Thursday, January 31, 2013

After Class Trout and Bull Red

Staying in Panama City, Florida for 6 weeks has its pros and cons. The pros are that I am able to go fishing on my off time. The cons are that most of my off time is consumed by research papers, reading, and briefing preparation for my Air Force leadership class. The deeper I get into this class, the deeper I get into "homework". I took every advantage of a beautiful evening WITHOUT homework!

My plan was to hit a location close to my hotel room for trout, then hit the local bridge after dark for a chance at bull reds. See, I have had bull reds on my mind nonstop since my trip to Pensacola. Class came and went which meant it was time to get on the water. The warming water temperature had the speckled trout crushing top water! My trusty blue mullet skitter walk did his job on this evening. At one point, I was getting a fish on every cast. I ended up with 11 trout up to 19".

I left this spot with high hopes of bull reds gracing their presence in my Trident 13. I launched at the bridge to flat calm water with zero wind, almost too nice! I fished up and down the bridge for couple of hours with no luck. What kept me going was seeing a big bull red in the light line edge and having another one actually swim under my kayak when I floated into the light line. This night I experienced something that I don't think that ever have before, at least that I can remember. All fishermen know exactly what I mean when you tell yourself, "Ok, last cast". Well, I actually meant it because I had a little bit of studying to do so I only planned on fishing until 8:30. "Last cast", I told myself. I saw a little splash from some baitfish in the light so I tossed out my big jerkshad passed the splash and twitched it back. After 4 twitches, BOOM! After a strong fight, I was able to land a nice 38" bull red on the infamous "last cast". YES!!

With only two weeks left here in Florida, my time is very limited. I'm still hoping to get off shore and go after some red snapper and grouper if the weather is nice. Obviously I can't complain getting into fish like these within 5 minutes of my hotel room. Either way I look at it, I will be pumped up the next time I am on the water. One thing is for certain though...I will make sure that I say, "Ok, last cast!"

~See ya on the water!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bulls at the "Red" Light District

Most fishermen can agree that probably one of the most exciting things on the water is "sight casting" to fish that you spot. You would normally associate this with day time, shallow water flats with the sun above your head. Some bridge locations will provide the opposite; sight casting to fish under the lights in total darkness! I'm used to going for "schoolie stripers" in Virginia when the bridge lights are shining on the water. This trip was a new experience for me, BULL REDS under the lights in Florida...Yeah Buddy!

Marty Mood and I launched to picture perfect conditions. Brandon Barton was already out and getting on fish. After 5 minutes of tossing a weightless 6" jerkshad, I got to yell, "FISH ON!" I knew it was a good fish the minute my drag started screaming! Not long after, I had a 37" bull red in my lap.

That fish set the tone for the rest of the night. The action was fast and furious! What worked on  this night were big soft plastics, both weightless for fish that you could see, and on a heavy jig for fish that were suspended. I'm just going to stick to the highlights on this one. The best one of the night for me was watching a 36" fish rise out of the depths like a log. I made a long but perfect cast out in front and a little past him. After a few twitches of my big Z-Man's jerkshad, the fish gives chase. This fish blew up on this like a bomb going off. Another mid 30"s bull red in the yak.

Another high point was hooking up a double with Marty 5 feet away from me. We had a big school come through that was really aggressive. My bull red gives me a sleigh ride right in front of Marty's boat. That could have gotten ugly in a hurry! Laughs and screamin' drags turn into, "Hell Yeahs!" Thank God I always bring my YakAttack Panfish Portrait.

We ended the night both with double digits catches.  Marty caught 17 and I caught at least 10, all between 32" and 41". I think this night was just meant to be. Great weather with even better fishing, and to top it off was being able to share it with a great friend. I know one thing is for certain, it will hard to top the "Red" Light District when it comes to bridge light fishing! One can only hope...

~See ya on the Water!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Exploring the Emerald Coast

Being an active duty member of the Air Force has its ups and downs. One of the perks is being able to travel to locations that one might not visit otherwise. You could say that I was not too mad when I got a class date to attend an advanced leadership course at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. I opted to drive instead of flying for one basic reason...You can't take your kayak with you on an airplane!

Hours were spent on Google Earth and talking to local kayak fisherman about the winter bite of the popular inshore species here in the pan handle of Florida. My excitement level jumped once I realized that I was smack dab in the middle of fish infested waters. It only took a couple of days in the state before I made my first trip out.

The first thing that I noticed was how clear the water was! I chose to go with more natural patterns compared to the bright colors that one might use in cloudier water. I only fished for a couple of hours but I did manage to find fish. The "poor man's tarpon" were stacked up pretty good and did not hesitate to smack my Z-Mans paddle tails.

It did not long after the ladyfish before I found a trout spot. It was a windy night but it didn't matter since I was able to stake out with my 8' YakAttack Park n' Pole. The bite was not crazy, but it was consistent. I was able to land a dozen specks up to 19". All in all, not a bad night for my first time fishing in Florida.

The next time out was with fellow Hook1 Crew Member, Marty Mood. I made the road trip out to Pensacola to fish some of his local spots. Like usual, we had strong winds to compete with. It was a no brainer to hide out in a little bayou to get out of the strong SE wind. Apparently the speckled trout and redfish had the same idea. Between the two of us, we probably caught 50-60 trout up to 22" and a couple of reds a piece up to 20". Everything worked; top water, paddle tails, and a popping cork with Z-Man's shrimp.

With 5 weeks left before I have to head home for Virginia, I can only hope to get on some bull reds! Hearing the stories of catching bull reds in the light line at night gets my blood pumping! Either way, it's a cool experience fishing a new location, especially when it's the Emerald Coast of Florida.

~See ya on the water!