I grew up on the water in the Florida panhandle. Bobobbie and Grandaddy lived on Santa Rosa Sound in Navarre and my parents lived on the shores of Pensacola Bay. During my childhood I spent so much time in and around the water but never once did my family own a boat. Hard to believe, isn't it? It's because of that, I never actually learned to operate a boat. Soon after my second marriage, my husband, Ty, purchased and sold several fiberglass flats boats and even then I was too intimidated to learn how to operate and navigate them thought the treacherous oyster bar maze that makes up the Nature Coast waterways. All that changed, thought, when he sold both of those vessels and bought a Gheenoe. I made a decision that I would pay for half of the skiff, and accept all the responsibilities that came with boat ownership, and was granted co-ownership with the agreement that Ty would teach me everything I needed to know in order to become self-sufficient in its use and operation. And so the lessons began: hooking up the trailer to the truck, preparing it for transportation on the highway, hooking up the battery to the trolling motor, driving with it in tow, backing it down the ramp into the water and today, learning how to push it off the trailer with enough force to make it float free and clear of the trailer. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. I felt confident that I could do all of the above without any issues.
As often as I've been out on the water during the last 15 years, I've found a considerable number of lost items either floating on the water or pushed up into mangrove roots, anywhere from tackle that's been broken off to unsecured PFDs that's blown off of someone's boat. Many times I've said to Ty, "You know...one day I'm going to find someone's wallet out here." Well, surprisingly, that day was today. As I was walking back to the ramp after parking the truck, I noticed a brown, square-shaped item that was lying on the ramp. It was still fairly dark as the sun had not yet broken and at first glance it looked like just a piece of 2x4. Not wanting it to be a hazard to any other boater, I bent over to pick it up. My intention was to just toss it over by the trash bin until I realized that it was a wallet and had been run over several times already. My heart started to race. What were the odds of this happening? Looking around to see how many people were at the ramp with us, I decided to keep my mouth shut and not advertise that it had been found. When the sun came up and I could see clearly, I would investigate the contents of it and make plans to get it back to its owner. For now, though, it would remain in my hands. I'm sure someone was in a panic.
As drowsy as I feel when I get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to go fishing, I always seem to get my butt in the truck and make the one hour drive to Ozello from Ocala, constantly asking myself during the drive, "Why do I keep doing this? I'm tired and I wanted to sleep-in." Launching in the dark, before sunrise, is also not one of my favorite activities either but the ultimate reward of watching a mesmerizing sunrise break the mangrove line just seems to make it all worthwhile. Today was no different. Arguably one of the most tranquil daily events God ever created.
I typically spend the first few hours of the morning throwing a topwater lure for several reasons. First, I like the distance that I get when casting in the early morning because the wind is usually at a minimum. I can cover so much water during a single retrieve which increases my odds of hooking-up significantly. Secondly, I like the way the entry "shocks" the water and it's easier for me to keep an eye on the lure as it's returning to the boat. The smoother the water is (usually in the morning) the easier it is for me to focus on my lure retrieval. Finally, my energy level is at it's highest point in the morning and I haven't grown tired of casting for hours on end. Today paid off with a nice seatrout. It's so much fun to watch them attack those lures from underneath, sometimes missing them several times before actually getting a good hook-set.
Topwater did well for me first thing in the morning but one of the things I want to do is move past my comfort zone. I'm a creature of habit and routine for the most part but I also see the value in trying new things. For that reason I make it a point to throw new lures that I've shied away from in the past. Next up on my list was a soft plastic paddle-tail rigged on a belly-weighted hook. Now, I know these are very popular lures for most anglers so I had no doubt that something would strike at it at some point. The question was when and what. Being that October is a great month for trout (and just about most everything else, too), it was no surprise that a trout was exactly what I caught with it.
As the morning turned into noon, I continued to use various artificial lures, catching more small trout, ladyfish and the like. High tide came in around 1:00 p.m. and I tied on a red jig-head and accessorized it with an Unfair Lures smacktail in hot orange. I spent about 10 minutes throwing right up next to the mangrove line that was about 100 yards long before it came to a point. The power of the strike made me think I had accidentally hooked into a mangrove root during my retrieve. It was a change of emotion when I realized my line was speeding parallel to the mangrove line and I had a fish on. This lure was a good decision, I decided. Mr. fish and I played tug-of-war for a few minutes but he tired out before I did so I was able to net him without too much resistance. A measurement of 23 inches and a few pictures later, he was successfully released and swam away fast and hard.
It had been a great day of fishing...beautiful weather, calm waters and great tides. As I loaded up my gear preparing for the drive home, I thought about the owner of the wallet that I had found earlier that morning. I pulled out the driver's license, punched the address into my Garmin and was glad to know that the owner lived within three miles of where I was. In fact, I would be passing their house on my drive home. Ten minutes later and I had arrived at their home. I'm sure they were curious why I had driven into their clearly signed private drive, but when I got out of my truck with a wallet in hand, smiles came to everyone's face. They knew why I came for a visit. We chatted for a few minutes about how the wallet was lost, and then found and I received many "Thank You"s as I strolled back to my truck. All - in - all, it was a memorable day to be sure.