We Have it so Good

By: Capt. Tim Ramsey

Here we are, coming up on the holiday season, and we have it better than you can imagine. All around you are places to fish, people who fish, and fish to catch. You can scout fishing spots by car or boat, talk fishing at dockside bars, tackle shops, marinas, or to that talkative guy that always seems to be the source of local knowledge at the boat ramp. It’s a community of fishing addicts where each individual unconsciously ratchets-up the enthusiasm for the collective as a whole. I say it’s instinctive. You can almost feel it, be it watching a determined guide heading out for the day, a guy pump gas into the boat at the Wawa while watching his wife and daughter head inside for food and ice, a nervous newbie cross-up his boat trailer at the local ramp, or the people who gaze in wonder at all the things in the Sunshine Ace fishing section. It’s all good. They’re all itching to get out there.

I understand Snowbirds better now. Sort of. This year I had the Skeeter in South Jersey for the summer. It wasn’t good. Well, it was, but I didn’t know just how well I had it in the 10K islands. Sure, I could move around the back bays and marsh canals on the trolling motor, and yes, I felt right at home with people just blowing by me at full speed for no other reason than inconsiderate mental defect, but it wasn’t the same. Striped bass are great, but they’re not snook. Marshes are great, but they’re not the mangrove backcountry. Up north, catch-and-release is not a thing. Tell someone you caught and released a “keeper,” and they look at you sideways. It’s as if they don’t have fish markets or grocery stores nearby. Besides, the Skeeter isn’t an ocean boat, so I was relegated to the back bays and never had the chance to go explore and find somewhere away from everybody else. I didn’t know how well I had it in the 10K islands.

I kept the Skeeter in rack storage at a local marina. Big mistake. Bottom line, they are not Calusa Island Marina. They seemed disinterested in launching boats, didn’t have enough wash racks, only two hoses usually occupied by contractors doing power washing, no electric to recharge batteries, no ladders, no bait, no store, and the bathrooms were for customers but used by everyone. Of course, they were the only game in town and people had no idea how bad this actually was. To make it worse, the marina had fifty, yes fifty, jet ski docks. While they said they were a certified Yamaha dealer with a Yamaha master tech, they were not. I should have known when I asked for a 100-hour service, which took three weeks longer than scheduled and they charged me over $500 for an oil and filter change. When I asked for a list of all items included on all the different types of outboard motor services (like other area marinas had), the disinterested manager told me she didn’t have that, and next time I could “get an estimate.” I told her there would not be a next time. Unfortunately, she looked as concerned about losing a customer as a cow does standing still with glassy eyes and slowly chewing it’s cud. Sure, Trapper Marine is gone, but there are outboard motor techs I trust in Naples/Marco.

Up north, I didn’t use any bait, just like I never do in the 10K islands. Ironically, with 27 rods, three tackle boxes, three tackle bags, over a hundred different lures, plugs, jigs, artificials, three cast nets, whatever else you call tackle, I used the same quarter-ounce red head, silver mylar bucktail jig I use in Florida. I tipped it with the same white Gulp swim tail I use here, and it worked just as well. I caught striped bass, flounder, bluefish, weakfish (the Jersey version of the spotted seatrout), black seabass, porgies, and a few skates. Down here, it’s great for prospecting, jigging, throwing under the trees, casting to floats, whatever.

With all that same tackle, I still just use the two things and I can catch tripletail in the bay and snook in the backcountry with the same rig.  I cut the head off the jig tail on an angle. I think it helps keep it up in the water column, helpful when fishing shallow, and the jig can get hit by all the bait stealers and stay on. Save the cut off pieces. They work too. My example in the picture is a saltwater assassin, used because I had all the Gulps on the boat, but you see what I mean. Give it a try.

Yes, we have it good in the 10K. December can be a great fishing month. Maybe I’ll pull out the topwater lures for some bluefish around the passes. Probably not. See you out there.