Hello there, ladies and gentlemen — are you ready to fish? Well, the song actually asks “are you ready to rock” (Cheap Trick, “Hello There,” 1977), but seeing as this is a magazine about the great outdoors of Southwest Florida and you read my columns to enhance your knowledge of how to catch the biggest, baddest and tastiest fish in the beautiful Gulf and inland waters of our little piece of heaven — well, I changed it to fish. It just made sense. Hope the band doesn’t mind.
So, I’m really hoping you guys are ready to do some hard-core fishing, because things are really heating up out there. As the weather changes — and yes, it’s finally getting cooler out — the pelagic fish that have been hanging out in the northern Gulf waters for the summer make their way south and breeze by our area on there way to their tropical winter retreats.
We never really know just how long they’re going to be in our area or just how close to shore they will come. Mother Nature pretty much dictates where, when and how long these speedy vacationers will be in each area they hunt. So it’s up to us, the anglers, to be rigged and ready for them if we want to have a fighting chance at getting our fair share of the action.
The pelagic fish that we all eagerly await to invade us each spring and fall are kingfish, cobia, Spanish mackerel, little tunny (usually called bonito here) and blackfin tuna. Most of these fish make great table fare, with the cobia and blackfins taking highest honors and the tunny at the bottom. They’re all relatively easy to catch and sometimes travel in large schools, which is another reason we anticipate their arrival with such eagerness.
Who wouldn’t look forward to catching a bunch of fish that taste great, fight hard and pretty much come with billboards over their heads that tell you where they’re at all the time (well, most of the time)? To make things even better, they can all be caught using one simple technique: Trolling.
Trolling is an easy and productive way of catching a bunch of different species. Now don’t let the word “trolling” scare you, because it truly can be easy to do. Most anglers think of trolling as only for the folks that can afford a 35-foot or bigger sportfisher boats, decked out with expensive outriggers or fancy downrigger units with 10-pound lead weights trying to get down thermoclines that are at very specific depths. All that stuff is overkill in our area.
This is how easy it is to troll for the fish that are invading our area as you read this column. For the kingfish, cobia, bonito and blackfins, just take a deep-diving lipped plug like a Mann’s Stretch 20 or a Rapala X-Rap and tie it to your rod and reel of choice. Go out into the Gulf.
Once you get about 100 yards or so away from land, start looking up. When you see birds (those are the billboards, by the way, or maybe we could call them billbirds) hovering around or diving an area, toss your lipped plug overboard (attached to your rod and reel of course) and let it out about 30 or so yards behind the boat.
Now just ride around that area somewhere between 2 and 4 knots. Make some zigzag maneuvers here and there and maybe even a figure eight once in a while. Don’t turn too tight or you’ll tangle your lines. When the rod bends over and the line starts screaming off your reel, that means you have a bite (or the bottom or a crab trap). Anyway, you get the picture, right?
I know I’ve made this sound easy — but it really kind of is. You will need to practice some to get it down pat for your vessel but with practice comes perfection. If you’re not sure what color lure to use or which knots to tie, then head over to your local tackle shop and pick their brains. I promise they will be more then happy to help you out.
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.