Archive for the ‘redfish’ Category
Anyone reading this blog knows that I almost always fish artificials (by almost all, I’m talking 99% of the time). I enjoy watching fish chase topwater plugs, and trying to find patterns that enable me to fool them. This almost certainly results in catching fewer fish, but my personality has always found it difficult to sit somewhere with a bait on the bottom waiting around for things to happen. There are times when my philosophy is shaken. With a customer on board, when you can’t find any fish active enough to chase down a lure, anything is on the table. I have had a prior fishing trip with my brother-in-law, Mike Holman, who lives in Isle of Palms, SC, just north of Charleston. Unfortunately the time we went was deep in the winter. We tried several areas, and I was impressed with how fishy the creeks looked, even though there were no baitfish or redfish in the area. When the opportunity to go again presented itself, along with the opportunity to see some of my in-laws, I was delighted to give it another try. We fished two days, and as usual, I started every day with plugs of various kinds. Mike noted that most people don’t find artificials very effective, and that the guides mostly don’t use them. Naturally, that confirmed my choice….I would find a way. We began by running Mike’s Pathfinder to a creek about five minutes away from the marina at Isle of Palms. The water was brown, the tide was low with oyster bars lining the creek, and hordes of mullet moving along the shoreline and even out in the middle of the creek, which was about 4 to 6 feet in depth. I threw topwaters, suspending plugs, jigs and a spoon, all to no avail. Meanwhile, we had caught several small redfish, and then a 29 incher arrived and caught my attention. That was followed by a 28 incher. These fish were all caught on cut mullet. Check the video for live action.
We caught several more fish and then had to head back for family business. Mike and I decided to go out very early the next morning to an area closer to the inlets to try and both fish and net some live bait. Again the area we ran to looked incredibly fishy. The water was a little clearer but still very murky. Mullet and glass minnows were everywhere. We managed to net a few finger mullet for the livewell and threw plugs for a good 45 minutes and never had a swirl. Very disappointing. We picked up our late-arising guests and returned to the same area as the day before. I again tried a few plugs and was again rebuffed by the redfish migrating up this creek. This time I gave up earlier, and switched to Mike’s rig. He was fishing 30 or 40 pound braid attached to a shock leader of 30 pound fluoro, with a quarter ounce sinker above a swivel, then to a short 8 inch terminal 30 pound leader tied to a relatively small circle hook. These are hooked to either a half or whole finger mullet. This rig works very well, as no hookset is required, and for people who don’t fish frequently, allows the rod to simply sit in the holder while the fish hooks itself. We pretty much had non-stop action, anchored just above a small side creek. The reds were clearly moving into the larger creek and the mullet were more concentrated around the bars at the mouth of the smaller creek. We ended up with a number of excellent fish, including two nice flounder.
When we got back to the dock for lunch, we were chatting with a guide who was docked next to us. He looked at my topwater-rigged rod and kind of chuckled “using topwaters, huh?”. He didn’t even ask how I did. It was a great trip, lots of nice fish, and I certainly changed my attitude about the best way to catch redfish is in that area. In our area, if we had fished that way, we would have been beset by 40 pound sting rays, hardheads and small sharks….none of whom made an appearance on our trips. But I’m still thinking there has to be a way, so I’m hoping for another invitation to this great fishing area to give artificials another try. As Jim Valvano said, never give up.
Between travel, home construction, music festivals and meetings, I’ve been a bad blogger. But with cooler weather, more fishing takes place, although not necessarily more catching. Earlier this year, the Doug Johnson Reeling for Kids tournament was a huge success, in spite of some dicey weather. I was pleased to again get the opportunity to fish with Noah Brindise and his guests from Arthrex, including a former student Mike Moser, from the Sports Medicine group in UF Orthopedics. We caught a good number of fish, including this trout that was almost five pounds, and Mike caught this fine redfish….but as usual during this tournament, the nice redfish we caught were all over slot. This is by far my favorite tournament of the year, for a great cause, and I’m ready for next year already.
Later in the summer I had a fun trip with Mark and Sarah. Mark is an Ebola researcher from Maryland and his friend Sarah recently moved to Gainesville. Mark warned me that Sarah had not fished a lot, so I did something I haven’t done in about five years….bought some live shrimp. Sarah managed one trout on a shrimp before we both tired of dealing with ravenous pinfish, so I taught her how to throw a plug. About five minutes later she managed this fine redfish on a topwater, and later this fine trout. Mark also found a nice redfish and asked if there was something we could find so that Sarah would have something pull hard on her line….amazing how easy it is to find 40 pound stingrays when you’re fishing with cut bait. Forty-five minutes later she had her fill. A great trip, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again this winter.
In early September, in spite of heavy boat traffic from scalloping and lots of floating grass, we could usually find some redfish. Here’s a pair that Tommy Thompson and I found, along with a nice trout that Doug Barrett caught, all on topwaters.
I’ve had visits from several old friends, some from NC, Tennessee, and that distressed area of the US, Destin. Lark and Tom, old friends from my Nashville days, helped me hunt. Fishing was tough, but they did catch enough for one dinner….a small keeper redfish and a nice flounder. And my old high school friend Joe Jacobs came for a day to find things just as tough, catching this inshore gag grouper and a variety of fish, but not what we were looking for.
Most recently the fishing in Steinhatchee has been confusingly slow, for a month that historically is one of our best months of the year. The water has been very clear, although the floating grass has stayed around longer than usual to torture plug fishermen like me. We did have a minor red tide episode, but it fairly rapidly left the area. The migration of baitfish seems to be delayed, and there are a lot fewer mullet than I’m used to seeing this time of year. Hopefully things will swing around now that there is some consistent lowering of the water temperatures.
After months of tannin-stained water and massive quantities of floating grass, the waters around Steinhatchee have returned to the clear productive state of normality. The fishing has been excellent, both offshore and inshore. Somewhat atypically, trout have been moving into the Steinhatchee River in the absence of a major cold snap, and not surprisingly, nobody has complained yet. Silver (sand) trout have been everywhere, including in the river and at one of the recent hotspots near the Bird Rack north of Steinhatchee. One captain with a large party wanting a fish fry brought in 160 pounds of silver trout. On a brief trip with Capt. Tommy Thompson and Doug Barrett, we took several nice trout on topwater plugs near Rock Point over mixed grass and sand potholes. The next week I took Tommy and old friend Capt. John Peyton out for another reconnoitering. While we didn’t find any redfish on our early drifts, we managed to find some excellent upper-slot fish using topwater plugs south of Dallus Creek, again in an area of potholes.
We moved offshore as the tide dropped and found some large Spanish mackerel, several nice flounder and a good number of silver trout with the occasional speckled trout. There were schools of white bait scattered over a quarter-mile square area being attacked by mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish. The fishing was so good that I convinced my son Sidney and his girlfriend, Lee Ferinden, to come out for a trip. Fishing has never been Sid’s cup of tea, but he was excited to give it a try after a number of years. Both he and Lee re-learned how to cast. Again, we couldn’t find any redfish in the early morning flood tide, but as we moved out we again found large schools of whitebait. Returning to an area west of the Bird Rack at Big Grass Island, we found silver and speckled trout, at times catching fish on every cast. We also came across some giant Spanish mackerel which somehow were unable to get their teeth through the 25 pound fluorocarbon leader. The largest was over 5.5 pounds and looked like a small kingfish coming to the boat.
As I mentioned, we had reports of some trout being caught in the river. We noticed several boats landing lots of small silver trout, but some nice speckled trout have made it into the river as well; Chase Norwood, the son of Sea Hag owner/operator Charlie Norwood nailed this gator trolling a Mirrolure in the river.
I really had a great time with Lee and Sid, and I was glad we managed to catch a few fish as well. While ordinarily I don’t keep fish, we ended up keeping around 20 pounds of trout and mackerel filets to grill. The water temperature throughout the day ranged from the low to the mid-60s. Water was clear just about everywhere and we could see the bottom over 10 foot creek beds. Unfortunately the floating grass continued to make plug fishing challenging, but that is improving as well.Looking forward to a long holiday weekend to get in some more water time. As the water temps continue to cool down, the trout fishing could improve dramatically as the larger fish begin to school. That will be “Corky time” for us, time to fish my favorite cold-water lure, the Paul Brown Corky Devil from Mirrolure. Can’t wait for that cold weather!
I’ve had a few trips that I haven’t really had time to report so I thought I’d combine a few. Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to take several folks out for a fun trip, and we got to use Doug Barrett’s Gulfshore 20 (more about that later). We took Drs. Fred Alt and Rob Hromas out to try and find some redfish and trout. Fred was visiting from Harvard and Rob is the chair of medicine at UF and both are experienced fisherman; in fact, Fred is a licensed headboat captain in Massachusetts. We had a tough day, but managed a few nice fish, including this nice redfish that Fred managed on a topwater and Rob caught several trout including this very reasonable specimen. We brought all our fish with us for a great fresh fish dinner at Fiddler’s Restaurant. There is nobody that grills redfish like Chef Jim Hunt.
After picking up my very own Young Gulfshore, I had the great opportunity to take out well-known kayak angler John Donohue (JD). Living in Venice, Florida, JD represent Hobie Kayaks and writes for several national magazines including Coastal Angler. I first met him last year at a Hobie sponsored event in Jensen Beach that I described in a previous post. He was invited up to speak at the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club about kayak fishing and we took a few days to break in the new boat. He and I have similar fishing styles (except that I use a boat) in that we love fishing topwater plugs more than anything else, and with the warming waters we were hoping for a good topwater bite. We got to the Sea Hag Marina around 1 PM and hit the water, first time in the new boat. We found some nice trout south of the river, with one excellent 5 pound trout that managed to escape when JD put him in the water to make sure he was doing well in preparation for a picture. He was doing well enough to escape. We found several other nice trout, fishing both topwaters and suspending lures. JD represents Sebile Lures and they were very effective in finding some nice fish. I was using the Paul Brown Devil and the Mirrolure Mirrominnow. The trout pictured below wasn’t spectacular but it was the first fish caught on the new boat so we documented it. There was a vicious seabreeze that sent us back in a little earlier than anticipated, but we were looking forward to the next morning with a great forecast.
Thursday morning was glassy with a early morning low tide. We worked our way into some oyster bars and rock clusters that were exposed and surrounded by mullet and whitebait. it looked like topwater heaven, and we started finding some fine fish. I managed a nice 25 inch red, shortly followed by JD’s tournament fish (27 inches, 6.7 pounds).
We also found some very nice trout, also on topwaters.
As the tide flooded in we tried several other locations south of the river but other than scaring away a 30 pound cobia that swam right up to the boat, we didn’t find much else and came in around noon so that JD could drive back to Venice. It was a great couple of days with a fine fisherman and I hope we can get him back up to Steinhatchee for a few more trips.
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.
Fished this weekend with Doug Barrett after several weekends of horrible weather. We had some interesting conditions as well, with strong northeast winds to 20 knots and a mid-morning low. As sometimes happens with this situation, essentially the tide never came in. In spite of a forecast high of over 3 feet, the water stayed in the 1 foot level through most of the day, forcing us to change plans since we were lacking an airboat. We had some good reports of some nice redfish being taken around rock grass and structure in 3 feet or less, but it’s easier to find this situation when you can get close to shore. However, we found some very nice upper-slot trout early, and fairly consistently through the day.
In spite of the low water, we found some structure in 3 feet of water about a half-mile offshore and came upon these fine reds, both upper-slot and around 26 inches, both caught on topwater plugs. Doug’s fish was a rarity…it had no spots whatsoever.
I began fishing with a DOA shrimp, trying a new color sent to me by Jerry McBride, DOA’s outstanding fishing director, and found it worked very well on flounder. This particular one was party to a photo demonstration of the life cycle of the Gulf flounder….no further explanation necessary.
Last two pictures courtesy of the fine chef at Fiddler’s Restaurant, the famous Jim Hunt. The water temp was between 72 and 74 degrees in spite of a nice 50 degree air temp and 15 knots from the northeast. Floating grass became a problem later as the tide creeped in very slowly, but we were able to fish topwaters much of the day. We took some fish using suspending lures as well as DOA shrimp. We fished mostly north of the river in the Rock Point area and in addition to the above caught some really large ladyfish in the 4 pound range…among the biggest I’ve ever seen in our area. We also caught some Spanish and saw a fair number of 30 to 40 pound sharks messing with the large schools of whitebait. I was longing for more water and less wind because I know we could have had a better day in our usual spots. Maybe next weekend…
Had great trips with two folks this weekend. On Sunday I fished with old friend Richard McDavid, who has been out of action for a while due to severe eye injury. Richard is a long-time member of the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club and is one of the great barbecuers of all time. We went out for a trip on Saturday and fished some flats early in the morning with topwater plugs. We found a good number of slot-sized fish but never could find any large ones.
We caught several limits of keeper trout, all on topwaters and the occasional fish caught on suspending plugs (I was using a Mirrodine XL, Richard a suspending Bomber). After the tide came in we ran to several redfish spots and caught some nice fish on the strong incoming tide.
We ended the day with ten keeper trout and many smaller ones, and five redfish.
On Monday I took out Kay Eoff, a retired physicist at UF. Kay suffered a hand injury recently but he assured me he would be able to fish. We left the marina around 9 and fished the same flats as the day before, but slightly further along in the tide. Kay fishes with baitcasters and all day used two lures: a cork and jig rig with an amber tail and a silver Sprite spoon with a single hook on it. I was fishing a Super Spook Jr. and we both found several really nice trout, with the largest being five pounds, the second largest 4.5. We also caught a number of smaller fish which were released. As we had our limit of over-20 inch trout, Kay was ready to try some redfish and the water was high enough to run to some of our structure spots. We found a number of redfish around some offshore rock bars; most were small, but we found one six pounder and a five pounder with the smaller fish. By now the tide was flooding and the seabreeze was blowing at least 15 knots so we tried one of the creeks to get out of the wind and strong tidal current, but there was nobody home. Turned out to be a fine day and Kay got some fish to take home.
The grass is still slow in filling in on some of the shallower flats, and pinfish are just starting to show up in good numbers, which will draw the larger fish into some of the shallower areas. I would say we’re about 2 to 3 weeks behind because of the very cold winter that killed back more grass than usual. But things are getting better every weekend.