Report For Week Ending 10/23/10
It was to be a full week of five trips, ushered in by my long time fishing buddy Terry Ryan on Monday, and capped off with another trip with Terry on Friday. In the middle were two trips on Tuesday and Thursday with another good fishing bud, Billy Herrington, and Wednesday was to be a Talon trip with George Chingery, whom I've fished with the last two years, and really enjoy a lot. But, I had urgent personal business pop up out of nowhere that had to be dealt with first thing Monday, and hoped to get Terry and I out in the late morning/afternoon. That didn't work out, and Terry was very gracious. Terry had promised me that he was going to bring something on his trip that would have me laughing my butt off. Now, I would have to wait until Friday for the surprise.
So, the week started Tuesday with Billy Herrington, of Maumelle, Arkansas. We decided to stay close to home and fish the area at the mouth of the river from Fisherman's Key to Miserable Mile. There's a lot of good water there to fish.
We met on the first spoil island just over the big span of the causeway, and by the time we got the boats loaded and in the water is was light. It was a beautiful morning. This was Billy's first time in a kayak, so a short course in paddling and maneuvering was in order, as well as going over all the accessories and their use. Each boat has a stake-out pole, Boga-Grip, cooler, paddle, an optional trolling motor and battery, a stringer, at least two rods and reels, and pliers, and each angler wears a PFD and a Plano tackle belt that has three zippered compartments, the center one equipped with two 8 x 4 inch tackle boxes filled with a good assortment of soft plastic jig bodies and an assortment of hard baits and spoons, the right one with two 3 x 5 inch boxes full of hooks, jigheads, of different varieties, and sinkers. The left pouch carries leader line and line tools.
Billy mounted the kayak without incident, but was a bit wobbly at first. That's perfectly natural. Your body automatically wants to compensate when you feel the boat moving beneath you, but usually goes away as soon as you relax and realize that just because it moved a little it's not going to toss you out. It only took Billy a couple of minutes to get the feel of things, and we were ready to begin our trip.
The first thing Billy noticed was that he was getting dripped on from the paddle. I told him to avoid putting the paddle deep into the water where the drip guards were submerged. Problem solved. We paddled a bit, and then once in a while to test the waters with a few casts. Billy was soon looking like a natural, and was enjoying this totally new way to fish.
As we got close to Fisherman's Key, Billy went in to fish an oyster bar with his gold spoon. I stayed out in deeper water, as there were ladyfish busting all around, and mackerel jumping. But, I also wanted a trout for dinner. I drifted and fished catching trout, ladyfish, and mackerel, and got my dinner. It doesn't matter what you're catching from a kayak. They're all fun and all feel bigger than they are.
I kept an eye on Billy as I fished. He was methodically working the shoreline. He was a bit too far away to tell if he was catching, or not. But, I could tell that he was going in to retrieve his lure once in a while.
I stopped to fish the bar Billy had fished earlier while it was still well out of the water. It was covered, now. I was just shocked that I couldn't buy a redfish there, as there were mullet all over the place. It was time to rendezvous with Billy, and see how he was doing.
As I approached Billy he said he'd caught two or three redfish that weren't in the slot, and a bunch of trout. I was impressed! He told me that he'd had a big hit on the bar on his spoon. I asked to see it. Sure enough! The weed guard was mangled. Mashed flat the way only a good redfish can do. We spread out again, but stayed in talking distance, and Billy continued to catch more trout. I wasn't catching like he was, and he finally said they were eating a jig with red in it.
It was time to head in. Billy had been skillfully using his Watersnake trolling motor all morning long to maneuver around as he fished. Now, he was concerned that it might not get him home, while he sat back and relaxed. I assured him that he hadn't hurt the battery at all. I stopped at the bar to get out and tinkle. It took a while. Once back in the Ultimate, and decided to put my motor on high, and see if I could catch Billy. Barring any wind and current, the motor will push the kayak at nearly 6 knots, and I caught Billy at the buoy just off the beach. I actually dozed off a couple of times as the little Watersnake did it's job. It was so relaxing just skimming across the water silently on a gorgeous day.
Back with Billy, he told me that he also found it very relaxing, and had indeed had a lot of fun. While we were breaking the kayaks down and getting ready to go we heard tires sliding, and looked up half expecting to see an accident. I quickly realized it was Terry's while truck making a bat turn into the parking area, as he had spotted us while he and Michele, and their friend Bill and Dee were coming back onto Sanibel. Billy and his wife Rosemary, had joined us for a great dinner Monday night at Pincher's Crab Shack with Terry and the gang. It was a good time and good eats. Billy couldn't wait to get into those stone crab claws I'd introduced him to last year.
There was a nice breeze coming off the water, and Billy and I had been standing there just enjoying the day, not really wanting to leave. Now, we were all hanging out talking and enjoying the breeze and the view. Michele was very interested in the kayaks, and really looked them over pretty good. I think Terry is going to buy a boat for her.
Wednesday morning didn't start very well. I did something I've actually never done before in a boat I own. I haven't run a trip in the Talon in some time, and I only remove the drain plugs when I know it's going to sit for a while, which it has. I totally forgot about them. So, I put the boat into the water, which I had a hard time doing because there were a number of boats tied up with their lights on, making it very hard to see. Once I was in the water, and pulling the boat to the dock, I realized the bilge pumps were all doing double duty, and it hit me. Damn! I jumped in and cranked her up, and jammed it as far as I could get it onto the trailer. I climbed over the bow onto the trailer and got her hooked to the strap, and winched her up to safety.
I pulled the Talon up to the other end of the parking lot, and it took a long time to drain. Finally, I got her back in the water, floating this time. Fortunately George wasn't there to witness my fiasco. But, he and his friend Pat showed up shortly afterward.
I told George about the good day we'd had the day before in the kayaks pitching plastic, and thought it might be a good plan to go in there again armed with a well full of shiners. George and Pat agreed. So, we headed to the B span flats for bait, where we loaded the boat in 3 throws. We were ready to fish. We'd had some trout and other stuff popping bait, and mackerel jumping close by. So, we decided to wet the first baits right there. The boys caught some trout, mackerel and ladyfish.
After that bit of fun we headed on over toward Fisherman's Key. The tide was out and just about to turn around, and some of the water was very skinny. The first stop was at a different bar to the west. I wanted to mark it on my GPS, and fish it as well. We had a few bites, but didn't get much there.
I headed to the next bar, where I wanted to put out some steaked ladyfish and live shiners to see if we could entice a redfish. We fished all around the bar, but caught nothing but catfish.
We turned our attention to the mangroves, working the pockets and reliefs, and chumming along the way. Couldn't get a hit on the chum. But, we did catch some fish. The guys caught more trout, and the highlight of the day was a 5 pound snook. That snook happened to eat my bait, and it was one of the strangest snook bites I ever had. It wiggled the line and stopped. Wiggled and stopped. Several times. I was pretty well convinced a catfish was messing with my bait, and decided that if it moved again, and was going to start cranking like mad.
It moved. I cranked. And, cranked. And, cranked. Finally, I came tight and the fish was way back under the mangroves! Damn! Rod in the water. Rod in the water! I pumped and reeled for all I was worth, upside down. I almost had the fish clear and ready to hand off to George or Pat, when she managed to get into the hang-downs. I still had the rod tip way down under, trying to avoid any of the oysters and barnacles that are all over anything that hangs below the mean high water line.
The fish was still there. We were at an impasse. "Now what?" the guys asked.
"I'm going to try to skull@#%* this fish."
"Huh? What's that?"
"It's the old trick we use on grouper when they get you down in the rocks. You open the bail and take all tension off the line and fish. After a minute or so, they think the emergency is over and swim out, or move."
And, I opened the bail. And, I waited. And, I closed the bail and cranked like hell. And, she came free! As soon as I had the fish a foot or from the mangroves, I passed it to Pat, who was closest to me. He finished off the fish, which was a nice five pound snook.
We fished our way along the mangroves, and one of the guys hung his rig in the bushes. We went in and retrieved it, but shortly afterward as we moved along, the mosquitoes came out of nowhere with a vengeance and a big appetite. My God. Moving along on the trolling motor didn't leave them behind. They just followed us. I suggested it was time for lunch at the Waterfront, and we took off.
After a break and a great lunch, we were back at it. We hit two more spots looking for snook, but found only trout. Better than nothing! After those spots we called it a day. It was getting fairly late in the afternoon. It had been a fun day with George and Pat. We didn't find a redfish that would eat, but we managed to catch quite a few fish before it was over. Just nothing we could take home. But, George is always great fun, and Pat was great, too.
Thursday morning. Time for me and Billy, again. We had decided we wanted to go explore Ding Darling in the kayaks, and see what we could dredge up. We met at the parking lot of Bailey's General Store, and went from there. I had to use the bathroom, and couldn't help but flash back to when I was a kid hanging out at Bailey's when it was on the bay, trying to sneak a peek inside a Playboy! It was just a little country store back then. It's hardly a general store, now. A very nice supermarket would be more the case, with lots of smiling friendly folks for so early in the morning.
We had to wait at the gate for a while for the employees to get there. Not on time, I might add. The ticket attendant told us there were two launch sites, and gave us a map to the Ding Darling Sanctuary. We slowly drove the narrow road counting bridges. Well, bridges would be a faux pas. They're actually large culvert pipes that turn what was a giant mosquito farm when I was a kid, into tidal water that doesn't bread the bugs. Well, not mosquitoes. We never saw a sign or a place that was even remotely suitable for launching a kayak where the toll attendant told us there would be one. But, we did find the second one, which gives access to the Wulfert Keys area, with no problem, and it was a good launch. We got out to check it out and get moving, and before we were even from my van to the kayaks, we were under full combat assault from the noseeums. It was unbelievable! They were bigger than what I'm used to, and were easy to see. We were unarmed, and fled back to the relative safety of the van, where we would hopefully no longer be on the menu. We decided there and then that Ding Darling is the perfect place to kayak fish when there's a 25+ knot wind blowing that would make anything else very uncomfortable. The wind would keep the bugs away.
We beat feet out of there. I suggested to Billy that since he'd popped for the entry fee and we'd wasted quite a bit of time, we just go back to the causeway and fish the same area we fished Tuesday, since there was plenty of water we hadn't covered at all. He agreed.
At the causeway we quickly had the kayaks in the water, and were on our way. Billy was itching to go back to that bar where he'd left that big red. I wanted to explore more than anything. Billy took off, looking as confident as someone who'd been kayaking for years. I headed to my chosen area to start.
There were fish popping and jumping everywhere. I caught plenty of trout and ladyfish, but couldn't seem to catch any of the large mackerel I kept seeing jumping. I just worked my way across the flat, and caught my dinner.
I wound up on the backside of Fisherman's. I worked it hard without so much as a hit. Finally, I worked my way around to the south side, and could see Billy still in the same area he'd been in earlier. "Damn!" I thought. "He's been in that area all morning. He must be killing 'em!" But, once I caught up to him he told me he hadn't had a single bite. Damn! The glamor fish weren't eating. Well, that's pretty much typical for when you're on a full moon and have brand new blue bird skies after the passing of a front. Seems you can almost always count on ladyfish, trout, mackerel, etc. to eat on the full moon, but not the snook and redfish.
Billy said we might as well call it a day, as the fish just weren't eating. So, we pointed our little ships toward port, and headed home. The day had not been what we'd planned or anticipated, but it was still great to be out there with a good fishing buddy. And, Billy made his own contribution to the "must have" list; pliers. Hadn't thought about that. But, it's now been implemented.
It was great getting to spend two days with Billy. He's a great guy, and a very skilled angler, and adapted to kayak fishing like a duck to water. He likes the kayak fishing, and I think he'll like the 14.5 ft. Manta Ray even better next time.
Finally! It's surprise time. What madness could my buddy Terry Ryan have up his sleeve? I couldn't wait to find out. Terry and I had decided we'd fish Bunch Beach for our first outing. There's usually lots of grouper, trout, ladyfish, and mackerel out there this time of year. It is close, and has nice carpeted ramps designed for kayaks and canoes. Only problem was, the county forgot about the extreme winter tides, which we are now phasing in to, and the ramps were five feet from the water, and we had to walk into mud that sank us up to our chins, and was almost impossible to move around in.
Shortly after we got there, the noseeums were on us once again, although not as bad as at Ding. But, any noseeums are bad. As we readied the boats for launch another vehicle pulled in with a kayak on the roof. The driver got out and bid us good morning, and was very friendly. We all got to chatting and I asked him his name.
"What's your last name?"
"LeTendre" he replied.
"I'm Capt. Butch! We've been talking back and forth on email lately."
Yes. Dennis had contacted me about fishing with him. He's been kayak fishing for two years. I didn't have any available dates before he leaves for Brazil for a month. It was a cool coincidence that we met like that.
It was about then that Terry said it was time for his surprise. He went to his truck and came back with a giant red and white fishing bobber. You know, the classic bobber with the button on top and clip on the bottom. But, this one was about two feet in diameter! It was way cool and we were laughing and imagining all kinds of scenarios that would take place if he placed it on the back of his kayak and went out. Surely, passing angler would marvel that this crazy kayaker had a giant float on the back of his boat. What could he possibly going to be fishing for?
Well, we did laugh our butts off, and the best part is that it's actually a cooler that's new on the market. Terry had bought it at Dick's Sporting Goods for about $30. Dennis and I insisted that he take it out on the kayak, which he did.
So, after some good gut laughs we all departed the launch. Dennis went out to deeper water in search of mackerel. He was all set up to chum them in. Terry and I went west down to a creek that I wanted to explore. I fished along the way, but Terry went ahead to the creek.
There wasn't a whole lot going on, as the full moon and the bluebird skies after the cold front were doing their usual shutting down of the bite. Even the "non-glamor" species weren't wanting to play. As I fished I was gradually drifting closer to Terry on the tide, and I saw him hold up and nice redfish. I could hear his voice, but couldn't understand what he was saying. I yelled down to him that there was a neat stringer clipped off to his seat to put the fish on. But, he really couldn't hear me. I got closer and told him again. But, the stringer is a great puzzle for those who've never seen one. I went to Terry.
Nice redfish. I took some pictures. I didn't notice until I was working on writing this report, but notice that the big bobber is not in Terry's boat. Hmm By the time I'd taken a few pics, and Terry and I had a chance to talk about how/where he'd caught the fish, and what on, we were blown out to deeper water by the brisk northerly wind. Terry had caught that redfish on a DOA shrimp. He showed it to me. I didn't have any of that bait in my boat, and told Terry I rarely have the patience to work a DOA shrimp. But, I was willing to give it a go.
Terry had bought several packages of that DOA, and said he'd pass me a couple. We maneuvered out kayaks close to each other, but the wind kept screwing with us, and we seemed not to be able to get quite close enough to latch on to each other's paddles. So, as we struggled to get a bit closer, Terry placed a couple of the shrimp on his paddle and held it out to me. But, I was just a few inches short of being able to grab hold of it.
So, here we are. Terry is leaning toward me. I'm leaning toward Terry, and trying to push myself closer with one end of my paddle. Now, we're within a couple of inches. We're almost there. I'm reaching out. Terry's leaning in. And then, sort of like they describe in a bad accident, where you see your life replayed in front of you in a flash, I saw Terry slide in his seat, and out of the kayak, flipping it over as he went. Damn! I had another one millisecond flash of all the stuff in the boat that just went to the bottom in about eight feet of water. But, that flash was soon snuffed out with concern about Terry. The Manta Ray was upside-down. Was Terry tangled in something and unable to get free?
A second or two later Terry breached like a Pacific whale. He was OK. And, what was he doing? Laughing! I was so relieved that he was up and OK, that I was able to see the humor in the moment. The irony is that Terry had promised me lots of laughs. Man, did he deliver.
It didn't take long for the reality of the moment to set in. We began doing a quick inventory of the boat. It wasn't good. One of my rods/reels was gone, the PC-925 Odyssey battery had managed to escape through the webbing, the Boga, the anchor, the stake-out pole........ Damn! The trolling motor was still attached, but I later verified that it was full of water, and the one rod/ reel that somehow managed to stay in the rod holder had also been totally submerged. And, it didn't hit me until late that night, the tackle bag Terry was wearing had also been submerged.
Then, I saw the big bobber a couple of hundred yards or more away from us, sailing on the wind. At that point I had not realized that it had not been on the boat when Terry flipped.
Now, the trick was to get Terry and the Manta Ray, which he had righted back in to shore so that he could get back in it. Terry was in the water holding on to my Ultimate, and with his other hand, the Manta Ray. I was trying to pull him and the boat with the Watersnake. But, it just wanted to go sideways. It took a bit of juggling, but we finally figured out that our ducks had to be in a row before we could tow Terry. Finally, we got him up into about 4 feet of water, where he could get back into the Manta Ray. By now, the big bobber was out of sight and forgotten. But, Terry's redfish was safe and secure on that stringer.
Now, Terry was more interested in going in early so he could go to an ATM machine and get money to pay me for all the stuff that was on the bottom. That's the kind of stand-up guy he is. But, I wasn't worried about getting paid for the stuff right there and then, and besides, I was thinking that Terry could do some work on the house I'm trying to buy in Punta Gorda in trade, so it wouldn't have to come out of his pocket.
The creek lay yet unexplored. We paddled to it, and went in. The water was still very shallow, but it was beautiful turf. Very fishy looking. And, way at the back of it, was a little lagoon that was about seven feet deep. A great winter spot, potentially. We didn't catch anything, but that was OK. We were having fun exploring what you can only get to in something like a kayak.
Once we came out of there, we headed back toward our launch at Bunch. I put out a Bill Lewis Rattletrap that has caught so many winter redfish, trout, and grouper that it hardly has any color left on it. And, I caught fish all the way back just trolling along on the Watersnake. I caught trout, a large grunt, which is the only one I've ever seen take a lure, lizardfish, puffers, et al. But, I was catching. And, I had a couple in an outboard following along behind me after they saw me catch a fish near them.
As we approached the creek we'd come out of, I could see Dennis making his way back in from offshore. I wondered if he'd found his mackerel. We all got to the mouth of the creek at about the same time, and did a little bit of casting around. Finally, we made our way in toward the ramps. Dennis lagged behind and Terry and I were already out of the water when he came into the lagoon, and had a big hit right there.
We had a good time talking about the day, and Terry's adventure. Dennis had not found his mackerel, unfortunately. But, we'd all had a hell of a good time.
Terry insisted that we go to the nearest ATM so that he could get some cash to make a payment on what was lost at sea. As we said our goodbyes, Terry assured me that he'd had a great time. As did I. There's no such thing as not having a good time when you're with Terry Ryan.
I woke up that night from a deep sleep realizing that I had not dumped all the tackle from the Plano tackle bag, nor flushed out the surviving Daiwa Excellor reel that went under for a while. I bounded out of bed and went to work. I felt kind of foolish, but it had to be done, or it would all quickly turn to crap. I had remembered that evening to take the head of the Watersnake, and when it turned it over, it was obvious it was full to the top of the shaft with saltwater. So, I filled it with fresh water and drained it several times, and after it was reasonably dried out, I sprayed some special lubricant all over the critical parts. It ran when I put it on the battery (no, not that one), but after sitting for a week will be the real test.
And, that was the week. It was a blast. I wish I had the literary skills to really convey how much fun we had. But, what I've penned will have to do. Just suffice it to say that no matter what your craft, a day on the water beats about anything else you can be doing.
About The Author: Captain Butch Rickey
Company: The Bar Hopp'R
Area Reporting: Backcountry fishing and flats fishing in the waters of Pine Island around Sanibel Island, Captiva Is
Bio: Capt. Butch Rickey spent much of his youth growing up on Sanibel and Captiva, near Ft. Myers, and has fished the waters of Pine Island Sound for much of his 60-plus years. Capt. Butch specializes in light tackle live-bait fishing for snook, redfish, tarpon, and trout in Pine Island Sound, but will be happy to accomodate any other type of fishing you want to do. You'll enjoy fishing the beautiful clear water of the shallow grass flats, mangrove keys, potholes, and oyster bars. You'll marvel at the wildlife on, in, and above the water. You'll see Florida as you always imagined it would be. A Barhopp'R trip will satisfy the fisherman, hunter, and sightseer in you. Capt. Butch is an instructional guide, and gives you only the best Shimano Stella reels and St. Croix Legend and G. Loomis rods to use. Butch is U.S. Coast Guard licensed, insured, experienced, and provides fishing license, bait, ice, digital camera, cell phone, and lots of advice and coaching when needed. He will work hard to put you on the fish.