Blog #49 Continued from Yesterday…
Vinnie steered the skiff out of the boatyard and toward a channel that passed under the A1A Highway, which extends from Key West, at it’s terminus, to northern Maine. There were few cars traveling the two lane highway at that hour. Vinnie pulled his fishing neck gaiter up over his face. Soon we were traveling at high speed parallel to the A!A, the stiff wind causing our eyes to water. We made a series of turns as Vinnie followed the channel toward a an opening that disappeared into a grove of mangrove. He eased up on the gas and we glided through a tunnel on overlapping branches that reminded me of something out of Swiss Family Robinson. Vinnie deftly moved around the back of the skiff opening bins and collecting a throw net all the while turing the steering wheel with the tough of his hand every now and then. We came to a lull and Vinnie turned off the engine and we floated up against the extended knobby roots of the mangrove. He answered our questioning eyes with one word, “Bait”. He stood on the skiff’s elevated casting deck and held a large net with lead sinkers around it’s circumference. As he gently swung the net back and forth in his right hand, he held a line attached to the net in his left hand. He watched the water as he swung the net above and finally let go. He right hand pushed the net out over the water like some one pitching horseshoes in he back yard. As the net sailed through the air the weighted edges hit the water first like the edges os a parachute. Within seconds the net net was down in the murky water and Vinnie was pulling briskly at the line he maintained in his left hand. He pulled and pulled and the line retrieved the net full of silvery mullet, a bait fish that will attract a wide array of hungry fish. Vinnie dumped the net into one of the skiff’s bins, a live well, where the small mullet would spend the day until being attached to a steel hook and tossed back into the gulf water. Vinnie quickly stashed the cast net and hit the ignition. We emerged form the mangrove and continued to follow the channel. The channel wound like a snake through open water and wood pilings were set every quarter mile or so to indicate where the channel would be. As the back country water is shallow, you must stay in the channel to travel. There is no straight line to follow, only the twisting, turning of the the channel river as it winds it’s way through the shallow saltwater. I loved the view of the wide open space, the sky with huge billowy clouds touching down on the watery horizon for as far as I could see. Intermittently there would be clusters of mangroves or the rise of a sand bar, with a few sea birds resting. After around 30 minutes, Vinnie slowed and killed the engine. Again, he began rummaging in the back of the skiff. He pulled an anchor from a compartment on the stern and nonchalantly dropped it off the side. The skiff floated until the anchor line pulled taut. “There are all kind of fish in a hole right off the bow…Snook, Jack Cravelle, Lady fish, Drum, Redfish… you name it.” We grabbed some mullet and baited the hooks. Vinnie showed us where to cast, about 25 yards off the bow. Meegan was the first to get a hit. She reeled, as the rod bent, and Vinnie calmly instructed her on how to evenly pulled the fish in. Jack Cravelle!”, Vinnie shouted as the struggling fish surfaced off the side of the skiff. Vinnie reached over grabbed the line, carefully grabbed the fish to show it to us, before removing the fish and dropping it back into the water. “You can eat ’em but he was a little small.” That was just the first of many fish we would catch that day. We caught around a dozen amber jack which Vinnie would measure and, if they were of sufficient size, they went into a different live well than the mullet. We would fish in one location for 30 to 45 minutes, before Vinnie would pull the anchor, and we would head to a different hole, as we made our way back towards the marina. We ate our sandwiches, and as the noon sun beat down, we made our way into a marina off the Florida mainland, in the tiny Everglade outpost of Flamingo, Florida. Meegan was able to use the marina bathroom. I bought a couple cold Diet Cokes. Vinnie pointed out an alligator, floating in a small swampy area adjacent to the marina parking lot. We fished for 3 more hours, the sun more punishing with each hour. By the time we made it back to the marina at 3pm, it felt like blast furnace. Vinnie cleaned the fish and threw the entrails down into the water, where a waiting crew of pelicans battled each other for an easy snack. Within ten minutes we had several pounds of fresh fish to take with us. Vinnie suggested we try Lazy Days for dinner where they would cook our fresh catch. We thanked Vinnie for a great day and as we left we said we’d like to come back and fish with him again. Little did we know it would be the beginning of a great family relationship.
To be continued….
Quote of the Day: “Only dead fish swim with the stream.”
Today’s Playlist are songs about fishing (surprisingly they’re all country music songs):
1) Bad Day of Fishin’ by Billy Currington
2) Catch All The Fish by Brad Paisley
3) I’ll Probably Be Out Fishing by Toby Keith
4) Just Fishin’ by Trace Adkins
Books to Read:
1) Flagler’s Folly: The Railroad That Went to Sea and Was Blown Away by Rodman Bethel
1) Key Largo
Yesterday’s Trivia Question: Fort Jefferson is a massive but unfinished fortress. It is the largest brick masonry structure in the Americas, and is composed of over 16 million bricks. The building covers 16 acres. Among United States forts, only Fort Monroe in Virginia and Fort Adams in Rhode Island are larger. Where is Fort Jefferson? ANSWER: The Dry Tortugas , 70 miles west of Key West
Today’s Trivia Question: How many islands make up the Florida Keys?