Perdido Key: Combat Launching the Surf

July 2023

It’s been a long, hot summer here in the south. Temperatures have regularly hit triple digits and the prospect of stepping outside has seemed unbearable more weekends that not. As a result, fishing has been on the back burner in recent months. I simply haven’t had the urge to risk heat exhaustion in the name of recreation.

Still it’s hard to turn down an opportunity when it presents itself. So it should come as no surprise that my 9wt was in tow when Maedbh and I ventured to Perdido Key near the end of July.

A walk on the beach

Officially in town to attend the Tripletail Classic festivities on Saturday evening, we stretched the trip into a three day weekend as we had not had headed this way since the Gulf Coast Classic in early May. With the sea breeze promising temperatures 10 degrees cooler than those at home, it was a welcome respite from the heat of Louisiana.

Blitzing fish just beyond the sand bar

Content to spend the weekend unwinding, my rod surprisingly still remained in its tube when we rose the second morning and headed for the beach. To my surprise and regret, the shallow gulf waters were alive with action. Massive schools of bait swirled everywhere, and, just beyond the first trough, the water exploded as shark, ladyfish and spanish mackerel blitzed bait from every angle.

My urge to wet a line suddenly reinvigorated, I quickly formulated a plan for the following morning. With my father’s assistance, I’d portage his Ascend FS10T across the road and down the beach, combat launch in the surf and work my way out beyond the sand bar to where the largest blitzes seemed to be happening.

Early to Rise

Rod rigged the prior evening, we rose early Sunday morning and began the arduous task of lugging the kayak, gear and my father’s surf rods across the road and down the beach. Combat launching without incident, I made my way beyond the breakers as my father rigged his surf rods to work the first trough.

Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan

Maedbh intent on documenting the local shore birds quickly turned her attention to the shallows as a 4-5 foot shark cruised back and forth. Its dorsal fin prominently displayed above the waters surface, nearby tourists continued to swim completely unaware.

Further from shore, I found myself struggling to keep pace with the schools of blitzing fish. Fewer in number than the day prior, they appeared and disappeared often before I could reposition my kayak and make a cast.

Intent on giving myself an edge, I attempted to stand and quickly learned my father’s kayak was no where near as stable as its width would have suggested. Narrowly avoiding a plunge, it quickly became apparent that I’d be relegated to sitting for the remainder of the excursion.

Finally on a blitz a short while after, I was greeted by short strike after short strike as my Mushmouth proved to large for the occasion. Eventually breaking the streak as an overeager Ladyfish inhaled my streamer, I snapped a quick picture and used the opportunity to swap to a much smaller Clouser’s Minnow.

The Bite is On
Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan

Now armed with an appropriate-sized offering, I began to see my bite to hook-up ratio improve drastically. While primarily Ladyfish, the action proved consistent and provided Maedbh (armed with a 500mm birding lens) to capture the scene from shore. Behaving like the miniature tarpon they are, fish after fish put on acrobatic displays for the camera as they attempted to throw my hook

Doing a fairly poor job of keeping my rod tip low, I still managed to land more than a dozen of these fish in the 30-40 minutes that followed.

Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan
Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan


Increasingly aware that the majority of blitzes consisted of solely Ladyfish, I began to monitor the horizon for anything that appeared to be different. I was intent on landing my first Spanish Mackerel on the fly before this morning was through and recognized that I’d need to be a little more selective if I wanted to attain that goal.

Noting that Ladyfish tended to leave the water while chasing bait, I began focusing my energy on chasing the few blitzes where only bait scattered at the surface. These were clearly something else, and I had high hopes that they would be the mackerel I was looking for.

Sure enough when a fish thumped my fly as I worked the edge of one such blitz, it was a Spanish Mackerel that emerged from the depths. A far less impressive fight than the Ladyfish, I perhaps did not pay the fish enough respect and haphazardly lost it at the net.

Ladyfish with their backs out of the water as they blitz bait.
Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan

Allowing some NSFW language to slip from my lips (apparently audible from the beach per Maedbh), I took consolation in the fact my target species was at least present. Refocused, I spent the better part of an hour chasing suspect blitzes up and down the beach.

Dismayed by a pair of short strikes as I worked a likely school of Spanish, I took a page from the musky crowds book and performed one last figure-eight with the fly below the kayak. When I felt a familiar thump midway through the motion, I set the hook hard and readied the net.

This time my net skills did not fail me, and I successfully added species #91 to my lifelist.

Content with my results, I began drifting back towards the shallows adding a small hardhead catfish along the way. Maedbh meanwhile was ready to call it quits and began heading for the house. The heat beginning to get the best of me, I followed shortly after.

Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan


Enjoy our Content?

Subscribe below to be notified anytime a new Step-by-Step is added.

One thought on “Perdido Key: Combat Launching the Surf

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: