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Wednesday, 06 March 2013 20:32

Redemption Red

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When I first planned to attend the Boondoggle, I had hopes of meeting a few fellow YakAnglers and tangling with as many fish as I could. I had never fished the Mosquito Lagoon, but have had dreams of the monster reds that cruise those shallows. I loaded up the truck and my Jackson Kayak “Big Tuna” and headed south well before sunrise with high hopes.

I arrived to find festivities well under way, and did my share of meeting and greeting before launching the Big Tuna and paddling across the bay. It was a beautiful evening, and within a few minutes I had found my first fish of the trip - a small speckled trout. After a few trout, a pufferfish and a monster sail cat, I decided to pack it in for the evening. I noticed the wind picking up as I made my way across the bay, and by the time I made landfall it was whipping the bay to whitecaps all the way across.

Overnight, a powerful cold front with strong winds ripped through the area and it would stay for the next three days. Wind is bad for kayak fishing and a cold front is bad for fishing in general, but together they are devastating. Mother Nature had delivered the weather equivalent of a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

For three days I battled the wind and waves, trying spot after spot, desperately looking for a redfish willing to eat. I paddled until my arms ached and my hands looked like salted peanut hulls. I cast so many times with many different lures, just hoping for one solitary redfish to join me. By the afternoon of my last day I was mentally and physically whipped. I had almost given up hope of catching a red, but the wind was dwindling and the water temperature was increasing. A few fish were starting to push around me, and I saw one tailing in the small calm window between wind gusts.

The night before, a fellow Boondoggler and Jackson Kayak team member Alan Ryland had given me a package of Slayer Inc. "Sinister Stick Baits” and instructed me to put them to good use. As I was drifting back toward the launch working the bait Alan had given me, an explosion knocked me back to reality. It had been so many casts since I had felt anything other than the weight of the lure I nearly missed the fish. The fish turned and ripped off a long stretch of line before turning and blazing at an angle across the front of my bow. In the froth of weeds and water I could see the bronze skin of a monster redfish and the black beauty marks on its tail. I thought I was had the upper hand in the fight after two more incredibly powerful runs. With less than 20 feet of line to go, the hook popped free and flew by my head. All I was left with was foam on the water, the sound of breeze singing across my braided line, and a hollow feeling in my chest.

How could I have been so close and come up empty-handed? I drifted a little bit and then picked the rod back up to start all over again. After a few dozen casts I noticed a swirl about twenty feet from my bow. I thought it may have been a mullet but softly presented the stick bait just to check. After a couple of twitches the head wake of a predator came toward my lure and I prayed for enough control to not pull it away when the fish hit. The red was so close to my kayak when it hit I saw the white lips open as it grabbed the lure.

This fish was nowhere near the size of the one I lost, and after one good run I had it ready to land. When I picked up that beautiful fish, all the frustration of the wind and cold just washed away. I had done what I set out to do, and was now admiring my first Mosquito Lagoon redfish. After a prayer of thanks and a couple of photos I gingerly released the fish to the grassy shallows. At 24” it was no trophy class redfish, but it was trophy enough to redeem an entire trip of tough conditions for me. I have caught a few reds in the past and hope to catch many in the future, but this redemption red will always have a special place in my heart.

redemption redfish

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Read 3917 times Last modified on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 20:46

Chris Funk

Chris Funk is an avid outdoorsman and rabid photographer. He tells folks his life revolves around 6 "F"s, his Faith,Family,Fur,Fins,Feathers and Fotography. He paddles all over the Southeast with his bride Angie and son Ethan. They fish for any critter that will tighten a line and it doesn't matter if it is with conventional gear, fly gear or bowfishing gear. He and his son are on the Jackson kayak fishing team and the whole family helps with an awesome group called Paddle4Tomorrow that gets people with special needs out for a day of paddling.


+1 # Stalker1211 2013-03-07 11:17
We all know that feeling of our first Redfish; it's a victorious moment and it will be remembered forever. Glad you could join us down here at our stomping grounds! 24" is very respectable on the flats, especially given the conditions.

Give us a heads up next time you make the trek down! We'd be happy to put you on some fish
+1 # Sunjammers 2013-03-07 21:01
Isn't it amazing how a single fish can turn an entire trip around! Congrats on a good fish and nice post!
# Chas1ntails 2013-03-08 14:45
Awesome Chris !! Those Slayer Inc baits have been magic for me !!
# CarolinaRED 2013-03-15 09:08
Awesome article! I can identify with it too much lately. I've been hitting the NC coast in search of my first redfish. Battling the chill and winds have been demoralizing this early in the season, but at least I know I'm not the only one out there!

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