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Pine Island Sound
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Captain ButchRickey
Posted: Nov 12 2005, 03:03 PM


It was a full week this week with a mixture of new customers and old friends. It was a fun week.

The week began with a trip way up the river to pick up Dr. John Hitt's boat and bring her home. The local ramps downtown were closed, so I had to pick her up at a small ramp east of Highway 31, way up the river. With all the manatee zone, it was a long, relaxing ride, but there was no fishing involved. So, the week officially began with an instructional trip with Dan Dixon, of Cape Coral, and his good friend Ralph, up from Naples. We had an awful tide for catching! Dan and Ralph assured me they weren't worried about how many fish they put into the boat, but were there to learn. Since Florida's winter will soon be upon us, I though it appropriate to cover things primarily related to winter fishing.

We started with bait, of course, and the boys said they always have problems getting shiners. Bait had been great at Picnic Island the previous week, so naturally we headed straight there. But, we got a surprise. There wasn't a shiner to be found there! Plenty of pinfish, though. After moving twice, we moved on.

We headed up to Chino Island, where there is normally plenty of bait through November. I spotted pelicans working bait, and moved to the general area they were working. I knew they were working larger baits instead of small stuff like glass minnows, because of the way the birds were diving. They were high-diving!
It didn't take too long before we saw bait showing up, and although it never ganged up really thick, we got plenty to fish with. We were ready.

I began with teaching the boys about fishing around oyster bars and mangrove keys. Things like what to look for, what makes one good as opposed to another that isn't, bait placement, current flow were among the topics.

We covered fishing deeper cuts in the winter, fall, and spring. When to be there, the importance of a proper setup throwing down the wind, but up the current, where to present the baits, the importance of keeping proper tension on the line, and what part of the tide to be there fishing, were some of the topics. We caught one yearling snook while there.

Since there are many grouper that winter inshore we covered some of the where, baits, presentation, and probably most important, how to kick their scaly butts and get them out of the rocks. We fished two areas and caught quite a few gag grouper and a Jewish.

As the tide neared its lowest point in the early afternoon, we turned our attention to pothole fishing. We covered things like the importance of wind, current, proximity to deep water, and proximity to passes. Even though we were there for the last of the tide, there was no bite. We only caught two or three nice trout.

We decided to go and look at some spots near home. Along the way we ran across a giant school of ladyfish that were pushing glass minnows to the surface as they fed on them. That of course drew thousands of birds, which were attacking the poor baits from the air. We caught a few large ladyfish by tossing out small shiners and reeling them in very quickly. Bam! The ladies love a fast bait near the surface. We could have stayed there catching ladyfish for hours, but we were on our way to do some snookin, so we moved on after a few minutes of fun.

The last spot was the culmination of all the things that I had told Dan and Ralph make a good snook hole. It is beautiful with lots of moving water. But there wasn't a lot of water in the hole on the low tide. Still, we caught a couple of snapper, and the fish of the day, a beautiful snook that Dan hooked and brought to he boat.

And, that wrapped up our day. We had fun, and Dan and Ralph said the trip was exactly what they wanted and that they had learned a lot.

Wednesday morning I met my friends Darrin, Julie, and Carson May, for an early morning shelling trip to Cayo Costa. I was sure the shelling would be great after the Wilma weather, and wouldn't be too picked over. I had the Maverick in the water and ready for some exercise, and we were soon headed off up the river toward Shell Island and Miserable Mile. It was a cool and refreshing ride as we navigated up the eastern side of the Sound to stay in calm water. The sight of the sun rising was awesome.

We got to Cayo Costa around 7:30, and I let the guys out to get started as I worked at getting the boat moored near the shore. The shelling was terrific. Best I've seen in years. We had a great time finding our treasures, and Darring and I even wet a line for a little while, but nothing was biting. WE headed back home around 10:00 AM, and were back to the dock just before 11:00. It was a fun morning with some folks I just love.

Thursday morning I was out with Mark Biggings, his fourteen year old son Alex, and father-in-law, Frank. They were Julie and Darrin's neighbors at their condo, and Julie had recommended me to them. We had a very early high tide, and I knew from years of experience the bite would probably be early, and short and sweet; perhaps a couple of hours. After that it would be tough.

So, I had the gang up before the chickens and at the ramp at 6:00 AM. My hope was to get bait quickly and be on the first spot ASAP! We headed up to Chino Island, where I had last gotten bait on Tuesday. Several other boats were already there; guides all. Before we were even set up and chumming, two of the boats moved. I told my guys that wasn't a good sign. If they were getting bait, they wouldn't be moving. We chummed. They moved, again. I knew they were struggling. We kept at it. We had a very strange combination of wind and current that was forcing us to throw the chum way out to the left of the bow, and throw the castnet way off to the right. But, we got bait. The others moved on. I later called to tell them we were getting bait.

At our first spot I had a good feeling, simply because of all the activity there. There were mullet flipping everywhere, and porpoises working fish nearby. That's always a good sign when you're looking for fish on a flat. And, we had action almost immediately. We caught quite a few snook and a redfish at that first hole. As the action slowed, we moved on to other spots nearby, and worked our way across the flat. At the last stop we again found some snook and another redfish. Of course, not all the fish that bit were put into the boat. That's the challenge of snook fishing, especially on light tackle. The bigger ones are definitely very good at getting away.

We finally headed back toward home once the action stopped and the water was moving off the flats. We stopped at a beautiful little spot in the mouth of Matlacha Pass, where there are always a lot of snook, and some very big ones, as well. In fact, Dan Dixon had brought a beauty to the boat at that spot on Tuesday. We fished it hard for probably an hour, and Mark caught the only snook. It was a dink, but it was a snook.

Mark told me that they had the only car, and were keeping the girls from their assigned birthright of shopping! So, it was time to go. The fishing, or catching, was over for the day, anyway.

It had been a great day, and I had a blast with Mark, Alex, and Frank. I teased Alex a lot, and he was a good sport, and a very nice young man. We ended the day with somewhere between 12 and 15 snook, including several keeper-sized fish, and a couple of redfish. My thanks to Julie May for introducing me to these great folks!

Friday was a great day with an old friend, Jim Dougal, who had given us who think he's a pretty great guy a scare a couple of years ago when he had a bout with colon cancer. He's doing great today, and still has his great sense of humor. In fact, Jim sends me jokes via email that are my main source for daily entertainment.

I told Jim the same thing I told the Biggings about the early high tide. It would be tough to fish, and probably wouldn't last long once it began. The trick would be to be someplace where there were good fish when Mother Nature rang the dinner bell! So, I picked Jim up at the Waterfront Restaurant in St. James City at 6:30 AM. I left the dock before 6 AM, and zipped along in the cool morning air in total darkness. It's so invigorating.

We headed straight for Chino Island thinking we would get bait quickly. But, something strange happened. After some chumming, we have a few dozen shiners in the net of the first throw. Then, not another shiner to be seen. We kept at it feeling certain the shiners would return. But, they didn't, aggravating both me and my back.

So, I moved up to the drop near the northern side of the island, and began, again. Thankfully, it wasn't long before we had plenty of bait coming to us, but again with a very strange scenario. We were having to drop the chum right at the bow of the Talon. It appeared to be going under the boat, but apparently the undercurrent or wind was pushing it away from us, as the shiners were about the length of the rope in front of us. Strange, but we got 'em. It was time to fish.

The wind had really kicked, and the ride to our first spot was pretty bumpy. Everything was fine once we were there and gliding along on the trolling motor on our way to the first stop. Things began very slowly. We fished hard with very little going on. I knew the fish were there, but so far they weren't eating. We could also see that the only movement in the water was what the wind was generating.

As luck would have it, we were in the right spot when the water began to move. Suddenly, we had some great action, and were catching some very nice snook on both cut bait and live baits under a popping cork. One of the first ones was a 10 pound snook on cut bait, that took off like Jim had snagged a passing Porsche! He did a masterful job of getting her under control, and into the boat, though. More excitement came when Jim hooked another beauty, and although she was 28 inches and smaller than the 10 pounder, she got Jim wrapped up in the motor, Power Pole, and transducer at the stern.

It was then that I figured out that we had a problem with the trim and tilt. I couldn't raise the motor but a little. The skeg and prop were already in the mud on the falling tide. We had to get out of there, now. So, I raised the Power Pole, and with our weight forward, managed to get off the flat into some deeper water. I got out of the boat, got Jim's fish, cut her free, and gave her to Jim. After clearing the line, I tried to get some fluid into the reservoir, but was basically unsuccessful. I did get the motor up enough so that we could got back and fish the spot for a while longer.

We caught a few more fish, including a nice redfish. I was still fiddling with the motor, and thought it was going to work when I heard a strange squirting sound and saw fluid in the water behind the boat. Something had failed; probably a seal. The motor wouldn't move!

It was nearing 11:00 o'clock, and as the bite slowed I recommended to Jim that we head in so I could deal with my motor issues. I didn't want to get stuck out there with the motor in the wrong position for running. So, we headed back to the Waterfront, where we both had a platter of their awesome fried oysters.

The trim/tilt was now non-functional, but I was amazed that the Talon still rode quite well even though I couldn't lift the nose a bit. All I had to do was get home without sticking her on a shallow flat someplace, and I wasn't too worried about that.

So, there you have it. It wasn't a week of huge numbers of fish that we often do, but it was a week of many quality snook. Redfish are scarce this fall, which is very strange. I'm hearing the same complaint from everyone I talk to: Little to no reds being caught. But, with the limit at one per person, we have managed to limit out on redfish and snook nearly every day.

The Talon is now at Fowler Marine, enjoying the tender love and care of Danny Fowler. He felt sure he could have me back on the water by Monday. Since the trolling motor on the Maverick is dead, I sure hope he's right.
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