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

On the Hook: Even if you've never fished, take a minute to read this one

By Bill Walsh

Thursday, January 18, 2007 (Marco News)

It was during that nice, sun-baked warm spell we had a couple of weeks back. Jim Moriarty and his family were just sauntering around the marina that afternoon taking in all the boats and nautical trappings and I had just finished cleaning the boat after a morning charter.

They passed my dock and we exchanged hellos.

"Do you do fishing?"

With an affirmative reply, we opened a conversation all about being on the water here and fishing.

Jim's "Okie" twang gave his roots way even before he admitted that his family were cattle ranchers from Oklahoma and were at least 80 miles away from any body of water.

He kind of guffawed when he sheepishly admitted that he and the family had never been fishing. As he put it, "Flat out, never been fishin'."

Our conversation drew to a natural close as the family began to move on and I said goodbye, wishing them continued nice weather and a enjoyable Southwest Florida vacation.

I had just locked the door on the rod closet and was surprised by Jim coming up behind me.

"The girls have made a decision we want to try fishing."

We made a date for a trip later that week and they all were chattering excitedly as they left.

Their appointed morning arrived and the Moriartys were there early and excited. Initially, I thought that this would be a rather routine trip but it sure didn't turn out that way!

They each wanted something different from the experience and were polite but precise in articulating expectations.

Jean wanted to see and photograph all the wildlife possible; the oldest daughter, Kara, wanted space: to be left alone to soak up rays and to be iPod connected. We put her in the front of the boat alone. She was as happy as a clam.

The second daughter, Jeannie, wanted no harm to come to any creature. She wanted no fish to be hurt. Her younger sister, Chris, wanted to collect shells and, last but not least, Jim wanted to fish. The only thing the Moriarty clan missed was a Loch Ness monster sighting but what the heck, we'd give it a try.

We got under way. I hadn't even gotten to the marina outlet and there were squeals and screams these folks had never been on a boat before. We went through the safety basics and got four of them to agree to fish. Only the "sunner" would not leave her irradiated post.

So the first stop was the infamous "Fishing School," where we take the boat over on the side of the river and without any fish around, have practice. They practice handling the rod and reel; do some short casting and learn how to set the hook and reel in the big one. That went well and after 20 minutes or so, they were raring to go.

The first family crisis occurred on the first catch. Jim caught the fish and Jeannie, the family tree hugger, screamed "Put it back!" The fish involved in the altercation was a nice-size black drum that Jim wanted for the main course at the restaurant that evening. After hemming and hawing, they finally compromised that all Jeannie's fish would be returned; all the rest belonged to the family.

The next "moment of truth" occurred when Jean saw some dolphins while we were transiting from one fishing spot to another. We circled back to a small school of dolphins. The dolphins delighted in delighting us with their acrobatic antics. Jane was snapping away with her digital and giggling all the while. Imagine someone whose contact heretofore with dolphins was the Discovery Channel, sitting there five feet from wild dolphin cavorting beside the boat. Jean was awestruck and spent the rest of the trip looking at her digital pictures and giggling.

Little Chris came next she wanted shells. On one of our last fishing spots, we were right across from a shelling beach. So we beached the boat and put Chris and her Mom ashore with cell phone and bucket and off they went. We slipped off the beach and set up on a snapper hole just 200 yards away.

Jim caught enough nice snapper to fill out the dinner card within a half hour and then we went back to rendezvous with our satisfied shellers.

It was a great and diversified morning. And as the sun reached the top of its arc, we hightailed it back home.

Every Moriarty was congratulating every other Moriarity on their success and their collective decision to spend some time on the waters of Southwest Florida.

It was a great day as they recited how they accomplished their individual yet diverse objectives.

Jim sort of summed it up: "You really haven't seen Southwest Florida until you see it from the water."

Amen. Whether you do it from a charter boat, a rental boat or Uncle George's pontoon boat, get on the water while you're here. Fishing is only a part of the fun!

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

Fishing Marco Island, Everglades, Naples, the 10,000 Islands, Florida