I'm sending the following to update you on your pupil's progress. This was literally my next fishing experience after our educational trip with you:
The sun was slipping down into a blazing red sunset, and we had just arrived at our Pine Island place from our trip down from Winter Springs. Jen was going to the grocery store, so I decided to wet a line for a moment before going down for a nap. I grabbed a baitcasting outfit with a topwater lure tied on, and walked across the street to the canal.
Standing near the top of the seawall, I started fancasting and doing the walk-the-dog retrieve, noticing the mullet jumping from time to time. There was barely a breeze, and the water showed just a slight ripple. The Skitterwalk made a pleasant tick-tick-tick as it walked across the surface. No hits.
After about ten minutes of this pleasure I was about to quit. Finishing up, I cast to my extreme left, up by the neighbors’ dock. The lure was about halfway in, and I was looking around at a jumping fish, when I heard a splash that sounded like someone had dropped a small boulder in the canal. I looked back at my lure and all I saw was a big patch of riled water. My lure was gone.
Holding my breath, rod held at the ready, I waited to see if my lure would pop back up to the surface. It didn’t. Slowly the line began to move away, and then I felt a tug. I set the hook hard, and something big on the other end pulled back.
In a second the snook (for that’s what it was) became airborne, taking off toward the sky, turning a somersault, and crashing back into the water. My goodness, I thought, my heart pumping, that’s a big fish. I kept the pressure on the line, and shortly the snook jumped again, but not quite so high this time. That was its last aerial; it began a series of underwater runs that tested the reel’s drag. It would run against the drag, then I would pump and wind, regaining the lost line. It ran back and forth several times until it headed underneath the dock to my right. I put my thumb on the spool to stop the line from disappearing, and keeping the rod low, swung it to the left to put apply pressure opposite the direction the fish was traveling. I managed to stop the snook before it went too far underneath the dock, and pulled it back out into open water.
Back and forth we went, that snook and me, for what seemed like another ten minutes. I had crimped down the barbs on the Skitterwalk’s treble hooks, so I figured the snook would either spit the lure or snap the line before I could land it, leaving me with only a beautiful memory. But the hooks and the line held, and soon I found myself with the problem of landing the snook when the water level was about four feet below the top of the seawall.
I stepped down onto the dock the fish had been trying to swim under, reducing the differential to about two feet. I maneuvered her to a point right below where I was standing; she was still now, just moving her fins and gills. I lay down on my stomach on the dock and reached down with my right hand and grasped the snook’s lower jaw. My attempt to lift her up failed, she splashed back into the water (my lure still in her jaw), and I was left with a severely scraped-up thumb. Then I tried lifting her up with both hands, and succeeded. By now the folks across the canal were standing on their seawall, admiring the fish and cheering me on.
“What kind of fish is that,” said the lady, obviously not a fisherman. “It’s a snook, a good fish,” I said. I quickly lay the fish beside my rod on the dock and marked her length, then gently lifted her over the edge and lowered her back down. I couldn’t get down close enough to the water to perform a normal resuscitation, so I slipped her softly into the water. She turned belly up and floated there, inert.
“Come on, baby, swim,” I said, as I grabbed my rod and used its tip to turn her upright, pushing her. She hovered there a moment, then slowly began swimming. She dived down into the now-dark water.
Back at the house, I measured the mark on my rod. She was thirty-five inches long. As I looked at the new scars on the lure, felt the roughed-up leader, and flexed my scraped thumb, I pondered the fact that I did not even have a photograph as a prize of the experience. That’s okay, I thought; I’ll always have the memory. And so will the snook.
Note: my neighbor said that there are a couple of big snook that hang around his dock. He said that several people have hooked one, but the fish has always gotten off. For the record, I was using twelve-pound test Yozuri Hybrid line, doubled at the end with a Bimini Twist, tied with a surgeon's knot to a three-foot length of thirty pound flourocarbon leader. The bone-colored Skitterwalk was as close as my tackle box could come to the red-head-white-body Spook you recommended.
Thanks for the good teaching. I hope I can become as good a pupil as you are a teacher.
If you have any questions or comments, would like to book a trip, or would like to submit a story, please email me at email@example.com.
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