10 Ways Floridians Can Get in the Fall Spirit


We Floridians can take only so much cold weather. That’s why God created a special place in the world where it’s summer 10 months of the year, then freezing cold just long enough to remind us: we want it to be hot again. That place is called South Florida. And in Florida, the transition from scorching death-heat to mild death-heat is called “fall.”

As our northern neighbors indulge in the crisp air and orange extravagance of foliage season, we spectate from our social feeds and plan cabin trips to get in on it all. But if you’re like me, you don’t intend to wait around for the temperature to drop to put out the pumpkins and excitedly welcome (or force) the fall season. Here are 10 ways that Floridians can get in the fall spirit even while it still feels like summer.

  1. Get up early☀️ If you want to catch the first hints of fall, you have to get outside early. Go for a walk as the sun rises and the wildlife awakens around you. Your day will start with much more gratitude this way. Plus, it’s the only time you can actually wear long sleeves without sweating.

  2. Decorate🎃 My mom always decorated for holidays and I loved it! Nothing will get you in the cozy fall spirit quicker than being greeted at home by a wreath on the door, pumpkins, spice-scented candles, and fluffy blankets.

  3. Fall flavors🥧 October commences the time of year when it’s socially-acceptable to consume pumpkin spice in mass quantities (for most of us, anyway). Mix up dinner with fall-inspired recipes (we recently did spaghetti squash with ground turkey and a Tuscany pumpkin sauce), a warm apple cider toddy, or pumpkin-shaped pancakes for the kids!

  4. Get out & fish🎣 Redfish, snook, sea trout, sheepshead, and tripletail are abundant and frisky as the temps cool down. Many fish begin moving upriver and into shallower waters in the winter making them easier to target from canals and shorelines.

  5. Campfires🔥 Campfires are the gathering grounds of our ancestors—where tribes came together to dance, heal, share stories, and cook the day’s kill. Today, they remain a symbol of gathering and a place for connection. Gather your tribe for ghost stories, s’mores, cocoa, whiskey, or just taking in that nostalgic campfire smell.

  6. Fall festivities🍻 Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, farmer’s markets, festivals, costume parties, oyster roasts, Oktoberfest. There are so many events that can help your mindset shift into the season.

  7. Football🏈 Floridians are serious about football. We live all year for the Florida vs. Florida State rivalry game that falls on Thanksgiving weekend. Whether you’re tailgating or backyard BBQ’ing, there’s nothing better than getting rowdy while cheering for your favorite team.

  8. A moody autumn playlist🎵 Music sets the vibe for any moment. I use Spotify to search “autumn playlists” for lush and moody tunes to match the cool weather I wish we had. You can even find playlists that just play the sounds of a crackling fire.

  9. Movie night📽 This is the ultimate excuse to light those fall candles, cuddle up on the couch with some caramel popcorn and take in your fall favorites (Hocus Pocus, anyone?).

  10. Traditions new and old🍂 Traditions give us something to look forward to and can be the key to kicking off your holiday spirit. As kids, we got so excited to lay out newspaper on the driveway, carve jack-o-lanterns, then cook the pumpkin seeds. Try hosting a Friendsgiving dinner as a fun way to gather with your friends. If you don’t have a tradition, why not start now?

I hope you’ll embrace the fall season and all its possibilities! Don’t forget this is the season of gratitude, gathering, and giving. Slow down, soak in time with your loved ones, and make a little extra effort to be kind to someone.

Happy fall, y’all!



Attention Floridians: Support Local Businesses | They Need It More Than Ever

Florida has been dragged through the mud this year. We’ve been knocked down, beat up, broadcasted, examined, tested, regulated, and straight up disaster-ed to death. But we’re not dead yet.

We’ve had to change our own plans, avoiding certain coasts or staying off the water altogether. No Boca Grande for 4th of July. Bait dying in your livewell. Trading in that waterfront tiki bar for an inland establishment to avoid the stench of death and toxic algae. It’s become standard practice to consider the water quality before making plans to go anywhere.

I’m no scientist and this isn’t a write-up on the intricacies of what, why and how we have certain environmental problems. This isn’t a deep-digging editorial about solutions to our state’s water crisis. This is a simple, heartfelt reminder of what is happening in Florida and how we can help our neighbors until things improve.

Florida Gets Beat Up | A Year in Review

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma wrecked her way up the state leveling the middle Keys, drop-kicking Collier County in the face, and leaving a trail of storm surges, tornadoes and damage across the entire state. The national media had the rest of the country believing that Florida was about to be wiped off the map, helping drive near-apocalyptic panic statewide.

One month later, a red tide bloom emerged from the depths of hell where it came from. As it staked its claim on the Southwest coast, we’ve watched our coastal estuaries die before our eyes and every species of marine life wash up on our shores - from baitfish to game fish - tarpon, snook, manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, even a whale shark.


Meanwhile, those who might have typically vacationed in Florida throughout the winter and spring months were spooked by the news of hurricanes and toxic red tide. So they never showed up.

Just as we entered 7 months of red tide devastation, rainy season hit.

May and June 2018 brought nearly a foot of rainfall. As we’ve come to expect across greater Florida,  when it rains a lot, Lake Okeechobee levels rise and the Army Corps of Engineers begins discharging the water to the coasts. Billions of gallons of polluted, nutrient-laden freshwater is dumped to the east and west through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rvers and, sadly, we’ve become accustomed to what happens next.

Destruction of our coastal estuaries, seagrass dieoffs, marine life kills, and toxic blue-green algae blooms.

We just hit the one year mark since Irma, nearly a year (and counting) of red tide and an entire summer of toxic algae plaguing our coasts. Add national news coverage and an election year on top of that and the Sunshine State is one unattractive hot mess.

What Does This Mean?

Florida’s water drives our economy. Our seasonal visitors don’t show up for the winter humidity and terrible traffic. They come for the water, the sunsets and an escape from their snowy asylums.

Tourism has taken a massive hit. Some businesses have reported as much as a 50% drop in sales versus year prior. And it’s not just the coast that’s feeling the impact. People aren’t wanting to come here at all which means we lose the visitors and the money they would be spending throughout the state. As our peak season approaches, it’s not IF there will be a decline, it’s how bad will it be?

How To Help

We may not be able to fix our water problems overnight or will the red tide away, but we can help our fellow Floridians by showing up when the tourists aren’t. Shop at local stores, eat at local restaurants, drink at local breweries, book a trip with a fishing guide, get your coffee at the mom and pop shop instead of Starbucks.

I’m not saying to sacrifice your health by ingesting toxic fumes. Not all areas are affected at all times. Do your research, be mindful of the needs of your community and help if you can.

Florida will bounce back. We may be battered, bruised and toxic, but the tides will change. They always do.




Thoughts From Sea | Crossing Boca Grande Pass

On June 25, Mike and I were running south to Pine Island from Boca Grande, trying to escape the red tide and find bait. As we crossed the world-famous Boca Grande Pass, the morning sunrise sparkling on the water, I became flooded with soul-stirring inspiration. Even despite the floating fish bodies that had fallen victim to the ongoing red tide bloom. I had not brought my journal, so I reached for my phone to frantically type the thoughts in my mind. Here are my actual musings from a morning on the water. 


Monday, June 25, 2018 | Morning | Boca Grande Pass 

It’s in the moments of living that I write my best stories in my mind. I struggle sitting quietly at my desk in the silence of my home. My imagination is repressed. But when I’m out and actually living. That’s when the magic creeps in.

Like that time I was frozen on one knee face to face with two Osceola turkeys. The only reason I didn’t topple over was that I was so excited by the story I was writing in my head, I focused on how I wanted it to end. "I have to nail this," I thought. It would either be a story of failure or victory. To topple over would scare the birds and it would be just another story of defeat and the one that got away. But that's not the story I wanted to write.

Boating across the water, nothing but the sound of the motor and the wind. The morning sunrise sparkling across Boca Grande Pass, making our way to look for bait. It’s in this moment I think of pirate life. I could have been a pirate, but a good one like Captain Jack Sparrow. Just as clever but with a little more courage. I wouldn’t have been a murderous, plundering pirate as I have too much of a do-gooder conscience. But I could quest for treasure, drink rum and roam the high seas.

Life on the sea sounds horrifyingly romantic and terrible. The sea is a powerful sorceress who can toss you up and swallow you whole. She will enchant you with her mystery, then discard you into her depths. Beauty and danger is what lies below her surface. Things that will captivate you and things that will kill you. The story she writes in my mind just by cruising along her surface excites me.

I didn’t bring my journal but these fantasies and images jumble around in my mind. I scramble to grab my phone out of my backpack and tap them all down before I’m snapped back to reality and lose them forever. I have a pit of excitement in my stomach as I frantically tap these notes on my phone. Head down, shaded by my big straw hat. Mike is chumming for bait then throwing the cast net behind me. My fingers are shaking from typing so fast.


End musings. What happens next? Reality beckons and I must assume my duties as first mate, chumming for bait. After all, a good pirate can't leave the captain to do all the dirty work.

Why do I share these words with you? Because they are small tidbits of my soul. And I'm learning that I have to let them live and breathe to keep my soul aflame. No matter how pointless or silly in nature.

There's no motive, no formal message, just musings. If you're looking for a more serious post about the red tide.... well I'm still thinking on that one. 

Don't stop chasing those dreams, y'all. 

Do You Want To Help Us Take Kids Fishing?

Last year, we hosted our very first C.A.S.T. for Kids event, partnered with the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation. We were blown away by the turnout of captains, volunteers and 29 children with special needs who were able to spend a day fishing on Charlotte Harbor, many for the first time. 

As we prepare for our 2nd C.A.S.T. for Kids event on September 8, 2018, I wanted to share some of my favorite photos from last year. Photos by Mike Owens, Mike Downs Sr., participants and event volunteers. 

The happiness was overflowing on every face! These children caught fish, rode on boats and received plaques as the crowd cheered for them. Many of these kids had never been applauded before... think about that. The looks on their faces were priceless and I think all the hearts in the room were jumping for joy inside.

We can't wait to do it again. Boat captains and shore volunteers needed. If you'd like to get involved, register online here:   http://castforkids.org/event/charlotteharbor/

Let's take kids fishing!

Bait is BACK and the Spring Bite is Heating Up

Bait is BACK and the Spring Bite is Heating Up

For some, the coming of spring means a week-long break of bikinis, beer bongs and debauchery. The Florida beaches and sandbars are invaded by rambunctious, lobster-red spring breakers working to catch a buzz and disturb natural order along the coastlines. 

For Florida backcountry anglers, this time of year has a very different meaning.

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Don't Take My New Years Advice, It Would All be a Lie.

Don't Take My New Years Advice, It Would All be a Lie.

It’s a new year. The time to reflect on who we’ve been and how we want to change in the year ahead. Or if you’re like me… your life might have been flipped on its axis and you write down so many thoughts and goals that they’re all just rolling around in your brain aimlessly, never to be acted on unless you get your you-know-what together.

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