Since loyal reader John Gavin moved to the Tampa Bay area he has continued to read this column and keeps me up on what he is catching over on the west coast.
Not long ago he sent me a picture of a small nondescript looking fish that he caught from the Sunshine Parkway Bridge. John was looking for help in identifying the thing and I gave it my best shot. My guess was juvenile tripletail, but I have to tell you I had little confidence in that answer.
After much discussion, it turns out the fish is a cubbyu. If that name is not familiar to you, don't feel bad. The fish is a bottom feeder found on reefs and wrecks throughout Florida and does not grow to be much over eight inches.
Many of us who dive or snorkel have probably seen a cubbyu many times, but did not know the proper name. Next time I see a cubbyu, I will at least know what to call it.
If you fish regularly in the salt or brackish water, you are bound to catch something odd on occasion. I recall catching a long slender sabre fish in the Halifax once and a guitar fish in the Keys, but I don't think I have ever landed a cubbyu.
Flounder fishing has picked up dramatically in the Halifax. I stopped at Ames Park in Ormond Beach where a couple fellows were cleaning a mess of them and they told me that between them both they had caught near 50 during July. I haven't done that well, but lately flounder have been consistent for me.
One morning I caught a nice pair of flounder, but missed at least four more and that sent me back to try for them as soon as I could get away. After a couple days, I had the Green Peanut out in the same spot, but this time the water had changed. Now it had turned a mustard color. I knew immediately what had happened. Somehow the polluted water from the Northern Mosquito Lagoon had been sucked all the way up the Halifax to the Tomoka Basin.
I had seen that same look to the Lagoon water only a week before. Not quite as thick or as dark in the Halifax, but unmistakable. With the water looking so different, I changed my chartreuse jig for one of Grandslam Baits Hot Apple Cider shrimp tails. That was just a hunch but it worked out great. The Apple Cider tail is a clear pink with gold fleck and right away it scored a big old 21-inch flounder. A 16 and 17 incher quickly followed that.
Trout also were around and in a little bay near Goat Island and I caught a pair of keepers. The largest I hooked was about 18 inches and as I lifted it into the kayak, it came loose and fell glancing off the side of the boat and gone.
A few seconds later bad luck turned worse when the 21- inch flounder suddenly found new life and began hopping around in the shallow Peanut. As I swatted at it I almost turned the boat over and sure enough my stuffed flounder dinner made its escape. Jumped right out of the boat. As I sat kicking myself for not putting it on a stringer I may have muttered an unmentionable, but you can never win them all when fishing.
Also on that same morning I had a 30-pound tarpon hit my top water Zara Spook, but the first jump sent the lure flying and the tarpon was gone. Near the end of that trip, I caught and released a 17- inch red drum and, with that, I knew I had caught an inshore grandslam (trout, flounder and red).
I felt some better about the missed fish and the one I allowed to jump out of the kayak. A pair of flounder and a couple trout is plenty fish for one morning anyway. Keeping a close eye on the water, a couple tides later the bad water had cleaned up and was back to the clear brown tinged with green that is normal for the Northern Halifax.
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.