From the day I arrived here some 45 years ago, the little peninsula at the end of 11th Street in Holly Hill was one of my favorite fishing spots.
I loved to go into the tangle of palmetto, cabbage palm and scrub oak to escape the urban sounds of autos and busses on nearby U.S. 1. There I could fish the Halifax without ever seeing a car or truck.
Because of the rare seclusion, it was also a popular spot with lovers who could meet there instead of driving to more rural areas. Strewn about the place were beer cans and whiskey bottles and latex birth control items. The sandy road had holes large enough to keep any small car from entering. In short the point of land was a mess.
Over the years a bridge to the barrier island was often discussed, but nothing came of it. Finally the city of Holly Hill began to reclaim the land and today it is a thing of beauty.
If you have never been to Sunrise Park, it lies at the point where LPGA Boulevard and Riverside Drive intersect. There is a great walking-jogging course that is called The Life Trail that includes stops for exercise and information along its length. At the south end of the park there is a boat ramp and a short fishing pier and on the north end a longer pier stretches almost out to the Intracoastal Waterway boat channel. There are restrooms; a playground and ample parking with the entire place immaculately cared for by Holly Hill Parks.
Not long ago I walked out onto the shorter south pier and jigged up a pair of nice 17-inch flounder in about a half hour. That kind of success calls for a return, so a couple days later I was back to try the longer pier. I arrived at around 8:30 a.m. (late for me) and found action right away. With the tide running in strongly, I pitched my Grandslam Lite Beer shrimp tail jig into the current and landed two keeper trout of the three I caught. The 1/8 oz. lead head jig came back to me so fast that I could barely take up the slack and when I did a trout was usually already on. Pretty good fun!
Out at the end of the pier I saw something crashing into finger mullet and made a cast. It was easy to see the predator had hit the bait then circled back to pick up any stunned or injured fish. I knew that it was a pretty good jack and switched to the chartreuse tail to try and hook up. Just like shooting ducks, I had to lead the fish correctly and my jig splashed down about two feet in front of the wake. Bam! The jig barely hit the water and we were on. This was a jack of about four pounds and you know one like that can pull like a ten pound lesser fish. After a long fight the moment of truth came when I tried to hoist the fish up and over the wooden railing. That worked out and the jack was mine.
After a few days I returned to the north pier and found the action had slowed, but still caught two more flounders in a short time. In three trips, I had only been on the boards at Sunrise Park for less than two hours total and had caught two keeper trout, a big jack and four flounders. I will take that anytime. On the third morning a fellow fisherman told me he had broken off on a big tarpon before I arrived. Each day there were jacks busting up the bait but not always within casting distance. I would advise all to give Sunrise Park a try. It is one of those overlooked jewels that sits right in town.
My congratulations to the river city of Holly Hill for a job well done. It was a good place to fish when I arrived nearly half a century ago but now it is even better.
On Saturday, Sept. 28, the Marine Discovery Center of New Smyrna Beach will host The Hands Across The Lagoon event to show concern for the recent plight of The Mosquito Lagoon. Supporters will join hands across the South Causeway bridge (State Road 44) and kayaks and canoes will link on the water below. For more info call (386) 428-4828.
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.