Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 2 of the Big Lagoon Boondoggle – Fishing the NMZ

For day 2 of the Boondoggle, Marian decided to skip fishing and do some sightseeing around Pensacola. Because of the federal government shutdown a lot of the areas will be closed like the National Naval Aviation Museum, the Gulf Islands National Seashore, or any other National recreation place in the area. For me and some of my new fishing buddies will launch from the boat launch of Big Lagoon State Park for some fishing action in what some people call the ‘No Motor Zone’ (NMZ). So the plan for Marian to use the truck for her venture and for me two haul the Jackson Big Tuna to the boat launch was to remove the T-bar extension and hide the keys in a location for her to find easily. We did take a bike along as well to the Boondoggle, so she would ride the bike to the boat ramp parking area to get the truck. Then when Lewis & I would get done fishing, I would give her a phone call and she would drive back to the boat launch to pick us up.

With the plan in place, Henry, Lewis and I prepared to launch from the boat ramp. We were to fish with other Boondogglers that we either have fished within the past and new first timers. While a few paddled to the NMZ, a few of us headed to the docks across from the launch. We were hoping to locate some redfish, sea trout and maybe a flounder. Docks provide a great structure to fish habitant whether you are fishing freshwater or saltwater. I have managed to catch a lot of redfish at these types of structures. You never know maybe even a sheepshead is lurking near the dock pilings. At the first dock that Lewis started to fish he reported that he could see a few small flounder near the pilings. Mark Wheeler from Kayak Fishing Radio missed a nice trout at the first dock that he started fishing at. Eventually the four of us made it to an area where the trout were busting some baitfish between a two docks. I did not get any hits but Mark, Henry and Lewis had the lures that they were throwing getting some hits. Lewis managed to land a small trout. From here we moved onto the NMZ and the grass flats.
At the grass flats the trout were busting bait in this area. Mark kept missing some nice trout. The water depth in this area was about 1 – 2 feet. Occasionally within the grass flats are these sandy potholes; another great structure to look for. The trout and redfish will just sit on the edges of these potholes waiting for baitfish to swim through these openings. So the concept is to cast your lure just past these openings with the grassy areas and retrieve the lure through them. Finding the right opening that has a redfish or trout waiting to ambush their next meal will eventually get you some fish action on the end of your line. As we drifted across the flats this tactic, Mark managed to land a puppy drum. As for me; I was still struggling to hook into a fish.
Eventually I made the trip to end of the grass flats and the NMZ. I was almost to the ICW and could see the observation tower near the kayak launch site of the park. There was a small little cove that looked like it had some possibilities for some redfish. As I approached the cove there was a small island with a great blue heron just sitting there resting; so as the Jackson Big Tuna drifted closer I got out the camera to try to get a great photo of the bird, I managed to get a great picture of this bird.
It was starting to get late, so I worked my way back across the grass flats hoping for some type of fish. Actually in my hopes was one of those gator trout that I see pictures that other anglers have caught in Florida. I met up with Lewis and we decided to work our way back by fishing the docks, get to the boat ramp and calling Marian to pick us up so that we can get ready for the Boondoggle dinner and raffle. At one point I started using a zig-zag drift pattern and blind casting as I drifted.  My zig-zag drifting pattern consistent of drifting to the shoreline of a island, paddle over my drift route, paddle forward a few feet, and start the drift. I think about the fourth zig-zag drift pattern I had a strong hit. Uff da; could this be my first gator trout; I hoped. Finally the fish surfaced and I noticed that it was a nice trout but not in the gator class. The speckled trout did look like it might beat my personal best in Charleston, SC. I managed to net, get the trout into the Big Tuna, and on the measuring board. Uff da the trout managed to tie my best right at 18”.  I caught this trout using a DOA CAL Holographic Glitter Shad hooked up weedless. So I continued this pattern in the hopes of another trout or maybe that gator that I’m searching for, I reached the end of the grass flats.

Reaching the end of the grass it was time to work a few docks on the way back to the boat ramp. The first dock I casted the DOA CAL Shad just under the dock. I had a hit and set the hook. It was bit a big fight and I managed to land my first lizardfish. They are a long slender bodied fish and a lizard looking head. They have some tiny sharp looking teeth as well. Uff da, the lizardfish felt a little slimy as well. After a photo, the fish was released so other anglers can enjoy catching this fish.
When Lewis and I got back to the boat launch, I gave Marian a call and she mentioned that she was about 45 minutes away. While we waited the discussion was about the fishing experience here in Pensacola and the lack of gator trout for us to fight with. I had noticed that a few of the docks had lights positioned about 3 feet above the waterline, so I suggested that we should try some dock light fishing tonight after the Boondoggle dinner and raffle. Lewis was OK with the plan for us to try some night time fishing.
About 6:30 PM Henry, Lewis, Marian & myself headed to the Big Lagoon Amphitheater for the dinner and raffle. The Boondoggle dinner consistent of a salad, pulled pork, stuffed chicken thigh, roasted potatoes, mac & cheese, and either a cobbler or banana pudding. The raffle was next.
The purpose of the raffle is to raise funds for the local chapter of Heroes on the Water (HOW). How provides kayak fishing opportunities to wounded veterans. The conclusion of the raffle is playing “Rock – Paper – Scissors” against Woody from Liquid Logic Kayaks for the chance to win a Native Slayer. Since neither Lewis nor I purchased a ticket to play; we decided it was time to head for our nighttime adventure into the Big Lagoon and the dock lights experience.
When we got to the boat ramp we noticed that we were not the only ones with the same idea. Paddling across the lagoon was just magical at night. The wind was nonexistent and the water smooth as glass. It was a totally different world. We decided to split up and check the docks one on one. The area when Lewis arrived already had some kayak anglers fishing the dock lights. Our experience for dock lights was not like those that I have read about. We did not observe any baitfish or trout or redfish in the dock areas where the lights were shining. I wrote the experience off that the anglers before us had the experience and chased the baitfish, trout, and redfish from the docks. So we decided to head back to camp and enjoy some comradeship with our fellow yak anglers.
Tomorrow will be our last day of fishing. The plan will be to launch from the beach into the Gulf of Mexico.

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