Surf Rods are going into hibernation…………

It saddened me as I put the surf rods in the storage closet. This summer, we did well in our endevour to spend every weekend surf fishing at the beach,greeting the sunrise with excitement, knowing in the next five or six hours, we would be cleaning fresh Whiting, Croaker, or whatever we were lucky enough to catch.

How can you sleep when you know this is how you get to start your day?
How can you sleep when you know this is how you get to start your day?

The sound of the water, the feeling of freedom, as you look past the horizon. The wonder of the expanse above, while wondering what is below.

That’s what my mind saw and felt today, as the memories of the last few months replayed themselves and I realized we wouldn’t be heading back until next spring. Living on the coast, we have the ocean, salt water rivers, and fresh water lakes and river. Everything here is seasonal, and although I know when we leave one body of water, we are heading to another one, the beach is my favorite.

Isn’t it funny that you only remember the good stuff? Beach fishing is tough. Imagine a beach cart, loaded with three 15 foot rods, a cooler full of ice, umbrella, food cooler, cast net, tackle, 12 foot “Baby Rod” (That’s what Johnny calls mine. That Ande is tough tho!), sand flea rake…. I know I’m forgetting stuff..  Oh yeah. My camera. My camera goes everywhere.

Takes you from the parking lot to utopia.
Takes you from the parking lot to utopia.

The first thing you see when you get to the beach is the cross walk. Unload the cart off the truck and pull it up the walk. It probably weighs 65-70 pounds. Adrenaline usually helps, because you know in 10 minutes, rods will be in the water. Over the walk, and into the unforgiving sand. That’s the hard part. The sand. But it’s worth it. Walk until he says stop, which is always too far from where we started. And then out of no where, he says “Here.” And now we are ready to officially start our morning. As the sky shows the promise of a sunrise, we are working.

Johnny gets busy putting the rod holders in the sand, somehow spaced perfectly. I always take the one on the left, because I’m left-handed, and I like the feeling of space. Plus, he says I’m not afraid to shank the 12′ Ande’ now and then, so I try to stay out of his way. While he’s still putting the holders in place, I go behind him and bait and cast my rod. On a good day, he won’t get done before I get the first fish. Whiting usually. Great eating. Croakers were pounding us for a solid three weeks, and I have to say, they are the sweetest…..

When the rods start going off, it’s not fun anymore. Its focus, speed, and agility. Penn Squidders are his reel of choice, and all three of his 15 foot Ugly Sticks are equipped the same. No line levelers make me work even harder, and I always curse while he is yelling, “Get the rod! It’s a Pompano! Reel! Reel! Reel!” When I bring in a whiting, catfish. or shark, he is just grinning. He doesn’t care what comes in, he just “Loves to see the rod bend.”   It can be bedlam for about an hour. Four rods, oftentimes two going off at the same time.

When I think I can’t run anymore, and my arms are tired, they quit biting. Stop. Nothing. Fifteen minutes go by. I check the bait. Re-cast. And then I realize we are done for a while.  Finally I get to sit and enjoy some coffee. Put the umbrella up over the cooler to keep the ice as long as possible. And just relax.

I realize why tourists come here. The sand feels good under my feet. The wind is coming off the water, and the sun is high enough to put my sun glasses on. The lull of the waves relaxes one to the point of making you think you could stay in this spot forever. The coffee tastes better here. I don’t know what it is, but it’s always the same.

This is when I see who’s around as far as my sentry’s. Those are the birds. When the Ibis show up, we know the sand fleas will be up in an hour. Amazing, but true…… Johnny is deadly with a sand flea rake, and the fish love ‘fleas, so we always have bait. He just has to beat the birds to the bounty sometimes.

They will show us where the bait is. We just have to watch......
They will show us where the bait is. We just have to watch……

Then there are the little birds. The Sanderlings. They find the fleas too. The Gulls and Terns show where the near shore bait is, and the Osprey will show where the schools of fish we want are, as they soar above.

Unbelievable how they can use their beak to deflect the water from their face. Proably one of the many things that make them such great foragers in constant waves
Unbelievable how they can use their beak to deflect the water from their face. probably one of the many things that make them such great foragers in constant waves

Even the little ghost crabs make me smile, as they try to figure out a way to something bigger than them into their hole.

This lil crab will work itself nonstop, trying to drag something to it's hole, while avoiding the overhead threat of birds...........
This lil crab will work itself nonstop, trying to drag something to it’s hole, while avoiding the overhead threat of birds………..

When Daylight Savings Time starts next weekend on the east coast, I will not be happy. Our days at the beach surf fishing are over for the season, and I know that right around the corner, cooler nights precede cold days. Coupled with the shorter days that put the sun to bed around 6 p.m., I already miss summer. The surf rods are sad……………………….

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Seeing a funnel cloud, no TWO funnel clouds evolve

After work, we went down to Beach Road, a piece of sand covered riverbank that abuts to The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Central Florida. The Red Drum, a favorite fish that fights like a bull and is good eating, were beginning their annual run through this bit of water, and we wanted to be sure we were there to get the first ones of the run. The Mullet Run was underway, another sure sign the Red’s would be there for easy pickings. The Indian River Lagoon is famous for Reds, and we only have this opportunity for a limited amount of time each year. The shore packs up pretty fast, so time is of the essence to get a spot. The mullet were near shore, and a couple tosses of the cast net brought Johnny back in loaded with bait. We were ready to fish.

The weather had been rainy. For two weeks. It seemed like the sun had moved to another place on the planet. The mosquitoes were worse than normal because of all the rain, and the no-see-um’s were relentless. A break in the rain offered glass waters, and it seemed like things were finally going to turn around as far as the weather was concerned. Finally. We threw a couple of rods out with 3.0 circle hooks, and 1/2 oz. lead weights that our friends Larry and Damon make. The 20 lb braid we rig the rods with ensure we won’t have a problem bringing the fish in. After the rods were secured in the rod holders, we relaxed. And waited. There was a group of guys fishing about 100 yards to the east. Larry and Damon had opted not to come down, so it was just Johnny and me.

All of a sudden, the wind stopped. The clouds had been low all day, and Johnny noticed it first. A funnel cloud was forming. Right where we were. I starting listening for “The train” everyone talks about when a tornado rolls through, but the wind was at a standstill. And it kept forming. Not lightening fast, but quick and steady. Still no wind and no “train.” We were right next to the truck, and I figured if things got bad, we could get in. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was quiet. Not a breath of wind. But it got cooler. Like ten degrees. All at once. The guys to the east were wading to cast their rods, and watched from the water. They were all yelling for the other ones to look, but they stayed out there.It was in front of them. Right there…………………   It kept getting longer and longer, and the end of it was like a point, trying to reach the water. Then, just as quick as it started, it dissolved. Like when wind blows the clouds around. And it was gone.

Funnel cloud off of Beach Road
Funnel cloud off of Beach Road

It was as though nothing happened. There was no indication that anything spectacular had just happened. The low dark clouds were the only clue that the weather was different .Bizare. I coudn’t believe that minutes ago, it was right there. Right THERE!!!

Just as my nerves settled down, it happened again. AGAIN. There, not far from where it formed earlier, it was trying again. It was different though. This time there were two. TWO. Right next to each other, and both trying to improve their position and focus.

Twin funnel clouds
Not one but two funnel clouds try to form where one had been 15 minutes before.

It only lasted a couple of minutes, and never was able to form. The wind blew them right back into the cloud, and that was the end of the funnels. I’m glad we got to witness it, but I’m good now. I don’t need to see it again.

Bad weather cloud
This is what the sky looked like after the funnel clouds left. The low horseshoe cloud was amazing to see.

Peacock’s Pocket on The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge……………………….

Sunset on the MINWR is where we are every time we get the chance,. Can you blame us?
This night, Johnny waded the shallow-water flat, looking for a Redfish or Spotted Sea-Trout to give his weedless spoon a second look.  As he fished, I walked the area, finding a brazen Limpkin that seemed happy to look for bugs at my feet
She seemed happy to wander around at my feet, and I realized in the tall grass, she could see snakes before me. We hung out for about an hour........
She seemed happy to wander around at my feet, and I realized in the tall grass, she could see snakes before me. We hung out for about an hour……..

                                                                                                                                                                                There was a Tri-Colored Heron standing perfectly still at the base of a mangrove tree, hidden by reeds in ankle deep water, trying to lure fish into his range.

Tri-Color Heron on the Merritt Island national Wildlife Refuge, down around Peacock's Pocket
Tri-Color Heron on the Merritt Island national Wildlife Refuge, down around Peacock’s Pocket

 I tried to shoot images of a Tit Mouse. That didn’t work out as well as I hoped. I always keep Johnny in view, because this time of year, the alligators are beefing up for the upcoming cooler weather we will be having in the next month or so. The bulls have no issue with shadowing the wading fishermen; my guess is that in the past when they get with 10 feet or so of someone, they throw the gator the fish out of fear. I like to let him know if one is behind him, because they have a nasty habit of going under water when they get close. There were three in the area this night, but they all kept a respectful distance.