The weekend had been planned for at least 45 days - but had been in the hopper for over 100 years. FL vs. GA the classic World's Largest Cocktail Party. GA started strong, then faded, FL looked like the rag tag team they should have been but were coming on strong. With the wife, 3 brother-n-laws, the father-in-law, practically all my cousins, and uncle being big UF fans, this is a game of epic proportions in my family and has been a blow up at many a conversation. Deep in enemy territory I lay as low as possible to not rile the natives, but once a year it's a no holds barred situation. That said, the tides looked right for a smack down on some Reds and Trout. Snook were off the list - mainly because we were headed North of Crystal River. The boy's exams were done, and he was a scant 1.5 hours from the rendezvous point.
The Amanda Buff was loaded up and ready to go; I secure the T Top down for longer than 1 hour rides.
Having taken a 1/2 day off my neighbor and I arrived at his condo at almost the same time as the boy (frankly at 21 he's a man, but a boy to me). We launched the Amanda Buff from my neighbor's condo and headed out.
Having kayaked the area several weeks before there's one thing that can be said...look at your maps and know the waters before you go out. Fortunately when we kayaked we went on a near negative tide and realized that the channels were not very deep and that if you deviate from the channel you will be eating oysters. Looking at the charts revealed that there were plenty of under water obstacles that needed to be avoided.
Regardless we head out at slow speed. Even at slow speed we passed this fellow. Good luck to anyone passing on the starboard side.
We continued out through the main channel; over the port side the sun was casting a beautiful old school Florida moment. With the big boy camera on board and son at the helm I took the opportunity to take a couple shots. I realized that this was more of a cruise/recon trip with only about 1 hour of fishing, and did not want to be navigating at dark in unknown waters. Off the port side was this spectacle of colors.
Hitting the main channel we throttled up and made our way past the rocky entrance. We spooked out perhaps a hundred pelicans who were probably roosting for the night. We fished a couple cuts and channels, but came up with a solid goose egg. On hard bottom, I did manage to grind up the trolling motor prop a bit...things happen. With perhaps 30-45 minutes of daylight remaining we head back in and I managed to capture a good sunset. The trip had started out on a good note and the photos were lining up quite nicely.
That night we filled up with some of Bill's BBQ
that we had bought on the way through Chiefland. Bill's is an old school place and I couldn't find their website - which I suspect is by design. While talking to the cashier I asked who she thought would win "the game". "I hope FL loses. I hate FL. I'm a FSU fan." Nice. Some good ol' fashion hate burning at Bill's. Now that my son is at UF I don't necessarily hate them...who am I kidding, I do. One day a year I hate them, it all started in the 80's, then some jerk called Steve Spurrier showed up. I loved it when he failed in the NFL, and his final season at SC - well I'm good with that too. Funny how most UF fans I know don't like him now either, but I digress...I concurred with the cashier's thoughts and opted to get some ribs, sliced pork, and a gallon of tea. If you order a gallon of tea from Bill's make sure you're OK with it being in a mayo jar. All I can say is that the meal and tea was fabulous...perhaps I'll add some mayo to my sweet tea next time.
I pointed out to my fellow anglers "We're not in Kansas any more Toto."
The next morning we loaded up the Amanda Buff and made out towards our predetermined location; with S/SE winds in the 10 knot range we pound our way through the heavier than anticipated waters. Not knowing the lay of the land we took our time and eventually cut back into the 2' of water. With a negative tide and S/SE wind we would have to watch how skinny we got. The day started out with some promise as something huge splashed about 50 yards away - best we could figure it was a shark, and a big one, but in 2' of water? Regardless we pushed around the point and let the winds do most of the work; for the first couple hours it was a bit slow, but using a 3" salt n pepper pattern paddle tail Evan managed to start the day off with some tourist trout action. Then another, then another....then the reds started coming. My neighbor Charile started cranking them in as well - he was on a popping cork and artificial shrimp/paddletail.
By the time they were up to 10-15 fish with a wimpy puffer I had started out my trash can slam. Eventually the cat calls can in, "Hey Dad guess we'll call you Puff Daddy.". Nice. Revenge is best served cold, I thought to myself.
I swapped out to a paddletail and started to tally fish up. Mostly tourist trout in the 12" range, but at least I was getting on. The outgoing tide and S/SE winds pushed us perfectly along a deeper 3-4' cut and we all were getting on fish. As we started to exit the estuary we eventually bottomed out and it was an all hands off deck moment - into the water we went and managed to push the Amanda Buff into 10" of water and eventually a couple feet of water.
Drifting out to open flats we found a 6-7' cut. I saw a pretty big push on the edge and as luck would have it I managed to get on this fellow. On light tackle it took a long time to get him broadside, but on the trolling motor we chased him down.
It wasn't a personal best Jack (if there is such a thing), but it was a big one. Feeling confident I started to make some comments to Wonderboy (know for his triple inshore slam). "Better look out, the old man is coming on."
Several more tourist trout later he managed to get on this chunky lower/mid 20's fellow.
Not to be out done I then got on this mid to upper 20's red.
He then proceeded to put a beat down on some more reds. By the end of the day we had lost the tally of fish, but we'll estimate it around 30 trout, 15 reds, 1 Jack, and oh yeah...one PDiddy.
We head back in and courtesy of modern marvels watched on the DVR the FL/GA game.
The best play of the day was right before kickoff - mainly because GA stunk it up so bad. No D, no special teams, no offense. Other than that we whupped 'em. Geeze - that game was about as bad as GA has played in well...at least a week when we beat Missouri 9-6.
Regardless, the fishing was a hoot, the game wasn't, but the ride home was a good one. Dixie county is a very cool area, but you're definitely not in Tampa. Next year there's talk of another get together, but in JAX. I'm not so sure I want to fork out big $ just to loose again. We'll see...