Sunday, August 1, 2010

What does a Manatee's Breath Smell Like?

Brandt Kessler was in town with his family for a much needed break as a small business owner, visiting from the Atlanta area, and was eager to take in some backwater fishing. I picked him up at Elizabeth Pointe Lodge (they were staying at the Captain's House) and we headed for the North end boat ramp, launching just a little after 7am. The tide had hit bottom at around 6:30am so we had the entire incoming tide to fish so we ran up to the Jolley River to get away from the weekend boat traffic and began a troll of the oyster lined banks. It wasn't long before Brandt was picking up small, but feisty Redfish, a few Croaker, and even a small Snapper.
It was great fishing, then BOOM, Big fish on! The drag ripped, the pole bent and Brandt settled in for a long fight. We knew it wasn't a shark because the fish hunkered down deep then it rolled a couple of times at the surface, signs of a Big Redfish! Sure enough, after Brandt battled the fish expertly, we brought to the net an out-of-the slot, 28" 8.5lb Redfish! We snapped some pictures, eased the big fish over the side to swim off to the depths. What a fish!
We went further up into the river, caught a Red at the MOA (Mother-of-All) spot, then came back around to "Snook" Creek and anchored. Brandt caught a couple of more feisty Redfish, a couple of Trout and then hooked up for another battle with a drag ripping Bonnethead Shark. We got it to the net and I tossed him into the floor of the boat to be grappled with for pictures. The tide was up so we headed back to Tiger Island with the intentions of fishing the outside marsh grass but as we eased up to the area with the trolling motor we were greeted by a herd of Manatee lolling and cavorting in the shallows. I eased the river anchor over the side and soon Brandt and I were surrounded by the herd. They were coming up to the boat, laying their snouts along the side; we watched as the rolled and lolled and nuzzled each others snouts, only a foot away from the gunwale. Fishing was forgotten for the moment as we both grabbed cameras and snapped away. At times they were so close we got a whiff of their breathes - my first impression - was the smell of "fresh cow manure"!
After about 30 minutes we eased out of the area, with a small group chasing us, and went around to a grass patch to finish up the day with a few more Redfish, Trout and finally a Flounder. What a great day of fishing and spending time out on the water!

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