January 28th.....and only two days left to catch all the big fattie Speckled Trout you can, before February's closure on them. Yeah right!
I've been hunting them big fatties, that's for sure. And my hunts have been quite futile in this ice cube water. Boy, I remember years when it was all ya' wanted. Even in through February. So much that me and my ole buddy Pelican would go to the jetties and pitch D.O.A. Shrimp lures and MirrOlures, just so we could save on bait. And whacked 'em so good it was legendary for this part of Florida, these days.
All I have to do to remind myself is look at the old photos. But being nostalgic does nothing but depress me.
Because I l;ove Trout catching, so damn much.
But that wasn't after a bout with record breaking cold for two weeks. Simply put, I wouldn't have minded if that weather hit us in February. Because it's the month that's kinda book marked to be "the pits", of the whole year, anyhow. I always say to myself "make it through another February and you'll have it made....."
Today, I had John B. aboard the Jettywolf. John was from visiting jacksonville from Wisconsin. And it was amazing how he ended up getting a gorgeous day for his trip. Ninety nine percent of the time, my luck is that I have someone who booked well ahead of time as did John. And the day turns out to be very weather problematic, with the day before or the day after being near perfect. But we had none of that today.
The problem is just finding enough bites. I'm sure we're all finding fish. They haven't all gone to south Florida for warmer water's.
Being a Trout-man, and being that there's only 2 days left to box 'em. What do you think we'd diffinately fish for during at least half of our day? It's getting personal, at this point. And one of my big time rules is not to second guess myself. Always go with what you know. But right now, going with what you know can also, be thrown out the window.
We started out at the jetties. John and I pitched jig-n-shrimp combo meals. Three eighths ounce jigs, with LIVE fresh shrimp pinned on them up to the rocks. Yeah, last time I was out I had to use dead shrimp two days in a row. It was so cold there was no live shrimp to be had. So, I was thinking maybe the fresh stuff would work better and it did.....at least the head of the shrimp stayed on the hook this time. We fished the same tides I fish those last two days I was there. But that was 12 days ago, and the water was no warmer today. And we caught even less. Time isn't healing this wound very fast. And we boxed a decent sized Sheepshead. The only true bite to be had.
The fish was a "sandbagger" and never even fought at first. To only come alive on the hook after it was yanked out of the jetty rocks.
I thought things may turn on a bit after this fish. But as we moved around a little, sticking to the same general area. I was wrong. We were wearin' out our jigging arms. And still had much more to do, today. Because no matter what the day or month or year. Especially, when I have a single passenger charter that's a fisherman. We're going to school. My customers are going to do alot and learn alot. I believe that's as important as actually reeling in fish, because first you have to learn "why", you caught that fish.
The Ring-tailed Porgies, a winter cold water jetty rock hugger. Were biting on the opposite side of the jetty from where we were, where the river current was pouring through. But it's a fatal place to anchor. And with the damn Navy ship sea tractor tug boats going in and out. Has me no longer risking dropping my anchor over there with a customer. Can you just imagine how nice the jetties would be with no; Navy ships, Tugs, Freightors, or Pilot boat wakes? We can all dream, can't we?
Saving our casts for new ground, John and I moved on up river. The full moon tide had the banks exposed so much that a place I fish up in a creek almost looked foreign. And the low tide was only a (negative) -.06'. I bet in all reality it was much more than that, being a blue bird high pressure looking day.
But be prepared this weekend....if the weather doesn't keep you off the water. The low tides going to be a (negative) -1.2 to -1.5 feet. Isn't that the kind of low tide that has the Mayport boat ramp docks are sitting on the bottom? I guess we'll see.
Needless to say, we were in there for a bit but there was zero current, and we pitched a jig or two, without a single sniff. Time to go Float-rig fishing. And I had a spot right around the corner. The tide was perfect for this spot, and we caught one keeper Speck there. Before the tide got to low and the drift of the floats changed.
It was just a 15 incher. But a keeper Speck. So I was happy. John wanted to hit Singleton's Seafood Shack in Mayport before going back to his hotel. So we at least had him some "vittles" for supper now, along with his Sheepshead. (Eating "your fish" just hours after catching them and relaxing with a cold sweet tea or cold beer, while someone else does the cooking. Is a perfect ending to a big day of adventure, I always say.)
We worked the spot hard. But it was time to move on. The next spot was almost perfection, too. If the water temp was 67 and we had a day like today I could have seen G-A-T-O-R Trout coming for our position, easily. Our drift was perfection. Only I wondered where the hell is that NW breeze that was predicted?
It was East Noreast all day, everywhere I was. Instead of gator size Trout, all that ate our shrimp was one lil' yellowmouth and one lil' Speck. And then, of course a giant barge came by with two tugs and ruined this spot, making me have to pull off in preparation for big wakes. Yes, the spot's a bit precarious, even in a 1/4" thick plate alloy hull. I have enough bangs and scratches in the Jettywolf, already. So we moved off once again......
I was heading for the docks, when I passed by an area that looked promising. As a float-rigging Trout fisherman. A spot doesn't look good to me because of; mass amounts of boats, I remember catching a fish there back in 1994, I was told last week there was fish there, none of the that. More like, it's all about tide/current. I'm always hunting in the St. Johns River for what I call "Trout tide". Water moving, not to fast, not too slow.....ALONG structure, mostly. Be it structure above and below the water. Below meaning drops, ledges, edges, and HARD BOTTOM. IE: scattered shell, old oysterbeds, submerged rock.
So I told John, "hey let's give it 5 minutes, here". So I anchored up and it was perfect. And BAM, float down and John brings in a nice fish. The drag was pulling and the rod tip was throbbing. And I'm not even sure we were there five minutes yet... probably 3 minutes! Turns out to be a 19-1/2 inch Trout. The kind of fish I've been looking for, for the last two weeks, """in the river""".
And guess what? After catcdhing this nice fattie. A tug came by towing another monster barge! Go figure, huh. Tugs and barges in the St. Johns, where did these come from? And right then, the tide died out and the floats started drifting the wrong way. Then the tide turned.
I swear, that every time a big ship or tug and barge comes by that it has such an effect on the water movement, that it actually helps the tide change. Call me nuts, call me sick and tired of ships and tugs. But I maybe on to something. If the tide/current (same thing, many more times than not) is working on it's own, it usually hints to ya and takes awhile to completely turn the other way. But if the area you are fishing is on the "verge" of changing over. And a ship/barge/tug passes that point in the river. It does something that has the water turn, faster. The displacement of said ship/barge/tug helps the tide/current change over much quickly. "Did ya get all that?" If you didn't you don't fish the St. Johns River enough.
While we were trying for a Trout here, there also was a Black Drum bit going on behind us. Two guys in a small boat were casting "up" current with egg sinkers and dead shrimp. First off, I never cast up current on an anchored boat. It's un-natural. But it didn't matter what I thought. And of course do ya think the Drum cared?
But I guess today they wanted to chase a dead shrimp along the bottom as the incoming tide dragged there sinkers across the bottom(?) So as John worked his float-rig, I dropped a few light bottom rigs BEHIND THE BOAT on 4 oz leads. And could barely hold bottom at this point. SOOO, that's why these guys were casting against the tide/current? Cause there was no way in hell they were using 4 oz. egg sinkers.
When we swung with the tide and tug wakes, we ended up right in front of them. I knew because of the bottom my anchor wasn't going to hold here forever, and it didn't. We ended up sliding back toward them.
So we bagged it all, and headed for the hill, so I could be attacked by the Pelicans as I cleaned our catch. On my customized mobile fish cleaning station, located on the Jettywolf. I keep hoping that "OUR" tax dollars could find there way to a sperate fish cleaning dock someday with a fillet table, lights and running water. But you may only find that luxury, in some other distant county.....not Duval!
John went over to Singleton's to have his fish cooked. I hope he enjoyed it. Even though it wasn't a fish fest, we both enjoyed eachothers company, and enjoyed the beautiful day.
-ONLY TWO MORE DAYS. For me it might as well be, 31.
Because next up on Friday is my gig with the Sisters Creek bridge repair crew. This time I'm the boat that'll drop off divers to swim down to inspect the piling of the 55 year old bridge, that's getting a face lift starting somewhere around March, through the summer.