Almost 10 years ago now, one of my articles was a saga about trying to catch an enormous, very intelligent fish whose lair was imbedded under a dock on Isles of Capri. As the story went, this nice couple from the UK tried for almost four hours to land this fish, who struck every bait, presented enormous tussles and then cut the line on the surrounding pilings. We surmised that the fish was an sizable black drum, probably in the 20-pound class.
Even after surrendering an enormous amount of tackle and effort, we never got close to landing him. The very disappointed couple named the fish “Walter” after the denizen of the deep that eluded Henry Fonda and Billy in the classic movie “On Golden Pond.” They returned home fit to be tied and promised to make a return visit stateside to “look after” Walter again.
Have never heard a word from them since.
Thereafter, on backwater trips, occasionally, we would stop and work this spot but never have the pleasure of “Walter’s” presence again. You would have to naturally assume his demise at the hands of some more fortunate angler that used tow rope rather than fishing line.
That was then and this is now. The wind and muddy water has been playing havoc with the fishing quality here these last couple of weeks. On one of those windswept mornings, the charter customers were two guys down here for a business convention that “arranged” some time away from the presentations, aka corporate spiel, to get on the water and land the big one.
The morning trip had not gone well to say the least. Spots that can, almost always, generate action were dead as doornails. It was fifteen minutes between action on tiny snapper. And moving around didn’t really help as the dirty muddy water was running in from the Gulf.
Knew we were in trouble when one of the guys spewed “Listening to a presentation by HR would be more fun than this — should have stayed at the meeting”
We were on the move from spot to spot showing the same results as we neared the backside of Capri, I remembered “Walter” and the dock where we had the action years before. Daring not to tell the two anguished anglers what the history of the this venue was fearing disappointment, I just changed course, anchored and set up on the uptide side of the dock.
Luckily, had put two medium weight rigs sporting 17-pound test line aboard in case we ran into some snook action. We set those up and impaled some of our bigger shrimp on as bait and they had at it.
It was pretty silent as they cast the rigs and began the wait. This dock was on the edge of the incoming water flow and the water surging under the dock was not quite as “toxic” as the tidal current just 30 feet away.
Within a few minutes, both had strikes and catches, albeit it a tiny snapper and a puny juvenile sheepshead. They didn’t say anything but the glare was a giveaway to their continued disappointment. They baited up and cast again.
One was tending the rod attentively, the other had placed this rod in a holder while getting a bottle of water from the cooler. That’s the rod that doubled over and before the angler could retrieve, it went limp — big time break off.
“What was that?” was the simultaneous inquiry
Thats when I told them the story of “Walter” on this same dock years before. Instantaneously they were re-energized.
This time we baited up, got the baits in the water and the two of them were as attentive as attack dogs.
Five minutes later it happened again. This time both rods went off and mayhem ensued. Both rods screamed as line pealed off indicating more than one fish. That was right before the lines crossed and cut each other off.
“Bummer” was the recant from the duo but the positive part was an inquiry concerning how big these fish really were.
We rigged the rods and they baited up and were back in the water in a heartbeat. No more laments now on the poor fishing — they were focused on the present.
They had to wait a whole 10 minutes this time for the explosion. This time it was only the port rod that screamed and danced. The angler was struggling to not only stop the run but to control the direction. It was easy to tell this fish was headed back to the docks. In desperation, and against advice, he tightened down on the drag and “pop” the line parted. The fish didn’t even have to make it to the docks.
Disappointed but still supercharged, the duo went at it one more time. And it happened again. This time, both rods went off again, and we had a absolute repeat of the first event of crossed lines. The joint cut off jerked both rods backwards.
With charter time about over, the duo were visibly disappointed and frustrated with the outcome. But, they wanted big fish and had been given multiple chances — a repeat performance that occurred with that nice UK couple years ago.
On the way back to the marina, one asked “What type of fish do you think they were, captain ?”
“Well, hate to say it but the runs and action were identical to what ‘Walter’ did years ago, and we think that was a black drum” was the response.
“Sons of ‘Walter’ then ?” was the final inquiry.
If you see me working a dock on the Isles of Capri anytime soon — it may be “Walter” time again.