Genmar Fishing School Page 2
Back to School
Part 2: The waters are full of tarpon, speckled trout, snook, kingfish, and redfish.
Story and Photos by Elizabeth Ginns Britten
The afternoon includes a group session (sponsored by Shakespeare and Chaos Rods) on tackle selection, preparation, and maintenance and individual practice sessions covering things like how to rig live and artificial baits and use a cast net to catch bait. There’s also a demonstration on stand-up and fighting-chair techniques that teaches proper stance and positioning to minimize fatigue and eliminate injuries and muscle soreness, but I wished certain topics had been covered more extensively. For example, my group had just 30 minutes (really only 15 minutes because our instructors used 15 minutes getting it straight themselves) to learn and master three different types of knots. We were already familiar with these knots, but a half-hour probably wouldn’t be enough time for an inexperienced angler, especially considering knot-tying is one of the most-used skills on the water. However, my group was the first to go through the knot-tying session; a day’s recap during dinner back at the Tarpon Lodge, the school’s home base, revealed that other participants didn’t have the same problem my group did.
The Tarpon Lodge, with its warm family atmosphere and rustic accommodations, is about 45 minutes west of Fort Myers in Pineland and provides a perfect setting for a fishing school. The surrounding waters are full of tarpon, speckled trout, snook, kingfish, and redfish, and the lodge is a welcome retreat from long days in the sun. I must admit, though, that if you’re looking for luxury, the Tarpon Lodge is not your place. My room was basic, with two beds, a private bathroom, four channels on the small TV, and no telephone. Nor was there cellphone reception or Internet access, which was a problem since I was there for business but would have been ideal had I been there for pleasure. There are rooms with phones, waterfront views, porches, and/or balconies. The lodge also features a quaint common area, a bar where there’s always some action, and a four-star restaurant that prepares hearty and welcome meals and offers breathtaking views of Captiva and Sanibel Sounds, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Days at the school are long and full, especially the days under the powerful Florida sun. We were on the water for ten hours, pretty much without shade, so if you decide to attend, take along lots of sunblock, polarized sunglasses, and protective clothing; Genmar provides a long-brim hat and lightweight, light-colored fishing shirt for each student. There are no toilets on the boats, but Capt. Dunn was receptive to periodic bathroom breaks at the nearby island resort of Cabbage Key (See “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” this story).
After receiving my “diploma” on my last night at the Tarpon Lodge, I reflected on my days at fishing school. I was exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion. I had learned some new skills and fine-tuned some old ones, made some new friends, and caught more fish than I can even remember. Despite the thunderstorms, heat, and lack of luxury, I was sad to leave. And what if I didn’t land any big game or catch a tournament-worthy fish? The three days in Pineland taught me something I’d forgotten: Fishing is fun, no matter how lucky you get.
Genmar/Evinrude Backwater Fishing School Phone: (800) 755-1099. www.genmarbackwaterfishingschool.com.
Genmar/Evinrude’s Backwater Fishing School runs on select dates from February through November. Tuition is approximately $1,900, which includes accommodations, meals, all fishing gear, one day of in-class instruction, and two days on the water with a professional angler.
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.