Chassahowitzka – Got FISH!!
Good Sunday morning! Not only has the weather been HOT, here in the Bikini State, but so has the catching!! Michael Keenan arrived from “The Big Easy”, last week, and left with a fishing memory that he’ll NEVER forget! His first day on the Chassahowitzka was spent with Captain Bill Hope, the cigar chewing matriarch of the local guides! Anyone that has fished with Bill, knows that usually by the end of the day, you’ll have caught to many fish to count! His knowledge of this area and fishery is beyond compare, and for a price he may even share his knowledge! After the run to the Gulf, and Black Rock Hole, we were surrounded by rolling Tarpon and huge Loggerhead Sea Turtles! Almost immediately we started catching Speckled Trout, and wound up with 6 keepers in the box! Though we never did hook a Tarpon, I did manage to jump a nice sized Hammerhead Shark! After the tide changed, we moved up into the backcountry, looking for Redfish. It didn’t take long, before our lines were screaming! As you can only keep one Redfish, per day, per person here, we added 3 nice Reds to the box and released 4 other Redfish! Catching is fun!!
The remainder of the Rajun Cajun’s adventure was spent on my fishing, I mean, catching machine, “Bare Bottoms”! A good friend of mine, King Tommy Thai, taught me a long time ago, to be ready when you arrived at a fishing hole. Well while Michael, was preparing his tackle, I made a cast, to what has now become the first stop, Black Rock Hole. First cast, first fish in the box, 18 1/2 inch Speckled Trout! Before we headed to the backcountry, with the rising tide, we had 4 keeper Specs in the box, and who knows how many short Trout we released. As we were a little ahead of the tide, we anchored and had lunch, listening to fish popping the surface all around us. After anchoring up and casting towards the shallow shoreline, first Michael, then I hooked two nice Redfish! Not sure why, but I decided to put one in the live-well, hoping to upgrade to a larger Red. It didn’t take long before another Red nailed the large shrimp, I’d cast up on the rocks! Which meant, the Redfish in the live-well, had a lucky day and got to swim home. Day two’s count, 4 Redfish and 4 keeper Speckled Trout!
Day three on the water, was the 4th of July, and Michael’s first time fishing three days in a row. Now that’s independence! After a late start, I made Pan Kow Trout Fingers, before we left, for the group of family and friends, I knew would be waiting when we returned. Not sure if we were going to have enough fingers, I decided to stop at Black Rock Hole and pick up another couple of Specs for dinner. Mission shortly accomplished, two nice Trout in the box! Our original plan for the day was to run North of the Homosassa River, to snorkel the grass flats for scallops. Scallop season opened July 1. After spotting the flotilla of boats on the flats we anchored up and jumped in the 90 degree Gulf water. This was way cool! Floating with the crystal clear current and being followed by two Cobia, I scanned the bottom for the familiar looking shells. I can’t even remember the last time I had been snorkeling and had never been scalloping. Ain’t in Brooklyn, no more! After snatching some of these sweet tasting, mollusks, we moved a little further North, which turned out to be a mistake. We spent more time dodging jellyfish then looking for scallops. When we got back to “Bare Bottoms”, the two of us had gathered 24 scallops, in what was one of the coolest days I ever spent on the water! Olive oil, garlic and an awesome appetizer!
After taking a day off to rest and recoup, we were back on the water early this past Tuesday. Two of my neighbors, Clay and Michael, wanted to follow us out to Black Rock Hole. After tracking the Bill Hope, short-cut back to the rock, Keenan and I immediately stated catching fish. By 11 AM, we had our limit of Speckled Trout, 10 in the box! I also remember Michael saying, I don’t think I’ve ever caught as many Sharks in one day. On light spinning tackle we had caught 5 Hammerhead Sharks between two to five foot long! Mike Schmidt, you would have been having a blast! After trying to help Clay and Michael catch a fish, we again headed to the backcountry riding the tide, hunting one of my favorite fish to fight, Reds! Fishing s cks, catching fun! We again, were in the right place at the right time! It wasn’t long after the water covered the oysters, that we had our two keeper Redfish in the box! I also caught and released a Jack Crevalle in the skinny water, another nice fighting fish! Day four’s count, 10 Trout, 5 Sharks, 2 Redfish and 1 Jack!
Yesterday, I went out solo, as Keenan had left for Bourbon Street on Thursday. He did call me on my cell, shortly before I arrived at Black Rock Hole. He knew I’d be there, listening to the Tarpon roll and Loggerheads gasp! Again the action was almost immediate, every time the shrimp hit the water, the bite was on! After catching a bunch of junk fish, Ladyfish, Catfish, and Sharks, I caught a few short Specs. I did have one huge Hammerhead, 7 to 8 foot long, follow a hooked Ladyfish right to the boat. The Trout didn’t start to eat until the tide turned and I put two nice keepers in my new net, 18 1/2 & 19 inches! In hindsight what I did next was a little brazen, as the tide wasn’t right to be in the backcountry. After pushing “Bare Bottoms”, across an oyster bar and cutting my leg, all I could think about was those pesky Sharks. I really wanted grilled Redfish for dinner! Arriving at a shoreline that not only looked fishy but you could hear Mullet jumping and predators swirling, I cast two of the largest shrimp I had saved up on the rocks and put both rods down and waited. As Bill would say, “keep it simple, son”! I watched the tip of my favorite Loomis rod start to twitch and picked it up just as the water exploded way up in the shallows. I knew immediately it was a Red, and the fight was on! At one point he swam under the boat which was sitting in 3 feet of water, and I knew if I put the rod in after him, that he would come back out. The fight made the effort well worth while and it was a beautiful sight to see that 22 1/2 Redfish swim into the net! It even looked better grilling soaked in Italian dressing! After recasting the Loomis, it didn’t take long before my smaller rod, started to leave the boat. I knew it had to be another Red, and knew the fight would be awesome on such light tackle. After putting that 21 inch Red in the boat and then releasing him, I knew it was time to get out of there. Gotta admit, there was more then once, that I wasn’t sure if I had enough water to float. It was slow go until I made it back to the Gulf and then found the channel markers. The weathers humid and the catching hot!!! Let’s go CATCHING, Captain Red ED