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Stokes: Good fishing isn't purely based on luck

Fishermen and pier walkers are silhouetted by the sun featuring a circular halo, Tuesday Nov. 12, 2013 at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Nick Tomecek)
Fishermen and pier walkers are silhouetted by the sun featuring a circular halo, Tuesday Nov. 12, 2013 at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Nick Tomecek) File -- The Associated Press

There are a good many sports an individual could pursue. There are those that pay great dividends if you are among the chosen, while others simply make us feel good about ourselves.

Right away I should remove golf from the list. I say this because my relationship with the sport is yet undefined. In order to feel good about the game you need a favorable inclination of play. My rendition of the game is far from any I have witnessed, and my futile attempts have left few opportunities to feel good. I may as well be clubbing gophers and chasing squirrels.

Fishing is a different matter altogether. Some say you don't have to be good, you just have to be lucky. However, I have difficulty relating the expense and study of the sport to be indicative of favor. To presume the majority of anglers rely on luck is absurd, given their devotion of time and circumstance.

If you choose to make fishing a part of your life, be forewarned: it will be an endeavor far from absolute. Fishing is an imprecise undertaking at best. Better defined, it is an optimistic approach to persuade a lesser vertebrate to appreciate the efforts of another by reward. The scene is forecast as a reality of failure. But somehow these often fumbled and awkward attempts blend together and a fisherman is born.

Fishing is a moment of time where cherished hopes and optimism are well received and balance is better appreciated.

Looking Better

April marks the start of fishing season for many anglers. Much of the cold has passed, winds are a bit more cooperative, and the occasional shower serves to invigorate our attitudes.

The rise in temperatures has many gamefish moving. Trout have returned to the shallows to take refuge among the grass and shell rakes, spottail are beginning to school more abundantly and move into flats and shallows in search of small crab or unsuspecting baitfish. Croaker and spot are starting to cruise coves and inlets over muddy bottom where shrimp and minnows are plentiful. This same area of bottom will shoulder large flounder waiting in ambush for their next meal to drift into range. Sheepshead have become more active and are more selective in their diet, now preferring fiddler crab for their spring menu. Whiting are eagerly taking cuts of shrimp and are targeted for lazy days from pier and shoreline.

Patience is required only for the die-hard cobia enthusiasts who anticipate their inshore migration. The season may mean a compromise for some. Cobia have not shown themselves at the outer buoys and things may be a bit slower than normal.

Offshore activity will get a boost whenever news of trolling activity echoes at the dock. The larger boats will begin early and return late, while tag-alongs will pair up to ensure the route is accurate.

Offshore game fish will follow routes long ago established and will seek refuge among wrecks and structures. The pecking order is best described as first-come, first-served but generally the largest fish in the group calls the shots.

Almost all area waters will be dotted with drifts of baitfish, which may harbor that next big catch or a possible trophy. All the while, bottom-fishing will alternate from aching arms, sore muscles and painful backs, yet the hurt is welcomed. There will be a narrow window for many trips to bluewater. Big-boat fishermen know the odds and are often well compensated for their efforts.

Tackle Tip

Most gamefish that are forced to move will return once things settle down, so stick close. Don't be quick on the throttle; Save your fuel and be patient. Large gamefish are territorial. If forced from one area, they will seek safe refuge.

While other anglers are searching, your patience may return better dividends.

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