When you fish in the inshore brackish waters, you have to know that all sorts of marine species are likely to show up.
I have caught tripletail, sabrefish, lookdowns and mutton snapper there.
Recently while fishing the mud flats west and south of High Bridge, I had a bit of a surprise. The morning began nicely when I noticed the wake of a good-sized red drum ahead of my kayak.
Each time I fish there and the tide is low, I paddle a deeper trough along an island. That channel is only about six feet wide, but provides me easy passage. I don’t usually fish that area, but on this morning I could see fish feeding all around and, sure enough, The Green Peanut caused a red to spook.
Now usually when you have alerted a red fish to your presence, there is little use in trying to catch it, but the red was travelling my same path and staying in the deeper channel so I threw my jig ahead of it. Sure enough, it slurped it right up and the fight was on. On my second cast, I had nailed a 25-inch red drum for a very nice start to my morning.
With my red limit on board I began to look for trout and pretty quickly caught a nice 17-inch fish.
About a half hour later, I made a long cast and it seemed the jig had barely touched down when it streaked off at a right angle. With that kind of hit I began to think snook, but it turned out to be a nice Spanish mackerel. Now from time to time I have caught macks in the Halifax, but usually they are schooled up and traveling between Matanzas and Ponce inlets. To catch an ocean going fish back in the mud swamp is an unusual happening.
On my next cast I had another one on, but it threw the hook and then on my next try, I hooked another Spanish mack that broke the line at the net. I surely was not set up to fish for Spanish since I had no leader material on board the kayak and those guys have a mouth full of sharp teeth.
Luckily my friend Scott was in the next kayak and was witness to my catch or no one might believe where I caught the fish. I finished the morning out with three more fat sea trout for a limit. Catching a red; a mackerel and trout must be some sort of odd inshore grand slam, but I’m not sure.
On this particular morning, I knew something was happening as soon as I arrived on the flats. Spring had finally broken. There was a manatee off to the south and a dolphin feeding hard on the multiple schools of bait fish in the area. For a few seconds the dolphin considered trying to eat my mackerel, but decided against it. Game fish also were hitting the bait and I knew this would be a good day.
Once home on the cleaning table, I cut the mackeral and red to leave the skin on the filets. Once on the grill, Lana and I basted them with orange juice concentrate and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Spanish mackerel are fishy tasting but in a good way, almost like pompano, and I believe, once properly grilled, they are as good as any you may eat. Lots of fun and a great dinner.
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.