FLORIDA: Coons, Mennonites, and Lizardfish

About a half-dozen raccoons loitered around the trash cans of the parking lot at the beach. Coons in daylight bring up thoughts of rabies, but these could have been pets. Two of them started wrestling over a piece of garbage and one bitch-slapped the other. Who knew raccoons scream like little girls?

I hopped out of my rental car with an 8-weight and a stripping basket. As I walked toward the point where the beach curved into the inlet, I noticed the other anglers there had on long black pants and suspenders. As I got closer I noticed the beards. Were they Amish? A couple of the womenfolk walked around from the other direction, wearing long dresses and white head covers. I didn’t see any horses and buggies in the lot; they must be Mennonites. The men, ankle deep in the water in their black pants, all stopped to take a look at the guy with a fly rod. I stopped to talk. One of the guys had a couple of flounder in a Styrofoam cooler.

I tried a few different patterns–eat-me, shrimp, clouser, jiggy-fly–and got a bunch of strikes. But nothing like the jacks, pompano, ladyfish, spanish macks, or snook that I’ve seen along this beach before. I “hooked” a pretty big needlefish. Bastards clamp  down on a fly and tear it to shreds without ever getting stuck with the hook. I did catch a few lizardfish, snakish looking creatures with big mouths and vicious little teeth. They don’t put up much of a fight, but they’re a new species on fly at least.

Stop number two: A roadside pull-off that accesses a grass flat. I worked a clouser in hopes of nailing speckled trout. First cast—hooked up. Another lizard. Today I am King of the Lizardfish. Finally, I felt a solid hookup, a whump that had the makings of something decent. The rod tip jerked for a moment in reaction to a bulldogging fish. But that didn’t last. I stripped in the mother of all lizardfish.

Now I’m back at the hotel and living the high life: kicking it on the patio with a bucket of Publix fried chicken, a container of mango slices, and a sixer of Kalik, listening to the sounds of bad karaoke from the hotel bar below. Good times.

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