tampabay.com

'Net a goldmine of fishing info

By DON MCBRIDE
Published January 2, 2005


When my grandfather, Frank, wasn't working as a fishing guide at Kentucky Lake, he and his buddy, Plug, would spend their days in Frank's boat, harassing each other, telling awful jokes that were mostly R rated and, oh yeah, doing a little fishing.

My college was just a few miles from the lake, so on days when I didn't have class, and on some when I did, I'd join these two on the water. Somewhere between the verbal abuse and the dirty jokes, I found out I really liked bass fishing.

It's a passion that lay mostly dormant through long stretches when I didn't even own a rod and reel. Then, a few years ago, it dawned on me that I wasn't taking advantage of the fact that Florida is the center of the bass-fishing universe. I got a fishing license and some basic tackle. I bought a small boat and a trolling motor, and I found a house on a tiny lake in St. Petersburg. It even has a few bass in it. And when the bass aren't biting, I settle happily for bluegill and bream.

I try not to turn fun into work and have little interest in tournaments, or in the arcane technical aspects of fishing. Tell me where I can fish without hassle, suggest what bait to use, give me a few basic tips and I'm happy. That's exactly the kind of information I want to share.

When I decided to take up fishing again, I wanted to do some research: Where can I easily drive to fresh water in a county surrounded by the salty stuff? That's when I discovered the online resources maintained by the Florida Freshwater Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The FWC's Web site is a great source of information about bass fishing, and the agency publishes printed guides for each of the state's five regions: northeast, south, north central, northwest and southwest.

The site, www.myfwc.com is full of information for the recreational fisherman but includes so much material that finding what you want can be a chore. I'd like to share some Web addresses that will take you to information I find useful. Type www.myfwc.com followed by the addresses below: /fishing

Lots of general information about freshwater fishing, including links to the addresses I'm listing here.

/fishing/docum/fishtips.html

This is a great source for how-to tips for beginning and intermediate anglers.

/fishing/forecast/index.html

This is the most useful. It provides links to fishing forecasts and tons of information about specific lakes. Check out the southwest region, which includes our area, and the northeast, most of which is within easy driving distance and includes some of the country's premier bass-fishing spots. There also are links to maps and phone numbers you can call for more information.

The FWC site provides a lot more than I have space for, including interactive fishing maps of some of the better-known lakes and listings for fish camps, lodging and boat ramps and rentals. If you want to go fishing, the Web site is a great place to start.

Don McBride can be reached at 727 893-8584 or dmcbride@sptimes.com

For additional useful Web links for fishing, see the online version of this story at www.sptimes.com/links