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Redfish to Keep, Guaranteed

Openers April 2012

Super fishing guide that I am, I can take you tomorrow to a spot where you’ll catch plenty of redfish, guaranteed.

And you can take some home for the freshest fish dinners anywhere. The usual size and bag limits don’t apply. No fishing license necessary.

You may have deduced by now that this must be some sort of u-catch-em place. You’re right. It’s Florida’s only catch-your-own redfish site. Never heard of the Inland Ocean ponds? We hadn’t either.

A friend Doyle Cloud and I visited there a few days ago. We wound up catching and keeping a half-dozen redfish, a couple big tilapia and a pompano.

Fishermen pay for them by the inch, at various prices (50 cents for redfish).

When I tossed out a jig and connected twenty minutes later with a good red, I tried to imagine myself fishing in the wild. Actually, the strike and fight are identical. I could see this operation as good family activity now and then.

Mike McMaster, president of the mariculture company, emphasized to us that many folks get their first taste of Florida fishing at the ponds, sparking a lifelong interest in recreational fishing.

And there are occasional experienced anglers who stop by to catch some fish that had eluded them in the wild. “We’ve even had guys tow their boats into the parking lot and walk in to catch fish,” McMaster said.

That would be better, I’d say, than ending your fishing trip at the supermarket, as so many joke about doing after a tough day.

Some anglers deride pond fishing as “shooting fish in a barrel.” Maybe so, but these are four million-gallon barrels. Sometimes the fish are slow to hit. It was fun to experiment with different offerings, such as jigs, spoons and scented materials. (I forgot to try topwaters.)

The water, importantly, is as unpolluted as it can get, drawn up from a well 400 feet deep.

Your cost for the fish you keep runs around $5 a pound, which is less than market pricing for comparable products, and way less than what you pay per fish for your trips in the wild, not that they’re the same of course.

Lots of us nowadays release most reds we catch from the wild. The pond gives us a chance, perhaps, to eat a few and help hold down pressure on wild populations.

It’s a low-key operation at Oak Hill, a half-hour south of Daytona Beach.

Take a look at InlandOcean.net for details and interesting research info about mariculture.