Tampa Bay Redfish…Finally!

I took the day off on Good Friday to do a little fishing with a great friend. A year had passed since we last went out and we had been skunked. So the day of, I’m calling, texting, and trying to re-validate what was confirmed on the phone the previous night. So a text comes through fifteen minutes before my friend and I were supposed to launch the boat. A cancellation text. He broke a major “man code”. Cancelling a planned trip fifteen minutes before departure is a major man law infraction. It’s almost as bad as not showing up. On a scale of one to ten his code violation a seven, and that’s being lenient.

What do I do now? Well, as a last resort, I called my father in-law, Gary, and he was ready to go in thirty minutes. Off to the bait shop, then the ramp. My father in-law wanted shrimp, I didn’t, and buying bait is not for me. Mr. Weatherman called for little to no wind, so trout drifts were the plan, hoping to locate a school. The wind was kicking pretty hard, so that was out of the question. With the outgoing tide being so high, I opted to fish the mangrove lines with some live shrimp and a few arties. Hoping the fish were in their normal haunts, the boat was anchored in the backcountry, ready for the tide to move out with some speed. The water temperature read seventy one degrees in the back-not bad. Armed with artificials and the shrimp I did not want to buy, (Gary bought), the fishing started. We caught a couple of short reds on jigs and a few rat reds on shrimp; fishing was slow, with about four short reds to the boat. Knowing the tide would be moving soon and a major solunar was coming up, I made a move to a mangrove line full of mullet and glass minnows. I even saw some snook and reds crashing these minnows; not many but a few. What a great sight to finally see again!

Little rat...

This mangrove line had a shallow area with not much cover, but was parallel to a large trough; the fish were hanging right on the edge of the deeper water, ambushing bait the mullet were kicking up. The tide started moving faster and the major kicked in. The bite was on. We boated about fifteen fish in an hour and had a blast.

First keeper redfish ever...
A straggler found near an oyster bar, caught on a soft plastic.

Don’t get me wrong, these reds were not monsters. Most were under slot, but fun to catch nonetheless. The plan was to leave after the major. Time was running out. With my mouth watering for some blackened redfish we kept trying. Looking behind me I saw glass minnows being hammered. One of Dave’s lures was already rigged up and I hadn’t used it all day. I decided to throw it out near the commotion, trying to get the retrieve perfect. Finally, after a few tries, paydirt! I brought in my first respectable redfish of the year at twenty three inches, and on a new lure to boot! I was stoked! Blackened redfish was in the near future.

My first slot red of the year, I am way behind!

No more fish were interested in that lure, and the major feed was slowing, so I started with the shrimp again, (that I didn’t want :p). After boating a couple more shorts, I was prepping the boat to head in. My father in-law pitched a piece of dead shrimp deep in the groves. I told him to hold on and wouldn’t you know it, he lands a twenty one inch red. He was happy with his first keeper redfish ever, as this is his first year in Florida. After catching a couple more rat reds and photos, the ramp was the destination.

What an awesome day. Having a few beers, laughs, and catching fish can definitely be a stress reliever, and the day on the water was a great start to the holiday weekend.