Wednesday, October 17, 2007

10/17 - "Regulars", the Brandts

Always look forward to the Brandts, Don and his parents. They've been fishing with me for years.And they reminded me of their first trip, today. And I almost was back when the Sheepshead used to spawn not far from the boat ramp, in the spring time. Man, we used to slay them at this one particular area, during March and April. And after a few years of serious action not 2 miles from the boat ramp, it all seemed to just go away like many other things in the St. Johns River.

And I blame the city or who ever decides where and when to dredge the river. Because that's just what happened. For a few years we were catching great big Sheeps and then one spring in came a dredge machine that vacuums the bottom of the river, and yep right where we were catching those fish is where that vacuum machine came across during one spring and ruined the habitat.

Just like right now! We have that dredge out there scooping part of the river deeper at every bend and inside the jetties. Probably for more big cruise ships. It's all about shipping $$$$. Not Fisherman. Or even the habitat. I have a very outspoken friend that is also an area historian, I guess you could say as a hobby. And he says it like this, "every time they dredge, they ruin the river a little bit more." Remember when Chicopit Bay was deep, and not filled with sand? And when getting into Greenfield Creek was no big deal at low tide?? I DO. Now Chicopit is all sanded in, and the folks who live up Greenfield Creek and have big boats in their back yards are needing their own dredging project. WHY IS IT LIKE THAT?? Because every time they dredge the river, it changes the river/creeks/or river bank somewhere else.

Did you know that when the French came here and settled that the "mean average depth" of the St. Johns through the Mayport area and beyond was a whopping nine foot deep? This river was never deep, until it became a port and shipping $$, were worth making.

Years ago they wanted to dredge Ft Pierce Inlet, down south. Probably for some gambling ship or somebody like that. But the citizens (fisherman and environmentalists) made a huge stink. Photos from divers told the whole story. Corals, Sea fans, marine vegetation, rocky ledges, was what the bottom was filled with, that gave structure to Snook, Sheepshead, Grouper, Snapper, Flounder, Lobster and the list goes on...

I don't know if they ever did dredge the inlet there. But was so happy to read how the fisherman banned together to say NO. We'll never stop progress and money making on our river, but think about these stories the next time you watch the bank falling into the water, or that "go-to" spot stops producing, or your favorite creek fills in.

Either way....The Brandt's and I hit the inlet this morning, to catch a Big Red. It was sloppy as all hell. Huge swells were rolling in directly from the east as the east wind blew on top of it. The tide was incoming as we rolled on out there, but ya' couldn't really tell from the way the wind and water movement was. I cut chunks of big Mullet and pinned them on some circle hooks with a 40 pound leader, pitched them out with my G. Loomis backbounce rods and mini-Accurate B-197 twin Drag reels. A very light set-up for really big fish so it looks, but looks can be decieving when it comes to these rods and reels. The current was running up into the wind so while anchored up, the lines ran over the bow.....damn I hate that, so I came up with a simple solution. Use the anchor as a sea-anchor (hanging it over the bow, but not letting dig into the bottom) and sort of drift beam to the wind. With the wind bucking the current, we certainly didn't go very, far very fast, and my idea worked great. The swell was at least 4 foot, and this way was not at all an un-pleasant way to fish.

The bluefish were the pests of the morning, not letting a single piece of cut bait go without a chomping. But as I always say...."I'll let them just be my scent dispersing devices" and it wasn't long before we had a Big Red hooked up and running eastward.

Then, it was the small 3 foot Blacktip Sharks. They caught at least 5. Fun, but nothing like the big ole nasty Reds out there. And yes, those Reds sure look Nasty. All beat up, and white from "not" being in the river, but rather the Ocean.

And then I saw them.....all over the bottom of my color bottom machine.....could it be? Was this for real? Or am I imagining this? POGIES?? From the 18 foot mark all the way in towards the beach. Laying low all over the bottom. I'm thinking they were POGIES....But I wasn't sure. It's been so long since I seen those images on my scope. I looked west toward the beach and saw Kirk Waltz sitting there for the longest time close to the beach. Was he cast netting POGIES? Holy stink bait Batman, maybe they were pogies, and he's castnetting some. Say it ain't so!

I had no need, I had cut Bluefish and Mullet and we weren't gonna be out here that much longer to break out the blasted net. I had 9 dozen live shrimp for Float-rig fishing later.
So up in the river later on the float-rigs and caught about everything, and a lot of not what I was wanting. But it didn't matter to the Brandts, they weren't planning on keeping any fish and were just out for the fun of it.
Mangrove Snappers, (the "locust plague" of the river this year) juvenile Gag Groupers, Croaker, Ladyfish, Jacks, Speckled Trout, Black Drum and Pinfish.......heck it was a hard east wind and an incoming tide all day, so I wasn't sweating it. They were catching, and I could hardly keep up. I always call this kind of day when the wind's East or Northeast of 15 knots and a incoming tide, a K.O.D day (kiss of death) for float rigging anyhow. But at least, we did catch some "gamefish species" inbetween all the baitstealers.

I truely believe, that the Mangrove Snappers this year are our on personal Locust plague. Because of the extended summer like conditions. There is almost no where I like to go that they are not infesting the entire area.
And for this, is why I carry A LOT of live shrimp. I need right off the git-go, 2-dozen for initial die off, and 3- dozen for Mangrove snapper bites, that's 5 dozen right there at a cost of over $13.00. So now you may understand that when the water temps drop and hopefully the lil bastards disappear, remind me of this if I bitch about it being too cold outside, or the water temp being too low. CUZ, I CAN'T WAIT!

Next up.... Friday. Another Incoming Tide Day with an East wind again, probably.

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