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Captain Bill Walsh
Dawn Patrol Charter Fishing
Marco Island, Florida
Phone: (239) 394-0608
In business since 1992 !!

A fishing trip in the cold weather can end up being hot stuff
By Bill Walsh

Thursday, November 30, 2006 (Marco News)

This is the day you've been looking forward to; it's the appointed day of your fishing trip. All is in readiness and you step outside. "Holy cow, this is really cold" and you dart back inside. Is it too cold to go fishing?

Guess that depends on a myriad of factors; on your tolerance to the cold; on the makeup of your party (i.e big hefty linebackers or little kids); and finally, and probably most importantly, your motivational level.

On one cold morning last week, I discovered a motivational energy level that could have made oceans part. I think you'll enjoy the story.

The Harris family had booked a charter trip well over a month ago. They were going to be in Southwest Florida for a family Thanksgiving reunion with mom and dad, brothers and sisters and legions of kids.

The anglers that morning were to be Jim Harris and his two nine year old twin boys, Jay and Frankie. As dawn broke on their morning, the forecasted cold and harsh northerly wind became a reality. It was bitter well, at least pretty cold, even for non-Floridians.

As I went to the marina, to ready the boat in the pre-dawn darkness, the idea of having the Harris' face these uncomfortable conditions compelled me to give Jim a call this would be a great day to take a rain-check and reschedule the trip.

Jim's response to the cancellation suggestion was vehement. "Not on your life. Look, I've been cooped up in this condo with all these kids for three straight cold days. I'm ready for the therapist or the looney-bin. We're going fishing today, if we have to break the ice to get there."

So much for the raincheck!

OK, we would run the trip as scheduled. I told Jim to make sure the kids dress in layers; the thinnest layers first with the heavier layers on top. The idea being that you can remove layers as the day warms up, as it usually does here.

The sun cracked the chilly darkness and the Harris' arrived on the dock right on time. Jim is bundled with sweatshirts and hoods but the kids are something to behold. They look like stuffed Emperor penguins with so much clothing they could hardly walk. We literally had to roll them onto the boat.

"Jim, it's only 50 degrees these guys are dressed for Antarctica."

"Captain, talk to their mom, it's the only way she'd let them go." Enough said, we got underway.

The wind was whipping the waters around and churning them up. Our first mission was to find clean water which we did well up in the backwaters of Addison Bay. The second was to find a lee out of the biting wind. We found a spot like that which also might hold some nice early season sheepshead or maybe even a black drum or two. We were all set or so I thought.

As we were setting up the rods and bait for the kids, Jim snatched a rod and was affixing a bait when he asked a startling question. "When the big snook takes this shrimp, which way will he run?"

"Jim, I hate to disappoint you but, with these conditions forcing us to use the deep water spot and the water temperature now in the low 60s, the chances of a big snook, here and now, are slim and none."

With disappointment etched on his face he countered with, "Well, that's not what the magazines say. We want the big ones. Not some dinky little minnows."

I assured him, that if we could tie into a big sheepshead or, even more so, a big black drum, he would be forgetting about the magazines and the "sure thing" snook.

He gave me one of those "we'll see" looks, impaled a shrimp and tossed it out to fish alongside the kids.

Speaking of the kids, they were already into some early hits and were landing smaller sheepshead and snapper. We had to take their ski gloves off, however, as they couldn't move the reel handle without the glove catching the bail.

Interestingly, they both had already removed their ski parkas as the day had begun to warm. They now looked like smaller Emperor penguins.

As the morning progressed, the action picked up with lots of smaller fish. Jim was giving me those "so-where's-the big-fish" looks from time to time.

Just then one of the twins yelped as his reel began giving up line. He set the hook and with help from Dad began a 20-minute fight that produced a sizable black drum. We measured the fish out at 23 inches. The twin was excited and clamoring for pictures; and even Jim was impressed.

The next hour or so was the sequence for the Harris family of shed a layer and catch a black drum.

By quitting time, the boys were down to their shirts and enjoying the devil out of some great fishing. In total, we had landed six nice size black drum and had kept but one for dinner.

So the day was considered successful. Jim had escaped the confinement of the condo; the boys had survived the Antarctic cold and all had learned a lesson that sometimes cold conditions dictate that you go with the flow when targeting your catch.

So when your frosty fishing morning presents itself this winter, remember "L & L": Layer and level expectations.

Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to

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