EVERGLADES CITY -- Paddling
a kayak is a relaxing, fun way to get close to nature, but I have found
fishing from a kayak to be frustrating and difficult. Identifying a fish
on the flats nearly is impossible when you are sitting on the same level
where it is swimming. And, about the time you get around to casting to
said fish, you often lose your paddle.
But kayak fishing can be as heart-stoppingly exciting, given my
recent excursion to the Ten Thousand Islands of Florida's southwest
coast with captain Chuck Wright and four friends.
Wright has a mothership kayak fishing operation where he carries six
people and their boats to remote fishing spots in his wide-beamed,
27-foot Carolina skiff. On this day, he took our party to the mouth of
the Rogers River, about 30 miles south of Everglades City.
Wright deposited each kayak in the water, and we set out on our own
to explore the river and surrounding mangrove islands.
By the time I paddled to a shoreline and began to cast my jig, the
tide had come way up. I could hear suspected snook thrashing around,
chasing finger mullet in the prop root tunnels, but I didn't detect any
evidence of their presence in open water. I didn't see anyone else
catching anything, either.
CHANGE OF LUCK
Pretty soon, Wright paddled up and offered me a live finger mullet he
had just cast-netted. I tossed it to the mouth of a narrow creek using a
12-pound spinning outfit, and waited for my luck to change.
It did in a hurry. I felt the finger mullet become extremely nervous,
then get chomped by something with attitude. Before I could reel up the
slack, the line went taut, the drag screamed, and my kayak was jerked
Wright heard my yells and came over to watch -- just as the thing
that ate the mullet stuck its head above the surface, revealing a very
angry-looking, very large snook.
''It's snarling at me!'' I screamed hysterically, as Wright laughed.
Of course, this large snook reverted to the same self-rescue tactics
its ancestors have employed throughout the ages: It dashed for the
safety of the mangrove roots.
BIT OF A PROBLEM
If I had been standing on an anchored flats boat, this might not have
posed a problem. I could have tightened the drag, shifted to another
spot on the boat, or used the Stu Apte ''down-and-dirty'' technique to
disorient the fish. But in a light, 12-foot plastic tub, Mr. Snook and I
were evenly matched. And it appeared that my opponent was winning, as it
towed my boat toward the tangled prop roots.
Thank heaven Wright intervened. He paddled to my almost-water-skiing
kayak, nudged his boat between me and the mangroves, and began paddling
toward open water. I kept a tight line on the snook, whose forward
progress was slowed.
Gradually, we managed to work the fish from its would-be haven.
I reeled it close, and Wright grabbed it.
''It takes two kayaks to handle a whopper,'' I remarked inanely.
As you can see from the photo, the snook was much larger than the
26-to-34-inch slot limit, so we released it.
Each kayaker had an adventure to report. D.C. Bienvenue, a Sarasota
kayak guide, was followed by a large alligator for the length of a
narrow creek. He also jumped a tarpon and released several small snook.
Rick Roberts, founder of the International Kayak Fishing Association,
watched a bald eagle steal a mullet in mid-air from an osprey.
Kayak fishing indeed does have its moments.
Call us to Plan Your Next Adventure!
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