Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 39 No 2 - Spring 2015 - Page 34
It seems that FISH and
FLOWERS have always
been constants in my life.
This came about naturally
thanks to my father...
bout the time ice went out on
Henry David Thoreau’s beloved
Walden Pond near Concord, New
Hampshire, he was visited by his friend
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the acclaimed
philosopher, essayist, and poet. Emerson’s
mission was to persuade his young protégé
to end his self-imposed two year exile and
return to more meaningful literary pursuits.
“I believe you are absolutely right, Mr.
Emerson”, Thoreau was purported to have
said, smiling. “Every man should believe
in something; I believe I’ll go fishing.”
It’s been argued that “there is a little
Thoreau in each of us,” and while he took
his love of nature and free-thinking to a
higher level, we’re pretty much alike when
another March rolls around and that longed
for Vernal Equinox arrives. Those
unexplained feelings of soaring euphoria
hit most of us hard now, myself included.
It seems that FISH and FLOWERS
have always been constants in my life. This
came about naturally thanks to my father
who was an accomplished horticulturist and
in spare time a blood and guts fishing
fanatic. During my childhood, and into my
adult years, I learned to appreciate both fish
and flowers more each season, especially
the first warm days of spring.
Springtime blossoms, of course, are
not true indicators of our first good angling
opportunities following a bleak winter of
frosty nights, howling north winds and
abnormally low tides. Getting stuck on
sandbars or gooey mud flats isn’t fun in
summer, but in late winter and early spring
it’s a pain in the lower extremities, if you
know what I mean. We all want to get out
there after long layoffs of inactivity, but
common sense tells us to wait for good
The correlation of fish and flowers
only works in temperate zones that include
all Gulf states. In subtropical and tropical
latitudes, other angling yardsticks apply that
GULF COAST FISHERMAN
rely heavily on prevailing winds,
barometric pressure and most importantly
the various moon phases that govern tides.
In April, about the time yellow jasmine
starts lighting up southern swamps and
woodlands, saltwater anglers become
increasingly anxious because they know
speckled trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel,
bluefish and cobia are on the move and
will soon be prime targets again.
Typically, Panhandle Florida
fishermen get first shots at migrating cobia.
This is “sight fishing” and best
accomplished from high Gulf-side piers and
sharp-eyed veterans in boats of every size
and description. By mid-April into May,
Mississippi and Louisiana anglers start
seeing those “big brown fish” around
barrier islands and offshore petroleum
Chumming works well now and
traditional baits such as live eels, pinfish,
jumbo shrimp, squid, and hardhead catfish
will entice strikes. Early season cobia, AKA
ling and lemonfish, tend to run on the heavy
side, often 50 pounds or more, so stout
tackle is a must.
According to the late Horace Carter, a
prolific Florida writer and personal friend,
“When the neon-bright Bougainvillea and
fragrant Frangipani (plumeria) start
showing hints of color, big snook grow
active and the inlets and rivers from
Sarasota to Naples are prime places to try
Sad to say, my own experience with
Florida snook hasn’t been good, and to
date the few snook I’ve boated have all
spoken Spanish, meaning Mexico and
Now, to put things into proper
perspective, forget for awhile all I’ve said
about springtime blossoms unlocking the
door to great early season fishing because
they are only window dressing. The real
key to initial action is the thermometer as
it relates to water temperature. Longtime
Biloxi charterboat captain, Kenny
Barhanovich, puts it very succinctly.
“Not 68, 69, but 70... Seventy degrees
is the magic number that gets our fishing
started each spring. It’s like throwing a light
switch. When the water temperature hits
that mark it means we’re back in business!”
To prove his point, I was invited
aboard his big beamed boat named MISS
HOSPITALITY, on a recent April, and,
coincidentally, the very day the local
weather bureau confirmed that 70 degree
reading. The air temperature was rather cool
on the run to the fishing grounds, and my
lightweight jacket felt good.
When we slowed to put lines out, about
halfway down the surf side of Horn Island,
Kenny yelled from the fly bridge that fish
were breaking ahead of us and to get ready.
We were now so close to the beach that I
thought we might run aground, but this
captain knew exactly what he was doing.
Suddenly, all our lines snapped tight with
brilliantly-hued Spanish mackerel in the 13 pound class - and continued to do so for
the next hour, or so.
After catching a few macks, I joined
Kenny on the bridge and was astonished at
what I saw. Schools of mackerel were
everywhere and you could see them
flashing in the crystal clear sunlit water as
they gorged on glass minnows and attacked
our spoons and jigs in suicidal fashion.
“Good Lord”, I blurted. “There must
“Think millions”, Kenny said,
grinning. “And this is only the beginning
of a brand new season!”
While mackerel dominated our catch,
we also picked up a brace of 20 pound
redfish and more oversized jackfish than
we wanted to deal with. The pair of reds
were boxed, and all but one of the hard
fighting jacks released.
“Have a good time?”, Captain Kenny
asked at dockside, as I collected my gear
and a plastic bag stuffed with firm fillets.
“Wonderful!”, I replied. “You and the