Most summer nights, after posting my fishing report on my Web site, I look at the CCA site to check out the leaders in the annual S.T.A.R. tournament. I have little interest in the size of the fish leading each category, but I very much hope to see an area angler’s name at the top of one of the lists.

It has been all I could do, however, to even make myself call up the site since last Thursday. I did go to the site today and there were was still no entry in the teen trout division. There should have been one!

Last Thursday morning, well before daylight, Bryan Sandow’s two oldest daughters, Lauren and Lynesey, were picking finger mullet of varying sizes out of mounds of vegetation strewn across the front deck of my boat. No squealing or shying away from an unpleasant task, they were all business each time I hoisted the cast net over the side.

Their Mom, Danette, was every bit the trooper as well, but this trip was all about the girls. We had been catching a few trout each day that would easily make the six-pound minimum weight necessary to qualify for a $20.000 scholarship and the girls were all business!

With a full livewell of perfect-sized bait, we raced to our first stop for the morning. It had been a waiting game most days, but our wait was cut short by an approaching thunderstorm. Because no fish is worth risking an encounter with a lightning bolt, we sought shelter until the storm passed.

Upon returning, there were far fewer boats in the area and we opted for another location. With the tide slowing down by the minute and little or no action, I opted for a spot in shallower water. With small ladyfish thrashing the surface in pursuit of shad, the change looked promising.

I cast one of the rods in the direction of the surface activity, but before I could hand it to Lauren, the line took off. I was forced to take a swing at the fish even though my setting the hook would make the fish ineligible even if they reeled it in. The hook set was much too soon with the larger mullet, but I was reasonably sure judging by the speed of the fish that we had missed a redfish.

Only a few minutes later, Lynesey saw the tip on one of the rods bow under the weight of a fish and set the hook. The fish immediately chose to do battle on the surface in the shallow water and there was little doubt that it was a nice trout.

Not wanting to take any chances, I reeled in the other rods, lifted the troll motor, and cleared the front deck to give her more room. As she made her way to the front deck, I walked to the rear of the boat to get the net. Much to my chagrin, there was no longer a net in the boat.

After a brief round of, “It was right here … I saw it behind the ice chest a while ago…no, it was in a rod holder,” we determined that the net had blown out on the return trip after the storm. The irony in our dilemma was that I could never recall losing a net in 39 years of guiding.

At that point, it was clear that we were just going to have to try to make the best of a bad situation. Lynesey did her part in wearing down the powerful trout, but she and I both knew we were on the clock when we saw that the hook had worn a big hole in the thin membrane behind the top lip.

The trout refused to do us any favors. She would not open her mouth making it very difficult to use the Boga Grip. I then decided, teeth or no teeth, I would thumb the fish and deal with the bleeding afterward.

Every time I reached for her mouth, she shook her head and we all took a deep breath. I thought we had won the battle when I finally got a tenuous grip on her just behind the head only to have her explode out of my hands and snap the shock leader. The huge trout that would have easily put Lynesey Sandow on the leader board turned broadside just beneath the surface before slowly idling out of sight. I do not experience many lows when fishing, but I was devastated.

The girls and their mom took it much better than I did. While I felt a tad nauseous over the outcome, I was even more concerned that we were still without a net. We were really just getting started and it was obvious that attempting to land one of these big trout without a net was far too risky.

We had been on these fish for a couple of weeks and Johnny Cormier and I had noted time and again how difficult the fish had been to corral even with a net. The larger trout have fought as if they were turbo charged and just go nuts when they see the net.
Bryan was fishing with his youngest daughter, Jordan, a short distance away and he brought us his net before we blew another opportunity. We continued to catch fish over the next three hours, but never got another shot at a fish that size. The trip was not without more excitement, however, as the girls caught two more big trout over 25-inches that barely missed the qualifying minimum weight.

I now have two nets in my boat. One of them is the small net I use when wading that I never carried before, but would have killed for in this instance.

When faced with the possibility of losing another big trout for want of a net, Lynesey and Lauren’s Mom proposed an on the spot solution born of necessity. With a serious look in her eye she offered, “The next time we get one that close, break out that cast net.”

I do not know if that is legal, surely it is not, but when a $20,000 scholarship is swimming around on the end of your daughter’s line a parent faced with paying that college tuition can get very innovative!

Bryan was back over here in hopes of a second shot Saturday, but I have not heard how they did. I sure hope he brought two nets.