Southern US fishing 2010: Gulf Report

Part I: Midnight whiskers and fangs.

These have been some hectic days, fully swamped with tests, projects, and studying. A few days before my midterms, however, I received some inspiring news. My application had been selected to give me the 4 year position of regional representative of my school to a national professional association. This would mean a ridiculously tight schedule for me, but I was elated with the news because of one thing: The conference would be located in New Orleans, Louisiana, and that would mean the opportunity to fish in a new location.

I was literally a walking zombie by the time I had finished midterms, and used up the last of my energy packing for Louisiana. Unfortunately, the new airline restrictions meant that I would not be able to take a check-in luggage, and all my fishing gear would have to pass through security. I knew from past experience that airline security is usually lenient with letting one or two hooks through, but any more than that would result in confiscated equipment (or worse!).

So, I looked over my arsenal of fishing tackle, and finally decided on three precious lures to bring: a 4 inch jerkbait that has landed me dozens of fish species, a 5 inch super fluke and a 3 inch big hammer. I had utter confidence in the jerkbait because of the number of fish I have landed with it, but brought the BH because of it’s loyal following and proven action. I would be packing my light and medium travel rods and reels, one 7 ft with 8 lb mono, and one 9 ft with 30 lb PP.

Arriving in New Orleans after 8 hours of transit time, I watched the sun set across the horizon dejectedly, as I had hoped to fish the magic hour. There was one single fish that I was targeting this trip, and if I caught just one, the whole thing would be deemed a success in my mind. This fish would be Cynoscion nebulosus, or the Speckled Seatrout, a relatively common fish in the Gulf and southeast coastline. Having lived in Virginia in my youth, I remember seeing pictures of the fish and wishing my parents could bring me to the coast to fish for them (no luck, I only caught killifish when I used to fish as a kid in the east coast lol). There is no coincidence why I had been obsessed with the shortfin corvina recently, a fellow species to the speckled seatrout of the same genus, Cynoscion. In general, any species resembling trout or having the name trout will probably attract my attention lol.

With the sun gone over the horizon, I checked into my hotel and pondered whether there was any place I could still fish at night. I had been warned by multiple sources of the dangers of New Orleans, and I was not eager to find out how many stories were true. With very little information on the internet, I decided to try out one of the only piers that I had been able to find information on, which had been touted as a well lit and high tech fishing pier. This pier required a drive across the 25 mile Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, and although I was exhausted from my midterm schedule coupled with the early flight, I was far too excited to try my hand at fishing in Louisiana to be reasonable.

After a quick stop at a small local market for some fresh shrimp (imported lol), I buckle in for the trek across Lake Pontchartrain. So there I am driving across the pitch black Causeway within the first hour of getting into Louisiana, and I realize that I did not pack any bait hooks! CURSES! I have my lures, and a few sinkers, but no bait hooks!!

Somewhat annoyed by my faulty memory, I arrive at the pier to find a very picturesque well lit, and quite modern pier. There are bright electric lights shining directly into the green waters of Lake Pontchartrain and there are clean benches scattered throughout the pier. It isn’t a long pier, and I can clearly see two or three people fishing at the end. I decide to set up at the base of the pier, and rig up my confidence lure: the jerkbait. As I am tying up, a couple walks by me with a fishing pole, and I ask them how the fishing is. They reply that white trout have been hitting pretty well on shrimp at the end. As they begin to walk away, I swallow my pride, and awkwardly ask if I could buy a hook or two from them since I forgot to bring mine. Without a single moment of hesitation, the man pulls out a packet of hooks and gives it to me for free. I thank him repeatedly for his generosity and feel my heart warmed by his goodwill. Although anglers often get a bad rap for being selfish or ill mannered, in my experience (and of course on PFIC) I have found many to be some of the best people I have ever met.

Having started the night off on a good note, I proceed to the end to find another fisherman fishing a very light spinning outfit. I set up across from him, using a single dropper with the sz 2 flounder hook that the previous fisherman had given me. As I am setting up, I see the angler next to me hook up with a small silvery fish. Approaching him, I see him toss a 7 or 8 inch small white seatrout into his bucket. He throws out again, and begins to slowly work his bait back in with a slow retrieve. “Just like fishing for surf perch at home!” I think. Halfway through his retrieve, he strikes hard, but the hook comes back empty. Fish are biting good today, methinks!

I quickly set up my outfit, and cast out with the shrimp. I begin to mimic the other angler’s fishing method and start a slow retrieve. I can feel light fast taps on the bait almost immediately, but striking, I cannot find anything on the end. This continues for 10 minutes, before I get frustrated and decide to put down the fishing pole for a moment to rig up my other pole. It is only on the rail for a few seconds, when I see the tip slowly bounce down. I pick up the rod, and feel a slight pulsating bite then strike hard. The pole bends over, and I feel something thrashing on the end. I reel in the fish, but it is struggling hard, and it starts to pull out some drag on the 8 lb line. The other fisherman’s curiousity is aroused by the sound of my drag and peers over at me. I shrug and continue fighting the fish. Inside, I wonder if I have met my goal of a speckled trout already? Or is it the highly esteemed redfish? Maybe a stubborn black drum? The fish finally submits to the tension of my fishing line, and soon splashes at the surface. The other fisherman sighs and says with disgust: Ah, just a catfish.

I handline the Hardhead Catfish up to the top of the pier, and take a quick picture. Surprisingly, despite all the fishing time I have put in, this is actually the first catfish I have ever caught in the Western Hemisphere (unless you count a bullhead, in which case this would be the second). So, although it is considered largely a trash fish, I was quite proud of my catch, in addition to the relatively respectful fight that it put up. Back into the drink you go!

I start to cast out with the light outfit again, and begin to slowly retrieve the bait back towards the pier. The bites seem to come mostly when the bait as just landed, and is the furthest from the pier. Finally, I hit on one of the strikes, and quickly bring in a small silver fish. But this is not a silver trout, nor a speckled trout at all! It’s croaking noises do, however, placing it in the same family of croakers. This is a small Atlantic Croaker, maybe only 6 inches long. Back into the drink with you, too!

Again, my outfit goes out, and I strike on another hit and am rewarded with another energetic little silver fish. Now, I find a tiny White trout or Sand trout, another member of the genus Cynoscion, on the end of my line. Not a trophy catch by any means, but a first for me and thus a worthy catch in my eyes. The tiny fangs and orange mouth make it almost unrecognizably similar to my dear shortfin corvina from home and I feel happy to see a fish that looks like one of my favorite fish. I return it to the water, but begin to think that maybe the next small catch will go onto the end of my heavy outfit as bait.

Perhaps my thoughts were transmitted to the fish because all of a sudden, the bites disappear for me. I continue casting and slowly retrieving, but I cannot seem to entice the fish to bite anymore. Meanwhile, the fisherman next to me continues to catch fish every 4 or 5 casts, all small white trout. Finally, he packs his gear up and wishes me a good night and takes off. In my experience, sometimes different spots reach different structure and it appeared to me that his spot must be hitting something special out there (I hope this doesn’t create a flood of spot hogging anglers!). So I slide my equipment 6 yards over, and cast out. First cast, BANG! Another croaker! This one is a pretty small one, around 5 inches, so I put it onto the 4/0 hook from my super fluke and cast him out on my heavier outfit. Meanwhile, I continued casting out for the smaller fish.

Whatever the reason, this spot was simply on fire. Every single cast for the next few hours resulted in fish, mostly 8-9 inch White Trout and similarily sized Atlantic Croaker. Eventually, I hit a fish that seemed to fight with some more heart, and I reel in a very adorable little whiskered catfish: a Gafftopsail Catfish. The little fish was only 8 inches, but fought with such energy that it was actually hard to pull him out of the water! The extended filaments on the pectoral and dorsal fin enhanced the long white flattened whiskers extending from the side of the fish’s face. What a unique and interesting fish.

After his release, my bait was again taken with gusto by something, but upon striking, I found very little resistance. Thinking maybe I had snagged a plastic bag, I reeled up to find yet another good sized catfish on the end of the line, but this time, a Blue Catfish. Can’t say I was complaining about the variety! This one was one of the bigger fish of the night at around 16 inches.

It was back to the smaller fish again after this, with another couple of 8-9 inch white trout. Then, I managed to land a trout-like fish that was more slender and sinuous looking. I get the fish underneath the lights and find that my fishing trip could already be declared successful! In my hands was a small 10 inch baby speckled trout. Unfortunately, the young fish looked quite unremarkable with vague light gray speckles scattered along it’s back, and it was somewhat disappointing compared to some pictures of adult speckled trout I had seen in the past. Nonetheless, I was ecstatic with the catch and quickly returned it into the water.

The good bite of croaker, catfish, and white trout continued until I got another bite that slowly pulled my rod tip down. I struck to find a heavy weight on the line. Curiously, there was no response at all, and I started to reel in. There was definitely something very heavy on the end of the line, but it didn’t feel like a fish. I peer over the edge of the pier and see a large shadow slowly rise up from the depth. It is a blue catfish again, and a big one at that (for me). It looked around 10 lbs to me, but I have very little experience with how much catfish weigh. At this point I was a bit confused, because the fish did not move a single muscle from the point I had seen it in the water to the point I had it floating up on the surface. In fact, it looked dead and the white slime trailing off of it looked like mold. With no crab net and the shore too far to drag the fish to, I decide to test my luck and try to handline the fish up. With my 8 lb line, I was only able to get the fish’s head out of the water, and the line had already snapped. The fish laid at the surface for a moment, again not moving a single muscle. I think that maybe I had snagged the dead fish off the bottom of the lake, when it suddenly violently twists and jets off into the darkness. Talk about a delayed reaction!

I took that as a sign to end the night. I packed up my gear, looked at my watch and cursed as I calculated how little time I had left to sleep, and quickly took off for my hotel.

Part II: Halloween whiskers of a different sort.

After the stress of a full day of conferences talking about midlevel practitioners and increasing diversity in health care professions, I did not have the energy to fish the next night, so instead I stopped by the closest local tackle store for some advice on fishing Lake Pontchartrain. Here, I was able to pick up a small pack of bait hooks as well as talk to the local fishermen about where I could night fish at.  Both warned me against fishing on the eastern shoreline of the Lake as it was extremely dangerous. For anyone reading this, remember this point if you ever fish in New Orleans, because I did not find this information when researching fishing in New Orleans and it was actually the next option on my list of places to fish! Whew, close call! Instead, they directed me to a brand new pier on our side of the Lake, thereby avoiding the 25 mile drive across the causeway. It was just rebuilt from the Hurricane, so I had been unable to find any information on the internet about this pier.

The next day, I was still undecided as to where I wanted to fish, so I took a quick drive to the pier that had been recommended to me by the local fishing store. There, I found a super new clean pier with shiny metal railings all around it next to an old wooden pier with 2 fishermen on it. I walked down the short wooden pier and found the 2 fishermen fishing thick rods with thick braid on it. Curious what kind of fish mandated the heavy gear, I ask if they had any luck, and receive the response that nothing was biting. Walking back, I then entered the newer pier and came across a man fishing at the end. I ask him how the fishing is doing, and we engage in a conversation about the fishing. He tells me that the older wooden pier is often used to fish for black drum up to 50 pounds, but that the people there tend to be a more dangerous type. The newer pier, on the other hand, frequently sees catches of speckled trout. This perks my ears, as I am still interested in catching a speckled trout of a decent size and more adult coloration. He continues on, saying that he prefers fishing this pier because of the number of young children and the pleasure he gains from seeing them catching fish.

I decide that the pier seems like a decent place to hedge my bets for the night, and take off in search of bait. I find some bait, have some dinner, and return just as the sun begins to disappear over the horizon. I had hoped that I would be the only person who was crazy about fishing enough to be spending my Halloween on a fishing pier, but I was very very wrong. When I returned, I found a handful of anglers fishing at the end of the pier, with anglers arriving every minute. Slowly, the pier was filling up, but most of the people did not look like they would threaten my safety, which was what I was most attentive about.

I find a spot in between two groups of anglers, trying to be careful to give them wide berth to avoid any conflict. I cast out again, with shrimp as bait on a #2 flounder hook on my lighter outfit, and a #2/0 octopus hook on my heavier outfit, both on droppers. The lighter outfit has it’s bait almost immediately taken, and I pull in a new species, a small Silver perch (Bairdiella chrysoura) which looks exactly like a squat California Queenfish.

Next cast, I pull in another white trout, and it is off to the races. Every single cast on the light outfit results in a 8-10 inch white trout. Again, one cast is suddenly intercepted by a 10 inch Speckled seatrout, looking like the exact fish I had caught the other night. This one photographed with an orange ventral area, but I don’t recall reading that as a characteristic of the species. So either the oil spill (which managed to make its way into the Lake and closed it down over the summer) affected this fish, or my camera went silly for a moment.

Either way, this species was solidly checked off on my list, but I was still hoping for a bigger one so that I could photograph the adult coloration. As it went back in the water, my larger rod bends over hard, and I reach over to pull in a blue catfish, one slightly larger than the one I was able to get over the rail the other night.

After pulling him in and releasing him, the bite slows down, and I sit back, admiring the warm windless night. Eventually, a group of anglers move to my right, and begin to cast their lines across not only mine, but across the anglers on my left too! I get the feeling that they are trying to push me out of the spot, so as soon as the anglers on my left leave, I move to the farthest left point of the pier. Here, I am located on a slight point of the pier, so it will be harder for people to crowd my lines. I cast out both poles again, and wait for the bite. I hear some commotion from the nearby wooden pier which is pitch black with no light, and I see someone shine a torch in their direction in time to glimpse a person lift an ENORMOUS fish up, a bit longer than the entire length of the angler’s legs! It was just out of range for me to identify the fish, but it looked like some type of drum either black or red. I begin to wonder if those monsters might stray my way too.

Soon after, a group of two teenagers and their mother setup next to me. I watch as they throw out their scotch taped outfits with bobbers next to mine while they excitedly chatted with each other about who would catch the first fish. Meanwhile, the fishing had started to heat up for me again, and I was catching the white trout on every single cast, without even retrieving. I could see the two dejectedly look at their outfit and wish they could catch fish. With every fish I caught, the boys would move their outfits a little bit closer to mine, and eventually I had to move that rod so that we would not tangle. However, I had no ill intent towards them, and as I listened to them chat, it occurred to me that they were some of the most polite youths I have encountered in a long time.

Remembering the kindness that the angler on my first night had shown me, I decided to pay it forward, and teach the kids how to properly rig a dropper loop using the terminal tackle I had since they had none.  With this change in gear, the first cast they made saw a hard hit as their little plastic rod bent over hard. One of the kids jumped up and reeled in like mad, and we leaned over the edge of the pier to find a very large catfish attached! The boys were overjoyed, and were much too excited to stop and listen to my advice to walk the fish around to the shore. As they tried to reel the large catfish over the edge of the pier, the hook shot out and narrowly missed them in the fact! Luckily both were good sports about losing the fish (and keeping their eyes!), and after seeing me release every fish I had caught, they both reassured themselves that the fish would have been released anyways.

We continued fishing together, and for some reason, my outfits were just getting non stop action, while everyone else on the pier did not even get a single sniff. Soon, I had a number of young boys and girls as well as older fishermen approaching me and asking what in the world I was doing to keep catching fish? One thing that I was doing was fishing the “shadow line” where the illuminated water from the pier would meet the darker water, and many of my bites came in that location. Also, the shrimp I was fishing was supposed to be “freshly imported“(lol), while the others were fishing previously frozen shrimp. However, besides those differences, I could not account for my continued success.

In fact, by one point, I was too busy manning two rods, so I just threw out my lighter rod directly down along the pilings, thinking that it would give me some time to sit back, but within seconds that rod tip was jiggling. I picked up the rod, felt for the next bite, and struck hard. It was met was a hard resistance and then a frenzied struggle. So far, nothing had fought with this type of excitement, so I wondered what I had tied into. Up from the depth came a funny looking trapezoidal flash of silver and up came my first Black Drum. The hyperactive juvenile came up over the railings and despite it’s homely appearance with those big eyes and little chin whiskers it had it’s own adorable appeal. With the amount of resistance it had put up coming up, I wondered what it would be like to tie into a 50 or 60 pound adult.

I took a quick picture and released him. Soon the bite was dying down again, and I spent most of my time just joking around with the large number of unsupervised kids fishing in the area. At that moment I began to completely realize the enjoyment that the local fisherman had derived from being around these youthful anglers with their energy, happiness, and eagerness to learn.

Eventually, it was late enough that I had to return to my hotel in order to prepare for an early morning. I said farewell to my new little friends, and headed back for the night, thoroughly satisfied, not only with the fishing experience, but also the lesson in humanity.

Part III: Victory and bitter defeat, a story of reds and specks.

My last day in Louisiana started off bright and early, well before sunrise. By utter and complete pure luck, I had managed to connect with a healthcare provider near New Orleans, who was looking for a partner to go fishing on this weekend. Our communication had cut off early in the week, and I had thought it was unlikely that we would end up meeting, but the night before I received a call from him saying that our trip was green for go.

I had already met my goal of catching a speckled trout, so was completely satisfied with whichever way this trip would go and I was simply thankful to have someone show me the ropes of fishing the Louisiana swamps. This person told me that he almost exclusively targets speckled trout with lures and I was excited at the prospect of catching a bigger adult speckled trout.

Upon meeting for the first time, I was happy to find both of us getting along very easily. We spent the 45 minutes chatting while driving his boat out into the deeper reaches in the swamps south of New Orleans. Eventually, we came across a small dilapidated area he termed the launch ramp. Despite the ragged looks and nearby sunken boats, there were about 4 or 5 other boats launching from that point as well. We were able to get onto the water right as the sun started to burn through the fog, and as we zoomed through the maze of swampy grasses, I saw the surface alive with commotion as small fish spooked from our boat.

We drive for a short time, and then come across a region my friend coined the confluence, where many of the marshy lanes of water converge to form a huge body of water. Here, he said, as the tide was falling, fish would congregate to feast on the shrimp that would be forced out. He told me to keep an eye open for diving birds, as this would be the easiest sign of feeding fish. Upon clearing the next bunch of grasses, we come onto a beautiful scene, a huge mass of birds diving in front of us.

To avoid spooking the fish, we motor up within 40 or so yards, then switch to an electric trolling moter. My friend gives me a fluorescent “popping cork,” which is a hollowed out Styrofoam float with a weighted end, and tells me to tie on one of his small 3 inch plastic swimbaits. He tells me that after casting out the tackle, you attract fish to hit the swimbaits by “popping” the float… Hm, sound familiar, you bonito hunters??

We slowly motor up to the diving birds, and we both begin casting out. Pop, pop, pop. Neither one of us hooks ups. The cloud of birds gets closer to us, and I’m able to get the float and swimbait right into the middle of the mass. My fishing partner says, “You’re going to get hooked up right-“ before he can finish, my float dives hard, and I feel a fish on! A nice little fighter, I get the fish up pretty quickly, and face my first adult speckled trout. In the morning sunrise, the fish is indescribly beautiful, with it’s iridescent purple sheen complementing the row of solid black spots running down it’s back, dorsal fin, and caudal fin. My partner looks over, and says it’s too small, get it back in the water so we can catch the bigger ones! We continue throwing our baits into the boils, and if our float can land into the boil, the bite is almost instantaneous. Most of the fish run around 12-13 inches, but fight like fish larger than that.

Within seconds though, the boils have died off and now we are casting blindly. I am using the small sparkly clear swimbait my friend had suggested I use, but I realize that I have my sexy smelt big hammer. I tie on the swimbait, and cast out and BAM! Fish on! This one is fighting harder, and when I get it in, it measures out at 15 inches. “Nice size!” my friend says. I get my sexy smelt back out and hook up in seconds again. Over and over this repeats itself, and I’m getting bites everywhere, from my farthest casts to right next to the boat! I’m beginning to think my big hammer is the best lure ever invented for speckled trout.

Unfortunately, all this attention from these ferocious fanged predators does not bode well for my lone plastic swimbait. Not only is it soon covered with punctures and rips, one fish eventually rips it at the base of the body, and it won’t hold onto the jig head anymore. I try my hardest to attach it deeper into the body, but it is simply torn too much. I switch back to the other swimbait, and the bites have stopped. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

We spend the rest of the morning chasing the diving birds that appear in the horizon, but most of them break up before we get there, or we are only able to pick up one or two small fish before they are gone. I am still getting a few bites on my inferior swimbait, but I am realizing the drawback of having a large float between your lure and rod, which is the enormous amount of drag that cushions your strikes and makes good hooksets difficult.

Eventually, my friend suggests that we bait fish a small partially submerged house in the middle of the swamp for drum and flounder. Eager for new species, I agree and we anchor in the shallow water with a long T-shaped PVC pipe driven into the soft mud.

We cast out shrimp on dropper loops, and both of us are bit almost immediately (getting an idea of what Louisiana fishing is like?). However, neither of us hook the fish, and this game of stolen bait continues for the next half hour. I switch to a slightly smaller hook, and cast out. This time, the bite is a slower pull, and when I strike I am met with a good solid resistance. My rod tip pulls over and I get something to the surface that looks too familiar to me. Although I always welcome new species, this Atlantic stingray is definitely not on my list of valued species. I am happy that the hook is shallow, and release it quickly, noting that the stinger is much longer and dangerous looking than most of the stingray species I have seen in California.

We switch locations and my friend tells me that the oil spill had closed off the entire region in front of me. I am happy to see the water clear of oil, and the grasses all green and healthy looking. We cast out with the shrimp again, and are met once again with the light tapping of the bait stealers. We fish for another half hour and I manage to pull up another small blue catfish who refused to stay still for a photo. After releasing him, my friend suggests that we chase redfish in the shallows marshes.

It sounds like an exciting prospect, and I eagerly agree. We take off into the deeper swampland, and my friend slowly motors into an impossibly shallow marsh where we are nearly surrounded by marshy grasses. As the boat slowly inches forward, my friend suggests putting a chunk of shrimp only a few inches below a bobber and casting it into pockets in the marginal grasses while we slowly motor through the swamp. There are small splashes everywhere, as 4-5 inch baitfish make their way around us. Menhaden, my friend tells me, prey for the redfish. As we motor our way slowly forwards, my friend excitedly points to a shadow in the water: “Redfish!” It is too spooked to take our bait, but we both watch as the one and half foot fish slides along the shallow water right next to the marginal grasses, and squeezes by our boat. Wow, surreal. In the center of the picture, you can make out a V-shaped wake near the marginal grasses.

We continue on, with me at the stern, and my friend at the bow. Eventually he sees a school of redfish, and switches to a spoon to cast to them. I cannot do the same, being at the stern, and I watch as he immediately hooks up. The fish is on for a few seconds, but manages to spit the hook. Seeing his success on artificials, I switch to my lighter 8 lb setup to throw an artificial. But what do I have left? I decide to try my big hammer one last time after I realize that I can hook the swimbait upside down, with the hook going through the back, where the plastic is less torn.

Eventually we come to a very tiny bay, where my friend anchors up, and says it would be a good place to ambush redfish passing through. We cast around the margins of the cove, and I get my big hammer out right amongst the margins of the furthest point of the cove. As I start the retrieve, I feel the lure catch on weeds, and I yank it hard to get it out. Feeling it going free, I start the slow retrieve. Then, the lure stops again.

Thinking it was weeds again, I give a hard yank. No luck, the lure is stuck… But wait, the snag is moving away, my rod is bending downwards. I yell to my friend, I got one! He looks over and says “Nice! I told you they were here. Now get it in.” I am trying to reel the fish in, when I realize that I cannot. I simply cannot reel in the fish, it is swimming around whichever way it wants, and when I try to reel, my rod tip just gets lower.  When I try to pump the fish, the drag just gives. Knowing that my drag is set quite closely to the 8 lb breaking strain, I am somewhat stunned. The fish is not in any real hurry, and slowly makes its way back and forth in the shallow bay. Seeing me make absolutely no progress with the fish, my friend looks at me, wondering why I am not reeling the fish in.

Eventually, it seems the fish is starting to come closer to the boat, and I am able to exert some force on it. But nope, the fish shoots past the boat, and onto the other side of the bay. Again, not a screaming drag run, but just a steady brisk pace. It makes another few runs back and forth in the bay, and I begin to feel it tiring a bit. I make an upward pump, and all of a sudden the murkiness of the swamp water parts to reveal a behemoth redfish’s back. The shimmering red scales on it’s back seem like huge plates of armor. Even my friend’s mouth drops open, as he says “Wow… That’s… a big fish!!” He grabs the net and gets ready to net the fish. However, the fish is nowhere near ready to come in, and dives immediately.

It is at this point that I did a foolish move that I will never forget. I know my drag is set well, and the hook seems to be holding well. I know my friend has a net ready, and I know that this is a big fish that I would regret forever if I lost it. So I begin to horse the fish, pumping it back up to the top so my friend can net it, even if it was green.

The fish comes up once again, for just one second showing it’s prehistoric looking back, and it is not happy about this. With all this horsing, the fish has gotten near the boat, and he sees his chance. It takes off straight underneath the boat. I had hoped that the 15 minute fight had sufficiently tire out the fish and I could get it back out, but this fish was no minnow. Realizing that it had found an avenue for escape, the fish shot out full steam underneath the boat, causing my drag to start whining. I thought in my head PLEASE NO! But it was too late, the line caught on the bottom of the boat, and it provided the leverage for the fish to shake the hook.

I felt the line go slack, and I reeled back the remains of my swimbait. The torn and tattered swimbait now neatly matched the jighead hook which was straightened out.

“That was a big one…” my friend repeated. “I know,” I shook my head. I could not believe it. We continued casting in the little bay, hearing explosive splashes giving indication that another redfish was in there, but neither of us were able to entice any strikes. With my BH swimbait gone, I only had a silver swimbait my friend had let me borrow that was too light to cast well on it’s own.  Soon, noon was upon us, and we had to return home. I had a flight to catch, and my friend had his family to attend to. On the way back, we stopped at one last location, where I was able to pick up another two speckled trout, the largest we had seen all day, but all I could think about was the unstoppable train that had been my first redfish. Despite my crushing disappointment, I was happy that the fish had spit the hook, and did not have to contend with a hook stuck in its mouth.

Also, I know I will be having another conference in Florida in the next few years, so watch out Mr. Sciaenops ocellatus you are in my sights.

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