Sometimes you get welcome surprises, and that’s what happened this week. With the forecasts looking horrendous for the weekend, and a few days off saved up, I decided to get in the fishing before the major front came through on Friday night. We took the Photo Opportunity, Capt. Tommy Thompson’s Shipoke skiff. Although the wind forecast was perfect, the tide was unseasonably low with a full moon, resulting in a morning negative low. Negative low tides mean no water anywhere near shore, and since we tend to fish close to shore, that was an issue. However, when you spend enough time in an area, there are usually alternatives. As we were debating where to go first, Tommy suggested a set of sand bars which were about 4 miles offshore. Ordinarily, we don’t fish that far offshore, but with glassy conditions the run was a piece of cake. This is a large bar with scattered grass and even some rocky areas, and it’s a great place to fish for cobia and Spanish mackeral, so we figured we’d give it a try while we waited for the tide to come in. It was a beautiful morning.
We arrived to find one section of the bar was out of the water, four miles offshore; it was a a very low tide. We began fishing with trout rods and immediately started hooking up some large ladyfish and some pretty aggressive bluefish.
At one point Tommy had a large redfish follow his plug up to the boat, only to turn off. A few minutes later he had a ladyfish on and as it came close to the boat a huge redfish tried to grab it. I was throwing a 4 inch DOA shrimp with a modified hook, and hooked up to something very large, and I was using my lightest rod on the boat. It clearly was a very large redfish and after a 10 minute battle, the hook pulled. Tommy hooked up around the same time using a small crankbait. His fight lasted about the same amount of time before his fish crushed and bent the light hooks and disappeared. We were clearly in a school of large bull reds. I rerigged with a chartreuse DOA shrimp, felt a soft pickup and immediately regretted not having switched to a larger rod as the line was peeling off my 2500 size reel. It was a huge redfish, and the stress level was high, especially after the fish wrapped the line around a nearby crab trap float. The line remained around the float for about five minutes until we could get to it and free the line and amazingly the fish stayed on without breaking the 10 pound test PowerPro. Not only that, but after freeing the line, he managed to get back and do the same thing. Finally we got the line free and then it was was just a matter of hoping the line hadn’t been weakened. After a total of around 25 minutes, I finally got the fish to boatside and Tommy managed to get his head into the net and we hauled him in for some pictures. By the way, that’s the offending crab trap buoy in the background. This fish weighed a few ounces short of 20 pounds.
A few minutes later, after switching to a DOA shrimp, Tommy hooked up another monster, but he was smart enough to have switched to some heavier tackle. He brought this 18 pounder to the net in 15 minutes.
We tried to find the school again, but for two codgers, two extended battles each had us in need of a brief rest, so we headed inshore but never could find any quality fish other than the occasional small slot trout. On Friday, Tommy had to leave town and I went out for a short while to try another offshore bar and found some fine Spanish mackerel, a few flounder and lots of ladyfish and bluefish.
Hard to imagine a better fishing trip. This is the season for schools of giant reds. These fish are preparing to migrate offshore and will never return to the shallows again. I’m just hoping they will stick around for a bit before they leave town.