Thursday, April 18, 2024

Species hunting adventures in Florida: Part 4.

The following day we headed back to Silver Palm Park to fish in the channel there. It was Sunday, and it was very busy due to there being a slipway there. Lots of boats were being launched and passing by in both directions, and this made fishing further out into the channel difficult.

The boat traffic was non-stop and the park's slipway was in use constantly too. If you plan on visiting this spot, it's advisable to do so during the week, when it's probably a lot quieter!

One of the reasons for visiting the park again was that it produces a very wide variety of species. I was told that one possible catch, the blackear wrasse, was more difficult to locate elsewhere but could reliably be amongst catches at this spot. After catching a few other species, I managed to catch one of them from further out in the channel, taking advantage of short breaks in the boat traffic. Later in the session, I also added a second puffer species to my tally for the trip as well. Lillian did a spot of fishing too and caught a few sergeant major and a yellowtail snapper.

As well as a few checkered puffer, I also caught my first bandtail puffer.
Out in the channel away from the hordes of sergeant major, I caught lots of grunt, including Sailor's grunt,...
...and white grunt. The white grunt’s striking blue facial markings were stunning.
I also caught a few porkfish. They also belong to the grunt family.
At a casual glance, this could be mistaken for just another slippery dick, but it was in fact my first ever blackear wrasse. It has a small dark spot just behind its eye (the ear) and also a black spot at the rear end of its dorsal fin.

The following afternoon, we returned to the Sawgrass Trailhead At Atlantic Boulevard, where I spent a couple of hours fishing. It was an enjoyable session, but I didn't catch anything new. I spent a fair amount of time trying to help some kids catch fish and answering a lot of their questions. They didn't have much luck sadly, and I ended up giving them most of my worms, to try to improve their chances! I did see a couple of peacock bass skulking around, but when they spotted me they swam off in the opposite direction. I tied on a small plug and had a few casts with that to see if I could tempt any others that might be in the vicinity, but sadly my efforts went unrewarded.

From there we headed east to Boca Raton Inlet, a spot that’s well known for producing an amazing array of species. I had arranged to meet up with Arthur, a YouTuber who lives in south Florida, whom I've been talking to about species hunting and travel for a year or so, after he contacted me looking for info on fishing on Lanzarote. He travels all over the world, and was the inspiration for my trip to Singapore last year.

Arthur with a peacock bass.
Check out Arthur's YouTube channel.
Boca Raton Inlet. A species hot spot.

We arrived about an hour before Arthur did, so I quickly got set up and started fishing from some rocks. It was a bite every cast, and I was catching lots of grunt and sergeant major when he arrived. We then moved a little further from up the channel to fish from a concrete seawall. It was rocky straight down the wall, but a lot deeper water was only a few metres out. I tried fishing closer in to begin with, and this produced slippery dick and more damselfish. Sergeant major damselfish and lots of brown damselfish. Brown damselfish can be extremely difficult to identify at times, but I believe I caught two different species.

The easy one first. This is a male sergeant major. Normally these are black and yellow, but they take on this bluish colour while guarding eggs.
Brown damselfish number one. No blue leading edge on the anal fin makes this a dusky damsel. I think.
This one, I believe, is a beaugregory damselfish. Again, if you think it's not, please let me know!

Casting out a bit into the deeper water, I caught a few more grunt and then caught a few Bermuda sea chub, a species I’ve caught before on in the Canary Islands. They were a reasonable size and gave a good account of themselves in the current, trying to get down into the rocks closer in.

I'd caught a solitary Bermuda sea chub on Lanzarote a few years ago.

As we chatted away, Arthur, who had scaled down to a tanago hook and a small piece of splitshot, caught a clown wrasse from a shallow rocky area to my right. I was just about to go and try for one myself when something bigger picked up my bait and charged off. It felt pretty strong and made a couple of surging runs, so I didn’t bully it too much for fear of being broken off. When the fish came into view, I recognised the species immediately and was very excited. It was a species I knew that was caught at Boca Raton Inlet occasionally, and was also one I really hoped I’d catch during the trip. Lillian did a fantastic job with my extending net and after a nervous moment near the rocks the weird looking fish was landed.

This bizarre looking creature is a scrawled filefish. It fought well despite being such an odd shape. No doubt due to its thin profile and very large tail fin.
The markings were stunning, and it also had a wicked set of jagged little teeth that I wasn't expecting. Without a doubt, a second contender for fish of the trip.

Shortly afterwards, we moved to a second spot closer to the opening of the inlet. The current had picked up considerably, and holding the bottom was becoming increasingly tough. All we caught were grunt, and before too long Arthur had to leave, wishing me good luck for the rest of our holiday. It was great to fish with him for a couple of hours, and I really appreciated him taking some time out of his very busy schedule to drive up and meet us. I'd really like to meet up with him again in the future, perhaps in some far-flung part of the world! He's also been told he'd be most welcome to visit me in Edinburgh if he fancied targeting species in Scotland. I fished on for a little while longer, trying to tempt a clown wrasse out of the shallow rocky area, but the current had got so strong that small waves were breaking over it, making it tough to keep my rig still, and after catching a few damselfish and slippery dick we called it a day. This session drew a close to our first week in Florida. The following day we were moving to new accommodation further south, from which I was looking forward to visiting the Florida Keys and also canals of the Tamiami Trail. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Click here for the next part.

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