Had the opportunity to take Bob Lomprey fishing on New Year’s Eve day. Bob is a retired teacher from Wisconsin who has done a lot of fishing in his life, but primarily for northern pike and walleye in his native Wisconsin and in Canada. Since moving to Gainesville, he has wanted to get in some saltwater fishing, and he wanted to try some flyfishing. As always, the weather is a great determinant and after multiple forecast changes, we decided to try on Friday. The forecast was for 5 to 10 knots from the east, a high of 75 degrees, and sun. One out of three isn’t bad for NOAA; they got the sun right. Thursday the high was 76 degrees, so I was optimistic the water temperatures had risen above the low 50’s earlier in the week. Admittedly, when we left the Sea Hag Marina at 9, the wind was reasonable…but the water temp was 49 degrees. We tried some of my favorite river spots, and there were plenty of boats around, but we didn’t find any fish. With a mid-day high tide, I wanted to take advantage of the water and we ran to a recently productive creek but found clear water, no baitfish and no redfish or trout. Bob wasn’t getting a great introduction to winter fishing at this point, so I moved out of the creek and onto some close flats. Conventional wisdom says that in cold water, trout move off the flats and into rivers and creeks. Conventional wisdom failed to talk to the trout, however, and we found some nice trout in 3 feet of water over mixed bottom. We fished Paul Brown Lures exclusively, and when we started landing fish, Bob got out his 8 weight, but by then the wind was a good 15 knots from the south and his backcast was blown into the water, so we went back to catching fish.
These were slightly smaller fish than I had found inshore, but all were solid keepers between 18 and 20 inches. The bite was very soft and we lost quite a few fish when they took the lures without letting us know about it. They were moving through the flats in small schools; we usually caught one or two fish at a time before we started to drift again. There was enough activity to keep us out in the wind for some time. The careful observer of outerwear will be able to determine which of us is from Florida and which is from Wisconsin.
We still had an hour or so, and I wanted to try another frequently productive area in hopes of getting out of the wind so we ran to another close location to fish an area of rocky structure, and had a few bites but lost those fish. I finally had a solid hit, set the hook, and realized immediately this was not a trout, and we put a 5 pound redfish into the livewell. Bob kept some fish for his first taste of speckled trout and redfish and we were back at the dock by 3. A challenging day, but it turned out to be reasonable, except for not allowing Bob to give me some casting lessons, so we’ll save that for another trip. All in all, a great day on the water with an accomplished fisherman, and that’s always a good thing.