So it’s a gauntlet of manatees? Great. This is what’s running through my mind as I see about fifty manatees laid up, sunbathing and moving about. The darkness of a pre-sun morning didn’t aid the unsettling feeling I had as I slipped my kayak in the water for a long awaited day of fishing. Fortunately, the manatees had been trained by the numerous other kayakers that make their way through there every day and were kind enough to either move out of the way or not surface until I had passed.
Why am I “nervous” when it comes to manatees? Well, it’s only while I’m in a kayak. You know, you’re minding your own business, having a grand old time, casting a line, maybe whistling your favorite tune, quietly paddling (or peddling) along when all of a sudden a huge eruption like an earthquake goes off under your kayak, dropping your heart to your stomach and making you feel as if you’ve seen a ghost. As you can tell, I’m not a fan, but that’s another story.
I had set out for the day with friends Vickie Sallee and Justin Ritchey, in the Merritt Island area in search of redfish, the bigger the better. We had beautiful conditions, with minor wind and good water clarity. I have never seen so many black drum in such a small vicinity, but picky as usual, very cool to see.
One of the highlights of my day was coming up on a particular flat in roughly a foot of water. I could see trout of all sizes scatter as I quietly push poled around, also seeing the occasional redfish. The flat had nice, healthy grass, something that has lacked in my home waters with all the Lake O runoffs, so it was nice to see life moving about. On an edge of a grass and sand bed, a slight dip on the bottom housed a bunch of rat reds and also trout. I was able to sight cast to a red and got him to eat, quickly seeing another follow him to see what he was munching on. I called over to Justin and told him where to cast, which was only a few feet to the left of me, almost right beside my kayak. As he reeled, his bait was just behind the trailing redfish, so I told him to reel, stop, reel, stop, until his plastic was right in front of the reds face. After a brief pause, I watched the red pick up the bait literally next to me and told him to set the hook. Definitely one of the coolest eats I have ever seen, and a double hookup at that.
We set out in some other local waters on another night for some big reds. Not even a few minutes on the water Justin quietly yelled over to stop and listen. To my amazement I heard what sounded like an orchestra of drums going off literally under my kayak, loud and strong enough to vibrate my kayak!!! Big bull reds!! Here are some pics of how our night turned out.
On another day, I set out with Vickie for a relaxing day, in search of some more drums. I’m glad I had the camera because I didn’t put it down, as Vickie took me through redfish class 101 all the way to 401. Her choice bait of the day was Logic Lures Watermelon Red on a weedless setup. I swear before I put down the camera to take some glamor shots of her she had another one hooked!!
One last redfish adventure up in the Merritt Island area waters was for the 2013 KARS Park Fall Redfish Classic, where Justin and I paddled roughly 12 miles in search of…you guessed it, redfish. Along the way we found ourselves in a mini maze of alligators, where we had to zig and zag from getting too close. Near this one particular shore of mangroves, the sand was light and the sun was high, making for a perfect sight casting equation. My first throw on two cruising redfish produced a hookup, again, with the other redfish following – unfortunately Justin wasn’t close to call out the cast for a double hookup. After a quick few pictures and release I re-drifted the flat with two other redfish hookups, all sight casted. What a great day!
On the way back to the checkin point at Kars, Justin and I ran into the biggest gator of the day, which gave us a nice surprise as he slipped into the water from the mangroves just near our kayaks with a splash, luckily the bathrooms were our next stop…phew! Below is a shot of him, someone I wouldn’t want to mess with (although we did give him a few teaser throws!)
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