Capt. Butch Rickey

It's a short week before taking a little time off before the holidays. I ran two trips with a couple of great fishing buddies, John Hitt and Tom Smith.

I met my old friend Dr. John Hitt at his dock bright and early Sunday morning. John loves to fish for trout with artificials, and we figured that with the weather and fronts we'd had, it was a good time to go throw lures.

As we made our way down the river and toward the Sound, I decided we should stop and fish a nice flat in Matlacha that I generally only fish in the winter. I decided to tie on a topwater plug. John went with a jig. It wasn't long before we were both catching trout, but the coupe de grace was a beautiful four pound trout on my topwater plug. We moved on.

We again stopped on a deeper flat near the powerlines where ladyfish, grouper, jacks, and trout often accumulate in good numbers. We drifted on the breeze in about six feet of water and caught ladyfish and one bluefish. As we got to shallower water about three to four feet, we got into trout big-time. We stayed with them until they slowed down, and moved on.

>From there we moved to a series of potholes on the eastern side of the Sound, and were again in trout. We caught fish after fish, but not as well as usual in that area. We decided to wrap up our day with a shot at grouper with lures. All we had that I knew they'd eat was TerrorEyez. I would prefer to have had some Bill Lewis Rattletraps, but didn't have any along. John did manage to catch one nice grouper on the TerrorEyez before we called it a day.

It was a fun day. Although most of my fishing is with live or cut baits except in winter, I do love to toss plugs. It's always fun to catch trout on jigs or topwater plugs, especially when it's every cast! Every man has a little boy in him that just loves to catch!

I took the Maverick out for some exercise on Wednesday. She hadn't been run in a while, and it was way past due. I took just a couple of my Stella 2500/St. Croix Legend Tournament Series rigs for some jig tossing, and went exploring in some holes that I haven't visited since last winter. My first mate and I caught tons of trout, and I managed a nice keeper snook on a Bass Assassin jig right off the edge of the shore. It was a great fight on light tackle.

On Friday it was my old friend Tom Smith and his friend Mike up from Naples by way of St. Louis. We had a falling tide during the morning, and an incoming in the early afternoon, and I decided the best thing to do would be to fish the last hours of the outgoing tide, and the first hours of the incoming. It meant that there would be no water on the flats during the whole trip.

After catching bait we headed into the Sound to an area that always has beautiful snook during the winter months. Problem is, you can't always get them to eat! We pitched shiners into swift falling water without so much as a hit other than from some gafftop sail catfish. I couldn't believe it, but that was the way it went. Actually, I think one of the guys caught a nice trout, but......

We moved on to another area littered with potholes, and caught trout after trout on jigs. They weren't the usual large size I was accustomed to catching there, so we moved on to another hole. At that hole, which always has beautiful trout this time of year, we were met with little happening. I sensed that perhaps we just weren't giving the fish what they wanted, and while Tom and Mike pitched shiners, I experimented with shiners and small pinfish tagged to the bottom with jigheads. The action was instant! Soon, the boys were catching beautiful trout after beautiful trout. They ran from 2 to 4 pounds, and we were regretting that we couldn't keep any of them to take home for dinner.

Once the action slowed, I asked Tom if he'd like to take on the shallow water gag grouper he'd been reading about. He was more than ready! The wind was coming from entirely the wrong direction to fish the spot, but we made it work, and Mike and Tom both caught some nice gags, and also got their clocks cleaned any number of times. That's OK. I don't mind tying lines. It's both fun and humbling for most anglers to try to catch those gags in shallow water around pilings, rocks, and rocky holes. They are just fierce. Usually, I screw the drags down to where I can barely pull line from the reels, and yet those grouper will rip it right off the reels once they're hooked. Actually, I teach my customers to be as quick as possible to grab the spool skirt and hang on. The philosophy is to make them break you off, because they certainly will cut you in the cover. The trick with light tackle is to lock them down and go like hell. Once you learn how to do it, you can land more than you lose.

Well, that was it. I'll be gone from the water and the computer for the coming week, and there's not a lot going on until Christmas week. Fishing will depend upon the weather, and I have a feeling we're in for a cold winter.