In ancient Florida, long before the Spaniards staked claim to the "land of flowers" or found the fountain of youth, a prehistoric creature plied its estuarine waters. It looked like something out of a child's imagination — 15 to 18 feet long, built to hug the bottoms of rivers and bays, beige and suited in shark-like skin. The front of its face protruded nearly half its length and if that wasn't enough, the long pulpit was adorned with two rows of teeth spaced about an inch apart, resembling a long, swimming hedge trimmer.
The sawfish was once a majestic and mysterious part of the coastal ecosystem in tropical Florida. It lived alongside snook and snapper, tarpon and pompano and only fed on the bait schools when they would cloud the inshore waterways by the millions during their migrations.
By 2003, overfishing and water quality and habitat degradation in coastal waters had taken their toll. The sawfish numbers had dwindled to the point where concerned conservationists placed the large marine fish on the endangered list — it was the first marine species to receive that designation.
Two decades later, is the sawfish making a comeback? Depends on where you are and whom you ask. Here on the Treasure Coast, the sawfish can be found roaming around searching for food during the summer months. In the past two weeks, this fishing writer has fielded no fewer than seven sighting reports, none of them duplicate. The good news is they ranged in size from 12 feet offshore to 3 feet near the Palm City Bridge.
Florida fishing: Sawfish, sharks, snapper, snook energize late summer bite
Indian River County
Inshore: The regular flow of freshwater from afternoon storm runoff moving through the inlet on the outgoing tide has slowed the bite for snapper. Use greenies if you can catch them or cut mojarras to get bites. Around Vero Beach there is a lot of stormwater runoff in the lagoon and that has meant only snook are biting. Remember, season does not open for snook until Sept. 1.
Freshwater: Anglers at Headwaters Lake are complaining about mats of vegetation blown up into the boat launch areas. That makes launch and retrieving boats difficult. Use patience when there.
St. Lucie County
Inshore: Wade fishing in the lagoon has been a productive way for anglers to get close to snook, trout, tarpon and even redfish. Use jerk baits or artificial shrimp to get bites from 1-3 pound trout in the seagrass at the ends of the docks along Indian River Drive.
Surf: It's been slow here. Soon, however, the glass minnows may show up igniting the bite close to the trough of the beaches on Hutchinson Island. After the next full moon Aug. 30, look for the first small pods of mullet moving.
Inshore: Snook fishing remains pretty solid throughout the St. Lucie River. That's because snook like it dirty. Tarpon have been at The Crossroads, the inlet and just outside the inlet taking live mullet. Sheepshead can be caught around the bridge pilings on shrimp.
Toxic algae has been present all over the lake still, so anglers must make up their minds as to what they want to do when it comes to catching bass in less than pristine water quality. The alge should begin to fade by the next full moon at month's end.