Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Canals By Kayak: Attempting Clown Knifefish on Fly

Freshwater fishing in South Florida is game made tricky by spotty access, angry property owners, and overly abundant water. There's a lot of water that, to the untrained eye looks good, but doesn't actually hold much in the way of fish. Having a kayak or SUP is hugely advantageous as you are no longer bound to what minimal shore access exists but can travel freely throughout a canal system. That still doesn't mean you'll catch what you are looking for, but it does put you in a better position to do so. This is one of the numerous reasons Noah and I don't fly to Florida. We have more range and freedom.

Working our way south to where we'd spend the next two nights, Noah and I decided to fish the same canal system we were just on a day prior. It seemed like the best option and was on the way regardless. Noah's first fish proved our choice to be a good one.

Mine wasn't half bad either. This may be the same bull bluegill I caught in the same spot days before, I'm not sure. If it was, I didn't even mind. This has to be the best looking bluegill I've ever seen.

Upriver, I caught a less common species for as far north as we were... an oscar. It pounded a gurgler, which was pretty sweet. They've also got most freshwater fish beat fight wise, pound for pound. Unfortunately, aside from a few un-notable catches, there wasn't much else to report from that foray. There were a bunch of people fishing the spillway, and a canoe headed down while we were headed up told us they'd been catching small snook. They weren't when we got there, not anymore. We headed back down a little disgruntled, but having caught a handful of quality fish.

The next day, we were further south, in an area with even more diversity of freshwater invasives. Snakeheads, peacock bass, midas cichlids, and perhaps most excitingly, clown knifefish were to be our targets, and without our water crafts, we'd be hard pressed to find any that would be willing. Unfortunately the weather was not at all ideal, but we'd give it our all anyway.
Clown knifes roll, almost like tarpon or bowfin. I didn't think they'd hold to structure really, and that proved true. Peacock bass and snakeheads though would be holding onto their preferred structure. Weed beds for snakeheads, culverts expelling water for peacocks.
Noah got a blowup on a buzz toad that was almost certainly a snakehead, then I got a blast on an as of yet unnamed topwater pattern that may have been a snake as well. Further down the canal though, seeing a fair number of rolling clown knifes, I changed to a subsurface pattern.

I've never seen a single photograph or video of a clown knifefish caught on the fly. Given how inclined most flyfisherman (fisherman in general, really) to not think outside the box, I had perhaps too much confidence that I could convince one to eat. But, uh...
I made five casts in the vicinity of rolling clowns, and had one follow. I went the entire rest of the day without a single look from one, but I don't know jack about this species, really, and I convinced one to move on a fly first try. So this is something I am going to do. I have a game plan, I know some people, and I'm a little more determined than your average angler. Watch out clown knifefish. I'm coming for you.

Though we caught very little on this long paddle into unknown waters, it was a valuable experience and really illustrated the overall difficulty of finding freshwater fish in Florida if you don't know where to look. Most of the water we covered in these canals was essentially barren, with little in the way of structure for fish to hold to. When we found what little good structure there was, we found fish. I caught my first peacock bass in more than three years that day, and that was nice. Where I caught it was among only five places with notable concentrations of fish in legitimately miles of canal paddled. On foot? We'd almost certainly have done very poorly.

Until next time,
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, and Franky for supporting this blog on Patreon. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Curse The Wind

Wind was a nearly constant source of annoyance during out first week and a half in Florida. It just never ceased. After our first week of camping in our little home away from home, we'd planned some time elsewhere. Unforeseen circumstances resulted in plans changing and we needed to drive back north to pick some things up I'd left at my grandparents. This wasn't a bad thing as we had in mind a couple places to fish up that area anyway, and especially wanted to get some time in a likely speckled trout area. Well...

...the wind said no. It had said no to a lot of things Noah and I had wanted to do already on this trip and yet again we found ourselves looking for a plan B. We did, fortunately, have a couple of viable options. We decided on an area we'd found on our first Florida trip in 2017, a large canal with some smaller offshoot drainages where we'd found some juvenile tarpon. It wasn't looking so hot this time around, the best spot was fairly dry. Looking into a completely cut off puddle though, I did see fish.

After a bit of a wander looking for snakes (unsuccessfully), we returned and attempted to catch the fish we'd seen in the puddle. After a time it became clear that at least some of them were African jewelfish, one of the numerous exotic invasive cichlids that are now abundant in Florida. It took a little while to catch one, given that they would be a lifer and that's just how it works... it took me a while to catch my first eastern mosquitofish, now any time I'm micro fishing in an area they exist, I can't keep them away. I did, of course, eventually get a jewelfish to eat a midge pattern and kept it pinned long enough. It was not a good looking one... also a common occurrence with lifers.

African jewelfish, Hemichromis bimaculatus. Life list fish #160. Rank: species.

Noah was able to catch his lifer as well just a short time later. His looked quite a bit nicer but as this species goes, still was rather bland.

We each ended up with a few more while trying unsuccessfully to catch some other unidentified possible lifers that we could see in that pool. None of them looked great, and in no time we were pretty much used to them. It's a bit odd, being that we'd gone to area that have them a bunch of times and never caught any or even put eyes on one with certainty, but that often happens. I will say, I did get more excited when I eventually would catch a better looking one, but I'm getting WAY ahead of myself.

We continued southward without much aim. We wandered and wondered, and didn't find much to our liking. Curse the wind, we could have ha much better fishing on many occasions were it not for the wind. 

Until next time,
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, and Franky for supporting this blog on Patreon. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Comfort Food

Is it odd to find a little clearing in a swamp with just enough room to park a van in, pitch a tent, and have a small fire start feeling like home? I began to feel that sort of affection for the little WMA campsite Noah and I stayed in on our 2018-19 trip and our 2020 trip only strengthened that. The sunsets every night and the sunrises every morning there were spectacular. The mist rising off the wet prairie softened the horizon line of sorts where the deep green, sparse pines became a solid mass and met the burn umber of the grasses. That mist gathered on the tent and, without fail, it was soaking wet when we put it away every morning except the one we decided to sleep in. Before the sun hit the pond next to camp, the gar rolled everywhere. As Noah is slower to get up than I, taking advantage of the gar and bass in the pond became habitual.

 I'd walk around the edge of the pond barefoot with my fly rod and a handful of flies and my camera in my pocket, maybe casting a time or two in the pond itself but really just aiming for the slough on the east end, where the gar and bass were more concentrated and seemingly more willing.

I was using the 10wt for this fishing, which was a little overkill, but I wasn't using rope flies, which tangle in a gar's teeth, so I was happy with a good lever to drive the hook home. I have caught numerous gar on my 5wt now but for casting a long distance and retrieving and absolutely jamming the fish when they take a diver or gurgler, I'd prefer an 8 and I didn't have one. The 10wt did what I asked of it though. It is my go-to rod size for predatory species, believe it or not. I think a 10wt fly rod is one of the most versatile tools in fishing.

Lepisosteus platyrhincus, Florida gar

After spending almost three whole days doing quite a bit of micro fishing and targeting reef fish species that don't respond to active presentations much,  Noah and I wanted a change of pace. Small snook, juvenile tarpon, and largemouth bass in narrow freshwater environments were to be our targets, though other fish were a sure bet as well. We'd fished this water before, even on this trip, so it would be comfortable territory and for me much more exciting than targeting reef fish had been. Active presentations and abundant fish that would be willing to take the right fly presented the right way would be a great reprieve from abundant fish that were, on the whole, not willing to eat any artificial presented any way. The added excitement of these being very engaging species made me even more excited. Tarpon would be hard to find, we had found snook in this system before but not yet on this trip, and though bass, including some specimens over the magical 10 pound mark, were everywhere, we'd found them to be very discerning on our 2018-19 trip. I started out fishing a black an purple gurgler, an everything fly, and everything is what I got. I caught a number of small bass and some sunfish on my way down river before I found a more interesting fish. I hit the fly on a leafy bottomed bit of bank water and, stripping it out, watched a brownish colored, elongated fish come full tilt up to slam it. Either I missed or it missed, but it came back on the next cast, and I got a good look at it before I missed again. It was a bigmouth sleeper. Not a fish I completely expected to hit a gurgler, but it really wasn't that surprising once you've gotten to know the species. Having a photo of it with the foam topwater fly in its maw would have been nice though. Less excitingly but still an absolute pleasure, I landed a sleeper just down river subsurface.

Gobiomorus dormitor, bigmouth sleeper

We worked the roll dam hole for a little while as it had proven time and time again to be a fish magnet. Noah caught a spectacularly colored male bluegill and I caught some oversized spotted sunfish, but there just didn't seem to be any larger predators there this time.

L. macrochirus purpurescens, Coppernose bluegill (rank under debate)

Lepomis punctatus, spotted sunfish
We made our way back upriver to search parts unknown, areas we'd pinpointed using satellite imagery that could hold snook and Tarpon. On the way though, I was prepared to make casts to likely bass holding spots. I really wanted to catch one over a foot long as I hadn't yet here and that really was quite a low bar. After covering a bit of ground without any hookups, I dropped the gurgler next to a a small point and a decent bass gulped it down with a most satisfactory pop. The battle was not unexciting, I'm firmly convinced Micropterus floridanus (under debate) have northern largemouth, Micropterus salmoides, well beat in the fighting ring. Smallmouth though, are still king... that's my black bass and probably always will be. That said, floridanus is, until I catch other black bass species, firmly at number two. These fish do pull. This one wasn't quite slob status but it was still a quality fish, especially given our prior experience on this water.

Noah made a quick stop at the van as we passed the kayak launch, and while he was preoccupied with that I bothered some gar hiding under a shade tree. They were very willing to eat the gurgler but I had a harder time hooking them from the kayak than I had while on the back of the pond in the morning. I got annoyed enough to start working upstream before Noah had gotten done, but not that far. He caught up to me right as I spotted a small, shiny, dark animal moving around up on the bank. I assumed initially it must be a snake struggling with a captured fish, but instead it turned out to be a vermiculated sailfin, well above the waterline and trying to get back in. I hypothesized that a bird had likely caught it, but upon fining it completely armored and impossible to swallow or break into, had left it there. I did the same, these are invasive fish and it's death would not be a bad thing. 

Around the corner, now fishing a buzz toad, Noah had a good blowup and hooked into another quality bass. It was starting to feel that we'd cracked the code on these bass. 

We headed up a long canal arm, a straightened slough basically, at the end of which we knew was a spillway. The whole way up though the water looked great and indeed proved to be so. My first fish of note was a large coppernose bluegill, a studly gorgeous male perfectly capable of eating the same size two gurgler I'd been using the whole time.  

The bass continued to chew as well, though neither Noah nor myself caught another the size of each of our first.good ones. We did each see an absolute behemoth though, a fish every bit of fifteen pounds, so incredulously large looking in the water that it had to be something else. But it was a bass, the largest I had ever seen in person. 

As we made our way to the upper end of the canal, we came into a stretch that was loaded with Mayan cichlids. I caught the first on the gurgler, making Mayan cichlids only the second cichlid I've caught on the surface, behind butterfly peacock bass. After it was clear that there were a bunch of them around and we'd be able to get enough for a meal, we decided to keep a bunch for dinner. Mayan cichlids are my favorite freshwater fish to eat of the number of species I have taken.

Cichlasoma urophthalmus

When we did get to the spillway that was our main objective, it didn't take many casts to prove that what we hoped was true was true. Spillways are tarpon and snook magnets. I retrieved the gurgler about five feet from where my third cast fell and then let it sit for a moment. While it was still a 15lb tarpon came up and smoked it. I whiffed completely. Now excited, Noah and I peppered that spillway for a while, to no avail. So we made our way back downriver, taking time to catch as many cichlids as we could. I also stopped, cast at, and missed the largest bowfin I had ever seen. That was an unpleasant experience. We deemed this stretch of water worth a return visit and headed back to camp to fry up some fish. Fried panfish is a comfort food for me these days. Fried panfish are reliable, they always get the job done. There are certain experiences that make these budget fishing/camping trips worthwhile over a more luxurious alternative. These are some of those thing...

...comfort food and sunsets. Living in the swamp is pretty enjoyable. 
Until next time,
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, and Franky for supporting this blog on Patreon.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Why I Temporarily Quit Trout Fishing

Wild trout are entwined with my soul. I need them, at least every now and then, in order to feel comfortable. I need to see them, I need to fool them, I need to hold them in my hands and try my best to capture their beauty in a digital format. But right now, I am taking a break from fishing for wild trout. It won't be a long break, but in my opinion I owe it to the fish., and I'm going to try to make the case that you should do the same.

On a fairly recent trip, I fished an unlisted, un-stocked, polluted, hard to access small stream. I had only ever seen one other person fish it in the past and I shared it with a small handful of my inner circle of small water wild trout junkies. I've also made sure to mask its possible identity the handful of times I've written about it, maybe employed a bit of "smoke and mirrors" even, and flat out lied about where fish were caught to certain people. But on this trip, the first day I'd been there this year, there were foot prints on just about every sandbar but the hardest to get to, very clearly fisherman, and very clearly fisherman that had no idea what the hell they were doing. There was no cautious approach, no respect for the banks. New trails were worn, bank erosion was obvious. There was trash. More than normal. Fishing trash: line, worm containers, snagged rigs. The number of people not at work or school, want for things to do, venturing to places they wouldn't have otherwise is huge.

I fish 250-320 days a year, right now a no insignificant amount of my income is tied to fishing. So this might sound selfish, like I just don't want other people on what I kinda consider to be my water. It isn't mine, though I have put a lot of work into finding much of it, and I'll be damned if I just sit by and watch a bunch of goons do serious and lasting damage to these places. Thing is, I don't think many of the people who are doing the damage are reading this blog. I think you all reading this are probably mostly very respectful and responsible. So it might be time for those of us that do really care to lay off a little bit. It might be time to give trout a break, because as far as freshwater fish go they are likely the most highly targeted in the country behind black bass, especially in places like the Northeast. There is "trout culture" here. I hate what that culture represents, as it has put fish in an arbitrary hierarchy and lead to a massively skewed idea of what the word conservation means, but for better or worse (it's worse for sure. A few billion times over) that odd trout culture exists here an a LOT of people want to go out and catch trout and don't really care to fish for other species. That's a problem. Increased fishing pressure is focused on a handful of fish species in a more limited number of waters rather than being distributed across all available species and waters. Trout are sensitive fish, very sensitive, and the habitats that can support them are also sensitive. Merely being present on a trout stream, wading in it, walking the banks, has small negative impacts. Catching the trout themselves increases the negative impacts. I generally try to be a non-interventionist naturalist, and that flies completely in the face of also being a fisherman. To catch a fish I need to intervene, and my intervention will always be a negative impact on that fish's life. I've accepted that. And I think there are times when we need to chose, individually, whether we are willing to have that negative impact on the fish, the riparian zone, and everything we interact with on the stream.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is such a time. This won't last forever, this pandemic. But the negative impacts of dramatically increased pressure on sensitive waterways might. Please consider fishing for something other than trout. Spread the fishing pressure out. And, of course, if you do fish a trout stream, report any law infractions to CT DEEP. Oh, and keep a stocked trout here and there if legal. Because those are pollution too, the worst outcome or perhaps the cause of "trout culture". Turn the tide. Fish for something else, maybe even something different each time you go out. Even if it's still in a stream. Do it for the fish.

Wild trout are entwined with my soul... but trout also aren't everything. Accepting that and fishing for other species instead just may save one or two special trout spots from short term destruction.
Until next time,
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, and Franky for supporting this blog on Patreon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Venomous Fish and the Bridge Monster

Some fishing days are made permanently memorable with one striking occurrence, like the capture of a remarkable fish. Others are made memorable by the sum total of a bunch of independently notable moments, surroundings, and the people you are with, though individually each wouldn't have made the day as exciting as it turned out to be. This post is about a day of fishing that I will never forget because it was full of extremely exciting and independently notable events. Each event on its own would have been memorable, and put together they result in one of the most wild and unique fishing days I have ever had.

On March 5th, Noah and I returned to the bridge we fished the night prior, spurred on by our quick success there, and began targeting the reef fish there. I started out fishing small nymphs and streamers under indicators again, this time defiant on getting new species on the fly and avoiding using bait as long as possible. I worked the water like it were a trout stream, casting my rig up and across current, mending, and watching my indicator for any shudder or tick or, in the best case scenario for it to just drop abruptly. What it produced, very immediately, was a ton of hairy blennies. But eventually my rod bent under the weight of something a little more substantial, and when I saw the fish break the surface I could hardly contain my excitement. This was likely the most dangerous fish I'd ever set a hook in, and I'm the sort of person that gets enjoyment out of being around wildlife that can be dangerous under the wrong conditions; be it venomous snakes, large ungulates, big cats, or, in this case, a venomous fish. There are a number of venomous fish species in South Florida, including invasive lionfish, but in this case I'd caught myself a spotted scorpionfish... on a nymph under an indicator. Ain't that somethin'?

Spotted scorpionfish, Scopraena plumieri. Life list fish #159. Rank: species.
The dorsal spines of a scorpionfish inject a painful venom into anything they penetrate. Stepping on, poking, or grabbing a scorpionfish is not a good idea. Though not deadly, any envenomation by a scorpionfish demands medical attention. I was very careful with this fish.

Upon release it was quite clear how someone could step on a scorpionfish. He is there... can you see him?

Not that long after I caught the first, I caught another spotted scorpionfish. Look at this fish and consider everything about it and everything that went into catching it. Look how beautiful it is. Look at how well evolved it is as a small ambush predator. Now you may have some sense of exactly why it is that I do what I do. These fish are incredible.

I caught a number of other species on the fly that day, but no new species. I did catch a schoolmaster snapper, a species I'd only caught one of before.

Schoolmaster snapper, Lutjanus apodus
And, after a while, I started to fish bait in an attempt to catch enough good sized spottail pinfish for a meal later. While using bait I caught this beautiful terminal phase slippery dick: 

Halichoeres bivittatus
By midday we had a pretty decent pile of spottail pinfish and Noah decided to cut some up to use as bait. Standing in the water at the edge of the sloping concrete bridge abutment, he started to cut up the fish and discard the guts in the water next to him.

Uhh... don't do this. It's a stupid idea. Don't essentially chum the very water you are standing. 

I was minding my own business 20 yards away when I heard Noah give a frightened yell and jump out of the water. He yelled "Holy s*** I just got attacked by a huge moray eel!". Attracted by the pinfish guts, a green moray eel had lunged at him and fortunately not made contact. I went over there and we looked around to see if the fish was still around. It was, we found it sticking its big scary head out of the crevice under the concrete slab. It was indeed an imposing creature. We immediately set about trying to catch it.

Noah was the first person to hook it. A chunk of pinfish very quickly got grabbed. It didn't last, and soon Noah was running up to the car for the shark rod. He hadn't even left when I put a chunk of pinfish on a fly and lobbed it to the monster. It ate, I set the hook, and it promptly retracted into the crevice. I was still on though and the fish hadn't yet buried itself. I put my hand in the face of the reel, locking it down completely, pointed the rod directly at the fish. To my enjoyment this actually worked quite well, I was able to keep the fish from going deeper into the crevice. I Even got it to come out a little further. But 30lb fluoro can only take being grated against cement for so long before it gives, and eventually it broke. But I'm confident that, had I been using wire, I'd have been able to pull that fish out of its hole with my 10 weight. I very nearly did so with fluoro. I'd been told in the past I wouldn't be able to fight and land a moray eel on a fly rod... I'm now entirely certain I could do so, but less certain I could easily convince one to eat an artificial. Noah came back with the shark rod. Things devolved into chaos. The shark rod did not last. He stood much too close to the fish's position, forcing him to have too much of a high rod angle. I repeatedly told him to walk backwards. Yes, the water was deeper behind him, but I could see what was coming. On the third time Noah hooked the big morray (this was a remarkably persistent fish), when it broke off the rod whipped back, hit the bridge piling, and exploded. I knew it would happen. High rod angles on big fish are almost always a bad idea.

Eventually, we just did what we should have done from the start and tried to handline the fish. We lost a good many hooks to it before it finally decided to leave, and perhaps the most remarkable thing is that most of the hooks we lost to it were never even in its mouth. The fish was so strong that it was able to break off the hook simply by yanking on the chunk of meat. After that monster green moray left, we were int the mood for redemption and looked round for another. There was a tiny one that I embarrassed for bit, but eventually we found  substantial one. It wasn't nearly as big as the first but big enough. I tied a size two hook only 90lb wire, and Noah and I prepared to wrench the fish out of its rocky hole as a team. I caught a hairy blenny, which the moray consumed whole, somehow without getting the hook. I caught more bait, put it in front of the fish, and this time it got hooked. We pulled like hell and walked toward the bank, wrenching that powerful creature out of its hole and finally catching the little monster. It was an incredible and even scary creature. We were on top of the moon in that moment.

Gymnothorax funebris

Sometimes, the struggle is what makes the day. When you plan on fighting the bridge troll, you'd better come prepared and with your wits about you. That first moray kicked our asses. But I've very proud that I fought it on the fly rod and it wasn't the fact that I was using fly tackle that led to the loss of the fish. I WILL catch a large moray eel on fly tackle, if only so that some people have to eat crow....

One rod, all of our pinfish, a few hairy blennies, a couple feet of line, and a bunch of hooks were lost that day. I'm not sure I'd change the outcome though. It's a much better story.
Until next time,
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, and Franky for supporting this blog on Patreon. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Indicator Fishing for Reef Fish: Failure and Redemption

Maybe this would more appropriately be called float fishing for reef fish, because for the most part that's exactly what it was. Whether indicator nymphing is fly fishing is neither here nor there, I contest that it is, but I was categorically not fly fishing.

After catching three remarkable new species at Boca Raton Inlet Park, Noah and I left to try a place nearby that we'd never fished before. Satisfied with how I'd already done, I wanted to just relax and catch a bunch of fish, so I decided to fish with bait the rest of the day. I tipped my fly with squid and affixed an indicator to my leader and promptly began catching a ton of fish. Noah followed suit and started using a float as well. It was wildly effective, didn't result in as many hangups, and produced  variety of species.

Slippery dick, Halichoeres bivittatus

Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides

Spottail pinfish, Diplodus holbrookii 
Slippery dick, terminal phase.

 I spent a lot of the time just sitting on the wall, relaxing, enjoying a kind of fishing not comparable to anything I've done in the northeast. In the back of my mind though was the distinct and very likely possibility that I could at any point hook a species that I'd never caught before. I don't keep a hook and line lifelist, I'm not particularly interested in trying to catch every species possible on hook and line. I am really only interested in catching as many species as possible on the fly. So any species I caught doing this would represent, essentially, a failure on my part to take advantage of a possible opportunity to catch a new species on the fly.

Inevitably, I caught a species I'd not before: a lane snapper, probably the prettiest snapper species in Florida. That was a disappointment. I would have loved to have caught this fish on the fly, and maybe I could have.

Lane snapper,  Lutjanus synagris
I didn't change what I was doing though as I really wasn't that confident I'd be able to catch a lane snapper on the fly at this spot anyway. a short time later I caught a very cool looking scrawled cowfish. I was thankful I'd already caught one on the fly the same day.

Scrawled cowfish, Acanthostracion quadricornis

Mangrove snapper, Lutjanus griseus
About an hour later, another species I'd never caught before ate my squid. This time it was a grunt.

Smallmouth grunt, Haemulon chrysargyreum
With two species that would have been exciting editions to my life list caught on bait I started just fishing the fly under the indicator hoping to redeem myself, and I did catch fish on the fly... just tomtates and sergeant majors though. I left not really feeling frustrated, because what had transpired wasn't at all surprising. But I decided I'd like not to fish bit anymore that day. We headed back north but visited a place that Noah had found, a spot that definitely contained a lot of reef fish based on diving videos Noah had seen. Though it was now night, I kept with the indicator technique as I could still see it in the glare of the streetlights and it allowed me to keep the fly suspended on long drifts. I caught a new species on a small Clouser under the indicator almost immediately: a blue striped grunt. The the smallmouth grunt would remain one of only a tiny handful of fish species that I've caught but not caught on the fly, at least I'd add a fourth species of grunt to my life list. And it was a beautiful fish.

Blue striped grunt, Haemulon sciurus. Life list fish #154. Rank: Species

I then hooked and lost two fish on the same small clouser that fought in an incredibly strange fashion, completely unlike any fish I'd ever hooked before. They were both substantial, and the second broke off. In retrospect I think they could have been small morray eels but I'm not sure. The fight was closer to that of an eel than anything else I can think of. However I wasn't out of the count yet. Changing to a size 12 Hare's Ear, I then caught my lane snapper!

Lane snapper, Lutjanus synagris. Life list fish #155
I felt a bit redeemed by those two fish, and we'd be back at this same spot very soon to see what we could find there during the day. We had no idea what we were in for.
Until next time,
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, and Franky for supporting this blog on Patreon.