On a recent adventure in Ozello, I hadn’t planned my trip and wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to go. I’d been fishing the same areas over and over lately, and, although they’d been productive, I was looking for a change of scenery. I set off early, just catching the beginning of the outgoing tide. The weather was perfect, albeit a little warm. There was a gentle breeze, and the sun was shining. It was one of those rare, fair-weather days we see so few of lately.
When I left the launch, I started off on my normal route, tossing lures along the mangrove lines. Nothing was playing, so I put it up and made my way to an area I hadn’t fished in some time. I passed several small mangrove islands, and casted my lure towards them in search for a hungry fish, but again, there were none.
I soon came to the island I wanted to stop and fish with live bait at. The end of this island is approximately 50 yds long, and on one point, a small rock bar protrudes out towards a swift moving flow of deeper water. I anchored my kayak so I would be casting at each point, however, I positioned myself closer to the end with the rock bar, as that end is where I’ve caught several redfish from in the past. The water was flowing from behind me, pushing into the island.
I cast a live shrimp to each point, and as I waited, I planned to try to catch some pinfish to use for bait. However, just as I sat back in my seat from casting to the far point and placing the rod in the holder, it was bent over, and my reel was high pitch screaming! I tried grabbing the rod from the holder, but with the force the fish on the other end was pulling, I had to stand up and remove the holder from the kayak to be able to do so.
Once the rod was free, I was able to start reeling, but suddenly, my line was slack. I cranked the handle a time or two in hopes that I was still hooked up, and by the grace of God, my line tightened again. It not only tightened, but once again started screaming as my rod was almost ripped from my hands and I from my kayak! Quickly gaining my balance and control of the rod, I realized there was nothing I could do to gain control of my rapidly emptying reel. The fish was hauling tail past the far point, creating way more distance between us than I was comfortable with. I was worried, too, that it was going to go around the point causing me to break off.
I pulled hard to the right, in hopes of turning her away from the island towards open water. It worked in my favor, and I was able to gain some line back. I couldn’t keep it turned for long, though, and soon it was heading straight to the point again. Another line peeling run that got my heart racing even faster! Again, I pulled hard to the right, turning her within 3 ft of the mangroves, back toward open water. This seemed to have angered the fish, as its next move was a classic telltale surface roll and a hard tail slap to the line. I held my breath a little longer than I should have, but this was a big redfish, and I was using the only reel I have with 8# braided line on it. I’ll mention, too, that it was only a 2500 size reel, so I was feeling like I’d brought a knife to a gunfight!
This redfish was not happy, and she was fighting with everything she had, but so was I. She ran hard to the left, so I pulled harder to the right. She ran to the right, and I pulled her to the left. We played tug of war with the line on my reel, and at one point I thought she was going to win. She wasn’t tiring out easily and continued to make hard runs toward the point. That is, until we both heard the splashes coming from around said point. Big splashes that could only be one thing. A dolphin. There was a dolphin feeding right around the corner!
Suddenly, the redfish started swimming toward the other point, where I had my other line cast out. Thankfully, I was able to keep the line tight as she swam, while I tightened the line on the other rod, so she didn’t swim into it and tangle both lines together. She managed to swim under the other line, but the fight was still far from over. The dolphin was rounding the point, and here I was with a healthy meal for it on the end of my line that simply refused to cooperate!
I had to trust my gear. I tightened my drag slightly and began reeling faster. I couldn’t let the dolphin get to her before I did. She was fighting with all her might, tail slapping, head pounding, body rolling and hard runs. A classic redfish fight for the books, but she was wearing down a little at a time. I was finally starting to gain a considerable amount of line back, closing the gap between us. The dolphin was slowly working its way along the end of the island, from one point to the next, and seemed oblivious to the intense fight that was unfolding 30 ft away.
I’d managed to get the redfish within 20 ft of my kayak, but she, on the other hand, seemed well aware of the dolphins’ presence. She continued to fight, going in half circles, back and forth from the bow to the stern of the kayak, body rolling at each end. The commotion she was causing must have alerted the dolphin of our presence, as well, because suddenly, it was swimming away from the island and headed in our direction. Again, I had to trust my gear. I reeled the redfish in as close as I could, stuck the net into the water, and pulled up on the rod, leading her nose first into the net! I let out a bit of a nervous laugh as I looked up to see the dolphin 15 ft off the tip of my kayak. It saw me as well and torpedoed its way off to a different feeding ground. I’m pretty sure it gave me a dirty look as it did, too!
Shaking with the rush of adrenaline, and slightly stunned by the event that just unfolded, I lifted the redfish into the kayak for a quick measurement and photo session. I really need to invest in a scale so I know how much these big girls weigh, but at 31.5 inches long, and a 14-inch girth, perhaps someone out there can tell me. She was a stud fish, and I was actually surprised she wasn’t bigger, with the fight she gave me. I have to say, that has to be one of the absolute best, most intense redfish fights I’ve ever had! Even more surprising, was her ability to swim away strong so quickly. She’s going to lead a long life, and I couldn’t be happier for her to do so!
I went on to catch 4 slot redfish and a low slot trout for the day, making it an excellent day on the water!
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Until next time, Tight Lines and Good Times, Y’all! Catch em up!