With a good bit of excitement for the family escape and fishing trip ahead of us we all jumped out of bed on Saturday morning. No nasty alarm clocks were set even though we had plenty of work to do before we got on the road. Everybody did their part and before we knew it we were at the boat ramp at 951 in Collier County by late morning, for our mini vacation on Marco Island. We invaded the house by land and by sea, and once all the stuff was unloaded, we headed to Key Wayden Island for a leisurely lunch and afternoon.

We had purchased 10 dozen live shrimp for the weekend, but I also had some bait catching in mind, which was compounded by the birds working the entire gulf side beach as we eased in on the protected inshore side, and found a spot amid the chaos. Had a great time on the island for a couple of hours and sure enough the birds were still feeding off the beach when it was time to go.  A few throws of the 8’ castnet loaded the livewell with smallish to decent sized whitebaits before we worked our way back up the Marco River towards the bridge. I got the OK for some fishing, and we eased the boat up to a shoreline very close to the house, where we have had good luck in the past. The bites started immediately with small snook , snapper, ladyfish and jacks hammering our frisky baits as soon as they hit the water. Before long my better half got a nice redfish over 20” to the boat, and then our boy added one even bigger.

With smiles all around and a couple of nice redfish in the livewell for dinner we headed back to the house for a much needed cool down in the pool.

Once refreshed I set about cleaning the fish and adding all the live bait to a bait pen at the dock, hoping they would survive the night for the next morning’s fishing. Dinner was awesome, consisting of fresh baked redfish and sea scallops, rice, and cole slaw, all washed down with frozen pina coladas.

Day 2 started at the bright and early hour of just after 8am or so. It was just Dawn and I for the day, so we were both really looking forward to a hard core fishing adventure into the 10,000 Islands. Most of the bait survived in the floating bait pen bringing our expectations even higher. We headed out of the lagoon and canal on the last half of the outgoing tide to find water that Dawn rightly described as looking like root beer. The pilchards in the livewell didn’t care for the dirty water and we lost most of them on journey south to the base of the 10,000 islands. The first wildlife experience of the day featured a group of spoonbills feeding on an exposed flat, lighting up our morning.

Next was a group of dolphins that welcomed us to Goodland and escorted us at arm’s length, splashing us with their jumps. The very cloudy dirty water was still evident inshore, so we decided to make a run to a near shore wreck I have numbers to. It was a little choppier than I like to fish near shore, but Dawn had never fished a 10K wreck, so we continued on. The first fish was a nice fat sea trout to get things started. The bite was a bit slow but we picked up a few more trout, some mangrove snapper, pinfish and others before we ran back inshore to fish the now incoming tide. The water was still very cloudy, but the bite was on. We fished a new stretch of shoreline and caught an absolute bunch of fish.

From catching a mess of small snook with a few decent ones, to a handful of slot redfish, and another big trout over 20” we had a blast.

With inshore slams for both of us under our belt and a blazing sun rising higher and hotter by the minute, we headed to the house just after 1. Only to be sidetracked once again by a frisky pod of dolphins that swam, played and jumped along with us for what had to be around 20 minutes. We took some video of the dolphins and you can see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWnr4W4BJ2g&feature=plcp

After a quick swim and a great lunch, I couldn’t resist trying to head back out on the boat for another trip. I whipped together a crew and off we went, first to see if we could once again get some scaled sardines for the livewell. The shrimp were surviving nicely, but nothing beats a frisky whitebait when fishing anywhere in South Florida. We made a quick stop to join the madness at Key Wayden again before we had to search around some for our quarry of bait. A dive by a pelican showed me where they were, and one good throw of the castnet loaded the forward livewell. The afternoon was slipping away quickly so we again fished near the house. Still, lots of fish were again the rule of the day. We caught one small snook after another, several more slot redfish, ladyfish and jacks galore, and even had a couple of breakoffs on suspected BIG fish. One of my son’s favorite spots is a bridge near the house, that we made the last spot of the day. It didn’t disappoint with a decent bite of smallish mangrove snapper that brought the desired smiles to my boy’s face. That ended enough fishing for the day, and we crashed and burned early Sunday night.

The last morning began very nice as Nana got up and baked fresh cinnamon rolls for us before we headed out for one last fishing trip. The water was still cloudy, killing most of the whitebait again, but the outgoing tide was still up enough to fish some areas in the way back.

Within seconds of the first cast a great snooklet bite started our morning. It was truly awesome to see the numbers of small snook we did on the 3 day trip. We went through the surviving pilchards in just a few minutes on one fish after another. I also caught another nice redfish before we pulled the anchor and fished our way down the shoreline on the trolling motor.

The fishing remained excellent as my son and I threw our favorite lures, side by side on the bow, while mom fished the remaining shrimp on the stern.  The final event of our 10K fishing adventure involved me telling my son that he’s hooked on the bottom after he casted and apparently hooked a submerged oyster bar I had just casted to. With his pole bent double, the bottom mysteriously swam under the boat, spit the lure and as near as we could tell never stopped. Never saw what it was, but it was definitely the biggest fish hooked on the trip, and gives us even more incentive to go back and try to catch it again.