Or Gingey gets her first red fish.
Gingey, pronounced Jin-Jee, is the term of endearment my second son uses for his sweet, red-headed wife. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for me to get the two of them out on a fishing adventure together, but I’m so glad we took advantage of an absolutely gorgeous October day this week.
Using the small skiff, we departed from Camp Dularge around 7 a.m. and were fishing by 7:30. Lake Decade was our destination and fall speckled trout were our target fish.
With a rising tide and very little tide range, we already had two marks against us. The only thing we had going for us was the southeast wind blowing pleasantly across the lake. As we approached the lake, I made a last-minute decision to cruise the north shore washouts to see if I could duplicate the red fishing action experienced by one of my fishing buddies just the morning before. He reported that although the tide was rising, he hit the washouts right at daylight and had caught and released more big reds than was legal to keep, plus keeping a limit of legal fish. Our lure of choice for that area? Simple. Gold spoon.
Not sure what the wind was doing the morning my buddy went, but with the southeast wind at our backs, combined with a rising tide, the water was still pushing hard through the washouts into the marsh. We could see the reds playing inside the marsh, just out of our casting range. We gave that up after about half an hour or so without one nibble.
On to the trout and putting that southeast wind to work for us. I picked a spot that looked “fishy”, motored quietly up, swung us around, shut off the engine and let the wind push us across an area that typically has given up limits of trout in the past. We rigged up each rod a different way in order to see what would lure those finicky fall trout.
After fishing the spot for 15 minutes or so without so much as a doink, we moved on to the next spot. We must have repeated that process three or four more times, and weren’t the only boats obviously searching for the fish. We didn’t see any of the neighboring boats land one fish, and before long, one by one, each boat hopped over to a new location.
I can count on one hand the number of times the trout have skunked me during the fall and winter on this lake. Typically, when they migrate into this lake for the winter, we can at least find a little pocket of them here and there. With reports of limits already being caught in the lake since the last week of September, I thought my only job was to find what they were biting on.
Gingey learned quickly how to cast and did quite well. She hung right in there with Dan and me, cast for cast. After a couple of hours without so much as a bite, she landed the first fish of the day–a black drum.
It didn’t matter to her that it wasn’t a trout.
As the hours dragged on, we continued to change our approach, water depth, jig heads, methods, colors and types of lures, all without producing one single, solitary trout.
I was stumped. We decided to rest ourselves, eat a few bites of healthy snacks Gingey had prepared, and then regroup.
Our next stop was Jug Lake in search of some red fish. With Dan at the bow running the trolling motor, we cruised along the shoreline in search of any sign of those bronze beauties. I was really wishing for Gingey to hook a nice red since I hadn’t been able to successfully put her on the trout.
It was noon by this time, and I guess it was time for the reds to eat their lunch, because a nice one took my silver spoon and off he ran. Talk about some spunk. I had to loosen the drag to let the red run, tiring himself out so I could reel him in closer to the boat.
“Get the net!” I shouted to Dan. No net. This isn’t my usual fishing boat, and with my big boat in the shop, along with my net, we were netless. If you’ve ever fished reds before, you know they can be nice and heavy, and if you’re fishing light tackle like I was, then slinging a red fish this size into the boat could easily break the tip of the rod. But we did have a gaff in the boat, so Dan quickly gaffed the fish under the gill, saving the day and my nice red!
But what about Gingey? I wanted her to catch a nice red and experience the thrill of the fight and the sound of line zipping off the reel.
It wasn’t long before I hooked another red, but I tried to be nonchalant about it, handing my rod to Gingey. She wasn’t fooled, though, and knew I had already hooked the fish. She willingly reeled it in anyway, getting the feel for the action even though the fish measured 15 and 7/8 inches–just shy of being a keeper! It did get her adrenaline pumping, so more than ever, she was determined to hook one of her own.
Dan put us next to a structure through which the water was flowing, but the winds had increased at our backs and the trolling motor was no match for the winds, pushing us into the structure. However, Dan and Gingey weren’t put off by the negative conditions. They tied the boat up, climbed out on the platform, and cast their lines over into the still water on the lee side.
This time Gingey was fishing with the silver spoon instead of the gold spoon (we only had one silver spoon on the boat). By this time we had been fishing about six hours, yet she never slacked off. And even though she was sunburned, she wasn’t going to let that stop her. This was her first time saltwater fishing, and she fished like a veteran.
She discovered a little pocket over to the right where the water was ripping around and decided that looked like a good place for a big fish to hang out. Cast after cast, she got more and more accurate until she finally landed that spoon right where she wanted it.
And WHAM ——– ZZZIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNGGGGGGGGGGG! It paid off!
Even though she was fishing through a pipe railing, she reeled in and landed that fish like a pro. Dan and I both cheered her on, praising her for tireless efforts.
We headed back in shortly thereafter, and I decided to try one last area of Lake Decade for speckled trout that we hadn’t tried before. With the winds out of the southeast, the northwest corner of the lake becomes the roughest, windward side and not prime for the fisherman. But maybe, just maybe, that is where the trout were hanging out.
We rolled up, shut down, started to drift and BAM! A big trout grabbed my bait on the first cast. I was so shocked that I didn’t set the hook well, and the trout shook his head and threw the hook. “Oh my gosh! That was a HUGE trout! I can’t believe I missed that trout.”
After that, Dan and I both missed several more bites. We picked our way around to three more spots, and once we realized it was a very tender bite, Dan and I finally landed a few trout, with only one keeper size in the bunch. But guess what? That means the trout DID NOT skunk us on that fine fall day.
At our last stop, Dan cast out a plastic bait under a popping cork, and WHAM! A big fat red fish peeled line off his reel. Again, we were near a structure, and Dan had actually motored to this spot thinking it looked prime for the picking. He was right! Talk about a fat red fish.
When Dan cleaned the fish, he discovered why the fish’s belly was so fat. It had consumed an entire four-inch blue crab! That’s the first time I’d ever seen a big crab in the belly of a fish.
With three reds and a trout to clean, it was time to get back to the camp after nine fun-filled hours on the water. I cant’ tell you when I last spent that much time fishing, but the day flew by, and we had a wonderful time together.
Gingey has now been properly initiated into the saltwater fishing world, and I do believe she is hooked!
Let’s do it again some time!