Reeling in some Florida fun

“I’ve got one!”

That was the excited squeal from my wife Sandy as she battled the first redfish of her life. We were fishing off the Southwest coast of Florida one windy, but warm early February day with Capt. Ryan Kane of Fort Myers. She didn’t keep the rod tip up, letting the brute battle the brunt of the Shimano rod. She wasn’t holding onto the rod like a seasoned pro. She struggled with the spinning reel. There was only one thing that was important – she was having fun. Yes, she managed to get the fish to the boat and we staged a little picture-taking session. That was a feat in and of itself for the camera-shy spouse of mine. And when the task was complete, she was casting out again to catch another.

“I could get used to this,” she said.

Ryan looked up, smiled and said, “Did you hear that? Mission accomplished!”

Kane’s “mission” of sorts, as an important goal of his Southern Instinct charter operation (www.southerninstinct.com; 239-896-2341), is to do whatever it takes to make his customers happy. His specialty is families, because he has three youngsters of his own and he listens to what the customers want. “One day I had a family out – mom, dad and two teenage kids – and the plan was to fish a few hours, then boat over to an island and do some shelling and some swimming. As luck would have it, we hit a hot bite and the mom and kids were having so much fun that they fished for the entire day. They ended up coming back the next day to boat over to that island and complete their established agenda, the way they originally intended. It’s all about giving them something that they would remember for the rest of their lives.”

This trip, too, had memorable experiences  – like Sandy getting up close and personal with a young cow manatee in one of the backwaters off the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. We were fishing for sheepshead in Kane’s favorite sheepshead spot, a special hole passed along by his grandfather when Ryan was learning about what fishing was all about. Grandpa was an excellent instructor.

Using his 24-foot Pro Line boat that he’s modified for fishing as his stage, Kane will try and manipulate the outdoor experience to the advantage of his customers. If a wife is out-fishing the husband (which they often do because they listen and they don’t have any bad habits), he will try and get the couple working together so they are having a good time. He wants them still talking by the end of the day, enjoying all the Sunshine State has to offer.

In addition to the people, he also has an excellent gauge on the situation weather-wise. He doesn’t want clientsto have a bad experience with rough waves or anything else that might lead to a negative reaction. Nothing can turn a trip south faster than someone getting seasick or scared. After six years as a full-time charter guy, he’s found his niche. He’s ready to take the next leap by adding a 36-foot Contender to his personal fleet of vessels. “It’s what the customers want,” said Kane, again with a smile. “With a head on the boat I’ll be able to take families offshore to do a bit more challenging fishing options – when the conditions are right, of course. “

On this day we caught seven different species of fish. We kept a few for the frying pan, too. Blackened redfish is tough to beat when it’s that fresh. Since were staying at the Outrigger Motel (www.outriggerfmb.com) in Fort Myers Beach, we had a complete kitchen to cook up our catch. Life doesn’t get much better than this. It ended with another memorable Southwest Florida sunset.

Kane operates out of Port Sanibel Marina and the facility is recognizing the importance of its charter fleet. They are making some renovations that will help spotlight the captains to the many patrons of the Lighthouse Restaurant and the boat tours that operate out of the marina. If you have an opportunity to check out the restaurant, I highly recommend the Grouper Reuben with cole slaw instead of sauerkraut. You won’t be disappointed! For more information on Southwest Florida check out www.fortmyers-sanibel.com. It’s a great place to escape to any time during the year, but especially during the winter when we have a tendency to develop a serious case of cabin fever – just what the doctor ordered!

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