Never Stop Learning By: Capt. T J Shea

Stretching over 1,350 miles, Florida’s coastline is the second longest in the United States–only Alaska’s is longer. To many of this publication’s readers, that statistic immediately brings to mind the idea of vast fishing grounds. But one thing I’ve learned from over 30 years of fishing charters is that many don’t realize how diverse Florida’s fishing can be from region to region. Living my life solely on the Gulf coast, where bottom fishing for grouper, snapper and amberjack were the standard, my skill and expertise were centered around catching these species. Luckily, I was given some sound advice and came to understand that failing to expand my horizons as a fisherman would be such a waste, given all the amazing angling this state has to offer.

As we get older, many of us don’t take the time to learn new skills. We tend to stay within our comfort zones or even become stagnant– much like the foul-smelling, mosquito-infested water many of us have come upon while fishing deep in the mangroves. There was a time when I felt myself falling into this rut. A close friend has always told me that, as humans, we should never stop growing and learning. I decided it was finally time to start listening.

With the tighter regulations on red grouper (set to close July 21st), amberjack (August 1 – October 31st), and gag grouper (September 1st – November 10th), the State of Florida helped give us the perfect excuse to go. The plan was to leave the dock, leave our familiar waters behind, and head south towards deeper water, big coral heads and in search of birds– hopefully to replace our typical reds, mangos and mackerel with mahi, sailfish and cubera snapper.

The change in coastline would require a change in tactics.  As a kid, summers spent fishing with my dad had given me a solid base for this style of angling, but the techniques have certainly changed since then. I know wisdom comes from seeking advice, so I tapped into every industry resource available.  The first step was to reach out to local captains, gathering as much as possible from their knowledge and experience in these areas. Armed with their best tips and a few suggestions for spots to target, I moved on to forums and articles focused on this type of fishing. What we found was a wealth of information to help us on this adventure.  And, although we were lucky enough to be greeted with favorable weather, we were still able to put our Raymarine Cyclone Radar to good use finding birds. The fishing and diving did not disappoint, and we would have missed one great trip had we not decided to take the leap and try something a little different.

Whether you’re a Florida native, a regular visitor or just checking us out for the first time, you’ve already seen a portion of what this beautiful state has to offer.  But, with 1,350 miles of coastline, there is likely so much more to experience. So, step out of the box, leave your comfort zone and see what’s waiting to be discovered.


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