I know, I know! I'm late. I've been on the water so much, and busy dealing with problems that there just hasn't been time to get this report out before now.
Tuesday, Frank Argus was back for his second BarHopp'R trip to defend his title of Angler of the Month. We had a great trip last year, with lots of fish caught, but things would play out a little differently this time. We had a poor tide, a brisk east wind, and a high and rising barometer, and I had a feeling it would be a tough day.
Bait was easy just off the causeway bar, and we were off to try to find some fish. The tide was full high first thing in the morning, and outgoing for the rest of the morning. We went to the flats first to try to find some redfish. The tide had already turned and was on the way out by the time we got there, and we only managed to boat one 25 inch redfish.
I decided to give Shell Creek, which can be dynamite during fall, winter, and spring, on a good outgoing tide, a look. We hit a lot of spots in the creek, and managed to boat 5 snook. Frank's total for the day was 1 redfish, 5 snook, 2 trout, and 2 ladyfish. More importantly, Frank should get an award for not missing a single fish! It wasn't a stellar day of catching, but it was great fishing, and great to see Frank again.
It's Wednesday, and what a difference a day and an hour in the tide make! Frank, you should have been here today! Chet Simmons, and a couple of his best buds from Merritt Island, Florida, were here, and were darned glad of it.
We went straight to the flats between the exposed bar and the second span of the causeway and caught a boatload of beautiful baits in three throws of the net. Bam! We were off to the races.
Things started off slowly. We hit several holes with little results. We'll, if you can't get 'em here, maybe you can get 'em there. So, I moved to one of my most productive spots, and from the time we made the first cast, we caught reds and snook almost non-stop. Chet and his friends had a blast, and by the time the morning was over had boated some 30 redfish, 10 or more snook, and a couple of trout. We went home some tire and happy campers.
Thursday, my friend Mike Gorga was back with Joe D'Angelo, who had fished with Mike last year. I was hoping I could wear them out on some redfish.
Bait was once again gathered with only a few throws of the net, and we were off fishing. We went straight to the flats to stake out our spot and begin chumming the redfish. The fish took their time getting ready to eat, but with lots of chumming, they finally turned on at around eleven o'clock. For the rest of the trip Mike and Joe had steady action, and were worn out by trip's end. They had boated half dozen snook and somewhere between 15 and 20 redfish to 28 inches. Back at the dock Mike admitted that he had been worried that the bite wouldn't happen. However, those redfish are quite predictable, and I had not been too concerned. They just took a little longer to get going.
Friday belonged to my old friend Tom Ross, of Tampa. This was a special trip for Tom, as he had his dad, Ron along. He'd been looking forward to fishing with his dad for a long time. I was really anxious about giving them a great trip.
We had the same high barometer and east wind that had been blowing all week to contend with, but it seemed to be blowing harder today. After catching plenty of bait in the same area we'd been all week, we headed north. As we rode along, Tom noticed what he dubbed a tornado of birds working bait off in the distance. We turned and went to check it out, and found what we thought were jacks popping on top. But, baits in the water soon proved the feed to be mostly big trout. I'm talking beautiful trout that were running 16 to 24 inches. They were on the move, and we had to keep chasing them, but they would eat our shiners as soon as they hit the water. We had a blast with those fish for at least a couple hours, and caught 15 or more with at least 10 keepers, along with a few mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish in the mix. But the best surprise was when what we thought was a monster of a trout hit Ron's bait, turned out after a long battle to be a cobia. She was only 29 inches to the fork, not the required 33 inches, but a lot of fun for Ron.
Once the trout bite quit, we were off to the redfish flats. I forgot to make notes about what we caught, but since the initial publishing of this report Tom has informed me that he and Dad boated 10 or so redfish, and "long-line released" just as many. Tom also reminded me that they caught and released 4 snook. It was a very busy week with many long days, my memory was very cloudy over a week later, and I was a bit remiss on my recordkeeping. We had a great trip, though, and it was good to see Tom again, and to meet his dad.
Although I generally try to avoid working weekends, I had to make an exception on this Saturday for my best customer and good friend, Kevin Grover, formerly of ANSI, Inc. To say Kevin is a human dynamo is probably an understatement. Maybe you'll understand when I tell you that he just sold his company earlier this year to a large international company, and as Kevin put it, "I'm 35 years old, and I'm done!"
Well, now, this was a trip that Kevin was to know nothing about. It was to be a much needed surprise weekend of R & R, arranged by Kevin's absolutely gorgeous girlfriend, Shelly "Shells" Thomas. It would also be Shelly's first exposure to our brand of flats fishing, and my first time to meet Shells. Kevin and I have had many great trips together, with a couple of stinkers thrown in to keep us humble. I was afraid that with the strong east wind and late tide, that this trip could well wind up being a stinker.
My best bud, Capt. Mark Bess had a trip with four anglers scheduled, also. Mark was going to use BarHopp'R II to run the trip, as four anglers in his Skinnywater are impossible, but we got some very bad news at the last minute. Craig Smith at Smith Marine had found an impact crack in the starboard bow hull just below the water line the day before. It was about two to three inches across, and had obviously been caused by an impact with something, probably in the water.
I made an appointment to have Jeff Chesnes, the area's top fiberglass finish man, take a look at it and made the necessary repairs before the trip. Well, to make a long story short, while Jeff was looking over the BarHopp'R hull, which he'd never seen before, he found a much bigger damaged area back in the tunnel on the step. BarHopp'R II wasn't going anywhere for a while.
My trip with Kevin was a full day, while Mark's trip was only a half day. Mark was ready to cancel the trip, but I told him we'd just switch boats for the morning, and he could take his big party out in BarHopp'R I.
I had told Mark about the great trout feed the morning before, and we both fully expected the fish to be right back there for us again. They were! As we watched the BarHopp'R easily handle Mark and his four, Kevin mumbled and grumbled about the small Skinnywater and all the things that were in his way, and longed to be back on the BarHopp'R. I assured him that we would finish out the day on her, and everything would be fine. I had never realized how much Kevin liked my boat until this trip, but he just loves that big oleo roomy, stable BarHopp'R.
Well, the trout were there in big numbers, and we caught tons of the big trout, as well as a couple of mackerel, and a half dozen ladyfish, as we watched Mark do the same in the distance. Kevin was amazed at the size of the trout and commented that they just don't see trout like that up around Clearwater, where he's from.
After a great morning of trout fishing, it was time to move to the redfish flats at around eleven o'clock. I figured it might be a little early, but the trout bite was over. Not long after setting up on the first spot, where I'd been catching reds all week, we were treated to a real demonstration of idiocy. I'd been chumming, and the reds were just beginning to turn on and pop the chum. I knew we were about to be treated to some serious redfish action, when out of nowhere came some idiot in a deckboat I knew as soon as I spotted him that he was going to run right across our fish, and that if he did, he run aground. Well, he did, and he did, and he got what he deserved for not being considerate of boats fishing on the flats. It took some doing, but with everyone out of the boat, they finally got her loose, and were able to idle away.
Shortly afterward Mark came to exchange boats, and we hadn't had any real redfish action, yet. Kevin was overjoyed to be getting the BarHopp'R back, as was I. We took on Mark's leftover bait, so we had plenty to chum with, and I had a feeling we'd need it. I figured that if we hung tight and kept chumming, the reds would settle down and eat, but they never really turned on again after that episode. Shells did managed to get her first West Coast Slam, with a couple of snook and three reds, but I don't think Kevin got any snook to go with his reds and trout. All in all, it had been a great day with lots of early action, and enough reds and snook to keep it interesting. Kevin, always fun, had beat me up all morning about my teaching style, as he loves to do. But, I know he likes it, and his customers always catch and learn a lot. Shells was lots of fun, too, and a joy to have along.
Next week promises to be another windy one. I'll be finding out more about BarHopp'R II, and a new four bladed prop should be arriving for BarHopp'R I. I'm hoping that under the circumstances, my insurance will cover some of the cost of repairs to BarHopp'R II.
If you have any questions or comments, or you'd like to book a trip, please email me at email@example.com.
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