A few weeks back I managed to escape work and drive over to Jacksonville to stay with my sister. While her and her husband had work, I had nothing to do but fish. So I dragged the kayak with me and got up early the next morning to fish.
I’m impressed every time I go to Jacksonville by its sheer size. The city is massive and very spread out. Even though I was technically in the same “city”, the drive to where I wanted to launch the kayak was an hour and half away. Prior to leaving, I did a bit of Google earth scouting and picked out some promising looking spots from my launch. The area I went to was Kingfish Park. Having never been there, I was pleased to discover a well maintained park, boat launch, and even a designated kayak/canoe launch.
I wanted to get out at first light, so I arrived in the dark and began loading the kayak. Very quickly, I noticed that the no-see-ums were out in full force. But after swatting at myself several times, I realized that they weren’t no-see-ums. Rather, they were the world’s smallest mosquitoes and they were busily attempting to drain my body of all fluid. Having brought no bug spray, I opened myself up to an absolutely miserable time trying to get the kayak ready. I’m kind of glad that I was the only one in the parking lot. Had others been there, they would have seen a 20-something year old man dancing wildly around a bright yellow kayak and cursing to no one in particular.
One thing that I fail to do on a regular basis is plan. Anything. I usually do things spur of the moment, so I tend to forget things. On this particular trip, I forgot my crocs. Even though they slip off constantly in mud, they’re a much better option than what I brought with me on this trip: My flip flops. In addition, I failed to check the tides for that morning.
Now the tide screw up wasn’t really something I could have changed. I honestly almost never forget to check the tides. And I didn’t so much forget to check, as I didn’t care. I was there in Jacksonville, I wanted to fish first thing in the morning, and I didn’t really care -what- the tides were going to be.
But what I forgot about were Jacksonville’s terrible mud-flats of death that result from low tides. I experienced these once before, and was pretty sure I found the gates to hell in the form of a soul sucking, bottomless mud flat that forced me to wait for the tide to come back in. You know it’s shallow when your kayak gets stuck.
So as I dragged my kayak down to the water’s edge at Kingfish Park, I looked out in horror to see a sloping mud bank that went 30 yards out and under a dock before touching water. As I walked, I immediately regretted having worn the flip flops. Ever step threatened to suck them off my feet, never to be seen again. And I would have simply removed them, but the mud is filled with broken oyster shells, and the last thing I wanted was to cut my foot wide open.
After a momentary “So this is how it ends?” freak out , as I was stuck in the mud standing next to a mosquito swarmed kayak, I managed to free myself, belly crawl onto the kayak, and kick my way through the mud into open water.
Having finally extricated myself from a muddy grave, I looked down to see the damage. You know that scene in predator where Dutch figures out the mud hides him?
Yeah, that scene? I looked something like that except I was wearing fishing clothes and I’m slightly less “roidy” than ol’ Arny. Anyways, as my usual good fortune would have it, this whole thing had an audience. As, I began washing my arms and legs off in the water, I looked to see a Jon boat with two old men that had clearly witnessed my failure of a kayak launch. When my kayak (now stuck in the current of a rapidly falling tide) floated past them, I did my best to give them a respectable fisherman’s nod, but it’s kinda hard to look respectable immediately after floundering around in the mud like a mammoth in a tar pit.
Anyways, so with a falling tide, I began to paddle back into an area that I’d seen on google earth and figured it’d hold fish. But upon arriving, I noticed that the only time it could possible hold fish would be high tide. This is because the little creek mouth I planned to fish was now nothing more than a muddy ditch 3 feet above me.
I fished nearby anyways, and as luck would have it, I actually caught a small trout on topwater with my first cast. The rest of the morning was -slow-. Very slow. It wasn’t until the tide turned that I even began having hits again. After a few dinky little trout on my DOA, I decided to pick up and switch areas. I paddled across what was at this point a raging river with the incoming tide, but eventually found calmer water and started fishing again.
I watched as an osprey flew down, nailed a mullet, and started to fly away. But as it flew, I saw a fish spook below it. In less than a foot of water, a 30+ inch Redfish was rapidly swimming directly at my kayak. I did my best to cast at him, but having already been spooked by the bird, he was having none of my DOA.
I started to focus on some exposed oyster bars and it quickly paid off. After missing a few chances at small tailing Reds, I managed to finally put the lure where it needed to go, and hook up. I tried out my GoPro mount for the first time, and was able to snap this picture from the video. I’ll have to remember next time to wash off the lens before filming as it’s obviously still dirty from my muddy launch. I should probably not point it directly into the sun either.
But luckily I brought another camera.
The fishing started to slow back down once the tide began to reach full high. I’d been out there all morning anyways, and it was past lunch time. So I called it a day, paddled back, and was pleased to see that the water now went all the way up to a sandy beach, and removing the kayak involved no mud.
I definitely plan to go back there soon and fish again. Since I’m stuck in Gainesville at the moment, I’m situated pretty much right between Jacksonville and Cedar Key. So really I can just take my pick with the kayak. It shouldn’t be long before I have the fish in Jacksonville dialed in. I’ve just gotta make sure to check the tides, and avoid a muddy grave.