Saturday, April 13, 2024

Species hunting adventures in Florida: Part 3.

On the third day of our trip I felt dreadful, and the weather was dreadful too. It was very wet and very windy. After visiting a large sporting goods store for a look at the fishing tackle, we had Cuban sandwiches for lunch and I tried to figure out somewhere we could go fishing that would offer us some protection from the elements. We ended up visiting Silver Palm Park, where I thought we might be able to tuck ourselves away under the draw bridge there. 

Upon arrival, we realised that we could get a little shelter if we went underneath the bridge into the “wildflower park” next door. No wildflowers to be seen, just a landscaped park with metal sculptures of flowers. Anyway, the problem was, I didn’t think fishing was permitted there. Determined to keep us dry and catch some fish, I got setup and started fishing anyway, figuring at worst we’d be asked to leave. There were insane numbers of sergeant major close in, so after catching a few, I started casting further out. I caught a few fish before an understanding park ranger arrived and told us we couldn’t fish where we were and politely asked us to head back to Silver Palm Park where fishing was permitted!

I caught a few tomtate grunt,…
…and a couple of lane snapper before we were asked to move. 

There were some canvas canopies in Silver Palm Park, but the wind was blowing the rain in at an angle, and they were set back from the water's edge. In short, they weren't very effective shelters. Lillian stayed underneath one, and I stood in the rain fishing for a while. A few fish were biting, and I caught a few slippery dick and a few checkered puffer.

Slippery when wet? Slippery all the time!
I caught a few checkered puffer, my first puffer species of the trip.
Party trick time!

It was far from ideal, so we decided to pack up and leave once I had used up the two shrimps I had cut up into chunks. I was also feeling absolutely terrible and told Lillian that I was sorry, but I just wanted to go back to our accommodation, so I could crawl into bed. That’s exactly what I did when we got back. I think I fell asleep about 17:00, and slept right through until the following morning. Right through all the rain and thunderstorms that Lillian described as pretty wild. 

By early afternoon the rain had begun to subside, and I felt a bit better, so we headed to the Sawgrass Trailhead At Atlantic Boulevard armed with a tub of worms. I fished from one of the sluice gates over the canal and there were a few fish around. After about an hour we had to run back to the car to get out of a heavy rain shower, but it passed over fairly quickly and afterwards the clouds began to break up, the sun occasionally appearing through the gaps, and the fish seemed to become more active. 

I prefer the second option!
From the deeper water in the centre of the canal I caught some spotted tilapia,...
…and some redear sunfish.
Some of them were a reasonable size!

Switching my attention to some smaller fish that seemed to prefer the rocky margins of the canal, I caught another two species for the first time. The second came out from under a rock and grabbed my worm before trying to make a dash back from where it had come from.

I caught a few of these nice looking spotted sunfish,…
…and my first warmouth. An aggressive little ambush predator and another member of the sunfish family.

After a break for lunch, we headed to Vista View Park on the recommendation of someone we had got chatting with as we fished. He told us that the ponds there were full of fish, so I thought it was worth a visit. Once there, I fished from a small pier. I caught some bass, a few Mayan cichlids and some bluegills. I believe the bluegill were actually a subspecies, called coppernose bluegill. They are only found in a couple of regions, one being southern Florida. Their status may very well change in the future, and like the Florida bass, they may be reclassified as a distinct species in their own right. 

 A nicely marked Mayan cichlid. 
I believe this is a coppernose bluegill. 
You can see where the name comes from. 

Pretty soon it was time to leave as the park was about to close. I’d really been enjoying the sessions I'd done in freshwater. Before the trip I thought I'd spend the majority of my time fishing for saltwater species, but it had been a fairly even split so far, and I didn't really see that changing during the rest of the holiday either. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Click here for the next part.

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