As I struck out across the river in the Green Peanut, I was not brimming with confidence. It was a gorgeous, but chilly December morning and I was certain the recent drop in water temperature had probably changed things at the fishing hole I had in my sights.
Sure enough, once in place I found nothing moving and, worse yet, each cast brought back long strings of a green mossy slime attached to my jig. That didn't take long to chase me out of there.
As I paddled the kayak out into the wide bay I pondered where I might try and just then I saw three or four birds diving about a half mile away. Good a place as any I thought as I kicked my stroke into high gear.
After a few minutes, I was moving into a spot behind the spoil islands named Redfish Cove by my late fishing buddy Jack Thomas. He and I had spent many a happy hour doing battle with the big red drum that sometimes winter there. As I slowed I could see the cove was stacked in with small baitfish and the trout were tearing them up. The seagulls I had noticed from across the bay were dining on the pieces of fish left behind. The trout seemed very small and that was borne out when I caught a 12-inch fish on the first cast. The little trout were jumping out of the water all around me and willing to hit my chartreuse jig on each cast.
Before too long it became clear the undersized trout was all that Redfish Cove had to offer and I began thinking about moving on. Now I must tell you I have always sworn by the old axiom "don't leave fish to look for fish." I was catching a trout on almost every cast and having pretty good fun, so I decided to stay.
After 45 minutes or so I began to notice a change. A big old gator trout jumped skyward just out of casting distance and that sent me paddling. Before I could get set to throw, two more jumped. These were very large fish. Soon all around me big spotted sea trout of at least two feet in length were jumping straight up in a feeding frenzy.
They did not seem to care for the chartreuse, but when I changed to the new Grandslam Bait Peppermint Crunch jig tail, I hooked one of the big boys. In the kayak it was a spirited battle and the fish finally made its escape right at the boat. Now the water all around me was exploding with huge trout. I must tell you what I was witnessing was so very unusual.
All trout will jump on occasion but seldom do you see the big ones do it and if you do, it is usually a more lateral jump. Not these. Straight skyward they leaped out of 30 inches of water. As it turned out, they were not very interested in my offerings and that gave me plenty time to watch. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the big trout were all very fat and very silver. That told me they had just arrived in the Tomoka Basin area. The resident trout there have all acquired a slight golden color from the tannic stained water. These trout must have followed the bait from the Inlet or the Atlantic. Before they stopped jumping with the ebb tide, I must have seen 50 jumps from gator trout.
In all of my years, I have never witnessed such a thing. I can only hope some of them decide to take up local residence. When it was over, I had one over the 20-inch limit and four smaller fish that are legal to keep. I also had a memory of a lifetime.
I'm sure you all want to know exactly where I was and I will try to tell you. Coming north from Granada, go (west) behind the fourth island and go to the northernmost cove. I wouldn't think the fish will still be there, but who knows. I sure didn't expect to find them there in the first place.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.