I have been dying to get on the water for the last week or so, but the high winds we’ve been having, have kept me landlocked. The incremental decrease in the forecasted winds for today, was enough for me to call my old high school bud Andy for another venture to Estero Bay. We met at the house just before 7am and were off to the boat ramp at Weeks fish camp.  The tide was surprisingly low when we arrived, to the point that I was concerned about being able to launch the boat. We got her floated and trimmed as high as the outboard would go to head out the super shallow channel to Estero Bay. We had to head to another shop in search of shrimp for the day, and I noticed great current around a point on the way to the Carl Johnson Boat Ramp to secure them. After grabbing a few dozen shrimp we headed back to the point I noticed. There were several species of herons stacked along the overhanging branches feasting on the hordes of glass minnows and tiny threadfin herrings flooding the area with the rushing incoming tide. The dolphins were also all over, frisky as could be, feeding and playing. We actually saw tons of dolphins throughout the day. In fact we had a couple of spots spoiled, for us at least, by the critters crushing what I hope was mullet and not the reds and snook we were after. As soon as we got anchored up and the first small fish comes aboard a cormorant decided we were setting up a free feeding station and hounded us the entire time we were there. In spite of that we start to get some bites and I land a couple of pinfish. Then Andy sets the hook on something and his drag started to scream. It took all he had to stop the fish’s first run, and keep it out of the overhanging trees and nearby marker. Just about the time I ask if it’s a nice redfish we see a beautiful snook come to the surface for a nice headshake, before it makes a run under the boat. A nice maneuver by Andy keeps the fish tight, but the big snook probably around 30” turns next to the boat and all but spits the jig at us and swims away.  The dolphins come nearer to investigate the commotion, begin feeding, and that was the end to the bite at the first spot. With the water still too low to head to a new area I want to fish, Andy mentions rumors of a sheepshead bite in Little Hickory Creek. I had a caught a few in there a few weeks back so we were off to try to find some for dinner. The current was ripping at this point and we needed quite a bit of weight to keep the bait on the bottom. The bites started fairly quickly and I landed a couple of short fish. But the ripping tide made it difficult so we headed out the pass at Little Hickory to see one of our favorite beach spots to hang out with the family and boat, gone, eroded away.  With that we ran the beaches north looking for bait. There were birds and activity everywhere, but the tiny fish being devoured were not what we were looking for.  By the time we came into Big Carlos Pass the wind had picked back up for the day. With the wind hammering out of the pass we struggled to position the boat and throw the castnet a few times at the bridge. A few nice big threadfin herring come up with a couple of the better throws and we finally head to the new area I want to fish. The shoreline we head to is protected nicely from the wind, and the water was much clearer than everything else we saw in the bay until then, and the still incoming tide is just about perfect. We start fishing with a combination of artificials and the large threadfins, but switch to just lures to cover more water. I get the first fish and it’s a short little rat red. The second nice fish hits my lure just as I comment about the nice undercut bank I just put the lure next to. And finally we get a nice fish, a redfish around 20” to the boat for a picture.
At a few choice looking spots we sent threadfins on corks to the edge of the trees. A one spot there are several snook that smack and grab the 6” herring several times on a couple of casts, but they just weren’t big enough to get the enormous bait down for a solid hookup. We continue working the threadfins through a very fishy looking area, when we both see my bait run from the shoreline and a huge fish that we couldn’t identify follow it and inhale it. I set the hook fairly quick and the drag immediately starts screaming. In the  somewhat clear water about 2’ deep we are able to see and confirm that I have on the biggest redfish I have ever seen in person. An epic battle ensues, and I am somewhat lucky the tide wasn’t up high enough for the fish to get up into the mangrove roots. I get the slob away from the shoreline and back the drag off a bit, and baby the big redfish to the boat. After a mad scramble, Andy gets the net and does a nice job of getting it under the fish and into the boat. After a few pictures I got a very quick rough measurement of well over 33”, before we spent several minutes reviving the fish for a healthy release.

With us both shaking like a leaf from the incredible fish and experience we just shared, we attempt to continue fishing. We decide to head in just about noon and were grinning ear to ear from another amazing day in Estero Bay.