Since my first fishing in Florida I wanted a rematch with the snakehead that eluded me. Two years nearly to the day I returned to the same location better equipped to chase a snakehead.
Many of us have kids and know that destinations are family vacations with the opportunity to fish at least a little bit. My wife, kids and I all headed to Florida for a warm vacation that started with a lot of reading and ideas of where I could go. My children had never seen the ocean and so I knew that the first day or two I may not get to fish at all. No solid plans were made for any activities so we were flexible.
1st Fishing Day
I had another rematch with a large Florida Largemouth that got away after a long battle with too light of gear. Catching my bait was not problem at all and almost right away I got a hit and I was thinking about the largemouth of the small lake and how great it would be if just half an hour of daylight would be enough to catch this old friend. The bite went nowhere and was my first disappointment of the trip. A turtle had found the bait and destroyed it. Baitfish after baitfish was destroyed by turtles. My saving thought was, “I am in Florida fishing. Life is great.”
2nd Fishing Day
For about an hour I had a chance to fish a small lake connected to the canals with the hopes of catching a Nile Tilapia. Pulling into the lot it was quiet but windy. Quite a bit of time passed without seeing any fish and no bites at all I went into the search mode. Finding a school of small fish I busted out the tenago hooks and managed a new unexpected fish. A very aggressive Seminole Killifish that reduced me to counting scales back at a computer screen to ID, just a part of the fun when fishing new areas. After the Killifish was back in the water I noticed a pleco eating at the edge of the weed line. Staying very low I cast i bit in front of the fish and the fish stopped feeding. After 5 minutes I moved wrong and off it went.
3rd Fishing Day
One of my dreams was to fish in the Everglades in a boat and we decided that we would do just that. We found a boat rental where I had been two years prior and rented a 14 foot johnboat that would be just enough for my two kids and wife. The day was windy but I was fishing in the Everglades a dream of nearly two decades that would be marked off my bucketlist. The first stop my wife threw the anchor and it did not hold and we were drifting around in what felt like a fishless void. Drifting into some vegetation I caught my first fish, a small Copernose Bluegill.
Finding an out of the wind area with a boat that we now realize is leaking we sit with no bites or sign of fish. Unlike the last time I was in the Everglades we saw no birds and it seemed void of life other than the one fish and one alligator we saw. Sitting and waiting for eternity I had a bite. Being rusty from not fishing nearly enough I set the hook and lose the fish. This was repeated in one fashion or another for more than any fisherman would care to admit until I had a good hookup with a fish that seemed to be much larger and pulling out drag straight into the weeds.
After much maneuvering of the line I landed the first bucket list fish of the trip being an Oscar. A fish I would soon realize was like wanting to catch a bluegill. Simple and all over the place.
I landed a few more fish including a Mayan cichlid and then a Redear Sunfish, that was not a lifer but a cool new upgrade picture.
With a new spot and a different look I landed a new lifer Spotted Sunfish. The colors on the Spotted was beautiful in the sun and heat of the Everglades. The Forecast was 85 degrees and 95 percent humidity. The spotted Sunfish was a much more colorful fish than I had realized.
With a 3 hour rental it was too long for the kids and much too short for me we headed back to the shop and returned the boat with much more water than we started with. It was an amazing experience that I would never forget. The fishing did not end there. The dock was a fruitful place to fish but the fish were smaller and not as plentiful from the many people who fish the dock.
We heading to a park where there was a lake. Playtime for both the kids and for me. You never know what are in the waters you are fishing and it was a great way to wind down a long day for all of us. I caught small Mayan Cichlids and Juvenile Spotted Tilapias.
Fishing Day 4
With two years of being bummed about not catching the snakehead, I headed to the bait shop and bought some worms and shiners. I arrived at the drainage ditch to find that the water was nearly a foot lower than last time. I was worried that the fish would be no longer there. That feeling went away quickly with me casting out with a float and the float disappearing within minutes. The first fish did not hook up and the second tangled in some brush in the water and slipping away. Some people working at the place I parked came out and gave me suggestions so I tried upsizing my hook and using different bait. In hind sight I should have stuck to my plan. Another fish hit while reeling in and it felt like a freight train had hit and kept going with the drag screaming before the dreaded slack. It was a larger baitfish and likely the baitfish had ripped off the hook. I stayed there and lost a fish after a lengthy fight where it had run nearly the length of the ditch and wrapped up in many weeds before the hook pulled out. The fish were all skittish so I left and felt a defeat. A low that I did not like in any way. Why was I even there. I had many places marked on the map and one that was close by had 10 cars in the lot and many people in the spillway. I kept driving. I got to a location that was a business district but the banks made fishing difficult. I fished there a while with live bait sitting on a bottom rig near where I spotted 2 large snakeheads. I caught a few nice coppernose and saw some large panfish but could not ID them. Nothing but seeing fish swimming away. I decided to head back to the first spot. I told myself “I know what I am doing. I can do this.”
I went back and saw the snakeheads were actively feeding and showing their locations. I knew i had a chance. I rigged my rod one of my favorite ways, with a size 2 hook. No lead, no float, no distractions. I put a shiner on and kept it in the bait bucket while spotting and stalking the fish. I saw a small snakehead of maybe 3 pounds so I cast and as the shiner was about to hit the water the fish turned and a bass took the minnow. A bass was the last thing I wanted at the at time. I landed the fish and released it. Sitting down waiting for the next fish surprisingly went quickly. two snakeheads were feeding and stalking prey. I over cast to avoid spooking the fish in only a foot of water In only two cranks the snakehead hit the shiner and was screaming drag. Not nearly as powerful as the first one I lost but still a snakehead, my first. These fish have the power of a sturgeon and the speed of a steelhead. I pulled the snakehead to shore in the mud and muck with a huge smile. I just sight fished a Bullseye Snakehead. Out of the corner of my eye I see another fish cruising the surface.
After setting up the tripod in the back of my rental vehicle I see that fish still swimming around near where I can get in a cast. I still had to retie my rig. With one shiner left I see that the fish is a Florida Gar, another fish on my bucket list for over 18 years. With my last shiner, I cast and the shiner bolted for heavy cover where I lost the shiner. I sat there and thought about my choices. I put on a tenago hook and caught a small fish for bait. I caught a larger fish than I wanted but did not want to wait. I cut the fins off to make the fish struggle to swim making it a desirable target for the gar. I cast and the gar ignored my bait. Further out the gar was near a clump of weeds so I cast right on top of the patch, pulled the bait off the weeds and it sunk like a rock. The gar disappeared also. I sat there for an eternity and left the bail open. I then saw the gar with my bait in it’s mouth swimming around. For 10 minutes I watched as the gar swam around with my bait in it’s mouth. I then saw the gar without my bait so I waited. What is another 5 minutes when I have waited all these years. I slowly reeled in all the slack with an uneventful fight to land another fish I have wanted for so long.
After those two fish coming so close together, I had to sit down and reflect on my day. It was 2pm and I spent the whole morning fishing for them. Fishing is my release and it is very personal to me. I don;t fish to impress anyone. I catch what I catch and fish how I want.
I had booked a party boat to fish in the ocean for my first time. I went with the attitude that I’ll catch what I do and have a good time. It was a typical experience from what I understand and I had a good time.The pics can speak for themselves. I did catch a large Porgy and my wife and I ate it the next day.
The fishing for me was about finding fish the way I used to. Hitting the water and finding out what was there. I had ideas of where to go for certain fish from my last trip but I did not bum any spots for this trip. All the coolfish I saw ws the reward.