3 Men, 6 Hulls and Crystal River
The first unofficial Wavewalk group fishing outing in Florida was held December 14, 2009 at Crystal River, Florida. Gary Rankel, Ed Wheeler and I participated, fishing out of the new 2009 W500 fishing kayaks. Ed and I were in our bright yellow boats and Gary was in his green “Packer Yaker” (the name of which I understood only after asking him about it–seems he is a life long Green Bay Packer fan with as much passion for the team as he has for fishing.)
We started the day at our usual breakfast place right on highway 19 in Crystal River the day with a hearty meal for the task ahead. We hit the road in heavy fog, heading over to the Ozello area for launch from the parking area of a local seafood restaurant. They have a great kayak and canoe launch directly off the lot and, as long as you park well away from the patron spaces, you are fine. Besides, nothing beats a fried grouper sandwich at the end of a day of fishing and, since you are already there, why not partake?
We launched into water that was as smooth as a sheet of glass in the fog. It was wonderful. The temperature was ideal and only a few of the flying teeth (sand gnats) were bothering us. We headed out on a falling tide using a large culvert to take us through to the other side of the bridge. That saved us at least a mile of extra paddling while heading to Gary’s favorite fishing spots that he was anxious to share. Our trip out was aided by the tidal flow, so each stroke was easy and effortless. We began casting as soon as Gary indicated we had reached his spots. I started right off with a small sea trout and soon after, Gary landed a really nice one. I also managed to land a number of lizard fish on my lures. These fish are not considered a game fish and serve only to keep the fish I really wanted from getting to my baits.
Our rigging was standard inshore Florida style. We used both bait casting and spinning gear. Ed and Gary used superlines, while I relied on mono for my bait casters and reserved the superline for my spinning tackle. We used both fluorocarbon and mono leaders as the presentations dictated. For lures, top waters are always a good choice in the Crystal river area. Gary preferred the IMA Skimmer, a very thin pencil style top water from the Japanese bass fishing market, while Ed and I stayed with our proven Spook Jr’s and Mirrolures. The baits all managed to produce hits, but the actual hookup percentage was low that day. That’s why we call it fishing and not catching.
The entire day was memorable– both for the company and the adventure. We saw lots of new water in a different way and enjoyed the antics of both birds and dolphins. At one point, while we relaxed wading near a small island, two dolphins decided to share our fishing spot. They were in a deeper cut a few feet from us, just ripping into schools of mullet. Times like this show who the really talented anglers are– the ones that swim with the fish, to be exact. Sure they ran off our quarry, but watching them is always fun. Besides, who knows, maybe we can pick up a thing or two from the real experts in these waters?
We ended our day around 2PM and headed in back through the same culvert we used first thing in the morning. With a slightly stronger incoming tide, that short ride was fun with the W500 shooting right through the center, using the paddle only to keep from hitting the sides. A really remarkable thing that struck me about this whole day was the comfort we had fishing from these boats. None of us are young men –I am the youngest at 55, both Ed and Gary are the 70 year old range. Between us there have been back issues ranging from simple sciatic problems to major surgeries. To a man, the W500 is a boat we could use easily and comfortable. In any other fishing kayaks, our range would not have been as great and there would have been many more stops to get out for unkinking. This trip was only the start. There will be many more to come, fishing the waters off Florida’s west coast in the world’s most comfortable and fishable paddle craft.