When you get there, the fish on your hook pull hard. You can barely move them and once you get them coming, often as not, something far larger, something with teeth grabs them and all you can do is play tug of war with something you’ll never stop. Rods stowed, it’s over and there’s well over 60 miles to travel on the boat ride back.
It could have been better - or worse - depending on your point of view. At dawn I told Capt. Ryan we needed to be back at the dock by 3PM because I had reservations for another boat trip with wives and kids, just across the bridge on Sanibel Island. “I’ll try,” was all he said. “I guess we won’t be heading for the Dry Tortugas. They are 110 miles out. The fishing is fantastic out there.”
It was tempting! The Dry Tortugas are a few small islands and coral reefs about halfway from Ft. Myers to the western tip of Cuba. A military fort (Fort Jefferson) was built on the largest island to combat the rampant piracy in the early 1800s, the area is now a National Park. It’s on my bucket list of places to go, so I was tempted. But the non-fishermen others in our group were eager for their own adventure afloat.
The tour guide explained what we’d likely see on our cruise through, in and out of the backwaters at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge then he delivered. He mentioned, manatees, dolphins, eagles and egrets. We saw plenty of peregrines, a plethora of pelicans, sea turtles and sea life – all in the span of time the other boat would have taken to get to the Tortugas.