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Ft. Myers - Offshore

Capt. Rick Featherstone
December 3, 2004
Fort Myers - Saltwater Fishing Report

Team Gottim'ON goes to the SKA Nationals!

SKA Nats 2004

What a trip.

Team Gottim’ On, MJ, Mark, Brittany, Liz and I loaded up and left Ft. Myers at 5:30 AM Sunday with the Venture 34 in tow. Fourteen hours later we unloaded in Biloxi MS at the Imperial Palace. Next morning we launched the rig, found a slip, and promptly stayed in port with thirty-knot winds keeping us at tied up to the dock. We spent the day finding ribbonfish and discussing possible bait locations offshore with several charter captains at the marina and trying to get a feel for the area and how king fishing had been. The outlook was bleak. Tuesday morning our team left the dock at seven, loaded up on fuel, ice, and chum. With the temp reading fifty-seven and dressed like we were going snow skiing we made the twelve-mile run across the bay where we discovered solid twelve-foot seas churning it up in the pass. Undaunted we ran out into the Gulf to a pair of oil rigs about ten miles distant. Pretty impressive structures, but no bait at all in the dirty cold water. Running back inside we tried several markers and bottom spots to no avail. Wednesday MJ and Liz volunteered to stay in the Casino while Mark, Brittany, and I headed out in search of bait again. Again the seas were large eight to tens. But with a fifty plus mile run in our face to the bait, and the knowledge that other boats had struggled getting many we decided to try for mullet or pogies inshore. Mark and I threw our nets many times with little luck and I lost one on the rocks. We talked with every small boat commercial guy we saw to find the mullet. We learned where to find the mullet just before dark. Thursday brought cold temps again and still 20-knot winds. First thing we stopped at the Biloxi Bait and Tackle and bought a dozen mullet from the bait shop. We spent the next six hours throwing the net in just terrible conditions. Nasty hang type of bottom, and smelly shrimp industry byproduct in the water made the job less than fun. We managed another dozen or so but it became clear this was not going to work out. Exhausted, dirty and tired the decision was easy to purchased another ten or eleven mullet from a local guy in a skiff when he offered. That gave us about 30 in our bait pens. That and a box of ribbons would have to do. We also discovered our starboard lower unit was out to lunch. Thanks to team Digestabe, and Yamaha tournament support we were up and running in a couple of hours. Dinner and bedtime came early.

Friday morning we woke to MJ’s happy voice at four AM. After loading up we headed for the start line in heavy fog and darkness with Kid Rock thumping from our speakers. The SKA is crazy to ignore safety in these situations. To think that staring these boats in dense fog and darkness will not create problems is just wishful thinking. At the start running full out among so many boat wakes, tournament boats, spray, fog, incoming shrimp boats, and barges, Mark did a great job keeping of keeping us safe. Radar and GPS Map can only do so much. A local Captain had plotted a short cut for us and this helped get us quickly out of heavy traffic and the race for the pass. I felt much safer running alone. Of course it was then we noticed the 23 and under class running straight at our beam! Oops! I guess that fifteen-minute head start they got was not enough! Luckily it had cleared in that section and the passing was uneventful. Our short cut worked great and we lead the pack for a long distance out into the Gulf. As it got daylight and the fog lifted we found ourselves pretty much running alone. Fifty miles later we stopped at our first rig of the day. Lots of boats were there. We watched some catch dink kings, and we had only one bite a big Spanish on a ribbonfish. Looking at the cold dirty water it was not hard to change it up and run further out. We ran another twenty-five more miles out too much better-looking water and better water temps. We just stopped that the first oil rig in we saw in the better looking water. Three other boats were fishing there. This time it was non-stop king bites. Fish after fish in the low twenty-pound range kept us working hard. As the afternoon passed and our baits dwindled we knew any chance at winning laid elsewhere. Our big issue was to run further where the local Captains had told us to fish, or play is safe. It was still sloppy with five to sevens and our borrowed lower unit did not sound right. Two rights had turn engines sound much different and vibrate different. Cavitations for sure, but when you are seventy miles from the dock, its much LOUDER! We decided to take our twenty-two pound fish to the scale and just give it our best effort Saturday. In hindsight we likely made a critical error in running back by not stopping at our first rig. We did not know but the bite was on heavy with many thirty plus fish caught. We could have fished another hour but Mark wisely chose to get us in before dark in unfamiliar waters. The SKA might consider this idea as well in the future. After

Brittany weighed our fish we fueled up, bought thirty-six mullet and two cases of ribbonfish. We had a great dinner then hit the pillow.

Saturday brought even heavier fog and instructions from the SKA over the VHF to back off the throttles to be safe! I must admit it was a touch depressing to hear that every boat in the top forty had weighed fish over forty pounds. But we are a no quit team and we had decided to give this adventure our best shot. After another white-knuckle start we ran straight to our twenty two-pound spot, and caught a low twenty fish right away. Now we had a fish to weigh. In a unanimous vote we threw the hail marry pass and ran to the numbers the local Captains gave us well offshore. It was slow at first and we questioned our move, but decided to have faith on our local knowledge. After a half hour we landed a big fifty-pound cuda, then another. Then, zingggggggggggg the sound of a big king blazing away with our line. That fish weighed forty-one pounds and went in the bag. Next came another low forty fish. Then it happened. Double hookup with very large fish. After a long battle MJ brought her fish in and it was clear it was bigger than the one in the bag so I gaffed it. Forty-Four pounds on the scale! Mark commented then that his fish was well past the top shot (one hundred yards of mono) and deep onto the spectra backing! Liz maneuvered the big Venture in several tight turns and soon Mark had his fish boat side and I could not believe my eyes, it was huge. I gaffed that fish. It went 48 on our scale and later 46 something on the SKA scale! I suggested we head in. My lovely competitive wife pleaded her case to stay and go for a sixty. We did stay a while but the rumble of that lower unit and the long run convinced Mark to head in. A strong cold front approached us about thirty miles out. Thankfully we had plenty of time, as it really got sloppy. Several boats pushing the clock were late. After weighting our fish, were not heading for the weight in party as we thought we were way back in the standings after the many fifty plus fish weighed on Friday. Mark received a cell call that said we should get over and check the leader board, so we did. We were shocked to discover we were in sixteenth! Amazingly, we had the big fish for the second day. Wow. Great time! Sore and tired we started home Sunday after the awards breakfast. We made the last ten hours on Monday. Many thanks to all that helped make this trip possible. We were lucky, there were stories of boats going aground, sinking and a boat crash but no one was hurt badly as far as I know. I sure hope the powers that be consider keeping tournament hours restricted to daylight hours before something really bad happens.

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Light tackle deep sea fishing charters. Backcountry light tackle and fly. Naples, Ft. Myers, Sanibel. Family's, no experience necessary. Tarpon, Shark, Permit, Cuda, Goliath Grouper, Snook Redfish, Trout, and more. Three boats available, Corporate charters available. Fly fishing, plug, spin, and live bait. 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours.

Contact Info:

Magic Hook Charters
2210 20th Ave NE
Naples, FL 34120
Phone: 239-455-0006
Alt. Phone: 239-821-6229
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