One of life's sad lessons for parents is that our children will eventually grow up and develop different interests from their parents. The nerve, right? Eventually, the time apart from one another is more than the time together and they're off building their own lives somewhere far away. Even when the adult kiddos do come for a rare visit, they spend more time away from home (visiting friends) than at it, making the parents feel like they're running a Bed-N-Breakfast temporarily. Fortunately, for me, my grown son and I have in common the love of water in general and fishing in particular. He's an Over-The-Road truck driver and spends most of the calendar year traipsing all over the US delivering loads of "this and that", so you could imagine my surprise and excitement when he called to tell me he was taking an entire week off during the Thanksgiving holiday to come and spend time with the family. I was really excited to hear it! I look forward to spending time on the water with him because he's so at-ease, calm and relaxed out there, never uptight, in a hurry or "on-a-mission" like the typical male anglers. He just loves the fresh air and slow pace above the fish hook-ups and it makes for a fun and stress-free day for sure. He did mention, though, that even though he was in town, his social calendar was pretty tight with friends-n-family visits and a couple of medical appointments so he could only commit to one specific day to hang out with me on the water. I locked it in while I had the chance and then immediately called my buddy, Albert, to ask him if he would be our fishing guide for the day since he knows his way around the Ozello backwaters.
Last trip out, I learned a very valuable lesson about the consequences of not checking tides and wind predictions for a planned fishing trip. This time around I made sure to carve out a few minutes to do just that and I grimaced at what I saw. "Ugh!", as I threw my head back in angst, "Wind, again? I mean really, how long is this going to go on, people?" It seems to me that Hurricane Irma from 2017 has ushered in an unusual pattern of more windy days than not and it's not the typical Florida weather pattern we natives come to expect so it's been a frustrating climate change to deal with. But there it was and I had to accept it and deal with it or cancel the plans altogether and if you read my previous blog entry, you know that probably wasn't going to happen. I could only hope that it wouldn't be as bad as the predictions indicated. <Big sign> On a positive note, though, the outgoing tide would be in our favor so I had that on my side at least.
)Richie and I arrived at Albert's house to find him in the back yard shoving his green plywood boat off of his launch pad. Albert has a very colorful past and he's not shy about sharing it. He grew up on these Ozello islands and made, by hand, many of the things he needed to get by as a young boy and so over the years his skills improved and this little green plywood skiff (and the launch pad it sits on) are just a couple of the things that he's designed and built on his own. He's in a constant state of "process improvement" which keeps his mind sharp at the age of 78. Richie, age 28, and fully capable of physical labor, felt slightly intimidated by watching an "old man" manually push that boat off the ramp and into the water with ease. Slightly intimidated, somewhat embarrassed, and ultimately impressed with Albert's physical capabilities.
As I mentioned earlier, it's not often that Richie comes for a visit. The trucking company he works for only gives him "Home Time" (that's their term for 'vacation') every three months, so when he is in town, he's usually so busy trying to take care of personal obligations that he rarely has time to spend relaxing on the water, so you can imagine how happy I was to find out that he'd made a special effort to do so this time around. I was even more excited to find out that Albert would be willing to escort us around Ozello to visit some of his favorite fishing holes. Once the boat was in the water, Richie and I climbed aboard, situated ourselves and off we went heading straight toward the Ozello Causeway Culvert. Within a minute we were cruising under the culvert and out the other side.
During the short ride from Albert's house, Richie and I were taking in the scenery of the surrounding mangrove islands when Albert shut off his boat motor suddenly and reached over to get a good grip on his oars. Our anticipation was high. We had no idea where he was guiding us to, but he did. He knows how spooky redfish are out in that area and he knows how important stealth is when hunting them, that's why he opts for rowing his boat instead of using a trolling motor. The other benefit is that physical exercise and daily resistance training helps keep his body in top physical condition. We stayed quiet as he slowly rowed into a fairly protected waterway clearing us of the increasing wind. Richie and I were using different lures. I had a silver Zara Spook Jr. tied on with in-line hooks replacing the stock trebles that originally came with the lure , Richie had a subsurface twitch bait with treble hooks and as Albert rowed, we each picked a side of the boat and began casting. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed some slight water movement a few feet from an oyster point and sent my lure in that direction. A couple of twitch-twitch wrist movements and I witnessed an explosion on my lure. It's always an adrenaline rush at that moment.
I've been fishing just long enough to identify the species I've hooked before I ever see it. Each major species reacts to a hook-set in different ways and I was about 99% positive that I'd hooked a redfish by the way it pulled strong and in a downward direction. I focused on making sure my drag was set right, keeping my rod tip up, the line tight and praying that my knots would hold. Even though I was certain I'd caught a redfish, I was uncertain of how big and strong it was. As I pulled him closer to the boat, Albert quickly scooped him up in the net and laid him on the measuring device. A perfect specimen - 25.5 inches. That catch will make a perfect redfish lunch later in the day.
As I was reeling in my line and focusing on the fine balance between playing the fish vs horsing it in, I kept repeating to Richie that the Spook's treble hooks had been replaced with single in-line hooks and how amazed I'd been at the hook-up rate since making that questionable change. Rumor had it that a number of anglers have been switching trebles to in-lines for years and I was reluctant to give it a try but because I am a big fan of circle hooks in general, I thought I'd take a baby step in that direction and see what kind of success or failure I would have. Turns out I really like the results, especially the ease of dehooking. Although I still throw lures with trebles on them, once those hooks become even the slightest bit compromised, they'll be switched out to inline hooks as well. So after that brief discussion with my son, Mr. Redfish was netted, boated, measured and put in the cooler. My personal preference was to release it. I do very little harvesting these days, but Albert had his mind set on a fresh redfish lunch that he was planning on cooking up, so I bowed to his request to harvested the fish this time.
That first fish caught within the first half hour of the morning made us feel pretty confident that we'd be doing pretty well out there that day. Alas...it was a false sense of future success. Albert spent hours rowing us around, visiting some of his favorite hole as the morning breeze slowly developed into down right wind. He kept on pluggin' on, though. He was on a mission to make sure there would be at least one more redfish in that cooler. I think his ego was on the verge of taking a hit if he couldn't get Richie in a good location to hook up on a nice fish of his own before we headed in. The wind got so bad we struggled to make accurate casts and ended up with lures in the mangroves as a result. The fun was being sucked right out of the trip at that point. Albert was a trooper, though. He just wasn't going to give up that easy. We finally had to just say "Okay...let's call it. It's just too dang windy now." He was really disappointed that we couldn't put anymore fish in the box but on the bright side...we had one nice red that would feed three hungry anglers.
Eventhough we all enjoy being out on the water, regardless of the weather, we'd gotten tired of casting against the ever changing wind direction and reluctantly shrugged our shoulders, secured our lures to the base of our rods and slowly made our way bak to Albert's house. We were all a little disappointed that the fish had not cooperated with us but that's just the nature of fishing on any given day. Once we made it back, Richie and I cleaned out the boat while Albert made quick work of filleting that redfish. He pulled out a cookie sheet, lined it with aluminum foil and laid those fillets down all dressed with a slice of butter, an oonion ring and some seafood seasoning. Fifteen minutes later we were all sitting around his dining table, eating a wonderfully prepared meal and enjoying an interesting conversation about the events of the morning. So the weather wasn't in our favor but we are certainly blessed to be able to access the beautiful waterways of Florida on any given day, if we chose to and have good friends to share those experiences with. Time to recuperate from this one, and begin preparing for my next adventure.
We're just a bunch of ladies having fun on the water.