Now that we are all armed with spiffy new fishing equipment courtesy of Old Saint Nick, let's talk about some of our favorite quarry.
For starters, I will list the fish that inshore fishermen love to battle. At the top of the list locally has to be the snook and large mouth bass.
No one will ever forget his or her first hookup with a big snook. Long runs, spiraling jumps and brute strength are properties of those battling linesiders. The acrobatics of the freshwater bass are legendary and make them America's favorite tournament fish. Their willingness to take a lure puts them in a class by themselves.
Other fun playmates in the inshore are the jacks, ladyfish and tarpon. The latter would be at the top of the list, but are too scarce these days. Still, it is an unmatched angling thrill to make a cast and watch your bait shoot four feet into the air in the mouth of a big silver king. The powerful jack crevaile are plentiful in our inshore waters and provide us with as much fun as anything that swims. Anxious to hit artificial or natural bait, their head banging power is a test for any fisherman. Ladyfish also abound in our brackish rivers and their tributaries. The ladies always present a wild time with slashing runs and unpredictable jumps.
A few years ago, Al Houser and I got into a thick school of ladyfish and had them jumping into the side of the boat and even banging into the engine. The fish were all about two feet long and I suppose we landed about 20 out of the 50 that hit -- hard to beat that for fun.
Of course, our two inshore fishing staples are the red fish and spotted sea trout. Both are fun to catch and great to eat and represent the best the inshore has to offer.
Red drum are as strong as anything that swims and although they don't jump, will provide any angler with the fight of a lifetime. Through the years, I have met many fishermen who have told me they came here uninterested in fishing the inshore until they caught their first red fish.
Once you have felt that unbelievable power transfer up your line, you will spend the rest of your life trying to duplicate it.
Sea trout also are game fish that love a lure. Very prolific breeders, it is not uncommon for fishermen to get into a school and catch fish until their arms are tired. A meal of fresh trout is its own reward.
Those seven fish are the best we have, but are not our only targets.
If you are a visitor or maybe a beginner, you probably spend time fishing from local docks and piers. There you will find all the fun you are looking for. Some years back I met Arline Zatz, who was fishing from the dock at the end of my street. She was using an artificial bait and having no luck. When I suggested she switch to shrimp for bait she told me there was no way she would ever handle those disgusting looking things. When I asked her if she liked to eat shrimp, she replied she did. I then suggested she go to the supermarket and buy a box of precooked popcorn shrimp to use for bait. She did and has been having a blast ever since. Recently she sent me an e-mail boasting of catching silver perch, grunts, flounder, sailor's choice, snapper and even a whiting.
I can vouch for her catch, since she uses me to identify the fish. All of those can be found around a dock, but there is bigger game near those pilings. Sheepshead and black drum are also there. Those two prisoner striped, black and white fish are a challenge for any angler.
Black drum possess all of the strength of their cousins the red drum and may bust light tackle. Sheepshead are also very powerful and can get as big as a steering wheel. Both of those are schoolers and will seldom be found alone.
If you have the opportunity, take a kid fishing from a dock and watch the fun. The local surf will usually have pompano, whiting and bluefish to test your skills. The blues will roam the entire area and may show up when you least expect it.
With the personality of piranha, they will turn down no bait. If you don't prepare properly, you are bound to break off when fighting a bluefish. Bring a stout leader along. Well that's our favorite inshore targets. Break out that new rod and go get 'em.
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.