By Peter Krause
For many freshwater anglers raised in Florida, bluegill were the first fish ever caught in neighborhood ponds and canals.
At some point later, usually by accident, the young fisherman hooked a largemouth bass for the first time, and the sport of fishing seemed to change. Bream may be scrappy and fun, but for many of us, the largemouth bass was the first time we got serious about a fish.
Junior pond anglers aren't alone. The largemouth bass is widely considered to be the most popular gamefish in North America, and possibly the world. It isn't a terribly difficult fish to catch compared to some saltwater species.
However, the bass' strong fighting nature and habit of ambushing from structure requires decent angling skills to keep the big ones from getting away.
The largemouth bass is native to the eastern half of North America, with offshoots into the western states, but its popularity has caused transplants of the fish to pretty much the entire world. Largemouth may now be caught in neighborhood canals in Brevard County, lakes in Russia or streams in Fiji.
This transplantation may cause problems for new habitats. Florida may study local impacts of mudfish and tilapia, but it is our native fish species that may be causing ecological concern in other countries, for once.
Much of the concern is due to the largemouth's rather large mouth, and the fish's habit of sucking down anything in front of it. Other fish, amphibians, insects, small reptiles, and even birds are part of the largemouth diet.
The wide range of prey makes bait selection both easy and frustrating. A bass may eat almost anything, but maybe not the one thing dangling in front of its nose.
Live baits range from large insects such as grasshoppers to small fish such as shiners or bluegill. Artificials try to tickle a sense, and all senses have been attempted. There are smelly lures and rattling lures. Some lures are shaped exactly like frogs and fish, and other lures vaguely look like large worms, if worms were bright blue.
The classic spinnerbait combines a spinning propeller-like appendage bent off a lure with a fuzzy bucktail-like puff, and looks like nothing in nature. It seems to attract a largemouth in much the same way a high school cheerleader with a spinning baton in one hand and a pom-pom in another attracts a high school quarterback.
Perhaps, deep in the DNA that links us all, there may be a connection.
Warmer waters are pushing grouper back into snapper territory. Look for either along the 27 fathom lines on out. Live baits, such as pinfish, will help, but so will a weighted chum bag.
Whiting are the standbys with shrimp or clams, but the warming surf has brought snook catches along all the beaches in Brevard. Snook are most active at night or early morning, with live shrimp or fish, or a rattling lure.
Like the surf, snook catches are being reported throughout the county. Snook like to ambush, so find areas with mangroves, bottom debris, or shorelines with lots of dock pilings.
The recent fires and drought are making the St. Johns River a tough place to fish. Canals and neighborhood ponds are better bets until the summer rainy season gets here.
Peter Krause has fished all over the Florida since his childhood, when he pulled bream out of the Everglades canals. He has fished Brevard waters for more than 10 years. Peter can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures of great catches can also be sent to him at that address.