Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hardy Takes Creek Less Traveled

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hardy Takes Creek Less Traveled

Article excerpt

When you fish the unspoiled stretch of Intracoastal Waterway

between Pine Island and St. Augustine with Carl Hardy, you'll

go places that don't appear on any chart.

Places like Pittsburgh Creek ("I took some Yankee from

Pittsburgh in there once," Hardy explains) or One Hole Creek ("It's

got one hole") or any number of narrow feeder streams that

Hardy has discovered and named in his almost 40 years of fishing

the area.

Even though Hardy's 16-foot Carolina Skiff draws only inches of

water, you may have to get out and push. That, too, is part of

the deal when you fish with Hardy.

Hardy, president of the Jacksonville-based Inshore Saltwater

Anglers club, is an explorer, innovator, above all a creek

freak. He has been known to tie orange ribbons on marsh grass to

help him follow the snaking progress of an obscure creek. When

the redfish are fired up way back in the marsh, he may barb a

piece of white foam on a hook, spray it with fish scent, and

catch them.

Now 50, Hardy began studying the creeks in the Pine Island area

as a 12-year-old cast-netter. "We used to chunk cast nets at

them, and now we chunk lead-heads and flies," he said.

"It's the little creeks I fish, the ones not shown on the map.

There's less pressure, the water's more confined, and it's

easier to read than the waterway. If I see a body of water, I

want to know where it goes."

Hardy's ability to read creeks and his bump-and-run approach to

fishing them often place him at the top of the ISA tournament

standings. In those tournaments, which attract some of the

better anglers in the area, a premium is placed on being able to

consistently catch 25- to 27-inch redfish -- not just any old

school of rat reds -- along with trout and flounder.

Hardy's not going to draw you directions to Pittsburgh Creek,

but he does offer suggestions for finding -- and fishing -- your

own creeks.

Select a new creek and observe it at low tide. "If I'm going

to have a low tide at midday, I'll go in there and maroon

myself, beach the boat," Hardy said. "By looking at it on low

tide, you can see the oyster bars, deep drops, sandbars.

"You're looking for ambush points. The fish want specific places

to wait for the tide to bring the bait to them."

When the tide bgins to flood, Hardy presses deeper into the

creek. "As the tide comes in, these fish move to the backs of

the creeks and out into the grass," he said. " On the receding

tide, they do just the opposite.

"There's a funnel in the grass where they head into and out of

the marsh. That's where these guys used to put gillnets."

Timing is critical in the creeks. If, for example, he has an

incoming tide all morning, Hardy will begin fishing creeks close

to St. Augustine, where the water rises first. Then he'll work

his way north, riding the tide as it pushes up the waterway. …

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