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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!

Hook ' em young ( the kids not the fi sh) Now, Cap'n Shaun Chute of Six Chuter Charters has seen a lot of fi shing in the Gulf in his 14 years of guiding and he has some tales that would make your hair curl... lots of stories of fi sh jumping into the boat, including barracuda ( that's a story for another day). But what appealed to me most was the fact that Jeremy Kenelly and his brother Patrick, ( shown bottom left) and their father, have been fi shing regularly with Shaun for 13 years. Jeremy and Patrick have got bigger, but so have the tarpon! Cap'n Shaun feels that through all of the years, the fi shing trips are one thing that really kept father and sons close and gave them an escape from hectic everyday life to be one on one with each other. " The trips have been a lot of fun for all of us" said Shaun. Size Doesn't Always Matter! Captain Denis Davin of Tarpon One Charters also enjoys introducing children to the art of fi shing and although he does catch a lot of big fi sh he commented to me that " the fi sh may not always be huge, but the memories will last a lifetime". The grin on the little girl's face shown above certainly bears witness to that! Hotspot # 1 Another family fi shing type of guy is Captain Jim Ponder of Anglers Charters. He had a little 9 year old boy out in the backwaters fi shing recently, but it happened to be one of those slooow mornings. Cap'n Jim told the young man it was time to move to his # 1 secret hotspot. On the way there, Jim decided to stop off at another favorite hole and they started catching fi sh, then more fi sh and lots of fi sh. When it slowed down again, Jim announced they were going to move on to the secret hotspot # 1. The little boy piped up " Isn't this the # 1 hotspot?" Jim said it wasn't, so the little boy promptly said " Okay, we will have to call this secret hotspot # 2". Sounds like pretty soon this little boy will be selling charts of all Jim's secret hotspots! CSI Marco Island Style We all know there are big fi sh out in the Gulf, but a lot of you may not realize how big the fi sh are in the backwaters. Cap'n Bill Jones of Make a Memory Charters was out in October with former NFL coach Kurt Schotten-heimer and two family friends ( shown right) and it wasn't long before they found out how big the fi sh can get out there. They fought this tarpon for 45 minutes and Bill estimates it weighed a good 180lbs. At times the tarpon was 300 yards from the boat and they travelled over 5 miles from where they hooked it to where they boated it. Incidentally, Bill swabs the outer jaw of the tarpon he catches and sends the samples to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study in Tampa. Tarpon can be identifi ed using DNA fi n printing ( not fi ngerprinting!) to determine survival rates, health, migration and movement of individual fi sh. So, fi shing around Marco is probably as varied as it gets anywhere in the world and as you can see from these pictures and tales, not only can some-thing quite unexpected happen, you can build lifelong fi shermen and lifelong friendships. It's a great way to spend a day and forget about the worries of the world. New Year 2010 www. marcoreview. com Page 81