On the Hook: What gets in the way of fishing fun

Bill Walsh

We all know that sport fishing should be about fun. Plain unadulterated flat out fun with a fish writhing for all its worth on one end of the rod and you on other end doing the same thing. It must be one of life’s sporting thrills and what brings you back to the waterside time after time.

More:On the Hook: When size disappoints in sport fishing

Ask a big game fisher that has experienced the good fortune of landing a blue marlin or even a tarpon on light tackle and watch their eyes glaze over and they recite every minute detail of the catch that may have been years ago. It’s an endeavor with a victorious ending.

Fishing out in the deep blue on a cold Southwest Florida day can be trying for the heartiest of souls.

That’s the way it should be. The ultimate personal challenge topped by a release and revival of your piscatorial opponent. But occasionally things get messed up and other priorities jump in and foul things up. Our story this week is a tale of just such an event that happened on one of trips a couple years back.

The subjects were from the UK. Never did get the name of their town but kind of surmised that it was close in to metro London. Nice folks that were well off as they have traded their villa on Majorca for a week for a beachfront condo here in Southwest Florida. There was the father Edwin and two young sons in their mid-teens.

As we got underway that late spring morning, the boys were dazzled by the whole episode; dolphins cavorting boat side as we made it down the Marco River. The pelicans feeding in surface bait in the River and everything in between. Anxious, they kept asking, along their father as to what species of fish where we libel to be taking home on our half day charter.

I went through the litany of species we would probably encounter, and they were mesmerized; they had nothing like that at home. They were stopped in their tracks when I mentioned catching smaller sharks; usually bonnet heads and some blacktips right in the waters in the Passes. The two boys were stunned! Not table fare indeed but put up a strenuous fight and were great for take home photos.

So, with that interest level and enthusiasm we broke out the wire leader and slightly heavier rigs and set up drifts in the pass specifically intended for the small sharks. The boys were in heaven catching the bonnet heads and blacktips, The struggles were intense, and they loved taking photos. But Edwin was on edge; he had promised the “misses” that this venture would put fresh fish on the table that night and as the morning progressed you just knew it was a serious promise and expectation of fresh caught ocean fish at dinner.

But the boys were not about to let up and neither were the small sharks.

It got to be a contest; sharks for the kids or filets for dinner. The sharks were winning hands down and finally Edwin made the decision “Enough for the sharks, let’s go get some fresh filets for “mum.”

We moved out and set up along some edges in Hurricane Pass; changed our rigs and bait and settled in for some snapper fishing along the downed fauna for snapper. Now we were early in the season and the snapper were still on a heavy feed which, for that species produces growth very quickly. But that hadn’t fully played out yet. Unfortunately.

The time melted away and we caught legions of mangrove snapper; all an inch short of keeper size. We moved spots three times and nothing different. Kids didn’t like the soft action of the smaller fish and Edwin was beside himself. And on top of that we were running out of time on the half day morning charter.

And the two boys were besieging their dad to let them go back to the shark fishing,

Finally, with just an hour left of the charter trip, I called Edwin aside and said, “Edwin, this is only a little half day fishing trip, not the end of the world. Tell you what let’s take the boys back to the sharks and I’ll get you an answer for the filets to take home to mom.

He bought on and we headed back to “Shark Valley” and they rekindled their shark tournament with wide grins all over the place. Edwin settled down and I made a phone call.

As we neared the marina, I handed Edwin a note with directions to a first-class Fish Market just minutes from the marina.

“Edwin, this store is just minutes from this marina. Stop there. They are holding two pounds of snapper filets for you, on me. You will be as much a hero with her as you now are to your sons for letting them enjoy their shark fishing.”

He smiled. Shook hands. And said (very British) “Jolly good!”

More:On the Hook: Tales of ‘Walter’

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