There we were, ready to get on the water and NOAA was telling us we were due for 20 knots from the east, with 3 to 5 foot seas and chop. Running anywhere in the gulf is going to be wet in a flats boat; baitfish are tough to see and so are schooling redfish. But luckily we’ve got the kayaks, and the tides seemed just about right…a late morning significant low tide with a quick rise. This works out pretty well to paddle out with the outgoing and in with the incoming. Easy, right? So we launched at our usual spot, the Pine Log Island ramp in the Jena Wildlife Management area. It was blowing, but reasonable.
We headed for the gulf. The creek system widens out near the mouth of Pine Log Creek. When the creek is very wide, the water flow can spread out and it can get shallow. In narrower creeks the water has to find a way to flow and there are usually deep cuts through the bars, or more likely, around the sides. Well, in this case, it got shallow. The 3 days of strong east winds had blown water out and we were dragging bottom in heavy weeds….and the water was still heading out rapidly. We obsessed for…oh, about 10 seconds and changed plans. So much for trying to get out into the gulf. We poled our way back to deeper water, managing to avoid having to get out and pull the boats through nice muddy bottom and grass. Adding to the problem was the fact that the wind was keeping the water out….so while the tide was supposed to be at peak low at 11, at 3 in the afternoon it was still going out. We see this. Remember that when there’s a strong wind for several days, the tide tables are nothing but an estimate. So we found a few nice sand bars with some deeper water alongside.
We were fishing topwaters and Tommy scored with a ladyfish and a keeper trout. I worked the kayak up to a creek mouth with rock grass patches and caught two keepers, also on topwaters. Tommy then switched to a DOA shrimp fished slowly along the bottom and caught a number of smaller trout. After the bite slowed we worked our way further up the creek to an area with several nice oyster bars, a shell bar near a dropoff with deeper water, and lots of small mullet. We just could not find any redfish. We fished topwaters to no avail, and suspending lures as well with no takers. The redfish were not up these creeks. We parked our kayaks and got out and walked around one of the shell bars.
Tommy flipped his DOA shrimp into a cut near the bar and immediately caught a trout. Then another. I felt obligated to wander over and try a soft jerkbait and immediately caught another. We had an observer….fella named Jason from Jacksonville who drove up near the shoreline in an ATV and watched us fish for a while. What caught his eye was that we were literally catching trout on every cast. We caught approximately 100 trout. Now the careful observer will note that there aren’t any pictures of trout….just Tommy Thompson, which is not quite as appealing. There is a reason. This motherlode of trout included specimens that ranged from 6 inches to 13 inches in length. They were in a school packed into a small cut around ten feet wide and fifty feet long. I was longing for a 5 weight fly rod. We finally got bored and tried for some larger fish, but that wasn’t working, the wind was picking up, and we were hungry from all the exertion spent catching 12 inch trout….and paddling for our lives out of shallow water. At the ramp we ran into some interesting folks who all wanted to learn about our kayaks. One of them told us that the Sink Creek ramp had recently been updated….so we developed a plan that laughed in the face of the 25 knots forecast for Sunday. We weren’t even going to use kayaks. We were going exploring and wadefishing. Didn’t really work out, but the best thing about the day was visiting the Sink Creek ramp. After a 2 mile drive through marsh and a little scrub, we came upon this scene….completely sheltered from the wind, with nobody there but us…
There were some schools of mullet moving around the points, and the area was spring fed by a large spring right next to the ramp. I pulled out my trusty 5 weight and had a school of small trout that were so small they couldn’t even take the fly, although they made a few valiant attempts. We threw some topwaters as well, but found nothing in the area.
So the take home message from this weekend with few keeper fish and lots of effort? That’s the way you learn. We both learned a lot this weekend, about what tides to start a kayak trip if you have specific locations in mind, we learned that you can have fun up a creek catching lots of smaller fish, I learned a few nice ways of keeping a kayak in place in the strong wind so you can fish forward (backing into the shoreline works well), and that cigars are hard to light in a strong wind. And possibly most importantly, we found a great place for our next kayak trip. Sink Creek is a great place to fish from the water; can’t wait to get there in a kayak. So when you can’t get out in your boat, there’s no home game worth watching, spend time looking around for alternatives. It’ll make you a better fisherman in the long run.