For four years, Joy and I have used our vacations to go fishing. Well, I have used all of our vacations to go fishing…she has been supportive of those trips. So, when she asked for a no fishing vacation, I had to accommodate her; and I really tried.
We did take six days from work and drive to Panama City Beach for five days in a condo on the beach (pretty nice place at Celadon Beach Resort if you are headed down). There was seafood, sunburns, burgers and donuts at Thomas Donut and Snack Shop on the beach…the absolute best food at Finns Grub truck…oysters, shrimp and grouper. Picked up shells, took some pics of shells and a couple of random kids landing a fish late one afternoon…played chess on the beach. It was really great to just leave it all behind.
Then on Wednesday morning, we loaded up the bags (now with sand everywhere!) and drove to the CubeSmart on Hutchison Blvd…you see, I had parked the kayak in a storage facility when we arrived at the beach – no fishing. I did need it for the ride home since Eufala, Alabama was directly on the ride home…if you chose the right path only an hour or so out of the way…and there might be a BASS tournament going on at some point. At least I didn’t take any pics at Eufala…and…well, there is no way to get out of the fact that we still haven’t taken a no fishing vacation so I will quit trying to say otherwise….and talk about the fishing. Like I said, I tried!
We arrived at Eufala, checked in to our Airbnb (link) and then headed to the Piggly Wiggly for groceries. Three boat ramps later, we had some food and were back at the place; with a plan for Thursday morning.
I have decided this year to fish what I know, with what I believe in – regardless of the lake and what everyone says “you should do”. I was planning to avoid where I “should be” in favor of fishing I understand. I tossed aside all of the early advice and looked for some rocks and docks – there are always fish around rip rap and usually, if you beat on ‘em enough, the docks have something that will always fall to a Yamamoto Senko. I had found literally miles of rip rap on our ride, with grass and docks close; I was sure I had plenty of opportunity.
Water 76-78 degrees.
I launched from the River Bluff Recreation Area, fished all of the rip rap, the docks and into the area marked gators in the pic….avoided the gator growling area….and found a very small limit thanks to an early morning shad spawn. It did not look good; even scanned deep drops and humps for a couple of hours without seeing fish. I did get several bites in a stand of cypress trees in the middle of the area, but did not hook up on anything.
I took Joy to look at another spot (Pataula Creek), I mean get dinner, before falling back into map research.
Water pretty consistent 77 degrees.
Launched from Pataula Creek Public Access area with a plan to go back to the rip rap where a road crosses the creek, then fish back to the ramp. It was two miles or about 25 minutes with the Torqeedo; that could help with the inevitable waiting tourney morning.
I wasn’t getting bit on the four inch black and blue flaked senko that usually works. I switched to a Blue Pearl Black Hologram Berkley General and found one keeper and three smalls at the bridge before under the bridge to the first clump of cypress trees finding nothing more. Also, there were four other kayakers headed back that way and I never saw anyone get bit.
I came out to the docks (passing another clump of isolated cypress trees along the channel – I didn’t touch them) and started finding fish on the docks. It was the second set of dock legs from the shore. I noted it was always about 2.5 feet of water where I was getting bit on the General. I hadn’t brought too many of the Berkley baits, so I put them down and threw the black and blue senko without luck.
Friday night at check in….Marcus Coats got up a pool that would have been certain money for me…it was a pool up to $1400 bucks if I would wrestle a gator cruising the shore close to us. After weighing my odds of winning the match up, I declined. A special thanks to all that were willing to chip in in the name of watching me get mauled….thanks SO MUCH!
I had nothing but hopes for small fish at either place so I headed for the qty of small fish and found the water temp was only 75 degrees at Pataula Creek – the temp had dropped. Only myself and Marcus Villanueva were at the ramp. I followed the same game plan from Friday, launch and motor up to the bridge; sitting for less than five minutes before lines in.
First cast with a white Stanley Ribbet Frog and wham…hook set…nothing. I had tied on the frog hoping for the shad spawn that never happened, but it looked good. A fish popped on the dock behind me, I picked up a Rapala Skitter Pop (fish what I know) and after two twitches; a 13 inch bass put me on the board. Then nothing else on the bait.
Switching to the white Berkley landed me three small fish under eleven before moving to the docks and catching nothing. Not another single fish on the bait.
I was cruising to another set of docks that had proven successful when I passed the clump of isolated cypress trees that I had not touched the day before. There were about 6 kayakers I could see all over the areas I planned to fish, so I figured why not. I had gotten bit at the Bluff Creek isolated clump with a four inch black and blue Yamamoto rigged on a Charlie Brewer Slider Snagless Pro Head. An hour later I had a 15.25, 16.25 and 17 inch fish in the boat. I fished it hard for another thirty minutes with zero bites.
I moved to the docks, started throwing at the second set of legs on the docks – with 2.5 ft of water using the General and caught nothing. Dang it. It was going to go down like that, no limit!!
I switched to a four inch, weightless and wacky rigged, black with blue flake Yamamoto and started targeting the same spots….short fish after short fish. Then I moved to the set of legs in 3.5 ft of water and landed a 19.5. I had a limit!
I kept at the depth and caught several 12-12.5 inch fish, but no upgrades. I did hook up on something that stripped drag, and keep convincing myself it was not a bass after it broke off…but I know the truth…
The rest of the day was nothing but 12 inch fish until I came to a dock on a flat sitting in around 3.5 ft of water; the key to the day it seemed. I tossed the senko under it and hooked up with a 15-16 inch bass. I reached down to net it – knowing it wasn’t ready – and pulled back on my rod to drag it in….and watched it swim away with an hour left….I know now that if it was over 15 at all…it was a $500 dollar fish…dang it.
All in all, it was a great no fishing/fishing vacation (ended up ninth!!! On the ride home).
Special thanks to Jackie at the CubeSmart at Panama City Beach! She made storing my kayak for a few nights affordable and was way more than helpful. If you go that way and need some parking…check them out!