On a breezy morning, I found myself floating the kayak along the eastern edge of Tomoka State Park.
With the wind out of the west, I had to hug the shoreline for the windbreak. About a half mile north of Gary's Inlet, I had two flounders hit my chartreuse jig and quickly spit it out. No surprise there, I only expect to catch around half of the flounder that bite.
Paddling north in that narrow ribbon of smooth water, I spotted a huge wake headed my way. Something big was bearing down on the green peanut and pushing a lot of water. At first I believed it to be a small dolphin or even a manatee, but as it neared I became convinced it was a very large redfish. With the fish traveling fast, I had to make some rapid calculations. The big red drum was zooming in like a freight train.
With my mind racing to figure where I should cast, I suddenly flashed back to high school and wished I had paid more attention in geometry and trigonometry class. As I watched the huge fish approach, the strange words sine and cosine entered my mind's eye. I am not sure why. As I tried to estimate the speed of the thing I thought about how far in front of the visible wake the fish must actually be swimming. All of this had to be done in a split second. Once I believed I had that worked out, I threw my jig about 10 feet in advance of the pushing water. The jig landed on the back of the bull red.
Instead of being frightened away, the fish made a quick turn and tried to eat the lure from my lousy cast. The splash and boil that resulted was heart stopping and just for an instant it had my jig. Never hooked, the red just mouthed my chartreuse and let it go before continuing on its way south.
It all happened so quickly; I had no time to do much of anything. Wow! I shouted out loud as I watched the wake move away. I'm not sure how big the fish was -- maybe over 20 pounds, maybe over 30? Who knows?
Over at the engine block, I allowed my nerves to calm by hooking a couple small trout that released themselves with no help from me.
Next, I took the long paddle to the north end of Goat Island. Now I was no longer protected from the wind and water was beginning to come into the kayak leaving me with a wet behind. Still I forged on for I was intent on catching a fish dinner.
With the tide way low, I switched to the Grandslam Peppermint Crunch tail and cast near an exposed oyster bar. Almost as soon as it hit the water I felt the telltale bite of a nice redfish. Right away I had to try and get the fish away from the oysters and soon I had it heading for deeper water. As the fight raged on, the fish began to grow and I worried it was going to be oversized. When the big tail flapped the surface I knew this was not going to be a fish dinner for it was surely over the 27-inch maximum legal limit.
As it turned out, I didn't even get the chance to measure it for the line popped. Evidently the fish had rubbed my 10 pound mono on a shell right at the beginning and that was all it took. You may remember I reported missing a big oversized red in the same area not long ago. On this day, I had missed two big boys. Last year most of the reds I caught were in the 20- to 22-inch range, but this year has been decidedly better. The big reds are definitely back in the Halifax. Now, if I could only catch them.
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.