I got a call from B.J. telling me that Frenchy (Jon French) was coming into town late Thursday night and that all three of us should hit the Gulf on Friday. I hadn’t taken a “personal” day at work in some time, so I figured what the hell. The tides were absolutely horrible. Low tide was around 11:30 am and high tide wasn’t until around 6:15 pm.
I knew B.J. and Frenchy wouldn’t want to waste the whole morning doing nothing, but I convinced them that it would be a waste of our time getting there so shortly after dead low tide. We left from B.J.’s residence around 10:45 and made the slow trek over, stopping at Hitchcock’s Foodway, the gas station and finally the bait store. The weather forecast called for 30% chance of rain with scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon and about a 10 knot wind.
When we arrived, the water was still low. I had to rooster tail it to get out of the basin. We probably should have fished around some of the islands for trout for a while because there was just not enough water to fish when we first got over to Corrigan’s. We were fishing in water that was about 1.5 feet deep and we weren’t tearing them up by any means. I caught a stingray to start us off and then remained cold for some time after. We were having a hard time maneuvering due to the lack of water. Frenchy out of nowhere caught a short sheepshead which he decided to have a little fun with.
B.J. was really getting on my case. We had stopped at about 2 or 3 spots with only my stingray to show for it and not much in the way of bites, either. He kept saying that he was going to stop picking up my phone calls in case I wanted to take him fishing. He was also making jokes about jumping overboard and swimming to the only other boat in swimming distance, where he was sure they would be catching fish. As soon as he stopped giving me a hard time long enough to fish, he was in business.
The spot I wanted to stop and fish was unreachable at the time, so we anchored up parallel to a bar about a football field away, waiting for the tide. B.J. was giving me a rash of s#!t for not putting them on any fish, when we see about a 4-5 foot bonnet head shark cruising around right in front of us. I jokingly tossed some cut bait his way out of sheer boredom but didn’t get him to take it. Not 30 seconds after that B.J.’s line just takes off. It swims directly for the oyster bar and is hauling some serious ass. Frenchy and I both remarked aloud about how we were sure it was that shark we just saw on the top of the water. Even B.J. thought it was a shark. You could tell because he was being super nonchalant, Mr. Cool Guy without a care in the world. The fish had originally taken off toward the south, ran almost on top of the oyster bar and did an about face north. If he would have know what it was at the time, I doubt he would have been hot dogging it like he was. Frenchy comments on the fact that we haven’t seen a fin and to not be so sure it’s a shark. I got the net out and B.J. gets it close enough to the boat for me to see that it’s a huge snook. 27 inches to be exact.
We don’t normally catch snook in Cedar Key. I know people do, but I’ve only been on the boat once when another was landed by my dad, and it was all of 12 inches. We had no idea what the rules and regulations were on snook in Cedar Key. We’ve never really had to worry about it before. Do you need a stamp? What’s the slot? Is it even legal to keep them this year? Too many unanswered questions. I’ve heard how tasty snook is to eat and really wanted to try some. What we did find on Frenchy’s law stick was that even when you can keep snook, stamp or not, they have to be 28 inches to keep. That made a tough decision a little easier. But it’s never easy to let a big, beautiful fish like that go. At least if you really enjoy eating fish like B.J., Frenchy and I, do.
B.J.’s luck hadn’t run out at this particular hole yet however. I hooked into something big and immediately hoped that we had hit a snook hole, but I caught that bonnet head that been showing off for us previously. As soon as I got the shark unhooked, B.J. hooks into a monster. This one wasn’t swimming nearly as fast as the Snook did previously, but he was making strong, hard runs. Frenchy reached over and netted B.J.’s 30 inch redfish for him after about a 5 minute fight. We could tell he was gonna be real close to being too big, but we all crossed our fingers as we measured him. Even without pinching the tail, he was too big. We joked about busting the scissors out and shortening him up a bit, but they were just jokes. Another tough catch and release for B.J., but a nice fight and catch.
Next up was Mr. French. At the same spot he pulls in a redfish that’s a hair under 20 inches. So, we have three really nice fish caught, but only one to show for it. After that hole, we moved to where I previously wanted to go, but couldn’t get there because of the tide.
That ended up being a total flop. Nobody got a bite there. I guess that just shows you that your “spots” aren’t always the best place to fish. Sometimes it’s better to branch out and find a new “spot”. After that I decided we had enough water to make our way into a creek that I am fairly familiar with. I guess I misjudged how much water we had because we came to an impasse which led to the decision to just anchor down and fish. We were on top of a really nice oyster bar (which caused the impasse) that was only slightly submerged. It had a faint cut where water was rushing through, so I decided to test my luck there. In about 20 minutes, I had 2 slot redfish in the boat, measuring 19 inches each. They weren’t big, but they put me on the board.
It started getting late in the day and we could see a huge storm (that they forecasted for the afternoon) northeast of us. The barometric pressure dropped and we were getting those really cold (but awesome feeling) gusts of wind. We were all discussing whether we should hoist the anchor and haul ass when I got a bite. I originally thought it was a redfish for sure, because of how it was fighting, but when it got closer, I could tell it was a nice, fat speckled trout. B.J. tried to knock it off the line while he was netting it for me, but we finally got her in the boat.
After that we promptly picked up anchor and headed to the hill. Frenchy and B.J. watched the storm roll in where we were just fishing. We loaded the boat up as quickly as possible, to avoid the impending downpour. I was the only one clear of mind, so I was elected to drive home. We decided to stop at the Rocky Hammock Rod and Gun Club on the way home. This was a great idea. We not only got to clean our fish, but we also got to shoot the s#!t with Big Rodney, Mr. Rucker and Tom. They fed us with beers, bar b-q sandwiches and some awesome chicken and rice. I had at least four bowls. I also need to apologize to whoever left their Little Debbie Swiss Rolls lying around in plain sight. I had my way with them and while I’m sorry, I’m not sorry. You should know better.
All in all, it was an awesome day that ended really late. Me and Frenchy both brought home fish, while B.J., as Frenchy pointed out, couldn’t hit the slot. We got home after midnight and I was too tired to clean the boat or take it home. I told B.J. that I would pick it up Sunday, if he didn’t mind. The next day, B.J. was nice enough to not only clean the boat, the coolers and flush out the motor, but he also took it to my in-laws house where I keep it. That guy has a free trip on me next time. I also want to thank Frenchy for the gourmet sandwiches he made on the boat. Most people bring along some variation of a ham and/or turkey sandwich. Very few people have Chef Jon Boy French whip up a ham, turkey, lettuce, tomato, onions (diced of course, with a rusty filet knife), mayo, mustard and (the kicker) balsamic vinegar on a deli bun. I wasn’t sold until I took a bite. Bon appetite mother f*****s.