Making the long drive up to Bing's Landing, just south of Marineland, usually pays off with a lot of action.
Big red drum, nice sea trout and the occasional flounder often wait there ready to play. Other fish like jacks, bluefish and ladyfish also provide entertainment.
On this day none of the usual suspects were ready to cooperate. If you haven't fished that area, it consists of a huge oyster flat that lies just west of the Intracoastal Waterway. The big shallows run for miles and, unless you know the channels between the oysters and sandbars, boating there can be hazardous. I have some experience there but not enough to correctly map the bottom.
The main reason I was there on this day was because of the flood tides we had been experiencing. Normally a very high tide does not lead to good marsh fishing, but at the very least I knew I would be able to navigate without having to get out and push. Sure enough, once I began fishing the place was dead.
I encountered a school of very small jacks that continuously ate my jig tails without ever hooking up. After each cast I had to replace my soft bait. Moving along, I made my way to a spot where I had caught trout in the past, but after about 50 casts I had only one small fish to show for it. The only trout that came in was about the size of a medium banana. Not the reason I had made the trip.
Now drifting with the current, I began using all sorts of lures, but nothing was working. I even went to a purple bass worm, but as I slowly retrieved it, I could see a small blowfish eating away at it and by the time I got it back to the boat, there wasn't much left. That scene was the final insult and I fired the Evinrude to head for the trailer.
Enough is enough, but it's not easy leaving when you haven't quite finished fishing, so I made one last stop at a pass within sight of the boat ramp. The trolling motor put me behind the spoil island and with the thought in my head "dance with the one that brung you," I baited with my old favorite chartreuse shrimp tail. After just a couple casts I threw near a drop off and the boil told me it was a good hookup. The big redfish streaked away as my rod arced while I tried to keep the fish away from the oysters. Fishing in oysters with 10-pound mono and no leader is living dangerously and I knew it.
The reel sizzled as the fish pulled line off the spool. This has to be a horse, I thought. Back and forth we went. Such brute power! By then the battle was reaching epic proportions and the longer it lasted, the less my chances were of ever landing this fish. It was a cool day, but I began to sweat. Finally after what seemed like a lifetime, it came to the net. It was quite a surprise to see that my foe was actually not that large.
As I lifted the 20-inch fish into the boat I marveled at the struggle it had put up. In my life I have caught hundreds of redfish and maybe over a thousand, but none fought harder than this little guy. It was lip hooked and tired but in good condition. After gently removing the hook, the red made one last flop to try and escape, but it had expended all its energy in the fight. I lifted it up to my face and held it still. I made sure we had eye contact and held the stare for quite a while. I then said to the fish "OK, you know I caught you and I know I caught you. We'll just keep this between us." With that I released the stout little red over the side.
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.