On a dreary overcast morning that included the occasional rain sprinkle, I awoke with a list of household chores to take care of.
Only problem is that kind of day means fishing to me. After piddling around for a while in a half-hearted effort at home repair, I finally faced the reality of the situation and shoved my kayak on top of my old Ford Explorer. An 8:30 a.m. start is a bit late for me, but fishing is fishing.
In the summer, I would be hesitant to begin a trip that late because of the heat, but on this morning it was cool and wet. When I dropped the Green Peanut in at the end of my street, I figured I was going to be in for a lot of paddling. The winter water had turned very clear and shallow and on the flats it would be difficult to fish. I would need to seek out some depths. As I stroked across the Halifax River I was reminded of the great water quality we are enjoying in the Tomoka Basin.
Just after New Year's Day, a mini nor'easter had blown down the river and pushed in a lot of green ocean water. By the time I made it behind the spoil islands I could see the water was at slack high tide. With that in mind, I headed north. I always try to have the wind and tide with me on my return. Keeping out from the island far enough to have three or four feet of water, I began throwing my chartreuse jig. Nothing hit for the first half mile, so I headed for a small, submerged oyster bar that had served me well in the past. On the second cast toward that structure, I caught a small flounder.
By then I had changed to the new Grandslam Bait Co. apple cider shrimp tail. They make all sorts of soft baits but as most of you know I am a sucker for a four-inch shrimp tail and the clear pink apple cider lure looked great to me.
After a few more casts, I had another small flounder right to the boat before it came off. The oyster bar that I was fishing is only about 6 feet by 10 feet, but the thing that attracts me to it is the fact it never comes out of the water. Not being visible to fishermen keeps the pressure off it. When I threw the cider about 20 feet out from the bar's deeper side, I landed a fat little 15-inch sea trout.
Before I left the bar I had landed a total of three flounder and two trout. Not bad, but I was hoping for a big red fish. I moved away for about two hours but found nothing and when I returned to the oyster bar I discovered the bite was now dead. That was a good reminder that it's never a good idea to leave fish to look for fish. With the tide dropping fast, I began to work the island points where there is more water. As I moved along I spotted a big red drum cruising in a cove with its back out of the water, but I could never get within casting distance.
Back near where I had begun with no luck, I now felt the solid hook up of a red. It was a nice fish and the fight was good, but as I got it near the kayak I could see the hook was pulling out. Just as it was about to lie up alongside the Peanut, it was free. The 23-inch fish lay there for a while not realizing its good fortune before finally fining away. I let out a small groan then, but on the very next cast I was hooked up again. This time the red fish came to my fish grippers and was on board. It was an exact twin to the one that escaped only moments before.
In fact, the three flounder I landed and the two that got away were all the same size and the two trout were also identical. Obviously, all of the fish were schoolers. As I paddled back to my truck, I realized I had landed a grand slam with a Grandslam. Actually I had caught a grand slam twice if I had been able to get the grippers onto the first red just a second faster. I could have claimed a trout, flounder and red twice. Heck, I am going to do that. After all I would have released one red anyway. Oh come on. Cut me some slack.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. E-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.