Tough as Nails

I was recently going through old pictures and found mixed in with the pics a little piece I had written about a flats fishing trip I had taken with an old friend nearly two decades ago.  The pics that went with the story were there, too.  Since I had never published it I figured now would be a good time.  I have also included some other old pics from fishing around St. Marks at the time.  They are not digital because they are from back in the day.


I recently got up early and stole a day away from work.  My buddy, Ricky Redfish, joined me for the outing.  It was a cool, still morning as we slipped the boat into the St. Marks River, just south of Tallahassee.  The only sounds were the birds in the marsh pursuing insects, shrimp, crabs and small fish and the occasional splash of a mullet jumping.  We eased the boat down the river toward the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun climbed over the horizon.


We were a few hours ahead of high tide, but passing the lighthouse we had enough water to cruise over the flats and up into the bayous where we liked to hunt early morning redfish.


We made stops at several of our “can’t miss” spots, but the fish just weren’t there.  I guess you can miss.  But we pushed deeper into the bayou and found a small cove with baitfish being pushed hard by some unseen predator.


We staked out the boat in a good position to start working the area.  The light was still low, but we were able to make out a school of nice redfish rolling along the edge of the sawgrass, their heavy armor glinting copper in the early morning sun.  Over my shoulder, a porpoise was teaching its pup to fish.  Surely it was having more success than us as these redfish were turning up their noses at everything we offered.

Finally, after about thirty minutes of working this school, a single fish came charging out and nailed a gold spoon offered by Ricky Redfish. There is a reason he got that nickname!  Ricky deftly worked against the strain on his six pound ultra-light outfit.  The fish dragged him around the boat several times, including one pass under the staked out push pole.  But Rick’s an old pro and he gently worked the fish to the boat, taking care not to over stress the light tackle.

Eventually Ricky subdued this volunteer and brought it aboard the boat.


To our amazement, this redfish had a large wound wrapped around his back.  Just behind his head the wound was so deep you could see exposed bone.


On closer examination, it was clear the wound was in the shape of a large toothy smile.  It appears a shark had grabbed this redfish across the back, but apparently he had used the same energy and determination displayed in the struggle with Ricky to break free of the shark and make his escape.


The wound had begun to heal, but this twenty-seven inch redfish only weighed six pounds.  He had clearly suffered, but was tough as nails.  He is living proof that nature can be brutal, and strong.


A few other pics from back in the St.Marks days. The wife getting in on the action.


Note the absence of grey in that beard! And the fly in that fish’s mouth.



Tag and release.


Cleaning up a bit with the boys from CCA.


Moose or Sheepshead, not sure which.


Two fisted





I am a lucky man.


Spanish.  Note ol’ yella in the background.  Now, that was a boat!




Frankie, queen of the flats, chillin’ out.


Thanks for indulging me a trip down memory lane.  Until next time, catch ’em up!

Ballyhoo Dredge

Man, it’s prime white marlin season in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, Hurricane Matthew has it stirred up out there like a Maytag washing machine.  So, let’s talk about how to rig a bait dredge that can really increase your chances of getting one of those white marlin as soon as things settle down enough to get out there and back without knocking out all the fillings in your teeth.

I found this cool video on YouTube that shows a mullet dredge in action. We will do a ballyhoo dredge, but they are very similar. I don’t have a dredge cam to take video like this, but its pretty slick  and it gets my blood moving.  Especially check it out at about 1:25.

Ours ends up looking like this.


Here are the pin rigs we will build.  The video walks through how to make these, and then how to rig the ballyhoo onto the pin rigs.  If you do not want to make the pin rigs you can purchase them already made up from most offshore tackle shops.


Check out the video (sorry about the vertical orientation) and see what you think.

In the video we deployed the dredge behind a planer.  You can use a swivel like this to rig the dredge behind a planer or a stretch 30.


It looks like this:



These rigs or just a trolling weight will work, but a downrigger is a better solution. This video is an excellent demonstration of how to deploy your dredge from a downrigger.  This is how we are now managing on our Sea Vee.

O.K., now you have all the info to build your own ballyhoo dredge.  Get out to the garage and get on this while we wait out this weather and then we can all get out there and catch ’em up.

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