by: Caitlyn Gatrell
While this is not of the typical species I often write about in my fishing articles, it is too cool to not include! During our times out in the Ten Thousand Islands, we often see rays, whether they are swimming by in big schools, rushing off after we spook them when trolling on the surface, or even free jumping out of the water. They always seem to be nearby, and we have had quite the experience with a couple rays on some islands out there. If you fish with me, you know I will always have a line in the water while we are stopped at an island, usually for a bait stop or to just relax and eat some lunch. I tend to just loosen my drag, let my rod sit in the rod holder, keep an eye out, and wait for that drag to start screaming. I always throw on a live bait, usually a pilchard or finger mullet. After a while my bait will kind of start to slow down and not swim much anymore, and that’s when it tends to sink to the bottom. This becomes the perfect chance for these rays to scoop the bait up as they stroll along the bottom. Typically, I will notice my line seems to get tight but doesn’t seem to really “take off”. It almost gives the impression that it is stuck on something. At least that’s what it seemed like the first time I hooked into one of these rays. Once I start to reel a bit, that’s when I can tell there is definitely something on the line, when it gives a little bit of resistance as it tries to slowly swim away. Not too long after, the stingray will just take off down the beach or out into deeper water. I will say, compared to other species I catch, even tarpon, this species has got to be the biggest arm workout for me. My arms will be hurting after reeling in these rays! The fight takes a bit of time, as usually when I get them up close, they take off again and I have to just let them run. Getting them in and up close is a struggle enough, but watching out for that barb is another challenge! I usually keep a safe distance, snap a photo, and then will try to get the hook out or cut the line as short as possible. I typically don’t even need to help them back in the water as they are already fired up, flapping their fins quickly to take off deeper into the water. While it is a fun fight, stingrays are not my favorite species to catch as they have me needing to take a break afterwards, lol, although I admire their beauty and strength!