The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Month: May 2011 (page 1 of 2)

A Look Back: Ocala National Forest Fishing, 2009

The following is a report from the Ocala National Forest during the summer of 2009:

In mid-July of the summer of 2009, I managed to escape the monotony of my job at a grocery store and drove down to Ocala Florida to do some freshwater kayak fishing with my dad. We decided to fish in Ocala since I had to be in Gainesville for an orientation anyways. Situated just outside of Ocala is the Ocala National Forest. The forest is one of the largest national forests in the state and has many small lakes that are perfect for kayak fishing.

The weather on the way down was iffy at best. The usual summer weather patterns had set in across the state and by the afternoon, huge thunderstorms have boiled up and begin to wander around aimlessly. It rained on and off during the whole trip and I thought that one particular storm at a rest stop looked picture worthy.

We arrived at Silver Springs (the little town between Ocala and the Nat. Forest) later in the day and found an old motel to spend the night in. After dinner, my dad and I sat back and relaxed to watch some TV and recover from the drive. My dad decided to take a shower before he went to bed and it wasn’t long before I heard a HUGE crash and a few choice words coming from the bathroom. I opened the door to discover that my dad had successfully destroyed our motel bathroom.

Note to self: Don’t put your foot on a sink in order to dry your leg off after getting out of the shower.

Management wasn’t particularly pleased, but probably more relieved that we hadn’t hurt ourselves and tried to sue. They moved us into a new room and the rest of the night went on uneventful.

The next morning we woke and drove into the forest. I picked out what appeared to be a good looking lake called Redwater lake in the middle of the forest. We missed the turn several times as we weren’t looking for a single-laned dirt road. Finally, we arrived and noticed that the water level was down quite a bit. What had once been a boat ramp for small boats was now about 10 feet from the closest wet spot. There was also about a 3 foot drop which would make backing a trailer down the hill impossible. Needless to say, there were no motor boats on the water. In fact, there were no other people. We soon had the kayaks launched and we began fishing.

The first thing I noticed about Redwater lake is the color of the water. Now, I’ve fished some VERY tannin stained water before, but this lake beats them all. If one could make black coffee…blacker, that might come close to describing this lake. Visibility was about 4 inches…maximum. It was almost creepy how dark the water was as I watched my kayak paddle disappear every time it touched the water. I threw a fly around for about thirty minutes before I gave up on that and resorted to drowning worms (I had yet to be bitten by the fly bug). I soon found a bed of bream and began pulling one after another into the kayak. One of the bluegill I caught was massive and is still, to this day, the biggest bluegill I’ve ever caught.

Fishing was rather difficult in that I could drop a worm in one spot and catch nothing, then drop the same worm, 6 inches away in a different spot and start to catch fish. I think that the water clarity, or lack there of, contributed to this. We fished Redwater for most of the day until I giant thunderstorm came up and chased us off with its lightning. My dad hooked and lost a nice bass on the fly rod and I caught a few more keeper bluegill.

The next day we fished another lake (who’s name escapes me) and didn’t have much luck. The water was clearer than Redwater, but certainly not clear. I missed a few bluegill on the fly and finally managed to pull one little bass out before another storm chased us away.

The last day we were down there, my dad and I launched the kayaks at a boat launch that leads into the Ocklawaha river. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the launch actually led into the end waters of Silver Springs just before it meets the river. The water was crystal clear and one could see fish swimming everywhere (although it was mainly all gar). There were “no fishing” signs posted everywhere so we continued paddling through the beautiful water until we met the Ocklawaha. The meeting of Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha was interesting. Crystal clear water meets coffee-tannin stained water and swirls into this bizarre colored mixture before finally turning near-black again. Unfortunately, this was the most interesting part of the day as we caught nothing worth noting aside from about 100 three inch bluegill on a worm.

Overall, the trip to fish the Ocala National Forest was a blast. It was nice to kill two birds with one stone by completing my orientation in Gainesville AND getting to fish the Nat. Forest. From what I’ve recently read in a magazine, the Ocala National Forest has several long creeks with many sand bars that are perfect for stopping and fishing. It may certainly be worth a float trip in the yaks. I’ll just need to make sure I do it before I graduate and move out of Gainesville.

Spanish on the Fly

After our success during the kayak tournament, my dad and I decided to give it another go in the Gulf. This time, however, I decided to bring only my fly rod and a big rod for Cobia.

Once again, we arrived at the beach just before sun rise and found that it was very calm. We soon had the yaks in the water and I began looking for the schools of spanish that we had seen two days prior. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any. On Saturday, the Spanish were all over the place. It almost didn’t matter where one cast. This day, however, they were few and far between. I decided that my best bet to land a Spanish on the fly would be to troll. I cast my 5 wt out to the side of the yak, stuck the rod in the holder, and went about paddling up and down the beach. It didn’t take long before my rod was doubled over and I began fighting a fish. Almost immediately upon hook up, the fish took out drag and I learned the hard way to keep my knuckles clear of the reel handle. After a few minutes of fighting, I discovered that I didn’t have my first Spanish hooked up on the fly rod. Instead, it was a Ladyfish.

They still put up a very good fight. The fight got rather interesting when my drag decided to fail. I may have had my drag set too loose, but when the fish finished making a long run, the reel backlashed and turned into a horrible nightmare. Fly line, much like other line or rope, tends to defy all laws of physics and can wrap itself around things in the most impossible ways. This was the case with my reel as I cursed at it in an attempt to untangle the mess. Meanwhile, my Ladyfish was busy attempting to wrap the rest of the line around my rudder directly behind me. After a few minutes I was forced to pull the fish into the boat by hand, release it, disassemble my reel, untangle the mess, and reassemble it.

With my reel now fixed, I went back to trolling and soon had another Ladyfish on. I passed my dad as he trolled the opposite direction of me and he told me that he had almost been spooled a few minutes prior. He said something grabbed his fly, started peeling line, and the hook just popped out when he was through over half his backing.

It wasn’t long after this that I hooked, and finally landed, my first Spanish on the fly rod. It was satisfying to me in that I wasn’t trolling for it. I had finally found a small school of Spanish and I was able to cast into the school and give the fly a few strips before the fish took it. After snapping a quick picture I let the fish go because I didn’t really want to clean more fish.

To my dismay, I watched as the fish took a nose dive, sunk like a rock to the bottom, and flipped upside down…dead as a hammer. I have a problem with people wasting meat and this kinda upset me. I could see the fish rolling slightly in the surf about 10 ft below the yak. I grabbed my cobia rod with the big jig, and dropped it right underneath the boat. I knew it was a long shot, but I gave it a try and to my shock, I snatched the fish right off the bottom and brought it back to the boat. I could never do it again if I tried, and I’m still kicking myself for not taking a picture of -that-.

About an hour and a few fish later, I noticed what looked like a big boat wake a few hundred yards off the beach. I knew, however, that there had been no boats that morning so I started paddling towards it. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a big school of Menhaden. I started casting the Cobia jig into the school in hopes that -something- would pick it up. I was rather surprised that absolutely nothing touched it. Something had the school balled up on the surface, but they weren’t interested in a big eel jig. I was kinda tired from the paddle out, so I flipped my fly back out behind the boat and started trolling. I trolled all the way back close to shore and around for about 15 minutes without a hook up. I decided to change flies since that one was obviously not working. When I reeled the line in, I was in for a shock.

A Cigar minnow. I’d never seen a live one before since we always just buy them frozen. I knew people could catch them on Sabiki rigs, but never thought one would hit a trolling fly. I decided to take the Cobia jig off the big rod and tie on a King rig. I hooked the Cig up to the big rod, cast it out behind the boat, and set the bait runner on. I paddled around for a few minutes looking for Spanish to cast the fly at and before I knew it, I heard the bait runner start to take line. My first thought was a King. I re-engaged the drag, set the hook, and started pulling in the fish with unfortunate ease. It ended up being a relatively big Spanish, but nothing more.

I got a chance to test out my underwater camera as well. I hooked a hardtail and didn’t really care if I lost it so I stuck the camera in the water and started taking pictures. It was rather difficult, however, to snap good pictures in one hand while fighting a fish in the other.

I also took a short video that turned out pretty good aside from my finger being in the way.

And that ended the day. We kept about 7 Spanish, caught a bunch of Ladyfish, a few hardtails, and my dad discovered what we think was the near-spooling culprit. He handed a small Jack Crevalle and was nearly spooled again before we pulled the yaks out of the water. Chances are, it was big Jacks that he was hooking. The bite turned off pretty early and since the fish weren’t as thick as they were two days before, we called it. I certainly can’t wait to get back out there later in the summer. Hopefully, the Kings will be a bit thicker then.

Take Me Fishing PLEASE! – National Fishing & Boating Week

This is my National Fishing and Boating Week contest entry sponsored by Take Me Fishing and the Outdoor Blogger Network.

Well, my original post magically disappeared on me. I also failed to save it anywhere else on my computer so I get to start from scratch again. Second time’s the charm…right?

The National Fishing and Boating Week occurs ever year during the first full week of June. The event attempts to coincide with most states free fishing days. Prior to this writing prompt, I had not even heard of National Fishing and Boating Week, much less the fact that states had free fishing days. This caught my interest and I looked to see when Florida’s free fishing days are. I wasn’t really surprised when I found that, unlike all other states, Florida’s free fishing days occur in April.

Way to go sunshine state….

The question was asked: How do you plan to celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week? I thought long and hard about this question and came to a tough answer. I thought about all the places I’ve taken fishing trips to in the past and how much I enjoyed each one. One location, however, really stuck out as the place I would like to celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week.

The location I chose is Port St. Joe Florida. Port. St. Joe has a state park that can best be described as a pristine coastal environment along the Gulf. I spent many summer days of my youth camping with my dad along the seven miles of coastal wilderness and fishing the grass flats for Speckled Trout and Redfish. The state park is home to beautiful white, sugar sand beaches and high vegetated dunes. It also holds deer, raccoon, possum, coyote, and all sorts of bird species. One of the best parts about Port St. Joe state park is that driving is limited to the campgrounds and single boat launch. The other seven miles of peninsula are untouched wilderness that only see the occasional hiker or boater who waded ashore. My dad and I would load the canoe down with as much camping gear as we needed, and motored down the beach in search of a good spot to camp for the next few days.

Camping down at Port St. Joe wasn’t just about the fishing. It was about the solitude. The closeness to nature. The fact that one could sit on a washed up log all afternoon and only see one or two boats motor by in the bay. Or that I can unzip the tent in the morning to watch the sunrise, and have deer wander through the middle of camp. Living out in the wilderness is what draws me to Port St. Joe. Yes, it isn’t completely wild. After all, the truck was always just a few miles up the beach. But it certainly felt wild. My dad and I would eat what we caught whether it be fried trout or a crab boil. If we didn’t catch anything, we ate our MRE’s. Regardless of the fishing, I always enjoyed myself.

To me, Port St. Joe is more than just a place to go fishing and camping. It’s also the place of a thousand childhood memories. It’s the place that I caught my biggest trout, learned to throw a cast net, capsized the canoe, made a spear from a horseshoe crab tail, camped for 5 solid days of rain, watched our tent fly down the beach during a thunderstorm, failed at shooting mullet with a pole gun, saw my first spinner sharks, hooked my first tarpon, and the list goes on. It’s a place that’s very special to me and it wasn’t until this writing prompt that I realized I haven’t been to Port St. Joe since I was in High school. Long enough that I could only find one picture on a computer in the house (I didn’t get this computer until after I graduated).

Unfortunately, school and work started to become more and more of a priority in my life and before I knew it, I hadn’t been to Port St. Joe in over five years. But I plan to fix that this year. With National Fishing and Boating week on the horizon, I’ve already begun to plan out my camping trip on the wild state park. I’ll be taking my dad with me just like old times, and with any luck, it’ll be just like I remember it.

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