The wicked (for fishing) weather the last few weeks helped me recall a specific trip some years back that we ran with conditions that perfectly match what we’ve faced here the last few weeks. Hope you enjoy!
Early March that year and we reviled at the howling winds and churned up water we see today; winds, especially from late morning on were screaming and the waters churned up to looking the color of Starbucks best latte. The offshore was impossible and the backwater endeavor was marginal.
Now, as a charter captain, you have to be up front and honest, so that particular morning, I called the O’Grady family after double checking forecasts for wind, water clarity and general conditions. All were terrible! I was just getting into the spiel regarding cancellation when Jim O’Grady stopped me.
“Captain, hold it! I’ve been locked up with these kids in this tiny condo for three days now. All they do is ask me when we’re going fishing and then run back to the pool. One more day of this and I’ll be ready for the therapist. We just gotta go fishing. Please!”
Against better judgment and conditioned by the pleas of the family, an hour or so later we found ourselves huddled in the boat with the adults cringing at conditions but the kids all chattering away about who would catch the most fish and the biggest fish. Me, with a fervent hope that we would catch any fish.
Unfortunately, we had called it right. The water was opaque and ugly brown and the wind was coming from the dreaded northwest and howling. We ducked back into Collier Bay where there might be some respite from conditions tucked into of the coves and try for whatever bottom feeders might be dumb enough to be on the feed. For a fleeting moment, I even thought catching a catfish might be OK; but quickly banished the thought.
We kept moving from spot to spot with zero results and the kids moods were sliding from excited to disappointed to lethargic. Jim O’Grady even whispered at one point, “Captain, you had it right. Terrible conditions and I built the kids expectations too high. Do we have any chance?”
“Jim, the only positive point is that we have the incoming tide and maybe in an hour or so we’ll have enough water to get back up into Addison Bay where the tidal flow is weaker and the water a bit cleaner; let’s stay the course for another hour or so.”
He huddled with the kids. They tried to smile.
By mid-morning, sure enough the tide had moved enough water back into Addison Bay that we would have a shot at some backwater possibilities. I recalled a spot, remote in one of the creeks, where we had success a couple of times in catching a substantial fish called a black drum. We’d try this given morning. What did we have to loose.
We carefully meandered up this sheltered creek and found the deep hole carved by the current that hopefully might hold at least a strike. The water was a tad cleaner and the current flow was mild. Maybe, just maybe, we could do something here.
When I told the kids, we’d be looking for black drum here, the quizzical looks demanded an explanation.
Black drum are an interesting and overlooked species. Cousins to the revered redfish, they are of parallel value as table fare. They are the larger of the drum species that we see here and can go super big. It’s not unusual to see a 18-30” fish with a heft of 8 to 10 pounds. They are voracious fighters and will give even the best of anglers a real tussle.
With mixed and terminal expectations for the day, we anchored up just upstream of the drop off and got the kids baited up and in the water. Hope for success were somewhat revived, especially when they heard about the potential size of their expected target.
On those first and second casts, the anticipation was dashed as they reeled in a bevy of the despicable catfish. But, it was the first catch they had all morning. If the cats could find the bait, maybe something else could do the same.
We stayed the course and, magically the west wind let up and the skies cleared that further boosted spirits. The kids were even smiling and chattering again.
I was fixing a rod for one of the kids when one of the girls exclaimed, “I think I’m stuck on something” while yanking on the bending rod. All of a sudden, the rod twitched and bowed double with the line melting off the reel. Could it be a black drum? Good chance.
Jim was adamant, “let Susie land her fish.” So alongside the struggling youngster with encouragement and instruction there was a lot of “pull up and reel down” and what we now envisioned as a sizeable drum was having its way with Susie. But she stayed the course with encouragement (and a tad of envy) from her brothers.
But finally, success! As we netted a nice 18" 6lb black drum and swung it aboard to the cheers of all (including me). There were high fives and pictures all around; except for her two brothers. They were rebaiting rods and getting back in the water post haste.
As it ended up we did land a second black drum of just minimum harvest size but it again brought cheers and long awaited excitement for the family.
As we headed for home, all the long hours of nothingness were forgotten and all they talked about was taking the black drum filets to the restaurant for the dinner that they caught.
Amen. And thanks black drum; you saved the day.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.