“I’ve got a big one! ANOTHER big one!” was the cry heard across the water recently, as the fight to bring a large fish to the surface began. “I think it’s a permit and it feels pretty heavy!” A second voice chimed in, “Keep that line tight! Don’t give it any slack!” As one family member cheered the other one on, success was inevitable. High fives and handshakes ensued, as the battle ended and the fish was onboard.
For several years, the fishing duo of Dr. Tom Graham and his son Michael have patrolled the waters around Marco Island in search of some big fish, and they have been quite successful. In the spring of 2015 they caught a huge sawfish. The following spring the results were the same…another large sawfish! The odds of catching a sawfish two years in a row are about 500,000 to 1.
Sawfishes are members of a family of rays, which are characterized by a long rostrum with very sharp teeth that resemble a large saw. They can detect the slightest movements of any prey along the sea floor with the saw’selectro sensitive pores and the rostrum can then serve as a tool for digging to unearth their next meal.
The body and head are flat and the mouth is lined with small dome-shaped teeth for eating small fish and crustaceans. Since all species of sawfishes are endangered, they were quickly released by the Grahams both years.
Would 2017 yield similar results for this father-son duo? Not yet, but they certainly are having some great results.
Splitting time between Captain Teddy Naftal on board the Miss Nancy and Captain Jody Weis on Weis Guy II, Dr. Tom and Michael are having a blast. Both of these captains know the Marco waters very well and, when the Grahams say, “Let’s go find some big ones,” Teddy and Jody do not disappoint.
On a recent trip with Capt. Jody about 20 miles offshore, with their friend Jimmy Goodall onboard, the boys baited their lines with live crabs to see what would happen. It didn’t take long before a rod or two took that U-shaped bend. Something big was on…again!
This time the catch was a good fighter called a permit, a large gamefish of the western Atlantic Ocean that feeds on crabs (somebody got it right), shrimp and smaller fish. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History these fish can reach a length of four feet and weigh nearly 80 pounds.
Permit fishes are often confused with pompano because of the similarity in color, but in this case, size matters. Permit are quite a bit larger than pompano. Distinction on the smaller permit is that they have orange patches on their chins and fins, while pompano have yellow.
Fish in hand, once again high fives and handshakes were in order, and it was time to head back to Rose Marina. Arm in arm, Dr. Tom and Michael admired their catch at the dock and mentally prepared for their next excursion. A true father-son “bromance” was taking place.
Ahhh, to dream that every father and son could share this type of relationship! (A few big fish on the end of the line never hurts either!)
Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and a naturalist for a dolphin survey team on board the Dolphin Explorer. Bob loves his wife very much!