Fishing in Flip Flops and a Down Parka – Jason LaButti

My Parents, having begun their retirement, officially quit living in the northeast after deciding that they had suffered through their fair share of New Hampshire winters.  Their new home was to be this place called Naples, Florida.  This location was no more familiar to me (a born and bred Yankee) than, say, Timbuktu.  Isn’t Naples in Italy?

A bit of background to my story:  I had enjoyed many summers of my youth fishing Narragansett Bay with my Father.  Stripers. Bluefish.  Tautog.  Fluke.  These names formed the invariable core of my fishing vocabulary since I was a pre-teen. Freshwater fishing for “small fish” was never considered.  After finishing college and starting a family of my own, however, Life Events conspired to keep me away from the familiar salty air for (too) many years.  The drive within to fish was rekindled when I began to hear new and unfamiliar vocabulary from dear old Dad down in Florida.  Snook?  Largemouth Bass?   Fishing in December in shorts and flipflops?  This was a very provocative concept.   This was a concept that drove me to revisit the rod and reel.  I wanted to fish for Largemouth Bass and Snook in Florida.

Due to the fact that my last fishing trip had been in the early 90s, and much of my left behind fishing-related possessions had been “purged” during my Mom and Dad’s move to Florida, I had no gear to speak of.  I decided, therefore, to visit Saltwater Edge.   After much discussion about my plans for fishing, Steve recommended two very nice travel rods and reels to go along with them.  For freshwater, he recommended a three piece G. Loomis Escape casting rod.  For Snook and other saltwater beasties, he chose for me a G. Loomis Escape spinning rod.  These were mated to a Shimano Curado E5 and Van Staal VS150, respectively.  On December 17th, the rods and reels were toted along with me as carryon luggage to Naples, Florida.

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The official rebirth of my sport-fishing hobby began at sunrise on December 18th on the reed-choked shoreline of a deep, medium-sized lake down the road from my parent’s house.   Having left Boston with temperatures in the mid-teens, I was excited to be wearing flipflops at this point.  I decided to fish exclusively crankbaits since this was somewhat similar to tossing lures to stripers from the beach or a jetty, something I was familiar with.  Cast, retrieve.  Cast, retrieve.  Repeat as necessary.

I started out throwing a 5/8 oz. Lucky Craft RC 2.5 “sexy chartreuse shad” crankbait.  This netted me some fine bass, most in the 2-3 lb range.  After some “quality family time” mid-day, I headed back to the lake as the sun was going down and tried my luck with the same brand crankbait in “tomato shad” colors.  The bigger fish in that lake really seemed to like that tomato shad…it netted fishes about seventeen and twenty three-inches long!  I did not have a Boga Grip at the time, so I don’t know how much they weighed, exactly.  They sure did fight, though.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.  Next up on the fishing docket:  backwater snook.

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I had booked a half-day backwater trip with Saltwater Cowboy Charters out of Naples for Monday, December 16th.  These guys seemed like they knew the area, and had good references.  December is not the best time for snook, but apparently this kind of fish was still being caught in the warmer shallow bays of Southwest Florida.  My good December weather karma apparently ran out at that point, because the day before the trip a strong cold front pushed down from the north dropping peak temperatures from the mid 80s to the mid 50s, with 20-30 knot winds. It was amazingly cold out there for Florida.  My Father wanted to cancel the trip because he was just not used to that kind of weather.   Monday was my last day down there, and it was either go then, or wait until I visited again.  This would more than likely be in the summer months, and I wanted to break in that beautiful rod and Van Staal reel with some fish, so I worked hard at persuading him to go.  He relented after some serious tugging at the heart strings with lines like:  “Dad, we only see each other a few times a year now” and “we need to make the most of our time together” and so on.  Of course, there was truth there, but I am certainly shameless when it comes to fishing.

Having spent a good amount of time on the water, I realized that it is always a lot colder out there than on land, so I decided to pack my down parka and windstopper hat “just in case” I needed them.  We headed out on Estero Bay around 12:30 in the afternoon and boy, did I need them!  The atmosphere was bone-chilling, humid, windy, overcast cold.  It was a day of crappy fishing.  We spent hours pitching live shrimp on circle hooks as close to the mangrove roots as possible.  I must have lost about four or five hooks on those roots while “practicing” my casts.  Cast, expletive, repeat.  In addition, there were sheeps head about that were very good at stealing the shrimp from our hooks.  Nibble, nibble…bait gone.  Finally, I managed a good cast that landed about three inches in front of a twisted pile of roots jutting away from the mangrove shoreline.  My first snook gobbled that shrimp and the rest is fishing history (for me anyway).  While my father and I were completely miserable out there, at least we went fishing together and I caught my first, and only, snook.

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So, the reincarnation of my fishing obsession began with me in shorts and flipflops and ended in a down parka and windstopper hat.   This all happened within 48 hours and a few miles of distance.  I can’t argue with the results, though.

Now, since I don’t ice fish, I have to wait until Spring…>sigh<.

-jason

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