Friday, January 2, 2015

Florida Act One: Space Coast

Some friends and I had loosely hatched plans earlier in the year to make a trip to Florida and fish. We had discussed going everywhere from the Keys to the Everglades and many places in between on both coasts. Nothing was ever pinned down before the game of life threw me a slider. My father lives on the east coast of Florida and part of my plans would be to spend some time surfing and eating seafood with him. Dad got mixed up in a bad bicycle accident and was in the hospital for a few weeks and I drove over there to aid in his recovery. Many hours were spent with him sitting in hospital rooms but I was able to sneak off at the break of dawn most mornings and explore new places.

I started out talking to a few guys down at Harry Goode's Fly Shop and they pointed me in the right direction and were very welcoming and friendly. They run a top notch shop and have everything you can imagine for the local waters. If you are in the area, give them some business.
The first few days fishing were concentrated around the Sebastian Inlet area south of Melbourne. The weather was beautiful with winds calm and I was happy enough to be cruising through the crystal clear flats and mangroves. The fishing on the other hand was less than stellar. A few trout had fell victim to some Slayer Inc plastics and top dogs.
There were a few cool sightings that i'm not used to while standing and sightfishing. For one, Florida has a huge number of rays of all sizes roaming the flats just like the gamefish we seek. While poling down a sheltered cove one afternoon I spotted something big in the water. If we were in the marsh it would have immediately been passed up as an alligator gar. As I got closer to the beast and identified it as a four foot Bonnet-head shark. One cast towards his head and he slipped off into the white sand bottom and I never saw him again.
If the first days taught me anything it was that my tactics would have to change and adapt if I was going to be successful in my new surroundings. For one, in the best marshes at certain times of year, our waters can be crystal clear. For the most part however, our redfish are silly, careless and un-pressured. These Florida redfish are of the highly educated variety. There are no places around the space coast I would call "remote". You may see them fifty feet out, but they saw you at sixty. These fish are pressured relentlessly every day. Frustrating to say the least for an angler from Louisiana.
The next area on my list was a place just outside of the Kennedy Space Center. If rocket launch schedules ever went to plan I would have been able to see a rocket lift-off the launch pad in the high afternoon sun from my kayak. It would have been an awesome scene but the launch was delayed for unknown reasons and I still went fishing. KARS Park is locally referred to as the "No Motor Zone" and sounded plenty appealing for me to take the drive north of town.

I'd left the dock earlier than necessary to make my way to the flats before the water warmed up in the afternoon sun. The water clarity was good, excellent for my Louisiana standards but subpar according to locals. As soon as you would expect to see redfish in the morning I was seeing them. The only problem was that they were out cruising the flats and it was dead calm. I did my best to not make a blip of noise or vibration when picking up my rod and casting but they were spooking form fifty feet out from the shadow of the false casts on my fly rod. Dropping a plastic in front of them? Forget about it. My lures were landing a good fifteen feet out in the direction they were traveling and they would flee at the sound of the jighead hitting the water. If this flat was in the marsh, I could have played catch and release for hours. But no redfish fell victim to me that day. Only small trout while trolling from spot to spot. Once again, beautiful scenery and humbled angling.
The last areas I explored were in the Cocoa Beach Vicinity called the "Thousand Islands". The wind forecasts were building and the area had a lot of sheltered water. Another huge difference is the amount of wind protection you get in Florida vs. Louisana. At home, at best you have a three foot swatch of marsh grass to shelter out the winds. Generally this means that boat control and casting become more difficult when above the 10 mph mark and exponential above that. In these areas, the mangroves among local pines and palms offer a much higher wall of protection from wind. The two days spent fishing this area a few minutes from dad's opened up huge protected coves and lots of local ducks flying around. The water clarity was amazing but fishing was still tough. There were a few trout caught on some pink/chartreuse clousers but still ultra spooky reds that seemed to disappear a split second after you'd spotted them.
My visions of hooking up on some juvenille tarpon or a snook in this area went out the window. However, the diamond in the rough came from a gentleman I'd met in the fly shop. Jokingly or maybe only half jokingly he said that every drop of water in Florida will atleast hold a bass or two. I'd known this to be somewhat true a few years ago while working in the Orlando area and catching micro bass and bream on my tenkara rod. There was a small ditch running around the neighborhood of the hospital and a few times a week, I'd walk the banks tossing a weedless plastic and catching some 10-14" bass. They would come out of the grass patches and crush the bait. Good fun.

Coming Up - Act Two: The Everglades

1 comment:

Drew LooknFishy said...

Situation sucks, but that's a cool place to get humbled.