Last Sunday we dropped Lily off at Science camp, and Drew went to her great grandmother's and grandmother's for the week. They drop her off at a fishing and marine life day camp everyday; where was that camp when I was a kid? After we said goodbye, I headed over to the Inlet in St. Petersburg for a little while. Last year the snook were stacked in here, but this year all I saw were sheepshead. Oh well, it was crazy hot outside so we headed home.
Friday saw us back on the road again and as quiet and peaceful as it was at home; you do start to miss them a bit. I took a stroll around the Eckerd College campus since I had some time to kill while waiting for Drew. My wife and her grandmother went to Lily's award ceremony and I got to see the little tall one's. It was truly a moment of pride when her counselor told everyone how helpful she was, and later when her grandmother told me how delightful she was. She was burnt to a crisp, but smiling after yet another day on the water. She had sand dollars, sea shells and 4 certificates; what a champ!
Lily, trying to feign angst and independence at Science camp. She was depressed about leaving though and apparently met some fun people during the week. They get older way too fast, but I am happy she learned a lot and had a good time doing it. She explained induction to me on the way home.
This place is like Cuba being settled by Italians. Everything is amazing and you know this the moment it hits your nose at the door. You smell food, but in a clean environment where people take a lot of pride in what they do. I have to have a Deviled crab, ok two, when I come here, but they also have one of the best pressed Italians I have ever had. Cacciatore & Sons is located on Armenia Street in Tampa, so I usually hit it on the way over or way back.
There are a lot of great places over here and we found yet another Italian market while on the hunt for a particular stuffed pepper. Mazzaros!
So that was St. Petersburg, and recently I was asked if I still do the fishing thing. I do, but I hate this heat and I am in the middle of a big project at work, so I don't get out as much as I would like. When I do, like today, It is truly a pleasure and thanks to Brian and Right Hook once again for the day out on the water.
We went out on the ST. John's river today, courteous of Brian's generous uncle. I gotta say those Yamaha motors sound great, thanks for letting us use the boat. We went looking for catfish and gills, and sure enough Brian put us on them. I struggled in the beginning, but I can only take so much trash talk before I have to catch up and take the lead. It was not without cost though. I love pan fishing but I noticed a larger fish chasing one of the red bellies I was reeling in, so I threw a live one out on another rod. I went back to catching hand size blue gills and was pulling one in the boat when Brian starting yelling at me. I thought he was talking to his daughter and by the time I realized what was going on, my Shimano Crucial was disappearing into the dark water. What a rookie move. Brian let me mourn for a bit and then asked if it was ok to make fun of me now, of course, I earned it.
Growing up I spent a lot of time going back and forth between New Smyrna and the Orlando area. In between these two places is a wonderful oasis, and one of my wife's favorite spots to be "buoyant and cool" while she was pregnant with Scale Lily. Sadly, this was Lily's first time back to the park, outside of the womb. We made the drive often when we lived in New Smyrna, but the move to Panasoffkee put us so far away.
It was about a 30 to 40 minute drive by way of I4, coming from the South west side of Orlando. It was Sunday though so the traffic wasn't bad and with no holiday the park was not full to capacity when we arrived. That does happen during Spring break and sometimes during the Summer, so leave early, have a back up or wait till slower times arrive.
The Spring flows into the St. John's river, and boasts the wild life that comes with that great water way. There were a lot of Ospreys, some bass, including spawners, Blue cats and hundreds of gar. I saw schools of mullet and big groups of Tilapia.
The park also rents kayaks and canoes, and today we were able to view a manatee and her calf, but there is a strict rule about remaining 50 away from the manatees. My experience with them in different areas off the state is that the manatees are often unaware of this rule, and will rub the bottom of your kayak, trying to scratch it's back or approach you while swimming.
My second cast, with the StankX baits Rad Gill jerk, produces a bass. I love the color on this and it sits nicely on the swim bait hook. The bass fishing didn't last though, and soon I found myself surrounded by little girls, fun snaps and smoke bombs. They wanted to catch a gar, but I'm not sure how the fire works fit in.
Lily's gar broke off when I grabbed the line to lift it to the dock, but then Tyla laid in to this angry little monster. She was excited and wanted to hold it, but I didn't want to have to explain teeth marks or blood to her mom, so I held it for the photo. No one worries when I get bit or cut, its rather expected. My buddy Brian brought his daughter, Gabby, and she was hard core. I think she edged out her dad, and left with 13 fish.
The red ear were really stacked in the shallows, and it is rare out here to catch more of them than blue gill, but Brian and Gabby wrecked them. We also call them shell crackers down here, and they make for some excellent table fare.
It was a multiple species sort of day, with Blue gill, shell crackers, gar, bull head and a bass. It was fun watching them catch fish, and of the occasional turtle as well. The smiles say it all, and I'm learning on days like this it is better to target a wider range of species. More targets means more opportunities, and helps hold the shorter attention spans. Drew was not feeling it so much yesterday, Lily bounced between gar, catching bait, bluegill, climbing trees, and blowing up fire works with Drew. Gabby was the picture of focus, and she ended up with the biggest bag. Tyla stayed after the gar and was rewarded with what she wanted. All girls, but all so different in their approaches.
Well, my day didn't start out this way, but ended rather nicely.
My baby has got her blue gill on. Scales took a Gatorade bottle, punctured the lid, ran a piece of string through it and tied a washer to that end. We then loaded up the bottle with old hamburger meat, closed the lid and punctured the bottle in several places. The wind was blowing hard from the larger lake, creating a current through the canal and out into the smaller body. Lily hammered an eye bolt into the ground and we tied the other end of the line to this. I threw chumming apparatus out to the end of the Lily pads so it would be held in place there and not float in, and then we went back inside to rig up for butter cats.
When we returned to the lake, Lily put one rod out with a bobber, while I sank mine on light weight. We both were using circle hooks which are often easier to retrieve when dealing with catfish. She fished for cats for a little while but then went back to the house for a smaller rod. Those blue gill were a calling, and check this guy out, very different looking from the one I took at Brian's spot.
We weren't out there long when Lily's bobber on her catfish rod started dancing around the lake. Something was nibbling on the fat back and then the bobber disappeared. Lil ran back over and wrestled in this Red Ear Slider. I caught the same turtle again later so I had her relocate him.
What cat fishing trip would be complete without catching a soft shell? Every time, they just can't resist the salted pork goodness. Cool looking animals though, and the circle hooks really paid off.
We finally started getting catfish instead of turtles and this was the first brown bullhead. The butter cats are also a form of bullhead but with a very richly, yellow colored belly. Both are excellent eating with the meat tasting almost sweet.
As night set in, the bite also kicked in, and I lost a few, but we still managed 8 cats and a 1 keeper gill. It looks like it's time for fish tacos again. It's funny, I don't really fish with bobbers very often because I'm usually chasing bass with lures, but I remember my roots, sitting on my grandmother's dock in Cocoa, watching a bobber with a piece of shrimp dangling underneath it. I caught a lot of sailor's choice and sheepshead over there, and tonight that presentation was 4 to 1 over the bottom rig. I'm 42 years old now, but I can still watch a bobber all night, and I still get excited every time I see it move. Fish on!
It's just that one little thing, and not enough to save money or time
A small bit of fabric on the front of my shirt, sewn on with a wee bit of twine
Please don't buy the one's without pockets, those are only good under shirts
A real top should have at least one pouch, but a second really wouldn't hurt
Because one day he won't want to rest here and the wild will call unrelenting
But for now my boy's quite content here in this little space that he's renting
He won't always look for a home here, for he must return to the wild
With tears in the eyes of his rescuers, like a mother losing a child
Someday he may not remember, this place on the front of my flannel
I've seen it all happen before, just as quickly as turning the channel
On the hand he once fed from so gently, he may some day bite down with force
And though I won't like it, you nut, I will still love you of course
As I walk into work I see men in their T's and all of these dresses on girls
But without any pockets, I wonder, where do they keep their squirrels
Calvin "Cheese Grits" Yerke
I'm not even sure what that means. It was a right handed reel, but I guess she doesn't use a bait caster that often so she grabbed it upside down initially. We corrected it, but it still didn't feel right to her. Matt is using a piece of shiner that Lily froze, and Drew is using some hotdog that her and her sister were cutting into pieces and then stuffing with beef fat. It worked very well, and I caught my fish on the same thing.
This is what it looked like on the way down, but it has been doing this every day for two weeks now. At some point you just have to suck it up and go fish. Sometimes fishing in the rain actually pays off, but sometimes its too much rain and it actually effects the water chemistry. In deeper bodies of water you can have lake turnover, and in Florida's shallow lakes, we sometimes have PH crashes due to the heavy rains. Most of the lakes I fish are rather alkaline and buffered against this, but I have seen dies off due to what was determined as DO levels. The heavy rain may have an adverse effect at times. Flash flooding causes massive run off which sweeps pollutants, fertilizers and large volumes of what could be much colder water into the ecosystem. Depending on the size of the pond and other influences, like springs, it may or may not handle handle this well. Sometimes the fishing takes a steep dive, but I attribute this to stress, and conservation of energy due to low oxygen levels. "Yea dad, uh can we go fishing now?" Sorry, where were we?
Thanks Matt, always a good time.
Forty years old and still in awe of the outdoors.