It warmed up from last weekend and a front was coming through, and in spite of rain forecast in the morning, I had the itch bad. I met Doug Barrett at the Gulfbreeze ramp and we went out for a little exploration in his bay boat. The rain had just ended when we left around 9 and it stayed dry with scattered clouds the rest of the day. We tried some of our good river spots but the warming trend had pushed most of the trout out of the river. We ran to another favorite spot. There was no wind, with glassy clear water, so in spite of a water temp of 51 degrees, Doug decided to throw a topwater. He managed to find this nice 5 pounder. Like most big trout this one hit softly and inhaled the topwater with only a slight pop.
We were optimistic but that was the only fish in the area. I fished a Paul Brown Lure, while Doug stayed with the topwater, but nothing else was around. We ran to another recent spot south of the river with the incoming tide and fished some of the areas of rock grass that held fish a few weeks ago but found nothing. The water temp was rising and was up to 54 degrees and I decided to run a bit further south to a creek I haven’t fished in a while. Like many creeks in our area, there was a large bar across the creek with a cut on one side of the bar that held most of the water flow. I snuck into the creek from the south and quietly worked into the middle of the creek so we could just reach the north shoreline and cast into the cut. We immediately began catching fish on Paul Brown Lures. There were lots of mullet in the area and we could see them moving through with the tide. We were catching fish on most every cast, all cookie-cutter fish between 4.5 and 5 pounds.
The water temp in the creek was up to 57 degrees and the trout were still biting softly but consistently. We probably caught about 25 fish and I decided to pull out the fly rod. Unfortunately I only had a four-weight which made casting a bit difficult, but I managed three good fish. I thought I had a monster at one point when the fish ran out all my loops and onto the reel, but it turned out it was a regular sized fish that I had hooked in the tail. Because of the current it was difficult to get the boat placed properly for fly fishing and trolling motors make fly fishing difficult, but it was great fun and I got some casting practice in. I discovered that a larger fly that suspended worked much better than a faster sinking Clouser.
As Doug wanted to keep some fish, we kept about 35 pounds of trout. The real problem was finding fish that were less than 20 inches (you are only allowed to keep one per person over 20 inches). Randall Hewitt, another Sea Hag guide, had come in with 47 pounds an hour or so before us, and apparently had caught those fish in 2 hours with several people on a charter. Again, the winter is a great time to fish for trout. It requires some moving around and some knowledge of the area, but this is the only time of the year when you find big trout in large schools. It was a really fun day on the water.