On The Fly South February 2021
This month we still are locked into winter weather patterns across the South, as well as marred in the effects of the Covid-19 panic. The latter makes us want to get outside and do some social distancing on the water, while the former slows the angling and makes it uncomfortable. Fortuantely, spring will inevitably arrive, and the news on the various new vaccines for the coronavirus also is a bright spot on the horizon.
In the meantime, the On The Fly South crew will contnue to provide you with options for fly casting now and as the weather inproves. In February we offer features on the travel and fishing outlook for Belize, revisit the fishing on Black Creek in Gadsden to see how the second season of this trout fishery in northeast Alabama is faring, plus we go after muskies in southern Missouri – only to end up with some plan B fishing to save the day!
You also get more resort, fly tying, and gear updates, as well as the End of the Line look at the historic Pelican Alley in Nokomis, Florida and its connection to John McDonald, the author of the Travis McGee novels.
Around the South:
New Trout Rules in Maryland
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced pre-season stocking of trout in SOMD. This comes along with some pretty big changes to trout fishing regulations in the state for 2021.
Starting on the 1st of January, all brook trout caught from waters east of Interstate 81 (I-81) must be released.
The DNR said this is part of a plan to protect the trout population. “Catch-and-release of brook trout from put-and-take waters will reduce the harvest of brook trout in these areas by anglers who are targeting stocked trout. Forty-five percent of trout anglers indicated harvest is a motivating factor to angling in stocked streams, thus more brook trout caught in these streams may be harvested than would normally occur if no trout were stocked.”
Delayed Harvest in Tennessee
Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency delayed-harvest trout program goes great with this time of year. In the DH program, a section of a stream is stocked with trout in the fall and harvest is not allowed until the following spring around the time the regular trout stocking seasons begin. The locations are in the eastern half of the state.
Tennessee’s DH seasons end the last day of February, when the streams open for harvest. Trout stocked in DH streams are of quality size and stocked in numbers to provide quality catch-and-release fishing. An additional benefit is the stocked fished will grow over the winter, providing a boost to fishing quality once the spring season begins. During the catch-and-release season, harvest or possession of trout is prohibited and only artificial lures are permitted. The use or possession of bait is prohibited.
Bahamas Mangrove Restoration
Bonefish and Tarpon Trust
A new project to restore Bahamian mangrove forests destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in 2019 has been launched by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) and its partners Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Friends of the Environment and MANG, an environmental apparel brand that plants a mangrove for every product sold. The coalition seeks to transplant up to 100,000 mangroves in the hardest hit areas with the help of Bahamian fishing guides, students and other volunteers.
“Mangroves are an essential part of the ecosystem that supports bonefish and other flats species,” said BTT President and CEO Jim McDuffie. “They provide habitat for fish and other wildlife, prevent coastal erosion, and help buffer the communities where our friends and partners live against storms. BTT is pleased to be a part of this important work.”
This large-scale, five-year project, the first of its kind in the country, will target Abaco, Grand Bahama and surrounding cays. Scientific surveys completed last spring found that Hurricane Dorian damaged or destroyed nearly 74 percent of Grand Bahama’s mangroves and 40 percent of Abaco’s across an area of 35 square miles. In partnership with BNT, BTT has drafted a comprehensive plan to help restore this critical flats habitat and put local fishing guides to work. Without such a plan, in the best-case scenario recovery would take over a decade, and in the most severely impacted locations, sites where seed banks were blown out, recovery may not occur at all. The first phase of the project commenced in December with the planting of 6,048 mangroves on Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Arkansas Trout Tags
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Thanks to a donation from the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, five lucky anglers who have turned in tags from trout caught this winter will receive $100 Bass Pro Shops gift cards.
The tags were randomly placed on trout stocked by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program in locations across the state. Hundreds of fish were tagged, each being worth a small prize in addition to fantastic table fare and an enjoyable day on the water.
“We want to remind folks that we still have tags out that have not been mailed in yet,” said FCFP coordinator Maurice Jackson. “Mailing the tags will result in a prize and all winners will be entered into a grand prize drawing for one of three guided fishing trips for two to the Little Red River. The Foundation and Sore Lip ‘Em All Guide Service on the Little Red also are responsible for the grand prizes.”
AGFF President Deke Whitbeck said the Foundation is excited to help with the donations for the gift cards and help with the grand prizes to recruit, retain and reactivate anglers in Arkansas.
“The Foundation is happy to support those programs that help families get unplugged and engaged in Arkansas’s Outdoors,” Whitbeck said. “The Family and Community Fishing Program exemplifies this notion and we can’t thank Maurice Jackson and Clint Coleman for all they do making this program one of the best in the agency.”
Jackson said the AGFC is in the process of another round of trout stockings for winter and encourages everyone to enjoy this year’s Trout Day, an annual celebration held by the FCFP on the last Saturday of each January. Although social-distancing restrictions will prevent any derbies or large-scale gatherings similar to those held in years past, this year’s Trout Day still is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a day by the water with close family and friends.
“Take someone you’re close to out for a day on the water and enjoy one of the healthiest activities available,” Jackson said. “Trout are delicious, easy to catch and offer a much-needed opportunity to beat cabin fever. Who knows? You may get lucky and catch one of the remaining tagged trout while you’re there.”
Redfish Release in Manatee County
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
The Coastal Conservation Association Florida and the Duke Energy Mariculture Center have continued to combat the declining redfish population by releasing 2,000, 8- to 12 -inch, hatchery-reared juvenile redfish at the newly expanded Robinson Preserve in Manatee County. The preserve borders Tampa Bay and Perico Bayou.
Since 2018, the partners have released more than 36,000 redfish across Florida’s coastal areas, and next week’s event is a continuation of their combined efforts.
Trout Stocked in the Lower Saluda River
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Freshwater Fisheries division has started the process of stocking thousands of catchable-sized, 8- to 11-inch trout in the lower Saluda River near Columbia.
The rainbow and brown trout that are raised and transported from the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery in Oconee County are delivered by truck to multiple locations in the lower Saluda.
The cold waters released from the bottom of Lake Murray provide suitable habitat for the trout, creating a unique and very popular fishery in the Midlands of South Carolina.
SCDNR stocks nearly 30,000 trout each year in the lower Saluda from December through February in what’s called a “put, grow and take” fishery. Trout grow rapidly after stocking and can exceed 20 inches in one to two years after stocking, which is considered trophy size for this type of fishery.
Anglers should keep in mind that the lower reach of the Saluda River, from the eastbound I-20 bridge downstream to Stacey’s Ledge, is year-round catch-and-release fishing for all species of coldwater trout. It is unlawful to take and retain trout at any time in this section of the river.