We are fishing in the shallows to the west end of the campground. “My bobber went under!” I say, feeling a lump in my throat, not totally sure if this was a good idea or not.
“What do you think it is this time?” my wife says, remembering the trout, snapper, barracuda and a few unknowns we’ve reeled in the last few days.
“I don’t know, but the bobber is sending up quite a spray!”
I watch as the line peels out. The bail is open so the wind can blow the bobber and bait out far. I reach down, and being careful not to get my fingers tangled in the braided line, close the bail and wait for the line to tighten.
The bobber pops up and continues to swim out farther. I brace myself (as much as a quadriplegic can) anticipating what is going to happen when the line tightens, and grab the rod with my other paw. As the line starts to tighten, a quick lift of the rod sinks the hook into whatever has grabbed the chunk of squid. Then all hell breaks loose.
A huge spray goes up way out in the ocean, the rod gets pulled down sharply and my arm gets extended completely out. There is danger that I’m going to lose the rod! The line starts peeling off and the reel is screaming at high pitch. Whatever has grabbed this has taken off at high speed towards deep water. I can see a spray from the bobber, and a cloud of sand behind the fish as it zooms through the shallow water.
The fish shows no sign of tiring. I look down to see how much line I have left — already half gone. I’m not even able to slow this fish down! I have never seen anything like this in all of my fishing experience! I’m glad that my chair has the brakes set firmly, seat-belt tight, and that people are around to help hold me!
“I need more tension on the drag, he’s not slowing at all!” I yell.
“I’ll be right there!” shouts my daughter. She rushes over and cranks up the drag a couple of notches. The reel must be getting hot by now — almost out of line and no sign this fish is going to turn around! I have no idea what it is, but it feels like I have hooked onto a ski boat!
The line goes limp. Disappointment. I can’t believe it. I reel back in — the bobber is still on.
“I’ve lost him,” I say, cranking the handle.
After close examination we saw that whatever it was had bitten right through my steel leader! I have never seen that happen before. We were not dealing with the freshwater fish that we are used to back home, that is for sure.
The day finally arrived to try again about a week later. I went for my wheel-around in the early morning with my coffee to scout the fishing and interrogate fishermen. When I arrived at the west end of the campground, I noticed the wind was at my back and quite strong. This was going to be the day to try! Our neighbor, Doug, put a large piece of squid on and cast my line out as far as he could. We left the bail open and attached the rod to my arm with my leather cuff, and then sat back and waited.
It took about 20 minutes to get the first bite, but I had no chance to land that one, so we tied on another leader and hook and cast it out again. It was about another 15 or 20 minutes and the bobber went down!
“Let’s hope we get a look at it this time!” I say, nervous.
Everybody stands up from their lawn chairs, wondering what the heck it is going to be this time. I close the bail on the reel, brace my arms on the fishing rod once again, and wait for the line to tighten. Then a lift of the rod and the line goes tight with a solid ”thump” — it feels big.
An explosion occurs about 150 yards out in the ocean, a huge splash. The rod is almost pulled out of my hand again and the reel starts screaming! The line is going out at a tremendous rate, but this time after about five or 10 seconds it starts to slow. Then the fish turns around, and using a pumping action I am able to reel in a little bit each time I drop the rod down. I make headway for a few minutes, and then the fish turns and starts to peel line once again! Man, there are strong creatures in this ocean!
The fish makes several more runs, and I reel him back in, slowly, my arms burning, but it is exhilarating! About 20 minutes later the fish gets close enough to see. What a surprise! It is a hammerhead shark! I guess it only makes sense that there are a lot of sharks around, but when you are from Canada and not used to this, it is such an amazing experience! The fish finally tires enough for my brother to grab the steel leader and drag it up onto the shore. He flips it over, and using pliers he grabs the hook, being careful not to get bit by the fish! We take a few pictures and he grabs it by the tail and places it gently back in the ocean and lets it go. What an experience for a quadriplegic from the North!
During our time at Fiesta Key, I was fortunate enough to catch a lot of fish. There were nurse sharks, the hammerhead shark, barracuda, snapper, and sea trout. There were also lobster, crabs, and a lot of small unknown fish. What an amazing experience to be camped on a tropical island with your RV, and to be able to catch an amazing variety of fish like this right from your campsite. We will definitely try to get back to this piece of paradise in the future!
Check out Kary’s blog at www.stilloutdoors.blogspot.ca
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the campground?
Fiesta Key is close to Marathon, Florida.
Did you have to go far from your campsite or rent a boat to fish?
No, we caught fish from the campsite on the seawall behind us.
How was the weather?
Perfect, perfect, perfect!
How big were the fish?
Sharks can hit 500 pounds; we caught them between 2-4 feet long.
How is the scenery?
Unbelievably beautiful, especially for somebody from the North.
Would you go back?
Anytime! If it could be arranged, we would probably stay for good!