Since we started the trip a day behind schedule, we decided to extend the trip one extra day. My sister and George wanted to visit Magic Kingdom and they had already purchased tickets in advance. So while they visit the theme park, Michael and I headed to Tampa to fish.
We arrived in the same creek where we caught Jack Dempsey on Dec 28. While we saw some Striped Mullet, they refused to bite our bread. We fished closed to the weeds and finally found some Jack Dempsey, including this beautiful male.
We saw some Rio Grande Cichlid swimming around but they were extremely wary. We tried all sorts of methods trying to get them to bite. Finally, I had one bit on a small piece of free lined bread but the fish took me to the weeds and the hook came out! I was so adamant on catching a Rio Grande that I made a tactical error. We should have simply spent more time fishing saltwater for species.
Since Tampa was 2 hours from Orlando, we didn’t arrive in Tampa until 12pm. After spending 3 hours at the creek, we only had a couple of hours at best before sunset. It was too late to fish at Skyway Pier, but we found a free pier along a bridge to fish for an hour.
We had no squid for bait. Honestly, I didn’t want to wet too many rods. So we only grabbed two rods each but I mainly fished with a sabiki rig. We only had nightcrawlers so I put on small segments of worms on the hook. I searched by the pilings and found nothing holding near the structure. Instead, I cast into Tampa Bay and worked the grass flats. On my third cast, I felt a strong tap and set the hook into a smaller fish that pulled hard on the light spinning rod and 8lb test. It was a Silver Perch!
Silver Perch (Bairdiella chrysoura) – new species #23
Michael joined me on my side of the pier and soon caught his first Silver Perch as well. A few cast later, I was had worked the sabiki back to the bridge when I saw a silver flash on my sabiki and I set the hook into a strong running Horse-eye Jack!
Horse-eye Jack (Caranx latus) – new species #24
I was hoping to find some Pinfish for Michael to add on his list. We went back to the parking area where I saw some. We quickly caught a few Pinfish. If we only had more time to fish, I would have cast out a cut Pinfish on a shark rig. The bay looks very sharky for smaller juvenile blacktip or bonnethead.
We had to return to Orlando to pick up my sister and her boyfriend from the theme park. On that note, it was the end of our fishing trip. We left Orlando on Jan 8 at 5am and drove to Toledo, Ohio by 1:30am on Jan 9. We then left Toledo at 6am after a night at a motel and arrived in Toronto at 12:30pm.
It was a great road trip to see my family and I fully took the opportunity to catch a number of new species. Many of the freshwater species were very challenging due to the cold weather. We had an absolute blast fishing the Keys and I can see myself fishing the Keys for a week next time! I was absolutely pleased to have caught a huge Grass Carp, conquered the Cobra Snakehead, and tried our hands at shark fishing. Now it is time to read up more on shark fishing and the whereabouts of those pesky Oscars!
With 24 new species added, I'm now up to a total of 301 species!