FISH TALES

Trip Start Nov 19, 2007
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Where I stayed
Bahia Honda State Park

Flag of United States  , Florida
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feb. 18, 2010

Jodie and I walked down to the beach for a long walk and I kept trying to think of a way to "anchor" the kayak without the hassle of buying, using and storing more weight. The concrete bases of the bridge wouldn't work because the yak would keep banging up against their sharp barnacles. The bases of the electrical towers could work, but they are at least 8' in diameter, hard to throw a rope around and I don't want to be hooked to the handle of the yak without a way of reaching a quick release.

I came up with a 2 part system that's light weight and quick release. Using 2 empty detergent jugs, light rope and 2 carabiners did the trick. The jugs would float the 2 ends of the rope to help position it around the 8-9 foot diameter base of the electrical towers. 1 carabiner would clip the ends together and the other would be attached to a 2 foot length of rope directly behind the seat so it could be attached and detached to the rope around the concrete base in a second or 2.

We both paddled out to the bridges and tried it out with Jodie on her camera. It worked easily and I brought along the hand pump in case a big wave came in and started to swamp me. No problems at all. Jodie hung out for a little while and I fished while she maneuvered in the current of the tide. I velcroed my paddle to the yak so it couldn’t slip off into the ocean and take off to Cuba without me.

Everything was going the way I imagined it would. No problems. I caught a porgy, filleted it on the top of the yak and decided to try a piece of it as bait. It wasn't long before something hit the bait hard, took off fast and then cut my line. It must have been a shark since it took over 4 feet of leader as well. I'm told they can suck in their prey and that would account for how much leader was taken. I tied on another hook and tried again.

After a couple of minutes it happened. My rod doubled over and line started peeling out as if I had a rocket flying away from me. I had never seen line move off a reel that quickly and it just kept going. Watching over 1/2 my line (90-100 yards) disappear, I tightened down on the drag to slow the fish down. Nothing was happening, so I tightened further and it finally slowed and turned around heading my way. It came flying towards me and then did a 180 degree turn and took off again.

I tightened down even more and it slowed, turned and repeated the whole rush towards me again. This time it dove right under the yak and I kept my arm as far out away from me as possible so it wouldn't have an easy time coming up into the bottom of the yak. It took off again and I started wondering what was on the end of my line? I couldn't be a shark, since I hadn't been cut off yet. Maybe it was some big grouper or some fish I wasn't even familiar with? Maybe it was a giant stingray that was cruising the channel? Yes, that must be it, a giant stingray! I'd get it in closer, release it and keep fishing.

A minute or so went by and it was about 20 feet from the yak. It was surfacing and I could see the big left wing of a stingray... or was it? No... it was the pectoral (side) fin of a 4 1/2 to 5 foot long shark. I saw it's long whitish belly, then its head and then its tail as it turned to take off again. What a scary rush! Why wasn't this shark long gone? Why hadn't it cut the line? I must have hooked it between it's teeth or something. My hands started to shake and I could feel my heart beating even faster than it had been. I was sitting in a 9 foot long plastic Tupperware container, 6 inches above the water line with a shark making runs at me. Who was going to be doing the eating? The shark was no where near tired and images of it thrashing into the side of the yak and flipping me over kept flashing though my head.

I decided to cut us both free, but I didn't want to do it that far from me since the shark would have to drag all that line around until the hook rusted out. Just as I figured out my "plan" to get it closer before cutting the line, it turned hard and cut the line at the hook. Amen! I was shaking with fear and excitement, all pumped up with adrenaline as I tied on another hook and went back to fishing with small pieces of shrimp instead of porgy. No more shark fishing in the kayak for me.

Feb. 19, 2010

We got a call from our new friend Johnnie Byrd. We met him at John Pennekamp S.P. and had talked about possibly getting together in the future. Johnnie is a retired Army Colonel who was staying with his wife Carolyn at the Coast Guard Station on Marathon Key. Being an ex-military man he has the right to rent boats from the Coast Guard and he asked us if we wanted to go out for a day and do some fishing. Jodie and I were delighted and Johnnie told us he’d pick us up in the morning.

Off we went on a beautiful day in the Keys and Johnnie skillfully captained us out to one of his fishing spots between the old and new 7 Mile Bridge. Coincidentally, a couple of days before, Jodie and I had been about 20 cars behind a terrible head-on fatal accident on the 7 Mile Bridge in this same location. When the police told us we could turn around and go back or wait it out for 4 or 5 hours, we parked, popped out our RV slide and had dinner and watched a movie. We dry-camped on the tallest part of the bridge for over 4 hours while most everyone (including a bus) turned around. We said a prayer for those in the accident and were grateful to be alive.

The fishing with Johnnie was great and we caught snapper, grouper, mackerel, porgy, bluefish, blue runners and pinfish. Lots of fun, good company and future dinners for Jodie to fillet.

When we returned to the Coast Guard Station, Carolyn greeted us and brought us back to their RV for homemade hummus, Boursin and assorted cheeses and crackers. Everything was delicious. Johnnie played us a couple of songs on his guitar and then drove us home. Great new friends and a day to remember.

Feb. 21, 2010

Johnnie picked me up for a lesson in bridge and canal fishing in the Keys. Last year he hired a guide to teach him the ropes and this year he was passing the knowledge onto me. He had given me his notes from the experience and the detail was so complete that it included how many steps to take once you walked onto the bridge. Besides the type of tide to fish and the side of the bridge to fish on, it included the mile marker as well. Outstanding info! We fished for a few hours and caught lots of snapper, porgy and pinfish. Between the two of us we kept 4 nice keeper snapper and Johnnie also taught me how to catch snook once they are back in season. Thank you Johnnie!

Once again we have new friends from another part of the U.S. They’ve invited us to stop by and visit them in Alabama and we’ll be sure to make it part of our future plans.
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Comments

Bill Oakley on

Andy,
Your shark fishing story was almost like reading Hemmingway's "Old Man & The Sea" !! ;-) You're becoming quite the fisherman and having a great time too!!

Best,
Bill

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