One of the spots we usually hit on the way out is called the Fish Box by some of the locals; a tight little cut with a depth of about 10 feet. Normally it's a good spot to take a couple Trout if they're feeding inshore. We cut the motor and drifted in the current as we rigged our lines with soft baits, D.O.A. Pearl Shad on a redhead jig, was the choice here. On the first cast I threw it out as far as I could and yanked it hard into the current, letting it drop to the bottom and then pulling it back toward the surface with yank.
Right away I got hit, and landed a twenty inch trout on the little Shimano Zyclo combo loaded with 10lb braid. We were joking about at least having dinner in the boat when we started getting hits all over the place. The trout were consistently over 20 inches and were hitting well when the lady fish moved in and started tearing up the soft baits. After losing some good lures, we decided to head off to the area behind Northwest Keys and fish the shallow bars and tiny mangrove clumps.
This particular area has the best bottom structure around; it's made up of limestone rocks full of holes and nooks where the pinfish thrive. Just out from the shoreline it turns into some of the nicest oyster beds on the gulf coast. As we nudged into a little outcropping with three or four small mangroves sprouting, we got slammed by some tournament size redfish. The first one was a little over 26 inches caught on a D.O.A., 5.5" Jerk Bait, and put on a fantastic fight on the 10lb braided line.
I really like braided line for the flats, but in the rocks and oysters beds it's almost impossible to break off when you get rocked up, and after a few times I had to get out my gloves to keep from slicing up my hands pulling it free. Even with the constant hookups on the bottom, I was totally impressed with how the braid performed on these big reds.
For the rest of the day we worked up and down and in and out of the small keys moving to the leeward side of the hills to get out of the thick bay grass moving in with the tide. While drifting through the passes we came upon a small Kemp's Ridley turtle floating in the weed line. She must have been around four or five years old by her size and was missing her left front flipper. Barely moving, and in bad shape, we hoisted her aboard hoping to get her to the turtle rescue folks for some critical care.
At first glance I thought maybe a bull shark had taken a bite of her, but after closer examination it appeared that she had gotten wound up in a crab trap line and lost the flipper in the storm that had just past. Now it was obvious she was not going to make it and had stopped moving, and then expired. We eased her over the side to let nature take its course and headed home.
All in all the inshore action was so good that we never made it out to the flats, but who's complaining. When cleaning the catch I checked the bellies to see what the reds were feeding on and they came up totally empty; I think Tropical Storm Debby had them hiding in the holes and they were just starting to feed hard after it past.
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