I had the pleasure of fishing and shelling with two very nice women, Nan Speigel and Miriam Cardwell of Miami. The fishing was a blast, but unfortunately the catching was slow. However, we did get to see manatees, dolphin, turtles, eagles, ospreys, kites, rosette spoonbills, sharks and gators. Toward the end of the trip, we had a nice beach lunch cooking our catch and a cooling swim in the shallows . Miriam, had not experienced eating freshly prepared fish on the beach before and seem to thoroughly enjoy things. Nan had "been there before", but she seem to enjoy it as much as I. I can't wait to do it again next time.
I fished with Brit Metcalf (Atlanta, Ga.) and his brother Jay (Palm Springs, Fl.). Both are experienced freshwater bass fisherman. They were accurate casters and constantly had a bait in the water ... it paid off. I had a couple of days off and had fished myself the day before around Chokoloskee. Things were too slow for my taste, so I told Brit and Jay that we were going to "burn some gas" right off to get to different terrain from what I had fished the day before. The plan was to fish the falling tide in the river mouths and then, if weather permitted, ease off to our artificial reefs.
We began by tossing gold shad tail jigs and bass assassins. Early in the tide and the morning, baits were regularly being blasted, but mostly by small fish. The guys caught lots of ladyfish, jacks, and smaller snook. We had at least two big snook miss the baits and Jay lost a real nice fish early. Toward the end of the tide, I free-lined a large live bait in hopes of enticing a pig snook to feed, but all we mustered was a shark. Jay, tossing a pearl colored bass assassin produced an Everglades Grand Slam with by catching numerous snook, a redfish and a small tarpon (I believe his first). All in all, a good morning!
As the tide fell deeper and the sun and temperature rose higher, the bite fell way off. It was time for a sandwich and a boat ride to find some permit. As we approached the structure, what I thought was a school of permit turned out to be a school of 8-10 summer jacks. Brit and Jay doubled up several times on 8 and 12 lb spinning gear. Twice, Goliath Grouper in the 250lb range, came up from the bottom and gobbled their jacks in plain view. The guys were not much of a match with their light tackle. I tell you what, those two saucered-eyed anglers sure did a bunch of hootin' and hollerin' seeing those big round tailed bass!!! We spied a few permit, but they were holding deep and moving fast, so we did not get a good shot at thm. Since the giant roundtails were that active, the big snook, barracuda and cobia were (wisely) not feeding ... bad timing .. oh, well!!.
A 31' Contender came up on us (from Islamorada). Without wetting a line, they complained about the water and the fishing, we agreed (he-he!) and left right away for another hot spot. As we came up to our next stop, I saw two large pods of permits (about a mile and a half from where they were supposed to be). Show time!!!
As usual, we were fishing eight pound spinning gear so hooking the fish and catching the fish truly were two different things. These fish were both Brit and Jay's first permit. I will never get over the look in anglers eyes as they watch 225 yards of string unwind to the knot the first time!!! They caught six fish, by there count, in the16-19 lb range. (Incidentally, the last fish caught made Permit number 245 for 2002). Two small bull sharks, approximately 100lbs chased one of Jay's permit around the boat the boat a few times. I don't know who was more excited, the permit or Jay ... more hootin' and hollerin'. I am sure the sharks would have made a lunch of the fish if they had been a bit larger.
We stopped another piece of structure that has been holding snook close to 20lbs. However, it was "no joy" on the big snook. Jay did get a taste of the strength a goliath grouper before it took him into the bottom. Brit and Jay are very good fisherman and were a blast on the boat. I only hope they had as good of a time as I did and will be back .... soon!
I fly fished with Big Jim Slade (Jim Webster of J. Webster Contracting, Pompano Beach) in south Biscayne Bay, Friday. It was Visual Grand Slam day. We both made repeated great presentations to permit, tarpon and some very large bonefish. Nothing would eat our flies. Jim did muster one fish that ran him into the shoreline rocks like a grouper. A very strange day, but a blast, especially since I got lots of bow time from Jim!!
Chokoloskee Charters is about to introduce another boat to the fleet. We have been reworking a 24' Morgan center console. She has a 10 foot beam, a very high bow, lots of fishing room and will be painted our trademark horizon sky blue (Yes, Bill the pictures on the website still need to be updated!). She should be a great fishing platform for Grouper, Snapper, Kings, Tarpon and Cobia. This weekend we able to float her for the first time!! With Capt. Bruce Hitchcock, Justin Dargavage and Dave Wilson (and three spinning rods) aboard, we made our way off-shore on a test run. We barely fished as we were tinkering with the boat most of the time. Bruce did jig up a cobia and a permit (number 246!) and Dave did a barracuda. The cobia was nearly fed to a 300lb roundtail at the boat. A cobia about 50lbs did not eat. Cobia in August, go figure. I can not wait to finish the Morgan, she is going to be a blast since we will be able to handle six anglers grouper/snapper digging and up to four doing most everything else. It is going to be a exciting winter season (at least for me!!). Keep an eye out for progress pictures of the Morgan.
If you would like to book a trip with Chokoloskee Charters, please call The Captain @ (239) 695-9107 or visit www.ChokoloskeeCharters.com on the Web. Good Fishing.
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