otter update

raingauge checker

Went down to the lake and just as I approached the dock, there was a big plop-splash. Then I’m hearing what sounds halfway between a sneeze and a grunt. I knew it was the otter so I backed off so he couldn’t see me. Sure enough it came out from under the dock to the shoreline and climbed up on a palmetto trunk. But I noticed it seemed quite a bit smaller than I remember. I left it undisturbed and went back to the house to tell George. I’ve seen the otter many times but he’s never seen it and was doubting my sightings. A few minutes later he knocks at the door and said there wasn’t an otter – but rather 4 otters. I went down and sure enough there were 3 or 4 in sight including the one very large one and two small ones. They hung around for a while playing just off the dock and didn’t seem the least bit afraid of us watching. So I’m guessing we have a family thing now. Wonder how long before I hook one? Wonder if that will screw up the fishing? Will I have to pop a few with the pellet gun to preserve my realm? I just know things are not the same!

The picture is my new Mexican friend checking out my new rain gauge that Nancy got me for Christmas. He’s just a little guy so he was impressed by such a gigantic rain gauge. I can now sit in the living room and tell the rainfall instantly.

In case anybody was wondering, the tornadoes that struck Volusia County on Christmas day were about 10 miles from here. Coming north on 17 about 1/4 miles past WalMart is a Hess Station. That station was damaged but a couple of trailer parks within a few hundred yards of there were torn apart. The parks were old and full of very old, 50’s vintage trailers and I was always amazed that they came through all those hurricanes totally unscathed. I felt sorry for the folks living there because you know they are not well off yankees retired here but mostlypeople of limited means. At our place, not a twig out of place.

lake update

For the second time in a week we lost power. The first loss came midmorning when a trash pickup truck took the first corner too fast and knocked over the power pole. We were out for maybe 2 hours and it was interesting watching the Progress Energy guys quickly install a new pole. George got the broken pole and it’s now part of his estate. Late yesterday afternoon it went out again. This time it turned out to be a tree fell down over the same lines – maybe 200′ from the earlier event. We’ve lost power half a dozen times since we’ve lived here, excluding storm related outages, and all have happened in that exact same location. This time we were out nearly 4 hours.

So I decided it was a good time to do a dummy run on the generator. It worked like a world champ and we operated more or less normally until the power was restored about 8 PM. It was a bit marginal when Nancy decided to take a bath. That cranked up the well pump and dimmed the house a bit. I hadn’t anticipated that but the well is really out there. The circuit distance from the generator to the well is probably 350′ and I guess the voltage drop is a bit of a load. My plan now is to run another 12 gauge circuit from the generator to the house in parallel with the first. No rush but something I’ll do before next summer – that assumes I can get Mark back up in the attic for the last 50′.

Also new at the lake – started picking and squeezing the grapefruit. Really nice, sweet juice. I may be slightly prejudice but it seems to me to be the best I’ve ever had. I think the tree is the Marsh variety and nearly seedless. I’m guessing that this year we will have picked maybe 50 fruit from that tree – not bad for it’s first year. The two fruits on the Ruby Red are still looking greenish so I’ll wait a while for those to ripen.

Fishing has been pretty good off the dock. Over the past few weeks I’ve caught two or three over 5 pounds and quite a few smaller than that. Lost one quite a bit bigger but didn’t get to see him. Yesterday I caught one that I’d previously landed. How do I know that? Well this guy had swallowed the bait and had the hook way down his throat. So rather than kill it, I just cut the line off. I wasn’t sure exactly how that would end but when I caught him yesterday there was no sign of the hook but the line was still hanging out his mouth. I clipped it off much shorter and hopefully, he’ll deal with it. For sure it hadn’t curbed his appetite and he certainly looked and acted healthy. I started comparing my fishing success with the posted minors and majors (fish activity levels) in the paper and, believe it or not, I have seen a reasonable correlation. I never really paid much attention to those periods since the times I fished were nominally decided by things like the weather and work schedule and not moon phases or whatever drives those charts.

To add to the fishing lore, we were down the dock with the Sheroniks. I had cast a small bream on a bobber into a promising area but after 20 minutes or so, nothing. I had to leave to grill some wings for lunch and left Ali “in charge” with instructions just to crank the handle if and when the bobber went under. An hour later we were sitting around the table gnawing on wings and Ali told us that he had left the bait in the water but was sure nothing would bite it since it had been in there so long with no action. I kidded him about some monster gobbling it and running off with my rig. Aaron and I went down to the lake and sure enough there was no float in sight and the line led off into the tall grass. I tried to pull it through the weeds but it was hopelessly tangled up. About that time a nice bass splashed out about a 150′ away inside a weed patch. It had the float attached so we knew it was our fish. Aaron quickly stripped down to his boxers, hopped in a kayak, took the net and headed to the fish. Believe it or not, he managed to land it! An ownership discussion ensued. I had baited the hook and cast the line so clearly I had some piece of the prize. Aaron had risked life and limb to make the final capture so no doubt he was entitled to another piece. But Ali, who had actually not touched the rod, seemed to think he should share in the glory based on the fact that he was the one who had watched it for so long when nothing was happening and had made the management decision to leave it in the water rather than reel it back in. Once again, being chairman of the rules committee paid off. Aaron and I split the honors and Ali is up for disbarment based on dereliction of duty.

On the wildlife side, still seeing the otter occasionally. I’m fairly well convinced there’s only one but he sure is a giant. If I hadn’t seen it up close and personal, it could be easily mistaken for a seal. And a family of Grebes have moved in. I love to watch them dive for fish and a couple of times have reeled in my bait when they got too close. Between them and the anhingas, I’m seeing more fishing birds than ever before. I just know that one of these days my float is going to take a dive and end up flying away. No gator sightings so I’m nominally convinced now that it’s history.

New at the lake

Some interesting changes at the lake.

We now have a resident otter, that is if sightings three days in a row makes it a resident. I caught a fleeting glance of it a few days back and was surprised at how close and how large it was. It split as soon as it spotted me and I never got another look at it. The next day I saw it swimming casually about 20′ off George’s dock and heading my way. It just liesurely swam towards me, right in front of our dock and looked me square in the eyes as he went off into the weeds off to the side of the dock. No rush, no sign of fear. I saw him poke his head up today in the weeds underneath that tree off to the right side of the dock. It’s possible I’ve seen more than one but my guess is it’s the same one each time. I saw otters in the lake maybe 4 years ago but this is the first time since.

The giant woodpeckers are back too. They must be migratory since it’s been quite a while since the last sighting and now they’re back. They really make a loud, raucous sound so there’s no mistaking when they’re here. When they attack a tree, bark just flies off and you can hear it hitting the bushes.

And the shiners are back at the dock. Last week and for the past year, none. Today for the first time when I threw out the feed, there they were again. I caught one that must have weighed a pound. Way too big for bait. Not sure what the deal is with them. We always had quite a large number around and then none. The fact that they are back means they actually never left but went somewhere else to hang. The water levels are way down as is the water temp so maybe that combination brings them back to the shoreline. I wonder if there’s a hook between the return of the shiners and the appearance of the otter. I would guess that a big fat shiner would he high up the list of otter favorites.

And the big surprise, my Ruby Red grapefruits arn’t. I’ve been watching the skin gradually ripen from green to yellow and mentally picturing the bright red flesh inside. Visions of Greyhounds and Salty Dogs for my drinking friends. Wrong, they’re white. I still have the original tag on the tree and it sure says Ruby Red. So either that was a mistake or they don’t turn red until wait later or maybe, since this is the first crop, it takes a couple of years. My guess is that it was tagged wrong. Actually we have two grapefruit trees which I purchased as a red and a white and I confess that I moved both of these trees from their original location. So it’s not impossible that somehow I got them mixed up. I mean how can you screw up two trees. There are two grapefruit on the other one so I’ll know soon enough. And the Greyhounds and Salty dogs couldn’t care less.

And for the record, no gator sightings since that one months ago. Either that little fellow went on back to Cain Lake or he’s been converted into a wallet and Gator Tenders.

And my last observation – it takes about 5 seconds for a big bass to grab my bait, run under the dock to the second piling, hang a left and get to the brush on the right side of the dock. I have broken off 3 rigs in the past week but it’s just impossible to stop them before they have me totally wrapped up around the ladder or the pilings or both.