Day 4 – Never feel defeated

Yesterday Randy had begun to zero in on the snook and was happy to report a spot we had pointed out to him ended up being his most productive, holding the biggest fish of the day. He returned the favor with a couple tricks he had up his sleeve and talk of tomorrows fishing was front and center. A partnership of trust had formed. It would be early to bed and early to rise. We only have three more days and we have to move before heading back to the coast.
The move went smooth then it was a straight run to the sea. We now know the way so it was only a fifteen minute nonstop commute. We’ll fish a different area at the mouth on the outgoing end of the tide giving us a good stretch of potential sight fishing. The weather radio predicted a light wind for the morning with a cold front and north wind showing up in late afternoon.
Steve immediately caught a nice redfish right where it belonged then only a few casts later hooked into the biggest spotted sea trout of the trip. I’m not sure just exactly how big a sea trout has to be before it is considered a gator trout but this had to be one. It covered 23 inches of the scale and probably weighed in at 4-5 pounds. Our day had already been made and it was only 15 minutes old.
We managed to find a good deal of unproductive, fishless water but we weren’t going to give up till the incoming tide took the visibility away. We took turns poling and poked into every nook and cranny. If you look long enough and hard enough sooner or later a 10 percent piece of water may show up and there they are, two redfish in less than a foot of water poking along the edge of the mangroves. Then a major snook blows out from under a shady overhang twenty feet to the left of the boat. You put the breaks on and regroup for a super stealth approach knowing what may lie ahead. They can’t know you’re there. If a snook or redfish is aware of your presents they zip their lips. It’s a fact. And you can’t be certain they are even in an eating mood. Small fish are like kids, they are always hungry and constantly in the fridge looking for something to stuff in their mouths. Big adult fish are like us. We wait for the buffet table to be fully stocked before we line up. After we feast we turn our heads to any offer of another bite. Fish are no different. Add the element of concealment to the equation and the odds are stacked against you. So you put your best game on and proceed. Pull it off and you’re the hero, blow it and you feel like a failure and nothin’ your fishing buddy says to encourage the situation is goin’ to help. And don’t try wining because pity is in short supply. After all he did put you on the fish.
During this encounter everyone had no interest in eating. One refusal and you change whatever is on the end of the line. And when that gets refused you change again. At times it does matter what you try. The other day I found a lone, very big red patrolling the back corner of a bay. I believe he had no idea I was even around. I showed that fish three different things that always work or I should say almost always work that were simply ignored. The fish appeared like he was looking for something to eat but it became obvious he was just walking off the effects of the all you can eat lunch special. Who knows, I though he was as good as in the net.
But then something changes. Often it’s the noticeable shift of the tide. It’s like fishing the hatch when a flip of the switch has everyone on the take. In the same bay ten minutes later fish were inhaling the same thing others refused minutes earlier.
Back to Lostman’s, around another bend and a nicely placed cast goes under an overhang followed instantly by an explosion of water that jumps you straight in the air. The breast may have missed it but still wants it and made another violent blast before heading a hundred miles an hour for deeper water leaving a limb line and a very rapid heartbeat behind. You reel up, breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes then carry on. That moment in time remains in your memory for the remainder of your life.
We left time in the day to give that little back bay a better once over. I did see a tarpon roll there the day before. That alone is enough for additional probing. As we began to enter the narrow opening I mentioned to Steve “If I was a big snook there is the spot I would call home.” We fished it until we were convinced no one was home or not willing to play. Fifty yards further another carbon copy spot appeared. It got the same treatment only someone was home and pounded Steve’s stink bait. When the big snook surfaced for a jump we knew just what he had. Then the hook fell out and it began just another sad story. I know Steve will see that fish in his sleep for quite some time.
It was another great evening. We dined on leftover ceviche and fresh redfish at the chickee platform campsite while we relived the day. Before we ended the day I believe the final comment about the big one that got away was “ His mouth was big enough to swallow a watermelon.” Just right.