Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Teaser: March in Florida

For the past few years, maybe ten years now, my family and I have hit Naples, Florida in February or March to visit my in-laws. That may sound painful to some of you, but actually it is one repeating annual event that I cherish. I enjoy seeing the in-laws (very much) and the beach is right there. But the cherry on the top is the one full day that I typically get to spend with my wife's uncle Larry (shown in photo below) on Pine Island Sound - fishing.

The day usually begins with a 5 a.m. wake up, a drive to Larry's, a rapid transfer of my daily provisions into his Toyota, then we're off on an interesting hour-long drive north to Pine Island Sound. The drive is usually the first time we have the chance to talk in a year's time and we get into it. Then we near Pine Island, a stop in Matlacha for some live shrimp and a piss, then down through these amazing mango groves to the boat ramp. The morning, still very young and cool, provides reds and purples, still, along the horizon, reflected on the flat water of the sound.

We cruise out the very narrow channel - rocks abound on both sides - and into the open, shallow warm waters of the sound. Small islands patch this water body, and some of them have odd looking fishing shacks which are perched on stilts. There is something quite inviting about them, except for all the bird shit that deposits over time.

Open water drifts typically get us lots of lady fish - hard fighting cousins of the tarpin, but notably smaller (12 to 16 inches at best). Also, sea trout which are the prize of the open bay drifts. These range considerably in size, but one can take in some in the 20 to 25 inch range. These fish are good fighters and amazing on the dinner table. Larry has a knack for hooking flounder on these trips...and we eat them, which is good. Then into the mangroves we press after the elusive snook and schools of redfish (red drum) in the understory of the dense vegetation. So peaceful.

Of course, we have our laughs and deal with life's challenges and issues. Larry is an amazing listener and often a provider of excellent advice. We fish for about eight hours, then pull the boat up onto his trailer and on the way home will stop at a shrimp seller in Matlacha (were I've found tremendous deals on whole jumbo shrimp!!), and perhaps grab a sixer of cold Coronas to enjoy back at the house. We arrive home (in-laws to both of us) and prepare a major fish dinner (floured fillets browned in hot butter and olive oil...with everything else). What more to life is there really?

This is how most seasons begin for me. In 2005 we did this in mid/late March and I find that it is perfect timing with regard to preparing for the New England season, which begins in late April/early May.

(photos to be edited in shortly)

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