Flip Pallot is one of the all-time great storytellers in the fishing community. His show “Walker’s Cay Chronicles” was always must-see television for his ability to paint a picture to a viewer, giving a voice to the often unspeakable feeling anglers get from being on the water.
Many times on his show he spoke of the destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew. It changed the entire ecosystem of the Florida Everglades and ended Flip’s career as a guide when his property in Homestead was destroyed.
That thought was in my mind last weekend as Hurricane Irma was projected to be one of those ecosystem-changing storms. Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island was directly in her projected sights hours from landfall. When she slid eastward from that projected path, the waters from Sarasota Bay to Tampa Bay were spared potentially drastic changes.
What we saw were a day and night of strong winds, extreme tides and plenty of rainfall. Those with careers on the water put their livelihoods on hold, like Captain Todd Romine.
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“I pulled my boat out and put it behind my garage at my house,” the 33-year veteran captain said of his 24-foot Robin. “I tried to angle it so it would be out of the wind, and the boat made it through fine.”
A few days lost for weather is something most captains know will happen, but Romine was anxious to get back out following the storm.
“All my trips were canceled when people left town. One of my regulars was going to fly in from Atlanta, but his flight was canceled.”
Finally on Friday, he was back on the water, not knowing what to expect.
“Bait was tough. It was not where you’d normally expect it. It took me about an hour to find it but when I did it only took two throws.”
It seemed that the bait would be the only issue Romine would have the rest of the day.
“It was like the old days!” Romine explained. “The water was a bit tanic, and you couldn’t see anything. We just started fishing, and the fish were there hungry. It reminded me of the days when there wasn’t much fishing pressure, and you’d pull up to a spot and catch fish all day.”
By 11:30 a.m., Romine suspected his pair of clients had caught around 60 redfish or snook. “It was refreshing, and definitely good fishing.”
Angler Chris Jensen also noticed great fishing when he ventured for an evening trip on Wednesday night.
“We probably caught 30 redfish between sunset and midnight, with a bunch of snook up to 39 inches,” Jensen said. “At one point we had four fish hooked up with only three anglers on the boat!”
Phenomenal fishing has greeted those who have been able to make it out, something that can surely provide local anglers with a sigh of relief.