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Fishing Lines: Start 'em young with good fish stories

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By Capt. Dennis Voyles

My two great-nephews left Ohio on Good Friday with snow in the forecast and sub-freezing temps. They had no idea they were headed for sunny Florida and some great flats fishing aboard the "Reel Therapy." They were about to celebrate their 8th and 11th birthdays. When asked how many fish they had caught prior to today, one said "one" and the other replied "a few, not many."

Well, we were about to change that!

We had a bit of a long ride to "The Spot," but it was worth it. The first cast produced a trout for each of my Ohio anglers.

Jacob, who was about to turn 8, took the responsibility of counting the fish caught. And it was quite a task. The fishing gradually picked up and entered the frenzy mode, with fish caught on nearly every cast. At 10:45 we headed in for lunch with a total trout count of 53. Quite a bit more fish than "a few," though most of the fish were just under the slot limit.

We couldn't have cared less, since this was a catch and release trip anyway. The fish wouldn't keep well the next day in a Disney hotel room.

After a great lunch at one of our awesome Cedar Key restaurants, we headed back out to try our luck on redfish. This is where the day gets interesting.

After a few hard-pulling reds, Jacob, 8, hooks a monster fish. The drag screams as the line peels off of the reel with lightning speed (the boy screams too!).

"Clear the deck - we have a biggun on!" I announce.

Carefully, the young angler coaxes the behemoth toward the boat with skill beyond his years. The angler would gain a few yards of line then the fish would take it back. This goes on for a good twenty minutes. Both the angler and the fish are showing signs of fatigue. It appears to be a draw - now it boils down to sheer determination.

Then I do what any good veteran fishing guide would do: I tell the fish that we promise to put him back after a few photos. It works! The big fish slides gently into the landing net.

The black drum turns out to be 38 inches long and pulls the scale to 26 pounds! Not bad for a guy who had previously caught just one fish. After a very brief photo session I keep my word to the monster and return it to the water, hopefully to delight another young angler someday.

At the next spot, Alec, 11, takes his turn at a big fish. The action has slowed. Alec's cork drifting gently alongside the oyster bar slowly sinks into the depths...Alec sets the hook like a pro... and instantly the eight-pound line groans.

The Fin-Nor reel sends out its alarm that line is going out against the drag. Once again every eye is on the water and the young angler. The fish comes to the top and throws water in both directions trying to shake the hook. With steadfast determination Alec slowly turns the reel handle...not too fast, not too slow. The fish turns back toward the oyster bar looking for a razor-sharp oyster shell to cut the line. No luck.

A long run now out to deeper water fails as well. These attempts are repeated several times. Many minutes later we slip the trout gently into the landing net. It is a beautiful 25-inch specimen. A few photos and the day is done. We need to get back to Aunt Karen's for some good eats.

There will be some great tales for years to come from these two Ohio anglers and their spring break fishing trip to Cedar Key.