From this month's Nautical Mile newspaper:
Tourist season is in full
swing right now. In addition to my regular anglers and a few first
timers, I’ve also run several trips last month with people who recently bought
homes here in Lee County. These have been some of my favorite charters
since these folks are eager to absorb everything they can about the local
waters before they purchase a boat to go along with their new house.
Our backyard of Charlotte
Harbor, Pine Island Sound, and Matlacha Pass is the very definition of a
boater’s paradise, but at the same time it is some of the Florida’s most
difficult to water to master. Unlike the Keys, our shallow flats and
oyster bars stay hidden for most of the year beneath a dark and tannic stained
surface. Running hard aground in this part of Florida is as easy as
going on the wrong side of a channel marker or getting momentarily confused
while reading a chart. It’s an embarrassing mistake at best but can also
turn into an expensive and potentially dangerous one at worst.
Fortunately for today’s
boaters, highly accurate GPS systems are very affordable and available for
anything that floats. The days of pouring over a faded chart and trying
to find the next channel marker are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
This is an amazing convenience that was almost unimaginable a few decades
ago. When I first started saltwater fishing the only boats that had full
color GPS systems were painted battleship grey and fired Tomahawk
missiles. Fast forward to 2015 and a kayaker with an iPhone has more
navigational capability in the palm of his hand than NASA’s Mission Control did
during the Apollo moon missions. That same smart phone can instantly
summon help should and accident happen so accidentally spending the night on a
sandbar is really a thing of the past.
While getting from Point A to
Point B has never been easier, knowing where to look for that school of big
tailing redfish is still a hard earned piece of knowledge. A lot of
anglers realize this and that’s why most newcomers here in Lee Country are wise
to hire a guide for at least a couple of trips. If you’re one of these
folks, there are a few things that you should expect when you book a
For starters, be upfront about
why you’re booking the trip. The majority of guides I know will welcome a
new resident but some might view you as a potential spot stealer and choose to
show you next to nothing on the water while still taking your money.
That’s unfair and easily avoidable. At the same time, don’t expect to be
handed the keys to the kingdom out there. Speaking for myself, I have two
or three baby tarpon spots that I only fish a few day a year and just with my
best repeat customers. At the same time, I would never park someone on a
sand bar hooking ladyfish all morning if they really wanted to see some tailing
redfish in Matlacha Pass.
I also encourage folks to
bring their own gear if what they have is appropriate. Push button Zebco reels just won’t cut it on
the flats. Saltwater fishing, especially
for inshore species like snook and redfish, is very specialized. Some of the tackle in your freshwater box will
work but much of it won’t stand up to the salt. Also, if your reel isn’t
rigged with the right braided line I may not want you to risk losing a good
(and expensive) snook lure because of that. Fortunately, getting properly
geared up for these fish doesn’t have to cost a small fortune and most guides
will be happy to give you a rundown of what you’ll need.
A lot of my recent customers
are also beginner fly anglers hoping to score their first saltwater fish in
their new backyard. If you’re one of these folks then you’re especially
welcome on my boat since I’ve spent much of the last twenty years introducing
people to this sport. Just be prepared for a good dose of frustration and
humility. Trust me on this one; the redfish flats of Pine Island are a
radically different world from the Pennsylvania trout streams where I learned
to fish. It’s a big step up but saltwater fly fishing is accessible to
anyone willing to put in the effort.