Life throws curveballs, challenges, and difficult times. It is your choice to see it as a challenge or an opportunity. A short notice work trip to Orlando presented the opportunity to research and look for the fish that could be chased and the places they would lead me to.
The flight always presents a challenge for a fisherman. How do you pack for a trip that you don’t know what you may need for fishing from shore. How do I stay below my weight and still bring all your gear? I chose to pack lighter than I wanted due to limited space. I was able to pack more than I needed with two trays of gear two combos and two fixed line rods. Gear for Micros, Exotics, and natives proved to be a little of everything attitude when packing. I had a plan to pick up a few things from a local store and get bait.
It was a horrible start to the trip with turbulence and a full plane. Over an hour of bouncing around hitting the wall of the plane in the worst conditions I have ever experienced. Nauseated I could not wait to land but once we did some of our luggage was missing. After nearly an hour the airport found someone had taken one of our bags thinking it was his. Not even close but we were happy to get it back. Th rental car went about as well as the flight but at least we were on the way to the hotel and then to the conference.
Day two I was able to fish but had to get all the gear packed and organized. I figured organizing would make it better once fishing. I scouted some nearby ponds and lakes in the morning but chose not to fish close to the hotel. With the help of a fishing buddy we talked about some locations and local knowledge of what fish were known to be present. Place, Blue Talapia, Redbreast Sunfish, and White catfish were on my hit list. The river was perfect containing tilapia, place and redbreast. I chose to fish with my car close by with the temps in the upper 90’s by fishing in a local park. The water was low and I immediately spotted a huge white ghost (Blue Talapia)swimming near by. After a frustrating hour I realized that the fish was not interested in eating. Reading up on the species page I realized why. I was a week too late and they already spawned. The fishing was painfully slow and I was loosing some hope. Just a couple sunfish and small bass were caught. Dehydrated and disappointed in fishing I moved places after a quick stop at the 7Eleven.
Heading down to the dam I was greeted with Vermiculated Sailfin catfish right by the shore. Finally I was feeling like I had a shot. Twenty minutes later with 3 missed bites and many failed attempts i made some observations. They really reminded of the dreaded carp sucker. They were wary of line when they sucked in my bait and would immediately leave. I tried to set the hook but could not connect.
So I decided to try throwing a jig for bass or really anything. Stood up on a concrete wall near the dam. I was throwing a small green jig and one of the suspended fish took a swipe/turned into my jig and followed it as it drifted downstream. One more cast drifting just a little closer to the fish I got another positive reaction and it connected. Setting the hook I was sure it was a vermiculated Sailfin Catfish. I could barely believe that the jig had been completely sucked into it’s mouth. I asked a couple different people walking by to take some photos for me. It appeared that several of the fish were sucking algae off the dam and others were just downstream.
There was an alligator that saw I had a fish and really wanted to have some lunch and scared away the fish close by. I passed some time by catching several mosquito fish.
I was then joined by a friend Mike that moved down to Florida a few years ago. We fished a bit longer below the dam but produced nothing. We moved upstream hoping to see some redbreast sunfish and bass. Being a pretty heavily fished area the fishing was slow even with live bait under a float. Casting a small jig I got hammered and I thought it was a small bass until it got closed broke the surface. A beautiful redbreast sunfish had been landed. right around 9 inches long it was a great size for any sunfish species for me.
Mike was also looking for a redbreast and soon downsized his bait and a short time later he hooked into a fish but not what he was hoping for.
We called it a day
Day 3 I took some time early in the morning and hit a shopping center for some pond fishing and a nearby lake. Nothing memorable but nice way to pass the hour I had to fish. Later that night was a large party where we watched Jim Belushi perform. It was a great time only a couple people back from the stage. He came out and danced with people in the audience.
Day 4 was the day! The day for an adventure into the wildlife area near the St Johns river. I was excited to go but the ponds near Mike’s house were too good of a chance for white catfish to pass up. Things were not looking too good. The wind was making sighting the fish difficult and the water was murky. At another pond, Mike connected with a bass and I absolutely love the photo that we captured.
Off to St Johns River was exciting as ever for me. The walk was long but entertaining. Right away we saw an Osceola Turkey and a couple bulls little ways down. Now normally I would not be too nervous but these cows did not appear to like company so we crossed the fence to stay on the other side. Walking in tall grass in snake country is not my cup of tea especially in shorts and sandals but little did I know I would get bit later on by something.
The dreaded bull
The scenery was almost fake to me.
Arriving at the river was exciting. We saw bass busting the surface and tilapia in the shallows over nesting areas. I bottom rigged a crawler while Mike cast for bass. Fish and move was the name of the game. By this time we had logged almost 3 miles of walking. We saw all sorts of fish. No new fish for me to catch but I was excited to add to my photo collection or Coppernose, Redear, and Redbreast came to visit me. Mike collected a few more fish including Bass, Redear, and Coppernose but no redbreast. The photos really speak for themselves and was breathtaking for me.
Even a small channel cat was stopping by to say hi.
Mike with his many bass he caught
A Snake decided to scare away the fish. You can see my line and bait in the water.
The Sailfins were taunting me all day. I ended up snagging a couple because they were so thick in areas. They had territories and the same fish would return to the exact spot making them somewhat predictable but frustrating. Next time I will have the softest braid I can get.
I believe this is an osprey that graced us with diving into the water right by us.
On the way back to the hotel I stopped to take a photo of an old bait shop.
Back at the hotel, I realized how bad my legs were. I burned them and possibly got a spider bite that swelled my leg for the next 4 days.
Happy to be on my way home I snapped a photo on our late night flight leaving Orlando.
It is always about the adventure and the memories along the way. Being a work trip I was more than happy to land a couple new species and meet up with a friend I have not seen in over 5 years. Take advantage of the time you can and enjoy whatever the catch may be.