On The Hook: The French connection

BILL WALSH

Folks choose a charter boat trip for a variety of reasons.

For the hardcore local anglers, it's a way to engage in your favorite activity with the assistance and advice of a professional captain that will surely lead you and your party to a day of boundless piscatorial rewards … ahem.

For some others, that are visitors to this idyllic tropical paradise, the charter trip provides the magic carpet to see the surrounding marine environment and its creatures while dabbling in the fun of fishing, usually, catch and release.

But then there are some who see the fishing trip as sort of a hunting expedition destined to deliver an enormity of the sea's bounty to the dinner table with the expectation of adulations directed to the "hunters."

Suppose the intentions of a particular charter trip get scrambled and there are a couple of wild cards tossed in.

We had that pleasure last week.

The arrangements for the trip were conducted by email. A French family was visiting Southwest Florida for a week in late July and had interest in a half day fishing trip; it would be a mother and father and their four pre-teen daughters. We corresponded back and forth a few times and finally settled on a date and time.

They were staying in Bonita Springs, and with provided directions to the marina showed bright and early bon their appointed morning. The introductions were quite stiff and exhibited an obvious language issue; on both sides. Andre, the father, in English, explained that his wife, Elise, knew halting English but the girls did not. He volunteered as the interpreter for the day.

When asked what his expectations for the trip were, Andre explained that were here in America with a business associate and his family and wanted to treat them (and themselves) to a fresh caught seafood dinner in Naples that evening; and that the girls wanted to see dolphin.

When asked the size of the dinner party, Andre mumbled "Eleven."

I blanched explaining that was a tall order for a half day backwater fishing with inexperienced youngsters but we would do our best; heard Andre whisper "il de mieux" … (he better).

The trip started on a high note. With Andre's translating expertise, we got rods in the girl's hands and went on for an agonizing half hour of how to use them. Lots of giggles, funny words and squeals before they were ready to go. We moved the boat into the channel at Marker 1 in Capri Pass and started a drift for pompano.

The girls, with Andre at their side, started jigging the bottom on the drift. He was helping with technique and helping with rebating etc and not really expecting too much. All of a sudden two of the rods went off to screams and all mayhem broke loose. Eventually we landed two take home size pompano.

Elise was on top of the commotion, "We keep?"

As I reached for the ruler, "Think so … I'll measure" and then confirmed as keepers.

Elise again, "We get more."

"Maybe." Now Elise had the ruler. We continue the drifts for pompano and it gets antsy as obviously the pompano have vacated the area. But we begin to hook up some jacks, look alike cousins to the pompano, but definitely not table fare; but that didn't stop Elise.

"We take, yes?" she exclaimed. Trying to explain the food value difference to her was quite difficult. Finally when I told her (and Andre) that the jacks are so strong they would make your eyes water; they listened and we released the jacks.

So now the girls are catching more jacks and sight a dolphin saddling up to the boat that begins chasing hooked fish; first couple of hookups he misses and then the girls slow down the retrieve to enable the dolphins meal. I tell them "no do" and they just giggle and take another smart phone picture of the encounter. I implore Andre to intercede. He interrupts his own fishing and puts a halt to the dolphin feeding.

We're half way through the charter with but two fish in the box. Elise is depressed, Andre is now catching small bonnet head sharks making the girls scream and time is running on.

We move north to Hurricane Pass to work and hope for some take home mangrove snapper. We anchor up here and with Andre's help we go over the technique with Elise and the girls … they all nod. I announce that snapper has to be 10" in length to keep. Elise is looking for the ruler.

Snapper are an easy catch; getting many over 10" when the tide is racing is tough. We begin with the tide racing.

We literally couldn't get a bait to the bottom without a 6 inch "snaplet" snaring the shrimp. We happened to lay into a couple of just legal snappers but the legions of others were undersized. Elise checked me measuring every one imploring, "Very close; we keep?" They all went back. Elise and Andre are now both besides themselves. The hosted seafood dinner is flitting away.

One last chance for dinner with an hour left. We run down to a deeper hole just off Hideaway Beach where the targeted fish are whiting … a nice fish with no take size limit. The girls do well here and as the last hour slips away we box another half dozen whiting.

As we head back to the dock, the family is counting fish and lamenting the seafood shortage for the 11 people. They sit in silence instead of having enjoyed the day on the water and all the fish they caught they looked at the trip as a disappointing hunting expedition.

As we neared the dock, I asked Andre if the girls liked pizza. He answered with an emphatic "Oui."

"Buy the kids a pizza on me, seafood for the adults. I'll discount today's fare."

Gotta keep our visitors happy, right?

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 dawnpatrolcharters@compuserve.com.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features