- Light rods, light lines, artificial lures and lots of fish.
- Finding the forage and simulating their size and color was key.
- Savvy lures, special action-assist knots, using stealth – learning the how-to.
- Fun fishing near Pine Island, Florida.
By Forrest Fisher
Just before sunrise, it was still dark, I was greeted with a friendly handshake and a confident, fish-catching happy face by Captain Dave Chorazak of Inshore Dream Fishing Charters. “My cooler has lots of ice and water bottles; you can add anything you like. It looks like we’re going to have some great weather today. Let’s go see how the fish feel about that!” I was pumped.
As we idled out from Pineland Marina on the west side of Pine Island, birds in the nearby mangroves were singing assertive tunes of good luck to us. I made that assumption. They may have been begging for a free meal, but this fishing trip was artificial lures only.
I am excited and eager to learn more about how to fish the saltwater without live bait, and to understand the gear, the right rods, reels, lines and all that.
Pine Island is just north of Fort Myers, where tens of thousands of folks are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ian storm damage. The storm affected an area about 75-100 miles wide across the Gulf of Mexico shoreline of southwest Florida, where the sea water level rose to 20 feet above the normal. Hard to imagine.
But today, the waters of Pine Island Sound were calm and serene as we were looking out from the marina departure channel. Captain Dave said, “We’re going to fish some of the mangrove-filled inshore bays out here, and we’ll probably see some Osprey and Bald Eagles, and many other birds too.” My camera was ready. “Right now, the waters in the bays and islands are filled with good baitfish. They find the gentle eddy currents that form on one side or the other of the many islands. Finding the little currents allow us to find that forage without much difficulty, and then we cast near to those areas with hopes to catch bigger fish with lures that resemble the forage.” He made it sound pretty easy: 1-2-3 go!
He added, “Any moving tide can work for us. I have some proven waypoints to try that hold solid fish at times if we’re lucky. We’ll be casting from the boat toward the shoreline to try our luck.” The Captain’s voice was inspiring and confident. “Put your Polaroid sunglasses on, tighten your hat strap. You don’t mind if we pick up some speed?” I could only grin and holler, “Me? Mind speed? Let’s hit it!”
He pushed the throttle forward, and the sleek 20-foot Action Craft bay boat hopped out of the water and came to life. The Mercury outboard roared, and I glanced over to the dash to see we were going 45 mph in just a second or two. With the pre-fish talk and the sound of the engine, my anticipation and anticipation gained a mountain of fish-catching momentum. This was thrilling, even without any fish on the line. The boat skimmed along so smoothly, so comfortably.
We were at waypoint number one in a very short time.
Dave added, “Pine Island is the largest island on the Gulf Coast of Florida, it’s part of Lee County. Pine Island Sound forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway, and if you look out west that way, you can see Cayo Costa Island. There are a few smaller islands of some fame, too, like Cabbage Key, a tourist stop with a restaurant for private boats and tour boats. A little south is Captiva Island and then Sanibel Island, both famous vacation places. The fish don’t care. We have lots of fish for everyone to catch.” This soft-spoken fishing expert was very convincing.
The boat electronics provided speed, sonar, navigation and communication. Our first stop was a secluded bay. It was so quiet. An Osprey screamed and flew overhead, right above the boat about 20 feet, looking to see if we were delivering breakfast. I talked to the handsome bird, “No baitfish here, ‘ol friend.” He hovered for a moment, came in right above the boat, and then off he went to tend to a nearby nest of young Osprey. His mate was also nearby.
We fished slowly with electric bow motor control.
The 7-foot 6-inch spinning rods were loaded with light lines. The 10-pound test braided line allowed for longer casts to spooky fish – the water was so clear. The 20-pound fluorocarbon leader provided abrasion durability to survive contact with clam and oyster beds, and one or two of my famous errant mangrove tree casts.
A double-uni knot tied the leader to the braid. The lures were tied to the leader using a loop knot that Dave described as a knot that provides more wiggle and action. The result was a wide walk-the-dog action, surface and sub-surface, with the lures. We never stop learning.
The artificial lures were from an assortment of Captain Dave’s secret casting baits. The lures resembled the forage: threadfin, pilchards, herring and glass minnows. These minnows flood the inshore waters to feed on algae and plankton as the waters warm with the season. It didn’t take long to find fish.
About 5 minutes after we started casting, the first fish said hello with a tail swish and surface water blast. “Fish on!” Dave hollered. About a minute later, a handsome 27-inch speckled trout came aboard. A beautiful giant trout, it was a picture-perfect fish.
Using Rapala saltwater lures and plastic jerk baits on weighted weedless hooks, the next 3 hours were filled with unforgettable topwater strikes and fish-catching moments. It was sheer, impressive, fishing fun.
We motored around the islands, positioning to try various spots. Fishing the moving tide locations to catch several fish species, including snook, speckled trout, ribbon fish, redfish and others.
I managed to lose quite a few fish while bringing about 10 good fish to the boat. I learned by Dave’s example about how to work the baits and what baits work best under what conditions.
We released all the fish to catch on another day, big ones and small ones.
Conservation is key to keeping any fishery healthy, and I was in full support of releasing the fish. We were careful not to damage each fish we landed. It was great to see the clear waters and growth of new seagrass in this vibrant spring fishery.
Captain Dave Chorazak was a volunteer firefighter from Hamburg, NY, near my old hometown, and he was a good friend of my son-in-law, Dieter Voss. That’s how we met a few weeks back, when we all went out for dinner to a tasty Mexican restaurant (Lime Tequila) in Port Charlotte. I was a tournament walleye and bass angler from my history up north, so it was easy to “talk fishing” with Dave at dinner. Some secrets he shared with us at dinner and on the fish trip were provided in confidence, but I’m sure Dave would share these with any customer that asks. You’ll need to sign up for a trip to learn about his fish-catching lures, special knots, the seemingly foul-proof weighted hooks (I hooked plenty of mangrove trees high up and didn’t lose a single lure!), and his tactic secrets that put a lot of fish on my line in a very short time.
This trip was one of the most peaceful, fun-filled, fish-catching days I’ve ever enjoyed over my last 55 years of fishing all around the country.
I plan to bring my grandson next time. He is going to really enjoy this. The charter cost is quite affordable ($350), and I look forward to fishing here again soon. Fishing from his flats boat, an open flat platform boat, there is plenty of room for casting, but there is no shade – so bring sun protection. I wore sunscreen and a 360-degree shade-making hat, a fully-aerated long sleeve hoody, and fishing gloves.
The Florida sun is great, but it is hot, even in April, and can damage your skin with nasty sunburn if you go out unprotected. The Captain provides water, but you can bring along other beverages and snacks to add to his onboard cooler. All the tackle and bait and fish licenses are included in this affordable pricing. Hard to beat.
Visit https://inshoredream.com/ to learn more or to make a reservation.
Note: Upon departing the marina, I noted the presidentially famous Tarpon Lodge Restaurant to the south and Randell Research Center to the north of the marina roadway entrance. Many former U.S. Presidents have stopped at Trophy Lodge for their famous seafood menu. The Randell Research Center (RRC) is part of the Florida Museum of Natural History, offering programs dedicated to sharing the archaeology, history, and ecology of Southwest Florida. Their motto is, “As we learn, we teach.” That’s the way I felt fishing with Captain Dave Chorazak.