52*, high going to 81*
Tough week of work found me in CA, NV, MD and GA before returning home after midnight Saturday morning. Went to be at 2 but launched the boat at 9 for some much needed fishing. Brought my old buddy Mike, from Arizona with me to catch us some Redfish and boy, did we ever!
Winds were blowing 15 MPH, so it was a choppy ride from the El Jobean ramp to the Myakka cutoff but that's only a 5-10 minute ride in open water, so it's not big deal. As soon as we reached the cutoff, the thick cover of the mangrove trees makes the wind a light and comfortable breeze. With an incoming tide, we pinned the boat down in a foot of water, in the center of a creek. Using cut Ladyfish on 2 lines and quartered blue crab on 2 lines, we cast lines under the mangroves off all four corners of the boat and waited. It didn't take long.
Having lost a monster of a Red in this same spot a few weeks ago, I brought a lot more patience with me this day...and my good net. When the Penn Fierce rod started twitching I told Mike I would leave it in its holder and wait for the right moment. With the size baits we had out, I could see the fish sampling and nibbling the offering before engulfing the hook. We waited a good five minutes while the fish played with it but when the rod completely bend over and the reel drag cried out, it was time to go to work. A five minute fight with 30 pound braid wore him out and Mike sealed the deal with my net.
He measured right at 27", which is the top of the slot. Redfish are regulated by a slot limit. You can't keep them smaller than 19" and you can't keep them bigger than 27". This fish was perfect. After a few photos we put him on ice, telling him we'd see him at dinner.
Rebaiting and recasting into the same spot, it was now time to wait again. This time, it was nearly an hour. We had time to enjoy a sandwich and hydrate with some bottled water. Can't forget to protect against dehydration in this 83* January weather.
The next rod to go off was the Blair Wiggins In Shore Series. This is currently my favorite rod. I have it spooled with 15 pound braid on a Pflueger spinning reel, with 30lb Flourocarbon leader line and a 3/0 circle hook. There was no playing with this one. The Red hit the cut crab hard and took off with it. Mike went to work on a real big fish. The 10 pound fish put all he had against the 15 pound line and it was a close, well fought fight for about ten minutes. Each time the fish got close to the boat he'd see the net and run for his life. Mike demonstrated great patience and skill with the rod. The result was another top of the slot Red Drum but this one was clearly fatter than mine.
Not a bad catch for an Arizona angler!
Since the limit is one per person per day, it was time to head to a different spot to find different fish.
We left the comfort of the cutoff and braved the high wind and seas to get into Tippycanoe Bay, where we caught and released short speckled trout and kept a couple of 12" sand trout.
Later, we pulled the boat out off the El Jobean ramp and relaunched it from Placida Park, near the Gasparilla Pass at the Gulf of Mexico. With the protection of the leeward side of the island, we fished in very calm seas. Using the i-Pilot, we held position over a 26' hole. Since it was after 3PM now, there was very little boat traffic coming and going through the pass. I suspected most had gone home to watch the NFL playoffs.
From this spot we used shrimp tipped jigs to catch keeper mangrove snapper and sheepshead, as well as catching and releasing short Gag Grouper and sharks we didn't want to mess with. By 5PM we could see a storm front approaching from the North so it was time to call it a day. We enjoyed from Redfish fillets for dinner that night, coupled with my wife's homemade Navy Bean soup.
As I write this on Monday morning, I'm preparing for a business trip to Houston. Before departing for the airport, we plan on eating a sample platter of fresh sheepshead, trout and snapper fillets coupled with Caribbean rice.
Below are a few shots Mike took of my boat on the water.
Next Sunday I will be hosting my work team for a fishing trip before 3 days of meetings.
We will have a total of 6 people fishing on 3 boats.