This is it. Labor Day is traditionally the end of the Silly Season. The last gasp for water-born weekend warriors with less-than-optimum boating skills. You know the type, they tie up boat ramps both figuratively and literally.
These are the folks with good intentions, but poor skills. They wait until it’s their turn to launch then kill precious time loading the boats with tackle, coolers, life jackets and such, things that should have been put aboard while waiting in line.
Then there’s the people who learned trailer-backing techniques in a bumper-car ring. They haven’t quite mastered the concept that when you back a trailer right is left…and left is right. This lack of coordination is especially evident at the end of a long day in the sun among boaters who’ve been quaffing down beer and other adult beverages. It’s a hoot just to sit back and watch. It’s also a chance to increase your swearing vocabulary. (Hint: You might want to return to the hill a bit early, before the crowds build to avoid this foolishness.)
Another crowd-pleasing move is to block the ramp with your boat as you stroll leisurely off to get the trailer. Better you drop a driver off then pull away from the dock so others can launch or retrieve, then pull up when your trailer is backing in.
On the water, don’t crowd someone who is obviously fishing or scalloping. Give them some space. It’s a big Gulf with plenty of room for everybody. And when the day is done, the boat and tackle washed and you’re ready to put her up for the winter, add some fuel additive and flush the engine for 10 minutes or so. This will prevent phase separation of the gas and ensure she’ll start next spring.
For the rest of you who boat and fish year-round…rejoice. You’re getting your water back.
License-free saltwater fishing Saturday
Anglers fishing in saltwater won’t need a fishing license tomorrow (Saturday) thanks to the Governor. To encourage fishing among visitors and residents 8 days have been set aside throughout the year so folks can try their hand at fishing without the expense of a fishing license. All other fishing regulations apply.
Gag grouper fall season opens in Gulf 4-county region
The Gulf of Mexico gag grouper recreational season in state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will be open for harvest Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
The season for all other Gulf state and federal waters is June 1 through Dec. 31. The minimum size limit for gag grouper is 24 inches total length, and the daily bag limit is two fish per harvester within the four-fish grouper aggregate bag limit. Charter captains and crew have a zero bag limit.
Learn more atÂ MyFWC.com/FishingÂ by clicking on â€śRecreational Regulationsâ€ť and â€śGroupers.â€ť
FWC Chipola River video wins national award
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissionâ€™s (FWC) video,Â FLOW: the Chipola River Story, received second place in the Association for Conservation Informationâ€™s â€śVideo Longâ€ť award category. FLOW celebrates the charm of the Chipola River and the partnerships forged to protect it. The ACIâ€™s annual awards contest recognizes excellence and promotes craft improvement through a national competition.
Â FLOW features International Game Fish Association Female Angler of the Year, Meredith McCord, and tells the conservation story of the Chipola River. This video recognizes the dedicated efforts of individuals and organizations such as the FWC, Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (part of the National Fish Habitat Partnership), Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Â The Chipola River is a spring-fed system in north Florida that features the only naturally reproducing population of shoal bass in the state. These bass are genetically unique and have a limited geographic range. Meredith McCord set line class world records for shoal bass and black crappie while filming FLOW, inspiring future conservation efforts.
Two trailers for the video and the full-length video can be viewed on the TrophyCatch YouTube channel (YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida: Trailer 1Â â€“Â https://bit.ly/2Bk111P; Trailer 2 â€“Â https://bit.ly/2nMkZZo;Â Full-length video â€“Â https://bit.ly/2r1mZAi
For more information about the Chipola River, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing/Freshwater, click on â€śSites & Forecasts,â€ť and â€śNorthwest Region.â€ť View the entireÂ list of ACI awardsÂ at ACI-net.org/Awards/.Â
Hunter safety courses offered in several counties in September
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety courses in several counties in August (list follows)
Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them. All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times.
Anyone born on or afterÂ June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). TheÂ FWCÂ course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.
Several courses are offered throughout the region.Â The locations and times in our area are:Â Madison County, Sept. 15, noon untilÂ complete, Madison; Suwannee County, Sept. 8, 8:30 a.m. until complete, Live Oak; Taylor County, Sept. 15, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Perry
Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes atÂ MyFWC.com/HunterSafetyÂ or by calling theÂ FWCâ€™s regional office in Panama City at 850-265-3676.
This week’s fishing report
St. George Ialand
Captain Russ Knapp on St. George Island (firstname.lastname@example.org) said: “Things in the bay are in late summer mode. You’re going to have to work a bit but there are fish out there. Big trout can be found on the edges of the flats. For best results fish a DOA or Gulp! under a Cajun Thunder and remember to pop it hard. Nice reds are cruising the Bob Sykes Cut but it’s off and on. Drift live bait or fresh shrimp. Off the beach you can find silverÂ trout and whiting. Use a small hook and a small bait fished in closeÂ to fill the frying pan. Offshore, Capt. Clint Taylor says it’s big week. Big water 30 plus miles out is producing big tuna, big mahi and big amberjacks. Bring lots of chum and the biggest live baits you can get. The bad news is there are also large numbers of big sharks to round out the bigness, so be ready to lose a few fish to them. In closer there are good numbers of smaller mahi. Keep a sharp lookout for anything floating.”
Â Otto Hough at Myhometownfishing.comÂ Â Â Â (email@example.com) said: “What else can be said!Â The seemingly never ending summertime pattern of pop-up showers and thunderboomers of the coastal areas of Apalachee Bay have been inundating the drainage basins of the St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina rivers. As a result, millions of gallons of dark freshwater have been pouring out of the mouths of the rivers to keep the majority of Apalachee Bay looking like a big pond of dark roasted coffee. With this influx of nasty dark waters, the trout have gone deep. Most are being located in spotty bottom waters, 8 feet in depth or more, on jigs worked way down in the water column. The reds are a much more tolerant species when it comes the current conditions. A goodly number of quality upper slot and over-slot reds are being found roaming the rockier stretches of the coastline east of the St. Marks Lighthouse.
Â “The NWS Marine Forecast for the long Labor Day weekend ahead will still have the pesky, sometimes aggravating showers and boomers in the mix. Hopefully, most will hold off to allow for early morning fishing on the post full moon tides. Early morning high tides will be happening an hour or so ahead of safelight with more than 3 feet of water falling out during outgoing tide into the lunchtime hour.Â It appears it’s going to be a stretch of fishing conditions that will provide windows of opportunity between the wet stuff if the NWS predictions come to fruition rather than a full, carefree day of fishing.Â Having some rain gear handy is probably a wise move.
Â “Outside, if seas allow, September 1st marks Opening Day for gag grouper in the four county (Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor) State waters across the Big Bend. Sadly, the dark freshwaters pouring out the rivers has kept the gags that I would expect to start finding in 18 to 20 feet of water still hanging in the deeper waters. Those gags aren’t keen on dark freshwater. Got to find some clearer waters a tad deeper outside to locate the fish. When located, the gags have been cooperating with a taste for frisky live baits. Freelining a lively pinfish has been working on some fine kings and cobia too. As always, boat safely with all the safety equipment up-to-date and the PFDs easily accessible to all on board if not wearing auto-inflatables.Â Just FISH!
Captain Pat McGriff of One More Cast Guide Service (www.onemorecast.net, firstname.lastname@example.org (850) 584-9145) reported trout fishing was great last weekend, as predicted, with the early morning incoming tides and the full moon creating higher ranges to augment the feed period. Water temperatures are still down around 83 â€“ 85 degrees in the Gulf with daily showers seeming to hold us off of the mid to high 80s we were experiencing just a couple of weeks ago. The water is still very dark past Spring Warrior, with folks landing fish north and south of Keaton as per a few dock reports I received. Ballyhoo and other bait fish are thicker from the Warrior marker south to Yates, but either the water clarity (silt) is keeping the trout inactive, or the lower salinity, or perhaps a combination of the two. I canâ€™t be sure. Plenty of catfish and ladyfish in that water now.
Â Â Â Â Â Â “We had 10 trout easily in an hour and 6 minutes, ending at 11:06 a.m. Thursday last, with Billy Pillow catching four trout on four baits just as fast as he could get them out there. I was working on a little plumbing (livewell) leak while he got up on me 4 trout. He also had a 24-inch red to add to the box. We fished from 4.0 to 4.5 feet and hardly drifted a quarter mile with a gentle east breeze pushing over the incoming tide.Â We fished a couple hours longer looking at water color and didnâ€™t add a fish up north in the heavy stain.
“Friday, I had Dawn Taylor of the local Perry Chamber of Commerce out for a trip with an outdoor writer from California who decided to become a weatherman instead as he opted out on us at the last minute despite we never had a drop of rain the entire 6 hour trip.Â Dawn brought along Juan Perez to take his place and we had a wonderful day. Dawn started things off with a beautiful 24-inch sow trout for our first fish!Â This pair caught fish throughout two long drifts for over just over two hours time. We brought in 12 trout and Juan caught our only red of the day,Â a fine 24-inch fish.Â We fished with live pinfish and pigfish rigged up under Back Bay Thunders in 4.5Â – 6 feet of water for our catch. A GreatÂ â€śChamber of Commerceâ€ť day on the water.
Â “Saturday, I had Hogun Vaughn (originally of Perry, FL ) now residing in Valdosta, Ga. along with Tracy and Dylan Carr of Lake Park. We picked up the trout bite right where I left it the day before, with trout after trout from 4 feet out to 6 feet. Again with an eastâ€“southeast breeze pushing us out for over an-hour-and-a half on a long 3/4 mile drift yielding 9 trout. We pulled back around and picked up three more trout including one more trout over 20 inches (we had two over 20 inches on the first drift)Â before the breeze dropped off and the bite with it. Two hours time and we had 12 in the box. We spent three more hours for three more keeper trout but Dylan (10 years old) caught his first-ever redfish (a keeper) and our only red of the day.
Â Â Â Â Â Â “Couldnâ€™t have asked for three prettier days on the water and great fishing to go with it. As my Mama used to say, ‘If you have a nice day on the water, you are going to the right church, catch fish too and you are going to the right Sunday School and Church.’Â Well we mustâ€™a had great folks going to the right Church and Sunday School for the those three trips. Fish the afternoon incoming tides for best results this weekend. Use Original Cajuns or Back Bay Thunders to draw strikes in the stained water and shorten your leaders if you go north of Yates.”
Kristin Skipper at Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee (352-498-3008) sent photos of trout limits, redfish, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle and scallops. Still plenty of scallops.
Paul Tyre on Lake Seminole (PaulTyreFishing@yahoo.com (850) 264-7534) said: “Had a great day on Lake Seminole with Roy Chapman and Jacob Ross. We caught over 10 bass and had several in the 5- and 6-pound range. Jacob is 14 years old and is already an awesome angler! While out on Lake Seminole we noticed the bream and shellcracker are still bedding all over the lake. We also saw a huge mayfly hatch, which is unusual this time of year.”
Otto Hough at Myhometownfishing.comÂ Â Â Â (email@example.com) said: “In one regard, hate to see all the afternoon wet stuff messing up Apalachee Bay, but the boomers have been a small Godsend for Lake Jackson. Overall the water level in the main pool has crept up almost four full inches this past week. The best of all possible worlds for Jackson would be to have a low wind, wet tropical low park over the lake. That would truly be a miracle. For now, the afternoon boomers are serving to offset water losses from evaporation. Hopefully, with the aquifer getting recharged the seepage out of the sinkholes has been mitigated as well. Fingers remain crossed that Mother Nature can again restore this once fine fishery to pre-2017 levels, as the yearling population of bass is healthy.”Â