Sunday, August 22, 2010

The South Florida Catching Trip

And....we're off.
Hello. Welcome to my home, meat.
The gator above was about 20 yards away across this water hole. I never let him out of my sight. I could hear them in the water behind me, too, but DRE was facing that direction.
The air plants on the trees were just breath takingly beautiful. They lent a whole surrealism to the scene.
Fish not so impressive and was released. But looka at how much I was sweating. Pants and shirt soaked, sweat dripping into my eyes. And, just to make this the perfect example of some of the things you will read below, a biting fly (aka: mean little bastards) on my elbow.
As you can see, the canal is straight and narrow. As soon as you see it, you know there will be no hiding from the sun. One of the peacock bass what got iced and then eaten.
C'mere, my pretty!
Must...vainly...attempt...escape!!
DRE with an eating fish.
Me with an eating fish.

The narrative part:
Usually we go fishing. A lot of the time for me, its a sitting and tanning trip. A bait throwing trip. A "When you get the chance we need to go over and get my crank bait out of the tree" trip. Sometimes, suffering heat induced hallucinations, its a trip trip. But last weekend, sitting in what was basically a big ditch running between ocean and swamp, we were on a catching trip.

Me and DRE have always talked about a trip to Venezuela. We wanted to go fishing for peacock bass. Although its basic shape very closely resembles that of the largemouth, it is not actually a member of the largemouth family. Peacock Bass belong to a family of fish known as "cichlids", a group that boasts more than 1,000 species worldwide and is well known to tropical fish enthusiasts. Like the largemouth, the cichlid prefer to ambush unsuspecting prey from a stealthy vantage point and demonstrate a gluttonous appetite. The similarity ends there. However, the Florida Peacock bass, colorfully adorned in varying shades of green, blue, orange and gold, is much more eye appealing than the largemouth bass. Don't let this appearance fool you though. It's one of the toughest freshwater species in the world, with bone-jarring strikes, aerial acrobatics and line-stripping runs that make it the ultimate quarry for both the fly and plug angler. It routinely breaks line and destroys tackle.

We left Friday morning, but never made it into the canal. Canal C-111, for those of you keeping score. "Eleven", as the locals in the bait shop called it, is in Dade County, just a hair north of the Monroe County line. We found the canal, about 9:30 PM or so, but did not put in. We had planned to, but we found ourselves, flush with adventurous spirits, time to kill, and without the wifely encumberances, wandering about in the Big Cypress following every dirt trail we encountered. While we didn't get to the canal 2-ish as planned, we didn't really care. We had a grand adventure full of airplants, insects, alligators, heat, fishing, more insects, more alligators, debilitating heat, and bugs. Friends, you haven't lived until you've been 2 miles down a dirt trail into the swamp, getting out to "stick check" the depth and mud content of the big puddles BEFORE you drive through them (a lesson it took me well into my thirties to learn) and decide that it is, shall we say, imprudent to continue. Turning the pickup truck, with boat in tow, around in such tight quarters is.... well, it's another story to tell entirely.

First thing Saturday morning we slipped past the ROAD CLOSED signs at the exit off of US 1 and drove far enough along the canal access road that we figured we would either not be seen, or at the very least, might have some degree of plausible deniability concerning ROAD CLOSED signs and us being in there. Hey--- we drove a pretty long way to get here.

We got out of the truck and were absolutely swarmed by the biting flies. We almost did not get the boat in the water, we were so busy swatting at the buzzing little teeth with wings. I realized that if anything would bring this trip to a quick end, it was these flies. But God wanted us to fish. So turned us on to a couple of things. When on land, we were a biting fly buffet, and they were HONGRY! God's critters gotta eat, even the annoying ones. And when we were on the water motoring somewhere, we also got swarmed. But for some reason, when you were on the water and just doing drifting (fishing) speed, they went away. They were attracted to movement on the water. Good to know.

As you saw in the pictures, we were in a canal maybe 30 yards wide. We fished it 7 miles out* to a lock and dam. There was more canal, but we could not boat past the dam, so we turned around and fished back. 14 miles of ditch fishing. So there was no place to hide from the sun. We had a gallon of water on ice, but as the cooler started filling with fish, we started removing the water bottles. It was so hot out that even warm water was welcomed. But God, sensing that we were deep down some good boys who had waited a long time for this trip, threw up clouds between us and the sun. And ordered up a slight breeze. Were we sweating like whores in church? You betcha. But we were not being baked by the sun. Therefore, we kept fishing. for 7 or 8 hours.

* While we didn't think to snap a picture of it for proof, there were actually mile markers posted along the access road that we could see from the boat.

We caught a lot of fish, but released most of them. We brought home a few each for eating, and kept them on ice from the time they were caught until the time they were cooked. We were disappointed that we had not caught any peacock bass, although we had been catching the heck out of this aquarium fish looking thing, we thought was maybe an Oscar, that fought 3 times as big as it was. It was fun to catch and we kept a couple to eat. When we got up along the dam, we ran across a shore fisherman who was pulling in big ol' largemouth bass as fast as he pleased. Aske us if we'd had any luck and we said, "5 or 6 bass. And a lot of these things. Know what they are?" "Awww... you got you some of them damn peacock bass there." We were like, cool... explains the fighting. It did get us to thinking about how, if one a little larger than your hand could pull the boat towards shore, then if we actually hooked a large one, well... there was the possibility it would go all Moby Dick on us and flip the boat. Which would have given me a heart attack before I ever got wet because of all the not shy at all gators hanging out all around us.

Spent Saturday night in Pompano Beach with an old friend of mine from the Pittsburgh area. Carnegie, for those of you who know the area. Headed home about 8 AM, on a northwesterly course strainght up US 27. Stopped for a short time to wet a line in Lake Ocochobee, but mostly just motored straight home. The heat and the bugs and the rapid fire fish catching on Saturday had taken its toll. We were ready to be home.

The trouble with real life is that there is no danger music, out
Ramblin' Ed

3 comments:

Blogger The Appalachianist said...

You had fun...Man, I know what you mean by quarterly posts. Oh, give a shout out to Ol' Engineer. Got the articles and like them.

6:58 AM  
Blogger The Nature Boy said...

I never read any of that because I was too busy dancing with an 18 year old girl who is strictly a 10 in all places. But I did notice the alligator and I'm putting my bespoke maker, because I need a new pair of shoes...and maybe a wallet because the bundles of cash are wearing out the current one.

6:05 PM  
Blogger The Nature Boy said...

My bespoke maker will make the shoes. Just supply the Alligator and you will be rewarded. As long as the alligator fresh their will be no problems.

6:09 PM  

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