Steven Bledsoe was the THIRD CERTIFIED WINNER of the 2023 Texas Ford Dealer’s Red Tag Redfish Division. He recently drove off with a 2023 Ford F150 XLT Super Cab connected to a Haynie 23’ Bigfoot with a Mercury 150 L Pro XS Optimax and Coastline Trailer.
Tag Color: Red
POC Fishing Center
Date: Wednesday, June 7
Caught: Mud Island
Here’s his STAR Story:
As we drove to South Texas, my son Chris and his friend Justin read the rules and playfully discussed who would catch the first tagged redfish. I mostly listened to their banter without saying much but interjected with the thought that someone catches these tagged fish every year, so why not one of us? Although, I secretly had my doubts.
We started our journey from Copano Bay and traveled around 15 miles to reach one of our favorite fishing spots. While approaching the spot, I observed another boat moving alongside us towards the same location. To avoid any interference, we waited to see where they would anchor. Two fishermen from the other boat got off and waded towards the south, while one stayed in the boat and followed them using a trolling motor. We noticed the water was filled with bait, and some fish were under it. Therefore, we decided to wade around 1,000 yards from the other boat. I went towards the south while the other two went towards the north. We managed to catch and release an 18-inch trout, but unfortunately, the wind died down, and we didn’t get any other bites.
After returning to the boat, we set off towards the North. The wind started to increase, but it was blowing in a new direction. We decided to pause at Allyns Bight as there seemed to be some bait activity. Despite this, the three of us managed to catch three undersized trout. We continued our journey and headed further North towards the Spalding Bight area. We found an area with some bait, and Chris spotted a redfish tailing by the shore near some drains. He chased after it for around 100 yards and eventually managed to get the fish to bite. It was a 24-inch redfish, but we didn’t catch anything else.
Around 1 pm, the temperature was rising. We noticed the wind picking up, but instead of heading back, we returned to our initial spot where we knew there was bait. Fortunately, we found no other boats within a mile of our desired fishing location. I began wading towards the south, fishing the parallel guts along the shoreline. Unfortunately, I accidentally stepped into a hole about 50 feet from the boat, causing me to fall and flood my waders. I had to return to the boat to remove my waders and get back into the water.
I continued walking in the same direction and stumbled upon the same hole, causing me to fall once again. Thankfully, I was already soaked from my previous fall. While wading towards the south, I noticed 20-30 redfish swimming towards me, but they were too far away to cast my line. I made my way towards them as they came closer to me.
I cast my line towards the left side of the school and quickly caught a fish. I shouted to Chris, trailing me by 75 yards, to hurry up and join me because the school is still together, and we might be able to catch a few more. I am more focused on the school than the fish I just caught. However, as the hooked fish circles around me at about 20 yards, I take a closer look at it and notice what appears to be a tag on its back.
I yelled at Chris to hurry over because he carried a net and suspected the fish I caught had a tag. Chris was walking on water for the last 25 yards before he reached me, and his description of my actions at the time is, “For some reason, Dad became laser-focused on this fish.” Amidst all the commotion, we somehow missed sight of the school. We get the fish in the net, which has a tag, and we start hollering, but we can’t read the tag.
As we were looking at the tag, full of algae and slime, I commented, just my luck; I caught a tagged fish from previous years. We secured the fish while keeping it in the net and returned to the boat. The first thing we do is wipe the tag clean, and it says CCA 2023- RE1461. At this time, Justin had also just returned to the boat, and serious hollering, high-fiving, and jubilation ensued. We carefully clip the tag, revive the fish, video the release, and swiftly return to the dock.
Justin and I were searching for weigh-in stations, and he mentioned Indianola and Fishing Center in POC. I agreed to go to POC. However, halfway through our journey, I asked Justin to look up weigh stations again. He found weigh stations in Rockport and Port Aransas, but we decided to proceed to POC since we knew we could reach it before the 5 PM closing time.
I want to credit Beverly Clifton at the POC Fishing Center for her outstanding service. This was our first tag processing, and she went above and beyond to ensure that we were following all the necessary requirements. She even called STAR to confirm the procedures and even had us follow her to the post office and watch her drop the tag in the mail. I highly recommend visiting the POC Fishing Center as they were extremely helpful and accommodating, staying late to ensure we completed everything correctly.
Sharing this experience with my son was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will forever be priceless. We made decisions and took actions that were out of the ordinary for us, such as traveling to Rockport, returning to a previous spot, falling into a hole twice, wading back in the same direction, and staying committed even when it was tempting to give up. I believe the outcome resulted from divine intervention, as we were at the right spot and encountered a school of fish at the right time. Additionally, meeting the Clifton’s in POC was a highlight of the day, as they went above and beyond to assist us. All of these events were truly incredible and made for an unforgettable experience.