Big fish come in small packages
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this picture of my 5-year old daughter, Isabel, is worth a million to me.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a million words, but I am going to do a little bragging — what proud father wouldn’t? Heck, I know grown men who fish on a regular basis that have never caught a drum that big.
With the sheepshead bite in full swing, I figured I’d take the family out for a little action on the nearshore reefs. Although the conditions were a little breezy, I knew if we couldn’t get out in the Gulf, we could always fish in Tampa Bay where the waters are slightly calmer. As we headed into the Gulf, the winds picked up and so did the chop so we turned around and headed toward a sheepshead spot in the bay.
Upon arrival, we set anchor over a good mark and started dropping shrimp down on a knocker rig. My wife Bekka, immediately hooked into a nice 3-pounder on her first bait. As for my daughter Izzy, she was reeling up pinfish and little snapper like a pro. On course, her tackle, a Penn Sargus 2000 paired with a Berkeley light action 5’ 6” spinning rod was perfect for catching the pins and snapper which were just enough for her to handle.
After Bekka and myself landed a few more nice sheepies, I could tell Isabel was getting frustrated — she wanted to catch something bigger. Well, let me tell you, she did. In fact I think she bit off more than she could chew.
Upon dropping her shrimp, to the bottom, waiting as patiently as a 5-year old can wait, she got her wish. Instantly, she got a bite. She tightened up the line and the rod slammed down on the gunwale as the drag started screaming out.
Seeing this occur, I knew she has something big, but it wasn’t just a big sheepies or something. Well, she hung onto the cork handle of that rod and tried to reel with all her might, but couldn’t gain any line on the fish. Finally, her little arms started shaking so she handed the rod to me. Remember, now, this is an ulta-light rod and reel with 6-pound braid and a 20-pound leader designed for pinfish and grunts.
After fighting the fish for about 10 minutes, we finally got a glimpse. I couldn’t believe we still had the fish on. This big black drum, every bit of 35-inches long, saw the boat and immediately when back down into the reef. I could feel the leader rubbing the structure as I tried to be ever so delicate on the rod to prevent being cut off.
Finally, the fish started coming up again. I knew it was now or never or so I put just enough heat on him by cupping the spool. The rod was bent in a complete U shape with the tip of the rod lower than the butt. I have to give credit to Berkeley for that one.
Anyway, we could now see the fish. He was on the surface as I guided him toward the boat. Bekka was quick with the landing net — positioning it perfectly so I could guide the fish into it — we had him.
Isabel’s eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning when she saw the likes of that big back drum. After weighing it, getting some photos and celebrating the moment, we quickly released the fish back into the water. To share an experience like this with your family is what its all about. And from the looks of it, I plan on sharing many more.
On a final note, my advice to you is to take a kid fishing. Its quite entertaining for you and them and its something they will never forget. If you’re a local here in the area, then the water is your backyard. Get the family out to the share this wonderful area we live in. Do this enough and it will grow into a true love for the water. And maybe then, your kids will pass it on to the next generation.