by Bill Jakob
I once again have grown tired of the cold, fishless days of winter and spring doing its best to elude us, with temperatures only in the mid forties at best. The process of readying tackle and dewinterizing my beach buggy were almost complete and I dare not even consider getting the boat ready, until at least some forecasts predict temps in the sixties. As such, winter depression clung like a cold – the type where the cough never really quits. Reading the Florida Fishermen Magazine only added to the pain.
I kind of felt my vacation to Iceland and the U.K. during winter was not the greatest idea as, I now long for hot sunny days and great catches of Snook and Tarpon like those in the pages of the magazine I read over and over again. Enough is enough! Stories of friends returning from Florida and and photos of friends holding up Bonefish, I decided I was going south ! I scheduled flights, booked and made reservations for an SUV large enough to sleep in should the overbite be fantastic at one of my usual haunts. The plan was to hit Jupiter and Sebastian inlets first then bounce across to the west coast hitting a few sweet water spots along the way. Hitting the inlets on the night tide proved tough as two nights yielded not a fish for about 8 of us that braved the pouring late night rain. The boats back in the bay were hammering the Snook and Reds just out of range of even the longest of casts. Reminding me of Montauk the past two seasons, my hope of a big Red or Snook was not looking too good at the moment. Well another day passed without fish and my journey west was next. Arriving in Crystal River I began my repeated expeditions to the edges of the hundreds of creeks and shorelines that abound in the area while Mullet leap into the air and Snook pushed bait onto the surface, I still remained fishless. The local piers told stories of no fish around, visual evidence proved otherwise. In desperation I booked a charter with Salt River Outfitters with Captain Sean at the helm and it was off to some shallow water sight fishing!
Crystal River, the home of the Manatee and unbelievably clear water, is a favorite spot of mine.Last year I beat up Tarpon to 40 lbs on the new VanStaal VR50 spinning reel and was ready to put it to the test again! Heading out on the Ranger 22 foot bay boat we zipped off to where the back bay mangrove meet the Gulf of Mexico. In an area called the Ozello Keys, here thousands of mangroves provide home for thousands of fish. Captain Sean dropped the electric motor into the “Gin or Vodka clear water “ you decide which and edged us along the the Mangroves. Searching for fish, once spotted, we tossed Shrimp and Pinfish in front of the cruising Redfish and Snook. I was stunned as fish after fish passed up our offerings. A group of over-slot-sized Reds approached and I cast my live Pinfish about 6 foot before them, the Pinfish nervously pulled closer to the cover of the mangroves. I could see the Redfish go in with his tail waving in the air, he turned and ran. My line came tight as the thin wire circle hook caught the corner of his jaw striking back he ran – the drag on the VR 50 screaming as the StCriox 3 piece travel rod bending seamlessly against the blue sky. A few more short runs and he was ready for a quick picture and a safe release. Maddie and I picked a few more fish that day and caught Redfish,Snook and Speckled Trout by our journeys end. Yes the Tarpon evaded us and I didn’t shore catch, but as I fly into Islip Airport and reflect on my trip Spring feels much closer after ten days in the warmth and sun of Florida- Maddie is ready for some Stripers and Bluefish !