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Bring on 2021!

Like most of you, I am thrilled that 2020 is in the rearview mirror. What started out with the potential to be my best year in business quickly fizzled out and turned in to a struggle; like a lot of small businesses in America and around the world. The global pandemic known as Covid-19 put a halt to travel and kept the majority of my clients at home. The fear associated with the illness, pushed even more due to an election year, seemed to keep people from being able to live their lives and enjoy the things they wanted to enjoy. The amazing part was, we saw a huge rise in the numbers of people actually fishing and enjoying the outdoors. They were just doing it close to home and most were not in a position to hire someone to take them out. Despite these issues, the slow down in regular clients enabled me to meet some new clients; some of which have become "new" regulars and great friends. It also gave me the opportunity to focus on some new techniques and get some new gear ready. Now, I am ready for 2021, no matter what it throws my way!

I usually spend the first blog of a new year highlighting the catches from the previous year. But honestly, with the slow down, it wouldn't take a whole blog to do that. I will still show some highlight photos from the year though, and each one is a memory that I will cherish for time spent with some great people!

2020 Saw me return to some of my roots, getting back into bass fishing, and I remembered why I loved it so much and why those days spent doing it with my grandfather were so special. I will keep that focus in 2021, and I hope that many of my clients will take the opportunity to enjoy some wonderful freshwater fishing along with saltwater fishing. Florida has some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the world and the St John's River, where I focus most of my freshwater trips, is as beautiful an area as you can find. 2020 also had wonderful snook and tarpon fishing; I only expect it to get better in 2021!

Speaking of 2021, let's talk about the conditions right now. We had a few days of some colder weather, with low temperatures near freezing. I heard some reports of dead snook, but personally did not see any; any time we have temperatures that cold, we are bound to lose a few, so I am not overly concerned. Since then, the temperatures have moderated and in fact, we are expecting 80 today (the first day of 2021). Another cool down is coming this weekend, but not nearly as dramatic. The cold weather did kill off all of the algae in the water, so it clear again. The only areas I have not found clear water were in areas where wind was kicking it up, or mullet were so numerous that they were creating muds. The only down side to this clear water is that we now realize just how limited our seagrasses are. Most areas have very little grass and the bottom is almost as barren as the moon's surface. This is a little disheartening, but there are some glimmers of hope: I have observed some areas where our native widgeon grass is returning and seems to be healthy. In addition, the new "report card" on the health of the river came out. The numbers were not where I would like them to be, but they are trending in a positive slope and it shows that our work to restore water quality is slowly working.

With the clear water, sight fishing conditions are at their prime. There is little trouble locating and seeing fish, as long as the sun cooperates. In fact, we've been able to see fish from distances so far away that casting has to wait until we get within range. This doesn't mean that the fish are easier to catch. In fact, under some conditions they are even tougher to fool; this past week was a prime example due to a huge, bright full moon. Low, clear water makes the fish very spooky, requiring stealthy movement and offerings that do not spook them. Fly fishing is perfect for these conditions, as long as the angler can make decent casts and turn a fly over on a 12 foot leader. For my conventional tackle anglers, this is when the finesse rigs come into play. Thankfully, Z-Man Fishing Products make a ton of finesse baits and the redfish have been quite happy to take them. The only bit of advice I have when looking to fish in these conditions: try to avoid full moon times or the first day after a front moves through; these are the toughest fishing days during this time of year. Of course, if those are the only times you have, we still do it, and we just work a little harder!

Let's get 2021 off to a great start! Get your gear ready, practice your casting and then get down here and enjoy some great fishing conditions! As always, I pray that you have a wonderful New Year, and I thank each of you for your support and friendship!

Tight Lines and Screaming Drags:

- Captain John Tarr


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