We spent last week on Flagler Beach – I mean literally on the beach. We rented a place right on the ocean with the back door probably 200′ from the surf. It so much reminded me of my teenage life on Patrick where, except for school, I think I spent the rest of my time on the beach – fishing, swimming and doing all those beach things.
The place is located about 5 miles north of SR100 on A1A. It’s a 2 bedroom, 1 bath place with a nice kitchen and living room. It was totally complete with everything needed,even satellite TV in the living room and main bedroom. We actually brought more than we needed and next time will scale back. Turns out there’s nice Publix about 5 miles down the road and enough restaurants to eat every meal out and not repeat. We never turned on the stove or the microwave and the only thing we ate in was cereal a couple mornings and some fruit on the beach purchased from a local farmer’s market.
I fished every day and had some â€œinterestingâ€ catches. Over the week I caught all the expected stuff – whiting, bluefish, and pompano – so if we had wanted to eat our catch we could have had the fresh stuff every day. On the “interesting” side – on the first day I hooked into something that nearly stripped all the line off my reel. My surf fishing tackle is major equipment with a big league reel loaded with 300 yds of 30 pound test line. In the past year of surf fishing a couple days a week, I think maybe I’ve had fish that pulled out as much as 10 yds off the reel. So you can imagine my surprise when I set the hook and see the line just peeling off the reel. I have 200 yds of one color line and the last 100 yds another so I can tell that the first 200 yds was gone in maybe a minute and I’m working on the backing. I tighten the drag down to the point where I’m being pulled off the beach into the surf myself and can see the end of my spool coming up when he finally turned. Luckily he started swimming parallel to the beach instead of straight out to sea. I ran along to catch up on my line and retrieved about half of it. It was kind of a standoff because he was just steadily pulling me down the beach and I couldn’t gain line but could move along fast enough to keep him from taking more. After 20 minutes of this tug of war, I’m maybe 300 yards down the beach from where I started and he got off. I never saw what it was so it might have been a submarine. My best guess is a large shark but it seemed too fast for that so perhaps a very large Jack or Permit. In the ocean, you can never tell what’s going to bite.
The next day I had a near repeat but this time I saw the fish. I have witnesses to this one – Joey, Mark, Nancy and the next door neighbor. I hooked a giant manta ray. This guy had a wing span of maybe 6′ and probably weighed over 100 pounds. Rays jump. and jump and jump so you have no doubts whatsoever as to what it is. The neighbor hooked one that cost him about 300 yards of line and I just figured this was going to be the same with mine. But luckily he got off – as it turns out he straightened out a stainless steel hook. About a half hour later we’re sitting on the beach chatting when an Osprey dives on bait right in the surf about 20′ in front of us. Now that’s unusual. Even more unusual is that when he flew away, he flew right into my line and about jerked my rod out of the sandspike. He crashed into the surf entangled in my line, maybe 50′ out. He was in big trouble but not caught with the hook so there was some hope. On his own he managed to swim to the beach but was clearly stressed. Joey managed to get behind him and cut the line while I distracted. Ospreys are really fierce birds and you sure couldn’t get too close without risk of serious damage. He regained his composure in a few minutes and flew off. So within a very short period we had a manta ray and an osprey experience. “Interesting”.
The next day Nancy and I were fishing and I hooked another manta ray, about as big as the day before. He was on the rod that had snagged the osprey so it was already short some line and he managed to get away with another 50 yds of my line.
The rest of the week was nominally normal fishing but I can tell you on a couple occasions I pulled in my line when I spotted either a big shark, another ray, and one time a manatee. This week was a huge tackle test and I found myself coming out short in several cases. I need some serious upgrades – or to go back fishing in my old haunts. Guess which I am planning!
For me it was all about the fishing; for Nancy it was working on quilts on the beach, watching satellite TV, and eating seafood. One night she had a lobster stuffed with crab meat; another night she had a â€œboilâ€at TJ’s Fish Shack, That’s a large platter of crab, shrimp, shellfish, corn on the cob, whole potatos, and sausage all boiled together. The funniest one was on the way home from St. Augustine. We had planned to eat at a really unique place called Saltwater Cowboy’s. Turns out it’s not open for lunch but without a doubt we’ll hit that one. It had us written all over it. But when we left we headed south on A1A and spotted a dive called The c
Crabshack and Bakery. It must have just turned over ownership and the staff was fairly inexperienced. I ordered the gumbo which turned out to be the best I’ve ever had. Nancy ordered the low country â€œboilâ€. I think not too many people had ordered the boil before. It took a long time coming but when it came it was unbelievable. It had the regular snow crab legs, shrimp, and corn on the cob. But in addition it had crawfish and 3 blue crabs. A monster platter that the cook brought it out himself. He said he wasn’t sure what all went in the boil so he just loaded it up. Nancy feasted on that bad boy for about an hour. We had breakfast most mornings at a beach side place called the Java Hut and a monster 3/4 pound burger at the Turtle Cafe. I’d say we hit maybe half the spots on this trip but sighted quite a few for the future.
And the future is the last week of April.