On the drive down we decided as a group to sleep for a few hours after we arrived. Then, we would wake around 8 or 9 AM, get our gear together, head off to rent kayaks and fish the entire afternoon. However, sleep consumed more time than we anticipated and no one woke till noon. In a groggy haze due to lack of sleep, we began getting our fishing rods, reels, bait, flies, and gear together. This took a little longer than expected and made our way to the kayak rental location around 1:30 PM. We rented the kayaks from Naples Outfitters. The guys working were nice and helpful. They mentioned a few places we should try. Next we took to the challenge of installing the kayak racks on the vehicles. We figured it better to wait till we arrived in Florida to install them so not to lower our gas mileage. They proved to be more of a challenge than one might think. I contribute this more to sleep deprivation than lack of know how. George’s kayak rack excited me because it had “four yak capacity”. However, we decided on spreading the weight between two vehicles. 2:30 PM arrived by the time we installed the racks and strapped the kayaks down somewhere securely. Then, covered in sweat, we eagerly headed off to get a bite to eat before we hit the water.
–Wes at the Taco Mix. The table reads “Taco Caliente” or “hot taco” in English. For the price and authenticity, this place is pure gold.
While driving to our put in location, George and I thought it best to purchase subs from Publix (grocery store) to cut down on time and money spent. However, Corey and Wes (the usual cheaper individuals) wished to stop in somewhere along they way. So, George and I gave in. I spotted a wings, burgers, and bbq joint, but the guys wanted to try the Taco Mix. The Taco Mix appeared a little skeptical in my opinion, as a small, hole in the wall location just off the road. However when we entered I realized the authenticity of the place. The lady working the register spoke little to no English and the cook fell in the same boat. So, ordering proved a little challenging. However, everything came out how we ordered and it tasted delicious. I curiously purchased the fried green plantains, two seasoned pork tacos, and a vitamin water for a grand total of less than 10 bucks. I found it impossible to finish all of the plantains as well. Although, they went down smooth, I shared a couple with the guys. George, however, took the winning ticket with his meal selection. We went with the deal of the day; 6 chicken tacos for $6.99. The smell, the appearance, and the taste all ranked high in quality. I know if I ever journey back down to Naples, a visit Taco Mix will be a must.
With our stomach’s stuffed and our heads spinning with excitement we made the short trip up to Lovers Key State Park. We stopped in to the visitor’s center and grabbed a live bait holder and 50 little shrimpies. After driving in circles around the park for a few minutes, we found a place to put the kayaks in, parked, unloaded, and continued to gain more energy and eagerness about setting paddle into water and casting our first lines.
We put in, threw some shrimp on our trolling poles, and started casting. Along the banks, which always remained covered by mangroves, lady fish leaped into the air constantly. George, Corey, and I threw the fly rods for a bit, while Wes stuck to the spin casting. Speaking of stuck, Wes soon found him lure hung up in a mangrove. We thought little of it until we heard a blood curdling scream (okay, maybe just a large shout). The lure came out and flew straight into his hand. However, we previously bent down the barbs and therefore, very little harm was done. Within 15 minutes of launching the yaks Corey landed the first fish on the trolling shrimp line. George and I fished the other bank and eagerly awaited the shout across to discover what type of fishy he pulled in. I thought I misunderstood him at first, but upon several more shouts we heard loud and clear. A catfish took the first fish for the group in Florida prize. I surprisingly and naively thought catfish lived only in freshwater and also lacked the knowledge about their presents in Florida.
–George with a nice red fish. When you put your hand underneath their red tail it turns blue; pretty cool.
We continued to fish the beautiful water all afternoon and into the evening. We pulled in quite a few different kinds of fish. The first I landed as well turned out to be a catfish. However, this catfish looked a little different than the ones I usually view. The whiskers astonishingly stretched to half the length of this fish. George pulled up beside me and informed me they called these strange creatures Gafftopsail Catfish. I caught the exotic catfish on the shrimp line as well. Corey also pulled in the first fish on the fly rod. unexpectedly he pulled in a flounder on a size 4 chartreuse Clouser Minnow. We also received the pleasure of landing a few lady fish, lots more catfish (which I would not called pleasurable, due to the fact that they almost always swallow the hook), almost a sheepshead, a nice red fish, and viewed quite a few dolphins swim right past our yaks. I saw the sheepshead through the water, but it came off before I could get my hands on him. This felt like a little bit up a letdown because I really wanted to catch one of these beauties; hopefully I get another shot before the trip ends. George received the honor of catching the red fish. Wes, landed a few ladies and a couple cats. While out on the water, I fell behind the pack a little in order to tie on a new hook and shrimp. I looked up and knew I needed to snap a photo of the view. At that moment in time I felt happy and at peace. I felt like no other place in the world mattered, like time stood still. I felt great.
–I could not have been happier.
We reluctantly started back to the put in area around 8 PM. After getting all the gear rinsed and started putting the yaks back on the vehicles the park had already closed. We just tied them on lightly and headed for the exit so the park rangers could lock the games. Then, in the dark we finished strapping down the kayaks while bugs bit the hell out of us all. On the water a slight breeze kept the insects away. However, once on dry land and sheltered from the wind, they thrived on the succulent taste of our flesh.
We drove back to the condo, showered, and George and I went to grab some food and supplies for the week from the grocery store. We ate some pizzas, played a little FIFA, watched the Spurs battle the Heat for the MBA Finals and soon slept sound. I believe I can safely say, we all slept well dreaming of our first day on the water and about what we would encounter at the end of our lines over the few that followed.