So a lot has happened throughout January and Early February. I am sure by now that everyone knows that we had about the worst cold spell that anyone in Southwest Florida could imagine. Night time lows were in the mid twenties and low thirties for almost ten days. This cold had a lot of different effects on the area, fishing, tourism, and our fishing in the future. There is much talk and writing about the situation. Some reports are accurate, some are blown WAY out of proportion. Some of the actions taken are necissary, some are blown WAY out of proportion. Rather than beating the VERY VERY dead horse of fishing regulation and politics I think I will break it down a little more simply and give you my honest opinion based on being on the water every day during and after the cold.
THE COLD: Yes it killed fish, and the effects were varying. Snook took a major hit, as did Jacks and Pompano. Shallow areas were particularly hard hit. There was little to no effect on Tarpon, with only a hand full of fish suffering from cold related death. Many of these fish were smaller fish in the 1-15lb range.
THE REGULATIONS: Florida closed harvest for Tarpon, Bonefish, and Snook. Tarpon and Snook are the only two species caught on charters with Another Keeper. The ONLY EFFECT this has on our fishing is that we will not be keeping Snook in March and April (the only two open months affected by the closure). THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT ON TARPON, TARPON FISHING, OR THE HEALTH OF THE TARPON FISHERY IN FLORIDA. Tarpon were always 100% release with Another Keeper Charters and very few if any adult tarpon were impacted by the cold.
THE RECOVERY: Overall there will be a slight reduction in quality of Snook fishing this spring and Summer. We are already catching decent numbers of Snook on artificials while targeting Redfish. The fish are around, they have moved and are just not as willing to eat as they once were. This will change as the influx of bait continues throughout the spring. There were some areas that were hit harder than others, many of our good winter haunts were cleared out. Some of these fish died, some moved off to deeper, warmer water. As temperatures return to normal (which they have not yet, but they are getting there) many of these fish that dissapeared will reappear in their normal winter hang outs. Spring will see a slight reduction in fishing, and we will definately change the way we approach things, but we will still catch Snook, we will catch some nice Snook, but we will not be keeping any Snook. To be honest, I dont think anyone would really notice a difference if there wasnt as much hype regarding the fish kill.
THE FISHING NOW: Redfish are feeding better all the time. Trout and Reds are both blasting topwater plugs under lower light conditions. Pompano are beginning to return, we have had several good outings when the right conditions present themselves. Offshore fishing is fantastic, inshore fishing is still a blast, and things are only getting better by the day.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT CHARTERS: You will not experience any reduction in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, of any future fishing. We may target different species, we may use different techniques, and we will have another week or so of slower than normal fishing. After that, you will not see any difference unless we are specifically targeting catch and release big Snook.