After the torrential rain at the beginning of this month, I was very curious to see how the water quality in the Tomoka Basin area fared.
Just before the monsoons, the fishing had been gangbusters. I had been nailing redfish on a steady basis and having a heck of a lot of fun.
Over the years, I have found too much fresh water runoff causes a decrease in salinity and a drastic drop in my fish take.
With that in mind, I struck out just after sunup in the Green Peanut.
Right away, I noticed that although it was nearing dead low tide, the water was high enough to be at flood stage. The color had changed from a nice clear green to that of the weak tea that you might find in a Chinese restaurant. I was less than confident. As I moved along, I saw something feeding just off the end of an island and made a cast.
Sure enough, a small red picked up my chartreuse jig with a sharp jerk, but was never hooked.
Now I felt somewhat better about my chances. At least something was eating. Paddling further, I soon was at an old favorite spot and after a half dozen casts I was on with a feisty 20-inch red drum.
I had only been on the water 30 minutes and I already had my red. Now let's see what else the fish gods might offer.
Over the next two hours, I didn't land a fish, but had several good hits.
Finally I came upon a spot where a school of small sea trout were holding and managed to catch and release a pair.
After that I switched to the Grandslam Bait Light Beer shrimp tail. I have really become a big fan of that bait and usually go to it as my second choice.
Right away, I landed a 15- inch keeper trout and smiled as I added it to my stringer. That's lunch, I thought. Soon I found myself back in the same place where I had landed the 20-incher.
After a long cast, something picked up the Light Beer on splash down, but dropped it right away. I tried to set the hook, but when I did the jig picked up a clump of moss from the bottom. Anxious to get my lure back in play, I began reeling it rapidly back to the boat. The jig was skipping along the surface and just before I lifted it from the water a huge explosion happened six feet from the bow of the kayak. Evidently the predator that had tasted my lure on splash down had been following it back to the boat.
Whatever it was hit with such a force and so close by I was startled. My first thought was I must have foul hooked one of the dolphins that were feeding nearby. It zoomed past and partially under the boat and soon my limber little 7 foot rod was bent in a tight circle around the point of my kayak as the thing went by. With the rod straining to the point where I was gritting my teeth waiting for it to break, the line was so tight it hummed like a banjo string. The drag on my small reel sang a tortured song. I knew something was going to give, but then the fish rolled and I could see the big double hand size tail of a redfish.
I knew this fish was near 20 pounds and would be hard to land with my 10- pound mono. Luckily it began to tire as it towed my kayak around the basin.
As it slowed, I even began to think I might catch the thing. That was not to be. After about 12 minutes, the hook pulled free and the big red slowly moved off. What a battle!
The red had to be about 36 inches and managing to land a yard of redfish on my little tackle would have been a major accomplishment. It was very wide and fat and my 20-pound guess may not have been far off.
The good news is twofold. First, the rain has not yet harmed the fishing and, second, that big boy is still out there waiting for the next angler.
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.