Huge Winter Redfish in Chassahowitzka!

Folks: Feliz Navidad! Hope Santa was good to everyone, did you get
that new fishing rod and reel? Wow, has it really been over a year that
I’m back, (where I belong), in Florida? I feel very privileged that
I’m getting to live my dream! It’s not every day that you get to spend
time with a master of their trade but this past Wednesday, I was lucky
enough, again, to go CATCHING with *Captain Bill Hope*. If I could
ever learn 1/1000th of what Bill knows about this waterway and fishing,
the challenge of mastering this waterway would be greatly minimized.
Bill it’s an honor to be your friend and after 20 plus years you know,
there’s not many people I’d rather be on the water with!
As I’ve been telling you lately, the weather this time of year is
unpredictable to say the least. Again I was lucky on Wednesday to
have probably the nicest day in the last couple of weeks. The ride out
the main river was as pretty as you can imagine, with the mist rising
of the flat calm warm spring-fed waters. Now don’t get me wrong we
still had layers on and the ride out was definitely chilly but
eventually I was catching in the sun down to my t-shirt. Can you
say “Bare Bottoms”? This is the part where a little knowledge
didn’t help me, as Bill swiftly navigated without any electronics,
over the same rocky oyster laded flat that I just had to get out of my
boat, more then once, the previous Thursday to PUSH. I had to force
myself to focus forward because if I looked to the side I could tell how
shallow the water really was, this was as exhilarating as any
amusement park ride. I was leaning and holding my breath as we
cruised through the winding backwaters, trusting every turn he
made. Now most people wouldn’t even know how dangerous the ride could
be because he makes it look so easy. When we safely arrived at the
first hole Bill chose to fish, I exhaled and told him, that I knew I’d
NEVER be able to do that! We expected because of the conditions it
would be a hunt for fish, until we found the RIGHT hole. And we were
right as we couldn’t give a shrimp away till after Noon. Not even a
Pinfish! As we moved to a hole just North of the infamous *”Blow
Hole”*, where we caught many Sheepshead over the years, Bill spotted
what he thought was an Otter but actually turned out to be a MINK. I
had no idea minks were indigenous to this area but Bill told me stories
about trapping them and how nasty they smelled when cleaning them. We
must have been fishing in the same hole as the mink as he continued to
watch us from the shoreline and eventually swam across the creek behind
the boat. The last time we saw him was with a fish in his mouth
scurrying off into the bushes. Another awesome adventure in the
outdoors! When we finally did find the RIGHT hole it didn’t take long
before we had 3 Reds and 3 Sheepshead in the boat! Only one of the Reds
was legal, 21 inches, so he joined the 3 Sheepshead
in the box. Now for some unknown reason, Bill caught the 3 Sheepshead
and I caught the 3 Reds? What’s my name? When Bill finally did
catch his first Red, I made another mistake and opened my mouth and
started talking trash to him. And don’t you know the next hole we
stopped at, it seems the boat was positioned a little differently and
Bill was catching ALL the fish and now talking trash to me. When am I
ever going to learn, don’t talk trash until the trip is over? Though
it is nice to know that Bill is motivated when he fishes with me! As
the tide continued to come in we were able to move around and get to
the RIGHT holes, which resulted in *CATCHING* way to many REDFISH to
count!! Bill asked me at one point if I was counting and I told him I
thought that was the guides job! Back to the CATCHING, we were fishing
a hole along a shoreline when, I could tell the fish ON was bigger then
any I had felt so far. As the water was surprisingly clear it didn’t
take long before we both saw this HUGE Red, that I thought might be OVER
the legal limit of 27 inches! Bill was standing to my left with the net
in his hands as I worked the fish closer to the boat. As usually
happens when the fish first sees the boat, he took off again and WRAPPED
around the bottom grass right below our feet and just out of nets
reach. Well what happened next has never happened to me before and will
probably never happen again. Bill instructed me to reel down tight and
to just pull the fish through the grass. Of course I listened, reeled
down tight and began to lift the rod when the 20 pound test Power Pro on
the reel exploded, I turned my head to the side, just in time and the
rod whacked me across my ear. I looked down and saw the line still
wrapped around the grass with the big Red just laying there. I
quickly grabbed the line and wrapped it around my hand a few times and
pulled the grass out of the bottom. Of course, the fish now thought he
was free and began to swim towards the horizon. I continued to
hand-line him to the boat and Bill reached over and scooped him in the
net! We measured the big fella and he was exactly 27 inches!! I then released the 24 inch Red, we had just put
in the box! Let’s go CATCHING! Captain Red ED