I take very few days off from work, but when I do it’s usually to go fishing. With the exception of spending time with my family, fishing is the one activity that I am willing to take a vacation day for. My grandfather used to have a sign hung on a wall near the dinner table that read: “A Bad day of fishing is better than a Good day of work”. And yet another that read: “Early to bed, early to rise, fish like hell and make up lies!” So maybe the justification to take a day for fishing comes from the many nights of sitting around Papa’s dinner table after a long day of fishing, eating the best fried fish, and staring at the signs on the wall. Whatever it is, I can sure find justification in taking a day to fish from time to time!

I typically launch my boat on the north end of Pine Island in a community called Bokeelia. In my opinion, Bokeelia is the entry point to some of the greatest backwater fishing in the United States. But, I guess I’d be a bit partial since I’ve been fishing these waters for the last 20 years.

My childhood consisted of fishing the creeks, rivers, and mine pits of Central Florida, but my Dad found an addiction to saltwater fishing when I was in college. After fishing for one species of fish for so long (the large-mouth bass), it was refreshing to go inshore saltwater fishing where the fun is in figuring out what kind of fish is on the hook!

The most common species found in the backwaters of Charlotte Harbor are: Redfish, Snook, Mangrove Snapper, Sea Trout, Lady Fish, and catfish. We will almost always catch live bait for each fishing trip. There are two main species of bait that we seek: Pilchards (aka whitebait), and Pinfish. Whitebait is typically the premium bait that everyone seeks, but pinfish are always a stand-by if the white bait are hard to find.

We’ll typically spend the first hour or two of the day seeking our bait. Bait becomes a skill in and of itself given that whitebait can be difficult to find. We often squint across the flats of Charlotte harbor looking for seagulls diving on the flats. They are a tale-tale sign that whitebait may be near. If there are no birds flying, then we go to our best-known locations and scan the water looking for the flicker of their shiny scales, or the disturbance at the top of the water to give them away.

It’s certainly an adventure, but once you’ve found bait, cast your net and filled your live well any pressure that still remained in your body suddenly leaves and it’s all about finding a keeper fish. Hopefully, in our quest for the elusive snook and redfish, we are able to snag some other great eating fish like: flounder, mangrove snapper, and trout.

With live bait fishing, the day can be as effortless as you choose. Some decide to troll and work the mangroves looking for the next best fishing spot. I, personally, enjoy going to areas that have produced fish for me in the past and just relax. The great thing about live bait is that they swim on their own…you just have to put them in front of fish and they’ll make themselves look yummy!

Whether we catch fish or strike out, there’s nothing better than staring down your fishing line, relaxing and dreaming about the big one. It all makes for a great day, but all good things must end, so we head back to the ramp, trailer our boat and head home for the dreaded task of cleaning the boat, filleting fish, and getting things in order.

For the times when we get skunked, I have to remind myself: “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work”!