By Live to Fish Team Member: Josh Stewart
A common concern expressed by parents and conservationists alike is that our youth is spending more time indoors and less time enjoying outdoor activities. Most fears exist due to something being unknown. In this case, the unknown is the actual number of people, both teenagers and adults, who participate in wildlife–related outdoor activities.
From 2006 through 2011, our country saw a dramatic increase in the number of individuals participating in outdoor activities. More than 90 million U.S. Residents, age 16 and older, took park some form of wildlife recreation in 2011.
The State of Fishing
While that statistic is positive for the country as a whole, the State of Florida alone brings more than its fair share to the table. Florida has an enviable reputation for a number of outdoor sports. Above all, our most noteworthy outdoor recreational activity is fishing. Florida is known as the fishing capital of the world. Florida has more fishing world records than any other state or country. With 1,197 statute miles of coastline, 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline, 663 miles of beaches, and more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, and waterways, Florida provides ample opportunity for vacationers and residents to fish. In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau did a National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Recreation. In 2006, there were 2.6 million anglers in Florida. In 2013, the number of anglers in Florida rose to 3.1 million.
Economically, Florida has one of the top producing fisheries in the country. We rank #1 in the number of saltwater anglers OUT OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. Florida saltwater fishing licenses generated $37,555,602.00 as reported in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s 2015-2016 fiscal year. The recreational fishing industry in Florida is a reported $7.6 billion dollar per year industry that supports 109,300 jobs; according to 2014 NOAA data.
Florida’s Underwater Ecosystem
It’s not just Florida’s numerous fishing opportunities that make the State number one. It’s the quality of the various fisheries themselves. All the coastline and lakes in the world wouldn’t make any difference if Florida’s fisheries weren’t inhabited by beautiful, healthy, and plentiful fish. Personally, I’m grateful every time I leave land for the water. Whether I’m drifting or motoring over a flat, paddling through a narrow mangrove lined creek, or walking along one of Florida’s uninhabited white sand beaches, I can’t help but to be in awe of the beauty before me. Florida’s healthy turtle sea grass is most abundant from Tarpon Springs northward to Apalachee Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. Turtle Grass (Thalassia testudinum) is the largest in Florida. The approximate 2.2 million of acres of seagrass provides benefits to our marine habitat in that it helps to improve water clarity by collecting sediment, provides a refuge for fish, shrimp, and other shellfish, and helps to solidify the bottom with its root structure.
When fishing the flats, look for seagrass; especially turtle grass. The better you know the area where you’re planning to fish, the more likely you are to be successful. Fisherman that participate in saltwater fishing tournaments, particularly the IFA Redfish Tour, engage in all manner of tactics in order to win significant amounts of money. One of the tactics used by both saltwater and freshwater fisherman alike is to “prefish,” an area. Prefishing is the process of going out and fishing the area in which the tournament will take place, as many times as possible, under the same tidal conditions that will exist on the day of the tournament, before the actual competition. For your average fisherman with an actual job, prefishing is simply not realistic. Most of us can’t just say to ourselves, “well, it’s Tuesday… and the tide is going to be high at 10:00 AM… the tournament I’m fishing in a few months from now will also have a high tide that day at 10:00 AM… so, I’d better just not do anything other than get out on the water, see what’s biting, where, and on what kind of lure.” Though that would indeed be an enviable schedule to have, it’s not going to play out for the majority of fisherman. Nevertheless, if you’re going to tournament fish, prefishing pays off. On March 4, 2017, in Punta Gorda, Captain Brandon Buckner and partner Mark Sepe won $29,530.00.
Plan Ahead for Success
Use Florida’s healthy fisheries and the advantages provided by all the money Google spent to develop Google Earth, to your benefit. Use Google Earth to scout out potential spots by looking for areas where there might be a deep hole, a sandy area surrounded by seagrass, rocks, oyster bars, and other fish holding structures. The more time you can devote to learning about where you plan to fish, BEFORE you get on the water, the less time you’ll spend determining whether you’re in a spot likely to hold fish. Less time spent scouting for spots means more time with your rods in the water and hopefully with fish on the end of your hook. You’ll also save fuel. If you have the financial resources, you may want to consider hiring a fishing guide for a half day, and preferably, a full day of fishing. The cost varies per guide, area, and season. It’s worth your while to find the best guide you can for the area you plan to fish the most. You can ask for recommendations at tackle shops. You’re welcome to contact us for any references on fishing guides. You will learn more in that one day from a guide than you’re likely to learn in months on your own.
Live In The Present
As a closing piece of advice, work to ensure you never take the beauty Florida has for granted. When you’re fishing, think about how many people in the world would love to trade places with you. Think about how many people pay thousands of dollars for a Florida vacation. Whether you live here or you’re just visiting, you’re in a unique and amazing state; that just happens to be the fishing capital of the world. To help ensure you’re getting the most out of your time spent on the water, feel free to contact us with any questions.