We woke way too early after such a fun filled first day on the water. I believe the clock read somewhere around 6 AM. We quickly ate breakfast and rushed for the door. George booked a boat with a guide he knew since childhood to take us out on the Gulf for some bottom fishing. Mike, our guide seemed like a real nice dude. He lived in the area all his life, fished it as well, and therefore knew some great locations on the Gulf to catch fishies. After a pleasant 4o minute boat ride to some deeper water, we started bottom fishing for snapper, grouper, and whatever else happened to take our bait.
We knew not how the fishing would turn out. However, our uncertain thoughts soon turned to certainty. The second the bait hit the bottom of the ocean and we tightened the line, the fish started feeding. We landed lane snapper, yellow snapper, mangrove snapper, red snapper, grouper, and other little fishies similar to snappers. We caught a 6 inch bait fish, mike threw it on a larger setup, cast that sucker to the bottom, and let it sit. Luckily I stood closest to the pole when something slammed the bait. Mike showed me how to reel in the beast, which, I messed up. However, Mike’s skill allowed for the fish to come out of its hiding place and into the open water and the fight resumed. Thanks to Mike I pulled in a rather large grouper. Wes managed to pull in a nice size mangrove snapper on the smaller spin casting pole. Corey caught a small shark and George caught a little bit of everything, but nothing of great significance.
–Grouper sandwiches are all the rage in Florida. If you failed to notice, this really excited me. That’s Mike posting up in the back of the boat.
After bottom fishing for a couple hours and catching more fish than our feeble minds could count, we headed in closer to the shore to take a stab at trolling for Spanish mackerel. This turned out to end with no success. Yet, none of us minded. We caught so many snappers, groupers, and others our hearts felt quite content.
After this we headed back in to shore and Mike cut up the few fishies we kept. We planned on making fish tacos with the snapper and large streaks with the big grouper. Corey, Wes, and I tipped Mike — because George funded the outing — and made our way back to the condo to eat, nap, and figure out the plan for the afternoon.
George decided on taking us south of Naples to some area with a nice put in he knew about from a previous trip. It took about an hour to drive to the location. We stopped along the way and picked up some more shrimpies and a couple more lures (super spook juniors in bone white). While driving through the wildlife management area which held out put in location, we spotted a few tortoises and a wild bore. Although the bore ran across the road a good distance ahead of us, I found this experience very entertaining. This proved to be my first sighting of a wild bore. Awesome!
After arriving at our destination we unloaded the yaks, put in the water, and started paddling out. George lead the pack, followed my Corey, then Wes, then myself. Soon after we left the little put in lagoon, George’s kayak took a knock from something with a large amount of force. His yak abruptly moved several feet sideways. He made a slight noise and we all asked, what just happened? Before he could get any coherent words out, we saw something breach the surface and make a strange noise which I never previously heard. A manatee stuck his kayak with its tail. We all laughed at the incident, and you could tell George felt quite flustered by the experience. Maybe these gentle giants were in mating season? Maybe we came across a rouge manatee seeking revenge for all the propeller blades which stuck his family down? Whatever the case, we all thought with a little more caution after the experience. I landed the first fish of the day on my trolling shrimp line. Low and behold, another catfish. I started to hate this normal aquatic species due to the prevalence with which we hooked them.
We kept paddling out towards the open water and every now and then heard the cries of a manatee, making us all remember the recent attack. Corey started fishing off an exposed oyster bed and pulled in a few little snooks. However, having previously never caught a snook, he mistook them for lady fish and therefore, showed no great appreciation for the fish. George explained to us that lady fish are like the chubs of this area. They fight hard, and prevalent, and possess too little meat to make a meal out of them.
We kept paddling until we reached the last islands before the open ocean. The tide pushed in we started fishing off the sides of the islands where the water flowed in like a river. I threw out a line with the shrimp and popping bobber. I immediately started getting hits. Soon I found myself going head to head with what I thought to be a decent sized fish. However, his strength soon surprised me. Once whatever species of fish that I fought came in sight of the kayak it took off towards the mangrove island for cover 20 or so feet away. I used a medium heavy rod with 20 lb braided line and a 25 lb fluorocarbon leader. The fish literally bent the rod over til the tip touched the water. Whatever beast I hooked wanted free and he had the power to do so. With the recent manatee attack in mind, my heart started pounding. I would either pull in a really nice fish, or pull in a shark, dolphin, manatee or some monster. At least these ideas flashed through my mind during this brief moment. The fish took the line underneath the anchor and I asked Wes to come pick up my anchor as to not break off the fish. However not soon after he arrived to do so, my line broke. I felt quite excited, a little nervous, and very let down that I fell short of even catching a glimpse of the fish.
-Sheepshead. I wish the photo showed his teeth. The name of the fish comes from the sheep-like chompers they possess.
After I pulled in a nice little snapper and a jail-like attired sheepshead, the rest of the guys started fishing this section as well. With great amusement, we heard another yelp from George, who against all odds, managed to achieve another run in with a manatee. We could tell he started to get a little annoyed. After I told him about my unseen monster he said it probably was a large snook if it took off towards the mangroves. I felt a little better than he responded so quickly and gave no thought the illogical hooking of a dolphin or manatee.
–Another view of the sheepshead. We came through the area in the background. The put in lagoon was somewhere around the two tall trees in the back right corner of the photo. I wanted to snap a shot of the snapper as well, but the fish slipped out of my hand before I could do so.
–These are mainly the grouper steaks. They measured about 1.5 inches in thickness. The couple fillets in the top right are the snapper. The rest of the snappers already made their way to the stove top for frying.
With daylight running out and a storm moving in from the coast we all agreed to head back. We loaded up the yaks in a much more efficient manner than the previous day. Practice makes perfect, I suppose. Then, we drove back to the condo. Took on the responsibility of chief and made the fish tacos. They tasted wonderful. By the time we finished them our stomached reached capacity. He still made the grouper streaks, but sadly, we only took a few bites. They tasted great as well. We just possessed no more room within our bodies for food. We played a little FIFA and watched to tube for a while before sleep soon overcame us.
–The snapper tacos with El Presidente; the best pilsner I’ve ever tasted from the Dominican Republic. Wes did a great job preparing the meal.
In a recap, we woke early, fished to open water, caught some great new-to-the-group fish, ate lunch, napped, kayaked to another beautiful back bay, view some wildlife species for the first time, caught some more awesome new-to-us fishies, and ate a great dinner. Well, George probably came across most of the species before, but the rest of the group experienced them for the first time. Again, it goes without saying, we all slept well.