On The Hook: Comparative sport fishing

Bill Walsh

Axiom: Folks with a fishing rod in hand will show unbridled interest in others in the same circumstance.

A little different start to this week’s article. But hopefully the incidents we recount reveal the innate competitiveness that is exuded when fishing activity, results are hoisted to a comparative level.

So then, let’s move to the water. You’re idling along to your spot and a boat within visual range has a angler struggling with a fish. What happens? Your crew has you slow down and has you focus on the struggle. There always will be some comment to the captain “Hope you can put us on that kind of action.”

The competitiveness seems to jump out in the fishing example. The crew will most always envelop a comparative position.

Here are two live examples of that comparison, competitiveness position that are in the history books here and treasured.


It’s a spring afternoon a couple of years back and I’m on my way to the marina to ready things for a afternoon charter with a family of French nationals here on holiday. They had called earlier in the week and with some troublesome conversation (Them: Halting English. Me: Zero French) we booked a backwater charter for the family of four for an afternoon trip.

It was garbled but their goal was fresh fish for dinner.

When I arrived at the marina, the French family had already arrived and were hovering over a fellow charter captain who was cleaning his morning catch of five or six nice Florida pompano. They were all excited and questioning the captain.

“You catch pompano, near here?”

“Yes,” shot back, Captain Steve, “your captain should be able to get you some this afternoon. They are close by.”

“Wonderful … we will tell him.”

So, the die was cast. They found me fueling the boat and were gushing in both French and halted English that they were so excited at having a fresh pompano dinner that evening.

As I finished readying the boat and equipment, I went through the ritual of checking the tide and the weather forecast for the afternoon. Weather was placid and favorable but the relatively strong morning incoming tide was going through slack water as we spoke and would present an almost non-existent outgoing tide for our afternoon.

Pompano like fast water. We were in trouble before we started. But they were mesmorized what Captain Steve had told them.

We got underway and as we transited the Marco River, I tried several times to explain our situation to the family leader but to no avail. The only word I recognized over and over again in their huddled conversation was the French pronunciation of “pompano.”

Then, as expected, we got them all baited up and instructed and started our drifts in Capri Pass. Captain Steve’s treasure trove. We fished for close to an hour and had two small snapper and small mackerel. No pompano.

They put their rods down and had a huddle with lots of animation and arm waving in the cockpit. Their leader, obviously elected as spokesman, approached.

“We think you should call Captain Steve and ask him where and how to catch pompano this afternoon.”

I turned off the engine and if my most constrained voice told them the pompano were gone basically because of the change in conditions but we might try for some other species; or we could cancel the trip with full refund.

They chose the latter. I spent the balance of the afternoon tracking down Captain Steve.

Lesson: There are so many factors that influence sportfishing that comparisons day to day or hour or hour action are useless.


A group of four post-millennials were my charter one day back at the end of this last “season.”

They had been working with various charter captains during their week here and that provided the backdrop for our charter this windy mid-March day.

The chatter as they came aboard was all about the great day they had the prior day with the un-named charter fishing captain in Hurricane Pass. You heard the word trout frequently as well as mention of snapper and even what they called striped drum (black drum). They expected the same and more today.

But, as it is in fishing, especially here in the volatile month on March, conditions can change hourly. But they had no comprehension as to how those conditions measured as wind, water quality, tide, temperature all came into play in the notoriously unpredictable game of sportfishing.

As I headed north they recounted their success the prior day in Hurricane Pass and asked if we could revisit the spots that rendered prior day success. They were relentless.

Now, I knew the wind direction shift from easterly to westerly coupled with the incoming tide would present dirty water right though the Pass this morning. But there was no reasoning......we swung west and set up in Hurricane Pass. In fact, their captain from the prior day was working a spot just 50 yards in front of us this morning.

Think you can anticipate the action and response. Try zero on the action and the same on any of my suggested alternatives.

After a solid hour of nothing they had had it. We moved to a cloistered spot in Rookery Bay which was sheltered from the wind and far away yet from the fouled water.

We set up along a mangrove edge and did well on nice size spec trout as well as a redfish and a handful of snapper. Even the skeptics were energized.

Later, as I was cleaning their catch, they noticed that their “heroic” captain of the prior day that was fishing close to us this early morning, was back at the dock and washing down his boat. One of our crew sauntered over and spoke to him.

As I was packaging their iced catch, the “scout” sauntered back and when questioned as how their yesterday captain did today, on the same heroic spots, he held up a zero.

Again, an example of comparative sportfishing when you are willing to adapt and adjust to conditions.

More:Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, May 11-17

More:On The Hook: Incentive fishing

More:On The Hook: Barracuda!

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