REDONKULOUSNESS by Captain Russell Kleppinger
I know I should be posting part two of the Blue Marlin Camping trip, but I thought I would mix it up and share my 24 hr adventure from last weekend. Friday night I took my friend Lebsica out to show her my backyard and try to get her on some quality fish. She had never caught a fish before and wanted to try it out after hearing the stories and looking at my pictures. We met up at 7 pm and headed up the beach looking for live bait. I spotted the first bait cloud, but it was a false alarm being a huge school of big lady fish. After pushing further up the beach I found a pod of mullet and after one throw with the cast net we were in business and ready to have some fun!
I ran back down the beach in slick calm seas and set up looking for tarpon. The week before I released 9 tarpon out of 32 bites at this spot so I had high hopes! The first 3 baits I put out got 4 tarpon bites. That’s right, 1 of the tarpon jumped off and the bait stayed on the hook. As soon as it hit the water we were on again! The resident summer tarpon average 20-40 lbs and with a medium sized mullet you end up jumping them off fairly easily. After 3 fish coming off and a short fight on the 4th one, we released her first tarpon. This was also the first fish she ever caught, which came just in time before she got sea sick and started puking over the side! A light rain started to fall so we headed in to the bay to give her some Dramamine and get a quick bite to eat.
Feeling better now we heading back out. As we ran down the bay cruising at 50mph in my new 2011 Egret, she looked over to say something and there went her $600 prescription glasses into the bay at night! That sucked, but she was so excited after her first tarpon we weren’t going to let that stop us. She was basically blind at this point so I casted her bait out, handed her the rod and it immediately got slammed by a stud 45 inch snook! Her first snook ever was a true beast!!!!!!!!! Blind as hell, she held it up with a smile from ear to ear.
Next bait out was her first snapper! A monster cubera that smoked the reel and bottomed out a 30 lb boga!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We released 6 more tarpon bringing my release total for the year to 389! I thought the night couldn’t get any better until we caught 3 more snook all over slot with the smallest at 36 inches! On the last cast of the night I got slammed on my favorite bait caster, a shimano curodo 300 loaded with 65 braid and a custom rod. The fish was dumping line at full drag so I tried to thumb the reel and slow it down before it got into the structure. With my thumb pressing harder and harder to stop this beast, it got stuck in the reel between the spool and top frame, OUCH! With braid slicing into my thumb I pulled back trying to free my finger but nothing happened! The braid cut in deeper and deeper and as I yanked my hand out the fish lunged and my $500 set up flew into the dark night waters! Too bad she didn’t get to see it all very clearly, LOL. Now it was 1:30am and time to head back to the dock. It was an EPIC AND EXPENSIVE NIGHT!
I went home took a quick shower and drove to my friend Kohler’s house to spend the day fishing in Flamingo with him and his girl Ashley. We left at 4am to be on the water at sunrise and what a sunrise it was!!!!!
At the first spot we shut down and start to pole. Immediately we see huge schools of redfish, but there was something different about these reds. They were not the typical size Flamingo reds, but all studs! We both fire our first casts into the school and in no time we are doubled up on true donkey reds for this part of Florida. Mine came off but Kohler landed his largest red to date at mingo, and from the poling platform! She was a beautiful 14 lb fish weighed on the boga!
He continued to pole and spots what looks like a lemon shark at first glance. NO WAY! It wasn’t a shark, but an 80-100 lb tarpon swimming in a foot of water with its entire back exposed! Legs shaking, I failed on the first cast which went a few feet behind the fish. I thought to myself “Get it together Russell, you do this for a living, you can’t fail again!” The second cast was perfect and Bammm!!! A 100 lb poon is smoking my redfish rod with only 6 lb test and 30 lb leader. I knew this was going to be short lived. Jumping in a big circle she came off heading back at us throwing the lure skyward as Ashley recorded it all on video! In the distance I spot what I thought was another Tarpon. As Kohler eases the boat in position, he says “that’s not a tarpon it is a monster red, probably 40 inches and 20lbs.” I said “you are nuts, the tail is way too big to be a redfish.” As we get closer, it tails again and sure enough, it was the biggest redfish I have ever seen on the flats at Flamingo. Unfortunately, it spooked off on the cast, so after landing a few trout we decided to move on.
The change of spots paid off and we were thick in 3 more schools of reds tailing and pushing in front of the boat. Ashley put down the camera and got into the action releasing her first red followed but many more! At this point the sun was cooking us and it was time to head back. With 21 reds released, a few trout, and sending a Tarpon airborne we all had a blast. I got home at 7 pm that night opened my door and fell flat on my face! AN EPIC 24 HRS OF FISHING!!!!!!!! If you ask me what I do on my days off, now you know. Some people fish to live. I LIVE TO FISH!!!!!!!!!!!!