In the beginning of February 2017 thepricklyperch (Wife) and I traveled down to Jacksonville Florida to see my brother. Since it was winter in my home state Maine, (think frozen wasteland), and I was unable to lug anything onto the ice due to my recent back surgery, I was eager to try my luck on some Florida salt water fishing. We arrived in Florida to experience a “cold” front leaving temperatures in the 60’s with high winds. This meant that our fishing charter that we originally booked would not dare the rising swells.
“What a Bummer” I thought.
My brother who was not really invested in the whole fishing expedition due to the cooler weather, did not seem to mind. So, it was up to me to adapt and overcome this setback. Since I was unfamiliar with the area, I relied on my mistress Google to show me the way. A quick google search yielded several local guides who serviced the bay and inlets of Jacksonville.
“Perfect” I thought as I dialed the first number.
As it would have it, the first number I dialed produced a fishing guide who was willing to take us out into the inlets to fish for Red and Black Drum. After a bit of conversing we established a time for the following day. Since that weight was off my shoulders I was free to relax and spend time with my brother, i.e. we went drinking at Top Golf. The night flew by in a hazy blur of golf balls and Pabst Blue Ribbon until I crashed and slept the sleep of an angler who is about to wet a line.
The next morning, I arose to find my brother and his fiend still asleep. I kicked them awake and told them to suck up their hangover because I aint’ missing this fishing trip. Everyone piled into the car and we drove to the dock. We met our guide who was a wiry grey-haired man who looked like he had seen the wrong end of a hook one too many times. We made our introductions and took off on the boat. The plan according to the guide was to get up into some “secret” inlets that during low tide trap drum in their pools of water.
We arrived at the first spot and rigged up our poles with live shrimp. There is always a certain level of anxiety I get right before I make the first caste.
“Is this the one, am I going to bag one on the first cast.”
Sadly, this was not the case on this fishing trip. We motored around several inlets and made cast upon cast. As I reeled in each cast my inner fear of getting skunked grew larger and larger in my head. The tide was rolling out and if one of these casts did not produce then we might just be out of time. With a sense of dread, I cast my line out again still hoping I may be able to hook a fish I have never caught before.
“Screw it I don’t care if I catch one” I thought. Already steeling myself for the impending failure. As I was resigning myself to the reality of paying money and getting skunked I felt my line tighten and the pole bounce.
“Hey I got a bite” I exclaimed with bewilderment. The guide sternly told me to wait before I set the hook.
“All right you grizzled old coot” I mumbled as the pole bent in earnest. I couldn’t help myself and I set the hook. The fight was on. This fish was heavy and me being a backwater northerner was not used to fighting a large sea run fish. It stripped drag and stubbornly refused to go where I wanted it too. As the fish wore itself out I was able to wrestle it close to the boat and thought that for the most part that I was done. Apparently, the fish had other plans and it stripped line again heading towards the propeller of the boat.
The guide let out a bunch of curses and yelled at me to bring the fish around. To which I replied through gritted teeth “no shit dummy” I reeled in the line that the fish peeled, and positioned it for a perfect netting by our guide. It was a beautiful Red Drum. I grabbed the fish by its gills and held it up beaming from ear to ear. After the hand shakes and congratulations were over I rigged another shrimp to my line and cast out again. This time I had far less anxiety and way more happiness.
There was several more casts to what looked like “fishy” spots along the inlet when I felt what was now the familiar tug on my line. “I got another one” I exclaimed as my pole doubled and I set the hook. Again, just like last time I was in what seemed like a knockdown, drag out, brawl with a fish. The familiar stripping of the drag as the fish tried to run to open water made the blood pump through my veins. I reeled and pulled, eventually tiring the fish enough to bring it alongside the boat. The guide again masterfully netted the fish and exclaimed that it was a beautiful Black Drum. I could not believe it. I caught both species of Drum in a matter of minutes. In my mind the day was
complete. Unfortunately, my brother and his friend were still skunked and so they kept fishing while I sat down and took a break in an attempt to not be greedy.
In the end my brother and his friend went home empty handed while I watched our guide turn both of the fish I caught into beautiful fillets. These little fishies are definitely going to wash down a biscuit. Later that night my brother baked the fillets with roasted veggies. Indeed, it is days like these that make life worth living.
Stay tuned for the recipe my brother used to cook Drum and if that guide ends up reading this give me a shout I will plug the crap out of your business as it was a superb outing. Until next time folks, tight lines and good eats.