Capt. Frank Davis has been slammed with business this resurgent season in Boca Grande just like so many of the world-class angling guides in this area.
Born in Arcadia, Davis grew up fishing the waters surrounding Boca Grande. Since 1982, every May through August he goes tarpon fishing in specializes in Boca Grande Pass aboard his custom 24-foot Morgan named "Native." He targets snook, redfish and speckled trout in the backcountry the rest of the year in his 21-foot Lake & Bay flats skiff.
Experienced in live bait and fly-fishing, Davis is known as one of the most personable of all guides. Here are his thoughts on the state of the fishery around Boca Grande, how fishing tourneys need to evolve and whether fishing pressures being placed on fish in the Boca Grande Pass are driving them away.
Capt. Frank Davis
QUESTION: How is this season going?
ANSWER: So far it's going great judging by the amount of fish we're catching. They scared me the other night when they did leave the Pass. It could be pressure after the weekend. But the fish that were there bit. They'd been coming and going, doing their little goofy routine,
Q: How consistent is the fishing quality?
Capt. Frank Davis at a glance
Occupation: fishing guide and Manasota Yacht Brokers
Birth date: Sept. 17, 1960
Residence: Cape Haze
Family: married 3 years
Education: ag science degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tipton, Ga.
Discovered Boca Grande: I was probably 8 years old when I first remember coming to Boca Grande. Mom and Dad used to come here every weekend from Arcadia. Dad fished here a lot. We had the sweetest deal any family could have one house back from the beach at No. 1 Gilchrist Ave. The northern family who owned the house only spent two months out of the year there during the winter. They allowed us to keep it up for them until they came down and then we'd rent a place for two months on Boca Grande. We did that for many years until they built their house on Palm Avenue in 1981, which we just sold to Pat Chapman.
Contact: (941) 270-1364
A: I would say it's more consistent than a year ago. The fish were leaving the Pass with more frequency last year and the year before. They are just starting it now. They go offshore and hang out a couple miles off. They get pressured a lot and they just went out there for a haven
Q: How concerned are you about the status of the tarpon fishery?
A: We have been concerned for quite awhile because the fishery has changed. We used to fish day and night and they never left the Pass. It's because we fished in an orderly manner and had respect for each other, like the traditional live bait guy does. That's long gone now.
Q: How much does motor noise affect the fish?
A: I just wish I had an underwater audio recording of inboards versus outboards. I guarantee the difference will be pretty amazing. It's a style of fishing we're trying to change. You should get ahead ahead of the fish and drift through them.
Q: Are you encouraged by the Lemon Bay Conservancy tarpon fishery restoration project?
A: I've been fishing the Pass professionally since 1981. Today they're finding more and more about these fish that we didn't know: migration patterns, how old these fish get - 50 to 60 years is a long time. The DNA testing is encouraging.
Q: Should fishing tourneys be limited in some way, perhaps by the FWC?
A: If we can get tournaments to be all release, we should. Let's not kill the big females. That would be important in getting that established. No kill, no way. Not only does it stress the fishery, but it puts so much more stress on the guides, too, with worrying about the bait and worrying about catching the fish.
Q: What makes a fishing experience with Capt. Frank Davis different?
A: What I hear mostly about people recommended by our clients is that they had so much fun with you and loved my jokes. I'm always talking with them, do not get mad at them, well some maybe there's a line crossed, but the most important thing is they enjoy being on the boat, which is always clean and well kept. People like to go with captains who have a sense of humor.
Q: How many hours do you put in per week?
A: I'm more of a laidback one-trip-per evening guide. With weekends it's a 50- to 60-hour work week. That's my schedule. Some guys do more trips than me.
Q: Who are your fishing role models?
A: My dad, Ed Davis. He was not a fishing guide but he loved the water and loved his boat. If anyone on Boca Grande wanted to know where mackerel or kingfish were they called dad. He loved to put fish on a smoker and loved to troll.
Q: What impressions did you came away with regarding the first Tarpon Festival?
A: I thought it was great. It seemed like in all the events were well done, especially the awards. It was a little much for us captains having three tourneys in a row. That was hard on us. Having Colton James was great. Overall, I think it was great for Boca Grande.
Q: What makes a guide necessary to fish the Boca Grande Pass?
A: Most people now are so concentrated on business and making a living they don't have time to bring their boat down and try to wander around and do something. Hiring a guide gives you the ease of not owning a boat and not maintaining a boat. Hiring a guide means let's go catch some fish. No maintenance, fuel or tackle costs and pretty much around here you're going to catch something to eat or a tarpon. And then you get out of the boat and go home.
Q: Is the bridge-building affecting fishing in any way?
A: No, not at all.
Q: What is your favorite fish to eat?
That's a toss-up between snook and flounder. People who know me know my snook chowder can't be beat.