Redfish, Sheepshead & Trout in Chassahowitzka!

This is why I moved to Chassahowitzka! Yesterday was one of those days that every angler dreams about but only a few get to experience! Something told me to buy 200 shrimp instead of the usual 100, for bait and that turned out to be a brilliant decision. There’s was a little chill in the air as I cruised out the Chassahowitzka and it was enjoyable not to have to slow down for the Manatee zone. The manatee no-wake zone ended August 31. As it was high tide and still rising, I decided to go North and back in to some creeks looking for Redfish. On the way into the backcountry, I first stopped at a shoreline, I noticed last Saturday, during low tide, that was just covered with rocks and oysters. First cast, a 15 1/2 inch Sheepshead, in the box! Second cast, with a new rod and reel, a 12 1/2 inch Redfish! Third cast, a 13 inch Redfish! I’m now thinking this is not a bad way to start the day, three casts three fish! As the limit on Redfish in Florida is one per day per person, between 18 and 27 inches, I released the two little rat Reds. Though, I’d much rather catch and release a 13 inch Redfish then a 13 inch Trout, any day. I decided to move further up the creek to some other points I’ve been catching some nice Reds and Sheepshead. After moving around and catching junk fish, stingrays and catfish, I decided to fish another point, I knew was loaded with oysters. After awhile without any action, I decided to clear the lines and move back to the original shoreline. While I was reeling in one of the three rods I was fishing with, I must have dragged that shrimp right in front of the fishes mouth, and it was shellacked. I was pleasantly surprised to see that 17 1/2 inch Trout, swim into the net! After the second attempt at anchoring, the wind was howling, off the point of the shoreline the action shortly became fast and furious. The bite was on! It was all I could do to keep at least one of the three hooks in the water. Almost alternating between Redfish and Sheepshead, it was getting hard to keep track of how many fish I was catching! After being in the backcountry for hours and not seeing or hearing anyone else it was starling to hear voices that were so close. Low and behold, I look a few points over and it’s the “Matriarch”, himself, Captain Bill Hope. I could tell it was him immediately due to his goofy but useful colorful beach umbrella! I’m now even more impressed with myself, I must be fishing in the right neighborhood! I called Bill on his cell and asked him if he was watching all the fish I was catching, he said his charter was doing pretty good too, and catching big Reds. Bill’s boat was close enough and with the way voices carry on water, that I didn’t really even need to use the cell. After Bill and his three guests moved around the outside and up the shoreline, I decided to move to where he WAS fishing. Mama, didn’t raise no fool! Do I sound Southern? Before moving off of the point I’ve been fishing, I had caught and released 12 Redfish, between 12 and 15 inches, 6 Sheepshead between 15 and 18 inches and the one Trout at 17 1/2 inches!! But still no keeper Red. After dropping the anchors it didn’t take long before line was screaming off one of the reels, I grab the rod and could tell instantly this was close to a keeper Red. After getting him in the boat and measuring him at just under 18 inches, I think it was 17 and 15/16, I put him in the live-well hoping he would grow. Thirteen Redfish and not one keeper? But that all changed within the next few minutes, as one of the shrimp was just blasted. There was no doubt this Red was well over 18, and did measure 24 inches before he went in the box. So lucky number 13, got to swim free! By this time the tide had started to go out and it was moving pretty fast pushed by the East wind. My last cast of the day was just slammed when it hit the water and that was the biggest Sheepshead of the Day, 18 1/2 inches! So the final CATCH tally was 14 Redfish, 7 Sheepshead and 1 Sea Trout!! Another highlight of the day happened on the way back in, as I spotted Bill’s umbrella way up in front, I knew with the umbrella up he wasn’t going fast, and he had no idea I was coming. I then thought of his many reminders that I shouldn’t ever think of passing him on the river. So I can just imagine how BIG my smile was when I blew right by his boat full of guests, knowing all along I may never get another chance. Only to find out this morning, the reason he was idling was that he thought he had blown his engine and had to idle all the way back to the ramp. It was still FUN!!! Let’s go CATCHING, Captain Red ED

PS. My old buddy, JT, and neighbor Clay, thought last night’s Pan-Kow Trout & Sheepshead Fingers were gourmet!! Yes, Denise, I’ve learned how to clean fish!