Sexin' Crabs and Sight Castin Bulls

This past weekend my buddies Kevin, Tommy, and I hit Sebastian Inlet in my skiff for a mellow day of drifting the inlet for the mega-jacks that roam this time of year and possibly throw some nice mangrove snapper in the cooler. Armed with the lightest tackle we own, we gathered up a few dozen prime sized mullet and mojarra and cruised to the current. The boat ramp at the state park is still closed, so we opted to launch at Inlet Marina. Costs 5 bucks and you can't use your park pass if you've got one, but there's a freshwater hose, a wider boat ramp than Longpoint's, a convience store, and some Old Florida vibes in the oak and palm hammock. Plus its only a 5 minute boat ride to the inlet.

Tide was just starting to go out when we arrived. Dropped some mullet in the channel and proceded to drift up toward the fenders. Tommy and Kevin both hooked up on nice shark baits, ie jacks, and we noticed while unhooking their fish that there was quite a large pod of glass minnow being mauled by predators up along the rocks up near the tidepool. Eh, what the heck, lets try and anchor up here and see what we can pull outta there. After breaking off a few rigs to the massive rock fish below, Tommy finally hooks up to a fish that I prayed would be a nice snapper, but turned out to be a near-keeper snook. Nearly two months away that is, for the season won't open up again until September first. After loosing a few bucks in hooks, split shots, and flourocarbon leader, we unanimously decided to try drifting again. On our way back westward to start a new drift we saw about 50 blue crabs swimming merrily out to sea, apparently to drop the kids off, for half of them were chock full of thousands of tiny black or orange eggs.

On this drift we started seeing fish crashing the surface on what appeared to be bait fish. I couldn't identify these almost airborne predators, so I assumed they were tarpon. I've done good on tarpon this time of year on these seaward tides, but in the middle of the day? My skepticism was gone after I was reeling in my mullet to cast in another direction when a redfish at least four feet long charged my mullet right as I was about to pull it out of the water next to the boat. Whoa. You see that guys? It wasn't long before I put two and two together and realized that all these huge boils and thrashing surface attacks were not aggressive tarpon of mogan jacks, but rather giant red fish coming up the surface to gulp down the swimmin' and spawnin' blue claws. Our weighted mullet rigs would have to go, time for a new plan.

We each rigged up with a few feet of 40lb flourocarbon leader and a circle hook. We netted up about a dozen silver dollar sized crabs, some freeswimming, some attatched to clumps of sargassum, hitchin' a ride on their way to sea. As we would come to find out, no crab is safe in this inlet, as the bull reds would come up to the surface and pluck the helpless crabs right off their grassy rafts. Tommy took the helm of the skiff and we headed up current to look for surface-cruising reds. We spotted a pair after a few minutes just chilling on the surface of the inlet. When you can spot a redfish in brown-colored water from 75 yards away, you know he's got some size to him. I made a good cast with my shell-hooked crab about ten feet in front of the pair of bulls and as they approached my drifitng bait, one of them sounded toward the bottom and one stuck his nose to the surface and then slowly turned downward, with my bait in his mouth! I felt my line get tight and remembering that I was using a circle hook, I cranked the reel as fast as I could and locked the hook in the corner of the reds mouth. Fish on! After that it was a chaotic, screaming run toward the mangroves for my new friend and some swift boat handling by Tommy. After about a 15 minute, trying-not-to-get-sucked-out-the-inlet-because-of-the-four-foot-standing-waves battle on 10lb test (It was power pro so actually 22lb, but who'c counting eh?) we finally boated the fish, a beauty around 45". Quick picture and released back in the flowing drink to make more babies.(that we can actually keep to blacken!)

This same scenario was repeated about 20 times of the next two days. Kevin landed the biggest red any of us has ever seen, right around 50". All 20 fish were caught on 10lb power pro on light-medium action spinning rods. The drags on all of our reels were about burned out from the screaming runs of these big fish. I love to sight cast for any species, and this was one of the best and most prodcutive days any of us has ever had doing so. Many crabs died those two days, but not in vain. (Unless your a crabber, in which case blame the bulls.)

Enjoy!

Matt B

www.whiteysonline.com

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