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Post Info TOPIC: Week Ending 1/2/2010 - Killing The Skunk


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Week Ending 1/2/2010 - Killing The Skunk

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I managed to get in two very cold trips out of three I had scheduled. By that time, the handwriting was on the wall.

First up on Tuesday was Tom Miller and his fifteen year old son, Ben, of Plainfield, Indiana. We'd just had another big front come through that really knocked the temperatures down. The worst of the blow was over, but I knew instinctively that there would be little or no bite. Tom had given this trip to Ben for Christmas. Ben had so much fun on our first trip he couldn't wait to get out and fish again. Ben is on the swim team and trains some five hours a day! He's a water baby. He loves the water. Well, Tom explained to Ben what I had told him about the catching prospects, and Ben still wanted to go.

The decision about catching bait was easy. I was pretty sure there would be none, or very little at the causeway, and figured nothing would want to burn the energy to run it down, anyway. Most of the guys were already using shrimp, but my philosophy is that if I'm buying shrimp, I'm eating shrimp! I've always done better with artificials when the water gets really cold, anyway. And, finally. I didn't see any wisdom in spending a couple of hours trying to catch non-existent bait in 40 degree weather.

It was the coldest day of the year 2009. Colder than any day we had last winter. And, it was one cold boat ride up into the Sound. I trimmed the nose of the Talon down with the tabs, where I can stay on step at about 15 knots. It was still bloody cold. Ben, who was not dressed appropriately in my book, didn't take long to zip up his jacket and turn his back to the wind. He was glad his Dad had insisted he wear that jacket! Tom and I debated whether it was wiser to go slow and prolong the agony, or go fast and get it over with. I kept it slow until I needed speed to keep us dry.

After what seemed a very long ride, we arrived at our first stop. My hands were numb, and the first thing I had to do was re-rig everything with lures. It was an exercise of mind over matter. We were in one of my favorite cold weather spots. It's usually a done deal in the cold of winter if you can get to it. But, it was no deal this time. We worked the water over and covered lots of ground. We did have bumps on our lures, but nothing would actually take one. Finally, thawed out, it was time to move on.

I headed to a pothole that is always full of trout and ladyfish. The fish were there, but the result was the same. They gave us the fin! I hopped about a mile to a pothole I hadn't fished in years, but had always done well with. It's a long monster of a hole, and can be full of surprises. We worked about half the length of it without a hit. There are usually redfish on the flats, but I figured they'd be laid up and trying to get warm, like everything else. But, I figured it was worth a try, and tied on a gold ½ spoon. We continued to work our way down the edge of the hole, as I cast the spoon just outside and across the edges of the hole. I was jarred from my frozen stupor by an unmistakable redfish hit. I jammed the rod into Ben's hands hoping he wouldn't let that fish get away. A few minutes later, Ben had a beautiful puppy red just under the limit in the boat, and the skunk was dead.

Redfish being the pack animals they are, you know when you catch one there are plenty of others around. Once we got to the end of the hole we went back up to the other end to work our way down to where we'd connected with that red. We were now all throwing gold and silver spoons, two with built-in rattles. We beat the water to a froth! In fact, we worked another four or five spots, all great redfish spots, trying to get a redfish for the boys to take home. It didn't happen. At our last stop we had several hits where the redfish bent the spoons' weed guards over, but just didn't hang on long enough to get hooked. We finished the day with one redfish!

I felt terrible for Ben and Tom. Ben had caught some great fish on our last trip, but with the water at 58 degrees and the barometer through the roof and the moon almost full, it wasn't to be. If we hadn't been trying to catch dinner, I would have gone for a big ladyfish and inshore grouper bite. In light of how the day had gone, that would probably be what I'd do tomorrow, if my guys even wanted to go.

With white flag flying we headed to the Waterfront Restaurant. We'd gone there last time, and the guys knew how good it is. Not going wasn't even an option. Their world class hot chocolate and a big bowl of calamari full of garlic may not sound like a great combo, but on a cold winter day it was just the ticket. I finally worked up the courage to ask Ben if he was glad he'd gone fishing. He got a big smile on his face and gave me a resounding, “Yes!” I was glad we'd gone, too. Tom and Ben are a great father and son team, and a joy to spend the day with.

Tuesday night I let Chris Heaphy know how bad the bite was, and how cold it was, half expecting him to say let's can it. I needed to work, and hoped he wouldn't. His beautiful wife Jan was to join him. He had to consult with her. She hadn't brought any appropriate winter clothes to Florida. Well, believe it or not, he got back with me later and told me they had gone shopping and she now had the proper clothes, and we were going fishing.

The next morning it was maybe four degrees warmer than Tuesday morning. But, the forecast was for it to warm up into the 60's. It had not gotten out of the low 50's the day before. I told Chris that unless he had a specific request, I was going to take them up the river to an area near Shell Pointe where in years gone by there were always tons of ladyfish just waiting to be caught. The caveat was that I hadn't been up the river and fished those fish in a very long time. The ride through the no-go zone seemed endless. The water was blowing out of the river at full tilt; probably around 8 knots. We were running at 1500 RPM, and barely making any ground speed. I was almost on step at a crawl!

Finally, we were there. I set us up for the first drift, and showed Chris and Jan the basics of how to work the jig and fight the fish. We were tossing DOA TerrorEyez and a small jig. We hadn't been on the drift long when we hit the first fish. As I had predicted, we hit fish just as we went off the drop from about two feet to about five feet. We quickly put three ladyfish into the well, just in case we found some redfish, or to see IF we could find some redfish with them. After another drift, I managed to hold us in place fairly well on the hard bottom with the Power Pole. We caught a bunch of ladys up to 24 inches long. During that time I gave Jan a casting clinic and coached her on working the bait until she got into the groove. By the time we left, being an excellent student, she had doubled her casting distance.

We headed into the Sound to see if we could get the previously lockjawed trout to bite. We worked four great potholes, and struck out on all. I wanted to get them back on some kind of bite, and let them do something they hadn't done before, and opted to go after the inshore gag grouper for a while. All we needed was jigs. Chris struck first blood with a beautiful 3+ pound trout. Then, fortunately, the grouper bit for a while, and Chris and Jan caught 7 or 8, I guess. The largest was 21 inches. Jan was really taken with the beauty of those fish, which is enhanced by the neon blue borders on their fins. Once that slowed down we decided to take our ladyfish and see if we could coax a cold redfish into eating a steak.

Well, I would have thought that since we'd managed to get several hits on spoons the day before, that surely we could get a redfish to eat a ladyfish steak. But, it was not to be. We spent the last part of the tide doing that, and then it was our turn to eat. We were off to the Waterfront. Like the Millers, Chris and Jan were glad we'd gone fishing instead of canceling. Jan was very pleased with herself and all the new things she'd learned. I must say she's a very good student, and she and Chris are great to fish with.

I am blessed to have great customers like the Millers and Heaphys, who took what nature threw at us and made a great time of it.

Best Fishes! Capt. Butch
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