Planning a winter getaway this season? Follow my lead and pick a destination that has beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery, and great fishing!
My mission as a rookie saltwater angler was to land as many prized species as I could in a relatively short period of time, while my wife and I enjoyed our honeymoon. For this I hooked up with Mike Hushek at St. Croix Inshore Fishing Charters.
We met up with Mike early on a Tuesday morning. One thing that I have learnt very early on in life is that it is extremely difficult to fake genuine enthusiasm and Mike exudes this. We set off in his boat “Always Sum-Ting” and looked to target Snook and Tarpon right off the bat but first we had to find our own live bait with a cast net. Being completely new to The Saltwater Experience, even this was cool. We caught 4-5 dozen scaled sardines, shad, or silversides depending on what part of the Island or Country you are from. We also spotted a 4 foot shark cruising the shallows which was really cool!
My first ever saltwater fish turned out to be a solid Snook that fell for a nose hooked live bait rig. It fought well and similar to a largemouth, making a couple of strong surges towards the boat. Absolutely no problem at all for the 7’6 Medium Heavy Legend Trek spinning rod.
The conditions were a bit windy so we snuck into a quiet, shallow, gin clear-sapphire blue bay. Here we actually hopped off the boat for a quick break and to scout for the always elusive, and highly sought after Bonefish! Mike informed us that bonefish sometimes frequented these flats but we had to stalk them quietly. A lot of guys only get to see glimpses of these spooky fish, and others that are lucky enough to see and hook one often don’t have the proper gear to finish the job!
My wife and I were told that bonefish predominantly feed on various crab and shrimp along the bottom and in the weeds. We were to mimic these guys with small hair jigs imparting a subtle pop-pop-kill retrieve, similar to a crab or shrimp scurrying and scuttling along the bottom.
After seeing only one small bonefish spook from the ultra-shallow bay, we continued our search along a small island trail that zig-zagged across a peninsula. Upon first sight of the newly accessible water our eyes lit up; there were not one, not two, but three impressive bonefish actively cruising the shallows. They were congregated in a sandy area that was surrounded by weeds and seemed to be on the feed. This is where things got really exciting, suddenly another trio of bonefish zoomed within casting distance. Now I’m no saltwater expert but 2 things of note:
1. I’ve watched my fair share of fishing shows and I’ve never heard the expression “Hey Look! There is a SCHOOL of bonefish in the shallows!”
2. Our guide Mike was really excited! I’m not talking fake-excited to get your client excited (guides you know what I’m talking about here). He was amped up, and I could tell immediately that we were experiencing something very cool.
The three of us began to cast towards the two groups of bonefish. None of them looked overly interested and would either spook even with a good lead or mostly ignore our presentations. Just then Mike instructed us to try casting into the weeds instead of to the open sand. Here’s where our luck drastically improved.
If you tell a Largemouth fisherman to cast into the weeds, we are like Sharks to water. Even my wife knows that when I get around weeds, find new ones, or start fishing them we are going to be there a while! On my very first cast to the weed line I felt a bap-bap, and I had to do everything in my power not to try and cross that fishes eyes. Thankfully I did as I was told, waited and tightened down into the bite. What I experienced next was unbelievable. My Legend Trek bowed into the longest and most powerful run I’ve ever experienced on any rod! My reel’s drag screamed as the powerful fish stripped off somewhere between 40 and 50 yards of line! Mike had told me earlier that the minute you try to turn or fight a bonefish during its initial run is where you either break off or lose your first bonefish. I waited, and waited, until finally she turned. That’s when she decided to double back 180 degrees right back at us and I was suddenly reeling wildly attempting to play catch up! After a lengthy battle, the beautiful bone reluctantly came to shore where we celebrated my first ever bonefish! Mike was just as genuinely excited as I was, and my wife Paula was right there to capture the moment. A short while thereafter fishing the weeds waste deep—happy as a lark I might add. Another fresh duo of bonefish appeared and began to swim towards me from between myself and the shore! Just feet away I fumbled to cast in front of them which was not more than a rods length or two away. Minutes later I set the hook into my second bonefish while waist deep in the warm Caribbean waters surrounding the island of St. Croix!
After another lengthy battle my second bonefish was brought beachside for a quick couple of photos and subsequent release!
We fished a while longer then returned to the boat, shockingly the clock had not struck noon yet. Having a Snook and a pair of bonefish already to my name Captain Mike informed me that I just needed a single Tarpon in the afternoon to complete the St. Croix Inshore Slam!
Unfortunately we weren’t able to coax a Tarpon that afternoon but we did change things up late in the day and worked top waters next to mangrove trees in search of another snook, or maybe even a rogue Tarpon. I lost a BIG snook that absolutely destroyed my bait. I jacked it, hooked up, and the fish exploded 4 feet sideways out of the water! I won’t forget that image for a long time. We ended up landing two small barracudas on top, and had another couple close calls with other snook. We saw a second and third shark just moments after I had jumped into knee deep water to retrieve my top water bait that had found itself stuck in the mangroves…not sure how it got there. A dozen or so casts later Mike spotted a giant Eagle Ray that gracefully soared its way through the water stopping occasionally to stir up the bottom and feed!
This was just one of many amazing days that my wife and I spent on our honeymoon in St. Croix. If you are looking for a Caribbean getaway and a little bit, or a LOT of fishing, look up Mile Hushek at St. Croix Inshore Fishing Charters, phone: (340) 514-6078, email: STXfishing@yahoo.com. For accommodations we highly recommend Northside Valley Eco Villas (www.northsidevalley.net), you are surrounded by nature, beautiful trees, scores of geckos, and a chorus of birds, owner Ginger Vanderveer is as cool a host as they come! My wife and I have already booked our return trip to St. Croix in February of 2016 along with a couple of days fishing with our buddy Mike in search of one of these beautiful tarpon!
The highly touted Legend Trek from St. Croix has already begun to live up to its name as THE best travel rod in the world. Born in Park Falls, Wisconsin, this TREK was shipped to International Falls, MN, and finally couriered to the far frozen shores of Lake of the Woods. I strapped the latest addition of our St. Croix family onto my pack and never looked back. This rod has now been to more airports in 2015 than many people will in a decade: Minneapolis International, Chicago O’Hare, Charlotte International, N.C, Miami International, and its final intended destination St. Croix US Virgin Islands. As I’m writing this from 39,000 feet, David Grohl appropriately belts out over my headset, “…fly along with me, I can’t quite make it alone… “