05 January 2015

• #05: Islamorada Journal 2015…05 JAN “Fish-On!”

Click on any photo to see enlargement gallery.

Moon shining on Florida Bay early Monday morning. Really need a tripod to make this sort of shot come out clearly.

Late Monday morning Wayne and I headed out for Shoo-Fly's first fishing trip of the season. We're just about to make the tight, right-hand turn at the top of the G-shaped boat basin to get out onto Florida Bay. Often I can make this turn without assistance from the pole-man on the bow...but it's always good to know he's ready to poke us off the wall if I mis-judge or if an errant breeze or wave catches us.

We're actually in Everglades National Park [the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States] at this point even though it's not the typical swamp or marsh that one might expect to see. This part of the Park is shallow salt water, seldom over 8 feet deep, and dotted with mangrove islands or keys of all sizes.

We caught a bunch of fish this day. Wayne said it was more fish than he'd caught the whole time he's been here this year...and he got here the end of November.

We didn't see any of the real sporting fish of Florida Bay this day...no permit, no tarpon, no bonefish...but we did have a lot of fun with...in this case...ladyfish. These are "poor-man's tarpon." They hit hard, jump several times, spit the lure back at you, and, if you bring them into the boat with you, they'll poo all over the place. Not good to eat either...but a lot of fun to catch. Just don't let 'em in my boat.

Birds, mostly cormorants, sitting on a sandbar. If you look behind the birds you can see what looks like telephone poles sticking up out of the water. These are actually posts that mark the "ditches," which are cuts through the sandbars that boats can take to get from one section of the Bay to another.

Among the critters we saw today were dolphin and sea turtles.

Spotted sea trout. Good to eat but in this case not big enough to keep.

All the fish we landed today were returned safely to the water...but we'll get some "eaters" soon enough.

There are catfish in saltwater just as in freshwater. This is either a gaff topsail catfish or a hardhead catfish...I think. Hard-fighting fish and guess some people eat them, but you don't want to get stung with one of their spines which are loaded with some nasty toxins.

Here we're running a ditch next to a mangrove at about 30 mph in water maybe 3 feet deep...and if you get 5 feet left or right of where you should be, you're on dry land. Takes a steady hand at the wheel.

Pesty terns followed us a couple of times. They've learned that fishermen often use live bait and they'll swoop down whey you cast and try to grab your lure. Over the years we've reeled in terns that grabbed artificial lures. Not a lot of fun to do.

Crevale Jacks turn that big, flat side against you when you try to reel them in. Strong fighters...no good on the table, however.

Monday night's modest sunset.

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