After dropping my 17-foot Polar in at Tomoka State Park, I took a quick spin around the northern edge of the Tomoka Basin.
Not actually fishing, but just hoping to spook up a few big red drum so I could return later in the morning. Nothing showed itself. No matter, my target on this day was to fish the Tomoka River to try and have a little fun with some of the snook my buddy Norm had been bragging about.
Norm lives on the river and had reported catching and releasing over 80 in just over six weeks. That’s right – 80. How could I ignore something like that?
I began just after 8 a.m. with a full tide that was just beginning to ebb. My plan was to cast the mouths of the creeks that feed the river. I had two rods on board, both baited with MirrOlures. The first with my standby red and white twitch bait and the second with an old blue MirrOlure Jr. I have had for decades.
I began with the first. There was no visible bait in the water and nothing was feeding, but on my fifth cast a nice snook hit and took off on a long run. A stout fish. As the fight wore on, I began to worry. My snook did not jump or roll even though it was near the surface on a couple of occasions. As it came near the boat, I stopped worrying as it began the telltale headshake of a jack. Not what I hoped for, but still good fun.
The jack was bright yellow and gold as it flashed through the brown water, the red plug stuck to the side of its face. A pretty fish that was clearly unhurt as I released it. The jacks are a worthy opponent and this one at five to six pounds had stretched my 10-pound line near capacity.
Now fishing with the blue lure, I soon had another hit and this time my fish acted just the way a snook is supposed to. The pretty snook was only 18 inches long, but strong enough to give me a few minutes of pleasure. Next I threw the red and white to a nice 17-inch spotted sea trout. That was a welcome surprise.
Now I was nearing the U.S. 1 bridge and suddenly something began feeding along a sea wall. I am well aware of the habit of the jacks pushing their potential meal up against the concrete before gulping them down. Still, I will never run from a fight, so I made the cast. Bam! As soon as the lure hit the water, the fish had it and streaked out into the center of the river.
When I pulled back hard to turn it, a nice snook jumped. My jack turned out to be a 22-inch snook. A day of surprises. For the rest of the morning, small snook kept me busy as I landed two and missed four. Once or twice I saw a larger one feeding, but could never get into position to make the right cast. Still, on the ride home I had to smile. I had not caught the numbers Norm had spoken of, but they were there just as he had told me.
After such a cold winter, I was pleased to know we still have a healthy fishery of young snook. That bodes well for the future.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.