On the Hook: Fishing from the ‘git go’

Bill Walsh

Went back in the trip notes to put this week’s article together. In the 28 years of doing these charter trips, it was decidedly unique and an often repeated occurrence. But this one was different.

It all started with an email inquiry. A fellow named James, in rather a straight forward tone, was inquiring about booking a trip the following week for he, his wife and two very young sons. They would be visiting Marco for the first time and staying at a beachfront hotel.

More:On the Hook: Catch and release (well almost)

I had some morning times still available in their time frame and communicated those back in a responding email. Was odd, that there were no additional inquiries like “what equipment do you furnish?” or “what species of fish are we liable to catch?” Or even a concern on comfort, re: “Is there a sun cover on the boat?” Strange!

Even stranger when, I received a response email within the hour with a selected time and date. But I scheduled the trip and provided them directions to the marina.

More:Minnesota youth lands extraordinary goliath grouper in Marco waters

Just as fate would have it, we had been inundated with morning storms that week but, thankfully, their morning dawned bright and clear. They arrived at the marina unusually early, a young couple with two small boys (both obviously pre-school). As we exchanged greetings, it was obvious that they were from the UK and sported thick British accents. Their surname was Smith, James and Edna, with two preschoolers twins, Blake and Tony, and their hometown was Liverpool.

A prick from a fishing hook led to a life-threatening flesh-eating bacteria infection for one Florida man.

As we made our way to the boat, the boys, Blake, 7, and Liam, 4, were beside themselves with excitement. “Blake you’re not required to don a life jacket but, Liam, you’re in the life jacket requirement group and I’ll help you get the jacket on.”

As we made our way down the river, James asked that I provide a jacket for Blake also.

Curious, I then asked, “so they’ve been on the water?

“No, they have never been on a boat at all, this will be the first time.

Startled. I followed up with, “And how about you and Edna?”

“Same. Our first time on a boat and our very first time to go fishing” was James stoic response.

More:On the Hook: Breaking point

Stunned! Then with my ensuing challenge of indoctrinations, I started by explaining the boat and how it operated before leaving the dock. We went through issues like slow and idle speeds and operational speeds and the need to stay seated with feet on the deck. Also, very important to the kids was explaining the action of the boat in waves and wakes trying to assure them, when properly operated will ‘right” itself with its self-righting features.

All appeared to understand so we proceeded to get underway. Everyone was a bit tense as we motored down the Marco River, that is, until Liam sighted a dorsal fin break the surface and started screaming “shark!” which quickly turned into mayhem as Liam started screaming and shouting to passing boaters. Took a while for dad to convince him it was a dolphin.

Onward we went to Rookery By where we would hold a short “fishing school” before proceeding to our fishing spots. We decided that I would cast for the kids, but Edna and James would have to handle that themselves.

Meanwhile, we had the boys practice reeling in a fish by tying a large sinker on the line to simulate the weight and action to achieve a catch.

The whole ordeal was a “Fishing 101” but they were learning. After 30 minutes or so of instruction we moved to our first real fishing spot in Hurricane Pass and baited hooks and the fur of them were fishing – the first time their lives – but even that didn’t come without incident.

Edna was quite excited about the whole adventure and on her first cast sent both the rod and reel flying over the stern of the boat. She was mortified with the experience and began to tear up and the equipment sank into the briny. the current was super strong by now and that equipment was a goner.

“I’m so sorry was gushing form her every 10 seconds as I handed her another rig. “Just hang onto that, Edna, you’re not that the first one to do that and I know it was an accident” sort of consoled her.  New rod and reel almost made me cry!

As, we went on, the lines got tangled on every other series of casts and we had nothing caught as we continued to empty the bait bucket with lost strikes just about every cast. And then, when we thought it would never happen, Liam latched onto a nice Jack Crevalle as everyone (including me) aboard cheered. As he swung a nice five pound jack aboard, all the crew was in the bow cowering. This was the first live fish any of them had ever seen.

They finally gained enough combined courage to take a family picture their first fish ever.

In the waning hours of the trip both Blake and Liam caught miniature snappers that was a final cause for family celebration that special morning.

On the way home, I just had to ask, “how come you guys decided to do something that you had zero experience with fishing on your holiday?”

James answered quickly with Edna nodding, “because we wanted to give our boys the experience and excitement while in this beautiful environment.”

And, how did we do? I inquired

“Brilliant, look at the smiles in those two faces.”

More:On the Hook: Fishing ethics of the next generation

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