Fishing guides are by necessity, weather men! Actually, I'm convinced by years of observation and experience that most of us fishing guides are far more qualified to give the evening weather forecast than most of the media weather men. Our livelihoods depend in large part upon the weather, and I'm sure that most of us who had trips scheduled this week were watching the developing weather with great interest. It was pretty obvious that the weather would make fishing all but impossible the second half of the week.
Yes! There was another big winter front on the way. And, I watched with great interest the ever evolving weather forecasts for the week. I had a trip on Wednesday, with Billy Herrington, of Maumelle, Arkansas, whos company I have enjoyed on two previous fishing trips, and didn't want weather to get in the way of this trip.
Initial forecasts were for the front to arrive on Wednesday, but as the week progressed, that moved to Thursday, and I knew we had a shot at a good day of fishing on Wednesday. The forecast had evolved to S/SE winds 9 to 16 gusting to 25 by Tuesday evening.
Billy was fifteen minutes early, which worked to our advantage. I had decided that given the optimal conditions before the front, I wanted to catch bait, if possible. Billy and I were out on the A span in the darkness, and the last throws of the outgoing tide combined with a brisk southeast wind gave us the perfect scenario by which to catch bait. We went from pylon to pylon tossing the net, and caught at least some bait on each throw. It was all very small for the most part, but casting it wouldn't be a big problem in the brisk wind.
We had enough bait in the well when the tide suddenly turned, and forced us to throw into the wind. We did work on bait for a while longer, throwing into the wind, and topped off the well. We had a boatload of shiners and threadfins, and were ready to take on the day.
As we headed up into the Sound, Billy and I recapped last year's trip and the fun we'd had. It had been a much warmer December last year, and Billy had caught some nice snook, and lost a whopper. I fully expected this trip would be much different, what with winter thus far being one cold front after another since late October.
We settled on our first spot, which was perfect for a southeast wind and an incoming tide. It's a place where I've caught a zillion snook over the years. Once I got the boat set, I tossed a bat full of chum. It drew some attention, and I was hopeful we'd catch some snook.
Billy caught a bunch of fish, all right, but they weren't snook. Our snook hole was infected with ladyfish. It has been rare to catch ladyfish there over the years. I definitely wanted a few ladyfish in the well with the shiners, because I figured that would be our ticket to some redfish later on the tide. I continued to chum, and drew some obvious snook blasts, but we never got one to eat our baits. Those were the first ladyfish Billy had caught, and they were fun. Most of them were pretty big as ladyfish go, and we stayed with them for a while. Once it was obvious the snook weren't going to bite, we moved on.
Our second stop was the charm, though! We were immediately into a great snook bite, with mangrove snapper as a bonus. Billy caught snook after snook, from a pound to around five pounds, as well as a bunch of mangrove snapper, and a nice trout. We kept four snapper for dinner. I'd say Billy caught upward of thirty snook in that spot. As we prepared to leave the area, I stopped at another patch of shoreline about 50 yards away expecting to catch more snook. What Billy caught was a couple of very nice bluefish! That was a first for that spot!
I headed to the place where I had last beat up on the redfish over a week ago. I was absolutely sure the fish would be there. I wasn't that sure they would eat! It was there that I realized that something funny was going on with the tide. We had not seen the water move a bit at the last stop. But, it was long before the tide was to stop coming in. In addition, we had a howling southeast/south wind which should have been pushing the tide much higher than forecast, and for well beyond the predicted high tide time. But, it wasn't. The tide wasn't moving at all. I honestly don't know why!
I carved some of our ladyfish, and we put out three lines. I kept watching the water relative to the shoreline. It just wasn't moving. I couldn't imagine how that was possible. We had our first hit, and broke off a very big redfish. It was like striking a log. Actually, it didn't break off. It cut off on something on the bottom of the shallow water. The shallows are full of hard, sharp things like oysters, barnacle covered seaweed, etc. The line clearly had been cut at the leader.
We kept at it, and Billy put a beautiful redfish into the well, later followed by a small red. The last hit of the day will be one Billy never forgets! Now, remember that we're fishing ladyfish steaks in a big wind. We were casting those baits a hell of a long way out in front of the boat, and were down near the backing on the spools. The right rod went off! Billy took it, and set the hook. The Stella 3000 began to scream as line ripped from it's spool at an unbelievable rate. I lurched to the console to raise the PowerPole, and chase after the fish. But, before I could get my hand on the switch I heard that all too familiar “rifle shot” that means the line parted. The fish had spooled Billy in a matter of seconds. Billy was nothing short of dumbfounded! He had never experienced anything like that. That fish had taken off like we'd accidentally hooked a passing boat.
The weather conditions were deteriorating, and it was one o'clock. We decided it would be prudent to head home before it got even worse. As we cleared the area and prepared to launch, all we could see was whitecaps out in the Sound. It was really ugly. We stayed in the lee of the wind as much as possible, and the ride home was not too bad.
It was a great day of fun and fishing for what has been thus far a cold winter. Billy is great company, and a skilled fisherman, and it was great to share the boat with him for a third time. And, he got his Slam! I hope to see him again in the spring.
Be sure to check out www.BestFishingBooks.com, Books and gifts for fishermen from my friend Jim Dicken!
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