Just last week I was commenting on how this winter's warmer-than-usual temperatures have confused both the fish and me. During years with average temperatures, predicting when the bite is going to happen is usually pretty easy. But this year, unfortunately, is going to be a real guessing game.
On the upside, I will say that things have really taken a turn for the better in the past seven days. Maybe you haven't noticed it, but in the past week the water isn't quite as clear and on top of that, it has taken on more of a greenish tint. So what does that mean? In my opinion, it means that the water is warm enough to support microorganisms that are the beginning of the food chain. As the water appears "dirtier," that is actually the beginning of what attracts everything from trout to flounder to redfish. In a nutshell, the food chain is ramping up and it won't be long before our waters will be alive with activity.
As you might have guessed from my past few columns, I haven't been doing much fishing simply because, other than sheepshead and a few redfish, the fishing has been pretty darn slow. But I am glad to say that after a trip I took Friday, I believe the bite is getting ready to bust wide open.
Hooking up with Robert Elliott from Grays, we set up a fishing trip for Friday morning. The tide was low incoming, perfect for redfish, and as I waited at the boat landing for Robert to show up, I took a walk along the edge of the river to see if there were any signs of life in the shallows. For the past two months, the skinny water has been pretty much void of life. But in one short week, that void is now filled with life.
The first thing I saw was a school of mullet, heads out of the water, sipping on all the pollen that was floating on the surface. I don't know if you have ever witnessed mullet doing this, but it's almost comical as their fat lips are the only things above the water's surface. There were so many mullet, one toss of a cast net would have yielded me 50 or more of this buggers. Also, for the first time in a while, I saw crabs scurrying around in the shallows, which is another great sign that things are picking up.
Rigged and ready, I continued to wait on Robert. Pacing back and forth, I couldn't wait to get going. The river was flat calm; the tide was perfect. But still no Robert.
As the minutes ticked by, crabbers began to launch their boats and from what they told me, the crabs had already started moving in from their winter haunts in deep water, which was just one more sign the fishing draught might be coming to end. The only problem was I had no boat and no Robert. As it turned out, he was caught up in the traffic jam from that horrible wreck at the intersection of Buckwalter Parkway and U.S. 278.
He finally pulled up more than an hour late and I did a bit of speed-loading as I threw all my gear into his boat and backed down the boat ramp at Mach 1. I knew we were too late in the tide to make it to the spot I wanted to hit first, so I had to settle for Plan B. Putting the pedal to the metal, I checked out one flat along the way and again saw signs of life I hadn't seen in more than a month. Bait was beginning to pile up right up along the edge of the shoreline and when the bait shows up, the fish are not far behind.
Throwing gold spoons, we missed two fish -- but at least they were there. Knowing that the tide had already started in, I moved on to another spot and before I could get even get set up, Flipper showed up and began tail-slapping the water. FYI: When you see this, it's pretty much a sure sign redfish are around.
No sooner had Flipper disappeared than one of the rods bent double and it was fish on. The first thing I noticed was how much stronger the fish was fighting compared to redfish I had caught over the past few weeks. The reason? Their metabolism speeds up as the water gets warmer and the winter lackluster fight of cold-water reds appeared to finally be over.
The fish turned out to be bigger than the 23-inch size limit, so back into the water it went. Not three minutes later, Robert's rod rocked once and this time it was obvious he had a real stud on the line as it peeled line off the reel with ease. I have caught a whole lot of redfish in my day, but I just never get tired of their amazing strength and endurance. This one was well over 30 inches and after the fight he gave Robert, it was easy to let it go. Why? The way I look at it, that fish had earned its freedom!
Where a week ago I wasn't all that thrilled about going fishing, now I'm getting excited. The signs are there -- bait is showing up, the water is getting darker and crabs are in the shallows -- so I think the fishing is going to improve in leaps and bounds very quickly. Best of all, now I can write about fishing in the here and now. It isn't easy being an outdoor writer when the outdoors shuts the door on you. Yee-haw!