You couldn’t ask for a better pair of anglers to fish with than Capt.Scott Moore, who pioneered the art of sardine fishing, and Rick Davis, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
Moore probably has caught more big snook than any man alive, and Davis has an eerie sense of predicting the weather, as would be evident through this trip among the clusters of islands inside of Boca Grande.
We left Uncle Henry’s Marina on Gasparilla Island at 9:30 a.m., and as Moore motored his 21-foot Shallow Sport east across the wide-open, shallow flats, the pair were already analyzing the conditions.
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We had high pressure, blue-bird skies and tide that was made extremely low by 10-12-knot northeast winds. Any easterly wind of this strength will blow about a foot of water out of the bay. In some cases, bars were exposed some 100 yards from the mangroves. A crab trap in the area was fully exposed.
“The wind should be slacking off,” Davis said, “with a sea breeze in the afternoon.”
Davis, whose National Weather Service Web site is www.weather.gov and is a great tool for anglers, predicted the winds would switch to northwest.
“That’s great,” Moore said. “Any switch in wind direction helps.”
“The fish are looking for the move,” David added.
The tide started coming in again around 10 a.m., and Davis had us looking to the east, where he expected clouds to form just above the horizon, a sign that the barometer was dropping. A moving barometer is typically good for snook.
But first, Moore poled into a cluster of reds at the mouth of Whidden’s Creek, where we fished a large pot hole in about five feet of water. The wind was moving against the tide, and the resulting effect and slack it caused in our lines made the bites tough to feel. The redfish would turn out to be very spooky in the ultra clear water.
But not on the first cast.
A 31-inch redfish bit a shrimp, and I reveled in the line that zinged about this undeveloped area that truly was as Old Florida as I’ve seen. But it seemed that even this fight made the rest of the school uneasy. A few reds picked sheepishly at our baits. Moore instructed us to keep our poles high and to not pump the fish in. This way there would be no slack in the line as we reeled.
More redfish came to the boat at 26 and 26 1/2 inches.
As the tide continue to roll in, we hit an area where water funneled between mangroves over deep pot holes. Using Carolina rigs — a weight butting up against the long-shank hook to essentially make for a jig — we threaded a shrimp on through the tail, with the belly side down, until the point of the hook came out just before the head, and the straight end of the hook aligned with the spine of the shrimp.
Catching sheepshead on the flats?
We caught a few fat sheepies that were excellent fighters, and of course, made for great eating.
That’s about when the clouds began to form above the horizon, just as Davis predicted. It really was a rare treat to have a meteorologist on board. Davis explained that because there was decreased air pressure, the clouds were able to lift. Normally, this drop in barometer is great for snook, but the snook on a shoreline of Turtle Bay weren’t biting on our shrimp.
Trout, meanwhile, had moved to deeper water during the low tide and did not return.
In the end, I left the boat ramp with a cooler full of fish and a head crammed with more information on fishing and the weather than I could process.
That’s what happens when you fish with a meteorologist and a local fishing legend.
Nick Walter, outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-7013.