Sunday, September 27, 2020

Clues for fishing success in the backwaters

Chip Baker’s 24 inch Black Drum. PHOTOS BY CAPT. JAY PEELER/COASTAL BREEZE NEWS

Chip Baker’s 24 inch Black Drum. PHOTOS BY CAPT. JAY PEELER/COASTAL BREEZE NEWS

Reading signs are important in traveling from one place to another. To follow the fish, though, the signs fishermen read aren’t the kind you see along the road. The signs we use are the indications in nature that tell the story and point the way. If you are the kind of person who spends time outdoors, you probably are already aware of subtle and not so subtle observations in changes of weather, the understated change of seasons in southwest Florida, and the seasonal patterns of plant and animal life.

Passionate fisherman and even charter captains, for example, are always on the look-out for signs that indicate good fishing is at hand. The swallow tail kite appearing in the spring is an obvious sign to the fisherman that fishing success is within reach. Another telltale sign is when the bait schools, which are composed of thousands of teeny fish bubbling and slapping in the water, start heading to the coast to spawn. Perhaps the most obvious sign of all is when the snowbirds start to leave. It is sad but true that our visitors from the north leave just at about the same time as fishing in the backwaters really starts to heat up.

It is apparent to anyone who is spending a lot of time on the water that our fish are struggling to recover from the devastating winter. It is also apparent that signs are pointing to fishing success in weeks to come. We are beginning to see more fish in the boat and more on the cleaning table. Just this week limits of keeper-size snook, redfish and some black drum were caught.

On a recent charter Chip Baker proudly landed a nice red fish and a 24-inch black drum that transitioned into a delicious lunch. Likewise, triple tail are still around as evidenced by Griff Gosnell’s splendid catch.

As the waters continue to warm and as the winds abate, as they usually do around the middle of May, southwest Florida fishing will really begin to produce some fine catches.

After guiding in this area for twenty years, I have convinced many of my customers that

Griff Gosnell’s Triple Tail catch. PHOTOS BY CAPT. JAY PEELER/COASTAL BREEZE NEWS

Griff Gosnell’s Triple Tail catch. PHOTOS BY CAPT. JAY PEELER/COASTAL BREEZE NEWS

the best time to visit our area is the spring, summer and fall. Sure, it may be a little muggy and the swamp angels (mosquitoes for our northern readers) and no-see-ums are evident, but these small discomforts are forgotten when the drag is peeling off the reel, chasing after a big snook or red fish. And that’s just on the water. Ashore you can expect less traffic, no need for dinner reservations, and perfect swimming and shelling conditions, which brings us to my pending agenda.

There is so much going on in the warmer water of spring. You will find me on the water, but working less, and playing more. I will be drifting over the grass flats, spotting manatee, watching the fish chase each other, and looking at the clouds build up along the coast as they prepare to bring us our ever present, dependable and cooling afternoon showers, all of which are magnificent displays of life outdoors in southwest Florida. Our area never gets more beautiful than during these months.

When it is too warm to grill out, Jay’s Crackling Fish Filets recipe is a simple but delicious dish on the stovetop.

Jay’s Crackling Fish Filets

Ingredients:

  • White meat fish filets
  • Cracker meal
  • Blackening spice (any brand)
  • Olive oil
  • Butter (real butter and lots of it)
  • Lemons

Preparation:

  • Mix the blackening spice with the cracker meal according to taste.
  • Press the filets in the spice/ cracker mixture until thoroughly covered.
  • Cook in a very hot stick-free pan in the butter and olive oil (the olive oil allows you to cook at a higher temperature without burning the butter).
  • After one side is done, in about 2 minutes, depending on the filet thickness, turn over gently and as the other side cooks, continue to drizzle lemon juice on the cooked and crusty side. You want your filets to cook until the cracker meal begins to brown.

This recipe is unbelievably simple, quick, and easy. It is a perfect summer catch dish, served with steamed asparagus and roasted potatoes.

So, until next time, stay well, stay calm and take a kid fishing.

Capt. Jay’s Peeler runs fishing charters from Goodland, Fl.  He may be reached at 239-970-2105. P.O. Box 777, Goodland, Fl 34140. captainjaysfishingcharters.com.

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