Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Best Redfishing Of The Year

Pine Island is tailing redfish heaven right now. We had more great shots at these fish this morning than any other day this fall. My anglers were Ron Smith and Jim Chell of Melbourne, FL. The guys made the trek across the State to check out the area for the day and saw the best that Pine Island had to offer.

We hit Smokehouse Bay at first light, one of my favorite places in Matlacha Pass. With a new moon and a strong -1.3 falling tide, the water was rushing out of the bay and interesting things were happening all over the place.

Ron was the first to hook up with a nice but barely slot sized redfish on a Sebile topwater lure. Topwaters have been really effective lately but you can't use them on just any tide. Falling water is the best since it flushes out the surface grass that fouls them so quickly. Jim also hooked a solid red on a Sebile but it came unbuttoned at boatside. Not a problem since we were releasing all of these fish anyway.

When the tide had bottomed out the guys switched to weedless Gulps and the first fish was short snook that was busting bait in a small pothole. Although this fish was well under the slot we flushed dozens of snook out from the mangroves that well over the 28 inch limit. Other than the one Jim landed, the rest of the snook had a case of lockjaw this morning but some live bait would have easily cured that.

After nearly getting stuck in the rapidly draining bay, we decided to head to the other side of Pine Island and try the waters around Useppa and Cabbage Key. Fishing the big grass flats around these islands reminds me of the Keys or Puerto Rico. It's as clear as any bonefish flat and sightcasting to the reds there is just as challenging.

With several oyster bars still exposed the reds were tailing everywhere. One of the first fish we poled up to had its head so far in the grass that it never saw the first half dozen casts Ron threw at it. After finally laying a Gulp right on its head the red hit and ran off like a mole burrowing through the grass. This is why using braided line in this area is a necessity. Mono, while less expensive, would have never held up to this.

An hour later the fish had stopped tailing so we ran back to Smokehouse Bay to catch the middle of the flood tide. We pushed through the bay where it was still shallow and were quickly after another school of tailers. Jim dropped a weedless Gulp right into them and got an instant eat. This was the fish we were looking for, big enough to spin the bow of my Beavertail skiff on its own. After several big runs we got it boatside for a few photos and a quick measurement: 26 1/2 inches.

We tried to land a quick trout to complete the Slam for Jim but of course the easiest species of the three didn't cooperate, even though we saw dozens of huge ones darting out of the sand holes. Despite missing the Slam this was one of the best days I've had this season. We hooked six reds, boated four,and cast to nearly a hundred more. Throw in the perfect blue skies and temps in the upper 70's and Pine Island is the perfect place for shallow water anglers right now.