Take me to the river On the lookout for trout then a zing on the string

Jerry Harbuck of Panama City landed this 24-inch trout while fishing on the St. Marks River near Apalachicola.

Nothing says the holidays like family, food and fishing.

Last week I got the chance to partake in all three.

After reporting on the catches of others for months on end, I finally got to be a party to drop a line in the water.

My brother Jerry and I headed toward Apalachicola in what has become a family tradition of sorts for us. We both take vacation time and meet up for a little "family fishing time" on the river.

For three days, we launched his 17-foot flats boat at Bay City Lodge and headed down the St. Marks River in search of speckled trout.

After doing this for the past 30 years, give or take a few, we've got our favorite spots.

We headed towards "big bay" first. The weather was gorgeous in the high 50s to 60s and the water was slick calm.

On about the second or third cast, using a chartreuse Gulp jerk shad, Jerry snagged a trout. It wasn't quite big enough, about 13 inches, but we were hopeful for more.

Trout have to measure at least 15 inches to keep. The bag limit is five per person per day, including one over 20 inches. We decided early on that we would keep some, at least enough for dinner.

We moved around and finally found a hot-bed of trout, but they appeared to be less than 15 inches. Since we were only going to keep a few, we'd eyeballed 'em and if they looked bigger than 15 we'd measure. We tossed a bunch back. But then Jerry finally hooked into a big one that looked to be over 15 — and it was. The trout was 17- to 18-inches long.

I don't think I caught one over 15 the first day, but I had a great time snagging those 14 1/2 inchers using a DOA Sea Shad Assasisin, candy corn in color. For me I just love to have the tug on the line.

Jerry managed to haul in a 22 incher before the day was done, and we had plenty of "sweet 16" fish in the box.

Day 2 was my day to get a fish in the box first. We went back to one of our other spots — I would tell you but he would kill me — but I will say it was up the river and in deeper water. Anyhow, I hooked up with a fish that set my string to singing. After about a five minute fight of reeling and moving around the back of the boat, I managed to haul in a 23-inch redfish. I just love it when the rod bows up and the fish start taking out drag — gotta love the sound of the zing in the string.

Redfish have to be no less than 18 inches and no more than 27 inches in length to keep. Mine was right in the sweet spot.

Jerry managed to pull in a couple of big trout while we were there on that same spot.

"You must be my good luck charm," Jerry said.

The week before, he had gone fishing with one of his work buddies and they caught a few, but nothing like what we were hauling in.

Using a 6 1/2 feet long rod with a Shimano spinning reel loaded with 10-pound Braid, Jerry managed to pull in a 23-inch speckled trout one day and then a 24-incher the next. That's not to mention all the 16- to 18-inch trout he landed in between.

As for me I was the redfish queen. On day three I landed another 23-inch redfish, from the previous spot the day before. All three days we went home with fish in the box. Some we kept; others we shared with his neighbors in Panama City.

All an all it was a big time of fishing with family. And the food wasn't bad either.

See you on the river!