Monday, October 10, 2005

Monster

Tropical Storm Tammy came in along the Georgia-South Carolina border and appeared by mid-week to threaten a rainout of my trip to SC. I talked to Scott Thursday about noon and made the call to head on down. There aren't many free weekends for either of us coming up and the weather didn't sound like it would completely suck. Good call. As we got a drizzle Friday that lasted just long enough to locate and put on the rain gear and a lowcountry October Saturday to die for, my wife stayed in Beaufort (NC) and put up with a three day gulleywasher. It rained out the Mullet Festival in Swansboro and kept her housebound except for a brief run to the store for dog food and to cash in on a pedicure-manicure certificate I left because I felt bad about leaving her with just the animals after a long week on the road.
I made good time on the trip down-the rain stopped except for brief periods after I got on I-95 southbound and was able to set the cruise at 79, pop in some new CD's and I got in at 10:30. We set up on the new deck in the adirondacks, had a few toddies, caught up on a few things and planned to sleep in Friday, fishing the high tide in our usual spot to try and catch some trout and reds coming out of the grass. The tide was enormous-it actually washed mats of dead spartina grass up on the docks jutting into the Coosaw River. Trolled for trout-nada. Cast for reds-nada. Threw the castnet for bait-next to nada. The water was murky and was devoid of anything that would bite a hook. We've had bad luck before-I've been accused several times of "putting the root" on the boat (a Gullah term for casting a spell of bad luck), but this was beyond futile. We gave it our best till about 6:00 then ran back to the dock at the house, met Cristina and tried to catch some shrimp off the dock at low tide. We kept trying to set up on the deck but a brief sprinkle and no wind to keep the bugs off drove us in. Cristina cooked up some killer gorditas on the new stove-the first time I had seen food cooked in that house in about 10 years! Scott spent an hour on the dock after dinner trying to get a hundred shrimp for the next day-some friends of his had loaded up on the trout before we had woken up the day before and we were gonna go out before dawn Saturday and try their spot. It was a short night. We got up so early, even the convenience stores weren't open yet to get any sandwiches-it was beer and bar-b-q fritos-the breakfast of champions. We got to Jeff's house about 6:00 A.M. and took his boat to the Russ Point ramp on St. Helena Island. The land out there is flat and at low tide you can look over miles and miles of plough mud and oyster rocks-it looked like a moonscape. We followed the other guys boat through the unfamiliar channel to the trout hot spot and waited for the tide to come in just a little to fish the grass edge. In the meantime we saw finger mullet cruising all over and we added them to the livewell just in case. We set up on a grass point in front of the other boat. Between both boats we caught a bunch of trout including a few keepers (+13 inches). I had no luck because I had my popping cork not set up properly for the SC tidal flow and the shrimp was basically floating right next the cork, not where it should be- a foot or two below. After re-rigging I cranked a couple to the boat and released them. Out of sheer desparation I lobbed a finger mullet out the other side of the boat and let it swim around on the bottom. The 5-year old in the other boat yelled back that something was on the rod. I had the drag set light and it wasn't even being pulled out but the rod tip was pulsing. Jeff was closest to the rod although it was my rod and I had tossed it out-he tightened up on it and we all starting cursing the fact that it probably was a shark or stingray meaning that the fight would take forever with no "payoff." Horsing in a 3 pound skate or stingray is like pulling in an anvil-they are flat and in the current exert tremendous leverage. A shark is all muscle and all fight-it's a time consuming battle-you reel them in 10 feet and they run back 20 feet. This goes on until they are worn out and then you gain the upper hand. We were laughing a Jeff having to fight the trashfish. It ended up getting tangled in the anchor line of the other boat and we were cursing it even more after that-the only thing worse than having to deal with this mess is having to impose on the other boat to pull up their anchor and assist you. Somehow the thing got free of the rope on its own and made a run out to the right of the boat-then it surfaced and rolled. Jeff let out a yell-we looked out and on the surface rolling around was the biggest redfish I've ever seen inshore. Redfish stay in shallow marsh waters until they reach about 30 inches long and weigh about 10 lbs.-then they go into the surf where they can reach 50 or 60 lbs and live to be 60 years old. This monster left us speechless-we all have caught our share of the standard five-pounders and this thing looked unwordly. It was the equivalent of catching a 20 lb. largemouth in a backyard pond. We hooped and hollered and high-fived and toasted the catch with a cold beer. We tore into our bags and lo and behold-no cameras anywhere. None on the other boat either. We're sitting there with a redfish that's taking up the entire bow of the boat- that's bigger than Jeff's 2 year-old son and we can't even get a pic. The fish was too large to keep legally and we never gave that a thought-those large females provide enough eggs to keep the marshes full of reds for decades. We weighed and measured it and held it finning beside the boat till it revived and sped off. Forty inches long and thirty pounds. No camera, no photos, but that was one fish that will be etched in our memory forever.
I found a photo of a similar fish on the net-a thirty pounder. I've posted it below-(those guys are not any of us-I've been accused of looking goofy but the V-neck football jersey backwards ball cap does nothing for me). I swear ours was twice that big! We'll never forget the monster Jeff horsed in on 10/8/05!

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