All serious anglers look forward to spring each year, because with spring comes new life and great fishing. If you listen to any fishing report anywhere in the state, you will here things like, “The baitfish are showing up in good numbers,” or, “There are schools of fish busting baits all over the place,” or even, “You should be able to keep the rod bent all day with no problem.”
Weather permitting, on any given day in spring you could target snook, trout, redfish, cobia, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, permit, pompano, sharks and tarpon with a good chance of great success — unless, of course, some googan comes along and messes things up for you (that took a left-hand turn, didn’t it?).
The great thing about spring fishing is the plethora of species that invade our area, allowing us to pick and choose from many different ones on an almost-daily basis. Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad. The bad is usually in the form of either uneducated anglers (googans) or idiots that just think they can do whatever they want on the water, even if that means ruining your fishing trip.
Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to stop pompous buttheads from being idiots. But I may be able to help you avoid being a googan with a few lessons in fishing etiquette.
Any of you who have been out on the Gulf in the last month or so know that we have been inundated with shrimp boats from all over the Gulf Coast. You may also have noticed that anglers like to fish around these boats, and for good reason. It is perfectly OK to fish them if another boat is already there. The problem comes if you don’t give the other anglers the space they deserve.
Coming up and dropping anchor next to the other boat is a big “not to do.” Staying at least 50 feet away and using you trolling motor as an anchor (drift if you do not have a trolling motor) is a big “to do.” The reason for not anchoring up around shrimp boats is that most people are targeting large fish. They run off a lot of line, and an anchor rope is just an easy way for a fish to break someone off.
Trying to fish another boat chum slick is a very big “not to do” — making your own slick at least 50 feet away is a “to do.” Trolling lures around shrimp boats is a fun “to do,” but trolling those lures within 50 yards (not feet, folks) of the shrimp boat or other fishermen is a big “not to do.”
If you re-visit lesson one above, you will have the gist of what “to do” or “not to do.” The one exception is that you can anchor up if needed. Public reefs are notoriously crowded, so please give as much room as possible to your fellow anglers.
Actually, this is “how to tarpon fish without getting stuff thrown at you.” Tarpon are big business here in the Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande area, and I’m pretty sure there’s at least a dozen or more screaming matches that happen each day during tarpon season. Don’t put it past someone to follow you back to the boat ramp looking for a fight if you make them lose their fish.
If you would like to try your hand at tarpon, here are some things for your “to do” list: Never cut another angler off. Use your trolling motor to get into the mix. Move out of the way for anglers that are hooked up. Stay in front of the tarpon. Don’t toss your bait of choice in the middle of the school. These things “to do” will not only keep you from googan status, they’ll also give you a better chance of hooking up.
The “not to do” list is basically the opposite of the “to do” list, with one addition: If you get tangled with a tarpon guide’s fish, never look him in the eyes or you will turn to stone (they’re scary dudes, trust me).
Basically, the moral to this column is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. We all make mistakes out on the water. It’s inevitable. But how we manage these mistakes is what makes us either an ethical angler or an idiot.
And one last word to the wise: If you find yourself asking yourself whether you’re in a “to do” or a “not to do” situation, go with the “not to do.” A half-ounce ounce lead weight hurts a lot more than you think it will (again, trust me — I know).
Capt. Mike Myers, owner and operator of Reelshark Charters, is a full-time Charlotte Harbor guide. Having fished the waters all along the Southwest Florida coast for more than 40 years, he has the experience to put anglers on the fish they want. His specialties are sharks, tarpon and the nearshore Gulf waters. For more info, visit ReelShark.com or call Capt. Mike at 941-416-8047.