For the past two weeks, captains Jeremy Lee, Kevin Wessel, Josh Bibler, Matt Davie, RC Gilliland and Dawson Day have been fishing around Sarasota Bay and off the beaches with a special group of clients. The Sarasota Fishing Camp is a unique time for young anglers who want to learn more about targeting their favorite fish.
“We focus on the basics of fishing and having a ton of fun while we do it,” said Lee, the camp founder who grew up fishing the waters of Sarasota Bay. “We also want to pass on the love of the sport that we have come to make our careers. Campers will learn everything from how to throw a cast net to how to properly catch and release fish like seatrout, snook, jacks, ladyfish, redfish, snapper, bluefish and much more.“
Wessel has also dedicated two weeks out of his schedule to help Lee.
“He asked me a couple years ago if I wanted to do it, and I said of course I do,” Wessel said. “We teach campers conservation, knots, bait, spend time with FWC and of course take them fishing. At the end of each week there is a small tournament.”
During the week, anglers were able to experience plenty of fish catching. Wessel has been spending time off the beaches where jacks, ladyfish and mackerel schools have been prevalent and keeping rods bent.
As they idled along the crystal clear beach water outside Longboat Pass last Thursday, Wessel saw something a little different.
“We were looking for schools of fish and had seen a couple tarpon come through,” Wessel said. “I looked and saw a dark shadow and said, ‘What’s that shape?’ It was too dark for a (barricuda). That’s when I saw that it was a sailfish!”
Wessel grabbed his phone and got video of the encounter. It dashed back and forth as the anglers pitched spoons in front, curiously seeing what they had to offer. Just as soon as it showed up, the sailfish bolted out of site, but not before it had made its mark.
“It was an artificial only day, and when we saw it all the kids threw their spoons at it,” Wessel said. “We had a couple good follows and he swiped at them but didn’t hook up.”
The small sailfish was out of place in only five feet of water. On rare occasions anglers will catch them in the spring and fall around kingfish schools 10 to 20 miles offshore. More commonly they’re caught further offshore where loop currents are more frequent.
As the two-week camp winds down, the kids will leave with fish-catching memories and unique sightings. Wessel will never forget the sight of a sailfish cruising in the shallows outside Longboat Pass.
Session one winners: 1. Alaina Christian, 2. Ryan McNally, 3. Ava Meadows.
Session two winners: 1. Dylan Recanatesi, 2. Reece Dentici, 3. Liam Lizotte.