This website is to promote all things kayak fishing, and that includes guest blogs to share their stories. This is a piece from my good friend, Tim Stouder, on one epic day of fishing…
I decided it was time to track down some flounder in Lake Ponte Vedra (AKA Guana lake). I hit the road at 5:30 in the morning heading to my new favorite bait store, Rick’s Valley Bait and Tackle. When I arrived, I was greeted with the bad news that they were all out of mud minnows. So I contemplated the whole strategy I planned the night before and decided I would just get some live shrimp and see if could get some reds, trout, or flounder to hit the shrimp and artificial.
Bait purchased so I hit the road again heading to my destination. Once I arrived at the dam side of the lake, I contemplated my strategy one last time as I grabbed my cast net thinking if I could just grab a dozen or so finger mullet I could get back on the flounder trail. That thought process lasted all of about 30 seconds as I said “screw it” I am going after big trout. To make this new plan a success I would need to find myself a couple of lady fish. As most of you know cut lady fish is a killer bait for reds back in the creeks. Don’t get me wrong, in the lake it will catch some reds as well; however, it is super juice for big trout in the lake.
I set off drifting down the east bank of the lake in search of lady fish, and I start throwing a #8 Skitter walk in mullet pattern. After about 20 minutes, I finally hook up with a nice 9 inch lady finger. Throw the lady fish in the cooler and set off heading north in the lake to one of my trout spots. For those that don’t know about the lake, it is truly a unique environment as it is a salt water lake, and there is no structure what so ever to hold fish. Fishing in the lake is based upon experience and figuring out the feeding patterns of the fish, since there is no structure to hold them.
I get to my spot and deploy my Wang Anchor in about 3 feet of water. I grab the lady fish and commence to dice it up into 1 inch chunks. I take the head off and place it on 1/8 oz. Red TS Sureset Jig on a Penn Fierce 3000 paired to a Gander Mountain 6’ 6” Tournament Series Medium/fast rod with 12 lbs. braid (rod 1). I cast out about 30 yards in front of me with rod 1 and reach behind me to grab my Qualia NLF 30 with 10 lbs. braid on a Abu Garcia 6’ 6” Vengeance rod (rod 2). As I start to bait up the popping cork on rod 2, rod 1 doubles over and the drag starts screaming. The fight lasted all of 30 seconds as hind sight is 20/20. When I placed the head on the jig, I figured it was too big and not enough hook was showing. I retrieve the line and cut a little of the bait off and send it back out to the same spot. I grab rod 2 load up a live shrimp and send it towards the middle of the lake. I give the cork a couple pops and the fish takes the bait and starts running. I set the hook and, low and behold, it’s a nice sized lady fish. I get her into the yak and place her on ice. Now I am set for the whole day of fishing.
A couple minutes pass by and I am looking at what appears to be the first true big monster of the day. She was an amazing 23+ inch trout. First fish caught around 7:50 in the morning. For the next couple of hours I proceeded to catch over 20 trout in the 17-23+ inch range (combination arties, shrimp and cut bait). I kept one 19 and 17 inch trout for dinner. As the day was getting hotter, I knew the trout would be moving in and out of the shallows assaulting the bait in the shallows. So I started casting to what I like to call the ‘mud line’ (the area in the lake where the hard packed bottom and the silt merge together). The first piece of bait didn’t last 2 minutes out there before the rod doubles over again. This time the trout wins as she came straight at the yak and wrapped around my stake out pole. Rough estimate is somewhere between the 23 and 25 inch range. Of course she broke me off.
I retied the same 1/8oz. red Sureset TS jig and loaded up with another piece of bait and launched it towards the mud line. I start working the popping cork with shrimp in the deeper water and start tearing up the rat reds. In about an hour’s time, I landed 15-20 rats from 9 inches to 15 inches. It was getting time for me to decide to move to my second spot when rod 1 starts screaming again. This time it is a nice red at 23 inches. In the cooler she goes. When I was loading the red in the cooler I notice some bait coming out of the water in the deeper area about 10 yards from my popping cork. No sooner I get the red in the cooler then my cork disappears. I set the hook on another nice 20 inch red. I get the fish to the yak and release her to get bigger.
I load up rod 1 with cut bait and send it out to the deeper water hoping for a nice Guana monster red. Rod wasn’t in the water for 5 minutes and it doubles over. I set the hook and start reeling in the biggest trout of the day. I get her right to the boat and put the net in the water to get her and she launches airborne (first time in a real long time I have seen that), rod tension too loose and she throws the hook. I bait up again and send it out to the same spot. Bait wasn’t soaking for another 10 minutes and it doubles over again. I get the trout to the boat and it’s another 23+ incher.
I head to my second spot and get on a decent school of lower slot reds (18-19 inchers). I sat in that spot and caught about 15 reds in about 1.5 hours time with a ton of dink trout. Off in the distance I hear some grumbling and realize that a storm is coming. Oh wait, it’s not heading to me! However, at this point, I decided to call it a day out on the lake and head back to the dam. Once at the dam, I stake out directly in front of the dam approximately 20 yards behind the sand bar. I put out my last piece of cut bait and reach behind me to grab my 17MR C eyes. I get the rod and unhook the lure for its first cast of the day when rod 1 doubles over once again. I land another nice 23+ inch trout. At this point I almost called it quits. Man, I am glad I decided to give it another whirl.
So for those that decided to read this whole thing, here is your fishing tech tip for the day. There are several ways to work the Mirrodine 17MR. Slow steady retrieve, slow retrieve with single twitch every now and then; twitch twitch steady retrieve repeat, twitch retrieve at high rate. These are my ways and on this day I chose the twitch retrieve at high rate. The reason being is I was casting to the far side of the sand bar and reeling back to me. I wanted the lure to dive fast and stay down as close to the bottom of the sand bar as possible. Remember earlier I said the trout like to stay deep and go shallow to ambush bait. Well that is the tactic I was looking for at the dam. On my second cast I hook a little ladyfinger and I let her flop around and get off as I didn’t want nor need any more bait. The retrieve I used for the lady fish was twitch twitch slow retrieve repeat. I wanted the pause in the retrieve for the lady fish to take interest. Once I got the lure back in I cast as far over the sand bar in that area where I caught the lady fish and worked it as fast and hard as I could with the twitch retrieve method. On my very first cast I get hooked up with another nice 22+ inch trout. This went on for the next 40 minutes to an hour with another few trout landed in the 23+inch range.
So for the day I landed 5 22+inch trout another 20+ in the 17-19 inch range. I landed over 20 rat reds with another 15+ in the lower slot and 3 lady fish. On the water at 640am and off at 3pm.