"What the f*** is that thing" was the common theme for Noah and I on most of our visits to inlets south of where we were staying on the East Coast. We saw some weird stuff down there. Huge scrawled filefish... like, easily world record sized. All manor of species and color phases of parrotfish. Some very strange wrasse. I saw a huge lime green moray eel. Giant angelfish. There were things swimming in that water that I just could not identify.
This was a life-lister's wet dream. How many species down there would be new ones for me? The number could easily have been north of 50. And throughout the year I have no doubt at least 200 species I've never caught spend some time in this same water. Noah and I knew this before we even saw a South FL inlet, and it's why we fished them so much. We were down there to catch new species, and inlets and piers were going to put us very close to a lot of them.
I myself got 13 new species from one inlet that we fished three times. I'm not sure exactly how many Noah got but it was substantial as well. I should add that just because there were hundreds of fish and a lot of new species didn't make it easy to catch them. I had to work for new species. But the sheer biomass of the place meant I was assured to catch at least a few new ones. If you haven't already read it, this post covers the first trip and six species I got at this inlet: flyfishingcts.blogspot.com. Ideally you should read that one before finishing this one.
Our second visit to this particular inlet was great fun for me because it yielded a few species that I really wanted to get. Of course I started out catching the ever present sergeant majors. We need to find a time when those buggers aren't so prevalent. I do wonder if there even is such a time.
|Haemulon flavolineatum (yellow thing)|
Not long after I caught the slippery dicks I got a couple of damselfish. Some of the damselfish in Florida are very tricky to identify, namely longfin, cocoa, and dusky damselfish. Sergeant majors are a damselfish as well but they stand out from the crowd. Cocoa and longfin damselfish havevery distinct color phases, unfortunately when inshore their color varies almost none from eachother and dusky damselfish. I am fairly confident though that both of the ones I caught were dusky damselfish, Stegastes adustus.
|The blue on this one's fin threw me off. Thanks to Patrick Kerwin I learned that dusky may have some blue.|
|Bandtail puffer, Sphoeroides spengleri|
|Puddingwife wrasse, Halichoeres radiatus|
Then a yellow thing jumped on my little streamer and I had a French grunt of my own. Slack tide was working out well.
|These guys' eyes are just mesmerizing. Haemulon flavolineatum|
And then, a new snapper species. Schoolmaster snapper. I think these are probably the most handsomely dressed of the snappers. I caught a mangrove snapper a while later, for comparison a photo of that fish follows the photo of the schoolmaster. Though many target snapper species as food fish, keeping a schoolmaster would be a poor decision. They often carry cigutera poisoning, something found in some reef-fish and fish that eat reef-fish. They are so frequently associated with cigutera that in some areas locals just label the species itself poisonous. Though that isn't true... don't eat one. Or any other species you have limited knowledge of, for that matter.
|Halichoeres bivittatus, terminal phase (Photo courtesy Noah Johnson)|
As it turns out, this was a spotfin porcupinefish. The world record was just over 8lbs, caught by a rather legendary angler in the life-listing community, Steve Wozniak (not the apple one). This one would have gone 12 easy. And we didn't even properly identify it until we were on our way back to camp. Oops.
Missed world record opportunity aside, we did really well there on our last visit and really well there in general. We caught a total of 18 species between us at this one inlet, most of them new.
Sailors choice grunt,
That's just wild. And I know we didn't even catch half the number of species we saw there. I can't wait to return to that place. It has so much potential. When we finished out there that evening we headed for our last night of the Florida trip. I wouldn't catch any new species before we left. I ended the trip with 29 new species and 1 new hybrid, bringing my life-list total to 130. My goal of reaching 150 by the end of 2019 seems very attainable if not surpassable. Time to put an inhuman amount of effort into catching fish people rarely think to target.
This Florida trip is not entirely complete though. Expect one more post, hopefully just as exciting as the rest have been. Unfortunately it seems you all haven't enjoyed these as much as I did as my readership has fallen even further over the last month, but I plan to do more trips like this in the near future whether or not they result in good numbers here on the blog.