After the long tow down to the Lopez Fish Camp in Oak Hill, I guided my 16-foot Carolina Skiff to Tiger Shoals in the Southern Mosquito Lagoon.
Each year, as soon as the weather warms, that area calls me for the spotted sea trout that live there. Working just north of the big sand bar, I began throwing a blue and white Zara Spook Junior.
There were jacks in the area crashing on the small schools of baitfish that rode the outgoing tide, but my first hit was a two-foot long ladyfish. After a spirited fight that included two jumps, the lady released itself.
As the sun came up over the Atlantic dunes, small trout began to hit. Pretty good fun, but early on I always hope to take a big sea trout with my top water. As I manned the foot pedal on my trolling motor I made the Spook walk-the-dog in that famous zigzag motion. A couple nice ones took a whack at it, but missed, leaving behind an impressive boil near my lure. After a while I was near the old Coast Guard station and there a good 17-inch trout took the plug.
Once the sun was full up, I switched to my chartreuse shrimp tail jig. In that area, I use it with a 1/8-oz. white lead head jig. The lighter weight keeps the bait from settling into the sea grass so quickly. Back up in Ormond Beach I usually throw a 1/4-oz. jig for there is little grass to deal with. I also like the extra weight for the longer casts it affords. Moving west along the big bar the chartreuse was getting a hit on most every cast, Trout were coming to the boat but all were in the 13 to 14 inch range and not legal to keep.
When the action slowed a bit, I switched to the white and pink Peppermint Crunch from Grandslam Baits. I was reminded that about a year ago, the very first two times I threw that bait, I landed two flounders. I was reminded because on this trip the first time I threw it I had a 15-inch keeper trout.
After that, I went back to catching undersized and by noon the little trout had tired of playing.
Now I moved over west of the clinker islands to look for red fish. Through the years I have spent many an hour stalking reds on those flats. It's always hard work in the afternoon, because of the wind, and this trip was no different. I decided to drift north with the wind, using the push pole only to keep the boat straight. On this day, I never saw a red drum pushing water and, after an hour or so, I began to fish the channels between the islands.
Once more the small trout went at my jigs with a purpose. Good enough I thought, I will take my fun where I find it. Soon a pod of 3 or 4 dolphin came near to feed in the deep channel. When a mullet made one of those relentless jumps for which they are famous, it came down right in the mouth of a dolphin. The 10-inch fish had leaped high and forward and the dolphin played center field like Willie Mays. As the fish landed in that smiling face, the sea mammal seemed to be saying "come to pappa." The hapless mullet was swallowed in an instant. That would have been a great photo, but no one would have been quick enough to capture it.
Soon after, I put the boat back onto the trailer. I had found no reds, but the reason for my journey was sea trout and I had a couple to take home while releasing maybe 30. It was a good day for me, but not so much for the mullet.
Remember to honor dad on Father's Day by getting him a gift at your local bait and tackle shop he can actually use. The pros there will be happy to help.
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.