Sep 17, 2013
Fishing in Cape Coral
Due to some personal stuff that was happening this year, me and the family took the decision to book a holiday out to Florida and treat ourselves. With bad news coming from all sides we took the view that life is short and headed off to Cape Coral for a couple of weeks. I thought I would write the trip up to share some of the fishing experiences but also to give future travellers out there a few pointers on what to expect out there.
To give you an idea Cape Coral is a pretty big town around a 4 hour drive South from Orlando. Like a lot of US towns there’s no real centre to it- just long straight roads with shops on them. There’s a proliferation of bait and tackle shops around that sell the basics, but if you want to get something a bit specialised then you have to drive the 10-15 miles over to Fort Myers. It has to be said though, its worth the trip over just to take a look at the Bass Pro shop- it really is enormous and you could easily spend an hour just mooching around it.
There are a few things going for the area; of course the weather- Some nice restaurants, some great beaches and of course the fishing. In the south of the resort there is a huge amount of canals with great villas set on them. This allows you to hire a boat and cover a huge variety of water at your leisure. Word of caution though- pick your villa after carefully considering its location. The Canals have a strict speed limit on them and some have a series of locks to go through too. It’s ok hiring a boat with a big engine, but if you get the wrong villa it can take an hour to get to the river before you can open the thing up.
The other big consideration is the time of year that you go out there. A big factor for fishing in this particular area is the Caloosahatchee River which flows out to sea here. For most of the year it flows down and becomes quite brackish (not quite saltwater or freshwater) someway up. At the wrong time of year however, they pump billions of gallons of freshwater into it further upstream and turns the whole of the system (including the canals, estuary and around Pine Island) into a chocolaty freshwater. This pushes a lot of the Juvenile fish out of the canals that you may usually expect to catch such as Snook and Tarpon. What it does leave in the canals however is about 10 million catfish.
So I guess that leads me to the first of my fishy exploits. On the first day I took some light tackle down onto the boat dock at the villa, rigged up about an ounce lead free running with a 2 foot hooklink and a size 1 hook. I got myself a chair and beer and made myself comfortable. My idea was that I would touch ledger as the rod itself was a bit pokey. I needn’t have worried as within 5 minutes the rod tip just buried over as a catfish of around 2lbs took off with my hot dog bait. It gave a real good account of itself and after a few minutes of pulling back it begrudgingly came up and grunted at me as it dangled. Word of caution on these things…they have extremely sharp spines on the pecs and the dorsal- on top of that the spines are serrated (so go in easily and get wedged) and carry a nasty bacteria on them that infects too. Forearmed with this information I locked the long nosed pliers onto the hook and jiggled it off. After half a dozen fish within half an hour I called it a day.
One of my main targets for the trip was Tarpon. Not just a little ‘un…but I’d set myself a goal of catching a big girl…and on the fly. Now it has to be said my fly fishing is below par to say the least. I only started last year, after being an angler for 30 years- so its not coming naturally at all. So it was always going to be a challenge. However, it was also going to be an even bigger challenge as I’d missed the Tarpon season. Doh!
It’s not that I was way out, and everyone had a different view as to whether they were still around or not. What was obvious though, was that it wasn’t high season for them- so I had to re-set my expectations and just try and catch one on whatever method would work, rather than get poncy and waste my time on the fly.
I had done a bit of research before I went out and had come across a guide on Facebook called George Howell. George was really helpful and tolerant of my million questions- so we went out early one morning. The plan was that we would get out on the first tide to try and get a Tarpon, then hit the flats with the fly gear and spinning rods to catch some live bait for the goliath grouper (Jewfish).
George had noticed some Tarpon rolling by own of the bridges over the couple of weeks leading up to my visit- so we hit those first. It had to be said, we got going an hour before dawn, the sea was an inky black and flat calm. We were zipping along at about 30 knots with only the moonlight to see accros the bay. I sat upfront taking it all in- I couldn’t help think how lucky I was. There wasn’t another sole that we could see for miles and I was off fishing for a new species. I’ve spent some time trawling around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world catching freshwater fish. But this was the start of a new adventure- ticking off the saltwater species that inhabit our planet.
We got anchored up next to the bridge and dropped a couple of frozen chum blocks off the side. The rods went out with little fuss all baited with lumps of fresh fish. Dawn Broke and were treated to a fantastic dawn as it lit the bay and horizon up.
Unfortunately dawn was the most exciting thing that happened that morning. We pushed further out to sea and dropped our baits into a 30 foot trench. But nothing was biting. It was time to face facts, whilst there were a few tarpon rolling (we maybe saw three in 3 hours)- we were battling against a fish that had pretty much vacated a month earlier.
We pulled anchor and headed over to an oyster bar that had a shallow bay attached to it. We spent an hour thrashing it to foam with the fly rod and the spinning tackle, but caught just a ladyfish and a jack crevalle for our efforts. That combined with the couple of catfish we had caught whilst we were Tarpon fishing (we’d thrown a couple of light rods into the chum trail that had thrown up countless cats) gave us enough livebait to go for the Groupers.
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