Saturday, December 27, 2014

3 Mile Predators

Late December is considered by many to be the greatest time of year. Heck, even the popular Christmas songs say it is! Some consider is great for getting together with family, others love it for giving or receiving gifts. Well, I have to believe that if you live around the Pensacola Florida area that you may think it's the greatest time of year for another reason...
Bull Reds at the Bridge! 
My good friend and fellow active duty Air Force member, Jay Moore, joined me a late night bull red hunt at 3 Mile Bridge in Pensacola. It's no secret that big reds patrol the lights of the bridge during this time of year. Jay paddled the Old Town Predator MX and I took out the Predator 13, perfect platforms for spotting the big ole' pumpkins!
This was Jay's first time out at the bridge going for big reds. His personal best red was slot sized so my goal was to get him one that would top that mark, pretty attainable at 3 Mile. The night started out pretty slow but it didn't stay slow for too long.
We fished light after light without seeing or hooking any fish. We moved to a certain light that had fish waiting for us. I wasn't tossing at them until Jay hooked up. Well, it didn't take long before Jay's drag was screaming! The 3 Mile reds don't come easy, and this guy fish was no different. After 10 seconds, he shook the hook. No worries, Jay hooked up again within 5 minutes of losing the first one. This time the damn fish actually broke the clip that attached the lure to the leader. Of the hundreds of fish that I have caught on these clips, I have never had one break. I guess Jay had to be the first!
As we separated and fished different lights, I saw a slight glimpse of a long orange blob moving in front of my bow. The plump 36.5" pounded my Swinging Hammer as I swam it in front of him.
We paddled back into the light and Jay spots a single and makes a text book cast...
This fish gave him a great fight; run after run, in between pilings, going underneath the kayak, you name it. Jay fought this fish perfectly! Once the red was tired, he wrapped his hand around the leader and leveraged him into the MX. Game over!
35" bull red in boat!


By this time, it was getting late so we decided to make our way back down the bridge towards the launch.
Only issue was we left the lights with fish! The more we paddled, the more the fish disappeared. I did happen to spot a big single cruising pretty fast. This guy was on a mission. My mission was to drive a hook in his mouth...And I did just that!

This 39.5" put up a hell of a fight! When they are pushing 40", they seem to hit another gear!

The big tail swimming down to the depths signified the end of our night. All in all, it was slow but productive! We had multiple hook ups and saw fish cruising the surface. Most of all, Jay got his personal best red and the taste of bull reds at the bridge. I'm sure we will be loading up the Predators again very soon!
~See ya on the water!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas the Morning Before Christmas

Twas the morning before Christmas, when Santa was in bed
Thinking of fighting a big ole' sheepshead
The Predator and rods were loaded with care
In hopes that Mr. Convict soon would be there
The shrimp were nestled all snug in the bucket
With the visions of the bait guy saying, "looks like 3 dozen, F#@K it!"
And the wife in her work chair, and I in my yak,
Had just said to myself, "kayak fishing is like crack!"
When on the first drop arose such a clatter
I raised the rod tip to see what was a matter
Away to the handle, ready to take the chance
I set the hook so hard, I thought I crapped my pants
The hook found its mark between the teeth of the beast
I made sure the drag was tight, smoked down at the least
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
A stout sheepshead, one of the biggest of the year
With drag pulling power, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment this was a strong convict
More runs to the bottom not ready to give in
It was him vs. me, not a chance that he'd win
Finally to the surface while waving the white flag
I knew I had won, it was "money in the bag"
Now line! Now leader, Now swing in the fish
"You're not going anywhere, not a chance, you wish!"
With the sheepy in hand, I said to myself
"I wish somebody would take my picture, another angler, or an elf"
I forgot my GoPro was on, I never leave home without it
It captures every moment, mounted on my Panfish Portrait
To the stringer he goes,  just waiting to be filleted
Blackened, baked, or grilled, I don't care how it's made
The day just started, I'm sure there will be more
We've got plenty of bait, hopefully it's sheepy galore
With a stringer full of fish and a face sporting a smile
The glow of catching a dozen could be seen for a mile
The addiction is strong, impossible to kick
Kayak fishing is in the blood, of ole' jolly St. Nick
The Predator and rods were loaded into the sleigh
The trip was up, time to call it a day
While leaving the launch, Santa was heard yelling with laughter...
"MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, we'll see ya on the water!"


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Drum n' Sheep

61 days...
1,464 hours...
87,840 minutes...
That's how long it has been since the last time I hit the water. Not cool, not cool at all!
With the next outing beyond overdue, it only made sense to go all out! I worked second shift this week so I planned to go after sheepshead in the morning, go to work in the afternoon, and then target big reds at night, all while fighting off a miserable cold.
Lets do this!
As any angler knows, the feeling you get when you finally get back on the water after a lengthy hiatus is pretty much indescribable. It's beyond awesome! I headed right for the bridge structure armed with a couple dozen live shrimp and a mind full of confidence.
It didn't take long to feel the ever so subtle "sheepy bite". After a couple of swings and misses, I finally drove the hook into the toothy critter!

The carolina rigged live shrimp were not only irresistible for sheepshead, but black drum couldn't swim by them without having a snack as well.
The bite really picked up as the wind and clouds rolled in. Couple with moving current, the conditions were perfect! At one point, I didn't go a minute without a bite! I stayed on the same set of pilings with a rubble mix below. Catching a good sized sheepshead is fun, but catching multiples is a blast! I ended the day with double digit numbers of sheepshead up to 21" and 2 black drum up to 25".
I went to work feeling pretty good about the day time bridge bite from earlier. Even though I was working, it was impossible not to think about an evening bridge bite just as good, if not better than the earlier one. Yeah, I wasn't going after sheepys and black drum this go around. Big ole' orange pumpkins were next on the list...Florida's big red drum!
Once my shift was over, it was a quick turn with clothing and gear and off to the bridge again. The outgoing tide was already moving as I got there so I knew the fish should be hungry! I paddled to the first light that I normally target during outgoing tide. While standing in my Old Town Predator 13, I quickly spotted a pair of reds. I hooked up on the first cast but quickly came unbuttoned. I wasn't too phased since I knew that I probably wouldn't have to wait long for my next chance. I hung out in the shadows of the bridge like a hunter waiting for his prey. As 3 more reds cruised in formation waiting to annihilate anything that swam in front of them, I lead them a with a perfect cast about 10 feet past and 10 feet in front of them. When the first one saw my PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer, he rocked towards the bait to steal if from his buddys...FISH ON!  
Over the next 3 hours, I hooked up with fish at every light I fished. I lost more than normal, but 10 fish still graced the cockpit of the Predator, ranging from 31" to 38.5". All were caught on a 1/8 oz jig and Swinging Hammers. I didn't break the 40" mark this night, but I saw a handful that were every bit of 40" or better. 

Wiping the tears from my eyes and the snot from my nose, I drove home half asleep with a scratchy cough. Even though I was tired and sick, the sweet smell of fish slime put a little smile on my face. The long break really made me appreciate the time I spend on the water. I don't think I will be waiting 61 days again any time soon...

~See ya on the water!