On the Hook: Softer side of fishing

Bill Walsh
Group of dolphins jumping from the sea (Atlantic Ocean, Madeira Island).

“OK if I bring the Missus, on the trip, she just wants to take pictures and see some dolphins?”

Always surprised as to how many times we get that question; it’s really outdated in these times and the answer is always, “are you kidding? Yes, of course!

More:On the Hook: Fishing’s periodic exhilaration

Probably originates from family memories of the “guys” making those fishing adventures to the Keys or to Canada every spring and bringing back stories instead of filets. Those days, thankfully, are dead and gone.

The gender now is universal with so many attractions and on the water especially here on the Paradise Coast from sightseeing to shelling and easy action light tackle catch and release fishing. Everyone can enjoy the experience to the level of their interest.

John Jenkins booked the trip last spring for his two teenage sons and his wife. They were a family from the Midwest that owned a boat and fished the lakes and streams in Wisconsin and “just loved being on the water” and candidates for relocation here as annual vacationers.

Their two sons, Eric and Lance, both in latter stages of high school, were quick to announce that they were looking at colleges here in South Florida. Fishing was their addiction along with vacating the frozen tundra in Wisconsin.

Interestingly, they showed great aptitude for their passion with fishing but were stuck on doing things that worked in fresh water and you’ll see how that worked out for them on this summer morning.

We picked a nice morning and got going early to take a pass on the late morning crushing heat. The boys even lugged their fresh water rigs with surface plugs on Fireline with them, even when I made mention of “inappropriate” for what we would be fishing for that morning, they dismissed it.

Anxious for action, we in turn got questions like, “How long before we’re fishing?” and “Can’t we go any faster?” With stock answers of “soon” and “no” in that order.

As we transited the Marco River we were visited with a school of cavorting dolphins that sent Kathy Jenkins into a frenzy of excitement; so, that immediately became the priority. We worked the condos waters on the Isle of Capri as Kathy loaded up the digital camera card with an uneraseable smile on her face.

Dolphins, inherently curious about passing boats, are a common and always thrilling sight along Florida waterways.

So onward we went for our fishing adventure on the numerous artificial reefs just off the Marco beach. We were plotting to target some nice size Spanish mackerel that had been working the morning tides just off the beach.

First order of business was to set an attractant as we immersed a chum block into the fast incoming tide. Within minutes you could see the mackerel on the surface racing through the chum slick. I handed John a rod with a shrimp tipped jig on wire leader and he had at it. The boys, true to midwestern technique, tossed their surface plugs into the slick.

Within seconds, dad had a writhing nice size mackerel aboard. The boys both had surface strikes but, unfortunately, the plugs were gone with the Fireline shredded.

The mackerel went into the cooler, the boys had additional tackle and re-rigged their lines with another top water plug even against fervent advice to switch to tipped jigs and wire leader.

This time, John had another nice size mackerel in milliseconds and the boys, staying true to Wisconsin techniques, let the plugs drop to the bottom and landed a couple of energetic blue runners that we immediately dispatched.

With two nice fresh mackerel on ice and luncheon solved, Kathy meekly asked John if she could fish also; it would be an absolute first for her. John dropped his rod and focused the next half hour on helping her through her first fishing experience. She was adept in the learning experience and was energized in the event.

The boys were continuing in their persistence of following the path of fresh water habits and landing junk fish from the bottom, grousing all the time.

Kathy took to the learning experience like a pro. John had her practice some drop down casts and lifts and she showed an adeptness to the sensitivity to the bite and the hookup

We still had the bite going as John loaded up a rod with a bait and let Kathy have at it; and did she ever.

Five minutes into the experience, Kathy’s rod doubled over, much to her surprise and she had a major event on the other end of the line. John got everyone out of the water pronto and shifted focus on Kathy’s endeavor.

With this obviously a major event, we pulled anchor and tried to focus on the event with Kathy on the rod now in the bow of the boat tracking what was obviously a major fish. As time wore on, this was a first time experience for Kathy as she struggled with the power and strength of this marine creature.

John would jump in periodically when arms cramped but this was Kathy’s deal.

Finally, we could see the outline of the fish. Kathy had a huge cobia on the line and close to the surface. Fish was probably in the 30-40# class. As it came closeup it looked exhausted as well as Kathy.

We took some great pictures and at her request, released the fish.

Trip done with some interesting feedback. John happy with the fresh mackerel for lunch. The boys in inquiry why the plugs didn’t work and Kathy ecstatic and asking John to take her on his next Canadian fishing trip.

Isn’t fishing great?

More:On the Hook: Overwrought snook focus

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