During a general conversation between some of the NCLA ladies, the topic came up about the various privately owned restaurants on Ozello Trail, one of which is called Backwater Fins. One of the gals mentioned that there is a makeshift cement launch area next to the restaurant where a small john boat or gheenoe could easily be launched and another area by their grassy parking lot where a kayak could be put in as well. Well - that got us thinking...if that were the case, then why don't we put together a group one day and check it out?
So a phone call was made to Debbie, the manager at Backwater Fins and confirmation was received that we would be able to use part of their parking for a Ladies Only Kayak Fishing Adventure. Tides were checked, a calendar was pulled out and a date was set. Now all we had to pray for was good weather.
The only thing that could ruin our plans was the weather. January and February had been unusually windy. The cold temperatures were to be expected but the wind had not stopped for weeks. The weather threshold that would cancel these plans would have been a 60% chance of rain or winds greater than 15, which would be a roll-of-the-dice any day in Florida. We made daily weather checks on Weatherstem
Two of our newest members were eager to join in on the fun but had not had time enough to really research fishing kayaks for purchase of their own and had asked if any loaner kayaks were available. An NCLA "distress call" when out to our good friend and kayak fishing guide, Brian Stauffer of Fishhead Kayak Charters who generously loaned out a kayak so that everyone who wanted to participate would be able to do so. And we greatly appreciate his assistance.
After loading the extra kayaks on the trailer, we had to make a drive to Moore Bait & Tackle so we could pic up about 100 shrimp to distribute among the 10-15 ladies that were on the list to meet-up at 10:00 a.m. A bubbler with with new batteries should keep that 5-gallon bucket of shrimp alive for a couple of hours.
Well, as great as it is to buy live shrimp for bait, it's more satisfying to possess the ability to throw a cast net and catch your own live bait and subsequently add a few different species to the menu (killifish, greenbacks, & finger mullet) so by 8:00 a.m., we had a myriad of live bait to choose from.
The tides were manageable for the number of ladies we were expecting, many of them in a kayak for the first time. We certainly didn't need a strong incoming or outgoing current to add pressure to a new paddler, nor did we need any winds above the expected 11 mph hour for the same reason. Too many new ladies to worry about a difficult paddle back to a new launch site. What we had been given for the day was PERFECT.
Each of the ladies that had signed up for the Group Kayak Fishing Trip received, via e-mail, an ariel Google image of the launching spots and parking instructions. We had permission to use their overflow parking but without blocking customer parking. It was a bit difficult to accomplish that with 15 ladies pulling kayak trailers, but we managed!
Between 9:00 - 10:00, the masses began to arrive starting with Alice...
Up rolled compact cars with kayaks on top, SUVs pulling kayak trailers, and trucks with kayaks sticking out the back. All shapes and all sizes pulled up, backed in and began to unload gear...one right after another. Several S.O.s had accompanied their better halves to help with the lifting and those muscles came in particularly handy when Yella realized that one of her Scotty Rodholders had somehow gotten stuck in the mount. Brett came to help and was able to dislodge it. Overall the unloaded process went smoothly.
The initial plan was to fish while we slowly made our way along a meandering Ozello "back country" waterway until we reached an area that seemed to allow enough room to get our of our kayaks and stretch our legs, however, with so many ladies signed up for this outing (many of them new to kayaks), and the light winds playing a factor, it would be extremely difficult to make sure no one got lost in the 4.5 mile maze. We made a unanimous decision to axe that long paddle and just stick around and fish the local waters. So that's what we did.
We spent the next several hours exploring the new area. Some folks were fishing from a small bridge nearby so we had to make sure we stayed a good distance away from their tackle in the water. Most were using brightly colored popping corks so they were easily spotted. We came upon a couple of nice areas with crushed shell masses that we could paddle up to, get out, and still be on solid ground. We would have to keep those areas in mind for our next trip out this way. There were lots of small coves that blocked the wind so those were nice to paddle into and just "take-5" while the sun was sharing its warmth. Those who got a bit tired of fishing, paddled around and picked up trash that had gotten stuck in the mangroves. This is sometimes a great way to collect new fishing tackle, too. Some witnessed a Bald Eagle and its young flying overhead. That's something you don't see every day and often times you don't want to look away to locate your camera to get a picture or you miss the entire fly-over because it's gone in a matter of seconds.
By mid-day the wind had kicked up considerably. We knew, based on the past few weeks alone, that it would, but we really weren't out there to do any type of "hard-core" fishing, we were just learning a new area, exploring, and experimenting with different baits and lures. A couple of the gals had hooked into a few good size trout along with a boated redfish as well so there were fish caught. But because we had no desire to fight our way back to shore, over the next hour everyone began the paddle back.
By 1:00 p.m. everyone was off the water and starving! We dragged ourselves into the restaurant and managed to put together several tables so that the majority of us could sit together. Jamie, our fearless waitress, was kickin-butt with our drink orders and we were grateful. We're a hard bunch to manage. After our food orders were put in, we walked outside to get a good group photo under the restaurant awning and then back in again for some time of fun, food, and general mayhem. It was a great start to the year!
We're just a bunch of ladies having fun on the water.