January 2, 2013

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 6)

I bought some big game gear from Bass Pro Shops so we can try our hands at shark fishing and perhaps a Goliath Grouper. We spent this morning picking up the gear before having lunch with my mom’s older sister and her husband. After lunch, Michael and I debated whether to try out a spot I’ve identified with a population of Midas Cichlid. To be honest, I was not very confident since the cold weather had all but foiled our freshwater species efforts. Since it was on the water to the Keys, we thought we would at least have a look-see.

We arrived to the canal at 2pm and immediately saw many Midas Cichlids! These fish would not bite worms. When the fish approached us while we stood by the shore, an idea clicked! Ever since we saw the Grass Carp at the other location, we bought a couple loafs of bread just in case we needed it. I suggested that we should toss in some bread to see if the Midas would eat it. Bingo! We’re fishing with bread! These fish were used to eating the bread that people feed to the ducks!

The fish were very picky though. They must have been heavily pressured since they could tell a piece of bread was attached to the hook. In the end, we had to fish the bread on a small #14 octopus hook with a tiny split shot under a float with a very long fluorocarbon leader to allow the bread to sink naturally and into deep water. The fish were a little less wary if the bread sank into deeper water. After about 5 minutes of refining the presentation, I finally had a Midas made a mistake!

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) – new species #8

It took Michael considerably longer to catch his first Midas Cichlid. Catching just one member from the school spooked the other fish and they became even more wary. Waiting for Michael to catch his fish, I played with some Mayan Cichlids that were guarding their nests. They would nudge, bump or gently remove any offensive or intruding objects in their nests, but they would not pick it up enough to be hooked.

While Michael was casting his bread bait, he got picked up twice while on the drop. These were big fish that immediately snapped his line. I knew they were Grass Carp and suggested that maybe we should try a hair rig for them. After he caught his first Midas Cichlid, he was crazy enough to listen to me and tied on a large hair rig and put on a large chunk of bread. He was once again picked up on the drop about 30 minutes later and landed a 15lb Grass Carp.

Seeing the opportunity, I tied on a hair rig too and used a good chunk of bread by wrapping the bread onto the hair rig loop. Michael had 3 rods now fishing the hair rig with bread on bottom for Grass Carp, but they were not getting bit. So I started casting the bread bait and letting it sink naturally, and once the bread hit bottom, I would reel up halfway up the water column and allow the bread to fall again. I was always holding rod and fishing on a tight line. After about 10 casts, I got picked up.

At first, it didn’t feel like a very big fish. The fish was coming up quite easily and I was guessing it was a small Grass Carp. When the fish surfaced and saw me, it put on the after burner! It took about 4 minutes of gentle pressure with the 8lb mono and a couple of tense moments with the net. I told Michael to get a good footing and stay low on the ground. When Michael finally had the fish in the net, it kicked and knocked Michael off balance. He took a tumble, bruised his leg and wet his feet, but he did keep his hands on the net and kept the fish in the bag!

Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) – new species #9

I just had to take a few more pictures…

And the weight on Michael’s digital scale…30.5lbs!!!

A new species, big or small, is magnificent on its own…but this just puts it over the top!!!

After catching the Grass Carp, I had to take a nap before the 2 hours drive to the Keys. Michael fished another 20 minutes without any bites. When I woke up, I walked to the washroom and saw a Butterfly Peacock on the walk back! I ran to grab my rod since I wanted to catch one for a good picture on my list (I’ve caught them in Hawaii previously). We had some pretty gross nightcrawler left, but that was all the bait we had with us. I tossed my worm at the Peacock, and out of nowhere came this Oscar! It swam quickly at my worm, but stopped short when it sniffed the funky smelly worm then turned away.

Man, it’s a tough lesson to swallow…ALWAYS HAVE FRESH FRISKY WORMS!!!

Following the failure, I called it a day and we drove in the dark to the Florida Keys. My sister and her boyfriend were already at the hotel room and we arrived just as they were getting ready to head to bed.

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