The Yankee Occupation of the Republic of Florida (2013)
Another year has come and once again Deftik and co. has elected to head to the Sunshine State to settle some unfinished business. The usual suspects were present myself and Mark (still a lurker), however a new face joined us my girlfriend Kori (MarvelNurse). This trip was as much about settling old scores as it was judging MarvelNurses ability to deal with “fishing vacations”, in which she easily proved that she was just as tough as we were in the pursuit of fish. As always I’d like to thank the people who helped me along the way Snook 99 and Ken for valuable information, as well as DJ330 and Brad even though I wasn’t able to get to those areas, and a big thanks to our friends Moose (Alex) and Blueeye (Miles), it was good seeing you guys again and fishing with both of you, although we didn't stay long it was a good time as always, we didn’t get to catch up as much as I’d of liked to, due to well you know…fishing. However maybe next time a thunderstorm will hammer down and we’ll be forced to grab some beers…..now here we go……
Day 1: Oh You Planned to Go Somewhere? THE REDUX
Desperate to not make the same mistakes as last year I booked the earliest possible flight and talked my father into waking up at 2am on his birthday to drive us to the airport to make it to Florida at the earliest possible time. Despite our efforts our flight was delayed over six hours (déjà vu anyone?) My father stopped to dine with us at a local IHOP near Philly before making the 3 hour journey back home. What was the light at the end of the tunnel? We got free plane tickets to anywhere we want to go in the U.S. and we didn't even complain! Naturally we elected to pick the furthest destination from home, Aruba, but that’s neither here nor there, yet. Due to our late arrival we scratched the idea of fishing and instead went to a Panthers vs. Penguins NHL game. Being from Pennsylvania we were amused to see our local team and a vast majority of fans rooting for them, overwhelmingly more than for the panthers. We even heard moans from the locals, “why are all these people rooting for the penguins?” We shared in their puzzlement…
Day 2: Make it or Break it.
With doubts filling our brains I kept repeating “as long as we leave here with a Florida Gar this will be an accomplishment and totally worth it.” So we drove as far south as we could muster based on a tip from a friend and behold, gar territory. These were the first gar I’ve ever saw in the wild, never mind caught, so it was astounding to see these ancient brutes for the first time, almost as astounding as how quickly we jumped out of the car armed to the teeth charging into battle. I was the first one to connect with a hungry Florida Gar, their fight in water is only comparable to their fight on land, and something likened to that of a Chain Pickerel, on steroids, with razor sharp teeth. Let’s put it this way it was a learning process for everyone and blood was shed on both sides, quite literally ours and the gar. These fish are primal brutes that just didn't want a photograph, didn't want to be unhooked, and didn't want to be messed with. Kori was the next to connect with a Florida gar despite not having the right setup for it, using a nightcrawler with no leader. It’s kind of hilarious that our original plan was to get our gar first and help Kori get hers, little did we know she had other plans. Marks gar quickly followed. While we continued to fish for gar Kori pulled out various lifers being that this was her first time fishing in Florida.
Since I was sick previous to leaving for Florida the heat was starting to get to me, I usually hate the heat but 90 degree beaming sun, plus sick, was a recipe for disaster, so I momentarily sat in the car while Kori and Mark continued to fish. Then the unthinkable happened, Mark waved a Oscar in my face. The elusive, the uncatchable, the legendary….Oscar. Little did I know that as I photographed this fine specimen literally drooling at the mouth, Kori was secretly fulfilling her own agenda and had quickly landed another Oscar for a double OSCAR PICTURE WTF! It was hard not to be envious at this point but after consulting with the others and finding that they caught their fish on cut spotted sunfish I too went over the deeper part of the canal and let my bleeding sunny lay on the bottom until I saw something kick dirt from the bottom of the canal. It couldn't be could it? IT WAS. Three Oscars in a row……. We decided from that very moment that we could leave today and our journey was an overwhelming success. However I spoke the unthinkable “Let’s go after the Salvini Cichlid now”, another elusive beast we had left behind in 2012. We arrived at an area known to hold them and it was more of a exercise in knowing where they were and how they hid than elusiveness, we admired big Iguanas while each pulling in our mini, but still very epic, lifers. Literally consumed with accomplishment we decided to reward ourselves with a bite to eat and an early sleep to start a big day tomorrow.
Day 3: **** The Peacock Bass or Butterfly Peacock Cichlid or Whatever you losers call yourselves….
Let’s not talk about it let’s just say a full days effort and time went into fishing for Peacock Bass on this day and only one was landed after literally casting at the same fish 150+ times. We saw few of them and almost none of those few seemed even slightly interested in our full arsenal of tackle. I was the lucky winner of today, but for the others as the thunderstorms rolled in, the small consolation prize were the Miami Marlins V.s. Washington Nations MLB game (I promise I’m not this big of a sports fan!). It was rather amusing watching the Nationals go 10-0 until the Marlins rallied to finally put a point on the board. It was a rather sad game to end a rather sad day.
Day 4: 2 guys, 1 girl, and a Pier
After the failings of yesterday we got to bed rather early and decided to go salt fishing as early as possible. We leapt from our beds bright and early and stormed the pier seizing portions of it to wage our day long assault against the denizens of the deep. Over the course of the day we got to meet such fine specimens as the pork fish, Bermuda chub, scrawled cowfish (a crowd favorite), Blue runner, Great Amberjack, Smooth Trunkfish, Lane Snapper, and the much beguiled Slippery Dick Wrasse. The Cowfish not only captivated us but many children and foreigners as we spent much of our time fielding questions and entertaining forty five minute long conversations. We stayed into the darkness until a fully fledged Thunderstorm came in and soaked us. My first sign should have been the dark clouds followed by the locals running off the pier, the second warning should have been watching the diehard next to us put on a full body rain suit, however we learned the hard way and got a nice windy shower before packing up our things, luckily we made it before it poured! My saltwater IDs are 100% so feel free to correct me here or via PM, I welcome it!
Day V: No Sleep Til Bradenton
We made the decision to join Moose and Blueeye in Bradenton 3 1/2 hours from where our hotel was located in Fort Lauderdale. We arrived in Bradenton and stopped at a local spot that Moose told us about from last year. While there we tried to locate a Jack Dempsey Cichlid for MarvelNurse's lifelist. However the once bustling creekbed was desolate with very few fish in sight. While waiting for Moose to meet me there I scouted the banksides for Jack Dempseys, while Mark and Marvelnurse continued to fish. It was at this point I received a text from Mark telling me to return to the spot, where they had two Texas Cichlids in hand. Mark had previously encountered this fish on an unrelated trip, but it was a lifer for Marvelnurse. Moose met us there shortly thereafter and we made way to a second spot on the creek. This spot was infested with Jack Dempsey covering every inch of shoreline, MarvelNurse quickly pulled up her lifer and allowed me to begin my arduious task of wading through Jack Dempsey after Jack Dempsey until finally lifer TEXAS CICHLID. Texas Cichlid was high on my "I'd like to catch, but its not going to happen this trip list" so it was quite refreshing to have one in my hand at last. After that we headed to Moose and Blueeyes domicile and quickly made way to a local salt pier.
This particular salt pier was very cramped and had a very annoying "bait boy" who, to marvelnurses annoyance, watched everyones movements on the pier very carefully and with suspicion. Not to be out done by baitboy to our left we had a 6-12 year old boy who I self diagnosed with ADHD, how nice to his father to let him wield a rod with a waving hook at the end of it in a heavily congested area. We then proceeded to land Spottail Pinfish and Atlantic Spadefish with consistency while evading flying hooks, when then out of nowhere we heard Moose's bell go off. SHARK! I'll let the video footage speak for itself but here is Alex's lifer Lemon Shark he caught while we were there.
Shortly thereafter we followed Moose and Blueeye to a beach spot in search of sharks. Mark ended up wrangling a lifer baby Atlantic Sharpnose Shark, he and Moose also caught Gafftopsail Catfish. Kori, myself, Blueeye and his girlfriend got the skunk, but not without thoroughly enjoying ourselves on a warm 80 degree night on the beach sitting near/in alarmingly warm water. We also had the added benifit of Moose treating everyone to pizza, which is probably the quickest way to this fatboys heart, I can't stress enough how cool these dudes are to fish with, looking forward to a 3rd get together!
Day 6: The Nights Aftermath
After having mark drive 8 hours in a day (hes always the pilot due to the fact we consider him to be a professional long distance driver) for some lifers and good times with friends, we decided to have a 1pm wake up call, we took it easy and got a few bites to eat and then headed off to the pier to try and tackle something we haven’t done yet, the night bite. I only managed to score 1 lifer, the Bluestriped Grunt. Kori also only managed one lifer, the sweet, Atlantic Moonfish. The clear winner of tonight was Mark who fished more rods, more determinedly. His first lifer was a sweet Nurse Shark, only to be bested by a line left in the water stuck in the pier, so this photo was the best we could do. Not to be upstaged Mark continued to land phenomenal lifers such as the Spotfin Burrfish and the Sharktooth Morray. We fished as long as we could muster before the bite shut off.
Day Se7en: Kori's Day, Scumbags In Miami, and The Evil Dead
Marvelnurse and I had developed a sort of grand bargain in order to keep the peace, she can have one beach day as long as I get to inject one fishing day into all family vacations past present date, needless to say both sides win with this deal. She opted to go to Lauderdale-By-The-Seas beach (yes that is an actual town name). However there is only so much to be done at the beach after you lay on the sand and trudge through the water (try telling her that). However I lured her off the sand with a promise more near and dear to her heart, SHOPPING. Shortly after shopping we stopped at this amazing place to eat, BurgerFi (food is more near and dear to my heart), which I highly recommend. With nothing left planned for the night we decided to take Kori to catch more lifers for her. Another one of our once bustling canals from our last expedition was filled with fish that just flat out weren't hungry. It turns out the homeless guy referenced in my previous expedition report has since armed himself with 3 fishing rods and was fishing under a nearby bridge, props for ingenuity. I wasn't about to compete with someone trying to eat so we went to the complete other side and fished the other bridge. I wasn't fishing today in order to help Kori and due to the fact I probably wouldn't encounter a lifer at these locales. At the spot Mark played with some eager Spotted Tilapia in what looked like snake heaven, so Marvelnurse and I decided to fish the bridge. This is where to my astonishment Marvelnurse sightfished a lifer Brown Hopollo in broad daylight, being that this fish is so very elusive to us, google, and others it was quite funny to see it happily living in a place we didn't know it existed. Shortly thereafter Marvelnurse spotted a lifer Walking Catfish yet again swimming around in broad daylight, that fish too was sightfished and yet another lifer was in the books, crazy!
After Marvelnurses sly wrangling of nightdwellers in broad daylight Mark and I decided to go to yet another location that we originally caught our lifer Walking Catfish last time. Shortly after setting up right before dusk, Mark landed his lifer Walking Catfish. The monkey was off our backs, it was time to relax and surrender or rods to Marvelnurse in hopes of her landing a Midas at night. However a broadcast must have been sent out letting people know of our grand successes because just as we started celebrating, here comes a boat, riding close to the shoreline, running over every single one of our lines. We dismissed it as a noobie boater due to the fact he had a family on board and we thought nobody could be so obnoxiously rude to fellow fisherman. Well folks to our dismay he came back and out of all my $15 setups and cheapys he decided to take in the only pole that cost more than $100 and send it into the pitch black depths. Mark comforted himself with the fact he finally landed the Walking Catfish he missed out on last year. After that Marvelnurse steadily brought in Walking Catfish, and unfortunately broke off (what I think was a Midas Cichlid) in heavy weeding that lined the shore. It was at this time that a boat crept up on us with its lights off and as soon as it passed me, turned them on and charged the shoreline, swerving as close to us as possible and breaking the tip off of yet another one of Mark's rods (albiet this time less expensive). This time the intent was clear as the 5-6 Teen-Early Twenties stopped the boat to laugh and admire the chaos. At this point I was enraged in the way you'd expect a rabid raccoon or rabid opossum to behave, I could only imagine what ideas mark was thumbing through in his mind. We made the best and most legal decision possible and went to see Evil Dead at the local cinema, maybe in another parallel universe those douchebags were the actors trapped in the cabin? Who knows? Who cares, at this point we just wanted to see pure unadultered hollywood bloodshed. Although apparently its charm was wasted on all but me, the only person of our group who enjoyed it. We tried not to talk about the pathetic excuses for life that were cruising around on their parents boat as we headed home to end yet another successful day.
Day 8: To The Northernlands! I had originally booked us for an early arrival and a very late depature, however I didn't think of the consequences of having to leave our hotel by noon and not actually board our plane until 9:30pm. We decided to return to BurgerFi and get some tasty food before we headed back, then it was on to see Place Beyond the Pines at the local cinema (awesome movie, we all loved it(can anyone tell i'm a movie buff?)). We opted not to fish so as not to smell ourselves on the flight back as we had most of the vacation. After that we slouched in the airport terminal for hours awaiting our flight home, I didn't hit my bed until 4am that night, what awaited me that day was bill collectors and the much dreaded......2nd shift at work. We had a blast on our second trip to Florida and although money got tight at times we prevailed literally landing all of the fish we had decided to target for this vacation.I can't thank Mark and Kori enough for dealing with me for seven days, as well as Moose and Blueye for hanging out with us and guiding us around. A big thanks to roughfish.com and its members whom gladly fielded questions pertaining to the trip and for being the inspiration behind yet another crazy ass expedition venture.