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It’s time to get the family on the water

May 30, 2012
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL - On the Water , Pine Island Eagle

The thought of summertime takes me back to my school days, eagerly awaiting that last school bell of the year, the signal that classroom learning was finally over and the start of summer was here.

Many of my fondest memories as a kid were times spent fishing, boating and just being on the water with my family and friends. I was fortunate to grow up right here in Southwest Florida on Pine Island, where most things to do back then revolved around water activities.

For good, quality, family time it is hard to beat a day on the water. No television, computers or electronic games - you can even turn off the smart phone, Facebook and texting to experience all that nature has to offer.

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For fun fishing action look for spanish mackerel around the Islands. While camping on Cayo Costa State Park, Kim Peterson of Denmark experienced almost no stop action on mackerel. He was fishing the incoming tide in Charlotte Harbor with Capt. Bill Russell.

Of course, when we mention this area and water, the first thing that comes to mind is fishing. And for good reason. We have plenty of it to offer.

If it's a family fishing trip, make it simple and enjoyable. Often we try to make fishing too complicated and difficult, thus turning into a forgettable experience.

I believe the ladies have figured this out. I can almost guarantee every time I have a lady angler on my boat she will catch the most and largest fish. I have come to the conclusion that this happens because women just relax and take what comes, not taking fishing too seriously as is all too common with the male angler.

With kids, they really do not care what kind of fish they are catching; they just want to catch fish - and lots of them. It's always better to go for quantity over quality.

Use light tackle so even the small fish give a good fight and educate the young ones on the types of fish and how to properly handle them so they can be released to grow bigger. The younger kids on my boat often spend more time playing with the bait in the live well, than fishing and having a blast.

If you are fishing by boat, you're options are nearly endless. One sure fire way to catch fish is go to the bait shop and get a bucket full of shrimp. There aren't many fish in these waters that will not eat them. Fish, both big and small, love shrimp and remember we are just looking for action. If you are new to the game, when you go buy bait ask them at the store to give you a direction or suggestions on where and how to fish. I guarantee if you get into a bunch of little snapper in the canals or ladyfish on the grass flats the kids will be smiling from ear to ear.

If you do not have the option of fishing by boat, there are still plenty of choices. Public piers and beaches offer some good fishing. I would also mention bridges, but the combination of children and fast moving traffic just isn't a good combination.

I find that when fishing with children, the younger they are the quicker they lose interest, even if they are catching fish. If you are going by boat, break up the day and make it an adventure, put the family on alert to watch for dolphins, manatee's, eagles, ospreys and other things that might interest them.

As we are getting into the hot season, you might be better to fish a few hours then take a lunch break, hit the beach or do both. You can either pack a picnic lunch and go to one of our pristine beaches or stop by one of the many restaurants that are boat accessible.

After lunch take a swim on the gulf beaches or do a little shelling. This often gives mom a chance to walk the beach shelling while the little ones play in the water.

Southwest Florida offers some beautiful beaches and the spoil islands that connect the Sanibel Causeway spans are also good destinations by boat or car.

Every weekend for as long as I can remember when we get a chance through the summer my family loads up the boat and we spend the day on Cayo Costa, (the island is a state park and only accessible from the water) swimming, playing and acting like kids. And, by the way, there are several boats that shuttle people back and forth to Cayo Costa and other outer islands that are only accessible by boat for a nominal fee.

A few important tips before you go; take plenty of sunscreen, snacks and refreshments, preferably water. Sunglasses, hats and protective clothing will help reduce damage from the sun Make sure everybody drinks water often; it's easy to get dehydrated in the sun without realizing it. It's really important to keep the kids hydrated; they don't have as much body weight so they can become dehydrated very quickly.

We are getting into the time of year for afternoon thunderstorms, so keep a watch on the horizon and do not get caught in open water in a storm. This is not only dangerous, it could ruin what would have been a great day. Make sure you are up on current fishing and boating rules and regulations, you can go to for information. And teach your family about conservation, how to respect and take care of our natural resources, so it will be here for their children.

We're lucky, we live in an outdoor paradise; it's a great place to spend the summer with family adventures of water related activities. There's often no need to travel on long expensive vacations for family entertainment when Southwest Florida has so much to offer, right in our own back yard. With the kids out of school and the official start to summer just a few weeks away what are you waiting for, get out there on the water and have some family fun!

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, and

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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