Fishing Report: As I mentioned in the previous report, I had only one trip on the books again this week. It was a trip with my old friend of many years now, Marty Dietz, and his beautiful girlfriend, Janice. We had a blast, and wound up fishing Thursday and Friday.
Our trip was originally scheduled for Wednesday. But, when I awoke Wednesday morning after what had been a sleepless night I realized our trip might be in jeopardy. At around 4 AM it began to rain. Hard. I bounced out of bed and got the computer fired up so I could check my favorite radar sites. I didn't like what I was seeing. It's always hard to cancel a trip over something that can be as uncertain and changing as the weather, but I've learned to listen to my gut. It's not often wrong. I called Marty and Jan and canceled, rescheduling for the next day. Problem was, we had the same kind of weather forecast for the next several days. It quit raining for a while, and I headed down to the ramp to see who might be there gambling on the weather to clear. There was no one.
I headed back to the fishcamp resolved to work on my "For Sale" page for the day. Around 7 AM all hell broke loose, and it stormed for a couple of hours. The rains were torrential, with lots of big lightning bolts. I was SO glad we had canceled.
Thursday morning the radar looked much better, but there was still lots of moisture just offshore in the gulf, and I knew we'd have to keep one eye always on the sky. By the time Marty and Jan showed up at 7 AM, there was already a cell building and coming at us out of the west. I headed up the river and down Miserable Mile in an effort to skirt the rain, but we still got wet. We missed the worst of the cell, but hey, wet is wet.
We were about blown dry by the time we arrived at the powerlines, where we got beautiful bait just off the green marker on the Sanibel side. It took a little while to get them going, but with precise and determined chumming from Jan, we caught a well full of beautiful bait.
I headed up the east side of the Sound to a spot where I expected good current flow, and plenty of action early on the incoming tide. But, much to my surprise, we couldn't get the fish to eat. We got some hits on our chum, and had some of our baits scaled, but the fish just weren't interested in anything with a hook as part of the meal. We moved on.
I headed across to the area of Charley's Pass, to a beautiful little spot I found a few months ago. It has been good every time I've been there since if there was enough of a tide. We didn't have any action for a while after arriving, but all of a sudden we had what I thought was going to be a great redfish bite. We caught 4 reds pretty quickly, and if memory serves me, a nice keeper trout as well. Then, it was over. They quit as quickly as they had begun.
We moved on to a spot I love on big tides not too far away. I was expecting a big snook bite, but by this time it was beginning to be obvious that the full moon indeed was giving the fish a case of lockjaw. We did get several nice snook, which included the first for Jan. She was loving how our fish pulled! Once we were sure we weren't going to be able to chum any more fish into submission, we moved on.
I decided to head back toward the ramp to finish up the day, concerned that the weather could bubble up on us at any moment. We'd already been wet several times at this point. We settled on a spot that gets great current flow on any kind of descent tide, and that has been good to me over the years. Boy, was it good to us this day.
Almost from the first cast we were on action; snook and redfish. We were catching fish on every cast, and the action lasted a long time before it finally slowed down. Marty and Jan were having a blast! Jan, pretty new to fishing, and was totally into it, and was doing a great job of fighting her fish. I don't know how many snook and reds Marty and Jan caught, but it was a load. And, somewhere along the way they caught another nice speckled trout.
When it was finally over, we moved to another spot nearby. It was about time to go home, as it was the middle of the afternoon. I noticed that another boat had pulled into the spot where we had slain all the fish. I saw them catch one fish after a while. I suggested to Mart that we drive over to within shouting distance and see if they wanted our left over bait. Well, not only did they want our bait, but it turned out to be Tom Hinkle, who is a subscriber to my fishing reports. Pretty cool. We passed them what we had, chatted for a minute, and were on our way home. What a great day.
As I cleaned our fish I asked Mart and Jan if they wanted to fish again on Friday. I had nothing on the schedule that had to be done, and I hadn't seen Marty in a couple of years. I thought a no pressure day on me would be fun, and Mart volunteered to cover expenses.
So, the next morning we were back at it. This time we were in the Maverick. It was time for her monthly exercise. We went right back to the powerlines for bait, and the now veteran Jan had them chummed up in short order, and we were loaded and ready to fish in no time.
I gave Mart and Jan a couple of options for the day which included in the Sound, the river, or on the beaches. Jan said she wanted to stay inside, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take her into Matlacha Pass and up the river for some of those big, hard fighting jack crevalle.
We headed to my favorite spot for such action in the southern end of Matlacha Pass, and got there on the last part of the falling tide. Some chumming produced some surface activity, and we soon sighted several schools of big jacks within a few hundred yards of us. Because they are so fast and so mobile, we decided to stay put and chum and try to get the marauding bands of pillaging jacks to come to us. We did get them to come, and we managed to catch 3 of them, but we couldn't get them to settle down and eat. It was probably the moon, again.
But, the three we caught certainly proved entertaining. Especially the first one. We were sitting on anchor. We were watching and looking and Jan had her bait dangling at the side of the Maverick, at the ready. Bang! Scream! Jan had been hit by a big jack at full throttle, and Marty and I were shocked that neither she or my Stella/St. Croix combo had not gone into the water. It was a violent hit, and both she and the little 2500 reel were screaming.
Round, and round, and round they went! She and the jack. Jan was the wagon, the jack was a band of Indians that single-handedly surrounded her. Finally, she brought it along side the boat, still in disbelief at how hard the fish fought. It was a beautiful jack of around 8 pounds, and the best one of the morning.
Finally, seeing no more evidence of jacks around, we opted to head up the river. Something I haven't done in a long time because of the time commitment in the manatee zones. But, there are usually lots of jacks up the river, and I wanted to get Jan on some more of that action.
The water in the Sound is black with tannin. It's caused by both our own natural run-off during the rainy season, and the dumping of excess water from Lake Okeechobee during the rainy season. Thursday, we didn't find normal looking water until we got to Charley's Pass! We never found clean water on the east side! It never occurred to me that the water could be fresh enough to kill our bait. But, that's exactly what happened. We poked around for a while in a few spots I used to fish before the slow zones, and then finally went to my favorite big jack grounds. When I opened the well to get baits, most of it was dead, and dying.
We bolted into the resuscitation mode. I doubted we could actually get back down the river through the slow zones with any bait left alive, but we had to try. It was obvious the water was so fresh it was killing the bait. So, with Jan and Mart stirring the bait, we made our way back to the head of the incoming tide at the mouth of the river.
We had perhaps a couple of dozen baits still alive when we arrived at the spot that we'd caught so many fish the day before. But, the fish weren't in an eating mood. We had a number of hits and scaled baits, but they just didn't want to commit. Meanwhile, lacking any moving air as we'd had the day before, we were all about to die in the heat. I suggested lunch at the Waterfront Restaurant, and Mart and Jan were quick to agree. We capped off what had been a great couple of days right there.
After lunch, I had Marty, who is also a licensed Captain, and who charters in New Jersey, take the helm and take us home. It was fun, as I don't get to be a passenger in my own boats but very rarely.
That's how it went. Next week things are still slow. My one trip is an Operation Open Arms trip with a young soldier who is returning from Iraq, and his fiancee. His Mom tells me he's so excited he can't stand it. This should be the last super slow week for a while, as the last week in September and into October things start to pick back up. Stay tuned.
Capt. Butch Rickey