A s has been custom, when the current weeks are slow on fishing yarns, the past trip notes and papers provide fertile ground to dig up an adventure worthy of recount.
Found one event, I fondly remember, that stopped the music back a few winters ago and conjured up the torturous memories of the trip that was a nightmare right from the " git-go."
The event that initiated this " charter-from-hell" came in an email in February 2008. You’ll have to believe me that the email is real. After all, who could possibly make up anything quite as boorish and outlandish. The knee jerk reaction on first reading is ‘ you’ve got to be kidding!’ How could four guys run into all of these cataclysmic events on four successive annual fishing trips?
Impossible, I thought. Even thought that fishing was busy in the winter heart of the season, I couldn’t resist responding with information and availability of our charter without mention of their past " experiences."
I had to find out if these guys were for real and, in a way, to provide some sort of a defense for those past charter captains. Were they driven over the edge by these complainants? If they booked our charter, we’d soon find out.
Almost forgot the communication over the following week and then one evening there came an email from the outlandish four booking a trip. Sort of felt like being called as " Next" for the root canal at the dentist’s office; but the inquisitiveness drove me to confirm the trip. The four showed that extra cool February morning attired in hunting hats and mackinaws which, right off the bat, turned heads with folks around the marina. They were obviously from somewhere cold and kind of looked like a " Farkle Family" replica. They introduced themselves as father, his two adult sons and his brother. In addition, they brought their own equipment; heavier rods and reels intended for salmon and lake trout and lures and plugs that our winter sheepshead and snapper would just laugh at.
Took awhile, but we finally had them leave the mackinaws and the oversized rods and tackle in their truck. They liked the idea of having us provide the light tackle and live bait. I could tell that, since two of them were ogling the live shrimp while the other two were practicing casts in the marina basin before we even got underway ... that is until one of them hooked the outrigger of a docked sportfisherman. They acted like they looked. They all smoked endlessly flicking ashes into the wind, that is, until I asked them to use containers. They never stowed their tackle between moves making the rods tripping obstacles and, generally, were quite a morose gang that were critical of almost everything.
For example, this was winter and our primary target were sheepshead, with secondary targets of snapper and an occasional small snook or a formidable redfish or black drum. The sheepies are notorious for hanging around docks thus our first fishing spot for the day was up along the docks behind Keywadin Island which had been producing excellent results. As we maneuvered to anchor on the outgoing tide, one of the boys piped up. " What are we doing here ... you could walk to these docks. We should be fishing open water?"
Calmly, I explained that the only access to the Keywadin Docks was via water and that these were great spots for good size fish. He whispered something to his brother and they both giggled. Nice trip, huh?
We set all our baits and had immediate strikes. Unfortunately, the first takers were small sheepshead. As I released the fish and helped rebait, the two brothers now took a swipe." Are these your big fish?"
I didn’t answer just swallowed hard. We eventually got a nice half dozen sheepshead a couple of snapper on this spot but they were still not satisfied; they wanted a big fish on every cast.
OK, I thought, we’ll move to open water and see how you guys do. We moved and set up on a lump of structure on the Intercoastal Waterway. Before I anchored, I cautioned the four that we were in a high traffic waterway and we were be subject to some wake surging from passing boats. They just looked at me blankly.
The action here was fair with some smaller sheepshead but with a few surprisingly big mangrove snapper which began to entertain the foursome. However, they showed agitation at the boat wakes even those that were remote and minor. About a half hour into the stop a gofast boat came in unnecessarily close with a major wake. The two sons went bananas with finger gestures and screams directed at the gaggle of guys on the other boat.
The go-fast made a U-turn and headed back asking all of us what we had to say. Our courageous " boys" slithered into seats and said nothing. We were headon into a confrontation. I explained the wake and the visitors unfamiliarity with water conditions and courtesies here and they meant no ill will; the go-fast with the six linebackers pulled off and I lit into the " Farkels" to " don’t do that." They just looked at me blankly.
As I vividly remember, we had moved back onto a dock and were, again, catching a few sheepshead when one of the boys hooked a redfish that was holed up smack under the dock. He fought him well and was super excited as we brought him aboard.
" Oh boy, Dad we’re into some great blackened redfish tonight" was an excited retort from the lucky son. I had to tell them not so fast, the fish has to be measured. The minimum size for redfish is 18". We swung the ruler under the fish and, unfortunately, it was a inch short. " We’ll have to release this fish" I said, " It’s a quarter inch undersize"
" You’re kidding, right?" came back as an unanimous chorus. I explained it again and slipped the small redfish back in the water.
They all were visibly upset and huddled in the stern of the boat. The father spoke, " We thought you were different but you’re just like the rest of those captains; let’s go back now."
We accomplished that at lightning speed. There was zero conversation as I cleaned their catch. I felt satisfied that the captains from those four prior year incidents were vindicated it would take the strength and patience of a saint to put up with this gang.
As I handed them the package of filets, I asked to be added to their list of poorly performing charter captains for the following year but, under no circumstances to ever cross my threshold again.