So I’m really late in reporting this trip. It’s not like I’ve been really busy or anything…I just haven’t gotten around to writing it. Anyways…
I was able to get a few days off of work in July and my dad drove over with the kayaks. We made plans to head south to Port St. Joe for a couple of days of fishing. So after I finished triangulating a few deer in the morning, my dad and I took off to get in some kayak fishing.
I realized on our way down that this would be my first time going back to Port St. Joe since I landed my big tarpon from the kayak. Though I had no real desire to have a repeat of that day, I actually looked forward to trying to land another King from the yak. I also brought the snorkel gear and pole spear in hopes of getting to shoot a few mullet while we were there.
We arrived right around lunch time to discover that the tide was almost completely out. It was also somewhere between center-of-the-earth hot and hot as hell outside. So we ended up spending quite a bit of time in the various tackle stores and since I hadn’t seen a saltwater tackle store in months, I ended up spending far more money than anticipated.
Once it got late enough, we checked into the motel and got ready to go fish. We decided we’d try the State Park on our first afternoon for trout and reds. After launching the kayaks and paddling out to the grassbeds and I noticed something was different than usual. Not only was there quite a bit of floating grass in the water, but the water was quite cloudy. The floating grass is the result of prop chop from people who fail to grasp the concept that you shouldn’t run your boat so shallow. The cloudiness, however, was most likely from the absurd amount of rain we’d received from tropical storm Debbie weeks before.
There was actually so much floating grass that topwater fishing was just about out of the question. I tried using various other things, but unfortunately nothing was seeming to work. It seemed like it was still a bit too early in the afternoon for the bite to pick up, so I decided to anchor up and see if I could shoot any mullet. With the GoPro strapped to my head and spear in hand, I swam around the grassbeds in search of the fish. It only took a few minutes to start running into them and I managed to shoot 3 before the sun got too low in the horizon to see well. The cloudy water didn’t help either. I -should- have had some awesome videos of spearing fish, but I managed to turn on the camera every time I missed, and turned it off just before a successful shot.
I climbed back in the yak and gave trout fishing another try. I -finally- managed two small trout just as the sun was setting. Unfortunately, the State Park closes at sunset…which is right about the time the bite should pick up. So we left earlier than I wanted to in order to avoid getting locked in the park overnight.
The next morning we work up late (whoops) and didn’t get out on the water until about 9. We went to a different spot in the bay and gave it another try. Again, I feel like we were there at the wrong time. It’s been so hot recently that the fish aren’t really biting except for -very- early and -very- late. I tried, and tried, and tried to catch trout without the slightest bit of luck. There were, however, HUNDREDS of mullet swimming around, so I broke out the snatch hook and proceeded to put a few in the cooler. While looking for another school, I noticed something big swimming along the grassbeds. Upon getting closer, I could see it was about a 3ft Bonnet Head shark. The only thing I had rigged up was my snatch hook and well….I couldn’t resist….
It was a longer fight than I anticipated to be honest. I suppose I was hooked up for maybe 20 seconds before the line broke. I don’t know what I would have done with a foul hooked shark…but I guess I would have crossed that bridge when I came to it. Still, it was nice to finally hear my drag sing.
Later that afternoon we gave the State Park another try. We hadn’t been fishing longer than maybe 30 minutes when I heard thunder in the distance. What had been a little puffy cloud moments before and exploded into a monstrosity of a storm that appeared to slowly be working its way our direction. July in Florida. Afternoon storms are to be expected.
|Calm before the storm
We anchored up and waited to see what the storm was going to do. I watched a funnel cloud form and disappear again as the storm gradually made its way toward us. Still not convinced it was coming -directly- at us, we waited a bit longer and I snatched a few more mullet. Finally, it had gotten late enough in the day that we chose to try and get a bit of fishing done, even with the storm that close.
It wasn’t a long paddle from where we’d been anchored up, but I didn’t even get a chance to cast before that all too familiar gust of cold wind slapped into us.
Time to go…
Within less than a minute, we were facing a lovely 2-3ft chop in the bay. And since we were in kayaks, that means I was practically swimming. For some bizarre reason, the wind was actually at our backs on the way to the truck. This was a strange phenomenon that I think I’ve encountered maybe one or two other times in my entire life.
The next morning I woke up excited to get out early and finally get on the trout bite. I looked out the window to see…Rain. Lots and lots of rain.
It rained all morning. All the way past lunch, in fact. Unable to spend another second in the motel room, we opted to brave getting a little wet and launch the yaks in the Gulf to try and catch King. The weather really wasn’t cooperating, but at least the Gulf was flat. Unfortunately, after trolling plugs for over half an hour, we noticed a complete absence of fish. While we’d been offshore, the swells had actually picked up and I was forced to practically surf the kayak into shore. By some miracle, I didn’t flip. My dad, however, wasn’t quite so lucky and got turned sideways by a wave before going over. Luckily, we were able to gather everything that fell out and suffered nothing more than some soaked clothes.
That evening we opted to fish closer to the city of Port St. Joe. We launched the yaks and I immediately spotted out a school of tailing reds. I broke a new speed record getting over to the school and began casting to them. My first cast was almost perfect. And…
I made a second cast. Same result. Third cast. Fourth and so on. I was practically hitting them on the head. I switched up lures. Same result. Went through my entire tackle box with the exception of my Cobia jig and still nothing.
I paddled a bit closer and realized why I wasn’t hooking them.
They weren’t Reds at all, but rather a school of Cow Nose Rays.
Since the last thing I’d thrown at them was a DOA shrimp and I was too lazy to switch it up, I began fishing with it. Honestly, I almost never throw DOA’s. I’d never had exceptional luck with them, so they aren’t really my go-to lures. It seemed, however, that this day it was exactly what the trout wanted. In the next few hours I managed several nice trout including one right around 22 inches.
I switched to topwater just before dark and had a bit of success including 2 bluefish and almost caught a shark that wasn’t any longer than my lure. The fish were all relatively deep (about 5-10 ft). This was most likely due to the brutal heat.
So my 2012 Port St. Joe trip wasn’t the most successful I’ve ever had, but it was still a blast. I grow tired of chasing bass and bluegill so it was great to finally get into some saltwater fish again. Maybe next time I make it back the weather will cooperate, the water won’t be so dirty, and there won’t be quite so much prop chop.