It's A Small World

By Dave Duwe - April 1, 2009
From the frozen river to a Florida reef, what a difference a week can make. On February 16th, FLW Touring Pro Brad Davis and I hit the Wisconsin River near the Wisconsin Dells. We literally "hit" the river, there were ice flows, a lot of ice flows, as the river had only been open for a couple of days when we arrived. When I left my house that day, the thermometer read 6 degrees, which I had thought must have been some kind of error, but Brad confirmed that he too saw and felt single digit temps. I anticipated a slow day, maybe 8 or 10 fish, so I was pleasantly surprised when our 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. trip yielded 30-40 walleyes and saugers, and 3 of them were over 15 inches.

The best bait was a ½ oz lindy rig with a 24 inch leader and a painted "blood hook." The fish were positioned in 20-25 ft of water. We drifted and fished vertical to the bottom. Afternoon was by far the better bite. I did win one dollar from Brad for the first fish, although I'm still waiting for payment, tough economy.

A few short days later, I was on a plane to see Mickey Mouse in Florida. At 42 years old, I had never been to Florida. My childhood vacations were spent chasing white bass in Omro, Wisconsin or a week "up north."

Being a fishing guide, I will never travel anywhere in the world where I can't fish, I simply won't go. So even though this vacation wasn't about fishing, I did manage to plan a fishing trip with a fellow guide/captain/client, Matt Bowers on the Gulf Coast near Anna Maria Island. From Orlando, this was about a 2 ½ hour car ride. Matt Bowers had been in Wisconsin last summer and we had fished Delavan Lake together. We hammered the largemouth and the walleyes and Matt gave me the courtesy response, "if you are ever in Florida, give me a call." With an invitation like that, how could I refuse! I enjoy fishing with people who have the same attitude about fishing as I do. Matt is exceptionally mellow and focused on catching something and having fun. I take this same attitude when I'm out with my customers, but this trip I have to admit that my top priority was one less day standing in lines at a theme park, my next goal was taking my son fishing.

It was cold by Florida standards the day we went fishing, 70 degrees and sunny. The water temp was 63 degrees. This seemed like heaven to me since the week prior, I was maneuvering around ice on the river. On the trip was my 6 year old son Nathan, Jeff Wolters (Brother-in-law, if he ever gets off of dead center) and myself.

Matt explained that the bite was slower in the mornings, so we didn't meet until 9:00 a.m. By the time we arrived, Matt had already been out getting bait, pinfish and scaled sardines. We also bought some live shrimp. (My son, thought that these might be good for lunch but I explained that they were still alive, I think he would have eaten one anyway!)

The poles that we were going to be using looked familiar as they were rigged with a split shot and a single hook. We used a #5 round split shot with a 1/0 circle hook. The main line was 30 lb Berkley Fireline with a 20 lb fluorocarbon leader. This is a very simple rig that I have used for 30 years. It was cool to use this split shot/single hook method and find that it works on both salt and fresh water fish.

The first spot was ½ mile out in the Gulf of Mexico. We anchored and let our baits free spool to the bottom in 15 ft of water. We fished for about 30 minutes without a bite. It was time to move on, Matt took us to another spot inside Sarasota Bay. We were trying for redfish or speckled sea trout. I finally hooked up on this spot but it wasn't much of a fight as it came from the air, not the sea, it was about a 1 ½ lb seagull. We took a few pictures and then released it. Unfortunately, this was the excitement for the first 4 hours of the trip. Spot after spot and nothing! Matt assured us that once we found them, we'd catch them, but where were they? The Gulf of Mexico is pretty big!


At this point, I noticed that the trip gauge showed 60 miles. I couldn't believe the effort that Matt gave to put us on fish. Our last spot was in the middle of Tampa Bay. There was a sunken boat in 20 ft of water. Once we anchored, the first cast and a sheephead hammered the shrimp. My son battled it into the boat and his first question was, "can we eat it?" Matt said yes and I have to admit it was pretty tasty. We had found the fish and proceeded to catch them for the next two hours. The sheephead bit on shrimp and the Key West Grunts and Gag Grouper were caught on the pinfish. It was so long finding the fish that our trip was coming to an end. Nathan's arms were sore from battling the fish and I was thirsty for something I had heard about on the beach, something called beer.

We made the short trip back to Catchers Marina. After Matt cleaned a couple of our fish and we fed a few pelicans, it was time to adjourn to Matt's Captains hangout, Duffy's. It's a typical fishermans hangout like we have here in Wisconsin. At age 6, Nate has all the fishing lingo and stories of a person ten times his age. The day concluded with Nate explaining to an old salt sitting next to us that we'd been fishing a ship wreck but that he wasn't sure if it had been a Pirate's ship or not. Everyone had a good laugh and we had an enjoyable day all around. If you are ever in the Bradenton Florida area, give Matt Bowers a shout, his email is mbowers07@verizon.net or phone 941-504-2241.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .