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I picked up my two-way marine radio and summoned my daughter to come over to where I was at. I wanted her to help me in the snook release. I explained to her that snook can be held by the lip without the fear of finger injury and encouraged her to let the fish 'suck her thumb' but she wasn't going to be a part of any of that. "Nope, nope and nope!", were her exact words, but she volunteered to video tape the release instead. I carefully lowered the snook in the water, facing the current so water could pass through the gills as needed (just as if it were swimming in a forward motion). Held her there for a minute or two and then gently pulled my thumb out of her mouth so she could swim away.
My grown-up daughter is an avid nature lover like myself. We both are basically 'big kids' that like to push the envelope, throw caution to the wind and just down-right explore nooks & crannies at every opportunity. She's my "mini-me", so it was no surprise that she jumped at the chance to do some kayak fishing with me in Ozello during one of her recent visits. Since my husband, Ty, was at work, she used his 13 ft. Native Slayer Pedal Drive vessel to get around. This was a first for her and the weather was perfect!
we pulled up to the boat/kayak launch at Ozello Community Park, I was a little surprised to discover that much of the limestone parking area was covered in several inches of water and I was a tiny bit concerned about getting my truck tires and rims in contact with the saltwater that had flooded some of the area. I reached over for my smart phone and opened up my tide app (TideTrac) to take a quick look at what I should have looked at before we even left the house. That's when I realized that we were launching at a high flood tide. In a way, I was actually okay with it. Since my daughter had no experience maneuvering in a pedal driven kayak, it would be easier to show her the different features on the yak while still being very close to the launch site. There would be plenty of water to do so within 10 feet of the shoreline. Another advantage to the high tide was that there would be very little chance of her accidentally peddling up on an oyster bar and therefore possibly damaging the skeg or props underneath the yak. I gave her a quick tutorial and within 15 minutes we were heading out to open water.
We navigated a familiar route, one that wouldn't take us too long to complete. I didn't know how long she would be able to stay out in the Florida heat during the mid-afternoon sun given the fact that she was 4 months pregnant. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to tow her back because of heat exhaustion. We had been so busy during the other parts of her visit that we only had a short window of time to get the kayaks out. If we didn't do it now, we would have no other opportunity during her short stay to do it. Artificial lures were going to be the bait of choice during this outing, there just wasn't enough time to catch or buy live bait this time around. I tied on a Rapala Twitchin' Mullet on her line and a weedless Unfair Lure Smackpaddle for myself.
She did surprisingly well with her distance casting given the fact that she had not held a rod in her hands in several years. I was fully expecting to have to peddle over to her location from time to time to help her retrieve the Twitchin' Mullet out of the mangroves. I know I have to do it for myself more often than I'd like to admit, but she managed to stay clear of those obstacles. The floating grass, however, became a cause of frustration for her and although I offered to change out her lure to something weedless like my own paddle tail, she opted to pass and continue using the Rapala. Her mind-set was focused more on having a relaxing time on the water than it was actually catching fish so I left it at that and continued on as she slowly followed a good distance behind me.
We threw lures for a couple of hours and felt a bump or two periodically as we followed the mangrove line. Serena even witnessed a trout chase her lure to the yak but was unable to entice it to strike. Even so, we continued to follow our pre-mapped route, casting around points that looked promising and chatting as we went. Next thing I know, I have a fish on. I suspected it was a small snook by the way it hit the lure and sped off but, of course, you never know what it is until it surfaces at some point. Sure enough...once it was close enough to net, it turned out to be exactly what I suspected it was....a small snook. Little snookie was netted, boated and photographed.
I'm always curious as to the length of any fish I catch. I still don't have enough experience to correctly estimate a fish's length by vision alone, although I know many other anglers do. So out comes my worn-out measuring device with my official CCA Florida STAR Tournament measuring tape stuck to it. Even though this snook isn't big enough to enter in the snook category of the tournament, it can still be entered in the Conservation Division.
Time passes too quickly when you're out on the water with friends. My daughter and I had launched our kayaks fairly late in the afternoon and although we had only planned on being out for a couple of hours, we had gone a good distance. She began to feel a little heat exhaustion coming on and let me know that she was ready to head back to the ramp. There was a slight breeze but nothing that would cause us to exert more energy than we needed to get back so we headed back at a slow pace and took in the beauty of our surroundings and agreed that we were blessed to be able to live so close to such a beautiful environment. The Nature Coast always delivers on that.
We're just a bunch of ladies having fun on the water.