At this writing, the jury is still out on the shrimp run. A few boats are working the waters north of the Ormond Beach Bridge but the take is spotty. Those willing to search a bit are getting their five-gallon limit but many are lucky to get bait. The size is also very mixed with only about one in 40 being the size of a 50-cent carrot.
Fishing remains steady with trout and flounder leading the way. Fishing buddy John Rector was witness to a pathetic scene recently while the two of us were wading the Tomoka State Park. Fishing was slow and after a lot of casts I had finally hooked a flounder. The fish was nothing to brag about at about 14 inches but it was all I had been able to find and I wanted it. As many of you know, there has been an awful lot of water in the inshore for quite a while. The banks are flooded at either tide and the water is well back into the marsh grass. As I whipped the little flounder out I forgot there was no bank behind me and when it hit it came unhooked. It laid still in the shallow water between the grass where it had fallen as I devised a plan. I knew the chances of me catching a live fish in the water with my bare hands was not good. I considered taking a big belly flop right onto it but at the last instant was overcome by common sense and decided to sneak up on it and make a scooping motion with both hands. A good plan but it did not go well. I tried to propel the flounder up onto the dry grass but came up with nothing but water. Now I'm on my knees slapping and splashing around while the flat fish squeezed through my legs to safety. John was up the bank a bit and said that as he watched that scene play out it had reminded him of an Alaskan bear trying to catch a salmon. Maybe, but not nearly as graceful, I would wager.
A couple of days later, I was in the same spot but this time alone. I don't care to fish on a breezy morning but I was grateful the wind had saved me from the early morning onslaught of no-see-ems. Just as the sun came up pink behind threatening clouds, the fish began to hit all around me. I could tell that trout were on the feed as I unfurled my trusty jig. On about the third cast I hooked a strong trout that actually turned out to be a 19-inch redfish. OK, I thought. Not a bad start. Soon I was into the trout and caught and missed them on most every cast. In all, I landed eight trout. Three were keepers with the largest being 18 inches. I did have one that would have been near 20 inches escape in the flood at the beach.
After the sun came up full, the flounder began to bite. Four flounder were hooked and I landed three, which for me is pretty darn good. One was a keeper but a little small so I turned it back and kept the two 17 inchers. It was still very early but the wind was really kicking up and I had to cross the bay in my tiny kayak. Fast tide and high wind can make that paddle pretty dicey so I headed home at 8:30 a.m. Only two hours of fishing and on my stringer was three trout, two flounder and a red. A nice mess for my weekend fish fry.
On the cleaning table I went through the catch with my Buck Knife until I came to the last flounder that I had caught. The fish was in shock from being out of water but still had just a bit of life left. As I cleaned it I became careless and with its last gasp the fish sunk one of those thick Dracula-like fangs into my thumb. The blood flew. I uttered a word not fit to print and for an instant or two, I was mad. Then I had to laugh. With the last breath the flounder had gone to its maker with a bit of revenge against its captor. It seemed somehow fair.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793