I was able to explore a new place this past weekend on the west coast of Florida in Citrus County. This same place may one day become my local waters. This trip was intended to be the initial exploration of the town and waters for the wife and me. With an arrival time of noon on Friday and departure again at noon on Monday, we worked with limited time. I knew I was only going to have a small window to fish and I needed to make the best of it.
I do my best fishing alone and knowing that I was going to be in a new place, I needed to be extra careful. There was a place across town that was suggested to me by a new friend that’s lived in the area since 78’.The intell was brief with only the location of the ramp so the rest was going to be on me. I knew the tides in my head already and a pre-trip Google Earth session gave me a great layout of the waters. After a 15 minute drive, I unloaded my boat with about 20 minutes to kill before first light. Typically I would be out in the dark paddling to my first spots but I was not about to do that in an unfamiliar area. Safety comes before fishing so I sat in my kayak at the edge of the street/boat ramp and ate my breakfast until first light. It was difficult to maintain patience with the light slaps of small bait fish flopping around in the shallows with the occasional SMACK.
Once I paddled off the edge of the street I was amazed at the unpredictable directions the water was flowing in. The bottom consisted of rock structure, holes, oyster beds, grass and sand flats. The patterns of the water flow were enough to paint a picture and I took it all in while riding the incoming tide to the east. The hypnosis of the calm morning quickly wore off after a 26" snook counted to 3 on my fourth cast.
After I released the snook I looked over my shoulder and caught the sun peeking up over the mangrove shoreline. By the time I got my hands dry and camera out, it managed to be all the way up.
The winds started to pick up early but that wasn't much of a big deal considering the amount of small islands I could find sanctuary in. I quickly paddled through some light chop in order to drift the same shoreline I watched the sun breach. It was there on a mangrove point that I found a healthy and beautiful 32" red waiting to give me a tow. I was able to snap a sloppy shot with the dirty wide angle of my DSLR but it was a shot nonetheless. The least amount of stress I can put on a fish while being handled the more healthier it's release will be. I'm sure the red doesn't mind me not taking 20 more photos to get it right.
I got that fish back in the water, paddled around the next corner and I was greeted by a bigger snook than the first one. It was at this time I felt I could brag a bit with a snook selfie on FB. It was also at this same time that the morning bite bit the dust. It could be blamed on both bad juju or slack tide. I really didn't care because I appreciate what a treat it was to catch these three fish within an hour of each other.
I say I fish alone a lot but in reality, I'm never alone. There are always eyes on you while you're out. The next hour or so was spent making random casts and exploring new places. A crabber was the only other human to share the areas I paddled and it was a quick visit. With such a rocky bottom the crabber used high tide to run his traps because otherwise these water would not be as accessible by boat. I could have easily spent the entire day here but I wanted to get back to the wife.
Grateful, happy, content, amazing.........these words could describe my morning but there's nothing like experiencing it first hand. The work I put in paid off and I can't wait to return. The wife and I will make a few more visits in the near future and take it from there. The Conneen's would fit in just fine in this small town but like everything, good things take time.
After getting back to camp and discussing the plans for the rest of the afternoon, it was decided that Stephanie was going to catch some zzz's before I met her at the beach. The beach is 6 miles from the camp so she would drive but I opted for the outgoing tide. This was an impromptu trip but I figured I needed to explore a bit more. Opposite of the morning, I definitely was not alone. The water was loaded with Labor Day boaters so I navigated far from channels and blind spots. I had no clue what I was in store for next.
95+ degrees out at 2:00pm and I pull this over slot snook off a flat. Boats drove by as this small beast put on a show for both them and I. With every thrash of its tail the snook would erupt from the water with that giant mouth open wide. My day was capped at 10:00am but I guess the Universe had other plans. The only thing that was missing was a gator trout but I couldn't find even a small one to save my life.
Four healthy and beautiful fish was all I caught Saturday and I couldn't have asked for more. Almost 10 miles of shoreline was paddled and I was amazed that I didn't see another avid kayak angler all day. I made it to the beach just after 3:00pm and cooled off with my better half.
My wife, my kayak, my poles. That's all I need.