On a gorgeous morning, I met Tomoka River Norm for a fishing trip aboard the Echelberry's neat little center console.
As we motored out into the river, we passed the time catching up. I mentioned I had heard from my pal Capt. Brad Kayholm of Wham Bam charters. Brad had told me there was pompano in the Halifax south of us and around Dunlawton. Those tasty pomps are not a usual catch in the inshore, but do show up from time to time.
The big full moon was still shining overhead and we spoke of the folly of fishing under that bright light. That allows the fish to feed all night and sleep during the day. First we stopped at one of Norm's favorite spots in the Tomoka River where I baited with a MirrOlure and Norm went with a live mud minnow. Not a bite. We tried several more places with the same result.
Now understand both Tomoka River Norm and I are pretty fair fishermen and when we get serious about it, we usually are able to catch. Not on this day. With the day getting away from us, I suggested we head east of the state park to one of my favorite flounder holes. A place where I seldom miss.
Now I was driving and Norm was casting from the bow. After a long ride, I slowed to idle speed to approach my spot on the western shore of the wide bay. Just then I heard a loud “plunk” behind me. When I turned there was a nice pompano flopping around on the deck right behind me. I yelled for Norm, who quickly pounced on the pretty olive, silver and gold fish.
“I didn't even see you cast,” he said. “I didn't. I thought you caught it,” I replied.
“I think it just surrendered,” I laughed.
The pretty pompano had obviously jumped into the boat. On this terrible fishing day, I had finally caught one. “Now wait a minute,” said Norm. “I caught it, because it's my boat.”
“But I was driving when it jumped in,” I offered.
We both had a good laugh. Over the years I have had all sorts of fish jump into my boat. Mullet, jacks, needlefish, carp, and all manner of junk fish, but never a prize like this big, tasty pompano. I continued to drive the boat all over the area, but no more fish jumped in.
Later that evening Norm sent me a photo of he and his wife, Mary Ann, enjoying grilled pompano.
You know every fishing trip is different, but this is one I will never forget. On a day when we never had a single bite, Norm wound up eating a nice fish dinner. We had caught it without the use of any type of bait.
At this point Tomoka River Norm and I may be able to give up bait all together. Obviously now we are so good at what we do, the fish just say “what's the use” and give up on their own accord. I suppose we can now leave the rods at home.
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.