By Steve Weisman
Remember last Tuesday’s blizzard? You know, the foot of snow and 50 mph winds? I have a confession to make to you. I don’t because, well, my wife and I chose to be in St. Augustine during that time. Good timing, huh?
As a matter of fact, we joined friends from Estherville, and on Tuesday Bill and I happened to be sightfishing for redfish in one of the many low tide creeks along the intercoastal waterway with Captain James Dumas, owner of
Drum Man Charters (www.drummancharters.com).
Using a 17’ Dragonfly Grand Slam with a seven-inch draft, Captain James push poled us through a labyrinth of shallow creeks that held scores of red fish in depths of 8 inches to a few 2-foot holes. We used spinning rods and reels with braided line and a 20-pound Fluorocarbon leader. We cast ¼-ounce jig heads tipped with Zman 4” or 3½” soft plastics.
The only trouble was we never knew where they would be: around the bend, just off an oyster bed, along a hole…as he poled from the rear platform, Captain James would let us know where the fish were going to be.
Bill and I were both very thankful that Captain James was an extremely patient guide. After all, we have sightfished lots of times on Big Spirit and West Okoboji for bluegills and crappies. You see them and drop the bait in front of them. Bang, here they come!
Not here! No, you look for surface water movement, like tiny waves as the redfish move along. Now it might be a single fish or a few or it might be a huge school, but you can’t cast into them or in front of them. If you do, they’re gone. You have to cast beyond and bring the bait to them.
Of course, Bill and I had sunglasses, but then there are sunglasses ($30 pair like ours) and the $200 pair that Captain James had on. He saw fish; we could only see the water move and when they got a few feet from us we could see the redfish. Definitely a handicap, so we had to rely on Captain James to see the fish for us. Oh, and we learned quickly that a cast at 11 o’clock must be at 11 o’clock. 10 or 12 doesn’t cut it! Any noise sends them on their way. That means no stepping up and down on the platform or slapping a little grass off the jig in the water. See what I mean about learning curve!
The retrieve was similar to the way we slow jig and retrieve for walleyes. When a redfish hits, it’s solid, but not a true reel screamer…initially. Then the rod begins to pulse, and the redfish will make several long, hard runs.
Three different times, Bill and I had doubles on with the greatest issue being to stay out of each other’s way! In one little bend in the creek, we took out eight fish in a few minutes. The redfish ranged from 20-26 inches in length!
As Captain James poled us through the winding creeks, it was fun to see the immense oyster beds sticking out of the salt water, knowing that several hours later the tide would cover them and spread out into the nearby grasses. “When that happens,” said Captain James, “The redfish will scatter throughout the area.”
What was really cool was as we came to the end of a creek and were just yards away from the main flat, the water came alive. I would guess there were several hundred redfish just swarming around with more even out beyond the mouth of the creek. We stopped for a couple of minutes and popped a few more. We all agreed it would be best to leave these redfish alone for another day so that some more “snowbirds” could enjoy tangling with some redfish!
About Captain James
At age 40, Captain James truly enjoys doing what he’s doing! “I’ve been guiding here in the St. Augustine area for the past 10 years. I traveled a lot in my earlier years and fished up and down both coasts of Florida and to places like Costa Rica and the outer island chain of Belize.”
There are so many reasons to enjoy the St. Augustine area. “We have a pretty much untouched waterway that is loaded with fish. We have a somewhat newly discovered fishery for Florida that is perfect for shallow water fishing. There are many days I won’t see another boat fishing the same area. As a result, our fish are unpressured compared to a lot of other areas.”
Bill and I have fished several charters over the years during our visits to Florida. Drum Man Charters is one we would definitely choose to try again…with one change…we would sharpen our casting abilities before we went after shallow water redfish again!