A school of baitfish huddled along the edge of the shoreline, dimpling the water’s surface, nervously trying to elude a predator I could not see. My long distance visibility was hampered by the thick morning fog, but I could hear sporadic loud splashes that only feeding fish can make. The ruckus was coming from the shoreline of a narrow, winding creek.
It didn’t take long before I spotted two snook, with their tan backs visible, moving deliberately down the bank while another shape moved quickly in the deeper water, pushing up what seemed like a submarine-sized wake. The snook were hunting like a pack of wild dogs along the edge of a quiet tidal creek that fed into Charlotte Harbor. Big fish.
I watched, my right index finger cradling the soft braided line. I was ready, but I had to wait to cast. As soon as the pack came within casting distance I let the swimming plug fly. The lure splashed down in front of the cruising snook, but was ignored. Another cast, another refusal. A third cast produced a smashing strike and a shower of water, but the hooks didn’t hold.
By now, the shroud of fog was melting away and the eastern sky was glowing pink. The snook were wary, moving down the shoreline away from me into deeper water. Their morning feed would soon end.
Desperately, I bombed a long cast in front of the pack and began a slow retrieve. The Hail Mary hit its mark and the strong line came tight. The snook tail walked, and then dogged it into deeper water. After three more jumps I worked the fish to my feet, removed the barbless treble hook and held my rod down next to the fish to measure its length before I eased the snook back into the water.
The snook’s tail touched the butt end of my rod, its nose just shy of the first guide. Later, I measured the distance at 32 inches. Not bad, for an early morning fishing opportunity. I still had time to grab a cup of coffee and a biscuit before heading to work.
The key word here is “opportunity” and many are presented by the gulf, creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes and the far reaching watery fingers of Charlotte Harbor. All can hold fish, whether it’s baby tarpon, snook, ladyfish, largemouth bass or bluegill.
I’m always ready to make the most of any opportunity that comes along. A seven-foot, two piece spinning rod lives in the back seat of my truck along with a small tackle bag and a limited selection of lures. It might be overkill, but I’ve filled a small Daiwa Procaster 1300 spinning reel with 25-pound test PowerPro braided line, tipped with a 30-pound test fluorocarbon leader. This is heavy tackle, but most of the fish I encounter are either living around heavy cover or boat docks and I put a lot of pressure on the fish, get them in quickly and release them immediately.
My favorite lure is a small Yo-Zuri swimming plug, but I kept straightening the small treble hooks when I put the boots to good fish. So, I replaced the light weight hooks with triple extra strong Eagle Claw trebles. I also mash down the barbs on each of the trebles to facilitate a quick release. I’ll lose a jumping snook from time, but to me the best part of the catch is the strike.
The next time you happen to be near a body of water, slow down, take a look and you might be surprised at what you can see, and what you might be able to catch. Be ready for that next opportunity.