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Fish On: Waiting for just the right time

Greetings from Naples, Fla. We’re settled for our second year in our new quarters here and have found the place to be nothing short of terrific. We came down in October and will return to Shelter Island in early June.

The weather here this winter was cool with temperatures starting in the low 40s early in the morning and finally getting up to the mid-60s around the time everyone here scoots out for dinner.

To make things even more difficult, we’ve been challenged by hard-to-read winds that most days started with no winds and dead-flat waters building up to real blasts blowing about 15 mph by noon, making a lot of water sports difficult to enjoy, or even pretend to enjoy.

We’re also having some problems with the water animals, such as the manatees that swim nearby; the press here recently counted 500 deaths for those large animals due to the weather and other problems. All of this was leaving the fishing crowd twiddling their thumbs waiting for a nice day to fish.

I finally decided to pick April 27 as the day to start the season. A friend of mine and I hired a guide and took him off for about four hours on the water in his skiff. We left a marina south of Naples and heading out we were entertained by a small party of dolphins and two manatees who were hanging around for some free eats.

We were prepared to fish the quiet side of the mangroves, so were out of the winds and knew of several locations that normally held game fish. Our spinning rods were pretty light and could probably hold a carefully hooked fish up to about 8 or 9 pounds.

There was a fair number of boats like ours coming out and it took us about half an hour getting to one of the guide’s preferred spots

It didn’t take a lot of casting to wake up the local fish with the live minnows we were using as bait. Pretty soon we had a fair number of fish following us around and started with a few small, hard-fighting Jack Crevalle that circled the boat during the battle.

Our mental scoreboard gave their team some points as we put the fish back into the water.

A few more casts brought in some of our favorites when the snook took control of the local waters and jumped like crazy when we hooked and landed them. They too went back into the water and for the next hour or so we landed Ladyfish, three varieties of red snapper, and I took a really nice-sized spotted sea trout that we photographed and let go.

It was the only trout we saw; we were surprised there weren’t many around. They’re gorgeous fish, good fighters and good eating, too.

We kept moving, occasionally catching some of the fish we were casting to with our small fish baits. We’d slip into a spot along the shore that looked alive with gamefish and our guide would toss about a dozen live baits into the area where we saw fish activity and wait until they got after our baits.

We often had double hookups, but the fish were generally small, so they all went back into the water.

As our time started to run out we had a visitor that decided he wanted to be part of our party. It was a diving duck that was declaring that he was going to stick around and gorge himself on the small baits we threw into the water to get the fish moving.

He was our partner for our last half hour. We’d cast in one direction to try to fool the duck, but within 15 or 20 seconds he’d be on the little minnows. It was a pretty interesting event when both the duck and the fish decided to eat the same little fish, so we finally called it a draw and motored on in.

I ended up with a rough count of the number of fish we landed and it was well above 50. In addition, we had a fairly large number of fish that fought their way off the hooks. Hopefully the water will continue to warm up and we can get the bigger fish to eat more.

We’ll be waiting.

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