Inspired by my friend’s recent visit, where they had a number of hits from alligator garfish, I decided to head to the Natural Exotic to try shallow float fishing with live-bait for garfish. I arrived at the pond, after hurriedly packing my gear, at 3.45pm, and started to set up at Post 5. Only to find that I’d forgotten my 5/0 circle hooks … damn! Still, I had some smaller circle hooks and some J hooks to use. I quickly rigged up a sliding float, with a 4/0 circle hook on a short length of wire, set at about 4′ below the float. I cast out towards the restaurant structure, put the bait runner in the free spool setting on light drag, and commenced to rig up my second rod.
Before I could finish rigging up the second rod, the float started to bob and more around, then there was a splash at the surface near the float. I picked up the float rod in anticipation. Suddenly, the float jerked under and line started to pour off the reel. I set the reel in gear and tightened up on a good fish that started to run towards the restaurant, typical of an Amazon Redtail Catfish. After a tense few minutes, I managed to steer the fish away from the structure and brought it in for netting ….. as expected, an amazon Redtail Catfish. A good sized fish, perhaps around 10 kg:
I rigged a new live-bait and set it to the right hand corner of the restaurant. My float drifted lazily to the right, into open water, in the current generated by the aerator wheels. I noticed my float starting to bob erratically, then the float started moving away from me and parallel to the northern side of the restaurant. Suddenly my line tightened and then started running off the baitrunner light drag setting. I left it for a few seconds, convinced that this was target alligator gar, and then flipped the reel in gear. The rod loaded up and then the line went slack. I reeled in to find that I had a reverse sancocho – the bait’s head and viscera, to just infront of the dorsal fin, had been bitten clean through, with the hook still embedded in the bait just below the dorsal fin ….hence reverse sancocho (this is a Central American good-natured term of derision, shouted at at you when you drop back a rigged ballyhoo to a sailfish or marlin, but miss the fish and reel in only the head of the bait on the hook) ….!!
I rigged a new live-bait and recast close to the restaurant and I got an immediate hit – this time my bait was taken close to the structure and, despite my best efforts, managed to get under the restaurant and around one of the concrete legs. I could feel my line chaffing and, despite trying to coax it out with free spoool, eventually had to break the fish off, losing my leader and terminal tackle, including my float …..!
I turned to my second rod, pinned on the remaining half of my sancocho’d bait and set it hard against the restaurant whilst I set about re-rigging my leader and float set-up. Once again, whilst rigging up I took a hit on the alternative rod. The rod buckled viciously before springing back. I quickly picked up the rod to a slack line and waited but thought I’d missed the fish. As I wound in the slack line I realised that the line had move way to the left. I quickly wound in my line and tightened up on my second fish of the day – a reasonable sized Asian Redtail Catfish:
I returned to my float fished set-up. This time, with a fixed float with the bait set 3′ below the float. After a short hiatus, I had an action packed half hour in which I landed a further three Amazon Cats, including a larger fish around the 15kg mark. The latter fish, in particular, put up a strong fight that saw me running down the bank trying to turn and pressure the fish away from structure:
The ghillie with fish #3
Fish #5 – Amazon Redtail
I was still hopeful of getting a gar, but was surprised at how aggressive the Amazon Catfish were, even taking baits set less than a metre below the surface! My bait was soon being troubled again – I was now fishing more in the open water to the right of the restaurant. I noticed that the float had been pulled under but no line was being taken from the reel. I suspected a slow, cautious gar bite. I waited a minute or two, but not wanting to risk a deep hooked fish, I wound down to feel some weight, briefly, before it went slack. I retrieved a bait with tooth-marks and a bitten tail – the sure mark of a gar attack:
Lampam livie with bitten tail and teeth-marks from a gar bite
After the past hour and a quarter of intense activity, the bite slowed as dusk approached. The float fished live-bait suddenly lost its appeal to any of the pond’s predators. I finally switched over to ledgered dead-bait as my session timed out. I picked up a further Amazon Redtail in the dusk with 15 minutes of my session remaining:
Fish #6 – Amazon Redtail Catfish c. 6kg
I had on last take, at the flows of the session but pulled the hook. I never managed to get the target garfish on this attempt, but it was the first time that I’d fished live-bait at this location – it’s definitely got potential and I certainly had some strikes by gar. One for future work …!