Executive Summary Temps 70's falling to mid 60's. Winds 5-15. Couple few snook, couple reds - where the heck are the trout??
With the kids out for MLK I made a quick call to my manager to make sure that a couple hours off in the afternoon was doable. Time secured I talked to my neighbor who had the whole day off and rounded up Wonderboy to get him off the XBox and out in some "fresh air".
Loading up the truck things were really looking up - no breeze, and warm. I opted to leave the jacket and waders home, but realized if we were on the water at sundown it would be a "brisk" evening. With that in mind Wonderboy grabbed his jacket. On the way over I reminded him to check the drag when he got in the boat. "Over the weekend the red I had on three times tried to pull me into the oyster bed. If that happens to you you really have no choice - feather and then lock down on the spool if need be." He had that glazed look of "Hey I'm busy Facebooking on my phone here."
Hitting the launch site at around 2pm the breeze started to kick up. Pushing out of the groves and on to the flats you could tell it was going to be a breezy day. It had the feel of the recent kayak tourney out at Ft. Desoto, but I felt we would be better protected by isolated mangrove islands. In more open water you could feel that the winds were kicking up and the spray of the water was a good reminder that the water was still cool. Probably mid to upper 60's.
Wonderboy isn't a fan of the breeze, but maturing more he just accepted it. Offering a bit of encouragement I told him I thought the winds would die down in a couple hours. With a high tide we fished some of the groves and tried to fish some holes, but it was a good goose egg. About 45 minutes into it I saw an Osprey flying overhead towards more open water. We watched him and eventually the bird crashed into the water. Whatever he had was to big to haul out and the bird floundered around a good bit. Eventually the bird figured out it was just too much and let go. The open water didn't look to fishy, but with the winds calming a bit (call it 7 knots) I paddled the several hundred yards out and made a go of it. As luck would have it the winds picked up, and looking out you could see a bunch of white caps kicking up. Couple few casts into it I realized that whatever was here wasn't going to be worth it, and paddled back at 45 degrees into the waves. It was a wet ride (much wetter than the tournament) with water coming over the port side and spraying me in the face, but it was worth trying.
With winds steadily picking up and waves really accumulating the only plan at hand was to hopscotch island to island and fish the leeward side of the island. About 1/2 to 3/4 mile down was a large area that was very much secluded that I had a strong feeling the fish were hanging out at. Seeing lots of mullet things were looking up, but the Northward paddle had the wind coming over the beam or right in our face. We were constantly correcting for the winds and having a hard time fishing our light paddletails. Spoons were much easier to fish.
Eventually we made it to the spot and hoped that the winds wouldn't change because if they did the paddle back would be brutal. I'm not a fan of magic hills or switching winds. Accompanied by a setting sun you can see below that the winds were about 20' away from us. He liked this shot best - personally I like less color.
By now the only luck we had was bad, but this area looked really fishy. Soon enough I was on and what felt like a decent fish probably ended up being a flounder. As soon as whatever it was approached the boat it was off. I threw again, but this time it was a solid thump and it was game on. I was convinced that this was a big red and Wonder boy watched about 25 yards away as the boat did a full 360. Couple minutes later I pulled in said beast - a lower 20' red. I was pretty surprised that this guy fought so hard, but that had been the theme lately.
We continued to fish the area hard but with time running out we decided to boogey back. With a building tail wind we made quick work of the way back - him faster than me. I told him to go on and I'll catch up. I had a good feeling about the sinking sun and the bite.
While trying to catch up to him closely overhead I saw another Osprey with what I thought was a fellow fisherman. Turns out it was a much larger Bald Eagle is search of an easy dinner. Eventually he caught up to the Osprey and bullying him the Osprey dropped the fish. Not seeing the fish fall the Bald Eagle kept harassing the Osprey. However, without the fish in its talons any more the Osprey was much more agile and quickly turned the tables. Now the Bald Eagle was being harassed. After much squawking and screeching eventually they went their separate ways. I'm sure there's something symbolic about our national bird being wasteful but it escapes me now.
Catching up to Wonderboy we traded stories about the fracas an agreed to give fishing one last shot. (or at least I did). "You take that corner I'll take this one". His look pretty much said it all. He felt that the day was a waste and nothing much would come of it. Seeing moving water and a sinking sun I told him it was the bewitching hour. "Give it a shot and see what happens." I pitched towards the mangrove and was quickly on a upper teens snook. On the release I looked over at him and saw that he had a doubled over rod and whatever he had on was giving him fits.
I holler over - "You drop anchor?" "Yes" was the reply. Seems he was a bit busy to elaborate. Theoretically anchored the boat was still moving - between the wind, incoming water, and decent fish it looked like whatever it was had his number. The rod was clearly pointed to the treeline. "Looks like a good red!" I hollered back "Give 'em hell. I'm on my way" No way was I going to coach him up on this one. He knows the gig by now.
At about 50 yards I see the bronze fish splashing on the surface - I also see him grinning ear to ear, but he was having a hard time securing it with the fish grip. Eventually the fish tired and was secured. It wasn't a huge red, but the way it fought it made his day. I'll give it lower to mid 20's. Regardless the fish put up a great fight and he even told me he had to lock down on the spool. Seems he does listen. (Looks like I blew the shot and wasn't quite focused).
Fish released and figuring there was was little chance of things getting better we paddle in and called it a day. We paid our dues to the fish gods by being bitten up by the no see'ums. [Really? I hate it when they get in your scalp.] Boats loaded up we headed back home.
On the way I see him messing with the phone again - updating Facebook with a fishing status. "Great day fishing." I tell him to add - "How was your day Xboxing?" Then I told him make it "How was your day Xboxing wusses? Real men fish in 15 knot winds, watch bald eagles steal food from Ospreys, don't take jackets in 60 degree weather and still bring home the bacon. Booyah!!" - seems that wasn't PC and didn't make the cut. He did laugh though and pointed out he wore a jacket at the end.
"Well don't let the facts get in the way of the truth. I didn't." I left out I was pretty darn cold.