[u]Executive Summary[/b] Winds 8-10, temps mid 70's to upper 80's, water 80's, 2 reds; I seldom if ever use bait for reds, trout and snook, but today...
I had been hearing reports about some pretty darn big reds at a location that I frequent about 3-4 times a year. It's kinda a haul for me and a long paddle at that, but sometimes a man must do what a man must do.
I was up at 4:00ish and after wallowing in some breakfast and work stuff I managed to make to the launch site at 6:25am. With a 6:45 sunrise I attached my light and pushed out into a stiff, but expected breeze. At least I would have a decent tail wind on the way back I thought. Sunrise was a good one - too good to pass up a shot.
Here's one off the bow.
Another off the port side. Plenty of wind created the undulations.
I paddled through all the water between the launch site and as I approached the island I saw that courtesy of an outboard engine a fellow angler had beat me there. It made for a pretty good shot so I took a couple pics and moved on.
I went to the South side of the isalnd and found tons of mullet, but there really wasn't any gamefish activity. After a while the winds calmed down and I stood up and finally found what I was looking for. Schooling reds in the 30-40" size. Fortunately I was by myself and no one scared the fish. I made multiple presentations with multiple lures and multiple variations of colors for my trinity of lures (paddle tails, topwater plugs, and jerk baits), but these fish had lock jaw and wanted nothing to do with everything I threw at them. By 8am the jig was up and I lost track of the school.
So I worked my way around the island hoping to find them again. All I really found were these birds hagning out. I wasn't to pleased with them in the trees - my mantra is if the birds ain't fishing it probably isn't worth fishing.
By 10:30 am bunches of guide boats started to show up and I pretty much kept my distance from them. I would say that there was about 6 maybe a couple more. I did keep an eye on them though - they do this stuff for a living so I figured when in Rome...
Still not having any luck I pushed farther away from the building armada. I head East and then circled back to the West. Coming back I could see that one boat was on what appeared to be a decent sized redfish. I observed another boat hooked up, then another. I pulled within 20 yards off the armada's stern and just observed for about 5 minutes as fish after fish came in. I would estimate that 10 rods were all firing off at once with multiple hook ups per boat. As expected they were all throwing live bait - something I didn't have, but I had colors close enough to mimic what they were throwing - a 3" silver/white riptide paddletail.
Getting between two boats and with about 15 yards to spare on both port and starboard I anchored up in about 4' of water. I heaved as far as I was worth and started reeling. I could feel one miss, two misses, then a solid hook up. On a 2000 series reel line was peeling out about as fast as it could, but several minutes into the fight I managed to turn the fish. Fortunately this fish didn't have plans to go under the larger boats, so after a while I was able to get him close to my kayak. As I reeled him in I knew I had my biggest red to date, but the one behind him dwarfed him. I would estimate the larger of the two at upper 30's.
I hollered over to the boat to my port side," Throw behind me there's a huge one following mine." He hollered back, "Why bother there's more straight ahead." Good point. I had my 360 degree kayak goat rodeo going on and he probably didn't want to get tangled in my situation.
Eventually I landed the fish - boated him, took a couple quick pics, and threw him back. I would say it was 32 maybe 32.5" - that anchor pole in the picture messed things up, but I was kinda in a hurry to get back to the action.
I threw back into the melee and managed to get on again. I was counting rods and not including mine I saw at least 7 hookups firing off. Somehow we all avoided each other and several minutes later I released another 31-32" red. Two casts, two way overslot fish - nice.
After I landed the second fish the action slowed down and I think everyone had pretty much had had enough - 20-30 minutes of nonstop hook ups was enough for everyone. The armada broke up and spread out again. I opted to head back home as two fish at that size was enough for my day.
Funny how earlier in the morning I was thinking - "Man if I had some cutbait or something these reds would bite." As I paddled in I was pretty happy to have gotten on the 2 biggest reds I've landed. I was borderline close to giving into the darkside and finding some cutbait, but as luck would have it I simply rode the coattails of those power chumming.
Almost to mock my efforts the winds died down, the temperatures picked up, and I had a solid 1.75 mile paddle back.
Over the horizon I could hear, "Use the bait John. Let go." Maybe next time...