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jbdba01

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Executive Summary
Winds 10-12, temps 34-55; water temp 70 or 53; 7 reds and a bunch of extra clothes

DetailsFor a variety of reasons my fishing partner and I had not been on the water together since mid-Dec, and Saturday had a beautiful forecast 38-60, winds 10-12, but sunny. Perfect Redfish weather - not...but hey we're men and this is what men do. We chase tarpon in the illusion that this is the cast that'll make them bite, we buy women drinks knowing full well that there's no way in hell that will pan out, and we believe in football teams that are destined to be eternal bride's maids and never the bride. Why? Because we're men. Eternal optimist...that and alcohol provides the liquid courage we need to do stupid things like go fishing in 35 degree weather.

The walls had been closing in all week and it was pretty iffy if were were going out. To racket up the game we figure it would be fun to try a different way and we would leave the kayaks behind chase some Cobia first. I told my buddy to dress appropriately it'll be a bit brisk - like 38. On the water at 6:30 the air temperature rose to a balmy 41 degrees (at home the truck indicated it was near freezing). A picture of the Amanda Buff sets the scene better than words.

She wasn't to happy about the temps and I let her warm up a bit more than usual. Perhaps it was the cold, perhaps some water in the fuel line, but she was spitting a bit on startup. Fortunately it was Valentines Day and she was glad to be on the water. How could I forget her?

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As my partner in crime showed up I hollered out,"You're friggin' crazy." He had shown up in his best Hawaiian swimming suit and a nice Frog Tog jacket. I offered him my daughter's wader's, but he passed. (We knew we would be wading later.) I reached out for my neoprene gloves for driving and said, "You sure?" He replied, "Yup." I had on 4 shirts, and my insulated British Navy jacket, ski cap, 2 buffs, windresistant sweat pants, and wool socks. Gone were the days of manning up.

We exited the Alafia River and as soon as we hit open water; the cross wind from the North bit pretty hard, but as we head South it wasn't as bad. At 30 mph I'm guessing the wind chill was 10 or so.

So...where do you find Cobia in the winter; apparently we don't know because we never found them. Suffice to say that even with water temps in the 70's at the powewr plant we never found them. More and more boats were showing up with chum bags and what not, so we made the judgement call to go find some reds.

We opted to try a new[er] area where some fellow angler's recon had said they were there in droves the previous weeks; however, like most reds this time of year they were beyond skittish. When I asked if he he had gotten out of the boat and waded he had said no. "The spot" was a much farther West/SouthWest from where I fish, but figured it was worth a shot..

Even having been tagged by a ray, I'm a big proponent of wade fishing. This is a risk reward game and you should know that it hurts like a mother to get tagged, but reference the aforementioned paragraph of being a man. A kayak, a boat all have hull slap - minimal as it may be it's there. Hopefully being in the water would make the difference.

Before putting on my waders I added another layer of clothing - thermals under the sweat pants. Mama didn't raise no fool - and with water temps in the 50's I knew that after a couple hours I would be glad I wore them.

Here's a picture of how I dress in this weather. I can even pull up the jacket's hood if need be. If I start to warm up I peel off the layers and just shove them down the waders. I thought the ski cap and GA visor was a good touch. The two buffs were spot on.

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I sent the photo to a buddy of mine and he labeled it Osama bin fishin'.

Hopping out of the boat the water looked like a barren waste land. There was no wildlife activity; no rays, no mullet, no birds...I had some serious doubts about this idea, but we were here and it beat staying at home watching reruns of "I Love Lucy."

With the winds picking up now I started with a gold spoon - mainly so I can cast into the wind. I figured I would power fish for a bit, and just flutter the spoon when need be.

Sure enough 100-200 yards away from the boat I found the reds, and they were thick - and some were REALLY big. As my buddy had reported they were VERY spooked out. Even with us being the only fools out there they took off at the slightest hint of a lure landing withing 10' of them.

I switched out to my preferred winter lure - a FireFly Riptide flats chub. Normally I use a 1/8 oz jig, but with the winds really blowing I used 1/4 oz today. That weight would normally embed itself in weeds, but not this time of year. No weeds to worry about.

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By now I was seeing reds pretty consistently. Just as I was seeing them consistently, they refused to eat or were spooked out. Reeling in the jig, I put it in-front of me and jiggled it enough to calibrate my retrieve on how much pressure it took to move it 1-2" without coming off the bottom. I was really surprised to see how little pressure it took. I'm talking just twitch the rod tip - no more than that.

Dialed in now I started casting 20-30' in front of the fish and just let the lure stay there. 5' away as the reds approached it I twitched it just enough to make it move; no retrieve at all. Sure enough one peeled out of the group and inhaled it like a snook - not a solid thwack, but a subtle hit. I set the hook and it was game on...and boy was it. Drag was peeling off in a hurry and I thought I must not have set my drag properly. After a bit my partner in crime hollered over - "Man that must be a nice one." Hell I even broke out poon rules of getting down and dirty. That's didn't work either. Several very strong runs later I secured the fish. I was convinced this was a upper 20's fish worthy of a photo. I figured no one would believe me that we were catching reds in mid 40/lower 50 degree weather.

I asked my buddy to take a photo and I started walking over for a picture. He took one look at the fish and was said, "Whoa man. That's 30 all day." All the more reason for a photo...fumbling around I managed to get my phone out. Phone secured we learned a funny thing about phones and cold fingers. They really don't work well together. After several attempts we threw in the towel and gave up on it. I'm guessing that there must be some thermal read or something, but it didn't work. (I got home and tried using an eraser and it didn't work either.) So much for that...it's just a fish story now. Regardless I had a witness, and was satisfied with one fish. The rest will have to be "yet another fishing story".

Fish released I kept up the same technique and it paid off bringing in another 5 reds in the same general area - 1-2" of water. Most were mid to upper 20's; one was mid teens.

On the way back to the boat we found fish again; funny thing is you could hear that hull slap 100 yards away. Within 20-30 yards we found them trying to push into shallower water. When they would see us they would push back out; we would cast past them and they would come back in; only to have the scenario repeat itself when they saw us. We landed two more reds, but nothing sizeable.

Overall a good day to be out, but a Cobia would have been nice. We did see one large trout, but that was about it.

Next time I'll bring the waterproof camera for credibility. I suspect my buddy will wear pants next time; he is pretty hard core though.

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JB
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