Merrill Memories: Rain or Shine


Merrill’s memories:

 Neither wind nor rain shall deter us from fishing!

We continue our memorial series of articles authored by our dear departed friend Merrill “Canoeman” Chandler. The setting is one of the colder days of the year, when some fishing decisions need to be made. We need to learn the whereabouts of all our favorite species, what kind of baits they will strike, and what the weatherman will be serving up.

By Merrill ‘Canoeman’ Chandler

Just as he had promised, the phone rang at 5AM and Capt. Mel informed that it was a go for the days fishing trip. The predicted tropical storm had been broken up by a cold front.

When I went out, after the morning paper, the stars were glistening brightly and the warm weather had all the indications for a great fishing day. I sat for a spell to read the sports page and drink my coffee. When I next looked at the clock it was 5:30 and the meeting place was at Shell Point Marina at 6:45. Plenty of time, I thought.

Stopping at the filling station to get gas, the pump slowly read one cent—–two cents—– three cents—-etc. At this rate it would take an hour just to fill the tank. I went into the station and the girl told me to shut down the pump and re start it. This little episode should have given me a clue as to the rest of the day but being the eternal optimist I just shrugged it off as just one of those things.

With the tank full I still had plenty of time to make the deadline. I don’t know how many red lights there were between home and the marina but I managed to hit them all. Not to mention the many Sunday drivers that decided to beat the traffic and drive slowly in front of me.

I guess the “straw that broke the camels back” was a freight train that blocked the road near the Frog Creek Campground. I sat there for a good five minutes before I decided to backtrack and go around the Old Bishops Harbor road.

When I finally arrived at my destination, fifteen minutes late, Mel and Capt. Mike Talkington were patiently waiting.

“We figured something bad had happened.” Capt. Mel said. “You’re always early.”

“Like the postman, neither rain nor sleet or snow, nothing would deter me from fishing with Capt. Mike.” I told him.

Capt. Mike Talkington is one of the best fisherman and most courteous gentleman that I know.

As we boarded his beautiful twenty foot Action Craft the weather continued to look great. The tide was still rising and the captain had areas planned that work best on a falling tide. Just a short distance from the launch site was a large school of feeding ladyfish so we stopped and enjoyed a little warm-up action with the acrobatic fish.

Then, after  a brief period, the once picture postcard skies had turned from sweet to sour. An approaching cold front was pushing some rain-squalls toward us as we headed to Capt. Mike’s hot spots. “I knew that the beautiful weather was too good to be true.” I lamented.

We were ready to head back to the marina when the wind came up and pushed the clouds away. “This changes the plans that I had for us.” Capt. Mike informed.

Due to the near twenty-knot winds the decision was to head behind a series of mangrove islands to work the edges. We started to cast a variety of DOA lures.

This was like a holiday for Mike as he didn’t need to give us the attention  required for most of his clients and he began tossing a DOA Shrimp. However,  Capt. Mike helped us release our fish out of sheer habit.

We caught and released a number of small fish but when a good size flounder hit my Capt. Mel Measles ¼ oz. DOA Shrimp, we put that one into the live well.

We worked along the mangroves for a while before the first snook hit. It was not long enough to be kept but the excitement proved worthy of this frisky species with strong runs toward the prop roots.

“I do believe the wind has picked up.” Mel stated as we crossed a white capped pass.

Just on the edge, where the water was flowing outward, we started to hit more snook. I sent a cast in the other direction and had a strong strike. “What do you think it is?” Mel asked. “Not a snook.” I replied. “It would have surfaced. I think it may be a red.” Sure enough when it came close we could see the prominent spot on the tail.

“Good fish!” Capt. Mike praised as he lifted it from the water. “Do you want to keep it?” We usually like to take a fillet for each of us so I responded in the affirmative.

We were able to catch and release a number of snook and a couple large jacks. As the wind continued to freshen we decided to call it a day. We were in some shallow water making it impossible to get the boat on plane so we motored out using the trolling-motor. I continued to cast trying to catch a trout to fill my slam.

“What was that breaking the water over there?” Mel asked. “Looks like a huge cobia.” Capt. Mike informed. It was just that as we could see by the hulk that swam close to the boat. It was not in the least interested in the barrage of lures that plopped nearby.

Soon the captain found an area that would allow us to speed out of the shallows and we were soon back at the ramp.

Even though the weather did not cooperate, Florida native, Captain Mike provided us with a great trip using his vast knowledge of the area.