“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” –Thoreau
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to be on the water at dawn on New
Year’s Day to see the first sunrise of the year…and so I am. I peddle out from the launch point at 6:45 a.m. in my trusty Hobie Outback kayak and head towards the oyster beds just south of Chokoloskee Island, my new home. The oyster beds are happy feeding grounds for fish, birds, and other critters. I am not disappointed. What a peaceful and hopeful feeling I have as the sun peeks over the clouds and welcomes in 2016.
But after a few minutes meditation, the siren sound of fish cavorting around the nearby oyster beds lures me away. The tide is just turning, and the fish will be feeding in the shallows loaded with little crabs and forage fish. They know to beat the falling water which leaves the beds high and dry till afternoon. The beds pop out clearly as white swirls on my GPS, but I have fished here before, so know where the sea trout like to hang out. I put on a plastic shrimp lure on a jig head below a popping cork and make my first cast of the year. I give the cork a good jerk which pops and seems to attract the fish. To my surprise it immediately dunks under. I set the hook and am onto a good fish–a nice fat trout. Not a bad way to start they year!! I laugh as I release him, big smile on my face. Damn it’s going to be a great year!! For the next hour I have steady action for trout, high-flying ladyfish, and some little feisty jack crevalles that croak at me as I remove the hook and release them.
By this time, a lot of motor boats are starting to whiz by, guides and their sports headed out to the outer islands and blue water…so I retreat into nearby mangrove islands where only fools in bigger craft fear to tread. The menacing oyster beds, often submerged just below the surface, sport piles of razor sharp, hard shells that can tear big chunks out of the bottom of a larger boat or sheer off the propeller. But kayaks can glide right over them in most places. Away from the madding crowd, I home in on channels between the islands where the current is running hard as the tide falls. Redfish and snook love to hang out in these
spots, waiting just out of the current to snatch hapless prey. I get a nice red on the popping cork, then a hefty two-foot long snook along the shore of one of the islands on a white Yozuri 3D minnow lure that wiggles and darts like a little bait fish as I crank it through the water. Four more snook follow soon thereafter. It’s almost lunch time and I think about pulling out, but as I glide on the current through a narrow channel between two islands, I see a big back eddy where the current slows. Trout and ladyfish love to hang out in deep spots like these. I cast and count to ten, letting a jig with a white curlytail plastic grub sink into the hole. Something hits hard. I can feel it’s head shaking trying to throw the hook, a favorite tactic of trout. After a good tussle, I pull up a well-fed 21-inch trout, a big one for these waters.
I congratulate myself modestly on a great morning, and with the sun now high in the sky, I search for a spot in the shade under some mangroves. It has to have enough breeze to keep the pesky mosquitoes at bay–it’s been a very warm winter with rain so the pesky devils are still around along with a few hardy no see ums! I have a gourmet lunch packed up in a little cooler, treating myself to a fat turkey pastrami sandwich, good cheese, and some fresh olives, all topped off with an RC Cola and Kit Kat. Notice: My New Year’s resolutions include nothing restricting their intake.
The rest of the day produces a steady string of lady fish, jacks, and a few trout, nothing of size but lots of fun. The birds are plentiful too. A sure sign of winter here in southwest Florida is the return of the white pelicans. They love to sit and preen on the oyster beds, safe from any predators, wheeling out to catch fish at their leisure. They ignore me as I glide by their haunt. Around the bend a momma osprey chastises me severely for having the audacity to cruise too close to her on her big nest, while poppa circles with a mullet in his talons.
Now the tide is beginning to turn, signaling it’s time to head back to camp. As the current picks up speed, I can glide back in at a laid-back pace, visions of pinot grigio and hummus dancing in my head.