To the Keys! Part I (Fishing with Moose)

To the Keys!

Date:  Saturday, March 24, 2012

Location:  The Greater Tampa Bay Area


After months of planning and scheming, it was time.  Josh, Becky, and I left Oshkosh at 8:00 am with three kayaks strapped to the roof and a car packed to the gills with gear. 



The car was packed.  There was barely enough room for a person to sit in the back seat. At 8:00 AM, we left Oshkosh and pointed the car south.


Then, we drove for 28 hours straight.  At noon the next day, we arrived in Moose's domain. 


First things first!  Moose won the 2011 Species Contest, so I owed him a custom fishing rod.  The much-anticipated prize was finally delivered.  Then, it was time to fish.  Moose had a few urban spots up his sleeve, and we jumped at the chance to add some interesting exotic species to our lifelists.



Some might call it a canal, others a drainage ditch.  We called it cichlid habitat, because colorful South American transplants were swimming about in good numbers!


Submerged tires made for good cichlid hiding places.



We started catching cichlids right away.  This Jack Dempsey was Becky's big catch at the urban locations.


Texas Cichlids were also numerous.  In addition to the cichlids, there were also Striped Mullet and Sailfin Mollies, but we couldn't entice either one of them to bite.


Nightcrawlers and Gulp worms were the baits of choice.  We also caught a few small Largemouth Bass and a bunch of tiny bluegill. 



Before long, we were getting hungry, so Moose brought us to his favorite snack van for some cow's-tongue tacos.  These folks really knew how to make a great taco.  Fortified with some good food, we headed out of town toward the Myaka River.


After at least an hour of fruitless gar-enticing, I finally connected with one on a piece of cut bluegill.  After a fierce battle on my medium rod, the fish was subdued.  But I was standing on the bridge with no way to get down to the fish - and the fish was certainly not going to come up to me!  Finally, I managed to drag the fish onto the shore, twenty feet below.  Crossing my fingers, I dropped my rod off the bridge and ran down through the snake-infested jungle to land my first-ever Florida Gar!  Unfortunately, my rod was snapped in half in the fall from the bridge, but it gave its life in pursuit of a first-class lifer.



Moose releases the gar to fight another day.



Meanwhile, Josh, Becky, and Moose fished a small pond left behind by the receding river.  Small catfish could be seen constantly dashing to the surface to gulp air. 



Our first Blue Tilapia were caught in the pond.



We also caught Mosquitofish, Pugnose Minnow, and Seminole Killifish.



Although the didn't respond to our angling efforts, Moose confirmed the presence of Hoplo Catfish in the pond using his cast net.  Then it was time to try our luck at a more remote section of the Myaka.



Ancient, gnarled live oak trees, all draped with spanish moss, filled this beautiful riverside park.  Deep water and great river access made this location special.  We raced to the water to start fishing.



This nice warmouth got things started.



Deep water and heavy cover meant for a lot of hefty panfish.



This Redear Sunfish was a bruiser!



The Spotted Sunfish  ran very large as well.  They were tucked back into the brush and required some creative casting to get to.


With darkness approaching, we bid farewell to Moose and headed for a cheap motel in Naples, where a room full of scurrying beetles and ice-cold showers awaited us.  Josh and Corey spent hours pre-rigging our rods for the Everglades, grabbing a few hours of sleep.

Lifelist Additions


  • Redear Sunfish
  • Spotted Sunfish
  • Seminole Killifish
  • Florida Gar
  • Warmouth
  • Blue Tilapia
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Texas Cichlid


  • Eastern Mosquitofish 
  • Taillight Shiner
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Texas Cichlid
  • Blue Tilapia


  • Jack Dempsey
  • Texas Cichlid
  • Blue Tilapia

Species List:


Reekfish's picture

Awesome report, pics, and catches! Sucks that your rod bit the dust but congrats on the FL gar. Definitely a cool catch. Can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip!

That hoplo catfish is crazy! It looks like it is already filleted and ready to eat. Did you guys try eating any of the tilapia?

Jknuth's picture

The Tilapia we caught were on the small side, and we were tight for space. Moose caught some Big guys after we left, so he hopefully will chime in with a report on the deliciousness of the Tilapia.

A few other fish seen but not caught were Pygmy sunfish, Flagfish and a Weatherloach* I found this guy dead in a tiny puddle.

Dr Flathead's picture

Wow, I just love adventures like this.  Cant wait for part 2.....

J Dunfee's picture

Niice. Looks like a good trip.

The fish indentified as a Pugnose Minnow looks like a Tailight Shiner, Notropis maculatus.  I don't think Pugnose Minnows are in the Myaka, but I know Taillight Shiners are there.

Jknuth's picture

I wasnt positive on the pugnose.


Moose439's picture

Glad you guys made it down! It was a blast fishing with you guys. Yes Tilapia is tasty, very tasty. The Minnow Im pretty sure is a Pugnose, they are in  the Myakka and there faces are too round to be taillights....

Hengelaar's picture

And good to see the Big Moose in action!


A lifer spree in America's wang is something I would dig sometime, too..

Fishn sure is neat

Moose439's picture

I take back my comment about the shiner. I think Mud sunny is right, that is a tailight.

Jason E.'s picture

Nice trip. Always amazing to see fish pulled from those tiny waters. Ummm. Scurrying beetles?  We called those "roaches" in Boston.

Jknuth's picture

nah these were little shiny purple beetles. The roaches were on the bridges at night.

MNbowfinangler's picture

Palmetto bugs. That is honestly what most people call cockroaches down here in Columbia, South Carolina ("the Palmetto state").