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Pine Island, Florida
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Captain Butch Rickey
Posted: Mar 5 2006, 08:27 AM


The snook are turning on! It was a great week of snooking, and the average keeper size my customers landed this week was almost 9 pounds. Fun, fun, fun!

After rescheduling my Monday trip for later in the month because of wind, the week began on Tuesday with my friend Tim Morey, of Cape Coral. The primary purpose of our trip was for me to find how shallow his new Ranger 22 would run, and teach him how to run it that shallow. Tim wanted to learn, not just about the boat, but our fishing, but he still wanted to catch some fish, too.

I drove around to where he keeps his boat in St. James City and met him at 7 AM. We headed directly over too the Sanibel Causeway to see if we could catch some bait. That Ranger has one of the largest baitwells I've ever seen, and it's above the deck to about waist high! Can't imagine how many shiners and fish you could put in there if you had a mind to load it up. We had to fold the top of his tower down to clear the old span, but we had plenty of bait in about an hour. We had a -0.5 low tide that had just begun coming in, and it was time to go and see if we could run in it.

I took the helm, so I could get a feel for the boat and location of the various controls; jackplate, trim tabs, Power Pole, and a Merc trim and tilt that works back and forth, instead of the up and down that I'm used to with Yamaha. It was along the way that I discovered that one of his trim tabs wasn't working, so using them to push the bow down and raise the transom was out. On the plus side the Ranger would come out of the hole with the jackplate all the way up.

I told Tim we'd begin on a flat where the depth gradually went from about 2 ft. to less than a foot; probably about 8 inches when we were there. That would give us a chance to turn around if I felt her touching, instead of just making a big mistake and having to sit aground for a couple hours. But, the touch never came, and I was quite impressed at how the heavy Ranger would run shallow. We fished the first hole we settled into for a few minutes, but I had a better challenge for the Ranger. We headed to a pothole where the surrounding waters were at least a couple inches shallower. I wondered if we'd make it. But, we made it with no problems.

We got serious about fishing at this spot, and caught some two dozen snook and some great trout. Tim missed some good snook, but never managed to get a keeper out of the structure. Once the bite settled down there we headed to another spot that was very shallow. There, we hat a hot trout bite for a while. Once that ended we headed north. At the first stop we found no action. We moved on to a spot that I love to fish on the higher tides that come with spring and summer, and although the water was not moving well and looked stagnant, we managed a handful of snook.

Along the way home Tim expressed concerns about not knowing the water, and still being leery of running in the shallows. I explained to him that the reality is that I can teach him how to run his boat skinny, but the only way he will learn the waters is with lots of experience. No one can teach someone else the nuances of shallow water. That comes with time spent.

Wednesday, I awaked my guests Tony Formby and Garreth Davies, of Tivoli, New York, at 5:30. Tony had reserved a room at the Fish Camp for the week, and Garreth was joining him for the fishing trip. It was my first trip with them, and I hoped it would be something they'd never forget, seeing as they'd never done anything like this.

We were in the water and headed to the causeway by around 6 AM. Tony agreed to take over the helm while I threw the net, and it went pretty well except for one time when he put the Yamaha in gear and almost threw me down into the cockpit. Fortunately he put it in forward instead of reverse, or I would be a statistic. Tony was understandably nervous after that, as though he hadn't been before, but we got plenty of bait, and we soon headed to the first fishing spot.

The bite was tough all through the morning. We fished half dozen spots, and caught 8 snook and quite a few trout. Garreth let a big snook get away. But, we weren't able to get on a really hot bite. At around noon I decided to head into Ding Darling Sanctuary, both to get away from the awful boat traffic, and to go to a completely different pattern. It turned out to be a good decision, as we had immediate and good action for the rest of the tide. The action there included a nice grouper that Tony dragged out from under the mangroves, several big snook broken off IN the mangroves, tons of big, beautiful trout, a jack, and a redfish for the Slam.

It had been a tough, but great day with Tony and Garreth, and I'd had a lot of fun ragging on Garreth for letting go of my very expensive rods with one hand while casting. Bad habit! But, it turned out to be one of my rare defeats. I just couldn't get him to come around, and toward the end of the day, just gave up. We had some laughs over the whole thing later, though.

Thursday was great with Dave Stainbrook, and his son Tim, up from North Naples. It was our first trip together. I met them at the dock at 7:30 AM, with a baitwell full of bait, and we were ready to go catch some fish.

After getting set up at the first stop, the first baits into the water were eaten with a vengeance, and before we knew it we had a couple of keepers in the boat. Tim's was right at 9 pounds, and Dave's was 8 pounds. The action was great, and the boys ended up with 5 keeper snook, some very nice trout, and a flounder. But, all was not good. While anchored on the Power Pole and catching snook, we came off anchor. I couldn't imagine how the water could have come up enough to pull the pole, and went back to check. To my surprise, the hi-tech bonded titanium fiber stake was gone. I couldn't imagine how, and an exhaustive search of the area on the trolling motor didn't turn it up. The rest of the day would be Power Pole appreciation day.

At the next stop I realized I'd have to learn again how to anchor a boat in current and wind to get the boat positioned where I wanted it. That's a big advantage of the Power Pole. You are anchored at the transom, and boat swing is minimized. Unlike being on an anchor with 50 feet of rode, when the wind changes direction, you can find yourself blown way off your hole. It took me a couple of attempts to get it right, but once properly anchored, we slayed the big trout. The boys boated easily 50 plus nice trout.

At the last stop of the day, we again had more action for a while, catching more nice trout, and the last fish of the day, another snook going around 9 pounds. That was the perfect way to end a great day. We headed home with lots of fish to clean.

Friday I had a trip with my friend Dan Rathka, and his Dad, Ray, of Naples. Last time Dan had tried to bring his Dad fishing with me, we got blown off the water by storm shortly after catching bait. Dan and Ray were at the end of the dock waiting on me when I returned from catching bait, tired and sore.

We headed to the first stop of the day, and once there realized that it might be a slow bite with good fish. Dan did a great job of putting the first keeper snook into the boat in the close quarters spot. Ray lost a big snook. They caught more smaller snook, and plenty of trout, along with a big jack for Ray.

At the next spot Dan and Ray caught bunches of big trout, and we were well on our way to filling the family's order for plenty of fish to feed a big crowd for dinner. From there I went to a place I hadn't fished in quite some time, looking for big snook. What we found was a big boat of probably 26 ft., that was obviously a guide boat, but one I had never seen. The three of us marveled as the "Captain" maneuvered the boat using his Mercury motor, clanging and banging the gears, as a fly caster cast to the shoreline. Good God! We couldn't believe this was actually happening. The man didn't even have a trolling motor on his boat, or a pushpole. No poling platform. I was actually embarrassed for him, and wondered what must have been going through his angler's mind, assuming he had been on a flyfishing trip with a guide previously, and knew what to expect.

We fished an area well beyond where they were, and later came back and fished the hole I had wanted to fish after giving the fish time to settle down. We could still hear the other boat in the distance shifting from forward to reverse. The boys did manage to catch a jack, a couple of small gag grouper, trout, and a mangrove snapper, but we didn't find what we were looking for. We moved on.

At our last stop of the day we found pretty good action. The boys caught lots of big trout, another jack, a jewfish, and nice redfish, and Ray lost a monster snook when the leader parted close to the boat. He just didn't move quickly enough. Although Ray hadn't boated a keeper snook, they had certainly met their objective, and the well of the Talon looked like the Miami Sea Aquarium.

We began feeling a sprits of rain and it looked like we might get some serious rain from a weak cold front that was approaching. We were only a half hour from quitting time, and decided to head in and try to stay dry. It had turned in to a great day, and had been great to see Dan again, after a couple of years.

All in all, it was a great week, with lots of good fish. The tides get long, slow, and tough next week, so it's hard to say how things will go. Time will tell, though, and so will I.
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