Not long ago I welcomed loyal reader Randy Allen aboard my 17 foot Polar. Our morning of fishing together had been prompted by his wife, Kathy.
Just after sun up we launched beneath the big bridge on Dunlawton Avenue in Port Orange. Since we had never met, we took a few minutes to get to know each other. Randy is my age and a retired schoolteacher from Indiana. He told me that as a young man he had enjoyed fishing in fresh water, but was now anxious to try the salty version. He and Kathy live in New Smyrna Beach near some of the world's finest inshore fishing, but Randy had never tried it.
"Aah, I will have a clean slate to work with," I thought. That always works best. Sure enough, Randy wanted to know all I had to offer.
The morning was absolutely gorgeous and as we drifted past a crowded Pelican Island, Mother Nature put on quite a display. I always like to spend a few minutes casting between the island and the main boat channel for you never know what may be lurking there. Witness the 65 pound barracuda that Al Houser landed there four or five years ago. On this day we first spotted a pod of manatees in the shallows that were very obviously in the mood to begin a family. Next bat rays about 18 inches across began to surface near the boat. A few hits came as we began to fish our MirrOlures on the surface and soon I landed a jack. Next three dolphins moved in and scattered the jacks, so we decided to move on. As we fired up the Evinrude, a big sea turtle head came out of the water a few feet from the Polar. Lots of creatures there.
A mile south at Miller's Creek we drifted in on the tide and switched to my chartreuse jig. Randy expressed surprise at the light tackle I had provided. We shared a laugh as I related the story of how I came to the area a green freshwater fisherman intent on fishing 30-pound test line with 3-ounce pyramid sinkers. Had it not been for a kindly old gent down at Turtle Mound I don't know how many years it would have taken me to catch on to the need for light tackle in the inshore. Now I was happy to give Randy a big heads up. After a quarter mile, I had a nice keeper spotted sea trout.
As we floated along, we traded stories and I was able to point out the mangrove swamp where the redman had lived. Randy owns my book and knew all about the story of the old naked guy that is the very first chapter in "I Swear The Snook Drowned." We hooked a few more jacks before heading farther south to Spruce Creek.
Early summer usually means lots of jack and bluefish action in that creek, but this time we never even had a hit. With that I motored back to Miller's Creek to try a little bottom fishing. That deep water cut can often provide fun for anyone willing to soak some shrimp.
Before I launched the boat, I had stopped at Donald's Bait and Tackle just west of the bridge for some fresh bait. When I tied the 3/0 red circle hooks onto our lines, I explained to Randy the way to use them. The circle hooks eliminate the need for the old saltwater snatch method of setting the hook. All you need do is allow the fish to begin to swim with the bait and then gently raise the rod tip and reel. Most of the time that hook will catch the corner of the fish's mouth making it easy to remove and better for releasing fish unharmed. Randy commented the hook was rather large for the light tackle, but, as I told him, it was actually a bit small.
Dropping the shrimp down to the hungry bait snatchers made for instant action. Sailor's choice, catfish and a keeper mangrove snapper came up first, and then a fat little sheepshead. Randy marveled at the fish's prominent teeth. In all we caught six species with the last one being the ugly sea robin that he cranked up. We had pretty good fun, but Randy's biggest thrill is still to come. The day he hooks into a big red drum is the day he becomes a saltwater fisherman for life.
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.