On a cold morning, I towed my 17-foot Pole to High Bridge to catch speckled trout.
The weather had been cold for a while, and I knew that with cold weather comes a trout bite. I launched into the Yellow Dawg Bait Shop and headed south. It had been a long time since I had fished that area, and my expectations were high.
At the stream leading to the toilet, I turned west. The T-Bowl got its name from fishermen because five rivers cross there, and in the deep hole, conflicting tidal currents create a vortex that sometimes traps debris, hence the name.
I had only ventured about 50 yards when I witnessed a very unwelcome sight. manatee! Now, normally, I enjoy seeing big dugongs, but not this time. I was hoping for cooler water, but with the manatee around, that meant the water was still too warm for the trout to feed. I made a quick U-turn and headed north.
Just below the bridge, I entered Bulow Creek and turned south at the channel marker. The tide was at its highest, and to my surprise, it soon began to flow. With all that water, this was a flood. Nothing got there except one little beetle, so I left and continued my way north.
Now, on the other side of Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler County, I picked up a narrow creek and headed west again. It can be difficult to navigate that area, but with all that water coming in, I wasn’t worried.
One thing I’ve learned about Bulow Swamp over the years is that you can’t trust the tides. I saw him turn in less than two hours instead of the usual six and a half expected from the turn of the tide. I’ve always attributed this to the fact that Bulow is equidistant between the Matanzas and Ponce inlets and the tidal pull can go both ways.
Once I got to the river, I cut the engine and started drifting. I was using a brown soft plastic shrimp tail jig mounted on a white one-eighth-ounce jig head.
Nothing happened for a while, but when I got to a place where the water was flowing between two submerged oyster reefs, I got hit hard. I’ve got a fat 15 inch trout to hold and stabilize. (Sea trout season is open in Flagler County but closed in Volusia.) Speckled sea trout are notorious schools, and I knew there had to be more.
In short order, I caught two more within 14 inches and carefully released them. The sting was on! I was having great hits on almost every cast, and even though the fish were small, I was having fun. Finally, when I released the fish, I noticed something strange. Although the current was flowing out of the river, the tops of the oyster bars were now out of the water. I took a minute to look around and saw that the tide was going out with the incoming tide. impossible? I could have thought so.
I knew I was going to be in trouble soon if the water continued to drop, but the fish were biting. Just when I thought I should leave, I was struck by a powerful strike that turned out to be a beautiful 17-inch salmon that I trapped.
Knowing full well that I was pushing my luck, I started and headed down the road. On my way back to the slope, I thought about what had happened.
Dan Smith has fished Volusia County waters for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.