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Seatrout Season Opened New Year’s Day
By Jonie Maschek
Jan 8, 2009 - 10:07:33 AM

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The state is now trying to track the sawfish. I haven’t seen that fish in this area for years. When I was writing my series “A Piece of History” the first one I saw was at Louise Smith’s house, and she, in later years, gave it to Eddie and Jack Castillo. Captain Smith, a well known captain at that time, had caught it in Tampa Bay.

Dolphin- Ciera Hamblin Photo
  The average size smalltooth sawfish is 10’ and the largest recorded size on record is 31’, and weighed in at 5700 lbs.  It was caught at Panama Bay in 1923 by an ­angler named Mitchell Hedges.

Sawfish are part of the dogfish family, as are the rays and sharks. Sawfish have nothing in common with the sailfish or the swordfish except a nose which is used as a weapon. Like the sharks, the sawfish does bear their young alive; they do not lay eggs.

The sawfish is grayish overall like the shark, darker on the back and lighter on the belly. This fish was placed on the endangered species list in 2003 and its cousin, the longtooth sawfish, has not been seen in our waterways since the 1940s.
The smalltooth sawfish has been seen in the Indian River Lagoon, around the 10,000 Islands in the Everglades National Park and Charlotte Harbor. The sawfish isn’t just struggling in Florida, but around the globe, with the last one seen in Africa in 1984.

This “Save the Sawfish” campaign is founded by The National Marine Fishery Service, which will strive to improve their habitat and expand their range.

The University of Florida and the Florida Museum on Natural History will record the sawfish findings on their database. With the help of the public and the researchers, this campaign may be a great success. If you see a sawfish, report your findings.
We played with the dolphins last year in Orlando, and found them to be so much fun. The most interesting animals of the ocean are the porpoises, or dolphins.
Dozens are around and not much different from each other, except for size, snout, and coloring.

The dolphin is intelligent and can be taught to do many tricks. Many legends are told about the dolphin. Sailors regard the dolphin as their friend. Many think that dolphins have saved their lives.

All species are considered “Good Luck Omens.” They are graceful, beautiful and a sight to see as one travels out in the bay. They are not considered edible.
Instead of seeing red this week, anglers are seeing spots -- spotted seatrout -- with catches being good. Some are wading along the Causeway toward the Sunshine Skyway and catching their limit.

From all reports, catches have been good size and keepers. Seatrout season opened New Year’s Day. Schools of seatrout are at Simmons Park, along the west side where the two canals meet.

Trout are hitting live shrimp; use a 1/o hook for a sure catch. Again, the trout limit is four daily between 15” and 20” long, with one more than 20” allowed.

Releasing undersize trout should be handled with care. Trout are fragile and need to stay in the water as you release. Fish the flats; many trout catches have been boated this week.

Redfish catches have been fewer than usual. Low tides prevailed this past week, with most fishing done in the shallows.

Tripletail are not often caught in our waterways. I saw one this week and they called it a black perch. Some even call them sunfish. They are an open water fish, but hang around weed rafts, shipwrecks, or buoys, where they can hide. I’m not sure of the food value; I have never heard of eating them.

If you are looking for an excellent food value fish, hook on to a Florida pompano. The average size is 2 lbs. Their cousin, the Crevalle jack, is the poorest fish to eat. Most pompano are hooked close to shore in sloughs and swash channels where they eat shellfish.

Sheepshead is always a sure catch once you master the art of setting a hook in their bony mouths. This fish is so named ­because it has teeth like a sheep. He nudges the bait, swims away, then comes back for it.

Count to three after the nudge, and jerk your bait. If you don’t do this, he will eat all of your shrimp without you making a catch. He has all of those teeth and a mouth that is bone, so your jerk should catch him in the lip. This fish is lean, has a white meat, and is a good tablefare.

Flounder is always a good tablefare. Our waterways have mostly Florida flounder, a flat fish with one eye, weird to catch, and a great tablefare.

Snook season is open until Feb. 28, so you snook anglers move away from the TV and boat one before the season ends. Cobia are still playing around the bay. This is a fun fish to catch, giving you a workout.

Go fishing -- we have the best weather and fishing in the world.

-- Aleta Jonie Maschek is a ­member of Florida Outdoor Press­.

© Copyright 2008 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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