperatures, availability of bait, and our sea bird population. I have made a list of things that have stuck out at least in my world:
Spanish mackerel season generally gets started in late April. Normally these fish are scattered, but we still are able to catch a few nice fish while fishing deep at the artificial reefs, located in less than 50 feet of water.
In March of 2007, inshore fishermen reported catching not one but many Spanish mackerel while trout fishing in the rivers and sounds. They caught them while just fishing with live shrimp over the standard oyster rakes. The good news is that once hooked up you knew that you didn’t have a trout or redfish on!
King mackerel, little tunny, and dolphin blessed us with a strong appearance in 100 feet of water during March, April, and the better part of May.
The near shore reefs were completely barren of any of this fish activity. As it got warmer there were a few reported catches of king and Spanish mackerel at the artificial reefs.
Spanish mackerel, a few king mackerel, and barracuda could be caught at the artificial reef located in more that 55 feet of water.
Normally we have schools upon schools of little tunny starting in the early spring at the Savannah Snapper Banks. As the days go by, the little tunny migrate closer to shore. During this time we get the "ocean sunfish" migration, which is very strong.
However, none of this happened this year.
We also have schools and schools of cow nose rays that surface and skirt our areas during this time. There were a few spotted this year, but not as much as in the past years.
Let's talk about jelly balls. Our area normally has a strong run of these during spring around the near shore waters. Then they get scattered about, with us finding them in rips as far as the Gulf Stream.
However, this year we have seen few, but I have had reports of shrimp boats getting tons in their net. Yet, all these jelly balls were caught right from the bottom in the sound.
I know I am jumping around, but this is how it’s coming out.
Another thing that has amazed me is the fact that we have so many small composite sharks on the artificial reefs. All you have to do is to drop baited hooks, wait only a few seconds to minutes, and you will probably be hooked up.
However, the shark bite is "ON" one day and "OFF" the next.
We normally have schools of Spanish mackerel surface schooling in these areas during the hot months. We have only seen a few schools of these fish on the surface.
This recently has changed with us now having some Spanish mackerel near shore and on the artificial reefs.
Let's talk about barracuda. Normally there are many of these fish holding over wreaks waiting for that easy meal.
After all, there is usually plenty to eat.
Naval towers, artificial reefs located in more than 60 feet of water, and ledges located in 60 plus feet of water are holding the interest of these fish.
Well, in some areas the barracuda populations are great, but on the artificial reefs located in 50 or less feet there are "no toothy monsters at home."
For those that think this fish hasn’t any importance you had best think about this thing called "balance!"
Last week while trying to catch a few live baits with a gold hook bait rig I caught juvenile (baby) barracuda.
Now that might not sound strange to you, but I don’t think in my forty years of fishing plus that I have seen a less than 6 inch long barracuda.
They don’t like captivity too much, because these bait-like looking fish died shortly after I caught them.
Jackson, our local diver that keeps me informed of what’s going on in the under world, called and told me, "I saw hundreds of these small bait fish that looked like barracudas."
My response was, "They were!"
I talked with Cathy Sakas, of Gray’s Reef Marine Sanctuary, and she did a little checking for me. Yes, indeed they have seeing juvenile barracuda schools on Gray’s Reef.
Let’s talk about baitfish in general. My norm is to catch at least 200 baitfish before I head out to the Savannah Snapper Banks.
My allotted time that I use to figure on was normally around 30 minutes.
I usually fished three bait rigs at a time. This helped quite a bit in the "quick gathering department." When 2007 rolled around "things in the bait department looked non-existing." My 30 minutes of strong bait catching has turned into one hour and so on. It has also come to my attention that you cannot get a bite when your drop you bait rig to the bottom.
Next, just to touch base a little on the birds-a-feeding situation.
Since there haven’t been much surface baits, the poor birds are having a hard time in the survival mode.
I have seen more pelagic birds close inshore than in the past. It’s hard to pull a surface lure without several starving birds trying to pick it up.
There is more bad news. I have seen more dead birds in the ocean than I normally do.
I have always heard "bad bird stories" from other coastal areas. Things like, "I caught more birds that day than fish."
I tried not to think about that last statement, but I now find myself in this situation. The only difference now is we pull our surface lines in when the hungry birds approach.
There are more strange happenings taking place, but I think I have bored or enlightened you enough for right now.
My take on all of these changes boils down to, and brings me to think in two different directions.
The first is, this just might be an off year with the next one to follow being back to normal.
The second is, we had best get use to all of these changes because this is our "new fishing world!"
If the latter is the truth it still isn’t that bad of a fishing situation to be in.
The reason being is that when you check out other so-called non-fishy areas you will find that we are still living in the best place and we are the luckiest fishermen in the world!
We have got to stop thinking so much about yesterday and think more about how we can adapt to what is taking place now and how we can make it work!
The old saying, "It is what it is and let's make it work" comes to mind first! I am going make one more suggestion and I’m sure you are not going to like this one!
I get the feeling with so much change, especially if this is permanent, that we need to cherish all that we catch because "What you catch today might not be around tomorrow!"
Non Artificial Believers
Don’t worry I am not going to chastise you for not believing in the usage of artificial bait.
There is a rule of fishing and I ask customers this question all of the time. How do you feel about the bait that you are using? I normally know the answer long before I ask. I am trying to bring to light that if you don’t believe in the bait that you are using you probably won’t catch anything.
So therefore for those that don’t believe in the artificial stuff the real things is also very good. If you are a live bait fanatic then I suggest going with that sort of real bait design. For those that want to cut up what they use for bait that will also work. I’m definitely not putting down real natural bait, because it does work!