Sport fishing debut…

If paradise resembles anything like Gilligan’s Island, I’m pretty sure we found it. Boca Chita Key is just 15 miles south of downtown Miami. It is also part of the northern Florida Keys — a 180 mile expanse of submerged coral reefs and islands. If you want to drive your car thru the Keys, you’ll start at Key Largo…and end up in Key West. I’m guessing you find stores, tiki-huts and peeps. To visit the northern keys – you’ll need a boat. No stores…no peeps…no Hollywood entertainment…no Starbucks….just pristine waters, remote sandy beaches, friendly boaters who look out for each other. And….some amazing fishing. So I’m told.

With winds blowing from the North (I don’t think winter is planning to quit until June!) – we quickly cruised down Biscayne Bay…past Key Biscayne, Stiltsville…to our destination at the harbor of Boca Chita Key. The waters are a beautiful turquoise blue….clear and shallow. You can easily see bottom. It’s a bit nerve wracking navigating through the shallow channel, thinking that you would hit bottom at any time.

We tied up Cat Maudy along the sea wall, and spent the next hour just staring at the views from our boat. To the west, is Biscayne Bay – and in the distant horizon is mainland Florida. A forest fire is raging right next to Florida’s nuclear power plant. Ok, maybe this view wasn’t so pleasant. I trust the Florida forest rangers will get that burning mess under control, before it reaches the nuclear reactor. Looking north, is a lighthouse marking the entrance to Boca Chita Key, and behind it, is a faintly visible Miami skyline. To the east….are palm trees, white sandy beaches….and every shade of blue water you can imagine. There is no surf from the Atlantic side of the island. Any wave action is broken up by the miles of coral reef.

Paddy and I ventured on a walk around the island. The walk should take all of 10 minutes- but we had our cameras. This means, our walk will take the remainder of the day. At least, until we use up all of the storage space in our digital cameras. There are so many beautiful scenes here — that just when you think you have discovered the most picturesque….a view even more magical stares you straight in the eyes.
Between Boca Chita Key…and it’s neighboring island to the north, the current rips during flood or ebb tides. According to fellow boaters – the channel of water that moves with the most velocity – is where you can find the best fishing. That’s all I needed to hear. I have visions of catching fish for dinner.

With my Florida fishing license, a fishing pole, some smelly chicken from the back of the fridge, a hook large enough to catch a killer whale, and my bicycle gloves – I was ready to make the big catch. OK. I don’t really have the “correct” gear — but it’s amazing how versatile bicycle gloves can be.

I armed my 3 pronged mega hook with 3 stinky pieces of chicken, and tried hard to remember the days when I was 10 years old and fishing with my dad. I think dad always baited the hook for me, but I can’t be sure. These hooks are pretty sharp, and I don’t think that bicycle gloves with missing fingertips is such a good idea. But it will have to do. I stepped into the water…and for 10 seconds stopped breathing. My feet went numb. This water is FREEZING!!! I needed to catch a fish…fast! I made my way to the sandbar, just shy of the strong currents, with numbness now reaching my knees. From here, I can cast the three pronged hook into the rippling current – and hope that a big fish was hungry for aged chicken.

“Back up Paddy”, I yelled to Pat who was standing on shore. I prepare my windup, whip back the rod….fling the line forward….and watched the hook drop 3 feet in front of me. “I think this pole is defective” – I yelled back to Pat. “Jane, I’ve been trying to tell you, this is a TROLLING rod…not a casting rod.”. Hard to imaging that someone would design a fishing rod where you couldn’t cast out the line. I had to keep trying. A few more casts….with my trolling rod….losing more chicken bait on each fling….I had to agree. There is no casting with this rod.

As I trudged back to shore, with lower extremities turning blue, there was not a stitch of bait left on my triple hook. What’s up with a fishing pole that isn’t meant for casting? No question, I was disappointed that my trolling rod can’t cast.

In the meantime — Paddy was busy saving my sport fishing debut. Along the sandy beach, mixed in among the thousands of seashells…Paddy discovered Freddy….the fossilized fish. Freddy has human looking teeth….and a bony bod that was as hard as rock, and has probably been dead for years. Thanks Paddy! Fossilized Freddy the Fish….will serve as my photo-op catch of the day. Not quite as exciting as a fish struggling to get unhooked from your line, and the thrill of reeling it in…but Fossil Freddy will do in a pinch. I returned Freddy back to the seashell covered beach….and began scheming plans to troll off Cat Maudy – using my TROLLING rod. Who knew such details?

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