For the last couple of days I’ve been fishing with baby bream off the dock. Very relaxing. It takes about 5 seconds to catch the bait and another 5 to hook it up to my bass rig. I take down the newspapers, a book, maybe a puzzle book, and the phone. So I’m set for a couple of hours. That’s what I was doing this morning and had the Daytona News Journal and two Wall Street Journals. I went down about 9:30 and it was totally relaxing up until about 11:30. I had even completed a level 4 Sudoku puzzle with little problem. So I’m living large. At that point a large gust of wind came up out of nowhere and blew all my papers but the one I was holding into the lake. I’m scrambling trying to catch the last of them when I look over at my float and notice it’s heading out into the lake at a good clip. It had been just floating there about 20′ off the end of the dock for maybe 45 minutes. I give up on the papers – they were all in the water by now anyway- and jumped for the rod. I always leave the reel on free spool just in case something grabs it. That lets the line off the reel and won’t allow anything to jerk it off the dock. It was probably about 75′ off the dock and heading for the deep when I popped it. Sure enough, major fish. It did all the big bass things – pulled out the drag, ran into the weeds, and tried to get under the dock. But I prevailed and landed about an 8 pounder. No picture so you’re have to trust my judgement on the size. It’s the third bass in the last two days but the first one of any size. The others were in the 2-3 pound range. Fun to catch but ………..
And still on the subject – I started by saying how easy it is to catch small, baitsize bream. That’s new for the lake. As you recall, it was always easy to catch bream/bluegill off the dock but they were all large, plate size fish. It was hard to catch anything bait size. The exact opposite situation exists today. I can go down with a piece of bread and within a few seconds of baiting the cane pole, I have a small, maybe 3-4â€ bluegill. No big ones, just the bait size. I noticed the other day when putting out handfuls of fish food, that all the fish feeding were small. So maybe it is that we’ve come full cycle and there was a really successful bedding season last spring.. And perhaps for a few years prior to that, the crop was much smaller and most of the babies were all eaten up by the larger fish. Without a doubt, it’s different this year. The other difference is that for the first few years, we would catch as many shiners as bluegill. I can’t remember the last time I caught a shiner. It’s also possible that the large number of small fish comes as a result of having such high water levels all last year. that probably allowed th eggs to be laid way back in protected areas and they have had a much better survival rate than past years where the water level was lower. We’ll be able to test that theory next year since the level now is really low and not likely to rise for the next 6-9 months. If the hypothesis is right, then next fall we’ll have lots of big bream/bluegill and not many bait size.
About 6-8 months ago I quit feeding the fish off the end of the dock. There was a combination of reasons but mostly, it was hard keeping the raccoons out of the feed. I put the food inside metal trash cans but they could easily remove the lid. So I put a concrete block on the lid and they figured out that they could tip over the whole thing. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they removed the lid and must have pitched it in the water. Anyway, it was nowhere to be found so I guessed they dunked it. The other things were that we seemed to be attracting too many turtles. I wasn’t too concerned when it was just the vege type turtles but occasionally one of those nasty, long neck soft shell guys would show. They’re meat eaters and I wasn’t too keen on having them in the vicinity. They kept stealing my bait when I was fishing for bass and we actually hooked one – what a mess. So I quit feeding the fish and popped a couple turtles with my pellet gun. That solved the problem. It made for better swimming all summer long.
But the downside is that you can no longer catch huge bream easily off the dock. And you can no longer catch even bait size bream or shiners. This is the time of year when it’s really comfortable sitting on the dock with a big ole shiner under a float, searching out bass while I read a new mystery novel and watch the wildlife. So when Nancy went to Utah last week I bought a bag of feed. I figured I would try putting them inside a cabinet on the dock and then put a box in front of the door to slow down the critters.
As I always did, I threw out a couple of handfuls of food off the dock. Nothing. Not a splash, not a swirl; no sign of a fish. Ditto the next 4 days. I’m guessing the fish had just gone off to greener pastures. On the fifth day, a splash and a swirl. Not much but a promising sign. I stayed with the handful or two every day and within the next five days it looked like piranha feeding – exactly how it was before I stopped. So I don’t know whether the food brought them back or if they were there all the time and it just took a few days for them to get used to surface food again. It also brought back the turtles. So far only the vege type. What I noticed about that is how well turtles can hear. I always figured they didn’t have much in the way of ears but as soon as the bream start splashing after the food, I spot turtles heading over from all the way across the lake. Within a very few minutes they’re come all that way and are in there gobbling and competing.
My plan is to keep feeding them daily to create my own little bait pool and an occasional fried bream (bluegill) sandwich,
When Nancy left for Utah this week I had certain expectations about what would happen here. And for the most part, all of my predictions are proving true. For example, it’s very quiet. No vacume cleaners, no leaf blowers, and no sewing machines. There’s also very little discussion about what goes on the TV or even when it goes on. No daytime TV to break the peace and serenity of the woods – tough luck Dr. Phil. And also as expected, I’ve not screwed up even once. I usually screw up many times during each day but so far, I’m absolutely clean. No screw ups or at least none that I recognize. No surprises on the food front. I had been hoarding left-overs for a couple of weeks – sorry about that Joey – and have enough backlog to carry me through Sunday. I’m caught up on all my WSJ’s, Business Weeks, the Volusia paper, the Deland Beacon, and the Sanford Mullet wrapper.
But there have been some surprises. The tangerines are turning orange. They were bright green when Nancy left, and started turning orange the next day. Ditto the grapefruit – they started switching from green to yellow. How did they know??? Ever the scientist, I hot footed it over to May’s tangerine tree to see if maybe this was just a normal seasonal transition. Nope, her’s are as green as Granny Smith apples. And last year at one of the Cocoa Village craft shows we bought a couple of orchids. They have done nothing and look exactly like they did a year ago. On Tuesday I checked and there was a large stalk with blossems forming. There was no sign of anything going on last week and oila!, a bloom as soon as she leaves. I should mention the red bromiliad down on the path that appeared dormant forever and has suddenly sent out a dramatic showing this week. Not any one of these horticultural events would have startled me but to have it all happen at once and a few days after Nancy leaves? That can’t be a coincidence. I’m going to be really curious to see how they react when they see she’s back next week.
I’d like to say that the fish all of a sudden turned on, but so far nothing on that front.
Had a great Fall Break. Simon came up Monday morning and we spent all week hanging out. Last time he was here for a week we had focused hard on fishing the lake. This time we decided to expand our horizon and do mostly salt water fishing. The surf was too rough to do the beach so instead we loaded the kayaks on the truck and hit different inland salt water places each day.
Tuesday we did the north end of Mosquito Lagoon. We were prepared to kayak and wade as the occasion required. We put in about 9AM at the south end of the Canaveral National Seashore Park. The lagoon is very shallow and just full of fish – schools of mullet everywhere. We fished for a few hours and I managed a few strikes but no fish. It was quite windy and there were serious looking storm clouds very close so we stayed nominally close to our put in spot. Even with no fish we had a great experience. Kayaked right next to a school of manatee; right next to a school of porpoises that were tearing into the mullet. We scouted out a few other places in the general vicinity that would be good prospects for future trips. Also found a good bagel deli for future beach trips right across the street from Boston’s on New Symrna Beach. Si did a salami sandwich that had to be 3â€ thick; My ham wrap was equally as generous. Great sounding breakfast sandwich bagels on the menu.
Wednesday we hit Tomoka State Park and did the small canals we had fished a couple of years ago in the canoe. I hooked two nice snook and lost them both. Saw manatee there too. We had packed our lunch and found a nice shaded picnic area above the Tomoka River and just enjoyed life.
Thursday we hit Strickland Creek which is a feeder into the Tomoka. What a great creek – exactly like fishing the Sebastian River – overhanging trees, brush, and lots of activity. Once again I nailed a very large snook – same as the day before, on a large top water bait. Somehow he got off but an awesome experience. Oh yeah, another manatee sighting. For an endangered species, we sure saw them everywhere. I just really don’t see how they can continue to call these guys endangered with a straight face. We had paddled about 20 minutes from the Park where we put in and then the wind and tide carried us back. At the park there’s a wooden walk that juts out from the bank and parallels it for a few hundred feet. I noticed signs that people had crabbed from the walk and we decided to give that a try. All we needed was a scoop net, some chicken wings or necks to bait a line, and crab boil seasoning to cook the catch. An hour later we had all that plus some ready made sandwiches from Publix. We baited 5 lines and then sat back to wait for action. It came in spurts where we’d have a couple of crabs on lines at the same time; then long dry periods. It took us a few misses before we got the timing right between us for pulling in the lines and scooping them. If you pull too fast, they drop off and if you wait too long to scoop they also let go. So you have to do it just right. We found the right combo on 7 keepers. Brought those bad boys to the house. Within an hour, Nancy and Simon were doing blue crab appetizers while I grilled some nice pork ribs for barbecue.
Friday we decided to stick close to home and do the lake. That was fun for a change since I hadn’t been fishing since all that hospital crap over a month ago. I nabbed first and most; Simon cleaned me on the biggest. I think his big one was bigger than both mine combined but ………………………
You remember how we always marveled that there were no gators in the lake – marvel no more. About a week ago I was nominally certain that I spotted one about a hundred feet from the dock. It was a one minute sighting at most and there was a nag in my mind that maybe it was a couple of turtles swimming close enough together to have the appearance of a small gator. I estimated it to be quite small – maybe 2′ long based on the distance between the eyes and the tip of the nose. A couple of days later Rick, George’s brother, told me that he too had seen a small gator in roughly the same area. Since then I’ve spent hours down on the dock reading, doing puzzles, casting and just looking for another glimpse but have come up empty.
Rewind back a month or so. I was kayaking and noticed that there was a grassy area on the shoreline across from us packed down tight. In the past whenever I had seen that pattern, it was a gator bed – a place where a gator crawled out onto shore and sunned. Since I had never seen any sign of a gator before, I put it off to be something else – maybe a deer or hog had lain there. A few days later I heard some shooting late in the afternoon – not anything unusual around here. I was out on the dock and the guy in the pontoon boat came over to tell me that a gator had been seen and shot. He said he had gone around the lake a few evenings with a spot light looking for gators and seen nothing. He was concerned for his Labs which spend a fair amount of time swimming off his dock and was satisfied that the beast was history.
With this new sighting, I decided to alert the ski crowd since they are the ones with the heavy artillery necessary to deal with these critters. My pellet gun is totally outclassed for anything other than cats at 30′ plus I doubt seriously that my marksmanship would let me even pop an eyeball. I stopped them Saturday and we chatted about the situation for a bit. They were nominally aware that there was one about 5-6′ long and guessed that based on my report, there were actually two in the lake. The guy, Brian Guyer, said that over the past 20 years there have been a couple of occasions where gators came over from an adjoining lake, lake Cain, and that it had happened when the water got low – just the situation we’ve had this year. He said that usually the gators that come in, leave fairly soon – in his words, â€œthey don’t seem to like this lakeâ€. He went on to say that they don’t like gators in this lake either and he had a couple of buddies who would take care of the situation if he called. I took it he meant convert them into shoes or belts and maybe a plate of gator bits. Since that’s not legal, I could tell he was feeling me out to see if I had any hangups with making them disappear. I made it quite clear that if I had the means, they’d be history in a heartbeat. The Guyer’s do lots of swimming off their dock, have little kids and small dogs and all the right reasons to take action. The kids told a few funny stories about skiing right next to one a few years ago. They have signals between the skier and boat driver, one being to pat the top of the head signalling a need to return home. The girl, maybe 12 now, said she was patting her head as hard as she could but her dad thought she wanted him to stop the boat – which he did, setting her down way, way too close to the gator. As soon as she told them why she had signalled, they pulled her up and all laughed about it. Nobody is really afraid of them but they, like me, just feel better if they are gone.
So, I’m waiting now to hear some target practice at night!!!