On the Hook: Tales of ‘Walter’

Bill Walsh
Balazs Hepp with his first ever Goliath Grouper caught fishing with his friend Michael around Marco Island. 

Balazs Hepp with his first ever goliath grouper he caught while fishing with his friend Michael around Marco Island.

This week’s article, dates back quite away but I had an interesting recall just a couple of weeks ago. But let me start from the beginning.

A very gentile couple from the UK were here for a few weeks at the end of last winter and had asked for big fish only and booked a few charters over a full week. We still were in weather delivering big fish along the Marco River docks, so we picked out a spot that was a haven for that sort of size and action.

We picked a spot just west of La Peninsula and had at it. We weren’t there a half hour one chilling morning when we got a ripping strike and run off that emptied the reel that they went bonkers over.

More:On the Hook: Catch and release (well, mostly)

They fished for four half days with all the effort on this one spot. The target was never seen just managed to take their offering and destroy the tackle time after time. It was obvious after the first couple of break-offs that this was the same fish; it did the same thing every time, even on upgraded line strength and bigger equipment.

They promised to return and settle their frustration and named their Nemesis “Walter.” After the fish in one of the famous movies about the piscatorial escapee in the Henry Fonda movie “On Golden Pond.”

It’s year’s later now and the couple never returned. But I have never forgotten the spot and the action and the fact that “Walter” may still be there.

So, here’s two participants playing hooky from a business conference at one of the beach hotels that want the same kind of action as they avoid the morning speeches. We book a trip on a frosty morning last winter and proceed out into the river on a windy day and all they talk about is big fish. We start and an hour into the trip all we’ve been seeing are small snapper and pompano.

So, what to do, and I remember “Walter!” So, why not?

Daring not to tell the two over anxious anglers about “Walter” and fearing extended disappointment, just told them we’re anchoring up, changed course and set up on the up current side of the dock.

We baited up a couple of 17 pound rods with bottom rigs and put some half hunks of cut fiddler crab out into the current. Remember the current was buffered a bit close in the docks and it was raging just 10-15’ further out in the Marco River.

As time wore on, one of the two placed his rod in the holder while getting a bottle of water from the cooler. And wouldn’t you know it that’s the rod that got hit and doubled over and sheared off before the angler could get to it. Big time break off!

That’s when I took the opportunity to tell them about the adventures of “Walter” and the two UKers. They were immediately reenergized. This time the pace was accelerated and the two of them were like attack dogs.

Five minutes later the scene was recreated again, but this time both rods went off and mayhem ensued. Both rods screamed as line poured out pointing at multiple fish. There were shouts just before the rods crossed and sheared both lines.

The recant then from the duo was startled questions as to how big these fish might be.

They went upbeat and were right back at it in a flash. But at least we had silenced the complaints of poor fishing and replaced with poor reaction and procedure.

They had to wait a whole ten minutes for the next explosion. This time the port rod went off with a jolt followed by a screaming reel and a dancing rod. The angler was having more trouble to not only stop the runoff but control the direction as the hit was heading right straight for the docks laden with cut offs. He was laboring to tighten the drag against screaming advise not to and the line again parted. The escaping fish didn’t even have to make it to the docks.

The charter time was waning quickly but, out of mercy for their shared disappointment we slid some extra time into the game and they had at it one last time. We obviously were on the “home run” spot as the rods went off again, one after the other, but this time one of the lines was running up alongside the boat and the fish was much closer to the surface running hot and fast.

Close enough to get a look at our nemesis, we were all startled that our targets were huge nurse sharks probably in the 150 lb. range that had been chomping up live bait all tide and just saw our cut bait as another opportunity.

So, good chance that Walter is still alive and well (we think); who’s next on the try?

More:On the Hook: Acceptable fishing behavior awry

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