Week ending 9/21/13.........
Monday was my first day back to work doing what I love. FISHING! And, it couldn't have been with a more welcome face than my ...more old friend and customer Willy Van Der Vorst, who vacations here almost every year in September. Willy and I have been friends and fishing buddies since 1999. He is quite a character, and comes to visit us every year from Belgium. This year he was accompanied by his lovely wife Corrine, her son Ronald, and Ronald's girlfriend, Samantha. We had our first meeting Sunday morning at Marti's Restaurant, and I was sure glad to have their SOB omelet, which I had sorely missed over the summer. It was wonderful to see Willy and Corrine again, and to meet Ronald and Samantha. We had a very nice visit, and made our plans for the next day of fishing. We would fish Estero Bay, since they always have a condo there on the island
All I'd heard all summer long from folks back home was how much rain they were having every day, and how much water was being dumped into the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee to keep it at safe levels for the hurricane season. I also watched the radar with great interest every day, and could see that SW Florida was just getting hammered with big storms and rain every day, and sometimes, several times a day. The fishing reports I got from folks back home were discouraging, to say the least. For my trip with Willy and Ron, I hoped for the best, but sort of expected the worst.
I was at the Lovers Key ramp Monday morning well before day break, getting the Ultimates ready for a day on the water. By the time Willy and Ron arrived I had the first two boats ready to go into the water. Soon, we were ready to begin our adventure.
I thought we'd spend a few minutes of the early tide trout fishing. We headed to a spot that's usually full of trout, as well as jacks and ladyfish. But, it didn't take long to realize that the fish either weren't there, or weren't biting. We moved on.
It was a very early tide, and the water was already fairly high. It was time to switch our attention to redfish and snook. Problem was, we couldn't get the fish to turn their attention to us. We fished spots that always hold redfish and snook, but they just didn't want to eat. We fished hard with our lures, but we only managed two redfish, and several jacks from the dark tannin stained waters.
One big difference in fishing from the Ultimates; it's a lot of fun for everyone even on those days when the fish don't want to eat.
Back at the ramp I knew we weren't any too early getting there, as the weather was building rapidly. As we were getting the boats unloaded and put away a very nice guy and his wife came over and introduced themselves. He was Bill Knox, of Stone Age Ranch, in Dunnellon, Florida. Willy and Bill chatted while Ron and I finished getting the boats ready to travel, and fillet the fish. Once we were done, Willy and Ron headed back to their condo, and Bill and I talked. He was interested in learning how to kayak fish, and booked the coming Friday. The weather had closed in quickly, and I ran into rain before I was very far down the road.
Wednesday, I had what was to be the first of two trips with John Wilkinson, and his friend Jim Heikkinen, of Marquette, Michigan. Our active weather was coming very early in the afternoon, and I wanted to fish where we could get to fishable water without a real long run. I decided to take the boys to the A Span and fish the area around Fisherman's Key. John and Jim were coming from just over the bridge to Ft. Myers Beach, and it was an easy ride for them to meet me at the Circle K down the street. We would go in my van. We were at the A Span in no time, and about twenty minutes later, were ready to shove off.
I again elected to fish trout on the lower part of the tide, and the spot we trolled our way to has never let me down. I began to get nervous, though, when we didn't draw a hit while trolling. Once I get to the flat, I made a cast, and immediately had a 17” trout. I had the boys spread out a bit and anchor, and we were all in fish. John and Jim were catching them on every other cast or so. Once I knew they were settled in to the bite, I went in pursuit of the next bite. I found a few more trout a short distance away, but the water was already getting quite high, and I turned my attention to redfish.
I went to one of my favorite spots where I always do well with reds. I fished it hard, and couldn't buy a bite. I was befuddled. I did catch a jack or two. By the time I had exhausted myself at that spot, the guys were on the way to join me, as their bite had finally petered out. They had each caught around 4 dozen trout each. I'd caught over a dozen before I left them with the trout. I directed John and Jim to their next spot and instructed them on how to proceed, and they went to work. One was fishing the mangrove shoreline, and one just off the shoreline on the flats. John caught another trout and a jack or two, and had a couple of redfish on, if I remember correctly, and had a couple blow him up close to the boat. Jim had a big redfish on, but lost it during the battle, and then hooked an unidentified flying object under the water, that ripped line from his reel at an alarming rate until it managed to get loose. Damn! I went a ways down and went to work, and had lots of bumps and hits, but caught only a few jacks and a large ladyfish.
John told me his motor was not performing properly on the lower run speeds, but ran great on high speed. We were nearing the end of the tide, and with the weather so active so early, I thought it prudent to troll our way back to our launch. I then checked the boat with a new battery, and after checking connections, was pretty sure they all needed cleaning. As we went to get into the van, I noticed my left rear tire was low. John and Jim told me they'd had a blast, and were ready for the next morning. I just had to decide what waters we would fish.
Back at the house I spent the rest of the afternoon until the storms came working on the boats, cleaning and fixing, and trying to come up with an anchor pole clip to replace my paddle clip I'd used for so long. It had disappeared somewhere along the way, and an 8 ft. anchor pole is a PITA to deal with without a way to hang in outside the boat. By the time I thought about the tire, which I thought was just low, it was after dark.
I got our my trusty-dusty computerized tire pump, and a headlight, and went to top off the tire. I finally realized the air pressure wouldn't go above 20 pounds. When I checked the attachment I moved the valve stem, and it went from a slow leak to a blowout. The tire quickly ran out of air. I crawled underneath the aging van to retrieve the spare tire. It still had plenty of air, but had been hanging under there so long and been exposed to the salt for so long, that it would have taken a torch to cut the mount loose. Nuts. There was no place to get a tire fixed this time of day that I knew of. I called John and told him the situation, and hoped that I could get into my local tire shop by 7 AM. I was there at about 20 'till, and when the first employee showed up, he informed me that they didn't open until 8 AM.
I returned just before 8 AM, but they were already busy. By the time I got home, got the tire mounted and the van off the jack, it was after 9 AM. It would take us probably 45 minutes to get to a destination and get the boats into the water, which meant we'd be departing somewhere around 10 AM. And, I was so filthy I needed a shower just to go fishing. I called John, and told him I didn't think it was fair to go this late, and he agreed we'd wait and fish when he returns in the spring. That's only the second time in my decades of guiding that I can remember not being able to get to the ramp.
Friday, it was time to introduce Bill Knox to kayak fishing. I met Bill and his wife Ann at the Circle K at John Morris, and they followed me out to the A Span so that Ann could have wheels for the day. I told her we'd probably be back around 1:30 to 2. Ann stayed while we got the boats ready and the bottoms wet, and took some pictures of us as we departed.
I had planned to follow a similar route as I'd done Wednesday, first fishing trout. But, we were now on the full moon, and we had high pressure build in behind all the rain giving us blue-bird skies. Not good for fishing. I gave Bill a casting clinic when we first got to our flat. Casting is one of the most important elements of shallow water fishing, no matter what the platform. To be consistently successful and hooking and landing larger snook and redfish, especially along the mangroves, you must learn how to, and be proficient at dropping your lure exactly where you want it, and taking control of the fish and stopping it from running into the mangroves, once it's hooked. With lots of things for Bill to think about now, we began fishing in earnest. And, the fish predictably weren't very interested in eating. We only managed about a dozen or so trout between us, and Bill also got a couple of mangrove snapper. I knew we were in for a tough day from there on out.
After working the trout hard over a wide area, I decided to turn our attention to redfish, with the possibility of more trout and some snook, in a different area. Bill and I made our move. I gave him instructions on how to fish his spots, and I then went to an area nearby. We fished our spots hard, and caught only a trout or two and a jack, then fished on down the mangrove shoreline. There were some bumps and hits along the way, but the fish just weren't aggressive enough to get them hooked.
Bill was a good sport with the slow action and said he'd learned a lot and had fun. He was a great fishing partner, and I enjoyed his company.