Merrill’s Memories: Lights, Camera, Snook!


Merrill’s memories –
Some of the late Canoeman’s greatest adventures

With the untimely passing of our beloved pal Merrill ‘Canoeman’ Chandler, we continue a memorial series of articles authored by the man himself. Now we can all relive with him — in his own words — some of Merrill’s greatest fishing moments. Upon his death, Fox-13 in Tampa re-broadcast a feature where the Canoeman was demonstrating his skills at skipping lures. In this case he was deploying his favorite DOA Shrimp. Though a slow fishing day Merrill managed a nice snook for the Channel-13 camera.

By Merrill “Canoeman” Chandler

This past Tuesday, Capt. Mel, Steve Love, the president of Loves Lures and I went out with Capt. Doug Hemmer to film a segment for the Channel 13 “Fish n` Chip” program.

Capt. Doug had reconnoitered the area the day before to locate possible sites that would produce some good footage. Most of the locations held the species that would make excellent action shots.

That was the day before. The following day proved to be quite different, however. In fact the first part of this outing seemed similar to the first time that I took Capt. Mel fishing in my canoe.

I had searched an area and found that there were red fish everywhere. I thought that I would be able to put Mel on fish without the slightest problem. My ego was seriously deflated when we did not get the first fish. After the day was over I assumed that the good Captain would not consider fishing with me again, but because he so enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere that a canoe affords, we have been fishing on a regular basis ever since.

Capt. Doug made a number of stops where he had located fish the day before but the critters were nowhere to be found. We did pick up a few small trout but not the kind that cameraman Nick Billias, the Senior Sports Producer for Tampa Bay’s Fox 13, deemed worthy of shooting.

We came upon a couple schools of reds that had a severe case of lockjaw and totally ignored our barrage of lures. Capt. Mel speculated that the high pressure might have had something to do with the inactivity.

We continued to search prime locations and came up empty.

Soon the accusations flew as to whom was the jinx. We checked to make sure that there were no bananas aboard. {An old fisherman’s superstition} I even quizzed Capt. Mel to see if he had been in contact with Newschannel 8’s Steve Overton, the king of the jinx, and Mel assured me that it had been some time since he had talked with Steve.

Abandoning the quest for redfish, we headed to a good trout location where we caught and released a number of keeper sized fish. Nick was able to get some action shots with each of us pulling some lively trout to the boat.

Next on the menu was snook. Capt. Doug had seen me skip my D.O.A. Shrimp far under the docks and thought that would be something different from other segments that they have filmed.

He positioned the boat and I stood on the stern looking at a mass of pilings. Nick had the camera in the ready mode waiting for me to fire the lure.

“Make a couple practice casts to see if I can follow the lure” Nick directed.

I had put a drop of Super Glue where the sinker is entered into the body of the artificial shrimp, so if I banged it against some structure it would remain intact.

The first cast went a little awry and bounced off a brace between the posts.

I apologized and promised to do better.

The next series of casts allowed Nick to focus on the skipping lure. “Now lets see if you can catch a fish!” Capt. Doug said.

I tossed a few more and let them sink beside the pilings without so much as a tap. I spied a bunch of glass minnows breaking the surface at the far side of the dock and skipped the DOA Shrimp in a perfect location and let it sink. WHAM!

“Fish on!” I hollered as my rod was bending with the heft of the fish. Nick was already shooting video. This desperate snook was trying to reach the security of the pilings but I had my drag tightened and turned the fish away and directed it to open water. After a short tussle I brought the fish near the boat where Capt. Doug could grab it.

“Great job!” Captain Mel complemented followed by a like praise from Steve and Nick.

Capt. Doug held the fish and we were video taped while he did a short interview and then released it back to its home under the pier.

“Perfect!” Capt. Doug said. “That was exactly what we wanted.” “Well,” he added. “It could have been a larger fish!” I’m telling ya, a feller just don’t get no respect.

For a great fishing experience aboard a roomy 23-foot Dorado call Capt. Doug Hemmer  {727} 347-1389

CapMel Staff
CapMel Staff

Latest posts by CapMel Staff (see all)