Maybe it’s a guy thing.
You’re spending some time – perhaps a weekend, maybe a whole week – at a world-class resort whose very seaside existence is geared toward maximizing relaxation and downsizing stress.
But when 6 a.m. on Sunday rolls around, your mind is nonetheless consumed by a desire that commands you to rise from your luxurious bed, don whatever garb is within reach and trek into the darkness to follow a path nobly blazed by men named Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin.
To put it another way, you simply must fish.
And considering you’re on an island in a subtropical climate, why the heck not?
The aptly named ’Tween Waters Inn is within mere steps of available shoreline on all sides, and it was precisely that level of convenience that compelled me to assemble rod, reel, bait and hook for my latest adventure – taking to the nearby depths to plunder myself a tasty Sunday dinner.
Only those who know me will recognize just how daunting a task that was.
For full disclosure, I’m not really a fisherman. I love the outdoors and would much rather be near water than concrete, but I’m probably about as skilled an angler as Peyton Manning is an ice-skater.
So with that reality in tow, I again recruited good friend and colleague Michael Korb – a grizzled tackle box-toting veteran by comparison – to join me in my quest to land the big one.
Our early a.m. odyssey began at a local bait shop, where I learned that the fishing world had evolved far past the worm/hook basics I’d been reared on as a kid. Instead, the amiable counterperson instructed, we’d be far better off with a bucketful of live shrimp to entice our quarry, providing we could keep the little buggers still long enough to skewer their insides with a barbed metal shiv.
With trafficked crustaceans in hand, we were off to the roadside beaches of the Sanibel causeway, where advisory websites had suggested duels with snapper, mackerel, tarpon and pompano were in our future. It was heady stuff, and I’ll concede that after my very first cast was rewarded with retrieval of a foot-long pilot fish, I was convinced that an hours-long fracas with a great white was not far behind.
But a few dozen fruitless casts later, and with nary a man-eater in sight, we set course for higher ground.
That meant a leisurely drive back across the island to the bridge at Blind Pass – the narrow sliver of water that separates Sanibel’s north tip from Captiva’s south, and connects the vast Gulf of Mexico to the islands’ collective west with the various channels and inlets of Pine Island Sound on their east.
There for the taking, those same websites said, were a smorgasbord of small fish feeding on myriad underwater creatures, and, more importantly to us, the sorts of bigger fish – read: sharks – that would in turn feed on those fish. We took up residence along the jagged outcrops, cast our lines and waited for what remained of the noticeably less frisky bait to do its thing.
And waited, and waited. And waited.
Oh sure, we saw a manatee plod through doing an asthmatic version of the Australian crawl, and we turned our heads to watch the occasional dolphin make an above-water arc in the shallow Gulf waves, but when it came to anything willing to swing by for a quick bite of flaccid shellfish, we were out of luck.
A shift from waterside rocks to angler-friendly bridge provided little beyond a better view of the fish that were avoiding us, so we waved the surrender flag at 1 p.m., trudged back to the car and proceeded two miles to the resort’s Oasis Pool Bar for the only therapy that can salve a sportsman’s battered ego.
A tall, cold beer. A char-broiled grouper sandwich.
And a reservation for a boat tour that’s captained by someone who might actually have a clue how to catch a fish.
Quick… somebody get me Bill Dance’s cell number.