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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:
Returning to the scene of the fishing action

By Bill Walsh

September 21, 2006 (Naples Daily News)

"We went fishing with you today, captain, because you know where to go!"

I guess that statement has been made an endless number of times over the years to charter captains and guides everywhere. But, if it's so, how come? When someone decides to take other folks fishing for a living, are there certain magical gifts reigned down on them from on high, enabling them to "find" the fish?

If you believe that, hang on for a minute and let me tell you about the bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you. The answer to the "finding the fish" inquiry, in my humble opinion, lies in two factors: frequency and consistency.

Fish follow patterns of behavior in their watery world. Many of their actions are instinctive and they react somewhat consistently to the external factors they face such as their habitat and, above all, the availability of food supply.

Sometimes that consistency of action can evolve into the angler's dream and the fish's fatal mistake. Let's play that one out with a charter experience that proved the point.

Snook are the one fish that send fisherpeople loco. Snook are smart, wily and elusive. They feed when they want to and kind of rule the underwater empire that is their domain. Bottom line, they are "king of the underwater hill."

A couple from upstate New York, who chartered on an October morning a couple years back, could well have been categorized as having been smitten with that "snook-o loco" disease. In setting up the charter, Jim and Mary Smith (names changed to protect the innocent), talked incessantly about landing a snook.

As the trip started that morning, it was like an episode of true confessions. Mary contritely stated, "We've both been fishing here in Southwest Florida for at least 10 years and we've never caught a keeper snook. We've caught just about everything else and we've had big snook swim by and look right at us, but never landed one. It's just awful."

Jim popped in with, "It's downright embarrassing. Do you know how many times at neighborhood cocktail parties I've been asked about how I like my snook filets prepared? I have to swallow hard and walk away."

A nice redfish or a limit catch of fat snapper wasn't going to do it this morning it was either snook or bust.

Now comes the first of the two charter-fishing secret factors: frequency.

The average fisherperson does not fish everyday at just about the same start time and for the same duration. The charter captain does.

They know what's "hitting" and where the action has a high probability of being best because they were there yesterday.

And if general weather conditions and tides are relatively the same, fishing conditions from yesterday should continue into today. Now true, that axiom can be thrown into a cocked hat as a weather front tears up the water for a day or two or a full moon turns the tide into a raging river.

But this was an October morning when all was stable and had been for a least a week.

We gold hooked our bait at the Sea Buoy without a hitch and, with a tub full of frisky herring, we headed inland. The day before, my charter was a dad with a bunch of kids that just wanted action. We had fished for snapper hard and did well. But I remembered that during the second hour of the incoming tide I had seen some nice-size snook moving with the tide, meandering past some dock structure but we had kids, with shrimp, attacking snapper. I passed on the snook but made a mental note.

I told the Smiths about the prior day and they began intellectually drooling. Could it be that this was finally their snook day?

We made our move on the dock structure on a slow current-induced drift and had nice-size thread herring tethered on stout fluorocarbon.

It was dead silent with just the sound of the current lapping the pilings. Jim remarked it looked like a Saturday morning TV fishing show. That drift ended with no action, but we had seen telltale swirls back inside the dock.

We repeated and this time we hit pay dirt! Well, almost. Mary had a humongous strike and a following leap by a slot-size snook. But in her surprise and exuberance, she yanked the rod and the hook and the snook parted company.

The lament was heartbreaking. She had her snook and lost it. Jim was sympathetic; Mary was inconsolable.

As fishing usually goes, that was it. We fished that spot and 10 others and had several nice redfish and even a black drum, but no snook.

They didn't say a word on the way home. Just stared at the horizon and thought about what could have been.

Now comes the second secret fishing factor: consistency.

Fish, unless acted upon by an outside source, are likely to repeat a feeding pattern again and again, but with factors as identical as possible.

The Smiths were so down, I hated to ask but did: "Would you like to try again?" I explained the consistency factor and that the chances were as good tomorrow but about an hour later than today, so that we replicate the tidal flow. They jumped at the chance of a one-shot "focused" trip.

The conditions the following day were an absolute repeat. We started an hour later, got our bait the same way and headed to the "scene of the crime."

The first drift did it this time. Sure enough, the snook were marauding, with telltale swirls and splashes under the dock, as they ravaged the resident bait pod. But when they saw those two fat thread herring go by they couldn't resist.

The hits were a literal explosion! We had two nice-size snook fore and aft and the Smiths struggling to keep them apart and away from the pilings. I moved the boat out into the center of the current and shut down the engine and let the Smiths enjoy their final victory.

And they did with two slot-size snook. They both stood their smiling and taking each other's picture like they just won the Super Bowl. They both acknowledged that there truly was something to the secrets of frequency and consistency in fishing. It had really worked.

We went right back to the dock and cleaned the fish. I heard Jim mumble to Mary that he was going to deliver a couple filets to the uppity neighbors that kept asking how he liked his snook filets.

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