Don’t let a red tide end your beach fun on Florida’s coast

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Two anglers go after snook on the back waters that thread through Nokomis. This Gulf Coast getaway is ideal for fishing, dining and the old-Florida experience. (Submitted photo)

The notorious red tide nearly put a serious damper on our annual late winter trek to the Gulf of Mexico shores of the Sunshine State.

The toxic effect of the red tide is nothing new. It’s unwelcome, and thankfully just-occasional presence has been documented as early as in the 1840s. But it has seldom been as severe and far-reaching as its recent year-long massive attack on the Florida Gulf coastline last year.

According to many reports, evidence of its fouling, which stretched from the Florida panhandle in the north to beaches far to the south, was still somewhat apparent in the first few weeks of this year.

Published media sources estimate the red tide of 2018 spread its ugly and smelly presence on some 1,000 miles of beaches and waterways. Locals said it was so severe that front loaders filled dump trucks with dead fish and other water creatures that had fallen to the toxic tide and the air was so foul that hardly anyone ventured near the beaches.

Fingers crossed

As we explored the area, we had fingers crossed that the poison tide would stay away.

We had a great trip, with hardly any disappointments. I had planned to research an affordable fishing trip (often referred to as going fishing) on the Miss Venice, a 40-foot party boat that runs daily off-shore, bottom fishing excursions.

At just $99, any individual can join a small gang of other vacationers for a fun day with a few fillets to take home. But the boat was down for some upgrades.

Not to be denied, we decided to simply order our seafood rather than catch it. Some favorite restaurants included Snook Harbor, a laid-back Buffet kind of joint that hangs out over the banks of the Myakka River.

The look and old-Florida-feel of this setting is awesome itself, but add some kick-back bands and a weekly banjo battle and it’s a must-do.

We also like to catch afternoon rays and do some people watching on the North Venice Jetty located on the southern tip of Casey Key.

Stick around on Friday night and one can expect to listen to a handful of regulars who shuffle in to jam with guitars and fiddles. If you stay for the jam session, drop into the Fish Hut there and grab a sack of salted peanuts and a drink.

Miles of beach

From the jetty, Nokomis Beach runs bright and friendly for miles, but the best prize is right at the corner where the beach meets the jetty. Interesting shells stack up there and make for easy pick’ns.

And for shore anglers, the fishing off the jetty rocks can be dynamite on the incoming tide. Keep in mind that the nearby groves and connecting waterways offer some very good snook and other species fishing.

Saturday evening, starting two hours before the beach’s premier sunsets, the popular Nokomis drum circle starts a steady beat that seems to never stop and attracts several hundred spectators and countless dancers and percussion musicians.

A well-constructed and well-used fishing pier is some four or five miles south of the Venice jetty. The pier offers decent, sometimes excellent, fishing.

To the south is North Port where the Tampa Bay Rays play their spring games and just to the north are the stadiums of the Orioles and the Pirates.

If you like Florida, not the high rise Florida, you’ll like Venice/Nokomis area.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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