June 28, 2013

On The Rebound: Wrestling with the red eye

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The epic trip down Rockcastle River produced few moments of great note. Mostly it was a very fast, uneventful trip, which isn’t a bad thing.

Turns out the water level stood somewhere south of whitewater, but a little north of prime fishing speed. Casts had to be made in front of the boat and before you stopped reeling the bait would be behind you. That’s a little too fast when your main quarry is red eye.

Red eye are a compact, but aggressive little fish that give the appearance to be cousin to both the bass and the bluegill. They get their name from fiery red eyes. They can usually be found hanging out around stumps that provide them plenty of ambush cover near the bank. They are the gang thugs of the fish world.

When you get on a good red eye stump you can catch a full mess of fish in just a few minutes. We didn’t get such luck last week, but did catch enough strays to make a mess. The two best red eyes I caught bolted from a stump to attack a white rooster tail.

One of the other fishers caught the only non-red eye of the trip. A nice 14-inch smallmouth exploded on a top water bait. Unfortunately when filleted, the bass was full of worms and unfit to eat. Although the worms are supposedly safe to consume, who really wants a side of larvae with their dinner?

Although we did paddle at times, it was mostly to get to a particular spot and not just for locomotion. There was plenty of forward progress provided by the river. There were times I lodged my kayak between logs to keep from being swept away from a prime fishing spot. There was never a need to portage or even to pole your way through shallow water.

One of the thrills of such a trip is to share it with other people. It’s more fulfilling to do that in person with someone of like interest to get tips for future trips or just swap good stories. I felt pretty good about the trip as I shared it with some kids half my age. I left the conversation feeling like a city boy.

Turns out while I was sitting in a comfortable boat being pushed down a river by a steady flow of water, they were really getting wild.

I heard stories of gigging 100 frogs in a night and all of them being eaten. I was schooled on how to catch crawdads and the best way to cook them. Turns out they only have to boil for a few seconds, until they turn red and their eyes turn white.  Also turns out crawdads scream.

Seems I have a way to go before being a mountain man.