My first fish in Florida – Jack crevalle
The last few months have been full of change and with these changes I have decided to resume posting on Augie’s Adventures. However, I’m running a little behind. The following story was written a few weeks ago. I hope to be caught up shortly.
Fishing for Jack Crevalle
November 25, 2017 – With the two weeks of FEMA training complete, I boarded a plane leaving Maryland behind and landing in Orlando Florida for week of orientation and meetings. While in Orlando, I received my final orders and on Thanksgiving Day I drove to Fort Myers Florida, my new home for the next six months or so.
In my search for a place to live, I got lucky. I found the Tip Top Isles, an independent waterfront hotel located on a canal. The room is clean and comfortable with a real old school beachy hotel vibe. The kind of place you stayed at during college spring break. In fact I like it better than my Washington DC condo. The bed is located up a set of stairs in a loft, which leaves the down stairs open and roomy. One feature I have come to enjoy, that was a little unexpected is that the front door opens to the outside and a small balcony. This caveat of not having your door open into a hallway, like a standard apartment, condo or hotel room gives the place a much homier feel.
A pleasant surprise I discovered shortly after moving in was that the room included free use of a kayak and bicycle. I was super stoked at this discovery, as it meant I could walk from my hotel room, jump in a kayak and fish some of Florida’s premiere inshore fishing. Red fish, snook, sea trout, jack crevalle, and tarpon lurked in these waters. To me that is better than hitting the lottery.
The southern next door neighbor at my hotel is a bait and tackle shop. The Northern neighbor is a bar and grill serving some of the best BBQ wings in town. Could a guy have it any better? Not in my world.
On the Friday following Thanksgiving while my Maryland hunting buddies where preparing for opening day of deer season, I reported to my new office and got acquainted with my fellow FEMA team members. I was not overcome with a work load on my first day and was able to enjoy the following weekend off.
After my first day in the office, I walked over to the bait shop. Where I purchased a custom rod build by the guy who owns the shop, added a quality bait runner spinning reel, and purchased some key tackle. With my new acquired fishing gear, and the available kayak, I was ready to expand my fishing repartee. It was time to explore the back bays, mangroves and canals for some light tackle inshore kayak fishing.
Time to Go Fishing
The sun was on its down slide and darkness was only 2 hours distant, but like a kid on Christmas Eve, I wanted to open my presents tonight and not wait until morning. I quickly exchanged the office attire for the more appropriate fishing shirt and shorts and walked down to the dock.
The sit-on-top kayak had been well used and showed it. But that didn’t matter much to me, it was free for me to paddle. I slide the kayak into the water off the floating dock, placed my gear inside and slid myself off the dock and into the kayak.
With my simple supply of 2 packs of soft plastic baits, a pack of 1/0 weightless hooks and one pack of ¼ oz jig heads, I left the dock and went in search for snook, red fish, and sea trout.
“Wow, this is happening” I thought to myself.
On this day last year, I was in the Appalachian Mountains preparing for another deer season in 20 degree weather. Today, I’m in Florida working for FEMA and fishing the mangroves in my time off. A direction I could have never predicted. I guess that’s how life works sometimes. We can plan for the future and think we got it all figured out, but then God shifts the winds and life sails in a totally different direction. I’m cool with that.
I followed the directions of the local expert at the tackle shop and steered the kayak passed the boat docks and toward the mangroves. In the same manner, as I approach bass fishing, I tossed my lures along the edges and pockets of the mangroves. Predator fish are predators and whether they reside in freshwater or salt they act the same by hiding in likely ambush locations waiting for easy prey to swim too close.
Sure, I was casting baits just like I do when bass fishing but this wasn’t the local ponds or rivers I was accustomed. Palm trees and mangroves grew here. Pretty shore birds in bright whites, pinks and yellows dotted the shoreline. Best of all, it was late November and while my friends back home were dressed in heavy winter coats sitting in deer stands, I was wearing shorts and fishing in 80 degree weather.
Entering a small lagoon. That’s what they call them around here. Back home I would have called it a cove. Anyhow, I slowly drifted toward a brush pile in the middle of the lagoon and tossed my bait to the likely fish holding locations. I was rusty. My casts fell short of the target or landed in the brush. After alerting every fish in the area, I backed out and continued my search.
A Jack Crevalle Fight
Turning the corner and entering into a much larger lagoon, fish broke the surface. Bait fish were frantically trying to escape an attack. My first three casts returned without a bite. Then it happened. A heavy weight boxer griped the end of my line and attempted to yank it out of my hands. The rod strained and bent in a deep arch. Line left my reel in a scream. This was no 12 inch smallmouth. I tightened the drag and pumped the light rod working the unseen monster toward the kayak. He towed the kayak, taking me where he wanted to go. A battled ensued. I would gain a few yards of line. He responded by towing me toward the mangroves. In the end, I won the battle and I lifted the football shaped jack crevalle out of the water and into my lap. I had not expected to catch a fish like this and it wasn’t until I got back to my hotel later that night did look it up and figure out exactly what I had caught.
Success. Fewer things in life provide as much satisfaction as catching the first fish in a new arena. The game was new to me and I had gotten on base.
The evening arrived with a beautiful sunset. The evening ended with catching two more jacks before paddling back to the dock and ending my first fishing trip while living in Florida.
As the job allows, I intend to spend as much time as I can exploring this new fishing world at my fingertips. While others may enjoy becoming an expert in one particular thing, I enjoy the learning process of trying new things and I got a bunch of new things to try here in Florida. Stay tuned to see what happens next.