Sometimes things work out much better than anticipated. Tornados in Missisippi, a strong front passing through Steinhatchee and a forecast calling for 15 to 20 knots is not usually the kind of day we look forward to. But Capt. Thompson and I had donated trips to the Jacksonville Coastal Conservation Association, and we had two guys that were not dissuaded by the forecast. So Saturday morning at 7:30 I pulled out of the Sea Hag Marina with two experienced fisherman, Paul Hibel and Jeff Marks from Jacksonville; neither had ever been to Steinhtachee before. There was a significant early low and I hoped to find some fish early, before the wind really started howling. We went first to a great trout area under the right conditions, and threw topwaters and Corky lures. In spite of a few mullet in the area, the trout were nowhere to be found, and it was clear they have moved into deeper water….and my flats boat is not the most fun drifting rapidly in 2-3 feet of chop. So the target for the day was redfish. We ran south of the channel several miles and worked in slowly with the tide, which by now was pouring in, hustled along by the 15 knot south wind. Paul and Jeff started with topwaters and a Heddon Swimmin’ Image, but it was clear that topwaters were not going to work in the chop. They were using light action rods with 10 pound Power Pro, so I rigged Paul with my current favorite small crankbait, which is a freshwater bait that requires a hook change to sturdier hooks before using for redfish. We worked our way toward some scattered rocks and Paul was the first to hook up. With light wire hooks, a loose drag is pretty much required, because a big red will straighten out hooks in no time…and this was a big red, making some long blistering runs. After about 15 minutes, I slipped the net under this 30 inch, 10.5 pound red.
With the skunk being off the boat, and knowing that this time of year redfish school regularly, we continued to work the general area for the next hour and half. We had found a great school of fish. Jeff and Paul were doing battle in the front of the boat with a double and at point I had another fish on a spoon.
We ended up with a total of 9 fish, the smallest being a 5 pound 24 inch long fish. After a number of oversized fish, Jeff seriously wanted dinner, and was ready to start early.
The wind picked up considerably in the later afternoon and after a quick trip into one of the creeks and a try for some trout that resulted in only short fish, we made a wet run in around 2. Jim and Joyce at Fiddler’s Restaurant cooked up some fine grilled and broiled redfish, and Capt. Thompson made it in time for dinner. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated on Sunday and Jeff and Paul didn’t get a chance to fish with Tommy, but they will make up that trip at a later date. The old cliche goes that fishing just before or during a frontal passage can be very good, and that worked out for us on Saturday.