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Friday, March 11, 2016

Complete The FL Trilogy: No Easy Day

There is no fancy name for this one, just unfinished business. The kind that drives you so far that it holds you back from other grand adventures. Hi, my name is Anthony and I have a cichlid addiction. Admitting its the first step to....lifelister glory, am i right?

Lets set the stage shall we, its been THREE years since I was in Florida and a lot has changed since then. Kids, new dogs, colleges, jobs......all fish dream killers. However dreams of Jaguar Cichlid and Black Acara were never far from my mind, making it impossible to commit to anything other than the pursuit of an unfulfilled challenge.

The first notable difference was not as much anticipation and planning when into this trip because my breakneck speed lifestyle really doesn't permit for it anymore. The day just came and I hopped on a plane, after a 3 1/2 hour delay Mark and I were off to all to familiar territory.

Day 1: The Rise and Fall of the Antagonists 

We landed at 330am and went right to it. First stop was Hornet Tilapia, total bust in fact we tried for them several times. The next fish was Jaguar Cichlid, pretty much my new arch nemesis after the Northern Snakehead met defeat. I had a hot tip from an online source and man did it prove to be true, 3 fish reeled in and I had a Jaguar Cichlid staring me in the eyes. Now that is the way to start the trip I said to myself, I couldn't of been happier at this point.

Jaguar Cichlid

I decided to swing for the fences and directly after this we pointed the rental car south in search of Black Acara. The Black Acara were few and far between, borderline scarce. However absolute giant "contested" tilapia were willing to play in giant schools. These fish put up absolute slug fests, float the nightcrawler into the murky depths of downed trees and sure enough you would level into a big bruiser of a tilapia ready to test how good you really are. Here are my best ID's as of now.

Blue Tilapia 

Blue Tilapia

Mozambique Tilapia

Eventually in between the hard hitting tilapia I was able to find a few Black Acara, CHECK! Despite almost becoming road kill more than a few times, these fish took my mind off the heat and the cars skimming our backs a mere 2 feet away. I'm obviously biased but I think Black Acara are really "stunners", and one of the nicer looking "bland fish" I've ever caught.

Black Acara

We tried some other freshwater targets but the freshwater bite seemed really, really off this year. This is the first time I've ever been to Florida in March so maybe that played a role in things. Every so often we would eat "good", today was one of those days.

Gator Bites

Day 2: Salt, Micro Minnies, and Toothy Menaces 

We got to bed early so we could wake up at 4am and head to the saltiness. I started the day by landing a handful of hard fighting Houndfish. These were welcomed bruisers that took the bait and duked it out akin to gar. Its a 50/50 game with houndfish and luckily I came out victorious.


I was also gifted a new lifer Smooth Trunkfish. Previous to this I only caught one Boxfish, the Scrawled Cowfish, this trip I would become the official King of Boxfishes, this lifer started my reign.

Smooth Trunkfish

"Marks guide service" was in full effect as he directed me around to the fish he caught on his last florida trip. Just like that I had a dollar sunfish and golden topminnow to add to my lifelist. I ended up catching a melanistic golden topminnow as well.

Dollar $unfish

Melanistic Golden Topminnow

We bopped over to a sheephead minnow spot but caught some Inland Silverside, which is hilarious because the spot is known for sheepshead and the last few fisherman couldn't get silverside. That is fishing I guess. Sometimes you make questionable decisions in the pursuit of fish, this was one of these times, this place required your head to be constantly rotating on your shoulders. It wasn't a great area and I thought for sure we saw a guy dead on a bench, turns out he was just really, really passed out. Mark and I helped a 2 year old reel in his first ever fish a Spotted Tilapia or Mayan Cichlid, I can't remember but him and his mother were pretty pumped that she snapped an undercover selfie of us as we left to commemorate the moment.

Inland Silverside

We left from here to go shark fishing til 8am with AJ, which made it a 28 hour fishing day, despite almost collapsing on the beach, Mark and I passed out on the sand. We managed to lose 3 sharks, one of them pretty big. Occasionally we would reel in some bait stealing Bluefish of the medium variety, however the whole thing was a bust and a punishing one at that.

Day 3: You Better Work For It Bud.

We spent the remainder of our day harvesting what we could from the salt. I was rewarded with 2 lifers a stunning Dusky Damselfish and a legendary Spotted Scorpionfish, probably my new favorite fish of all time. The Scorpionfish looks like the perfect killing machine, also apparently specifically designed to allude photographers. Photographing this nocturnal predator at night proved to be no easy task with its 8 billion different bland color patterns.

Dusky Damselfish

Spotted Scorpionfish

Day 4: To The Keys, Please 2016 Edition!

Mark was very excited at the prospect of fishing the keys and who could blame him? I was only there one day of my life and that place is magically peaceful. It proved be exactly what I thought it would be, pure absolute bliss with fish mixed in for good measure.

I did my usual bottom rigged shrimp all day jig and ended up with Doctorfish Tang, Yellowtail Snapper, Yellow Sea Chub, Gag Grouper, Puddingwife Wrasse, and Spotted Trunkfish.

Doctorfish Tang

Yellowtail Snapper 

Gag Grouper

Puddingwife Wrasse

Spotted Trunkfish

Yellow Sea Chub

Frog Legs

Ahi Tuna

Day 5: Time To Work, Again.

Nothing really came easy on this trip and this was no exception. A bunch of empty opportunities with skunkings including a brief stint scouring the depths with the Asian Swamp Eel. By the Grace of Mark we found Crested Goby. We hit up the salt later in the day and I landed the coveted Whitefin Sharksucker, followed by another lifer, the Ballyhoo. A monstrosity Buffalo Trunkfish also joined the fray.


Crested Goby

Whitefin Sharksucker

Monstrosity Buffalo Trunkfish

When life hands you a poo sandwich you may as well enjoy it so I decided I would have Dominos delivered to the canal we were fishing on for Asian Swamp Eel. Despite some tinkering with the Online App to make it happen, I finally put in the magical info to make it go through. Before long a Domino's delivery driver pulled up on the canal and delivered freshly made pizza into our hands, also suggesting a new spot for us to fish, that was "more secluded". Needless to say both spots were bust, but hilarious memories ensued.

Day 6: Putting In Overtime

Another day of hard earned lifers presented me with a more proper and easily ID'd Buffalo Trunkfish and a lifer Planehead Filefish. We decided to go check out the NHL Florida Panthers Vs Boston Bruins game and were definitely not disappointed. It was a fitting end to the trip leaving with 22 confirmed lifers bringing my species count officially up to 150. I'll be leaving major Florida expeditions in the rear view for now as I focus on broadening my reach by traveling to new and exciting areas with a whole new spectrum of fishy stories to come.

Buffalo Trunkfish

Planehead Filefish

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