What do you do when you can't even buy a bite?
It's gonna happen. No matter how well prepared you are, some days are just slow. Even here in the teeming gulf waters of Fort Myers and Sanibel. Of course everybody loves the days when the sea is calm and the fish are just jumping in the boat. But the reality is sometimes you may need a few more tricks up your sleeve to keep the crew happy.
The day has arrived, I'm feeling totally amped about what should be a total slam dunk fish smashfest! Daylight is an hour away. The boat is fueled, iced, rigged and ready. Forecast for the day is moderate winds and 1' seas, possibility of scattered showers along the coast. The radar is showing a few squalls 70 miles southwest and the offshore weather buoy is reading 1.3' wave height. My crew for the day is seasoned Capt. Wes Skinner, and two employees from Port Sanibel Marina, one of which has never been deep sea fishing. Sounds easy right? Light load, smooth sailing. Big Grouper here we come.
As we head out of the river and round the corner in front of the Sanibel Lighthouse, we can see a long line of looming grey clouds offshore. There's a bit of chop as I trim the boat down a bit and ease up on the throttles. After a half an hour the wind is really honking and the beanbags in the back are doing their best to keep the crew from feeling any of the bumps in the road. It’s turning into plan B time. We’re not gonna get 60 miles off the coast of Fort Myers today. No worries I think to myself. There’re good ledges and hard bottom halfway and plenty of red Grouper and mangrove Snapper to fill the box.
I slow up and put us over some really great show on the bottom. It was like the fish were just laughing at us. We dropped everything but the kitchen sink. Not a single bite! After what seemed like hours of moving around, hitting spot after spot and nothing to show for it, it was time for a new plan. The wind was really howling now and drifting was not getting any more comfortable. So we pack it in and head to a secret boat wreck I know about approximately 15 miles away.
With a refreshed outlook, and dreams of big Cobia we blasted off. After a short ride we get right to it. The sea is a bit bumpy, but there's plenty of fish on the screen. We drop baits and wait…the only thing anyone hooks is the wreck.
The writing is now on the wall. Time to get really creative. I start decreasing the gear size and bait until we get the first hit! I'm thinking sweet, there’s gotta be a pile of snapper down there. Nope. Just a brightly colored PorkFish. Great in an aquarium, but no bueno on a fishing trip. Another half hour goes by. Several hang-ups. You guessed it, no bites.
This is when you gotta let go and just let good things happen. Time for the ace up your sleeve. I say “alright guys and gals, we're gonna break out the trolling gear and ride with the radio up. Let's get out the food and a couple libations. If the fish don't wanna cooperate we’ll just enjoy a little boat ride and scout out some new ground.”
This, my friends, turns out to be the ticket.
Time flies when you’re trolling, especially when the food is good and you’re amongst friends. Throughout the rest of the day we picked off several fish. A pile of Spanish mackerel, a couple kings, a few Bonita, and one big ‘ole Barricuda!
By the time we reached the dock we were worn out. We shared stories and photos and poked fun at each other. As we pulled in I realized that, although the boxes weren't stuffed with grouper and snapper, we actually took home something more. A really fun experience!
Kudos to Danielle and Donna. The girls never did turn green.
-Capt. Ryan Kane