Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Surrounded by 1000 redfish

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I find it hard to get up early when there's no client or partner to fish with. Rosie and I had treats and coffee and then moseyed down to the dock where the Stilt was waiting. One of my first stops of just about any day when the water is deep enough is a back lagoon known for its shallow shoal (that traps incoming boats), sting rays, alligators and yes, big redfish. A single boat with a single poling angler was poling the shoreline, so I took a wide berth, said goodbye, and headed for water that was too shallow for most boats to negotiate. Not trying to show off, but making an impression no doubt, I stopped in critically shallow water, took stock and decided to continue heading for the most remote regions of this particular body of water. Birds were working in the back, so I stopped about 200 yards short of the melee and started wading toward the action. The last time I'd seen so many birds in this lagoon I'd decided they were working bait, not fish, only to hear from Rick Hartman (who stayed behind foolishly, at least I thought) that a herd of reds were slumbering beneath them. Trying to avoid a similar mistake, I waded diligently toward the birds only to find that there was nothing beneath them. Oh well, angling is not a perfect science, if even a science at all. Without regrets and giving thanks for an early workout, I headed back to the Stilt with Rosie beside me.

Where to go now? The water was too deep for north, so I turned right at the mouth of the Arroyo and made a beeline for another springtime venue. Not a boat was in sight as I planed into critically shallow water and wondered if I'd made a mistake to enter the area. The depth increased by an inch, and my prop wash told me that I would be able to float if I came off plane. Deeper water lay to the east another 200 yards, so at least I wouldn't sleep aboard the Stilt that night. While calculating the risks of coming off plane, I suddenly moved half a dozen pods of redfish, and pulled back on the throttle without further regard for the consequences. I stepped overboard into bootie-deep water, and began wading south toward water that was a whole two inches deeper. Meanwhile, it slowly dawned on me that there were redfish milling around and tailing in every direction, and as far as I could see. Blowups 200 yards away told me that the concentration of fish probably extended for another mile, to the southern end of the lagoon.

I had my video camera, and was less concerned about catching fish than taking video of them tailing at close quarters. It was kind of silly trying to fish and shoot video, and my arm has been seriously punishing me for doing this for the past month. Holding a sizable red at bay while I try to capture him on the Sony has a way of leaving me with a small debt to my shoulder.

Reds were everywhere!! I estimate that there were 1000 reds--mostly small ones, with some sizeable trout mixed in an area of several hundred acres. I know I've said this before, but I have never seen so many redfish in one area. There wasn't another boat in the entire lagoon, which is probably why the fish cavorted happily for the entire time I was there.

I landed about 9 reds without fishing hard at all, and one 24-inch trout before tiptoeing back to the boat, not wanting to disturb them any further. I thought, "I'll bring Chip here tomorrow morning."

So I did. And you know what happened, don't you? We found the lagoon almost devoid of life...except for an adolescent alligator. The contrast was almost unbelievable...I say almost because I know better than to expect the same conditions from one day to the next.

When I got back to the dock on Friday night, after encountering the hoard of redfish, I met a guy in the Arroyo City RV Park who asked me where I found the fish. Did I tell him? You might think I wouldn't. But almost always, I tell people where I have fished. Why? Because I know that 99% of them cannot go there in the boats that they own. And even if they can, it's likely that the fish will be elsewhere. The key to mastering the Lower Laguna is having enough humility to expect your expectations to be defeated again and again, and enough knowledge to know where the fish may have gone. I can't really say where wisdom fits in, except perhaps in not treating the catching as more important than the communing. I told my son today over dinner that when you get to the top of whatever mountain you wish to climb, you either look up with yearning, or you look down with self satisfaction. I endeavor to do both.

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