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Pine Island, Florida
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Captain Butch Rickey
Posted: Jun 18 2005, 04:18 PM


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It's a short report this week. The beginning of the week saw very poor tides that are not good for fishing. We're also beginning the summer slow down. The heat is here. We've got a big problem with fresh water intrusion into the Sound both from natural runoff, and from water being drained down from the big Lake. And, we've got islands of seaweed floating everywhere you go in the Sound, making it all but impossible to fish in the shallows. It's even bad on the outside in places.

Thursday morning I met my old friend Dr. John Hitt at his dock, knowing we had a tough tide to fish, and knowing I hadn't been on the water in a week since the last rain-out. The water in the river was eerily still, which we later figured had to be the combination of the tide trying to move in against all the water coming down the river.

We headed over to Tarpon Bay to see about bait, and the water looked like well used motor oil. It was black. We were shocked to see what happened to our chum when we dropped it into the water. It appeared that the top foot or so of the strata was moving quickly toward the Sound, but that the lower strata was moving quickly in the opposite direction. There seemed to be a shearing effect happening to our chum. Although we did manage to catch some bait, it was not much. I think we never quite figured out exactly where the bait was holding in the fast moving mess. We the tide being so early, I recommended to John that we get going and try to catch some fish, rather than waste more time trying to catch bait that we might have no opportunity to use.

We first stopped on the flat where I have been catching lots of those nice redfish. The water was so black you couldn't see the sand holes in two feet of water, and there were those islands of seaweed everywhere. We attempted to fish for a while, but were getting more frustrated with the conditions as each moment passed. We decided to check the beaches for snook.

We headed down to what used to be the infamous Stickbeach, where there were five or six boats fishing. We began some distance away fishing our way along with breeze and current without so much as a good strike. We carefully watched the other boats, and there was only one that caught any fish. The rest were all crowding around the one boat that was catching, but they weren't.

I called a friend that I though I could see in the mix, and he said there was only one small spot on the whole beach that was holding any fish, and that was exactly where the one boat that was catching was. We moved on down past them and I decided to move close to the shore and see if we could sight-fish some snook right along the edge of the sand. We saw three fish, hooked one, and boated two of them. That was all we saw. We did have a big school of snook swim right past us, but they were really on the move, and we couldn't reel our lines in quickly enough to get a shot at them.

John and I tried some other areas, but the result was the same. We managed only the snook, a trout, and several catfish. It was one of those days when nothing was working or going right. But, John being the easy going guy that he is said that he still enjoyed just being out there, and that sight fishing the snook was fun. Would have been a lot of fun if there had been more fish staged on the beach.

Friday was a great day. It's hard to believe things can change so much in the space of a day, but that's fishing. I had hired my good friend Capt. Rey Rodriguez to be the second boat in a two boat trip with six members of the Nick Fredericks family. What I didn't know until the night before the trip was that he was staying up on North Captiva, which most all of us charge a bit extra for. Running that far to pick up and deliver adds lots of time and fuel/oil expense to our day. Nick had told me that the party was going to break up into two groups, serious and not so serious fishermen. That meant guys and gals for this trip. The gals, Nick's wife Barbara, and daughters Rachel and Dianna, wanted to do some shelling, sightseeing, perhaps see some manatees, and go to a restaurant for lunch, as long as it wasn't Cabbage Key. I volunteered to take the ladies, as I enjoy a diversion from the typical fish only trips that we do, and always enjoy fishing with the ladies. They make great students.

Rey and I were up before the chickens and on the way to catch bait. We decided to stop near Redfish Pass for bait since we were heading right by there, anyway. The water was moving hard across the flat, and shiners were flicking everywhere. It didn't take long to get plenty of bait, and the only reason we even chummed was that we wanted to have some pinfish in the boat for pass fishing. I called Nick at 7:30, and told him we'd be there in fifteen minutes, or so. Once we joined the Fredericks gang and loaded up, we went our separate ways. Rey had decided to go down to the Stickbeach, even given what I had told him had transpired the day before. I was a good call. I elected to head north, as I wanted to minimize the running and run time back and forth from fishing and shelling, etc. The best shelling is on Cayo Costa, and there are places there that get full of snook. We could let the girls do both there.

The ride out was a bit bumpy as there was an onshore breeze. It's always worst around the passes, where there is typically heavy currents. When the current is racing one directions and the wind is blowing in the other, you can get some really bad, sharp chop that's hard to negotiate. As we approached our chosen piece of beach Barbara told me that she was prone to sea sickness, so that was a big concern. Barb and Dianna decided to sit out the first of the fishing and get used to being in the boat. Rachel was ready to fish, and it wasn't long before she had her first snook in the boat. She caught a few snook, and we passed one or two to Barbara. Dianna was content to read a book for a while.

Eventually, the girls decided it was time to go shelling, and I pulled anchor and dropped them off on the beach a short distance away. I went back to my spot, and anchored slightly south of where I had been, which gave me some different angles to get in behind the cover. I had a great bite going for a while. I had a shiner out on another rod pinned to the bottom with a split shot. I saw it bounce, and when I checked it the fish was gone, but had left the unmistakable signature of a redfish. That shiner was skint from one end to the other.

Once the girls got back from the shelling jaunt, we resumed fishing in the same spot I had been in. We caught a few more snook, and a stingray, but the wind had kicked, and the water was getting pretty bouncy. It was getting harder to stand on the deck, and I knew Barbara was ready to go to calmer waters. We headed inside to fish Redfish Pass on the falling tide. I was shocked to see an armada of boats all competing for the same fish. Many of them had thrown etiquette and manners overboard, and were acting like jackasses. We made probably half a dozen passes and Rachel caught a big jack crevalle, and missed several fish, and I missed a big snook that hammered my shiner right up on the rocks, but for some reason wasn't trapped by the circle hook when she pounded that shiner. It jumped to freedom as I was trying to get the rod into Rachel's hands.

By the noon hour we were all feeling pretty hungry, and Dianna was really feeling the heat. We were ready for lunch. We called the boys to meet us, and headed to the Green Flash on Captiva. Once the boys showed up they were full of tales of a wild bite on the beach, and were sure they had boated a hundred snook or more. Rey said that unlike the day before, the beach was literally black with big schools of snook running up and down the beach, and everyone was catching fish like crazy. It was great, and Nick and the boys were still in disbelief. But, a hundred snook day is possible on a good bite, if you've got some good anglers in the boat that will work together. And, they did. And, they wore Rey out, but he was happy, too.

As we enjoyed a great lunch, we watched tarpon rolling in a deep hole just a hundred yards or so off the dock. Once we were done with lunch the girls and I decided we were going to go and see if we could find some manatees, and the boys decided they were going to take a quick shot at some tarpon. We all met back at the runway on North Captiva at around 2:30, and had both struck out. The manatees weren't there where I so often see them, and Rey couldn't get close enough to the tarpon in the rough water.

It had been a great day with some great folks. I'm sure it was the highlight of the trip, at least for the guys. They vowed that the next time they came to visit we would be seeing them, again.

Looks like fishing on the outside is the MO for a while; at least until the water cleans up a bit on the inside. Hopefully, the snook will remain on the beaches up and down the islands, and will be hungry. I'll find out Sunday.
 
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