While slow-trolling live bluerunners off Clearwater in last weekend's kingfish tournament, our depth recorder marked a large school under the boat. The screen actually showed solid fish from top to bottom. Moments later all four baited rods folded over as a mass of orange appeared behind the boat. As our three-man crew struggled to fight four fish at the same time, we saw what we were up against: giant redfish. A dense school 50 yards wide rose to the surface, gobbling up whatever unfortunate organism happened to be in the vicinity. It was a very impressive sight, to say the least.
We lost the red on the fourth rod but landed the other three. All were easily over 20 pounds, with the largest probably 35 or more. They were so big we had to lip-gaff them to lift them aboard so we could remove our stinger rigs from their rubbery lips. In the same area we caught kings up to 26 pounds, cobia and mackerel and hooked numerous 75- to 100-pound spinner sharks.
The redfish school surfaced several more times nearby, but because we were looking for a tournament-sized kingfish we pulled away each time they came up to feed. Any other day we would have had a ball catching them, but that's the way fishing goes. If there was a photo-release redfish tournament that day we probably would have caught a 50-pound king.