I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I was just five years old, fishing at the boat docks in Massapequa, NY next to the beach club with my family. We were pulling in the line by hand as the Zebco rod had malfunctioned and lay on the dock at our feet. Suddenly, the dark fish came into view and I realized it was a shark! It was only two feet long, but it was so beautiful. Since the hook was way down its throat, we cut the line and threw it back in the water. From that moment on, I was "hooked" on fishing. For the next couple of summers, we would fish for blues and stripers in Montauk, and those memories are still some of my fondest.
EARLY YEARS IN FLORIDA
As I mentioned in a previous blog about the beach, my family moved to Florida when I was 7 years old. We were surrounded by lakes, and the Gulf was just a short drive away. I quickly made close friends: Jeff, Bobby, John, and two Steve's. They showed me the ropes and how to catch bluegill, perch, catfish, and the most prized, the largemouth bass. Steve B had a lake right behind his house, so we would fish almost every day. We would also catch water snakes, turtles, and other critters. The best part was on Saturday mornings when we'd go Bass Fishing. You would get up before sunrise and open the garage door about a quarter of the way. That way, when everyone rode by on their bikes, they knew you were up and ready to go. We would normally ride up to the Hidden Lakes neighborhood, which had a big lake running through the whole development. It was one of the older neighborhoods in Sarasota, with big single-level homes and huge oak trees covered in moss. There was a particular spot on a peninsula where we could fish from all different angles. John B caught the biggest bass out of that lake over the several years we fished there, weighing in at 8 lbs, while I was lucky to catch a 5 lb bass on a good day.
Most times we didn't catch anything, but those early mornings with the dew coming off the water, the birds chirping, and maybe a small alligator or two swimming by, have left an impression on me to this day. Apart from freshwater fishing, we also fished from the beach. We would haul everything down to Midnight Pass and catch mangrove snapper, catfish, jacks, and sometimes redfish, but rarely the elusive snook.
THE ELUSIVE SNOOK
It wasn't until after I returned home after college that I learned how to catch snook on a regular basis. My mentor, Pete K, was a couple of years older than me and had just started working as an attorney in town. We would go out at night with hand-selected large shrimp or pinfish and fish under the lights of various docks in the bay. As the water temperature warmed up Pete taught me how to catch snook right off the beach.
To this day, whenever I am back home in Florida, I continue this fishing tradition. I pack my cast net, CoolerClip outfitted bucket with an aerator pump, tackle box, and fishing poles and become a one-man fishing machine. Once I have caught the greenbacks, I walk down the beach, trolling the bait behind me and searching for the little drop-off area, where they prowl in just 6-10 inches of water. I throw the bait a few feet ahead of them and hope it's hungry, BAM! With little to get caught on, I can set the drag and let'em pull my line for a real nice fight. I drag it up the beach, thumb its lower jaw (they are just like bass, with soft teeth), pull out the hook, release, and repeat...
FISHING FOR FUN
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of catching all sorts of fish, from tarpon and sailfish to dorados, groupers, and striped bass. But no matter the catch, what I cherish most is the time spent with family and friends, having fun. That's why I expanded the CoolerClip line to include rod holders designed for coolers and, in particular, the Yeti Bucket. With its three-deck setup, featuring a rod holder, cup holder, and table board, your Yeti Bucket will be perfectly outfitted to meet your fishing needs. So, here's to your future catches and making your fishing experience even COOLER!
Darren J Slattery