With the new year, hope springs eternal in the minds of fishermen.

I'm happy to say goodbye to 2021 for a lot of reasons; not the least of which was the poor fishing results we all suffered through. I must admit at times I get cocky about my abilities in the local waters, but this past year took me down a notch.

Now we can re-group and begin anew with childlike enthusiasm. Sure the 2021 shrimp dipping south of Edgewater was not very good, but we are now beginning a new season.

Thankfully the spotted sea trout are back in season and snook season will re-open Feb. 1. Red fishing was slow last year, but it can only improve. Please keep in mind that it is illegal to take snook that have been stunned from the cold. Hopefully this will be a mild winter and that won't be a possibility, but if the temperature drops into the low 30s and stays there for a while, the snook will begin to stack up in deeper water to seek a few degrees of warmth.

When they get cold enough they will come up to barely move along just below the surface. If that happens, it will be easy to dip them up with a landing net, but don't do it. A fat fine may be your reward.

Legally you can catch and keep one snook by hook and line and there is a four-inch slot for those. Snook must be at least 28 inches long and no larger than 32 inches in length. I would urge all of you to practice catch and release when it comes to snook. It is a shame to turn such a majestic creature into a couple fish sandwiches.

Fishing at High Bridge just south of the Flagler County line has gotten tougher. Volusia County has finally moved in to do the much needed repair and say that it will take six months to complete.

That is bound to put Salty Dawg Outfitters in trouble. That is the group that runs the bait shop and, with the ramps closed, they are sure to be hurting. I am told they will try to stay open during the work, but they will need our help. Please give them a little business when you can. We sure don't need that bait shop to close. The last time that happened it was down for around two years.

Remember there are several places there to launch a kayak or canoe. Fishing from the bridge is an old tradition and the fishing pier is brand new so give them a try. Let's try and help them out!

I have had reports of tarpon in the Tomoka River. Tarpon are also susceptible to the cold and will gang up in deeper water when the temperature drops. One year I found so many young tarpon in Strickland Creek, I was inadvertently snagging them with my jig. Tarpon fishing should also be catch and release.

During the winter months, a front may keep you at home, but that usually means great fishing. To me gray skies and even a little rain means black drum time.

Locally cold weather has always meant gator trout, but with the new regulations they may not be keepers. Now the maximum keeper trout is 19 inches (with one over 19" per vessel.) To me a gator trout must be at least 22 inches, so it's mostly catch and release for gator trout.

Still, even with all the bad news I just laid on you – better fishing should be coming. Get out an give it a try.

Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to fishwdan@att.net. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.

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