Had the great pleasure of taking out Vance Elshire and his father Martin over Thanksgiving weekend. Martin has fished a lot, especially in the trout streams in Montana, but had never caught a redfish. Vance’s charge to me was to try and catch his dad his first one, as Martin and his wife Ruby were visiting Gainesville for the holiday. This time of year, that can be a dicey proposition because so much of the fishing success this time of year is weather-dependent. A front came through on Wednesday leading to some dropping temperatures; in fact, Friday morning’s temperature of 39 degrees was the lowest so far this fall. Additionally, there were small craft advisories ending Friday morning. Luckily, Vance and Martin considered those to be only minor issues, so we delayed our day, starting at 10 AM when we figured things might be a bit warmer. It was cold but the sun was out and the wind was reasonable. I was not particularly optimistic, but went first to one of my favorite winter trout spots. We were fishing suspending lures worked very slowly and I think I had just noted that the area we were fishing in was much more likely to hold trout than redfish; it was at that moment that Martin had a hit and set the hook on this nice slot-sized redfish.
It’s always nice to meet your goal within 10 minutes or so of fishing, but I had hopes for some gator trout as well. We continued to fish this same area and I saw a flash behind Martin’s lure just as he set the hook on this excellent 5 pound trout.
Vance continued to plug away from the poling platform, but Martin managed another four pound trout before the bite quit. We then tried an area further south of the river to look for redfish. For reasons that deny logic, especially with a north wind, there was much less water than forecasted, and we fished an area of rocks and rock grass without success. We ran back to our original spot to find the winds were now up to at least 15 knots. We briefly ran into a local creek but there was nothing there. There were few baitfish anywhere and only scattered mullet, which is a bad sign when the water is cold. We decided to call it an early day to get out of the wind. On Saturday Vance’s friend Travis brought his flats boat to Steinhatchee and he and Vance followed us into Porpoise Creek with the tide rising. In spite of good fish being caught there the week before, we found nothing home, even in some of the deep holes in the back of the creek. We worked our way out toward Pine Log Island and Howard Creek, but again no go. Vance and Travis finally caught some redfish on spoons over a shell bar and we continued to keep trying a variety of spots, even running to some offshore bars. There were no schools of migrating baitfish offshore and even floating live pinfish in deeper water was not productive. The major problem was that high clouds kept it overcast much of the day so the direct sun never was able to warm the bottom. From the reports of several local guides it was a tough day for everyone. In spite of the relatively few fish we caught, they were quality fish and I certainly enjoyed spending some time with Martin and Vance. Hopefully we’ll get to do this again in warmer times when there may be more catching than fishing.
Sunday looked to be the perfect day. A temperature rise (the AM temperature was 59, twenty degrees warmer than Friday), a decrease in wind, and no clouds allowed me to be convinced by my friend Doug Barrett to take a quick trip in his bayboat to see if the changing temperatures made a difference. In spite of warm sun, low winds and clear skies, the water temperature remained around 57 degrees until noon on Sunday. On first coming off plane at one of our favorite spots, we (and our plugs) were attacked by a vicious school of 4 pound bluefish, which pretty much made mincemeat of our soft plastic lures. As usual, they blew by the boat and we managed two of them before they disappeared never to be seen again. After that we had a tough time finding fish. I found this 4 pound redfish in the mouth of Howard Creek, and together we caught 3 trout but they were small. We only gave it a few hours and then headed home.
I’m hoping the weather will stabilize a bit. The rapid temp shifts confuse both the fish and the angler (or at least this one). I heard reports of some nice trout being caught in the river, but the large numbers are not there yet and it may require some more significant cold fronts to bring them off the flats. Regardless, I had a great weekend with good fisherman and look forward to fishing with Vance and Martin again.