This past Christmas I drove to the west coast to spend time with family and catch up on our time apart. Nevertheless, knowing I was visiting a location with arguably just as good fishing as back home, the kayak quickly made its way on the top of the vehicle and plans were made.
I met up with West Wall Boat Works Pro-Staff and fishing expert at West Marine, Ken Taylor, at a local Placida ramp on a cool morning and off we launched for the day. A chilly start had us searching in deeper holes to find some fish, not knowing that a few paddle strokes towards our destination would result in some heart pumping “tailing” action by some redfish to get the day going. Unfortunately, either it being too cold or some other unknown reason, our presentations were denied but our spirits were high on such quick excitement. After seeing dozens of tails off the bat, we were nothing but smiles making our way out to Whidden Creek.
On our way out I decided to do some trolling with a scented Logic Lure on an eighth ounce jighead, to see if we could get in some pods of trout. I would say no more than ten strokes of the pedals that I was hooking up to our first fish of the day, a nice little speckled trout. As I release her and proceed to troll again, almost immediately a second trout was on. Quickly Ken threw in my area and he was on with his first trout, proceeding to catch one after the other. After our reels warmed up we continued on south, passing a pair of bald eagles that eluded my camera lense, but another great sight to see.
Ken had switched over to an old faithful DOA shrimp around a beautiful grass bed and hooked up to what seemed either a red or a nice trout, but instead turned out to be a solid sheephead! This put another nice smile on his face and our list of fish was just starting. By this time the water had warmed up a tad more and all along this flat the reds were really starting to feed. As boats quickly flew by, ignorant of their surroundings, we took our time and soaked up the view and watched one red after another push wakes and feed in their famous fashion. Countless tails were hitting the air and countless times we threw our lures, striking out on a redfish bite. Twice I threw my bait on some tails, only to hook up excitedly to what I thought was a redfish, but pulled in hefty trout – I’m not complaining, but come on redfish!
After the boats and our efforts pushed the reds under, we made our way deeper into Whidden. This was the first time I had experienced water and terrain like this. Hole after hole, surrounded by lush grass, it was a fish haven. Many times I poled the Hobie around just checking the layout of the area and I saw snook, redfish, trout, and many sheephead sitting in holes and scattering as I got closer. At one point I saw a school of pup reds flash by me and then later on a school of snook from 15-20 inches long. Almost makes me want to move to the West Coast!
As we were working some mangroves I saw this wake come at my bait, and exploding on to it was a decent sized snook that fought larger than it looked, screaming out drag and pulling me towards the mangroves. Luckily he stopped just short and I was able to pull him around and get him landed for some pics.
As the day grew shorter, we slowly made our way back, hitting pockets and cuts, and finally back to the area we saw the redfish at – and they were back! At this point it was a little more relaxed as we knew their previous tendencies of having locked mouths so we didn’t get our hopes up. We were trying every trick in the book; weightless, weedless, different colors, different sizes, topwater…..lock jawed……it’s frustrating as you must have experienced this at one point or another! It wasn’t until Ken had the wake of a really big red follow his bait and explode on it, only hooking up momentarily then losing him! So there WAS a chance at one!
After knowing his wife was expecting him back to prepare for Christmas, we knew we only had a small window to land one of these stubborn stud drums. After trying every color I normally use I switched to a red glitter weightless shrimp to try something out of the ordinary, stuffed it full of Pro-Cure scent, and wished for the best. My experience has shown that cruising reds pushing a wake are usually spooked and won’t eat, especially if they are just several feet away. Knowing this I decided to throw at a large wake anyway, thinking I had spooked the fish even more and seeing it disturb the water, but he must have stopped quickly to see what the heck was plopping down on his head, and there it was, a hard hit and a quick snap of the rod, setting the hook solidly in this baby. You would have thought I won the super bowl with the yells I let out, but hearing the drag and watching the wake tear through the shallow flat could have been even a better feeling vs winning the big game!
We couldn’t stop celebrating the feat on the way back, and it made the day even more worth it – finishing off my second West coast slam in a row (caught one the day prior on a solo trip). So after my original statement of the East coast being one of the best spots in Florida, I may have to add in the West coast after a gorgeous two days of fishing. Thanks again Ken Taylor, looking forward to seeing you over here on the east coast for the upcoming DOA event. Tight lines everyone!