[b]Executive Summary [/u]
1 Angler, winds 12-16, temps 57-75, water temp low 70's, bunch of ladyfish, and one sow that made the trip worthwhile
Inspired by some fellow kayakers, 16 mph winds, and a late start for the day I decided to give the Alafia a try.
The day started out non-eventful enough - the Riverview Civic Center was wide open for use, and by 7:30ish I was on the river. I had filed a simple boat plan with the wife - go upstream then float down stream.
With snook on the mind I started out working the docks and larger boats; I made sure that my drag was tightened down a bit more than normal. On a 20# leader I pitched a 1/4 oz Regular Golden Beam Terror Eye. On my other rod was a silver colored jerk bait- the "silver britches" pattern had been successful at CRB so I figured might as well use a light color as well.
Fishing a couple creeks that spilled into the Alafia I manged to get little nibbles, and eventually brought in the culprit - a ladyfish. That would be the theme for the day...
Finding myself on one of the many twist of the river, and 15-20 yards out from a dock and yacht, I threw between the 2. On the second pick up of the Terror Eye I felt a slight tug. I set the hook and saw the line starting to move, but this time it had a bit more mass than a lady fish. After about 3-5 yards of the run I knew I was on a snook, but I wasn't sure of the size. Soon enough the fish presented herself - and she decided not to do the flips or cartwheels of the smaller snook. This girl was big - big enough that she was wallowing and that nonsense of getting fancy with acrobatics was quickly over. Of course when I saw her my first words were "Holy S***" - with no one around to hear me expletives were fair game.
The aforementioned tight drag became a double edge sword; I was able to get line in (when she cooperated), but when she made her run to the nearby yacht I picked up Ben Hur ramming speed (for the younger ones in the crowd I have provided this fun and educational video
). Having learned my lesson from not having had enough scope to slow the kayak down in deep water, I had prepared 10-12' of scope of anchor line - a lot of good that would do on the deck of the kayak. In my shock and awe of the size of the snook I neglected to pitch anchor.
No one having claimed the cheesy half paddle I had found on the water, I brought it along and stroked backwards lefty. Righty I just held on.
I had managed to slow down and get the kayak at an angle to the yacht, but eventually the 10-15 yards of room was quickly closed to zero. I glanced off the yacht's stern. Getting a good look at the barnacles on the hull and seeing her direction I took the entire rod and shoved the whole thing under the water - since it was in a big C and starting to more resemble a U there was little chance of hitting the bottom and breaking the tip
At this point the current of the river swings the kayak parallel to the yacht. Both hands now on the rod we are at a stalemate - actually she was winning, but I like to think we were at a stalemate. Switching to holding the rod lefty - (normally my reeling hand) I pushed off the yacht righty. I seldom hold the rod just lefty and now the chances of losing the rod AND the fish now becomes a reality. Holding on to the rod as best as possible I realize there's slack in the line, but I'm not sure how much; I push off the yacht and put a bit more pressure on the line. She's off again. With the reel just above waterline on the port side of the kayak, and the yacht on the starboard side I continue to fend off the boat and try and coax her out. At this point the rod is going under the kayak and yacht.
She makes a another strong run and then the line goes limp. I had managed to keep her off the keel of the boat, but she had wrapped me around a piling on the other side. The 20# leader was frayed a bit, but it was more of a cut then anything. Barnacles.
Big snook 3 - JB 0. [sigh]
I'll classify big as > 34". The size of his one - who knows for sure, but she was thick and easily as big as the sow I lost at Bishop's harbor. I'm beginning to see a pattern with these big girls - not as much show and hard fast hard runs seems to be the name of the game.
I don't know if 30# leader would have helped, but it sure wouldn't hurt. Still juiced from the fight, I retied the line with 3' of 30# leader and a new Terror Eye.
I kept heading upstream but this time made sure I had the anchor ready to be heaved.
About another hour of no action goes by and with the exception of a manatee showing up off the stern about 5 yards away there's a whole lotta nothin' going on.
After a while many of the boat houses, docks, and boats all look the same. I flipped near yet another log and low and below the log pops up; I'm not sure who was more surprised by the action - the gator or me. Seeing that this ones was about 5-7' feet long I wasn't terribly concerned, and took a couple pictures. I did however keep looking over my shoulder as I moved upstream. Nothing like a 4" water line and a gator to make you appreciate the powerboat. (Soft spots on the pic are from water on the lens.)
After about another hour of paddling boat traffic increased, and a couple dolphins showed up. I was surprised to see them this far upstream, but if there's food I guess they'll go anywhere. They were chasing mullet and zeroed in on them at least once. At this point I turned around and let the increasing winds and current take me downstream.
As luck would have it, the tides turned on me the last 1-2 hours and I had one of those magic-stream/hill moments and was blessed with an upstream paddle both ways. I never gave the tides much of a consideration, but I should have.
I fished a several more docks and with more moving water I was optimistic. Other than one 18" trout and more ladyfish I didn't have any luck.
I loaded up the truck and was home in 15 minutes - a much better commute for me than anywhere else. Next time I'll bring Wonderboy - he would have landed that snook or caught a bunch more.