BOTE Ambassador and fisherman, Sean Strahlo, takes a trip to Port Canaveral for an epic day of Redfish paddle board fishing on his Rackham!
When it comes to SUP fishing, my favorite species to target has always been the silver king. Nothing tops the sleigh ride that ensues shortly after hooking up to a big tarpon. Unfortnately, this year's tarpon season, off the Space Coast, was lack luster at best.
As summer disappeared and fall began to fade, so did my hopes of landing more big fish from my Rackham. That all changed when I got the call from my buddy Jamie Glasner of Fin & Fly Charters that the redfish bite was hot off of Port Canaveral. With calm seas and light winds expected for the next two days, I had the ideal weather window needed to target these bull redfish from my paddleboard. I frantically cleared up my work and school schedules for the following day. I spent that night rigging rods, charging cameras, and frothing at the bit to get out there. My dad (never one to pass up a fishing opportunity) volunteered to trailer his Sea Hunt 225 Triton center console to Port Canaveral to be utilized as a camera boat. As it turned out, he spent more time reeling in fish than taking pictures, but it all worked out in the end.
The alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. the next morning. We wiped the sleep out of our eyes, rode up to Port Canaveral, and were on the water by 6:45 a.m. The air was cool and the wind was nonexistent as I stood at the dock staring at the three mile paddle that lie ahead of me. Instead of wearing myself out paddling, I decided to take the easy way out and throw my board in the boat. We turned the key, the Yamaha outboard fired up, and we idled out of the mouth of the port. As we cruised down the beach, we could see dense schools of mullet getting blown up by voracious bluefish and spanish mackeral. On the horizon, multiple shrimp boats steamed towards the port with hundreds of birds pecking scraps off the water behind them. The emerald green water gave way to a stirred up muddy brown colored water as we pulled up to the fishing grounds. Hundreds of bull redfish were swimming just 20ft beneath us, feeding heavily on the enormous schools of menhaden.
I dropped my Rackham into the slicked off ocean, added the Tackle Rac, two rods, and my 8 ft. pogie net. One throw of the castnet yeiled enough menhaden for the entire day. I dropped my first bait down and was on within 15 seconds. Immediately the drag started to scream and line raced off the spool. The strength of these redfish always amazes me. The fish pulled my board around effortlessy. I could feel the line shifting around the head of the fish as it dogged down towards the bottom. I changed the angle of the rod hoping to turn its head. I could feel its thick broad tail as it pounded against my 30 pound flourocarbon leader. About four minutes later, I had broken the spirit of the fish and its beautiful copper body emerged from the surface. I wet my hands before grabbing the fish to try to preserve the protective slime coating that helps keep these fish healthy. I landed the big red and laid it down on the paddleboard, popping the circle hook from the corner of its mouth while my dad drove the camera boat closer. He snapped a few memorable photos before I revived and released the fish.
I continued catching redfish ranging from 15-30+ pounds until my arms were too sore to reel in another one. My dad caught his fair share from the boat as well. We lost count of how many we caught but it had to be somewhere over 30. We called it a day around 1PM. It was trip I won't soon forget and I feel blessed my dad got to experience it with me. I spent the rest of the afternoon scrubbing menhaden blood out of the deck pads on my board and reminiscing about the day. Days like these are what we live for as fishermen and I've been blessed to experience a ton of them.
Follow Sean for more paddle board fishing on his Instagram at: @straylow