Each year I like to spend a little time fishing without a rod and reel, and with that in mind I towed my Polar over to Florida's west coast and beautiful Crystal River. I went there to snorkel for bay scallops on the shallow water grass flats.
At about 10 a.m. I launched the boat at the public ramps near the inlet. Also on board was my wife Lana, my son Landan and his girlfriend Sarah. We have been making this trip annually for many years and Landan began when he was 9 years old. He now teaches middle school.
Sarah is certified in scuba, so you might say the four of us were a crew well-seasoned. Finding the prime scallop grounds was not difficult, for as soon as we cleared the inlet, we could see a pod of perhaps 50 boats anchored to the southwest. The waters of the Gulf were warm and inviting and the tasty shellfish were plentiful.
In no time at all we had our 8-gallon limit.
Snorkeling in that great underwater environment is the real fun of this trip, so we lingered another hour and a half just taking in the sights. The scallop season is open until mid-September, so make your plans to give it a try. We did it as a day trip.
Closer to home, there is still shrimp in the Halifax for those willing to invest some time. You may throw your net 10 times in a row with little to show for it, but on the 11th cast, you could pull up 2 gallons. The ones you do catch are running a decent size.
Hot weather always gets me thinking about mangrove snapper. It is at this time of year that the mangos grow to their largest in the inshore. It is not unusual to land them in the 18-inch range during the hotter months. I like to fish the docks and bridges with shrimp until I hit them and then switch to a white jig. Being schoolers, they are seldom found alone. Lots of ladyfish around the Dunlawton Bridge to stretch your line. If you want to have some fun, fish them around Pelican Island on a fast-moving tide.
Jacks are busting under the bridges at Seabreeze, but you will have to be out early to get them.
The sand fleas are plentiful on the beach and that means the pompano are nearby. Catch the burrowing crabs at water's edge either by hand or with a rake and fish near a run out. If you bring along shrimp, you will also catch whiting and blues. Both of those are pretty thick in the surf right now. Reds are still scarce all around, but trout are holding steady. Not many gator trout, but solid keepers are being taken throughout. Flounder are slow but steady and to this point I have taken 48 since the first of spring.
Had a nice chat with Bill and Lois Sands recently. Some of you old timers may find that moniker familiar because Bill's grandfather with the same name ran The Sands Oyster House on the river in Port Orange for many years. Going back a piece there was Gardner's (where Sweetwater's stood), and just up the street was Sands.
That establishment began in 1914 and plucked juicy oysters right from the Halifax and prepared and shipped them around the country until closing in the 1950s. Lois told me that she believed the building of the concrete bridges was the main cause of the water quality becoming too poor to eat the oysters from the river. No surprise to me.
Anyway, it was nice to spend some time with Bill and Lois and look at some of their great pictures from a bygone time. Nice memories.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.