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Tuesday, 21 May 2013 05:34

Chokoloskee and the 10K Islands

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The Kayak Fishing Classics was in town recently for the 10,000 Islands Classic. I decided, along with many others, to head down to Chokoloskee and participate. I was looking forward to fishing the area as it had been a couple of months since I last visited.

I launched with Otis Cobblentz, Jeff Gabrick and Joe Corrigan onto the flats at the Northeast side of the island. We made our way to the mouth of the Turner River and began to fish among the oyster beds and small mangrove islands. It was near the end of an incoming tide on a beautiful, clear morning.

We began catching fish right away. There were mainly small trout and small snook around the oysters. I had a few fish follow the bone colored Spook Jr I was using, but none committed to bite. After a short time, I switched to a paddletail jig and my catching increased.

As the morning went on, we spread out and were mainly catching average trout and small snook. I paddled over to Jeff Gabrick’s position near an oyster bed and while we were talking, I saw several tails appear along the mangroves. Jeff and I began casting our jigs at them but had no takers. I inched a little closer and was standing up looking over the oyster bed when I saw what looked like a dozen very large redfish lazily tailing along the edge.

I realized they were not going to take a jig, so I went to plan B. I hooked a Gulp shrimp to my jighead and casted toward these massive fish. As I retrieved it, I noticed one turned to look at it. I stopped retrieving and the fish came in for a closer look. It picked up the bait and I set the hook. That’s when I really noticed just how big he was! As my drag began to sing and line was peeling off my reel, I thought about how inadequate my light tackle was. For the first few minutes of the fight, the fish was in complete control. I let him bully me around as I still thought he was a big redfish, one that I needed for the tournament. I did not want to risk losing him to impatience.

After about five minutes I could sense the fish tire a little. I felt more confident and began to be a little more aggressive. As I brought him closer to the kayak, I got my first good look at him. He was big! I also noticed he was a black drum. Easily the largest black drum I had caught on a kayak. I finally was able to place my net around his massive head and end the fight. He measured out right at 40 inches and after a quick round of pictures, I revived him and let him go.

That would have been enough for me and I could have gone home happy. But there were more fish to be caught and I was able to land a few more black drum. By the early afternoon we were thinking about calling it a day and getting out of the hot sun when I spotted a large tail breech the water near one of the mangrove islands. I thought one more wouldn’t hurt and I peddled my Hobie ProAngler over for one more cast.

As I approached the fish, I immediately recognized that this was the largest one I had seen all day. I tossed my Gulp shrimp in front of it and he took the bait. I set the hook and this massive behemoth took off! After only a minute or so, the big fish inexplicably ran himself right up onto the soft mud near the mangroves. His large back arched out of the water as he attempted to get further onto the mud flat. I pushed my Hobie up onto the mud in about 1 foot of water and prepared to land him using my fish grips. I noticed something moving behind me and thought it was Jeff Gabrick or Joe Corrigan arriving to see what I had caught. Before I knew what was happening, the water around me erupted! A shower of mud and water flew up as a 5 foot bull shark powered his way onto the mud right next to my kayak. In a very brief moment his thrashing propelled him onto the drum and he took half of the large fish with one massive bite. The shark’s big tail thumped against my kayak as he turned around on the soft mud and in an instant, he was gone.

I sat there in disbelief for about a minute, looking at the remaining half of my black drum. I slipped the fish grips in his mouth and inched my way off the mud. As I peddled over to Joe Corrigan, he called out and said “You get another one?” and I answered, “Yeah, sort of”. I held up the remains of the once giant fish and told him what had happened. I had dealt with sharks before, but never that up close and personal. In the end, I left the remains for the shark to finished, and we called it a day.

At the weigh-in, I told everyone that would listen my story. I even had the picture to prove it! We all shared our stories of the day over great food and drink. Everyone caught fish and after Capt Pat did his thing the prizes were awarded. Too bad for me that there wasn’t a prize for black drum. Maybe next time!

Read 7658 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 10:38
Bob Bramblet

I am an avid tournament angler, competing in local, regional and national events. I am also the President of the Southwest Florida Kayak Angler’s Association. I write kayak fishing articles and reviews for several online resources and kayak fishing magazines. You can usually find me fishing my home waters of Estero Bay or Pine Island Sound, where I has been fishing for over 20 years. I am a member of the Florida Outdoor Writer's Association.

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