Reel time: Planning for the new year

The waters of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge are just a few hours north of Anna Maria, but are a world apart. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

New Year’s resolutions are a part of the story of the holidays. In my experience, this tradition has spawned more jokes than resolutions that are followed through. Still, it’s a good time and practice to look back on the past year with its successes and challenges and at least reflect on what worked, what you might have done differently and what fresh adventures can be planned for the New Year. Anglers can glean some valuable information and insight that will lead to positive fishing experiences in 2018.

I’m not suggesting that we write down hard and fast resolutions that don’t give any wiggle room. Instead think back on even the small things that when done differently might have had a bigger impact than you ever imagined. An example might be remembering when you hooked a really nice fish only to lose it to a failed knot, that tell-tale squiggle on the end of your line where the hook used to be attached. This resolution might read “always remember to carefully tie my knots, inspecting and testing them before I start fishing.” If this scenario hasn’t happened to you, count your blessings and remember this suggestion. I’ll admit to experiencing that pesky pigtail on the end of my line at least once this past year. The same applies to sharpening hooks, checking the drag and inspecting line for nicks and abrasions. Ideas like this can be the start of a general review of all your rigging, the state of your tackle and lures, even the condition of the line you have on your reels. Maybe it’s time to consider changing out a line that’s seen a realistic amount of service.

Tackle and organization are certainly places to start, but extend that same thinking to other equipment like your boat and motor, waders, push pole, trolling motor and wading boots. As experience teaches us, it’s the little things that we overlook that come back to haunt us.

On the water consider thinking out of the proverbial box by altering your routine strategy. Many anglers go fishing with a plan and never deviate from it. They start at one spot and hit all the usual holes during the day. A different option? Try planning to fish only places you’ve never explored before. I’ve done this and been amazed at how many spots there are that have proved to be productive. Looking at the same place with new eyes can be revealing.

Also consider trying a new place altogether. There are lots of beautiful and productive destinations within a few hours’ drive from Anna Maria, both north and south. Drive two hours north and you can explore the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and just north of there, Homosassa and Crystal rivers. Less than two hours south and you’re in Charlotte Harbor and adjacent to Pine Island Sound.

Don’t want to go that far? Anyone with a boat can leave Anna Maria and be fishing in fresh water in about an hour. The Manatee River and the Braden River provide anglers with a variety of fish from tarpon to catfish, redfish to bass. Both rivers also have numerous launch sites for boats, kayaks and paddleboards.

It might even prove useful to review how you approach fishing. If you’re a fly caster, look at ways you might improve your casting and consider learning how to cast with your non-dominant hand. Anglers who use conventional tackle might want to try artificial lures instead of always relying on live bait. No matter how long you’ve been fishing or what your level of competency, there’s always room for improvement. A general review of tackle, technique and the opportunities available to you can only improve your enjoyment of fishing moving into 2018. Happy New Year!