What would you guess is the amount of time, on a typical fishing trip, that you and your gang are into red hot fishing action?
Your answers are probably all over the lot: Depends on the distance you go to set up on your fishing spot; depends on what species your targeting and what technique you're using (i.e. bottom fishing, jigging or maybe even trolling); depends on what the tide is doing - slack tide will cost you about an hour waiting for action; etc., etc.
But, bottom line, no matter what the circumstances or approach, you're not going to be spending all your time on a fishing trip bringing in the big one. There is down time with you and yours confined to the cockpit of a boat with time to spare.
How do you use that intervening time?
Well, certainly, there would be activities like reading a book, listening to your iPod, chatting with your fellow anglers or just kicking back and enjoying the time on the water.
However, experience with years of doing charters, has provided some special experiences wherein the down time was used in unique ways and I'd like to share a couple of the more memorable with you.
They got another one
You try to keep your anglers focused on the fishing. Especially, when the expectations for good solid action are positive. With all the activity on the water hereabouts, the distractions like cavorting dolphin, working seabirds and even passing luxury cruisers can have folks forget what they're there for and then, finally, we have special situations where there are competitive distractions.
I will explain that one with a story.
My charter customers that day were a group of nice folks on holiday from somewhere in the reaches of the far east. They readily explained that they fished regularly back home; enjoyed seafood immensely and would take home everything edible they caught that day.
There was mom and dad and three siblings, all in the 8- to 13-year-old range and if all had one dominant characteristic, it would have been intensity. They all were supercharged right from the start with questions aimed at just about everything.
"What will we catch? How big are they? Can we eat them? How come the water is green?
I tried to answer the best that I could but I couldn't keep up.
That particular day I knew I needed activity - one fish every 15 minutes or so would mount an insurrection - I had to do better than that.
I chose a spot just off Coon Key where the whiting and trout action had been superb the previous week with expectations that the bite would hold.
We arrived at our spot near mid morning and there were already two other boats set up and obviously into some good action. My gang eyed these other two boats with a mixture of distain and annoyance. Annoyed that they were on their fishing spot at all.
We went over the technique for catching these fish - little bit of rod movement and wait until they strike and you feel the weight - were my instructions.
They heard nothing.
They stared down the anglers in the other boat and would announce sometimes singularly but mostly in group unison "They got another one." Citing the success of one of the other boats. In the meantime, with focus on their fishing waning, they were missing bite after bite.
As the morning wore on it just got worse. Their competitive spirit could not allow the other boat's success even with a price of totally losing focus on their own fishing. In essence they created their own down time by not paying attention.
I thought of leaving the area but that would be leaving a good bite, so we turned the boat around and stern anchored just so they couldn't see the success in the other boats. Then all was fine and their catch put smiles on the faces. At last, they were focused on what they were doing and the other boats were out of sight and out of mind.
Where am I?
If you've been near the water here, you know there are legions of folks out enjoying a day on the briny on a rental boat. The boats come in various flavors such as pontoon boats, deck boats and even fishing boats and at the helms are everyone from those nautically proficient to those nautically challenged.
The marinas renting the boats do a superb job in briefing the renters in boat operation, navigation, and safety. They provide detailed charts that show the trails to the beaches in great detail and then with final words of encouragement help them shove off into our waters.
Wait, I forgot one other important instructional and safety item. The boats all have a VHF radio and are instructed to call home if they have need of assistance. Sort of like a nautical OnStar system that uses one of the common VHF frequencies that most boats on the water monitor.
OK, so you get the picture.
We're fishing in the Capri Pass a few weeks back and things are slow. We're getting a pompano bite now and then as the incoming tide starts to pick up steam and we have the radio on tuned to that OnStar frequency and our anglers are tuned in to what's going on.
The radio crackles to life with a rental boater that needs help "I can't find the marker 3A. Can you help me?"
The marina responds "Be glad to help. Can you give me your current location?"
Moment of silence and then, "If I knew where I was, I'd find 3A don't you think."
The folks on my boat guffaw a bit and now really tune in.
The marina politely responds "Well, sir can you tell me what do you see right in front of you?
"I see a great big condo" was the renters response.
"OK, I think I know where you're at. Start making a big circle to your right" instructed the marina.
Just then the people at the marina changed personnel and another fellow came on the VHF. He picked up the situation with another, "Tell me what you see in front of you?"
Now, remember the renter had been instructed to start making a circle which obviously VHF marina operator number two knew nothing about.
"I see mangrove trees", answered the renter.
"Where is Red Marker number two? What do you see in front of you now? asked the marina.
"Now I see the condo again" responded the now frustrated renter.
Our gang on the boat had put their rods down and were rolling in laughter.
"How can that be? You just said you saw mangroves," asked the marina, again, as polite as possible.
"It's because I'm going in a circle. When can I stop?
They finally got the situation solved but in the interim, the episode filled the morning with innocent hilarity that occupied the "down time" between hot fishing.
It's always fun on the water, `round these parts. Keep your radio on !
Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.