The Call

April 11, 2013 by  

By Nick Simonson

It wasn’t the time or place for it, that’s for sure.  But I made the call as I sent my shrimp out, rotating around the egg sinker like the moon orbiting the earth in fast-motion.  As it splashed down into the aquamarine inshore water, for some reason I said to my brother-in-law, Adam, “this is it man, a big trout – 18 inches plus, guaranteed!”
Up until “the call,” we had landed sea trout and ladyfish hand-over-fist from our rented skiff, which we had anchored up next to a small shoal of gold sand surrounded by sea grass dipping down into about seven feet of water.  Throughout our time in the incoming tide and its peak on the Intercoastal Waterway of southwest Florida, none of the eighty or so trout we had caught met the minimum legal limit of 15 inches, with very few eclipsing 13.  So perhaps I made the call out of desperation for something substantial at the end of my line.

That one big trout

The Call that landed that one big trout

It was almost a given that if one of these small trout didn’t hit in the first twenty seconds after our baits entered the water, the aggressive ladyfish would smash it on the retrieve and begin an aerial show highlighted by multiple jumps, flips and tailwalks across the surface of the water.  Such battles have earned the ladyfish the nickname of “poor man’s tarpon” and maybe enhanced their quality in anglers’ eyes by doing so.  Some of the ladyfish we encountered went 18 to 20 inches, and I wondered if a trout of the same size would put up as good of a fight.  Maybe it was that curiosity which caused me to make the call.
Frustration isn’t the word, exactly, which led to the call, but we had been cooped up in our condo for three days as a cold front sent the jet stream nose-diving from the upper plains to the Florida panhandle.   With it came snow in Atlanta, freeze warnings as far south as Ocala, and a Wednesday morning wake-up temperature of 39 degrees on Palm Island where we were staying, along with 30 mph winds. It felt like home, which was what I was trying to avoid after this year’s extended winter.  So when it warmed up to 70 degrees, I was just happy to be on the water, but was nagged by my imagination of what my fishing would have been like had I been out for the previous days which were cancelled due to small craft advisories and the boat rental company’s insurance not covering those craft sent out crewed by landlubbers like me in such cold and choppy conditions.  So maybe it was just mild frustration that led to the call.
Whatever it was, I made the call for a fish of proportions significantly larger than what we had been seeing.  It’s easy when you’re fishing bluegills, crappies, or on a hot walleye bite to call out the species, size and maybe even timing the strike with a countdown to a hookset.  But I don’t often holler out for something I’m pretty sure I’m not going to catch.
So when the thud at the end of my line transferred up to my hands and my rod bowed in a solid arch after a sweeping hookset, I’m certain my eyes widened three sizes.  My opponent didn’t bolt to the surface, so I was certain it wasn’t a ladyfish.  It gave the familiar headshake like the dozens of trout I had previously caught, but on a much stronger scale.  The fish battled to stay down in the depths, but about half way back to the boat, it came close enough to confirm the call.  It was a huge speckled sea trout which dwarfed all of the others I had seen that day.  It was barely hooked in the bottom lip and fought mightily until it came into my brother-in-law’s grasp at boatside.
“I guess you were right,” he said, as he held it up and handed it over to me.
“Yeah, I’ve never seen one this big and never, ever made a call like that,” I responded, still stunned at what had transpired.
I measured the fish up at just a hair over 18 inches, a giant among his contemporaries for sure, and a quality fish to remember the day by.  I won’t lie, I tried to parlay my first successful outlandish call on the water into a subsequent catch of similar proportions, but it didn’t pay off.  That one big trout, along with a very small redfish (my first ever) and a crevalle jack for Adam, would be the highlight of the outing.
I’m guessing that moments like “the call” only come around once in a blue moon, or maybe only when hell freezes over and the remnant cold front sneaks its way into Florida in late March.  Whatever the odds were, I am sure I spent all of my angling mojo in one shot – but it was worth it.  Hopefully by the time spring finally sets in and the ice gives way, I will have restocked my angling luck and be ready to make another outrageous call…in our outdoors.


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