Family fishing day in Naples turns into a special fishing trip

June 28, 2022 12:51 am By:

The cove had a fishy feeling as we rode by it on the way back into the backcountry, and I had to turn the boat around and see if this old spot had something exciting waiting.     As Jayson casted his fist bait in, I threw a fistful of live pilchards out and everything erupted. 

Jayson, his wife KayCee and Daughter Tilly were in town from Oklahoma, and they were ready for a taste of SW Florida fishing, in Naples, and Naples was ready to give the family a show!  Dan hooked a jack immediately, and the live chum was getting blown up everywhere.  As we rebaited and recast, the big fish were blowing up  and  Dan had another big blast and the drag on his Osprey 3000 started squealing…’big fish’ I yelled, with visions of a big upper slot red or snook in my mind…suddenly, his daughter Tilly squeals with laughter as a seagull was hooked onto her bait behind the boat…then his wife, KayCee, is yelling ‘look at that giant fish’ 25 yards away in the other corner of the cove.  I see a huge tail slowly waving like a gold flag glistening in the just rising sun.

So now, I’m already going crazy, spinning with excitement, as Jayson’s big fish is hung up in the mangroves, there is a seagull squawking in the air 10 feet above the boat, and I realize that the yellow tail is a huge snook in the other corner is chasing our chum. Now, at least in my head, I’m bouncing all over the boat like a pen full of beagles that just saw a rabbit.  I coach Jayson on how work on the mystery fish he has hooked, occasionally giving it slack, gently pulling, slack, gentle tug etc. so we could free it from the snag.  I turned around and snatched the dumb bird out of the air, twisted out the hook, chunked it over my shoulder, and start feverishly trying to get that giant snook to eat mom’s bait.  It eased slowly out of the tree in the corner and started heading our way, ignoring every bait dropping in its face…then it went down and stuck its snout in the mud and opened it like it was feeding…but then pulled back away and it started this slow relentless swim in front of us.  I’m like, ‘something is up with this fish, why is it acting so weird? ’

Now the huge fish opens its giant maw under water, shakes its head as if trying to dis-gorge something, and blows up in our faces with a big head shaking jump.  Holy shit, I yelled, that’s our fish!  Now the boat was really alive with all of us, particularly, me bouncing around, crazy with excitement!  How in the heck were we going do this?  Light line, giant fish wrapped around two snags 25 yards apart, with an almost free-swimming fish. Plus, Captain Forgetsitall left the landing net in the carport. Do I jump in and try to grapple it?  Nah way too much line out and too much room for it to take off.  As I talked to myself in front of the clients like a crazy man, the line suddenly went slack…awwww crap…but then it tightened back up quickly and we realized, it came free from one of the trees!  The fish is now halfway between the boat and the shoreline, the fragile 15# braid seesawing back and forth around the snag.  ‘Gently pull it Jayson’, I said as we crept up on the fish, 5 feet from boat, and 15 feet out from the snag…this was working and the fish was getting closer and closer to the snag as we closed in on both… at my first attempt at touching it, the big fish fires up and rips the line out under the boat…we gently pull it back out from under the boat and again I try to grab  her jaw, won’t but she open her dang mouth, so I grab the tail and boom, off she goes again under the boat, this time 20 feet out into the channel. 

Now we have a giant snook on the line, no landing net, and she is 20 feet underneath and past the boat, which is 10 feet off the shoreline, where she is wrapped around a mangrove root all held together with 15 # braid and a 30 # leader.  I could feel heartbreak starting to circle us, like a seagull colored buzzard.   

Jayson just kept hanging on as he gently pulled her back to the boat, reeling towards the bank in the opposite direction, while I lay on my belly, now on the opposite side of the boat, arms wide open, like a Creed song, praying.  She got closer and closer, tried to pull away again as I got my hands on her, but this time the grubby grippers clamped down, on hand in her gills, the other on her jaw and in the boat, that big old thing came!

Jayson had his 2nd snook ever, and was in the 40 inch club, with a thick healthy 41” snook!  We all celebrated, photographed and eased her back into the water, and smiled as she swam away healthily.

Not sure how the morning was supposed to from there, we hit some jr tarpon spots, red spots, and the fishing seemed to slow a bit.  As we headed back to Naples, we made one last stop at another special spot, and boom, another big fat snook ate Jayson’s bait and he went toe to toe with her, this time out in the wide open water with a powerhouse 36 incher that still managed to pull him back in the mangrove overhangs several times before getting lip locked and photographed.  A truly spectacular way to catch your first 2 of your first 3 snook.

I’m still smiling as I write this story, and thinking how special it is, to meet another a family, from another state out in the boat, my own captive audience, stuck in the boat, listening to me babble and chatter, as we all end up telling stories, laughing, and then getting to create our adventure and memories to be shared and passed along.  Gonna call this one The Okie from Musnookie and it will certainly be a favorite!

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