On The Hook: Dealing with an addiction to sport fishing

Capt. Bill Walsh
What does it take to become addicted to the sport of deep sea fishing?

The point at issue this winter morning, is to determine how exactly does a person become addicted to sport fishing. Especially in youngsters; is it in the genes or rather an acquired zeal?

Experience on charter trips with hundreds of families over the years initiating their offspring to the experience of sport fishing has produced a clue or two.

I’ve picked a special trip a couple of years back, that definitely provided clues to that age old question that I’d like to share .

This great place, especially as the winter freeze sets in up north, draws tons of families especially over the holidays. Without doubt, most of their focus is providing a great WARM holiday for their offspring. They come in legion numbers........preschoolers, grandkids, big kids and those that think their kids. And, without doubt here, once they see the sparkling Gulf, the water becomes a dominant attraction.

“Gotta get on the water” becomes a driving quest.

Previously:On The Hook: Sportfishing’s winter incursion

But most all kids have one cardinal rule while on holiday: No getting up early ! They’ve had enough of getting the 6:30 AM school bus back home. Now it’s staying up late and sleeping-in come morning. Anything that works against the axiom is avoided with a passion.

So to that special featured charter trip. The featured characters in this chilly morning saga were a pair of eight year old twin boys, Jake and John.

They were reluctantly aroused in a comatose state, and largely indifferent to this morning on the water with Mom and Dad and a teenage sister. They tumbled aboard with a mumbled greeting and slumped into a couple of cooler seats.

By way of introductions, Mom and Dad explained that this was the twins first experience with ocean fishing and excused their funky condition on sneaking some super hero action on the telly the night before.

“They’ll come to fairly soon. I think” was the cautious forecast from the parents.

We made the trip down the Marco River experiencing a great dolphin show  of jumps and splashes in the wakes of the morning boat traffic. Cameras were ablaze with great shots......the twins never stirred. They were intermittently snoring at this point.

Our first fishing spot was north of Rookery Bay just behind a row of mangrove tree cover that shielded us from the freshening morning breeze. Our target species that early morning were the chilly water invading sheephead and we had some fairly good action.....even had a couple keepers managed by Mom and daughter Martha. The twins never stirred. Still snoring and stacking up Z’s.

As the incoming tide took hold mid-morning, we reversed course and headed back to Capri Pass. Our target would be the super active (and delectable) Florida pompano who had been putting on a terrific bite in those first hours of the week’s incoming tide.

As we commenced the passage down the ICW towards Capri Pass, the daughter, Martha, took an aggressive step towards motivating the twins. She announced that at this next fishing spot, the one that gets the biggest fish will be treated to a trip to see a Spider-Man movie at the Marco Movies with her that afternoon.

With that, Jake rocketed out of his snooze and started grabbing equipment and was “all in” for the fishing action but, more so, for the movie. John never moved a muscle......just snored louder.

As we arrived in the Pass and in the company of a gaggle of other boats all working tipped jigs on the start of the incoming drift. Pompano was the name of the game for all.

Jake, after a brief show and tell, got into the action right way. In fact he had the first pompano strike and with a scream as the struggle with the surging pompano began, he stirred his brother into action.

His very first ocean fish was a surging Florida pompano that Dad netted and swung aboard to the “wow’s” of excited Jake that was now engaged in a photo shoot of his very first fish of the day.

“Oh, wow that was just great. Let’s get the rig back the water” he shouted. “That was really neat” !  John, now aroused, had a rod in hand and was begging Martha to bait him up and give some quick instructional help. He wanted in on the action.

Spider Man movie was now somewhere as a backdrop to the fishing motivation that as now very evident in both youngsters. Martha was smiling like the Cheshire Cat........success reigned as the morning wore on and more pompano tumbled into the cooler.

As we finished our morning, the twins kept opening the cooler and comparing who had the bigger pompano. That Spider Man promise was somewhere lost in their new excitement and motivation for ocean fishing.

As we neared the marina, and the twins bathed in excitement as to the filets that they had provided for dinner.....Mom asked if they had a good time. They both nodded in the affirmative and had that little smile kids have that “seals the deal”.

That wasn’t the end of the story.

That family fished with Dawn Patrol for the ensuing four or five years. The twins are in Middle School and have their own equipment, they read the  Florida Sportsman Magazine and are confirmed fishing addicts! 

For sure!

Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to dawnpatrolmarco@cs.com.