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Monday, July 16, 2018

IV: Gloom and Doom In The Sunshine State (2018)

Presented by Deftik Angling

Day 1: Et Tu Brute? 

This trip was quickly formulated out of a trip Mark backed out of to Missouri. Sadly 8 days wasn’t really ideal for flash planning, I spastically spit-balled potential fishing locales and flirted with the idea of just flat out staying home. However delta informed me it was do or no refund. My wife put the nail in the coffin, paraphrased for family friendly reading “get on a plane and go, go catch fish so I don’t have to hear about you not going for the rest of the year”. Deal. And just like that I started my first ever solo fishing expedition because frankly what else was there to do? As frantically as the idea was formulated I landed and got right to business. I went for the mysterious fish that haunted my social media for the last year first. The Eastern Happy cichlid was a willing participant after I waded through a few Mayans and a bunch of questions from a nearby store employee. I was trembling when I caught it so my photos are not ideal, its always hard catching the first lifer of any trip especially after a long hiatus.

Next was a spot for redhead cichlid. I start using small pieces of nightcrawler, but quickly bumped it up to full. That was the ticket, which led to my second lifer of the trip the much adored Redhead Cichlid. If you’re new to this blog I’m addicted to cichlids I may have a problem and will regularly derail productivity of trips to chase them. This fish was followed shortly thereafter by a hard fighting coppernose bluegill PB (personal best).

Next stop was Anglins pier which is a far cry from the glory it used to be. Word on the inter web is it was sold to a new owner. Last years hurricane closed half of it. I was the only serious fisherman there because everyone else got the memo, this place is completely useless until fixed. I got some small fish and a super drunk lady named “Jax” hitting on me. I’m not sure if it was the squid I was ripping apart by hand that drew her in but two inches from my face was enough for me to turn around and give some kids my bait and beat feet. Humbling as it was I’m a married man, here on business, fishing lifer business.

Day 2: Beat the Rain and Drive Like You’re Insane

Next was a pay lake for barramundi. I imagine these fish retained all their natural fighting power any thing more than this would be wild. I’m actually pretty pro pay lake so this was a lot of fun and something new for a change up until now I never actively fished a pay lake. I also caught an African Jewel cichlid while fishing here.

I quickly jettisoned north to catch these lovely specimens, another cichlid to my ever growing list. Man do I adore these fish.

I then drove across the state literally to Tampa where I encountered this lifer cichlid gem. PS it’s not what you think it is and telling you would spoil the fun!

I then drove south to my buddy Marcos house. Marco was super hospitable and was kind enough to catch bait. We tried to no avail to try for snook in some very snooky habitat.  The hardhead Catfish were very willing participants, the Gafftopsail Catfish were a little harder but came in after a little bit. At this point I was at 7 lifers, my goal was 20 for the trip. Given the circumstances of impending tropical storm Alberto, I was going pretty strong. 

Day 3: Let Minnow, When It’s Gonna Rain

I made a quick stop for mini sheepshead but could only locate gulf killifish, lifer #8, I’ll take it!

I was now ready and willing to start salt fishing. A bait shop owner who mistook me for a local recommended I try Sanibel Island. I made it to the island, but didn’t get very far as my need to fish made me stop at the first possible place luckily this place produced a lifer Mangrove Snapper #9. Unfortunately that fish was in the first 5 minutes and motivated me to stay and use up all my bait before reaching my destination. I then went to visit my mom at my cousins house an hour south but quickly got fidgety and had to abruptly leave to fish more seeing as the weather held off. Threat of the weather on this trip was very real like the title the weather people predicted gloom and doom. What I really got was dark overcast skies and the idea of rain messing with my choices. However it is hard to ignore “possible tornados and 1.5-2 inches of rain accompanied by flash flooding from the keys to Tallahassee” which the threat of was ever-present on my weather apps.

Luckily when I left I stocked up on bait upon arriving I questioned why I’d go sit on a pier by myself on an isolated island in high winds. Luckily that nonfishing crazy talk was silenced by endless Spotted Sea Trout (#10 lifer) I even took a few to give to my cousins. I made my way back in the morning. The fishing was impeccable and a real high point of an already sterling trip. I found solace out there in the dark, it’s one of those moments when I was deep in my element laser focused connecting with something primal and foreign to me.

Day 4: Threat of Rain Will Drive A Man Insane 

This was mostly a throw away day as far as fishing is concerned I hung out with my cousins in the morning and made my way east to a metal concert but decided the weather wasn’t bad enough to see a show. I said I’d take a quick nap and woke up 3 hours later. My wife then suggested I head toward the keys in the midst of subtropical storm Alberto so I gathered bait and headed south. As I drew closer she said if it gets bad seek shelter. I then informed her what the keys was and that there is no shelter. In classic kori fashion she exclaimed I didn’t know you never took me there! I made good time to the keys but was inundated with HEAVY winds, my line blew side ways and up in the air. The roaches and crabs kept me amused until the rain came, today was a two fish day. I then watched Alberto pee on me from the comfort of my car, epitome of throw away day. After scrutiny it turns out my two fish day were both lifers a French Grunt and white grunt.

Day 5: Working For It

Fortunately for all the “end of days” weather that was foreshadowed by my weather apps and locals alike only the wind came. I spent the rest of the day fishing the keys save for a meal break. FYI  for all you “foodies” finding sushi in the keys is hard. From sun up to sun down I grinded through endless white grunts and yellowtail snapper. I was also stopped for a record 5th time by FL fish commision. This time I asked why so many patrols, officer said due to the holiday. In truth I saw less anglers this trip than any trip I’ve ever taken to Florida. The threat of 40mph winds and 1 1/2 - 2 inches of rain + tornados must of discouraged everyone. The officers opening line was “what brings you out in the wind and rain today” For my diehard efforts I acquired 4 new lifers Lane Snapper , Mutton Snapper, Southern Puffer, and Sheepshead Porgy. For some reason no tropical fish came out to play this trip but I was satisfied with my days keep. I turned the car north covered under the cloak of darkness, to try to fish my half day before the flight.

Day 6: I’m only Clowning Around

I woke up at my 5th consecutive rest area setting a new personal best of 5 nights living out of a car (very proud of that by the way). I drove north and found the nearest bait shop, he knew what I was after and quickly supplied me with 12 large shiners for $12. These fish were LARGE, so it was actually worth the price. It felt odd trying to shake off 2-3lb peacock bass and Florida Gar but bait was limited. In the end I landed a nice peacock and Florida Gar no clown knifefish wanted to play with me. I was impressed with my dedication this trip and how I rose to the challenge doing things I never fathomed I was capable of. My target never came to fruition but a sense of accomplishment overtook me anyway. I quickly disassembled my fishing war machine and made way for the airport but not before stopping at Kori and I’s favorite, Burger Fi. 

I crushed approximately 1,700 miles scouring Ft Lauderdale to Miami to Boca Raton to Orlando to Tampa to Naples, back to Ft Lauderdale to Islamorada back to Boca Raton then to the airport in Ft Lauderdale. It was a gauntlet, subtropical storm Blah blah blah never materialized but left heavy wind and uncertainty which factored into the decision making of the trip. For my 4th trip to Florida I pulled 16 lifers, a lot of them are what I consider “high priority targets”. A lot of valuable lessons were learned and not a moment was wasted, I say this sparingly I left Florida a changed man, for the better. Until next time.

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