Dr. Tom Cruz was first up this week. I met him at the launch to fish the waters of Ding Darling. It was already blowing. The weather report forgot to mention that was going to happen.
I had the boats ready to launch when Tom got there, and we were soon on our way. I told Tom to begin casting about a hundred yards down from the launch, as we often pick up snook right there. I went to park the van. By the time I got back and joined Tom he told me that he indeed had already gotten the first snook.
The wind seemed to be from all over the place for the first hour or so of fishing. But, it was mostly S/SE. We were coming under the influence of the next front. I left Tom with instructions on how to fish the edge, and went ahead of him scouting.
We caught some fish, but it was slow, and the water was not moving for long after we got out there. It laid for a long while. We managed a few fish. Tom's second fish was a mangrove snapper from his description. He finally caught up to me. We worked the area together, working holes, shorelines, and edges. We got a few snook, and a jack crevalle.
Finally, I moved on a ways to check out the next hole, hoping that Tom would continue catching fish where he was. The next spot was out in the full wind. It was blowing a steady 20. As I worked the area I thought i saw Tom come into view in the distance. I called him to me. I had finally gotten to a small cut, and the water was moving there. We set up and went to work. To my surprise, not much was happening there. I made a short move, and immediately got a snook. I brought Tom over to me. We managed a few more fish. We stopped at a bend on the way home that usually holds snook. Tom got smashed by two big ones, and did connect with one more smaller snook.
Together, Tom and I boated a dozen snook to 26 1/2 inches, 2 jack crevalle, and the snapper. A slow day for these waters, but we had a good time, on what was a beautiful, albeit windy day.
Tuesday, I had my first outing with Pat Mullin, who wanted to fish Lemon Bay. I had suggested we fish out of Ainger Creek launch, as it has lots of the kind of stuff I love to fish, and has been very good to me in the past. I drove up from Ft. Myers that morning and was there with the boats ready to dunk by 10:00 am.
The first challenge was the parking machine. I tried to use my credit card, and couldn't for the life of me figure out how to ad minutes. And, I'm a tech junkie and computer nerd. Pat arrived while I was messing with it, and two heads weren't any better than one. I wound up putting a $5 bill in it, and Pat told me that even though the sign says you don't need to display the ticket, they would know what happened if I did, and give me credit for both. That system need work!
Pat and I launched our Ultimates, and headed out the creek. I was immediately distressed by all the traffic coming and going out of the creek, and up and down the ICW. My God. It looked like Talledega, with a constant stream of boats going by. The difference was they were going every which direction. This part of the bay is very narrow, not even a mile wide, I think, and I knew instinctively we were going to play hell catching anything. In addition, we had a stiff breeze adding to the slop that the constant wakes rolling in every direction were already making.
There were also some kayak anglers there. We chatted with one guy about our age who said he'd caught nothing and hadn't seen a speckled trout in that area since January. I didn't doubt him for a moment, as I was unable to unearth a trout all morning long. Usually, if you can find one, you can find many. But, I never found the one.
Once the tide began covering things up we did find one nice flounder and a descent snook. But, that was it. I couldn't expect Pat to be catching, when I wasn't. But, Pat was patient, and kept at it. I apologized to Pat for the situation, and explained what was going on. I suggested that we call the day at around 3 PM, and head in. It wasn't going to get any better. I offered to cut his price to half to cover my time and gas, or to give him a pro bono trip next time he's down.
Pat had mailed his deposit and release more than a week earlier, and it had not shown up. It still hasn't shown up as of this writing. Seems that all mail has slowed way down recently, perhaps because of all the bad weather up north. And, of course we have more people than usual down here this year for the same reason.
Pat was great about the whole thing. He pointed out that I couldn't make the fish bite. But, when things just aren't working, I like to give my customers another shot.
Now, to ad insult to injury, when we got back to the ramp it was also very busy. As I walked up to my aging old Dodge van workhorse and push the unlock button and heard no response, my stomach sank. I had left in the dark, arrived in the light, and gotten distracted with the parking permit machine, and forgot to turn off my lights. Damn! What next?
Fortunately, the man who was pulling his boat when we got there was willing to give us a jump. We had to move the Ultimates up and out of the way so he could get his trailer down into the very narrow ramp, while I dropped the trailer and walked it over to the boats so we could get them out of the way. It was now a busy ramp.
We had trouble keeping the engine lit for a few minutes, because the battery was flat-lined and the alternator is battery excited. Pat was finally able to find something that would hold the throttle down enough to keep the engine spinning around 3 grand, and we finally had everything in order and ready to take off.
Pat was a gem of a guy through all the day and didn't let anything bother him. We parted with a promise to do it again, but not there during spring break. I headed to West Wall Boat Works to pick up a new Ultimate 14.5 Tandem Angler. It was a long day by the time I got home.
I was supposed to fish with Dave Rock on Thursday, but his flight was canceled for weather, and we reschedule to the 17th. It's going to be a very busy next two weeks.
And, I'll close this report on a high note. Here is a picture of my friend, customer, and fishing buddy, Dr. Sam Cancelliere, who bagged this 39 inch snook in Ding on Friday. He's making a habit of catching these big girls on his Friday trip using the DOA CAL Stark Naked jig that I showed him on our first trip. Way to go, Sam!
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