Saturday, October 27, 2007

Plastic Navy

Paul and I headed to McNab Lake for a pre-dawn strike.

The plastic destroyer, aka "Spot" was loaded on the new transport.

I traded the '99 Chevy S-10 (and a few $$) for a 2007 Jeep Liberty 4X4.

This should prove to be just what we need to traverse the beach and other fishing destinations. No playing in the pasture!

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Jeep Green Ride

In our usual style we both arrived earlier than planned and since I had my boat already unloaded, I threw a cast net while Paul made ready. Several large shad or menhaden found their way into the bait bucket which was a hint as to what was to come later...

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Gulf Menhaden

The moon was full the previous night and we have been experiencing a stretch of clear fall weather so the fact that we launched before daylight was no problem.

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Moon over McNab

The tide was WAY out this time and all the oyster reefs and crab traps were clearly visible as we navigated our way into the marsh. There wasn't much activity along the way but as we approached the lake, Paul and I saw explosions of menhaden as the predator fish attacked from below. The water was still moving out of the marsh so when we stopped paddling to cast into the fray the current carried us back down the channel.

We cast Gulp shrimp and topwaters all around the feeding fish but they apparently were keyed in on the menhaden. I even tried hooking on a couple of the bait fish we had netted off the launch but they wanted something specific.

When the activity tapered off we continued into the lake and Paul said, "The first one who catches a fish wins".

Then like Abraham and Lot, Paul went left and I went right.

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Paul Ready for Battle

I generally head straight for a little cove that has been a consistant producer since the first time I visited this lake. This time however my attention was captured by some bait jumping along the south shoreline just adjacent to the mouth of the channel.

I began slowly working my way along the shoreline and quickly realized I was in the fish. I could see several targets and began sight casting to fins, tails, and swirls. Everything was being refused until I finally dropped a gulp right in front of a cruising red about 40 yards away. He picked up the bait and began to move off when I began to reel and got a good hookset.

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Big Red

The fight was on and I got a nice ride from this 26" brute. When I finally landed him I was amazed at his girth - he was full of something!

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Full Belly

Thanks to brother Paul for the great camera work!

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The Happy Fisherman

I continued to cast to active fish and actually hooked another but after a brief battle he regained his freedom and will live to fight another day.

We continued to fish the south shoreline but the activity seemed to shut down about 9AM.

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East End

I made an early day of it since Tracy and I had plans for the afternoon and Paul hung in there for a couple more hours but the fish didn't cooperate.

OK here is the theory...(I thought about this all the way home)

When temps drop in the fall, predator fish like reds and trout gorge themselves on high quality bait like menhaden in preparation for winter. The recent unusually high tides followed by the extremely low tides has a flushing effect on the marsh, sweeping schools of bait that has been growing in the marsh all summer out the channels into the intercoastal and eventually the bays and passes to the Gulf.

Since the moon was big and nearly full, I think the fish had been feeding on menhaden all night. The stomach contents of the fish I caught confirmed this. That football shaped belly was nothing more than gobs of whole shad in various stages of digestion.

The tide had probably been going out most of the night and the reds simply had to wait near an ambush spot and snatch the bait as it came down the conveyer belt.

In hindsight, a silver spoon was probably the bait of choice. The Gulp has been the go-to bait up until Saturday but when reds get keyed in on a specific bait, one writer claims, "They can be as picky as a spring creek rainbow".

Live and learn!

We will have to try that on the next trip...which incidentally will be Friday - God willing - in celebration of both of our birthdays.

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We'll be back!


Bawana said...

Nice Post John, you guys are styling on the SOT"s. The fish looked great I knew all the hard work would pay off. Glad you two had the time to spend together, keep it up and keep the pictures coming.

Paul Batchelder said...

We both look like we fill the SOT's pretty good! Nice fish brother I bet its bound for the grill!