In the summertime on the Space Coast, sometimes night time is the right time. Our water temperatures skyrocket in the daytime and this causes fish to be uncomfortable and lethargic. This is when going out under the cover of darkness becomes a very effective choice on account of the lower water temps overnight. Fish are more apt to be up and feeding when the water begins to cool down. On full moons the bite is especially good, and dare I say... Epic?
It was an unseasonably warm October (2015) night and the full moon was upon us . My buddy who I usually go out with stood me up at the launch for reasons that were out of his control. I already had the kayak off the truck and rigged out, ready to fish and a cooler full of choice baits. I prefer to have a buddy with me when I go out there, but the pull of the full moon and the lure of monster reds slurping huge chunks of mullet off the bottom proved to be too great to resist, so I shoved off and made my way two miles north in the Banana River to my target area.
The wind was at a minimum and the sky was cloud free, allowing the full moon to blaze overhead. As I paddled, glowing bioluminescent trails followed me left by the paddle slowly moving water. The bioluminescence is a real treat to see. It is made by billions of tiny dinoflagellate (marine plankton) who exude a bioluminescent glow when you move them in the water. Every fish big or small in the water that moves exhibits a bluish green glow and they leave a glowing trail. One of the many neat things about night fishing on the Space Coast.
It wasn't long before I was approaching the target area. It is a small and unassuming sandbar situated out in the middle of the river, surrounded by deep water on all sides. This sandbar, which most people paddle right on by, is home to a great population of monster Redfish. There is one side inparticular I like to set up on where the top edge of the bar is ankle deep, dropping off to about 5 feet in a heartbeat. THESE are the areas that concentrate large Redfish. I wasted no time baiting up with large palm sized chunks of black mullet and setting out two lines. Normally, I fish with plastic. But at night, soaking a chunk is by far the most effective method if you want to put a huge red on deck.
It took about 10 minutes to get the first hit. I was looking up at the stars on a clear and silent night when the silence was shattered by a screaming drag. I look over to see my rod doubled over and line dumping off the spool. I reeled tight and let the circle hook do it's job and settled in for a nice tug of war. I could tell it was a nice fish, but not a mega monster. After a good 10 minute tussle, I land a respectable 42" Redfish. I then realized how much I was missing my fishing buddy, as the only picture I could get of the fish was of him being cradled by the seat of the kayak. No hero shots tonight!
I took a quick photo and sent the fish on his way happy and heatlhy. Got my lines back out in a hurry and kicked back in the seat of the yak, settling in until the next hit took place. A good hour went by without a hit so I deployed fresh chunks to see if that would help. This proved to do the trick, as about 15 minutes later, I have another rod doubled over and screaming. I jump out of the kayak and pick up the rod out of the sand spike and reel tight. WOW ... this fish was absolutely burning that drag. He took a very uncharacteristically long run for a bull redfish which had me perplexed. I let the fish run and when he stopped I began pumping the rod trying to get him coming back my way. You can pretty much tell how big the fish is by how hard he is to turn, and this fish was HEAVY. I knew I was tied into a real one at this point.
After his first run, I had 150 yards of line out, as evidenced by my splice knot in the braid coming through the eyes. The reel has a 300 yard capacity and I have it spliced at 150 yard so that's how I knew that this fish was absolutely whooping me! I was very slowly making headway on the fish, not wanting to stress the 10lb braid too much. He was sort of coming my way, but it felt like that is what HE wanted to do, not what I was MAKING him do. Every time I would gain 30-40 yards, he would wake up and go screaming down the edge of the sandbar again. I took my time because there are no snags out here and I knew if I had him hooked well I could play him and not have to horse him at all. Usually, you get about 3 or 4 hard runs out of a big bull Redfish before they give up. This fish had made 7 blistering runs and was showing no signs of wearing out. I was starting to wonder if I had hooked a shark which is very rare in this area.
I was now into this fish for almost 30 minutes (on average it takes 10-15 minutes to land one of these fish) and FINALLY got the fish coming my way. He was about 15 yards away when I saw him stand on his head out there and a monster broom sized tail broke the water. Definitely not a shark, this was the real deal! I began putting the max amount of pressure I could on the fish to try to get him in netting distance but he didn't like that, and woke up again, dumping my reel once again. I couldn't believe it. I knew I HAD to land this fish soon because the longer you mess with them, the greater the chance of losing it. After a couple more runs he had all that line back out that I worked so hard to gain. As he was running, the drag suddenly stopped, and the rod was almost yanked from my hand. Before I could figure out what happened, the loud crack of popping braid rang out.
I was absolutely shocked and speechless. I look down to see that my main line got buried under the splice knot and dug into the spool, thus rendering the drag useless and allowing the line to come under enough tension to snap. I was heartbroken. After several disgusted minutes gathering my thoughts, I contemplate packing it in and leaving. It was 2 AM at this point and there was still plenty of fishing to be had. Decided to go ahead and stay. I baited the other rod up and set it out and began rigging up the rod I had just lost what was quite possibly the biggest red of my life on.
Well I can tell you I am glad I stayed. I didn't even get a leader knot tied on the other rod before the set out rod was hit and doubled over. Wow that was fast, I thought! Grabbed the rod and bowed up on another heavy feeling fish. This one had some fight to him and some weight but it wasn't quite like the one I had lost. Deep down, I was hoping this fish would have a leader hanging out of his mouth. After a good 15 minute battle, I have the fish tired and on his side, coming right to me. I waste no time grabbing the net, determined to not let this fish get away as well. I slipped his head into the net and it was game over. I noticed his tail was hanging out of the net a bit farther than the usual red out here and when I shined my spotlight in the net, I laid eyes on an absolute beast of a Redfish.
He was a toad. Taped out to 50.5" which was my new personal best! For years I have tried to crack that 50" mark, coming so so close on so many occasions. But tonight was the night, it happened! The scary part was, the fish I lost felt substantially bigger than the 50.5 I landed. The fish of that night also had a deep gold glow to them, which means they had just came in from the offshore waters. The offshore reds form giant schools with individuals to 60" in the schools not uncommon. With schools like that bouncing around this sandbar, it's anyone's guess how big that fish is that I lost. But that's what keeps us coming back. You just never know what the next fish at the end of your line is going to be!
Of course after my friend saw the night I had, the next night he made triple sure he was able to make it out. We hooked into 4 fish and pulled the hook on 3 of them, with this 47" Bull the only fish to be landed. Night time is definitely the right time during our insanely hot summers!