Rattlesnake Trifecta and...
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FLYC Trip Reports 6/14 and 6/16/03
Two reports in one, enjoy...
On Sat, Sue Sea, Joe and his friend Mike and I got together for Matheson Hammock, in south Bay (Biscayne). MH is located off Kendall Rd., I think it's the same as SW 88 St., but don't quote me. We took 826 south, then Kendall east (it jogs once) to the water. Park entrance was $4 per car. Really quite a beautiful park, but like all boat ramps in Miami its a zoo on the weekend.
We all launched without incident, even Joe's buddy Mike (who I am now naming the Gentleman Kayaker) in his absolutely stunning, 18 ft. kevlar yak. What a machine! Obscenely light, almost flys over the water. A beautiful design.
However, yak launching offers the advantage of being able to pull up next to the ramps, unload, park and launch with little trouble. We even found two spaces within spittin distance of the water and an abandoned ramp next to the new ones, filled with yelling power pukers with bloomin, boomin boomboxes.
The good news is that you are out of the channel immediately and quickly away from all the idijet skis. The "Hammock" runs south, I'd say a mile and maybe a half, to Snapper Creek (more about this later). These are especially broad flats that reach way out; you may have to give them some berth as the shoreline flats will be exposed at lower tides.
Of course this was perfect for "I've never seen it this low" Joe. Not to mention we were out on a full moon. But no worries, we just stayed well out and were able to pick our water depth (remember, 18 inches for bones). Downside, we were out at low tide on a warm afternoon, so two strikes already.
Not surprisingly, we saw no bones so decided to go south to Snapper Creek. SC is well marked with pilings and the usual red/green channel markers. The inlet curves through the flats, seems to be about 10 ft deep and nice currents. As we approached with the wind and current opposed we had the pleasant experience of finding ourselves able to stand still in the eddies at the side of the channel, holding us almost in place and allowing us to cast with little drift.
As we got close we saw what at first I assumed was powerpuke wakes breaking on the adjacent flat. But the splashes were very large, and repetitive. Something VERY large was busting bait. A quick cast over toward the flat netted me a leaping strike on my topwater. And right next to the exposed turtle grass, small to medium sized predators were repeatedly breaking up bait.
They were so oblivious to us that Joe, Mike and I de-yakked and threw everything we had into the weedy melee - weedless spoons (best - picked up no weeds at all - but also no fish), flats jigs and topwaters. The predators ignored everything and seemingly couldn't be spooked.
They had a redfish kinda shape, roundish back, maybe 15-18". Never caught one so we don't know what they were. Any ideas?
Joe and Mike explored the meandering creek which is very attractive, quite wide and seemed awfully fishy. Upon their return we meandered back to the launch while meeting up with several racing/touring yaks and with a good view of Key Biscayne to the northeast.
Joe has seen tailing bones here more than once. Our timing (low tide, hot pm water) was bad. The nearby Snapper Creek adds an interesting dimension. It's clear that the entrance and surrounding flats maintained activity and I have little doubt that further explorations both in the creek, and following the channel out, would be productive.
You can anticipate that the immediate flats would be absolutely super on a rising tide. Bones follow patterns and almost always find channels and cuts to follow in from deeper water, then spread to the surrounding flats. If I were to fish early rising tide, I'd plant myself on either side of the creek (particularly the north), stake out and wait or very carefully circle the area.
I know, I know, you're gettin tired of all my blather bout Rattlesnake Key. Get ready for more.... a lot more.
Was pleased to be able to accompany Chef Mike to what is a favored spot of a number of Yak Kin in the club. We are beginning to really understand this flat, it's structure, entry channels, tide effects, etc. It is so true that one needs to visit a spot under all conditions, esp. low/low tide to understand what happens and why.
So why go to RSK. In order: Bones - nice, nice Cuda - Snapper - Snook and Boxfish. Even on a bad day you should hook up with some killer cuda (lighter tackle please - and as for wire - fugetabodit!), and if you throw some live shrimp on hook-up jigs you may end up with snapper for sure, a boxfish and maybe, even maybe a bone.
SueSea and I have seen feeding Tarpon as well, not to mention great wildlife, birds, strange sounds and calls and rolling porpoises.
So that's why. On this trip our conditions were close to ideal: an hour or so to rising tide (high/high), cool morning water. Again, more wind (15 knots, ESE) than we'd have preferred, but the key shelters sufficiently from the prevailing SE winds. And this is NOT a hard key to circumnavigate, so be sure you'll find the conditions you want (including several pass-through channels).
When we arrived in prime bone flats (actually quite near the launch) the water was extra deep, maybe 3 to 4 ft. Even close to the key the water was over prime bone depth, so no tailing to be seen. A blind casting situation.
Mike quickly copped a coupla copulating cocky mangrove snappers on the flats with hook-up shrimps. Had he wished Mike could easily have filled up a cooler with 'em, but we were savin the shrimpies for the Grey Ghost. So having worked the northwest quadrant we decided to make hay and paddle around the east end and take advantage of the easterlies to drift the south side of the key.
We also knew the south side was shallower, and found the waters there to be 3 ft. or less, stakeable. Mike wanted to head to the south side of the flats there to a nice snapper hole he knows. On the way we spotted some nice light green patches of sand (bigger and more extensive than the occasional pothole).
These are easy to drift and cast to as the patches populate a fairly large area. So we'd paddle to the east end of the area, drift through (rather rapidly with 15 kt. winds), get in maybe 10 or 15 casts, do it again.
I struck first.... solid cuda, quickly ran may drag, threw my confidence jig (white bucktail, coppery rooster tail, Walmart $1.27). I quickly cast again, another solid hit - bout 2-1/2 ft - jumped twice, some nice runs, and again a thrown hook (you do crush your barbs don't you?).
By this time Mike had seen the action and joined me. I had on two more solid cuda in the 2-1/2 to 3 foot range, the kind that you must play for at least 5 - 10 min. Had both on for at least 5 min., and about to close in and land em... and lost both to line wear.
Now, now I know what you're sayin - why not use wire? I don't and won't. Trust me I've caught lots and lots of cuda on 30 lb. mono leader, and this was just one of those days. Use wire and you'll catch fewer cuda - and not much else - with wire showin. Not to mention I've caught literally hundreds of sharp-toothed jack, rough-lipped snook, trout and cuda on 30 lb. mono leader. And most on my $1.27, 3/8 oz. Largo boathead white jig w/copper rooster tail. Not a big loss, I buy these lures 5 at a time.
Mike tried a lima bean white jig, but these sink way too fast for the flats, so he quickly went to a topwater.
Now we all know topwater - great thrill, repeated exciting strikes, repeated exciting misses. But fun anyway, cause you can say "did you see that hit??!!!" and everybody admires the huge splash. But not that many hookups. Not this day. Mike hooked at least 3 cudas on what amounts to a Super Spook - a big lure with 3 gangs of triples (all barbs smashed, btw).
So..... snapper, buncha great cudas... what else did we need. Well by now the water was droppin fast (and with a full moon you can be sure you'll get stranded on the south side) so we quickly exited west, took the cut-through channel to the west, then the cut-through to the mid-north side (so many ways to avoid the wind, set up your drifts here).
The mid-north channel exit is near a large bight (baylike bend), a kind of fishy cove. Have seen tarpon here, so darn fishy, potholes galore, channels and cuts, large (3 ft. plus) cudas. But nothing today. However the water was still perfect due to the moon, about 2 feet or a bit less, ideal.
So near what appeared to be a guide and stand-up client in a special, wide, oar driven canoe, we all VERY quietly, slowly and fruitlessly explored the north flats. As our time on the water was nearing 5 hours, we drifted west toward the launch area.
Mike put our another shrimp, let it sit and frankly, forgot about it. Not knowing he had bait out I was paddlin over to suggest we cash it and split when I spooked a significant fish, which apparently was in mid-chomp on his shrimp. The spooked "something good" immediately split with Mike's shrimp in mouth - straight at Mike - who was furiously reeling in what was a vain attempt to set the hook.
When "it" spotted Mike, the fish quickly turned, threw the hook and gone. Fun! Now close to leaving I moved a bit close to the key, and for the second time in two RSK trips - saw tails! Yup - three tailing bones. Quickly alerted Mike and we paddled toward the area, maybe 50 ft. away, to set up our casts. As we approached the area, it seems the bones were travelin our way and appeared maybe 20 ft. to our left.
Then they finally spooked and quickly exited stage north, leaving visible wakes all the way to the boat channel. Still a real thrill. We found em, and had our cast, had our chance. Getting closer to nirvana...
RSK is not to be denied. You've heard it before. Wonderful setting, wonderful wildlife, plenty of opportunity from a bucket of snapper, to sizeable sizzling cuda, to maybe even a cast on a bone. And for you mangrove snookers, some of the most fishy mangrove-lined wandering channels ever.
Re: bones. We now have figured out the real estate, points of ingress/egress. We have spotted em. And we are less (but still) panicked at the elusive opportunities we've been provided. Lesson: Don't panick, don't panick, don't panick! Easy to say, but it is so true. Next time, we won't approach the sighting but stay put. Let em feed, let em move. Bones do follow a path (usually but not always into the current) and you need some time to figure it out.
THEN, and only then, calmly and carefully plan your approach - from well ahead. Place your lures, at LEAST 10 ft. away, and then just hope and wait. When they are closer, just one tiny twitch (if using a bone jig). That's it. No retrieve, take your lumps if you placed wrong. If you've placed a shrimp, do NOTHING (they will find it).
Enough for now, hope you enjoyed the report...
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