In an attempt to escape the extreme high tide that has been flooding the northern Halifax, I headed south. As I have talked about in the past, the waters around Sleepy Hollow Park, just south of Spruce Creek and east of U. S. 1, have long held a special fascination for me. It is a beautiful piece of land that once sheltered a motel beneath huge live oaks.
Near the current entrance to the park stood a tiny gas station of the old Florida variety. In an attempt to pull tourists off the busy highway the station had a sign that read: "See the wild monkeys." In fact there was only one tired old monkey in a large cage next to the store.
Once in the late 1960s my cousin had cut off a bit of chewing tobacco from his plug and fed it to the monkey. The thing came alive and began screaming and running around the cage drawing the station owner outside to see what was causing the ruckus. The man believed we were hurting the monkey, but the reason it was acting up was because it wanted more tobacco. We had a good laugh, but the owner didn't see the humor. Each time I visit that place I come away with a good memory.
You may recall it was the first place that I fished from my kayak three years ago. On that day I happened upon a school of bull reds and managed to hook one. I found out I had no clue how to fish from the small Green Peanut and suffered several scratches after being towed through the mangroves by the powerful red drum.
On this trip, I was happy to see that although the tide was high it was somewhat lower than I had been experiencing to the north. Feeling confident, I began paddling south and flipping my chartreuse jig toward the shoreline or at the many oyster bars in the center of the waterway. A 16-inch flounder came to the boat in fairly short order. In a very tight spot that was ringed by mangroves, I had a solid hit and for a few seconds the long run made me think I had a snook.
When that familiar head bobbing motion transferred up my arm I knew I was on with a jack. In that thicket I was in for trouble. Armed with my light rod, I could only watch as the stout jack raced back under the roots of the mangroves. I immediately began to think about which lure I would tie on next for this one was surely lost, but miracles of miracles I managed to coax the fish back into deeper water. At the boat, I released it and carefully checked my line for damage.
Happy to have survived that entanglement, I paddled into open water and just off a bar landed a nice little 19-inch red. By then I had switched to the Grandslam Lite Beer jig tail on a 1/8 oz. lead head. Even though the red hit in open water, I had to be very careful during the fight to keep my 10-pound test line away from the many sharp oysters.
Now, about a mile downstream with the tide running out, I decided to just let the current take me back to my truck. Without having to worry about paddling, I could concentrate on the big redfish that brought me there.
Suddenly, I was on with a bruiser! This is it, I thought. Nope. Another jack had eaten my jig, but this one was much larger. The strength of a jack is always amazing and this one was intent on going north with the strong tide. Good deal!
I would let the jack and the tide take me right back to my truck. After about a quarter mile, the jack may have been wondering why I was not trying to end the battle, but I was sitting back enjoying the ride. At the sandy beach where I had launched, the kayak glided to a stop and the jack now spent was happy just to lay quietly for a moment.
As gently as I could I released the fish and forced some water through its tired gills. As it flipped its tail to leave, I said, "Thanks for the ride."
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.