Has spring sprung?, or did we have a false positive? Well here in the land of sunshine it is often hard to tell. Over the past few weeks it may reach sun tan weather, then turn to sweatshirt weather. If you think you have a hard time figuring out your attire for the day, imagine being scaly and wet! March for the most part in Southwest Florida means the last of the cold fronts pushing from the north. However I’m sure Mother Nature will sneak one or two more in.
For the last couple months one of Charlotte Harbor’s most sought after game fish has been laying low. Snook is a tropical fish that during the winter months get lethargic and doesn’t feed very often. However when spring sets into South West Florida, these guys awaken from a hibernation slumber and begin to feed heavy to regain lost weight. During the cooler winter months we still can target these tropical fish, often catching the smaller guys. Larger snook are much harder to target during the cooler months, and have small feeding windows. However as the water temps continue to rise, and stay above seventy the larger fish come out and play, they will begin to feed more frequently. Locating these bigger fish can be tough this time of year, often areas that held fish the year before will not the next year. I believe this is due to loss of natural habitat and food sources. During the cooler months large snook feed on slow moving food sources. One of the food sources that large slumbering fish feed on is crabs. Over the past years this is a food source that has taken a tremendous hit. Another food source is mullet! Charlotte Harbor was once renowned for its mullet fishery. Without a doubt the most over looked fish that inhabits our fishery. I know its hard to believe, but our fishing community was built on these non biting fish. Its also hard to understand that our fishery is dependent on these fish. The larger population of mullet that inhabit our waters, is an indication of a healthy ecosystem. Over the past years our grass flats have taken a major hit, this has caused a trickle down effect. Our whole estuary revolves around the natural grass that grows in our harbor. If you have spent time fishing the past few months I’m sure you have noticed the algae that is floating in the harbor. This is a unnatural algae that is due to much nitrogen. This is blanketing our natural grass flats that our fishery is very dependent on. If you love this harbor, and especially those goofy fish you see jumping while your out enjoying a sunset cruise? Please keep in mind the future of our estuary and keep in mind how fragile of an ecosystem we have.
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Capt. Dave Stephens
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