Constant cold fronts cut a three day work week a bit short. What's new?
First up on Monday was my good friend and fishing buddy, Dr. John Hitt, of UCF. His friend, Jim Heekin, also of Orlando, joined him for the first time. Our mission was keeper trout for the cooler. John and I had done a recon mission during New Year's Week and previously, and had a pretty good lock on where the big trout were. We weren't really interested in trout that weren't well into the slot.
We headed straight out to Span A of the causeway to catch bait, and did so without much ado. I think I threw the Daddy Pat net four times, and the big well on John's Coastal was loaded to the gills. It was mostly small shiners with lots of threadfins mixed in, but it would do the job, and I had enough to chum as much as I needed to. Little did we know that the front that was right on our doorstep would blow the bait out for the foreseeable future. This would be the last day of live bait fishing for a while.
Our first stop was a good one. We pretty much made our day right there. We had what would be a good bite, but not a fast bite. It was steady, and we had a bit of everything going on. We boated a nice 8 pound snook, Jim and I both lost big snook, and we caught lots of nice keeper trout, as well as others, some snapper, and some jack crevalle. It was a fun time. By the time we moved on, our objective was nearly met.
At our second stop we were again on nice trout action, and again on keeper trout. But, it was obvious that the bite was tapering off, no matter what we did. We hit one more spot, that gave us one more snook, but it was obvious it was over for a while, and we were happy with our morning of catching. We headed home to clean fish. Any day with John is a fun and enjoyable day, but the day was certainly made more fun with Jim along. And Heekin fish!
John, Jim, and I were scheduled to fish Tuesday, as well. But, the miserable weather forecast, which included a strong chance of rain and 25 MPH winds, kept us at the dock. And, it turned out that we had three cold fronts in the next three days. I was concerned about my Friday trip, with another of my dear friends and favorite fishing partners, Bo Mack. The wind forecast during the week for Friday was 30 MPH! But, by Thursday night it was down to 24, and I knew Bo would be go, and we'd have fun and make it work.
It was in the low 40's Friday morning, and I was pretty sure as I waited for Bo, we'd be fishing artificials. Three fronts in a row, and overnight lows in the low 40's for days would certainly have blown out the bait and the snook. Although I rarely use them when I do have them, I'd stopped and bought some hand-picked shrimp as a backup to our lures.
Once Bo was aboard we motored out to the A span to poke around for bait. I wasn't too excited about the prospects of getting all wet first thing in the morning, with a long ride to the fishing grounds in front of us. But, I had to find out if there were any prospects for bait. With Bo at the helm, we looked around some of the big pedestals, and I made two throws of the net. Neither toss netted the first living thing, and it became pretty obvious that the bait was indeed gone. As I told Bo, if I'd caught even one shiner, I'd have been willing to continue on. But......
We were off to our first spot of the day on a radically low tide. All the days of big north wind had just emptied the Sound. And, we were pretty close to high tide, and the water would be going lower throughout the morning.
I told Bo that a funny thing often happens when we get enough cold front to blow out the snook, or at least shut them down. We often get redfish in this spot, and they can be quite willing to eat Bill Lewis Rattletraps and Exude RT Slugs, along with the big trout. We began our morning with Bo using live shrimp, and me tossing a jig. The only thing that was happening was that the little bait stealers were eating up Bo's shrimp. And, right there is why I rarely use shrimp. Better I should eat them than to feed them to fish!
We made a minor move, and I tied on a gold Rattletrap. The first toss of the RT Slug had Bo bowed up on a beautiful 5 pound trout. A great first fish of the day! Shortly afterward, I tagged a nice redfish on the Rattletrap, and established the reds were there. I knew we were probably in for some winter redfishing fun, and we indeed were. For the next hours we continued to catch beautiful redfish to 28 inches on both Exudes and the Rattletrap. We also caught more very nice trout, and some small snapper.
By the time the tide was slowing down Bo and I were both quite pleased that the day had already far exceeded my expectations. We both knew the reality was that the fish would be totally shut down and lockjawed. For whatever reason, that had not been the case. We had caught some beautiful fish, and weren't done.
With plenty of fish in the well and a fading tide, we decided to hit the Waterfront Restaurant to have some coffee and hot chocolate to warm our souls. It was blowing pretty well out of the north, and had all morning. But, when we entered the Waterfront, the first thing I spotted was Bahamanian cracked conch on the special menu, and Bo and I had to have some, although we'd both already eaten sandwiches. Oh, man! That stuff is so good. As we enjoyed our conch, we had to endure an encounter with a fellow who had several screws loose, or who was smoking some very powerful stuff. I was more than ready to get away from him, and fled to the boat. Bo soon followed.
Our objective now was too just find some more action for a while, and stay out of the wind. We decided to hit Long Cut, and do some jigging for trout. Things started off slowly, but as we got to some deeper water we began catching trout. I put the Power Pole down, and we stayed on them for quite a while. We had fished the whole morning without seeing so much as one boat, but now that it was around 2 PM and warming up some, they were beginning to come out of the wood work. We decided it was time to head home.
We had fish to clean, and as I cleaned the 5 pound trout I was shocked to see a first. That big trout had a barracuda in it's belly that was 8 to 9 inches long, as well as 3 mojarra. And, it was still chasing plastic! I was shocked that a trout of any size would eat a barracuda, and surprised because he likely had eaten that barracuda in the area in which we'd caught him. I'd never seen a barracuda in those waters. I guess that proves that fishing is a constant learning experience.
It had been a great day, and Bo and I were happy with the outcome. But, our fun wasn't over. We were going to get our families together the next evening at the world famous Columbia Restaurant, in Sarasota, as we had done the year before. It had been a great dinner and a ton of fun, and we decided we'd make it an annual thing. And, Saturday night we all met as planned, Bo and Susan, their daughter Erin and her hubby Wayne, who live in Palmetto, and me and Jean, and our daughter, Gina. We had so much fun I'm surprised they didn't throw us out. And, the food as always, was wonderful!
That was the week. A short, but great week with good friends. The fronts will continue to invade south Florida during the coming week, and it remains to be seen just how the fishing will be, or how many trips will be run.