New species caught, Redfish, Clearwater Beach, FL

My first Redfish was an urban slot sized catch

CLEARWATER, FL – It’s always special for a multi species fisherman to catch something new.  If there is a good story, an extra sense of accomplishment, a type of fish that is coveted for the life list, it can be an even more exceptional feeling… and this is the case with my first Redfish.

Flying down to Florida with the family meant taking only a single medium action travel rod and one small tray of tackle.  In fact, I mostly was geared to target small fish around the dock at the condo with my 9 year old son (separate post coming, this was successful too).  Despite being under-geared, I knew I had the potential to bring in a decent sized fish, if I was fortunate enough to get a better bite.  So while the family was still sleeping, I ventured out rather early in the morning mid week, to a few areas I had spotted on the drive in.  It was a short walk to what I will call a man made bay on the intercoastal side.  While the docks, boats, and water 100 feet out looked very picturesque, my view near shore was water choked with all kinds of trash, litter, and debris of every type.  Sadly, the definition of urban fishing.

While the water condition was disappointing, to the ever optimist angler, I was just happy there weren’t any no trespassing signs on the breakwall.  So at least I could fish.  With my limited options of tackle, I decided I would use a Berkley Gulp Minnow 2.5″ Black Shad on a traditional weighted jig.  On the first cast, I had immediate action, but it was the typical small fish with teeth that are experts at biting off the minnow just behind the hook.  I decided I would speed up my retrieve to provoke a more aggressive strike that might include the hook too.

Whatever I did, it worked.  I suddenly felt the hit of a big fish and was fighting something far superior to the numerous Pinfish harassing me all week.  As I worked the fish towards the wall I saw the signature black spot by the top of the caudal fin, a Redfish!  My excitement quickly turned to angst as I wondered if I could get it landed.  I did not want this to just be another ‘one that got away’ fishing story.  Lying flat on my stomach, I used one arm to hold the rod tip high and tried to guide the fish onto my other hand to cradle it.  The fish remained spirited and my hand could only get about 5-6 inches into the water… but somehow it worked.  I couldn’t believe it!  I immediately scanned the busy road and sidewalk for the numerous joggers, walkers, and bicyclists I had seen all morning, but of course there was no one around at this particular moment.  I looked around frantically for somewhere to prop my phone or digital camera, and saw only one option.  A weather beaten dock with only a few wood planks surviving would have to do, and I would have to shoot back at land, rather than the water.  Under the circumstances, this was acceptable.  I hit record, shot 20 seconds of video, and prayed my fish was documented.

In time, I imagine I will catch more Redfish and larger, but the memorable details and circumstances around my first, won’t be forgotten!