Sunday, February 15, 2015

Flamingo Boondoggle – Fishing the Backcountry

The Boondoggle experience for some on Sunday meant fishing the backcountry of the Everglades. Some anglers went to check out West Lake, some went to Whitewater Bay, Bear Lake but for Dayne and me the decision was to paddle to Mud Lake. Now that we had our plan we decided where to launch for Mud Lake. We could launch from the boat ramps that get you on Buttonwood Canal. This route would get you into Coot Bay or other option was to drive up the road a little more and put in at Coot Bay Pond. For me this sounded much more adventurous attempting to navigate from a pond through a mangrove tunnel to Coot Bay then through another mangrove passage into Mud Lake. Taking the canal there would have only been a single passage to paddle through to Mud Lake. Besides it looks like a shorter route launching at Coot Bay Pond.

So this will be a great test for the Kraken. Trying to maneuver the Jackson Kraken that is measured around 15.5 feet long will be a challenge through these tunnels and once in the big water like Coot Bay or Mud Lake should have no issues if the wind is calm or windy. The map gives me the impression that this will be about ## miles to our destination of Mud Lake. All in all we are looking at ## miles for the day. This will put a good test for the Bending Branches Angler Pro.  This will be my first long paddle with a premium paddle that weighs about 30 oz. Normally my paddles have a bit heavier (around 36 oz) both paddles are measured at 230 cm in length. The first time that I paddled the Angler Pro felt like I was not holding a paddle and resulted in my paddle rhythm was off. I’m not sure how miles we put on Saturday but I can say this about a good quality light-weight paddle like the Angler Pro I did not feel fatigued from paddling.
When we arrived to the lay-by for parking for Coot Bay Pond we unloaded the kayaks. For this trip Dayne decided to fish from the Jackson Cruise 12 instead of his sit inside touring kayak. Launching into the pond is just that paddling looking for the opening through the mangroves into Coot Bay. According to the park rules fishing Coot Bay Pond is not allowed. Once we located the passage we had to lay our rods and landing net flat on front of us. I was watching Dayne as he entered the passage and the YakAttack VISICarbon Pro Safety Flag was not removed. The sectioned carbon rod got caught into a mangrove branch and snapped just above the foam mounting part. So I quickly removed the one on the Kraken and stowed it flat. Once in the passage I removed the YakAttack VISICarbon Pro Safety Flag from the Cruise and stowed it away.
As I figured the longer Kraken compared to the Cruise 12 had some issues for me to maneuver through the passage because of some tight turns. The Cruise 12 looked like Dayne could maneuver better. In fact the test to prove this was that he was traveling faster than me. When we came out of the tunnel into Coot Bay we started to place the rods into their holders for safe keeping. Then Dayne decided to have an Uff da moment by losing one of my rods into Coot Bay. The hint he provided about his misfortune was how much are those rod setups cost. He was trying to retrieve the rod & reel using his paddle and was not having any luck. Since the water temperature was around 62 degrees (F) and water depth on the Raymarine Dragonfly indicated it had to be less than 2 feet deep he proceeded to get out of the Cruise. Once he felt his foot sinking into the soft mud he decided that it was not worth the effort to get stinky and muddy. So he pulled himself back into the kayak and surprise!! He also had the rod attached to his foot. He was overjoyed with his rescue of the rod and reel.
Now we have to paddle towards Buttonwood Canal and then onto the next waterway that connects Coot Bay with Mud Lake into a head on wind. Using the split screen of the Dragonfly displaying the Fish Finder and GPS I could follow the shoreline of Coot Bay till I arrive to a likely area that looked like an area of the shoreline that had a probability of some type of waterway that would take us to Mud Lake. Along the way we would stop and cast just under the mangroves hoping for a redfish, trout, or maybe a snook waiting to ambush some form of unsuspecting bait swimming around the mangroves. Off in the distance I could see a boat anchored fishing close to the mangroves, so I figured that this had to be the waterway that we were looking for. Sure enough they were fishing the mouth of the waterway. So we entered our last mangrove tunnel to Mud Lake.
Just before the end of the passage into Mud Lake there were three kayak anglers fishing in the waterway through the mangroves. We talked for a while and found out that they were not part of the Boondoggle. I explained to them about what a Boondoggle was and a little about yakangler dot com. Hopefully they will at least participate on yakangler dot com. We said our good-byes and best wishes for a great day of fishing.
Entering the lake we are greeted by several mangrove islands. I told Dayne that I will be fishing off along the shoreline of mangroves to the right. I started working the shoreline casting towards the mangrove branches hoping for a speckled trout, redfish, or a snook. I don’t recall how many cast but I finally had a hookup with what felt to be a good fish. The spool was singing, some of the line would be reeled in, and screams off the reel again and again. At some point I got a hint of the fish as the silver body with a dark lateral line decided to submerge and swim under the Kraken. I did not what to lose this snook because he looked well over 24 inches. If I can land this nice snook it will mark my personal best. After a few more runs the snook ended up the Ego net and onto the measuring board. This snook measured 28 inches definitely my personal best at this point. After a few photos I released the snook to fight another day.
The lure that I caught the snook on was a Slayer Sinister Swim Tail (S.S.T.) in the purple haze color pattern rigged on a quarter ounce unpainted Predator XXX Jig Head. With the success of this setup I decided to continue fishing with the purple haze color pattern. As I paddled along the planned course I started casting towards the mangroves. I think that I traveled only a short distance from where I caught the snook I had another hit. I set the hook and this felt like a bigger and stronger fish. All of a sudden I had an acrobatic fish that looked like a small tarpon and not a snook. My heart started thumping as this will have been my third tarpon hookup. I had two at the Merritt Island Boondoggle and lost those two and now this one. I would just love to be able to get the silver king into the Kraken so that at least I could place a check mark for landing a tarpon. As the battle started to come to an end I started to dip the landing net into the water to net the small tarpon. Then all of a sudden the tarpon throw the hook which flew back towards me and the tarpon swam under the net. I just about cried but thought the day was still young and another opportunity might occur.
I managed a couple more smaller snook using the same setup with the purple haze Slayer SST as I worked my way further around Mud Lake. About three-quarters across the lake I happened onto a flat where there was a large school of snook sunning themselves in the shallow water. I managed a couple other small snook at this place. I decided that I would leave the fish and go look for my fishing buddy Dayne to find out how he was fairing on the catching aspect of fishing. About half the distance that that I had paddled; I managed to find Dayne still trying to find a fish of any kind to get on the end of his line. I told him about the silver mine of snook that I discovered that were sunning in the shallow water on a flat.
As we headed to the flat, I provided Dayne with a package of the same plastic that I was having luck with for the snook and that single tarpon. As soon as Dayne approached the flat he was spooking fish. At one point he claimed that they were swimming all around him. It must have taken him 45 minutes to get a snook to take the bait. Although the snook was small he was having a great time with the battle. He managed to land his trophy in the Jackson Cruise 12. After a photo session he released the snook to grow up. He was excited and kept fishing for another hookup. It was getting late so we decided that we better head back before the daylight turned to dusk as we felt that the passageways through the mangroves might create a problem for us.
When we got back to the landing we loaded everything up and headed back to camp to prepare for the Boondoggle Potluck that evening. The potluck event is a Boondoggle tradition to say goodbye to all your new friends and old friends from past Boondoggles. After the food is gone and the fishing tales have ended it was time to retire and get ready the next day to be on the road heading back to Charleston, SC.
I would encourage any yak angler that if they have never experienced a Kayak Fishing Boondoggle they should start making plans for Boondoggle X. Boondoggle X is the ultimate Boondoggle as there will be kayak fishing exhibitors (rods, reels, tackle, kayaks, gear, etc.) along with educational workshops. This event is not only sponsored by YakAngler dot com and Kayak Fishing Radio but assisting with the organization of the Boondoggle X in Mandeville, Louisiana will be Louisiana Northshore and Bayou Adventures.
I’m hoping to get a chance to meet some new fishing buddies at Fontainebleau State Park along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain for some huge redfish, possible gator trout, giant bass and who knows what species of fish swimming around the areas waterways that you might hookup with.
BOONDOGGLE!!!!

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