A Redfishing Trip to Remember
By CAPT. MEL BERMAN, 970-WFLA
Over the years there are a few fishing adventures that trigger some great memories. One of them occurred in the mid 90s in the productive environs of Charlotte Harbor. My host that day was one of the top Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor fishing guides, Captain Chris Mitchell.
Making the mandatory bait stop, Chris had a bit of difficulty locating the size and quantity of live pilchards required for working those pristine back bay areas. Chris said he was seeing bait but, for some reason, they seemed “spooky” and didn’t respond to the chum. Finally, after several tries, Chris managed to position his boat so that the chum mixture of bread and canned jack mackerel drifted back squarely into a bubbling school of what looked like decent sized bait.
First stop was a large L-shaped bar in open waters across Gasparilla Sound. At the crook of the bar was a mass of small baitfish running for their lives. Large snook were slashing at them, making those loud splashing, crashing noises that quicken the pulse of any backwater angler.
Flipping out a handful of our chum baits, Chris quickly got the undivided attention of these feeding frenzied snook. Virtually each cast yielded a “good pull,” and we marveled at the beauty and graceful jumps of these magnificent Charlotte Harbor sportfish. Slipping a couple of upper-20-inch keepers in the box, we the set out to wrestle with yet another skinny water favorite, the redfish.
Working our way along the mangrove edges, we spotted a patch of “nervous water” just a few yards out from the trees. Flipping a bait into the area, both Chris and I hooked up with a handsome pair of reds. As Chris began chumming with a handful of greenbacks, he noticed a great deal of turbulence at the point of the mangrove island. It was a massive school of much larger reds, eating their way towards us. The fish were attacking everything in sight… even leaves floating on the surface.
All it took was just a single handful of chum bait to make the big hungry school change course towards our vessel. As they ganged up all around us, I tossed a topwater 7-M MirrOlure into the mass of churning fish. I didn’t even have the pleasure of working the plug. As soon as it hit the water, I had a monster 34-inch, bright orange colored redfish attached to the lure.
As I skirmished with the lunker, I could see Chris was also hooked up, struggling with a twin to my redfish. It simply didn’t matter what we threw at these big boys. As soon as the bait hit the water, they were on it. I thought at that moment that it would be a great place to do a commercial for any fishing lure. It didn’t matter how ineffective the plug was on other occasions, these reds were striking everything in sight. Chris even tried putting the label from a lure on a bare hook, and a monster redfish struck the instant it hit the water.
We caught and released literally dozens of the big red drum until our arms and backs ached. But it all was a labor of love… a very satisfying trip… the kind of rare outing that keeps us die-hard fishing “junkies” coming back for more. And certainly, this trip will always be remembered as one of my all time favorite fishing adventures.