Ask anyone who has spent at least a few years in these parts – this is a hot late spring. One that most will classify as a “scorcher.” For the dominant causal factors, we could easily look to the lack of those cooling afternoon rains as well as the dominant easterly winds. Those are the wind currents which deposit the repressive Everglades heat and humidity in our lap day after day.
Those issues speak to our level of comfort in the sweltering conditions; but what about our piscatorial targets. Bottom line, for them, it is just as uncomfortable. Water temperatures, measured locally are, in actuality, in excess of media reports. It’s not unusual now, to record 90 degrees in the shallower water on some afternoons. That, folks, is sauna temperature, not a comfortable fish environment.
But our corner of the world is seen as nirvana for those folks that have suffered through the wrath of winter followed by their immersion in spring flood waters. Hot weather is the least of their concerns. They literally can’t wait to get a rod in hand and soak a bait.
And so it was for the Mancuso family just last week. Emily, the mother, called one evening the prior week. She and her family of four were escaping the perils of the Heartland’s floods and tornados and they wanted a fishing trip to be a part of their vacation. Emily was specific in her requested time frame. “We would like to go on Tuesday afternoon” she expressed firmly.
Now, if you had a choice as to the time of day to be outdoors here during the summer, it wouldn’t be in the swelter of the afternoon. Mornings, at least, provide an hour or two of moderate relief as the heat builds. Going into the selling mode with Emily, trying to elicit a time change to morning didn’t go anywhere and I wondered why.
She explained, “Well we arrive in Fort Myers at 10 a.m. and our condo isn’t available until 4 p.m., we don’t want to waste any of our holiday just sitting around, so the kids came up with the idea that we should go fishing while we wait. Is that a problem?”
“Absolutely not, but it will be hot, hot, hot,” was the response.
She reiterated how anxious to start her vacation and the heat surely wouldn’t get in the way. We booked the trip.
With the boat ready to roll early that Tuesday afternoon, the heat was suffocating. It was the hottest day in the past week with a Real Feel index at 105 degrees. But there was the Mancuso family, right at the slip exactly on time. There were four of them; Emily and her husband Tim and two pre-teen sons, George and Tony. They were still dressed in the clothes they donned early that morning in the relative coolness of the upper Midwest. All were garbed in midweight clothing and no hats. Same clothes they left home with in the morning Midwestern darkness.
As we departed the marina, there wasn’t even a hint of a breeze as evidenced by all the marina’s flags and pennants hanging limp. Emily was busy lathering up the kids winter pale with sunscreen as we moved out into the Marco River and headed to Capri Pass.
Didn’t know how the fishing would be there this time of the tide but, really, that was a secondary consideration. Primary was to locate a spot with a cooling breeze.
Had equipped George and Tony with a couple of spare hats I keep on the boat, but Emily and Tim wide were without headgear and open to the elements. We started some drifts tossing jigs and had caught a dozen or so small fish. An hour had gone by and we still without a trace of a breeze. Emily and Tim had moved back under the shade of the Bimini top and were vainly attempting to fish from there. The kids had slugged down two or three small bottles of drinking water and emptied the spray bottles on each other and were staying quasi active with the fishing.
The turning point came when Tony put the rod and himself down with a “Mom it’s too hot.” We had only been out for a little over an hour.
Emily turned to me with a expression mixed in disappointment and inquiry. Before she had a chance to speak I suggested that we end the trip, cancel any cost for that day’s aborted trip and reschedule for an early morning trip later in the week. They all jumped on that with a resounding “yes.”
On our way back to the marina we talked about dealing with the sub-tropical summer heat. Head covering is an absolute must and one with a big brim is even better. Drink plenty of water while you’re out in the direct sunlight and heat and get you’re stuff outside done in the morning if at all possible. They all listened and nodded. We scheduled a make-up trip for Thursday of that week and when I asked them what time they wanted to start, Tim answered, “as early as you can be ready, captain”
Our make-up trip went off that Thursday at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. But they all were “bright eyed and bushy tailed” that morning having pushed for an early lights-out the evening before. It didn’t take five minutes for one of the kids to exclaim “Mom, this is so much nicer.”
And it was. There the night coolness still in the air and light breeze was accenting it softly. The sun was low in the sky with rays glancing off the calm water instead of piercing the surface like a hot laser; and on top of all that we had a great morning fishing pompano and mackerel in the passes that thrilled the Mancuso gang. The theory of the fish disliking the direct sun’s rays and developing heat was played out to the letter.
We were back at the dock at 11 a.m. just as the heat began to set in. Little Tony put it best when he told his mom, “from now on, Mom, I’m a morning person.”
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.