Ouch!

Johnny Paxto April 20, 2011

It was a typical spring morning. As usual 5:00 a.m. came way too early, as last night’s shenanigans were a bit much. The plan for the day was to head offshore with my buddy Daniel in hopes of finding fishy flotsam. As luck would have it, I glanced at the palm trees outside my window and immediately concluded the winds were too stiff to even think about breaking the inlet.

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Illustration: David Goldstein

Not terribly disappointed, I called Daniel and told him that we would have to reschedule. Before I could even finish my sentence, he had a backup plan. “I’ve got two kayaks…let’s fish the river,” he replied. “Grab your waders and get over here now,” he insisted.

Being the Florida cracker Daniel is, I knew by “river” he meant the Intracoastal Waterway. As a die-hard offshore angler I don’t get too excited targeting fish rivaling the size of my offshore trolling lures, but what the heck. I didn’t have any waders but knew my roommate Chris, a transient trout angler from Montana did. Lucky for me Chris spent the night at his girlfriend’s, so I took the liberty of helping myself to his pair of expensive neoprene waders.

I met Daniel and we were on our way. As soon as we hit the highway it was lights out for me. That is until Daniel started babbling, “I hear the pompano bite has been hot.”

“Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep…and it’s the INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY not the river,” I exclaimed.

“Nah, we call it the river,” he continued.

I managed to get a few minutes of shuteye and dreamt of behemoth billfish and tortuous tuna before waking to the sound of a slamming tailgate. Evidently we had arrived.

“So this is it,” I questioned. “Yea man,” replied Daniel. I donned my waders and grabbed a handful of soft plastics from his tackle bag. “This is the one you want,” he commented while holding up a yellow Doc something or another Jig.

We proceeded to launch the kayaks and started paddling across the ICW. I had never been interested in kayak fishing, but I must say it’s a serene experience, even if you’re dealing with a hangover. We reached the so-called hot-spot and staked out the ‘yaks. Within minutes we were both hooked up, not to pompano but rather to one bluefish after another.

“So much for a hot pompano bite,” I commented. “Shut up,” my friend responded.

With the choppers thick as thieves, I managed to connect with one particular yellow-eye devil that New Jersey Mud Hole anglers would be proud of. When my quarry came closer, I could see this was a real beast eclipsing 10-pounds. Though the ravenous bluefish was clearly agitated, I decided to take my chances and grab it for a quick photo. After waking at 5:00, and deciding to go “river” fishing with Daniel, this was the third and biggest mistake of the day.

I pinned the bulldog against my stomach and squeezed tight. Just then the bluefish kicked its tail, slipped from my hand, and locked its powerful jaw right where the sun doesn’t shine. Though no damage was done, it was certainly a close call and I screamed like a little girl.

Daniel thoroughly enjoyed the moment as he snapped photo after photo. After what seemed like an hour, the angry bluefish finally released its tight grip. Thank God! On the ride home I thought about the sharp dental work of the ravenous bluefish and laughed with Daniel over how bad the awkward situation could have been.

As far as Chris is concerned, a month or so passed and we went our separate ways. I got a random call from him a short time later. “Johnny, I am back in Montana. You have to come out the trout are snapping like crazy,” he said. “The only problem is that the stream is frigid and my waders are leaking like crazy. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?

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