When I set out to go wading for flounder, I knew it was an iffy call at best.
The summer flounder season had been a fair one, but now I was at the tail end of the warm water.
Each year, the flounder fishing wanes in late summer, but tends to pick up a bit as the water cools in November and December. Then you will not catch as many, but the ones that do hit are usually much larger than the 17- or 18-inch fish prevalent during the summer. Each winter, it is not unusual to land flounders over 20 inches long and some in the doormat sizes.
All that is fine, but now I was out in September and I knew I was pushing it. I began wading at the Tomoka State Park. As usual my bait of choice was a quarter-ounce white jig head threaded with a four-inch chartreuse plastic shrimp tail. I know I am stuck in my ways, but I firmly believe if I can get that lure near a hungry fish, it will be eaten.
On this morning, I guess I was not able to get it near very many hungry fish. After a lot of casting, a small, 14-inch red drum hit and was guided to a sandy beach for release. An osprey fish hawk atop a tall pine tree showed a lot of interest in the red until it made a flip and headed for deep water.
While wading near shore, I had to hop scotch a sleeping sting ray. Not a big one, but enough to put a nasty wound on my flip-flop shod foot. For about a half mile, I stayed within 10 feet of shore, but with that not working, I bit the bullet and began to wade into the depths.
In water over my waist my movement was labored and slower. A passing dolphin came over to check me out. When fishing is slow, those smart guys will follow a wader to see if anything gets spooked up from the bottom. Nothing on this day and the dolphin became bored and moved on.
Casting as far out into the deeper water as I could yielded a small sea trout. I watched the pretty fish swim around my legs until the hook pulled free. No matter, that fish was not nearly a keeper.
A bit farther on, I saw a 20-to 30-pound tarpon roll up on the surface. That sent me to my tackle bag to tie on a blue and white MirrOlure top water plug. The tarpon had no trouble ignoring that.
Just then an early morning rain shower began to fall. The sun was getting high and hot and the rain felt nice. On the way back to the truck, another small trout took a few slaps at the top water lure, but I managed to keep it away from him. There was no hook up.
Once in the truck I was happy to sit for a few minutes in front of the A/C vent and ponder the morning. I had seen a few flounder foot prints on the bottom, but those may have been victim to the gig fishermen. My trip had been about as poor as I had expected, but I knew I would be back once the water cooled. As I said, the late season flounders are not plentiful, but at that size you only need a couple.
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.