Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pontoons in the Lagoons

We set up three pontoons on loan to us from some Austrians for an exploratory adventure into a seldom-fished area. This place has turtle grass flats ringed by ocean-side reefs, deep channles into mangrove-lined lagoons and sandy-bottomed bays dotted with house-sized boulders. The possibilities were endless.

We lugged the pontoons through a half mile of single-track to get to the shoreline. Four of the six inflatable pontoons have slow leaks, so the foot pump was stashed in a backpack. We launched and immediately started casting. Brian rode Old Red, Matt R. took the Clean Green Machine and I had the SWC-decaled boat.

I've started to experiment with the spinning rod lately. There isn't any denying that they're a fun and exciting diversion from the fly every once in a while. I still had the bonefish rod, a gorgeous Pieroway 6wt with an Opti Runner, lashed to the side for the bones I knew we would see.

Old Red needed the most frequent TLC. It was just windy enough that we could position ourselvs upwind of a nice cut or drop-off and just let the wind gently push us down, maintaining perfect position, as we fished areas that would be out of reach if we were on foot.

We caught about a million and a half 'cuda of less than 20 inches. Somehow, we didn't lose a single lure or fly to them.

The 4:30am pick-up prooved too much for one member of our group. He needed a nap while Brian and I walked a shallow flat and looked for tails.

We eventually worked our way into the mangrove-lined lagoon. The depth stays at about 5ft and had some submerged boulders. I've seen schools of tarpon and bonefish swimming in this area, as well as snook, 'cuda and, or so I've heard, a permit back in the day. Just as we entered, the skies opened and we sheltered in mangroves for a few minutes.

Letting the lure of fly sink nearer to the mangrove roots produced these small mangrove snappers on most casts. They hit like a ton of bricks; it's incredible for their size.

The Lagoon Entrance

Old Red riding a bit low...

Every once in a while, the most unlikely of casts produces the most unlikely of fish. Matt threw his red-headed Yo-Zuri lure 12ft up into a magrove branch by accident. Upon ripping it out, the lure plopped into the water and was immediately taken by an unseen fish. His drag on the 30lb braid was set high for a strike and this fish took out line like nothing else we'd hooked that day. Ten long seconds later and it was still peeling off line as we laughed our heads off. It was awesome. We still had no idea what it was.

Another run or two later and the fish surfaced near the pontoon. Massive bonefish! The beast had taken a 4" Yo-zuri with twin trebels.

That red-headed lure had caught a dozen or so tarpon, uncountable 'cuda and now this... Who knows what it thought the lure was. As soon as it hit the water the fish took.

Even as the fish was peeling out line a bonefish never occurred to me. I was thinking it was a big jack. I was as surprised as Matt was when it finally came into sight next to the boat. I would estimate it at close to 10lbs but have no way of being sure.

It was the first but won't be the last time we explore that area on the pontoons. I lost another bonefish during the landing attempt that I hooked on the fly earlier in the day, jumped two tarpon that were laid up under some overhanging mangroves, missed a 20lb+ snapper that chased my fly and saw a number of decent sharks cruising about. We will definitely be back.

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