This post probably should have been 7 daily posts for the 7 days I spent on Marco. Let's begin by saying that "the bait was on the beach".
I shot this video with my Olympus Stylus off of a rock pile.
But, back to the beginning.
I flew in on Friday afternoon and settled into the digs with the family. We chose a rental home instead of a hotel and that proved to be a wise move. With a private pool and beach access only 1 block away, we were well positioned. I drove down to Sunshine Ace and bought my license from Don, a kind and helpful sort. I planted my self poolside with a Sam Adams and watched the kids swim while planning an early morning assault on the beach the following morning. At 5:30 on Saturday morning I made my way to the beach. I'm still learning the saltwater game, but one thing I know is that birds are good:
(so this was a positive sight to see)
OK, this is the part of the post when I tell you about the Ladyfish.
They were EVERYWHERE.
This is a true statement: I could've caught one on every cast.
Now, I've caught Ladyfish before, 10"-12" versions that fight kind of like brootrout, plus they put on a pretty good airshow from time to time. What I haven't caught before is fish in the 25"+ class. They'll pull you into your backing, leap like a tarpon and then when you bring them to hand, they slime and shit on you (seriously).
After hooking and landing dozens of Ladies, I followed the beach down to a rock pile where the birds were reacting to blitz after blitz of baitfish. I climbed up onto the rocks and noticed a guy fly fishing. His name was Andy and he was working the beach with the same results. Despite having already landed 60 (est.) fish, I stood on the rocks and continued to blast away at the Ladyfish until....
Every 2-3 minutes a rush of Ladyfish would push the bait against the rocks and 50-70 (again an est.) fish would surge off the bottom near the rocks and lay waste to the bait. Being a bright and observant angler it only took me an hour to realize that the secondary surge of fish weren't Ladyfish but Snook. By timing my casts so that my fly landed post Ladyfish rush and pre Snook surge, I managed to get 3 of the 70. Pretty exciting stuff.
That evening on the beach, the Mackerel blasted through and I was able to connect with them as well.
On Sunday morning I hightailed it back to the rocks.
The Ladyfish and bait were back in force. I also saw a juvenile Goliath Grouper in the rocks below my feet. It wasn't the 400 pound beast that it's parents probably are, but a 40 pound fish in 3' of clear water is pretty fun to see. I didn't cast to it (you can catch them, but you cannot keep them as they are protected).
I met a guy named Tom who was fishing gear and bait. I invited him to join me on the rock pile and after a failed attempt at enticing the Goliath with a live shrimp, we worked over the Snook and Ladyfish together. We caught Ladyfish on command, but I also landed a Snook and a few Mackerel and Tom caught a Sheepshead.
On Monday I eased out of the ranch until late morning and then took a walk to Tigertail beach. With a tide almost low I walked the lagoon between the beach and the Island and explored under a hot sun. The bait was largely absent from this end of the island, but I caught a couple of Ladyfish, watched the schools of Mullet ride the waves
and, after reading about the possibilities in a guide book, found a shark's tooth on the beach among the seashells.
Tuesday night I plotted an assault on the Mackerel and found out that the teeth on these critters not only destroys flies, but also will strip the pvc off of a flyline.
On Wednesday morning, with rain looming, I took a drive and fished the bridge to Goodland and also the Marco bridge. There was some bait being crashed, but I only managed one Grouper.
It was a short day of fishing since we were headed to Naples to visit a few shops, including Mangrove Outfitters which, if you go, is one of the only fly shops in the area. I secured a new 8wt Mastery Redfish Taper line and a few other little toys. It's a well stocked shop that should have everything that you need if you find yourself a little short on gear.
On Thursday, the day of our departure, I again snuck out of the house at 5:30 am and decided to fish the beach. With a light surf and birds and bait a-plenty, I found myself in the middle of a pelican, tern, gull, bait, Ladyfish, Jack blitz. Some decent sized jacks were pushing the bait around and everything went berserk. I had to pull my fly away from birds, hooked a tern on a cast (and had to pull it in to cut the line). I landed a few jacks but didn't get off as many casts as I wanted because the airspace was a little crowded with fowl. Then, an amazing thing happened. The dolphins that occasionally made an appearance a few hundred yards out, joined me in the fishing. I don't know for sure, but I suspect they learned quickly that the stunned Ladyfish and Jacks I was releasing made easy targets. With a small crowd gathered on the beach watching the show, I did my best to cast away from the dolphins and even tried to move down the beach away from them, but they followed me wherever I went. Luckily, my sister and my niece were on the beach and took some video and photos. Check it (Let it download completely before playing and watch it in HD):
Marco Island is a solid outing. Chances are good that I'll be back.