Just after dawn I launched my 17-foot skiff at the public ramps under the big State Road 100 bridge in Flagler Beach.
I fired my 50-horse, 4-stroke and began to idle north. Up a mile or so I turned west to fish the Sea Ray canal. Over the years that stream has been a good sea trout stop for me. Not this time. After 45 minutes of casting my jig, the only thing I had to show for it was one 10-inch trout to release.
Three miles further north the river bent slightly west and I went straight and into a canal that was lined with homes. At the junction of those two waterways, I anchored up to fish the bottom. There the bottom is rough and a perfect habitat for mangrove snappers.
To that end I tied on a small hook and split shot to bait with the dead shrimp I had brought along. Man, oh man! The snapper were really biting. Like a school of piranha they seemed to be fighting to get at my bait. On most casts, the shrimp was gone before it had a chance to settle to the bottom. I caught six in a row. Great fun, but no keepers as all were in the eight-inch range.
Soon I tired of that and moved back out into the main river to fish the east bank. That shore is strewn with big coquina rocks and is another good place for mangos. This time all I could catch was sailor's choice. There was probably snappers there, but the pin fish would not give them a chance at the bait. I had to leave that spot.
First my trout hole had failed and then my snapper spot. Still, with my usual unflappable enthusiasm, I headed back toward the ramp to fish for red drum south of the bridge.
There along the west bank sits a home that has lined the ICW with rocks to protect their shoreline. In the past, I have fished there for reds with some success. As I motored down the center of the river, I admired the yards of the homes along the west bank. All were nice, but some had created a nautical theme that I liked.
Just then there was a huge eruption along a concrete sea wall. Predatory fish had herded a school of menhaden bait fish up to the wall and were crashing into them to feed. The water was instantly beaten into a froth. I had to turn around to get back there but the tide was coming in and going south, so I could quietly drift. I hoped the feeding fish were snook, but I knew better. That was the action of a pack of jacks.
Now as I drifted all was quiet, but, after a bit, another explosion happened and I was ready. I threw my MirrOlure into the melee and immediately was on with something very strong. All I could do was hang on. I did loosen the drag on my reel, but I knew I was in trouble. The jack streaked south and was quickly into the pilings of a dock. I knew that could lead to a break-off, so I opened the bail to let the fish run. That didn't work. The line snapped and the jack left with my six-buck lure. While I was occupied the rest of the school moved on.
As I put the boat on the trailer, I couldn't help but think how busy I had been. Busy, but just not my day.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.