Have you ever gone on a fishing trip and nothing happened?
Come on now be straight with me. Sure, we all have. No matter what your level of skill, there are days when you just can't catch a thing. Not long ago I had one of those mornings. Usually I don't write about a big goose egg for that does not make entertaining reading, but there is no denying that it happens.
On this day, I was in the kayak early looking for flounder near Tomoka State Park. Right from the get go, I knew I was pushing my luck, because the water was still too cold. Pressing on, I went to my very best flounder hole and threw my best lure and after an hour and a half I had caught nothing. On most mornings I write this column in my head as I fish, but on this day that thought made me smile -- nothing to write about here. Oh well, I paddled over to the islands east of Tomoka Basin thinking that at least I would get some exercise.
As I moved along, I thought about my promise to you the reader to stow the (bull) and only report the fish I catch or those I see caught. Haven't we all read the fish are tearing it up in a certain spot only to rush there and not get a bite? I know I have.
When I began with this newspaper over eight years ago, I promised not to base my column on information gleaned from phone calls to bait shops and fishing guides. I would not be a part of turning those hard working folks into big fibbers. Who could blame them for trying to drum up a little business?
It is, after all, human nature. Nope, for all of these years I have been truthful about my catch and about those I have seen. If I am guilty of anything, it is of the omission of the occasional trip when I was skunked. Every now and then at a book signing a reader will ask, "How do you catch so many fish?" My answer is always the same. I fish more than you do -- probably a lot more.
Anyhoo, back to my nothing trip. Once I made the spoil islands, I began working some of my favorite spots. After all of these years I have mentally cataloged all of the better places to catch fish in that area. Still throwing my chartreuse shrimp tail jig by 10 a.m., I was patiently waiting for my first hit. Thinking that a change of bait couldn't hurt I spotted the new Lite Beer tail from Grandslam Baits in my bag. That thing is so natural looking it is hard for me to pass up.
Before I slid the Lite Beer soft bait up onto my quarter ounce jig head, I took a second to sharpen the hook. With an emery board I pilfered from my wife's fingernail kit, I gave the hook a couple swipes on each side. I knew it was sharp, because it accidentally stuck into my index finger and drew blood. Soon, I was at a good bar that has a very subtle drop off on one side. When I pitched the jig in there it took off at a right angle as soon as it hit the water. Snook, I cried out loud, but soon enough the fight turned into a match of strength that told me I was connected to a nice redfish. In the cold water, this guy was at his meanest and full of spirit. One run, two runs and then three in quick succession. On the last one it circled the Green Peanut behind me. Since I was seated and couldn't rise, I had to whip the rod around over my head and behind my back like a cowboy would a lariat.
Even with all of that, eventually the 26-inch red drum came to the fish grippers. After I lifted it into the boat and moved to remove the hook, it just fell out. The barb had never penetrated and the only thing holding the fish had been the sharp point of my hook. Any slack or a dull hook and my prize would have gotten away. Happily I began the paddle home without making another cast. I knew it was not a good fishing day and I also knew I had been very fortunate to get the one.
I had to smile at the idea Lana's nail file had salvaged a nothing day.
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.