Put your thinking caps on to make the connection between the title and the report. I had the pleasure of fishing this past week with my grandson Robert and also with Chris Kwek, a soldier on leave from a 15 month tour in Iraq. It was indeed an honor to take Chris and his dad Dean out for a little fishing.
Operation Open Arms
This trip with Sgt. Kwek was set up because of a program developed by a fellow guide, Capt. John “GiddyUp Bunch. Capt. Bunch guides on the West Coast and is a former marine, and probably the only fishing guide ever to be featured on NBC’s The Today Show. The interview was about fishing, as you would expect, but it was really more than that. The reason for the appearance is best told by this short story.
It was April 19, 2005. SPC, Travis Downes, a U.S. Army forward scout was home for a two-week leave from his duty station in Iraq. Travis was fortunate enough to meet up with Captain “GiddyUp” on Pine Island, Florida. Travis had a wish, and he shared it with the captain. “I just want to go fishing while I’m home. I would love to go fishing before I return to Iraq.” Well, Captain “GiddyUp” took Travis fishing and, as they say, the rest is history.
The result of this chance encounter is Operation Open Arms. Their stated mission is to provide every possible benefit through a variety of sponsors before our service men and women have to return to Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, or other foreign duty stations.
Operation Open Arms is open to active duty military on temporary leave from a foreign duty station, returning home to Southwest Florida with orders to return to their foreign duty station after their brief R&R.
The first trip I to report on was with my grandson Robert on the Banana River. It was a nice but windy day with the water temp at about 72. We were fishing Rip Tide 3 inch mullet and did some prospecting around docks and flats that had been successful in past winters. The only takers at first were small trout. The morning low was in the 50’s so we didn’t go too early but still the action was slow. Finally, after we had taken a lunch break we got into some jacks and got to bend the rods for a while until they finally disappeared or quit biting. Jacks are a great fish to catch. Pound for pound they give about as much fight as anything in the river.
A little later we saw some fish busting bait and went over to check it out. It turns out a bunch of glass minnows had been trapped up against a sea wall. Robert tossed in a Rip Tide Mullet in the dark Shad Flash color. His pole quickly bent over and a short fight ensued before he brought a lookdown to the boat. We don’t catch a lot of these unusual critters around here. They are said to get their name from the way they appear to look down their nose as they swim. They are a member of the Jack family and give a similar fight except they don’t have the same bulk as a Jack Crevalle. If you have never seen one you will be surprised at how thin they actually are.
God Bless Our Troops
The next trip was with Sergeant Kwek and his dad. Mother Nature stepped up to the plate and served us a cold front that almost shut the fishing down. The lows had been in the 40’s for two days in a row and the water temp was 59 when we started out at about 10:00 am. Wind conditions were forecast at 10 to 15 and it felt like it had already been achieved.
Both Chris and Dean were excellent anglers and made cast after cast without much success. Dean was the first to score with a small trout. That one trout was the only fish that came to the boat during the first couple of hours. Dean caught the trout on a Rip Tide 3 inch mullet in the chartreuse with red tail color. Chris added another trout later on the same bait in new penny.
Later in the day the water temp warmed up to about 62, the wind continued to blow. It was one of those tough fishing days. We moved to a different part of the river and changed over to live shrimp on a popping cork. We rigged the corks by first tying about 12 inches of 20 pound mono on the 10 pound braid. I like to tie the mono directly to the popping cork instead of the braid. Tie on a 15 to 20 inch mono or fluorocarbon leader, depending on the water depth, and add a circle hook. Don’t forget, with the circle hook you don’t need to set the hook, just start reeling.
Well, it wasn’t long until Chris did just that but missed the first strike. Baited up again and sure enough hooked the first redfish of the day. The circle hook had done its job and hooked the red directly in the corner of the mouth. We released it and baited up again. The next thing we knew we had a double. Chris and Dean were each hooked up to a red fish. Dean’s was the largest fish of the day, a nice 22 inch red. Just when we thought it was really going to happen it slowed down again. Chris added 2 more reds and Dean added a Jack and that was to be it for the day. Chris is in the background of the photo of the double hookup.
Chris told me a little of what it was like to patrol the streets in Iraq, “looking for the bad guys,” as he described it. Chris's is an E-7 which is a Sergeant First Class . He is currently stationed at Ft Bragg, NC in the 82nd Airborne Div. in an Airborne Infantry unit. He was lucky enough to be on a Christmas leave from a 15 month Iraq deployment.
He says he is proud to help the people of Iraq but will be glad to be home for good. He plans to put in 20 years serving our country and he has eight years left. It was certainly my pleasure to be a small part of this family’s Christmas celebration.
Don’t get excited, I am not going to talk about catching any peacock bass while I was in the Banana River but I do know where you can catch some. This is one of those trips of a lifetime deals. It’s not inexpensive but what a trip. It’s a 10 day trip that includes at least 6 days of fishing. A trip like this is a bargain at $3,550 plus airfare and tips. If you would like more information send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The trip is to the Amazon for some of the best Peacock Bass fishing in the world.
I hope to talk to you real soon with great fishing reports from Florida’s Space Coast.
As always, you can visit my website at www.inshorefishingadventures.com to view pictures of the fish we catch in the Cocoa Beach area. That's what it's all about. Good fishin'.