I have just returned from a trip to Florida. Even though it was a relatively short trip I packed a lot in, so I think I will split the vacation into a few episodes. In this first installment, I will focus on a fishing trip on the Enterprise. The Enterprise is a 34-foot sport fishing boat captained by Capt. Rich, ably assisted by 1st mate Russell. We set off out of Marco Island, just South of Naples. After a short idle to get out of the marina area we were on the open sea and Capt Rich opened up the throttle. It was amazing how much water is being moved by the bow even when planed out (that is, the boat is moving fast enough to rise partially out of the water, reducing drag). After a few minutes we had reached the first fishing spot and Russell had the rods ready.
At first we did not even use bait, just a lure. We were fishing for Spanish Mackerel. They are a streamlined fish that likes to chase their prey, so one good technique to use is the fast retrieve. The concept is to cast the line and wait a few seconds for the lure to sink a little so that it is at the depth that the fish are swimming. To get the attention of your quarry you have to give it some 'action'. This entails jerking the rod back and forth a couple of times, but you must also keep the line taught by winding the reel a little. I is a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. Sometime I felt I my action was good, other times I was woefully uncoordinated. Next comes the fast retrieve. The rod is turned so you have a comfortable angle to reel and you reel like hell. If you feel a strike, you must pull on the rod to make sure the hook firmly embeds itself. The Mackerel put up a small fight, enough to make it fun but it is not really a challenge to land the fish. More difficult is leaving the correct six feet of line so that you don't swing the thrashing fish into the face of the mate as he comes to extract the hook!
The fish came easily for a while. I was chastised for catching fish that we too small, but wasn't given any useful advice on how to hook larger specimens. Apparently a good fisherman will be able to tell if it's a small fish and allow it to unhook itself by slackening the line, but I was so excited every time I got a bite I didn't care. Russell seemed perfectly happy to unhook them and toss them back, so long as I left the requisite 6 feet of line!
All of a sudden, the fish stopped biting. We would see a few following our lures but they had gotten wise seeing their friends plucked out of the water. No matter, Captain Rich gunned the engine and in no time had us over another school of willing participants. When another lull occurred, we tried baiting out lines with shrimp, but this seemed to result only in us catching Jack Crevalles, a pretty fish with yellow highlights but not worth keeping.
By this point the rough seas are starting to take their toll. The tide is running one way and the wind blowing the other so it is difficult to keep the boat from lurching around unpredictably. Also, my knees are beginning to complain about being braced against the rail, so we decide to call it a day.
Still, I can hardly complain, we have a fine haul of Mackerel. Once back at the Marina, Captain Rich expertly fillets the fish, feeding the scraps to the attendant pelicans and egrets who know it's feeding time. It is sublime raw, and delicious when fried up in a light breading.