Like many who reside or visit here, my early saltwater adventures took place in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays chasing beautiful weakfish (sea trout), stripers or rockfish, flounder and wolf packs of ravenous big bluefish.
If you've never caught a blue they are mean, powerful, jump and bite, but lousy table fare similar to our local jack crevalle. During those years the Florida glamour species the tarpon, bonefish, snook and reds, were always on my mind no matter how big the striper was or how beautiful that 12-pound trout.
I knew I had to get to Florida and "really" go fishing. Full time. I read and reread every article since I was 10. The big leagues.
Capt. George Tunison
After years, I finally made it happen. The first day I was out in my brand new boat the weather was great. I finally had done it, I thought, as my first cast hit the water.
Within two turns of the handle the shallow water exploded. The rod bent double and the drag screamed as something really powerful, really really fast, burned off 30 yards of 10-pound test, reversed course and burned by the boat at light speed. It was all I could do to keep up.
This was my reward for years of work and planning, retirement, relocating to the fishing capitol of the world and now I was tied into a true Florida big game, hi-power, skinny water, TV style gamefish. I prayed to get a glimpse of it before it got off.
After a prolonged fight he finally slowed down and I saw a strangely familiar sickle shape tail break water. I almost fainted. I had done the impossible. On my first cast in Florida I had caught the Holy Grail of shallow water sportfishing. The Grey Ghost, easily one of the hardest fish in the world to fool on the flats. I had hooked a permit!
I had visions of myself gracing the cover of Florida Sportsman holding my beautiful sickle tailed chrome permit and buying lots of copies to send home to my Yankee buddies huddled by the fire. I still had not seen this magnificent fighter as it made one last dash under the boat peeling off more line running out the other side. I was near panic mode determined to not lose my greatest angling feat to date.
Suddenly, it surfaced next to the boat and I was face to face with none other than Old Chopper. No beautiful chrome permit or other exotic Florida gamefish, but a nasty old oily bluefish. I was crushed. Of all the fish in Florida my first "big time flats fish" was just a mean old bluefish on vacation from up north.
Right now blues are tearing up bait, flies and lures at an oyster bar near you as well as in the passes. Pound for pound the bluefish is a magnificent fish and like members of the jack family they are both the strongest fish around these parts. A blue will run hard, pull lots of drag even jump and if given a chance will shorten any wayward finger gotten close to its mouth full of razor sharp teeth.
These fish have a mean attitude and are truly the wolves of the sea. Most visiting blues here are small compared to their northern cousins. A typical Matlacha blue will run 4 to 6 pounds and on light tackle they are a blast.
Big trout are showing up as the water cools and look for tripletail on the crab floats.