5-6 reds, 6-7 jacks, bunch of ladyfish, 1 snook, one mullet that sky rocketed like a mackerel.
So it's Labor Day and we don't have any family who are officially parts of unions or other trade affiliations so it's BBQ, or BBQ and beer, or fishing, BBQ, and Beer, or fishing, BBQ, beer, and kayaking with the family.
Being a sound man I listened she who must be obeyed and opted to take the family kayaking after I fished a bit.
The morning started out with a beautiful sunrise...again. There was a slight breeze, but not too bad. Recon from a fellow agler had me paddling a bit more than I like, but a man must do what a man must do.
Continuing my paddle I saw good bit of bird activity. There were pods of birds and fish busting bait in multiple locations. I knew that this time of year the Reds will follow schools of Jacks, the bullies of the flats, and pick up their scraps. The trick was casting behind the school or get to the bottom fast enough that the Jacks didn't hit the lure. With that in mind the topwater plug was out of the mix - plus who wants to catch a bird?
I cast in several times and was rewarded with fish on every cast, but none were Reds. After 5-6 of these guys and 5-6 lady fish I opted to just take some photos. I wasn't to keen on losing paddletails to Jacks and lady fish...
Bait, birds, and fish did not seem to mind I was there. Here was my proximity.
This is my favorite shot - if you look on the bottom right you'll see a Jack and bait flying out of the water.
With water still pouring out of the bay I opted to see if I could find a snook. I really didn't target them this year but suspect I should have. Lots of people hammered some big girls.
Here's the water I was hitting - there's a cut between those trees that looks fabulous. Throwing a spook and a riptide rootbeer paddletail results in...wait for it...nothing.
With the heat building I pushed back out to the open waters and hoped for some snook and/or Reds. I found a plethora of mullet and as has been my experience with the huge schools, huge does not always equal Reds. I worked the school pretty hard and was eventually rewarded with this nice 24" red. If you look closely you'll see that his side has been raked the shape of a bottle nose dolphin. Seems he managed to get away from Flipper and after seeing him on the measuring board with those scars, today he would manage to escape the frying pan. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite - "Lucky." Back he went.
I continued to work the big school of mullet and had a solid thwack. Getting airborne the fellow below fought bigger than he was. Call it 18" (maybe more). By now my fellow kayaking colleague had shown up and I hollered over in my best Rick Murphy - "That's what I'm talking about." A courteous chuckle followed. Perhaps I've worn that line out.
He replied back - "You going to close out that slam?"
"Which one the trash can or inshore? All I need is a trout and/or catfish."
I kept working the fish, but after a while threw in the towel and started heading back to the launch site. I had agreed with the spousal unit I would meet her half way. She's a true Kracker woman born in Miami (Miama for true natives) who can offload the kayaks by herself, but won't get me a beer when asked. "Do I look like Edith Bunker?" is the typical reply to my requests.
I answered that question incorrectly once. Key word being once. Cold beer bottles are slippery when flying through the air at 30 mph.
Daughter is pretty tough too - she overnight camps in Ocala in the summer - without A/C.
About 11:30am I get the call that they are almost there. "Oh and Dad...Mom forgot the keys." I didn't complain too much because wife and daughter were bringing some much needed slop and beverages. I bid farewell to my partner in crime and said I may be back. Maybe.
At the truck I unlocked the truck, gave them the paddles, unloaded the other two kayaks, got the water and coolers, and moved out. We opted for a fine Publix "sammich" on the water. We tied up together and dined an al fresco meal and pre/re-hydrated.
We pushed about looking at Herons, Osprey, Terns, Rays, Mullet...the usual suspects.
Just as I was pointing out that an Osprey was about to hammer a mullet my phone rings. I see it's my buddy..."Yell-o...? 10-4. Thanks for the recon be out there in 5. See you next time." Seems the fish showed up and he was "outty".
I really wanted to get my daughter on some fish and I knew these fish were hungry.
We pushed a good 1/4-1/2 mile out - call it 4' deep. Winds had died and heat had increased. Ahhh...yes FL in summer. 92 degrees, 0 wind, 90% humidity. The Doldrums had set in. I watched for approaching T-storms - they should be here soon I thought. I made the mental note of "Watch your 6; this ain't yea ol' stinkpot."
I had my posse line up behind me and stood up hoping to get a better vantage point. I handed my wife the camera and said, "Just take a bunch and let the camera do the work."
I didn't need to look too far because a cruising needle nose was greyhounding and a mess of fish were in hot pursuit. Reds? Doubtful. Jacks? Probably, and big ones at that. These were larger than normal individual explosions. Hopefully the reds would be in behind them.
We hunted around - almost like poon fishing on the beaches - the girls were wearing down, but I found a set and managed to drop one in. I had the daughter follow up but she had troubles throwing the paddletail far enough.
I holler over, "There they go. Chase 'em down and throw in front." Meanwhile this one came to the boat. Call it lower-to-mid 20's.
The daughter tried as hard as her arms would take her, but as I pointed out to her "Fish are fast." I was greeted with the evil/duh look that only a 15 year old girl can muster. With the gig up and girls fading as fast as Clemson did in the second half vs. Georgia (that's right I just went there), we decide to push in. I told her that we might see some fish on the way in, and lo and behold we did. Unfortunately we were stacked up three wide - good for screens, sweeps, and end arounds, not good for Reds.
Here are the X's and O's and play by play -
I opted to switch to an audible. "Honey, go wide left. 30 yards, down and out. Then stop paddling."
"Amanda - you stay home. Be ready for the call. I'm going to swing right."
Feeling the outside pressure the reds pushed back in.
The wife and I stuck with the game plan and we drift into position. The fish cooperated and corralled up confidence was high.
"OK Amanda let her rip." One cast, two cast, three cast...all in what I call the danger zone.
"Dad I lost sight of them."
"They're right in front you still coming. Keep casting sweetheart."
Damn...these fish were going to go right by. Just like Gurley did to Clemson - right up the middle and no one touched him. 100 yards of "eat some Georgia turf"...but I digress. For those of you who missed it I'm providing the following...
Honey, I'm going to cast right next to you. When I get on, you need to cast right behind me - otherwise these fish will get away from us. OK? There will be fish following mine. You have to get close."
As soon as the paddletail landed it was game on..."Cast behind me sweetheart! Now! Don't worry about my fish. Cast!"
Things just didn't work out for her. I was sure that spoon would have worked. It looked just like the bait earlier, but for whatever reason they wouldn't commit. Curses - foiled again.
After releasing the fish, I looked over and said, "Well we wore those fish out like GA did Clemson. Let's head on in. You girls look beat."
We got home and I cleaned up the boats. I drank some cold adult beverages with my neighbors and talked more football. FSU this, FL that, GA...
SC and "he-who-must-not-be-named" is next.
Fall truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Right Stevie?