“I want it. I want it now.” There is impatience in our society now. It’s been bred by the instantaneous communication offered on our cell phones and the immersion in personal detail offered by Web offerings such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
But, you know what – the fish that we all strive to catch don’t even have the “right now,” concept on their radar. They still move in the timeless patterns of feed and flight, solid to their heritage. So, what happens when “right now” meets “when I’m ready?” We had a shot at that early last month, before the rains that could have floated Noah’s Ark descended on us here in Southwest Florida.
I usually get to the marina long before first light to queue up with other charter captains to buy bait shrimp. On that particular morning, I was immersed in preparing the boat and securing the bait when I was interrupted with a loutish bellow. “You the captain ? We’re your charter. When are we goin’?”
Even in the bleak morning darkness, the light spilling from the marina lights was enough so I could make out four of them poised on the dock; poster boys for the Now Generation. After explaining to them that they were an hour-and-a-half early, they exhaled something like “We didn’t want to miss anything.” They summarily retired to a local restaurant for breakfast and to plot the game plan for the fishing action that lay ahead.
The four 20-somethings were assembled alongside the boat long before our 8 a.m. start time. As we exchanged handshakes, the questions were staccato.
“Whatta we gonna catch this morning?”
“Howcha do yesterday?”
“What kinda bait we got?”
They were beyond hyper and not even listening to my answers.
The sea conditions were favorable, with some easterly winds that would keep the nearshore reefs reasonably calm. No reason to take these guys out where bouncing around takes priority over fishing. We made our way out along the Marco Beach with the gang auditing every time I adjusted the throttle to sustain a 20 knot speed. To them, this journey to the fishing spot was a waste of time, and in shunted conversation they kind of told me so.
We were going to work the major reef just off Caxambas Pass. After coming right in the center of the reef, we meandered around with eyes glued to the fishfinder, looking for the backside of one of the drop-offs where I knew the bait (and mackerel) would be holding. But the “right now” gang couldn’t let the moment of apparent inactivity pass. ”What’s going on, captain?”
“When we gonna get baits in the water?”
“Be patient, guys – if we get on the right spot, it will pay off in some great fishing.” They all just looked at one other with absurd smirks.
We finally got a line the spot and set anchor. We hurried to get the block chum in the water, knowing that it was the key to hot action. To our 20-somethings, it was just another way to delay the git-go.
In addition to the chum deployment, the incoming tide was just starting, and until that got running, the fishing would necessarily be a bit slower. Didn’t dare tell them. They wouldn’t understand.
We baited up the jigs for two of the crew, and for the other two we tied some wire leaders to their line with zero weight and had them feed the rig right into the chum slick with an impaled shrimp. Now the tide had started, but just barely. The bits of block chum were moving quite slowly and so were those freelined baits.
Five minutes, 10 minutes and nothing. The Now Generation were clearly agitated. “So where are the fish, captain?”
I gave them the patience speech again. And again, the eyes rolled.
“Give the chum a chance to work and for the tide to roll. Just hang in there”
Another 10 minutes or so and still nothing. Two of the crew put their rods down in a display of disdain. It was just too slow on this spot and the realization that it probably wouldn’t light up until the water started to pour provoked action.
“Okay guys, reel ‘em in. We’ll go try another spot” I announced. The second spot , a quarter of mile away, may or may not be better fishing, but it would be activity to keep our gang engaged.
So, off we went. We set up on the second spot; deployed our chum and cast the baits. Instant strikes gobbled up those baits. Blue runners! We had set up smack on top of legions of these frisky fighters. Fun to catch, but wear you out. And that’s just what happened to our gang. It engaged them for 10 or 15 minutes, but then they tired and wanted something of more substance.
The move had worked. We kept the gang busy and put enough time in the tide to get the water rolling. We pulled anchor and headed back to the first spot, much to the consternation and skepticism of the “right now” gang. We were going to prove it was the top location, but the wrong timing, first time around. We set up again and got the chum rolling in a now moving tide, setting up all our gang with tipped jigs and high hopes.
The action was immediate. The mackerel were so thick in the chum slick that the jigs barely touched the water before being devoured by big, voracious macks.
It got even better a half-hour or so into the bite. A school of bonito must have been cruising by and were attracted to the chum and activity. When those bonitos took the jigs and headed to the horizon, it elevated the action level to the zenith.
The intensity and duration of the bite left the gang spent and exhausted, even before our time expired. We headed back early with the “right now” gang patiently, “now righted.”
Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.