The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Category: Spanish Mackerel (page 1 of 2)

Smack Attack

Chug, chug, chug…Chug, chug, chug

The bright yellow topwater lure slowly but surely made its way back to the boat, each ‘chug’ sending ripples of water outward in the mirror flat water. The sun had just broken over the horizon and its early morning tendrils shone through the nearby pines on the shoreline to dance on the bay.

The wind had yet to come up, so the only sounds to be heard was the quiet whirring of the trolling motor and the rhythmic ‘chug’ of my lure. But that rhythmic chug was abruptly broken.

A splash, followed by the tug on the line and the screaming of the drag ripped apart the early morning calm. The fight was on.

But what I didn’t know was what was on the end of my line. Surely not some trout, I thought as the fish continued to take line. I was fishing too deep honestly. What in the world was it? A small jack crevalle? A red?

After a few minutes of fighting I got my first glimpse of silver under the pale green waters of St. Joe bay. It was a Spanish Mackerel. And a big one at that. The picture doesn’t do it justice, and please excuse the hair…

I generally don’t view Spanish as noteworthy unless I’m writing about a fish fry, but this one was a big one. I never measured it, nor weighed it. But there was a brief discussion with my dad as to whether or not I had a small King.

With a quick tail grab, the hefty fish was in the boat, and thrown on ice. I wanted desperately to fill the cooler with these guys, so as soon as my lure was free, it was back out there, chugging away.

And once again, on my next cast, it only took a few chugs before another monster Spanish attacked the lure. This time the fish went skyward, shaking his toothy head and ripping line back off the reel. But unfortunately, as quickly as the fight started, it ended. That all too familiar “blip” when your heart sinks and you know you’ve been cut off. I reeled up a lureless line and said goodbye to a favorite lure of mine. Luckily it died doing its job and wasn’t lost in grass or some ill-placed tree.

As my luck would have it, I didn’t have another lure just like it. It was the only one of its kind I had in the tackle box. I tried tying on very similar lures, but never had the same kind of luck again. Topwater is always exciting, and I found that big Spanish on the surface are quite the thrill. Over the years I’d actually forgotten how much fun it can be to catch these toothy critters. Maybe next time I can land a few more (with a thicker leader), and make the most of a good fish fry.

My First King Mackerel From The Kayak

Well…I did it. I’d been trying since early May and I was finally successful this morning at landing a King Mackerel from the kayak.

Got out to the beach at 0530 this morning and launched. It was a little choppy right off the bat, but wasn’t too bad. The wind began to pick up once the sun got a little higher and blew right out of the north which pushed the yak further and further offshore. After wrestling with my sabiki rig for close to a decade, I managed to catch one live cigar minnow. The rig was promptly lost on a Spanish with the next cast.

Unfortunately my live Cig was eaten by a remora after only a few minutes. With it gone, I switched to frozen cigs and slow trolled for about an hour. I proceeded to catch nothing on the dead cig so I switched to a red and white diving lure. Over the course of my fishing career, I’d only caught one King with a lure, and that was my very first one that I mentioned in a previous post.

I dragged the lure straight back to shore about 1/2 mile until I reached the second sand bar. I paddled just about as hard as I could so that the lure could dive properly. Just a few seconds before I gave up trolling, I heard the sound I’d been waiting all summer to hear; The drag screaming off my King rod. I quickly hit ‘play’ on the camera, and recorded my (very short) fight.

And that was it. The rod I was using was a bit overkill so there wasn’t much of a fight. After all, it was the same rod that I pulled a 100lbs Tarpon in with in under 20 minutes. It also didn’t help that the fish came straight to the boat. Next time I may switch it up to my usual light tackle. I also noticed that I’m in need of a bigger gaff. I just about got bit on the hand and in the knee while pulling that fish in the boat.

Since I had nothing to put the King in, I paddled back to shore to load him in the cooler in the truck. Unfortunately, the swells had picked up and there were 3-4ft breaking waves right on the beach so re-launching was out of the question. We called it a day and loaded the yaks back up around 0830. The fish weighed in right at 15lbs and fried up fantastically for dinner this evening.

 Landing a King in the yak with me was a pretty big goal of mine and it felt great to finally do it. Now I get to sit back and scheme for my next challenge. I’m thinking Cobia from the yak?

Spanish on the Fly

After our success during the kayak tournament, my dad and I decided to give it another go in the Gulf. This time, however, I decided to bring only my fly rod and a big rod for Cobia.

Once again, we arrived at the beach just before sun rise and found that it was very calm. We soon had the yaks in the water and I began looking for the schools of spanish that we had seen two days prior. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any. On Saturday, the Spanish were all over the place. It almost didn’t matter where one cast. This day, however, they were few and far between. I decided that my best bet to land a Spanish on the fly would be to troll. I cast my 5 wt out to the side of the yak, stuck the rod in the holder, and went about paddling up and down the beach. It didn’t take long before my rod was doubled over and I began fighting a fish. Almost immediately upon hook up, the fish took out drag and I learned the hard way to keep my knuckles clear of the reel handle. After a few minutes of fighting, I discovered that I didn’t have my first Spanish hooked up on the fly rod. Instead, it was a Ladyfish.

They still put up a very good fight. The fight got rather interesting when my drag decided to fail. I may have had my drag set too loose, but when the fish finished making a long run, the reel backlashed and turned into a horrible nightmare. Fly line, much like other line or rope, tends to defy all laws of physics and can wrap itself around things in the most impossible ways. This was the case with my reel as I cursed at it in an attempt to untangle the mess. Meanwhile, my Ladyfish was busy attempting to wrap the rest of the line around my rudder directly behind me. After a few minutes I was forced to pull the fish into the boat by hand, release it, disassemble my reel, untangle the mess, and reassemble it.

With my reel now fixed, I went back to trolling and soon had another Ladyfish on. I passed my dad as he trolled the opposite direction of me and he told me that he had almost been spooled a few minutes prior. He said something grabbed his fly, started peeling line, and the hook just popped out when he was through over half his backing.

It wasn’t long after this that I hooked, and finally landed, my first Spanish on the fly rod. It was satisfying to me in that I wasn’t trolling for it. I had finally found a small school of Spanish and I was able to cast into the school and give the fly a few strips before the fish took it. After snapping a quick picture I let the fish go because I didn’t really want to clean more fish.

To my dismay, I watched as the fish took a nose dive, sunk like a rock to the bottom, and flipped upside down…dead as a hammer. I have a problem with people wasting meat and this kinda upset me. I could see the fish rolling slightly in the surf about 10 ft below the yak. I grabbed my cobia rod with the big jig, and dropped it right underneath the boat. I knew it was a long shot, but I gave it a try and to my shock, I snatched the fish right off the bottom and brought it back to the boat. I could never do it again if I tried, and I’m still kicking myself for not taking a picture of -that-.

About an hour and a few fish later, I noticed what looked like a big boat wake a few hundred yards off the beach. I knew, however, that there had been no boats that morning so I started paddling towards it. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a big school of Menhaden. I started casting the Cobia jig into the school in hopes that -something- would pick it up. I was rather surprised that absolutely nothing touched it. Something had the school balled up on the surface, but they weren’t interested in a big eel jig. I was kinda tired from the paddle out, so I flipped my fly back out behind the boat and started trolling. I trolled all the way back close to shore and around for about 15 minutes without a hook up. I decided to change flies since that one was obviously not working. When I reeled the line in, I was in for a shock.

A Cigar minnow. I’d never seen a live one before since we always just buy them frozen. I knew people could catch them on Sabiki rigs, but never thought one would hit a trolling fly. I decided to take the Cobia jig off the big rod and tie on a King rig. I hooked the Cig up to the big rod, cast it out behind the boat, and set the bait runner on. I paddled around for a few minutes looking for Spanish to cast the fly at and before I knew it, I heard the bait runner start to take line. My first thought was a King. I re-engaged the drag, set the hook, and started pulling in the fish with unfortunate ease. It ended up being a relatively big Spanish, but nothing more.

I got a chance to test out my underwater camera as well. I hooked a hardtail and didn’t really care if I lost it so I stuck the camera in the water and started taking pictures. It was rather difficult, however, to snap good pictures in one hand while fighting a fish in the other.

I also took a short video that turned out pretty good aside from my finger being in the way.

And that ended the day. We kept about 7 Spanish, caught a bunch of Ladyfish, a few hardtails, and my dad discovered what we think was the near-spooling culprit. He handed a small Jack Crevalle and was nearly spooled again before we pulled the yaks out of the water. Chances are, it was big Jacks that he was hooking. The bite turned off pretty early and since the fish weren’t as thick as they were two days before, we called it. I certainly can’t wait to get back out there later in the summer. Hopefully, the Kings will be a bit thicker then.

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