A day on the water is out more than just catching fish. It is about creating memories, laughing, relaxing, and getting away from the worries of the land world. In order to do that, you must have am environment that takes you away and focuses you on the here and now; well, we have that here at Canaveral National Seashore.
The perfect trip this time of year takes place just before sunrise. Settling into the boat, we push away from the dock and leave the rest of the world behind. It is now time to focus on what is here and now, surrounding us. The boat is eased into gear and we gently glide across calm waters, ere the only surface disturbances are those created by dolphins, manatees, or fish crushing bait.
On this day, our morning tranquility was interrupted with snook busting shrimp. It is quite spectacular watching these fish lose their minds over these morsels of goodness. The shrimp will try anything not to become breakfast; skipping across the water’s surface, jumping into the air, clinging to dock pilings or leaves floating on the surface. Usually, it is in vain, as snook have the ability to track prey above the water and keen eyesight to observe bait no matter how it tries to hide. The sound of a snook busting is a sound that you never forget or mistake for anything else. Snook action was fast. They crushed poppers and shrimp flies with reckless abandon. The hard part for the anglers was being prepared for the lightning quick strikes and ready to set the hook. Done properly, a hook set results in a fish that is more powerful than one would imagine. Fast runs, head shaking and leaps into the air follow, all while trying to keep them away from structure or keeping their razor-like gill plates from cutting through the leader. We didn’t land any big ones this morning, but plenty of average sized ones, in the 16”-20” range.
While fishing snook, I heard the telltale sign sip sound of a tarpon breaking the surface and sucking in air. This is another sound that you cannot mistake. Once you learn it, you can recognize the sound in the darkest hours of the day and learn how to tell their position. As I looked, I got to see the silver and green back slip back under the surface, with the tail glistening in the rising sun, as it pushed the fish back down. Yes, the Silver King is here. We took a break from the snook and headed into one of my favorite tarpon haunts. It’s early in the season, but we were hopeful. The tarpon were there. Not the usual 10-15 pounders either; these tarpon were 30-60 pounds. We got in position and some offerings were made. Unfortunately they didn’t want to play. Knowing they are here means that Slams (Snook, redfish and tarpon caught in a single trip) are just around the corner.
We ventured on, to hunt redfish on the flats. Despite not having the tide I wanted, it was incoming all morning, I knew where we would find fish. The first stop provided my angler with a total of 16 shots; 14 on redfish and 2 on big seatrout. We had a couple follow the fly, but due to some unknown forces of nature, they turned off at the last second. Some others were happy with cast placement, and some just weren’t interested.
The next spot found perfect conditions: clear water, cruising and tailing fish, and perfect sunlight. A Gamechanger Shrimp fly was offered to a redfish cruising over the grass. He saw it, turned, and absolutely crushed the fly. He was a mid-slot fish, but had a total of 7 spots. He inhaled the fly so hard that it was in his crushers; he wanted it! The fly was carefully removed and the fish went back to fight another day. Yes, the majority of my trips are all about catch and release. With the issues Florida has faced over the last few years, I believe we need to do everything possible to help sustain our fishery. It is a belief I have had for a couple of decades, that has finally come to the forefront of the fishing world.
We checked a few more areas, locating more fish, but improper presentations and some bad luck resulted in refusals; nothing like coming around a blind point and surprising two over-slot redfish that are quietly hunting a flat.
Lunch was upon us. How do you refuel after a morning like this? Sandwiches or crackers won’t do it. So, stake out on the shoreline, grab the grill, and cook a couple of 1/2 pound venison burgers, topped with smoked gouda cheese. Add some chips and cold water and you have a better lunch than you can find at any restaurant. Eat, drink, refuel, and breather. During these breaks we discuss what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and relive the laughs from earlier; what we don’t discuss: the world we left behind, the stresses, the issues, etc.
We pushed a couple more shorelines and coves. We found more fish. My angler discovered more ways to get refused; some his fault, some not. That’s just how fishing can be. Our redfish are the smartest in the world. They require persistence, knowledge and patience. They will provide you with plenty of opportunity and reward you for well placed casts. Come join me for an adventure of your own!