Rattlesnake Key Redux:
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FLYC Trip Report 6/1/03
Just have to share with you that a number of us really, really dig this key. It's close, it's the keys, it's reasonably productive. Sue Sea and I have been there at least 3 times in the last week, and yesterday I was joined by Mike the Chef.
Mike is a great guy, and one of the leading chefs in the area. I'd tell you where he holds forth, but most of us can't afford it. Mike is quite an experienced fisherman, a little new to yakking, but he's got it down. Has great gear, and has had enought experience with good guides to know what to do.
Anyway, Mike is crazee for the Rattlesnake, and both of us are nuts to find the elusive gray ghost, the bonefish. There are tons of cudas, etc., and occasional large tarpon, plus mangrove snapper, snook etc. But let's face it, the bone is the way to go. I had gotten to the point that I was beginning to lose faith in all the maps, etc., that state these are good bone flats.
But Mike insisted he'd run into (and spooked) a coupla schools there. So I took my 4th trip in a week, determined that if I didn't see any bones, well....
We did! Boy did we ever...
Left fairly early (7am) to minimize pm storms, but had to deal with a max flow falling tide and fish through what turned out to be a very low tide, which began to expose the north side turtle grass.
NOTE: Avoid the south side at low tide, you WILL be stranded. Joe and I know how this works..
Anyway, we still had a good bit of liquid cushion and headed onto the flat with about 2 feet of water...perfect. Mike is careful, slow and observant (I tend to move a bit faster, but went along with Mike's style...after all, he was the one who'd seen bones here). Well after covering bout half the flat, I started to blind cast when Mike called me and pointed, and I immediately headed over. What did he see?
A small school of very, very big bones. All 10 lb. plus we agreed. As Mike put it (...these are happy bones), cause they were tailing, tail splashing, totally absorbed in feeding. Super! Amazing! We snuck up with extreme caution, were within a decent cast, but wanted to be a bit closer for purposes of accuracy and being able to cast past and to the side so as not to spook em.
But these bones weren't cooperative. We thought we had their direction figured (bones usually move in a specific direction, usu. into the current/tide, and tend to keep moving, grazing). Well one moved west (away from us) and a couple more moved north (toward and by us). Mike quickly got a cast in, but you know how a dangling jig can wrap around your rod tip and I had to furiously but silently swear and fumble to clear my tangle knowing that I had only a moment or two.
Never made it.
The water went silent, the tailing stopped, and the grey ghosts had moved.... where? Mike was certain they hadn't spooked, as in his experience they do so loudly and instantly. We think we simply caught the end of their feed, the tide was dropping rapidly and these large fish were gonna leave this very shallow area.
Or we spooked em. Ha!
So it was back to cruising and figuring a strategy for the falling water, and east wind. So we headed east with the intention of drifting back west down the key, and trying to stay in two feet. Well, we did so, but the bones were gone; however the usual contingent of cuda's provided much fun with our top waters. It's always a gas to tease em, watch the approaching wakes and sudden frothy strikes.
We both enjoyed some nice action, and had a number of small and medium cuda strikes. Always amazes me that cudas, which are so deadly underwater, manage to repeatedly miss a topwater, knock it around and keep trying. But it sure is fun. Teased one guy, barely twitching my Yozuri topwater (fantastic action). Saw him rush up and stop. I waited, and gently "bobbed" my lure with a tiny tug, let it sit, watched intently ready for the strike.
Instead I watched as my lure was just as gently pulled under the water (catching me by surprise) and by the time I realized I oughta strike, my lure had popped back up to the surface. Guess he gently mouthed it, decided plastic was not on the menu. I'm sure Chef Mike agrees.
Managed to dunk my reel in the saltwater, but being a true fisherman immediately sacrificed the whole of my drinking water to rinse it off. Which worked fine - when I opened the reel last night, no signficant water, but cleaned and relubed it anyway. Getting pretty good at breaking down Shimano's.
The Grey Ghost lives and these were major fish. As always, a rising tide is best (though Mike and I discovered a secret flats channel that was simply amazing - strong current, tons of bait and lurking predators hangin in the current) as is morning fishing before the water heats up and drives all the fish off the flats. You can still fish the channels that cut through the key, or look for mangrove snapper and snook which are absolutely there.
Ideal: High tide at noon, arrive as early as possible, fish through high. Work the channels and inside the key in the pm (low).
Mike carries three rods, one of which is a nice flyrod and I carry two. One is rigged with a topwater, the other with a bonefish jig. I'm beginning to think I'd like to have at least one RAM or other rodholder up front within easy grabbing distance. I'll keep my two rear rocket launchers as holders and for trolling. On the flats I think it very important to have one rod at the ready, up front for instant grab and cast, and angled forward toward the bow so the lure is hanging free (won't tangle) and ready for casting.
Topwaters recommended: Zara Spook, Mirrolure Top Dog, Yozuri topwater. The Yozuri has by far the most interesting action, will do the usual zigzag, plus bobbin seductively. I've heard the Top Dog isn't bad either. The Spook is a classic, by far the best "zig zag". Might consider a Mirrolure 7M floater - no zigzag, but you can draw it under the water, jerk it for a classic wounded fish action.
Bonefish jigs (in order): brown (best), white, pink. Remember, bait tends to match the bottom. In the grass you want brown. On large sandy areas the white. Pink is interesting, is supposed to mimic a shrimp.
Other: Saw Mike use his tethered paddle as a flats stake; simply pushed it straight down into the mud. The flat blade had tremedous suction and worked great. I use a 4 foot, 1/2 inch PVC pipe, cut at an angle, push down through scupper hole. Joe adds a "T" at the top, plus a short piece of line and a clip, drags the stake when he isn't using it.
Hope ya enjoyed this page! For more incredibly satisfying info...Ft Lauderdale Yakfishing Club
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