Have you ever fought a fish on light-tackle that about 3 minutes into the fight you feel like you have been fighting the fish for about 12 hours? If not, here’s what it feels like. Time seems to slow down, your heart starts beating faster, adrenaline kicks in, and you feel like you need to tighten the drag. Every 10 feet of line taken seems as is the fish has run 50 yards. You’re scared to tighten the drag because if you’re not careful in an split second what could be a fish of a lifetime will just become a distant memory of “the one that got away.” Chasing “personal bests” is something l enjoy doing. It keeps things interesting and it offers a challenge and when you do set your sights on something and achieve it there is a feeling that does not quickly fade.
A few weeks ago, Ty Nelson & I took a visit to Mosquito Lagoon partly to see what kind of condition the lagoon was in (this is will have a blog post of its own), but also to chase down some big bull reds. The hope was for me to sight-cast a 40+” Mosquito Lagoon redfish on artificial. It has been a few years since I last targeted these fish. The last few times, we came up empty, see the last 3 Mosquito Lagoon Blog Posts: My Hunt For A Monster Redfish, The Road Less Traveled Day 1, and The Road Less Traveled Day 2. This time around, the weather was finally about to calm down after a few days of wind and Ty was confident that the fish would be on the flats. From my experience, If the weather aligns and Ty is confident about where fish will be at a certain time you just go. So that’s what we did. We decided to make a day trip out of it.
After stopping to see Nick at Flounder Creek Outfitters to grab some Slayer Inc. Paddle Tails we hit the road and headed out to the Lagoon. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the first spot. As Ty was pulling me around and we had our first shot at a few fish that were nearly 40 inches. I made a few great casts, but managed to screw up the approach each time. After this we polled around for 3 more hours. Not much was said, but I am sure a lot was being thought.
It is difficult to be patient when you are on the bow of the boat looking for fish. Not only that, but your eyes start getting tired and they start playing tricks on you. Weeds start looking like redfish, any type of movement on the surface of the water becomes the largest wake you have ever seen. It is often times a mental battle and I am learning more and more that stalking redfish on the flats requires a lot more patience and endurance than meets eye.
As we approached the area where Ty thought the fish would be we worked it for a good 45 minutes before seeing any fish. Then we saw what was unmistakably a group of 40”+ redfish. Ty stopped the boat, stuck the Wang anchor in mud, and asked me if I was ready. We went back and forth about what tackle to use and decided to sticking to the original gameplan was the move.
So, we cleared the deck, I stood back up on the Yeti Cooler on the front deck of the boat, and Ty climbed back up onto the poling platform. With my Osprey 2500 & Bull Bay Stealth Sniper in hand we stealthily approached the school of redfish. I was already feeling nervous when Ty told me to make the cast. I made a perfect cast to the school of fish and slowly worked the Slayer Inc. Paddle Tail... then it happened. I felt the fish inhale the bait and I forcefully set the hook.
Once the fish realized it was hooked the fish took off. Line started screaming and I got down off the cooler to start fighting the fish. It was one of those moments where all I could do was hold on and hope the fish didn’t spool me. Every 10 feet of line taken felt like 60 yards of line. Every 3 seconds felt like 10 minutes and every head shake my heart skipped a beat. I had 10# Distance Braid w/ 20# leader so I did not want to tighten the drag too much, and all I could think of was getting the fish to the boat in as little time as possible.
Finally, after 10 - 15 minutes we managed to land the fish. When I grabbed its mouth and dragged it onto the deck a feeling of victory came over me. We quickly tossed around high-fives, snapped a few pictures, and got the fish back into the water to start reviving it. Then we snapped a few more while in the water! It was the perfect storm, we were able to stalk the fish, catch the fish, document the fish, and release the fish. After releasing the fish, we left the school in order to not put any more pressure on these fish.
It was truly an incredible experience and accomplishment. The fish was well over 45 inches and weighed about 30-40 lbs. It is experiences like this that leave me wanting more. It is experiences like this that keep me coming back. It is experience like this that get me thinking about what fish should I set my sights on next.