Manatees are truly magnifi cent creatures. But they are very shy and for the majority of us, even the lucky ones who live here on Marco, the most we ever get to see of them is a glimpse of their nostrils as they surface briefl y, or the splash of their tails as they dive quickly out of sight. Well, now all that has changed. A husband and wife team, Captains Barry and Carol Berger, are offering guaranteed personal manatee sightseeing trips for a maximum of 6 passengers on their 13 passenger rated boats, which really do give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. And guess what? If you don't see a manatee you don't have to pay for the trip! They are based at Port of the Islands and on a recent trip with them we were just minutes from the dock when we made our fi rst sighting. Captain Barry was very knowledgeable and informative. He told us what to look for - a circular motion on the surface of the water - the manatee's " footprint" which is a sure sign one is close by. And suddenly, right there beside us, an enormous creature surfaced. He looked curiously at us, almost as if we were the ones behind the bars in the zoo and he was just visiting! His barnacled back was just within our grasp and he was so huge and gentle hovering there so close. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he sank elegantly from sight. It was awesome. We lost count of the many manatees we met and the 1 ½ hour tour just fl ew by. We hadn't traveled very far in terms of miles but we learned an incredible amount - and boy did we have fun! submitted tour photo by Kate Quesada YOU WILL TREASURE OUR MANATEE SIGHTSEEING ADVENTURE
Having spent many a day out on the water in and around Marco Island over the last 15 years, trying to catch fi sh, I should not be surprised at what I end up seeing - but I always am. No two trips are ever the same, even in the backwaters and, as they say, " stranger things happen at sea!" We recently asked a few of Marco's fi nest charter captains for some fi sh tales and this is what we heard... Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright Capt Randy Hamilton, of Wild Thing Charters, has fi shed offshore Marco over 20 years and was out on a hot and sticky July day with a party of two fathers and their 12 year old sons. The Gulf was calm and the fi shing action good, catching trout, snook, jack and large hungry permit. One of the boys wanted to jump in to cool off, but Randy told him " anywhere else but here". The boy replied " if it's because of sharks that's okay ' cos I swim in the canal back home and that has gators in it!" He in-sisted so much that the father also asked. Randy told them they could jump in but they'd have to go somewhere else to do it, but the father didn't want to leave the great fi shing action ( a man after my own heart!). About 30 minutes later, that same father had a good size permit on his line which, after fi ghting for about 25 minutes, suddenly peeled off about 50 yards of line in 10 seconds. The father was more than curious to know what was happening. Randy told them he was being chased. The question was by what? Suddeny a 4ft wall of water exploded around the permit and it was obvious that whatever it was had missed his lunch! Then an even larger explosion, and 6- 8ft of fi sh came crashing out of the water. Randy identifi ed it as a tiger shark and, judging by its diameter, estimated that he was at least 1000lbs! The fathers thanked Randy all the way back to the marina and the boys remained stunned and speechless. The moral of this tale is.... always listen to the Captain! Hoist the Sail Captain Scott Ray, skipper of Carole Ann II was offshore many times over the summer and has seen and caught it all, from black tip, and bull shark to giant goliath grouper, but nothing surprised him more than the 5ft sailfi sh shown above. Sailfi sh are seen and caught regularly off the keys in fall/ winter and are common off the Northern Gulf coast in warm seasons, but this one must have lost his way and just hap-pened upon Cap'n Scott. There was a party of four onboard, about 8 miles off Marco in 40ft of water and one of the rods had a pilchard on light tackle. When the bait was hit nobody knew what to expect until the fi rst sight of its sail. The fi ght was on for over 45 minutes with plenty of aer-ial acrobatics and the proverbial tailwalking that sailfi sh are known for. They managed to bring the fi sh boatside for a quick photoshoot then Steve, the mate, revived it and sent it on its lost, but merry way!