It seems as though every day is a new adventure out here in the 10,000 islands. Every day we go out, there is something new or different from the day before. The tides are constantly moving and Mother Nature is always showing us something new.
This past week we had wind, rain, & big full moon tides. One day the water was clean, the next it was thick and muddy. Each fall the mullet move into our area in huge schools. With them come predators of all shapes and sizes looking for a nice meal. There are probably more Tarpon in the area now than any other time of the year. Guess what they are feeding on? You got it… Mullet. Just about everywhere we went last week, shallow bays and deep river cuts, we saw Tarpon crashing schools of mullet. First you would see the water ripple from the nervousness of a school of mullet being chased in hot pursuit, next they would fly out of the water, 50 at a time, and then right behind them a Tarpon would fly 6’ out of the water rolling and flipping around with a mullet in his mouth. It is quite spectacular to watch. I would love to get some photos of this happening, but it’s kind of like taking a photo of lightning. It’s usually over before you can react.
On Tuesday and Wednesday I had client Joe Quinn from Valparaiso, Indiana out on full day charters. Joe had opportunity to witness these Tarpon feeding on Mullet both days no less than 100 times. It was a thrill for sure, fishing for these 100lb fish and constantly pointing and yelling in their direction as they leaped highabove the water.
In one bay, we had several Manatee come right up to the boat to check us out. After 10 or 15 minutes they realized how boring we were and went on their way. In another bay, we had an Alligator come out and attack Joe’s popping cork. He must have thought it was an egg floating on the water and had to have it. He grabbed it and would not let go until Joe reeled him up to the boat. Even then, he was very reluctant to let go, but eventually did.
As cool and awesome as the Tarpon, Manatee, and Alligator were, the actual thrill and memory of the trip that will last forever in our minds was that of a 23” Redfish. I had Joe fishing some oyster filled shore lines as the tide came in from the Gulf. We were in a “hot spot” and the bite was “on”. Joe was casting a rig that had a popping cork with a 3’ leader, working a jig head with an artificial shrimp on it. What happens sometimes is that the jig head and hook get wedged into one of these oysters and gets snagged. Typically if we cannot free the hook from a distance, we will just snap the line off. Rather than go right in and spook a hot spot, we will leave the popping cork out there and come back and get it a few minutes later before leaving the spot. Well, this happened and we left it out there and continued fishing. A few minutes later I said to Joe, “Hey, somebody’s got your bait. Reel him in!” Joe said to me, “That’s not my bait, I am out here tothe right.” It was then I realized that a fish must have seen that artificial shrimp stuck to the oyster, and decided to pull it off and eat it. The cork was cruising down the shoreline and it wasn’t stopping. We put the trolling motor down and began pursuit. Each time we got close, the fish would dive down and take off quickly. We couldn’t just let it go with a hook in his mouth dragging a cork, so Joe and I grabbed two other rods and began casting jigs at the cork with hopes of snagging it. Finally after several minutes one lucky cast snagged that cork, and the fight was on. We still did not know what we were reeling in and we joked about it being a catfish. To our delight, we realized it was not a catfish, but a beautiful 23” Redfish with 6 spots on each side. What a riot! If only we had a video, it would have been worthy of the $10,000 prize in America’s funniest videos! We laughed for a long time that afternoon.
Thank you, Mother Nature, for another fantastic couple of days in your 10,000 Islands!
Capt. Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the 10000 Islands of the Everglades National Park, and is happy to accommodate anyone from men, women, & children of all ages, experienced or not, and those with special needs. Pete and his captains are extremely patient and love to teach. You can book a charter right online 24/7. See the online availability calendar, booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and first class web site at www.CaptainRapps.com and you can reach him at 239-571-1756.