This past Friday started off pretty early for me. I had a 2 a.m. alarm to get up and go into work on what was supposed to be a day off. Unfortunately with my job, that’s just how it works sometimes. I managed to get what was needed to be done by 9 a.m., so I thought to myself: why waste the rest of the day doing nothing. I checked the weather report for the Gulf of Mexico and the report was calling for winds SW at 5 to 10mph with protected waters smooth to a light chop. It was perfect weather for getting out on the flats in the big bend area to chase some spotted sea trout and redfish.
I called up my buddy, Stacy Croft, to see if he was up for some saltwater therapy, and just like that the gear was packed and in the truck, and we were on the road headed west towards the Gulf. Unfortunately, it takes us about an hour and a half to get to Horseshoe Beach. You wouldn’t think that the weather could change that much in that short of a time period, but this is Florida. You blink twice and the weather has already changed a few different times. It seemed that the closer we got to the Gulf, the more the wind seemed to pick up. We finally made it to Horseshoe, and we drove down to the kayak launch that looks out onto the flats. Yep, you guessed it, white caps as far as the eye could see. With the wind blowing around 15 to 20mph with gusts up to 25mph, the flats looked more like the beach with 2 to 3 foot breakers. Great conditions for surfing, but not so much for kayak fishing.
So Stacy and I decided that since we were already down there, we would look to see if there was anywhere we could get out of the wind and still do some fishing. I broke out the waterproof chart for the Big Bend area, and we found a creek that looked promising. We jumped back in the truck and headed off in the direction of a place called Shired Island. Granted, I had never fished this area before, but I’ve heard from some friends that it was a good place to catch some reds and trout. We made it to the boat launch and took a quick look around. It was just as we hoped it would be, protected from the wind. We unloaded our Old Town Kayaks Predator 13 and Predator MX from the back of the truck onto a nice little beach launch. We got all of our gear set up in the yaks, and off we went to explore what Shired Island had to offer. As we paddled around exploring the creek, I started to notice some of the features that I usually look for when fishing for redfish; a lot of oyster beds and rock outcroppings along with feeder creeks. I broke out my Okuma Helios rod and Helios reel and started casting as I poled along in my Predator MX.
It wasn’t very long and I saw what I was looking for, tailing reds feeding along the oyster beds in about a foot of water. I maneuvered my Old Town Predator MX up into the grass just close enough to the oyster beds so I could try and make a perfect cast, hoping to entice one of these feeding beauties to take my Gulp shrimp lure. I made a few casts, but couldn’t entice any of the reds to take my lure. They eventually got their fill of whatever they were feeding on, and disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared. I then moved along to another set of oyster beds to see if I could find another redfish that might be hungry, and as I was poling along, up pops another tail about 10 feet in front of my yak. This was by far one of the biggest redfish I’d ever seen tailing so I set up again along the grass line. I made a perfect cast about 5 feet in front of the redfish so I could work the Gulp shrimp back to her. I get the bait just in front of her and let it sit for a second. As soon as it drops, I see the redfish move forward, and I see my line get tight and start to move away. I went to set the hook and all I heard was the sound of my drag and then my line went slack. In a matter of seconds it was over.
I had just respooled the reel the night before with some new FINS Braid, and had loosened the drag on the reel. I’d forgotten to tighten my drag back down on my Helios reel, and instead of going on an epic sleigh ride, I stood there in my Predator MX frustrated. It was a very valuable lesson learned, and you can bet I’ll never let that mistake happen again. Stacey and I fished for a little while longer and picked up a couple of small trout to save our day. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief of the 40” redfish that could have been.
We’ll definitely be making another pilgrimage to Shired Island in search of those tailing redfish and some more saltwater therapy very soon.