This area offered several inshore and near shore fishing locations. Speckled trout, redfish, flounder, mutton snapper, bluefish, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, and jack crevalle are just some of the species that most of us will targeted during the Boondoggle. Some anglers will go offshore for red snapper, gag grouper, sailfish, or whatever was available when they were either trolling or sitting over a reef or wreck. The fishing opportunities were endless, depending on your kayaking skill level.
My plan for the Boondoggle was to do some fly fishing, some inshore fishing searching for my first gator trout, and some Spanish mackerel fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Friday of the Boondoggle was our opportunity to do some fly fishing in Big Lagoon. We launched from the kayak launch area near the observation tower. The launch would put us onto a nice grass flat area where we could stake out the kayaks and wade the flats in the search of something that would take the fly. As we observed the various balls of bait, we attempted to cast our flies into or near the bait but could not get a strike. After a while, we boarded our kayaks and paddled across the lagoon towards a narrow strip of land that separated the lagoon from the Gulf of Mexico. Again we staked the kayaks near the beach and started to wade. In this new area, both Marian and I were getting some hits on the fly but we just could not get any hook ups. At one point, Marian thought she had a hook up but lost it. Her description of the fish sounded like it might have been a small jack crevalle. I had some needlefish and small jacks following the fly. Occasionally I would get a good strike, but just could not get a hook set.
We took a break from the fishing and decided to walk across the strip of land to the Gulf side to check that out. Marian decided that she had to get into the water and just sit in the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to the saltwater in Charleston (which is best explained as being as clear as chocolate milk) the saltwater of the Gulf is so clear that I would swear that you could see the bottom and anything that swims in these waters.
We returned back to the lagoon, got back in our kayaks, and paddled across the lagoon to the kayak launch site. We discovered an obstacle to get back to the launch - the area just before the foot bridge had only a couple of inches of water. No problem - we just got out and walked the kayaks into some deeper water so we could complete the fishing experience for day one of the Boondoggle. The rest of the day was spent visiting with other kayak anglers and telling fishing stories.
The second day of the Boondoggle, Marian decided that she wanted to do some sightseeing. That way I could fish with my old fishing buddies and some new kayak anglers I met the night before. The plan was to meet at the boat ramp to launch, fish the docks across from the lagoon, and fish our way to the No Motor Zone (NMZ) grass flats. I put the fly fishing equipment away and brought the spinning gear along for this adventure. Seven or eight of us launched from the boat ramp at Big Lagoon State Park. Several headed directly to the grass flats in the NMZ, while Henry (taekwondo45), Mark (Landingcrew), Lewis (Elgeebee), and I paddled straight across to the docks.
Lewis started fishing around some pilings, and got very excited as he reported that he could see small flounder swimming from piling to piling. Then Mark had some excitement as he watched a nice trout follow his lure. As we worked our way along the docks, we found an area where the trout were just crushing a big bait ball. We started casting into and around the bait ball. Lewis managed to hook up on a small trout. From this area, we joined the other Boondogglers in the NMZ.
The trout were also active in the NMZ. At one point, Mark reported that he had a nice size trout just sitting below his kayak. There were some hits but no hook ups. We worked our way deeper into the NMZ and met up with a crew headed up by Spence (smj190). While in this area Mark managed to hook up a puppy drum. As quickly we all got to fish together, we then dispersed into our own areas of the grass flat. I eventually arrived at the far end of the grass flat near the Intracoastal Waterway; off in the distance was the observation tower from the park. Then the thought hit me that maybe some of the other anglers were heading back to attend a workshop or two.
The workshops offered ranged from ‘Fishing Beyond the Breakers’, ‘Kayak Safety’, ‘Paddling Strokes’, etc. These would be great workshops, but for me this is a Boondoggle; for me, these events provide a reason to travel to fish new areas and meet new angling buddies. I decided to head back, but fish as I went along. Finally I met up with Lewis and we decided to head back to the boat ramp. I stopped to drift across that grass flat we had fished earlier in the morning. All of a sudden I had a good strong strike on my DOA Shad, and it was “Fish on…” After a bit of a battle, I had a nice trout on the measuring board. It was not a gator trout, but a nice 18” fish. I worked my way towards the docks to see if anything lurked under them or hugging the dock pilings. At one of the docks I managed to get another hook up, but it was not as strong. Next thing I knew I had my first lizardfish in the kayak. When we got to the boat rampe, Lewis and I discussed possibly trying some dock light fishing that night after the Boondoggle dinner.
We met at the amphitheater for the dinner, raffle, and some music by a couple of performers (including Spence from Wisconsin). Dinner consisted of stuffed chicken thighs, pulled pork, a salad, mac & cheese, roasted potatoes, and a dessert. The raffle was just super! The purpose of the raffle was to raise funds for the local chapter of Heroes on the Water. The best park of the raffle was the opportunity for some folks to play ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ against Woody Callaway for a Native “Slayer” kayak. Lewis and I did not stay to see who was the last Boondoggler standing; we were on our own Boondoggle for some dock light fishing.
We arrived at the boat ramp along with several other Boondogglers who had the same idea. Paddling across the lagoon towards the dock lights was magical; there was no wind, and the surface of the water was just like glass. As we approached the docks, Lewis noticed that there were already kayak anglers fishing the lights. We followed behind them, but we could not see any bait fish under the lights and we did not get any strikes. We tried for about an hour, and decided it was time to head back, and visit and partake into some adult beverages with other Boondogglers.
The last day of the Boondoggle, Henry, Lewis, Marian, and I were going to launch off of Beach Access area #3 in Perdido Key in the search of Spanish mackerel or whatever else would take our bait or lures. I was talking to Gregg (Hammerhead) from New Hampshire and offered him the opportunity to fish with us. He took me up on the offer, but had to locate a kayak. He managed to locate one from Vendor’s Village. My plan was to troll using my homemade mackerel rigs with a frozen cigar minnow. Marian, Lewis, and Gregg asked if they could try them as well. We stopped at Gray’s Tackle for the cigar minnows, other terminal tackle, and some lures. When we arrived to beach access #3, we started unloading the kayaks and hauled them to the beach.
After the kayaks were rigged and ready to launch, we had some folks gather around. They asked questions about kayak angling, how to get started, and where we were from. We explained that we had traveled from South Carolina and New Hampshire, and that we were in the area for a Boondoggle. We told them this Boondoggle was an event just to meet people and learn various fishing techniques from others. Total count for the weekend was over 600 local and non local anglers participating. We managed to get launched and paddled past the sandbar that lay out in front of the beach.
When we passed the sandbar we paddled a little further so we would not be paddling into the surf rods that were waiting for a bite. When we felt that we were far enough out, we headed east towards an area market “Obstn Fish Haven” hoping for some fish along the way and that this area might produce some fish as well. In no time I had a strike and after a battle, I could see a Spanish mackerel approaching the kayak in the super-clear water. My first Spanish mackerel measured 18” in the fork. I radioed a message that I had a mackerel in the kayak. In a little while both Gregg and Lewis reported in with screaming reels. They both managed to land the Spanish mackerel as well. Lewis managed to land a remora that he placed on the measuring board for a photo. I paddled up to offer a hero shot with him and his catch. The remora had attached itself to the measuring board, so Lewis had to peel the fish from the board.
Henry got really excited when he landed a small gafftopsail catfish. Shortly after that we decided to head back to the launch site. Besides the catfish that Henry caught, Gregg landed a mackerel and a small cobia, and Lewis had a mackerel and two remoras. I managed to land three mackerel, with the longest at 22” at the fork. Along the way back Marian had a strike and she could watch the fish play with her bait, but eventually the bait was gone and so was the fish.
We got back to the park to clean up and prepare for the Boondoggle potluck. Marian planned to do vegetables in a Dutch oven. At the potluck Chip (Treehugger) was cooking up venison tenderloins; there were also some redfish filets, pies, chips and dip, and a lot of other food that I can’t recall. The fellowship and these potlucks make the Boondoggle the best, in my opinion. We all swapped some fish stories, and then a decision was made that going forward no more vegetables in a Dutch oven.
I hope that my Boondoggle™ experience entices you participate in the upcoming President’s Day event. Maybe we will see you at Crooked River State Park near St. Mary’s, GA the weekend of February 14 – 17 , 2014 catching some nice speckled trout or maybe a bull red. BOONDOGGLE!!