A Letter From My Guestbook

A true fishing testimonial from a HAPPY BarHopp'R client. Read about his experience with Capt. Butch Rickey, one of the top native Florida fishing guides, backcountry fishing and flats fishing in the waters of Pine Island Sound around Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, and Pine Island. In his weekly Florida fishing reports he tells all about snook fishing, redfish fishing, tarpon fishing, and trout fishing. The fishing testimonials are FREE! A guided fishing trip is a real bargain!

Name: Mark Gonczkowski
Referred by: Just Surfed On In!
From: Pinellas Park, Florida
Time: 1997-10-22 19:28:00
Comments: Fishing with Capt. Butch Rickey , the instructional guide. I have been an avid fish-a-holic all of my life, even before I moved to this beautiful state from Colorado some 17 years ago. Over the years I have tried to teach myself the art of fishing the back country and flats of Tampa Bay.

Some years ago I bought an old 13 foot 1972 Monark bass boat that was once a rose planter in one of my elderly neighbors back yard. Dragging it out of its 6 inch grave with my 4x4, I proceeded to "customize" it into a full fledged "flats master" complete with a flow-through live well.

Next was learning how to fill that well with frisky baits, which took some time after purchasing a ten foot bait net without any idea of knowing how to throw it. After several weeks of throwing various versions of "pork chops" and "bananas", I finally learned how to "pancake" it. So now I was a respectable fishermanÖSO I THOUGHT!

It was time to treat myself to a guided fishing trip. But how would I know who to hire? One day I decided to try "surfing" the Internet and after a while I stumbled onto Capt. Butch Rickeyís web site. After my first visit through his awesome site which stated he was an instructional guide with many years of experience I decided he was my man. My good friend Jim Notke and I booked a trip for October 17, hoping the weather would be a little cooler than in August.

We arrived in Fort Myers the day before and registered at the Radison Inn just down the road from the boat ramp where Capt. Butch was to meet us at the following morning. As we approached the ramp that morning I could see that Capt. Butch had the boat launched and was waiting and ready to get started.

Capt. Butch said our first priority was to blast out to the beach and net some shinners (which I found out are also called Pilchards). As we were pulling up to the beach I could see there were other guides out there casting for bait too, but with no clients aboard. So I figured they werenít instructional guides because with just the experience of watching Capt. Butch chum up and catch bait I probably learned 3 or 4 new things to make my life easier on the water. Capt. Butch had both his live wells filled in record time but wasnít pleased with the size of the bait and said we would try to get larger bait on our way out to our first hole. After a short cruise we stop to chum for larger bait and within minutes had beautiful 3 to 4" shinners all around the boat and with two cast we were on our way.

Our first stop was a hole in the middle of a flat with 4" of water surrounding it. With the vertical jack plate on the 110 HP Johnson we blasted right across that flat until Capt. Butch was within polling distance of the hole. (now thatís what I call a skinny water flats boat). After anchoring on the edge of the hole Capt. Butch produced an oversized plastic wiffle ball bat with the end chopped off. At first I thought it was a weapon to subdue the dreaded catfish we were about slay, but I soon found out its true use. Capt. Butch proceeded to fill the end with the smaller bait and after giving the bait filled bat a couple of good jiggles gave it a swing that would make any coach proud. This produced a perfect pattern of wounded bait from one end of the hole to the other. (Another lesson and I hadnít even started to fish yet). Within seconds we had fish crashing all across the hole and practically every cast produced a nice trout. But no snook! Capt. Butch explained to me that this hole was somewhat of a experiment to see whether the snook were in the potholes yet because this was the time of year that snook are in a transitional stage between summer and winter feeding grounds.

After exploring a couple more holes with minimal action, Capt. Butch didnít waste any time telling use to reel up for a move. Our next move was a blast across the sound to some oyster beds surrounded by a shallow flat. After arriving Capt. Butch polled up and anchored the boat about 30 yards from the edge of one of the oyster beds and produced the wiffle ball bat again. And again fish were crashing everywhere. This time though Capt. Butch rigged all the rods with a weighted popping cork explaining that when fishing really shallow water stealth and distance is the key along with keeping the bait out of the grass.

The first bait riffled out almost immediately got slammed by a nice snook which took to the air expelling the hook. After about 4 hours of circling these oyster beds we succeeded in hooking more snook and reds than I have probably caught in a full year of fishing Tampa Bay. Total tally; 20+ reds and 20+ snook and some hard pulling jacks.

On our way back to the boat ramp Capt. Butch said something to the effect of "this was just an average day of action." WOW! Capt. Butch, thanks for an awesome day of fishing, you are truly a hard working professional and not afraid to teach "green horns" your trade secrets. Iím figuring out a way to weasel a day off from work for another trip. Well Iím on my way to Toys "R" Us for a wiffle ball bat and then to the feed store for some secret recipe chum. Oh, thanks for cleaning all those fish for me, I was really butchering them.

Mark Gonczkowski

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