Fishing the East side of Shell Island
Continuing our explorations around the bays, we decided to start at the very eastern end of Shell Island and work back to the pass on the island side and the Tyndall Air Force Base side.
We heard a rumor that the top team’s fish from last tournament came from the Shell Island area, so we had to investigate. With our next tournament only a week away, this was our last chance to find the fish and have a game plan for next Saturday.
We got to the very eastern end on the back of Shell Island and it looked like a marsh. We maneuvered through the sand bars and made it to the back. We started working around the bank, sight fishing and fan casting. We spent 45 minutes back there and didn’t see or catch a single red.
As we were working around the sandbars on our way back out, we spotted two lower slot reds cruising, which told us this wasn’t going to be a bust. We worked down the island side first, drifting and using the trolling motor.
I was on our macro tower and Jake was sight casting. We hadn’t seen much, and then I heard Jake’s drag. He had found one fan casting a drop-off. We kept moving down our path, and I saw something moving, rolling, and shining like mullet in the shallows, but the body wasn’t right. I cast in front of them, jigged twice and let it sit while the school moved in the direction of my bait.
I felt a large THUMP and the drag started peeling. It was a school of about 50 reds. Jake cast into them and he hooked up, and then I hooked up, and then we continued to move as we had spooked that school and they quit eating.
We made our way to the docks just east of the pass and started back to the eastern end of the island down the Tyndall side. We continued the same methods as we used on the island side. The only difference was that we changed the colors of our salt water assassins.
It was almost a complete repeat of the other side. Jake hooked up fan casting the drop-offs, and then I saw a giant school of “mullet.” I threw in front of the school, jigged twice, waited, and THUMP, the same thing happened again.
That school we found had about 100 reds in the mid-slot class.
We both threw and hooked up again until a boater saw us and cut us off about 20 yards ahead of our boat. That became a common thing fishing around the island: We would find a school, catch a fish, and a boater would see us and cut us off.
Around Tyndall and Shell Island, we saw roughly 10 schools of reds ranging from 25 to 200 per school with an average weight ranging from 2 to 6 pounds. With the clear water, they were so much easier to see, but that meant they were that much more spooky and ready to turn off or run.
It was fun fishing the clear water and seeing everything, just tricky with the number of other boats and the tooth fish like Spanish and blues.