We are back! After an extended absence and a lot of top secret Snook fishing endeavors, we decided to shake it up a bit and draw up a new game plan and chase a different species for a change. The Snook fishing was decent up until a few weeks ago, when the legendary SFWMD decided the water level of Lake Okeechobee was too high, and opened the flood gates to release 2.5 billion gallons of fresh water into our Indian River eco-system daily. The forecast for fishing around here for the foreseeable future is very grim, so needless to say it was time for a change.
I met up with a good friend of mine named Jayson to check out a few spots to see if we would get lucky and find a needle in a haystack, and get some lines tight on some Snook in our new freshwater lagoon after my Buckeyes trounced the Cornhuskers. Again, we were met with the same disappointment of a fish-less wasteland which has become the norm as of late.
While we were mingling in the parking lot, we came up with the idea to head North to the only Bull Red stronghold in South Florida to see if we can get lucky on a late night tide. We were already tired, it was already late, and we were not geared up properly to handle the task at hand. But after a lot of coaxing, Rockstar energy drinks, and some soul crushing metal pinned on the speakers, we headed North to see if we could pull off a Hail Mary miracle in the 4th quarter.
Driving down the pitch black road at 3 ain the morning, we noticed the moon had risen, and we were under what we like to call the "Eyes of the South" moon, which we like to believe is a good sign of things to come, but little did we know what difficulties we would have to overcome in a short amount of time....
Upon arrival at the Inlet, we discovered that all my cast nets had been removed from my assault vehicle. Strike one, and it might as well have been strike two as well. We had about 40 minutes to come up with some sort of bait, and we had no bait catching device, needless to say the outlook for this trip got grim very quickly. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and that's when we found a cooler left next to a fillet station for anglers to donate their Snook carcasses to science. I opened the cooler to find no Snook, but somebody had dumped two Flounder carcasses and a Black Grouper carcass in the Snook donation chest (guess somebody didn't know how to read). However they did know how to fillet a fish, leaving little to nothing on these carcasses we could scrap, but we need something, anything, as our window of time had been cut in half since our arrival. I go to get a knife out to work some magic, and realize the only knife handy is the one on my key chain.....Strike Two. With the utmost determination, and a dull pocket knife, I was able to get a few pieces of what I can describe as less than optimum baits for us to fish with during the extremely short bite window that was approaching quick.
The bugs were solid, and the humidity in the air was thick, making the walk out to the end of the inlet grueling and very disheartening, but after the long drive, and the mishaps along the way, we had to make this work somehow or another. Under prepared was an understatement for what we ere experiencing right now, and this became even clearer when we realized that we only had had three leads to fish with in a rock laden war zone, if we were going to pull this off, our luck was going to have to change, as we were now on the clock for the bite time.
I dropped the first bait on my 4/0 loaded with 60lb mono and an 8ft unlimited class Barret Custom rod, and within two minutes of the bait hitting bottom, I felt that awkward tugging, typical of a Redfish hit. I let it eat for a short moment, set the drag to terminate, engaged the reel, and proceeded to lay the lumber on this fish on the hook set. My violent hook set, was met with an equally violent reaction, and I soon found myself getting drug back and forth on the railing engaged in a brutal tug of war. I would not let the fish take any line, but the creature had other plans in mind. It tried to take me into the rocks, the the pilings, then into the current, I began to believe it was not a redfish at al, but possibly a nice sized stingray, until I saw it rise up in the light of the Eye of the South, and realize it was a legitimate South Florida pig. Jayson got the bridge net ready, and the monster had been beaten. A few quick pics and a hook removal and a quick change of luck, and we were out of the red and back in the green. She was released to fight another day, and we pushed forward to see what we could pile up during our short window of miracle fishing.
On my next drop I came tight again almost instantly. But this time I was able to manhandle the fish to the surface in a moments time. Jayson was able to maneuver the net into position, and in a matter of minutes the second bull had hit the deck. This guy has lived an interesting life judging by the missing portion of its tail. A couple quick pics, a nice release and we were back in the game again.
Over the next 20 minutes Jayson had a couple of hook-ups and losses along with myself. Until I was able to get another 30lb class fish to the jetty. However the hook pulled out from head shaking before it could be netted. The window was closing, and our one hour bite time was nearing the end, and daylight was approaching quickly. Jayson insisted he fish one more bait before we leave though. and On his final drift he came tight on a nice one on spinning tackle. After a short but belligerent tug of war on braided line, he was able to get this textbook looking redfish to the jetty for a couple of quick shots and a sweet release before we packed up.
Driving South down the Wilderness road toward home as the first light peered over the distant clouds on the horizon, we had a long haul home smelling like red drum and fermented fish. We were soaked in sweat, riddled with bug bites, and I could feel the facial hair growing on my face. A long miserable sun-rise drive home was not what I was looking forward to after being awake for 24hrs. But knowing we had beat the odds and overcame everything that went wrong to get into some trophy Red fishing made the drive a little less miserable. The light in the sky was peering higher over the clouds, as the Eye of the South was still visible above, illuminating the ocean wilderness road southbound toward home, I rolled down the windows, turned up the radio, and stomped the throttle down a little harder, knowing that sleep would be a little bit easier after our last minute expedition, accompanied by some last minute luck.