This is Bonita Beach at Hickory Pass. Access 10, and then a 3/4 mile walk down to the rocks. No other place makes me feel so peaceful. This summer, I was here to fish at 5:45 a.m. on almost every morning. Every morning something amazing happens here. I never know what it will be. Dolphins slap their tails on the surface to stun schools of greenbacks. They then turn around and eat the dazed ones. Manatees creeping up on me while I wade in the dark water, and making me chum my shorts when they blow air out of their nostrils. Huge tarpon jumping out of the water. Falling stars. Skimmers barely touching their beaks to the water to scoop up fish at sunrise. Piles of horseshoe crabs in disgustingly obscene orgies at the shoreline. Every single day. Something.
This morning I netted about 2 dozen greenbacks, and put them in my Flow-troll bait bucket, which I keep in the water, anchored to the sandy bottom with a PVC pipe. After catching a puny jack, I waded back over to my bait bucket to grab another greenback. A sea-shell had become wedged in the bait bucket’s hinge, leaving the bait door wide open. Another beach miracle. Who knew that greenbacks could develop Stockholm Syndrome? I’d swear, every one of my bait fish were still in there, swimming around waiting for me to come grab them and tell them, “Your turn, little fella’”. They don’t know exactly what that means, but judging by the way they don’t want to be the one that I grab, they know it’s not good.
My youngest brother has always been the fisherman of the family. The nature-boy. He catches fish when nobody else can. He lives in Maine now, so I have been scrapping together bits of what I learned from him, and now adding the things that I learn on my own. I figured out a lot this summer. I have come up with theories about the tides, and which brand of hooks are the best. Do fish bite in the rain? Can lightning really hurt you while you are fishing? I know everything. It is probably all nonsense, but I am developing my own, ever-expanding, fishing gospel. Every day I come home with a stringer of fish. Our freezer is packed, and the kids are starting to smell like seals.
As the sun rises on another day of fishing, being the man with the oft-bent pole becomes a curse. (At this point I will let you in on one of my mind’s calculations deduced while fishing…Florida must have about 2000 miles of coastline.) O.K….so with that 2000 miles of coastline…why…In God’s name….does every Ohioan, Michigano, and Indianian have to sidle right up next to me? (rhetorical).
The Yanks want their poles to look like mine. Bent.
All of the inner peace that I have built up over the past two hours starts sweating out as our “guests of necessity” chatter about the crappies they catch in Door County. Not only has my personal space now been raped by old men from Columbus and Indianapolis, but my casting angle has been lopped from 160 degrees down to 20 degrees. The pure joy of fishing is now downgraded to the catty pleasures derived from remaining as the only man with a bent pole.
“What do you think the problem is there, Mr. Tourist? Why aren’t you catching anything? You don’t think it’s the fact that you have little pink beads, a big orange bobber, a steel leader line, 2 lbs. of split-shot weights, a plastic “Little Mermaid” figure, and red fishing line in the water do you?” If our fish wanted to see the Edison Pageant of Lights Parade, they would swim down to the Caloosahatchee.
“How natural do you think your bait looks plowing sideways through the water, hooked through the back like that?” Our fish aren’t too accustomed to seeing their food dragged past them at that bizzare right-angle.
“You know….Mr. Tourist….If you take that 18” Snook up to the Wildlife Ranger, he will give you a voucher for a free senior-coffee at Perkins…it’s a new promotion from the Florida Tourism Council.” “Oh….you are welcome…enjoy your stay in Florida!”