The Gulf Coast of Florida experienced a devastating weather event earlier this month when Hurricane Ian made land fall off the coast of Fort Myers Beach as a near category 5 storm. Thankfully the Nature Coast, which includes Crystal River and Homosassa, was spared, as we’re located 150 miles north of the storms epicenter. It’s unimaginable to think what would have happened to our area had this storm made landfall along our coastline, as was the projected track just two days prior to this storms landfall.
The last Hurricane to affect our area was back in 2016 when Hurricane Hermine skirted our coast as a strong Category 1 storm. Although this storm was nothing compared to Ian there was still wide spread flooding, power outages, and loss of life. My home in particular was inundated with nearly 3ft of water and loss of power for days. The struggle of seeing you’re belonging soaking wet and strewn in every direction is heart breaking and my thoughts and prayers go out to our friends in Lee County.
So in the aftermath of a major storm I’m often asked what happens to the fishing when a storm of this magnitude enters the Gulf. My answer to that is imagine the trauma that certain fish species endure before, during, and after a storm. I mean its not everyday a Tarpon finds itself swimming down major roads or even though a neighborhood backyard. Fish move!! They get the heck away from all of the damage as there are no fences in the Gulf and fish are free to roam.
The Saturday after the storm I loaded up my kids, niece, and nephew on the boat just to scope out the area and see if anything had changed. Were there any islands missing? Trees floating in the river? Anyone’s home damaged. These were all thoughts that crossed my mind. As we made our run down river it was apparently clear that we made it out of this storm free and clear and thus my focus shifted towards finding fish.
Never, ever did I expect to see what I saw on this afternoon trip. Schools of Tripletail are rare at times especially inshore. In the past I have seen schools of 5,6, maybe 10 fish in a school wrapped around a buoy. But on this day there were schools of Tripletail swimming everywhere. Balls of 15+ fish, pods of 5, singles, swimming everywhere!!! You would catch one, release it, and look up and the boat was surrounded by Tripletail. This was the most incredible sight I have seen in regards to Tripletail and I know it was all due to the storm. The interesting part of the entire scenario is that all of those fish were swimming in one direction, Northwest. That tells me everything I need to know. Fish flee when major impending weather is on the horizon and the Tripletail I was seeing were swimming as far away from that storm as possible.
And this is just one scenario that I was lucky to see first hand. Did I mention that there have been two Bonefish landed along the Nature Coast in the last week? I can assure you that those fish didn’t just show up for any reason. This species of fish’s swimming patterns were all weather related.
All in all we are extremely blessed to have dodged Hurricane Ian this season. Now lets look forward to all of the great fishing that comes in the aftermath. I’m excited to see what’s going to arrive next on our flats.
Capt. Kyle Messier
Reel Florida Fishing Charters