Waged effectively, the sport of fishing demands an array of personal characteristics of the angler. Certainly a modicum of fishing skill might head the list followed closely by the ability to stay focused to the matter at hand. After all, how many strikes are missed when slow fishing action dulls the anglers focus, allowing the attention to wander to such mundane items as the weather, the guys in the other boat or what’s for lunch.
But the linchpin for a successful fishing trip is the virtue of patience. Too many times, folks forget to unload the day-to-day anxieties before embarking on their fishing trip. Those little daily worries which cause angst, can create an agitation that translates into a lack of calmness aka impatience. All too many times, that impatience starts from the time a fishing trip is arranged.
“Why an 8:30 a.m. start? Can’t we do better with earlier fishing? That’s the way we do it back home.”
You explain the tides; the acquisition of live bait and the marina support and the displeasure fades, but you have an indicator of how this particular trip might play out.
We had one charter that began just like that; it occurred the same time of the year, a few years back. The customers were a couple from a rough-and-tumble environment in the North that were on holiday in Southwest Florida for a long weekend getaway. Their names were Sam and Alice. He was the fisherman extraordinaire and she was the arbitrator as I was soon to find out.
As we introduced ourselves at the dock that morning, Sam was brimming over with anxiety — about everything. “Are we gonna get this trip in? Forecast is for rain in an hour or two.” Next went, “Did you buy enough shrimp? They sure are small.”
The questions all came in staccato fashion even before we got the engine started. Alice, on the other hand, was quiet and docile just taking it all in.
Conditions were typical late summer, just like it is now. The morning’s passable heat and humidity quickly gave way to suffocating real feel conditions by mid-day. And of course, there were the rumbles and dark cloud banks forming everywhere that were harbingers of the afternoon storms. On that subject, we had had a bell ringer of a storm the prior afternoon that had roiled up the waters to a tannic mud color and would definitely impact our water and fishing quality this morning.
With a degree of trepidation, I had mentioned the fact to Sam and calmly fielded his barrage of issues and explained we would be moving to spots where the cleaner water would be holding outside the main current flow. He shrugged with a comment about eating up his fishing time.
All the while Alice was blissful watching the boat peel away the frothing water oblivious to the rants of her husband. I would try to put on the same demeanor. “Try” is the key word there.
We found some nice clear water back up in Addison Bay and got Sam armed and away he went. Alice was still blissful. We were floating shrimp, without any weight, back up under the mangrove edges in search of primarily mangrove snapper but with a hope that a nice size redfish, black drum or a snook would be holding there this morning. We hit some nice size snapper right away but that didn’t light Sam’s fire:
“These are little fish, when do we go for something bigger? We didn’t pay all this money to catch pan fish.” He put down the rod with, “Take me to the bigger fish” attitude. I grimaced and pulled the anchor. Alice didn’t change expression. She had heard all this hundreds of times before.
The turbid water cancelled out many of the desirable backwater spots but we were doing our best on those with good current flow and reasonably clear water. Unfortunately almost all our action had been on medium-size snapper which were jumping on the shrimp in the clear water. After two spots with identical results, Sam racked his rod with a command of “Let’s go home, we ain’t catching squat”.
Alice, the arbitrator took over. “Now, Sam be reasonable. The captain is trying his best and we’re catching some fish and we still have a couple of hours left. Have a little patience. You have a good chance at your big fish and besides it’s beautiful out here.” Sam picked up the rod again with a throaty grunt and we moved again.
We had fairly high water as we neared flood tide late morning and allowing us to get further back up inside to an area known as Upper Addison. For the experienced locals this was an area that was oyster farmed back in the 20s and 30s and is noted for the shell mounds and deep water cuts. But it’s tough making it across the flat that guards the area.
We’d try the passage this morning and I told my crew to grab a seat and hold onto something in case we touched bottom. That created another opportunity for Mr. Positive: “Oh great, on top of no big fish we’re gonna spend hours stuck on a sandbar.” My arbitrator struck back again. “Oh Sam, come on, we do this all the time on the Jersey flats down at the shore.”
We made it across without a hitch and set up along a very shallow mangrove edge. We broke out the popping corks and set them on two lines dangling shrimp in the moving current along the edges of the mangroves.
We were in less than three feet of water. Sam saw the poppers and wanted to know if we were bream fishing.
The baits made one pass along the mangrove edge and I retrieved and set them out again. Sam was mid-sentence in one of his lofty thoughts that went something like, “There’s no fish, here” when the first rod went off with a scream. A redfish was heading back to cover. Sam wasn’t ready for the event and by the time he got control of the rod the fish was close in the downed branches. Having the line just touch one of those obstacles, we would be cut off.
I started the engine and moved vertically to the shoreline giving Sam a little more fighting room. And fight he did — back and forth, retrieving line and losing it, never seeming to advance on the fish. His hands and arms were cramping and he was complaining (what else) about the light tackle. By then even Alice had it: “Shut up, Sam and land the fish.” I didn’t think he’d do it but he finally managed to bring a nice bull redfish alongside for photos and a measurement of close to 30 inches. Sam had his fish — his really big fish but he was whipped silly. He never said a word as we made the trek home.
Nearing the dock, I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Enjoy catching your big redfish, Sam?”
“Yeah, it was great but the trip would have been more fun if I had had a little more patience with everything,” was Sam’s retort, which was followed by Alice’s one liner “Right on, Sam.”
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.