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

The Pleasure of Fishing: September 1 a day for the snook-loco anglers

By Bill Walsh

Thursday, August 31, 2006 (Naples Daily News)

This Friday, for most civilized Americans, signals the beginning of September and the kickoff of football season. But for those of us who fish here in Florida, it is the day we have patiently been awaiting for four long months it's the opening day of snook season!

Now, it's not that the snook packed up and left town on May 1 and have just returned. They've been here all the time. They have been brazenly flaunting their safety by parading past frustrated anglers and amazed bathers on beaches all along the Gulf since before the summer began.

Many of those snook have been caught only to be ogled by the angler and released with the threat that "we'll be back to see you, Mr. Snook, come September." Which, in fact, gives indisputable evidence that the concept of catch and release takes a holiday when it comes to the top-of-the-line sport fish in Florida.

So if things run true to historical course, you won't be able to find your barber, your electrician or maybe not even your parish priest come this Friday they'll all be on a much loftier mission. They'll be chasing a keeper snook on opening day.

It then follows that the adrenaline runs high for fisherpeople wild about snook especially on that first day. But sometimes that adrenaline-driven hysteria can smother the intended result.

I vividly remember one such Opening Day trip quite well.

The charter group was a family from Naples father, son, uncle and a generously referred to "friend of the family" who called weeks in advance to insure their participation in Opening Day. They knew their stuff, peppering me with questions like, "Can you get live bait?" "What time will the incoming tide begin and can you be ready by then?" "Can we bring our own equipment?" etc., etc., etc. Guess responses met their expectations since they booked the trip.

Our day started unusually early to ensure us being on station at the appointed hour of incoming tidal movement. The four anglers had arrived at the marina pre-dawn and were waiting when I showed. Then they hung like bleacher fans on the dock railing as I readied the boat for the trip. They had their own rods and reels; they had artificial lures; they had live pinfish and, as I found out later, they had lots of advice. They were ready as they could be.

Our first stop was to collect some live thread herring at a good bait site, the Marco Sea Buoy. It was just spreading first light as we anchored up, deployed some chum and armed the snook hunters with small gold hook rigs and they had at it. That is all except the family friend, who brought along his 8-foot cast net and would "get all the threads we needed in a matter of minutes."

His first cast caught onto two of the gold hookers and stopped their operation cold. His second cast caught the anchor leg of the buoy and, thankfully, ripped the net and ended his roguish endeavor. In spite of his antics, we were able to put a couple dozen frisky baits in the live well and we were off to the beaches.

As dawn's rays illuminated the beaches in a fuzzy haze, we were ready and baiting up. We had deployed live baits in three or four feet of water as bait pods frittered to and fro beneath us. We all were using mid-weight equipment armed with 17 -pound test and shock leaders with the exception of the family friend, who was using an ultra-light rig loaded with 8-pound test. He wanted to "live the fight."

Within minutes, we had our first snook hooked up and heading for open water. It was on the father's rod and he was hanging on for dear life. The snook surged as the father yanked and bingo, the snook was history. They all gave the father the raspberry and went back to fishing. We were O for 1.

There were almost verbatim repeats twice in the next 10 minutes. Both the uncle and the son repeated the father's frantic retrieval action and lost another two nice snook.

We were just over an hour into the endeavor and now O for 3. But the gang went on unfazed by their failures and proceeding with unbridled enthusiasm. The adrenaline was still pumping.

The family friend was the next to hook up. He had a nice snook on his gossamer rig and was working him back and forth through the shallow depths with little effort to bring him to net. Even with my admonitions that the fish would literally kill itself with it's sustained effort, he kept on relishing the fight. Suddenly the fish, with a final surge of energy, passed under the boat and snapped the line.

We were now O for 4. Four nice chances and not one catch even close.

But we went on. We disallowed the family friend from using the ultra-light tackle again based on the premise that we wanted a humanitarian approach and to give these great game fish an equitable chance, i.e., a fair fight. He didn't like it but went along.

Then the tide picked up and bites along the beach went dead. We moved up into Hurricane Pass, anticipating the movement of the snook. We weren't disappointed. Within minutes of starting the drift, the son hooked into another sizable snook and this time worked him artfully right up alongside the boat and inches from the net.

The snook was a gorgeous specimen. The excitement was at a fever pitch as they anticipated the landing and then, with a spry flip of the tail, the great fish threw the hook and was gone. O for 5.

And although a tough way to end the trip, that's the way it went down. No more hits, as the boiling tide sent the snook scattering.

Our anglers certainly had their chances they had their thrills with a renewed appreciation as to why the snook is the ultimate angler's challenge.

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