I’ve never been a morning person. For me, waking up before 7am requires all but an act of Congress. (Hopefully I’m going to change that this month.) But when my friend Capt. Leon Dana of Prime Time Charters invited me to join him on a quick inshore fishing trip Monday morning, I couldn’t pass up the chance… even if it did involve waking up at 4:45am. Ouch.
Leon has been fishing the waters in Jacksonville for years but only became a guide last year. He’s a charismatic and patient Captain who is determined to get his clients on the fish. He offers a variety of inshore fishing charters including fishing for Bull Reds off the Jetties and going after Redfish, Flounder, and Trout in the Intracoastal waterways.
I met Leon at the boat ramp before sunrise. We dropped the boat in the water, guzzled down the last of our morning coffee, and grabbed a few dozen live shrimp from the local bait shop. “It’s a beautiful day; we’re going to catch some fish, ” Leon kept repeating. He told me the water has been murky lately but it was starting to clear up, a sure sign the fish would be biting.
We hopped in the boat and made the quick trip to one of Leon’s favorite spots. He shut off the engine and used the push pole to get us up along the grass line. He pointed out fish after fish. I asked him how he could tell the difference between Redfish and Mullet. “You know how people walk differently? Some people walk slow, others skip along,” he answered. “It’s the same way with fish. They have a distinct swim pattern.”
Now, every good fishing trip has a least one fish tale. Our story is one we’re sure to remember for a long time.
Leon and I cast our lines along the grass line and it wasn’t long before he had a fish hooked. He put his rod in the rod holder, fish still on the line, and grabbed mine to cast in the spot his just got the bite. As he pulled back to cast, my line got caught around his and snapped the rig and fish right off his rod. His cork sat there bobbing in the water and we poled over to grab it bummed we’d lost such a great fish. As I reached into the water for the cork I realized the fish was still attached! It was a team effort but we pulled in a nice slot Redfish. Leon let me take credit for the fish since technically I did catch it.
We cast our lines a few more times before heading to a new spot. Leon got us in position near an oyster bed. “Cast at the beginning of the bed and let the bait float down,” he instructed. After a few casts, I hooked up on a nice fish and reeled in a keeper Trout.
Meanwhile, Leon wrestled with a baby Bonnethead Shark and grumbled as he removed the hook from it’s mouth and tossed it back into the water.
Though our time on the water was brief, we headed back to the boat ramp with two nice fish in the icebox. I’d say this trip was definitely worth the early wake up call.
For more information or to book an inshore fishing charter in Jacksonville, FL with Capt. Leon Dana, visit Prime Time Charters on Facebook.